§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. STAVELEY-HILL
But for the different circumstances which exist since this Bill was first before us, I should have occupied a considerable space of time in moving that the Second Reading take place upon this day three months. Before I refer to the changed circumstances I should like, not only for myself, but, I am quite sure, for my hon. Friends who are opposed to this Bill, to say emphatically and sincerely that we are not actuated in the slightest degree by any hostility to the City of Birmingham in the course we are taking, but are actuated solely by the sense of duty which we owe to the counties we represent in this House, and to the counties of England as a whole. The circumstances which have considerably aided and brought about this change were confined practically to a statement made by the Prime Minister in this House last Monday, in which he said he agreed to the setting up of a Joint Committee of both Houses. The words he used were as follows:—The Government are prepared to accept the Motion for a Joint Committee which is being moved for in another place. In so doing they rely on the county councils concerned with the three Provisional Order Bills for the extension of boroughs, which are now before this House, consenting to withdraw opposition from the Bills so far as relates to the question of compensation for loss of rateable value, subject to the insertion in the Confirming Bills of a clause to the effect that if the Joint Committee recommend the payment of compensation for such loss the adjustments between the boroughs and the counties concerned shall be on those lines." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, col. 1323.]That being the statement of the Prime Minister, we feel, so far as that point is concerned, that we can no longer offer any opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill. I am speaking only on behalf of Staffordshire, and my hon. Friends will speak for other counties. But in their behalf I can only state that we, of course, will loyally abide by the decision of the Joint Committee upon the question of compensation, but will reserve to ourselves the right to raise any question on the Report stage or the Third Reading as to anything that has taken place in Committee which may prejudicially affect our counties or dis- 1710 tricts in those counties. On these points we reserve all rights, while we agree loyally to abide by the decision of the Committee as to compensation. There are very large questions that may arise. The district mostly affected, or alone affected, in Staffordshire is Handsworth, which may have some objections to urge. There, no doubt, is a very serious question to be considered in reference to that area. With the large addition of its population to Birmingham under this Bill—72,000 people are to be added to the population of that city and 3,667 acres to be added to the area—it is a question for serious consideration whether that area and that population can be more efficiently governed under this proposal than they are at the present moment. That is a question to which, of course, we shall have to ask for an answer. I remember, when the London Government Bill was before the House some few years ago, a question was asked as to the number of the population to be included, and the number given on that occasion is very largely exceeded by the proposal we have here. That is a question into which we could have gone into detail. We should have dealt with the government of Hands-worth by the district council, which we consider to be efficient, and could have shown that there was no need of any outside assistance. That is the course which, perhaps, we may yet have to take upon certain details, but to-night, having regard to what has taken place and to the Prime Minister's statement, we, after consultation—speaking for myself and for those principally concerned in the Staffordshire opposition to this scheme—have come to the conclusion that I should merely offer these remarks upon the general principles of the situation, and should not now bring forward the Motion which stands in my name for the rejection of the Bill. We trust to the decision of the Joint Committee, and so do Birmingham in that sense, for they are in the same boat. We hope that the decision will be just to all parties. I think that whatever be that decision, we are all bound by it. On the other points it is still open to us to raise any questions as to management and efficient control which we may think necessary.
§ Mr. RYLAND ADKINS
I am rather anxious to present to the House the very large problems which are raised by this Bill to an extent and in a way which has rarely happened in this House for a very long time. It is the custom that Bills 1711 enlarging the boundaries of our municipalities should be referred to a Committee upstairs without demur or Debate. I take it that all Members of the House are well aware of the convenience and propriety of that method in all ordinary cases. But this Bill, as it was originally brought in, and before the important circumstances of the last few days, raised these problems in such a way that it would have been, I think, very unfortunate if this House had allowed it to go to Committee without some discussion and possibly even a Division. There are three aspects of this Bill, each of which is unusual, and which, taken together, go far to remove the Bill from the category of a Private Bill into one which really raises important questions of principle. The first of these aspects was referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken, namely, the important question of the financial relations between towns and counties, when the boundaries of the towns are involved. I desire to take this the first opportunity of thanking my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister most heartily for his answer to my question on Monday, and for the pledge given in both Houses for the appointment of a Joint Committee on this matter. I take it that those who represent boroughs, and those who represent counties, are alike anxious that the long uncertainty of this financial adjustment question should be settled, and should be settled by means of a Joint Committee which will command general respect, because it is easy, in the conflict of financial interest, for local administrators at times to lose sight of the fact that their object, whether they are speaking on behalf of the counties or the boroughs, is and should be the same, and that we all alike wish to promote good government. It is most desirable that the points of collision and the points of conflict between either type of local authority should be as few as possible, and governed as far as possible by general principles. Therefore I cordially concur with what has fallen from the hon. Member (Mr. Staveley-Hill) that in view of the appointment of that Joint Committee the need to divide the House on the Second Heading no longer exists.
I speak on behalf of the County Councils Association, to whom this matter has been one of great importance for some years. I know they welcome very much the appointment of this Committee, and they attach 1712 no little importance to the fact that the findings of that Committee, whatever they be, will apply to this Bill and to the two other Bills which are on the Paper this evening. While on that point I may be allowed to say that I understand that an Instruction, which stands in the name of an hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Birmingham, is to be accepted 'by the Government. I do not disguise the fact that other Instructions on the Paper appear to me to carry out more adequately what is necessary in the details of this adjustment, but in view of that Instruction, which undoubtedly goes a long way but not, as I think, quite the whole way, to carry out what was understood some few days ago, I for one shall certainly not divide the House either on Second Reading or on that Instruction. I will only say this with regard to that, that I hope it will be possible for the Government to see that that Committee is appointed as soon as possible, and I hope it will be possible for that Joint Committee to sit soon and to sit frequently, for I am quite certain that the more nearly simultaneous the decisions of that Committee and the decisions of the Houses of Parliament are on this Bill, the easier it will be to carry out the adjustments, and the more smooth will be the inter-relationships of the local authorities concerned.
May I refer to two other points of great magnitude which are raised by this Bill? One is the question, that almost amounts to a question of principle, as to whether, when you have a large body of people in large and densely-populated areas, the whole of that area should be under one gigantic body, or whether it ought to be under several authorities large enough to secure admirable local government, and exercising a wholesome variety of method in friendly competition? There are examples in different parts of the country of each of those ideas, but this Bill is so large in scope, and deals with such enormous populations, and with such a large area, and with such great rateable value, that it does raise the question of those conflicting ideas with a point and precision which no similar Bill has done for a long while. I confess I should have liked to have heard that principle of local government debated and decided in this House, after full discussion. No doubt it has been usual to send Bills which raise this question upstairs, and I do not think we should be justified to-night in departing from that practice. It may happen at a later stage of this Bill, 1713 when all that happens upstairs is known, when the various important Instructions on each side have been thoroughly threshed out, it may be desirable at some later stage to raise this question of principle in this House. While we retain our freedom to do that, it must not be considered that, in so doing, we are in any way trying to prejudge the issue, or expressing any want of confidence in the Committee upstairs. I only want to call their attention and the attention of this House to the extreme importance of the issues raised. If you do not have a local authority large enough you do not get the best type of administrator, and you do not get the best type of service. If you have a crowded area, beyond certain points you run the risk of divorcing the duties of administration from practical citizenship, and you run, particularly, the risk of withdrawing from the purview and from the partnership of working men that share in the government of their own locality which it is in the highest degree important that they should have to a large extent. One is anxious in dealing with a great Bill like this that these questions should be kept in the forefront, and possibly this friendly discussion for a few minutes to-night may help in some degree in that direction.
