§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Chamberlain)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
Just twelve weeks have gone by since I moved the Second Reading of this Bill. This afternoon the Measure is approaching the last obstacle which will detain it in this House before it goes on its way to seek its fortune in another place. We who have undertaken its defence here contemplate the end of our task with the quiet satisfaction that comes from the knowledge that we have successfully withstood a prolonged and sustained gas attack mostly, I must say, of the lachrymatory variety. In looking back at our proceedings, I cannot fail to be struck by two unusual features. The first one has been the strange and total disappearance of all the Opposition generals. They have left the fighting to the battalion commanders and to the rank and file. So far as the Liberal party are concerned, of course we are all aware of the reason to which we must attribute the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and, if I do not say that we all regret the cause, it is because one cannot regret a circumstance which has brought him back to us so obviously in the very pink of condition. But I may perhaps tell him, what I dare say he knows already, that in his absence the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) did all that misdirected zeal and energy could do to persuade us that the Liberal party still have a voice in this House.
When I come to the absence of the leaders of the Labour party, I find it rather more difficult to account for it. On a charitable view, I am inclined to put it down merely to a kind of mental hebetude, but I think it is fairly safe to assume that if they had considered that this Measure afforded them any very advantageous ground of attack they would not have left all the credit to be collected by their subordinates. At any rate, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) has no 802 reason to regret the opportunity which was presented to him and of which he made the most. Of course he had a hopeless task, but he certainly made the best of a bad job, and I can sincerely congratulate him on having added very considerably to his already rising Parliamentary reputation.
The second feature seems to me no less striking than the first, and that is the fact that I cannot remember any Measure comparable with this in length, in importance, in complexity, embodying as it does so many diverse features, and vitally affecting so many important interests, which has come through its various, stages in this House with so little alteration. Indeed, some of the most important changes which are apparent in the Bill as it lies before us to-day, as compared with the Bill which was introduced last November arose not from debates in this House but out of those negotiations with the great associations of local authorities, which were always part of the plan and which came to a happy and fortunate conclusion after the Second Beading of the Bill, but before we had reached the Financial Clauses in Committee. I have actually seen the Bill criticised on the very ground that it was too exclusively the work of the Ministry of Health and the local authorities, and the complaint has been made that Members of the House of Commons might just as well have spent their time in wooing the constituencies or taking their recreation as in sitting here listening to debates, which lasted for so many weeks, when, after all, they found so little to alter. The only way to meet criticism of that kind would be for Ministers in future to sprinkle their Bills with a certain number of errors and omissions, in the same way as we put threepenny bits in plum puddings, in order that the House of Commons might afterwards have the pleasure of detecting them and picking them out.
But the House of Commons does not take any such childish view of its duties as that. Nobody who listened to the debates will dispute for one moment that the discussions on such matters as the maternity and child welfare services, the future of the Poor Law, the administration of the transferred functions, the de-rating of various kinds of property, the working of the formula, and the 803 financial guarantees have been most illuminating, and, if the Amendments which have resulted have not gone down to the vital roots of the Bill, it must be admitted that they have been extremely valuable both as defining more closely what were the intentions of the Government and as illustrating more precisely what was likely to be the effect of the Government's proposals. If it be the fact, as I think it is, that in its main outlines the Bill is very much as it, was, and that not only the principle but the principal features remain practically unchanged, that may be due to one of two explanations: Either this House of Commons is not competent to make serious criticism, which is absurd, or else the Bill was so very carefully drafted and was founded upon such an authoritative examination of the circumstances that by the time it came before this House there really was not a great deal of matter upon which serious criticism could be directed.
I was conscious—and if I had not been I should have been made aware of it in the last few days—that bureaucracy is not popular in this House or in the country, but I am sure all quarters of this House will be generous enough to recognise the profound knowledge, the infinite pains and the brilliant intellectual attainments which have been at the disposal of my right hon. Friend and myself in the conduct of this Measure. Ministers are, and of course always must be, responsible not merely for the policy which is embodied in a Bill but also for the decision as to which of various alternative methods is to be employed in solving any particular problem. Even those who most strongly and acutely differ from Ministers on questions of policy, even those who would condemn the particular methods adopted by Ministers, may feel pride and satisfaction in the efficiency of a Department which has no party politics, but which is equally at the disposal of any Government, whatever its political complexion.
The House will recollect that, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, I enumerated five outstanding defects of local government which I said this Bill was designed to remedy. No single voice has challenged the existence of those defects. I think I may say that no single voice, and certainly no single party, has 804 challenged the fitness of the remedy which we are seeking to apply to the first three of them, that is to say to the administration of the Poor Law, to the responsibility for the maintenance of highways, and to the power that is given to county councils to review the boundaries and the nature and the character of the authorities which govern the county districts. The battle over the fourth reform, what we call the de-rating reform, was practically fought out during the summer upon the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Bill, and consequently there has been very little scope for amendment of that Act in our present Bill. So it comes to pass that the first five parts of the Bill, containing more than half the total number of Clauses, appear to-day almost as they were when the Bill was introduced, with Amendments, indeed, in minor details, but with their main features unaltered.
The most important additions are to be found in Clauses 48 and 49, in the first of which the county councils are given power to make a review of electoral divisions, as well as boundaries, and by the second of which the payment of travelling expenses to county councillors for attending meetings of the councils and committees is sanctioned. It is not until we come to Part VI and Clause 77 of the Bill that we find ourselves in the presence of a series of Amendments which are important in character, and which affect the financial implications of the Bill. Seeing that those Amendments were introduced as the result of agreements between myself and the various associations of local authorities, I think perhaps it might be for the convenience of the House if I were now to give a short summary of what those Amendments are, and some account of the additional charge which will be imposed by them on the Exchequer.
The House will remember that under the original scheme the general Exchequer contribution was composed of three items: First of all, there was loss of rates in the standard year, estimated to amount to £24,000,000. Secondly, there was the loss of the discontinued grants in the same year, estimated to come to £16,000,000; and, finally, there was a sum of £5,000,000 of new money and the addition of those three, making a total of £45,000,000, was ultimately to 805 be distributed to county councils and the councils of county boroughs in accordance with what is known as the formula. But that step was not to be taken all at once. In the first period of five years, 75 per cent. of the loss of rates and grants was to be made up to each county council and borough council, the remaining 25 per cent., together with the £5,000,000 of new money, being distributed according to the formula. In the second five years, 50 per cent., and in the third five years 25 per cent., of the loss in rates and grants was to be made up before distribution took place according to the formula, and it was only after the space of 15 years that the formula came into complete operation.
When I came to discuss that arrangement with the local authorities, it was evident that there were three points upon which they felt some anxiety. First of all, they felt that it was impossible to foresee the exact working of the formula, seeing that the data available for that purpose did not then exist, and therefore they were anxious to have something in the nature of an experimental period during which as little change as possible should take place, and before the termination of which it would be possible for an investigation to be made as to the actual result achieved up to that time by the working of the new system. In the second place, they were concerned lest during one of those five-year periods in which the Exchequer grant was to be of a fixed amount Parliament should impose upon them some new service involving extra liabilities for which no provision had been made in the general Exchequer contribution for that period. They pointed out that as the census was only taken once in 10 years there would be intermediate periods when they would hate to rely on estimates of the population, although it was on the population that would be based the particular share of the general Exchequer contribution that was to come to them. Under the Amendments, which have been introduced in the Bill, all those difficulties are met.
In place of the first period of five years, there are now to be two shorter periods of three and four years respectively, and, during the whole of that seven years, the loss of rates and grants to be made up to the local authorities is 806 capitalised at 75 per cent. At the same time, under Clause 100 of the Bill, the Minister is directed before the end of the period to make an investigation, in consultation with the local authorities, into the working of the formula as regards the distribution to the county boroughs and county councils, and also as to the allocation of the general Exchequer grant to the county districts and to the metropolitan boroughs. The census is to be taken quinquennially instead of decennially, and that will mean that the census in 1936 will be available in time to fix the calculation for the third fixed grant period. In Clause 124, A declaration is inserted into the Bill of the intention of the Act that, if Parliament should thereafter impose substantial additional expenditure upon local Authorities by means of new services, then that liability is to carry with it an increased contribution from the Exchequer.
I have made those concessions not merely willingly but gladly. I have made them, because they seem to me to go a very long way to meet what I thought was not an unreasonable request on the part of local authorities. They cost nothing to the Exchequer, and the quinquennial census is certainly an advantage. As to the investigation that is to take place, really all I have done is to put into statutory form a procedure which I have always contemplated would take place if I myself were to retain my present office. So much for that change.
I come to the next change, which concerns the minimum grant to counties and county boroughs. Under the Bill as originally drafted, these bodies were guaranteed that they should have a gain of at least 1s. per head of the population over and above the standard sum during the first quinquennium. The standard sum was the amount of loss of rates and grants in the standard year, and in the case of county boroughs it was understood that they should take account of any loss which might fall upon those boroughs by reason of the administration of Poor Law relief. In subsequent periods they were guaranteed against any loss as compared with the standard sum. To meet the case of a comparatively small number of authorities who pleaded with me that their special circumstances warranted some- 807 thing more liberal than that, I have now arranged that they are to have a share in any increase of the general Exchequer contribution which may take place at any future distribution, with an overriding guarantee of at least 1s. per head over the standard sum for each county and county borough.
Now I come to a more important change, namely, that which affects the distribution within counties, and here I would like to repeat something I have said before, because I think there is still some misunderstanding on this point. The distribution within the counties has nothing to do with the formula. The formula distributes the general Exchequer contribution among counties and county boroughs. They are all guaranteed a definite gain as a whole, and if within a county any particular district stands to lose under the scheme, it stands to lose not by reason of the working of the formula, but by reason of the spreading of the charge both for Poor Law and highways. The House will recollect that we desired to ease the way for the transition from the old state of things to the new, and, in order to do that, we introduced a Clause which provided that in the first year no district should lose. Its loss was to be made up in the first year as to one-half by deduction from the districts which gained in the county, and in proportion to their gains, and as to the other half by what is known in the Bill as a supplementary Exchequer grant. That was for the first year.
After that, the losing districts had got to shoulder their own burdens, advancing towards that end by steps of one-fifteenth in each year for 14 years, so that it would not have been 'until the end of 15 years that they would have borne the whole burden of the extra charge falling upon them by reason of this alteration in the charge for Poor Law and highways. After discussion with the Association of Municipal Corporations and the Urban District Councils' Association, I agreed to extend still further this transitional period. Instead of 15 years, it is now in the Bill 19 years, and the period during which it will not be possible for any ratepayer in any district to lose by reason of that scheme will be extended from one year 808 to five years. That is a very substantial concession. Its cost will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £6,750,000, spread over a period of 19 years—an average of about £354,000 a year. It is a concession which has given very great satisfaction throughout the country. It is one which in no way interferes with any principle in the Bill. It is merely a slight further postponement of that time when it will come completely into operation, and though it conceivably may make the difference that I myself shall not see the whole of the scheme, yet in the life of a nation that is only a microscopic speck, and if it helps to smooth the path I think it is well worth while. When I was speaking of the minimum grant, I omitted to give the House, as I intended to do, the cost to the Exchequer of that concession. It is estimated to be about £300,000 a year, but the extra cost will not begin to arise until after the termination of the first seven years.
There are only one or two other items which involve any extra cost at all. There is a small charge under Subsection (3) of Clause 98, which, I expect, will amount to about £20,000 a year. There is the mitgation of liability under Clause 104, which has been increased by an Amendment carried during the passage of the Bill through Committee, and the extra cost of that to the Exchequer will be £21,000 a year for 15 years. Finally, there is the extra loss of grants to be brought into calculation in the case of the county boroughs and of London, in order to give them the benefit of the increased classification grants on Class I and Class II roads given to the counties, and that is expected to amount to about £360,000 a year, but that last charge will come out of the Road Fund, and should not be reckoned as extra cost to the Exchequer. That completes my account of these financial changes. The House will see that it is almost impossible to summarise the financial effect of all these different items, which begin at different periods and which continue for different periods, but, I think, at the same time it will also see that, whatever way you look at them, they do not constitute an alarming increase in the total cost to the Exchequer, and that they bear only a very trifling proportion to the total amount which the Exchequer will have to find.
809 I want to devote a few minutes to an examination of the Amendment which stands in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition which, I understand, he is not going to move. I happened to read, about a month ago, a speech of the right hon. Gentleman's, in which he told the people of Seaham that the Minister of Health did not understand much about the Bill, but that he was gradually learning something from the criticisms of the Labour Opposition. In the presence of so many hon. Members who have not had the advantage of the right hon. Gentleman in being absent from all our Debates, I do not make any comment on that—
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I am sorry that a physical defect makes it impossible for me to speak to-day, but I was present when my right hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) stumped the right hon. Gentleman so badly upon certain provisions of his Bill.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That, no doubt, is the justification for the right hon. Gentleman's account, and I had hoped this afternoon that my ignorance might have been further enlightened when the right hon. Gentleman came to speak out of the store of his knowledge, but I can only express my great regret that, owing to the circumstances to which he has alluded, that will not be possible. I observe that his Amendment asks the House to reject the Bill on three grounds, first, that it has not received adequate Parliamentary discussion; secondly, that it ignores the fundamental remedies for trade depression—surely that is the most extraordinary reason for the rejection of a Local Government Bill that has ever been put forward by anybody out of Bedlam—and, thirdly, that it is unacceptable to local authorities. As to the first objection, which, of course, is a common form whenever a Guillotine Resolution is employed in this House, I think it is sufficient to remind the right hon. Gentleman that on no fewer than six days the discussion of the matter set down was completed before the time allotted by the fall of the Guillotine. On numerous occasions we on this side of the House watched with amusement the desperate efforts of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) and his friends to keep the Debate going long 810 after they had exhausted everything they had to say.
As to the attitude of the local authorities, we are not dependent upon the interested but unsupported statements of hon. Members opposite, because we have the views of the great associations which represent those authorities. Seeing that this scheme has now been definitely accepted by the Association of Municipal Corporations, by the County Councils' Association, by the Urban District Councils' Association, by the London County Council, and by the Standing Joint Committee of the metropolitan boroughs, as far as it concerns them, I do not think that we need be under any great anxiety as to the views of the local authorities. As for all this verbiage which is put into their mouths, I suppose it boils down to this, that the complaint of the Opposition is that this scheme is not going to give adequate assistance to necessitous areas. I think probably the case could not be better put than it was by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne in a passage in one of his speeches in Committee on the Fourth Schedule which I noted particularly at the time, although I did not then have the opportunity of answering it. I would like to read a passage from that speech. He was complaining that my right hon. Friend criticised him on the ground that he was too vague and indefinite, and he said:I will give him one that is very explicit and definite. How can he defend the fact that under the new scheme, if the figures prove to Le true, the County of Surrey gains 30d., and the County of Lancashire gains only 15d.? How can that be explained? What justification is there for it?There could be only one justification, and that is that the needs of Surrey in relation to its wealth entitled it to inure public assistance from the State than did the needs and rosources of Lancashire.Again, he said:You get a number of industrial towns in the North of England which, again if the figures are right, or even approximately right, will find that in the long run they are actually worse off, under the operation of this formula, than other industrial areas. What justification is there for that? There is no justification at all for it; it is one of the accidents of a stupid formula." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1929; col. 1268, Vol. 224.]The worst of trying to give answers to hon. Members opposite is that, although 811 they put these conundrums, they never listen to the answer; they just go on repeating their old fallacies as though one had made no answer at all. If, therefore, I take some trouble to expose this particular fallacy, it is not because I hope to arrest the attention of hon. Members opposite, but because I want my hon. Friends to see clearly that this is not an insoluble dilemma that has been put before me, but is a statement of the case which is based upon a complete misapprehension of the Government's scheme.
What is the argument of the hon. Member It is founded entirely upon the difference between what an authority is getting now and what it will get here-after under the formula. In other words, he bases his argument upon the relative gains and losses of various authorities, and, if those relative gains and losses do not show that the poorest places gain the most, he asks how can the formula possibly be justified. But, surely, anyone who has given even the most superficial attention to this question will see the fallacy upon which that whole argument is founded. We have nothing to do here with gains or losses. The gains or the losses must take account of the existing distribution of Exchequer grants, and the postulate from which we start our whole scheme is that these Exchequer grants are wrongly distributed now. If, therefore, we left the gains and losses where they were, if we left them in the same relative position, that would not be a justification of the formula, but would be its complete condemnation. The formula takes no account of existing revenues. The formula assumes a reformed rating system—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
—and then it goes on to distribute a given sum of money according to the needs of the locality and its ability to fulfil those needs. Therefore, the true test of the formula is not to be found in comparing relative gains or losses. If you want to know whether the formula is going to do its work properly, you must find out what are the ultimate amounts of the grants which the formula, is going to give to these different places, and com- 812 pare them. If you do that, you will find that matters take an entirely different aspect. I have taken out the figures for these two very counties, supposing that the whole of the general Exchequer contribution of £45,000,000 were to be distributed according to the formula. How do these counties come out then? In that case Surrey would get 181 pence per head of the population, but Lancashire would get 240 pence. There is the justification for the formula.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member wants to escape on some other point. I am dealing with this point of justification of the formula, and I say that that is the justification. I want now to pursue this matter a little further, because, after all, it is important that the House should understand what it is that we are trying to do by this formula, and should see, as far as it is possible to see at this stage, how far the formula is going to achieve that object. I have here a group of towns and a group of counties, or, rather, two groups in each ease, one a prosperous area and the other a distressed area. Here again I have assumed the whole £45,000,000 to be distributed according to the formula, and I have worked out what would be the number of pence per head that would constitute the amount of the Exchequer grant in each of these cases. I will ask the House to bear with me for a few moments while I read these figures, for they are really very interesting, as showing the progression upwards in passing from the prosperous to the unprosperous areas. The figures are: Eastbourne, 97d.; Bournemouth, 112d.; Blackpool, 115d; Southport, 128d.; Oxford, 144d.; Brighton, I68d. We now come to distressed areas: Dudley, 313d.; Sunderland, 319d.; West Hartlepool, 319d.; South Shields, 330d.; Gateshead,;;54d.; Merthyr Tydvil, 355d. Taking the counties, I have already given the figure for Surrey, namely, 181d., and then we have Middlesex, 200d.; East Sussex, 225d.; Hertford, 237d.; Kent, 256d. Then, coming to the distressed areas, we have Glamorgan, 355d.; Durham, 360d.; Northumberland, 364d.; Monmouth, 382d.; Cumberland, 421d., and Car marthenshire, 447d.
813 It must be remembered, when some of these apparently prosperous towns are found to make a small gain, that they are in receipt of Exchequer grants the amount of which was fixed, perhaps, 50 years ago, and that conditions have totally changed since then. Take the case of Surrey. Surrey has increased its population by 50 per cent. in the last 30 years, Middlesex by 70 per cent., and Lancashire by only 16 per cent. Some of these industrial textile towns in the North to which the hon. Member referred have actually suffered a reduction in their population in recent years. On the other hand, Blackpool has doubled its population in 20 years, and the population of Soul head has doubled in 10 years. These are the things that have brought about the existing anomalies in grants, and these are the reasons why, under a fair and equitable distribution of Exchequer money, even these prosperous places must have some gain if they are to have their fair share. The formula has one advantage which no amount of theoretical casuistry, no amount of cheap mockery-about sums in elementary algebra, can take away from it—it, works. The figures that I have given indicate that it puts the money where we want it to go—
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It is because of that, fact that I am quite certain that this formula is going to provide local authorities with ample funds for their services—the health services, and particularly those services which are concerned with mothers and children, which must be extended—and I couple with them the voluntary associations to whom power is now given to make representations to the Minister if they find that local authorities are backward in giving the services for which their resources have been extended. Power has been given to the Minister, under Clause 94, to bring up the standard of backward or recalcitrant authorities. In this scheme we have a Measure which is not only not going to stifle or cripple the local services, but which is going to prove a jumping-off ground for a fresh leap forward of the standard of health and welfare of the community throughout the country. Basing my faith on that, and being convinced that the working of the block grant 814 system and of the formula will in time bring a reluctant conviction even to the doubters and sceptics opposite, I non take leave of this Bill.
I suppose that, except for a few observations upon any Amendments which may presently come down to us from another place, these are the last words that I shall utter during the passage of this, the latest and the greatest effort of my Department. Some of the reforms that are contained in it owe their inception to the vision and the driving power of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but others, as many of my friends know, have been in my mind, and, indeed, in my programme, almost from the day on which I entered the Ministry of Health. To-day, when I see myself almost in sight of the fulfilment of what has been a cherished ambition, I should like to express something of what I owe to my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. Without his indefatigable abilities and unfailing tact and good humour, his inexhaustible fertility of resource and his faultless loyalty, the task that, I have imposed upon myself might well nigh have been impossible. It is not the least of the satisfactions that I feel to-day that I have been associated throughout the conduct of this memorable piece of legislation with a colleague with whom I have never had a shade of difference, and who has so amply and so convincingly demonstrated his capacity for greater things.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House declines to assent to the Third Reading of a Bill the most important provisions of which have not received adequate parliamentary discussion and which, purporting to stimulate trade, secure reforms ill local government, and regulate the financial relations between the State and local services, ignores the fundamental remedies for trade depression, and is unacceptable to local authorities on account of the confusion it will create in the realm of local government, its failure to accept national responsibility for burdens wrongfully imposed locally, its provisions for relieving some ratepayers at the expense of others, and the effect it will have in degrading the standard of the social services and crippling their development through the impoverishment of local resources and a system of State grants based upon a false national economy.I rise with more than usual heartiness to move this Amendment, which stands 815 on the Paper in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I have been accused of moving the rejection of more so-called beneficent Conservative schemes than any Member on this side of the House, but I never rose with greater confidence than I do on this occasion. The Minister, in his opening remarks, referred to what he chose to call the absent generals. If I may say so, there has been one absent general from the Front Government Bench, the one who, it is now admitted, is the real author of this scheme—the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We welcome him here to-day; it is high time that he took part in our proceedings.
I say at the outset, and I will try to prove it presently, that I do not regard this Local Government Bill as deserving the glowing terms which have fallen from the lips of the Minister. I regard the whole scheme as nothing but a great Parliamentary farce, the producer of which has been the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who appeared very melodramatically in Act 1, and occupied the stage by himself, on Budget Day last year, with all the appropriate scenic effects and with, of course, his cherished limelight. He explained what this great scheme was to be. It was to be a scheme for rescuing industry. Since then, so far as I recollect, this absent general has made only one appearance during the whole of the Debates in the various stages of the Bill, and that was when he flashed across the stage like an angel on wires—it was the famous case of the inspired question, to which he gave an inspired answer, about certain road grants—or, to use his favourite military metaphor, when he came to the help of his front trench colleagues by trying to buy off the enemy. That was his last inglorious entrance upon the stage of this great Parliamentary farce.
