§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1:
§ MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD (Leicester)
said he wished to ask for the ruling of the Chairman on an Amendment he had to propose. The real substance of his Amendment was to leave out Part II., but in order to secure his object he thought it would be necessary for him to move to leave out Part I. to begin with.
said that this point arose on the Schedule, and he thought the hon. Member had better reserve his Amendment till that was reached.
§ MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said that if they turned to the Schedule they would find that there was only one Act included in Clause 2. He wished to know whether, if Part I. was left in, it would not prejudice his opportunity of moving the deletion of Part II. from the Schedule.
said that, as he understood, the hon. Member desired to move the omission of the Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905. He desired to know whether, if the Committee passed Part I. of this Bill, it would make it necessary that there should be a Part II., so that the Unemployed Workmen Act would have to stand part of it.
§ MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said that what he then wished to know was whether if they passed lines 5 to 7 inclusive in the second paragraph of the first section, that, would not still more prejudice his Motion.
I see that the hon. Member means the preamble. That comes after the Schedule, and therefore we are not passing the preamble at all at the present moment.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.1012
§ Clause 2:
§ Question proposed, "That the clause stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. CONOR O'KELLY (Mayo, N.)
asked who was the Minister in charge of the Bill, as he wished to say one or two words on subjects connected with the clause.
SIR A. ACLAND HOOD
remarked that there ought to be some Minister in charge of the Bill. He had sat in the House for many years while this Bill had annually passed through Committee, and he had never known it to be taken without some Minister being definitely in charge of the proceedings.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
Is the hon. Gentleman responsible for all the Acts mentioned in the Bill? I think the action of the Government is unsatisfactory, and I move to report Progress.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GLADSTONE) Leeds, W.
This is quite in accordance with the usual practice. When I was Junior Lord twenty-five years ago I used to be in charge of this Bill.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
said he recollected the right hon. Gentleman a great deal longer than twenty-five years ago, long before he was Junior Lord. In those days he was a great footballer and he always played the game. There were three Amendments down to the Schedule in regard to which the Minister ought to be there to explain. He moved to report progress.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir A. Acland-Hood.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 34; Noes, 137. (Division List No. "226.)1013
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir Alex, F.||Balcarres, Lord||Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Banner, John S. Harmood.||Bowles, G. Stewart|
|Ashley, W. W.||Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Bridgeman, W. Clive|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Houston, Robert Paterson||Starkey, John R.|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey.||Hunt, Rowland||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Morrison-Bell, Captain||Younger, George|
|Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Gordon, J.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. Forster.|
|Gretton, John||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool|
|Hill, Sir Clement||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Partington, Oswald|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Haworth, Arthur A.||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Hedges, A. Paget||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Higham, John Sharp||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Hobart, Sir Robert||Radford, G. H.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Horniman, Emslie John||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Robinson, S.|
|Ballairs, Carlyon||Hudson, Walter||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Hyde, Clarendon||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jowett, F. W.||Seddon, J.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Seely, Colonel|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Lamont, Norman||Shackleton, David James|
|Byles, William Pollard||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Lehmann, R. C.||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Cooper, G. J.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Lewis, John Herbert||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Duckworth, James||Maclean, Donald||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Tomkinson, James|
|Essex, R. W.||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Toulmin, George|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||M'Micking, Major G.||Verney, F. W.|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Maddison, Frederick||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampt'n|
|Ferens, T. R.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Marnham, F. J.||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Gill, A. H.||Massie, J.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Masterman, C. F. G.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Glendinning, R. G.||Mond, A.||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Glover, Thomas||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Wilson, P. W (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Nicholls, George||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gulland, John W.||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||Winfrey, R.|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Joseph Pease and Master of Elibank.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh||Nuttall, Harry|
|Harvey W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
§ Clause agreed to.
MR. EVERETT moved to leave out of the schedule "The Poor Rate Exemption Act, 1840." He said that by an Act passed in the 43rd year of Queen Elizabeth's reign, entitled an "Act for
the Relief of the Poor," it was among other things provided that the overseers of every parish should raise by taxation of
Every inhabitant, parson, vicar and other, and of every occupier of land, houses, tithes, impropriate, propriation of tithes, coal mines or saleable underwoods in the said parish in such competent sum or sums of money as they should think fit, a convenient stock of necessary ware and stuff to set the poor on work and also
competent sums of money for and towards the relief of the poor not able to work, and also for the putting out of poor children to be apprentices; to be gathered out of the same parish according to the ability of the same.
Two principles were noticeable in that Act, that every inhabitant or occupier was to pay; that it was a case of persons not property—and that ability to pay was to be the measure of payment. It was a great and good Act and a just Act, and upon it the foundation of all our rating system had been based. In 1840 a change was made in that Act. A measure was passed to exempt, "until the 31st December, 1841," inhabitants of parishes, townships and villages from liability to be rated as such in respect of stock in trade or other property to relief of the poor. The Act provided that it should not be lawful for the overseers of—
Any parish, township or village to tax any inhabitant thereof, as such inhabitant, in respect of his ability derived from the profits of stock in trade or any other property for or towards the relief of the poor,
Provided always that nothing in the Act—
In anywise affected the liability of any parson or vicar or of any occupier of lands, houses, tithes impropriate, appropriations of tithes, coal mines or saleable underwoods to be taxed under the provision of the Act for and towards the relief of the poor.
It was this Act they were asked again to renew. The grounds for passing it were the practical difficulties found by overseers in ascertaining what were the profits accruing from stock in trade and other personal property. If they omitted to rate them or rated them wrongly the legality of the whole rate was invalidated. The Act was passed to remove this difficulty, but it was only passed for one year. In the debate on the passing of the Act Mr. Goulburn said that the necessary consequence of exempting one class of property from rating was the imposition of increased burdens on another, and therefore the Bill was strictly speaking an augmentation of taxes on every species of property to which no compensating advantage was given. He (Mr. Goulburn) added that the printed communications from the Poor Law Commissioners showed that a vast quantity of property would escape rating under the Bill which on every principle of justice ought to pay its proportion. The principle of the law of Elizabeth was that it
should bear equally on all parties. The Act exempting people from liability had been renewed year by year for sixty-seven years. Why had that been done? Simply because the main provisions of the Act were so unjust towards different persons that no Government had dared to incur the responsibility of making it permanent. He respectfully submitted that the Act was grossly unjust and that the injustice of it was really becoming more serious, because while exemption was given from contributing to the relief of the poor a great number of other objects had also been added to it. The whole result had been that rates had become much heavier than they formerly were. When they were on the subject of income-tax they argued about pence in the pound, but when they came to rates they dealt with shillings in the pound. Who were the sufferers by the present state of things? They were the ratepayers; all those persons who happened to possess property which was not exempted from rateability, namely, persons occupying or owning land, houses, factories, coal mines, railways, etc. They were unjustly treated inasmuch as they had not only to pay their fair share of the rates, but to make up the money that was lacking owing to others, who were equally well able to pay, being exempted. If they passed this Act again he maintained that they would be repeating this great and gross injustice. His object in moving the omission of the Act was in order that they should not continue this injustice which he had shown was a very real and serious one. The present Government had announced that they had it in contemplation to deal with the question of rating, and the ratepayers naturally were very anxious to know on what lines Ministers were likely to proceed. They could not help feeling a certain amount of anxiety on the subject. A certain Valuation Bill which came under the notice of the House last year and again this year was introduced it was supposed as a basis of the new system of rating. If they took that Bill, along with the commentary upon it of the Solicitor-General for Scotland, they had forced upon them the unwelcome conclusion that the idea at the back of it
was still further to narrow the already too narrow basis on which rates were now charged. They feared that it would mean narrowing the basis down to one kind of property alone and making that carry the whole burden, thus exempting large classes of property which were now liable to rating. He desired very strongly to urge the Government not to seek to commit Parliament to a proposal which would be so enormously unjust to a great number of persons in the country.
