§ As amended (by the Standing Committee), considered.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
The Amendment which I have to propose is to insert and substitute a new clause for Clause 8, which I shall subsequently move to delete. Clause 8 proposes to establish a local registry, but on examination we find that what practically amounts to a pledge was given to the Law Society that the compulsory provisions of the Land Transfer Act should not be extended for a term of three years. Under those circumstances, it was represented to the Government that it would be a breach of faith to introduce into this Bill a system which would practically extend the principles and practice of the registration of land. Under the circumstances, I propose to substitute a local registry which will enable the local authorities to keep an account of their transactions under this Bill, and I do not propose, as was originally intended, an extension of the Land Transfer Act. I beg to move.
(1) A local authority shall keep at their offices a book containing a list of any advances made by them under this Act, and shall enter therein with regard to each advance—(a) a description of the house in respect of which the advance is made; (b) the amount advanced; (c) the amount for the time being repaid; (d) the name of the proprietor for the time being of the house; and (e) such other particulars as the local authority think fit to enter.
(2) The book shall be open to inspection at the office of the local authority during office
hours free of charge."—(Mr. Secretary Chamberlain.)
brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
I must express my surprise at this change in the policy of the Government. When the Bill was introduced, it was stated that its principle advantage would be the facility with which it would provide for the transfer and acquisition of title, and also the very small cost which would be entailed. Now Clause 8, which it is proposed to take out, provides that a local authority may make advances under this Act, and that they shall cause the ownership to be registered under the Land Transfer Acts. The great object of this clause was to provide for an efficient system of registration. Then, the clause which it is proposed to leave out contains another very important proviso as regards the expense. It provides for the framing of rules with regard to the registration of ownership and for the easy transfer of such ownership, and the cost of such transfer was not to exceed 10s. The great merit of this Bill was the facility which is afforded for the transfer of land and the cheap cost of such transfer. Everybody knows that with regard to small property the fees for conveyance and transfer may be £10 or £12, and there is practically no limit to the amount. The object of the Bill is the simplification of title and facility of transfer, and it is not merely that the working man should acquire his property cheaper, but that he should be given better facilities for transferring it. The Government have not given us any good excuse for this new departure, for it is no excuse to say that some kind of assurance was given to the Law Society that the Land Transfer Act was not to be extended for three years. I protest against the Government giving any such undertaking to a society outside which would bind this House.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
That is not so. The pledge was a public pledge given while the Land Transfer Act was passing through this House. My attention was called to it afterwards, and although I entirely agree with what the hon. Member has said with regard to the value of such a clause, I do not think the House would desire that the Government should be guilty of a direct breach of 903 faith not only to the Law Society but also to this House.
§ MR. CALDWELL
But it will not do to spring this upon the House and say that there was an undertaking given which is the foundation for cutting out this clause. I object altogether to this clause being substituted, for the Government is only part of the House, and the rest of the House are not bound by any such undertaking. It does not seem to me that there is any reason whatever for cutting out this clause. Even if there was an undertaking of that kind the operation of this clause might have been postponed for three years. I do not think the House ought to give up this important clause because a certain undertaking has been given to the Law Society, who wish to make a profit out of these transactions, and we ought not to recognise any such undertakings as fettering the hands of this House. With regard to the clause which it is proposed to substitute I am surprised that it should be raised here, for there is no relationship whatever between Clause 8 and this new clause. I venture to say that this proposal is only a mere pretence to get rid of this inconvenient Clause 8 by providing something which seems to resemble it.
§ MR. BILLSON (Halifax)
I do not remember any such undertaking being mentioned in this House, and I think the bringing in of this clause by the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment is a very unfortunate proceeding. This Bill went to the Grand Committee where no mention was made of any intention to make any such alteration, and no opportunity was given in Grand Committee to call the attention of those interested in the subject in the country. And now when the Bill comes on at the Report stage there is put down a clause which substitutes something entirely different. I fully agree with what my hon. friend has said—that it is difficult to suppose that this kind of legislation can be even called a substitute for the clause which is to be left out. He says that it is being done in accordance with a pledge given to the Law Society, and consequently he is giving another kind of registration. This reform in the simplification of the transfer of property will only come about if we begin by doing something. If you have all your small property put upon a 904 local register it will be a great advantage, but we shall never have an efficient system unless we have a local register kept in the district where the transfer takes place. When we once get a local system of registration like that, people can go to the town hall or other building and have the alteration made at once. The advantages conferred by Clause 8 have been commented upon in various newspapers as a great boon which we are going to confer, and the Bill has been commended chiefly because it would provide for a transfer being made for the small sum of 10s. But now you have a Bill enabling municipalities to lend money, but you have not got the great improvement which I thoroughly believed the right hon. Gentleman desired to introduce. If you had left this clause in and suspended its operation for three years it would have been better than striking it out altogether. But no doubt pressure has been brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman by various solicitors and others, and I think they have been entirely misguided in regard to the action which they have taken in regard to this matter. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he cannot continue this clause in the Bill and make some alteration as to the time when it shall operate in order to meet the objection which he has raised.
§ * MR. WARR (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
I do not intend now to attempt to discuss the views which my hon. friend has just expressed upon the general question of registration of titles. Personally, I have much sympathy with them. I only desire to say that the Incorporated Law Society did not urge objections to the clause upon any selfish professional grounds, but because they considered that the clause as it stood would involve an expensive system, and would also involve a great deal of cumbersome officialism; and also because they regarded it as contrary to the pledge given when the Land Transfer Act of 1897 was passing through this House. The Land Transfer Act of 1897 provided that, except as to a county or part of a county, which would signify its desire that registration should be compulsorily applied for, no further order should be made under the section until the expiration of three years from the making of the first order. Accordingly this proposal would appear not only to be a violation of the pledge, but a 905 direct violation of the spirit of the Land Transfer Act.