The Bill has wandered on, until now we are at the stage where we take leave of it. In the interval, it has changed its character. It started on Budget day last, year as, so the Chancellor of the Exchequer called it, a massed manoeuvre of £20,000,000 or £30,000,000, which was to be devoted to that sector of productive industry in towns and villages that was depressed. When the Bill actually appeared before us, it was of an entirely different character. The Minister of 816 Health came to the House and said, as he said this afternoon: "This is the greatest Government Measure of all times. This is a great Measure for the reform of our whole system of local government." A little later, be claimed that it was a great reform of the rating system. As the Bill went through Committee, the right hon. Gentleman brought forward the appropriate purpose to meet his case on different occasions. When it paid him best to say that it was a trade relief Measure, it was a trade relief Measure. When he said that it was a great Measure for the reform of local government, he was using what seemed to him the best argument for the occasion. On other occasions, he brought forward the great motive of rating relief. Between these three objects the chorus became somewhat confused at the end, with the three motives struggling for mastery.
Those of us on this side of the House who have sat through the prolonged, though not sufficiently long, progress of the Bill, have not found it uninteresting; on the contrary, we have found amusement. We have watched discomfited Ministers trying to soothe the fears of discomfited Members on the other side. We have seen supporters of the Government on the Front Bench rushing to the back benches to quell an insipient revolt. We have seen hon. Members opposite, who knew very little about the Bill, getting up, and, by their fulsome adulation, being more royalist that the King himself. We have seen a large number of hon. Members opposite appearing as so many Punchinellos, smiling through their misery—smiling although they were being kicked from behind by the local authorities of their constituencies. There is not one hon. Member who has not had that experience during the passage of the Bill. Now, finally, the Government instead of receiving bouquets are receiving brickbats—brickbats from Bishop Auckland, from North Midlothian, from South Battersea, and from Wansbeck, and, when the Parliamentary farce is transferred to another place, brickbats will follow it, I suppose, from North Lanark and Holland-with-Boston. I mention these facts because these election results are some indication of public feeling in regard to this Measure; they are an indication of 817 the country's disapprobation of the whole scheme.
I have not time to traverse all the defects of the Bill. I should like to deal with the more general criticisms, which will be amplified by my hon. Friends. If the Bill has any justification at all, it is as a Measure for assisting trade revival. That was how it was born, and that claim has been made for it repeatedly by the Prime Minister. It is an attempt, a very belated attempt, and I think a misguided attempt, to fulfil the Prime Minister's pledge of four years ago. It is far too late, in 1928–29, to try to fulfil so important a pledge, which requires such far-reaching action, in the last days of a dying Government. Let us consider how it is going to give help. When we were discussing the new Exchequer grants we were told by the Government that they were to be given according to need, that the present grants bore no real relation to need, and that we ought to establish a system of State assistance which would treat each authority and industry, broadly, according to its needs. When we come to the question of trade relief, that principle is entirely abrogated. No one has ever pretended that industry was going to be helped according to its needs by this Bill; indeed, the whole scheme of rating relief has been built up irrespective of the needs of those who are going to receive assistance.
We have the extraordinary spectacle, the unparalleled spectacle in our history, of a Government pressing money upon unwilling recipients: pressing money upon the brewers, the distillers, the tobacco manufacturers, and the highly prosperous firms who are already rich beyond their requirements. The Government are pressing upon them money for which they have never asked and money which they do not need. The man who stood at the corner of the street giving away £1notes to all and sundry would very soon be removed by the police, for mental inspection, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer who stands at the door of the Treasury and gives away thousand pound notes to the tune of £24,000,000, irrespective of anybody's needs, is regarded as a pillar of Tory statesmanship. The principle is the same in both cases. In the present instance it means the indiscriminate award of very large sums of 818 money to people who have not asked for the money and who do not need it. This is being done by a Chancellor of the Exchequer whose main cry during his four years of office has been "economy" It is being done by a Minister of Health who has done his best to inspire boards of guardians to reduce the scale of out-relief, and who has himself this year reduced the grants for milk by the miserable sum of £12,000. It is being done by a Government who have sunk so low as to pass the hat round to help the miners. These actions are not consistent. They mean the wildest kind of out-relief to anybody who does not need it, and parsimony to those who are in dire need.
Let us consider the plight of the depressed industries. Again and again, the Government have used that blessed term "concentration" We are told that there is to be concentration of the relief given to productive enterprises. Proposals for bringing relief to the householder, the shopkeeper and the professional man were resisted by the Government on the ground that it was the purpose of the scheme to concentrate relief. If the Government are going to help industry in this way—I am not saying that it is the right way—then, obviously, concentration is a policy that ought to have been logically applied and the relief ought to have been concentrated on those areas and those industries which need the assistance most. As the scheme works out, the truth is revealed that, while it certainly does give some assistance to the depressed areas, it does not do sufficient for them to make the help that is given effective in restoring them to normal life. My submission is that that kind of help is worse than no help. I think it was John Stuart Mill who said that for great diseases small remedies achieved not small results but no results. I would go so far as to say that they often achieve bad results.
Take the ease of the coal mining industry. The relief given is to the extent of £3,000,000 a year, to an industry which is losing at the rate of more than £13,000,000 a year. That £3,000,000 will not be of assistance, but it may have a corrosive influence ort the industry; it may intensify the evils from which the industry is suffering. So far from this rating relief being an advantage 819 to a sorely depressed industry, it is probably going to be a possible misfortune to it of a very serious kind. The operation of freight relief will work awkwardly, as we have shown from time to time, without any proper answer having been given by the Government. I will quote one illustration which came to my notice the other day. I have argued that the effect of freight relief on export coal will be to pass over the advantage to the foreign producer as against the British producer. Here is a case in point. Brick manufacturers, I understand, are complaining of the competition of Belgian contractors. The International Brick Company which, I understand, operates in Belgium, is one of our chief foreign competitors. We were informed in the Press, only a day or two ago, that the whole of the coal used in the Belgian brickfields is British coal. Under this new plan of freight relief and rate relief, the foreign producer of bricks will be able to intensify his competition against the British manufacturer by being able to buy coal at a lower price than the British brick manufacturers can buy it. In that direction good British money is being thrown away as far as economic advantage is concerned.
Of the sum of £24,000,000, a big fraction will achieve no substantial economic results. Much of it will be positively disastrous and, at the other end of the scale, much of it will be frittered away by distribution to industries which stand in no need of it. As a means of dealing with the problem of trade depression, the Bill is a complete failure, and time will prove it to be so. The Minister of Health, in his speech to-day, harked back to the argument that the Bill is a great Measure of local government reform. It is not a great Measure of local government reform. It only nibbles at the very edge of the problem of local government reform, and it is doing it at a most inappropriate time. For some years, a Royal Commission on Local Government has been sitting, the Chairman of which is to be provided with a large salary to carry this Bill through the House of Lords. The Royal Commission has not yet finished its labours. How, then, can the Government enter into the arena of local government reform? Obviously it cannot do it on a comprehensive scale.
820 The Bill makes no attempt to deal with the problem of local government reform in a comprehensive fashion. The chief thing that it does it to abolish the boards of guardians. To that we have taken no objection. But the right hon. Gentleman has done it in such a way that in the future, instead of having one bad Poor Law system, we shall have a good one and a bad one side by side, because under the operation of the part of the Act abolishing boards of guardians it will still be open to local authorities to carry on the Poor Law system unaltered in any respect, or, if they choose, they may break up the Poor Law system and deal with various classes of the poor—apart from the unemployed—according to their needs. So that what is going to grow out of this very timid and half-hearted attempt to deal with the Poor Law system is a common injustice through the Poor Law system of contiguous areas dealing with the poor, the deserving poor, in entirely different ways—the penal method on the one hand and the preventive on the other. That is the most and the best that this Bill does in the sphere of local government reform and it cannot, therefore, be regarded in any sense as a great climax to the history of local government development. On the contrary, it is going to make it increasingly difficult in the future to handle the question of local government reform in a comprehensive manner.
The right hon. Gentleman made passing reference and, therefore, I make passing reference to the inclusion of the payment of travelling expenses of county councillors. I well remember the Debate on this question during the Committee stage. I remember how unhappy were hon. Members opposite. I remember that they felt the essential meanness of this proposal which introduces a distinction between England and Scotland for which there is no shadow of justification. I am not arguing that English and Scottish local government should proceed on the same lines. I do not want to standardise our local government institutions, but I say that one of the meanest, parts of the local government proposals in this Bill is that which refuses to give to members of county councils in England and Wales what the Government have been compelled to give in the case of 821 Scotland. As a measure for dealing with local government, I do not think that it need detain us.
I come to the question of rating relief, this much-advertised reform of which we have heard so much. It is not a reform of the rating system. It leaves the rating system and rating law as it stood before. Although the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, no doubt, many other Members of the Government, have regarded the whole rating system as being hopelessly out-of-date under modern conditions, it does not touch the root problem there. What does it do? On the one hand, it robs local authorities of their rateable value. On the other hand, it establishes a new system of grants which operates over a mere fraction of the financial relations between the State and the local authorities, and it consists very largely in giving some local authorities more money at the expense of others. That is what this vaunted rating reform scheme amounts to.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the attitude of local authorities towards his scheme. We heard times out of number the Parliamentary Secretary say: "You must not criticise this; it is the result of an agreement with the local authorities." This House has been led to believe that there has been such an agreement. This House has been led to believe by the Minister himself this afternoon that all the various associations representing local authorities are perfectly happy, perfectly satisfied and approve the principles of his scheme. I say that that is not so. I say that the most these bodies have done is what they were bound to do, to make the best of a bad bargain. Not very long ago, Mr. Ogden Whiteley, the City Treasurer of Bradford, who speaks as one who has been engaged in these negotiations and who is a man of very considerable experience, dealt with this question, and I will' quote his words, because I think it is important for hon. Members not to be misled by the Minister on this very important point. I may say that these words were really called for in reply to a statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary during the wireless debate which took place a week or two ago. The City Treasurer of Bradford said that he wanted definitely to 822contradict the implication by the Parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Health in a public discussion over the wireless that the local authorities are now satisfied and have no objections to the provisions of the Bill. All the associations representing local authorities in England and Scotland definitely expressed objection to the fundamental principles on which the new and substituted grants are to be based, and have maintained those objections throughout.He went on to point out that although a compromise had been made, "the fundamental objections, however, still remain." How in the face of that can the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary repeatedly say in this House that this Bill now passes from here to another place amid the plaudits of the local authorities? It is not so. They have submitted with such grace as they can command to the will imposed upon them by the Minister.
What does this rating scheme do to local authorities? and hereafter it deprives them of rateable value. They are to lose now £24,000,000 a year. They are not getting back exactly what they lose. They are to lose also accruing rateable value which may arise in the future. Every time premises are adapted for industrial purposes, every time a mill or a factory is enlarged every time a new industrial hereditament is built in this country, the local authority is deprived of three-quarters of the new rateable value. That is the truth of the matter, and local authorities did not believe that it was going to be so. They were under the misapprehension that they were to be recompensed for their loss of rateable value individually. It is no use saying to local authorities: "In the aggregate you are losing £24,000,000, and we will pay you back £24,000,000 in the aggregate:" They want it individually, and it is a very reasonable claim to make. The local authorities did not ask for the de-rating scheme. It is a business deal between industry and the Government, and the local authorities as the sufferers ought to have been recompensed not merely for their loss of rateable value now, but for the future loss of rateable value which is hound to occur. I think that the Minister himself has been, perhaps, the cause of a little misapprehension in the minds of local authorities, because at the annual dinner of the Association of Municipal Corporations last year the Minister used these words: 823A complete de-rating of agricultural land and buildings and the partial de-rating of productive industry and of railways, is going to make a big hole in the rateable value of local authorities. In some cases it may reach as much as 50 per cent. of the whole or even more."—That means in individual cases, if it means anything at all.Of course, that does not mean, as Mr. Snowden seemed to indicate, that local authorities have to find the deficiency. That will be made up by a grant from the Exchequer.In a sense they are making it up. They are making it up by this extraordinary method by pouring incongrouous liquids into one vessel, but they are not meeting the wishes of the local authorities by filling up the hole that has been left by the Government's alleged desire to do something for productive enterprises. They are left, therefore, permanently penalised with a rateable value substantially less than it would otherwise have been but for the passage of this Bill. That is the first point.
The second point relates to the question of the grants. The discontinued grants, as the Minister has pointed out, amount to £16,000,000 a year. This also is a small matter. It amounts to about 10 per cent. of the expenditure of local authorities. It amounts to about one-fifth of the State grants in the past to local authorities. It is, therefore, not a large and comprehensive scheme, it does not overhaul the relations between State and local authorities. It leaves the greater part of the field untouched, but by doing that it complicates the whole of the financial relations between the State and local authorities and is creating havoc both within the four corners of the scheme and as regards the services which lie outside. What, we may ask, is the real motive which lies behind the new Government grants and the formula? There is one motive, and that is to stabilise and to limit State grants. It has no other purpose at all but to limit and restrict the Exchequer's con tribution to the services administered by local authorities. If that be so, it is not at all surprising that local authorities should feel apprehensive about it.
The Minister tried to controvert what I had said about necessitous areas by repeating it. If hon. Members will hear in mind what he said they will recollect 824 that he said precisely what I said, namely, that in the case of necessitous areas you must have regard to need and ability to pay. That is precisely what I said. And now he brings out some new figures which nobody has ever had an opportunity of seeing before, at the very eleventh hour and the fifty-ninth minute, and uses these figures in au attempt to show that local authorities are really going to be treated according to their needs and are going to be better off. He says: "We must not have regard to the gain that they are going to get; we must have regard to the total grant which, under the new arrangement, they will get from this scheme." He quoted a number of figures which, if I had them before me now, I think, would be open to serious criticism. As I try to carry them in my head, it only confirms my view that he is doing less than justice to the authorities whose needs are greatest. We have this position, if the figures are correct—I do not think that the figures are worth a snap of the fingers—and we bring the whole scheme into effect now, Bradford, which has prided itself on its municipal development, and which, I believe, has been complimented by the Minister on its progressive health development, will be penalised, and towns which have been reactionary as regards these health services, about which we have heard so much this afternoon, will be helped. If the scheme came into operation to-day, a town like Bradford, which has great need and which has not enormous ability to pay, but which has an authority comprising a public-spirited body of men concerned with the development of the social services, would lose £100,000 per year. Halifax, a town also of great needs and not with an enormous ability to pay, would lose £60,000 per year, while Brighton, populous but wealthy, would gain £120,000 a year. The more one analyses such figures as are made available, the more one feels how weak the financial basis of the scheme really is. It is a Treasury economy scheme primarily, and in the long run it is bound to work nut to the disadvantage of the great majority of local authorities. The Government have had to make compromises. I could not forbear smiling when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health said that this Bill 825 had been subject to little alteration. This Bill has in effect been destroyed. It was to have lasted for 15 years, and then indefinitely, all cut-and-dried. It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had these changes in mind beforehand; but, if the local authorities had not insisted upon these changes, they would not have taken place. Any changes which have taken place, in effect mean that, at the end of seven years, this scheme comes automatically to an end, because it is to be subject to examination, and I venture to say that it will never emerge from that examination except in a revolutionised form. But, of course, there is the seven years period which has still to be bridged. The guarantee of 2d. in the £, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has referred, is not going to help very much.
We found it extraordinarily difficult, during the Committee stage, to get any real statement as to how the guarantee was to operate. The only answer we have got was a single typewritten sentence which was painfully spelt out by the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary. But we dig get this far, and it is something to which, I think, we ought to draw the attention of hon. Members opposite, that the whole basis of this scheme depends on what local authorities are spending this year. It does not in the least follow that what local authorities are spending this year is any safe guide to what they are to spend in the ensuing three years. The whole of the additional expenditure which local authorities incur, however worthy it may be, however inevitable it may be, even although the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health himself has inspired it, as he has done in a number of cases—the whole of that additional burden, much of it hitherto eligible for State grant, is to receive not one penny during the operation of the fixed grant period. If hon. Members opposite will see that, they will see that the whole of this scheme on the financial side depends on the stagnation of local government. It breaks down straight away, and no guarantee is worth the paper on which it is written so long as during the fixed grant period the basis of State assistance is the expenditure in the first year. Is that right or wrong? No right hon. or hon. Gentleman oppo- 826 site has ever in the course of the discussions on the Bill tried to controvert that statement.
That is not the end of the trouble. Any additional expenditure which falls upon local authorities is to be borne in every case out of a reduced rateable value, and the reduction in some towns the right hon. Gentleman has said is as great as 50 per cent. In such towns additional expenditure will cost a 2d. rate where a penny rate served before. It is not surprising that, in these circumstances, the local authorities are full of foreboding as to the possible future of local government under this scheme. I have collected from various local areas particulars of the work to which they have put their hands this year, but on which they have spent no money this year—maternity centres, artificial sunlight, new roads, developments under the Blind Persons Act, operations under the Mental Deficiency Act, commitments made by local authorities which they cannot now escape very well—ani for the next fixed grant period the expenditure which arises out of these commitments will have to be borne on a diminished rateable value and, there fore, will result, in a large number of cases, in a higher rate poundage on the unfortunate householders and shopkeepers. In some cases, local authorities have committed themselves to extensive schemes of development in the near future—some are grant earning and some are non-grant earning schemes—but, whatever they may be, they have to be paid for out of a diminished rateable value. It is perfectly absurd for hon. Members opposite to regard this Bill as being the salvation of the ratepayers; it may be the damnation of the ratepayer before it is at an end. It is going to lead in the near future to far-reaching changes in the structure of local government, and in the relations of the State and the local authorities if we are to save local government in this country at all.
These are the four sides of the measure—a measure of trade revival, a measure of local government reform, a measure of rating reform, and a measure for adjusting the relations between the State and the local authorities. In all respect this Bill fails. As a measure for dealing with the trade situation, I believe it is misconceived and misdirected, and 827 I believe it will achieve no results which will be at all appreciable. As a measure of local government reform it is pettifogging and partial. It does not cover the ground, and it will create other problems of local government which will have to be solved in the future. These new problems will then have to he dealt with side by side with the old ones. As a measure of rating reform, it is worse than a failure. It is a measure which condemns local authorities to a perpetually reduced rateable value. As a measure for dealing with State grants and the financial relations between the State and the local authorities, it is, again, pettifogging and partial, and proceeds on lines, which, I believe, will be disastrous to local government and to the social services, and on lines which have been universally condemned by the local authorities and the experts of the local authorities whose business it will be to try to make this scheme workable. What are we to think of a Bill which leaves untouched the fundamentals of the trade situation; which dispenses lavish relief on the one hand, and heaps new burdens on householders and shopkeepers on the other, which is going to imperil the future of our system of local government, and which cannot help but strike a serious blow at the development of the vital services? I have always used measured words during the Debates on this Bill. My command of language of a Parliamentary kind which would express my views is but small, but I can see little in this Bill of which Parliament can be proud, and I can see much in it of which Parliament ought to be ashamed. I am reminded of the words of Hotspur, which are about the strongest I can use:Never did base and rotten policyColour her working with such deadly, wounds.I think that is quite a good summary of this Bill. It will leave far more disaster behind than blessings in its train. I am not blaming primarily the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health but the "absent general," the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer who determined the strategy of this, and then retired to the seclusion of his headquarters in Whitehall, and was never seen again. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer 828 must take the primary responsibility for dragging his colleagues through the mire in this controversy. We have had challenges offered about this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary speaking from the seclusion of a broadcast studio where I could not follow him, used these words:We invite the Socialist party and the Liberals who disagree with us to take this issue to the country. The Government present this scheme as a real and powerful contribution to the industrial and social needs of our time, and with confidence we await the verdict.This Amendment which I move means that we accept the challenge gladly and eagerly. The Bill is a cynical measure, devised far more to avert disaster from the Government than to deal with the disaster of had trade in the country. Its cynical and selfish purpose has already been discovered. It has been discovered in the recent by-election, would like again to refer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's military metaphor about "the mass manoeuvre of £20,000,000."There is another mass manoeuvre which is taking place at the present time, that of millions of electors to whom This Bill will be Dead Sea fruit. When this manoeuvre takes place, when this mighty force comes into action, then, I think, we may take it as certain that this Government of many promises and few performances will perish.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I beg to second the Amendment.
It gives me very great pleasure to have this opportunity of making a final protest against the passage of this Bill. The Government had two courses open in dealing with the question of local government. One was to introduce a scientific system to take the place of the system which we have at the present time, a system which should have been constructed to stand the test of time, and which would hold its position against the difficulties of the future years. On the other hand, the Government might have chosen a temporary expedient of a practical character to deal with the present difficulties, with a view to enabling the country to carry on until a more permanent scheme could be instituted. The Bill tries to be both scientific and practical at the same time, and fails miserably to be either. In my view, it will provide the finest test imaginable for that 829 characteristic of the British public which is said to be "muddling through." It reminds me of the small boy who went into a tuck-shop and, finding a pain in his abdomen, addressed that part of his anatomy, after he had only eaten a few cakes, in this way: "Ache! I will give you something to ache for." It seems to me that the Minister of Health is addressing the British public in much the same way. He says: "Muddle through! I will give you something to muddle through with." I am perfectly certain that this Bill, in its half-baked, indigestible form, will, as I have said, test to the full the capacity of the British public to muddle through.
Let us see, by example, how far the different parts of the Bill can be held to be either on the one hand scientific or on the other practical for the purposes of temporary expediency. Take the Poor Law, to start with. All who know anything about the Poor Law recognise that for many years past there has been a need for scientific reform. On the other hand, it is quite clear that the immediate circumstances of the day, the condition of the distressed areas and the large numbers of able-bodied men out of work, require immediate practical remedies, but the Bill falls between the two. It does not create a new scientific system of the Poor Law; it only changes the controllers of the Poor Law from the present guardians to the county councils. As part of a general reform this might be a good change, but to carry on the existing Poor Law under the county councils is an exceedingly difficult thing; and the difficulty works itself out in this way, that the right hon. Gentleman cannot use the members of existing county councils to do the work; he has to substitute subordinate committees with co-opted persons in order to carry out the change proposed. Take the health services. There is undoubtedly room for a scientific co-ordination of the health services of the country. The Bill does not bring it about. It gets rid of the percentage system, which was working to the approval not only of some of the county councils and local authorities but to that of the chief medical officer of the State, who has explained how very well the percentage grant system has assisted in spreading medical services. The Bill destroys that and substitutes in its place something which in the opinion of large 830 numbers of people throughout the country who are interested in public health, will not give such good results.
Look at the powers and position of local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman in this Bill is really not proposing so extend the powers of local authorities in order to enable them to carry out on a comprehensive scale things which in many other countries they are required to carry out, and which they successfully carry out. On the contrary, in many ways he has narrowed and confined the powers of local authorities He has imposed certain obligations, as in the case of their dealing with persons in hospitals, and in many other respects. He has not given them a power, which I am sure personally he would like to give; that is the power to establish municipal banks which have been so successfully set up in the city he represents. On the other hand, those laggard local authorities which needed to be brought up to the level of the more progressive local authorities have been given an option in the matter of reforms, and the right hon. Gentleman has postponed for 10 years the necessity of presenting town planning schemes in the case of urban authorities. He has not made it necessary for them to amalgamate the institutions they had before the passage of this Bill and the old Poor Law institutions which they are going to take over under the Measure. All he has done is to introduce a pious proviso in the middle of one of the Clauses saying, in effect, that whereas it is expedient that these powers should be brought under one scheme that they can do as they like in the matter. The proviso he knows has no force at all and might just as well be absent from the Bill.
