HC Deb 01 November 1909 vol 12 cc1468-75

Lords Amendment: At the end of Sub-section (1), insert, "Before deciding that a local authority have failed to exercise their powers under Part III. of the principal Act, the Board shall take into consideration the necessity for further accommodation for the housing of the working classes in such district, the probability that the required accommodation will not be otherwise provided, and the other circumstances of the case, and whether, having regard to the liability which will be incurred by the rates, it is prudent for the local authority to undertake the provision of such accommodation."

Mr. BURNS moved, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Amendment only asks that the Local Government Board shall do what is their ordinary work, which ought to be clearly expressed in the Bill—that is, take all the matters into consideration. I appeal to hon. Members below the Gangway not to press their objection to this Amendment.

Lords Amendment: At the end of Subsection (3), insert (4) An order relating to Part III. of the principal Act made by the Local Government Board under this Section shall not take effect until a draft thereof has lain for thirty days during the Session of Parlament on the Table of both House of Parliament, and, if either House during those thirty days presents an Address to His Majesty against the draft, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, but without prejudice to the making of a new Draft Order.

Mr. BURNS moved, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Amendment is not necessary, and I think the request to insert it is quite unreasonable.

Viscount MORPETH

This proposal throws some light on the policy adopted by the Government. I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should be so reluctant to submit himself to the judgment of the Houses of Parliament. The Secretary to the Local Government Board said that the whole object of this procedure was to achieve simplicity. Everybody must desire simplicity, but in a complicated state of society it is not easy to be simple, and if the right hon. Gentleman wants to see the sort of procedure he desires to enforce he only needs to go to some of those Oriental countries where the executive power is combined in one person, and where the subject is absolutely unprotected in any way from the inroads of the executive. In this country it has been considered necessary to safeguard the citizen against any possible abuse of power, not only on the part of his neigh- bours, but even on the part of the central government. The objection we have to these provisions is that all safeguards are withdrawn from the private citizen, and he is left at the mercy of the Executive Government, which in this case is the Local Government Board. It would be some protection to the citizen if he had this House to look to, because here he would be able to get some hon. Member to ventilate his grievance and bring it before the House. It is extremely unlikely unless the case was one of a very grave character, and a genuine grievance was felt in regard to it, that any hon. Member would venture to raise it in this House, because he would find the whole force of the Government, as well as the whole feeling of this House, against him. Hon. Members object to having small trumpery matters brought before the attention of the House. For these reasons I regret that the right hon. Gentleman does not see his way to accept this Amendment. I do not think this Amendment would cause the delay which has been put forward as an argument against it by the spokesman for the Government. The real objection is that the Government Department in this matter desires to be supreme.


There is a precedent for the application of a proposal like the one contained in this Clause. May I refer the Noble Lord who has just spoken to Section 299 of the Public Health Act of 1875, under which for the last 24 years hundreds of cases have arisen under that Section, and there has been no serious Debate in Parliament as to the way in which the Local Government Board has exercised its powers under the Public Health Act. The Local Government Board have precisely the powers under the Public Health Act of 1875 with regard to default by the local authority in respect of water supply that it is proposed to give them now, and there is no appeal in cases of that kind. Having regard to these facts there is not the least necessity for the adoption of this Amendment.


The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the Public Health Act of 1875 gives the Local Government Board the precise powers which are given under this Clause for the acquisition of a water supply, or the failure of a local authority to initiate a water supply, and he seems to think because of that it is right to give the powers under very much more extended provisions such as those which are contained in this Bill. The question of a water supply is a small matter compared with the powers which the Local Government Board are going to take under this Clause. A water supply is a necessity, and in a small place it is not a very costly matter. What we are now considering, however, is a very different thing. After all, the people who have a knowledge of the locality and who have to find the money ought to know what they require. The county council may say, "We do not think, first of all, that this proposal is necessary, and, secondly, as we have to find the money, we do not think the locality will be able to find it." The Local Government Board can come down and override the decision of the county council. What does the Local Government Board know, for example, about the power of Merionethshire to provide money? The Local Government Board, under this Clause, can override the decision of the people on the spot merely because four large inhabitant householders may decide that they require a large scheme for providing additional cottages costing many thousands of pounds. I was not aware that the Government attached so much importance to precedents. I could give the right hon. Gentleman any quantity of precedents against every measure which the present Government has brought in during the last four years. When it suits their purpose they say, "We do not care about antiquated, musty precedents." The Government, however, cannot have it both ways. The hon. Member has quoted a precedent of 34 years ago.


It has been in operation ever since.


But that does not make it any better. The House of Lords has been in existence hundreds of years, but is the hon. Gentleman on account of that going to declare that he will not say anything against them? The precedent quoted by him is only a small matter, and it is no argument to use it in favour of giving arbitrary powers to the Local Government Board, which will permit them to enforce upon a locality enormous expenditure which the inhabitants may not desire. The question was raised during the Committee stage of the Bill, but we had not an opportunity of discussing the details. I regret the right hon. Gentleman has not seen his way to accept the business-like Amendment which has been inserted in another place.

5.0 P.M.


I think this is a material and a reasonable Amendment. I agree that there are cases where it is necessary to give power of this kind to a Government Department, but such a power as this ought to be exercised with the greatest possible caution. The success of the Bill will depend mainly upon the harmony with which the local authorities work with the central authority. There may be a very few cases in which an appeal is necessary to the county council, and in which the Local Government Board will have to assume the position of the determining authority. It is agreed that in no case should they act unless there is a very strong reason indeed. Surely it would be much more acceptable to the local authority which is overruled if the Order was laid upon the Table of this House. It is quite clear that this House or another House would never interfere with a case in which the right of the Local Government Board to decide was evident; and, on the other hand, if there was this appeal to Parliament it would make these provisions more acceptable to the local authorities.


