§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."
§ Mr. STAVELEY-HILL
moved to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
Before I refer in detail to the point which I shall have to deal with as to my reasons for moving my Amendment, I think, speaking in what is after all a new House, one is more or less obliged to go back. What is the history of this measure? My hon. Friends and myself have to account for our position on 6th July and our position to-day. It will be remembered that when this Provisional Order Bill was before the House in that month for Second Reading, a motion for its rejection was put down by several hon. Members, and when it came to my lot to move this rejection I felt that the position was one of very great difficulty. The Prime Minister had just made a statement of very great importance, a statement to which I must draw the attention of the House, because upon it our conduct on the Bill was altered entirely. Many of us for a long time, owing to the increasing desire of boroughs to extend their boundaries, had asked that the question of compensation should be put upon a fair and a sound and a permanent basis. We had asked for a Committee to inquire into these principles, 1322 and the Prime Minister, speaking a few days before this Bill came up for Second Reading in the House, said:—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 to the Bills as 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 counties concerned shall be on those lines. I understand there is good ground for hoping that this course will be taken, and I am sure I can rely on my hon. Friend using his best efforts to that end."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1910, col. 1325.]With that before us, as I say, it would have been illogical to divide the House. We made our protest and we reserved on all future stages of the Bill our right to oppose it. We take this opportunity tonight of exercising those reserved rights, and to a large extent we are exercising them—not entirely, but to a large extent—because we understood from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Burns) that the Committee promised in that statement by the Prime Minister would be set up at an early date. I am not going to put into the right hon. Gentleman's mouth words which he did not say, but I think from the statement which he made on 6th July, it implied that it was his intention, at any rate, to do his best to set up that Committee at once, because this is what the right hon. Gentleman said:—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—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 Councils are to secure.We thought, and we hoped, at any rate, if the right hon. Gentleman was not the entire arbiter, he would at any rate have considerable influence in securing what he told us he desired. It is a long distance in time since July 6th. The Committee may have been set up, but the names of the Committee are not known to my hon. Friends or myself, and we are not prepared with the Clause in the Bill which we, of course, are familiar with, to let it go through, until we have before us some further idea as to what the Committee think about it. We thought when the Parliamentary Committee reported, we should have contemporaneously the Report of the Joint Committee. Upon that, we withdrew our opposition last July. It is in the absence of that, that we bring our opposition here to-day. It is perhaps as well that the House should remember 1323 what the duty is, that is thrown upon the Committee which the right hon. Gentleman is setting up. Its duty is to ascertain what Amendments may be required in the Local Government Act of 1888 and 1894, and what changes are necessary to remove the friction which at the present moment, unfortunately exists between boroughs and counties. There is no doubt about it, however much one may deplore it, that the present condition of things between boroughs and counties, where boroughs are endeavouring to enlarge their boundaries, is an unpleasant one and is causing a considerable amount of friction. If you go back to the Act of 1888, and the Act of 1894, administrative counties and county boroughs were set up. By Section (32) of that Act equitable adjustment was provided respecting the financial arrangements between the county and the county borough, or, failing agreement, by Commissioners appointed. There was the Commission known as Lord Derby's Commission, which adjusted matters for a period of time, and from 1889 to 1894 compensation was given to all counties for the area transferred. Then comes on the scene the legal decision in Caterham Education, which was the cause of all the trouble under which we labour. The result of that decision was that financial adjustments must not include compensation from one body to another. That is the reason why we ask for a Committee to put this thing on a permanent basis. That it is not at present on a permanent basis is quite clear, because, subsequent to the decision to which I have referred, other boroughs, whose names I could give—though possibly it is not worth while—have carried out this object by agreement. But that is not what we want. Agreement is not permanency, and it is for permanency we ask. On this particular Bill I am only entitled to speak for that county, a part of which I have the honour to represent. My hon. Friends who represent Worcestershire, Warwickshire, will put their case as regards their counties in their own way. Staffordshire is in an unfortunate position. That county has recently lost a very large rateable area in what is known as the Potteries, to which I will in a moment or two refer. But before I give the details which actually affect Staffordshire, I will ask the House to look at this Bill. Hon Members will see that it is not an 1324 ordinary borough going out a few miles and taking in a suburb. You have here a huge scheme for the extension of the city of Birmingham. Please do not think that I myself or any of my hon. Friends who are opposing this measure are actuated by any hostility to the city of Birmingham in any shape or form. Hon. Members who support the scheme are acting in the true sense of representatives of the people who elected them, and we, on the other side, are endeavouring to look after the interests of our Constituents. This scheme is going to make Birmingham four times as large as it is at present. It is going to add 30,241 acres. It is going to add a population of 330,000, and it is going to add a rateable value of £1,336,291. The result of the extensions of these boundaries will be to make Birmingham 43,718 acres with a population of 895,000, and a rateable value of £4,270,221. The extended city will be practically ten miles across. That is a noble ideal. Let Birmingham be pleased with it, but do not expect those who are asked to come into the city to be equally pleased. Handsworth is the only part of Staffordshire affected, and it has throughout from the very suggestion of the scheme opposed it. The people there oppose it because they believe they can govern themselves better than Birmingham could govern them. The President of the Local Government Board, or some other supporter of the scheme, will probably say that Handsworth is afraid to take a poll. It is true that the people of Handsworth did not take a poll, but they did what is perhaps more effective than taking a poll; they passed resolutions by enormous majorities at meetings held throughout the whole of their district. The resolutions were to the effect that they disapproved of annexation. It is common ground between us—and my hon. Friend the Member for East Birmingham will not contradict me—that during the whole of the Committee stage no attack was made on the management and the efficiency of Handsworth. It was admitted that the administration was good, even by the witnesses called in favour of the annexation scheme. When in July the Second Reading Debate took place the President of the Local Government Board said that Handsworth had recently had an election after the Local Government inquiry and that both parties agreed that they would make this one of the issues of the election, and that the candidate who was in favour of absorption by Birmingham 1325 was elected by nearly four to one. The right hon. Gentleman made that statement naturally in good faith, but I would point out that it was a bye-election to which he referred. It took place in one of the five wards, and the unsuccessful candidate secured, I am informed, 27½ per cent. of the votes. To a large extent that particular election was fought on political lines, but if there was any other ground which was introduced, other than politics, it was not the question of annexation to Birmingham, but some question in connection with a tramway system to Birchfield. I believe that had an enormous effect in turning the election, and the right hon. Gentleman knows, as well as I do, how trifling a thing turns an election which is dependent on a larger issue. The first and main objection I have to this Bill is that you are going to give the management of 900,000 persons to one authority. I thought it was generally said that a population of 500,000 was about as much as could be managed. You are taking population from an efficient area and handing them over to an area which will be absolutely unwieldy. My second objection is that the administration of so large a body of persons in so enlarged an area will be left mainly to officials. In such a large area and population the ratepayers' control over local expenditure is very much reduced, and there is a difficulty in organising combined action. The people would not have the voice in such matters as the people of Handsworth have now. Let us look at what experience has taught us in Staffordshire. I spoke just now of the Federation. Whether it is the fault of the Federation or not, the result has been that in all the six places that have been federated the rates have gone up by leaps and bounds. In Burslem, where they were 8s. 1d. in 1907, they are now 10s. 1½d., and in Longton, where they were 8s. 5d., they are now 10s. 1d.