When you turn to the question on the relief of industry there, almost more than anywhere else, the Minister of Health has come down in the space between the two possible methods he might have adopted. It was possible, facing the difficulties and the way in which heavy rates press on industry, to have entirely changed the nature of the charges which are subject to rates. I wish it was possible for me on the Third Reading of this Bill to expatiate on the changes which we on this side would wish to see brought about, but among the most obvious is, of course, the question of the transference from the locality to 831 the nation of the obligation for taking care of the able-bodied unemployed. It has been stressed not only on these benches but by hon. Members opposite as well. It would have made far more difference to the industries of the country and the depressed areas if that form of rating relief had been adopted rather than the one proposed by the Bill. But the question of the reform of the rates is a much bigger one than that and might have been carried out on an entirely new basis. No such scientific basis has been produced in this Bill. On the contrary, the system adopted is clearly less scientific than the one we have at the present time. There are, on the other hand, certain practical needs, owing to the existence of depressed industries and depressed areas. It was possible for the right hon. Gentleman, as a temporary practical expedient, to give certain relief to industries which are depressed. He has not done that. He has been no more practical than he has been scientific. How can it be practical to give large relief to prosperous trades and keep it away from some of those who need it most? You have streets in which there is a great brewery, a hospital, and some very hard hit shopkeepers who have a difficulty in making a living. This Bill cannot be said to be a practical proposal when it gives relief to the brewery and none to the hospital and shopkeepers.
Then I come to the question of the apportionment of the national money among the areas. The right hon. Gentleman took advantage of the fact that most of his supporters would leave the House at the end of his speech. He has endeavoured to convey the impression that our method of measuring the relief given to local authorities is illusory. He did it in this way. He said that it was not a question of comparing the present situation with the situation which will arise under this Bill it was a question as to how the formula would distribute the amount. That would be a perfectly good analysis if it were not proposed to make any other change except the distribution according to the formula of the Exchequer grant. But the right hon. Gentleman knows well that that is only half the picture. The other half is the amount that he is taking away from local authorities by the de-rating scheme, and to leave that out of account and claim 832 that some local authorities are going to be better off than others because they will get more money under the formula and take no account of the fact that these authorities will be worse off because they are losing more money under the de-rating scheme, is playing with the facts of the case. He compares Surrey with Lancashire. In Surrey there are few factories and Surrey loses little under the de-rating scheme. Lancashire, which is a network of factories, loses a very great deal by de-rating. The right hon. Gentleman tries to induce the House to believe that this scheme is going to do more for Lancashire than for Surrey because Lancashire gets more money, but he does not take into account the fact that the de-rating part of the Bill will take large sums from Lancashire and very little from Surrey. The argument is really a little unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman's honest portrayal of the Bill generally, for which I give him credit.
It seems to me also that dust has been thrown in the eyes of the public on the question of the guarantee against loss. There is no guarantee whatever to local authorities, either the larger or the smaller authorities, that they will not lose by the scheme. There is no guarantee whatever that from a very early date their rates will not be considerably higher as the years go by in consequence of this scheme. The guarantee against loss is entirely without foundation. The facts are that if their expenditure does not go up there is a guarantee against loss, but there is every reason to believe that their expenditure will go up in consequence of the growth of services, and there is no guarantee whatever that if that happens the rates of unfortunate ratepayers will not be much higher than they would have been. The Minister of Health knows this perfectly well, and those who have studied the Bill know it too, but the local authorities of the country are being kidded into the idea that they are being guaranteed against loss, though their borough treasurers and county accountants know perfectly well that that is without foundation. What an extraordinary system it is that is to be brought about! Once in five years a gigantic sum is to be done somewhere in the Ministry of Health. The Ministry is going to take 833 the formula and discover for each county council what the amount is to be. That is to be integrated for the whole country. The Ministry is then going to do a sum in division, and as a result of a very complicated computation is going to allow a particular grant, which is to be fixed for a period for a certain local authority. Will the local authority have any means of checking this amount? It seems to me, in view of some of the representations that have been made in the past, that it will be perfectly possible for very great errors to creep into this highly complicated computation. If I were the borough treasurer of a local authority I should be very unwilling to take whatever the Ministry of Health chose to give me, unless I was provided with information which would enable me to check the figure. In view of the complicated character of the figures it is very doubtful whether any local authority will be in a position to take that very necessary course.
I come now to the final, and perhaps the worst, illustration of the change brought about by the Bill. That is what was called, at the beginning of our Debates, the quinquennial period, but which we now call the fixed grant period. I have been present through nearly the whole of the Debates on this matter, and when I have been incapacitated by illness from being present I have read through the report of the Debates. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I do not remember a single occasion when either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretory, or any member of the Government, or any Member anywhere in the House, has put forward a defence of the quinquennial periods. I do not believe that they have ever been defended, and, what is more, I do not believe that any really sound defence can be offered for them. I believe that they are hopelessly unscientific and at the same time hopelessly impracticable. A further misfortune is that, owing to the operation of the Guillotine on the one hand and the Rules of Procedure with regard to Report stages of Bills on the other, it has never been possible for us to debate the question at all; and that owing to the Rules which relate to the other place it cannot be debated there either. This extraordinary and amazing new procedure of fixed grant periods of three and four 834 years, to be followed by ones of five years, is to be incorporated into this financial scheme without a single word of defence ever having been uttered on its behalf.
I am going to examine this scheme, first of all by a comparison. Suppose that in this House we were told that instead of the Budget being introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a careful explanation of what the expenditure of the year was to be, and therefore of the necessity of raising taxes, he fold us that we were to have our expenditure limited to a certain fixed amount for five years. By some of the die-hards on the other side, who regard parsimony as the one lasting virtue of mankind, that might be acclaimed, but every practical man, every Minister, whether his interests were in the Army or in the Navy or in the social services, would know that the proposal would be disastrous. When dealing with large living organisms you cannot pin them down to spend a fixed sum every year in that way. If you do so you cripple and injure all the activities of the State. What is true of the State is true in lesser degree of the local authorities up and down the country. Yet the Minister in this Bill definitely proposes to limit the Exchequer grant to a fixed sum for a, period of five years.
Of course he may say that that is only part of the resources of the local authorities, and that they can use the rates to make good. Yes, but there is this difficulty: Suppose that expenditure is increasing, suppose that new services are coming into being and that great changes are necessary. You are going to have a large part of the resources of the local authorities pinned down to a fixed amount for a period of five years. It may be that to some extent the rates may make good, but it has to be remembered that they will then have to bear the whole of the new charges instead of roughly only one-half, and that the rates will be raised, not over the whole area which hitherto has been assessed for rates, but will be confined to shopkeepers and householders only. That is why I have said that there was no guarantee whatever for the shopkeepers or householders that they would not be very much worse off owing to the Bill. But there is and there will be a very great effort made to fix and confine the whole of this expenditure of the local authorities to one 835 definite amount for the five years. As I have already stated, when dealing with living organisms that is a very dangerous and undesirable thing to do.
Suppose that the Minister of Health were a tailor and that he was told to make clothes for a growing boy. It might be very convenient for him to make five suits of clothes of exactly the same size for five successive years, and to meet the objection that the boy was growing by saying, "Well, I made the first suit a little too large for you, and when you are five years older I will make you a new pattern, but you will manage somehow in the meantime." When you are dealing with a thing like a living child that would be ridiculous. You have to make a suit fit the growing boy year by year; each year you have to take his measure and each year make him a suit of the right size. It is only when you are dealing with inanimate objects which are not growing that you can pursue this policy of fixture. Let us take one or two illustrations to show how this scheme will work out. There will be a city which has made enormous growth in the course of years. At the fourth or fifth year of the fixed grant period, suppose that someone says, "Why is it that this city, which has so much greater needs than it had five years ago, is receiving only the same amount of money now as then, whereas the city next door, at our borders, which has not increased and has not greater needs, is also receiving the same amount of money?" What answer is there? The ordinary man will say," The law is an ass," and so far as this particular law is concerned, the ordinary man in the street will be perfectly right.
Turn next to the question of unemployment. No one pretends for a moment that the amount of unemployment in different areas remains constant over a period of seven or eight years. Yet in the fourth year of these quinquennial periods what will be the position? You will have one area which has no unemployment receiving an extra big grant from the Exchequer. Why? Because for the third, second and first years before the fixed grant period began, it had a large measure of unemployment. Another area where there is considerable unemployment will be getting no grant at all 836 on account of unemployment, because six, seven and eight years ago it happened to be prosperous. That is how the scheme will work out. Take another example. You get one area that has large numbers of women unemployed and another with large numbers of men unemployed. The area that has large numbers of women unemployed is not to get much relief, because under the Bill 10 women count, for the purposes of unemployment, only as one man.
It does seem to me that this scheme, while it clears up perhaps one or two difficulties, makes many more. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health expressed the hope that he would go down to history as the administrator, the man who carried through this wonderful Bill. I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman on many vital points, but I have hitherto respected his intellectual attainments, and my respect for the right hon. Gentleman would make me hope that his name would not go down to history as the man who brought into being this Bill with all its defects, its utter lack of scientific precision, its unpractical character. If the right hon. Gentleman's name and reputation are associated with it, it cannot fail to injure his reputation and represent him as a smaller man than some of us had imagined him to be.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood), and to some extent the Seconder of the Amendment, are deserving of sympathy, because this is the second occasion on which they have had to speak in a very difficult situation. On the Second Reading of the Bill the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne had to follow what was admittedly a very great Parliamentary effort by the Minister in charge of the Bill. Now, upon the Third Reading, owing to the unfortunate illness of the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Gentleman has found himself once again in the position of having to follow a very remarkable speech, which I think will go down in the history of our Debates. The hon. Gentleman, not unnaturally, took refuge in a certain amount of vague declamation, in which he attempted to reassemble the scattered vestiges of arguments that have been used many times. A great part of his speech was a varia- 837 tion upon what hag now become a historic theme—that rates as such are not a burden on industry. He even went so far as to say that the relief from rates in certain specific industries would have a destructive and even corrosive effect.
He drew a lamentable picture of the industrial situation in this country, which no doubt, as we grow in prosperity and wealth, will grow more and more terrible, as one burden after another, of rating or taxation, is removed from it. That was not the opinion of his colleagues who represent those specific industries and who, from the first time that this Measure was introduced have been pressing the Minister to bring in the remissions of rates at an earlier stage. There have been deputations in which Members from all sides of the House have taken part, and those who are actively and practically concerned in those industries, have said that, so far from the proposed rating relief being a bad thing, it was something which they wanted even earlier than the Government proposed to grant it. Indeed it was very largely on the insistence of those who knew most about these industries that the proposal for freight relief was expedited and made effective as from December of last year.
Then the hon. Member made a statement based, I understand, upon the authority of the gentleman who is treasurer to the City of Bradford, to the effect that the local authorities were in disagreement both as to the principles and the details of this Measure. He told us that we were deceived if we felt that any real measure of agreement had been reached. The hon. Gentleman, however, is not the only Member of this House who has been in fairly close touch with the local authorities—whether with particular local authorities in particular areas, or with the local authorities generally, through their representative bodies. Obviously there must be cases in which individual authorities will express divergent views, but I think any hon. Member of this House who has been in touch with them, will bear me out when I say that the local authorities, generally, in the views which they have expressed through their representative association, have shown a real measure of general agreement and that this Bill now goes forward to its Third Reading 838 with the support of the official representative of the local authorities throughout the country.
The hon. Member also attempted to rebuild an argument with regard to the formula which was very largely destroyed by the Minister in the concluding part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The way in which he sought to rebuild it was to use again the fallacy which the Minister had already pointed out. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne simply restated his argument that one town would gain so many thousands of pounds more or less than another. That is exactly the fallacy to which the Minister called attention. Merely to restate what had already been proved fallacious seems a curious method of trying to rebut the Minister's argument. There was one point made by the hon. Member which I thought was effective, or which, may have raised at any rate a feeling among some of us that there was sonic substance in it. It was the argument that although the local authorities will be recompensed, yet, as the calculation is to be made upon a year which is over, there may be authorities now committed to expenditure, authorities who have undertaken to spend certain new money, and that such new expenditure would not be calculated for this purpose. The hon. Gentleman omitted to state that the local authorities will begin with a gain of £5,000,000 over the grants which they have hitherto been receiving. He did not give us the name of the authority to which he referred when he said that there were new services and commitments which would not rank for grant under, this proposal.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I will give the hon. and gallant Member a large number of cases if he would like to have them.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
I may remind the hon. Member that every county and county borough will gain at least one shilling per head of the population.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
May I put this question to the hon. and gallant Member. Does he really believe that if local authorities exceed their expenditure this year they Rill still gain to that extent?
§ Captain MACMILLAN
I am not saying that. I say that from last year every county authority starts with a gain of one shilling per head of the population and in most cases a great deal more. Altogether 5,000,000 of new money, over the present grants, has been put into the scheme. It seems to me, therefore, taking it as a whole, and even taking authorities singly, that every authority must gain. The hon. Gentleman never mentioned the extra money and anyone listening to him who was not familiar with the Bill would not have imagined that there was any new money involved at all. He omitted that fact entirely from his argument. Not only is it the case that there is this new money, but if the rate-borne expenditure of the authority rises then in each succeeding quinquennium—since the grant-borne expenditure will always bear the same proportion to the total expenditure as the initial grant—that authority will always be to the good. In calculating the grant in each succeeding quinquennium the proportion of the grant to the total of rate-borne and grant-borne expenditure will remain the same. Thus the gain which we are now giving will always remain a gain, but the hon. Member did not bring out that point at all.
The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), who seconded the Amendment in a very interesting speech, seems to have a great objection to the quinquennium itself. When I was a student I remember one of my professors—a German, I think—who related all things to the complex of the solar myth. Whatever it was, whether it was religion or literature or anything else, it was always the solar system, the great beginner and begetter of life which was the origin and inspiration of all human thought and power. I think the hon. Gentleman must suffer from a similar delusion. Why does he attach such immense importance to the period of time which it takes the world to go round to the sun? Is the division of time into yearly periods necessarily of such importance that it is to be regarded with a kind of religious veneration and respect? No, Sir, we know quite well that in many affairs, and certainly in business affairs, we plan our operations for periods of longer than a year. It has been a growing practice among local 840 authorities to provide for longer periods of time and to plan their arangements to cover a number of years instead of one year. I do not quite see that there is any great natural objection to a period of years whether it be three years or five years. The hon. Member for Leicester says that in the time new services might be developed. If he means that there might be new developments of existing services, that, of course, is true. But there, the additional grant which each county borough and county is receiving will be of benefit to it, and in the succeeding quinquennium it will receive an additional grant to make up the amount necessary.
§ Captain MACMILLAN
If, however, the hon. Member means altogether new services, these, of course, will be dealt with by Parliament when it institutes them. When Parliament puts obligations on to local authorities it will vote a sum of money in addition, by which the local authorities may be assisted to meet those obligations. But this and many other points raised by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment are points of detail which have already been discussed at great length in the very interesting Debates on the Bill. Therefore, I shall not delay the House with any further answer to them, but I would like to recall to the House the main principles of this Bill, which is the last of a series of Measures believed by the Government and their supporters to he of some value. The main principle with regard to the reform of our rating system stands. It has not been rebutted. It is not denied that the present system is antiquated. It is not denied that it is foolish to tax the tools of production rather than the products. It is not denied that the cost of rates, being a first charge, is also a cumulative charge upon productive enterprise. It is not denied that this charge falls with particular and peculiar force upon unsheltered and exporting trades. All those facts remain. There is also the fact that of these sums—£6,000,000 for agriculture and £20,000,000 for industry—as has already been shown in the freight reliefs which have been antedated, there will be very substantial benefit for some of those industries which most require them.
841 Those are facts and arguments cannot overcome them. It is the fact that the coal trade will gain in respect of rating, according to circumstances, 3d., 5d., or 6d. per ton. It is the fact that, as regards freight relief, export coal is already gaining on the average 7d. per ton, and that on coal for steel there is A gain of about 10½d. per ton. It is the fact that, in the final working of the scheme, on the cost of steel there will be a gain of 2s. per ton in rates and 3s. per ton in freight. Nobody can overcome those facts. What has been the main thesis opposed to them? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has made a great feature of the argument that all this is nothing hut a dole to relieve the landlords, and that the landlords must gain all the benefit. Hon. Members know that the great exponent of a particular school of political economy, Mr. Henry George, advocated a system by which taxation of all kinds would ultimately fall upon the land. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs at certain periods of his career showed signs of being a follower of that faith. He has, however, been 'a, rather Laodicean believer, because at another period of his career he was at the head of a Government which abolished the duties which first attempted to carry out that theory.
The real exponent of that view, the one real devotee, is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). His arguments remind one of a character described in a, novel of Disraeli's as a very charming and cultivated man who had only one idea, and that was wrong. The fact about this argument is that it has been disproved. Unfortunately for this theory, relief of agricultural rates has already been in operation, and none of the results predicted by the exponents of this theory has occurred. It has been proved by elaborate statistics and on very high authority, that the theory is wrong, and the demand for the relief of agricultural land is often made not by the landlord but by the farmer. Knowing what we do about the relations between landlord and tenant, it is hardly conceivable that the great body of farmers in this country should press, year after year, and generation after generation, for a reform 842 of the rating system, which, according to the exponents of the theory I have just mentioned, will only benefit the landlord and cannot benefit the tenant.
The next artillery brought against the scheme is the argument that we are helping the prosperous and the depressed industries alike. That is also a great argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, regardless of the fact that his own scheme for pouring all the money into particular areas would have the same effect in those areas. Various forms of that argument have been put forward. First we were told—merely, I think, in order to create prejudice—that it was a monstrous thing that the brewer, the distiller or the manufacturer should be relieved of rates. These particular industries all manufacture excisable articles. If there is anything in the argument, it is quite clear that it could better be met—and we shall have to wait and see if it will be met in that way—not by destroying your division between productive industries and distributive industries, but by an alteration if one is required in the Excise levy.
We are told that it is a monstrous thing for some prosperous industry like Courtaulds which makes £4,500,000 a year profit to be relieved of rates. But the total rates paid by Courtaulds amounts to some £45,000 a year. If we take the iron, steel and engineering trade, it takes some 400 or 500 firms to make a similar profit and the rates were not £45,000 but 20 times that amount. Therefore, the amount of relief to them is 20 times as great as it is to Courtaulds. Therefore, under this scheme the relief will be 20 times as great, applied exactly where it is most needed. The more you examine the position which we have held, that rating in its effect on industry is obsolete, and that it is particularly bad on the exporting arid unsheltered industries, if you follow it through to the effect of this relief, you will find that the effect is greatest where it is the most needed, greatest where the industry is the most unsheltered and most depressed, greatest where industry employs or is capable of employing the greatest number of men, and that, in fact, out of the total amount of some £24,000,000 to £26,000,000 which will go to the benefit of industry, over 843 £20,000,000 will go to industries which are ranged in the category of depressed trades.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne seemed to have great objection to the scheme being dual in character. He said it was partly a scheme for the reform of the rating system as affecting productive industry and partly a scheme for the reform of local government. Why a scheme should not be dual in character, I have no conception. At any rate, that part of the scheme which deals with relief of rates on productive industry marks, to my mind, a very important change in the development of our political history. It marks an attempt to recognise the immense burdens that have been put upon production, and it marks a realisation by the Government of the day of how, after all, upon industry and production everything else depends. We talk of welfare schemes, of social services, and of benefits of various kinds, and, of course, we want to see them grow, and we want to see the central service grow, but we sometimes forget that it is only upon the solid foundation of industrial prosperity that they can be built. The monetary policies which we have followed, I think wisely, have necessarily had certain repercussions and put an increased burden especially upon the exporting and unsheltered industries, and this great Measure, on this side of it, marks recognition of that fact. It says, "We recognise that these burdens have grown, that social services and financial policies have added to some extent to them, and to counterbalance this we are making a substantial change and substantial concessions."
Then, on the local government side of this Bill, so much has been said already that it would be wearying the House to go into a more detailed examination of it, but I may say that its main principles remain unchallenged. Does anybody say that the abolition of the present system of Poor Law guardians and their transference to the county councils and county borough councils is a reactionary move Does anybody opposite oppose that? No; they say we are not going far enough, we are not making a total break-up of the Poor Law. But surely they will admit, as I think most unbiased observers and students of this question 844 must admit, that we can proceed only by stages, that it is a tremendous advance to have given an opportunity for a complete break-up of the Poor Law, but that it would be impossible to force on all authorities at this moment a complete alteration of the scheme; but these powers will be there, and a great proportion of authorities will use them, and year by year and stage by stage the whole thing will come into force.
Surely then we must admit that this scheme, which is in effect a centralisation up to the larger authorities from the very small authorities and a de-centralisation down from Parliament, and is an attempt to build up a sound system of local government on the basis of the county council and the county borough council, is going to proceed so that it will become a strong structure and same-thing which will be an effective force in local government in the future. The system of grants now introduced will free the authorities from a great deal of unnecessary control, and they will be far less entangled in the meshes of Whitehall and Treasury control than they now are; and finally, the method by which these grants will be distributed will be more satisfactory and more related to the needs of the area.
I cannot help feeling that the real opposition to this Bill comes from a different source. It has long been known that the minds of all those who are students at all of political and economic questions were working upon this problem of local taxation and the relations between local and national taxation. It has long been patent that some measure of reform was overdue. The crushing effect of rates upon industrial development was one which could not be tolerated any longer, that the vicious circle of accumulated results was no longer bearable; and I cannot help feeling that one of the reasons why both the official Oppositions object to this series of Measures, which was first outlined in the Budget of last year, is a certain feeling of chagrin and disappointment. How many strangled, stifled speeches are there now on the benches opposite! It has been their intention to fight the next election on rating reform and to have stumped the country with speeches denouncing the anomalies of the rating system. There 845 is no more pitiable spectacle than that of a partisan reformer whose partisanship outweighs his zeal for reform, and if he is more annoyed and disappointed to see his opponents take up a reform than he is pleased to see it put in hand, he writes himself down at once as the merest partisan. I cannot help thinking that this great series of Measures, of which this Bill is the last and culminating point, will take its place in history, and that the Ministers who have conceived this scheme will be long remembered, not only for the wide knowledge and spacious conception of the whole plan, but for the patience, the perseverance, and the grasp of detail which they have shown in giving to their Measures practical and legislative effect.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
Since the Minister, who is one of the generals 6f his own party, has been kind enough to refer kindly to the rank and file of other parties, perhaps I may be able to say that I heartily agree with the last sentence—that is all—of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan). It is very curious that the right hon. Gentleman should have talked about the absent generals. He has forgotten that one of his own generals has been persistently absent. I remember very well the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor), in the early stages of the Debates on this Bill, comparing the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Moses. It is perfectly true that the parallel may be drawn, and drawn in more than one way. Moses in ancient days announced an adventurous policy, and so did this one. Moses had a very great way of appealing to spectacular instincts, and so has this one. Moses laid down the law, and so did this one, the law of de-rating. The old Moses also vanished from the scene after announcing that there should be a, new, numbering of the people, and so did this one; and we have not had the advantage of the right hon. Gentleman's attendance during the long and protracted Debates on the Committee stage of the Bill.
