§ It shall be lawful for the Council to pay the reasonable travelling expenses incurred by any committee or sub-committee 678 of the Council in the performance of duties entrusted to such committee or sub-committee in pursuance of a resolution of the Council. Provided that no expenses shall be paid under this Section in respect of attendance at the County Hall or at other offices of the Council used in connection therewith and expenses paid under this Section shall not exceed in amount the expenses which would have been reasonably incurred if the committee or sub-committee as the case may be had travelled from or to the said County Hall to or from the place visited.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I beg to move to leave out Clause 18. I need hardly say that the object of my rising to oppose this Bill is not any mere factious one, or simply a desire to oppose the measure. Some members may wonder why I, a Yorkshire member, should interfere with the affairs of London. The reason is a very simple one. This Clause 18, which I move to omit, contains a new principle of a very important character, and I think all members of the House will agree that changes of a momentous nature should not be brought into effect through the agency of a Private Bill Committee, but should come under the consideration of the entire House. This Clause, but for some action of this kind being taken, would have been passed by a Private Bill Committee probably of not more than six members, and those members not all agreeing as to the policy they ought to pursue with respect to this Clause. Though I am quite aware that the Private Bill Legislation Committee have power in cases of exceptional interest, to allow special changes to be made on their own initiative, I think that, unless a very special case is made out, members of this House will agree that matters such as this to which I am calling attention ought at any rate to be thoroughly thrashed out by the House as a whole. This Clause 18 deals with the question of the ordinary travelling expenses of members of the London County Council, and it provides that those expenses shall be paid to them in the course of their ordinary duties. The practice all over the country varies, and in some cases according to the opinion of the Local Government Board auditors. It is generally recognised that ordinary travelling expenses are not allowed by statute, but this difficulty is got round by different methods, in some instances not always of a very straightforward character.
679 The proposal is that members of the London County Council shall be paid their ordinary expenses in going about their duties. Motor cars may be employed to take the various members to the places where they want to go; in some cases the railway fares are included as well as other expenses. Of course, if it were the established practice, no opposition would be made by the auditors to do anything in the nature of expenses incurred in an extraordinary way. But this Clause, as I have said, deals with ordinary travelling expenses in the conduct of the ordinary business of the county council, and it is to that point I am addressing myself. Throughout the country, as a whole, there seems to be general satisfaction with existing arrangements. But some counties have complained in regard to this matter. Cornwall has asked for these expenses to be paid; Cumberland agrees with Cornwall, and Glamorgan has made the same request. Other counties have taken a different line, and I believe the matter has been before the County Councils Association, who have decided to take no action. In fact, they have shown that they do not wish to take action, in order that the expenses of ordinary business should be paid by statute. I do not wish to take the extreme view that in no case ought the travelling expenses of members of county councils to be paid; obviously it would be a very great mistake to enact anything which would prevent the poor man from carrying out his public duties. If we made it necessary that only officials should be able to go about to inspect parks, roads, schools, or whatever it may be, you would not only have the salaries of those officials to pay, but you would have their travelling expenses as well. Therefore it is obviously a matter of economy that members should do this work instead of officials. That is all very well no doubt, but nevertheless this is a very great change which is proposed, and, under existing circumstances, I think the House ought to have an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon it.
It must be admitted that this change, if it be enacted, will be very great, and will cast a very large charge upon the rates. I do not think that ought to be done through the agency of a Private Bill Committee, more especially when the members of that Committee are not all agreed upon the subject. If this matter is to be done at all, it should be done by general legis- 680 lation. You are face to face with this position—either you can go on in a more or less satisfactory or unsatisfactory way, according to the view you take of it. Either you may go on under present conditions, with which at any rate a large number of counties are completely satisfied, or else we have a right to demand that there shall be a general system authorised by legislation. Either the thing is wrong or it is right. If it is right then we ought to have a statute dealing with all counties. If it is wrong, then it ought not to be dealt with by a Private Bill Committee. It may be said that London is so large that they have a right to raise a special case. I admit that the problems of local government in London are entirely different from those which have to be dealt with by the majority of other counties. I admit that the volume of work which London has to go through in one day is enormous, I admit that infinitely more time is required of the London County Councillor than in the case of councillors in most other counties. But that is a matter of work, and the time which the county councillors have to devote to it. It is not a matter of expenses, of the distances he has to go, or of the bad conditions under which he has to discharge his public duties. The House may pity the poor country county councillor in a wide county area like that of the West Riding of Yorkshire or the county of Lancashire. The London County Councillor can travel cheaply and comfortably, either by tramcar or railway or motor 'bus, or by the underground, and such are the facilities for travelling in London that he may get to any part of its area for the discharge of his duties in patent leather boots and top hat.
