HC Deb 25 February 1929 vol 225 cc1625-32

(1) Every district council shall be incorporated under the name of the district council of the district and any deed or other document shall he deemed to have been duly executed by the district council if signed on their behalf by two members and the clerk.

(2) Every district council shall appoint a clerk it ho shall hold office during the pleasure of the council and be paid such reasonable salary as the council may think proper.

(3) The provisions of the Act of 1894 applicable to parish councils with respect to meetings, conduct of business, quorum, filling of casual vacancies, the chairman of the council and of meetings, disqualification of councillors, appointment of committees, payments and receipts, budget and absence of councillors from meetings, shall, with the necessary modifications, apply to district councils and the members thereof, and the provisions of section thirty-one and subsection (2) of section thirty-eight of the said Act (which respectively relate to the use of school rooms and returns to the Secretary of State as to outstanding loans) shall, with the necessary modifications, apply in the ease of district councils and the electors thereof as they apply in the case of parish councils and the parish electors.

(4) The provisions of section sixty-eight of the Act of 1889 (relating to the accounts of county councils) and the provisions of the Third Schedule to this Act (relating to the audit of accounts of county councils and town councils) shall with the necessary modifications apply in the case of district councils.

(5) Where the Public Libraries (Scotland) Acts, 1887 to 1920, are in operation within a parish or part of a parish included within the district of a district council the said Acts shall be deemed to have been adopted throughout the whole of the said district.

(6) The special parish rate leviable under Part IV of the Act of 1894 shall after the commencement of this Act be termed the district council rate and all expenses falling to he met by a district council, whether under Part IV of the Act of 1894 or other wise, including expenses of determining as to the adoption of the Public Libraries (Scotland) Acts, 1887 to 1920, where these Acts are not adopted, shall be defrayed out of the district council rate and the provisions of the said Public Libraries (Scotland) Acts so far as inconsistent herewith shall cease to have effect.

(7) The limit on the district council rate shall be one shilling in the pound instead of sixpence in the pound, and sub-section (1) of section twenty-seven of the Act of 1894 shall have effect accordingly.

(8) Every district council shall annually ascertain the amount required for the purposes of their powers and duties under the Acts of Parliament administered by them and shall, on or before the fifteenth day of July in each year, certify to the county council the amount required to be provided for these purposes by the county council, and the county council shall, subject to the limit aforesaid, levy within the district a district council rate of such amount, as is necessary to provide the amount specified in the certificate, and shall collect and recover the rate and from time to time, as they collect it and at such intervals as the county council and the district council may agree, and, failing agreement, as the Secretary of State may determine, pay over to the district council the amount collected up to the amount specified in the certificate and, sc far as the amount specified in the certificate has not been paid over by that time, the county council shall annually on the first day of May pay over the balance to the district council, notwithstanding that it has not been collected, and may borrow for the purpose.

Any surplus relating to the district council rate in the hands of the county council which may arise in any one year shall be applied for the purposes of the ensuing year, a ad in like manner any deficiency which may occur in any year shall he included in the rate for the ensuing year.

(9) A district council may make bye-laws for preserving and regulating any recreation ground, common, bleaching green, open space, or other place of public resort or recreation within the district and for regulating the use of the same and for ensuring good order in the use thereof, and the provisions of sections one hundred and eighty-three to one hundred and eighty-seven of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897 (which relate to bye-laws made under that Act), shall apply to bye-laws made under this sub-section.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotblvd.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The purpose of this Clause is to incorporate the district councils and provide for the appointment of a clerk, arrange for meetings, and to provide for audits. I noticed that the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Brigadier-General Charteris) has placed an Amendment on the Paper to leave out Sub-section (5) which deals with the Public Libraries (Scotland) Acts, 1887 to 1920. May I point out that under the Bill the district councils are having trans- ferred to them the duties under the Libraries Act of the parish councils in landward areas. At the present time the Libraries Acts may be carried out by a parish which may be only part of the district council as formed, and it is only right that the provision with regard to public libraries should not be confined to part of the district council but should extend to the whole district council which is rated as a whole. That is the purpose of Sub-section (5). I do not think any explanation is required of the other Subsections of this new Clause.

Brigadier-General CHARTER IS

I rise to move my Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 21, to leave out Subsection (5).


The hon. and gallant Member cannot move that Amendment at the present moment. The Question before the Committee is, "That the Clause be read a Second time," and, after that has been agreed to, the hon. and gallant Member can move his Amendment.


I should like to ask the Lord Advocate a question, which probably he will be able to answer very quickly. It occasionally happens that from among the members of the parish councils now existing, trustees are appointed for special purposes. I have in mind at the present moment a particular pier for which trustees are appointed by one or two parish councils. I should like to be assured that what is being done by the parish councils to-day will be carried on by the new district councils, and that, where it may be necessary to appoint trustees to carry on trusts of that nature, the power to do so will not be lost sight of, but will be transferred or conveyed to the members of the newly-constituted district council.


I understand that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent that being done.


Will there be any need for a special Order by the Secretary of State?


I will look into the matter.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Brigadier-General CHARTERIS

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 21, to leave out Sub-section (5).