Nevertheless, there is not a Member in the House, who has followed the Debate regularly, who will not agree with the back bench and rank and file Member now speaking in a whole-souled admira- 846 tion of the conduct of the Bill both by the Minister and by the Parliamentary Secretary. When I say that, I must make a distinction, because the word "ability" applies to them both, and yet there must be a distinction in one's mind, if one be perfectly frank, about the particular ability of the two right hon. Members, and if I were asked to draw the distinction that is left in my mind, I should say that the Minister has been a model of clarity and has always tried to answer the points put up, but the Parliamentary Secretary has been a model of clarity when it has suited him, but otherwise he has been a model of agility.
The hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees cannot get away by setting up a series of principles and then asking who denies them. He has sat long enough in the Committee regularly during the Debates on this Bill, to know that the real issue between the two sides of the House is not so much one of principle, except in certain matters, as one of methods. In form, the whole battle is a battle about method, but because it is a battle about method, it is none the less vital, for if the method adopted to carry out a reform upon which all parties are agreed he the wrong method, then that method stands in the way of the right method when the time comes for the adoption of that right method. The hon. and gallant Member was surely forgetting for a moment, when he asked if anybody challenged the transference of the functions of the Poor Law from the boards of guardians. I should have thought that he himself would have done. In any case, I challenge it, and later on I hope to make the challenge good with evidence.
I say that the fundamental fault of the structure of the scheme, as regards the Poor Law, is that the Government, when they decided to transfer the functions of the Poor Law from the boards of guardians, chose the wrong unit. I deny that the county or the county borough is the right unit, and since the hon. and gallant Member himself sits for a most important non-county borough, which is quite capable of running its own Poor Law functions, I should have thought he would have agreed with me that when the Government chose the old geographical and historical unit of the county and the 847 county borough rather than a scientific unit, having regard to history, size, rateable value and efficiency of administration, they chose the wrong unit.
When the hon. and gallant Member rebukes the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) for not talking about the new money, surely he is guilty of misleading the House and the country. What is this new money? Is it £5,000,000? Nothing of the kind. The most we can say about the new money, the original new money—I will come to the additions a little later—is that it is £2,000,000, for £3,000,000 of that money is taken from the Road Fund and would have gone to the local authorities whether or not we had had this scheme. The maximum gain in the general Exchequer contribution in its first form is £2,000,000. Does not the hon. and gallant Member remember that every local authority in the land for the last 25 years has been complaining on two grounds, first of all, because their sources of income were not large enough, and, secondly, because successive Governments have never, in their judgment, found a fair share of the local taxation imposed? That has been especially true in recent years, since the growth of abnormal unemployment, about the problem of the Poor Law.
Excluding the contribution made for mental purposes to Poor Law authorities, out of every £100 paid for Poor Law relief, £94 is found by the local ratepayers and only £6, or 6 per cent., by the general Exchequer. What the Government have done in this Bill, by the new arrangement of finance, is to evade entirely a re-distribution of Poor Law burdens, a long overdue re-distribution, between the local authorities and the central Exchequer. The hon. and gallant Gentleman may make that kind of speech on the platform, but it will not go down in the House of Commons. The fact is that fifty-fifty ought to represent the least burden of the National Exchequer for Poor Law services. The Minister of Health in his admirable speech to-day—the last of a series of admirable speeches—put us in a dilemma; it was an inaccurate dilemma—I do not like to use the word "false" about the right hon. Gentleman. It was an incomplete dilemma. He said that there had been 848 little amendment in the Bill, and that that was due to one of two things—either that the House of Commons was not competent to amend the Bill, which he said was absurd, or that the Bill had been so well drafted that it was not necessary to amend it. It is a trilemma, not a dilemma.
Many of the major issues that go to the fundamentals of the Bill have never been discussed in the 13 days of the Committee stage. As the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, I noted down one or two outstanding issues. Take the principle of highway administration, a vital principle; we have had no adequate discussion of that. Take the question of the separation of the loss of rates from loss of grants of the new money inside this contribution, which is the most vital of the issues that ought to have been discussed. Take the effect that this scheme will have in all districts, especially the rural districts, on the yield of a penny rate by de-rating; we have never in the whole of the Debates had any direct discussion about that vital thing. We had indirectly an admission one night, when scarcely anybody was in the House. The Parliamentary Secretary said that certain services not covered by this grant might need an increase in poundage. Numbers of other issues were not talked about. I have here an analysis of the Amendments put down by all parties; out of 566 Amendments only 150 had any discussion. That does not give the whole picture, because in the first five days of the Committee stage we took nearly all the time discussing the Clause which was down first for each day. The Guillotine not only limited the time of back bench Members who have worked hard to study the Bill, but we gagged each other. Every Member who spoke for five minutes took opportunities from others who wished to join in the Debate. The discussions have not been well balanced and there were some late portions of the evening when the subjects to be discussed were not of such vital interest as the subjects which were closured before 7.30. Many vital issues never had the full discussion which they ought to have had in a Bill of this magnitude—I was going to say a pantechnicon of this magnitude.
We are now at the last stage. We have had a series of quick and ill-digested 849 meals, and the Bill has been ill-digested. I venture to prophesy that Members sitting in the House to-day will live to see, inside ten years four or five amending Bills to this Bill. This is not by any means the last word because under the Guillotine the realisms were, either from the apathy of the House or the paucity of the number of Members taking part were not faced. They will, however, have to be faced in practical working by the local authorities when the Bill comes into operation. The Bill has been discussed under great difficulties because it contains such a mixture of good and bad. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have never condemned this Bill wholly. I have always said that if I were faced with the negation, as expressed by hon. Members above the Gangway in terms of their own policy, and certain things in this Bill, I would prefer the latter, but he knows that I prefer another solution, which it would not be in order for me to discuss now. It has not been an easy matter to discuss the Bill and the proposed changes in an orderly and systematic manner. Perhaps the House will forgive me, as I have tried to take a continuous part in trying to understand the Bill, if I state what in my mind, underneath all the technicalities, are the real issues which are now being dimly perceived.
The first issue is that raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, namely, the question of the unit. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was very unwise, when he chose to transfer functions, not to have looked at the unit. He cannot defend, nor can any Member of his party defend, giving Canterbury with 24,000 inhabitants, full powers, while denying these full powers to Ilford with 120,000 inhabitants. He cannot defend making Rutland, with 14,000 people within its borders, a unit for the administration of these vast functions, and leaving great rural districts of over 100,000 to have their functions broken up and transferred to the county council. The further discussion goes, it will be seen that the fundamental mistake on the administrative side of the Measure is that the wrong unit has been chosen. I deny that the county borough or the county can be regarded as the proper unit for the administration of the powers given in this scheme. Another issue is the increase of bureaucratic power under the Bill. I 850 do not intend to follow hon. Members who are learned in the law on that matter, but I want, as a layman, to deal with the question. The hon. and gallant Gentleman used the phrase "variations on one theme." I have those words on my notes with regard to bureaucratic power; there is not one variation but 231 variations on the one theme.
Other issues are the shrinking from democracy and selection rather than election; the effects of differential rating upon the use of public money; and the concentration of the health services in the hands of the county councils and the county boroughs, and the dissipation of the funds which ought to make the health services effective. If the right hon. Gentleman had not merely said he was going to concentrate the health services, but said that he would apply an expanding revenue to make that concentration an effective keywork, he might have gone to the country talking about a great campaign against disease. He has hamstrung his own scheme, because the block grant will prove in the end to be insufficient all over the country for the necessary expansion of these vital functions, especially if what I anticipate happens. At the moment, there are 350 whole-time medical officers of health and 1,150 part-time. I anticipate that in five years those figures will be reversed; each one of these doctors will want assistants, and, if they are to do their job, the money provided by these block grants will not be sufficient; they will want three times as much. Thus, the Minister will have to come to the House for a review of the block grants in a short time. Everybody outside and inside the House has been talking about the general Exchequer contribution In that connection, we have a whole series of problems such as the standard year, the actual loss of rates, the illusory guarantee, and the illogicality of trying to put under one formula the distribution of moneys originating in the Treasury and moneys originating in a locality. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman has said to-day will shake me in that view. I do not believe that the formula which tries to apply two utterly different sets of money to one percentage rule will ever work satisfactorily.
This Bill has gone too far in the centralisation of services. I cannot be- 851 lieve that 82 county boroughs and 62 counties are sufficient units to handle the problems which they will now have to handle, especially when you consider that some of them are very small in equipment, in population, and in rateable resources. I can understand the officials of those county boroughs and counties being very pleased, because their powers are being extended, and because they will have new functions to control. The major health services, the major highway services and those great services known as Poor Law services all linked up together cannot be efficiently administered when centralised in the county capital. On the question, of bureaucratic powers, we have been faced in this Bill with the old philosophic discussion between law and decree. We have had to face the problem in a new and acute form. I do not wonder that hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially those learned in the law, made great play with Clause 120. I was the first Member of the House to call attention to that Clause on Second Reading, when it was Clause 111. Almost exactly the same words that were in Clause 111 are in Clause 3. It is true that they may be in the Act of 1911, but there is a great deal in this Bill that was not in that Act. I am not going to deal with the legal point, but with the fundamental doctrine that laws ought to be passed by Parliament, and not framed by Regulations and Orders in offices by unknown men who have not to answer for themselves.
I want to draw attention to the variations on the theme of bureaucratic control which are in this Bill. References are made once to the following powers of the Minister: I begin to think that there is one shrine in the Ministry of Health, and that is "power," and one hymn of praise, the theme of which is, "The Minister, always the Minister." The Minister "may declare," "may decide," "may consult," "may alter," "may extend," "may consent," "may confirm," "may correct," "may formulate," "may dispense with," "may cause investigation into," "may increase to 50 per cent. the fees for births, marriages or deaths"—so that he will be dealing with us after we have gone, if unhappily we pass before the first quinquennium is over—he "shall give an opportunity," and he "may make 852 an equitable adjustment." Twice references are made to "may have representation made" and to "shall pay." He may "reduce the grants" twice. He may "make a report to the Ministry of Transport" three times. He may "have a grievance sent to him" three times. He may "have copies of agreements sent to him" four times. He may "sanction" four times. He "shall publish in one or more local newspapers" four times. He may "consider" five times. [Laughter.] The hon. Member's mind is not on the Bill; it is in other quarters. He "may be satisfied" five times. He may "appoint an arbitrator" five times. He may "be applied to" or "appealed to" three times. He may "allow" seven times. He may "hold an inquiry" seven times. He may "direct" eight times. He may "certify" ten times. He may "make regulations" ten times. He may "approve or issue new powers" 14 times. He may "determine" 20 times. There are 91 references in the Bill to the making of orders by the Minister. That makes 231 variations on one theme.
It is not Clause 120 which needs the close attention of the "Times" newspaper and of the legal fraternity; it is the whole Bill from beginning to end. It is conceived in the bureaucratic spirit. There are two points of mitigation. I was very much relieved to find that the Minister may make a loan without interest—that, of course, appeals to me as a Scottish Member—and I am sure that all hon. Members w ho have read Clause 30 were delighted to find that there is one thing a Minister cannot do, for it there lays it down that it shall not be lawful for the Minister of Transport on or after the appointed day to make an order—which is one small mercy for which we may be thankful.
I have troubled the House with this long analysis of the bureaucratic powers of the Bill, because I hope it is the last time the House will ever see a Bill of this kind. If we are to obey the law, we ought to know what the law is on the face of the law, and only the judges in the courts should tell us whether our interpretations of the law are accurate or inaccurate. The House of Commons is now badly handicapped by the new arrangement for closures and the Guillotine an respect of the powers of the private Member as against the Cabinet, 853 especially when we have a Cabinet the large majority of whose Members have stayed away from the discussions on the Bill. We are hampered by the Cabinet on one side; we ought not to be hampered by letting the Civil Service draft Bills to give the Civil Service powers to be enforced in this way.
I would like to say a word about the formula. After all is said and done, the notorious formula is nothing but an arbitrary means of arriving at certain percentages in accordance with which a grant of money is to be divided between the counties and the non-county boroughs. I took the trouble to work out the formula as it applies to Birmingham, according to this percentage for all three parts of the scheme—loss of rates, loss of grants and new money. I find that under the Bill the total weighted population of England and Wales will be 110,604,796. The Minister of Health, at the behest of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has numbered the people as 110,000,000. Birmingham's population is 2,299,805. That means a percentage of 2.0793. Let us apply the scheme to Birmingham in terms of that percentage. We find that Birmingham gets £495,290 in rates, it gets £302,746 in grants, and that under the scheme for the distribution of new money it would be entitled to get £103,963. As compared with the loss of rates, which is £641,300, it gets £495,000, a net loss of £146,000, or 22 per cent. With regard to the grants, while it receives £302,000 it loses £256,000, a net gain of 17.9 per cent. It will have a net loss on the two of £100,000. With the new money, £103,000, it gets a net gain of 0.04. If the right hon. Gentleman, instead of working out the sums in pence under the block grant, will face these facts as worked out for each portion of the contribution without the additional money, he will understand what we think about the effect of the linking up of the loss of rates with the loss of grants.
The system is especially dangerous in the rural areas. Take an area like that of the Brailes Rural District Council, near Rugby. The rateable value was £16,820. It will be de-rated to the extent of £6,090, leaving its rate assessment at £10,730, of which £9,216 represents houses, shops and offices. The hon. and gallant Member talks about making this up, and the right hon. Gentleman always 854 says that there is no loss and that there may be a gain by reason of the schemes. My trouble with this scheme is that we have to deal with 80 per cent. more of public expenditure as between the national and the local expenditure. This scheme only covers some 20 per cent. of the rate and grant-borne expenditure. There are rural districts where in future a penny rate will raise only £4. Consider the condition of those parishes when services not allowed for in this scheme have to be undertaken by the local rating authority. Consider an increasing educational expenditure. If the hon. Member reminds me that the ratio serves in connection with the total rate-borne expenditure, I agree, but he must read his own financial memorandum and remember that the ratio itself as expressed there leaves the Exchequer to find one-fourth of the new expenditure outside of the scheme and the local authority to find the remaining three-fourths. I do not believe the Minister of Health or hon. Members of this House have given sufficient attention to the effect of de-rating on the actual loss of rates in a particular area, and the effect it will have on the yield of a penny rate. Let me trouble the House with two figures which the Minister gave me in answer to a question. He told me that the average loss of yield on a penny rate in Durham is £4,080, Surrey £1,750, Burton-on-Trent £330, Southend-on-Sea £50, Middleton in Lancashire £191, Greasboro' £53, Richmond, Yorkshire, £3, Wanstead £4—no wonder the Chancellor of the Exchequer is happy—Rotherham £290, Stockbridge £18. Some of these are small places and some are large places, but the loss is there, and if the loss is made up according to an arbitrary calculation of percentages such as is involved by the formula, it does not meet the three-quarters of the other expenditure not included in the scheme. In my judgment what the right hon. Gentleman has done is to smash the rating system in the rural areas. He will find in the course of the first three years of his scheme that the needs of the rural areas alone will compel reconsideration of they operation of the linked system of grant, first in order to make up for the loss of Treasury money and secondly to make up for the loss of rates.
I had intended to say a word about the block grant, but I feel I have tres- 855 passed too long on the time of the House and I will sit down by saying this. When we read our Homer when we were young most of us were fascinated by that weird figure which had the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a snake. I think some resemblance to that is to be found in this Bill. The head of the lion was to be the break-up of the Poor Law, but I think that is a delusion. The body of the goat represents, I think, the bureaucratic powers, and I am sure the tail of the snake is the block grant, for I feel the right hon. Gentleman will live to rue the day when he forsook the percentage grant system and linked this new and imaginative idea of concentrating health services under one direction with the system of a fixed grant for these services, which will hamstring and hamper their development. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, who has done his best to convince us, has not been able to convince us. I am as dubious now of the methods of this Bill, much as I appreciate the intentions—indeed more dubious—as on the day when the Committee proceedings began.
§ Mr. ELLIS
Earlier in this Debate one hon. Member, I think the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment he was quite certain that not a member of our party had escaped very considerable complaints from his constituents on the subject of this Bill. I can truthfully say that I have had only one serious complaint. It came in the early stages of the Bill's history, and was from one of my strong Socialist opponents. After talking to him for some time, all I could get out of him was that he considered all formulas to be "agin nature." As time went on, a good deal of interest was shown as to what the effect of the Bill was going to be. I honestly think that the bulk of the inquiries and the criticisms did not spring from any real opposition to the Bill, but from a desire to be properly informed as to what each individual district was going to gain or lose. As the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton (Captain Macmillan) has said, this question is really one of principle in administration, although, for purposes which are well founded, it was necessary to join to a question of administrative reform some very real relief to productive industry. It seems to me 856 that an honest attempt has been made to deal with the change in the situation, perhaps somewhat late in the day, but very few Ministries seeking popularity would care to indulge in administrative reforms, the results of which must offend many individual interests and give every opportunity for prejudiced speaking on the Bill on public platforms. An attempt has been made, and I think successfully, to make sonic distinction between rural and industrial interests. For reasons which I may go into later, I am not quite sure that the course is finished so far as the county districts are concerned.
It is quite clear that the whole principle of the Bill is that all those interested in a big industrial area, and all those who make a profit out of it, should be responsible not only at the actual time the profit is made but for so long as they reside in the neighbourhood for the expenses of the district in which the profit has been made. In many districts people escape those expenses by removing outside the district in which the profits have been made, with the result that other districts benefit by their residence and they escape with lower rates. It is possible that in the future this kind of thing will not be allowed, and I think there must be some extension of the area of large county boroughs in order that all those who profit will pay their just share of the expenses. I think that in the county districts this question will be a little more difficult to deal with. A good deal of the criticism against this Bill has been that in the industrial parts of the county areas you have not a rural aggregation at all, but you have in fact large strings of towns joined together which happen to be just inside the county and they are so treated geographically, yet everyone knows that that is not a fair method. That is a problem which may have to be faced under this Bill, and powers should be given to local authorities to deal with it. It appears to those who are interested in industry that the natural home of industrial aggregations cannot be a county district where the prevailing interest must be rural, and they will probably have to be grouped together to form one long county borough in order to get the full benefit of county borough administration. The result of such changes will be that we shall be left with long spread rural areas with 857 which it will be difficult to deal. It may be that in the future there will be a substitution of provincial boundaries for county areas, and instead of taking diminished areas as suggested by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), we shall have to have larger areas.
I would like to refer to the position of large towns and county boroughs under the Bill when it becomes an Act. It has been said that the work of those boroughs will be faced with the difficulty in future that if they attempt to increase their local services they will be met with the trouble that in order to get the money they will have to depend on industries which may have disappeared from their area. It must not be forgotten that these local authorities will have a large amount of new money to begin with. Many of these places are distressed areas, and the recovery of trade there will in itself not only bring back more work and more spending power into such districts, but it will tend to bring back to the distressed areas the very trade which has left those areas because they had become distressed areas. It seems to me to be quite clear that a good deal of the migration from the North to the South has taken place more speedily lately, because people desiring to start new industries have had a fear that if those industries were started in the old centres the cost of the rates and other charges in regard to which they have had no responsibility would be heavier than the new industry could bear.
Under the de-rating scheme that balance is redressed. Those who are contemplating starting a new industry have to consider not so much the rateable value but what are the existing conditions that will help them in starting a new industry, and they will not go into a country district where there may not be the kind of labour they want, but they will probably decide upon the old larger district where every kind of labour is available and where there is no fear of high rates in the future and where all those ancillary trades exist which are so useful to big industries and which are not available in country districts. It seems to me that de-rating will have a good effect in that way, and may restore the prosperity which some districts have lost. We speak here very often, I will not say with prejudice, but without sufficient regard to what goes on locally in regard 858 to our local government. In any district in a big centre, what will be the first thing that a wise council will do when it considers the changed conditions brought about by this Bill? They will do what a good many councils have never done before, that is, they will try to relate their expenditure to their income. I am not saying how that expenditure should be distributed, but I am quite certain that in a great many local councils up to the present time there has been no co-ordinated system for expenditure and there has never been a Budget prepared to show the relation of expenditure to income in regard to various services and needs. In some places they have a more forceful chairman of committees than in others, and he very often presses his claim, and the council give way to expenditure which they would never have sanctioned under other circumstances. [An HON. MEMBER: "The committees see to that!"] Where the committee work is good I know that state of things could not exist, but a great deal of the committee work is not good.
Under this Measure the local authorities should have a considered budget before them every year, and the result will be that a policy will be laid down which will be carried out over a period of five to perhaps seven years. The work will thereby be much easier, and those members of local authorities will be able to present to the people who elect them a considered policy which will extend over a period of years, and everyone will realise that what they are trying to do is something which is actually necessary for the district and not an attempt to catch votes. There ought not to be this general abuse of bureaucracy. We have to make up our minds to one thing. We have a constantly growing population which needs certain services which cannot be carried on by voluntary efforts. There are people inside this House and outside who sometimes indulge in a general denunciation of our local government officials. Take the case of our county boroughs. Is there anyone connected with local government who does not realise that in a great city the ability of the town clerk and those who serve under him is the one thing that makes the name of the city or makes that name stink amongst other cities. Is it supposed for a moment that you can get that work done unless you have services 859 of that kind. Instead of always abusing these gentlemen in our local government areas, I think it is only right and fair that someone should speak on their behalf and publicly recognise the valuable work they do.
A good many hon. Members above the Gangway have a fear as to the extra labour that is going to be cast upon local authorities, and it is said that this extra work will make it impossible for them to carry out their duties efficiently, because you will not be able to get enough people elected. To meet this difficulty it has been proposed that there should be a certain amount of co-option, and immediately that suggestion is made a great many people talk about the degradation of democracy. In the very little time Members of Parliament get for reading I have often tried to find out what democracy means, and I have tried to console my mind with a definition of this kind, that so long as you control the purse, your aspirations for democracy are mainly satisfied, because you really do control everything that really matters. So far as it is necessary to get things done by experts and other people it does not qualify your assistants any the more because they are able to go upon a platform and make a windy speech. I think most hon. Members will agree with that statement, and that is the best definition I can give.
It has never been suggested that a co-opted member should take the place of an elected member. The suggestion is that the co-opted member should help the elected member and such people should be co-opted because they possess special qualities. That is why I am glad that the Minister of Health has made it possible for us to bring in those who have had experience of certain services, and I hope those people will pass on to general service. If you were able to say to your local electors quite clear of politics and other issues, "Whom would you like to help you with your maternity and child welfare centres, and your other welfare societies," they would at once say that you would not like the people who come and talk politics to them but those people whom they knew and with whom they had lived and whom you completely trust because they knew these people understand the job. Surely such 860 co-option cannot be described as something prejudicial to democracy. I should like to add my congratulations to the Minister of Health for the work he has done in such an excellent way, and if he will allow me to borrow from the history of heraldry to tell him and his Parliamentary Secretary that this Bill will always be associated in my mind with the motto: "Tandem triumphans."
