§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (12.15.) MR. EDWARDS (Radnorshire)
I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, which has the support of many Unionists in Wales. The Bill has been referred to in some portions of the Welsh Press as though it were a measure to establish Home Rule for Wales. This is a complete misapprehension. Home Rule implies the granting of legislative powers, and there are no such powers in this Bill. It is confined to matters of a purely administrative character. If this is a Home Rule Bill, then the same may be said of the Local Government Act of 1888, for this Bill only seeks in a modest way to extend the powers already granted by that Act.
As is seen from the Memorandum, the Bill has two objects. The first is to transfer to the councils of counties and county boroughs certain functions at present performed by Departments of the Central Government. These functions are of an administrative character, and are specified in the Schedule. I may say that through an oversight the words, "councils of county boroughs," were omitted from Clause 1 of the Bill, and that Clause should be read as if those words were included. A few of these powers are now vested in the Privy Council and the Home Secretary, but the greater part of them belong to the Local Government Board. Some of these powers are very useful, and should by all means be delegated to local authorities. For instance, take the Public Health Act of 1875. Certain sections of that Act included in the Schedule refer to matters connected with sanitation. Now, some may think this is a small matter, but it is really an important matter. Why should it be necessary to apply to the Local Government Board for power to move in such a matter as this? It is a matter in which very often it is important that you should move quickly. But it is well known that owing to the overworked condition of the Local Government Board and other Departments it is impossible to do this. The sections of the Act to which I have referred give the Local Government 384 Board power to order and sanction certain sanitary works. Why not give this power to the County Councils? They know the circumstances of the case, and they have medical officers quite capable of dealing effectively with the matter.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD, (Mr. GRANT LAWSON,) Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk
How many counties have medical officers?
§ MR. EDWARDS
I can not say how many, but take Glamorgan for instance. There you have a most able medical officer of health. He is quite as capable of forming a correct opinion in such matters as any medical officer whom the Local Government may send down. His reports are masterly and are quoted by medical and other journals, Is it not reasonable to employ such a man as this, who has local knowledge of the circumstances of the case in addition to his other qualifications, rather than some stranger whom the Local Government Board may send down to inquire and report?
Closely allied to this subject is the power given to the Local Government Board under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, to require a local authority to deal with premises unfit for human habitation. There is a good deal of disappointment felt at the failure of this Act. It has not done the good that was expected of it. Why is that? May it not be because the machinery for putting the Act into force is too cumbrous and remote; and, further, because there is not sufficient driving power to work the machinery as it should be worked. The Local Government Board has to administer a vast area, and therefore must look with comparative indifference on individual cases. On the other hand, if the County Council were given this work to do, its direct interest in the success of the work would induce it to see that it was well and speedily done. Petitions would come asking for something to be done; the Medical Officer of the County Council would report quickly; the County Council could decide promptly; and thus with little trouble or delay useful work could be done which is now not even begun, 385 from fear of the tedious delay which is anticipated over it. Then take Section 2 of the Public Health Act, 1885; what a paltry power that is to reserve to the important machinery of the Local Government Board. Why not leave such a matter to the County Council, which knows the circumstances and can deal promptly with it?
The second object of the Bill is to provide machinery for the creation of a Joint Counties Board. It is provided that any five or more Councils of counties or county boroughs may combine to frame a scheme for the establishment of a Joint Counties Board. Exception is taken in some quarters to this provision, but section 81 of the Local Government Act of 1888 conferred the power of combination, only in a lesser degree and in a different manner. There is, therefore, nothing inherently objectionable, in a scheme such as the House has already sanctioned. But it may be asked, why should it be necessary to confer such power by this Bill, when it is already included in the Act of 1888? The answer is simple. We say that the power of combination conferred by the Act of 1888 is inoperative. This is shown by the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Local Government Board to my hon. friend the Member for Merthyr on the 6th March last. My hon. friend asked the President of the Local Government Board if he could state to what extent the County Councils of Wales and Monmouthshire had availed themselves of Section 81 of the Local Government Act, 1888, empowering them to take combined action for any purpose in respect of which they are jointly interested. The reply was that the Board was unable to state to what extent the powers conferred by the section mentioned had been acted upon. They knew of one case of the kind. The power of combination given by the Act of 1888 has practically remained a dead letter, as is shown by this statement. Why is this? To a great extent because it has been found that there are very few subjects included in the Act of 1888 on which County Councils can jointly combine. To some extent because of the lack of simple and effective machinery for carrying out the intentions of the Act in this respect. It 386 is a matter of common knowledge that, taking the Act as it stands, combination between the County Councils is not easy. Take the case of the Welsh County Council Association. That was a body formed for the purpose of deliberating about matters of interest to Wales. What became of that body? It was starved to death. The Welsh County Council Association consulted the Local Government Board as to whether they could under the Act of 1888 pay the expenses incidental to the organisation and the meetings of the body. The Local Government Board replied that they could not do so. Therefore the Association, which might have been very helpful to Wales in many ways, had to be abandoned, because there was no power under the Act of 1888 to keep it alive.
We propose that when any five or more councils of counties or county boroughs wish to combine for any administrative purposes common to them all they may make a scheme for setting up what we call a Joint Counties Board to represent them. We have adopted the number five because we think a body composed of the representatives of five or more Councils is likely to have more weight and authority than that composed of a lesser number. Such a body is a fitter object for the transference of important administrative functions, such as the authorising of loans. What a cumbrous process this is at present! A demand is made for a loan to be authorised. After some delay an inquiry is ordered; eventually the inquiry takes place. Then there is the report to be drawn up: that report has to be considered and a decision taken on it: this may mean waiting for months. Then still further inquiries may be needed before the authorisation is granted, and this means more delay; meanwhile the expectant borrowers become anxious and try to stir up the officials of the Board. But the reply of the harassed officials is that the applicants must remember that they are not the only borrowers in the country, and that they must wait patiently and take their turn. Now, surely this is a power which might safely and usefully be delegated to a Joint Counties Board. Such a Board would do its work more on the spot—with greater local knowledge, which is an important factor, and with 387 far more expedition than is now the case. I am not blaming the officials of the Department—I know that they do their work admirably and that they are always most courteous—but my contention is that they have more to do than they can manage, and therefore it is time we devolved some of these duties on bodies less hard worked. The same remarks apply to other powers which might be entrusted to such a Joint Counties Board as this Rill proposes to set up.
Mention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and, forty Members being found present—
§ MR. EDWARDS
When a scheme has been made it shall be laid on the Tables of both Houses of Parliament for one month, and if not objected to during that time it shall come into operation as if it were part of this Bill. Here there is a slight variation from the usual practice. At present a scheme can be annulled by the resolution of one House of Parliament. This Bill requires a hostile resolution in both Houses. This is no doubt an innovation, but experience has shown that much hardship may result from the practice hitherto followed. It is deemed unfair to the persons interested in such a scheme as this Bill contemplates that all their efforts to frame the scheme and their desire for further powers of local self-government should be frustrated by opposition in only one of the Houses of Parliament. Sub-section 2 provides the same conditions for conferring such an order as is mentioned for conferring a scheme. If a responsible Minister of the Crown thinks fit to delegate some part of his administrative duties to a Joint Counties Board, it seems to me that every facility should be granted for his doing so. That is another reason why we have departed from the usual practice, and why this Bill requires a hostile. Resolution in both Houses to make a scheme null and void.
Experience has shown that some amount of devolution of administrative work is needed. I say we ought to encourage and not to hinder such devolution. It was evidently contemplated as 388 desirable in 1889, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon brought in his Provisional Order Confirming Bill. The object of that Bill was to confer on the County Councils of England and Wales the powers proposed to be conferred by this Bill. The stress of work in our Government Departments has increased enormously since that time until now, and it is no exaggeration to say that the machinery of local government has become jammed. This Bill deals with mere matters of business. When a business concern is over-worked, it is necessary to employ more hands. This Bill suggests the employment of more hands: not in the remote and over-crowded Government offices, but on the spot, where the work is to be done, and where men are only too anxious to do the work; for the essential of good work is knowledge of the circumstances of the case. Our Bill proposes to transfer to the people on the spot work which is now done from a distance. Of course, if this were a measure intended to force on the County Councils powers which they were unwilling to receive, objection might be taken to it no that account. But the essence of a great part of this Bill is that it implie, not only a willingness to delegate official duties by the Department of States but also a readiness to undertake such duties on the part of those to whom they are to be delegated. The tendency of recent legislation has been towards devolution. This is the more remarkable because of the bias created against all devolution by the Home Rule controversy. In spite of that bias, the force of necessity and the teaching of experience have driven the Government more and more to rely on various forms of devolution. When the County Councils were created, they were looked upon in some quartersasa dangerous experiment, especially in Wales. Experience has shown that they have done their work well; and, what is no less important, they have developed and encouraged a spirit of co-operation among other classes which is invaluable, both from a social and a business point of view. The Welsh Intermediate Education Act is an instance of devolution, and a very happy instance. The County Governing Bodies created by that Act have shown an appreciation of the needs of Wales and a determination to satisfy those needs, which have produced 389 most satisfactory results. The Act may not only be pronounced a success, but it is such a success as to form a model for future applications of the same principle.
But objection is taken to this Bill because it applies only to Wales. Why should Wales alone have this boon? Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a very obvious answer. England in 1887 was offered a great part of what we now seek to obtain for Wales. But England refused to have it. She had reasons of her own, which no doubt satisfied her. But the force of these reasons was not felt in Wales, and Wales would then have welcomed the powers which England refused. It does seem hard that the earnestness of Wales in this matter should suffer from the indifference of England. It is all the more to be regretted when we realise that Wales alike from its history, its language, and its geographical situation, offers an ideal area ready to our hand, in which we can safely make an experiment of this kind without inflicting any harm on the predominant partner, England. Such an experiment has been successfully made with regard to Sunday closing and intermediate education, and it seems to me both useful and safe to make a further experiment in the way suggested by this Bill. And it is not as if the House were asked to give this power to people more or less indifferent about it. Yesterday a deputation, representing the views of three-fourths of the County Councils of Wales and Monmouthshire, waited on the President of the Local Government Board and urged the claims of this Bill upon his favourable consideration. The County Councils of Wales and Monmouthshire are keen in their desire for these powers; and in view of their past record, that spirit is a guarantee that these powers will be used with an honest intention to promote still further the efficiency of those Councils.
We are not asking for a great deal. Other parts of the United Kingdom have had more given to them than Wales has. Since 1885 Scotland has had a Secretary specially appointed to look after its interests in Parliament. In 1894 the Scotch County Council Association Act was passed. But far more important than these, in 1899 Scotland was given a system 390 of private Bill procedure of its own. That was a far greater change than any we are asking for. That was a great change in the direction of legislation, a subject on which the rouse is justly jealous of its powers, which are direct. This Bill does not deal with legislation, but with administration, a subject on which the control of the House is more remote and indirect. Under this Bill the legislative supremacy of Parliament remains untouched. Only those questions and subjects which are purely administrative and are strictly confined to Wales are covered by the Bill. There is nothing in it of a constitutional character. It is, I believe, a useful and safe measure, which will be not only a relief to the Central Government but also a boon to our local authorities; and as such, I ask the House to read it a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
(12.45.) MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
I rise to support the Bill, the Second Beading of which has been so ably moved by my hon. friend that it will not be necessary for me to occupy more than a few minutes. It seems to me that there must be a general agreement with regard to the principle of the Bill, which deals in the first place with the transference of certain administrative powers to the County Councils. Objection was raised yesterday by the President of the Local Government Board, when he so courteously received the deputation which waited upon him, on the score of the expense which would be entailed upon the local authorities. In regard to that, I may, perhaps, be allowed to suggest that if these Councils were entrusted with these administrative powers, and such administration did involve expense, the Local Government Board and other Departments would be relieved of some of the charges which now fall upon them, and the incidence might very easily be adjusted by arrangement between the local authorities and the Central Department. I well remember the debate which took place in this House in the year 1891, initiated on the Motion of my hon. friend the 391 Member for Glamorgan, with regard to the financial relations between Wales and the United Kingdom. I am not going into that question now, but it may be of interest to remark that on that occasion a very good case was made out for the claim of Wales for a diminution of the share of the principality in Imperial taxation. The question of expense is one which ought to engage the attention of the House. There is no doubt it is urgently necessary that some step should be taken in the direction of Clause 1 of the Bill. It would be good for the Department itself; it would be an admirable thing for the local authorities and we believe also that it would be good for the Imperial Parliament.