Order, order. I must remind the hon. Member that he cannot now deal with other legislation. All that he can deal with is what is in this Bill. He is now discussing another Bill which has nothing to do with the Question before the Committee.
§ MR. EVERETT
I hope, Sir, you will allow me to make a passing reference to proposals which have been foreshadowed to us by the Government.
§ MR. EVERETT
said in that case he would conclude what he had to say with the remark that the Government should have a studious regard for fair play and fair dealing all round.
In Page 7, to leave out lines 7 and 8."—(Mr. Everett.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the schedule."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. JOHN BURNS,) Battersea
said that his hon. friend had from some points of view justification for the Motion he had made. He emphasised the justification he had for moving the Motion by stating that no one in the House liked to pay rates, and if the hon. Member had added that no one cared to pay taxes he (Mr. Bums),believed he would have secured an equally hearty response. Rates and taxes would, however, have to be paid under present conditions until the Government redeemed its pledge, as he believed shortly 1018 it would be able to do, to inquire into the system of local taxation. He appealed to his hon. friend after the remarks made by the Prime Minister last year, and also in view of the fact that the question of local taxation was under the consideration of the Government, to realise that he had better not press his Motion that night. They were relatively small points that had been raised in the Motion, and to discontinue the Poor Law Exemption Act, 1840, would not put them much more forward on the road he desired to tread than if they were to allow this Act to be included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act for one more year. The question had been before the House for sixty-seven years, and it raised a point which to the rural and agricultural Members was of some importance. The question it raised indicated that there was an inequality and some injustice, but every year during the past sixty-seven years the rural and agricultural Members had taken many opportunities of exacting from the Treasury a sum of money that had its advantage to the rural and agricultural districts in disproportion to the disadvantage which they under this Act might suffer. In consequence, the question had never been dealt with wholly as he believed it must be when this Act was expunged. He appealed to his hon. friend not to press his Motion, but to rest content with the assurance that when the Government dealt with the question of rating and valuation—both of which they intended to deal with in the next session—then, as the greater included the less, they would be compelled to deal with the subjects raised in the Act of 1840 which was covered by the Motion. After the assurance and guarantee that the Government intended to deal with the larger subject, of which this was a smaller issue, he begged his hon. friend not to press the Motion.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH (Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury)
remarked, that the Government appeared to recognise the unfairness of the present system of local rating, because Lord Wolverhampton, speaking the other day in the House of Lords, said the Government had declared their intention to deal with the question this year. Then the noble Lord went on to say that the Prime 1019 Minister had pledged himself to a reform of the Poor Law system, and that one of the first questions taken in hand would be the relations between, local and Imperial taxation. It would be very satisfactory to all parties if something could be done to remedy the just grievance which existed as regards local taxation, but up to the present time the Government had not even brought in their promised Valuation Bill.
Order, order. The point is whether or not the Act of 1840 should be left out of the schedule. The hon. Member cannot discuss what action the Government should or should not take in regard to a Valuation Bill.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH
said he agreed, but what he wanted to express was that the Government in refusing to agree to the Motion to exempt this Act from the schedule had given nothing but a vague promise to bring in a Valuation Bill by way of dealing with the subject. The point he put before the Committee was that there was small probability of the Government being able to bring in that Bill in the autumn.
If the hon. Member takes the view that the Government will not be likely to bring in their Bill he can use that as an argument, but he is not in order in discussing the question as he is doing.
§ MR. HICKS BEACH
said he had no wish to go further. He had stated his ground in supporting the Amendment, which seemed to him the only way he could take at the present moment to enforce the view of several Members on that side of the House that local taxation was of the utmost importance to county boroughs. They wished to enter their protest against the Government for not having taken any serious action in regard to the matter.
§ MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
said the Act of 1840 imposed the heaviest burden the British agriculturist had to bear. It imposed a burden never intended when the Act was passed. He would explain in a 1020 few words what he meant. It was cited in the preamble that a person should pay for the relief of the poor out of the profits derived from his stock in trade or other property. But it was never intended that anything but profits should be rated. But the Act had the effect, especially in rural districts, of throwing the whole burden upon agricultural lands. Profits from agricultural lands, however, were insufficient; and, in the second place, the rate was levied not on the profits but on the land itself. For years agricultural land had been paying rates and yet very often the occupier had not been getting any profit at all. The burden had been heavy and increasing. It had been increased, as the hon. Member who moved the Amendment had stated, by various statutes which had been passed, and there was no doubt whatever that it would be increased as a result of recent legislation in the next few years. It would be increased next year through the legislation passed this year. The burden was-really becoming intolerable, and it was quite time that those who were interested in agriculture should press for some relief from their oppression, the injustice of which was evident to anyone who-considered the matter. The farmer was paying on his all, everything he possessed. It was all in the land on which he was rated so heavily. A banker who might be making enormous profits was rated only on the buildings which he occupied. He might be receiving an annual profit of many hundred pounds more than the poor farmer, yet he would be paying very much less rate. It was the same with other trades and professions. The burden was hardest for the agriculturist just because in paying on his stock in trade he paid on his all. For this reason, without at that late hour entering into the many arguments which might be adduced in support of the demand for the relief of the agricultural ratepayers, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite to consider the question in a rather more sympathetic way than he had done. He did not mean to say the right hon. Gentleman did not wish well to the agriculturist because he knew he did, but he really thought it was impossible for agricultural Members to allow that question to be indefinitely postponed in the hope that 1021 something might arise to help them in the dim future when unknown legislation which was only foreshadowed was brought in. He therefore would most urgently urge the Committee to support the Amendment.
§ MR. CONOR O'KELLY
rose to ask if the Act applied to Ireland, in which case he would like to say something, as his constituency was very much like that of the hon. Member who had spoken.
§ MR. YOUNGER (Ayr Burghs)
said he did not think that was how to approach the subject. No advantage was to be gained by leaving out that particular Bill. It would be impossible to overturn the whole system of local rating by simply exempting that one statute, and on that account he thought the Amendment futile, and urged that it should be withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir Alex. F||Dalrymple, Viscount||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Forster, Henry William||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Starkly, John R.|
|Banner, John S. Harmood.||Gordon, J.||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.)|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Hamilton, Marquess of||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Hill, Sir Clement||Valentia, Viscount|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Houston, Robert Paterson||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hunt, Rowland||Younger, George|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey.||Mason, James F (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Sir Samuel Scott and Mr. Gretton.|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Morrison-Bell, Captain|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Bryce, J. Annan||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Bums, Rt. Hon. John||Evans, Sir Samuel T.|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Everett, R. Lacey|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Byles, William Pollard||Ferens, T. R.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Cooper, G. J.||Fullerton, Hugh|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Corbett, C H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Gill, A. H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Gladstone, Rt. Hn Herbert John|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Crosfield, A. H.||Glendinning, R. G.|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Duckworth, James||Gulland, John W.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Edwards, Sir Francis (Randor)||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Essex, R. W.||Harmsworth, R L. (Caithn'ss-sh|
§ information as to that Act, but when he looked at the Treasury Bench he did not see a single member of the Government representing the War Office from whom he was the least likely to get any information whatever. That was the sort of treatment to which the House was becoming somewhat used. As soon as the clock got past twelve, apparently the Government (who were paid to be in that Chamber) went to bad.