Naturally other places are frightened because similar results will happen to them; and when they have been considered before a Parliamentary Committee as being capable of managing their own affairs we see no reason why they should be placed in the hands of others who are going to make a profit out of them. I will make good those words "going to make a profit out of them," because the County of Stafford makes a profit from Handsworth of between £5,000 and £6,000 a year. If this Committee does not report in favour of compensation, and, in the absence of such report, if there is to be no compensation, 1326 then this £5,000 or £6,000 is to be handed over to the friends of the Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Steel-Maitland) without paying anything for it. Birmingham is going to secure that full amount for nothing. During the Second Reading Debate my Noble Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Viscount Lewisham) was the only successful person, and he succeeded in keeping the union outside Birmingham, and, therefore, it still remains in West Bromwich; and under these changed circumstances, if the circumstances do change, Handsworth will be in the West Bromwich Union and not in the Union of Birmingham at all. It will be suggested that Handsworth has been made by Birmingham, that the trams have run out there from Birmingham, and have made Handsworth what it is. I have yet to learn that the trams have been run for philanthropic purposes. The persons who travel in the trams pay for so doing, and so assist the municipal enterprise. But that constitutes no claim that they should come within the borough. It is often suggested that the people of outlying districts come and shop in Birmingham, but they pay for their goods, and thus are assisting those persons to pay the rates in Birmingham. They walk in the parks and use the streets of Birmingham; but the people from the towns come out to the country and use the lanes and hedges, and sometimes do considerable damage, yet no one asks that they should pay rates for that. I think that there should be some reciprocity. It should not be all one way. I appeal to those representatives from counties who will very likely suffer from a similar measure before long. This gradual encroachment having started is not going to end there. Bath, I believe, is shortly going to suffer. Reading has, if I mistake not, already somewhat suffered. Cambridge is looming in the distance. It may be that if a basis of compensation is arranged these matters may be settled amicably, but in the absence of that compensation and in the absence of any such basis I say we are more than amply justified in refusing to allow, so far as in us lies, the further consideration of a measure which is going to deal very detrimentally with the three counties until we know that we have absolutely secured fair compensation for those who live in those counties. I am actuated by no desire to do any harm to Birmingham, but solely by the desire to protect those whom I have the honour to represent.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
On the occasion of the last appearance of this Provisional Order in this House I had the honour of speaking after my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. Staveley-Hill), and making a few remarks, explaining, as far as I was able, the special point of view as affecting the towns I have the honour to represent. I do not propose to repeat what I said on that occasion. Most Members present to-night are sufficiently familiar with the details of this Bill to know that my county is the one that suffers most in loss of population of area and of rateable value; and not only that, we are the county which of the three counties concerned can least afford to lose either area or population or rateable value. But while I remember quite well that we withdrew our opposition on the undertaking of the Prime Minister, I remember also, as my learned Friend has reminded me this evening, that we reserved the right to criticise and oppose, if necessary, this Provisional Order at a later stage. I do it to-night more freely because since the passing of the Second Reading there has arisen a new point which to my mind materially affects, or certainly may materially affect, the ratepayers in my own county of Worcester. The rock on which this Provisional Order might have split is the rock of finance. Finance is really at the bottom of the whole trouble. I know it is at the bottom of our position, and I believe if the truth were known it is at the bottom of the desire of Birmingham to get hold of our rateable area. But this subject by far the most important part of it has not been discussed or investigated. The Committee upstairs which dealt with the Bill had hardly anything to say on the financial question. They refused to discuss it, all such points being reserved for the consideration of this Joint Committee, which is still to be set up. But it prejudices the case of the county, because it has been impossible for us to throw any light before the Committee upstairs on certain aspects of finance which they think might have influenced the consideration of the Committee. But though they were unable to do it before the Committee it may not be within the knowledge of every Member of the House to-night that an action has been begun between a Birmingham ratepayer and the Corporation and Treasurer of the City of Birmingham with regard to certain financial dealings on the part of the Corporation. It is a matter of common knowledge that such actions as these have to be 1328 indorsed by fiat of the learned Attorney-General before any further action can be taken, and the granting of that fiat seems to me and all lay Members of the House as showing that a primâ facie case at least exists on the part of the person who is making the claim. The claim in question is in regard to the accounts of the Gas Committee. I do not propose to go into these matters in detail at all, because I do not believe that this is the place to do it, and the details of the case are not necessarily germane to my argument. The details of the case will be investigated in a court of law, and in due time we shall have a pronouncement of His Majesty's judges upon them. But the point that concerns me, as representative of Worcester county and the ratepayers of the county, is this: The allegation which has received the fiat of the Attorney-General is that the Corporation of Birmingham have received sums of the money which are bound by law to be kept solely for the purposes of capital expenditure; and that this money, which may legally only be used for such purposes has been used for items which should have been paid for out of the current revenue of the undertaking. Hon. Members who are interested in these matters will recognise that the whole case is very closely akin to one on which judgment has been given at no distant date in regard to the borough of West Ham. My point, and the ratepayers' point, is this: In commercial language there is a contingent liability hanging over Birmingham, a possible liability that may amount to something over £200,000. We have had no statement on this matter from any Birmingham representatives so far, and the inhabitants of the district which it is proposed to incorporate in this Birmingham scheme, have been living until quite recently in sublime ignorance of this charge that was hanging over their heads. How does it hang over their heads? It hangs over them in this way. If His Majesty's judges follow up the verdict given in the West Ham case, the corporation of Birmingham will have to make good all money that has been paid out of capital sums for items which should have been charged against revenue. In other words, it will have to raise a sum exceeding £200,000 in amount. There is no provision in the Order that this sum should be raised only on the Birmingham ratepayers as they exist to-day; which means that all the surrounding districts which are being brought in may be equally 1329 liable, subject only to the very small remedy they obtain in the matter of differential rating with the Birmingham ratepayers to make good the loss, the responsibility for which cannot by any stretch of imagination be said to rest upon them. I would not be doing my duty to-night as a representative of the county of Worcester, if I did not ask the House whether this is not a sound reason for postponing the operation of this Provisional Order until this very important question has been settled in the court of law. Or, if it is found impossible, owing to a certain impatience which has been manifested on the side of the promoters, to respond to our appeal to that extent, should it not be met by a Clause in the Bill that the responsibility for finding this money shall rest on the Birmingham ratepayers and not on Worcester and Warwickshire ratepayers, who may be included in the new area. I think that the one point which I have put before the House for consideration to-night is of very great weight, and should have influence with men of impartial mind in coming to a conclusion and in recording their vote on an occasion of this kind.