But just think of the difficulties of travelling in a great county area, of the enormous distances to be traversed and of the difficulties of transit, and then, as I say, you will pity the poor countryman who has to plod through muddy lanes in discharging his duties. In the West Riding there are no less than 912 schools alone, and there are 980 in Lancashire. How many are there in London? [An HON. MEMBER: "Over a thousand."] How can you compare London, with its well-paved streets and the various, and very much cheaper, methods of conveyance with those which you find in a great county area. Besides that, you have all the main roads in the counties and all the bridges and all the asylums long distances from each other. There is also the problem of small 681 holdings, which the county council has not to consider at all and which involves an enormous amount of work on many members of the other county councils, in investigations before they can discover what is most suitable. I think it must be obvious that the difficulties of travelling, whether in the matter of distance conveyance or whether in the matter of weather, must be infinitely greater in any county area than in London. When I say that I think I have disposed of the question whether London has a special case. The large amount of work which the London County Council has to perform does not mean that it is more difficult to get about, and I think everybody must admit that in that respect the London County Council occupy a more favourable position than any other county council in the country. The Clause, as I read it, and I daresay I read it wrong, states that the whole expenses of the whole Committee are to be allowed by resolution and are to be paid. In the various cases which I have described where the difficulty is got over, only those members who require the expenditure put their names down, and only those are paid. If this means that you have to pay the expenses of the whole Committee with very many rich men on it, then it seems to me there is a very considerable waste of money.
There is no provision in case a quorum does not turn up and the duties are not performed. But it is quite possible that the Chairman and one or two members may have had a long journey and may get no expenses for it. It seems to me that the main point, and really the important and serious point, is that this does involve a very great change of principle, and if action is taken on this Bill it is perfectly evident that a very considerable charge on the rates may be involved in the future. Therefore, whatever the views of hon. Gentlemen of this House may be as to whether they wish this system to be supported or stopped, they can but have but one view on this point—that it ought not to be passed through a private Bill brought down from a private Bill Committee, and practically not known by the whole of the rest of the House. I certainly think it ought not to be passed by this very thin House at the dinner-hour, when the great majority are not even aware of the contents of the Clause. The right hon. Gentleman has two courses to recommend. He can either recommend that we can have a general Bill for the whole country or he can recommend by administration, which, 682 although not strictly legal, I daresay could be done. I mean the system of allowing a certain latitude to his own auditors, and thus to leave the councils to work out their own salvation by the common sense which they have hitherto shown where this question has come up. I think I am justified in having brought forward this Motion in order simply to bring the facts before this House. Everybody, whichever view they may take can without any breach of conscience vote against this Clause being included in a private Bill. All who want general legislation on the subject will naturally vote to exclude the matter being dealt with in a private Bill. All who desire to sec no legislation on the matter will vote against the Clause. Whether hon. Gentlemen agree with me or not I hope they will realise that it was worth while bringing the subject before the House.
§ Mr. HICKS BEACH
The course we are taking in asking the deletion of this Clause is simply and solely because we think this is not a proper way in which to bring about what is, after all, a considerable change in the administration of local affairs. It may be a very arguable point as to whether county councils in London should be paid their expenses in coming to Committees inspecting various problems, or even possibly their travelling expenses to county council meetings. But that is not the point of this Motion. The sole point is as to whether it is desirable that the London County Council alone should confer this right on itself of taking out of the rates out-of-pocket expenses incurred in travelling in certain county council problems. The general bodies of the county councils throughout the country are not in favour of any change of this kind. They approved of a Bill which would enable them to pay the expenses of officials in going about to inspect various county council undertakings. They declined by a considerable majority to approve of a Bill to enable payment of the expenditure of the county councillors themselves. Therefore, I think it may be presumed that the county councils in the whole country would be opposed to this very considerable change.
Our main objection to this Clause is that the London County Council are taking power by a private Bill for authority to pay the travelling expenses of the members of the county council. As my hon. Friend pointed out, it is very hard to see why any particular case could be made 683 out for London, because London is very well provided for in the way of travelling. Not only have you taxi-cabs and tramways, but you have as well a very complete system of underground railways. We unfortunately who live in the country have to travel long distances, such as, in one case, nine miles by road in my county before coming to the railway station, and then hours by train before getting to the county council. I cannot see that any good case could be made out for the London County Council alone to derive these particular advantages. It is for the Local Government Board or the House to give their consent to this very drastic change in the conditions under which county councils have so freely offered their services so gratuitously for the benefit of the people in the past. I support my hon. Friend in asking that this particular Clause be deleted.