§ SIR SAMUEL SCOTT
said that in the circumstances, seeing that there was not a single representative of the Government from whom he could get any answer, he would move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Samuel Scott.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 32; No2s, 135. (Division List No.227.)1023
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.||M'Micking, Major G.||Seddon, J.|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Maddison, Frederick||Seely, Colonel|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Shackle ton, David James|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Hedges, A. Paget||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Marnham, F. J.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Higham, John Sharp||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Massie, J.||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Masterman, C. F. G.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Horniman, Emslie John||Mond, A.||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Hudson, Walter||Nicholls, George||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Hyde, Clarendon||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r||Tomkinson, James|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Toulmin, George|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Nuttall, Harry||Verney, F. W.|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Ward, John (Stoke unpon Trent|
|Jowett, F. W.||Parker, James (Halifax)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Partington, Oswald||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Lamont, Norman||Paulton, James Mellor||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Price, C. B. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Williams. J. (Glamorgan)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Radford, G. H.||Wilson, J. H (Middlesbrough)|
|Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Mackarness, Frederic C.||Robinson, S.||Winfrey, R.|
|Maclean, Donald||Rogers, F, E. Newman|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Joseph Pease and Master of Elibank.|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Seaverns, J. H.|
§ SIR SAMUEL SCOTT
said he would. not detain the House more than one or two minutes, but he would like to have some explanation as to why the particular Act they had been discussing was left is the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. He was perfectly aware that the Act was somewhat different from the other Acts in the Bill, because instead of continuing an Act of Parliament it suspended an Act, namely, the Militia Ballot Act. He would like to hear from the hon. Member who represented the War Office what was the exact position at the present time with regard to that Act. The Secretary of State for War had said on 4th June of last year that the Territorial Army Bill did not kill the Act legally, so far as the Militia continued to exist, but the Militia in its present form had become obsolete, for it had been abolished by the Territorial Army Bill. The hon. Member representing the War Office shook his head, but it was a fact that, except as regards Ireland, the Militia was abolished.
§ MR. ACLAND
said three options had been given to the Militia. They might come over to the Special Reserve, they might accept their discharge, or they 1024 might continue is Militia. Seeing that they were given the option of continuing as Militia, they had thought it right to keep that Act in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Militiamen could serve out their term of service as Militiamen, and that being the case he hoped the hon. Member would withdraw his. Amendment.
§ SIR SAMUEL SCOTT
said he could quite understand the reason for continuing the Act, for so long as Militia continued that Act ought to be continued. He asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. LUTTRELL (Devonshire, Tavistock)
said he wished to move an Anend-ment providing that certain powers given to the Commissioners under the Light Railways Act should be altered. He thought those provisions ought to be a He wed to expire, for he would remind the Committee that when in 1896 the Bill passed through Committee there was a majority in favour in not allowing the Lands Clauses to apply to the making of light railways. This was altered at a 1025 later stage, and consequently the Lands Clauses were now incorporated. The effect of this was that under the Act they had to pay very much more for land which was wanted for railways than they ought to pay. If the landlord objected to the railway coming on his land, he was under that Act able to get a much higher price for his land. That was an encouragement to people who objected to railways being made, and he felt that it was the duty of the House of Commons to encourage the making of railways. It was a great hardship on the public that the should have to pay very much more, sometimes 10 per cent. more, than the value of the land.
said the hon. Member would not be in order in seeking to amend certain clauses of the Light Railways Act, but he would be in order in moving the Amendment which he had handed in to leave out the whole Bill.
said the Amendment could only be against the Bill being continued. The elimination of the references to the Lands Clauses Acts would involve the amendment of several sections.
said that if the hon. Member moved to leave out the whole Bill he must apply himself to the whole Bill and not simply to the discussion of a part which ought to be dealt with by an amending Bill.
§ MR. LUTTRELL
said he objected so strongly to that part of the Bill that he objected to the whole Bill.
said in that case the hon. Member should confine his observations to the whole Bill, giving reasons why the Bill ought not to be continued.
§ MR. LUTTRELL
said he proposed to deal with the portion which he had mentioned. He objected to the whole Bill. It was a bad Bill because it had the portion which he referred to in it. He thought he was in order in saying that it was a bad Bill, that a Bill that had provisions such as those to which he had alluded which made it possible for the public to pay far in excess of the land, must be a bad Bill. He therefore wanted the Bill to expire; and another Bill should be substituted to take its place. It was extremely wrong that the public should have to pay far more than the value of the land.
In page 4, to leave out lines 29 and 30."— (Mr. Luttrell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the schedule."
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said the point raised by his hon. friend was, he gathered, that he objected to the method of procedure in acquiring land under that Bill. In the case of land the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act of 1845 were applied to land which was required for light railways. There was some force in what the hon. Member had said, but he could only inform the House that the Act in question had only been in operation for twelve years, and the time had now come when the Government and the Department responsible for the Act would have to deal with it in the light of experience acquired. He would ask his hon. friend to withdraw his Motion, and he trusted that when an opportunity came for simplifying the acquisition of land, something might be done to meet the hon. Member's views.
§ MR. LUTTRELL
said he thanked the President of the Local Government Board for what he had said and readily withdrew his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MACKARNESS (Berkshire, New-bury) moved to omit the Motor Car Act of 1903. He did not propose to make a long speech at that late hour, for he thought 1027 it would be admitted on both sides of the House that the present state of the law as to motor cars was perfectly inadequate both in town and country, and that some alteration was therefore most necessary. He need not go into the intolerable injury inflicted on people both in town and in country, but he wished to call the attention of the Government to the growing sense of injury which was being produced, and to appeal to the Home Secretary and the President of the Local Government Board, who, he thought, were both in, sympathy to do something to improve the present state of affairs. He did not know that any of the replies of either the right hon. Gentleman had been very hopeful that anything would be done, and his object in moving the omission of the Act was to ascertain the intentions of the Government as to future legislation and to find out, if possible, in what way they proposed to alter the law.
In page 4, to leave out line 13."—(Mr. Mackarness.)
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said he desired to second the proposal of his hon. friend. He had not the least cause to complain of the action of his right hon. friend, the President of the Local Government Board, in regard to the administration of the Act while he had been in office. But the Act had not been carried out throughout the whole country as it ought to have been. It would be very much better if the Act were repealed and the President of the Local Government Board was compelled to bring forward another Act dealing with the question at the earliest possible opportunity. Those hon. Members who were in the House in 1902 knew perfectly well that the Act was the result of an arrangement entered into by general consent by a compromise on both sides. The proposals for further restrictions were largely supported by hon. Members now in opposition, but then on the Government side of the House. So far as they had seen the working of the Act throughout the country, he thought they would all, including the President of the Local Government Board, be prepared to admit that it was an absolute failure. He did 1028 not know whether he would be justified into going into the cause of the failure, but he thought a large section of the community had deliberately set itself against obeying the law as laid down by Parliament. He was very sure that all sections of the House would agree that, the present state of affairs under which the law was broken by the very persons who ought to obey it, many of whom were themselves law-makers, could not go on. Members of that House were the very persons who ought to be most careful to set the example, and they ought not to be the persons to break and evade the Motor Car Act as they deliberately set out to do, setting on one side all questions of the welfare of the community. It would be difficult at that hour of the morning to go into the many defects both in the law and in its administration. After the very satisfactory answer the President of the Local Government Board had given them the other day in reference to that Act, he sincerely trusted that very soon they might see a better state of things arising. In the meantime, he was sure the House could not do better than enter its vigorous protest against the manner in which this Act had been deliberately set aside and evaded. It was in the hope that that protest would carry due weight that he seconded the Amendment of his hon. friend.