§ MR. J. SAMUEL (Stockton)
I regret very much that the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary should have made another "graceful concession" by moving the omission of Clause 8 of this Bill. I have spoken in the Grand Committee strongly in favour of this part of the Bill, and we have complimented the right hon. Gentleman on his courage in trying to effect a change in the law with a view to simplifying the transfer of titles to property; but now I regret to see that the right hon. Gentleman has not the courage to carry forward this important change in the law, and to adhere to his original intention. The hon. Member for Halifax said that this was the first time this matter was introduced into any measure referring to the transfer of property. I think the hon. Member is mistaken, because my predecessor in the representation of Stockton, Mr. Wrightson, introduced a Bill in 1894 which contained a similar clause. He proposed to give facilities to working men to register their titles under the Transfer Act of 1875, and he pointed out the great advantage that would be to working men who would buy property under that particular measure. The reason why he withdrew it was because of the extraordinary pressure which was brought to bear on him by the solicitors of the town he then represented, and who were practically all conservatives. I complimented the right hon. gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, upon the re-introduction of this clause into his Bill, because I thought he would have the courage of his convictions, that he would run the gauntlet of solicitors throughout the country, and resist any pressure that might be brought to bear on the Government. We all know that the great objection to the working of this Bill is what is called the mobility of labour. Labour is a changeable commodity, and working men must go from town to town to obtain it. The principal argument used by the right hon. Gentleman in reply to that argument was, that an easy method of transfer would assist working men, and that they would be given the privilege of changing property from one to another for the small payment of ten shillings. This Measure went before the Grand Committee on Trade, and this clause went through without any comment whatever, every- 906 body agreeing that it initiated a very important change in the law, which I venture to say is demanded by the working classes of this country. I myself was requested to move the omission of this clause, on the ground that it would bring ruin on the legal profession. The Government, having deliberately considered it, should not have conceded the point without coining before a full House, and stating their reasons for doing so. We have had two examples to-day. We have had the Secretary to the Treasury conceding points, behind the back of the House, to the Telephone Company, and now we have the Government conceding this important point to the legal profession without the knowledge of the House. This Bill is a very defective one. I do not believe it will be of any great service to the working men of the country, but if it were to be of any service at all it would be through this clause, which provides for a transfer of property by a small payment. That would be an enormous advantage to the working classes if they purchased property under this Bill. The clause went further, and initiated a change in the law in this respect which could be applied to all property in the country. I regret very much that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, who I thought had the courage of his convictions, has not stood by the Bill, but has conceded to the legal profession such an important clause. I hope we shall divide against the omission of this clause, and I hope hon. Members on the other side of the House who represent working class constituents will also object to the concession made by the Government.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
I think if there be any Gentleman in this House who has the courage of his convictions, it is the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill. However much we may differ from him, all of us who have known him for any length of time must conclude that, whatever he takes in hand, he is always able and willing to support. The Government and the House find themselves in a dilemma between two alternatives—one, the promise given to the people of this country that this Bill would be introduced and passed into law; and the other is, as we have heard for the first time to-day, that the Law Society has had a pledge given to it the ques- 907 tion, therefore, is, whether the interests of the people or the interests of the Law Society weigh more. This Bill never had my full support, because I believe with the hon. Member for Stockton that it will not effect the purpose for which it it is intended, and I claim to know the working man as well as any hon. Member in the House. When the promise was made to the people of this country that a Bill of this kind would be brought in, it was expected that it would be as completely in harmony with their interests as possible. The Bill has passed two important stages. It has had a Second Reading, and has been through the Grand Committee, and in neither of them has this matter of the pledge to the Law Society been even mentioned. The hon. Member for Stockton stated, very correctly, that of all the parts of the Bill there was not one that would attract the favour of the working classes as much as this clause. I do not know exactly what the situation would be if this clause be eliminated, and I should like to have some expression of opinion from the Government as to how much it would cost for the transfer of a house of the value of £200 or £250. This clause sets forth that it would cost ten shillings, and that would be a great inducement to a working man to buy a house. But if, as is suggested, it would cost £3 or £4 if the clause is omitted, then I think that would be a very serious burden on the working man as well as a large percentage on the value of the house. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, except the interests of the Law Society outweigh the interests of the working classes of this country, whether he would not consent to allow the clause to remain. If it be taken out I am sure the Bill will be much less useful. Why should the Law Society object? Are we to understand that the Law Society are looking ahead for work, and trying to keep the present mode of transfer, with all its complications and costs, in their hands? What will be the conclusion of the working men of this country if this clause is taken out at the request of the Law Society? I submit they will come to the natural and only conclusion, that one of the most useful parts of the Bill was omitted because the Law Society wished it. May I also suggest to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill that perhaps the Law 908 Society would allow the pledge to fall into disuse and let this clause be retained?
§ * MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I confess I fully share the views of the hon. Members opposite. I think it would be a most unfortunate thing if we were to attempt to contract the benefits this Bill promised to the working classes of this country. I myself regard the Bill as a serious and honest attempt to make the great mass of the working men of this country the owners of the houses in which they reside. This clause is one of the most important, and we have a right to complain that no suggestion of this alteration was made in the Grand Committee. The clause passed the Grand Committee without the slightest objection being raised against it, and it was regarded as a most wholesome change. If you omit this clause you will saddle the working men with an unjust quantity of costs. You will at the very outset destroy the good the Bill would otherwise do because the working men themselves would fight shy of it.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman has not said his last word on this matter. I suggest one way out of the difficulty. I doubt whether a pledge was given at all. It was a sort of undertaking by the Government that the Land Transfer Act of 1897 should not apply except in the limited case to which reference had been made, and only for a period of three years. I agree it is of very great importance that the clause, as it originally stood, should remain in the Bill. Otherwise the transfer of title will amount to a considerable sum, the stamp duty on £200 being £3 or £4, in addition to which lawyers' fees will have to be paid. The workman is bound to transfer his title when he moves, because he has necessarily to find his residence in the place where he finds his work, and it is very hard that he should be compelled to pay these costs. I think that is the general sense of the House. I would make a practical suggestion if the right hon. Gentleman still thinks that the pledge to which he has referred covers this case. The difficulty can be met in this way. The pledge was given two years ago for a period of three years, and it could be provided now that the clause 909 should not be operative for one year. That would not be any harm, as it will take time to bring the Bill into operation. By that means you will serve the working men of the country, and you will keep the pledge said to have been given to the Law Society. I think, however, that the pledge does not cover this case at all, because, although a pledge might have been given with reference to existing titles, it would not apply to new titles to be created under this Bill.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not sure that I am entitled to take credit for an open mind on this question, because really my own feeling is entirely in accord with the views that have just been expressed. I do not, however, attach to it the altogether exaggerated importance which some hon. Members profess to feel, and which has led them so far as to say that the Bill itself would be useless unless this clause were retained. But no doubt it would smooth the operation of the Bill materially, and would go a long way to removing the objection to the difficulty of transferring a title in case of change of residence. Therefore, I am most strongly desirous, if the thing can be done without breach of faith, that the clause should remain in the Bill. I am at a disadvantage, however, because my hon. and learned friend the Attorney-General is away on other important public business. It was he who had to deal with the Land Transfer Act, and he is, of course, very much better acquainted with all that passed on that occasion. If it turns out that a pledge was given, whether it were a pledge affecting the Government or the House, the Government will be bound by it. The question has been raised whether there was really anything in the nature of a pledge given at all, and, if so, whether that pledge was not discharged. It is evident, however, that the matter must be further examined by the Government, and in that examination we will have, no doubt, the assistance of the Attorney-General. In the meantime I think I may ask the permission of the House to withdraw this new clause, and we will deal with the matter in another place if it is found necessary.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, with drawn.910
§ * MR. DRAGE (Derby)
The object of the Amendment which stands in my name is to introduce a principle which has worked so well in Belgium that the life of the proprietor should be secured for a sum sufficient to cover the expense, wholly or partly, of the acquisition of the house. It will be seen that the result of this new clause will be that on the death of the proprietor the widow, or other representative, would obtain the house without any further payment, and no loss would be sustained where a working man had paid instalments for a number of years and died. Under the present Bill the house would be lost, and similar hardships often occur as it is with building societies. The advantage does not apply alone to the working man; it would be a great advantage also to the local authorities. They would be saved from all chance of loss, and also from the very difficult and onerous task of dealing with hard cases which might arise under the Bill as it now stands. With this clause they would be able to deal liberally with all such cases. It has a further advantage, because it is designed to encourage working men to insure their lives for a substantial sum. The House is aware that throughout the country at the present moment there are burial insurances for £10 or £20, all of which is spent on the burial expenses. There is great extravagance, and the representatives of the deceased get little or no advantage. I am informed that there are no less than seven millions of these insurances in friendly societies, and seven millions in insurance companies. The House will therefore see that this clause would extend in a most useful form the principle of insurance already widely at work. May I also point out that friendly societies have already attempted to undertake this problem of life insurance up to a limit of £200. The policies issued by friendly societies, however, according to a recent decision of the Courts, are not assignable, and that difficulty will be met if the present clause is introduced. The views which I have been able to obtain from the friendly societies appear to me to be favourable to the course which I suggest the House should take. But I am informed that the friendly societies themselves have no desire to obtain any preference over other workers' advantage, and therefore it gives me great pleasure to accept the Amend- 911 ment of the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton, as the expenses are already cut down as low as possible. Without my clause it is impossible for the local authorities to take collateral security, and therefore the clause would encourage the local authorities to avail themselves of the Act by giving them further security that their money would not be lost. The clause is permissive, and the local authority has, therefore, power to refuse the friendly society if insolvent, or the proprietor if unlikely to keep the policy up. It would also encourage working men to insure their lives. Above all, it would induce large bodies of working men to take an interest in the friendly societies, and in the working of the Bill, and make it as far as possible a success. Last of all, if it is possible to make the friendly societies co-operate with the local authorities it would do a good deal towards solving other problems besides the problem of housing the working classes. I beg to move the new clause.