§ Question proposed. "That Clause 18 stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. GOLDSMITH
As Chairman of the Select Committee when this particular portion of the Bill was discussed, I desire to state very briefly the reasons which induced the Committee to pass the Clause. Even those Members who voted for the Clause were of the opinion that, as a great change and an important principle were involved, the matter should receive adequate discussion on the floor of the House. The hon. Member for Barkston Ash said that the present system was a very satisfactory one. Let me inform the House what the present system really is. At the present time the county council has power to pay the travelling expenses of members outside the county, and for the twenty-one years from 1888 to 1909 it paid the travelling expenses of members within the county. But a short time ago the district auditor made certain remarks which induced the county council to abandon that practice, and for the last two years it has not paid the travelling expenses of members within its own area. Under this Clause it is not proposed to pay the expenses of individual members. What is proposed is to pay the expenses of committees or sub-committees when they are actually doing the work of the council.
The hon. Member says that this ought to be done by a general law, and not by a private Bill. I am not at all certain that that is so. Each case ought to be decided on its merits. It would evidently 684 be unnecessary and even absurd to pay the expenses of members of the council of a small borough, or of members of a district council. The London County Council is in an entirely different position from that of any other municipal authority in the country. As a county authority it has all the powers of a county council, including the whole of the educational work of the Metropolis, and, in addition, it has to perform duties which are performed in other parts of the country by the ordinary municipal corporation. It has an area of 120 square miles, with a population of nearly 5,000,000, and while the ordinary county councils meet once a quarter and its committees probably once or twice a month, the London County Council meets once a week, and I believe there are something like ten or twelve meetings of committees or sub-committees every day. I point this out merely to show that the work of the London County Council is infinitely greater than that of any municipal body in the country.
We had evidence before us that the Parks Committee has to look after 114 parks, comprising 5,000 acres. We were told that it was absolutely essential that that committee should pay personal visits to the parks and open spaces, and that if it did not do so it would lose all control over the expenditure upon them. During the time the travelling expenses were paid the Parks Committee used to pay frequent visits to all the parks and open spaces. But now the committee can only pay those visits at the expense of the rates, when the county council certifies the object for which the visit of the committee has to be paid to be an extraordinary one. The expenses cannot be paid for the ordinary work of the committee. The annual cost of the London parks is £125,000. The expenses of the visits of the committee, while they were paid out of the rates, was between £60 and £80 a year. That is not a very serious matter as far as the ratepayers are concerned. But it is absolutely absurd to say that the members of the committee should not only devote all their time to the work of London, but also pay the cost of going to these various parks when they go, not as individual members of the council, but as a Parks Committee performing duties under the special instructions of the council. The same applies to other committees of the council, more especially the Education Committee.
The Education Committee has a large number of special, industrial, and secondary schools both within and without the 685 county. When the committee visits a school outside the county, say at Woolwich, eight miles from the county hill, the members have to pay their own expenses. In a large area like London it is impossible to make a distinction between travelling expenses incurred outside the county and travelling expenses incurred inside the county. I believe there is in this House a majority in favour of the payment of Members of Parliament. I do not agree with those Members; but if a case can be made out for the payment of Members of Parliament, an equally good, if not a much better, case can be made for this Clause. We are not proposing to pay salaries to London County Councillors, but merely that their expenses, when doing the work of a committee, should be paid. They ought not to be out of pocket by doing the work of the London ratepayer. The Mover of the Amendment said that if no quorum turned up the cost would fall on the rates.
§ Mr. GOLDSMITH
In any case, that is a very small point, and probably would not often arise. We, on the Committee upstairs, very carefully considered the evidence placed before us. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will support the action of the Committee, and that the House will pass this Clause.
§ Mr. PICKERSGILL
I understand that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barkston Ash does not object to what this Clause proposes to do, but he objects to it being done in a private Bill, and in a particular instance. I desire respectfully to point out, to the hon. Gentleman as an interesting fact of Parliamentary history and local government that nearly all the improvements in local government have been initiated by clauses in private Bills. The course has been that the Clauses have come into a series of private Bills, and subsequently have been embodied in a public Bill. It is well known that that has been the ordinary and usual course. Further, I understand that the hon. Gentleman himself is the author of a private Bill to enact generally what this Clause proposes to do in the one case of London.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
The Bill which I have brought in, and which I hope the hon. Member will help me to pass, is to pay the expenses of members of the county councils for attending conferences outside their area. It is a difficulty which has 686 occurred very frequently, and means an unusual and extraordinary expense. It has very often prevented them from coming to useful congresses in London. It is a very different matter.
§ Mr. PICKERSGILL
It is on the general lines of this proposal, and I was merely going to suggest to the hon. Member that, as a matter of policy, it would be wise of him to allow this Clause to pass to-day. If it is passed, then he will have a chance of securing what he desires.
