HC Deb 21 March 1907 vol 171 cc944-63
MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)

rose to call attention to the incidence of rating in London, and to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, the present inequality of the rates raised in the different parishes in London requires the early consideration of Parliament." He said he realised at the outset that in proposing this Resolution he would be an excellent target for a good many Members. He would, however, try to avoid the temptation to refer to the allegations which had been made against himself in regard to what had taken place at Poplar. He might say, however, in regard to the allegation that at Poplar they had fed the poor at other people's expense, that the Poplar Guardians could not feed them at the expense of the poor because they had not the money. But there was a vast difference between the charges made against his Board and those levelled at others outside the boundaries of London. Whatever expense Poplar incurred was incurred for the poor and not for the aggrandisement of the Board. In the Report to the President of the Local Government Board on the Poplar Union there was a paragraph which said— The general policy of the guardians also includes a strong view as to the equalisation of rates in the Metropolis. Mr. Crooks and Mr. Lansbury claim, as a matter of justice, that the whole rates of London should pay for the whole of London pauperism, and they frankly accepted Mr. Arthur Balfour's dictum that any further extension of the principle of equalisation of the rates must be accompanied by what he termed 'a curtailment of local autonomy.' In fact the evidence suggests that in later years the guardians deliberately increased their expenditure with a view of making it evident that additional contributions from the rates of the whole Metropolis were an absolute necessity for the Poplar District. The inquiry by the Local Government Board lasted over twenty days and there was a protracted audit lasting over four months, and notwithstanding that, no single instance was proved that the guardians had broken a law or helped any poor people in the Poplar Union that they had no right to help. The Report wound up with the following remarkable sentence— The whole Metropolis now practically pays for the maintenance of the indoor poor of London, and it would appear to be only equitable that the indoor administration of the Metropolitan Unions should be uniform. He thought that showed a want of knowledge of the facts on the part of the man who made that Report. It was perfectly true that under the Local Government Act of 1888, which created the London County Council, arrangements were made for certain indoor grants to the various unions of London. At Poplar they had about 360 odd persons above the certified number, all of whom had to be paid out of the local rates. He agreed that there should be a reduction where children were kept in the house, but the fact remained that they had that number over their certified number and had to lose in proportion. Poplar was not the only union which suffered in that way, as the following quotation would show— The Stepney Union affords a good example of the injustice that is being wrought by the grant not being brought up to date. The average daily number of indoor poor maintained at the cost of this union for five years to March, 1888, as certified by the Local Government Board, was 1,021. The approximate daily number for the five years ending 1906 was 1,671, a daily increase of 650 persons since 1888. Taking 1,671 as representing the present daily numbers, the grant of £6,211, payable to this union in respect of indoor poor, fixed in 1888 at 4d. per day, now amounts to 2.44d. per day. If the grant were now 4d. per day, as in 1888, the total amount to be raised in London would probably be £442,065, out of which amount the Stepney Union would be called upon to contribute, according to its rateable value, £3,368, and would be entitled to receive in respect of its daily number of indoor poor (computed at 1,671) a sum of £10,165, a net annual gain of £6,797, instead of £3,721 gained on the basis arrived at in 1888. That disposed of the argument that London bore the whole cost. The figures for London had been proved over and over