The local authority may accept as collateral security a policy of assurance on the life of a proprietor granted by a friendly or other society, and in that case shall reduce the charge for interest by five shillings per centum per annum.
On the death of the proprietor the local authority shall be entitled to give a discharge to a friendly or other society for the sum insured, and shall pay to the legal personal representative of the proprietor the balance of the insurance money after providing for the mortgage debt and for all expenses incurred by them."—(Mr. Drage.)
§ Brought up and read the first time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not see that there is any serious objection to the clause as amended. But without the Amendment I would have objected to it strongly, because I think the interest is already reduced to the lowest possible point, and the advantage to be gained by the collateral security would be so slight. The local authority, I think, will have ample security in the house, and of course if it is desired to have a collateral security, there is nothing to pre- 912 vent them taking it, either in the shape of a policy of insurance, or in any other form. But it is pointed out that a life insurance policy is the worst possible form of security, for there is nothing to guarantee the continued payment of the premiums. A working man may be induced this year to take out a policy of insurance on his own life, but next year he may be unwilling or unable to pay the premium, and the value of the security might therefore be destroyed. I must say that the opportunity of giving or taking this security will not be largely availed of.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I agree with much that was said by the hon. Member who introduced the clause. I think it would have this advantage: it would point out to those borrowing on their houses that this is a good way of freeing their representatives from liability in case of the borrower's death. I am, however, very doubtful about encouraging friendly societies to extend their operations to life insurance. That is a branch of work for which, I think, they are not, very well adapted. I would much prefer to insert the words, "Or other societies approved of by the local authority."
§ * SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Derby has accepted my Amendment. One of the great merits of the Bill is to encourage thrift in the working classes, and life insurance is a very good form of thrift. I think it is a very great matter to invite the co-operation of the friendly societies.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
I differ entirely from hon. Members who have spoken as to this new clause. I consider that, in the first place, it is unnecessary, and in the second place it is most dangerous. It is said that one of the objects of the Bill is to bring the friendly societies in co-operation with the local authorities. That is not the object of the Bill at all. The object of the Bill is to enable working men to acquire their houses on cheap and easy terms. The clause is unnecessary because, as the right hon. the Colonial Secretary has said, the local authorities, if they like to do so, can accept the collateral security of a policy of life insurance, or any other form of security. The clause is dangerous, 913 because it might induce the local authorities to take up the position that they ought to insist on some other security beyond the security of the value of the house before they would make an advance. Life insurance may be a very good way of providing for old age, but it is outside the scope of the Bill. What reason is there for compelling a working man who has, perhaps, gone the length of his tether in his efforts to build or buy a house, to insure his life before he gets the benefit of the Bill?
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir R. B. FINLAY,) Inverness Burghs
I think that under the Bill, as it stands, it is perfectly competent for the local authority to accept a policy of life insurance, or any other form of collateral security. But I do not think the danger which the hon. Member for Mid Glamorganshire sees in the proposed clause is likely to arise.
§ MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
I do not think that the terms of the Bill should be extended in the way suggested by the proposed clause. As the Bill is framed, the local authority may not advance more than four-fifths of the purchase price, but in all circumstances they are bound to see that the value of the house is sufficient to justify the advance. If the local authority is satisfied that they have sufficient security, why should they make it a sort of condition that a working man must insure his life in a friendly society, which may not be the very wisest thing for him to do, before he can obtain the benefit of the Act? I think we are travelling outside the scope of the Bill, and making it a sort of advertisement of the advantages of life insurance, and I hope the House will not consent to the clause.
§ * COL. HUGHES (Woolwich)
I object to the clause, on behalf of the working men who are, under this Bill, to be enabled to negotiate loans on cheaper terms than they can get at the present time. It would place on the working man who wanted to buy his house the burden of the premium of his policy of insurance, in addition to the burden of paying off the principal and the interest on the purchase money. It may be said that the clause is optional, but it would give the local 914 authorities a hint to demand this collateral security. I quite agree that without the clause the local authority may take a collateral security, but the suggestion ought not to come from us. If you put too much thrift on a man—first, the thrift of buying a house; and second, the thrift of insuring his life—he might not be able to do both at the same time, and the whole system would break down.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I think the hon. Gentleman ought to see that the clause is absolutely unnecessary, and may have a very mischievous effect. It confers no new power on the local authority, but it distinctly offers a suggestion to them that they ought to look for collateral security.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I advise my hon. friend to withdraw the clause, after the opinions which have been expressed by the right hon. the Colonial Secretary and others. I am quite sure that my hon. friend is animated by the best motives in suggesting the clause, but I think there is a great deal in what has been said, that the local authorities might make additional difficulties in granting loans owing to the suggestion of collateral security.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ * SIR ALFRED HICKMAN
When this Bill was introduced last session, it was made a matter of complaint, especially by the hon. Member for Battersea, that it did not apply to London and to our very large towns. The object of the clause which I venture to propose is that it should be made applicable to London and other large towns. It is obvious that there is no reason why a number of persons should not join together to build, or acquire a row, or block of houses; and why should they not be able to obtain advances from the local authorities collectively as well as individually? The clause is only permissive, and I believe it will materially extend the usefulness of the measure. I move that the clause be read a second time.