§ Mr. RYLAND ADKINS
I only wish to point out very briefly to the Committee the point of view which is taken by the Association of County Councils, which has had a great deal to do with the case in both Houses last year, out of which arose the answer given here by the Prime Minister, to which the hon. and learned Member for Kingswinford referred at the beginning of his speech. I think that the members of the Committee, whether they represent boroughs or counties, would all be glad if some final and equitable settlement of this constant and recurring difficulty as to financial adjustment, financial compensation between boroughs and counties, could be effected. It is a real injury to local government in this country that changes of this kind, which are obviously desirable in many cases, should be accompanied by this additional and unnecessary sort of friction. Therefore I take it that this Committee, and I hope the Committee in another place, still are unanimous in desiring that this matter should be attended to, and attended to at once. I agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that it is much to be regretted that the joint Committee could not have been appointed in the last Parliament and have worked pari passu with the 1330 Committee upstairs, which has spent so much time on this Birmingham Bill. I am only concerned here to-night with this question of financial adjustment. I do not interpose as to the domestic differences between Birmingham and its neighbours, although I am entitled to my opinion. I am dealing only with the question of financial adjustment, and I hope that it may not be necessary for this Committee to refuse the Report stage on this occasion, because I am bound to say that it is not in the public interests that this important Birmingham project should be unnecessarily prolonged in any of its stages. I rise chiefly to make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees, and to my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board—a suggestion which I hope may be agreed to. The Mover of the Amendment quite fairly referred to this Committee as not having been set up, but Members who are acquainted with what occurred in another place a few days ago will know that the Committee at the present moment is in process of being set up. While we have all at times quarrelled with the Government as to want of speed, or other human frailties, it is only fair that we should admit now that this Committee will undoubtedly in a very few days be agreed upon between the two Houses of Parliament. The suggestion which I respectfully submit to my right hon. Friends is this—that one or other of them shall give an undertaking that the names of those who compose this Committee, the names of Members of this House, shall be made public forty-eight hours before the Second Reading of the Bill is put down for consideration. If that were done, this Committee would know, and the House would know, who are those of its Members to whom this responsible duty is to be given. It would know that the Committee had been set up, and the extent of time which the Committee would take. The fortunes of this Bill in another place may, I think, be left to be dealt with there. Once that Committee is really appointed, and the Members are approved—I have no doubt they will be approved by the House—then the Third Reading in Debate may take place, and I make that suggestion now, in the interests not only of Birmingham, but also in the interest of the administrative county which really cannot wait much longer for the settlement of this important question. I think if that can be responded to by the 1331 Government that it might be well for the House to allow this Report stage to go forward so far as regards that general argument.
I am not in any way intervening in the particular issue between Birmingham and the surrounding counties, nor do I intervene with regard to the interesting statements which were made by the hon. Member who spoke last. If this Committee is appointed at once I hope we shall not consider the reference to it of a clause to be inserted in a Bill after it has passed this House to be a precedent for future legislation. It is undoubtedly important that no clause in a Bill, and still less a clause of wide and general application, should be inserted in a Bill after it has passed from the cognisance of this House. I see the urgency, the very natural urgency, in this matter, of a great city engaged in an important undertaking, and equally the urgency of the county authorities, who feel their power of discharging their duties seriously affected by the present position. Therefore, under those circumstances, if we were now to know who the Committee are to be, and approved of the Committee of this House, I for one would not carry my opposition further. I do wish to enter that protest, as to this being made a precedent for future legislation. There is a matter I desire to mention. Before the Committee on the Birmingham Bill a clause has been drawn which professes—I do not mean the phrase discourteously—and which is intended, to deal with whatever may be settled by the Joint Committee. That clause, as drafted and passed by the Committee, is a clause which is open to grave doubt as to its meaning and as to its scope. I had some idea of putting down an Amendment to that clause. I refrained from doing so for two reasons. I do not think that the House, sitting on Report stage, is a good place in which to discuss the exact effect of a highly technical clause in law. For reasons I have already given I did not wish to delay the Bill unnecessarily on a point of that kind, if there was to be a real opportunity of the matter being considered.
I do hope that the House will remember the words of the Prime Minister, as quoted by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and in the other House what was mentioned by Lord Crewe last year, and, and again mentioned by Lord Crewe a week ago. It was made perfectly plain 1332 that the real substance of the reference to the Joint Committee is not only to be that financial adjustment should not take place without compensation, but also compensation from one authority to the other, if and when the Joint Committee find such compensation is necessary for the equitable arrangement of matters between the parties. The only way, it seems to me, in which that can now be emphasised is by taking the opportunity of this Debate to remind the House of what has been definitely promised in both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, I am sure, if the Birmingham Bill, on other grounds, passes this House, and passes another House, if it comes back here with this clause altered in phraseology to meet the doubt which lawyers of eminence entertain as to its present meaning, then I am sure this House will feel it will be only carrying out the pledges of its Leader and the general agreement amongst Members if they adopt such Amendments as will be found to be necessary. I therefore took this opportunity of bringing that matter to the notice of the House. I know it is not a mere fad or fancy that the phrase adopted upstairs is not certain in its meaning. I believe that the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Pollock) feels very strongly that there is very great doubt as to the effect of the words chosen upstairs. We should loyally accept the promise of the Government as to the Joint Committee, and I hope to hear that the names of the Committee will be made public in a reasonable time before the Third Reading. I also, on this occasion, call attention to what the Prime Minister said before the Bill becomes law, if it is to become law, on the general merits, so that there shall be no ambiguity as to this particular clause, and so that under this Bill the boroughs and counties shall know that the determination of the adjustment between them was intended, as it is intended, to include the payment of compensation, should that be found to be equitable and right in any particular case.
§ Mr. PARKES
I am sure the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will receive a sympathetic hearing on the part of hon. Members from Birmingham, and especially with regard to the names of those who are to be on this committee of adjustment. As far as I am concerned, and I believe I am speaking for the other Members of Birmingham, we are quite willing that the Third Reading should not take place until the names of the Committee 1333 are before us. I understood from a considerable portion of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment that his objection was financial, or as to the matter of adjustment, and I understood from the hon. Member for Bewdley Division (Mr. Baldwin) that it was a financial question. I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member for the Kingswinford Division (Mr. Staveley-Hill) say that his main objection to the Bill was the increase of Birmingham to a population of 900,000. I should like to know if his objection was financial or against allowing Birmingham to grow into a larger town. I should be sorry if this Debate was to develop into a question of county versus borough. I think it is undesirable that it should. It is not a party question, or a question of county against borough. I think it stands on higher grounds. It stands upon the grounds of the desirability of the scheme itself, irrespective of whether it is a county or a borough measure. It stands upon the question of the desire of the inhabitants round these large towns as to whether they want it to become associated with the large town, or desire to remain as they are at present. With regard to the statement that this would lead to an increase of officials, I would say that the officials would be decreased. There would be the unification of the Poor Law, which is now under many authorities. It would be put under one administration.
Since the Second Reading, and by the way this seems to be like a second reading over again, a great deal has happened in the progress of this scheme. The authorities have come round and agreed upon the scheme in a marvellous manner. The question is narrowing its limits, and is now in very small compass indeed. We have Erdington, Aston Manor, Kings Norton, Northfield, and Yardley in favour of this Bill. There is only one local authority which at the present time is really in opposition, and that is the Handsworth portion. Of course the counties of Staffordshire and Worcestershire are opposing. I think they are opposing it mainly from the county point of view. I think the opposition of Staffordshire is to a large extent taken away by Handsworth remaining in the West Bromwich area so far as Poor Rate is concerned. The local authorities are not manifesting the opposition they did before. Out of five districts, only one now stands out. What are the reasons for Handsworth standing out? I cannot exactly fathom them myself; but I believe that Handsworth itself is coming round to 1334 a large extent. There has never been a poll of the inhabitants taken, and I do not say that the majority of the local council are in our favour; but I venture to say that the local council do not represent the opinion of Handsworth as a whole upon this question. I will give several reasons why Handsworth should take the view that we do. The boundaries between Hands-worth and Birmingham are indistinguishable. Anyone wolking from one part to the other would not know when he left Birmingham, and when he arrived at Handsworth. A great deal was said in the last debate about community of interest. Is there community of interest between Birmingham and the districts which are sought to be incorporated? I say there is.
