HC Deb 04 May 1914 vol 62 cc72-5

Now I come to the new Grants. Some of them will be given in relief of rates and some as a direct encouragement of special services. The first amendment of the present system will be the abolition of the assigned revenues, whereby certain revenues are allocated to the local authorities in lieu of contributions in proportion to the expenditure, which was the old system. I think that Mr. Goschen supposed that the normal growth of these revenues would keep pace with the expenditure. It has done nothing of the kind. The percentage of Grants in most of the services has gone down year by year. The prediction has been completely falsified. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) and Mr. Goschen had both anticipated that on the whole the rates had arrived at their climax, and would decline; but instead of that, the increase has been enormous. The Committee might care to have one or two figures. Take the poor rate. In 1891, the poor rate was £6,500,000; the Government subvention was £1,600,000—that is, less than one-fourth. I am speaking of England and Wales. In 1912–13, the total was £12,000,000, and the Government subsidy something over £2,000,000—that is, about one-sixth. The other main increases have been the education rate—which since the Act of 1902, especially in rural districts, and county areas, has leapt up; the main roads expenditure, which has doubled, and even trebled, very largely in consequence of the new methods of traction; and the cost of lunatics, which has gone up in recent years, though I am glad to reassure hon. Members the ratio of increase has abated during the last few years. The only exception we make to the abolition of assigned revenues is that we still propose to make arrangements with the local authorities for the collection of certain Licence Duties. They have organised a staff for the purpose, and I think it would dislocate arrangements very considerably if we were to take away the collection of those revenues from them. On the other hand, we should have to organise a fresh staff. It is very much better, therefore, that certain Licence Duties, like the Dog Licence, which are very well collected by the local police, and necessarily much better collected by them than they could be by the local exciseman, should still be collected by the local authorities.

With regard to the Poor Law, we propose to adopt the principle of the recommendation of the Kempe Committee, which has recently reported. I do not think I need trouble the House by giving the main headings of that recommendation, especially as my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board will have to go in much greater detail into these things when he is introducing his Bill; but it means that in the first full year the Grant from the Exchequer will be £3,615,000. I am now giving the figures for England and Wales; I will give those for Scotland and Ireland by and by. I want to warn the Committee that this is not an additional sum. When I have given all the figures I shall have to deduct the amount of the assigned revenues. Then I come to the Police Grant. The present Grant is equal to 38 per cent. of the total expenditure in England and Wales. The percentage, I think, has gone down. We propose to recommend that one-half of the total net expenditure, including the cost of police pensions, shall be granted instead of the present subvention. That will amount to £3,400,000 for the first full year. I come to main roads. The present percentage of contribution from the Imperial Exchequer towards the cost of maintenance of main roads is about 35 per cent. We propose that roads should be divided into three classes, the Road Board, which is a perfectly impartial body between the Government and the local authorities, to undertake the classification. In the first class, which will practically be the main roads, we propose that there should be a Grant from the Imperial Exchequer of one-half the expenditure. In the second class, we propose that the contributions from the Imperial Exchequer should be one-fourth. [An HON. MEMBER: "County roads?"] Yes, more or less. Then there is the third class, which we call district roads, which are very rarely used for main road purposes by motorists and others. We propose that there should be no Grant in respect of those roads, but that they should be purely a county or a district charge. The total Grant in respect of the whole of the roads will be £2,480,000.

5.0 P.M.

Now I come to the cost of criminal prosecutions. Prior to 1888 the State paid the whole cost. There is practically no contribution now, because of the way in which the system of assigned revenues has worked. The Kempe Committee recommend that the Government should undertake one-half of the cost. That recommendation we propose to adopt. It will cost £120,000. Then, with regard to cattle diseases. The national contribution has not kept pace with the demand, and the burden on the local authorities has consequently been heavy in some cases, especially for the extirpation of swine fever. The Departmental Committee recommend that the whole expenditure in suppressing cattle disease should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer, and that we propose to accept. The total will amount to £71,300. I ought to say that these figures are for a full year. It does not mean the expenditure during the present year. I will give that later on. I am giving the Committee the expenditure in the first full year, because I want the Committee to see the total amount of the liabilities represented. Then there is the further expenditure in connection with the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary last year in reference to mental deficiency. The counties are showing in some cases some lack of alacrity to take up the optional parts of the Bill, which in many respects are the most valuable. We propose to make a Grant in respect of these optional provisions, which will come to about £45,000. There will be a Grant of £22,500 in respect of the Shops Act and the Employment of Children Act, and in respect of the reformatories and industrial schools a Grant of £22,000. The total will be £9,785,800. Out of this total you will have to deduct the amount of the assigned revenues of £7,785,400. That leaves a balance of about two millions in respect of these branches of local expenditure. Now I come to another branch.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the Scottish side of these same services?


I think my hon. Friend must be patient; I am coming to Scotland by and by. I do not flatter myself that I shall escape my responsibility for finding a portion for Scotland when there is any money going.

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