again. The creation of the borough councils had only accentuated the position, and had created even to a greater extent than existed before cities of the rich and cities of the poor. Although they had been given mayors and corporations they still remained poor. Upon this subject he would quote to the House the Return he put in before the inquiry— In considering the burden of local rates it is undesirable to take the figures for a single year. My Return, which has been prepared by the statistical officer of the London County Council, showing the comparative position of the metropolitan boroughs and poor law areas in respect of rates for the county and local purposes, based on the average for the four years ended 31st March, 1905, sets out very clearly the inequalities of local burdens. This Return shows that the total rates range from 9s. 8d. in Poplar to 6s. 4d. in the City of London, the average being 7s. 0.5d., and the Guardians' rates range from 2s. 6.4d. in Poplar to 2.8d. in Westminster, the average being 9.1d. The produce of the 1d. rate ranges from £819 in St. George's-in-the-East to £19,928 in the City of London, Poplar being £3,033. The ratio of indoor and outdoor pauperism to population based on the mean number of paupers on 1st January and 1st July ranges as follows: — Indoor from 52 per 10,000 in Hampstead to 704 per 10,000 in the Strand Union, average 155, Poplar, 200. Outdoor from nine in White chapel to 295 in Bermondsey per 10,000, average 95, Poplar, 233. It is pointed out that if the ratio of pauperism were the same in each area and the expenditure were the same in proportion, the Guardians' rate must still necessarily differ inversely as the assessable value per head. The Return further shows that if the assessable value of Poplar instead of being £4.8 were the same as the average for the whole county the local rates would have been 2s. 6d. in the £ instead of 4s. 7d. If the assessable value per head was the same as the Strand Union the rate would be 4d., Marylebone, 1s. 8d., and Kensington, 1s. 9d. The most remarkable thing about all this was that when the nation was in trouble or danger, of course they were all one; there was no distinction, and they talked about "Duke's son and cook's son;" but in time of peace the nation said to them "Keep yourselves and don't worry; if you are poor, God help you, for we cannot." But, after all, totals counted for something, and he asserted that notwithstanding their poverty, it was clean, honest poverty which they had tried to deal with in Poplar. Endeavouring to deal with their own poor when they could not afford it was one of the things for which he had been denounced. He would like to quote some figures from the Westminster Gazetteshowing the expenditure per head of population in four Metropolitan Boroughs. In Holborn it was £6 4s.; Westminster, £10 18s; Marylebone, £4 12s.; and Poplar, £2 18s. He admitted that a 12s. rate was appalling, but he did not agree with the argument that they had driven any trade away from the Poplar district. According to some of the statements which had been made Poplar must be a howling wilderness. Of course it might be convenient for London to congregate its poor workers in certain parts, but it was inevitable that in those districts breakdown in health and accidents to life and limb should be more frequent. People did not like to live in Poplar, because it had an evil reputation; it was smoky and dirty, and there were many poor people who came and knocked at their doors. It might be convenient, but it was not right that London should shirk its responsibilities in this matter. One of the objections raised was that they could not claim equalisation of rates until they had equalisation in the cost of administration. In the Poplar Union the cost of administration for officers was 2s. 10d. per pound of Poor Law expenditure as against 3s. 8d. elsewhere. A penny rate in Poplar realised £3,033, whilst in Kensington it produced nearly £9,000. If Poplar had the assessment of Marylebone, the rate would be 5s. 4d. in the pound, and if Marylebone had to raise the money it required on the Poplar assessment its rates would be 15s. in the pound. It was not right to allow the poor to keep the poor who really belonged to the whole of London. He begged to move.

