§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ MR. RAWLINSON (Cambridge University),
in moving that the Bill be read a third time that day three months, said he did not do so out of any hostility to the Bill or its object. He thought, however, that it was desirable to call attention to the, way the County Council exercised its powers of borrowing under the supervision of the House in order that there might be some check. Last year he called attention to the Bill in the same way as he was now doing, and it was one gratifying fact that the powers of borrowing to be exercised this year were smaller than they were last. One of the promoters of the Bill had offered to meet him upon one or two points to which he had called his attention, but he still objected, as he did last year, to the period of repayment of loans to local authorities being spread over sixty years. That was an excessive time, and to allow such a state of things was unsound finance. There was a sinking fund established in connection with these loans by the London County Council, but under this Bill they could use it for their own purposes. That again was very unsound finance, because the object of a sinking fund was to create a reserve for a particular purpose. He would like to hear something more about works, alluded to in the excellently drawn schedule, such as the Strand improvements and certain tramway improvements and sites for schools. One would be grateful to know how the steamboats were progressing this year. He hoped they showed a revenue. He begged to move.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words, 'upon this day three months.'"—(MR. Rawlinson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR EDWIN CORNWALL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
said the hon. Member was quite justified in raising the question, not only by the importance of London County Council finance, but because Parliament had laid down that the House had a right to do so. As the Local Government auditor stated in his Report, the revenue of the London County Council for the last year was £ 14,983,000, and the expenditure was estimated at £ 14,673,000. The reason why the Bill came before the House in this form was because in the old days the Board of Works always brought in a public Bill to deal with the borrowing powers of local authorities, and when the County Council was formed in 1889 that power was transferred to them. The Bill this year was on the same lines as previous years, but the amount was not so large as in last year's Bill. The total borrowing powers were for the Council £ 5,354,000 and for other local authorities £ 1,377,000 — in all £ 6,731,000. Complaints had been made that the County Council were not quite so accurate in their estimates in these matters as they might be. As a matter of fact the powers taken for the following six months were mere machinery and had to be put into the Bill. The powers taken last year would have enabled the County Council to have taken £ 5,000,000 of the £ 6,731,000 they now asked for. In fact it was seldom the full amount was reached, but as amounts could not be shifted from one item to another it was necessary to include the full amount. The Council was very careful not to go beyond the limit of sixty years, and many of the loans were for short periods. The Council had its relations with other local authorities under consideration. The schedule to the Bill gave very full explanation. As to the Strand improvements, the figures, when worked out, would show that the cost was £ 50,000 less than was estimated when the Council went into that large undertaking, and if the Council was not rushed into putting the land on the market it would yield as much, if not more, than the estimate. London owed a debt of gratitude to the Council valuer, MR. A. Young, 1312 for his skilful handling of the huge business and that of the Westminster improvement. Tramway improvements he need not discuss. Educational sites in London were necessarily expensive, and to that no doubt was largely due the fact that the cost per head for the education of London children was greater than that of other places. What would be the result of the steamboat service remained to be seen. It was now only a summer service, and he wished the people of London would give it more support. Sadly he had watched the boats during the last few weeks; but the receipts were improving, and he was sure the steamers were much appreciated by visitors to London. He believed the tramway system would in course of time prove a gold mine for ratepayers, and be compensation for a loss on the steamboats, which loss he hoped would grow less.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.