§ Mr. PARKES
I say there is community of interest between the whole of the districts concerned. Birmingham supplies these districts with gas and water at equal prices to those charged in the Birmingham district. The drainage system in the Handsworth and the Birmingham districts is the same. It is said that about sixty per cent. of the male adult population of Handsworth find their occupation in Birmingham. These outside districts use all the great institutions of Birmingham—educational and scientific institutions, parks, baths, galleries, and University. There is complete community of interest; in fact these districts may be said to be the outgrowth of Birmingham enterprise. Although a poll of Handsworth has not been taken, I will give two indications shewing the opinion of Handsworth upon the question. There has been two elections in a certain ward in that district. Both candidates were annexationists. With regard to the first election, it was claimed that the tram question decided it; that is a matter of debate. But at the second election the candidate's only platform was that of annexation, and he was elected unopposed. I submit that that is an indication of the state of public opinion in the Handsworth district. The population of Handsworth is about 73,000; its rates are 7s. 7d. in the £, while the rates of Birmingham are 8s. 2d. Birmingham, however, offers Handsworth a differential rate of 6d. in the £.
§ Mr. PARKES
For ten years. Hands-worth will also have in her favour 4d. on the Poor Rate of her district. Hence she 1335 will be paying, under this arrangement, 10d. less in the £ than the Birmingham district. In other words, she will pay 7s. 4d. in the £ against her present rate of 7s. 7d., so that she will gain financially 3d. in the £. I certainly believe that such is the growing feeling in Handsworth that if a poll were taken at the present time there would be a large majority in our favour. With regard to the financial arrangement upon which so much stress has been laid, we have heard to-night that the Committee is to be appointed at once. I would appeal to my friends in this way. They know perfectly well that a Joint Committee will be appointed. I believe they have sufficient confidence in the Government to feel that it will be an impartial Committee. Birmingham is perfectly prepared to place itself in the hands of the joint Committee, and I hold that those who oppose the Bill should follow that example and place their confidence in the Committee. As the point which the hon. Member for the Bewdley Division has raised will come within the purview of that Committee's operations, it seems to me that the objection to the passing of this stage is somewhat illogical. It only remains now for Parliament to give its approval. The Bill has been hung up in Birmingham for something like two years. It is more than twelve months since the inquiry at Birmingham took place. A great many things are standing over waiting for the passage of the Bill. The people of the district, as a whole, are almost unanimously in its favour. The public inquiry was in favour of it. The House of Commons were in favour of it, with a few Amendments. The Second Reading passed without a division. Practically the whole of the districts with the one exception of Handsworth, are in favour of the proposal, and I do not believe there is any real objection in the case of Handsworth. If the financial adjustments of which our friends make such a great point are made—and I think our friends cught to have confidence in the Committee and submit themselves to it as we in Birmingham are prepared to do—the only valid objection will be destroyed. Therefore, I express the hope that this Parliament will not allow Birmingham to go on hanging up an important question like this, to the detriment of the town and against the wishes of the inhabitants. I certainly hope and believe that this House to-night will give us the Report stage.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
I rise to speak upon this matter with some little feeling of melancholy, because it is very plain to be seen that the Report stage of the Bill is to pass. Hon. Members on the other side of the House, who ought to be fighting for the very existence of the communities they represent, will be taken in by the promise to speedily appoint a Joint Committee which will not report before the Third Reading of the Bill is passed. It seems to me that if that Joint Committee is appointed at all it is absolutely essential that the report of the Committee, even upon the financial adjustments necessary between the counties involved, should be made before the Third Reading is taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, but you are going to be "fobbed" off by the promise of the mere appointment of a Committee, and you are asked to trust in the very good kind Government that will put desirable gentlemen upon the Committee. Well, if you are content with that you are not nearly so wise as I have given you credit for. But I rise to say a word or two upon an aspect of this question which has not been touched at all. The hon. Gentleman who has last spoken did in one sentence state what seemed to be the very basis of the case: "Is this thing desirable in the interests of good government; in the interests of the local life of the various communities that have to be absorbed?" Personally, I think, the cash connection is the lowest possible connection upon which this matter should be considered. It is not desirable in the interests of local government that small governing communities—not so small as to be unworthy of note, large enough to have an intelligent conception of public life, large enough to vivify and quicken the public spirit of the district, large enough to train men to take their part upon loftier councils—that it is not in the interests of the nation nor in the interests of the community that these places should be ruthlessly extinguished in the manner in which this Bill proposes. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. Staveley-Hill) stated what I think is admitted by everybody—that these communities have governed themselves well, that the health rate has been a good one, that technical education and the various departments of public life have been well administered, that there is no complaint of the lack of public spirit in these communities or on their governing bodies. It therefore seems to me that in the creation of these huge, bloated, apopletic corporations we are 1337 taking a step backwards. I am always sorry to ask the House to listen to me while I go back a few years, but to go back twenty-five years is quite a common thing now, and seems to be looked upon as up-to-date history. Even let me make a despairing appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Local Government Board, to remember that in 1888, twenty-three years ago, the nation deliberately embarked upon the project of setting up county councils, and the taking in of smaller areas of administration than those hitherto existing. Six years later, too, in 1894, this House, with the consent practically of both sides, adopted an even smaller unit of administration. I do not think there is a single man who knows what local government life is in this country but who must admit that the setting up of urban district councils—indeed, in the smaller parishes the setting up of parish councils—has done a great deal to vivify and enlighten people upon matters upon which hitherto they have been in a state of profound ignorance. At a later date even, what was done? A Conservative Government—I will not say wisely or unwisely—thought that the centralised administration of London itself was too unwieldy. They broke up the Government of London into smaller areas, believing that by the provision of smaller areas, enabling people to bring a day-to-day contact upon the business of those areas, you would get a more efficient administration. I believe that has been the case. I am not one who says that you should never have extension. It would be ridiculous to argue from such a standpoint. But I do say there is reason in everything. When you have a vast community like Birmingham with a population, I think, of well over half a million, admittedly well-administered, a city which even the most reactionary Labour Member may be proud of—because great ideas have come from it, and fine men have come from it. Birmingham with its rateable value of practically £3,000,000, its population, rapidly increasing, of 600,000, and with its fine University—is too small for its people to administer? Does anybody seriously contend—I do not care how high he is—that there is a real call on the part of any community to take over 30,000 acres of land? They have nearly three times that area already. Is that natural and spontaneous growth? I refuse to believe it. On these grounds I think this House ought to reject the Bill on its Report stage. It is said, as indeed it is said in every one of these 1338 cases, "Why we have got the consent of the people about to be swallowed up." Yes, I know. I am reminded of the story of the man who was charged with having stolen a box of hams. The evidence was palpable. He was caught in open daylight. He went to the best lawyer in the district and said, "Look here, you have got to get me off if it is at all possible." With trepidation the lawyer took the case up, and to the astonishment of everybody in the Court except the jury the man was acquitted without a stain upon his character. Subsequently he met his lawyer, who fished for a compliment in the matter. The man said, "Oh, no, it was not your pleading, although that was well done. Before the case came on I saw every man of the jury and took care that they had a ham each." That is perfectly true! Many of the interests concerned are first of all seen—the permanent officials, the hundred and one fellows who "stand in," the people who manipulate the local public opinion—these have all been seen. The permanent officials know that the job is going to be a good one for them. They are to be compensated for the abolition of their offices. Then a great many of them make quite