The last point is a remarkable one, because I think this is the only case in which it has arisen. With regard to the county of Worcester, so large a proportion of that county, at any rate as regards the original Bill, is proposed to be included in greater Birmingham that it really raises the question as to how far one important authority should take so much off another important authority that the work of the second authority may be permanently crippled. If, instead of it being Birmingham and the county of Worcester, that Stamford were to enlarge its borders to anything like the same extent as Birmingham, then His Majesty's county of Rutland would cease to exist. The Committee will no doubt give the greatest attention to the problems raised by these proposals. I am not trying to prejudge their decision; there is much to be said on both sides. Where you are apparently affecting the efficiency of an old local authority like a historic county, you are raising a very difficult, and important, and fresh problem of adjustment between local authorities. I am asked by the County Councils Association, apart from the important financial adjustment, to say that they watch with great interest so very large an intervention into the life 1714 of the county as this is of the county of Worcester. I cordially agree that this is not the time to divide the House on any of these issues. I merely ask leave to lay before the House what appears to me to be the gravity of the problem involved in this Bill, and to say that we hold ourselves entirely free to do what we think right at the later stages. We all of us alike look with confidence to the Committee to which this Bill will go, particularly when we know they will consider it in the spirit in which Committees of these Houses always try to do.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
As one of the Members for Worcestershire, one of the three counties chiefly interested or entirely interested in the Provisional Order, and as being the county chiefly affected of those three, I desire to say a few words, following the lines of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. Staveley-Hill) and the lines of the hon. Member for Middleton (Mr. Adkins). I feel that it would be inconsistent with my duty if I did not state very briefly one or two grounds which led us in Worcestershire to oppose this Bill, and the reasons that have led us to withdraw our opposition to-night and to allow the Second Reading to proceed. I will not take up the time of the House by saying anything with regard to the compensation question, except that if we had not been met to the extent we have been on that matter we should have fought this Bill to the best of our ability through the Second Reading, and taken the opinion of the House upon it. Over and above the question of compensation, which I freely admit is one of the utmost importance to us, we feel very strongly that in at least two branches of our civic life this rupture in our county will bear with it very serious consequences. Probably no county in England, considering its area, has done more or better work than Worcestershire with regard to small holdings and allotments. The penny rate which we are allowed to devote to the purposes of the Small Holdings Act produces £8,000, and has been wisely and prudently spent. After paying our charges each year, we have had a handsome surplus to devote largely to the purchase of land, and we have continued that progressive policy year by year. When the produce of our penny rate drops, as it will, from £8,000 to £5,000, it will be impossible for us to continue to the same extent that admirable system of providing small holdings and allotments which for many years we have 1715 followed to the great benefit of the county and the happiness of its inhabitants. The other branch of our civic life to which I refer is the licensing or temperance question. The area proposed to be taken from us contributes a substantial amount to our compensation fund. It is an area which is constantly increasing, and must increase largely in the future. As a direct consequence the number of houses closed in that area will be small, if, indeed, any are required to be closed in the next few years. The result on the rest of the county will be that in the poorer or rural districts where there may possibly be room for the closing of superfluous public-houses, and especially in some of the small towns, we fear it may be impossible for us to continue the closing of such houses on the lines we have followed in years gone by.
Since we feel so strongly on this matter, some of our friends may wonder what has induced us to withdraw our opposition. We, in common with our neighbours of Warwickshire and Staffordshire, have sacrificed ourselves, I cannot say altogether with a glad heart, for the benefit of the other counties of England. Our sacrifice has been demanded as the price of securing this Joint Committee, which, in common with every other county, we feel is a necessity. We recognise fully that the time has come when such a Committee should frame a report, giving a basis to which these financial questions can be referred in years to come. Therefore we have made the sacrifice, and we are abiding loyally by the decision. But I do not want any hon. Member, least of all any of my Friends from Birmingham, to think that it is any the less a sacrifice that we have made. We trust that the President of the Local Government Board will use his great influence in the direction suggested by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Adkins), that he will see that the Committee is speedily formed, and that it is kept to work. Our Friends from Birmingham and ourselves are going to abide loyally by the decrees of that Committee. I must, however, make one reservation. Considering the magnitude of the stake at issue, we cannot give any pledges beyond to-night. We cannot tell what may happen upstairs. Therefore it is necessary for us to reserve liberty of action. It may be necessary for us to take action at a later stage. Should it become necessary, we shall feel at full liberty to take whatever course seems best to us.
§ Mr. WILLIAM JOHNSON
I associate myself with all that has fallen from previous speakers to-night. I should have opposed the Second Reading of this Bill but for the reasons already given. When the Instruction is moved it will no doubt be made clear what is the prospect of our getting justice. The President of the Local Government Board will be aware that we are only seeking justice, and I think that what he has at heart is justice to all concerned. We, however, have to look at this Bill from our own standpoint. It is no ordinary annexation that is proposed. You have here Birmingham taking in two and a half times its acreage, two-thirds of its population, and an assessment of over one-third. Altogether Birmingham is taking over another Birmingham. I have been a member of the Warwickshire County Council since its formation, and I know that an inducement has been held out to districts in Warwickshire to acquiesce in this proposal. We in Warwickshire have spent thousands of pounds to oppose the Bill, but when preferential rates were offered them these districts turned round and went over where they had been opposing before. They have altogether sixteen or seventeen representatives out of a total of seventy-five on the county council, and whenever it has been a question of the appointment of general officers and of adding to the expense of the administration these districts have always gone on the extravagant side. They now take the preferential rates which Birmingham offers and leave us to pay our officials without their assistance. I say that is the great objection so far as Warwickshire is concerned. Only yesterday on the education committee—education, of course, is now managed by the county council—extra officials were appointed. I was not present, nor was I present at the standing joint committee on Monday, owing to work of my own. But I know representatives from these districts would vote for the appointment of these extra officials, and a head official, and for increasing the salary of the head official. We shall get rid of a certain number of officials, but we shall have the head official to pay; and we shall have the administrative expenses which they have run us to still to maintain. I am not going in any shape or form to ask the House to divide. I agree with my hon. Friend that we have come to a somewhat reasonable moment. I do want to say, 1717 however, and I say it not only to the Members for Birmingham, and to those who act for Birmingham, but I say it for the friends who agree with me, that we will oppose the Bill unless we can get some real justice. I say also to the President of the Local Government Board—in no spirit of hostility—that if the Instruction to the Committee upstairs leads to some flimsy ideal and nothing real, I shall ask my friends and supporters in this House to oppose the Bill when it again comes before us in some other shape or form.