§ MR. MARKHAM
said the hon. Member who had just sat down was one of those very Members of Parliament of whom he had been speaking. He had taken the law into his own hand, he had disobeyed the law, and he had, he understood, also been fined for exceeding the speed limit. He did not intend at that late hour to speak at any length on that subject, but if he did not take that opportunity of speaking he would have to take some other, and he did not know that the next case would be any earlier than that. When the Motor Car Act of 1903 was introduced they had a specific pledge that that Bill should be in operation for a period of twelve months only, and that at the end of the twelve months it should come up for revision. There was a great deal of legislation by reference in the Act of 1903, but the law was quite clear in regard to the nuisance at present 1029 caused by motor cars. The responsibility was to a very large extent divided between the Home Secretary and the President of the Local Government Board. The Home Secretary in that House in answer to questions constantly told Members that those questions should be addressed to the President of the Local Government Board, but when they put them to the President of the Local Government Board he told them that they should be addressed to the Home Secretary. The duties of the two Departments were quite clearly defined. The Act said that the speed of motor 'buses must not exceed twelve miles an hour. He had asked questions about that in the House, and being unable to get satisfaction he had gone to the Chief Commissioner of Police and asked him how it was that motor 'buses travelled at eighteen miles an hour without being prosecuted.
§ MR. MARKHAM
said he was referring to the whole Act, but more particularly to Clause 7. Subsection 4 of Clause 7 said that no person should in any instance drive a motor car at a speed exceeding twenty miles an hour, and contained numerous references to the Ant of 1861, which laid down the speed of motor 'buses at ten miles an hour. As the Act was entirely by reference, he felt he was perfectly in order in showing that it had not been obeyed, but had been set openly at defiance. If ever there was a case where an Act had been flouted and was the proper subject for discussion it was there. The speed of motor 'buses was twelve miles an hour. That had been laid down by the President of the Local Government Board in his regulations under the provisions of that Act, and the Chief Commissioner of Police had informed him that no action had been taken though the law said the speed should not exceed twelve miles an hour, because it came under an Act of 1875 under which no locomotive was to exceed twelve miles an hour. The Chief Commissioner of Police told him that certain circumstances made it necessary 1030 for him to allow four miles an hour over the speed laid down by the regulations. It was intolerable that when that House laid down that the speed of these vehicles should be a definite one not exceeding twelve miles an hour the Home Office should vary that speed. It was the duty of the police to see that the law was enforced, and it was the duty of the Home Secretary to see that the Chief of the Police took action. Every street in the Metropolis was filled with the stink of petrol.
said that had nothing to do with the Motor Car Act.
said that grievance with regard to the administration of the Motor Car Act could not be discussed
§ MR. MARKHAM
pointed out that the Act provided that regulations should be laid down by the Department; he had not the reference there, but he would find it; it was in Clause 12, which defined that the Local Government Board should have power to make regulations under any section for dealing with motor cars on the highways. He was sorry the Deputy-Chairman was restricting him. If he had known that a point was to be raised in that way by the Chairman, he would have had all the Acts mentioned in the Motor Car Act and given each one of them.
said the hon. Member could not go over the terms of the Act; he could only tell the Committee in general terms the reasons why he thought the Act should not be renewed.
§ MR. MARKHAM
said the Act of 1903 was a dead letter, so far as its operation was concerned. Was not that a problematic discussion on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill?
said that if the hon. Member spoke in general terms that was a very different thing from giving every section of the various Acts. 1031 The hon. Member would be perfectly in order in giving general grounds why the Act should not be renewed.
§ MR. MARKHAM
said that his general statements were that motor cars were an intolerable nuisance. They were for the pleasure of the rich. They were run by speculative companies and no regard was paid to the protection of the public. That Bill had done a tremendous amount of harm if people only knew it. Many motorists showed an utterly callous disregard for the rights of their fellow citizens. They had only to go to the Great North Road to see that. Those cads on wheels went by making life intolerable for the people in the district, and though there were many motorists who acted in a moderate manner, a great many men seemed to lose all sense of right or wrong when they got into a motor car. Even the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland when he got into a motor car broke the law. He said in all sincerity that that was a question which must be dealt with. It was necessary not only in London, but throughout the country that the law should be altered and people suitably punished who put it at defiance. He might tell the Committee that the present Motor Car Act was openly set at defiance day after day with the greatest impunity, and he thought it was something like a farce that they should have an Act on the Statute book which was openly disregarded by every motorist. He did not believe that there was a single owner of a motor car who did not openly disobey the law every time he went out. When he himself took his car out, he openly disobeyed the law, and he did not think that in this respect he was a bit worse than anyone else. He had found that it was possible to drive motor cars down the street in which he lived at a speed of thirty miles an hour, and he had regularly broken the law by following them to find out at what speed they were going. The law was openly flouted and he had broken it himself in order to show that this was done. The time had arrived when steps should be taken to put the law into effective operation. If the President of the Local Government Board did not introduce next session a 1032 Bill dealing with this question he would find that the people of the country would give a very strong expression of their intention not to sit quietly down and allow motor cars to be driven at any speed which the owners liked to the imminent danger of other people using the highway.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said he was not a motorist, he had not been apprehended for driving at forty miles an hour, and he sincerely regretted that his hon. friend who had just spoken should have set such a bad example by showing how easy it was to break the law. As to the hon. Gentleman's statement that he had driven at the speed of thirty miles an hour to find out if other motorists were breaking the law, he (Mr. Burns) had no guarantee that all the other transgressors had not been doing precisely the same thing, and perhaps they might urge with more plausible reasons. He sincerely hoped that the hon. Member would discontinue that rather vicious practice and return to the ways of the law-abiding motorist. He had risen as one of the Ministers responsible for the administration of the Motor Car Act to reply for the hon. Member for Newbury and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland,. The hon. Member below the gangway said that the country would be much better without the Act than with it. He would remind the hon. Member, however, that if they were to carry out that night the object he had in view, and were to discontinue this particular Act, the registration of cars would be impossible, the licensing of drivers would be discontinued, the twenty-mile an hour speed-limit would be abolished, and reckless driving would not be punishable either by a penalty or in serious cases by imprisonment. The result would be that they would be in a worse condition than before. He could not too strongly impress upon the Committee that if this particular Act wore repealed things would go from bad to worse. What he suggested was that they should continue this Act and make the best possible use of it until such time as they could seriously consider the existing legislation with a view to its proper amendment. If the Motion were carried, motor cars would still be used, but there would be no limit 1033 to speed, no registration, no licences, and penalties would be lessened. He would point out to the hon. Member that under Section 1 if any person drove a motor car on the public highway recklessly or negligently, or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public, having regard to the circumstances of the case, that person was guilty of an offence under the Act. The point he wished to make was that in that section there was no qualifying condition as to twenty, ten, five, or even two miles an hour. If on the evidence produced and facts shown a man was found to have been driving even at a mile an hour in a crowded place, and it was proved that he did it negligently, that man was liable to a fine, and in certain circumstances to imprisonment. If this Motion -was carried, Clause 1 and the rest of the clauses of the Motor Car Act would be repealed, and their condition in the last case would be worse than in the first. The hon. Member for Mansfield had said that practically nothing had been done. He could assure the hon. Member that that was not so. If he looked at the number of summonses and the number of convictions he would find that as each quarter went on, the number of people who were summoned, the number of people who were fined, and the number off people who were convicted in the later quarters was immensely larger than in the preceding quarters. He was very glad to say that the police universally now were realising their responsibility in this matter, and that magistrates also were beginning to recognise that roads were intended