§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
The object of this Bill is to ease the position of local authorities in the matter of borrowing. In the last two years the Government has very properly desired to conserve, as far as possible, the resources of the country, and has consequently put a bar on borrowing by local authorities. There has been very little capital expenditure by these authorities during this period, and it is not possible that much capital can be spent until the War is over and peace declared. But the natural consequence of that is that there are very large arrears of work awaiting completion, and many undertakings will have to be put in hand immediately after the War is over. It is thought advisable, therefore, that certain powers should be given to the local authorities to enable them to borrow money for necessary expenditure and to clear away all the difficulties in the way of local authorities raising that money in neutral countries. It is quite true that there is no practical restriction on borrowing in the United States at the present time, but there are difficulties no doubt which might easily be raised, and it is as well that they should be completely removed and that it should be possible for local authorities thus to raise money. This Bill gives power to the local authorities to raise money for the purpose of discharging any outstanding loan of the council or for the purpose of replacing any sinking-fund money or other sums which may be used for purposes for which they had power to borrow or for the purpose of raising any further sums which the appropriate Government Department may authorise, with a view to prospective capital expenditure. No local authority is able to indulge in capital expenditure unless it obtains the sanction of this House by means of legislation or the sanction of the appropriate Government Department. That sanction will still 1562 have to be obtained, but money may be raised, and we hope will be raised, in the United States and elsewhere, although none of it can be spent until sanction is given for its expenditure. Clause 2 of the Bill shows that the local authorities to whom these powers will be given are the county councils and municipal boroughs, and other public bodies, such as water boards, drainage boards, and harbour boards. There will be power given to these local authorities to raise money for capital expenditure or of replacing any sinking-fund money or other sums which have been used for purposes for which they had power to borrow. These powers will be very necessary as soon as peace comes, and if any of these moneys can now be raised in the United States it is obvious it will help the exchange, it will help the Government, and, in so doing, it will help the War. The city of Paris and other great cities have already found it possible to raise substantial loans in America, and I see no reason why the securities of our great municipalities may not also find favour amongst American investors; if that should happen, again I say it will help the exchange, and it will help the Government in carrying on the War. I hope that the House will accept this as a war measure and will enable us to carry it through all its stages to-night, so that we may take advantage of such facilities as are being offered in the American market at the present time.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I, too, hope that the House will give a Second Reading to this Bill and enable it to be carried through at once. The right hon. Gentleman has fully explained the purpose of the Bill which, I may say, is needed, and I can only express a strong hope that the House will give these powers to the local authorities.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I want to raise a point with regard to the retention in the Army of boys under fifteen years of age—
§ Question put, and agreed to. Bill read a second time.
§ Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into Committee on the Bill."—[Mr. Pratt.]
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. DICKINSON in the Chair.]