A local authority may make the like advances to two or more persons jointly to whom this Act applies, for the purpose of acquiring a row or block of dwellings in which they bonâ fide intend to reside; such advances to be subject to the same provisions and restrictions (as far as they apply) as if the advances were made to one person in respect of one house."—(Sir Alfred Hickman.)
§ Brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made and question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope my hon. friend will not press this clause. I perfectly understand his motives, but there are very strong practical objections to his proposal. A general feeling has been expressed that it would complicate matters if local authorities were allowed to advance money on houses that are not already built or in course of erection; but there is another objection to making the loans to a number of tenants jointly, which it is quite impossible to overcome. Suppose twenty tenants asked for a loan jointly, you would require to make them into a corporation; and that would involve every one of these answerable for the other nineteen, in cases, for instance, of injury.
§ MR. GRAY (West Ham, North)
I am bound to agree that this clause, as it stands, is objectionable; but I am exceedingly sorry that there is no provision in the Bill which would enable two persons to purchase a house already in existence. It is very common in the suburbs of large towns for two families to reside in one house, the one on the ground floor, and the other on the second floor; and the house becomes two separate tenements, with two separate entrances. In my own borough a large number of streets would be put out of the operation of the Bill, unless it is made applicable to such cases.
§ * SIR ALFRED HICKMAN
After what has fallen from my right hon. friend. I ask permission of the House to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.916
§ * MR. LOWLES
I move the Amendment standing in my name with every confidence that the House will accept it. I regard this Bill as one of the most important of a social character brought before the House this session. Under the Bill the maximum sum to be advanced is £210, assuming that the price of the house is £300, and that the purchaser has £60. I have taken some pains to ascertain the relative amounts of deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank—a test of the savings of the people; and I think I am right in saying that where one person has £50 or £60 in the bank, there are ten persons who have £25 or £30 at their credit. By force of reasoning, if the amount to be advanced were increased from four-fifths to nine-tenths of the value of the house, for every one person who would be benefited under the Bill as it stands, ten persons would be benefited by the alteration I propose. We have precedents for reducing the margin of security. Under the Irish Purchase Act the Land Commissioners have actually advanced to within 2½ per cent. of the value of the property. If the Irish tenant can be trusted, surely the English mechanic can be trusted also. I am told that the arrears in Ireland are exceedingly small, and experience proves that a small margin like this has not caused loss. Another reason I have for advancing this proposal is that there are a large number of land corporations who have been buying land and building houses in the suburbs, and who sell to a working man a house by instalments spread over a long period if he pays a deposit of 10 per cent. on the value of the house. If a private party can do that surely the State ought to be able to do it also. Every quarter the rate of security would be increased at the rate of 3½ per cent. per annum. These facilities have been given to the Irish tenant occupiers, and have not been abused by them. And are English artisans to be less trusted? I sincerely believe that this measure will be very largely used, and I hope we shall afford every possible facility in order that it may be brought within reach of the greatest possible number. I believe the State can afford the small risk involved in reducing the margin from one-fifth to one-tenth, and I hope the Government will accept the Amendment.
In page 1, line 10, to leave out the words 'four-fifths' in order to insert the words 'nine-tenths,' instead thereof."—(Mr. Lowles.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'four-fifths' stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
This question as to the proportion to be advanced under the Bill was fought out in the Grand Committee.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not saying anything about a particular Amendment, but the general question was before the Grand Committee.
§ MR. LOWLES
The Amendment in my name was by a misunderstanding not moved, and no Amendment to reduce the margin was moved, although one to increase it was.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not prepared to accept the view of my hon. friend. However, there are two points to consider. We wish to advance the largest possible proportion that is likely to be acceptable to the local authorities. If we suggest to a local authority or require it to advance a proportion for which in its opinion there is not sufficient security offered, then the Bill will be a dead letter in a great many localities. In my opinion one-fifth is not too much to ask for security. It is quite true that a number of working men may not have that amount, although there are means by which they can find it, but a very large number of the better class working men have, in savings banks and other investments, amounts sufficient to cover the advance required by this Bill. The whole question has been very carefully considered, and I most strongly advise the House to retain the proportion already in the Bill.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)
I certainly do not wish to re-open this question, but I wish to say a few words 918 on behalf of a person who has been rather left without any representative—namely, the ordinary ratepayer. We all know the philanthropic motives of the hon. Member for Haggerston; but we must remember that the local authorities run a risk under this Bill, and we have no business to make that risk too great. My hon. friend who moved the Amendment referred to the cases of the Irish farmers and the Scotch crofters, but I venture to suggest that neither of them is applicable to the question we are now discussing. This is a question of houses, and houses require repairs, especially the sort of houses to be bought under this Bill. Property is rising so rapidly in London that it may be safe enough to advance a larger proportion on it; but there are many parts of the country in which house property is falling, and in which the population is diminishing and shifting away, and in such cases the local authorities would run very considerable risk if they advanced more than four-fifths.
§ MR. BAINBRIDGE (Lincolnshire)
I can quite understand the right hon. Gentleman regarding the interests of the working man on the one hand, and the interests of the local authority on the other. My memory confirms what the hon. Member has stated, that this Amendment was not discussed in the Grand Committee, but it was left out by a misunderstanding. I am quite sure that the security proposed in the Amendment would be safe. If we wish this Bill to be made use of, we must make the terms very much more favourable for the working classes. I hope the hon. Member will push his Amendment to a Division.