*MR. DICKINSON (St. Pancras, N.)

seconded the Resolution, although he regretted that it had not been moved in its original form. It was advisable that the House should devote a little attention to the question of the rates of London. The London rating problem had often been brought up, but it had never been dealt with in a scientific manner, and he hoped that before long the Government would deal with it from a comprehensive point of view. Parliament had always been imbued with the idea that London, like other towns, should be so administered that the poor and the rich should contribute equally, and that was the reason why the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund was established. It was an attempt made in 1869 to bring the total rateable value of London to the assistance of the poorer parts of the Metropolis. From that fund about £1,600,000 a year was distributed amongst the various boards of guardians. The fund was administered by the Local Government Board which was supposed to exercise control over it. A further step in this direction was taken in the Local Government Act of 1888 under which special provision was made for extending the common charge for Poor Law purposes by empowering the London County Council to collect a sum of money as part of the county rate and distribute it to the various boards of guardians. In 1894 the Equalisation of Rates Bill was passed at the instance of the London County Council, and it proceeded on a system which had nothing to commend it but its simplicity. A rate of sixpence in the pound was to be raised over the whole of London, and the proceeds, amounting to about £1,000,000, were to be distributed to the various boroughs and parishes in proportion to the population. The most populous parts were generally the poorest, and by distributing the money in that way they did to a certain extent relieve the poor parts at the expense of the richer; but it had no logical basis, and its effect was in many ways unsatisfactory. Notwithstanding all these attempts by Parliament to equalise the rates of London they were no more equal to-day than before the attempts were made, and the inequality instead of diminishing had gradually become greater. Six years ago the lowest rate in London was 5s. 9d. in the pound whilst the highest was 9s. 2d., or a difference of 3s. 5d. Last year the lowest rate was 6s. and the highest 11s. 10d., or a difference of 5s. 10d. Although they had transferred a great deal of the expenditure upon Poor Law and local government administration in London from the local to the central rates, at the same time they had not done away with the great disparity between the rates in different parts of London. The total expenditure raised by the rates of London was £15,000,000. Of this sum £8,000,000 was spent by bodies which had jurisdiction over the whole of London, the remaining £7,000,000 being spent by authorities having jurisdiction over only certain localities. But, of this £7,000,000 only £4,000,000 was raised locally, the other £3,000,000 being provided for out of rates collected over the whole of London. Thus nearly half of the money expended locally was raised centrally. This state of affairs was still more remarkable when examined in detail. The proportions, of course, varied in every district, and varied considerably when looked at from the point of view of whether they were devoted to Poor Law or to local government administration. Of the aggregate expenditure of the boards of guardians in London two-thirds was raised by a central rate, and of the expenditure of the borough councils one quarter was raised by a central rate. But in individual localities the proportions were even more striking. In the Whitechapel Union, of the amount of money spent by the guardians only one-fourth was raised by them, or in other words three-fourths of the money they expended was supplied by the metropolitan ratepayers. In the borough of Deptford one half of the money expended for the purposes of local administration was provided for the borough council by the central fund. Such a system was open to grave objections. In the first place it was a direct incentive to extravagance. Perhaps he would be allowed to support that argument by one or two more figures. If hon. Members compared the six years which he had already given as an illustration, 1901–2 to 1906–7, they would find that in many instances the expenditure of the local authorities had been increasing very rapidly. At the same time by reason of the fact that they could draw largely on central funds the obligation to raise the money from their own ratepayers was being reduced. In Bermondsey the increase of local expenditure on Poor Law was such that it would have necessitated an increase in the local rate of 5d. in the pound, but central assistance came to their aid to so great an extent that the local poor rate was hardly increased at all. The same thing could be said of Deptford, where the increase of expenditure would have meant more on the rates, but as a matter of fact the rate was reduced. He could give other instances, but they would only show the same result, namely, that at the present moment the tendency of the equalisation fund was to enable the local authorities to increase their expenditure without feeling that they had got to go to the ratepayers for an equivalent increase in the rates; and therefore he submitted that to that extent the system now in vogue was one which brought about a direct incentive to local extravagance. The chief fund which was placed at the disposal of the local authorities was the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, and that fund, although it was under the control of the Local Government Board, had shown a tendency to increase to an undue extent. In 1886 the amount received by the fund was £929,000 in 1905 it was £1,619,000, showing an increase of £690,000, or 74 per cent. in nineteen years. The number of paupers in London in that period had increased by only 36 per cent. It might be useful to glance at one or two items of expenditure which this central fund had had to meet. The money devoted out of that fund to the purpose of indoor paupers had increased by £92,000. The maintenance of pauper children had increased £63,000. The amount granted for insane paupers showed an increase of £177,000. The greatest increase of all was for salaries paid to officers. In that case the increase was £279,709, or 112 per cent. Therefore the powers of supervision exercised by the Local Government Board required further consideration. He had no doubt that the President of the Board was fully alive to the defects of the fund, and that he would give attention to the subject. He did not think the Board really supervised the expenditure of the fund. He believed every step was taken to see that the payments made were properly vouched and audited, but the discretion as to the expenditure was practically left to the boards of guardians. The supervision by the Local Government Board was by no means satisfactory, and any further enlargement of that fund or improvement of the system of equalisation would require a very much better system to check the expenditure of the local authorities. He believed the only solution for London rating was that there should be one rate over the whole of London, but that would necessitate a general system of check over the expenditure. It was not beyond the power of Parliament to devise some satisfactory method of controlling local expenditure; but it would involve a revision of the relationship between the central government of London and the local government of London, and therefore any question of the further equalisation of rates must be taken up by the House of Commons as part of a general system of London government.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, the present inequality of the rates raised in the different parishes in London requires the early consideration of Parliament."—(Mr. Crooks.)

SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)

said that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Resolution had reference to Poplar alone, whereas the Resolution, if it had any meaning at all, extended to the whole of London. The hon. Member for North St. Pancras had admitted that if they once established a single rate for the whole of London they must establish at the same time a proper and serious check over the expenditure of the whole of London, and that, of course, was the crux of the whole question. When once that was admitted there was really very little difference between the two sides of the House. It seemed to him that it would be almost impossible to establish that proper control. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Common Poor Fund with the object of showing that it had worked well, and that, therefore, there was no reason why something of a similar nature should not be established. He gathered that the hon. Gentleman wished the control of the Local Government Board over that fund increased, and he agreed that that was a step which ought to be taken. In 1894 when the Equalisation of Rates Bill was before the House, Sir George Bartley and himself were the only Members on that side who opposed it, although their constituencies would have benefited most under the Bill. Their action caused considerable astonishment in their constituencies. At present he represented a constituency which would lose most by such a Bill, but he would still maintain the attitude which he took up in 1894. Inequality of rating must exist unless London were made into one area and the control given to one central body. He thought that was impossible, and that therefore any attempt to make the rating equal would be of no use. When he represented Peckham he discussed the subject with his constituents, and he told them that if they were to get money from other parts of London and have no control over expenditure they would not gain. The only result would be that instead of the expenditure being reduced it would be increased, because the local authority would say that as they had 2s. 6d. coming to them as a subvention they would spend 3s. In Camber well from 1894 to 1904 the rates had increased in that manner, and his belief was that if they attempted to arrange for a single rate for the whole metropolitan area it would lead to fatal extravagance on the part of the municipal bodies, not only in London but in all parts of the country. They had been told that the rate in Poplar was 12s. and that in St. George's, Hanover Square, it was only 5s. But the rate levied in St. George's, Hanover Square, was three or four times more than the rate raised in Poplar. It must not be thought that merely because someone was living in a borough where the rent was very low he was paying a much larger rate than another man living in another borough where the rents were very high. The question was of very great importance; it went to the root of the municipal government in London, and he did not think it could be discussed on a Wednesday evening in an abstract manner, especially as there was no meaning in the Resolution as it stood. All that it said was that Parliament should recognise the fact that the present inequality of the rates raised in the different parishes in London required the early consideration of Parliament with a view to the establishment of one rate for the whole of the administrative county. He was certain that if Parliament was really going to do anything at all in the matter, the only business-like way of doing it was to establish one single central authority. He really rose to point out that the inequalities which, on the face of it, seemed to exist in London, did not exist, taking the rating all round as it now stood. He did not see why a Bill should not be introduced to alter the whole system of rating in London, but that should not be done by a Resolution proposed by a private Member. Such abstract Resolutions were useless and encouraged people to think that they were going to gain something for themselves.