sure that they are going to have a duplication of officers under the new regime. There is another office to follow with increased salary in many cases: A small man hitherto becomes a great man. You have to pay heavily for that kind of thing. It may be said that this is a mean, unworthy view to take. There is not a man in this House who knows anythink of local self-government but knows that what I have said is really the case, and that immense payments for the abolition of offices and the duplication of offices that follows is in many cases the real cause why these changes take place. There is worse than that. You efface all that activity of local life which has hitherto prevailed in the smaller communities. The more and more government gets into the hands of the permanent official of these corporations the more you lose all the confidence hitherto possessed by the people themselves in the small governing bodies, and you place the management of these vast estates with their great intricacies in the hands of the permanent officials and efficient and responsible government comes down. I say that will be particularly the case under the conditions laid before the House to-night. There are cases which are perfectly natural, which spring to the mind's eye, as, for instance, the case of Manchester and Salford. There 1339 you have a perfectly natural growth. It would be well—I speak as an humble individual—if these two committees could join. You have also the case of Liverpool and Bootle, but what action was taken by the House when Liverpool made application in connection with Bootle. There seems to be the idea that Bootle, being a county borough, could not be swallowed up. It was held there was not sufficient community of interest between Liverpool and Bootle, Bootle having been created a county borough, yet here we have 30,000 acres running into two counties besides the county in which the borough itself stands. Worcestershire is to be deprived of about 28 per cent. of its rateable value, and a very large per cent. of its population. Staffordshire is to suffer very seriously in its rateable value and population, and thus you have the whole continuity of local government broken into. I believe that whatever report the Joint Committee make—even if that report were made in time to enable the Third Reading of the Bill to be taken—it would be found that the destruction of the local government life of these communities which this House has seen fit to create would not make for good government, but would destroy that vivid and living touch given to local government, and would have the effect of tending more and more to put into the hands of permanent officials the government of these communities. For these reasons, I will gladly support those gentlemen who have given their opposition to this Bill.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. John Burns)
The hon. Member has made, to use his own words, a vivid and forcible speech, but I submit his trend of thought and his ideas on municipal government, with all respect to him, would have come with greater relevancy when this Bill was before the House for Second Reading. I am not blaming the hon. Member for making his speech upon the Report stage after the Bill went through Committee, but in a new House after the speech made by the hon. Member, it is important that justice should be done both to the measure itself and to the city of Birmingham by giving the simple facts in connection with this great Bill, which for nearly two years has engaged the attention of Birmingham and the House of Commons. The Bill has been read a first and second time in the House of Commons, and it was debated on the occasion also when the Standing Orders 1340 were suspended. It has been for eleven days before a Committee when every aspect of the relationship between the five outstanding authorities and Birmingham itself was put with admirable force and businesslike capacity by some of the most trained counsel at the Parliamentary Bar. Beside that, this great project was considered for twenty-three days at the preliminary inquiry in Birmingham itself, and after twenty-three days of public inquiry last year, after eleven days before the Committee upstairs, where the principles underlying the hon. Member's observations were hardly discussed at all, the Bill comes down to the House of Commons practically unaltered, except upon one small Poor Law point. The Committee passed the Bill, with the exception of that Poor Law point, practically as it left the House of Commons upon the Second Reading. More than that has happened.
When we were asked to consider the financial aspect of this particular measure which has occupied the attention of the House of Commons, what did we do? The Government, who had charge of this Provisional Order Bill, said to the outstanding authorities, "What is it you wish?" They said, "We object to being included." But since that there has been a change. The five local authorities first started out with the same objection, more or less, to inclusion in the city of Birmingham, but since then four out of the five have dropped away from that opposition and practically agreed to be included. And at this moment there is only one local authority standing out which originally opposed this scheme. It is important that that fact should be known, and that the only matter of vital difference between the city of Birmingham and the outstanding authorities was dealt with by the Government, if I may venture to say so, in a practical, just, and sensible way.
Hon. Members who represented the original five authorities have said that special attention should be given to the financial relations between the city and the local authorities which were to be absorbed. And what happened? One of the gentlemen representing one of the four local authorities asked whether the Government would consent to a Joint Committee of both Houses being appointed to consider the financial details of this Bill, and whether we would appoint a Joint Committee of both Houses to consider these vital questions. At once the Government accepted the suggestion and adopted 1341 the reference from the four local authorities who had agreed to the appointment of the Joint Committee, and this agreement has been embodied in Clause No. 2 of the Bill as sent down to the House. What is the reference? The reference is this. It is contained in a message from the Lords to the Commons, agreed to the night before last, and is as follows:—
That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to inquire into the application of the provisions contained in the Local Government Acts, 1888 and 1894, and the Local Government (Scotland) Acts, 1889 and 1894, relating to financial adjustments consequent on the alteration of the boundaries of a local government area or an alteration in the constitution or status of the governing body of a local government area, and to report to the House if they are of opinion that any amendments in such provisions are desirable.That was put on the Paper in the House of Lords and similarly in the House of Commons, first at the instance of Lord Belper, acting for the County Council, and I at once agreed to it, and decided to appoint the section of the Joint Committee which the House of Commons was responsible for. I accepted that on 6th July last year. Some hon. Members are under the impression that we have been dilatory in carrying out our promise, but if they will look at my words they will find that, so far as I was the arbiter, I proceeded as swiftly as possible. As the House knows, a Dissolution intervened and a General Election took place. The House of Lords does not meet quite so frequently as this House. My access to them is not so frequent as would have enabled me to have kept my word to the House, but as soon as I had an opportunity of keeping my word, within ten days of the opening of the new Parliament, we agreed to the Lords' message, we accepted the Joint Committee, and all sides have agreed that the House of Commons representation shall be five in number on the Committee. In order to advance the matter another stage I may say that the names agreed upon are Colonel Bagot, Mr. Cameron Corbett, Mr. C. N. Nicholson, Mr. Sanders, and Sir Luke White. The House of Commons will see that we have done our best to keep our word.
Another point has been raised. I have been asked to make another concession, and I am quite willing, because it is only 1342 by concessions of this character that public business of this magnitude can be advanced. The hon. Member for Middleton (Mr. Adkins) acting presumably for the County Council, asked if I would agree not to take the further stage of this Bill till at least forty-eight hours after the names of the Committee are published. I at once accede to that request. It is a perfectly reasonable one, and I at once close with it. My hon. Friend the Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Walsh) says he is against this Bill because he thinks these large municipalities are withdrawn from the public control and adequate supervision, and prevent municipal life being so vividly expressed and carried on as smaller areas enable it to be. There are two sides to that question. I notice my hon. Friend referred to parish councils, but I did not see the House, in fine frenzy rolling, endorse his view. He will pardon me if I do not accept his facts. What he suggested about county councils is against him, and when he quotes the London borough councils it is the other way. There many parishes were amalgamated into a few number of metropolitan boroughs, because as areas grow in density, and gas, water, light, and tramway undertakings are required it is much cheaper and easier for the whole of the community to be managed, and their affairs are more economically administered by the larger unit. The hon. Member for Birmingham asks why Birmingham, with its fine galleries, museums, and other municipal institutions, should not be content, and, in the next breath, he says: "I can understand Manchester being united with Salford, but I cannot understand why Aston Manor and King's Norton should be included."