§ MR. BARTLEY
No private firm or prudent person would dream of going beyond the proposal in the Bill, and therefore we ought not to compel the ratepayers to do so.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 259; Noes, 67. (Division List, No. 207.)921
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Doxford, William Theodore||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Drage, Geoffrey||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)|
|Arnold, Alfred||Drucker, A.||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Arrol, Sir William||Dunn, Sir William||Llewellyn, E. H (Somerset)|
|Ashmead Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Edwards, Owen Morgan||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn. (Swan.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Ellis, John Edward||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Evans, Sam. T. (Glamorgan)||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Fellowes, Hon. A. Edward||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool)|
|Baker, Sir John||Ferguson, Hon. C. Munro (Leith||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller|
|Balcarres, Lord||Finch, George H.||Lorne, Marquess of|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lowe, Francis William|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds||Fisher, William Hayes||Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Banbury, Frederick George||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose.||Lucas-Shadwell, William|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. S. (Hunts||FitzWygram, General Sir F.||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Fletcher, Sir Henry||M'Crae, George|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Flower, Ernest||M'Ewan, William|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Folkestone, Viscount||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'rgh, W|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Fry, Lewis||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Garfit, William||Malcolm, Ian|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Gedge, Sydney||Mappin, Sir Frederick T.|
|Biddulph, Michael||Gilliat, John Saunders||Marks, Henry Hananel|
|Bill, Charles||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.|
|Billson, Alfred||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)|
|Birrell, Augustine||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Melville, Beresford Valentine|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton.|
|Bolitho, Thomas Bedford||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (StGeorg's||Milbank, Sir Powlett C. J.|
|Bond, Edward||Goschen, George J. (Susex)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith.||Goulding Edward Alfred||Milton, Viscount|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex||Graham, Henry Robert||Milward, Colonel Victor|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Monk, Charles James|
|Brassey, Albert||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Gull, Sir Cameron||Moore, Robert J. (Shropshire)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Gunter, Colonel||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monmouthsh)|
|Ballard, Sir Harry||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm.||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hardy, Laurence||Mount, William George|
|Burt, Thomas||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Grahm. (Bute|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glas.)||Harwood, George||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Newark, Viscount|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derby.)||Hatch, Ernest Frederick G.||Newdigate, Francis Alexander|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale.||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Heath, James||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Bir.)||Helder, Augustus||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Chelsea, Viscount||Hill, Sir Edw. Stock (Bristol)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Hoare, E. Brodie (Hampstead)||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)|
|Coddington, Sir William||Hobhouse, Henry||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Holland, Hon. Lionel R. (Bow)||Pease, Herbrt. Pike (Darlington|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Holland, Wm. H. (York, W. R.)||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Pilkington, R. (Lancs., Newton)|
|Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd)||Howard, Joseph||Pilkington, Sir G. A. (Lancs SW|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes S.W.||Howell, William Tudor||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Cotton-Jodrell, Col. E. T. D.||Hozier, Hon. J. H. Cecil||Priestley, Sir W. O. (Edin.)|
|Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Purvis, Robert|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hughes, Colonel Edwin||Rankin, Sir James|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Crombie, John William||Hutton, John (Yorks N. R.)||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Jessel, Captain H. Merton||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez Edw.||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Roberts, John H (Denbighs.)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Joicey, Sir James||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Robinson, Brooke|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H.||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield.||Kenyon, James||Round, James|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Doughty, George||Kimber, Henry||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers.||Knowles, Lees||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse|
|Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Stone, Sir Benjamin||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-L.)|
|Seely, Charles Hilton||Strachey, Edward||Williams, John Carvell (Notts.|
|Seton-Karr, Henry||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.|
|Sidebottom, T. H. (Stalybr.)||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)||Thorburn, Walter||Woodall, William|
|Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Tomlinson, Wm. E. Murray||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hudders.|
|Spencer, Ernest||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wyndham, George|
|Spicer, Albert||Tritton, Charles Ernest||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Stantley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk||Usborne, Thomas||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)||Valentia, Viscount||Younger, William|
|Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Ward, Hon. Robert A. (Crewe)||TELLERS THE FOR THE AYES—|
|Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart||Warr, Augustus Frederick||Sir William Walrond and|
|Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Stock, James Henry||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Price, Robert John|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Hazell, Walter||Priestley, Briggs (Yorks.)|
|Allison, Robert Andrew||Hedderwick, Thomas Charles H.||Randall, David|
|Austin, M.||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Horniman, Frederick John||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Caldwell, James||Jacoby, James Alfred||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow)||Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Kearley, Hudson E.||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton||Labouchere, Henry||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lambert, George||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Langley, Batty||Weir, James Galloway|
|Colville, John||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'land)||Wills, Sir William Henry|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Leng, Sir John||Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Wilson, Henry J, (York, W. R.)|
|Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh||Lough, Thomas||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Dewar, Arthur||Macaleese, Daniel||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Dillon, John||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Ghee, Richard||Woods, Samuel|
|Doogan, P. C.||Murnaghan, George|
|Duckworth, James||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Mr. Lowles and Mr. Bainbridge.|
|Gold, Charles||Perks, Robert William|
|Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley||Pirie, Duncan V.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The Bill as it was introduced provided, besides the limit of four-fifths of the value of the house, the further limit that the advance was in no case to exceed £240. It was represented in the Grand Committee, however, that it was most desirable to induce the purchase of freehold wherever possible, and that as the purchaser of freehold would necessarily add a considerable sum to the total purchase price, the advance should in such cases be increased. Accordingly, I undertook to bring forward an Amendment, which I now move, that the limit in the case of freehold should be £300.
In Clause 1, page 1, line 12, at end, to insert 'or in the case of a fee simple, or leasehold of not less than ninety-nine years unexpired at the date of the purchase, three hundred pounds.'"—(Mr. Secretary Chamberlain.)
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The Amendment which I now move is to prevent a man from obtaining advances under this Bill for two houses at the same time. We want to guard against the Bill being used in any way for house speculation.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid.)
As a man is compelled to reside in the house he has purchased, how can he live six months in one house and six in another?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Of course residence is an essential condition for an advance under the Bill. Bat we consider that the Amendment is desirable.
In Clause 2, page 2, line 16, after 'house,' to insert, and is not already the proprietor with-
in the meaning of this Act of a house to which the statutory conditions apply.'
§ SIR R. B. FINLAY
The Amendment which I move is intended to meet the case of a bankrupt or a man dying insolvent. In that case it is very desirable that the estate should get the benefit of any payments made in respect of the house. At the same time, this would be very difficult if it were necessary for the trustee himself to take possession and realise, for he would in that way render himself liable for all payments that yet remained to be paid. The effect of this provision is simply to provide that in the case of bankruptcy or insolvency the local authorities should take possession or sell the house, and that any balance remaining on the sale over the amount advanced should be paid to the estate.
§ SIR R. B. FINLAY
If the hon. Gentleman will look at clause 5, he will see that wherever the local authority is entitled to take possession of a house, possession may be recovered, whatever be the value of the house, by or on behalf of the authority, as if the local authority were the landlord and the proprietor of the house were the tenant.
In Clause 3, page 3, line 22, at end to add: (5) in the case of the bankruptcy of the proprietor of the house, or in the case of a deceased proprietor's estate being administered in bankruptcy under Section 125 of the Bankruptcy Act, 1883, the local authority may either take possession of the house or order the sale of the house without taking possession, and shall do so except in pursuance of some arrangement to the contrary with the trustee in bankruptcy."—(Mr. Solicitor General.)
In Clause 7, page 5, line 17, at end to add 'and where the proprietor of any such house becomes bankrupt, or his estate is administered in bankruptcy under Section 125 of the Bankruptcy Act, 1883, and in either case an arrangement under this Act is made with the
trustee in bankruptcy, the condition as to residence shall, if the local authority think fit, be suspended during the continuance of the arrangement.'"—(The Solicitor-General.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE (Antrim, W.)
The Act of 1883 does not apply to Ireland. Should there not be a reference to the corresponding Irish Act of 1872?