said that the House would have already gathered that the problem of London rating was a very complicated one. He would doubt whether there was anything like it in the rating systems of the civilised world; and to a provincial Member it must be amazing in the last degree. In the first place there were five central authorities which levied rates over the whole area: (1) the London County Council, which levied (a) a general rate; (b) an education rate; (c) an equalisation rate under the Act of 1894; (2) the Metropolitan Police Receiver; (3) the Metropolitan Asylums Board; (4) the Local Government Board, on account of the Metropolitan Poor Fund; and (5) the Central Unemployed Body under the Unemployed Act of 1905. In addition to that, there were two sets of local authorities which levied rates locally—the boards of guardians and the borough councils. Dealing first of all with the rates levied over the whole area by the five central bodies referred to, and taking the figures for 1906–7, these central bodies called on the ratepayers to pay a total of 5s. 1.478d. in the pound. That was what was raised for general purposes, and was made up by the three rates levied by the London County Council, viz., 1s. 5d. for county rate, 1s. 7d. for education, and 6d. for equalisation; a police rate of 5d.; a rate for the Metropolitan Asylums Board of 5.375d.; a rate for the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund of 8.864d. levied by the Local Government Board; and a rate of .239d., or less than a farthing, levied by the Central Committee on the Unemployed under the Act of 1905. In the second place there were two sets of local authorities who levied rates locally—the guardians and the borough councils. The local rates levied by these two bodies varied in a remarkable degree. That, of course, must be so when the rateable value of the City of London per head of its night population was £187 3s., and the rateable value per head in St. George's-in-the-East was £4 3s. Therefore, obviously when they came to consider the rates made locally, they were face to face with a very remarkable differentiation. Let them take, first of all, the rate laid by the guardians. They enjoyed first of all, their shares—paid on expenditure and population—out of the Common Poor Fund which was raised by a general equalised rate levied all over London of 8.864d. in the pound in mitigation of local burdens. That was dispensed on an equalisation scale. For instance, Hampstead got value equal to a rate of 2.64d. in the pound and St James', Westminster, 3.5d., while on the other hand Bow got 25.16d.; Bromley, 25.4d.; Poplar 24.67d.; Limehouse, 27.45d.; Bethnal Green, 28.49d.; and St. George's-in-the-East, 37.28d. Before he came to the actual Poor Law rate levied locally he would point out that there was another smallish Equalisation Fund payable to the guardians by the London County Council in mitigation of the burden which ultimately fell on the locality. The County Council paid over to them 4d. per head for indoor poor; half the cost of medical officers' salaries and of drugs and medical appliances; made grants in aid of Poor Law teachers' salaries; paid towards the registration of births and deaths; and allowed 4s. per head per week for pauper lunatics. Under that arrangement the richer parts of the metropolis benefited to the extent of 2d. or 3d. in the pound, while in the poorer parts the amount was 6d. or 9d. In Bethnal Green indeed the rebatement came to 10½d. and in St. George's-in-the-East it was 15.45d. Notwithstanding these two rebatements, the incidence of local rating in respect of Poor Law work varied enormously. Of course it would vary much more but for the equalisations; but notwithstanding them and excluding them from the charge that fell upon the localities for Poor Law purposes, Hampstead having received those benefactions got off with 2.36d., Kensington with 3.74d., St. George's, Hanover Square, with 2.39d., and St. James', Westminster, with 1.83d. These were at the one pole, and, on the other hand, were Bermondsey which raised locally 2s. 2.15d.; Bow, 3s. 2.52d.; Bromley, 3s. 2.88d.; and Poplar, 3s. 1.76d.