§ Mr. SANDERS
I really think the defence of this Clause which was made by the hon. Member behind me makes it almost worse than it appears on the Paper. His defence was that the members of the London County Council had acted illegally for nearly twenty years. At the end of twenty years they were cut out, and so they wish to pass a special Act of Parliament in order to enable them to act in the same way in the future. I do not wish to discuss the question of whether it is right or wrong that the payment of travelling expenses for members of county councils should be made out of the rates. But I do think it must be admitted that if there is a case for London there is even a stronger case for the county councils all over the country. Where men spend pennies for travelling in London they have to spend pounds on travelling in the country. The expenses of a single committee, or the whole of a committee, have been quoted as being in London £60 and £80 a year. I will undertake to say that in some large counties the expenses of a single member of some of the committees, like the Education Committee or the Small Holdings Committee, will amount to pretty well half that sum. So I say that if this is passed for London, a fortiori it ought to be passed for the county councils in our large counties. It is said that the distance of eight miles in London is the extreme distance. Why, we go forty miles without winking an eye in some of the counties on county business, and very often there is no railway to take us there. There are places where one can only get to on a hack.
You will find that the same thing occurs over and over again in connection with county council business in our larger counties. If this principle is right—and that I do not think it is relevant to discuss—does the right hon. Gentleman opposite propose that it shall be passed by this Private Bill for London, and then that 687 other county councils in the country, when once the principle is adopted, shall introduce separate Bills in order that the travelling expenses of their members shall be paid? I really see no reason why London should be dealt with in this exceptional way. I also do think we ought to protest against the attempt that has been made by the London County Council to smuggle this important principle through. Here is a Bill brought in—a General Powers Bill for the London County Council. The title of the Bill is, "To make Provision with respect to the Superannuation of certain members of the staff of the London County Council; to Extend the Time Limited for the construction of Certain Authorised Works; to make Further Provisions with respect to Matters of Local Government; and for other purposes." The Bill comes before the House. No one knows anything about it. Save for the sharpness of my hon. Friend, this matter might have passed without discussion; this important principle might have been smuggled through without anyone being a bit the wiser, until perhaps it was discovered by the Press. I do not think that is the way that an important principle like this should be brought before the House of Commons, and it is for that reason if for no other that I support my hon. Friend in the Motion that he has made.
§ Mr. ARTHUR ALLEN
I should not like it thought that in this matter the members of the London County Council think that this principle should apply only to members of that county council. We quite recognise there may be a very good case indeed for other county councils to ask that a similar measure should be passed. We have been told that the County Councils Association, which represents the county councils generally, is not in favour of this, and therefore it is for them to change their mind and come to the House of Commons and ask for a general Bill. From our experience we on the London County Council have found that it is extremely advisable that the members of the committees should attend as often as possible at the outside institutions which the council has to manage. We have, as the House has been told, a large number of parks and open spaces. We have a vast number of schools and educational institutions of all kinds, widely separated, and in order to manage all these different institutions it is necessary 688 that we who attend should have committees not merely composed of members of the London County Council, but composed of outside people to help the members of the county council. It is patently impossible to get the proper class of people, or indeed to get a sufficient number of people to look after these different institutions if, besides making a tax upon their time, we also make a tax upon their pockets. We do not want, and I am quite sure this House will not desire that we should want, to draw these members of committees from one class of the community only. We want to make service on these committees possible for every class of the community. We want to get people of moderate means as well as people of considerable means.
Everybody knows, it is a matter of common knowledge, that outside London the men elected on the county councils are almost entirely drawn from one particular Class. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Well, as regards one half they are men of a class which can well afford to pay its own travelling expenses. But it is quite impossible to carry on business in London efficiently if we are going to draw members of the committee and sub-committees to manage institutions from one class of the community only. We have found from experience that it is absolutely necessary to pay these expenses. We thought we were legally entitled to pay these expenses. We found out by the action of the district auditor we were not. We therefore took the straightforward course of coming to the House and asking them to legalise the course we have taken, and the course found to be necessary. I do appeal to the House to relieve those of us who serve the London County Council, to say that this course of action is absolutely necessary, and to allow this Clause to stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Somerset casts aspersions on the London County Council for having behaved illegally, and now seeking to whitewash themselves. I think the same might be said of every county council. They equally have behaved illegally on the admission of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barkston Ash, who in his speech pointed out that it is quite a common course for county councils to adopt subterfuges to enable them to pay these expenses without appearing to do so. I believe it is quite usual all over England, and I do not think that the London 689 County Council will be blamed for trying to regularise it. Certainly we would prefer general legislation, but as we feel this Session that is impossible, we hope that a Clause in a private Bill will give us what we want, and make it easier after for county councils throughout the country to get the same advantage once the principle has been adopted. The hon. Member for Somerset said that certainly rural county councillors—if I may make that distinction—often travel so much that an individual member might spend £40 in doing committee work. That would be impossible for many members in London, and that clearly establishes a distinction between rural county councils and the London County Council. It is explained by the fact that in rural county councils they do not have Labour members, and therefore members are in a position to pay their expenses. [An HON. MEMBER: "We have Labour members in Yorkshire."] Well, if you have Labour members in Yorkshire County Council, I cannot understand how they can afford to pay £40 expenses travelling through the country, and I do not think it is a reasonable burden. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not reasonable."] My hon. Friend seems to adopt a dog-in-the-manger policy. He tells us it is not a reasonable burden, but because he cannot get the advantage for rural councils he will not allow it to the London County Council. I hope the House will pass this Clause.
