HL Deb 03 July 1879 vol 247 cc1263-72

Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.

Moved," That the Dill be now read 3a." —(The Earl of Galloway.)


My Lords, in rising to move that this Bill be read a third time this day three months, I will briefly explain my reasons for taking this course. It is within your Lordships' knowledge that in Scotland the valuation of laud is conducted under the authority of the Commissioners of Supply, who sometimes act in a general body and sometimes appoint a Committee for the purpose of first making an inquiry, ands then reporting the result of that inquiry to them. Hitherto, so far as I know, the valuation of land has been conducted in this manner with perfect satisfaction to everyone concerned. But now, this Bill which has been introduced into your Lordships' House contains a new principle. Its contains two provisions to which great objection has been taken. The first is this—that the Commissioners of Supply shall necessarily appoint a Committee to inquire into and determine the value of land; and the second, that the determinations of this County Valuation Committee shall, for all purposes, be deemed the determinations of the Commissioners of Supply by whom they are to be appointed; in other words, the proposal is that the powers of the Commissioners of Supply are to be taken out of their hands, and the sole power of valuation —there being no appeal to the general body of Commissioners of Supply—shall be transferred to a Committee, the number of which is not to exceed 20. Now, I wish to ask your Lordships for what reason is this Bill introduced—for surely there ought to be some reason for making a proposal of this sort? In the first place, who has complained? I am not aware that at any meeting of the Commissioners of Supply any complaint has been made, or that the other House of Parliament has been asked, by any meeting, to adopt a Bill similar to this. We, in this House, have been equally unfortunate. There was no discussion of the measure on the second reading; and, at a later stage, when there was a discussion, and we put this question to the noble Earl (the Earl of Galloway)—" Who wants the Dill, and who brings it in? "—he answered—" Everybody wants it; " but when he was asked of whom " everybody " consisted? he was unable to tell them, or had been only able to name a single county, that of Lanarkshire. I do not know whether the noble Earl means to say that the County of Wigtownshire, in which he is very largely interested, wishes for this Bill; but, at all events, even if it does, there is a noble Earl in this House—a noble Earl behind me—who has also a very large interest in the County of Wigtownshire, and he is just as much at a loss to understand why this Dill is introduced as I am at this moment. The only reason given to us thus far is that the Lanarkshire Commissioners of Supply are an extremely numerous and un-manageable body. I am not prepared to dispute that proposition; on the contrary, all the little I know is in favour of it; for, for a considerable number of years, we were unable to obtain a Road Act for Scotland, because Glasgow and Lanarkshire were unable to arrange their differences. It is quite possible that this Dill will be found very convenient for the County of Lanark, en-abling them to take away powers from the Commissioners of Supply and intrust them absolutely to a Committee of their own body. But I would submit to your Lordships that because the Commissioners of Lanarkshire are an unmanageable body is no reason why you should deprive the Commissioners of Supply of every other county in Scotland of their powers. I should like to hear better reasons for this Bill than those that have hitherto been given. On the last occasion when the measure came before us, we were rather in a peculiar state of circumstances. After an interesting discussion, relating to the London Bridge Bill, your Lordships had disbanded yourselves—or, at least, the greater number had gone away, and there was a very thin House left. This matter came up for discussion; certain Amendments were proposed, and we hoped that my noble Friend opposite who has charge of the Bill (the Earl of Galloway) would have held out the olive branch to us; at all events, to some extent. He did not do so, however. He opposed our Amendments, and the only course left was to carry our objections to a Division. As the Division was taken under peculiar circumstances, I have taken the trouble to analyze it; and I find that in English and Irish Peers we on this side of the House were weak, for we had only two English Peers and one Irish, against 13 English and 6 Irish on the other side; but, on the other hand, of Scotchmen, who are the persons most interested, and who I think —without any disrespect to your Lordships—should be the best able to judge of this matter, we were relatively strong, because, whilst seven voted against us, four voted with us—the noble Lord who may be said to represent Lanarkshire being amongst the number. As to the others, I should like to make this observation—that I do not know whether this is a Government Dill or not, as we have never had a statement to that effect; but it was certainly singular the other night to see with what unanimity the Members of the Government, of whom there were a comparatively large number present, voted for the Bill. I do not know whether those Members of your Lordships' House who are not Scotchmen will sympathize with the grounds on which some Scotch Peers oppose the Bill to-night; but I should like to put this matter to Irish and English Peers in a way that would carry conviction with it. To Irish Members I would say, if there ever was a question of Home Rule this is one which can be most conveniently dealt with in that way. To Englishmen I would say, suppose a proposal were made to take away the power of the Justices of the Peace assembled in Quarter Sessions, and to appoint Committees of the Justices, to whom is to be intrusted absolutely the power of valuation without any appeal to the general body, or without its being necessary to obtain the approval of the general body of Justices assembled in Quarter Sessions, would your Lordships support that proposal, or would you not? That is really the whole ease, and I do not think it is necessary for me to add another word. If my noble Friend will consent to strike the words I object to out of the Bill, that may exercise some influence upon the course we will adopt. But so long as my noble Friend is determined that he will absolutely take away this power from the general body of the Commissioners of Supply, without giving some reason for doing so, the only resource left to those who are opposed to the proceeding is to protest against it in every way they can.