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
I should like, at the beginning, to refer to the Second Reading speech of the Minister of Health. I write an article every month in the Journal of the Iron and Steel Trades' Confederation, and in that article I paid him a compliment by saying that his Second Reading speech was a wonderful effort. I have listened to his Third Reading speech to-day, but I confess that I was really disappointed with it, especially when he stated that all the local authorities and county councils in the country were now satisfied with the Bill. The Minister knows quite well that, as a result of the Guillotine, several important Amendments were never reached. I can point to several Amendments which were put down on behalf of the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth in order to try to improve the Bill, because those authorities were very dissatisfied with the Bill as it stood, One Amendment dealt with the question of expenditure in the standard year not being equivalent to the normal, and provided that Regulations should be made to secure that, where the expenditure by the council of any county or county borough was materially curtailed during the standard year owing to financial stringency, the amounts of the grants to the council payable in respect of that year should be estimated and certified as though they had been increased by such amount as might be prescribed. Another Amendment dealt with the increase of the road grants, a third with the application of the full formula immediately, and a fourth with the Goschen loans. The Minister knows quite well that in Monmouth the Bedwellty loan, which is something over £1,000,000, is now going to be transferred to the county council. I believe the Minister has made a concession and has reduced the rate from 1s. to 9d. The local authorities who endeavoured to pay off the Goschen loans are now going to have the 861 burden of this extra 9d. rate placed upon them over a very large number of years. The period has been extended from 15 to 19 years. I point these things out to show the Minister that the Monmouth and Glamorgan county councils are still very dissatisfied with the Bill.
I do not believe that the reasons put forward by the Minister to-day for this great scheme are the real reasons. In my opinion, history is simply repeating itself. The Minister has discovered that the democracy in this country is beginning to have power on the local authorities of our country. In ancient Rome the same thing happened. There the governing classes, who lived in luxury, wealth and comfort, oppressed and tyrannised the proletariat and peasantry. The people fought for some power and, immediately that power was granted to them and they got to the seat of office, they discovered then that the power had been transferred to some other office. My opinion is that, as far as the reason for this Bill is concerned, the people to-day are beginning to get power on our boards of guardians and urban and district councils and that the Minister, because he can see that this power is being taken up by the democracy of the country, is now transferring their powers to the county councils since he knows it will be many years before we begin to attain power on those bodies.
I would remind the Minister of something which happened 45 years ago, when his distinguished father was fighting for power for the movement with which he was then concerned. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking to the anti-Socialist League last week, said that he was ringing a bell so that people would hear the alarm in time. This is a quotation from a speech by Lord Randolph Churchill in Birmingham in October, 1884, referring to the distinguished father of the Minister of Health:What may we not expect? What may we not legitimately anticipate in the day when the constitution is no more, and when Mr. Chamberlain, a pinchbeck Robespierre, and Sir Charles Dilke, a renegade democrat, have attained the summit of their ambition in becoming President and Vice-President of the British Republic? You may, I think, gentlemen, without any exaggeration, anticipate a very genuine and useful imitation of the Reign of Terror, sanctioned and supported by the view of the guillotine. The toast of "the Constitution" is, as far as I know, an honoured 862 one at Tory banquets in this particular hall. But at the same time I am disposed to consider that at this moment it is a very appropriate toast, because it will be idle to deny, and foolish to blind our eyes to the fact that the constitution is in danger.There was the same move forward to be made 50 years ago as the democracy are making to-day, and that quotation shows the opinion of the father of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In my opinion, the same move is being made to-day, as far as this scheme is concerned.
I do not believe, too, that this Bill will benefit the industries of the country in any way. I will take the case of the iron and steel industry. On the Second Reading the Minister pointed out that the object of the Bill was to reduce prices with a view to reviving trade and to diminish unemployment. After that speech was made, the members of my confederation approached the Minister with a view to discussing this question as far as it affected the members of my society and people working on sliding scales in the iron and steel trade. The Minister at once suggested that, as we had negotiating machinery to deal with these sliding scales and the fixing of wages, the best thing for us would be to approach the employers in the different associations with a view to discussing the matter. We approached the employers in England, Scotland and Wales, and had three meetings with them at the Hotel Metropole in London. We pointed out to them that, if the grant under the de-rating scheme was going to reduce the price of steel, it would reduce the sliding scales, and that we would have a voice in this question. The reply of the employers was: "We do not know the incidence or the value in so far as this scheme is concerned. Therefore, we are prepared to make you no offer, but, immediately the scheme comes into operation, we shall be prepared to discuss the matter with you. Up to the present the only thing we can tell you is that we shall be in the queue receiving our share of the £26,000,000."
How is it going to affect the different industries in the country? Let us take the case of Sheffield. Lord Aberconway, who is the chairman of John Brown and Company, Ltd., Sheffield, where they produce malleable, crucible, chrome and other high grade steels for home consumption, says that the de-rating scheme will 863 give them the advantage of something like £1 per ton on the production of a ton of steel. Coming to South Wales, Mr. Frank Rees, the chairman of the Steel Association in South Wales, says that, if you take a works with a production of 100,000 tons of steel per annum, paying so much in rates, and divide the amount granted as a result of the relief under the de-rating scheme, the benefit will only amount to 1d. per ton.
§ Major PRICE
May I ask whether that includes the railway carriage on all that goes into the steel works and all that comes out?
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Yes, so far as these tinplate bars are concerned. In order to satisfy the hon. and gallant Member, I will read what was said by Mr. Frank Rees, who is the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and the steel trade in South Wales:Mr. Frank Rees, the Chairman of the Steel Employers in South Wales, speaking at Swansea on 5th December, 1928, stated that the Local Government Bill promised a substantial relief in local rates. He gathered that in that district alone a reduction of 2s. in the £ would result from the operation of the Bill. This seemed a considerable cut, on the face of it, but again he wanted to warn them "—that is to say, the employers—that the reduction would mean very little in a works that produced 100,000 tons of ingots per annum, for, at a rateable value of £3,500, the reduction in rates would not be more than £350, so that on a tan of steel it only amounted to less than ld.
§ Major PRICE
I am sure the hon. Member will forgive me for interrupting him again, but he has not answered my question at all. He knows that it takes from 3 to 3½ tons of coal to make a ton of steel, and he knows what the freight relief is on each ton of coal, and also on the other things that go into the steel works, as well as on the finished steel that comes out. Instead of being only 1d. per ton, the amount of relief is nearer 1s. per ton.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I understand the point, but I am now quoting the remarks made by the Chairman of the Association, after calculating the amount under the de-rating scheme. I am now dealing with de-rating, and, so far as they were concerned, he said that this would only amount to 1d. per ton. Let me quote 864 another authority, who has given me permission to use his name—Mr. L. D. Whitehead, of Tredegar, who is connected with large works in Ebbw Yale, Tredegar and Newport. In Ebbw Vale they manufacture steel rails, in Tredegar hoops and wire, and, in Newport, tube. While travelling with me, Mr. Whitehead said, "You can tell the Minister of Health that, so far as the steel trade is concerned, and I am connected with three firms, it will not help the industry in any way, and for this reason, that what we receive to-day we shall be giving away in the competitive market to-morrow." He also said that in no productive industry, whether it were coal, steel, cotton, or any other industry, should any firm receive a single penny under the de-rating scheme if it has made a profit or paid a dividend, because in that case the relief would be given to people who did not require it. Therefore, you have Lord Aberconway saying that this is going to give relief amounting £1 to per ton on high-grade and special steels, you have Mr. Frank Rees saying that it is only going to benefit them to the extent of 1d. per ton, with very keen foreign competition in steel bars, and you have Mr. L. D. Whitehead—and these are men who are captains in this industry—pointing out that what you receive on one day you give away in the competitive market on the following day.
There is another authority, whose name I am not able to give in public, though I will give it to the Minister. He owns a group of mines, and he said to me that this group of mines were paying, on £60,000 of debentures, something like £3,000 per annum. He said that, although the works are going, they have only been able to cover the cost of production, and have not been able to pay any dividend for three or four years, but he says, "Under the de-rating scheme, as we pay £4,000 per annum in rates, we shall get a relief of 75 per cent., or £3,000, and, although we have not been able to pay any dividend for the last three or four years, we shall use that £3,000 under the de-rating scheme in order to pay our people a 5 per cent. dividend."
Taking the incidence and the value of this scheme, I do not think it could be worse if it had been hatched in Bedlam. I am now pointing out to the Minister that my Confederation are not 865 going to make a political issue of this matter, but will deal with it through their own negotiating machinery; but, so far as the steel trade is concerned—and I think I know something about it, having been connected with it for 40 years—every authority to whom I have spoken has said that de-rating will not start a single furnace or mill. I hope that the Minister will keep these things in mind, because the time is very near when we shall be going on the platform and explaining the scheme as it affects the wages of our people. I am not going to blame the Minister, because we have not asked loin to protect that side of the case, but, while this scheme will not start a single mill, it will affect considerably the wages of our men in the iron and steel trade.
§ Major HILLS
The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. T. Griffiths) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his interesting speech. I rise only for the purpose of making a single point. The hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), in the Debate on the Second Reading, mentioned a movement about 20 years ago for what was called the break-up of the Poor Law. It was originated and was largely influenced by the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) was, of course, deeply concerned in it. I also was concerned in that movement, and I want to correct the impression that the hon. and learned Member gave that in this Bill the Minister is setting back the clock, and is not proceeding on the lines of Poor Law reform upon which all Poor Law reformers are agreed. It so happened that the movement eventuated in a private Member's Bill—a Bill for the Prevention of Destitution—and that Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on a Friday afternoon in 1910. It, was moved by a Liberal Member, Sir Robert Price, and was seconded by myself. I have read through my speech on that occasion. It was a very long speech, and I shall not attempt even to summarise it, but I would point out to the House the very long way that we have gone, and the further way that the Minister's Bill is going, on the lines of Poor Law reform laid down in that Bill.
The first point was the abolition of the boards of guardians, and that is 866 contained in the Minister's Bill. The second was the treatment of the different classes that come under the Poor Law according to their need, and not according to their destitution—the treatment of the sick as sick, of the unemployed as unemployed, and so on. This Bill, especially in Clause 5 as amended, goes a very long way towards that. I see the hon. Lady the Member for East Ham, North (Miss Lawrence) shaking her head. She will have ample opportunity of confuting that, but I would say to hon. Members opposite that, if they cannot get all that they want, it is a good thing to go a certain way along the road. No door is closed. It is an advance on the existing state of things, and the local authorities are directed—let that fact he remembered—under an Amendment inserted on Report, to use the agencies outside the Poor Law wherever they can. There again the Minister has followed the lines laid down in the Prevention of Destitution Bill. Thirdly, that Bill pleaded for a national organisation to deal with the unemployed. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members, I think, forget that that Bill was brought in before unemployment insurance was in force, and before Employment Exchanges existed. It advocated them, hut they were not introduced until the next year—
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
Is not that all the more reason why we should have a national treatment of this problem?
§ Major HILLS
I am pointing out, with all respect to the hon. Member, that we have gone a very long way along the lines laid down in that Bill. It is very remarkable that, of the points to which the Bill referred, and which I endeavoured to emphasise in my speech, a great many are now the law and practice of this country. The object was to find work for the unemployed, and not to put them on the Poor Law; to train them for work, and to transfer them from district to district. All that is being done now, and, therefore, to a very large extent, the methods of breaking up the Poor Law that were advocated in that Bill are now law. I am glad to say that that Bill received very interesting support from the present Lord Balfour. It was brought in as I have said, on a Friday afternoon, and on that Friday afternoon we had speeches from the Leader of the 867 Opposition, from the then Prime Minister—Mr. Asquith, as he then was—and from Mr. John Burns. Mr. Asquith gave very cold comfort to the Bill, but Lord Balfour was much more sympathetic. I think the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) will confirm that.
§ Major HILLS
I am sorry to say that he was in Opposition; otherwise, the Bill would have had more chance of passing into law. It had no chance under the Liberal Government. Although Mr. Asquith was very chilly, he was warm compared with Mr. John Burns. We had the extraordinary spectacle of the President of the Local Government Board, which office was then occupied by Mr. Burns, rising immediately after his own Prime Minister, and saying, in effect, that he had not condemned the Bill nearly enough. Mr. Burns could find no good in the Bill. He took the view that all was right in the best of all possible worlds, and the Bill got no further. The opposition to the Bill came chiefly from certain members of my own party, who combined with Mr. Burns, a curious combination. The Bill was attacked very severely, and its supporters were termed socialistic, which was an unfair description. We have lived to see a great many of those revolutionary proposals become the law of the land. My object in addressing the House is to point out that the Minister of Health has proceeded on the lines of all Poor Law reforms for the last 20 years. If the Bill does not go as far as some hon. Members would like, it goes in the right direction and does not close the door to other reforms.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
A certain private duty impels me to deal, in the first place, with Clause 19 of the Bill before I deal with the major questions. I have very good reason for dealing with this particular Clause, because its meaning has been kept entirely from the House until the last day of the last stage but one of the Bill. On the face of it, Clause 19 gives certain general powers to the Minister of Health, but we have now had an explanation that those powers are not general powers, but are only to be exercised in one particular instance, and are put forward with respect to one particular Union. The question at once 868 arises why if this Clause was intended only to apply to one particular place, the scheme was not plainly shown in the Bill. The answer can be given when we discuss the scheme. Clause 19 is to be put into effect in the West Ham Union only. That Union consists of one excessively poor county borough, West Ham, one moderately poor borough, East Ham, and two comparatively comfortable urban districts, Wanstead and Waltham-stow. The scheme provides that these two latter districts, which have always helped to bear the burden of the poverty of West Ham, are to be relieved to the extent of 5s. on their rates, while my own district, which pays 2s. 8d. of its rates outside the borough to the relief of the extremely desperate poverty of West Ham will only be relieved to the extent of about 3½d.
The scheme is that the two richer districts are to be cut off and that the two poorer boroughs are to be united. This scheme comes under the general head of special areas of Poor Law relief. The scheme produces the very strangest and most divergent results in the different parts of the former West Ham Union. If I take the constituency so brilliantly represented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the effect is that his constituency is to be set free to elect its own guardians and to receive considerably more than 5s. relief in its rates, although it is the richer district. On the other hand, the constituency that I so unworthily represent will be left under the appointed guardians, and the rate relief so far as I can gather will be something under 3½d. I noticed that when the Bill was introduced the Chancellor of the Exchequer rushed down to his constituency and announced the glad news that the Minister of Health was going to give them more than 5s. relief in their rates. I raised the matter in the House at the first opportunity and pointed out that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not have known anything unless he knew what the Minister proposed to do in Clause 19, and that if the West Ham Union was not to be broken up the Chancellor of the Exchequer's promise could not be implemented. The Minister of Health answered, in significant words and with a significant smile, that I should find that it would be all right in the Chancellor of the Exchequers' constituency.
869 It may be said that not only the Chancellor of the Exchequer's constituency will benefit, but that Leyton and Walthamstow will also share in the benefit. Does anyone believe that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, say, represented Upton, that there would not have been a different arrangement in West Ham. The two rich parts of the West Ham union are to be taken out and are to be relieved to a considerable extent in their rates, while West Ham, left poorer than it is now, will have to pay not merely the interest but the principal of the existing debt. It has now come to this, that every ratepayer in my district knows that the only chance of obtaining any relief in rates and of going forward with educational and other amenities in the borough is the destruction of the present Government. They know that only by our scheme of Poor Law relief will they be relieved of the taxation which overburdens them, and set free to go forward along the lines of progress.
I should like to address myself to some of the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton (Captain Macmillan). I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member is not in his place. I was surprised to hear him say that the Bill was unchallengeable and that we had not really challenged it. I was prepared to hear that our arguments were not valid and that our facts were wrong, but not that we had failed to challenge the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member seemed to think that every district would get a guarantee of 1s. per head of population. I would point out that Stockton will be a loser by 3s. on its rates. That loss has only been postponed for four years, but after that time it will come gradually into effect. Before dealing with the general effect of the Bill I should like to direct attention to the question of de-rating. Our main objection is the waste of public money in giving rate relief to people who do not want it. When we raise that objection we are told that it is impossible to discriminate between prosperous and unprosperous industries. What about the prosperous and the overburdened districts?
The other day, I received some amazing figures from the Ministry of Health showing what would happen to the 870 poorer districts if the burden of outdoor relief was taken off those localities. The figures were of such a character that I could scarcely believe them. The relief would amount to 18s. in Chester-le-Street; 18s. 11¾. in Bishop Auckland; 17s. 3d. in Bedwellty; 15s. 7½d. in Merthyr and 11s. 2½. in Pontypridd. In some cases the relief would be considerably more than three-fourths of the rates of the district. When people say that we cannot discriminate between prosperous and unprosperous industries, we reply that instead of pouring money relief into districts where it is not wanted a much better way would be to relieve the burdens in districts which are sorely depressed and where the relief would help not only industry but everybody else in the district. It is an absurdity that we should rain out money on the just and the unjust, in order to cure a local difficulty which is concentrated in the distressed districts.
What will be the effect of the Bill as a whole? My own feelings in regard to the Bill have changed very much since it was introduced. I do not now believe that when the appointed day comes this Measure will do any particular harm to local government. When the Bill came out, I read it with a mixture of dismay and incredulity. I could not believe that anyone seriously meant so to upset the foundations of local government, so to damage the health grants, so to destroy areas and boundaries, so to interfere with autonomous districts, so to dump an unreformed Poor Law upon the county councils. I saw the worst features of the Bill and I put down Amendments. On the Second Reading, I even offered some well-meant advice to hon. Members opposite, that they should take the Bill back and bring in an interim Measure which could be settled peaceably between the local authorities. I was looking at the Bill then as one interested in local government, and riot as a politician. I was looking at it through the eyes of the county councillors and the county borough treasurers, and I could see no good in it. It is wonderful how one's point of view changes. Looking at the Bill from another point of view, I should say that from the point of view of the soap box it has many advantages. How delightful, for instance, it is to count up, the very few persons whom the Bill pleases and the 871 enormous sections of the population whom it irreconcilably offends. One could enumerate them, from the shopkeepers to the shipping interests, from the rural district councils to the county councils, from the people in business to the people interested in hospitals—an amazing variety of interests and sections of the population who are irreconcilably offended by the Bill.
The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis) said something which I have heard echoed in the speeches of the rank and file of the Conservative party. He said that no Government that was looking for popularity would have introduced such a Bill. I have heard other Conservative speakers speak of the courage of the Government in introducing the Bill. Those views are true. They are a confession of the unpopularity of the Bill. It certainly did need courage on the part of the Government to occupy the last days of the last Session with this Measure. There are different kinds of courage. There is the courage of the man who knowingly risks much and there is the courage of the man who has nothing to lose. In politics, there is no more certain mark of a Government deliberately riding for a fall than for a Government to occupy its last Session with Measures that are against the common sense and the common weal of the country. We have seen only one Government do this sort of thing, and that was the Government which came to an end in 1906. It was called "filling up the gap." For two years that Government persisted in Measures which they knew were violently unpopular. That is what the Government of Mr. Balfour did. That is exactly what this Government are doing. The reason is perfectly clear. As long as a Government believe that they have not forfeited the confidence of the country, when the Election approaches they will follow public opinion. That is why people, in vulgar slang, do what is called "window-dressing" before the Election. But when a Government know and feel that they are not going back, then in the last months they defy public opinion; then they go forward really with a view of making as many difficulties for their successors as possible.
872 When I look at this Bill and the other Measures of the Government, I seem to see the writing on the wall. This is the forerunner of a fall. The father of the Chancellor of the Exchequer coined a phrase which is very applicable to the present situation and sticks in the memory when, in 1886, speaking of a historical figure, he called him "an old man in a hurry." This is an old Government in a hurry; an old Government who know that they have got but a few months ahead; an old Government hurrying to do their work because they know that they can only retain the power in their hands for a short time. I need add no more to that phrase. It is a true phrase; it is a blessed phrase. That is the reason, and the main reason, why, now that we have come to the Third Reading of this Bill, I look upon it with equanimity, and even with pleasure.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I think that the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence), if she reads her speech to-morrow, will have reason to regret the line she has taken. The line she has suggested of the soap-box as opposed to the platform is one which we on this side of the House know only too well is likely to cloud the issue. We who wish to do our best in supporting the Government of this country, whichever side happens to be in power, shudder at and hate the soap-box method that is exalted by the hon. Member as the one on which every sensible Government would have their eyes for six months before the Election. We shall remember that phrase if ever we live to see the unfortunate day when the hon. Member for East Ham North is in office and nearing the second election.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
The soap-box gets you home to the people far more than Parliament and far more than the platform, and it is what the people think that matters. I am not ashamed of the soapbox.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I am not ashamed of the soap-box literally, but the hon. Member was speaking directly of the political address as opposed to the rights and merits of the Measure. I should like to add this before I turn from the unsavoury subject of the hon. Member's speech, that when she speaks of an old Government, I should like to remind her 873 that the present Government are as young as any sensible young Government can be. They have had only four years in which to try to redress the errors of their predecessor. A Government who are a success can look forward to facing the Electorate with every hope of having a clean record of useful and satisfactory service to show to the country.
I desire to sum up from a point of view very different from that represented to the House by the hon. Member for East. Ham, North—the use and value of this Measure to the services, with which I have always been associated, public health and local government. I am surprised at many of the criticisms which have been raised by hon. Members opposite. With some of their criticisms I have the greatest sympathy. I know the difficulties of a reform of this sort. I recognise them and appreciate them all the way through, but some of the criticisms are indeed surprising when one remembers, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) pointed out, the way in which from all sides the progressive forces were working in this very direction 20 years ago. In those days the chief party now in opposition was sparsely represented in this House, and the main banner of progress in this direction was carried very largely by members of the party to which we belong. At that time I was not only a medical officer of health, but a prospective candidate for Parliament. I had the advantage of belonging to a Committee of the Unionist party in this House who co-opted a few members from outside in order to help them by giving advice in regard to specific points of view. That Committee included a future Lord Chancellor, a future Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, and also the present Prime Minister. The secretary of that Committee was a very remarkable man. Unfortunately, he never attained to membership of this House, but he did wonderful work in his particular line. He was a man of great chivalry and originality, whose death, we regret, was announced in to-day's paper, namely, Mr. Maurice Woods, son of the late Master of the Temple. After much hard work the Committee produced a report. The War had broken out when that report was presented, and I saw it only after returning from the War. The 874 report definitely dealt with the Poor Law situation and tried to keep a practical via media between the Majority and Minority Reports on the Poor Law. It dealt specially with proposals which affected public health. I was looking at the report the other day, and was surprised to find how this Bill brings to a very large extent into one Statute exactly the main measures that were advocated there with considerable temerity and difficulty because of the novelty of the subject from the administrative point of view.