for other people besides those who possessed motor cars. Also, he believed, that at last the local authorities whose duty it was to administer this Act, were becoming really alive to their responsibility in regard to the matter. He had already in answer to Questions in the House given some details as to the number of local authorities who had approached the Local Government Board on the matter, and he could only say that he was losing no opportunity of impressing upon them the necessity of discharging their duties to the full. The hon. Member had said that the Local Government Board was anxious to put the responsibility on the 1034 Home Office, and the Home Office had an opportunity of evading responsibility in the matter. He could assure the hon. Member that was not so. His right hon. friend the Home Secretary and himself had had frequent consultations on the matter, and they were prepared heartily to co-operate in order to make the legislation they had at present as effective as possible. The Home Secretary in his Department and he himself at the Local Government Board were tightening up the restrictions in order to make the legislation more severe than it had been. As regards the Local Government Board he might say that during the two and a half years during which he had had the honour of holding his present office, they had had forty applications only from local authorities for the prohibition or reduction of the speed limit, and in the overwhelming majority of those cases he had been glad to consider the reduction of speed asked for. In one case he had actually prohibited the use of motors altogether, namely, between Kingston Bridge and Hampton Court Bridge. Generally speaking, the Local Government Board had granted the applications, as was shown by the fact that out of the forty they had refused only four. He realised as fully as anyone could do that there was still a large number of motor drivers who used the roads for road racing and other purposes, that made the traffic dangerous to the public. He fully agreed with his hon. friend that it was desirable that the laws for the protection of innocent people should not be evaded. There were a number of people using motors with whom they had yet to deal, and he was anxious, as soon as he could do it, further to remedy matters. He intended to issue a circular to the local authorities setting before them their powers, duties, and liabilities under this particular Act with a view to securing from the local authorities a more vigorous supervision over those men who drove beyond the maximum speed of twenty miles an hour. There was, he would point out, an aspect of this question which they must consider in relation to any restrictive legislation that might be passed. He had, as an engineer, some knowledge with reference to the manufacture of motor cars, and he might say that whereas eight years ago this country 1035 made £70,000 worth of motor cars, this year we had made £7,000,000 worth o motor cars.
§ MR. MARKHAM
Does that justify the killing of children and the running down of pedestrians generally?
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said in no sense was he defending the recklessness of motorists on the road when driving at five, twenty, or thirty miles an hour. On the contrary, he deprecated as strongly as he could the driving of cars at these high speeds. What he wanted to point out as the Minister at the head of the Department curiously enough responsible for motor cars, as well as responsible for dealing with the question of unemployment, was that eight years ago we made only £70,000 worth of cars as compared with £7,000,000 worth to-day. We had displaced America from the third place, Germany from the second place, and we were now in the running with France for the supremacy of the industrial nations as regards the output and manufacture of motor cars. What we would like to see was that, consistent with maintaining that trade and supremacy which he hoped the old country would always have in the arts mechanical and peaceful, we should be able to keep the roads of our country in order and put "the motor cad" in his proper place, which, in many cases, ought to be in prison as a reward for his scandalous conduct in recklessly risking killing his fellow people. In so far as they had been able, his right hon. friend the Home Secretary and himself had done their duty cautiously yet boldly in endeavouring to suppress the motor nuisance. He must say this of the local authorities, that unless they showed greater enthusiasm in enforcing the law within their province, the Local Government Board would have to take more serious steps. The hon. Member had complained of motor buses in London, and expressed regret that the Home Office had not taken more serious steps in order to put a stop to the nuisance they caused. He would remind the hon. Member however that for four years the London County Council had not made a single representation to the Home Office or the Local Government Board for the restriction, reduction, or regulation of the 1036 speed of motor buses. The City Corporation which was also an authority in London, had not made representations to the Local Government Board for nearly four years. With regard to the question of motor omnibuses they now had a maximum of twelve miles, and he believed his right hon. friend was considering the question as to whether that maximum should not be reduced to a lower figure. With regard to the question of petrol the streets did not bear witness to the use of petrol and the dropping of grease and lubricants to-day as they did six or twelve months ago. Manufacturers saw that it was wasteful to waste grease and petrol in that way and car makers were correcting their mistakes. If the local authorities did not do their duty after his Circular the Local Government Board would have to consider the question whether there should not be further legislation. They could not have a Motor Car Act Amendment Bill this year, and the passing of the present Motion would simply render the situation more intolerable to those who did not use motor cars. He appealed to his hon. friend not to press the Motion, but to rest assured that so far as a non-motoring President could keep these people in order and defend the public it would be done.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
expressed the hope that the Amendment would be withdrawn after the speech to which they had listened, but he could not allow the remarks which the right hon. Gentleman had made with regard to local authorities to pass unchallenged. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to consider that local authorities had been much to blame and had been slack in this matter. He must direct their attention to the fact that before the right hon. Gentleman came into office there was a-circular issued by the Local Government Board informing local authorities that there was no need for their applying for any speed limit because no application would be received with favour by the Board.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said the only Circular he had issued was a Circular urging that the corners of roads and hedges should be seen to with a view to minimising the risk of accident, and.
1037 that this should be done in co-operation with the Local Government Board.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that the Circular to which he referred was issued prior to the right hon. Gentleman coming into office, and that was one reason why the local authorities had not till now taken action. They had had a great grievance against the Motor Car Act from the time of its inception. It had not fulfilled anything like what was expected of it. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was in error in what he said about Clause 1. The effect of its deletion would simply be to go back to the common law of the country. He congratulated the President of the Local Government Board on his speech and upon the Circular to which he had alluded as being one which he intended to issue.
§ MR. MACKARNESS
said he had moved the Amendment with the object of getting a declaration, and he thought after the declaration he had got that the present state of the law was unsatisfactory he did not require to press his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD moved to omit the Unemployed Workmen's Act from the schedule. He felt he ought to apologise to the House for raising such an important subject at that hour of the morning, but that was the fault of the j Government and not his. The Labour Party did not intend to pass unchallenged any reference to the Unemployed Workmen's Act so long as the Government remained inactive on the subject as it had been since it came into office. He did not desire to go outside the scope and liberty which a Member was allowed in the discussion of that Bill. If they turned to the third subsection of the fourth clause of the Bill they would see that the whole administration of the Act was handed over to the Local Government Board, and that secondly, the Act being nothing but an administrative; measure, it was absolutely impossible to discuss whether it should or should not remain on the Statute-book with out referring to some extent to the 1038 way in which the administration of the section, which was the main section of the Act, had been carried out. They had heard several times that the Government could do nothing with the Act until a certain Commission had reported, and therefore the Act which automatically expired this year must find a place i in that Bill. Nevertheless the Government had legislated on old-age pensions which was a subject much more germane to the scope of the reference to the Poor Law Commission. Surely in that case the Government could not think that that was an adequate reason why they should refuse to deal with the problem of unemployment. The problem of unemployment had less to do with the Poor Law than old-age pensions. But that was not the only reason they had against the Government for refusing to legislate further. The Government themselves proposed in 1906 legislation on the subject and the Poor Law Commission was then sitting. The Government had not yet explained how it came that in the King's Speech of 1906 they proposed to legislate for the unemployed, and in 1908 said they could not legislate because the Poor Law Commission was sitting.