Let me say one or two words with regard to the history of this question. The question of the devolution of certain administrative powers from the Central Department to local authorities is not one of recent date or origin. For many years it has occupied the mind of the country—not merely in one portion, but in all parts. Some years ago this question was very much agitated in Scotland, and hon. Members opposite will, no doubt, remember a series of very able articles written for the Scotsman in 1886 or 1887, which seemed to show that, at all events, Scotland had made up its mind on the desirability of such a change even at that time. During the last fifteen years almost all responsible statesman have expressed themselves very clearly on this subject. I need quote but one case—that of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, who in 1889 said he believed it was in the interest of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland that local government should be conceded in the amplest sense; that not only county but municipal institutions should be completed and perfected, and, going beyond that, there might well be created greater authorities with a wider scope and fuller powers. That was a rather remarkable declaration on this subject by one who now exercises a dominant influence in the public life of this country. He has said that "what he has said he has said," and it would be interesting today to hear him on this question—small, perhaps, in regard to its actual scope, but very important in principle—and to be told whether the right hon. Gentleman still adheres to the 392 opinion he expressed in 1889. As my hon. friend has pointed out there is nothing in this Bill touching the question of the devolution of legislative powers; it is concerned only with administrative matters. It may be said that if that is so the question of the congestion of business in the House of Commons has no direct relevance to the principle involved in the measure, but I contend that there is a direct connection between the congested state of public business in this House, and the power of criticising, as we ought to criticise, the policy pursued by the various central Departments. There can be no doubt as to the present state of matters in Parliament. During the last twenty years great changes have taken place in the social structures of this country, far and wide-reaching in their effects, and the burden of legislation has become most oppressive and pressing upon those who are responsible for the conduct of business in the central Departments. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division had been present I am sure he would have been willing to re-echo the words he uttered in this House when he held that office, with respect to the great congestion of business in his Department. Would it not be well to sanction the principle involved in this Bill, in the interest of the efficient conduct of public business by the Departments, and of the relief to the work of this House? Would it not, I ask, be wise on these grounds to delegate certain well-defined administrative powers to those local authorities in Wales who desire to exercise them?
There are one or two special grounds upon which this requestis especially based. In the first place it must be remembered that the spirit of Welsh nationality is not declining; it is, in fact, a growing force in Wales. In the second place we have already had separate treatment in regard to legislation with reference to Sunday Closing and Education. There is this further fact which seems to me to be important when you come to consider whether the local authorities in Wales are fitted to discharge the duties with which this Bill proposes to entrust them, viz., the fact that the great majority of the people of Wales have been trained for local government in a school, and by duties imposed upon them by their church life which is instinct with the 393 democratic principle. Anybody who knows anything of the inner life of Wales must know that by a long period of training in local government with regard to the higher interests of life they have been brought under conditions which render them specially qualified to discharge the duties of administering local government. The experience of County Council work in Wales, and the way in which the Welsh people have built up and carried on their educational system, go to prove that there is a special fitness in this demand of the local authorities. If it be right to entrust the local authorities with the supreme duty of educating the children of the country, is it not reasonable to assume that they are able and fitted to discharge the administrative functions mentioned in this Bill?
Let me refer to some objections which may possibly be raised in the course of this debate. First, objection maybe taken to the machinery proposed for carrying out the purposes of the Bill. Any reform of this kind with regard to local government must necessarily be faced with certain difficulties. You cannot carry out any such reform without meeting and overcoming a number of technical and administrative difficulties. But the inevitable trend of the times is in the direction of granting more and more self governing powers to local authorities. One of two policies must be adopted. We must either go in for further centralisation, or we must go in for decentralisation. Having regard to the constantly increasing importance of the place which local self-government occupies in the public life of this country, I think it will be admitted that it is impossible for us to follow the first course. We must, in the long run, go along the line indicated by the provisions of this Bill. One or two things are perfectly plain. The reform proposed in procedure by the Bill is urgently needed. There is no doubt about that, and, as has been pointed out, it is asked for, not by any party, or by any section of the community, but by the great majority of the local authorities themselves. The demand further has been endorsed, not only by the representatives of the local authorities and County Councils, but by many men holding high and honourable 394 positions in the country. Those who were present at the deputation which waited on the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, must have seen that the members of that deputation belonged principally to the Party which supports the Government in this House. It cannot, therefore, be said that this is in any sense a Party Bill. It is a small step, but nevertheless a very useful one, in the right direction, and I trust that, whatever technical difficulties may be raised in the course of this debate with regard to the application of machinery proposed in the Bill, the House will assent to the Second Beading of the measure, and thereby put it on record that the time has come when some such reform should be carried out in the interest of the local government of the people of Wales. I desire to support the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ *(1.5.) MAJOR WYNDHAM-QUIN (Glamorganshire, S.)
I agree with a good deal of what the mover and seconder of the Bill have said, more especially with the remarks they have made on the subject of devolution. I believe myself—and I think my views are shared by every Member of the House—that the time has come when a great deal of the work which is now being done by our central departments in London might very well be done by local bodies in the country. I for one am fully prepared to support a step in that direction, always provided that the system to be handed over to the County Councils or other bodies is applicable to England as well as to Wales. Now, Sir, on the surface the measure bears the appearance of reasonableness and moderation, but, taking the Bill as a whole, it is not one which I, as a Welsh Unionist, consider it my duty to support. I object to it in the first instance because, as far as I am aware, it is not demanded by any considerable number of the people in Wales. Again, I cannot but consider that if its provisions are carried into law it will in no way tend towards the improvement and efficiency of local government in that country. The House is asked to place its trust in an authority, the constitution and working of the machinery of which it is quite ignorant of. If there is any real desire on the part of the Welsh people for legislation of this kind, all I can say is that I have 395 heard nothing about it. No resolutions framed by the County Councils in the Principality have been forwarded to me. For the last seven years it has been my privilege to sit for one of the largest and most important constituencies in South Wales, but during the whole of that time I cannot recollect a single occasion on which anybody has approached me with regard to this subject, nor has one of the electors in my division informed me that he considers legislation of this kind necessary for Wales. Every hon. Member is aware that the electors of the present day are not in any way diffident about approaching their Members, or their would-be Members, with regard to the political questions which may be of interest to them; and I must say that if legislation of this kind is earnestly desired by the people of Glamorgan, it is very extraordinary that not one of its electors has yet approached me on the subject.
I also confess my inability to see in what way, should this measure pass into law, it will benefit the local government of the Principality. Regarding the powers sought to be conferred on the County Councils, it is conceded by the Act of 1888 that the Local Government Board can confer on the County Councils many of the powers sought for by the Bill by means of Provisional Orders. An attempt to obtain powers of this kind was made in 1889, but there was intense opposition to this step on behalf of the non-county boroughs, and owing to that action the attempt failed. Judging by an answer given in the House the other day by the President of the Local Government Board, the feeling on the part of the non-county boroughs is, if anything, more intense now than it was in the year to which I have referred.
The main object of the Bill, however, is not the transfer of these powers to the County Councils, but the creation of a Joint Counties Board by Sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Bill. But, bearing in mind that the Local Government Board can already, by the Act of 1888, delegate powers to the County Council very similar to those mentioned in the schedule of that Bill, and also by the same Act can form Joint Committees 396 of the County Councils for joint purposes, I fail to see what a Joint Counties Board, if created, can do more than can be done already. Supposing we had a Joint Counties Board, we should have still the same kind of gentlemen, dealing, as far as I know, with the same kind of measures, and probably with the same kind of result. I have listened with great interest to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I am bound to say that I cannot agree with what they have said. As to the view expressed of increasing the efficiency of local government in Wales, I do not think this Bill will accomplish that object, and I do not think any good will accrue from the measure we are now discussing.
The framers of the Bill have done very little more than sketch the constitution of the body they seek to establish, and I for one am absolutely opposed to granting power to a new authority the constitution and machinery of which I know so little about. What will be the numerical strength of this Board? Where will its work be held? Is it to have a separate and expensive staff? Where is the cost of its proceedings to be checked? I maintain that matters of this kind ought not to be left out of the present discussion. These questions demand a satisfactory answer before the House can allow the powers sought in this Bill to be transferred to a new authority. I for one should infinitely prefer to continue the present trust in the County Councils rather than in a body which we know so little about.
One thing, to my mind, is perfectly plain, and that is that if these joint Boards were established, they would be politically of one colour only. The Welsh County Councils for many years past have been dominated by one political Party only, and as the majority of the County Councillors would have the election of the delegates to serve on the new Board. We can only imagine and presume that the new executive would be strongly permeated with political views of one kind. That constitutes a very grave menace to the peace of Wales. I say this with all respect to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I certainly do not mean to cast the slightest reflection on the integrity and honesty of purpose of those gentlemen who now serve 397 on the Welsh County Councils. At the same time, on an occasion like this, and with the experience of the past to guide us, Unionists cannot dismiss these considerations from their minds. But I take a broader objection to the measure than that. The Bill deals only with Wales and Monmouthshire, and I object to special legislation for Wales unless there is some good and special reason to the contrary. I quite admit that there have been matters in this connection which call for special legislation, to wit, the Intermediate Education Act, which has already been mentioned. When that Act was brought forward Wales was suffering from a want of secondary education, and was far behind the rest of the United Kingdom. Therefore, it was only right and proper that they should have that privilege conferred upon them. I do not consider that Wales is entitled to more consideration than the rest of the United Kingdom, and I trust that if any addition or alteration is to be made in the system of local government, it will not be applied to one area only, but will be conferred on the whole country at large. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ *(1.14.) MR. GUEST (Plymouth)
I desire to associate myself with the hon. Member who has just sat down in recognising the moderation of the mover and seconder of this Bill. I admit that, on the face of it, this Bill seems plausible enough. It promises two things—(1) to transfer the powers now exercised by the Local Government Board and other Departments to the local authorities; and (2) to create a County Board for not less than five counties for the purpose of exercising these powers. It has been said by the mover of this Bill that such a provision was contemplated in the Provisional Order 1889 under Section 10 of the Local Government Act of 1888. In the first place, any comparison between the present Bill and the Provisional Order of 1889 will show that the powers sought to be acquired are much more numerous than were contemplated by the Provisional Order, and not only this, but they are also more far-reaching.
I would like to ask the House, before proceeding further, whether it is supposed 398 that these powers, if granted, will be considered sufficient. The question is whether they will stop there, or whether, once having got these powers, a further demand will be made by this House to give still wider and more far-reaching powers. An association of five County Councils may represent nearly a million inhabitants, and a body which represents so large a number of people will undoubtedly be a very strong body, very difficult to resist, and will have great power and ability to press its claims upon the House. In that respect I would remind hon. Members of the present pretensions of the London County Council, who not very long ago proposed to build, within a stone's throw of this House, a sort of Hotel de Ville which was to overshadow and rival even the authority and dignity of this House.
I do not intend to discuss the future possible developments of this scheme in detail, but I will confine myself to the actual proposal before the House. In this Bill there is a definite principle involved. It is this. When Parliament has from time to time created local authorities and has invested them with powers which, in the public interest, very often infringe upon the ordinary rights of the individual or private property, it has always adhered to the principle of keeping a large and wide control in the hands of the central authority. It has always been provided that the sanction of the Local Government Board, the Board of Trade, or the Education Department should first be obtained. It is done in the interest of three classes—in the first place the individual, then the minority, and lastly posterity. It is sought to safeguard posterity from the extravagance, recklessness, or indifference of the present generation. It is sought to obtain for minorities a hearing. It is sought to protect the individual against unfairness which might result from local prejudice or other small causes of a local character. In this Bill this principle is undermined. The Local Government Board up to the present time has been in the position of a Court of Appeal, and has in many instances exercised a sort of paternal despotism over the local authorities. That power is to be transferred 399 from the Local Government Board to the local authorities, and they are to exercise this sort of appellate jurisdiction. To show how serious and far-reaching are the powers which are scheduled in the Bill, if the House will allow me, I will give one or two instances. I shall do this by way of proving my point. If hon. Members will look to the schedule of this Bill, they will find it contains Section 229 of the Public Health Act, which deals with the question of "special expenses." Hon. Members know that this matter of "special expenses" is just one of those cases where the State has reserved to itself the right of interpretation of the Public Health Act, under this clause certain expenses incurred by the parish may be scheduled as "special expenses," if they ought to be so, according to well defined grounds, and the result of that is, that the owners of agricultural land, railway companies, and other bodies only pay a quarter of the rate. Now, supposing a local authority were not to schedule these as "special expenses," the effect would be that those agricultural lands would have to pay half the parish rate. That is to say, the agricultural lands would only benefit to the extent allowed by the Agricultural Bating Act, and railways would have to pay the full rate. I find, farther down in the schedule, Section 276 of the Public Health Act, which gives power—To grant to rural district or contributory place (on due application) provisions of Public Health Act which are in force in urban districts; and conditionally or unconditionally to invest such rural authority with all or any of the powers, duties, etc., of an urban authority under the Act.Now the Local Government Board itself, as I understand, has been sometimes blamed for granting those powers in the past, and it has given rise, as hon. Members will remember, to discussion in the newspapers with regard to the grounds of restriction which the Rural District Councils have imposed on buildings and such things which have not been suitable to those areas. I contend that the County Councils Board, if this Bill were passed, might be tempted for reasons other than those which would affect the Local Government Board—reasons of desiring to gain popularity to the Rural District Council—to grant powers to the Rural Districts. There is also included in the schedule 400 the clause in the Public Health Act, by which an owner has the right of appeal to the Local Government Board against his share in the expense as fixed by the local authority. Here is a distinct case of taking from the ratepayer the right of appeal to the Local Government Board, and giving it to the County Council. Then lastly, there is the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890. Under this, the Counties Board seek to acquire the powers conferred by Section 8 of the Act which are exercised at present by the Local Government Board. Under Clause 8 of that Act they will have power to institute a local inquiry into the objections of the owners and lessees of property. There, again, the interest of the individual has been safeguarded, and the decision has been left in the hands of the Local Government Board. I only quote these instances to show that my contention that new principles are involved in this Bill, and that there is going to be a very great change introduced, is not visionary. I have shown that from the clauses 1 have referred to and I say that in my humble judgment, such powers as I have cited ought not to be entrusted to the local authority at all.