I in no way complain of the hon. Member for Barkston Ash bringing the matter before the House. The majority of the House was probably not aware of this provision, and did not know that it was to be discussed, but if they take the trouble to read the circular sent out this morning they will see the Clause, set out, and could easily discover for themselves in two minutes what are its bearings. If other county councils do not want these powers they need not have them, and the Clause has not the same interest for them that it has for London. I do not think the hon. Member for Barkston Ash quite appreciates what the procedure in the London County Council is. I understood him to say it was rather unreasonable to pay the expenses of everybody whether they wanted it or not, and that it would not be fair to pay the expenses of rich men, but he does not seem to understand that the real procedure that existed in the past, and contemplated in the future is, that those who engage in inspections of parks, schools, fire brigade stations and so on, starting from the County Council Hall, 690 should travel in motor cars to the places to be inspected. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] Well, how is it possible to get round to twenty open spaces otherwise? I think members of the London County Council give far more time to their business than Members in this House, and if members of-the London County Council are to go round in hansoms it would be impossible to carry out the visits.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
That would be as satisfactory, but probably it would be more expensive to hire motor omnibuses, because I do not think that omnibuses for that purpose can be obtained. I do not think that a sum of £60—£80 for viewing. and inspecting parks is at all an unreasonable figure, when you consider the fact that there are 1,000 employés, and that there is spent, upon maintenance alone, £125,000 a year. I do not attempt to argue the question of distances in London as. differentiated from distances in the country. I think there is a difference between London and the rural county councils, owing to the great volume of work and the greater pressure upon the time of members, and for that reason it would be impossible to get round by trans or to get round at all if members were to find their-own way, and to meet at the various parks. To my mind, the administrative work of the London County Council cannot be carried out successfully unless members see the work upon the spot. It is impossible to supervise the work if it is to be left simply to officials.
The only result of not giving the power sought in this Clause by the London County Council will be to leave matters: entirely dependent upon the reports of their officials. It is not a new principle to allow this. The Port of London Authority, the Thames Conservancy, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and the Metropolitan Water Board have the expenses of their members paid. The expenses of members of the board of guardians are paid outside their areas, and when they travel outside their areas they do not generally have to go half as far as the London County Councillors have to travel inside. Members of the boards of guardians, get not only their travelling expenses, but grants for refreshments also; there is no such idea in the minds of members of the London County Council. They 691 only want their travelling expenses for viewing parks, schools, fire - brigade stations, and so on. I quite agree it would he more satisfactory if the matter could be dealt with by general legislation, but that is impossible this year, and I ask the House to allow the Council to have this clause, which is absolutely necessary for the efficient discharge of its work.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has opened up an appalling vista. Here I see my hon. Friend in a fur coat with a cigar in a luxurious motor-car, accompanied by the hon. Member for Woolwich going round on a fine summer's day inspecting the parks at the expense of a humble individual like myself. I do not see why I should be called upon to contribute to the hon. Member enjoying himself in a motor-car. When I interrupted and ventured to suggest a motor omnibus, I did not mean that the hon. Member should have a whole omnibus to himself. I meant that he should pay 2d. with other people, and go as far towards the parks as he should desire, and if the omnibus did not take him to the actual gate of the park, then he should walk the zest of the distance. I think that would be an economical mode of progression. I am inclined to think if my hon. Friend bases this Clause upon the efficacy of the simple revision of the parks, it would be far better if the various members of the park committees did not assemble together at the County Hall and go in processions to the park, but went quietly from their own Homes, and they would see much better than if it was announced beforehand that they were going to arrive in procession on a certain hour of a certain day. My experience of human life, which is perhaps greater than that of my hon. Friend, has led me to the conclusion that these specified visits of supervision amount to nothing at all, because everything is prepared for, and the result is always satisfactory. If there is really a desire to exercise supervision it would be much better exercised if the hon. Member opposite and others walked down to a particular park on a particular afternoon and unexpectedly saw what was going on. I am very much opposed to this Clause, and my opposition has not been modified by the speeches made in favour of it. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. A. A. Allen) said he was in favour of extending this principle to other places, and another hon. Member spoke about a dog-in-the-manger 692 policy, and suggested a policy of logrolling. Of course, we do not approve of that policy on this side of the House.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