King's Norton is nearer to Birmingham than Salford is to Manchester. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] The people who live in Yardley, King's Norton, and other districts work in Birmingham to a greater extent than the people living in Salford work in Manchester. Those five areas are nothing but dormitories to Birmingham, and we want to enable these five struggling areas, without libraries, baths, galleries, and museums, and open spaces, to quarter themselves on the Birmingham Egyptian. Warwickshire does not object, but Stafford and Worcester do object. This objection has been met by the reference to the Joint Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] That is their view, and it was the only way in which their point 1343 could be met. They induced Lord Belper to put his reference down on the Paper of the House of Lords asking for a Joint Committee as the best way of considering their interests, and we agreed to it. Now they want to exalt their price and to advance objections to this Bill which they did not advance when first this measure was discussed. Those places agreed to the Joint Committee.
§ Mr. BURNS
Warwickshire agreed that their case should be remitted to a Joint Committee and Warwickshire was one of the agreeing parties, and it seems to be that they ought not to depart from that agreement. An hon. Member has asked that this Bill should be postponed until the Joint Committee has reported. There is strong objection to that course, because interests are being advanced, and if this Bill is still further postponed other interests will come into play, and the whole conditions for the five local authorities will be in the most unsatisfactory condition. As it is this Bill could not come into operation until November, 1911, and if it is still further postponed it would not become law till 1912, which, under the circumstances, we consider is absurd. The Joint Committee, if it gets to work, can assist, and I will do my best to accelerate it. We have given the names of the Committee. It cannot possibly decide until May or June or July, and if further delay takes place I want to put it to the House what is happening. Supposing a school is wanted on the borders of any of these areas. If the amalgamation takes place that school may be unnecessary, and if amalgamation did take place that particular school would not be charged on the special area, but it would be borne by the larger area. At this moment in the case of these particular districts whose interests are in the balance postponement will further jeopardise them. There are drainage, sewerage, and electric lighting schemes, street improvments, and bridge improvements which have been waiting long enough and ought not to wait any longer. We believe that further delay will lead to further complications. The experience of the Stoke Federation was that the length of the period between the promotion and the operation of a Bill was the measure 1344 of the expense to which all the localities were put. Delay in this matter is dangerous to the areas to be absorbed; it is inconvenient for the larger area to which amalgamation takes place, and I appeal to the House of Commons to support the Members for the Birmingham district in getting this great measure through. I ask the House of Commons to do that because four out of the five areas that originally opposed this Bill have come into the scheme.
§ Mr. STAVELEY-HILL
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to four out of five areas, but four of those areas, I understand, were polled against annexation. Since then by the local authorities they have come in. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there has been another poll?
§ Mr. BURNS
No, Sir; what suffices both for the Committee upstairs and for me is that not one of the four who originally opposed are appearing in opposition to this Bill, and there is no opposition or criticism of the terms of amalgamation. I do, therefore, ask that the Members for Birmingham should be supported. I ask that the four areas that originally opposed and that have now come to terms with Birmingham should be confirmed in their later and wiser course. These communities are in Birmingham, but not of it. They now realise the necessity of coming into this larger area. Birmingham, for its wealth and for its population, has been in the past comparatively a small area in mileage and extent. This particular addition to the jurisdiction of Birmingham will not render it difficult to manage. On the contrary, if hon. Members will do me the favour of reading an admirable article in the Royal Statistical Society's Journal they will find, what is demonstrably true, that in the sphere of municipal management, from the point of view of cheaper electric light, cheaper gas, and cheaper tramways, the larger unit is better than the smaller one. The whole of these details have been before the public in an inquiry for twenty-three days and before a Committee upstairs, and the only outstanding point with the consent of the outstanding area, is being committed to a Joint Committee of both Houses, which will in a few days be set up. I therefore ask the House to support the Local Government Board, in pressing this on to a settlement, because if it is not immediately done, the interests of the larger area will be damaged, and the interests of the lesser 1345 areas will be jeopardised. Harm will thus be done to the whole area, and it is to prevent that harm that I ask this House to pass the Report Stage and let the Joint Committee get to work. I am satisfied that when its deliberations are completed and its Report is presented to the House of Commons, all of us will find that, in passing this Bill, we builded better than we knew, and the Joint Committee's decision can be retrospectively and equitably applied to all the interests affected; and the result of our labours will be that a new community will rise up in the Midlands in this country of ours, with wider powers and more wealth, to develop the great communities that have been too long divided from each other. This Bill brings them into a homogeneous whole, and will enable the richer district to help the poorer in a manner which it would not be able to do otherwise.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
The right hon. Gentleman has shown a great enthusiasm for this Bill, but we ask him to believe that those Members who are interested in the counties concerned have an equal enthusiasm for seeing that the whole basis on which they withdrew their opposition should be carried out. The right hon. Gentleman has stated many times that four out of five of the areas concerned has withdrawn their opposition, but it was on the terms that we should not only have this Committee, but that the Committee should make a report which would give us satisfactory compensation. It was in the hope and belief that this Committee will deal with the large question which constantly arises, and must be finally dealt with, that four out of the five areas did not continue their opposition in committee. They have, however, instructed and caused all their Members to attend here to-night in order to try and see their point of view is maintained, and that the Report Stage is not allowed to proceed without guarantees that the report will be forthcoming without any great lapse of time. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that a poll had been taken of some of these areas. It is quite true and it was against the Bill. Then, by reason of the right hon. Gentleman's happy intervention and of being ready to concede certain points, some of that opposition was withdrawn. But a poll was never again taken to see whether the population were prepared to take a different view from that which they had already taken, and which was in opposition 1346 to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has conceded something in telling us the names of the Members of this House who will be on the Joint Committee. He has also said he will not ask for the Third Reading until the Committee is fully established. We ask him, however, to say that he will not let this Bill finally go through until the House knows what it is legislating about and what is the Report of the Committee which it is setting up.