I want to say, from the point of view of health, how we look at this Measure. In the first place, I take it simply and definitely that when you produce a Measure of definite de-rating relief to productive industry, it is really intended to help productive industry. I will not discuss that point now. Those who recognise that and believe in it realise at once that that goes to the root of health, because there is nothing that so affects the health of the nation as material prosperity. Material prosperity really eases all these difficulties. On all sides we recognise that. The first interest of this Bill is to help productive industry. It is one of the most definite helps to agriculture which has been offered since Protection was ruled out. Agriculture is of value to us from the health point of view, because it is the basis of country life. If you are going permanently to have all the advantages of the country from the health point of view, it must depend upon the maintenance of agriculture and of rural life. The giving of £6,000,000 a year to agriculture will be a very material help, and such as has not been suggested by any other party.
One ought to recall the fact that, after all, the Poor Law, which is the main subject of change in this Bill, was the first main provision of public health made by Parliament in this country. It was the first Measure of protection to the health of the people with its institutional and its outdoor relief out of which was developed the system of medical attendance free to every man, woman and child in this country. It is unfortunate that as that system developed, and when the time became ripe for a further advance in local government, the parties on both sides of the House rejected the proper evolutionary way of developing the health 875 services. Instead of founding health services on the Poor Law system, they set up another system under urban and rural district councils. In 1888 Parliament adopted a larger Measure by establishing the county councils. As a result of that, public health during the past 40 years has been faced with the difficulty of having a multitude of authorities and a tangle of administration which have inevitably meant much inefficiency, much weakness of resources and much dissipation of attention and of energy in the localities. Medical officers concerned in trying to carry out health measures realise the enormous resources of the Poor Law.
With regard to the first thing which has been done to bring about the consolidation of these various health matters, hon. Members opposite have dared to suggest that it is not important. In their Amendment they suggest that it leads to confusion. That is an absurd suggestion. It is certainly not, a final solution of the problem, but it is going in the right direction and in the general way in which English reform always properly finds effective support. First of all it brings the Poor Law into the hands of the county council. I cannot understand how hon. Members opposite who understand the subject can venture to suggest that it is the wrong body to which to entrust it. I cannot understand the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith (Mr. E Brown) suggesting that it is the wrong body to administer the Poor Law. I can not understand the hon. Member saying that it is wrong for a county council to have charge of the administration on a large scale of the finances and the general rules and regulations and the staffing of big services.
Under this Bill you are placing the Poor Law in the hands of the county council. You are at the same time in many ways co-ordinating the work of the county councils with local sanitary authorities. I attach a great deal of importance to the powers given in this Bill to the restoration, overhauling and systematisation of schemes for infectious diseases, water supply and sewage disposal. When we consider these things—those of us who are interested in them—we realise that there are inevitably points on which we are not yet entirely satisfied.
876 I do not wish to raise them now, because they are minor points. It is very obvious, when you are dealing with a Measure of such enormous complexity, overhauling the whole of our local government, that there must be minor points which still remain to be settled in the proper way in which our constitution enables us to settle them, namely, by introducing them in another place. I hope that there may be one or two Amendments made there in accordance with an Amendment on a Clause which we could not discuss in this House owing to the Guillotine Motion.
All this progress is in the direction of systematisation. From one point of view, the objections made to systematisation are rather absurd, because, where science becomes more complex, where economics have developed and become much freer and fuller, you are bound to get greater power and greater work in your administration of any service and, in doing that, you are bound to have a greater complexity. If you are centralising certain powers and, at the same time, establishing more complete connection between them and all the other authorities, you are bound to have greater difficulties, and you cannot ordain everything by Act of Parliament. Therefore, I rather dispute the view of the legal profession that everything must be laid down by Act of Parliament, and that you must abide by the stereotyped word of an Act of Parliament. It is necessary to have some provision by which the Minister makes rules and interprets rules. The security of the private Member has always supposed to lie in the fact that any Rules and Orders made by the Ministers are laid on the Table. I am afraid that is, to a large extent, a farce, but that is not the fault of the Minister. It is rather the fault of ourselves for not discussing it and raising it and creating a better arrangement. I hope it may be possible to devise some scheme by which Orders laid on the Table are brought to our notice, so that we cannot escape them, but are bound to take notice of them.
The other point is that there is this danger, that the more you systematise, the more you come to hate voluntary associations and part-time services. Two of my Amendments deal with matters of that sort, and that goes to the root of the real danger of the bureaucratic 877 system and of over-centralisation. The more we get into big administration, the more we want to systematise and define. The more you do that—and I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) were here, because he is the greatest individualist in this House—the more you extirpate individuality and individual enterprise. Voluntary associations and their officers are difficult for the hard-worked official to deal with, but they are necessary to a large extent. From these associations, you often get the very best efforts along new lines of thought. Above all, they react and reflect upon the people themselves. They are interpreters again to the general public, and what we want is to mix the administration with the general public and the general public with the administration, so that we shall get a real live local electorate and a live population.
I would end with that note. I look upon this Measure above all as a Measure of improvement and simplification of local government. Because it is a simplification of local government so, I believe, it will give greater interest to people, and we shall be on a sound footing when we exhort all those with whom we have influence to recognise that service in local government is as high public, patriotic, national service as service in this House. We should point the way to boys and girls, so that they may serve on the authorities of local government at the age of 21, the age at which Pitt became Prime Minister in this House. There is no reason why the young should not come in and play their part in local administration, especially when it is remembered that at the next election they will have been given votes by that Government which has not been ashamed to bring forward this Measure as the last final act of public service before the General Election.
§ Mr. DUNNICO
When seconding the rejection of this Measure on the Second Reading, I ventured to make certain predictions. I said that this Bill, like the tired ploughman, would plod its weary way through Committee, by the aid of the Guillotine, it would be passed without adequate discussion, and that then it would be imposed upon a long-suffering and over-suffering people by a minority Government, acting without mandate, and imposing its ill-gotten 878 power on the people of this country. Those predictions have been more than fulfilled. That this Bill reminds me of the story of a man who died and left instructions in his will that a certain local band, with an atrocious reputation, should play upon the occasion of his funeral. When his reason was ascertained for this request, the man said that if this band played upon the occasion of his funeral everybody would be sorry that he had died. Whether this House would or would not be sorry to see this Bill die, I cannot say, hut I am perfectly certain that 80 per cent. of the Members would be glad if this Bill had never been born. A very well-deserved tribute has been paid to the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, but the right hon. Gentleman has had no practical experience in the work of local government. He has simply taken up this Bill as a brief—
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary was on the London County Council and served throughout his term of office on that body with great credit?
§ Mr. DUNNICO
I am sorry; I did not know that. But the right hon. Gentleman has treated this Bill as a brief. With regard to the Minister of Health, he is in another category. He has had a very distinguished and honourable record in the sphere of local government. He understands the work, and he knows its difficulties, acid its problems. Therefore, I for one regret very much that he should have marred what, in my opinion, has been a distinguished career by fathering and espousing a Bill which practically every municipal expert in this country has riddled and ridiculed and condemned. I firmly believe that, in the next few months, when the right hon. Gentleman sits upon these benches or in some relative place of obscurity elsewhere, he will think over this Bill, he will read it, and very solemnly he will write across it: Sic transit gloria mundi.
With regard to the Bill itself, may I say one word upon the financial Clauses? I am not going to speak on them, for the very simple reason that I do not understand them. In saying 879 that, I am simply saying what 95 per cent. of the hon. Members of this House would say if they spoke honestly and, of the remaining 5 per cent. who profess to understand them, no two can agree as to the interpretation and effect of the financial Clauses when put into operation. But there are two or three things which stand out very clearly. The first is that this Bill does impose upon the already overburdened taxpayers of this country an additional burden. This Bill does fail as a compensation to give adequate relief to the general body of ratepayers throughout the country. Hon. Members upon that side of the House may argue this way or that way, but those two things stand out very clearly. While the taxpayer has to bear an additional burden, the general body of ratepayers get no adequate relief; in fact, in some instances, their burden will be increased. It is all very well to say that an argument like that will have no effect in the Division Lobby to-night, but it will have a very great effect in the country when the General Election takes place. It is very easy in this House at the present time to make huge grants of money to wealthy brewers, and, at the same time, to dole out parsimonious charity to miners and their wives who are starving. That may pass muster in this House, but it will not pass muster in a few months from now when the people of this country have to make their choice and decide upon these matters. My only other comment upon the financial Clauses is this: To say that this Bill grants adequate relief to necessitous areas is not only untrue, but it is grotesquely untrue.
With regard to the other Clauses, I would ask: What is the nominal object of this Bill? The hon. Member who has just sat down tried to persuade this House, as the Minister himself had previously done, that this Bill really contains what reformers have been asking for over many years. To suggest that is both misleading and inaccurate. It is quite true that social reformers for many years have asked for the abolition of the Poor Law, but this Bill does not abolish the Poor Law. It expels the guardians through the front door, admits them through the back door, and permits and perpetuates a system which every social 880 reformer has condemned as being demoralising, wasteful, extravagant, and unscientific. If this Bill were an honest Bill, if its intentions were honest, it would have taken altogether outside the embrace of the Poor Law the indigent mother, the distressed widow, the children, the infirm, the aged, and the mentally deficient. It would have made unemployment charges, national charges, and it would have taken entirely outside the scope of the Poor Law the able-bodied poor who are only poor because they are denied the opportunity of doing work. Therefore, I say that, even from the point of view of its nominal purpose, this Bill fails to achieve the purpose for which it was intended, and it does not really in any adequate way embody the proposals which social reformers have recommended now for many years.
Then, again, there are certain things which this Bill does which I would venture to criticise very strongly. In the first place, it imposes upon county councils important powers, over and above the powers that they now possess and which many of them have confessed they already have difficulty in carrying out. This Bill does slight and insult hundreds of great municipal boroughs and urban district councils who, with all their faults, have been carrying out their duties with efficiency and with diligence. Why is it left to the power of the county council to dole out a service or a part of a service to an authority which is just as efficient as, and, in some instances more efficient than, the county council itself? I have served upon a town council, and I have served upon a county council. I was a member for many years of the Essex County Council and for many years of the Ilford Borough Council. As a health authority, up-to-date, progressive, meeting its obligations, there is no comparison between the efficiency of the Ilford Borough Council and the Essex County Council. Why should it be left to the discretion of a county council to dole out a service, or part of a service, when local authorities like Ilford, Walthamstow, Colchester, Cambridge, and other important towns, are carrying them out with efficiency, diligence and zeal?
I am opposed to the Bill, because it is subversive of real democratic government. It introduces ultra-bureaucracy into local government. In the second 881 place, I am opposed to it, because of the block grant system. The right hon. Gentleman may give very plausible reasons and arguments for substituting the block grant system for the percentage grant, but he knows in his heart of hearts that the real effect of the block grant will be to penalise progressive and efficient authorities and put a premium on reactionary and non-progressive councils. He would have been well advised, at any rate in the case of growing social services like that of maternity and child welfare, to have retained the percentage grant rather than impose the block grant. No argument can be used against the percentage grant system for social services that could not be used against it for educational purposes, and yet even this Government dare not introduce the block grant in the sphere of education.
We shall submit to the country, as we submit to this House, that this Bill is a dishonest Measure. It professes one end; it pursues another. Its nominal aims are supposed to be beneficient; its actual aims are sinister and cynical. We oppose the Bill, because it sacrifices national interests on the altar of vested interests; and we oppose it because it fails to recognise that this House of Commons, this British Parliament, is responsible for the social evils of its time and is the trustee for the future welfare of this nation.
§ Sir JOHN MARRIOTT
I am afraid I must at the outset express my entire disagreement with the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I do not by any means always disagree with him. I am perfectly content, as he apparently is, to leave the decision of the points he has raised to the ultimate verdict of the country which will be given in the next few months. More than once in the course of the early stages of this Bill I have been painfully impelled to criticise, if not oppose, certain Clauses, and for that reason if for no other I am anxious to claim the attention of the House for a few moments while I explain why I shall go into the Lobby and support heartily and cordially the Third Reading of the Bill. My first reason for supporting the Third Reading is that, despite the curtailment of debate, which I, at any rate, regret, I think the Bill has been very considerably improved during its passage through this House.
882 I hope it will be still further improved in its passage in another place. There, at any rate, debate will be carried on in a freer atmosphere than in this House, and there are men most admirably qualified—
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to finish my sentence. If he dissents he will be at liberty to express his dissent. I was about to say that there are many there who are admirably qualified to scrutinise the implications of Clause 120. It is an inherent vice of the form of government embodied in that Clause that to a large extent it deprives the House of Commons of its legitimate functions. I have never for a moment doubted that a Clause of the kind we have in Clause 120 is essential for the smooth working of a complicated Measure like this, and I hope I may, without disrespect, gratefully acknowledge the efforts which the Minister of Health and his Department have made to make that Clause more acceptable to the House. My objection, however, to the wide powers which that Clause confers is still unabated, though I should like to join with the Minister of Health in paying an unstinted tribute to the skill and devotion of the permanent members of our Civil Service. There is probably no Member of the House of Commons who has been more continuously brought into contact with the permanent heads of the Civil Service than I have in my work during many years on the Estimates and Public Accounts Committees. I have been brought into the closest contact with the permanent heads of Departments in this connection, and I hope I may be allowed to join with my right hon. Friend in paying my tribute to their skill and devotion. It is not with the permanent heads of Departments, in their appropriate sphere of administration, that I have any quarrel at all. I have never for an instant doubted that the powers which this House has conceded to the Minister of Health, powers which I must characterise as autocratic, will not be benevolently exercised, but it is the inherent vice of this form of government that though you may provide for the perpetuation of autocracy you cannot guarantee the continuance of benevolence.
When this Bill was first printed I tried to do what the hon. Member for Leith 883 (Mr. E. Brown) has done with such exemplary diligence. He delighted the House this afternoon by his close and humorous analysis of the Bill. I tried to do something of the same kind, but my arithmetic and industry are not equal to that of the hon. Member. I was trying to count the instances in the Bill of the conferring of more or less autocratic power on the Minister of Health and his Department. I am very well aware that the Minister, with good reason, mistrusts my intelligence, at any rate in regard to arithmetic, and possibly he may mistrust my industry. At any rate, I frankly admit that my arithmetical capacity was unequal to the task which the Bill imposed on me, and I abandoned the task in despair. I have here, as a matter of fact, a sheet of notes, which I am not going to use, representing only the initiation of my attempt in the direction achieved by the hon. Member for Leith. It is a mere beginning; I did not get half way through the Bill. Even that fragmentary introduction I will not now inflict on the House.
I refer to my abandoned analysis only to enforce the objections which I stated, perhaps rather crudely and unpreparedly, when I did speak on Clause 120 the other day. In my unpreparedness I used an expression to which, in some quarters, exception has been taken—that the Bill was interpenetrated with the spirit of bureaucracy. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Leith has proved that accusation pretty well up to the hilt. Perhaps the word that I used was not the word which with more premeditation I should select, but I think that no one who regards this Bill as a whole can fail to he struck by the power which the Bill over and over again confides to the executive. However, I must leave that point. I repeat it with only one other observation, which I think has some general application. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health referred with evident satisfaction to Amendments which he has introduced in consequence of his consultation with the local authorities outside the House. I most cordially welcome those Amendments, and I admit that it is only common prudence that the head of a Department like the Ministry of Health should have these consultations with local authorities; but I wonder 884 whether my right hon. Friend could have pointed with the same degree of satisfaction to the Amendments which he has accepted as a consequence of the discussions in this House?
A point which, in passing, I desire to make is this: I rather deprecate a tendency, which I perceive to be becoming more and more common, for what I call Committee details of a Bill to be discussed and to be determined by the Minister in charge of a Bill with outside bodies, and not in direct consultation with the House of Commons. Perhaps I am over jealous for the House in which I have been a Member now for some time. I am jealous for the legislative prerogatives of Parliament. While admitting the desirability of a Minister taking counsel with whom he will, I suggest that Amendments should be carried after discussion in this House and not finally after consultation and discussion outside.
I leave that point and pass to another. I find the core and the centre of this Bill, as the Minister indicated this afternoon, in Part V, which embodies the de-rating proposals. I have never made any secret of my conviction that these de-rating proposals—here I join issue directly with the hon. Member who spoke last—Are calculated to give an immense stimulus to productive industry, and so very greatly to mitigate the terrible tragedy of unemployment. But I frankly confess that I thought that the de-rating scheme, as it was originally unfolded to this House, need not have involved a readjustment of local government areas and a reorganisation of local government. It is only fair, therefore, to the two right hon. Gentlemen, who with such skill have conducted the Bill through the House, that I should frankly admit that when the scheme was disclosed in detail I became convinced that two parts of the Bill, the de-rating and the reorganisation of local government areas and so on, were inextricably connected and interdependent.
None the less I do regret, as many other hon. Members have regretted, the passing of the ad hoc elected guardians of the poor. I do not doubt that the country will still continue to enjoy the benefit of the services which many of these devoted men and women have ungrudgingly given, without hope or expectation of any sort of reward, to 885 their fellow citizens. I most sincerely hope that the services of the guardians of the poor who have been serving all these years will still be available and will still be utilised. If they are not so utilised, I think there will be a very serious loss to the whole country. I regret very much the abolition of the boards of guardians, but I recognise that it is part of the price that has to be paid for a large, bold and comprehensive scheme, as I regard it, of social reconstruction. As such I believe that this Bill will be regarded by those who come after us, and it is for that reason that I mean to go into the Lobby in support of the Third Reading.
§ Mr. GILLETT
The hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) was very profuse in his expressions of devotion to the Government and of admiration for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, but in a considerable portion of his speech his blessings were not unmixed with curses. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary who is going to respond at the end of the Debate will feel that the speech was one of criticism or of support for the Bill, but I think the hon. Member for York was very wise in pointing out so clearly to the House the danger of setting up any kind of autocrat. An autocrat is always delightful so long as you are certain that he is on your side. The hon. Member for York, however, is apparently beginning to have fears as to whether the powers which are now being given to the present Minister, may not in a short time be exercised by some other Minister who will not commend himself so well to hon. Members opposite. It is well for hon. Members opposite, in giving these drastic powers, to reflect that possibly those powers may be exercised in a way distasteful to them. That is why the demands made by the Minister in this respect in connection with the present Bill, deserve to be carefully examined.
I desire to bring forward some point in connection with the important principles to which the hon. Member for York has referred in dealing with the question of de-rating. In the first place I cannot help feeling thankful that this is the last day of our Debates on this Measure. I listened not with pleasure but almost with pain to the hon. Member for Leith 886 (Mr. E. Brown) when he gave a very minute description of his studies of the Bill. I felt sorry for any hon. Member who had gone through the appalling amount of work which must have been gone through by the hon. Member for Leith, when he even counted the number of times that certain words appeared in the text of the Bill. I congratulate the hon. Member for York on the fact that he gave up a task which seems to me hardly worth the enormous labour involved. The hon. Member for Leith will have an opportunity of ultilising his great gifts and assiduous labours in connection with the Scottish Bill, but I think that those who sit for English constituencies will not be tempted to follow in the path which he has indicated and that most of us regard it as fortunate that the proceedings on this Bill have come to an end. The hon. Member for York, like other hon. Members on the opposite side, have spoken of the great benefits which the de-rating proposal is to bring to the country. No hon. Member opposite has yet given us any facts to support those statements. I wondered in listening to some of the speeches in support of the Bill whether hon. Members opposite had read the articles published in one of the financial papers dealing with the Bill. Those articles seem to have been carefully considered. I do not say that they are condemnations of the Bill, but they point out weaknesses here and there, as well as suggesting that here and there the Measure may prove a help. But the articles in the series which I have read seem to indicate that on careful examination, the blessings which are to be conferred by these Clauses are shown to be nothing like those hoped for by the hon. Member for York and the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan).
The difficulty about this Measure is that we have never decided whether it is purely a Measure of local government reform or a Measure for dealing with distress. [HON. MEMBERS: "Both!"] I am not sure of that. I think the Minister himself looks upon it primarily as a Measure of local government reform. We are justified in saying that that is the chief point of the plan, because only one Clause dealing with the proposals which are supposed to help the distressed areas has been in any way hurried forward. If this were primarily a Bill to 887 deal with distressed areas, surely the Government would have pressed it forward much earlier. Therefore we may take it that, to a large extent, the purpose of the Measure is the reform of local government. Such a Measure, no doubt, is long overdue. Just as reorganisation is taking place in the business world, so exactly the same thing has to take place in connection with local government. Large areas are required to deal with great problems. Traffic schemes, electricity schemes and other schemes of that description are not small local affairs. Some of them are national in character and some of them can only be dealt with by means of areas even larger than county council areas.
When we come to look at the finance of the Bill, however, we must ask ourselves whether, if this is a local government reform Bill, the method we are following is wise. If this is to be a Measure going on for many years then its finance ought not to be adapted solely to the needs of the present time but ought to be adapted to other times and other seasons as well. The finance of the Bill seems to have been drawn with a view solely to present distress and here we come to the other side of the problem. The claim is made that the Measure is going to help distressed areas. But when we look at the way in which money is going to be diffused over industries which obviously do not want it, we must ask ourselves whether these sums will help industry in the way indicated by hon. Members opposite. Something like £400,000, we are told, goes to the shipbuilding industry which is, I think, undoubtedly better than it was. But even if we spread a sum of £400,000 over the shipbuilding industry, it does not seem that it will have a great effect.
The coal industry is to get something like £3,000,000. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stockton-on-Tees referred, I think, to a relief of 6d. per ton on coal. That is an average figure. One of the articles which I have just mentioned distinctly stated that the whole of the rating burden on a ton of coal in a particular district in the Midlands only came to 4d. Therefore, the rate relief in that case could not be anywhere near the figure of 6d. and that figure I understand is an average stated in answer to some questions in this 888 House. If we examine these figures closely we find it impossible to believe the very hopeful statements of those hon. Members opposite who wish to give the scheme as delightful an appearance as possible. Another statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees seemed to me to be incorrect. To my mind the worst feature of the scheme is that you are taking away a large proportion of the assessable value of certain districts. I do not think that many people have realised what that means. Everything that the Government are doing is based on the present expenditure. The moment districts go above it they will have to place on their reduced rateable value, the in creased expenditure. It will have to he imposed on the shopkeeper, on the working class, on the middle class, on the well-to-do, on everybody, except those who will get this measure of exemption, and that is the worst part of the whole scheme. I look upon it as an insidious attack upon our municipal system, deliberately undertaken by the Government, to remove a great amount of rateable value now in the hands of local authorities which they see are drifting under the control of the Labour party. That, to my mind, is the worst point in this scheme. I gathered that the hon. and gallant Member was under the impression that some Government relief would come to councils which may in coming years exceed their present expenditure. It may come, but it does not follow that it will come.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood) indicated assent.