I did not advocate logrolling. Log-rolling implies that a party supports a thing which is bad in order to get something else. My hon. Friend admitted that there was a strong case for this Clause, and that it was good, and, therefore, we are asking the House to support something which is good, and that is not log-rolling.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not know what my hon. Friend admitted, but I know he moved the rejection of this Clause. Another hon. Member said if you will support this Clause I will support a Motion to give your council money out of the pockets of the ratepayers. That is what I call log-rolling. I object to this proposal because it will create a precedent for extending the principle to other places. We have been told that it is necessary for the Committee to visit the parks and open spaces, and that the cost will only be about £60 or £80. I do not know what the cost is. My objection is to the principle and not to the cost. If you once admit that the members of the London County Council are entitled to these expenses you will have to admit the same principle in the case of other county councils, district councils, and every municipality all over the country. When you begin with that principle I do not know where you are going to stop. The hon. Member for Stowmarket (Mr. Goldsmith) said this Clause is necessary and it does not amount to much. Although it is only a little amount I think it is a most dangerous principle to bring forward. Why should you declare that members of these committees who have to visit certain places should have their expenses paid any more than the men who attend to the business on the council. I do not say that the present members of the London County Council are not everything that you could wish for, but, at any rate, by this Clause you are putting temptation in their way. Instead of making these visits a duty on their part you are going to say to them, "If you have not much to do you shall have a pleasant excursion on a fine summer's afternoon and see what is going on in certain places under your control." The hon. Member for Stowmarket talked about payment of Members, and he said, after all, if payment of Members is good this is also good. I think payment of Members is bad.
§ Mr. GOLDSMITH
What I said was that there is a much better case for this proposal than for payment of Members.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think there is a case for either. If we adopt this Clause when payment of Members conies to be discussed it will be argued that we have done this in the case of the London County Council and lay should we not do it in the case of Members of Parliament. Let us consider for a moment the position of the London County Council. The members of that body do a very great deal of hard work, and I think everybody ought to be grateful to them for the work they do and have done. I am not opposing this Clause in any spirit of contradiction to the London County Council, but I cannot see that there is any argument for it at all. The officers of the London County Council are situated in Spring Gardens, and it is proposed that these expenses should be paid to and from the County Hall in Spring Gardens. May I point out to the hon. Member for Stow-market that certain philanthropic railway directors have provided very excellent means of travelling by the District Railway, the tube railways, and others, which practically cover every portion of London, and by which you can travel at a very inadequate price from the point of view of the shareholders. I travel in that way myself, and why should the members of the London County Council not do the same? Is it supposed that members of that council occupy a superior position, and when they go on an official visit they must go in state? I think they ought to go like anybody else in the ordinary way in the ordinary carriage provided for the London public. If my hon. Friend behind me had suggested something of this sort for Yorkshire, where the distances to be covered are very great and the facilities for travelling are not very good, I could have understood it. It is quite a different thing to come here where there is every facility for locomotion that the human mind or ingenuity can imagine, and say you cannot afford 2d. 'bus or a tube fare, and you must take it out of the pockets of the ratepayer. That is absolutely ridiculous. I am afraid if his sort of thing once begins we shall never know where to stop.
The hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) I admit has a great knowledge of procedure, but I must say that on this matter I cannot agree with him. I did not know until yesterday that this 694 Clause was in the Bill. I admit I had an opportunity of finding it out, but I should have had to go through every private Bill. The hon. and learned Member knows as well as I do the vast majority of Members do not expect to find a Clause of this sort in a private Bill, and they do not take the trouble of looking at them. My hon. Friend behind me has brought forward his Bill, which is a very different one, because it only provides two members shall be paid in the event of their going to certain conferences of the whole of the county councils of England, as a public Bill, and it would be a bad precedent if a Clause of this sort were allowed to slip through in a private Bill. If the London County Council desire to have a Clause of this sort, they had better withdraw it from this private Bill and bring it forward as a public Bill. I would appeal to the Noble Lord the Member for Bath (Lord A. Thynne) if that is not fair. I look upon it as being the fault of the officials of the county council. They are too fond of having long Bills filled with all sorts of Clauses, which they generally have to withdraw after a certain time. I do not believe this originated with my hon. Friend, but from the oversee of an official, who probably put it in thinking it would not do any harm, and would please certain members of the county council.