§ Mr. BRADY
The reason why an Irish Member should intervene in this Debate may not be very apparent at the outset. The Bill is a purely English Bill. Not only so, but without any disrespect to those who are promoting it, I may call it essentially a local Bill. Although emanating from Birmingham there is nothing Imperial about the measure. For that reason I may be permitted, without disrespect, to point out that it is a remarkable thing that anybody on these benches, much more a Member of the Irish party, and still more a new Member of that party, should venture to intervene in this Debate. It seems but reasonable that the Members for Birmingham should be the best judges of the needs of Birmingham. With that principle I am not disposed to quarrel, for this best of reasons, that I do not think that any reason can be well urged against such a principle. But it is because that principle has not perhaps been on all occasions recognised that I speak. A Bill such as this measure is has received the assent of both Houses. A few instances may be given. There are the cases of Leamington, Southampton, Plymouth, Bristol, and Devonport, and last, but perhaps the best instance of all, the City of Westminster. The principle which actuates the promoters of this Bill has received the assent of both Houses of Parliament. But a very remarkable exception to that principle, and an exception which I hope this evening I shall not comment upon unfairly or with undue heat, was afforded only eleven years ago by the case of the City of Dublin, one of the Divisions of which I have the honour to represent in this House. Perhaps the meaning of that departure from principle I cannot better illustrate than by a quotation from certain observations of my Leader, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford. Speaking on the Report stage of this Bill, the hon. and learned Gentle- 1718 man said in words which I think the House will agree were very remarkable:—The question may be stated in a nutshell. It is whether Dublin, the metropolis of Ireland, is to be permitted by Parliament to extend and develop itself as other great cities in the three kingdoms have been permitted to do, or whether it is to be for ever handicapped by a refusal of the application of these principles which, in similar circumstances, have been freely applied to scores of other great cities on this side of the Channel.I will tell my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham that, having given this case the consideration which its importance demands, I certainly do not see my way at this stage to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. More especially so, as I am able to tell the House that there sits in the House at this very moment a Member for one of the Divisions of Birmingham, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division (Mr. Jesse Collings), who to his credit, I may be permitted to say, voted for the Report stage of the Dublin Bill. Even if neither that right hon. Gentleman nor one of his colleagues had supported the Dublin Bill on that occasion—although crimes may be laid at the door of Ireland, I do not think we can be fairly charged with unforgiveness of injuries—it is the intention of those for whom I am speaking to-night not to oppose the Bill at this stage. It may not be without disadvantage to Birmingham to consider what exactly were the circumstances under which Dublin came to promote a Bill in 1899. Since 1840 the area of Dublin had remained as it was with one trifling exception. In 1899, with the view to remedy some of these evils, which I see referred to in a pamphlet which I am sure has been sent to many other hon. Members as it has been sent to myself on behalf of this Bill, the City of Dublin promoted their Bill. When I speak of the same disadvantages under which Dublin was labouring, I have only to refer to the pamphlet in my hand. On behalf of the Bill which we are discussing, amongst other things, we are told, "That the householder and worker in outside districts work in Birmingham and sleep in the districts." These were exactly the circumstances which we brought forward in the case of the Dublin Bill, namely:—The householder in Dublin and the workers in the outside districts work in Dublin and sleep in the districts.The districts are merely residential areas. This Birmingham petition, as I may call it, is similar to the case of Dublin, for the districts in Dublin were merely residential, with the result that the men 1719 who earned, I will not say wealth, because, unfortunately, in many cases wealth would be a misapplied term, but at any rate earned their livelihood in Dublin, dwelt in the suburbs, and contributed not a farthing to the upkeep to the City of Dublin. May I trace for a moment the history of the Dublin Bill, with its peculiar relevance to the case of Birmingham. The Dublin Bill passed its Second Beading in this House and was referred to a Select Committee, and in passing I would like to emphasise the fact that on that Select Committee of this House there was not a single Irish Member. The Report stage was duly reached, and it passed this House by the large majority of 162. What happened then? And in this connection I should like to direct the attention of hon. Members opposite as to the power of another place in matters of general legislation. Here, again, in order not to take up the time of the House, I shall quote the opinion expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Louth as to what occurred. The hon. Member for North Louth said when the Bill came to the other House it was unanimously read a second time, and it was then sent to be considered by a Select Committee, presided over by the Duke of Northumberland. The course taken by the Peers who composed that Committee was to undo the work of this House.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I do not think the hon. Member is entitled to pursue that course. It has nothing to do with this Bill.
§ Mr. BRADY
I do not propose to labour any further the question of contrasting the two Bills, but I commend to the attention of hon. Gentlemen interested that they ought very carefully to see that the views and the opinions of this House shall not be dissipated in another place. I pass now, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in deference to your ruling, to another phase of the Bill. I do not know whether in the case of Birmingham there exists, as in the case of Dublin, in which I am primarily interested, the most important reason of all for the promotion of such a Bill as this. In the City of Dublin, and possibly, for all I know, in the City of Birmingham—I cannot lay claim to have any personal knowledge of that city, though it sends a great many distinguished men to this House—there may be congested districts which are properly described as slums. Speaking with personal know- 1720 ledge of the City of Dublin, I can assure hon. Members that slums exist in Dublin as they may, perhaps, in Birmingham, and it is the interest of all those anxious for the extension of city areas that the evil ought to be combated because, after all, it is only by the extension of our city boundaries that this evil can be properly dealt with. I do not know whether I am going too far in suggesting that there are other ways of combating the great evil besides keeping the extra 3s. 9d. a gallon on whisky.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is wandering from the question before the House, which is that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BRADY
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and apologise for having travelled outside the limits of the Debate, but what I was trying to say is that city boundaries should be extended, because it is only by the extension of the city boundaries that municipal authorities can deal with the pressing and crying evils existing in the slums of cities. In other words, the municipal authorities are precluded from dealing with so pressing an evil unless they are in a position to improve their rating capacity. It is for this reason, knowing, perhaps, very little about Birmingham, that I ventured to intrude in the Debate. We on these benches do not at this stage see any good reason for opposing this Bill. At the same time, at a later stage, some of us desire to keep ourselves perfectly free as to our future action. At any rate, I hope when a Bill is being promoted in the interests of Dublin it will receive the same attention as is given to the Birmingham Bill we are discussing to-night.