Further, I would ask—What is this local authority to whom it is proposed to entrust these powers? As my hon. friend who moved the rejection of the Bill has shown, it is a sort of undefined nebulous and incoate authority. It is a voluntary association representing not less than five councils of counties or of county boroughs. They are, as far as I can see from the provisions of the Bill, not necessarily contiguous. There may be one County Council in one part of Wales and another County Council in another part. They may contain within their areas persons or bodies who entirely dissent from this association. My hon. friend mentioned that the Provisional Order of 1889 was wrecked just on account of the objection that the non-county boroughs, which would be included in the County Council, had to come under the jurisdiction of the County Council at all. In fact, they very much prefer the authority of the Local Government Board to that of the County Council. I am bound to say that I cannot consider that this is a properly constituted authority for the 401 exercise of those powers. I would draw attention, in passing, to the curious constitution of these Boards which is contemplated in this Bill, and to the procedure generally. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been throughout this session very often throwing in the teeth of the Government, and those who support them on this side of the House, the taunt that we are interfering with the traditions of this House and the constitutional usage and practice of this Assembly. But I notice that when hon. Members opposite have some fad to promote they do not object to depart from constitutional practice, and the constitution as understood in this land for centuries is at once thrown over-board. It is a fundamental principle of our constitution that a measure which is rejected in one House is rejected altogether, and that measures that pass one House may be rejected in the other and lost, but in this case it is necessary that the rejection should take place in both Houses within one month. I entirely object to introducing this enormous and far-reaching change in constitutional practice by this sort of side wind legislation of private Members on Wednesday. When I say this about the Bill now before the House. I hope I shall not be considered, any more than my hon. friend, to be an enemy of the principle of devolution, but if we are to have devolution, and if we are to have provincial councils, they must be properly constituted, and the constitution of this voluntary association of County Councils, does not in my opinion at all fulfil the requirements of the case. In fact what is done is this. We are asked to grant to that authority powers which are far too important for an authority such as this, but not sufficiently important to attract to that body the volume of talent which may exist in the district, nor to draw the public attention and imagination, which alone are really in my humble judgment sufficient to maintain a high standard of usefulness and probity in such bodies; and therefore on the one hand it asks too much, and on the other not enough to make it sufficiently important to attract the best men to the service. Taking municipal government generally I do not think it is unfair to say that, 402 although in the matter of strict probity the conduct of municipal government is probably higher in this country than in any other in the world, municipalities have not been altogether free from the taint of corruption, or jobbery, or undue influence. It is only too well known to all hon. Members from their own experience that municipal government in this country does not attract the very best men to the surface.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
Does the hon. Gentleman allege corruption or jobbery against any municipal institution in Wales?
§ * MR. GUEST
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I was only speaking generally of municipal government in this country. I was speaking generally with regard to England, Scotland, and Wales, and I assert that it has not been altogether free from that taint. No less responsible a person than Lord Rosebery has frequently said that the municipal government of this country does not, unfortunately, attract the best men to it.
§ * MR. GUEST
The hon. Member will have an opportunity of speaking afterwards. So far as devolution is concerned we may have provincial councils, and I think they may come in the life time of many of us. At any rate we must admit that it is a very large and important question, and I hope that when it is brought in it will be simultaneous, universal, and obligatory throughout the whole country. When that is done it will be necessary to have much greater regard to the requirements of the case than is contemplated in the Bill. Much as I sympathise and always will sympathise with Welsh nationality, I think it is desirable to avoid the reactionary ideas which racial differences are sometimes apt to foster. I have only one point more to mention, and that is the question of expense, I think the question of expense is generally left to the last if it is put in at all. I would ask the House whether this is the time 403 in our financial position, both national and municipal, to encourage the further expenditure of money. Economy is all very well on Budget night. Hon. Members get up and urge that we should be economical, but when it comes to arresting expenditure they sometimes take another course. Now is the time to discourage legislation which would involve this country in further expenditure. I do not know what the hon. Member who seconded the Bill meant when he alluded to some idea of getting money out of a central authority or the present County Council. But it does not seem to be a matter of very much importance where it comes from. It will come eventually out of the rates, and the ratepayers will have to contribute to render the scheme possible. It will not be a cheap scheme. The Counties Board will require a large staff of experts, and local inquiries will have to be held. They will require probably new buildings to be put up at great expense, and in fact the scheme will involve the counties concerned in an indefinite expenditure of money. For these reasons I hope the House will accede to the appeal of my hon. friend and reject this measure. It seems to me to be immature and premature. It may serve to show the direction of the public mind in desiring the granting of greater powers to local authorities. It may serve to show the trend of public opinion towards the devolution of the work of the Parliament or central Departments, but in the way it is brought forward in this House it seems to me to be unnecessary, harmful, and valueless, and I have no hesitation in agreeing with my hon. friend who moved the rejection of the measure.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Colonel Wyndham-Quin.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ *(1.37.) MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
This Bill was introduced in speeches conspicuous for their moderation and reasonableness by my two hon. friends behind me, and I think it is only right to acknowledge 404 that it has been opposed not by declamation but by argument by both the hon. Gentlemen who have just sat down. Perhaps I may be allowed to congratulate, the hon. Gentleman who immediately preceded me upon the extreme ability which characterised his criticisms of this Bill. I can only regret, if I may be allowed to say so, that he should have thought it necessary or proper to make an attack not on the probity but on the ability of the County Councils, which in Wales, I think, even more conspicuously than in any other part of the United Kingdom, have attracted, and continue to attract, more and more in proportion as Parliament adds to the importance of their functions, the best public spirit and the highest administrative ability which the community have at its disposal.
I may here observe that I do not think it necessary for an English or a Scottish Member to apologise for taking part in this debate. It is not a matter that affects Wales alone but the whole of the United Kingdom, because the principles upon which this Bill is based are principles which, although I am strongly of opinion they ought to be applied step by step and stage by stage according to the different conditions of the different localities concerned, are yet principles which, if valid at all, are valid as regards the kingdom at large. Both the hon. Members opposite have told us that they are in favour of devolution, but I have constantly observed that persons who profess themselves strongly in favour of an abstract or general principle, such as devolution, when it comes to the most modest instalment of detail to give something like practical effect to that principle in a concrete case, are suddenly staggered by the enormous difficulties with which the attempt is confronted and surrounded. For my part, being a strong supporter of the principle of devolution, I feel that in the gradual extension of that principle is to be found the only remedy for the congestion which paralyses the efficiency of both Imperial legislation and administration at the present time. That being my strong and confirmed belief at the present time, whenever I find an attempt of this kind made to give practical effect to the principle, I look upon it with a favourable predisposition, and I 405 try not to magnify but to minimise the difficulties; and when, for instance, the hon. Member opposite is able to point to this or that power which it would be inexpedient or unsafe to entrust to the County Councils or Joint Boards, I agree that that is a fair matter for discussion in Committee. It may be, and I daresay it is the case in a long and complicated schedule like this, that every power that the promoters of the Bill propose to vest in the County Councils and county authorities is not a power which could be wisely taken away from the Central Government; but I do say the most cursory inspection serves to show that there is a large number of powers which are at present exercised by the central authority which are of an extremely routine description, which do not raise in their application any large question of general policy or principle, and the continued exercise of which by the central department in Whitehall, far removed from the spot and necessarily ignorant of the local conditions of the community, involves delay, obstruction, and very often injustice. While it may be conceded that there may be, and probably are, in this long list some powers that it would be wise to keep in the hands of the central authority, at the same time there are a large number which might safely and wisely be entrusted to the County Councils and other local authorities. Therefore let us try, when, but only when, this Bill has been read a second time, to remove the excrescences which are bound always to be found in a measure of this kind.
What other objections are there beyond the objections of detail? It is not disputed that the Welsh people, or rather the representatives of the Welsh people for administrative and municipal purposes, the County Councils of Wales, by an enormous majority, are in favour of this Bill, or something carrying out the main principle of this Bill. It is conceded also, I think, that as regards a large number of powers, they are powers which are lit to be entrusted to local bodies. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will not adopt a non-compromising attitude of opposition on that head. What are the local conditions of Wales? The great majority of the non-county boroughs are of small size, and we have 406 in Wales no large number of communities of considerable size and wealth, with a separate, autonmous, independent local existence apart from the geographical county to which they belong. This constitutes the real essence of the case. And this brings me to the important point which has been urged, that we ought not in any circumstances to give to Wales distinct or separate treatment. I traverse that doctrine altogether. I think as a doctrine it is a masterpiece of political pedantry. There are real, genuine, deep-seated differences of local conditions in Wales and England; and in these circumstances why should we not, in a matter of this kind, apply the principle of separate treatment? I never heard of such a doctrine as that, however great the variation in local conditions may be, we must apply the same measure to all. The United Kingdom derives its real unity not merely from the common sense of citizenship and the common system of law which prevails, but from the fact that the House has always endeavoured, with melancholy, regrettable, and in the case of Ireland with almost fatal exceptions, to recognise and realise differences of history, of local conditions, of tradition, of necessity, of ideal and aspiration between the component parts of the United Kingdom. In this treatment consists the secret by which the unity of the United Kingdom is preserved. There is nothing revolutionary or novel in the suggestion that different treatment should be accorded to Wales in a matter of this kind. There is in the legislation for intermediate education in Wales, a conspicuous illustration of the success with which the difference of local conditions in the great educational problem has been handled. The Intermediate Education Act was passed by a Conservative Government, and it was a measure of which they may well be proud. Why, therefore, in a case where difference of condition is proved, should the doctrine of identity of treatment be insisted upon?
§ *(1.52.) MR. T.W. RUSSELL (Tyrone S.)
The only title I have for intervening in this debate is that in 1898 I was member of the Departmental Committee which inquired into the working of the Local Board, with especial reference to this question. That Committee was presided. 407 over by a very old Member of this House, Sir John Hibbert. I agree with the right hon. Member for East Fife that the principle underlying this measure is of vital importance, not only to the State Departments of the country, but to the House itself. I believe that in much we are doing at the present time in the attempt to regulate the procedure of the House, we are simply attempting to dodge a great fact—and that is that the House and the State Departments are alike carrying a load which they are totally unable to carry. Every member of that Committee came to the consideration of this question in a friendly and appreciative spirit. The question of principle had been conceded by the Local Government Act of 1888. The Local Government Board in the following year promoted a Provisional Order Bill, which passed a Second Beading, and went before a Select Committee. In that Committee it met with a vigorous opposition, not only from the non-county boroughs but from the municipal corporations and large urban district councils. At the time the Departmental Committee sat the Local Government Board was blocked with work, and the municipal corporations were crying out about the delay that took place in the consideration of their demands. A scheme on behalf of the County Councils Association was formulated before the Committee. It was an extremely strong Committee. Witnesses appeared from the non-county boroughs and the urban districts. It was found absolutely impossible to harmonise the different bodies. The Committee found that the feeling of opposition and bitterness between these bodies was as strong in 1898 as it had been in 1888, when it wrecked the Provisional Order Bill. They found that the relations between the several authorities were not such as to render devolution possible at that moment. The question arises then—Has any change taken place since 1898? That is the real question. Is there anything in the Welsh County Councils to disqualify them from the exercise of these powers now? I entirely approve the principle of the Bill, because I believe it is becoming more and more clear that the principle of devolution is forcing itself upon our attention, not 408 only in the great Departments but in the House itself, whether we like it or not. I am not concerned about the schedule of the Bill. It is a question for Committee. When I saw Parliament commit to the Local Government Board the duty of regulating the use of steam whistles in factories, I felt that there was much to be said for any Bill which would delegate such powers to the local authority. The main question is whether the local authorities, outside the County Councils, are favourable to the change; and a secondary consideration is whether there is anything in the personnel of the County Councils of Wales which disqualifies those bodies from the exercise of these powers. I do not think that that will be said. (2.3.)