The purpose of this Amendment is to try to correct an anomaly which will appear under the Bill with regard to those parishes which have adopted the Public Libraries Acts. As I understand the situation, prior to this Bill a parish or small burgh which had adopted the Public Libraries Act, and had rated for the particular library within its own precincts, could not be subsequently rated to the full by the education authority for the general education library. Under the Bill as it now stands, that provision is removed, and there is a risk that any parish or small burgh will find itself paying double rates, that is to say, it will be paying rates for its own library, and also for the library under the county authority. In addition to that, the Bill will bring about the situation that a parish which has amalgamated with another parish into a district council will now not only pay the county rate for the county library, but will also have to pay the rate for the library which has been established in another parish with which it has been amalgamated. Of course it is quite true that in point of fact these difficulties will be adjusted by ordinary good will and common sense and cooperation between the various authorities, and I do not imagine for a moment that in general that desire to co-operate and that good will will be lacking; but instances may occur for some reason or other in which there may be acute difficulties in the administration of the Bill as it stands. There may not be cooperation, there may not be an arrangement whereby this double rating is avoided; and it is to meet that possibility that I have put down this Amendment, and also a further Amendment—to leave out from the word "otherwise," in line 28, to the word "shall," in line 29.

The purpose of these Amendments will be to transfer the control of libraries out of the hands of the district councils and small burghs, and to place it entirely in the hands of the one authority, the county authority. That will not only assist co-operation, but will ensure that the provision of libraries for the county will be undertaken by a completely self-contained authority. I understand that one of the objections to the present system—the telescoping of the two rates —has been the large amount of accountancy involved in deciding how the rates should be distributed. I do not know how far that objection is correct or not, but I investigated the matter in my own county, and found that, while one of the bodies concerned, namely, the county council, stated that the accounting was indeed laborious and involved a large amount of work, on the other hand, the education authority inclined to the opinion that the accounting was easy. Whether the amount of accounting be large or not, all the anomalies which will still remain if the Bill be passed in its present form would be removed if these Amendments were incorporated in it.


I desire to give support, for myself at least, and I believe for those associated with me here, to the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Brigadier-General Charteris). As is apparent from this Clause, there are a number of Acts dealing with public libraries, and a number of anomalies are created by the new situation. I know that my own burgh and many others are anxious about the situation that is thus created. It is well known that under the Education Act, in order to give facilities to the young people, there was power to levy a particular rate in order to establish a library, in the first instance, for the advantage of the young people, but with a proviso that it would also be available for all in the district to avail themselves of it. The position now is that a town, let us say, that has been at the expense of establishing a library in that way, may be brought in also to provide rates for library accommodation additional to its own, and thus a further load would be put upon it, the incidence of which would not be quite fair. I am not quite sure— and I think that the hon. and gallant Member has anticipated this himself— whether this particular Amendment in itself would put the whole anomaly right. I think, if I may say so, that some consideration would be necessary on the part of the Scottish Office and the Government to adjust the whole matter, so that what is being done in a particular area under the Act to which I have referred might be deducted in some way from the present rate, and thus bring about some degree of equality of incidence in the payment over the whole area. We are in general agreement with the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member, but I think that considerable adjustment will be needed, and I should like to know that the Government are conscious of the anomaly and of the injustice that will be created unless something is done, either by deleting this Subsection as now suggested, or by adjusting the rating so that there will not be such a double rating as the hon. and gallant Member suggests will result.


I am afraid that my hon. and gallant Friend is a bit late in the clay with his Amendment, because we have already, under Clause 1 of the Bill, transferred to the district councils the powers of the parish councils under the Public Libraries (Scotland) Acts, 1887 to 1920, and, therefore, the district councils will have the power to rate for this purpose. All that Subsection (5) does is to say that as regards the adoption—not as regards rating—of the Acts, and the necessary consequences, the adoption having taken place, of the transfer of powers to the District Council, the adoption shall be deemed to have extended to the whole district council area, as well as the original parish for which in fact it actually took place. The taking out of these words would really only be a matter of drafting. With regard to the merits of the question, I think it would be out of order to discuss them at this stage, as the powers under the Public Libraries (Scotland) Acts, 1887 to 1920, could not now be transferred to the county council, which is really what my hon. and gallant Friend suggests.


I did not quite understand, until the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Brigadier-General Charteris) had finished his speech, what was his object in moving the Amendment, but, of course, as has been pointed out by the Lord Advocate, it would not have the effect of making any alteration in regard to the powers of administering those Acts, which have already been dealt with in an earlier part of the Bill; and, therefore, it would not be in order for the Lord Advocate to go into the question of the advisability or otherwise of the transfer to the district council of these powers relating to public libraries.

Brigadier-General CHARTERIS

May I say that I have also an Amendment to Schedule 1, to add the Public Libraries Act?


I am afraid, none the less, that the inclusion of that particular function has been dealt with in Clause 1, and, therefore, cannot now be altered.

Brigadier-General CHARTERIS

Although, if my Amendment were accepted, it would admittedly leave something of a jagged edge on the Bill, it would not entirely invalidate what has already been passed by the Committee.


That is the reason why the hon. and gallant Member was allowed to move the Amendment, but I think the result of it would be rather unsatisfactory. I rose, however, in order, the Lord Advocate having discovered what was in the hon. and gallant Member's mind, to draw his attention to the fact that he could not discuss this matter, as it has been dealt with in an earlier part of the Bill.


If it is not altogether out of order, may I say that I am quite sure that the Lord Advocate and the Government must be aware of the anomaly to which I referred just now, and may I ask whether they will consider, between now and the Report stage, whether something can be done to remove it, either in this Clause or in some other part of the Bill?


There was an Amendment earlier which would have had the same effect as the one now proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Brigadier-General Charteris), but it was not reached. Perhaps that Amendment might be raised during the Report stage, and I hope that the Government will consider the matter, because it is one which affects a great many districts.


I am afraid that the hon. Member must reserve his remarks on that matter until the Report stage.

Brigadier-General CHARTERIS

I cannot proceed further in face of your ruling, and, accordingly, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.