Mr. ERNEST POLLOCK
No man has any doubt who heard the speeches to-night that the House has been asked to pass in this Provisional Order a Bill of a very far-reaching effect, and after the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin I confess a certain amount of misgiving has arisen in my mind as to whether or not the counties are not being delivered over to a situation that they may find far more embarrassing than they think. This Provisional Order proposes to add a large population and a large rateable area to Birmingham. The population to be added is estimated at 330,000, and the rateable value to be added is estimated at £1,336,000. From the county in which 1721 is situated the Constituency that I have the honour to represent there will be taken a population of 114,000 and a rateable value of something like £400,000, and the result is that this rate incorpoartion on the part of Birmingham and this great abstraction from the counties themselves cannot be dealt with as an ordinary piece of administration by the Local Government Board. The Act under which these Provisional Orders are promulgated has now been passed some twenty-one years. It was never anticipated that it could possibly be put to the purposes when it was originated for which it is now being used, and therefore the counties concerned not only ask that some deeper consideration should be given to the questions that arise, but that they should not be left within the narrow confines of the Sections which occur in the Local Government Act of 1888. That Section has constantly come up for consideration in various cases, and it is a remarkable and interesting fact that during a certain period of time it was supposed that an equitable adjustment of financial relations was to include compensation for the inroads made upon the counties from which area was taken into the city or borough. Afterwards the decision was given—no doubt a light decision —showing the intention of the section was much more confined than had been supposed. The result is, if we do not ask for that, as we do by first of all asking for the rejection of the Bill, and, secondly, by asking that the Instruction down in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Birmingham should be accepted, we should not have the protection in the circumstances of this case to which we are entitled. So much an inroad into the counties cannot be made without disturbing the structure of local government on which they are at present administered. In the case of Warwickshire, it is obvious that in order to administer the large areas of Aston Manor and Erdington, with their large population and rateable value, they have had to make provision for an establishment of officers, to undertake debts and liabilities, and to incur expenses which cannot be closed down immediately on the appointed day which may be fixed in the Act. The same observation applies to the other counties, and particularly to Worcestershire. If we are to have an equitable adjustment, I am quite certain the common sense of every hon. Member would lead him to say that we should not only have lightened the burdens we have previously borne jointly, 1722 but we ought to have some adjustment which should not leave behind debts and liabilities without any liability on the areas which have been taken away for meeting them. Those are the considerations which have led the counties to oppose this Bill. We wish no ill to Birmingham. We wish and hope this vast city may be able to able to administer itself without any of the difficulties arising which have been pointed out, but we do ask that in the grave questions which arise we should be fairly considered.
I understand the Local Government Board are prepared to deal with this question on very broad lines. It is not one that concerns Birmingham and these three or four counties alone. It is one constantly arising in all parts of the country, and it must be settled on lines far broader than the old order of the Local Government Board of 1888. You must go into this question far more deeply. I do not think the counties concerned ask that there should be perpetual compensation or anything of that sort. They say you are dealing hardly with their ratepayers because you leave upon them certain burdens which cannot be closed up immediately. The wound made by this alteration in the structure of local government cannot be healed under a certain number of years, and during that period there ought to be some means by which those burdens can be properly adjusted. If the Joint Committee to be appointed is going to look into these matters from the very broadest point of view, then we may accept the assurance given that there will be some adjustment of the financial relations, and that that adjustment will give some relief of the difficulties created by this enormous addition to the City of Birmingham.
There are two or three important points which must necessarily arise, and which are not concluded by the mere appointment of a Committee. You have to see whether or not the Committee reports as speedily as it possibly can. You have to see, if it thinks some financial adjustment is necessary, that it will so provide that the payment to be made, be it a lump sum or an annual sum, shall be so paid to the counties that they can be used by the counties to meet the difficulties in which they are being placed. It is obvious that rates will have been levied and paid during the period between the appointed day and the day on which the Committee report, and on which it is determined what the compensation shall be. You have therefore an 1723 interregnum, and it is impossible to have a financial adjustment which is to take place hereafter without dealing with the difficulties occurring between the time the Bill passes and the time when the financial adjustment is made and the payment is made. Unless some retrospective Clauses are put in it would hardly meet the difficulty which must occur in the intervening period. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that matter, because that is a matter from the point of view of the administration of the counties on which the counties feel strongly. The real question on which the counties feel is not that they are losing a valuable rateable area or that they will not have the opportunity of levying rates which they previously levied. That is not the only point. The point that is important is that we have incurred responsibilities and have undertaken liabilities which must be met and which cannot be shut down immediately. It is in respect of those liabilities and expenses that we ask and that we understand we are going to receive fair consideration and, if possible, adequate compensation to meet the difficulties which must necessarily arise.
§ Mr. WALSH
One labours under considerable difficulty in speaking upon this matter at all. The whole case seems to have been surrendered. A good many hon. Members on both sides of the House are deluding themselves. They are waving in the air a sword which really will prove a rush when they come to use it. They are practically giving the whole case away. When the case comes up to the Committee which is to be appointed, every principle for which they ought to fight now will be found to have been surrendered. Not one single word has been made out for a case on behalf of the extension of the City of Birmingham on the lines desired in this Bill. Local government has known no such case. There has been nothing approaching the annexation of the large slice that is suggested now. There is an area proposed to be taken of King's Norton and Northfield equal to the existing size of the City of Liverpool. In most cases when Bills of this sort have been passed, it has been upon the broad grounds of a definite community of interest existing between the city and between the portions desired to be incorporated. Will any person tell me that in those great rural areas, miles and miles away from even the outside margin of the City of Birmingham, there is any -definite community of interest to-day?
1724 What is proposed by the Bill? An addition of well over 30,000 acres, or practically fifty square miles of land, is proposed to be added to the city. It is suggested that Birmingham herself has not a sufficiently large area to satisfy the legitimate ambitions of any person interested in local government? She already possesses about 13,000 acres, and one of the most wealthy corporate estates in the Kingdom. She already has that high attribute of local government to which every municipality aspires. Is it suggested that the areas proposed to be added have been deficient in the matter of local government? The very contrary is the case; but Birmingham is making this application to rope in these areas, not because they have failed in any of the legitimate activities of local government, not because they are not keeping pace with modern requirements, but simply that she may swell her already inflated sense of importance and become the second city in the Empire. That is the reason for this agitation, and most of the people who are supporting it really do so because they believe that if it be granted Birmingham will then, forsooth, become the second city in the Empire. That, however, is not the ground on which this House should grant such an application. Where there are large areas with a distinct rural life, that life, I contend, ought to be encouraged and not to be submerged merely for the sake of swelling the ambitions of magnates in cities like Birmingham. I submit that no case has been made out for this Bill. If it were the fact that Birmingham's outpouring population really dwelt in these districts it might be perfectly right. [An HON. MEMBER: "SO they do."] I venture to assert that in these districts in Staffordshire and Worcestershire there is no outpouring from Birmingham. It cannot be suggested that, in the case of Handsworth or Aston Manor, they have been found wanting in the functions which ought to be discharged by borough councils. They have kept pace with the times and it is a well-known fact that when this proposal was mooted they were themselves about to make application to be incorporated. When I suggest that Birmingham, as it is at present constituted, affords sufficient scope for the ambition of any one man, and that there is no community of interests between the areas proposed to be added and the City of Birmingham itself, then I say that is sufficient to justify this House in rejecting the Second 1725 Reading of this Bill. I fear that many of us were misled by the invitations sent out to oppose this Order. We were invited to give our names to a certain document, and those who did so will probably find that they have steered their boats into the enemy's port and will never get out again. The whole thing has been cut and dried and if this Order goes to Committee it will pass through and thus will serve the purpose of swelling the importance of Birmingham. If the President of the Local Government Board can show to us, what no single hon. Member has endeavoured to show, that there is any community of interests between these large outlying areas and the fifty square miles to be added, I will bow with due submission to his decision. But I repeat that, in my opinion, no case has been made out for the Order, and I remain convinced that it is a monstrous job. I shall, therefore, be glad to support any hon. Member who will divide the House against it.