*(2.35.) MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea District)
I desire to say a few words upon the important Bill now under the consideration of the House. My hon. friend the Member for Radnor explained so clearly the provisions of this measure, and its objects are so well described in the Memorandum of the Bill, which has been circulated, that it is not necessary for me to go further into the actual machinery which this Bill proposes to create in regard to Wales and Monmouthshire. The general result of the discussion which has taken place appears to be this: The Bill raises two questions of principle, and I venture to state to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to the Government also, that they should not allow their decision on these two questions of principle to be influenced by any questions which may arise as to the items in the, schedule of this Bill. The first principle which is raised by the Bill is—Is it or is it not expedient to grant to County Councils in some form or other larger powers than they have at the present time? In other words, it is a question of decentralisation, which has been touched upon more than once in this Parliament in regard to Army affairs, and it is a question whether that principle ought not also to be applied to our civil and local government affairs.
The second question which is raised if that principle is assented to is—Is it right that these thirteen counties of 409 Wales and Monmouthshire should be allowed to lead the way? Is it right that a Bill of this kind, conferring additional powers upon the counties of Wales and Monmouthshire, should be allowed to pass? Before I sit down I wish to say a word or two in reference to both those general questions, and practically my arguments in favour of an affirmative answer to these questions of principle may be developed by criticisms upon the speeches which have been delivered on the opposite side of the House. I am very glad to see the hon. and gallant Member for South Glamorgan in his place. He has been doing excellent service in South Africa in the war there, and I am very glad to welcome him back. The first argument in his very clear speech against our proposal was that there was no effective demand for this measure by the people in the counties concerned. I think that was the principal argument in the first portion of the hon. and gallant Member's speech. I do not think my hon. and gallant friend has really studied Welsh opinion upon this matter. I should like to know if he remembers the meeting which took place during the last Parliament, in which every hon. Member sitting for Wales and Monmouthshire, either on this side or the opposite side, except one or two who were unavoidably prevented from being present, attended a Committee upstairs to discuss a scheme of devolution. I would ask the hon. and gallant Member to remember that the mere fact that from his constituency no individual demand has come from any elector is not a very adequate test of what the general public opinion of these counties is in regard to these matters. In the first place the constituency he represents is chiefly rural; and not only this, it so happens that his constituency is cut off from the general body of Welsh sentiment, owing to historical and other causes. I am not going into details upon this point now, but I should like also to remind the hon. and gallant Member that the principal towns in his constituency are practically off-shoots of Cardiff. The county borough of Cardiff and the county boroughs of Newport and Swansea were all represented upon the recent deputation to the President of the Local Government 410 Board, and there cannot be the least doubt that, without regard to any party consideration, the general body of opinion in the three great county boroughs of South Wales is distinctly in favour of this Bill.
Gofarther north and I do not believe that anybody that knows Wales, any one who is acquainted, for instance, with Carnarvonshire and Denbighshire, will deny that those counties have the fullest confidence in their County Councils, and would like to see a devolution of powers which they desire to exercise. I should like, in reference to the very sympathetic speech which fell from the hon. Member for South Tyrone, to say that I believe that the non-county boroughs in South Wales are not opposed to this Bill. I recognise that the position of non-county boroughs ought to be very carefully safeguarded in legislation of this kind, and I would not demur to the general principles suggested by my hon. friend opposite. I have recently had an opportunity of visiting my constituency, and I represent not only part of the county borough of Swansea, but also two very considerable non-county boroughs, and the result of my visit was that, as far as I can ascertain, this Bill is welcomed by both county and non-county boroughs. Of course, I can conceive some cases in which it might be proper that some Amendment should be made in favour of non-county boroughs, but in substance, and treating the matter from a Second Reading point of view, I do not think that the non-county boroughs need have the slightest apprehension in regard to the effect of this measure. The next thing my hon. and gallant friend said was that no good result would be attained by this Bill, and he also stated that he did not think it was worth while devolving these powers upon the County Councils. I think the hon. and gallant Member was a little inconsistent in taking that as an argument against the Bill. He began by saying that the President of the Local Government Board said yesterday, in receiving the deputation alluded to, that in theory he agreed with the deputation, but that the whole question of the devolution of powers ought to be considered, and that on the whole he was in favour of an increase in the powers of local authorities.
* MR. BRYNMOR JONES
If the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. and gallant friend agree that the time is ripe for a further devolution of powers upon local authorities all round, why is it wrong to make a start by devolving those powers on thirteen counties? If we once admit this principle of devolution, no argument can be properly urged against this Bill upon the ground that it's not worth while to grant these additional powers. My hon. and gallant friend also said that the County Councils of Wales and Monmouthshire were almost entirely of one political complexion, and he believed he was right in making that statement. I should like to tell the House that, notwithstanding the party complexion of these County Councils, which is exactly parallel with the state of things in some areas of England, and those Welsh County Councils are working in the most harmonious spirit. The minority submit to the majority, and the majority do not use their powers in an aggressive spirit. They recognise what their duties are, and they do their best to carry out the objects for which they were instituted by the legislation of this country. What validity attaches to an argument like that? I do not think my hon. and gallant friend was serious, and I dismiss that from my consideration. By way of criticism of the arguments addressed to the House from the other side, I have nearly exhausted what I wanted to say. I should like to urge four propositions which I think must be admitted to be perfectly accurate. The first part of this Bill will afford considerable relief to us in the House of Commons. We have been debating our rules of procedure at great length, and we know that in no part of the business of the House is there greater difficulty felt than in regard to the Questions addressed to Ministers. A great many of these Questions—I should say roughly nearly fifty per cent. of them—are Questions which concern matters of administration, and the performance of their duties by the public offices represented by the Ministers on that Bench. Now, if these numerous routine duties, referred to in the schedule, were transferred to a combination of four 412 or five County Councils in Wales, relief would result not only to the Ministers at the heads of the Departments, but relief would be given to the House itself. How many letters do we receive week after week complaining of the conduct of this or that Minister? What hon. Member does not know that that is a great and increasing burden on his time? He has to judge whether the subject is of sufficient importance to put a Question to the Minister at all. If it is, it involves trouble to the officials of the House, to Ministers and their subordinates, and trouble to the House itself, from the fact that more important business is being put off while Questions are being asked.
In the second place, this Bill will operate in relief of the work of the public Departments. I do not wish to attack any individual public office; I do not wish to attack any individual Minister. But after some years experience in public life I am bound to say that I do not think the work of the public offices is done in so skilful a way as is generally assumed. I fully acknowledge the great courtesy with which Members are received by Ministers, but I am bound to say that the work is not done with sufficient speed in most offices, and in many cases the decision of the Departments, unless public attention is called in the newspapers to the matter, or unless we can raise a discussion in this House, is unreasonable in the eyes of those who are interested in the locality the decision relates to. I do not propose to delay the House by giving instances in support of this proposition, but this is the opinion my experience has forced upon me. I think this Bill will be of great advantage in regard to nearly all the matters touched upon in the schedules to the localities themselves.
I do not wish to go into the schedule. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment did go into one or two matters mentioned there, but even the most cursory glance at the schedule will show that it is almost impossible, unless you are going to hold a regular public inquiry in which every party interested would be heard, to decide the matter proposed to be devolved properly. Most of the 413 matters mentioned in the schedule are really matters which ought to be dealt with by the localities themselves. Take for instance the resolution of a Town Council. I have known a case where the opinion of a town council was contrary to the decision of the Department up here. That has happened in my experience more than once. In one case there was an inquiry, and the Department set aside what was the decision of those who were sent down to inquire into the matter on the spot. This is not the time to go into these details, and I will satisfy myself with my general statement.
With regard to the second question, whether it is just and reasonable, if once the principle of devolution is conceded, that this Bill, which only applies to counties and county boroughs in Wales should, quite apart from any notion of nationalism, be passed—why is it necessary that all the counties in Wales, in regard to matters of local government, should be treated in the same way? That principle is not applied invariably. Instances were given by the hon. Member for East Fife where the principle has not been adopted. Why should this hard and fast principle be laid down in matters of this kind? There are many matters, I quite admit, in which the administration of the law throughout the whole country should be uniform, such as the marriage law, the bankruptcy law, and so forth; but there are other matters in which it is immaterial whether the machinery is quite the same in this as in that part of the country. I venture to commend that to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. I will not pursue that. I may say, however, that we do base the claim for this Bill not only upon those general and, I believe, practical considerations to which I and other speakers on this side have adverted, but on the theory that Wales is entitled to particular legislation. When I say that, I wish to tell the House that Welsh particularism is in no sense inconsistent with the most thorough loyalty to the Crown and to the Empire. I defy anybody to cast one single stone against the conduct of the Welsh people during the trying time we have been passing 414 through. We have had differences of opinion, but I can assure the House that there is no body of men more willing than the people of those thirteen counties to support the Empire if called upon to do so. There is a certain narrowness of view on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I have had this out with him in connection with the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1899, when he refused the slightest amendment in favour of the Welsh counties. Notwithstanding that the unanimous Report of the Welsh Land Commission expressed the same sentiments as I, during the debates on that Bill, expressed, he was immovable, and I suppose he will be immovable on this occasion. There is a body of opinion rising up in Wales before which he will have to bow down.
* MR. BRYNMOR JONES
Why not proceed by steps? I say that our claim for particular legislation is justifiable, both historically and economically. What are the facts? After the lapse of six centuries, Welsh is still spoken habitually by nearly one million persons in the thirteen counties. It is the only one of the ancient tongues of this country which survives as a living language among a considerable body of our fellow subjects, while the descendants of the original people still maintain many of their national characteristics and preserve the consciousness of their national identity. These are the views on which I support this Bill.
§ (3.0.) LIEUTENANT-COLONEL PRYCE-JONES (Montgomery Boroughs)
There is no one more in favour of devolution than I am, and I may say that I should not follow the Government of which I am a supporter if by any off chance their action was such as to prevent Wales from deriving the advantage of it. But with regard to the Bill before the House. I regret that on its merits I cannot support it. I have followed the speeches of hon. Members on both sides of the House, and in particular the speech made by the proposer of the Bill, which, 415 if I may be allowed to say so, I consider to contain the bulk of the arguments in favour of the measure. Therefore, in the remarks I propose to make, I shall offer some criticism chiefly of the case made by the hon. Member for Radnorshire.
This Bill has not come before Wales prominently. It is quite true, as was stated by the hon. Member for Radnorshire, that it has come before the County Councils in Wales, but in many cases—and I can speak of one case with authority—the Bill was not in the possession of the Members of the County Councils, and, therefore, they do not know what the proposals were when they were voting in favour of the Bill. But even assuming that members of the County Councils knew what the Bill contained, other authorities in Wales—the Urban District Councils, Municipal District Councils, Parish Councils, Boards of Guardians, and School Boards—knew absolutely nothing of them; and I say that before a Bill comes before the House of Commons containing such wide powers as are contained in this Bill, the various public bodies in Wales should be consulted in the matter. It has been said that the powers conferred by Clause 1 were included in the original Bill of 1888, but were dropped by the House of Commons of that day, in order not to overweight the measure. If the promoters of this Bill had confined themselves to those powers, they would have had a stronger case; but they have added other powers which were never dreamt of in 1888. Therefore, before the House of Commons can, in my opinion, assent to a Bill like this, it should remember that it declined in 1888 to confer the additional powers now proposed, and I say we are perfectly justified in opposing this Bill.