Then they came to the municipal local rate laid by the borough councils. That was, in the first place, mitigated by equalisation under the Act of 1894. The County Council collected sixpence over the whole metropolitan area; that was put into a common purse, and when the total rate was made up sums were taken out in proportion to the burden on the locality for local rating purposes. All localities paid in sixpence, and richer districts in Westminster and the West End got out shares ranging from a farthing to three pence in the pound on rateable value, whereas the poorer parts got out, not a farthing or three pence, but—Bethnal Green a subvention or rebate equal to 14.43d.; Camberwell, 11.88d.; Bow, 12.9d.; Bromley, 13.99d.; Mile End New Town. 14.32; and Mile End Old Town, 13.7d. That included in each case the contribution to the Equalisation Fund. Then there was another very small rebate made by the County Council to borough councils, as they paid half the salaries of medical officers of health and sanitary inspectors, and there was a payment to the City Corporation in respect of City lunatics. He had endeavoured to trace the origin of that curious benefaction and had got back to 43rd Elizabeth. But the County Council had to make that rebate. Notwithstanding these rebates, municipal rates varied very considerably—from 6d. to 1s. 6d. in the richer parts, and, running to the other end of the gamut in the poorer, the operatives' parts of London, Woolwich had 2s. 4.18d. laid on for borough council purposes in addition to the subventions; Bow, 2s. 5d.; Bromley, 2s. 7.89d.; and Poplar, 2s. 8.6d. Such was the succinct history of London rates, and going over the whole field and taking the whole of the rates laid on London, five general and two local, with rebates and subventions, the mean rate, not the average rate as it was sometimes erroneously called, but the mean rate was 7s. 5.4d. in the £. But the total of the rates, central and local, laid on the various localities with the mitigation caused by rebates and subventions came out in Kensington and Paddington at 6s. 8d. in the pound. That was at the one end. At the other end they had Shoreditch, 8s. 1d.; Bethnal Green, 8s. 2d.; Battersea, 8s. 4d.; Camberwell, 8s. 11d.; Stepney, 8s. 11.95d.; Bermondsey, 9s. 3.99d.; and Poplar, 11s. 8.02d. He thought it must be obvious to anybody that equalisation to a greater extent than they had at present was urgently necessary. One thing they might do would be completely to equalise the poor rate, which would be a considerable advantage to the poorer parts. Then they would have to ask themselves whether they would rely on Local Government Board control to deal equitably between those who paid in and those who took out. The hon. Member for North St. Pancras did not think so, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London thought a central authority rather than a Government Board was required to deal fairly between those who paid in and those who took out. They might, he said, proceed by equalising the poor rate. If they did not do that they might proceed by an extension of the principle of the Equalisation of Rates Act, 1894. That took 6d. in the pound, which was put into a common purse, and paid out in reduction of the rates in each locality. It might be suggested that the 6d. should be made 1s. That had been closely considered; but it would have some curious and unexpected results. Or they might determine to have one general inclusive rate, for all purposes, for all London. That would be his 7s. 5.4d. at the present time. He agreed with the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London that if they did that they would have very seriously to consider the whole question of London local government. He did not know of any other city in the United Kingdom, or indeed in the civilised world, where if a person lived at one end of the city he paid one rate and if he lived at the other end he paid another. In this case they could apply the Apostolic injunction and help to bear one another's burdens. But if that was done, and it certainly was desirable to have one common rate, they would have to go very carefully into the whole question of the government of London. They could not possibly have, and no serious Parliament could justify, a procedure under which all parts of the city paid the same and independent local authorities came and took out what they liked. A number of inter-dependent questions would arise at once. When they came to consider one common rate they would have to consider the relations between the various local governing bodies, the question of various assessments, and, to mention one subject which had not been referred to in the debate, the question of the metropolitan area, They had large areas outside which they wanted to take very carefully into consideration. He accepted the Motion ex animoand as leading up to some action on the part of the Government in the direction of further equalisation, even if it were not the general and universal equalisation referred to that night. The equalisation of rates was put into the King's Speech in 1906, so that the Government were pledged to the principle, though it had become much more difficult of application on closer consideration than might have been at first imagined. They desired to deal with the question wisely, and he hoped that what he had said tended in that direction. Possibly the best course might be, especially if the subject was raised in its larger form, as he hoped it might be, through the medium of a complete inquiry into the incidence of the rate in connection with the inter-dependent questions of London local government. Or it might be that the Government would be able to deal with it without such an inquiry. But, however that might be, they did intend to deal with the question as promptly and as thoroughly as the circumstances of the case, and they were very serious, seemed to the Government to justify.