§ Sir FRANCIS LOWE
The hon. Member has complained that no one has justified this Bill on its merits. I am prepared to justify it to the fullest possible extent, and I am quite certain that the hon. Gentleman, well-intentioned as he is, knows nothing about Birmingham and the neighbourhood, or he would not have spoken in the way he has done. I have known Birmingham all my life. I know the people connected with its municipal government, and I am sure that a higher-minded set of men never existed. To say that this Order is being promoted simply to swell our own already inflated importance is really a travesty of the truth and entirely unjustified. I thought, after what had taken place to-night, it would be quite unnecessary to deal with the Bill on its merits. I thought those merits were taken for granted, but, as the hon. Member has questioned the right of Birmingham to put forward this scheme, perhaps I may be allowed to explain its nature and the reasons for promoting it. Anyone who is acquainted with Birmingham knows perfectly well that, owing to the growth of population and to the expansion of its trade, it has for many years been overflowing its present boundaries and extending its area into the adjoining counties. Practically the whole of the land in the centre of Birmingham at the present time is built over, and the population in the centre of the city, instead of increasing, is decreasing, while the population in the surrounding districts 1726 is increasing very considerably. What the Bill proposes to do, shortly stated, is to include within the boundaries of the city certain of these outlying districts which are mainly urban in their character, which are within a radius of five miles of the centre of the city, and which, indeed, at the present time, are to all intents and purposes part and parcel of Birmingham in everything except name. More than that I do not think it necessary to say, especially as I do not wish to stand in the way of the other Bills of equal importance which are to be brought forward to-night. Speaking on behalf of the Birmingham City Council, who are the promotors of the Bill, I wish to express their indebtedness to my hon. Friends, who represent the surrounding counties of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Staffordshire, for the friendly manner in which they have received this Bill, and for the courtesy they have displayed in agreeing to allow it to go through its Second Reading without a Division and to be sent to the Committee upstairs. I should be quite prepared, if time allowed and if the occasion was proper, to argue with my hon. Friend the Member for the Lichfield Division as to the desirability of a large or a small municipal area to govern, or to argue with my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire as to the relative advantages of being governed by the Worcestershire County Council or the Birmingham City Council. But I recognise that it is entirely unnecessary for me to do that on the present occasion. I shall, however, on every stage of this Bill be prepared to defend the whole of it on its merits.
I fully recognise the justice of the claim, which is put forward by my hon. Friends, that the county councils whom they represent in this House should have the benefit of any recommendation which might be made by the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, which is about to be appointed, as to compensation being paid to those county councils when they are deprived of their rateable area in consequence of the extension of civic boundaries. I say on behalf of the Birmingham City Council that we quite recognise that right, and they are quite prepared to agree to a Clause being inserted in the Bill binding themselves to abide by any recommendation which that Committee may make. In order that that may be carried out, they are perfectly willing to assent 1727 to the Instruction which is later on to be moved by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birmingham. I wish before I sit down to say that it was a source of considerable regret to me that I ever found myself on opposite sides on a question of this kind so largely affecting the welfare of Birmingham to my hon. Friends the Members for Staffordshire, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire. I think I know that they are intimately acquainted with Birmingham and greatly interested in its welfare; in fact I regard them as belonging to Birmingham almost as much as I do myself. I think that Birmingham has long enjoyed the reputation of being the best governed city in the world, and if that reputation is justified I think they are bound to agree with me in thinking that it would be all for good if it became, instead of being one of the smaller cities, the second city of the Empire.
§ Mr. R. A. SANDERS
I only intervene in this Debate because I have a Motion down on the Paper to reject a Bill on similar lines to this, and I believe it would be for the general convenience that the discussion of the three Bills, which are similar, should be taken together. With regard to the Bill with which I am concerned, it is that for the extension of Bath. On behalf of the Somerset County Council I want to say that we are a little tender on this subject, because we have already had the same question in the case of Bristol. In that case we had to pay a very large sum to Bristol because they absorbed territory which was a loss to us, and now Bath is extending its boundaries and we claim that Bath should pay a sum to us because it is taking from us lucrative territory. It is for that reason we are opposing the Bill. We have no wish whatever to oppose the extension, but we do not want to lose money by it. Therefore I should be most happy to withdraw my opposition to the Bill if the right hon. Gentleman opposite could give me two undertakings—one is that the same Instruction that is moved by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birmingham should also apply to the Bath Bill, and the other is that counsel and witnesses should be heard before the Joint Committee. The members of our county council attach great importance to being able to employ counsel and call witnesses before the Joint Committee, and I should be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman would be able to 1728 give us some assurance on these two points. If he is able to do that the opposition to the Bill will be withdrawn.
§ Mr. T. F. WILSON
When one hears that Birmingham proposes to enlarge its boundaries by an area of fifty square miles, one wants to know on what principles the City Fathers arrived at this proposed change of Birmingham. Perhaps, they have done what a large city in the north was commended for doing. There the members of the council went to the highest point of the city overlooking the city and the countryside, and one of them said "Gentlemen, here is a great city, what shall our boundary be, no other boundary-is suitable for us but the sky line, let us; take the horizon for our boundary." Whether that be a good boundary or not, I am not prepared to say, but I think the other parts of England should be glad to know that Birmingham is not a. city upon a high hill, and that its skyline does not extend all over England. I rise for the purpose of thanking the Government and the President of the Board of Trade on behalf of the Scottish Members who agree with me for the offer to refer to a Joint Committee the question of compensation for loss of rateable value where a borough takes territory from a county. I have no quarrel with the boroughs in Scotland, for, with hon. Members who think as I do, we believe that the boroughs and the counties desire to act fairly by each other. We believe that both in the boroughs and the counties the local authorities recognise that the ratepayer is one individual whether he lives within the boundary of the borough, or whether he lives in the county; and what we are anxious about is that this very important question of compensation should be settled and should be put upon a definite basis. It seemed to me in hearing the offer made by the Prime Minister to the effect that the question of compensation for the loss of rateable value should be referred to a Joint Committee that that was rather limiting the question which should be submitted to this Joint Committee.
What I think both the boroughs and the counties would like settled is rather more than that. There is, first, the question of compensation for work executed by the county or by the borough in the territory which is about to be transferred from the one local authority to the other. Then there is the compensation, representing that proportion of the total debt of the 1729 county that the rateability of the area transferred to the borough bears to the rateable value of the whole county; then there is, third, compensation for the proportion of the standing charges of the county, such as the salaries of its officials, and there may remain, in the fourth place, the question of whether or not compensation should be awarded for loss of influence in respect of territory and rateable value. For nearly twenty years after the passing of the Local Government Act there was pretty general agreement as to the settlement and adjustment of these questions, but then there was an unfortunate decision in the Law Courts which caused a great deal of confusion, and the result is that neither the counties nor the boroughs know what the law is; and there has been a great deal of confusion and delay to the great disadvantage of the whole community, both in the counties and boroughs, and there is a. desire to have these questions settled once for all. Meantime there is enormous expense caused to the ratepayers both of the counties and the boroughs, because while these questions of compensation are unsettled, and you may say unsettleable, in conference between the borough and the council, you must have a fight in Parliament wherever the borough desires to enlarge its boundaries.