I am sorry to have to give my reasons for not entrusting County Councils in Wales with some of the powers that would be given to them if this Bill became law. My point is that the County Councils in Wales have not availed themselves of the powers they already possess, and until they have mastered primary and secondary education in local government, I say it would be unwise to trust them with higher and greater powers. The important sanitary powers proposed to be given to the County Councils have 416 been mentioned in the course of this debate. I can assure the House that the sanitary powers already possessed by the County Councils in Wales arc, at any rate so far as my own county is concerned, a dead letter. We have no medical officer of health. Although it is provided in the Local Government Art and in our Standing Orders that the various medical officers of health shall report quarterly to our meetings, I have been on the County Council for years, and I have never seen one of these reports brought forward. I could mention other instances in which Parish Councils have applied to a County Council for advice, and in which the County Council, instead of assisting them, merely begged the question. The County Councils in my opinion, have not exercised that authority which they ought to have exercised with reference to other bodies within their area. Again, when the County Councils came into existence in 1888, there was a provision that certain main roads then maintained by the urban authorities should still be maintained by them if they applied to the County Council for that purpose, but that if no application were made within three years, then the duty of maintenance would lapse to the County Councils. No such application having been made, the County Council now manages these roads in a particular town with which I am acquainted. What has been the result? The County Council has not done justice to the town to which I refer in regard to the upkeep of the main roads. There has been continuous war between the rural and urban districts with reference to the contribution which ought to be paid for the maintenance of main roads in towns, and the towns have suffered under great injustice because of the treatment meted out to them by the County Councils. The particular County Council to which I am referring has something like fifty-two members, all of whom, with the exception of twelve, represent rural districts, and even some of the urban representatives do not always vote as I should like to see them vote when it comes to a question of town against country. I give these instances to show 417 that it would be unsafe to entrust more authority to the County Councils in Wales.
Hon. Members cannot, perhaps, quite appreciate the difference between County Councils in England and those in Wales. Though I am in a minority on a County Council, and other bodies in Wales, and though I differ widely, and sometimes severely, from the majority, still we are always the best of friends in the House of Commons and elsewhere. My own County Council passes resolutions disestablishing the Church of England, advocating disendowment, prohibiting the liquor traffic without compensation, and, in fact, anything else which the majority wish to bring forward. A resolution, however, came from an adjoining county urging the Government to enable County Councils to contribute towards the cost of putting up rifle ranges, drill halls, etc., and my County Council was asked to agree to it. Hon. Members may not believe it, but my County Council was so narrow minded and bigoted that it actually refused to agree to that resolution, although I got up and pointed out that if the Council took the powers, it need not exercise them. It refused to agree to the resolution, and the only argument that was used was that it was a matter that ought to be paid for by the nation, as it was a national obligation. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: A very sensible County Council.] My hon. friend says a very sensible County Council, but I challenge that statement. If the protection of the country is not a legitimate expenditure for county ratepayers, provided that the nation has not decided that it shall be paid out of the National Exchequer, I would ask my hon. friend why should county ratepayers pay for police or for education? County ratepayers pay for police and for education, and why should they not also help Volunteers if they require financial assistance? I further maintain that it would be unwise to entrust the County Councils with greater powers which might enable them to inflict hardship and serious damage on small authorities within their areas. Already County Councils have power with reference to isolation hospitals, inebriate homes, and other matters. What has been done in Wales with 418 reference to these powers? Nothing. County Councils have now power to join together for mutual purposes, and I differ from the hon. Member opposite that the reason why that power has not been exercised was that the County Councils could not afford the expense of acting jointly. But in Clause 81, Subsection 6, power is given, if County Councils join together for purposes in which they have a right to be interested, not disestablishment, or disendowment, or anything of that kind, to pay the expenses out of a common fund. My friends in Wales have been under the impression that this Bill deals with water works and gas works. Many who support this Bill, although they have never seen it, think that when it becomes law they will be able to obtain power for the acquisition of water works and gas works much more cheaply than at present. The Bill would not affect that in the least. If it did, I should be the very first to give it my best attention, and if it had no drawbacks. I should vote for it with the greatest pleasure. My hon. friend the Member for South Tyrone referred to the Report of the Departmental Committee of 1898. I had not seen that Report before, but I quite agree with it. In that year the County Councils of England asked Parliament to delegate certain powers to them, and that request was reported on by the Committee. I would suggest to my hon. friends opposite that we should go back to that period, and refer this Bill to a similar Committee, which would consider whether these powers, many of which would be desirable, should be given to the County Councils after safeguarding the interests of minorities. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who represents the Government on this question, to see that the interests of minorities, especially the smaller bodies, are duly safeguarded if he proposes to meet the proposals of this Bill half way. I have felt it my duty to oppose this Bill, though not because I do not believe in devolution. I am a thorough believer in devolution, and if I thought the Bill would do a good turn to Wales, I should not be afraid to vote for it.
§ *(3.22.) MR. VAUGHAN DAVIES (Cardiganshire)
What puzzles me in connection with this Bill is that the foundation of all the speeches which have been delivered by hon. Gentlemen opposite is a thorough approval of the groundwork of the measure, namely, devolution. We have not heard anything against the proposition that the County Councils in Wales ought to have greater powers than they possess at the present time. The chief objection of the hon. and gallant Member for South Glamorganshire to this Bill, as it seems to me, was that he had not been consulted by his constituents. He said his constituents had not consulted him. I assume that, on matters affecting them, it is our bounden duty to consult our constituents, as well as to wait for them to consult us. Directly I heard of this Bill I consulted the County Council of my county. I have had the pleasure of sitting on a County Council for many years, and I can say we have never dragged questions of politics or religion into our deliberations. On my County Council there are sixty-five members, fifty-eight of whom are Liberals; and only two years ago we elected to the position of chairman the gentleman who does me the honour to contest my seat upon every occasion. And, when appointing aldermen, we hand over a number of aldermen's seats on the County Council to the Tory Party to appoint whom they like. We never drag politics into questions of this kind. We know very well that the question of local government depends on money, and we are not going to drag in politics when we have rates and taxes to pay. I remember in the first two years of local government in Wales there was a good deal of Party feeling, but that is dead long ago. The reason why we Liberals are the dominant Party in Welsh County Councils is the same that we are the dominant Party in the House of Commons. I can say without doubt that all the County Councils throughout Wales act in that spirit.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman, in the course of his second objection to this Bill, took what he thought was a special point—the question of money; and on the question of money the sting of his 420 objection came out. He said if these expenses were not watched they would hit the landlords. The hon. Gentleman forgot that half their rates are paid for them by the Tory Party. Wales had proved, upon the only two opportunities that she had, her capacity for self-government—the Education Act and the Sunday Closing Act. Both these measures had been handed over to Wales to carry out, and I defy hon. Members of this House to say these powers have been misused. I think we might be allowed to go into these questions for ourselves. I have been connected with all the public authorities in my county for the last thirty years, and I can speak with authority of the trouble they had to go through by having to appeal to the central body in London. They have been blocked in every way. The authorities in London admit that they cannot get through their work, and on more than one occasion I have received letters from them asking me privately to inform them what was the best thing to do with regard to particular matters connected with my county. I will give one illustration of the power of that ignorance of the London authority. They sent down an order that, wherever we held fairs throughout the county, the places where they were held must be well paved, watered, and cleansed. That was all very well in large towns, but when you come to small towns in the rural districts, where these fairs are held, it means that you are actually shutting out the whole of the agriculturists of the county from the opportunity of getting rid of their cattle at market prices. In my county we usually hold these fairs in a field just outside the towns, and we have had notice that that cannot be allowed in the future. What does that mean? If the small town is to carry out the order as it stands now, a heavy rate must be levied on the district, or else a special tax must be put on every horse or head of cattle that goes to the fair. One of the chief objects of agriculturists is to get the farmers to take their cattle to fairs, and not to private dealers at all. That is a great advantage to the farmers, because otherwise they get into the hands of the local dealers, and do not get the fair market 421 price; but now, if he takes his cattle to the market, he will have to pay certain dues. And what is the result? You will shut up all these fairs in the county, simply on the order of a body of men in London who do not understand local requirements. These are matters which local County Councils ought to be allowed to deal with, and not persons in London who do not understand the local conditions, and who lay down red tape laws that it is impossible for us to carry out.
§ *(3.34.) MR. JOSEPH LAWRENCE (Monmouth Boroughs)
As this Bill deals with Monmouthshire as well as Wales, it might not be inappropriate for me, as a representative of Monmouth, to say a few words on this occasion. I listened with great pleasure and attention to the speech of the mover and seconder of the Bill, and if anything could reconcile some of us who sit upon this side of the House to the acceptance of the Bill that they have introduced, it would be the moderation and the seductiveness of the manner in which they brought it forward and put its claims before us. I have nothing to object to in the manner in which this Bill is introduced; but, while it looks such a simple measure, it contains within it the germs of principles which have in themselves a very mischievous tendency. What does this Bill propose to do? I would say parenthetically, with regard to its being hastily conceived, that we have an instance of that in the speech of the mover of the Second Reading when he was asked, when he was dilating on the advantage of the County Councils having the assistance of trained medical officers, how many medical officers they had. He could not tell. I might give many other instances of a lack of knowledge of Local Government displayed in the wording of the Bill. The powers which it proposes to transfer—powers which are now exercised by several Ministers of Government Departments, powers so far-reaching that they require six pages of closely printed matter in the shape of the Bill to enumerate them—I will not trouble the House by going over them again after the masterly manner in which they have been dealt with. I 422 will only say that they are in many cases of the most serious nature, affecting the rights of property, and almost revolutionary in their character. I submit that a Bill of this far-reaching character ought not to be introduced without full and proper inquiry. Not the smallest atom of evidence has been adduced to show that the Government Departments have failed in their duty in any way; and, on the other hand, there is no demand of a local or popular character for the Bill. I have visited my constituency several times in the course of the present Parliament, and in no quarter have I heard any desire whatever expressed for this Bill. Indeed, I might go further, and say that so far from there being an almost unanimous support extended to this Bill by County Councils, as is suggested by various Members, the County Councils of Monmouthshire can hardly be said to have given an opinion in favour of it at all, because at the time they passed the resolution appointing the deputation they had not the Bill before them; and I believe I am justified in saying that a great number of the members of the Monmouth County Council refused to attend the deputation, because they knew nothing of the terms of the Bill. It had not been properly considered. Therefore, I think the hon. Member who introduced the Bill was dealing just a little unfairly with the House when he tried to influence its judgment by pointing to this great array of support. With regard to the Newport Town Council, it also passed a resolution in favour of a deputation, but at that time it had not the Bill before it, and the resolution, which was passed at the fag-end of a busy day, received the support of the Council without being debated or properly understood.
The second part of the Bill, comprising Clauses 2 and 5, is even more uncaled for. It proposes the establishment of a Joint Counties Board, and it takes power for the permissive transference to that Board of some of the powers at present exercised by seven Ministers or Departments of State. The duties of the Board are not confined or limited, whilst the financial machinery is of the most crude and ill-digested character. If the concerted action 423 suggested by these clauses is really desired, I submit that the Local Government Act, 1888, suffices for all practical purposes.
On the point of the public support of the Bill, I would like to cite one of the most, if not the most, respected organs of public opinion in the Principality—The Cambrian News and Welsh Farmers' Gazette of March 28th. A writer in that paper, speaking of this Bill, says—There are thousands of people who think this measure has some sort of merit, while, as a matter of fact, it has not a single just claim to a moment's consideration.Later on, the same writer says—I have written very plainly about this Bill, but I have not received a single word of defence on its behalf. It is not capable of being defended. I believe that under the Act of 1888 great things might have been done for Wales, and I think it is to the lasting disgrace of the County Councils that those powers have remained unused for fourteen years.This article is headed "A Silly Bill," and it concludes with some very disparaging remarks about hon. Members opposite, which I know the Rules of the House would not permit me to read.
Let me briefly allude to one or two other features of the Bill. Clause 6 rends—For the purposes of this Act, Monmouthshire shall be deemed to be in Wales.Monmouth, after all, is still an English county, as it has been for nearly four centuries. The people of Monmouthshire, and of the town of Monmouth in particular, strongly object to these attempts to include the county in the Principality. That may be their prejudice, and it may be unwise on their part, but it is the fact, and, as their representative, it is my duty fearlessly to state it in this House. They have successfully resisted, in the past, the inclusion of Monmouth in Welsh Bills, notably in the case of Welsh Sunday Closing. They particularly object to being included in this Bill, and having stamped out, as they consider, whatever little bit of independence and liberty they now possess.
If there can be proved on sound business grounds a necessity for legislation of this kind, it should be introduced by the responsible Government of the day. Much has been said, especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, on the subject of devolution. 424 But it occurs to me that, whilst the majority of us are in favour of delegating to local bodies some of the powers now exercised by the central authority, it is just possible that the good cause of devolution may be prejudiced and injured by hasty and ill-considered legislation of this kind. If such measures are to be carried, and to be of lasting benefit to the country, they should be drafted and framed by the Government of the day, because then the localities in question, especially in rural districts and boroughs like Monmouth and Newport, would have a guarantee that some consideration would be shown to the rights of minorities. If it was considered to be a part of the proper duties of the Imperial Government to introduce a Bill dealing with the constitution of parish councils, surely a Bill having such far-reaching aims as the measure now before the House is one which ought to come within the purview of the functions of the Government. My constituents feel that this Bill is but the thin end of the wedge of demands in the future for the devolution of many other functions. Whatever the present or ultimate aims of the authors of this Bill may be, it will be admitted that a measure involving the possibility of a grave constitutional change should not be passed by the House of Commons without an opportunity being afforded to the country of fully considering the issues involved. For that reason, I join heartily in supporting the rejection of the Bill.