§ Mr. GILLETT
For once, the right hon. Gentleman and I agree, although we have hardly ever agreed before in my life. I understand that, if the whole local government expenditure of this country increases to a certain proportion, then the Government grant will be increased on a similar percentage, but, even if that takes place, it does not necessarily say that the district which may have increased its expenditure will get an increased grant. Supposing one district increases its expenditure, but that of the whole of the other local bodies in the country remains stationary—I am taking an extreme case—then the Government grant to that particular 889 district would not be increased at all. The hon. and gallant Member took it, however, as if it was a matter of fact that, if you had increased expenditure, you would at the end of the period receive a larger Government grant. Not only during the fixed grant period would you have to bear that increased expenditure on your reduced rateable value, but you would have no guarantee that in future years any further money would come from the Government.
I have heard no reference to-day to the fact that in many districts, if the new valuation is coming into force, it will have a considerable effect on the ultimate gain of the locality, because, as I understand it, broadly speaking, under the recent Act, the country valuation is being brought up rather on to the lines of the London system. At any rate, in many districts there is an increased assessable value, and some of those who are thinking that they will gain from the Government scheme will find that, owing to their new assessments, they have lost a good deal of what might possibly have been a gain to them. Another weak part of the Measure is the part dealing with the agricultural industry. You can never tell how soon a lot of this benefit will go back to the landlord. It seems to me that you rather tempt the landlord by the present scheme, under which large properties will obviously benefit, and if there comes a chance of reviewing the rent or lease, the landlord will naturally ask to have a share in it. That will be going on all the time. We may differ as to the effect of the scheme, whether it will be large or small, but that is one of the benefits which the Government may think they are conferring which will gradually go into pockets into which they wish us to think it is not going. I think the Measure is a very serious attack on the local government of this country. Fundamentally, the financial side of the Bill is a mistake, and if only the Government had proceeded on some such lines as the removal of the able-bodied people from the care of the local bodies, if in some way like that the Government had given relief to the whole district, the result would have been far more beneficial, would have been well deserved, and would have accrued to many classes of the community just as worthy of relief as those which the Government are helping.
§ Mr. LOOKER
We have heard a great deal of criticism to-day on the provisions of Clause 120 of this Bill, under which the Minister is given power to remove difficulties by Order, and there is no doubt that a power of that description is something which requires to be watched with a very jealous eye by Members of all parties in the House. Quite apart from that, however, when you come to consider the question of such a large, important, technical, and in some respects complicated Bill as that which we are now discussing, it is inevitable that as soon as a far-reaching scheme of this description is put into effect some unforeseen contingencies must arise at the outset which require to be speedily dealt with if they are to be nipped in the bud before the consequences have become too serious. Such a Clause, in such circumstances, is, in my view, not only desirable, but almost necessary, and I can find no real reason for complaint against it, because I see from the Clause itself that the powers of the Minister under it are confined to a period of a little more than a year from the date when the Bill becomes law, and that every Order that he makes will have to be laid on the Table of the House of Commons, so that the opportunity will at once be given of raising on the Floor of this House any questions which it may be thought necessary or desirable to raise in consequence of any Order which may have been made. We shall, therefore, still preserve the right of free ventilation of all grievance's of this description and free discussion of them in this House, and in those circumstances I am quite content to allow this Clause to pass without further adverse criticism. In a recent Act which was passed by this House a very serious defect has been, found, relating to the scheme for compensation for slum clearances, which although acknowledged to be a defect—[Interruption].
§ Mr. LOOKER
Although it was recognised on all sides as a very serious defect in that Measure, and one calling for speedy remedy, yet the position of affairs has been such that it has been 891 impossible for the Government to pass the necessary Measure, in view of the other claims upon their time. If some Clause similar to Clause 120 in this Bill had been put into that Measure, it might well have been that that defect might have been remedied much earlier and a great deal of injustice avoided.
The first reason for which we are invited to reject the Motion for the Third Reading of this Bill is that its important provisions have not received adequate Parliamentary discussion. The Minister himself has pointed out that it is an extraordinary thing, but on many occasions the resources of those who are perhaps more concerned than anyone else to see the provisions receive discussion have not proved equal to absorbing the allotted time; but I will go further, and say that the provisions of this Bill are so technical and require to so great an extent an expert knowledge, and the intricacies of local government are such, that it was impossible, under any conditions you could prescribe, to ensure that they should have adequate discussion on the Floor of this House. In Committee stage upstairs it is impossible with a complicated Bill of this descripton to have every point of detail thoroughly and adequately thrashed out between the various parties. The only practical way of having a thorough discussion is that which has been adopted with this Bill and largely with most other Bills, that is, by thrashing the Bill out with the Minister and his advisers in personal discussion and conference. It is only in that way that we can get to the root of the matter and bring to our aid expert advice on the provisions. I have had some share in the various discussions which have taken place with the Minister and his advisers on this Bill, and there is not an occasion on which the fullest opportunity has not been given thoroughly to sift the matter to the core by letter, by inquiry, by further correspondence and interviews, and by further consideration and further interviews, and I do not hesitate to say that every point which has been raised, with which I have been connected, has been thoroughly explored and discussed by the Minister and his advisers in a way that would have been impossible in the House.
As one of the representatives of the urban district councils in the House, I 892 should like to pay my tribute of appreciation of the way in which the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have listened to the representations which have been put forward on behalf of those councils, for the sympathy, the patience, and the courtesy with which they have heard all objections to the scheme as originally put forward, and for the way in which they have met or endeavoured to meet, all the objections which were made. I do not pretend that everybody was satisfied, because after all we are in this world and not yet in the next. Everyone concerned, however, came away from the discussions with no feeling of dissatisfaction of the method which had been adopted by the Minister in hearing what they had to say and in endeavouring to deal with it. It may be that some of these urban authorities, whose financial condition is perhaps particularly difficult, may well have genuine apprehensions of the financial effects a this Bill, but they have realised that, in continuing the guarantee to urban districts against loss for five years, and in undertaking to revise the whole of the scheme upon which contributions are made at the end of seven years, the Minister has given them an opportunity of making further representations in future if they find that their fears have in the end been justified. I have no doubt that if it proves to be necessary to make further representations at the end of seven years, we shall find that, as a result of the experience that has been gained during that period, the Minister at the time will lend as sympathetic and willing an ear to those representations as the present Minister has done during the present negotiations. In the Amendment the final ground on which we are asked to reject this Bill isthe effect it will have in degrading the standard of the social services and crippling their development through the impoverishment of local resources.If I understand anything at all about the Bill, the objects which led to its introduction, and the explanations which have been given from the Front Bench of what the Government desire to do, I can only say that the object which the Government had in mind was not to impoverish the resources of the local authorities, but to add to them. The framers of the Amendment have entirely 893 overlooked this point, possibly because they found themselves in the difficult position of having to put forward some kind of case. They overlooked also that the county councils and county borough councils had been given a guarantee of a gain of 1s. per head for ever and that the formula upon which grants will be made varies in accordance with the needs of the district so that as the population or the distress increases, the grants will be increased. They have overlooked also the fact that the Minister in the Committee stage gave an undertaking to revise the principle of the formula at the end of the first seven years; and, strangest of all, they have overlooked the possibility of any beneficial results from the de-rating of industry. If the de-rating proposals are to have any effect at all, they must inevitably have the effect of reducing the claims on local authorities for Poor Law assistance. The more they do that, the more the local authorities will have resources for other local services. Nobody can deny that to remove from the productive industries three-quarters of their liabilities for rates must given an immense stimulus in many eases to the employment which may be afforded by those industries.
The more one considers the opposition which has been made to this Measure throughout, and particularly to-night, the more one is driven to the conclusion that it is based, not so much on the difficulties of the Bill, but on its excellencies. One arrives at the irresistible impression, after listening to the arguments put forward against the Bill, that what the parties opposite really feel upon the matter is that the Government have put through a Measure which will have extraordinarily beneficial results, and have cut from under their feet a chance of doing it themselves and of gaining the credit which the Government have gained. They therefore try to abuse it on general terms on every possible occasion.
I want to draw attention once again to the de-rating provisions, because they are something of which the House should not lose sight. In the present Parliament, we have been taunted on many occasions by hon. Members opposite for the continued existence of the unemployed figures. Night after night we have listened to strong criticism from our 894 Labour friends, that in face of the continued existence of unemployment the Government have done nothing. What is the real position about the unemployment question? Unemployment in this country has been acute for a number of years, and has grown worse in the last few years. What remedies for it have any party put forward which would have the effect of bringing men back into permanent employment? The only remedies I have ever heard of are, in the first place, the remedies of hon. Members opposite who call for nationalisation.
§ Mr. LOOKER
I accept your Ruling, Sir. I was merely referring to that question to point out that this Bill deals with the great upheaval of unemployment upon lines which are not a feature of any other remedy put before the House. I will content myself by saying that the only remedies suggested hitherto would not have had the effect of putting men back into permanent employment. Relief works are all very well, but when they are finished the person who has been relieved is in the same position as he was when they started, he is still on the unemployment list. When the proposals in this Bill for the relief of industry come into full operation, they will enable a number of men to obtain, and remain in, permanent employment. The remedy in this Bill is conceived upon lines which have never before been attempted by any Government or any political party, and when the history of these times comes to be written, I venture to say that this Measure will he acclaimed as a farsighted, courageous, statesmanlike and effective proposal, not only for relieving distressed industries, but for putting back into employment men who, but for this Bill, would have small hope of securing permanent work again. As the Minister said, it is a memorable piece of legislation, and as such, I am convinced, it will go down to history.
We have now reached the end of a perfect day. It has been rather a tedious and sometimes a funereal business. The young, healthy Bill which was introduced some months ago has been gradually emasculated. A. limb was dropped at this stage, and 895 another limb was shorn off at another stage, until to-night we are really performing the funeral rites of the original proposal. We have had the corpse paraded for the last time. We have had speeches made to-night in praise of the corpse and in criticism of the corpse, and we have had votes of thanks to the undertakers.
I would like to add my word of appreciation to that of the Minister in his opening reference to the officials of the Ministry of Health. Those of us who have anything to do with the different Government Departments, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Pensions and the Departments of the fighting services, know that the Ministry of Health extends the maximum of sympathy, and wherever it is possible to do so, expands the regulations to their limit. We get the very fullest inquiry into cases which we put forward. If it is possible to establish the date of birth of a person who does not know when he was born, the Ministry of Health always helps to do so. I am glad to join in the words of appreciation which the Minister addressed to the officials of the Department for the work they have done on this Bill. It has been a very difficult task, and I think we are justified in linking with this appreciation our condolences to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. After all, it was mot their Bill. We have been criticised for saying that the Bill was the fertile imagination of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I said so in my constituency a few weeks ago and one of the Government spokesmen was sent down to deal with me, but the only thing he could say in reply to my criticism was that I was a damned liar. I can only assume that, unlike a Noble Lord in the other House, he was not paid a sufficient salary to criticise my criticisms. Anyone who has had experience of service in a Government Department with the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows very well what his methods are. I remember in the Admiralty—
I was just concluding my references of sympathy with the Minister and Parliamentary Secretary. This Bill was conceived on half a sheet of notepaper, in red ink, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and since that date when he outlined it in broad principle, without any forethought, without any consideration, and without any application, he has not handled this Bill or put in an appearance in the House during its discussion. Therefore we are justified in expressing our condolence with the Minister. I think the remarks of a learned Gentleman a few nights ago that on its legal side this Bill gives quantity rather than quality are very apt. Tremendous powers have been taken away from Parliament. Discussion of scores, nay hundreds, of Amendments, carefully drafted by legal experts, by solicitors, was not allowed while the Measure was in Committee. The consequence is that the legal profession, who will have to interpret the Bill when questions arise in the Courts, will find themselves dealing with a Bill which has not been properly considered and which has not had the Amendments put into it which legal authorities consider ought to have been inserted.
In his opening remarks the Minister made play with the fact that on six occasions under the Guillotine discussions on the appointed Clauses had not been carried up to the limit of the time allowed. I have looked up those Debates, and I find that on three or four of those occasions discussion continued until within five minutes of the time set for the Guillotine, and on one of the six occasions discussion went on until 10.29 and 30 seconds—that is, until 30 seconds before the Guillotine came into operation. Further, is it not evident that under this system discussion on important Clauses is congested, whereas it tends to become protracted upon Clauses which are agreed on both sides of the House? The Minister referred to the consultations which have taken place between his Department and the various associations representing rural district councils, county councils, and others. Why did he not consult those authorities before he introduced the Bill instead of afterwards, and before it was too late to introduce Amendments in the form in which those authorities desired them? The Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible for this Bill. I 897 thought it very extraordinary, when I read the great speech which the right hon. Gentleman made at the Queen's Hall outlining the programme on which the Conservative party is to go to the poll at the next election, that there was no mention in that speech of this great Bill. That is a modesty which we never attributed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer before. When this Bill was going through the Second Reading, the Minister of Health told us that this scheme of local government reform, although it might be altered in its details during its passage through this House, still held the field. That is not so. As a matter of fact, this Measure is scarcely recognisable now, because it is buried beneath a heap of special grants and other concessions which have knocked the bottom out of the original Bill.
How does this Measure deal with the main evils with which it set out to deal? This Measure has been brought forward by the Government after five years of office as the only panacea for improving trade and dealing with unemployment. Let us consider for a moment the effect of this Bill on staple industries, like cotton, coal, and boots. The coal exports between 1923 and 1927 have dropped from £99,847,000 to £45,537,000 sterling. A few pence on the price of coal will not make up the loss of £48,000,000 worth of coal in our overseas trade. If the Government had put into operation the recommendation of the Samuel Commission, they would have done much more to maintain our coal markets in foreign parts. In the case of the cotton trade to the Far East in the shape of piece goods, the trade has fallen from £153,000,000 in 1924 to £109,000,000 in 1927. How is rating relief amounting to £1,500,000 a year going to get back a trade of over £50,000,000 which we have lost since the present Government took office four years ago?
These sums of rating relief will be insufficient to enable manufacturers to reduce the price of a reel of cotton or a packet of cigarettes by more than a mere fraction either in the wholesale or the retail price of those commodities. The whole of the rating relief which boot factories will obtain will not reduce the cost of boots by more than a farthing per pair. The state of the boot trade is not due to the fact that the people who now pay 15s. 1d. for a pair of boots cannot 898 afford to pay 15s. 1¼d., and the farthing difference in the case of the price of a pair of boots is not going to affect the boot trade of this country. We are suffering in this country not from the rates on the boot factories or on the mills in Lancashire; we are suffering from the loss of our home markets and the loss by the wage earners of hundreds of millions of pounds through wage reductions during four years of Conservative government. We have lost our foreign markets in consequence of the futile foreign policy which has been pursued by the Conservative Government in different parts of the world.
The methods of the Government will not improve trade or relieve unemployment. If, instead of giving £400,000 to the brewers, who never asked for it and will not reduce the price of beer by a farthing a pint, that money had been devoted to looking after the old people who have reached the age of 65 and who have been deprived of unemployment benefit and are not qualified for old age pensions, it would have been a much better policy to adopt. It would have been much better instead of paying £600,000 to Lord Melchett's chemical industries to have given that money to the 45,000 widows who have been deprived of their pensions. If the Government had done those things and had devoted more money to relieving unemployment they would have put more money into circulation through the shopkeepers; there would have been more purchasing of the ordinary necessities of life, and consequently more work in the factories and mills of this country. Nothing has been said in this Debate about agriculture, and I do not know why. Perhaps it is because so many agricultural seats are held by Conserve, time Members who do not wish to criticise the Government. One hon. Member referred to the benefits which this Bill is supposed to confer upon agriculture. May I point out that in the four years the Government have been in office no less than 723,000 acres of arable land have gone out of cultivation—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
On the Third Reading, the hon. Member may discuss what is in the Bill, but not what is not in the Bill.
We have now reached the end of a perfect day, and, even at 899 this stage of the Third Reading, the Minister of Health has not worked out the full result of his scheme. In the county of Northamptonshire, which is one of the finest counties in this country, the figures have not yet been produced to show the result of the formula when it is put into operation in that county. That is an example of the jerry-built, ill-conceived nature of the scheme contained in this Bill. The concessions which we asked for while the Bill was being passed through its various stages have not been granted. I would like to refer briefly to the provisions dealing with maternity and child welfare. The residential homes for which we pleaded, and which were supported on all sides of the House, as well as education, are going to suffer as much as any other social service. People realise that under this Bill the education rates will be increased between 20 and 40 per cent. This Bill may help the rich friends of the Government, but not very much, and it will not receive very much applause. It will certainly mean a greater burden on the mass of the people, on the householders and the shopkeepers, and the majority of the people who contribute towards the rates of this country. The Government could, if they had wished, have relieved the necessitous areas and have tackled the basic industries and have improved the social services, thereby relieving distress and putting more money into circulation. They could have transferred the able-bodied unemployed from the Poor Law to the Ministry of Labour. They have had great opportunities during their four years of office with an unprecedented majority. They have not tackled those great problems, and they go out of office in three months' time leaving unemployment at the preposterous figure of 1,125,000.
Before I sit down, may I refer in one word to the Liberal party? They have shown great fight on this question, and I think the country ought to realise—if they will read these Debates as carefully as we listen to them—that the Liberal party is not really a one-man party. As to that, they happen during this Bill to have put all their eggs into one basket, and they have been very fortunate in choosing a sufficiently large basket. When I read through the 173 pages of this Bill, the 127 odd Clauses and 12 900 Schedules and Sub-sections, I cannot help saying after this great mumble-jumble of formulae, which are not to be allowed to function as they are intended, either in the life of this Parliament or of the next or of the Parliament after it, that apparently the Government think the situation is so hopeless that they imagine that only by meaningless incantations can they solve the problem. They remind me of the three witches of Macbeth. There is the Minister of Health, there is the Minister of Transport, and there is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not know what position in Macbeth to give to the Parliamentary Secretary. But there they sit, muttering incantations and putting all sorts of facts and figures into the cauldron of the formula:Eye of newt, and toe of frogWool of bat, and tongue of dogLiver of blaspheming Jew;Gall of goat, and slips of yew.So they go on—Double, double, toil and trouble;Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.hoping against hope that something will happen and that the fates of destiny will bring about a solution of all the evils which surround them. Just as those three witches sat round their cauldron, hoping that the fates would bring something to their advantage, so the three Ministers, when their period of co-operation in this great Measure is ended, will look forward to the election as the three witches looked forward to the battle in front of them:When shall we three meet again,In thunder, lightning, or in rain?When the hurly-burly's done,When the battle's lost and won.When the hurly-burly is done, and when the election is fought and won by this Labour party the results may show, as the results of the last four by-elections have shown, that the country will reject by an overwhelming majority a Bill which has had completely to disguise itself in order to pass through the House of Commons in spite of a majority of over 200 in the Government party.
§ Mr. GATES
I will not detain the House more than a few minutes, but, as I had an opportunity of making some criticism of the distribution of the maternity and, child welfare grant, I 901 should like to say how strongly I am in favour of the Bill as amended, and how cordially I shall vote for its Third Reading, It does embody the great twin principle of improved local government and relief to productive industry with a view to helping unemployment. Those are the two great principles which, in spite of what the last speaker said, are embodied in this Bill, and they are by no means a corpse, but a living reality. The more the Bill is explained to the country, the more the result will be to bring in not only the three Ministers referred to by the last speaker but the large majority of the hon. Members who have supported the governing power of the country.
I confess that there are one or two points of misgiving to which I should like to refer. The first is the enormous amount of increased duties cast upon the county councils. So large is the increase in their work that it must make it difficult for all the county council to find men and women of character, and ability and leisure in the future to carry it on. I confess that I share to some extent the confidence shown by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), when he spoke of the young men and women of the new generation as being so willing and capable of devoting themselves to local government. But these are much increased duties, and I think we should probably be sorry to see in the personnel of county councils too much of the professional politician and too little of the business man or woman.
When I criticised the Bill before, I did so on the ground that I was afraid that the maternity and child welfare services would suffer if they were put upon the block grant system. I confess that a great many of the voluntary associations are still not quite easy in their minds, but they are a great deal easier since the alteration and Amendments have been put in by the Government. Like the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) and the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott), I too tried to find out how many times the Minister was mentioned in the Bill. I had not perhaps the same opportunity as the hon. Member for Leith at the week-end, but I was impressed with the enormous powers that the Minister will have. Whether they will be personal powers remains to he seen. In the hands of some Ministers, they 902 might be personal powers, but I imagine, with the majority of Ministers, that it will mean rather the reign of democracy at Whitehall. As I have said before, I do not I now, at any rate from the point of view of health, that I am afraid of the reign of bureaucracy in Whitehall. In many cases, in London boroughs at, any rate, we have had nothing but help from this reign of bureaucracy at Whitehall.
The voluntary associations, who have done so much work in connection with public health services, would have much preferred that the maternity and child welfare services should still have been left on the percentage grant system for the original term of seven years, if that had been possible, so that the whole system could he reviewed at the end of the sever-year period; but it was ruled that an Amendment to that effect would be out of order, and I understand that it would not have been possible for the Minister to accept it. I was, however, glad to hear from the Minister that he shares with myself and most of those who are interested in maternity and child welfare our admiration for the co-operation of the voluntary associations with the officials. The coupling of the enthusiasm of the voluntary associations with the work of the officials of the various councils has been of enormous value to public health. The first term has now been reduced from five years to three years, and the Minister has power, under Clause 91, first of all to approve of schemes put before him by a council for providing payments to voluntary associations, and also of approving of the amounts therein inserted; or, in default of the council making a scheme, of himself making a scheme and filling in the amounts to be paid to voluntary associations. The voluntary associations regard that as a very effectual help.
Further, they are at liberty to make representations to the Minister that they are improving and extending services for maternity and child welfare, when the Minister may, after consultation with the authority, alter the existing scheme and insert an increased amount for such extended work. The voluntary associations look upon that as a very valuable addition to the Bill, and it encourages them to feel that they will have the support of the Minister in their work, and that he will help them in every 903 possible way in their dealings with the councils. I know that the Minister attaches more importance to Clause 94, which is the punitive Clause, than, I am afraid, I myself or many voluntary associations do. It is a Clause which I am afraid could only be used in very rare cases to speed up a laggard authority to a mere minimum of health services, and it can then only be used when the Minister is satisfied that the council is failing to maintain a reasonable standard of efficiency and progress, having regard to the standard maintained in similar boroughs. As I say, I am afraid that that is hardly a strong enough Clause to help in forcing an authority which is not prepared to do anything at all, or is only prepared to do the merest minimum, to go forward with a larger measure of health services for maternity and child welfare. Of course, voluntary associations are afraid—they cannot help being afraid—that many councils will prefer to use the block grants for the purpose of reducing their rates rather than for promoting these services. That is a fear which many people have in their minds. I have pointed out on many occasions that it is an unfounded fear, and that the Amendments which have been made at the instance of the Government should and will reduce the grounds for such a fear to a minimum.