In the past the county with which I am connected has had many cases of county areas transferred to the borough where there was agreement. The matter was settled and adjusted, there was no Parliamentary fight, and there was a great saving in expense to the ratepayers both in the borough and the county. While this question is open it is a matter of life and death to the county to maintain its territory inviolable if it can, and that may not be in every case for the interest of the territory in dispute. But what cannot be of interest to any party, either county or borough, is that vast sums of money should be expended in litigation in London while the whole matter could be settled at a conference in the locality by the two authorities. The county of Lanark has somewhere about twelve boroughs in it, some of them very large and important. It might happen in a very few years that all these boroughs, seeking to enlarge their territory, would practically deprive the county of all that was of any great value, and you would have the county left with an enormous debt and with a whole body of capable officials, some of them well paid, and with a very 1730 small rateable value. I have therefore to express the great thanks of Scottish Members interested in this question to the Government for agreeing to refer this question to a Joint Committee, and I hope it will give a speedy decision.
§ Viscount LEWISHAM
I want to refer to one particular point, the grave loss which will be inflicted on the Poor Law Union of West Bromwich if this scheme ever becomes law. That union contains the parish of Handsworth, which has a higher rateable value than any other parish in the union, and it has comparatively speaking very few paupers. In fact, it is the plum of the whole union. Birmingham proposes to take that plum to itself, and the obvious result must be that the ratepayers in the other parishes will have a very heavy additional burden placed upon their shoulders. I understand that the details of that matter are rather for Committee than for Second Reading, and I only mention the point in order to express the hope that most careful and sympathetic consideration will be given by the Committee to the peculiar position of the West Bromwich Poor Law Union. I do not intend to move the Motion which stands in my name. I wish to associate myself with the hen. Member (Mr. Staveley-Hill) in saying that, while I withdraw my opposition to the Second Reading, it must not be taken that I may not consider it necessary to offer strenuous opposition to the measure in its subsequent stages.
§ Sir ALFRED CRIPPS
I want to make it quite clear at the outset that whatever happens as regards the Birmingham Bill we shall continue our opposition as regards the Reading measure. I think it is right to make that statement having regard to what was said by the hon. Member (Mr. Sanders). I have had as much experience as anyone in regard to these financial adjustments, and there is nothing more difficult, in order to get a fair result, than a financial adjustment as between a borough and a county where you have a borough extension, and I am not prepared to give my decision until I ascertain much more clearly what the proposal is, and what is the nature of the Committee to which the question is to be referred by the President of the Local Government Board. Under the Act of 1888, which was not meant for borough extensions at all, but was only intended to apply to existing areas, the 1731 principle laid down was that neither party should be a loser; in other words, that the ratepayers in the county and the ratepayers in the borough should be in the same position as before. I can remember as long ago as Lord Derby's Commission, which declared at a very early stage of the discussion that that was impossible, and that the mere fact of allocating the funds between the two parties must be a loss to one or the other. Assuming that one of these financial adjustments must operate so that one of the parties shall be in a worse financial position than before, will the President of the Local Government Board give an undertaking, as far as he can, that the loss shall not fall on the county ratepayer from whom the district is taken, but upon the borough ratepayer where the borough is the party seeking to take in the rateable area? I am certain he will agree with me that that is a question which has to be faced. Speaking as I do on behalf of the counties, I specifically put the question—I think it a most important one—Is it his view that in the case of borough extensions the county ratepayer should be protected against all possibility of financial loss? Unless he answers that question in the affirmative, in my view the county ratepayer has really no guarantee at all that he may not suffer a very severe loss.
Of course, in the old days, when these financial adjustments were made, compensation was given, and at the same time the funds were distributed in accordance with what was called the discontinued grant. There is no doubt that system operated greatly to the disadvantage very often of either one party or the other. It was grossly unfair if you were to apply financial adjustments generally. Since that principle has been upset by the decision in the House of Lords, arbitrators, and particularly Sir Hugh Owen, who has great experience, have dealt with these financial adjustments on a different principle altogether—on the principle as far as they can of preserving the status quo, so that neither the borough nor the county should be the loser. But taking the principles which have been adopted in recent cases, anyone who has any experience of this class of business will agree with me that, as a matter of fact, the county ratepayer has been largely affected in an adverse direction by all these financial adjustments, and the President of the Local Government Board must face this 1732 fact. Assuming that there must be a loss, and that always is the case when you break up an existing organisation as regards local government, will he state that in his view that loss ought to fall upon the party which is seeking to take the rateable area away from the county with which it is connected at present? My view upon that question is this. I think the Local Government Board as far as it has dealt with these matters has been unduly favourable to the borough as against the county interest. Of course, I know perfectly well that the present President of the Local Government Board will in every way act in the most impartial manner and according to what he thinks right and just. I admire him very much in respect of any decisions he has given, but at the same time there have been cases where the Local Government Board has practically assented to the desire of the borough and disregarded the position of the county. That really is not fair; county councils have heavy duties thrown upon them, and they are deserving of at least the same consideration as the urban areas. What I am now dealing with is the general principle, and I want to be quite certain that if this matter is going to a Joint Committee, we who represent county interests shall not be expected to accept a pig in a poke, or something we know nothing about. After all the human element comes in, and therefore I do not want to be left in that position. I want an assurance, so far as the President of the Local Government Board can give an assurance, that if this Bill goes on the county ratepayer shall not be penalised because, in the interests of the borough, a large portion of its best rateable area is taken away from the county area. I feel that in the Birmingham case the county interest has been given away to a certain extent, because, as far as I can ascertain, they have no guarantee that if the extension is allowed the county ratepayer will not be penalised. I agree with the hon. Member opposite that there is a great deal to be said against the whole principle in the Birmingham Bill, and I do not wish the county case to be given away before the other schemes come on for discussion.
§ Mr. BARNES
The hon. and learned Member (Sir A. Cripps) has put what I suppose he would call a leading question to the President of the Local Government Board. Although I had not intended to take part in this Debate, I rise 1733 to put a few matters before the President of the Local Government Board and to ask him to have them present in his mind before he answers the question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The answer suggested by the question of the hon. and learned Member was that the President of the Local Government Board should give a specific pledge that in this case and in the case of other extensions which may follow, the interest of the county shall be taken care of to the extent of the rateable value taken away or lost consequent on these extensions and that it will be made up to the county. It was put in more concrete form by another speaker, who stated that a penny rate in the adjacent county, for which he spoke, would, if this Bill became law, yield £5,000, whereas now a penny rate yields £8,000. Therefore by these particular figures we have it in concrete form that the right hon. Gentleman is expected to make some arrangement, or give his authority for some arrangement being made, whereby £3,000 shall be made up to the county. For my part, I hope he will give no such promise.
§ Mr. BARNES
At all events it was open to that interpretation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will keep in mind in dealing with this matter that to give any such interpretation or undertaking would stereotype what I regard as a present injustice. I speak from the point of view of the urban populations. We find that large towns throughout the whole length and breadth of this country are extending their areas so far as dense populations are concerned, and these populations are running outside the municipal boundaries. There are two results from this. First of all, in many cases the poorest of the population who have to live near their work, not from choice but from necessity, are left in the central parts of the large cities. Slums rise up, and the municipal authorities have to draw from that limited, and in many cases poor, area the money required to deal with the slums, and the poor people have in other ways to shoulder the municipal burdens. The rich people who own factories in the slum areas but do not live there, go outside to reside, and it is this wealthy fringe which is making up the £8,000 to which the hon. Member referred. Therefore I say if the right hon. Gentleman gave any pledge that to any considerable extent the boroughs are to 1734 make up in any shape or form this £8,000 he will be doing an injustice to the smaller areas. There is another thing taking place in connection with the enlargement of areas and dense populations. Within those populations you have a conflict of authority. My hon. Friend beside me, in arguing against this Bill, stated that Handsworth and another area adjacent to Birmingham, had certain municipal ambitions, and that but for this Bill they would have been made county boroughs. For my own part I think that a bad thing. I find that in Glasgow places are now county boroughs, and the areas run right into nearly the centre of Glasgow. What is the result? Constant conflict between the municipal authority of Glasgow and those of Govan and other places of a like character. The result is that many schemes of municipal enterprise upon which the authority of Glasgow had set its mind are thwarted by those conflicts which take place between the different bodies.