It is not in order to discuss upon the question whether this particular Bill should be left out or not pledges which the Government have given with regard to legislation. The only question which can be raised is whether or not this Act or some specific portion of the Act should be left out.
§ *MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said he hid no intention whatever of going outside the scope of the subject, but the paint was that the Government gave that as a reason why the Bill should be included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and not made a subject of fresh legislation. He had said all he wanted to say upon that, point. What they had to deal with was that the present position should not be continued. There were a great many reasons for that, and he regretted exceedingly that it was at twenty-five minutes past two in the morning that they were asked to discuss them. He could not, therefore, go over all those reasons, but it would be absolutely necessary to go into them to some extent. 1039 The Liberal Party might not consider it necessary, but the Labour Party considered it was, and that settled the matter so far as they were concerned. It would be quite justifiable even at that hour to go over all the reasons, but he did not propose to do it. There were, however, one or two reasons which must be dealt with. First of all, in the working out of that Act they had experienced that it did not impose upon the Local Government Board the necessity of being positive in its suggestions. The Act in its present form did not imply more than that local distress committees might present to the Local Government Board a scheme for work. All the Local Government Board needed to do under the Act was to say that the scheme could not be accepted by them, and the Local Government Board having come to that decision, all the efforts of the Local distress Committee to put the Act into operation came to an end. They found that the Local Government Board worked this subsection which was the most important section of the Act in a strange way. There was a women's work committee in London. The Local Government Board sent samples of their work to an expert. The expert was of the character who did not know the difference between flannel and flannelette. He actually assumed that certain work supposed to have been done in flannelette was in that material when it actually was in flannel. Moreover, the Board and its expert did not seem to know the difference between 2s. 11d. and 2s. 1d. In answer to a Question he put that day as to certain prices quoted by this expert a price 2s. 11d. was given when it should have been 2s. 1d., and the difference which the expert tried to make out for the purpose of discrediting the work of the women's committee was altogether false. He did not propose to elaborate that point. He was speaking at a late hour.
I really must appeal to the hon. Member to apply himself to the Amendment. This is all criticism of the administration. So far the hon. Member has not really applied himself to the question whether the Bill should stand part of the Schedule or not.
§ *MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said he did not desire to go beyond his privileges. If they turned to Section 4 of the Act they would see that that section was the most important section and that once they passed it they gave the whole Act away. It began with a statement that the Local Government Board might make regulations for carrying into effect the Act. That was the whole point, that was what he was criticising.
The hon. Member desires to omit the Act from the Schedule. The whole Act must go if the Amendment he moves is carried. It does not seem to me to be competent in regard to this Bill under our rules of order to discuss the Bill in detail, and particularly the administration of the Bill. The hon. Member can state reasons against the Bill as a whole and as to why he desires it should be left out. He can say the administration is so bad that the Bill is utterly worthless and he desires it accordingly to be left out, but he cannot go into the question of administration in detail.
§ *MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said the point he wished to make was that the Act contained provisions that the Local Government Board might make regulations, and he wished to show that Section 3 of Clause 4 was being put into operation in such a way as to make the Act of no effect in dealing with the problem. For that reason he was moving the deletion of the Act from the Schedule.
said that any criticisms of the administration of the Act ought to be taken on the Vote for the President's salary.
§ *MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said that ho would not press the point. There was another reason, however, for his objection. There was a provision in the Act which, while it remained part of the law and was carried into effect, really meant that any attempt to deal with the unemployed by that Act was impossible. The conclusion he had come to, therefore, was that the Act had better go altogether. The Act gave distress committees power to register the 1041 unemployed, but did not impose on distress committees the duty of finding work for registered persons. The three years experiment which they had of the treatment of the unemployed problem under that Act had shown that anything which did not impose on distress committees the responsibility for finding work for the people they put on the register, must be a failure. They found, as a matter of experience, that only about thirty-six out of every sixty persons registered by the distress committees had work found for them by the distress committees, and that proportion was being diminished rather than increased. It was perfectly true that it was better than nothing, but thirty-six from sixty left a very large number for whom nothing was done, and they were not going to be content with that. When after three years experience it was shown they only found work for thirty-six out of every sixty people registered they were not going to stand by when the Government told them that the only treatment for that Act was to put it in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. This winter we are going to have more distress than ever. The President of the Local Government Board and his colleague, the hon. Member for North West Ham, had both confessed that the distress committees created by Clause 1 of the Act had broken down. The hon. Member for North West Ham had said so in a previous debate this session, and the President of the Local Government Board had made a similar statement last session. The distress committees created by Clause 1, according to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague, the hon. Member for North West Ham, had broken down, and yet the proposal was to give these distress committees another twelve months, to show that they still remained of very little use. That was the only contribution the Government could make to the unemployed problem for the next twelve months. If the rules of the House had allowed it they would not have put down 1042 an Amendment for the omission of this Act for the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The rules of the House, however, had compelled them to do so if they were to speak at all about the Act and make their protest. If they could have moved an Amendment to the Act they would have done so. The House knew that perfectly well, and it was only by putting down the Amendment which was in his name were they able to make the protest which they desired to make.
In page 4, to leave out lines 41 and 42."— (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald).
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the schedule."