§ SIR R. B. FINLAY
I will call the attention of the Law Officers to this. I think the matter can be dealt with in Clause 14.
§ * MR. HOBHOUSE
I have a very important Amendment to move on this clause, the object of it being to substitute for the County Council, so far as that body has jurisdiction under this Bill, urban or rural district councils, including in the urban councils the council of every borough. The reason which makes the County Councils Association, who have asked me to bring forward this Amendment, desirous of having this change, is that as the Bill at present stands the council of every urban district with a population of over 7,000 may exclude itself from the operation of the Bill, and constitute itself local authority for the purposes of the Bill. Under a subsequent Amendment to be proposed by my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Warwickshire, every rural district council with a population of over 7,000 may do the same. I understand the Government look favourably on my hon. friend's Amendment, and therefore I think it would be well for me to put before the House the position in which the County Council would stand should the Amendment be carried. In the first place, I cannot understand the principle on which so many districts which are represented already on the County Council are allowed to exclude themselves from the jurisdiction of the Council, and to become local authorities under this Act. The only interpretation I can put upon it is that the Government and the right hon. Gentleman believe that the County Council will not work this Act properly. They have, so to say, a distrust of the County Council. If that be so, then why not go a little fur- 925 ther and make the district council, in whom apparently they have confidence, the authority under the Bill? Otherwise the County Council will be left with the apparent responsibility, and with power over only a very small portion of the county, with the result that in most cases the majority of the members voting on the application of the Act will represent districts which can at any time exclude themselves from the operation of the Act, and will, therefore, be in a wholly irresponsible position. I have obtained returns from one or two counties, in order to show the remarkable effect of this Bill. In the West Riding of Yorkshire there are 90 councillors. Under the Government proposal the representatives of the districts which can exclude themselves from the provisions of the Bill number 49, or more than a majority; while if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warwick is carried, the number will be increased to 76, or more than three-fourths of the council voting on the application of the Act will have no real or direct interest. In the County of Stafford, of the 76 councillors, 45 will be irresponsible under the Government proposal, and no fewer than 65 if my hon. friend's Amendment is embodied in the Bill. In Lancashire, out of 105 councillors, the respective numbers of irresponsible councillors will be 67 and 75. I have here a very strong letter from Sir John Hibbert, the Chairman of the Lancashire County Council, whom we are sorry not to have with us in this House now. He points out that in Lancashire, under the Government proposal, a population of very nearly a million and a half—out of a total population in the county of less than two millions, will be excluded under the Government proposal, while if the Amendment of my hon. and gallant friend is carried, the County Council will only be left with control in this matter over a population of 274,000. The House will agree with my right hon. friend when he writes that this is "an absurdity as a matter of local government." Bedford, a smaller county, shows practically the same result—out of a population of 900,000, there will, if the Amendment is carried, be left only 25,000 under the jurisdiction of the County Council. It may be argued that although the districts may claim to be excluded, they will not necessarily do so; but assuredly every district council which 926 is anxious to put the Act into operation will claim the right to do so, if only for the pride of carrying out the work. I believe I am right in saying that in every county England there will be an irresponsible majority of the councillors deciding on the application of the Acts to certain districts. I believe myself that if the county councils are given proper responsibility and proper powers to carry out the Act they will not be slow to put it in force, wherever there is any popular demand. No doubt the application of the Small Holdings Act was not quite so general as had been anticipated, but then that was largely due to certain adverse influences which were at work such as the depression in the price of land. But if the demand for houses proves as extensive as it is believed in certain quarters of the House it will, I am sure no county council would wish to withstand any pressure which might be applied to put the Act in force. You are putting the county councils in an unfair position if you exclude from their area the greater part of the population. If you make the majority of the councillors irresponsible you cannot expect them to work the Act satisfactorily, and not only that, but, in future, in order to solve this difficult question of local areas there will be clauses put in many Bills giving responsibility of jurisdiction primarily to the county councils, but allowing the district councils to opt themselves out of that jurisdiction. This will strike a vital blow at the root of county government. It is because this Bill may be made a precedent that the County Councils Association think it necessary to enter this protest. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see the true solution of this question. If he does not trust the county councils in all, let him trust them not at all, and put the poorer, responsibility, and jurisdiction in the hands of the district councils, and thus give them a greater inducement to carry out the Act.
In page 5, line 39, to leave out from the word 'any' to the end of sub-section (1) of Clause 9, in order to insert the words 'urban or rural district' instead thereof."—(Mr. Hobhouse.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words from the word 'any' to the word 'urban,' in line 40, stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My hon. friend appears in this matter as the defender of the rights, dignities and authorities of the county councils as against the ambition of the urban and rural districts within their jurisdiction. In dealing with this matter the Government have had to consider one or two important questions. The most important has been what is the best authority for carrying out the provisions of the Bill. It seems to me that two things are required. The authority must be one of character and experience, and able to deal with what is, after all, rather novel and responsible legislation in a creditable manner, and not be inclined or liable to waste the ratepayers' money. The authority must also be sufficiently sympathetic to the objects of the Bill, in order that the desire of the population to take advantage of the Bill may not be frustrated. In the first place the Bill proposes as authorities two great bodies—the county councils and the councils of county boroughs. They possess one of these desiderata, for their experience and business capacity ensure that, if they undertake to put the Bill into operation, it will be done in a proper and economical manner. But on further consideration it appeared to us that the county councils were being asked to undertake authority over too large districts, and that it was almost impossible for them, with their other work, to have the requisite knowledge of and interest in the rural districts. My hon. friend has adduced reasons for the failure of the Small Holdings Act, but I confess I think the most important reason is the unreadiness of county councils to deal with matters which involve the obtaining of so much local knowledge. Therefore, it is provided in the Bill that urban district councils with a population of over 7,000, wherever they desire it, shall be taken out of the county councils' area, both as to liability to taxation under the Bill and as to putting its provisions in operation. Then it is proposed by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon that rural district councils shall be able to exclude themselves in the same way. By accepting that Amendment all districts with a population of over 7,000 will be provided for, 928 and the Amendment will introduce, as an operative authority, a most useful class of public bodies. We required a certain limit of population, and we took 7,000 as being reasonable, and calculated to secure that the authorities had had considerable experience of public business. The rural district councils will cover the rural districts on the outskirts of large towns, where, I believe, there will be the largest demand for the application of the Bill. I do not think that it is certain that all these bodies will take advantage of the opportunity to become authorities under the Bill; but the hon. Member desires that the county councils shall be relieved from responsibility altogether. That would be to leave a considerable area, not very populous, in each county, unrepresented altogether for the purposes of this Bill. Against that suggestion I must also protest, because if a labourer desires to obtain a cottage on the terms of the Bill, I think that the man should have an opportunity of representing his case to the county council. I hope that when such a case presents itself the county councils will show themselves more considerate towards the claim when made than has been the case under the Small Holdings Act. While, therefore, I am prepared to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon, I am unable to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset.