May I recall what the position is? The question of taking large areas from the counties creates great disturbances in the system under which those counties are administered. We are all agreed upon that. For a long period of years compensation was granted when an extension of a boundary took place, but in 1907 we had the Hartlepool case, in which compensation had no lot or part. Then another method was adopted, and various Bills were brought in. There was the Burnley Bill, the Manchester Bill, and various other Bills in which a clause was inserted giving a sum in lieu of compensation in order to get over the difficulty which had been introduced by reason of the decision in the Hartlepool case. Again, as recently as in 1910 in the case of Eastbourne and the Sussex County Council, a clause was inserted giving this compensation. Naturally the areas concerned, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, and Staffordshire, were anxious to get the same terms. But instead of a clause being inserted we were promised that the matter should be dealt with on a larger basis. Speaking on behalf of Warwickshire—and from Warwickshire one-sixth of the whole rateable value is to be taken away, and a population of 114,000 is to be added to Birmingham, and over 5,000 acres are included in this scheme—naturally Warwickshire is anxious to see that some compensation shall be given for the serious inroad which is made in the structure of county administration by so large an area being taken from the county. How does the matter stand? The Act has been drawn so that we are to have an adjustment made on the terms of this Committee as and when? it shall report, and this Bill will leave the House with a clause the effect of which cannot be ascertained until the Committee has reported. It is a most unsatisfactory method of legislating, because the House cannot know the method of the adjustment to be adopted. It is all the more unfortunate because the want of opposition in Committee has been secured solely on terms that shall include 1347 any possible compensation. I have reason to doubt whether the Bill as drawn does give what I know the right hon. Gentleman means to give—an opportunity of some compensation being paid. Unhappily the word "adjustment" has been used, and it has been interpretated in two cases to exclude compensation. It will be possible, therefore, that under the Bill, as drawn, compensation will be excluded. That matter, however, can be dealt with on the Report stage. An Amendment of the Clause by the right hon. Gentleman may be possible, but, while his words are fluid, I do think we might take steps to exactly express what we mean to include and thus prevent doubt here and costly litigation hereafter between the area created and the counties from which the areas have been taken. That could be done by a simple alteration in the words of this clause. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having set up this Committee, but we regard the Report of that Committee as a very urgent matter indeed and a very important one, not only to the areas affected by this Bill, but to still wider interests. We are anxious for an assurance that the Bill shall not pass from this House until we have had the Report of the Committee, so that, if necessary, any new clause may be added on the basis of the compromise which has been arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the Bill cannot be passed until November, or rather that the scheme cannot be inaugurated until then. Surely there is time before the Bill leaves the House to obtain a Report of the Committee, and even if the Bill does not leave the House before August it will still be possible to carry out the scheme by the following November or December. The Committee could be instructed to report as rapidly as possible. On this point we feel quite as strongly as the right hon. Gentleman feels in favour of the Bill. We have refrained from opposing it in Committee in order that we might give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of meeting our views. He has failed to appreciate the extreme importance to the counties concerned of having the report of this Committee, and I do ask from him an undertaking that the Bill shall not be permitted to leave this House until that report has been presented and we know exactly where we are.
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Member has put a point to me to which I should like at 1348 once to reply. He must realise my difficulty in this matter. I accepted the terms of reference put down by Lord Belper on behalf of the County Councils Association and outside authorities with regard to financial adjustment. Those terms of reference, although accepted, have not gone through the House of Commons, and therefore I hesitate to vary them, seeing that they were put down by the opponents of the Bill. I am prepared to meet the hon. Member in a reasonable spirit. I cannot accept the words of which he has given notice, but I am prepared to accept other words, providing that financial adjustment shall be made to cover compensation to be paid. I accept the principle of it quite gladly, but I hope the hon. Member will not ask me to accept the ipsissima verba of this Amendment, because I have to consider the views of the other House.
§ The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Mr. Emmott)
I would remind the House that this Provisional Order has not been to another place and that the interests the opponents of this measure desire to safeguard are certain to be safeguarded in that other place. If they do lose control in this House when the Bill has got its Third Reading here, it will still from their point of view be in safe hands. In the meantime the Joint Committee will be sitting and they will very likely have an opportunity of knowing what the decision of the Committee is before the Bill finally passes.
§ Viscount MORPETH
I wish to safeguard the interests I represent in this House, and to see that justice is done here to the great undertaking which the right hon. Gentleman has described. The only point is the question of finance. No question as to the justification of the extension of Birmingham has ever been raised, except by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh), who thought the opinion of persons inhabiting this district was to go for nothing because he said it had been manipulated by the officials. There is no person like the professed democrat to express contempt for public opinion when it does not agree with him, and when he states that, I say boldly, as having been conversant with local government all my life, that it is not my experience, and I regret to hear that it is his. The defence of the extension has been ample. The only question which is hindering the Bill at the present time is the question of finance, raised by my hon. Friend on my right. On the Second Reading my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswinford 1349 (Mr. Staveley-Hill) dropped a division and announced that he would not divide against the Bill. The reason he gave for doing this was that he was satisfied with the promise made by the Prime Minister, that a Joint Committee should be constituted to deal with the whole question of compensation for loss of rateable value. It is quite true that he said that he reserved his rights to oppose on Report and Third Reading if anything was done to prejudice the privileges which he represented. Nothing has been done prejudicial to his interests, and the only difficulty which has arisen is that the Government have delayed the appointment of the Joint Committee. It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman told us that the fault rests with the House of Lords, and not with the Government, but all I wish to say is that the fault does not rest with the City of Birmingham, and if there has been delay it is the fault not of that city but of the authorities, and should not be visited upon us. An hon. Member said on that occasion that he was prepared, although not gladly, to make the sacrifice, but by surrendering the rights of Worcester to compensation he obtained this Committee. Birmingham accepted the Committee in the same spirit, and they accepted the clauses which is to act retrospectively and which imposes upon them any charge which this Committee might find they were liable for. If we are bound in Birmingham by the subsequent finding of that Committee, I hold that the county should be equally bound by the subsequent finding, and it is scarcely right that my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Pollock) should say that he ought to have a free hand to reject this Bill if he is not satisfied with the finding of the Joint Committee. We in Birmingham have frankly said we are prepared to abide whatever the result is, and stand by the Bill. That, I think, was the understanding come to on the Second Reading, and I hope the House will now maintain what was settled at that time and give Birmingham this Bill.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
This is the most curious method of autocratic legislation which has come within my recollection, and I shall certainly vote against the Resolution of the Government if hon. Members on the other side go to a Division. Let me recall what the position is. This Parliament is being treated as the old Parliament. But we are a new Parliament, and it is perfectly ludicrous, as I contend, 1350 for the President of the Local Government Board to come down here and ask the House to pass legislation on the Report of a Committee of the last Parliament and when we have not before us the Report of the Joint Committee to which the consideration of the Bill has been sent. You are going to set up a Joint Committee to report, and the Third Reading is to be passed before the Report is ever laid on the Table of the House. Of all the curious methods of autocratic legislation which have come within my knowledge in the time I have been in the House this is certainly the most strange. But what is more strange still is that the Chairman of Ways and Means says the measure will be in safe hands, because after the Third Reading it will then be in the House of Lords. I have no use for a Joint Committee of the House of Lords at all. I have no confidence in any Joint Committee of the House of Lords to deal with a question of land, and the opponents in Warwickshire of this Bill have been squared by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burns), who has now accepted the word "compensation" with the word "adjustment" on page 2 of the Bill we are now considering. That means that compensation will become payable by the borough area to the county area, because of the legislation passed by Joint Committees of the House. To set up Joint Committees is to grant larger compensation to landlords than they would otherwise have.
I am interested in this question only indirectly, as being connected with Warwickshire, but I agree with every argument which has been used by the hon. Member. Here you have a large city, not content with the great work that Birmingham has done for its citizens, but wanting to destroy all those large areas outside and then the President says the Board has agreed. Why did they agree? They came to a compromise in committee during the last Parliament, because they knew they had to come to an arrangement, and they made the best financial arrangement they could. This is not a question altogether of finance. It is a question of the local life of our towns and cities and urban districts. The question of the parish councils I am not prepared to discuss with the President of the Local Government Board I do not think he will say these bodies, as a whole, have not done good work in the country, and have not improved local administration and local life. Then what is this Bill going to do? It is going to make one great administrative 1351 centre and it does make for centralisation in the hands of a bureaucracy, larger jobs and higher salaries, and divorcing the people themselves from that intimate association which they have under the urban district councils. I make this protest against this centralisation in the hands of officials in large centres, and I shall support the Amendment.