I think the right hon. Gentleman has taken up rather an extraordinary attitude considering the party to which he belongs. We are continually being told that the will of the people must prevail, yet here we have a responsible Minister of the Crown refusing to trust the local authorities or the House of Commons. He does not dare to place these orders overriding the local authorities on the Table of Parliament for fear Parliament should behave unreasonably. I think that it is an extraordinary proposition to come from a Member of the Government. Apparently the only body he can trust is the Local Government Board, and apparently he can only trust it because it is entirely out of touch with the electors and represents nobody. This Amendment would not involve any expense to anybody, and it is not a new proposal. It has been embodied in a like ease—in the Small Holdings Act. There is a provision in that Act for laying the facts before Parliament when a local authority is coerced, and, if it was right in that case, I cannot see that it is going to-do any damage here. After all, housing is a local matter, and I do not think any- body can have a greater claim to decide the matter than the locality concerned. Other cases in which the central authority interferes with local administration are those in which either the public health is concerned and where epidemics might be caused by local authorities neglecting their duties or those in which the central authority makes a grant. If the right hon. Gentleman were making a grant out of the Exchequer towards housing, then I should say the Local Government Board ought to have this right to override the wishes of the ratepayers; but, as there is no provision of that kind, it appears to me quite unreasonable to take away all the control from the representatives of the ratepayers and to concentrate all power in the hands

of a Government Department. The Government have also embodied a provision of this kind in the Territorial Reserve Forces Act. I understand there has never been any question or difficulty arising under that Act, and that there is no possibility of any delay being caused or of any action being taken except in very flagrant cases. If the Local Government Board is as reasonable and as accessible as we are continually being assured they are, I do not see that they would lose anything whatever by agreeing to the fullest publicity of their proceedings.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The House divided: Ayes, 174; Noes, 50.

Division No. 876.] AYES. [5.8 p.m.
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Dobson, Thomas W. M'Callum, John M.
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) M'Micking, Major G.
Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R. Essex, R. W. Mallet, Charles E.
Armitage, R. Esslemont, George Birnie Marnham, F. J.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Everett, R. Lacey Massie, J.
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Faber, G. H. (Boston) Masterman, C. F. G.
Astbury, John Meir Ferguson, R. C. Munro Micklem, Nathaniel
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Molteno, Percy Alport
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Fullerton, Hugh Mond, A.
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Gibb, James (Harrow) Morrell, Philip
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Ginnell, L. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Barnard, E. B. Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)
Barnes, G. N. Glendinning, R. G. Myer, Horatio
Beauchamp, E. Glover, Thomas Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)
Beck, A. Cecil Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Nolan, Joseph
Bell, Richard Gooch, George Peabody (Bath) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Berridge, T. H. D. Greenwood, Hamar (York) O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)
Bertram, Julius Gwynn, Stephen Luclus O'Malley, William
Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romford) Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Parker, James (Halifax)
Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Paulton, James Mellor
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Black, Arthur W. Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Boulton, A. C. F. Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)
Bowerman, C. W. Hedges, A. Paget Pirie, Duncan V.
Branch, James Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Pointer, J
Brodle, H. C. Henry, Charles S. Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Brooke, Stopford Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe) Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Higham, John Sharp Radford, G. H.
Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. (Cheshire) Hobart, Sir Robert Raphael, Herbert H.
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hodge, John Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Holland, Sir William Henry Rees, J. D.
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Hooper, A. G. Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Cheetham, John Frederick Horniman, Emslie John Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R. Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Cleland, J. W. Hudson, Walter Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Clough, William Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Jones, Leif (Appleby) Rogers, F. E. Newman
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Rose, Sir Charles Day
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Jowett, F. W. Rowlands, J.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Keating, M. Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)
Cox, Harold Laidlaw, Robert Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Crosfield, A. H. Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester) Sears, J. E.
Cross, Alexander Lamont, Norman Sherwell, Arthur James
Crossley, William J. Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington) Steadman, W. C.
Dalziel, Sir James Henry Lehmann, R. C. Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral) Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Summerbell, T.
Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.) Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Sutherland, J. E.
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Lupton, Arnold Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Thorne, William (West Ham)
Tuke, Sir John Batty Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander Waterlow, D. S. Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Vivian, Henry Weir, James Galloway Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Wadsworth, J. White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
Walker, H. De R. (Leicester) Wilkie, Alexander TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Mr. Herbert Lewis.
Warner, Thomas Courtenay T. Wills, Arthur Walters
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Forster, Henry William Newdegate, F. A.
Baldwin, Stanley Goulding, Edward Alfred Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Bignold, Sir Arthur Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Percy, Earl
Bowles, G. Stewart Hay, Hon. Claude George Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Bull, Sir William James Heaton, John Henniker Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hills, J. W. Ronaldshay, Earl of
Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Hunt, Rowland Stanier, Beville
Clyde, J. Avon Kerry, Earl of Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cochrane, Hon. Thomas H. A. E. Kimber, Sir Henry Thornton, Percy M.
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull) Valentia, Viscount
Courthope, G. Loyd Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham) Winterton, Earl
Craik, Sir Henry Lonsdale, John Brownlee Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Lowe, Sir Francis William Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Dumphreys, John Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Younger, George
Faber, George Denison (York) M'Arthur, Charles
Fardell, Sir George T. Magnus, Sir Philip TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. W. Guinness and Sir F. Banbury.
Fell, Arthur Morpeth, Viscount
Fletcher, J. S. Morrison-Bell, Captain