* LORD E. FIZMAURICE
The right hon. Gentleman has announced an exceedingly important change in this Bill, a change which materially alters its provisions. I hope he will not think I am actuated by any unworthy jealousy or suspicion of urban authorities in the action I am about to take, for I may say that I support the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset, because I have confidence in those authorities. I may go further than he does, because I believe that by the acceptance of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon we shall be reducing the county councils to an absurd position, as they will be left with only a few detached rags of territory over which they call exercise jurisdiction in this matter. I believe myself that urban authorities and rural authorities are better fitted to deal with this Bill than the county councils. No doubt, in certain matters, it is better for the county 929 council to have the jurisdiction, but I am inclined to think that in regard to this particular question this Bill, if it conferred the primary authority on urban and district councils, with an appeal to the county council, would prove a more valuable piece of legislation. What will be the result of the change made by the right hon. Gentleman? We shall have this extraordinary state of things when the Bill passes into law; we shall have the county council exercising jurisdiction over a few detached places, and urban and district councils acting as separate authorities. This will lead to rating and other difficulties and involve no end of trouble. I think the only course open to the Government is to adopt the Amendment of my hon. friend the Member for East Somerset, and to place their trust in urban and rural councils throughout the country, allowing the county councils to retire from the field, as they are perfectly willing to do.
§ COLONEL MILWARD (Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon)
As we are practically discussing the substance of the Amendment I have placed upon the Paper, perhaps it would be convenient if I stated the reasons which have actuated me in making this proposal. The objection I have to the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset is, that it excludes county councils altogether, and inserts urban and rural councils without any limit as to their size. Now, we all acknowledge that tins is an Act under which a considerable amount of public money may be spent, and it is therefore desirable that it should be administered by responsible persons. But if we admit all the urban and rural authorities, the number of small bodies entrusted with these powers will be exceedingly great. Take the case of the County of Chester. There you have twenty-two urban districts with a population of less than 7,000, many of them having a population of only 1,000 or 2,000. This is an experimental measure, and you are going to entrust large powers for borrowing and lending money on house property to these very small districts. I do not think it would be a safe thing to do. I therefore feel bound to vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset. The question then arises—to whom shall we entrust the primary authority for putting this Act into operation? On the one hand you have the 930 county council, and on the other hand you have the urban and rural districts with a population exceeding 7,000. In passing, I would point out that a rural district with a population of 7,000 has a far larger rateable value, and therefore is of far greater importance, than an urban district with the same population. I have the highest opinion of the work of the county councils, but it has been, brought home very strongly to me that this not a body which can possibly administer an Act of this kind satisfactorily. When you have districts separated by fifteen, twenty, or thirty miles from the centre of the county, your trouble at once begins in a matter of this kind; for, before you are justified in lending money, it is requisite to have local knowledge of the persons to whom the money is to be advanced. The noble Lord, the Member for Wiltshire, has spoken of the difficulties that may arise in connection with finance. It is certain that if losses should occur under this Act—I do not believe that they will—it will be necessary to have a differential rate. But you have that already. Lancashire is honey-combed with non-county boroughs, and there you already have differential rates; and surely, if you have to have a differential rate for one district it is just as easy to have it for twenty. I therefore do not attach much importance to that argument of the noble Lord.
§ MR. DILLON
If this Amendment is accepted, and the county councils are still left in authority over those districts which cannot or will not take autonomy themselves, you will have in every county council in the country a large number of irresponsible and responsible councillors. You will have some representing autonomous districts, and others who do not. If this Bill is passed at all, the proper machinery to work it is such as that which has been employed in Ireland and Scotland for the erection of labourers' cottages—councils sufficiently small to have a personal knowledge of the district and its inhabitants. It will be exceedingly difficult for county councils to put this Bill into operation at all, and that difficulty will be enormously increased if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon is accepted; because, to expect the county council will be able to do justice in administering this Act to the remaining few districts which will be debarred from 931 claiming autonomy, is too much, and those districts, as a result, will be excluded from any benefit at all. There are many parts of the country of Ireland where the county councils have less knowledge of the remoter parts of their districts than they have of the Metropolis. Then, again, what would be the financial relations of the districts which remain under the jurisdiction of the county council and the districts which obtain autonomy under the Amendment?
§ MR. DILLON
That being so, it does not appear to me that there is much force in the contention of the noble Lord. I think there can be no doubt that the best machinery for carrying out this Act will be the district councils.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
Personally, I should prefer the county council to the district council. I do not think that it is at all clear that the county councils would be less sympathetic to the labourers than the district council, for county councils usually act through local committees. There is, no doubt, a great deal of misunderstanding about it, and I quite recognise the difficulty that would be felt in the matter, and that the right hon. Gentleman may not be ready to hand over all these powers to the county council. The objections to this scheme are very great, but I suggest that it might be well to follow the precedents that are set in other Bills, giving the power to the urban and district councils, but giving a concurrent power—a power to act on appeal—to the county councils. By that means you would remove from the Bill the blot which is now upon it, of studding a county with small administrative districts, to the detriment of the dignity and weight of the county council. Personally, I think that the district council ought to go out altogether, and that the parish councils ought to come in.
§ * MR. BILL (Staffordshire, Leek)
I think the figures taken from Staffordshire, where there is a large county borough and urban district population, show that it would be well if this power were left in the hands of small and local bodies rather than the hands of the county council. Inasmuch as under the altered 932 scheme now accepted by the Government, only a wretched residuum of the population would come under the purview of the County Council, so far as this Bill is concerned. I believe that that would secure greater uniformity and simplicity, and therefore I should suggest that the Amendment before the House should be accepted.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
The difficulty of the Government in this matter is that they do not like to give this authority to smaller bodies than those controlling 7,000 population; but it is suggested that that objection might be got rid of by giving an appeal under this Act from the smaller bodies to the county councils in a case where the local authorities had refused to take advantage of the Acts. There is a precedent for such a course in the Act of 1894, and if that was done it would get rid of the difficulty of accepting the Amendment which is now before the House. It has been shown conclusively that if you take out all these local authorities it will only leave a small residuum, and the county council would not be able to take advantage of the Act. All the larger areas would contract themselves out of the Act.
§ SIR R. B. FINLAY
The hon. Gentleman has correctly stated that there is great difficulty in the way of adopting any such proposal as that which has been made, because it is not desirable to entrust, in the first instance, at all events, the administration of this Act to very small authorities. We want an authority representing a considerable population, and with that view the limit of 7,000 has been suggested. It appears to me that it is desirable that the Act should extend to the whole country, and therefore we must provide some authority to act in those parts of the country not included in the districts that adopt the Act and which have a population of 7,000. For that purpose it is desirable that the county council should have jurisdiction so that if there is any number of labourers who want cottages they may have some authority to which they may go, even if they do not reside in an urban or rural district with a population of 7,000. It has been suggested that there should be an appeal from the district council to the county council, but I ask the House to consider the difficulties that will anise if we allow an appeal of that kind. A man would go to the district council and 933 ask for an advance to enable him to purchase a house. If the district council refused it is suggested that he should appeal to the county council, and the county council is then supposed to hear evidence and, if they think fit, make the grant out of the county rate. So we shall have two sets of authorities working in the same district and we should have interminable proceedings. I suggest to the House that it had better adhere to the arrangement that has been suggested, and which, on the whole, avoids the greatest number of difficulties and attains the maximum of good.