§ *(3.50.) MR. MOSS (Denbighshire, E.)
I do not think anyone can say the County Councils of Wales have not justified their existence. In spite of the remarks of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think they have discharged their duties efficiently, economically, and well. Judging from the debate of today, it appears as though many Members consider the proposal made in this Bill to be a great innovation. Those Members cannot have studied the Act of 1888 with any care, because in Section 10 of that Act there is contemplated the very process with regard to the devolution of powers to County Councils suggested by this Bill. Not only so, but in the year 1889 an attempt was made to carry out that idea by a Provisional Order brought 425 in by the Local Government Board, and, if I understand the matter correctly, that Provisional Order was not confirmed, because of the strenuous opposition, mainly in England, of the non-county boroughs.
What is the situation today in Wales? Notwithstanding the statements of the hon. Members for Newport and Montgomery Boroughs, I say there is practical unanimity throughout the length and breadth of Wales in favour of this Bill. Where the hon. Member for South Glamorganshire can have been, I do not know; but I have certainly discovered in my own constituency a great and burning demand for this Bill. I need only say that twelve out of sixteen County Councils have passed resolutions approving of this Bill. It has been said that this Bill was not before the County Councils when the resolution was passed in favour of it, but surely those who make that statement speak in ignorance, because in 1900 there was a conference of all the County Councils in Wales, and the Lord Lieutenant of Carnarvonshire, who so admirably presented the case for this Bill to the President of the Local Government Board yesterday, was present. That conference took into consideration all the points mentioned in the schedule to this Bill, and all the matters which it is proposed to transfer to the County Councils were taken into consideration. The County Councils at that conference unanimously expressed their opinion in favour of the transfer of these powers to the County Councils. Therefore, when my hon. friend says that this Bill was not before the County Councils when they considered the matters recently, he must not forget the fact that the Bill proposed to do what the joint conference of County Councils approved of two years ago, and it is idle to say that this question has been sprung upon the County Councils, and that they have been passing resolutions blindly. It is not very creditable to the constituencies of the hon. Gentleman and my hon. and gallant friend opposite when they say that these County Councils have been passing resolutions without knowing what the Bill contemplated.
In Wales we are in a somewhat different position from England. I agree with 426 what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife said with regard to devolution, and about Wales being entitled to different treatment. Our circumstances and our people are different, and we have already had separate treatment; and if the wishes of the people are to be considered at all in regard to these matters, we are still entitled to separate treatment. The great difference as compared with England is that all the county boroughs, as well as the County Councils, of Wales are in favour of this Bill. The county boroughs, I think, were represented yesterday on the deputation to the President of the Local Government Board. Now, what are the objections which have been raised to this Bill? It is said that this measure will create additional expense. I am not so sure that additional expense will be incurred. The County Councils are quite accustomed under the provisions of the Local Government Act of 1888 to holding inquiries and dealing with all the matters which arise under that section, and they have been granting powers to urban districts. The proposal to entrust County Councils with the duty of granting urban powers to rural districts seemed to stagger the hon. Member for Plymouth, but I would remind him that the County Councils already have powers to make rural into urban districts, and by doing so those districts ipso facto get urban powers under the Public Health Act of 1875. Therefore, some of these provisions are not really new to the County Council, but what this Bill proposes is to give them directly the powers which exist under the Public Health Act of 1875. By a combination of five or more County Councils, the expense need not be any larger than it is today. The right hon. Member opposite says that by giving these powers to the County Councils you are making them the judge of their own case, and there will be no one to control them. Under Section 10 of the Act, the Local Government Board will still have some power in this respect; but surely this is a matter contemplated by the Act of 1888, and intended to be carried out in 1889, and the same argument would apply then as now. If my right hon. friend is afraid that when these powers are granted to county 427 boroughs they will act recklessly, or without control, it would be a simple matter to provide some control by the joint Boards of County Councils, when they are created. There are many other points which I might mention, but at this hour I should not be doing my duty if I further took up the time of the House. In conclusion, I wish to say that in spite of what has been said to the contrary, I contend that Wales is in favour of this Bill, and the County Councils are in favour of it, for they have passed resolutions expressing their approval of this measure.
§ *(4.5.) MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)
This matter concerns the County Councils of England as well as those of Wales, and that is my excuse for intervening in this debate. This question has been in the air for a good many years, and we all remember that in the Bill of 1888 the Government proposed a clause transferring some of the very powers included in this Bill to County Councils. Objection was taken at that time that County Councils were only just being created, and that it was rather premature to transfer those powers; and the consequence was that the clause was altered and a Provisional Order substituted. In the following year the Local Government Board took action upon that clause, and introduced a schedule not unlike the one contained in this Bill. What has happened since then? Not only have County Councils been thoroughly well constituted and recognised as containing some of the most public-spirited and hard-working men in the counties, but under the Local Government Act of 1894 a very largo number of new powers were put upon the shoulders of the Local Government Board. The consequence was foretold at the time, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton would not listen to us when we said that the Local Government Board would be overwhelmed with work. The right hon. Gentleman was then asked to do more in the way of devolving powers on the local authorities, but I think he listened too much to the permanent officials of the Local Government Board rather than to the wishes of hon. Members of the House. 428 In a few years time the Local Government Board was so choked with work that there had to be a Departmental Committee appointed to see what could be done to relieve the Local Government Board.
The County Councils Association, which represents practically all the County Councils of England and Wales, put certain proposals before the Local Government Board, and they were very similar to the schedule of this Bill. This schedule was adopted by the Committee of the County Councils Association, and was put before the Local Government Board, not as a final scheme but as one simply for consideration. There was one clause which does not find its place in this Bill, providing that non-county boroughs should be able to choose whether they would go to the County Councils or direct to the Local Government Board. I have no doubt that if the matter had been pressed, urban districts would have been included in that clause. I want to point out that, while urban districts in certain parts of the country have raised objections to any extension of powers to County Councils on many of these matters, Parliament has already conferred on County Councils, in respect of rural districts, powers far more important than the powers contained in this Bill. I cannot help thinking that it would greatly relieve the Local Government Board, and it would do no harm to anybody concerned, if a large number of the minor powers contained in this schedule were conferred on all County Councils with respect to rural districts and rural parishes only.
Supposing a small town desires to water its own streets, it has to get the sanction of the Local Government Board. Suppose a small town desires the use of a steam whistle, it has to obtain the sanction of a Department in London. If a village desires the use of a room for a certain purpose, the authority controlling this matter is the President of the Local Government Board. Which is best—that these petty questions should be determined by men of position with local knowledge without any charge to the town, or that an inspector should be sent down from London at £3 3s. a day to settle the matter? Or there is another alternative, which is that of having these matters determined in Whitehall without any local knowledge or any inquiry what ever. It seems to me that upon the ground. 429 of economy alone, many of these questions can be far better determined by the locality concerned. Under Section 16 of the Act of 1894 County Councils have the power, on the representation of the Parish Council, to order any Rural District Council to deal with roads, sewers, and to provide a water supply, and they can divest the Rural District Council of the powers given to it by law and themselves carry out these improvements. I instance these matters to show that at present very important powers are vested in the County Councils for final decision in respect of rural parishes, and there cannot be any objection whatever to transferring these powers except the mere official objection, which is inherent in some official minds, to give up power. There cannot be any real objection to trusting many of these petty powers in the hands of public bodies who already perform far more important work. Surely a schedule like this might be sent to a Select Committee of the House of Commons. The inquiries of the Departmental Committee appointed to consider these matters show conclusively that it is impossible to give County Councils these additional powers without a Provisional Order, and it is impossible to delegate these powers to one county and refuse them to another.
do not see that Wales has a higher claim for devolution than Lancashire or the West Riding of Yorkshire. If you are to have devolution it is better to come gradually, and it is better to entrust it to really strong County Councils in the first place. It is perfectly true that many County Councils have not appointed a medical officer of health, and I have always said that that was a weak point in their armour. I hope the time will come when it will be compulsory upon every County Council to appoint a medical officer of health. The Local Government Board might well decline to entrust further sanitary powers to any County Councils which have not appointed a medical officer of health. But at any rate it should be made possible for the Local Government Board, under the Act of 1888, to introduce Provisional Orders to confer these powers upon any County Councils. I am sorry to trouble the House so long upon these questions, but I think this is one of the most important questions of the future. 430 I think it is much better that this question of devolution should be dealt with gradually. I do not think that there is any deep-seated difference between Welsh and English County Councils, nor do I think that the provision establishing Joint County Boards is a very happy one, for, if they wish to combine for all purposes, they ought to combine by means of Provisional Orders. If they want to combine for special purposes, the machinery to do so already exists by way of joint committees. I hope the Government will favour some of these proposals to make devolution easier than it is under the present law, and that it may be possible to confer greater powers to deal with petty matters upon County Councils.
§ (4.18.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
I think the speech of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House has been listened to with great attention on both sides, because of his experience in county government matters, and the suggestions he has thrown out have been singularly valuable. I trust that the Government will give them all due consideration. I was glad to hear his suggestion that the schedule of the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee for consideration, and I trust that the Government will be able to accept that idea. There is one remark I ought to make with reference to one thing that fell from the hon. Member. He said that the Welsh counties had no better claim than the English counties for devolution under this or any other Bill. There is absolutely no good reason why there should not be a Bill covering the whole country, but the difference is that this is a purely, practical Bill. The non-county boroughs and the District Councils have been exceedingly hostile in England on the subject; but although this Bill has been before the Welsh Councils for three years, there has not been a single resolution of any Urban Council or Town Council in opposition to the Bill. The two most important non county boroughs in North Wales are represented by the hon. Member for the Denbigh Boroughs, whose name is on the Bill. The second most important are represented by myself If the hon. Member could say the same 431 thing with regard to England, there would be absolutely no difficulty at all in getting a Bill to cover the whole country. Yorkshire and Lancashire endeavoured to get such a Bill. The hon. Member will see that we are not putting this claim on national grounds, but on the practical grounds of the convenience that it ought to be carried so far as Wales is concerned, where the experiment will have a fair trial, because there is no opposition causing friction from the non-county boroughs to contend with. I fail to see the difference between hon. Members who support and those who oppose the Bill. I have listened very carefully to the whole debate, and so far as the principle is concerned, it is adopted by hon. Members who oppose the Bill. The hon. Member for South Glamorgan said he was in favour of a considerable measure of devolution; and he went further than that, and adopted in substance what is contained in the Bill.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. and gallant Member's objection to devolution is not an objection at all apart from the limitation to Wales. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] As far as I can understand from the hon. Member, he has no objection in the main to the devolution to County Councils of the questions referred to in this Bill. His objection is, that the Bill is limited to the Welsh counties. It is not large and revolutionary enough for him. Now, we are a little bit more modest. We want to start in a small way, and if it is a success in Wales, what will be the result? I have not the faintest doubt that the English non-county boroughs will see that it works so well there that their objections were not well grounded, and they will wish to see it extended to their own counties. The hon. Member opposite said he was in favour of provincial councils. He did not object at all to the cutting of the country up into provinces. He would have a provincial council for Wales. I think I am quoting him fairly. He objects to the powers here, because 432 they are not of sufficient importance. It is a remarkable objection coming from the Conservative side of the House. The objections, so far as I can summarise them, are that the Bill is not sufficiently drastic and thorough, and instead of attempting to deal with small matters it ought to have set up a provincial council to deal with matters of infinitely greater importance than are dealt with by this Bill. I do not at all object to that, if any hon. Member can persuade the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to adopt his proposal. We have gone in for a small Bill to obtain practical unanimity, and we have practically obtained it. Twelve out of sixteen County Councils have considered the Bill, and notwithstanding everything that was said by the hon. Member opposite, I say that the Bill, in its substance, was before them. The hon. Member for the Monmouth Boroughs said that the County Councils had not the Bill before them. He is not well informed on that point. The Bill was sent down to them, and it was published in the local papers. There was a good deal of discussion on it, and although each Member had not a copy of the Bill in his hand, he knew perfectly well what the Bill was.