I do think a Clause of this sort ought not to be put into a private Bill. It necessitates looking up every private Bill by every Member to see that something of this sort is not put in. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend on his public spirit in bringing forward this Amendment. It is not everybody who is prepared to get up and speak or vote against a Clause which will put money into somebody's pocket. A very vital principle is at stake. We are now fortunately living under institutions which are managed by public - spirited men, who give their labours free. That I think is a very great advantage to this country. The moment you begin to say in one direction or another, or for one reason or another, they shall be paid, you strike a blow at that system of giving labour free in a public-spirited manner for the interests of your country, and you will convert not only this House, but all other public bodies into paid assemblies. If you do that it will be to the detriment not only of those assemblies, but of the electorate who returns them. Therefore I shall have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Burns)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has diverted the House, but he has not convinced it to his line of argument. It seems to me his last statement was, perhaps, the best argument against everything he had said before, because he said the people in this country were in the habit of being governed by people who gave free the whole of their services in the management of our large municipalities. This does not alter that condition of things. It enables them to give their services, as hitherto, free; but in circumstances where it is now impossible for them to continue those services by virtue of lack of means it gives them facilities to continue the very public-spirited work which the hon. Baronet so much eulogised. A subcommittee of the county council can meet at Spring Gardens and go thence—three or four or five together, as is generally the case—and visit some place outside the county and have their conveyance paid for, but they cannot visit places inside the county and receive expenses for the vehicle in which they ride. It seems to me that to give it in one case and deny it in the other is inconsistent and against the public interest.
The hon. Baronet said it was an appalling vista which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Guinness) had conjured up. The hon. Baronet drew a picture of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) riding in a motor car, say to Hainault Forest or to Hither Green, at his expense. I have listened to hear the hon. Baronet deprecate similar expenditure on a more extravagant scale by the Thames Conservancy Board, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, the Port of London Authority, and, last but not least in the matter of generous provision for all its servants and members, the City Corporation. Is it fair for the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds that he should be denied the practical and, as I know from experience, the genial company of the hon. Member for Woolwich? I suppose the hon. Member for Woolwich, after probably having given four days' service for the county council inside the county, travelling at his own expense from Woolwich to Spring Gardens, when he meets the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds under the disabling conditions which now prevail, is to say, "I can pay my expenses for four or five days per week, but 696 I cannot stand the five or ten shillings necessary for a motor-car." The hon. Baronet said he could go in a tram. You cannot go in a tram from Spring Gardens to everywhere, and if he were a member of the county council the hon. Baronet would be converted to this proposition. The best and most essential portion of the work of the members of the London County Council is on the cross routes over vast and open spaces to fire-brigade stations and elsewhere in isolated districts, where no motor-omnibus nor railway can be secured as cheaply or conveniently, especially from the point of view of time, as a motor-car carrying four or five members of a subcommittee and their officials. The hon. Baronet had really no case against this Clause other than that upon the principle "there was nothing like leather." He saw in this proposal something that would interfere with the railway directors, of which he is one of the most distinguished representatives we have ever had in the House of Commons.
May I deal with one aspect of this matter which has not been referred to. We have a right to be guided by experience in this matter. What are the facts? For over twenty-one years we have had the experience of this great and public-spirited body the county council. It rarely happened, when they were allowed to do what this Clause seeks to legalise, that they spent more than from £60 to £100 per annum. Can anyone say that that is an extravagant amount for essential work which is being done on behalf of a great public authority by men of public spirit, but sometimes of slender resources. As to the suggestion of extravagance or abuse, I am convinced, by my eighteen years' membership of that body, that they are most economical; they rarely spend anything beyond what is absolutely necessary and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they defray all the minor expenses of going to and from the sub-committee meetings. Even although they were able to charge the expense, it may be said, to the great credit of the bulk of the members, they rarely did it. The hon. Member for Barkston Ash thought this might be done in a more excellent way. He suggested that the auditors might be persuaded to countenance certain expenses. But that would involve a subterfuge which might lead to abuse, and I could not countenance anything in that direction. The hon. Member further said that this was a new principle. I do not think it is a new 697 principle. It is an application of what for similar purposes dissimilar bodies have done in different parts of the country, and when the hon. Member who now opposes this Clause is actually presenting to Parliament this Session a Bill to enable county councils to pay very similar expenses—
§ Mr. BURNS
Yes. The hon. Member proposes to allow expenditure for conferences, which, as a rule, mean talk, although for practical purposes he proposes to deny these expenses. He was fair enough to state that the work done in London is exceptional, involving an enormous amount of time and labour. I think a city as large and wealthy as London can afford £200 or £300 a year for its public-spirited members to enable them to do this work. We are asked for precedents. There is something in the nature of a precedent in the schemes under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act which grant some of the members third-class travelling expenses when engaged on certain duties. I do think that if this is to be countenanced, as I hope it may be, it should be tried as an experiment by such a public body in a private Bill. It can be watched by the central authority, and if a disposition is shown—which I do not believe would be the case—to abuse the power, then it will be possible for us to draw from this experiment certain deductions. If, on the other hand, the results are satisfactory, it may lead us to support the hon. Member's Bill when it comes before the House. On that, however, I make no pledge at this moment. But I do suggest that this is the best way by which the paying of members for public work can be introduced and extended. I want to point out one disability which obtains in London at the present moment.