The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) referred to the articles in financial papers about industrial hereditaments, stating that the relief to industrial hereditaments will not be what the House expected. I can only say that the Government could very easily put that question right, at any rate in the other House, by an Amendment on the same lines as that which has already been made with respect to agricultural hereditaments. It is true that an industrial hereditament gets relief to the extent of 75 per cent. of its rates, but at the next valuation, in my opinion, the rating authority will be bound to put up the assessment of that hereditament to the rent that an intending tenant from year to year would give if he had to pay the usual rates. There is a fear that, while industrial hereditaments may for the moment be relieved of 75 per cent. of their rates, yet at the next quinquennium their assessments 904 will go up. In Clause 64 of the Bill the Government have provided against that happening to agricultural hereditaments. Clause 64 says:As from the first day of April nineteen hundred and thirty, the gross value for rating purposes of a house occupied in connection with agricultural land and used as the dwelling-house of…"—a man engaged in agriculture—shall, so long as the house is so occupied and used, be estimated by reference to the rent at which the house might reasonably be expected to let from year to year if it could not be occupied and used otherwise than as aforesaid.If some such provision could be put in with regard to industrial hereditaments, it would meet their case and would allay the very just fears which now exist.
As a London Member, I especially welcome this Bill. I have always been an advocate of the reform of the Poor Law and the abolition of the guardians as a body. By this Bill the duties of the guardians are handed over to the county councils, but, with regard to what was said by the hon. Member for York, I. would point out that committees of guardians will still be in existence, and London and the provinces will not be deprived of the services of these men and women who have done such excellent work all over the country in looking after the poor and needy in their localities. I recognise that the time has come for a further real reform of London government. It is time that there was one Poor Rate all over London. I agree that when that is so the borough which I represent will have to pay a larger amount, but, on the other hand, the equalisation rate is repealed, and the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund is done away with. An equal Poor Rate for London is, I think, a fair thing, and one which I have always supported. I will only say, in conclusion, that so great are the new duties put upon the London County Council that, in my opinion, the only possible way in which they can be adequately discharged is by the delegation of further and greater powers to members of borough councils, who are quite ready to take a larger share in the work of London government.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
Reference has been made to the achievement of the Conservative party 20 or 30 years ago. At that time, they appointed a Royal 905 Commission to inquire into the relationship between local and Imperial taxation and valuable recommendations were made, but the Government of that day failed to implement the Report. In 1912 a Departmental Committee was appointed to inquire into the changes in the relationship between Imperial and local taxation which had taken place since the report of the Royal Commission of 1901. One would have thought that in connection with a large Measure such as that which we are considering to-night it would have been well, after the lapse of so many years, had: there been some further inquiry into the relationship between local and Imperial taxation. Thee Committee of 1912–14 sat 122 days, took evidence from 40 witnesses, and had memoranda from Government Departments, public authorities, various associations and private individuals. They made certain recommendations, one of the most important of which might well he mentioned in connection with this Bill, seeing that it had references to the objections which had been raised before the Committee as to the State subventions for various purposes. The Committee said:Looking at the growth and the cost of the services and the causes of that growth and the functions of Government subventions,…we have come to the conclusion that a considerable increase in the amount of such subventions is both justifiable and necessary.When we consider the very large number of Parliamentary Measures which have been passed since that time imposing responsibilities and expenditure upon local authorities, the demand or suggestion made by the Departmental Committee for considerable increases in State subventions, was more than justified. At the time the Committee made its recommendations the relationship between local and Imperial taxation was such, that for each pound of expenditure the local authorities found out of the rates 12s. 4d., whilst from Imperial funds there came 7s. 8d. The proposal in the present Bill, according to the White Paper which was presented to us, is that the local authorities should rind 11s. whilst 9s. should come from Imperial sources. In other words, the Committee, after hearing 122 witnesses and making the fullest inquiries, said that there should be considerable increase in the amount of the State subventions, and the 906 increases which they recommended amounted to something like 11 per cent. The increase, according to the White Paper, given in this Bill amounts to something under 7 per cent., in spite of the additional work and expenditure which has been placed upon local authorities since that time, to say nothing of the very great burdens due to unemployment and the Poor Law which press so heavily upon local authorities to-day
In the opinion of certain sections of the public, this Measure seems to be calculated very considerably to accentuate what we call, for want of a better term, class feeling. Disqualification for public service will certainly have that effect. A man may be placed in the position, through no fault of his own, of having to apply for Poor Law relief, and he will be disqualified from public service, however good his qualifications may be for serving upon a local authority. On the other hand, there is no disqualification of Members sitting in this House and advocating the claims of the breweries and the railway companies. There is, also, a grievance in regard to the question of recovery of expenses. At a time when there are more expenses in the home than ever before, the Government are asking people to bear a still larger share of expense, which means depriving the home of means. Those who attend county councils and have long distances to travel are not to receive any pay for the time they lose. There are other points of a similar character which can only intensify what I call the class feeling. That is very unfortunate when the Government are attempting to deal with such a large Measure.
Almost throughout the speech of the Minister of Health there was the money note. Toe whole thing was a question of money. The question of money is not the function of the Minister of Health. I remember that a good many years ago there was a song, the chorus of which ran:It is for money, money, money, the parson says the prayers.We might paraphrase those words, and say:It is for money and not health that the Tory party cares.So far as our hospitals are concerned in Sheffield, we have 2,200 people waiting for admission: cases that ought to be 907 attended to promptly. The voluntary hospitals cannot take them. There is no provision in the Bill for doing what is essential for additional health services. There is no provision in regard to epilepsy, to which more attention is bound to be paid by the Minister of Health sooner or later. Realising the very terrible affliction that epilepsy is for many people in this country, we are not giving it anything like the attention that the subject requires. Tuberculosis is not receiving the attention it ought to receive. We have to ask ourselves what is the function of the Minister of Health? Is it a question of, "What can I do under the restrictions imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or what ought I to do in regard to health questions?" Health and local government is a far bigger question than the mere question of money. It is a question of building up a very much better and healthier nation. There is a great moral question involved, and to that we ought to give far more attention.
§ Sir K. WOOD
We have had many comparisons of the Bill to various subjects, such as the Witches of Macbeth and corpses. I prefer the comparison which was made first by the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown), and later by the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico), comparing the proportions and plan of this Bill to the Book of Exodus. I have made some researches, and I find that the Book of Exodus is the Story of the Israelite people being led out of bondage into freedom.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I find that while Genesis left the Israelites in Egypt a small unit, Exodus finished with the Israelites an organised nation with a settled and valuable code of laws and administration. So it is with this Bill, and, within a short time now, we shall reach the promised land. Occasionally we have been delayed in our progress by misguided people, but our difficulties have disappeared as we have known more of the road, and happily we have added to our numbers and enthusiasm. Our journey, though long, has not been unduly difficult, our enemies' hearts and courage have soon failed them and we have had 908 many opportunities of resting and refreshing ourselves for renewed progress. None of the complaints which have been made to-day with reference to this Bill has been so unfounded as the one made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Greenwood) and other Members when they complained of the lack of Parliamentary time for the discussion of this Measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald), in describing some of the proceedings under this Bill, said that the Labour fight on this Bill had been so splendid that it could only be described in metaphor. The Debate has often been in danger of collapse, and on several occasions it has been eked out by the repetition for 16 or 17 times of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) on the Ministry of Health, and by the arithmetical acrobatics of the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Miss Lawrence). The Bill has had an almost unprecedented number of days of examination without the destruction of any vital principles, and has come through the ordeal strengthened and completely justified.
I was extremely surprised when I read the Amendment of the Liberal party that they complained of a lack of time for discussion. I think that the House of Commons ought to complain of the lack of the Liberal party, because the only person who has really taken any considerable time and trouble in this matter has been the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith. I am surprised that the Liberal party have no more interest in reform. They used to have a very fine motto, "Peace, retrenchment and reform." Peace and retrenchment have gone long ago, and now reform has disappeared, too. I am not surprised to read advertisements in the newspapers offering large sums of money for a new slogan and a new motto for the Liberal party. I would like to join with my right hon. Friend in paying a tribute to the work and the labour of the hon. Member for Leith in connection with this Bill. I think that it can be said with truth that he has been the most informed critic of this Measure. It may be that he may be to blame for introducing two proposals, one, to systematise a, progressive penalisation of prosperous industries, by 909 fixing the amount of de-rating in reverse ratio to profits, and two, by introducing a new and remarkable formula chiefly distinguished for taking money from hard-pressed industrial districts and giving it to seaside towns. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith is a consistent and logical supporter of the Yellow Book, and there is no doubt that in putting these proposals forward he has carried out word for word the terms contained in that very fine and famous document. It is another proof of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he said that the greatest thinkers of Liberalism have been applying their minds to seek a practical solution of the nation's troubles in a way that no other party had been thinking.
We have also this evening had various criticisms about the relief which is being given by this Measure to the productive industries of the country, and we have had complaint after complaint from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think that there is one thing which we all note in connection with these criticisms. It is, that the Socialists have changed their tune about rates on industry since the introduction of the Government proposals. Some little time before the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated the Government's plan of relief to productive industry, the Leader of the Opposition was telling the country about the very pressing problem of the burden of the rates and complaining that they had not been boldly faced. Now, after the introduction of the Measure the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Socialist Government is telling us what a great deal of nonsense there is in talking about the burden of the rates, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne has certainly added to our information in relation to the financial policy of the Socialist party when he said in the course of these Debates: "There is no burden where profits are being made." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. S. Webb) let us into some secrets of the ideas of Socialists upon commercial methods when he said that contractors go to tender without taking any account whatever of their overhead charges.
910 I notice that in the terms of the Amendment the Labour Opposition complained that this Bill ignores the fundamental remedies for trade depression. I wonder what they mean by that phrase? I wonder whether they know themselves what they mean? I have been waiting for a long time to hear from hon. Gentlemen opposite what are these fundamental remedies. Is it nationalisation to which they are referring, or is it the further taxation which has been indicated by one of their hon. Members lately? I put it to the House that the great mass of people in this country, and, I think, the great majority of the Members of all parties themselves believe that the concentration and the accumulative effect of rate relief to productive industry, coupled with, in many cases, special freight reduction, and also, in other cases, the increased assistance to necessitous and highly rated areas where so many of our basic trades are situated, will enable our industries to have a much better chance and give them much better terms than they would have under any proposal which is at the present time before the country. Surely, this is a more promising remedy for trade depression than offering doles and subsidies which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon has told us is the greatest risk that the Labour Cabinet has to run in the development of its industrial policy.
There has been complaint made to-day in reference to this matter that, in relieving productive industry in this way, you are doing nothing for the traders and shopkeepers. The Labour party have developed quite a curious compassion and interest in the shopkeepers of this country. They and their allies the co-operative societies have not always shown such a desire to deal with the shopkeeper in this way and, as for the trader, it was not so long ago that the Leader of the Opposition said that he ought to he organised out of existence. I note, therefore, with interest, and I am sure that the shopkeepers and traders in this country will note with interest also, these novel views of the Labour party for their welfare. So far from not dealing with the position of the traders and the shopkeepers under this Bill, is it not at any rate a reasonable statement to make that, with the revival of industry in this country, the shopkeeper and the trader will get their fair share of the benefit? Will 911 not the fact that industry can be revived in his way give considerable benefit to the shopkeeper and to the trader as well?
In connection with the relief to productive industry, there is one very curious omission which has been made by all, I think, except one Member who sits on the back benches, certainly by no Member of the Front Bench or by any representative of the Labour party, with reference to a very important relief which we are going to give to the biggest and most productive industry of all. Why is it that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith, who represents the Liberal party in this House now, have made no mention at all about the relief which is being given by the Government to agriculture? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne indicated in the course of his speech while we were discussing this Measure in Committee that for years, in his opinion, agriculture has been under-rated. But a very curious change has come over the scene, because we had in the course of the Committee stage of this Bill a motion to reject the relief which was going to be given to agriculture. But the most surprising incident occurred which, I am sure every Member of this House carefully noted, and which they will find reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The Clause which gives relief to agriculture was under discussion, and the following appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT:Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill.The Committee proceded to a division.Major Sir GEORGE HENNESSY and Captain WALLACE were appointed tellers for the Ayes; but, there being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the Noes The CHAIRMAN declared that the Ayes had it." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1929. col. 62; Vol. 224.]Why was that? Had hon. Members so recently lost their convictions in regard to a statement so positively made by them that relief to agriculture was simply putting money into the pockets of the landlords? How was it that they had not the courage to go into the Lobby against that Clause? Surely, they were not thinking of their agricultural constituents? I want to call attention to the attitude of the Liberal party 912 in this connection because they are, of course, the party who look neither to the right nor to the left. I recollect very well a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, whom we understand has now resumed his Parliamentary duties, but unfortunately is unable to be present to-night. I heard him say in this House that the relief to agriculture was a direct contribution to the landowning class of the country. Yet the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith, when I asked him the other day as to what the attitude of the Liberal party was, assured me that the whole party voted for the relief of agriculture. That is one of the most deplorable cases of indiscipline I ever remember. Here we have, in the "Liberal Magazine," these immensely weighty words of Sir Herbert Samuel and others denouncing this relief and yet, according to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith, the whole of the Liberal party are entirely opposed to these statements by their Leader. This is most regrettable and painful to anyone who has anything to do with this matter.
Then we have also had complaints to-night about what is alleged to have been the confused and contradictory provisions of the financial side of this Measure. A favourite criticism is that the financial proposals, and particularly the formula, are difficult and incomprehensible. When I have heard those criticisms, I have often thought how few Members—and I include myself amongst them—in this House, and how few local administrators, can explain the present system of local government. It is often forgotten, when the criticisms are made of the complicated nature of this Bill, in what a chaotic state the present system is, with its nightmares of contradictions and conundrums. If an attempt was made to put them into a Parliamentary Bill I venture to say that this Bill would be very easy by comparison. The Minister, by his constant conferences and close association throughout the passage of this Bill with the local authorities, has not only secured agreement but, I believe, what is more important still, has obtained their good will. I suggest that local authorities, because they are not guided by partizan and political motives, are willing to do their best to give this Bill a fair trial.
913 As far as the financial side of the Measure is concerned, I cannot understand why hon. Members should corn-plain and say that the Bill has been in any way weakened by the undertaking, now embodied in the Bill, that there shall be an inquiry into certain aspects of the financial side within seven years of the Bill coming into operation. Is not that a fair and reasonable proposal, and is it not a process which would, in fact, take place in connection with any large financial alterations and under takings of this kind? At any rate, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has repeatedly put the question, I can say this, that as far as the associations of local authorities are concerned they believe that my right hon. Friend has met them to the utmost of his endeavours and are willing to give the Bill a fair trial.
The opposition complain that in these proposals the Government have failed to take into account national responsibilities as they call them, for burdens wrongfully imposed locally, and we find them this evening, not only making that criticism but taking the rather strange attitude for a Labour opposition, of defending an ancient order of things; fighting for the old financial anomalies and clinging to an outworn system. What follows from the arguments which have been put forward this afternoon by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, who has made many valuable contributions to the financial side of this Measure? He is standing by the old assigned revenues, fixed 40 years ago—
§ Sir K. WOOD
He is clinging to a system by which State grants are given to people who can afford to pay the most and localities who ought to receive most have no opportunity of obtaining them. That is the position in which the Socialist opposition finds itself to-day. It is indeed a strange opposition which fights against a scheme which transfers no less than £30,000,000 expenditure from rates to taxes and increases the grant-in-aid to local services by no less than £7,000,000 a year. Throughout the Debate hon. Members opposite either did not know or have failed in their criticisms to put forward a matter which, when discussing the position of local authorities in the future as regards 914 the operation of this scheme, is surely a very material one. They may talk about whether there will be sufficient money for further health services but at any rate they overlook or forget the fact that under this scheme £7,000,000 is found in advance for the further services of these local authorities. When I hear, as I have to-day, the allegation made that this scheme will starve the health services, that it is a blow at health progress in this country, surely hon. Members must have forgotten the fact that this large sum of new money is made available at once for the local authorities of the country?
Certainly one of the most unfounded criticisms which has been made of the Bill is that which finds a place in the Labour Amendment and states that the proposals of the Bill will degrade the standard of social service in the country. One of the most interesting discussions that we have had has been on the subject of block grants versus the percentage system, and it amply demonstrated that there was hardly anyone who was prepared to stand up wholly for the present percentage grant system. A most welcome fact—welcome from the point of view of supporters of the Bill—has been the considerable change of opinion among people who are particularly interested in the maternity and child welfare service proposals of the Bill. I think it has been more and more appreciated that the present system benefits the rich areas and handicaps the poor areas, and that there is no effective power vested in the Minister of Health to bring about a better state of things in the case of an authority that is not properly discharging its health duties and functions. In the course of the Debates we have clearly demonstrated that the new system will at any rate remedy many of those grave defects.
Surely an extra sum of £50,000,000 of money, which the local authorities will receive during the first seven years, will afford an ample margin for the extension of such services? Consider, for instance, the comparatively small cost which the present maternity and child welfare service is costing. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that it will be perfectly possible, within the first few months of the scheme's operation, for the local authorities, especially those poorer districts which need 915 maternity and child welfare service the most, to double or treble that service. I would add another statement, and that is that it will be perfectly possible for them to do so without putting up their rates by a single penny. What are the advantages of the new system which we have heard denounced so much by hon. Members opposite? They are advantages which should have appealed to a party that always purports to speak for the poorer districts of the country. Certainly under the scheme of the Bill the poorer districts which are in the greatest need will receive the largest amount of help. There is also this to be said: The power which we have now given to the Minister of Health certainly puts him in a much better position to secure proper aid for those districts which ought to receive help for these services.
At the present time the Minister is practically helpless. Under the new scheme, under the Amendments which we have made in the Bill, it will be perfectly possible not only for the Minister himself to examine these matters and take into account whether various districts are operating this Clause properly or not, and are undertaking the requisite services in connection with maternity and child welfare, but it will also be possible, as the result of an important Amendment which we made in Committee, for a responsible association to make representations to the Minister regarding the extent and character of the health services in particular districts. The Minister is further given a very drastic power by which it will be possible for him to deal with the local authority which fails in that work. Having said that, I at once confess that I do not believe it will be
§ necessary for my right hon. Friend to put that Clause into operation very often. I think it will be rarely if ever necessary to do so. I have myself, unlike hon. Gentlemen opposite, faith in local government, I have faith in local authorities and I do not think it will be necessary often to exercise that power.
§ Let me say a final word. There is one ground of criticism which might have been much more fittingly and strongly pressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite against the Bill. It is in relation to the short title of this Measure—"The Local Government Bill." That title undoubtedly disguises the Bill. It is certainly not a sufficient indication of the scope and vision of this Measure, and of the far reaching benefits which this Measure will bring. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have very freely this afternoon referred to recent election events and particularly to by-elections. The Opposition are welcome to such cold comfort as they can obtain, after five years of opposition in reduced Labour polls—in Socialism in cold storage—and in having, as their most enthusiastic supporters, the bookmakers of the country. We prefer other methods and other ways. We present this Measure to the House as a great contribution to the needs of our time. We are now presenting it for Third Reading. In a short space of time we shall take the issue to the constituencies, and we do not doubt that a verdict of confirmation and approval will be given by the great majority of our fellow-citizens.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 292; Noes, 113.919
|Division No. 204.]||AYES.||[10.30 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Berry, Sir George||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Betterton, Henry B.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)|
|Alexander, ST Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Bevan, S. J.||Buchan, John|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Birchail. Major J. Dearman||Buckingham, Sir H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, w. R., Skipton)||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.|
|Applin, Colonel Ft. V. K.||Blundell, F. N.||Burton, Colonel H. W.|
|Apsley, Lord||Boothby, R. J. G.||Caine, Gordon Hall|
|Ashley, Lt.-Cot. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Campbell, E. T.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Casseis, J. D.|
|Atkinson, C.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Balniel, Lord||Brass, Captain W.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Br assay, Sir Leonard||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Briscoe, Richard George||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Brittain, Sir Harry||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Bellairs. Commander Cartyon||Brockiebank, C. E. R.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Chilcott, Sir Warden|
|Christie, J. A.||Hilton, Cecil||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. Q.||Ramsden, E.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Clayton, G. C.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Reid, D D. (County Down)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Richardson, Sir P. W.(Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Roberts, E.' H. G. (Flint)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Colfox, Major Win. Phillips||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. w.||Ross, R. D.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Ruggies-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Hudson, Capt. A. u. M,(Hackney,N.)||Rye, F. G|
|Couper, J. B.||Hudson, R. S.(Cumberland,Whiteh'n)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.I||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hurd, Percy A.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Crookshank, Col. C. do W. (Berwick)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Sandon, Lord|
|Crookshank.Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Jackson, sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'i)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustavs D.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Savery, S. S.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. Mel.(Renfrew,W.)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Kintoch Cooke, Sir Clement||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Knox, Sir Alfred||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Lamb, J. Q.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Lister, Cunilffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine.C.)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Smithers, Waldron|
|Ellis, R. G.||Loder, J. de V.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|England, Colonel A.||Long, Major Eric||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset,Weston-s.-M.)||Looker, Herbert William||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Stanley, Lord (Fyide)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Luce, Maj. Gen. Sir Richard Herman||Stanley, Hon. D. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Fielden, E. B.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Tasker, R. Inlgo.|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Macintyre, Ian||Templeton, W. P.|
|Forrest, W.||McLean, Major A.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steil||Tinne, J. A.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Malone, Major P. B.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Margesson, Captain D.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. p.|
|Gates, Percy||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Mason, Colonel Giyn K.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Meiler, R. J.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Meyer, Sir Frank||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawlord||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wells, S. R.|
|Greenwood,Rt. Hn. Sir H.(W'th's'w,E)||Moore, Sir Newton J.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F.E.(Bristol, N.)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Wilson, Sir Murrough (Yorks,Richm'd)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Hacking, Douglas H.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hamilton, Sir George||Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Ptrsi'ld.)||Withers, John James|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Nuttail, Ellis||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hanbury, C.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Penny, Frederick George||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Harvey, Majors. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Worthington- Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Perring, sir William George||Wragg, Herbert|
|Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Pilcher, G.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Power, Sir John Cecil||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Herbert, S. (York,N.R.,Scar. & Wh'by)||Preston, William||Major Sir George Hennessy.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Ammon, Charles George||Barnes, A.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Batey, Joseph|
|Bellamy, A.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Scurr, John|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shepherd, Arthur Lawis|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen)||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Smillie, Robert|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Lansbury, George||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Smith, Rennis (Penistone)|
|Charieton, H. C.||Lawson, John James||Snell, Harry|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lea, F.||Snowden, Rt. Hon Philip|
|Connolly, M.||Lindley, F. W.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Livingstone, A. M.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Dalton, Ruth (Bishop Auckland)||Longbottom, A. W.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth, T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Day, Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Dennison, R.||Mackinder, W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Duncan, C.||MacLaren, Andrew||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Dunnico, H.||Maciean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Townend, A. E.|
|Gardner, J. P.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gillett, George M.||Maxton, James||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cant.)||Morris, R. H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Greenail, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)||Naylor, T. E.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Owen, Major G.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Groves, T.||Palin, John Henry||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanten)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. w.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Potts, John S.||Windsor, Walter|
|Hardie, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wright, W.|
|Harris, Percy A.||Ritson, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwieh)|
|Hollins, A.||Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Paling.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sakiatvala, shapurji|
Question put, and agreed to.