§ MR. JOSEPH LAWRENCE
I have got a telegram confirming what I said. When I wrote my letter to the clerks of the various County Councils in Wales asking them to bring the matter before their Councils. I said that the Bill was not then printed, but that the Councils knew very well the substance of the Bill. It was, in fact, a new Bill that the County Council came to a decision upon.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. Member is misinformed on that subject. It is absurd to suggest that this is some perfectly new proposal that they have never considered. They have considered it repeatedly during the past few years. I am sure that the hon. Member knows perfectly well that both the English and the Welsh County Councils have discussed this matter over and over again. The County Councils Association has also discussed it. This Bill is simply an attempt to embody, as regards a part of 433 the country where there is no friction, the principle which has already been adopted by the English County Councils. There has been some criticism of the details of the Bill with regard to "special expenses" and other matters. The hon. Member for Plymouth made a very able speech from his point of view, I notice out of 150 powers contained in the schedule there are only three to which any real substantial objection has been taken. In order to show how very unimportant that criticism is from a practical point of view, let me call the attention of the House to one or two things. There has been an objection stated to the question of "special expenses" being decided by County Councils. Is the hon. Member aware that in the whole of last year there was no appeal at all to the Local Government Board on the question of special expenses. [An HON. MEMBER indicated dissent.] I have gone through the report of the Local Government Board, and I do not find a single appeal to the Board in the course of the year. The hon. Member has simply called attention to a thing which in practice happens once in two or three years, and with regard to which there is hardly any friction at all. I do not understand that there is any objection to devolution on the part of the President of the Local Government Board; on the contrary, that he is in favour of it, but only wants to be assured that there should be the same readiness on the part of the local Councils to administer these powers as there is on the part of the Local Government Board to part with them. The whole thing would only cost from £10,000 to £15,000 a year, and by this devolution the Local Government Board would be saved considerable expense. When you come to consider the question of economy, then it is a question entirely whether it is worth £10,000 or £15,000. When you come to administer the 150 matters referred to in the schedule, I do not think that is a very extraordinary sum. If the hon. Member for Oldham can induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to spend money at so reasonable a rate as that, I do not think he will have much reason to complain of the Budgets in the future. If you devolve those powers on the local authorities, you would save a certain 434 amount of expense to the Local Government Board. What is done at the present moment? You have an army of officers to send down to the Welsh counties to hold inquiries. They waste their own time in travelling. I do not think they do it so well as it would be done by local people who understand the conditions. If we take upon ourselves to administer 150 local matters there would be no need for inspectors to go down and examine on the spot. There would be a saving of money, and I think we might ask the Local Government Board to give that money which is saved to them by our doing the work which is handed over to the Joint Counties Board for the purpose of carrying on the work. I believe it will result in good economy for the Imperial Exchequer, and certainly for the local authorities. Local Government is becoming more and more important to the life of the country every year, and the more powers you give to the local authorities the better will be the class of man you will get to administer them. I appeal to the experience of those who have had anything to do with local authorities. When the County Councils were set up, you got for the first time men who had never before taken an interest in local affairs, and men of ability and character. We have seen this also in the municipalities. Take the case of Birmingham. I am not an admirer of the Colonial Secretary, but I do admire his local administration, and often wish that the right hon. Gentleman had confined himself to that. What a difference it has made to Birmingham whether the Colonial Secretary took a part in local administration or not; it has altered the whole municipal character of that town; it has improved it, and made it a better and healthier place to live in. That is really the case with regard to local bodies everywhere. The question is not what powers you give to them, but what class of men you attract to administer those powers.
There are some hon. Members opposite who seem to think that it is a complete answer to any claim for devolution to be able to say that the work is done well now, and that you have a great body of experts. That is really no answer at all. Even if the Local Government Board did the work 435 well now, I would complain of it. Even if the experts were the best in the world, I would challenge the present system. Even if they did the work expeditiously, which nobody could say they did, I say it is better for the sake of the country that it should be devolved on the class of men who know the locality itself. It is true that for the moment the Welsh County Councils happen to be Liberal. Is that really a reason for disfranchising us. I do not think the hon. and gallant Member has been worthy of the charity and kindness of his disposition in suggesting that that is a good reason, and I think on the whole he will be ashamed of the argument he has used. Let a strangers go into any of these county councils when business is on, and I defy him to be able to tell whether it is a Liberal or Conservative Council. The County Councils conduct themselves from a purely business point of view in going through their agendas. Afterwards controversial matters may be discussed, but only in an abstract manner. The hon. Member for Montgomery Boroughs in his lucid speech against this Bill said that the County Councils occasionally passed abstract resolutions. How often? I daresay the Montgomery-shire County Council has passed one or two such resolutions in the course of its career, but I do not recollect more than two or three being passed by the County Council of which I was a member for several years. You must allow the County Council to let off steam now and again, and I think you will find that it rather improves their temper and that less partisanship is afterwards displayed. Let me take the question which has been raised with reference to aldermen. I do not know a single Welsh County Council that has taken advantage of a party majority to elect the whole of its aldermen from the party of the majority. On the contrary, what happens is this. The consider carefully the proportion of councillors belonging to each party and elect the same proportion of aldermen. I want to know how many English Councils which happen to be in the hands of Conservatives or even of Liberals, have done that. I have seen officers appointed, but I have never seen any political influence at work at all in connection with the appointments. In my 436 own county, a Conservative was appointed county surveyor and it was purely a question of getting the best man.
§ LIEUTENANT-COLONEL PRYCE-JONES
The Denbighshire County Conncil had to appoint representatives for a certain body with reference to intermediate education, and they appointed all Radicals. Of course, they would not have me.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I admit it may be an objection to the Bill that the hon. Member was not appointed to a particular committee of the Denbighshire County Council, and I very much regret it. On these committees, however, it will be found that political considerations do not enter at all. The selection is purely non-partisan. I would really ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he will not consent to make this experiment with regard to Wales. It may be said that the scheme is not embodied in the Bill but it is a scheme which cannot come into operation except by the consent of the County Councils themselves. It is very difficult to get work out of the hands of permanent officials. Even the officials of a Government Department are very human. They naturally think that their work is done better than it could be done by anyone else, but at the same time they lack local knowledge, local sympathy, and acquaintance with local prejudices. I would appeal to the President of the Local Government Board to give favourable consideration to this Bill, and, if possible, consent to its being referred to a Select Committee.
§ (4.45.) Mr. WALTER LONG
I will take up only a very few minutes of the time of the House in saying what I have to say on behalf of the Government and the Department with which I am connected with reference to this Bill. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has not, I think, quite accurately described the suggestion of my hon. friend the Member for East Somerset. My hon. friend is well known to the House for his very full and 437 accurate knowledge of County Government work, and in his very able speech he suggested that something in the form of the schedule to this Bill might very well be incorporated in a Provisional Order and referred to a Select Committee; but I did not understand him to suggest that this Bill should be referred to a Select Committee involving its being read a second time by the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman also fell into another error. He suggested that the opposition to this Bill proceeds from the permanent officials of a Government Department, who would be unwilling naturally to surrender the powers they possess at the present time. I do not think there is any foundation for that view. Permanent officials are not more desirous of retaining in their hands powers they can properly surrender than are Members of Parliament. If devolution can be satisfactorily carried out, I am convinced that no opposition will be offered to it on behalf of the officials of any Government Department. The truth is, that to discuss devolution as a theory and to apply it as a practice are two very different things. We have hoard a great deal more during the debate of the theory of devolution than of its practical application; but I am only going to say a very few words, both about the theory and also the attempt to practically apply it under this Bill. Every hon. Member who has spoken has been at pains to declare that he is entirely in favour of devolution. Perhaps I may without offence or egotism say that before devolution had as many advocates as it now has, my right hon. friend the Home Secretary, and myself, advocated and worked for devolution upon local authorities. There is no difference of opinion as to the desirability of relieving this House and Government Departments of work which can be as well done by local authority; but the difficulty is to find a method of transfer. The theory of devolution has found advocates in all quarters of the House today, and the House has been told that the whole difficulty in the way of devolution is the non-county boroughs. That is only part of the question. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, and the hon. Member who seconded 438 the Motion, said it was only by a mistake that Clause 1 did not apply to county boroughs as well as to County Councils; but the moment we attempt, in the process of devolution, to include county boroughs, we at once find ourselves confronted by a difficulty quite distinct from that which exists in regard to non-county boroughs. In regard to non-county boroughs and the large urban districts, the difficulty is one of jealousy as regards control by an authority, which they often consider not to be a suitable authority, to be placed over themselves. The difficulty with regard to the county boroughs is a totally different one. What is the duty which a Government Department has to perform in nine cases out of ten? It either is, as my hon. friend the Member for Plymouth said in his most excellent speech, to act as the appellate authority, to which an individual or a minority may appeal for protection against what may be considered an injustice, or else the equally important and at the same time more difficult duty of compelling the local authority to act, or to act itself in default of the local authority acting.
What is the practical suggestion made in this Bill, and what are the arguments that are advanced in favour of it? The House is asked, as a practical step in the direction of devolution, to invest a local authority, like the corporation of a big borough, with power to act in default of themselves, to make them the appellate authority against themselves, and to make them the authority who will have to compel them to act when they are unwilling to act. I ask the House, is that not a practical difficulty, and yet we have been told, very naturally so, by the representatives of county boroughs, that unless Clause 1 be so altered as to include county boroughs, their support of the Bill will not be forthcoming. Yet in all the able and interesting speeches to which we have listened, no attempt has been made to deal practically with this difficulty. I want to say one word about a remark which fell from my hon. friend the Member for Plymouth, because I think it was misunderstood by the House. My hon. friend objected to the general transfer 439 of these wide powers from a Government Department to County Councils which were not altogether free from some suggestion of corruption or maladministration. That remark was resented as being altogether unjust, but it is a well-known fact that allegations have been made from time to time as to maladministration and improper administration on behalf of municipal authorities. I was rather surprised to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite fall foul of my hon. friend for that statement, because only the other day, when we were debating the London Water Bill, for which I am responsible, half a dozen hon. Gentlemen opposite flung similar charges across the floor of the House against the old Metropolitan Board of Works. [Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE: That was not a municipal body.] I will come to that presently, but I maintain that my hon. friend was fully justified in making the limited statement he did, and I think hon. Gentlemen misunderstood him when they affected to think that he had made a general charge of corruption against the municipal bodies in this country. I am sure that the view we all entertain is that our municipal bodies have on the whole done their work admirably, and have been actuated by the highest possible motive; and that even where they have been imprudent or extravagant, it was not because they desired to spend money for the sake of spending it, but because they had acted with too little knowledge and experience, or had, perhaps, been a little too ready to experiment with other people's money. But on the whole they have done good work and have done it well, and I heartily reciprocate everything that has been said in the course of this debate with reference to County Councils, whether they be in England or in Wales. As regards County Councils in Wales, I have never heard of any kind of oppression of minorities because of diffences of political feeling. I believe that local government, whether in our towns or in the country districts, has been honestly and well carried out, and that view is shared by my hon. friend the Member for Plymouth, and is not in any way weakened by the remark he made.
440 We have heard today a great deal about devolution, but we have had no practical evidence that the difficulties now existing would be removed in case a change in the law were made. In my opinion, with certain reservations, the devolution of many of the powers now exercised by Government Departments would be very advantageous. An hon. Member introduced pour rire an instance of a steam whistle. It is not the Government Department that would be asked to sanction the use of a steam whistle, but the local authority, but the Government Department would be appealed to by people who thought that improper use was being made of the steam whistle. It sounded, no doubt, rather a ridiculous thing, but hon. Members who live in large manufacturing towns know very well that life would be made unbearable by the improper use of steam whistles. Speaking for my Department, so far as devolution has found expression in the Provisional Orders issued by my right hon. friend, to devolution on the County Councils of certain powers with the consent of the Government Departments concerned I would offer no opposition. At the same time I think my hon. friend the Member for East Somerset was right when he told the House that under Section 10 of the Act of 1888, we have every power to devolve generally but not individually. I think a change in the law might very well be made in that direction, and I should be very glad to receive powers to devolve certain powers individually, and not generally, but it is necessary that we should insist on this being done under Section 10 of the Act of 1888, and not under Clause 1 of this Bill. Section 10 gave the Local Government Board power to devolve by Provisional Order with the consent of the Department. The only difficulty is that the transfer must be made generally, and not individually, and I will offer no objection to such an alteration in the law; but I cannot on behalf of the Government accept the change suggested in this Bill. The whole debate has practically turned on the devolution of these powers on County Councils.