*MR. STRAUS (Tower Hamlets, Mile End)

said that from his knowledge, which was extensive, there was no town in the world where the rating system was more anomalous than it was in London. If Manchester were under the same peculiar and ridiculous system as existed in the Metropolis, it would mean that there would be districts in Manchester which would pay at least 15s., and other districts which would pay 5s. or less, in the pound. There was hardly a Member in the House but would say that that would be palpably unjust. What was right for Manchester and other towns of the United Kingdom must be right and just for the Metropolis. The Metropolis had grown up out of numerous villages which had retained their antiquated and ridiculous rating authorities. Even if each London borough had one rate for the whole borough, it would not be as absurd as the present system. When the Unionist Government established the borough councils, they included the whole of this ridiculous system. In the great city of Westminster there were eleven different rates, and they varied from 6s. to 7s. 8d. in the pound. In Stepney there were twelve different rates varying from 8s. to 9s. 7d. and so on throughout London. What was wanted was a system which was absolutely fair; the present system was absolutely unfair. A great number of the people in Mile End and Poplar worked during the bulk of the hours of the day in Westminster or Marylebone. They had to live in Mile End or some other place where they could get cheaper house accommodation, and it struck him as being hard that they should be mulcted in heavy rates, whereas the richer areas, more able to pay, got off almost scotfree. Then there was the question of indebtedness. In Westminster the indebtedness was £72 10s. per head of the population. In Bethnal Green it was £11 6s., in Stepney, £13 2s., in Mile End, about £12. Taking the indebtedness of London as a whole, they would say that the mean rate between £72 10s. in Westminster, and £11 6s. in Bethnal Green was the indebtedness of London. But that would be a wrong view of the case. The fact was that the districts with the more valuable property, and where they paid a smaller rate in the pound, had adopted a financial basis which was less sound than the basis adopted in the poorer districts. In the latter they paid for what they wanted out of the rates, whereas the richer districts followed the bad financial system of borrowing very heavily, because their rateable value was high. Then as to local expenditure; in Westminster it was £10 16s. per head of the population; in Stepney, £2 4s.; in Bethnal Green only £1 14s. It was absolutely absurd that one part of London should not take its fair share of responsibility for another part of London. The day would come, and perhaps was not so far distant as some hon. Members imagined, when those poorer districts would find it more difficult to get a sufficient rate to carry on their work properly, and they might experience what had been seen on the Continent, namely, neglect of the public health. The maintenance of the public health in the poorer areas was necessary in the interests of the richer areas, because infectious diseases spread, and made no distinction between rich and poor. He hoped and believed that something would be done by the Government after the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, which he welcomed, and they had not forgotten the promise in the King's speech of last year. There was no question of greater moment to the people of London than that of the equalisation of the rates. Perhaps the majority of Members did not like the complexion of the County Council as now constituted, but his argument was the same now as it was years ago, that the central authority should be the rating authority of London. There was no reason why they should not know local needs and requirements. It was all very well to talk of the difficulties in the way, but they already possessed the machinery for dealing with the evil, and it could be and should be used. The day would come when the difficulty of raising an adequate rate in the poorer districts would be so great that the interests of the public health would have to be neglected. He hoped the Government would recognise the necessity of dealing adequately and properly with this important question which had been dealt with in every other city in the world under one rate. Until that had been done the Government would not have done their duty to the greatest city in the world. He thanked the House for the kind attention they had given him, and he desired to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon the very able and adequate way in which he had dealt with the question. As a London Member he hoped the Government would remember that there was no other London question of such vital importance as the one before the House.