§ MR. MADDISON (Burnley)
hoped the hon. Member for Leicester would have the courage of his convictions and carry his Amendment to a division. If he did so he would promise to vote for him. He did not think there had been a motion made which might be more useful than that. The President of the Local Government Board proved himself a true prophet when that Act was introduced. He was convinced that the Act had done nothing vital or fundamental to assist the problem of dealing with the unemployed, and he would, therefore, willingly vote for its removal from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. A distinguished Member of the House had told him that the distress committee of the constituency which he represented had complained that they could get no money under the Act, and had asked him to exert his influence to secure that there should be a proper distribution of the money. He had written for particulars, and had said that if they would make a case out he would do his best for them-Their reply was that they had no unemployed register, that they had no certainty that they would get any money, but that if he would assure 1043 them they would get the money, they would provide the unemployed.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
sincerely, trusted the House would not accept the motion which had been brought for ward by the hon. Member for Leicester. There were several reasons why it should not be accepted. He did not intend to go into the criticism of the administration of the Act which the hon. Member had made, for that could be better dealt with when the Local Government Board Estimates came on later in the week. When they did come on he hoped to have an opportunity of correcting in the most courteous and frank way the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Leicester that the Local Government Board was responsible for certain defects in the Act. He could assure the hon. Member that the statement was not true. He did not think that the hon. Member for Leicester would, when those Estimates came up, repeat his statements. In the case of women's workrooms——
said he must ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said the hon. Member for Leicester had availed himself of the opportunity which he had had to make statements which he did not think he would attempt to sustain, but he would reserve his opportunity of replying to the hon. Member. He willingly accepted the ruling of the Chairman. He did not believe that the hon. Member for Leicester really thought it better that this Act should go altogether. If the Motion were carried and the Act were to go, the £200,000 grant would disappear. The hon. Member could rely on it that if the Act were repealed the grant of money which the Government substituted for the amendment of the Act would undoubtedly not be made, for they would not feel 1044 justified with the Unemployed Act removed from the Statute-Book and with the disappearance of all the regulations under which the £200,000 could be spent, in continuing the grant of money-He did not share the rather gloomy view of the writer of a letter in that day's Times that next winter was going to see distress of an unparelleled character. There were many people who took the contrary view, and he ai least believed that whatever distress there was next year they would be able to cope with it, and that they would be able to meet the demands of the distress committees. In regard to the distress committees which applied to them for money, money was ready for them, and in nearly every case they were able to leave them in. the hope of having a balance in hand. If this Motion was carried the unemployed in thirty or forty districts would have no reason to thank the hon. Member for Leicester for the plight in which they would find themselves. It was because he would have the duty of distributing this £200,000, and because he believed they had a right to spend that money till the Report of the Royal Commission on Poor Law was presented, that he appealed to all sections of the House, particularly to the Labour Members, not to support the hor. Member for Leicester in the Motion which he hail made. In taking the line he had taken that right he was taking the same line as two and a half years ago, when he said that the Government did not intend to amend that Act, but to provide £200,000 in order to work the Act, until the Report of the Royal Commission on Poor Law Reform was received. That Commission was within a measurable distance of reporting. They wanted more scientific action than that Act enabled them to have.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said he presumed that on Wednesday the Local Government Board Vote would be challenged and he would then have an apportunity of speaking on the subject. He asked the House not to accept the Motion, for if it was carried it would be one of the most serious blows they could possibly have, and would greatly hinder them in dealing with the unemployed problem.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said the argument had been used against the Motion that if the Act were not renewed the grant of £200,000 would have to be withdrawn. This would not be the case. Before that Act was passed, borough councils, and other similar organisations, felt the obligation which was theirs, to make provision for the unemployed. The Act had done two things. It had dried up to a large extent the founts of charity from which funds used to be forthcoming to make provision for the unemployed. Those of the Labour Party who supported the Act during its passage through Parliament saw these things coming, and supported it only as a first step towards the State making adequate provision for the unemployed. The complaint of the Labour Party was that the Act had only made matters worse, and they contended that in these circumstances it would be better that it should drop, so that the old authorities who formerly dealt with the unemployed should have the responsibility placed upon them of again taking over the duty. One other reason why he supported the Motion was because the Act created false hopes. The fact that the Act had been placed upon the Statute-book created an expectation which its machinery had been totally unable to realise. He hoped that the optimism of the right hon. Gentleman was justified, but so far as he could see at the present time, not only from letters in the Press, but also from 1046 the Board of Trade Returns, and from speeches by the heads of great commercial firms, the coming winter promised to be one of exceptional trade severity. The Government knew that this might be the case, and there was reason to complain that they had done nothing to meet the situation by way of introducing a Bill to amend the Unemployed Workman Act. What he feared was that if the Act was allowed to remain on the Statute-book with all its costly machinery—machinery that went on creating offices and paying out money for officials without doing anything really effective for the unemployed—it would have the effect of aggravating the problem during the coming winter. He said honestly that he would a thousand times rather face the approaching unemployed question without this Act than with it. Therefore, if his hon. friend went to a division on the matter he should certainly go into the lobby with him, and he hoped the Committee would realise that the Labour Party were registering their protest that night in the only way they could do, against the Government for not introducing fresh legislation on the subject.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said it was impossible for him not to sympathise with the speech delivered by the proposer of the Motion, though he did not in the least sympathise with the Motion itself. It was impossible to contemplate what had been going on with regard to this matter—and he spoke with some knowledge of the work ing of the Act in a large commercial centre—without realising that the Act was quite inadequate to deal with what was undoubtedly the greatest problem of the day. It was a matter which no Government, whether it called itself Liberal or Tory, ought to allow to remain undealt with, and he blamed the present Government for not having fulfilled its pledge to legislate on the subject.
1047 However, even if it was admitted that the present Act was inadequate and that its administration was not all that could be wished, there were many Members who realised the serious consequences that would follow if it were suddenly struck out of the Statute-book. The effect would be most disastrous upon the people whom the Labour Members alleged that they particularly represented. He ventured to think, after the discussion they had heard that night, that his hon. friends below the gangway were not in earnest in moving that the Act should be omitted from the schedule of the Bill. He did not think they would dare to go into the lobby and vote in favour of such a Motion, and be believed they had taken the opportunity of moving an insincere Motion.
§ MR. JOHN WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
said that the hon. Member who last addressed the Committee probably hit the nail on the head when he declared that in his opinion the Act was a dead letter and was totally inadequate to deal with the unemployed question in any shape or form. One would expect that this would be the case with any Act of Parliament dealing with a problem of this description passed by the Party to which the hon. Member for Liverpool belonged. The hon. Member also said that he did not think the proposer and seconder of the Motion were really in earnest in moving that the Act should be excluded from the schedule of the Bill. It was, however, only fair to say that they did not themselves suggest that this was the case; on the contrary the mover stated that he did not wish the Act to be excluded from 1048 the schedule. The hon. Member for Leicester only moved his Motion for the purpose of bringing the question forward and eliciting a reply from the Government, because it was impossible to deal with the matter in any other way. The mover of the Motion having o made that statement, he (Mr. Ward) was surprised to hear from the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil that he hoped his hon. friend the Member for Leicester would persist in his Motion, and that he would be only too delighted to vote in favour of excluding the Act from the schedule of the Bill. He almost felt inclined to risk his reputation and to support the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil in voting against the inclusion of the Act, because he well remembered the meeting which took place between the Labour Members of the different organisations in the country at which it was decided that the Bill, as it then was, was inadequate, utterly ridiculous, and absurd from beginning to end. He well remembered also the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil and that hon. Member for Woolwich breaking away from an agreement made at a conference in that House and deciding that the Bill should be supported without the Amendments which the Labour Members, in consultation with their colleagues in the trade unions, had deemed necessary to make it of any use whatever to deal with the question under discussion. He well remembered, too, that the President of the Local Government Board, who was not then a member of the Government, and probably had no thought that he was ever likely to be, was opposed to the Bill in its entirety, almost from beginning to end. They had private conversations and private conferences. The trade unionists of the country considered the question at Caxton Hall, and in Committee Room 15. He did not suppose, in fact, that many hon. Members knew the enormous amount of trouble that was taken over the measure before it was placed upon 1049 the Statute-book. From the very inception of the Bill up to the time it passed into law the President of the Local Government Board adopted precisely the same attitude towards it that was now taken up by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. The strange thing was that the President of the Local Government Board now appeared to have changed places with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, and while the latter was prepared to vote against the continuance of the Act the right hon. Gentleman appealed to the Committee to allow it to go on for another year.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
observed that the Government were pledged to spend £200,000 for three years on the unemployed. They considered that, apart from their actual views, sympathies, and prejudices, the responsibility for spending that money with a minimum amount of the harm which had been predicted would arise from its distribution should be carried out. They had been compelled to adhere to that mainly because the hon. Gentlemen who sat around him were in favour of putting the motor car on the legislative road without any petrol. He supplied the petrol, though he was a bit doubtful as to the destination.