We have heard very little about Part II. of the Bill. I confess I listened to, 441 the suggestions in Part. II with profound astonishment The hon. Gentleman opposite said that the Metropolitan Board of Works was not a municipal body, meaning, of course, that it was a body selected by indirect election. But Part II. of this Bill proposes indirect election, and Parliament is asked to give sanction to a body elected on a system on which so much ridicule was poured the other day in connection with the constitution of the proposed Water Board for London. In Part II. we are not told what the election is to be, and we are told nothing about the scheme, although the body to be elected under the scheme is to have rating powers over the area concerned. I would ask the House what is the necessity for a Joint County Board either in Wales or anywhere else? Under the Act of 1888 counties jointly interested, can form a joint committee and do the work themselves. I was told yesterday by a deputation that such a Committee can deal with homes for inebriates and similar matters, and, so far as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing to prevent counties jointly interested in the provision of a home for inebraites providing it. But surely the House cannot be seriously asked for the first time to set up an association of County Councils without any definite power or any clear idea how they are to be elected or what they are to do beyond the slender ground that if they are appointed they may provide a joint home for inebriates. We ought to have more information as to what work this Joint Board is to be able to carry out which the County Councils cannot carry out now, in Wales or elsewhere. The only information which I have been able to ascertain is derived from a correspondence between my Department and gentlemen from Wales in 1892. I do not know whether the suggestions then made still hold good, but if they did still hold good, I should have a great deal to say in criticism of them. If they do not still hold good, then I submit to the House that we are in complete ignorance as to what this new Joint Board would do, that we know nothing as to its constitution, and that we would not be justified in making such a great change 442 in the law of local government to enable five councils or more to do work which can be done by the existing County Councils.
To devolution itself, in theory, I offer no objection. Everyone is in favour of it, but it is only when people attempt to give effect to their ideas that they find difficulties in their path. Hon. Gentlemen have not attempted to deal with the practical question put to them, namely, the difficulty of making one authority alike the defendant and the judge. When it is proposed to give County Councils fresh powers, and to add to their dignity and importance, I wish to know what is the opinion of the urban districts who would be governed by these Councils. The hon. Gentleman who spoke just now said that notwithstanding the fact that these proposals were for something like three years before the people of Wales, no expression of opposition had come from the urban districts. But the hon. Member will remember, as I do, that it was not until it was brought home to the local authorities what the control or interference of the County Council would really mean, that opposition arose; and my belief is, that if it were not thought that this debate was merely academic, and that if it were really believed that the Bill were going to pass into law, a great deal would be said against it by the urban districts. The argument is a very simple one. These urban communities would take up the position of saying—"We have urban needs and difficulties; the County Councils are largely formed of county or agricultural members, who do not appreciate the difficulties of the towns, and we would rather have a separate Department in London than a body which can but have little experience of what we want." One other point has been dealt with lightly, and treated as if it were of no importance at all, namely, the provision of a proper staff of experts and the cost. In regard to some of the powers in the schedule, they could only be exercised by a Government Department, provided with the very best expert assistance. We have the advantage in our Medical Department, our Surveyors and Engineering 443 Department, and our Architect Department, of men who have worked under and for the local authorities, and who have technical and expert knowledge of the highest possible kind. Let the County Councils understand, if they have seriously made up their minds to take these powers from the central department, that, whereas the cost relating to them is now being paid by the Government, it would in future fall upon the local authorities. I doubt very much whether many County Councils, when they find that they will have to employ an expert staff and pay it, will relish this considerable addition to their dignity and power. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife ridiculed those who said that they were in favour of devolution, but were yet unwilling to give practical effect to it. I deny altogether that there is any justification for the right hon. Gentleman's position. He is not entitled to say that we are not in favour of devolution because we vote against this particular form of it. The difficulty of giving effect to the theory is almost insuperable except with regard to powers which are thoroughly worth transfering. Holding these views, and believing also that the Bill is open to much greater criticism, I find it impossible to accept the suggestion that we should support the Second Reading or consent to send the Bill to a Select Committee. I shall, without hesitation, support the Amendment of my hon. friend.
§ (5.10.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I have listened to the whole of this very able debate, and I have been endeavouring to discover what are the real objections to this Bill. I 444 thought I should have learned them from the right hon. Gentleman with all his great authority and experience, but I am still unable to discover them. The arguments in favour of the general principle of the Bill were stated early in the debate by my right hon. friend the Member for East Fife with his usual remarkable ability, and I will therefore not enter on a discussion of the general merits of devolution. The right hon. Gentleman objected to a remark of my right hon. friend that the people who declared themselves to be in favour of devolution in general were against it in practice. I must say that I think that the right hon. Gentleman himself has given a remarkable example of the truth of that remark. How does this proposal differ in fact from the proposal of his own Government in 1888? In my opinion there is no difference.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
More than half of the powers in the schedule of the present Bill were not contained in the Government Bill at all.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I understood from the hon. Member for East Somerset that the schedule to this Bill followed almost exactly that proposed by the County Council Association, which cannot be such a very malignant proposition. Besides, I entirely deny that the Bill depends on the particulars contained in the schedule. The right hon. Gentleman might have argued that some of the particulars ought not to be in the schedule, but that is entirely a question of detail, and has nothing whatever to do with the question of the Second Reading of the Bill. Therefore, 445 I affirm that this Bill in principle, and in its main details, is in point of fact the sort of legislation which was proposed by the Government in 1888. We have heard most instructive speeches in favour of the Bill from Gentlemen who are not representatives of Wales. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, who has been an able member of the Local Government Board, has pointed out that a powerful Committee was appointed in 1898 to consider this matter, and that the only reason they did not recommend the adoption of, practically speaking, the principles of this Bill was the opposition of the non-county boroughs. But what evidence is there to countervail the assertion of the Welsh Members that the county boroughs are not opposed to it in Wales? The right hon. Gentleman surmises that there may be such opposition, but I venture to think that the representatives of Wales know more about that than he can possibly do. So far as that goes it appears to me that the main foundation of his opposition to this proposal is condemned by the action of his own Government in 1888 and 1889. All he says is that there are things in this schedule which were hot in the Provisional Order of 1889. If that is so, they can be struck out in Committee. That is not an argument against the Second Reading of the Bill.
What is the situation of Wales with regard to this matter? As everybody will admit, Wales is a country with wants, habits, and customs of its own. It therefore requires what may be called local treatment perhaps more than other parts of the United Kingdom. Why in the world should not the Welsh people administer those affairs quite as well as or even better than the experts of the 446 Local Government Board? Where is the opposition to the Bill? In this question of devolution you have to consider the feeling of the community, and to regard the possibility of bringing the local action of the community to bear upon their own interests. In Wales the sentiment of the community is practically unanimous in favour of this Bill. Is that denied? The hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs opposed the Second Reading, but from the concluding portion of his speech I gathered that he was half-disposed to vote for it. That is not at all a characteristic of Welsh opposition. I hope our opposition does not usually end with a conclusion of that sort. Then the Member for Newport is opposed to the Bill. He rather disavows the Welsh character of Monmouthshire, but he, at all events, is speaking contrary to the opinion of his own County Council. That is really the character of the opposition to the Bill. You have here a considerable community with interests of its own—people who are anxious for a delegation of these powers. You have the fact that a Conservative Government made proposals practically identical with these, which were suspended for a time on the ground of an opposition which does not exist in Wales. You have the strong support of the hon. Member for East Somersetshire, who represents the opinion of English Councils on this matter. In my opinion, you have, therefore, the strongest body of evidence you possibly could have affirming the principle of this Bill.
Then I come to the second part of the Bill, to which the right hon. Gentleman objects. He asks what possible advantage could be obtained by this authorised combination of counties. The 447 advantage is perfectly obvious. You could have a joint staff, and it would be an advantage in many ways. If objection is taken to the operation of the Joint Board, that again is a question for Committee. The Bill proposes to give to the Welsh people power to do what they are perfectly competent to do with a better knowledge than any central authority can possibly have, and it would relieve a Department which is confessedly over-charged. As I said at the
§ beginning, I have listened to this debate, but I am unable to find in the arguments against the Bill any reason for refusing it a Second Beading, and certainly I shall give it my sincere support.
§ (5.21) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 163; Noes, 201. (Division List No. 115.)451
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Fenwick, Charles||Logan, John William|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Ferguson, B. C. Munro (Leith)||Lough, Thomas|
|Asher, Alexander||Ffrench, Peter||Lundon, W.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Field, William|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Flynn, James Christopher|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||M'Crae, George|
|Bell, Richard||Gilhooly, James||M'Govern, T.|
|Black, Alexander William||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||M'Kean, John|
|Blake, Edward||Grant, Corrie||M'Kenna, Reginald|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Griffith, Ellis J.||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Mooney, John J.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Morley, Charles (Breconshire)|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)|
|Caldwell, James||Hammond, John||Moss, Samuel|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Murphy, John|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Cawley, Frederick||Hayden, John Patrick||Newnes, Sir George|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Hayter, Ht. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Norman, Henry|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Crean, Eugene||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Crombie, John William||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Horniman, Frederick John|
|O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Jones, William (C'rnarvonshire||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Delany, William||Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Joyce, Michael||O'Dowd, John|
|Dillon, John||Kitson, Sir James||O'Kelly, James, Roscommon, N|
|Donelan, Captain A.||O'Malley, William|
|Doogan, P. C.||O'Mara, James|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Langley, Batty||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Dunn, Sir William||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington|
|Leigh, Sir Joseph|
|Leng, Sir John||Partington, Oswald|
|Edwards, Frank||Levy, Maurice||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Evans, Sir Francis H (Maidstone||Lewis, John Herbert||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Lloyd-George, David||Pease, Sir Joseph W. (Durham)|
|Perks, Robert William||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel||Wallace, Robert|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Price, Robert, John||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Soares, Ernest J.||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Northants||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Rea, Russell||Stevenson, Francis S.||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Reckitt, Harold James||Strachey, Sir Edward||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Reddy, M.||Sullivan, Donal||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Reed, Sir Edw. James (Cardiff)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Rigg, Richard||Tennant, Harold John|
|Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.||Young, Samuel|
|Roche, John||Thomas, F. Freeman-(Hastings||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Thomas, J. A. (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Russell, T. W.||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Trevelyan, Charles Philips||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Mr. Brynmor Jones and Mr. Herbert Roberts.|
|Schwann, Charles E.|
|Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)||Ure, Alexander|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Charrington, Spencer||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn|
|Aird, Sir John||Clive, Captain Percy A.||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-(Line.)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Coddington, Sir William||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Green, Walford D. (W'dnesbury|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Grenfell, William Henry|
|Arrol, Sir William||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Gretton, John|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Gunter, Sir Robert|
|Colston, Chas, Edw. H. Athole|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz Roy||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Hall, Edward Marshall|
|Rain, Colonel James Robert||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Cranborne, Viscount||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G (Midd'x|
|Balcarres, Lord||Crossley, Sir Savile||Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Cust, Henry John C.||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Dalkeith, Earl of||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Denny, Colonel||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Dickson, Charles Scott||Henderson, Alexander|
|Bignold, Arthur||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fr'd Dixon||Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter|
|Bill, Charles||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart||Horner, Frederick William|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Hoult, Joseph|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King'sLynn)||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Brassey, Albert||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Howard, John (Kent, F'versham|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham)|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil|
|Brymer, William Ernest|
|Butcher, John George||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm. Lawies|
|Finch, George H.||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Fisher, William Hayes||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (D'rbyshire||Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Flower, Ernest|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S. W||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop)|
|Chamberlain J. Austen (Worc'r||Knowles, Lees|
|Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampten|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Garfit William|
|Chapman, Edward||Glibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Lond.||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth||Plummer, Walter R.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Lawson, John Grant||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Lecky, Rt. Hn. William Edw. H.||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Purvis, Robert||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Quitter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Valentia, Viscount|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.||Vincent, Col. Sir CEH (Sheffield|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Randles, John S.|
|Rankin, Sir James|
|Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Walrond Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G. Ellison||Rattigan, Sir William Henry||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Macdona, John Gumming||Reid, James (Greenock)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas, Thomson||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Robinson, Brooke||Welby, Lt. Col. ACE (Taunton)|
|M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts)|
|Malcolm, Ian||Bound, James||Whiteley, H.(Ashtonund, Lyne|
|Martin, Richard Biddnlph||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Maxwell, W. J. H (D'mfriesshire||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Middlemore, J'hn Throgmorton||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.)|
|Milvain, Thomas||Sandys, Lieut-Col. Thos. Myles||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)|
|Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|More, Robt, Jasper (Shropshire)||Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Morgan, Hn. Fred (Monm'thsh,||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Morrison, James Archibald||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)||Wylie, Alexander|
|Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute||Spear, John Ward|
|Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwcih)|
|Myers, William Henry||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset||Younger, William|
|Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Colonel Wyndham - Quin and Mr. Guest.|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Start, Hon. Humphrey Napier|
|Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Pease, Herbert Pike (D'rlington||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.