Let me remind the House of what we have been doing in Parliament. Last year the Town Planning Act was passed, and I take it that the success of that measure will very largely depend upon the centralised power being invested in some authority which will spread over a considerable area, because otherwise when you come to apply the Act there will be difficulty. I know that the Act is absolutely necessary in Glasgow, and I daresay the same may be said in regard to Birmingham, though I do not profess to know much about that city. The success of the Act will lie very largely in the fact that instead of having a number of small authorities around the margin of a large city there is one authority acting on behalf of a large area, and therefore planning out with something like scientific precision what is wanted for the community living in that area.
Then, again, we have large schemes of water supply, and we have tramway systems constantly being started, as a result of which municipal populations are being spread over larger areas. This is a very good thing. We want to spread people out. I should like to see Glasgow spread over two or three times its present area. It at present contains almost a million people, and I should like to see them occupy two or three times as much ground as they do, but that cannot foe done until we have some authority acting for the 1735 larger area I have only heard one argument against this which has even the semblance of validity about it. It was put up by the hon. Member for Middleton (Mr. Adkins). He says it is possible for cities to get so large that the individual loses the sense of civic consciousness, and that working people especially lose the power of criticism of their municipal council which is possessed in the case of smaller areas. I admit that there is something in that argument. But I do not think that this Bill, even if passed, will make Birmingham so large as to be beyond the control of its inhabitants. I do not know of any city in this country which has a keener sense of civic consciousness and applies stricter supervision and criticism to its; municipal councillors than Glasgow does, and yet Glasgow has nearly, if not quite, a million of people within its municipal boundaries. Even if this Bill passes Birmingham will not have a million of people. Therefore I see no reason to fear that any of the results that have been referred will follow the passing of this Bill. For my part, speaking for the towns, on behalf of those populations whose enterprise has done so much for the better housing of the people, and of many places which desire to do a great deal more, and speaking on behalf of many places which have extended their tramway system and not themselves got the benefit of those tramways because they have taken the richest of their inhabitants outside the municipal boundary, I hope that this Bill will pass, and that the right hon. Gentleman will not give ear to the appeals made to him from the other side, which, in my humble judgment, are made very largely on behalf of the landed interest of the country.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. John Burns)
I have heard to-night with peculiar pleasure the interesting speeches which have been made on this Bill from all parts of this House. I heard nothing with greater pleasure than the statements which have been made by hon. Members who had Motions and Instructions upon the Paper that it is not their intention at the present stage to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, and in other cases to move some of the Instructions that are placed upon the Paper, and the House, if I may say so, deserves every credit for the non-partisan and disinterested way in which apparently conflicting interests have ap- 1736 proached this large and serious subject. I can assure all Members, whether they represent urban or county council areas, that the past conduct of the Local Government Board in this particular matter is a guarantee and an earnest that until this Bill is finally disposed of, my Department will display towards this particular measure that sense of fairness and generosity that has characterised the speeches this evening, and it is essential that one should prove that attitude by dealing with a few of the speeches that have been made answering some of the questions that have been put, and dealing with one or two of the points submitted by Members who intended to move with regard to Bath and Reading Instructions similar to those which are down with regard to Birmingham. If the House will allow me, I will take seriatim and in their order the various points that have been put to me. The first is that put by the hon. Member for Middleton, who speaks here on behalf of the County Councils' Association in conjunction with Lord Belper, who took a similar attitude in another place. He asked whether, in the event of this Bill receiving its Second Reading, as there is every sign it will, what will happen with regard to the Joint Committee. I reply to him on the general question that considering that the law now denies compensation to the county councils for alleged loss of rateable value, the Government and Birmingham Corporation, which is promoting the Bill, deserve some credit, which I am glad to say has been accorded to them, for their willingness to meet this point in general and so far as principle is concerned by consenting to Lord Belper's Motion in another place that the question of compensation for loss of rateable value shall be remitted to a strong and impartial Joint Committee, that will consider this vital question of principle as a thing apart from the municipal aspects and details of the Bill. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that to the best of our ability we will try to secure—and I am not alone the arbiter in this matter, as he knows—but I will do the best I possibly can to secure that the Select Committee to consider this and the other two Bills should sit and act concurrently with the Joint Committee in considering the question of compensation, if any, that the counties are to secure. I will also make representations to the right authority that neither the councils nor the urban authority should suffer re- 1737 spectively from loss of adequate representation by the appearance of a certain number of counsel to put the respective points before the Joint Committee; and on the third point put to me by the hon. Member for Middleton I will do all that is within my power to see that the Committee is set up as soon as possible, that it is fair and representative, and that it will get to work on its reference as soon as is compatible with the arduous duties it has to undertake. I trust that my hon. and learned Friend will be quite satisfied with those three assurances that I most cheerfully give.