§ MR. JOHN WARD
said he could assure the President of the Local Government Board he did not object to reviving these reminiscences. He wished to refer particularly to one or two statements by those who were emphatically in favour of these measures when they stopped borough councils from doing their duty. It was now suggested that they should abolish the Act to give an opportunity to the borough councils of doing what they would have done if the Bill had not become law. That seemed to him peculiar. Then they were told that the Act went on paying officials who were doing nothing. He did not think 1050 that was quite right. In spite of the President of the Local Government Board he thought the mere placing of the matter on the Statute-book had recognised the status of the unemployed workmen, and until some better Act was placed on the Statute-book he would not vote for its being excluded.
§ *MR. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said he would not put the House to the trouble of a division, especially after the statement made by the President of the Local Government Board that he did not believe in the Act but that he would vote for it. He begged leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)
said there were one or two points upon which he would like a statement from the Secretary to the Treasury. What Bills were omitted from the schedule of this year that were included in the schedule of last year? That was a somewhat important point, because they did not know what the Treasury clerks had done. He would take one case that occurred to his mind. A number of Acts affecting the Bank of England appeared in the schedule from year to year. It might be within the recollection of some Members of the House that he had put a few questions from time to time about unclaimed bank balances. He was rash enough to state upon one occasion that when the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill came up and these Bills conferring certain powers on the Bank of England were proposed to be renewed, he would draw attention to the fact of the Bank of England's annexing money which did not belong to them. What was the result? These Bills disappeared from the schedule. How did that happen? The matter was one in which they were entitled to have an explanation. The Bills had been included year after year for 1051 the past fifty years. Either that was a piece of tomfoolery——
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH
said that what he wanted to know was why the Bills were omitted. What pressure was brought to bear to have them struck out? It was quite possible the Secretary to the Treasury knew nothing about it. Some well-paid and well-fed Treasury Clerk might have performed this without his knowledge, but the House was entitled to know what had happened and why the Bills hid disappeared. There was another point on which he would like to have a statement from the Secretary for the Treasury. There was in the schedule a Bill relating to sand grouse, entitled "The Sand Grouse Protection Bill." The Secretary to the Treasury, if he remembered right, made a most eloquent denunciation against the inclusion of this Bill in the schedule. Why did he introduce it now? He (Mr. MacVeagh) did not know anything about grouse. He had never been grouse shooting in his life, but he was assured there was no such thing as a sand grouse in this country. Why were they passing year after year a Bill to protect what did not exist? The Bill was intended to acclimatise sand grouse in the United Kingdom. This had been going on for twenty-three years, and the sand grouse was not acclimatised yet. Might he ask why the Secretary to the Treasury included that Bill? He could not put the responsibility on anybody else. He was told they should give the grouse a few years yet, but where were they coming from. He had looked up the Encyclopœdia in the Library, and he found that they never came to this country at all. They only existed in 1052 Africa and Asia. The Financial Secretary once voted in protest for a certain Amendment which was moved by the President of the Board of Trade That Amendment stated that in the view of the House it was inexpedient that when important Acts of Parliament had been passed for a limited period, such Acts should be included in a general Bill like the Expiring Lawn Continuance Bill brought in at the close of the session, without any opportunity being afforded for discussion.
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH
It arises on the question whether the schedule should contain Bills which are notoriously obsolete or totally unnecessary.
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH
asked whether it might arise on the Third Reading. He thought it would be more for the convenience of the House if he were allowed to finish the few words he had to say, rather than be put to the trouble of repeating it all. That Resolution was moved by the President of the Board of Trade, supported by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies——
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH
asked if the Secretary to the Treasury would give him an explanation as to whether he intended to give effect to the Resolution or would give an undertaking to give effect to the policy which he had advocated that the whole question of this schedule should be referred to a Select Committee to report what Bills were obsolete and what measures should be adopted in future years. He could make that promise with great safety 1053 It had been made by every Government and not a single Government had ever carried it out. He hoped for the sake of consistency the present Financial Secretary would give them the same pledge. He thought he would carry the sympathy of the House with him when he said that this method of piling all these Bills into one schedule, and coming to the House without giving it opportunity by means of a Select Committee or otherwise of including only those measures which were neither obsolete nor ridiculous was not a common-sense method. He would ask the Secretary to the Treasury—he did not want to put the House to the trouble of a division—to give him the benefit of his advice. Would he especially tell him why the Bank of England was to be left out of the schedule?
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
said that with regard to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman with reference to the Bank of England balances, if he had given him a little warning he would have looked very carefully with a view to discovering whether the hon. Gentleman was accurate or not.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
said that that might be so. At all events he would look at the point and see whether there 1054 was anything in it. [Several MEMBERS: What about sand grouse?]
§ MR. MARKHAM
Can the hon. Member give us no reply on the question of sand grouse? Surely this Bill has some value, otherwise it would not be included in the schedule.
§ Schedule agreed to,
§ Bill reported to the House without Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time."
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH
said he presumed that he might now be allowed to remind the Secretary to the Treasury of the fact that on a previous occasion he supported a Motion proposed by the President of the Board of Trade against the inclusion of Acts in the schedule of the Bill brought in at the end of every session for the continuance of expiring laws. That Motion, he saw, was supported by Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Caldwell, Mr. Causton, the Master of Elibank, Mr. J. M. Fuller, Mr. H. J. Gladstone, Mr. McKenna, Mr. J. A. Pease, Mr. H. M. Samuel, Mr. Thomas Shaw, Mr. Churchill, and Major Seely—a very respectable division list in favour of the principle of reform of this method of legislating by schedule. The names he had mentioned should be sufficient to convince the present Government that the argument he was now advancing was worthy of their serious consideration. He did not propose to go into the question of all the Bills contained in the schedule, but he submitted that it was really absurd in the twentieth century that year after year, they should go on re-enacting the Ballot Act, which no one would ever think of enforcing. He suggested to the Government that a Select Committee ought to be set up to go through the schedule, picking out the Acts which were obsolete, and arranging to include in one Bill such Acts as it was desirable to make permanent. He was 1055 only asking the Secretary to the Treasury to induce the Government to undertake to carry out views which the hon. Gentleman himself had put before the House on previous occasions, and which no one supported more vigorously than the hon. Gentleman sitting on his right (Mr. Whitley). He hoped they would have an undertaking that this question would be seriously considered by the Government, and that a Committee would be set up with the object of removing anomalies from the schedule, thus putting the legislation with respect to the continuance of expiring laws on a common sense basis.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
said that no doubt there was a good deal to be said in support of the contention advanced by the hon. Gentleman that there should be a revision of the schedule, but as the hon. Gentleman realised it was necessary that even an Act like the Ballot Act should be continued. If that Bill fell to the ground a great deal of Parliamentary machinery would fall with it, and therefore it was clearly necessary that it should be re-enacted. While he would undertake to look into the schedule very carefully, and to strike out anything that was undesirable, he took it that no Government would be prepared on the recommendation of a Select Committee to embark hastily on a proceeding of that sort.
§ MR. JOHN WARD
hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not on the mere statement of another hon. Member decide to strike out of the schedule an Act relating to sand grouse. He know nothing himself about the habits of this bird, but it might be hoped that the continuance of the Act would have the effect of inducing it to visit our shores in larger numbers than it had done hitherto.