§ Mr. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I rise to associate myself with the mover of the Amendment, who I think has very clearly expressed the views which are held in regard to this Bill by people in my Constituency of all shades of political opinion. I take this opportunity of protesting very strongly against the passing of the Bill and doing all in my power to convince the House that it would not be in the interest of large masses of the working people in my constituency that it should become law. From the remarks of the President of the Local Government Board it would almost appear that the people in the whole of the area affected by the Bill were busily engaged taking tramcar rides to and from Birmingham. I do not think there are a handful of workmen in my constituency who are employed in Birmingham, and so far as that division is concerned the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman are not applicable. It is an undoubted fact that the annexation would increase the burdens on the workmen in the area affected. In the borough of Wednesbury, we have our own local life and organisation, and there is no desire whatever on the part of the workers to be brought into Birmingham. The workers there are all happy and contented in their local life, and they wish to remain as they are. From all quarters I have been asked to oppose this Bill to-night. The Handsworth district is now one of the most wealthy parts of Staffordshire remaining under the jurisdiction of the County Council. It is steadily growing in wealth, and consequently the rateable value is increasing year by year. It is largely on account of that fact that Birmingham is so anxious to embody it in this scheme. The county has already lost much of its rateable are a by Wolverhampton West and other districts becoming county boroughs. If Handsworth goes too, the rural districts will have to bear heavier burdens. If you increase the area of a great centre like Birmingham you increase its rateable value. People come out by motor-cars which tear up the country roads and no share of the 1352 expense of repairing these roads falls upon the great centre. In this case the cost would fall on the ratepayers outside. I appeal to hon. Members, and particularly the Members of the Labour party, in the interests of thousands of workmen who do not desire this Bill to pass to vote for the Amendment. I can quite understand the desire for the enlargement of great cities, and I am finding no fault with it, but I think that unless a clause making quite clear the question of compensation, so as to safeguard the interests of those whom I represent, is inserted, hon. Members should not allow the Bill to pass. After all, the Amendment is a safety valve. Six months will not ruin the scheme or hurt Birmingham. The great mass of those whom I represent are poor people who will derive no benefit from Birmingham, as they never leave their constituency, and in their interests I support the Amendment, so that the Bill may not pass until it is made perfectly clear what compensation is to be paid them for the loss which they will suffer.
§ Mr. BOOTH
On behalf of the smaller urban authorities, I shall be compelled, if it goes to a Division, to vote against the Bill, because, according to my conception, the larger the authority the more dogmatic and tyrannical are the officials and invariably the smaller authorities are domineered over by them. It does cause me some astonishment to find some members of my own party belittling urban district councils and parish councils. It is no answer to a Member like myself to say that they will be taken care of in another place. I would ask how many Members of urban district councils are there in the other place? It may be that the county councils and the larger landed interests are represented there, but I have little faith in their taking care of these small urban authorities. On more than one occasion I have been elected president of the annual conference of the urban district councils of England and Wales, and I can testify to the very large expenses that the urban districts sustain who suffer from these large authorities on their borders. They are always ready to gobble them up and to exploit them. It is a most difficult thing for any urban district council to make any reasonable bargain with a large municipality. I would far sooner deal on behalf of an urban authority with a private company than with a large municipal 1353 authority. I speak from painful experience. The President of the Local Government Board is subject to a very fine and noble imagination, and dwellers in the Metropolis and large centres of industry are apt to be captured by visions of a huge municipality. But I would point out to the House that in this instance that Birmingham, if this Bill become law, instead of being regarded as a great commercial city, would be
§ looked upon as the largest rural area in the kingdom. These large cities are seeking to incorporate huge areas of a purely agricultural nature in order that they may boast of being the second city in the Empire.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 249; Noes, 87.1355
|Division No. 11.]||AYES.||[10.40 p.m.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Fenwick, Charles||MacGhee, Richard|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Ferens, T. R.||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Alden, Percy||Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C. Munro||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Allen, Arthur Acland (Dumbartonshire)||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||M'Callum, John M.|
|Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Ffrench, peter||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Armitage, Robert||Furness, Stephen W.||Malcolm, Ian|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Gardner, Ernest||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Golder, Sir William Alfred||Mathias, Richard|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Gibbs, George Abraham||Meagher, Michael|
|Barlow, Montague (Sa'ford, South)||Gill, Alfred Henry||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Goldney, Francis Bennett-||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.)||Goldstone, Frank||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Beale, William Phipson||Greene, Walter Raymond||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Morrison, Captain James A.|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Mount, William Arthur|
|Bird, Alfred||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Munro, Robert|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Gulland, John William||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Neville, Reginald J. N|
|Brigg, Sir John||Hackett, J.||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Norton, Captain Cecil William|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Harmswarth, R. L.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Byles, William Pollard||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||O'Dowd, John|
|Cassel, Felix||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Ogden, Fred|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||O'Grady, James|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Hayward, Evan||O'Malley, William|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Helme, Norval Watson||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Henderson, Major H. (Berks., Abingdon)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Higham, John Sharp||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Holt, Richard Durning||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Clough, William||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Clynes, John R.||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Hudson, Walter||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Hunter, Sir Charles Roderick (Bath)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hunter, W. (Govan)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Ingleby, Holcombe||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Pointer, Joseph|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Johnson, William||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Croft, Henry Page||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Radford, George Heynes|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jowett, Frederick William||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Joyce, Michael||Reddy, Michael|
|Dawes, J. A.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Delany, William||King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, N)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Kirkwood, John H. M.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lansbury, George||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Dillon, John||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Doris, W.||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'm'ts., Mile End)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Duffy, William J.||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld., Cockerm'th)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Leach, Charles||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Edwards, Sir Frank (Radnor)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Elverston, Harold||Logan, John William||Robinson, Sydney|
|Emmott, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Roch, Waiter F. (Pembroke)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lundon, Thomas||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Falconer, James||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Fell, Arthur||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Rowlands, James|
|Rowntree, Arnold||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Runciman Rt. Hon. Walter||Summers, James Woolley||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Tennant, Harold John||Wilkie, Alexander|
|St. Maur, Harold||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Scanlan, Thomas||Touche, George Alexander||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Scott, A. M'Callum (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Toulmin, George||Wilson, T. F. (Lanark, N. E.)|
|Sheehy, David||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Shortt, Edward||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Verney, Sir Harry||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Wadsworth, J.||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Snowden, Philip||Walton, Sir Joseph||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Soares, Ernest Joseph||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Spear, John Ward||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Illingworth.|
|Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Watt, Henry A.|
|White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Harris, Henry Percy||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Helmsley, Viscount||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Barnston, Harry||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc, E.)||Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Beckett, Hon. William Gervase||Horne, Wm. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Royds, Edmund|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Boscawen, Sackville T. Griffith-||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Stanier, Beville|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Kerry, Earl of||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Kilbride, Denis||Stewart, Gershom|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Knight, Capt. E. A.||Sykes, Alan John|
|Burn, Colonel C. R||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Taylor, T. C. (Radcliffe)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lewisham, Viscount||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Chambers, James||Lloyd, George Ambrose||Valentia, Viscount|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Markham, Arthur Basil||Wedgwood, Josiah C|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Martin, Joseph||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Mooney, John J.||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Moore, William||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wilson, W. T. (West Houghton)|
|Gordon, John||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Nield, Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Staveley-Hill and Mr. Baldwin.|
|Gretton, John||Norton Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill, as amended, considered; to be read the Third time upon Monday next.