MR. W. PEARCE (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)

said that in his constituency the rates were 9s. 3d. in the pound, and be ventured to think that it would not be a matter of great difficulty to equalise the poor rate. If that one thing were done he was sure it would go a long way towards remedying the inequalities which existed at the present time.

*SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)

said those localities which were suffering most from the inequalities referred to would be gratified by the statement which had been made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. Those associated with the work of local authorities would be pleased to hear of the promise made on behalf of the Government, that any reform to be effective must be in the direction of simplification, equalisation, and unification. He was glad of the recognition that London was one, or almost one, and that matters of local taxation should be dealt with from that point of view; and, further, that the outside districts were also to be considered. The whole argument of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary was not only that the House should accept the limited Motion on the Paper, but that it was also necessary to go further in the direction of unification of the rates for the whole of London. He could not dismiss from his mind the necessity for an entire rearrangement of London local government which would naturally arise from that conclusion. He was glad that in the hands of the present Government there was not much likelihood of London being cut up into a number of artificial local areas; that they recognised that London was in fact one, and that in matters of local government it should be dealt with on that assumption. The melancholy case of West Ham was fresh in the minds of hon. Members. West Ham was never satisfied until it got a corporation of its own, and it had never been satisfied since. Its rates, which were 5s. in the pound before incorporation, had now gone up to 10s. in the pound. He was very glad to hear that the Government recognised that it would be necessary also to deal with the outside districts. He would like to remind the representatives of the Local Government Board that the Report of the Royal Commission upon Local Taxation stated that many duties now locally administered, such as those connected with education and pauperism, were onerous burdens which ought to be national rather than local charges.

MR. STUART (Sunderland)

said that previous speakers had dealt with the question solely from the point of view of the tenants and occupiers. He wished to point out that it was a much more complicated question, because it was a landlord's question as well. The landlords in the poor districts suffered much more than the landlords in the rich districts. He thought the question might be looked at as one free altogether from Party politics. They all knew that the question of rates and their incidence was one of the most complicated subjects they could tackle. There seemed to be an impression that the burden of the rates fell upon the occupier. He had the honour of sitting upon the Royal Commission upon Local Taxation, and he had no hesitation in saying that at the end of the long inquiry held by that Commission there was not a single member of that body who was not convinced that the incidence of the rates in the long run fell very largely upon the landlord. Those who were expecting such great things from the proposed changes should remember that in what was suggested it would not be the tenant alone who would be benefited by the change, but the landlord would also be included. He had risen mainly to give this word of caution to the Government, and to those who were inclined to expect so much from these changes.

*DR. COOPER (Southwark, Bermondsey)

said that for the first time they had had a declaration from the Government Bench that London was one and indivisible, that with equalisation of rates there should also be uniformity of administration, and that the basis of valuation should be similar and that the poor were not a special product of any one district, but belonged to London. He sincerely hoped that if an inquiry took place it would not be made by a Royal Commission, but by a Committee of the House, which could deal quickly with the whole question. In that way they would not have the long and tedious delay which inquiry by a Royal Commission would involve.


expressed the hope that if the Government elected to proceed by having an inquiry before proposing legislation, they would appoint a Committee without delay, because after the pledges which were given at the last general election the people of London would be grievously disappointed if the question was not dealt with immediately.

*MR. R. PEARCE (Staffordshire, Leek)

said the Motion proposed that there should be one rate. He would like to know what was to be rated. At the present time the rates for education, the registration of voters, main roads, and other matters, were levied according to the rateable value of the houses which people occupied or used as places of business. That was a most unequal made of rating for any purpose. He hoped the Government, when they came to consider the matter, would introduce a method of rating by which the citizens would pay according to their means and not according to rental. Those who had the largest incomes should contribute the largest share of the cost.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, the present inequality of the rates raised in the different parishes in London requires the early consideration of Parliament.—(Mr. Crooks.)