The only other point I wish to deal with is that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Ince Division. He secured a certain amount of support by stating that no case had been made out for this Bill. It is not for me to assume in this matter the role of partisan or to adopt the line of advocate. The hon. Member mentioned Aston Manor, which he said but for this Bill might be incorporated. The answer is that Aston Manor opposed this Bill at the inquiry, which cost nearly £20,000 to the various local authorities. After the inquiry Aston Manor, sober and clothed in its right mind, had a vote of its ratepayers, and decided by 1,000 in favour of being absorbed in the encroaching area. Then as to Handsworth, the case is not quite so conclusive as that of Aston Manor, but Handsworth had an election recently, after the inquiry was held, and made this an issue, with the result that the candidate who was in favour of absorption into Birmingham was elected by nearly four to one. Erdington opposed, but since the inquiry the urban council has decided not to continue opposition, and they are favourably disposed towards the Bill. One of those who were most ardently against the Bill was Yardley, but Yardley only decided by 106 votes to oppose, and when the district council considered the matter they decided by twelve to eleven votes to continue their opposition before the Committee. Then my hon. Friend said, "Why should Birmingham be extended?" I put it that Birmingham supplies gas, water, electric light, tramways, and to a great extent drainage, not only for the whole of the area in Birmingham, but the large areas outside, and if this Bill is passed Birmingham will be able to go further and assist poorer communities out of the profits of the more profitable corporate society. 1738 The poorer communities will thereby derive a benefit great compared with what they have contributed during a short time. My hon. Friend, who spoke for Scotland, thanked the Government for what the Government had done in regard to Scotland. I may answer his question by saying that we cheerfully include Scotland within the terms of the Joint Committee. I have no doubt Scotland, with that power of persuasion which enables thirteen Scotchmen to be in a Cabinet of nineteen, will make herself heard. Then the other point submitted to me was that submitted by the hon. Member who represents the West Bromwich Guardians. If he will allow me, with all respect, to say so, the point he raises is a Committee point. The guardians will have an adequate opportunity of putting their views before the Select Committee, and making representations that will, I believe, secure as full justice on every point submitted as on any put by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. He asked two questions. He said that he knows by vast experience that the question of financial adjustment is a very difficult one to decide. It is because it is so difficult to decide that I am disinclined to usurp the functions of the strong Joint Committee we have decided to set up to specially consider that particular point. I have sufficient knowledge of what that Joint Committee will attempt to do, to make it unfair as President of the Local Government Board to attempt to anticipate the finding of the Committee. I will not attempt to usurp its functions by giving it a line. I am content, with Lord Belper and the county councils, to leave the question of the financial adjustment, subsequently to be decided, with the Joint Committee and the strong tribunal the county councils have asked me to set up. The other point is as to what is going to happen to Bath and Reading. I propose, when the Bath and Beading Bills come on, to apply to them the Instruction that is going to be applied to Birmingham. I am sure the hon. Members affected will be content with that. The next point is that raised by the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Dublin. Might I suggest to him that this is not so much Birmingham's Bill as it is a Government Bill promoted after careful inquiry, and for which the Local Government Board is responsible? As I had the honour and pleasure of voting for the extension of Dublin eleven years ago, I trust the hon. Member will not make me a 1739 vicarious sacrifice for the votes of the Birmingham Members when the proposed extension of Dublin was submitted. The better plan is to heap coals of fire on the Birmingham Members, who, eleven years ago, did not vote as the hon. Member would have liked, in the hope that by so doing, when an Irish town with strong claims comes forward again, they can use their support of the Birmingham Bill as a means for demanding that the Irish Bill will receive more sympathetic consideration. Is it right that this Bill should go upstairs? My brief answer is that this Bill deals with a large area; it includes a large population; it absorbs a large rateable value. All these only mean additions to the power and capacity of this area, irrespective of civic boundaries, to deal with its housing and public health problems, with means and opportunities proportioned to handling the affairs of this vast population and adequate to their needs. In a word these areas are near enough to be friends. I trust the Joint Committee will equip this large area with an opportunity of being collective partners in a civic organisation that will allow Birmingham to develop itself on right lines, and in so doing not retard the outside areas, but help them to do things that they could not do if they were left alone. I can assure hon. Members who represent the counties that if they allow this Bill a Second Reading, and if the Government accept the Instruction standing in the name of the hon. Member for one of the Birmingham Divisions, all of us will be pursuing the line of least resistance in giving Birmingham and its area, which has community of trade and community of interests, an effective opportunity of grappling with municipal and social burdens, and I for one ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Mr. BAIRD
As representing one of the county divisions which is affected by this Bill, I think my Constituents justify me in withdrawing opposition to the Second Reading of this measure. A bargain has been entered into with regard to the financial aspect of the question, and we agree to forego opposition on this stage on the understanding that the financial question will be decided by the Joint Committee. For that reason, and that reason alone, opposition is withdrawn, while retaining an absolutely free hand, to oppose, if necessary, on subsequent stages in respect of other matters.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I occupy a, somewhat difficult position in this matter, because I have a great many constituents who are occupied during the day in Birmingham and a great many people who reside in Handsworth itself. They are to get, it is proposed, a lower tramway rate if this district becomes part of the Birmingham area, but, so far as I can make out, the Handsworth authority have a tramway scheme which would entirely do away with any difficulty in that respect. In regard to the Joint Committee, I entirely agree with the President of the Local Government Board, and if it is to meet and consider the whole question on its merits I think that the appointment of this Committee would lead to the most satisfactory solution of our difficulties.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
I beg to move: "That it be an Instruction to the Committee that, if they pass the Preamble of the Bill, they shall insert a Clause in the Bill providing that financial adjustments shall be made in accordance with the decision of the Joint Committee of both Houses on Financial Relations when ascertained, such financial adjustments to take effect as from the date of the coming into operation of the Order."
The terms of this Instruction have been agreed upon and approved between those Members of the House who are promoters of the Bill and those Members of the House who are opponents of the Bill. For that reason I hope that this Instruction will receive the approval of the House without any further or any lengthy words of commendation. I would like to add my testimony to the way in which we have been met by the Opposition—by those who Tinder other circumstances would have opposed the Bill—and may I add one word specially with regard to the attitude of the Members for the City of Dublin? I believe that they might well have been induced as a matter of reprisal to have opposed this Bill, but I am quite sure that they have risen in the esteem of everyone by preferring principles. I have pleasure in moving the Instruction.
§ Mr. RYLAND ADKINS
On behalf of the County Councils Association, while we are not entirely satisfied with the Instruction, we do not propose to divide the House. I take it, from what the right 1741 hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board has said, that it is his intention that the work of the Joint Committee shall proceed pari passu with the work of the Special Committee on the Birmingham Bill. I have reason to believe that while the other Instructions have been ruled out of order, the interdependence of these two matters can be raised at a later stage. I shall not raise them unless it becomes necessary. Therefore, while I cannot support this Instruction, I certainly shall not divide the House. I am grateful for it as far as it goes, although in my judgment it does not go far enough.
Mr. ERNEST POLLOCK
I rise to ask if the right hon. Gentleman will give the assurance which I asked on the Second Beading, namely, that the last line of the Instruction—" such financial adjustment to take effect as from the date of the coming into operation of the Order"— shall be made effective, not only as to the amount, that is as to the period for which the financial compensation shall be given if it is agreed to by the Members of the Joint Committee, but also that some effective means shall be given so as to make it operative with date. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate what I mean when I say that at certain periods of time rates have to be ordered. If you are going to give us compensation without giving power to those who receive the compensation to apply to the proper amount, you are not really giving the financial adjustment that is desired.
It is a matter which can be dealt with by clauses, but it is one in which special powers ought to be given. I am sure that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Adkins) will agree that it is an important point, not merely that the compensation should cover the period, but also that power should be given to the local authorities who receive it, to attribute the sum to the right purposes and the right accounts although it relates to a period which is past.
§ Mr. BURNS
Twelve months is the period in the Order in which adjustments can be made, and the precise time at which they shall come into operation, I have not the least doubt, will be well within that period. In the event of the period not being long enough, it is within the power of the Select Committee, and certainly within the jurisdiction of the Local Government Board, to extend it; and I shall be only too pleased with regard to the date of the apportionment of the 1742 various sums, if so decided by the Joint Committee, to bear the hon. Member's suggestion in mind. But he is now asking me to do a number of things that are within the province of the Select Committee, so far as the details are concerned, and as to the amounts and the dates at which the apportionments should be made. Earlier in the Debate I did my best to deal with that particular point, but what representations are within my power I will make, so as to satisfy the hon. Member to the best of my ability.
Mr. ERNEST POLLOCK
The right hon. Gentleman does not quite appreciate my point. I know that there is a lapse of time before the amounts are ascertained; but when you are trying to give adjustments and compensation, inasmuch as a lapse of time will have taken place and certain rates will have been levied, that is exactly why the difficulty I am urging arises. In the Bill in which these clauses are to be put— it is not a question of the Committee—will he see that powers are given to the local authorities who receive the amounts to appropriate them to the accounts to which they ought to be appropriated?
§ Question put, and agreed to.