The surveyors, architects, and engineers of the county council have their expenses paid. I want the members of the council to be in the same position, because I believe that if they could visit different places with those officials much good would result. I would ask the House to remember that the London County Council has now ten asylums outside the county, and they have also a large number of institutions and pumping stations on the verge of the county. I am not blaming the council because these outward institutions are not visited as often as they would be if they were more centrally situated, but I do 698 think it is inadvisable that asylums and pumping stations, costing an enormous amount of money and in the permanent charge of officials, should not be visited as often as they would be if these facilities were granted to members of the county council. So far as the question of abuse creeping in is concerned, or so far as the suggestion of the introduction of the thin end of the wedge arises, I can only say that the Local Government Board will watch this experiment with the closest attention. But public-spirited Englishmen who to their honour and credit are engaged in doing this useful work are, I am sure, not going to abuse these extended facilities and additional advantages. I believe they will only be used in exceptional cases, and that they will tend at the same time to economy. It will confer on the London County Council, a body now overworked, additional facilities and more extended opportunities for devoting time to the public service, and without the least hesitation I appeal to the House to allow this Clause to pass.
§ Mr. HOARE
I have had some experience in visiting institutions of the county council in various parts of London, and I was very much struck by the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. Why should an hon. Member who can still travel in a coach advise county councillors to go on foot to view the parks, for instance, in different parts of London. I was also somewhat surprised that he of all people should have advised us to make use of the trams. No doubt the trams go to Peckham, but they do not go to every part of London, and it would be extremely difficult for members of the council to visit institutions in those parts where there are no trams. The hon. Member who moved the deletion of this Clause based his argument on two principles. In the first place he said the case of London was not peculiar, and, therefore it was wrong we should go to work to pass special legislation for it. In the second place he said the principle of this payment was wrong in itself. I am certain, as far as London is concerned, that this Clause, supposing it is passed, will, so far from increasing the expenditure that falls on the London rates, diminish it. In my experience of several committees of the council I have found that the more the members of committees have been able to visit particular institutions the more it has conduced to economy. I go further and say that it does not 699 matter how much this experiment, if it is an experiment., which I do not believe, involves. The important point is that you are making it in every way convenient to members of committees to view particular sites, and if you tell them that they have to find the money out of their own pockets quite apart from the actual amount they will think that proper conveniences have not been put in their way, and they will not be inclined to view the sites as they did before. As to the question of principle, whether these expenses should be paid or not, I venture to say that it is very much a case of "much ado about nothing." There is no such principle at stake at all, as was acknowledged by the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Lane Fox). These expenses have been allowed, and they are still allowed even in his own county. In view of that fact, I venture to think that there is no reason whatever for going back upon a system which has worked well for twenty years. The only reason that the county council have inserted this Clause in this Bill is that objection has for the first time been made during the last few years, and therefore they took the natural action and brought the matter before this House and sought to obtain statutory authority. In view of the two facts that members of local authorities should have everything done to induce them to visit the particular sites and institutions, and that there is no principle at stake at all, I hope the House will agree to the recommendation that has been made by the President of the Local Government Board.
§ Mr. BOOTH
This is one of those instances where a Clause is introduced which seeks to relieve a local authority, and I shall leave it to the members of the London County Council to decide after they have listened to hon. Members on both sides of the House. I do not like the way the Clause is drawn, and I should not like to see it become general, but I think they know their own business best, and therefore I appeal to my hon. Friend and colleague to admit that this is peculiarly a case in which we ought to leave it to those gentlemen who are elected by the ratepayers to settle. They have to answer to the ratepayers of London, and if they make a mistake the result will be upon their own heads.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
May I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. The object of 700 bringing this discussion on was to bring the matter before this House. We have had a very interesting discussion upon it, and I do not wish to oppose the principle of the proposal, but I wish it should be extended to other places besides London.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill to be read the third time.