§ come to the conclusion that there might be some risk attached to this Bill and would decide to become an authority under the Act for the express purpose of not putting it into operation. In a case of that sort an individual would be placed at a great disadvantage if he had not a right of appeal to the county authority, and I would still venture to press strongly the suggestion that in those cases where individuals might be precluded altogether from purchasing houses in the district where their work compelled them to live they should have an opportunity of appealing to the county authority.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 240; Noes, 126 (Division List No. 208).937
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Chelsea, Viscount||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lon)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Gibbs, Hn. Vicary (St. Albans)|
|Arnold, Alfred||Coddington, Sir William||Gilliat, John Saunders|
|Arrol, Sir William||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Gordon, Hon. John Edward|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Colston, Chas. Ed. H. Athole||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon|
|Bagot, Captain J. Fitzroy||Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Goschen, Rt. Hn G. J. (St.George's|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)|
|Baird, John George A.||Cornwallis, Fiennes S. W.||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Ed. T. D.||Graham, Henry Robert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Man'r||Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W.(Leeds)||Cranborne, Viscount||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury)|
|Barnes, Frederick Gorell||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Greville, Hon. Ronald|
|Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. Smith. (Hnts||Curzon, Viscount||Gull, Sir Cameron|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Dalbiac, Col. Philip Hugh||Gunter, Colonel|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hall, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord George|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Denny, Colonel||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert W.|
|Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hardy, Laurence|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield.||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Haslett, Sir James Horner|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. D.||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Donkin, Richard Sir||Heath, James|
|Biddulph, Michael||Doughty, George||Helder, Augustus|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers.||Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter|
|Bolitho, Thomas Bedford||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Hickman, Sir Alfred|
|Bousfield, William Robert||Doxford, William Theodore||Hill, Sir Edward Stock (Bristol)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King'sLynn)||Drage, Geoffrey||Hoare, Edw. B. (Hampstead)|
|Brassey, Albert||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edwd.||Hornby, Sir William Henry|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir. J. (Man.)||Howard, Joseph|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Howell, William Tudor|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Finch, George H.||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Fisher, William Hayes||Hughes, Colonel Edwin|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose.||Hutton, John (Yorks, N. H.)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||FitzWygram, General Sir F.||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Jenkins, Sir John Jones|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Fletcher, Sir Henry||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Flower, Ernest||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Bir.||Folkestone, Viscount||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.||Garfit, William||Kemp, George|
|Kenyon, James||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Colonel Wm.||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Sidebothom, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Keswick, William||Morgan, Hn. F. (Mon[...]mthsh.)||Sidebottom, T. H. (Stalybr.)|
|Kimber, Henry||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptf'd)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Murray, R Hn. A. Graham (Bute||Spencer, Ernest|
|Knowles, Lees||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Newark, Viscount||Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)|
|Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)|
|Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Nicholson, William Graham||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M Taggart|
|Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn (Swansea||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. Stafford||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.|
|Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Oldroyd, Mark||Stock, James Henry|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Sutherland, Sir Thomas|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool||Pease, Herbert Pike (D'rl'gt'n||Thorburn, Walter|
|Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Pierpoint, Robert||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Lorne, Marquess of||Pilkington, R. (Lancs. Newton||Tomlinson, Wm. E. Murray|
|Lowe, Francis William||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lowles, John||Priestley, Sir W. Overend (Edin.||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Usborne, Thomas|
|Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Purvis, Robert||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lucas-Shadwell, William||Pym, C. Guy||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Rankin, Sir James||Ward, Hon. R. A. (Crewe)|
|MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Warr, Agustus Frederick|
|Maclure, Sir John William||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|M'Crae, George||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson||Wentworth, B. C. Vernon-|
|M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'gh, W.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.|
|Malcolm, Ian||Robinson, Brooke||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Marks, Henry Hananel||Round, James||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Wilson J. W. (Worcestersh., N.)|
|Melville, Beresford Valentine||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Ch'lt'nh'm||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. Jn.||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wyndham, George|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Milton, Viscount||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Younger, William|
|Milward, Colonel Victor||Savory, Sir Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Monk, Charles James||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard||Sir William Walrond and|
|Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.||Seely, Charles Hilton||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Dillon, John||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Donelan, Captain A.||Kearley, Hudson, E.|
|Allen, Wm. (Newc.-un'r-Lyme)||Doogan, P. C.||Langley, Batty|
|Allison, Robert Andrew||Duckworth, James||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumber.)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Dunn, Sir William||Leng, Sir John|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. H. Henry||Edwards, Owen Morgan||Leuty, Thomas Richmond|
|Austin, M.||Ellis, John Edward||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Baker, Sir John||Evans, S. T. (Glamorgan)||Logan, John William|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Lough, Thomas|
|Bethell, Commander||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Macaleese, Daniel|
|Billson, Alfred||Flynn, James Christopher||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Birrell, Augustine||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||M'Ewan, William|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Gladstone, Rt. Hon. H. J.||M'Ghee, Richard|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Goddard, Daniel Ford||M'Kenna, Reginald|
|Burt, Thomas||Gold, Charles||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley||M'Leod, John|
|Caldwell, James||Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||Maden, John Henry|
|Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Harwood, George||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale.||Moulton, John Fletcher|
|Cawley, Frederick||Hazell, Walter||Murnaghan, George|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Colville, John||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Holland, Wm. H. (York, W. R.)||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Horniman, Frederick John||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Crombie, John William||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan. (Cardig'n||Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez Edw.||Palmer, Sir Charles M. (Durham|
|Davitt, Michael||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Dewar, Arthur||Joicey, Sir James||Pease, J. A. (Nort' umb'rla'd)|
|Perks, Robert William||Shaw, Charles E. (Stafford)||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Pilkington, Sir G. A. (Lancs S W||Smith, Samuel (Flint)||Williams, John Carvell (Notts)|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Spicer, Albert||Wills, Sir William Henry|
|Price, Robert John||Steadman, William Charles||Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)|
|Priestly, Briggs (Yorks)||Stevenson, Francis S.||Wilson, H. J. (York, W.R.)|
|Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Randell, David||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Rickett, J. Compton||Tennant, Harold John||Woodall, William|
|Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||Woods, Samuel|
|Roberts, John H. (Denbigh)||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.|
|Samuel, J.(Stockton-on-Tees)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Scott, C. Prestwich (Leigh)||Wallace, Robert||Mr. Hobhouse and Mr. Bill.|
§ It being after half-past Five of the clock, further proceeding on consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered upon Monday next.