Amendment moved, to leave out (" now ") and add at the end of the Motion (" this day three months ").—(The Earl of Camperdown.)


pointed out that in Renfrew and other places the Commissioners of Supply appointed Committees to do their work, and from them there was an appeal to the Judge Ordinary. The measure was only following out the general practice adopted in Scotland; therefore, he could not see why the third reading should be opposed. Believing that the measure would give general satisfaction in Scotland, he trusted their Lordships would agree to the third reading.


said, he could not say anything of the Bill from the Home Rule point of view; but, as a Scotch proprietor, he had been asked by the Convener and a great many of the members of the Commissioners of Supply of the County of Ayrshire to vote against the Bill.


I had hoped that when the noble Earl moved the third reading of the Bill lie would have given us some other testimony in its favour besides the single County of Lanark. There are, as your Lordships I are probably aware, annually two meetings of Commissioners of Supply of each county, and at these meetings it is the custom to consider all matters affecting the welfare of their county, and to petition for or against any Bill before Parliament, according to circumstances. If there is this unanimity on the part of the Commissioners of Supply in Scotland in favour of this Dill, the noble Earl would, no doubt, have received many Petitions from these Commissioners of Supply in its favour. If the noble Earl has not such Petitions, it seems to me clear that there is no wish amongst the Commissioners of Supply for it. The noble Earl may also tell us whether this is a Government measure or not? This is a matter of some importance to us, and it will be gratifying to the feelings of some Members of the House if some Member of the Government will condescend to give an opinion upon the Bill.


My Lords, if it had not been that I have been so distinctly appealed to by the noble Earl who has just sat down I should not have trespassed on your Lordships' time. But before I answer the more personal and pertinent question, as the noble Earl has styled it, I will mention one or two reasons to show why I think this a very useful measure. In the first instance, the Commissioners of Supply, it has been correctly stated, represent some hundreds of thousands of annual value in Scotland, and in the County of Lanark the Commissioners of Supply number no less than 750, in the County of Perth 200, and in Forfarshire over 150; and I think it must commend itself to your Lordships' knowledge that matters which are dealt with and relegated to the decision of a Committee are far better dealt with than matters which are deliberated upon by bodies numbering 750 or even 200. Your Lordships may easily conceive that in such large numbers the deliberate and judicial character must be, to a great extent, lost and put upon one side; and it really is thus with regard to the meetings of the Commissioners of Supply, that they have themselves found that it is impossible to carry on the business properly by so large a body, and they have adopted the only course they could adopt, that of relegating the powers of the whole body to a Committee. They set themselves on one side, and relegated their powers to a Committee for their own convenience. But their proceedings might at any time be set aside on the ground of illegality, and on that ground it is advisable that such a measure as this should be passed. With regard to the 4th and 5th clauses of the Bill, which give a statutory character and authority to the Committees, they are modelled on the 39th and 40th of the Queen, which established, with regard to licences in Scotland, precisely the same Committee as that which we propose in regard to valuations. These are some of the reasons which I think ought to influence your Lordships in passing the Bill. I must protest altogether against the doctrine that it is net advisable to pass the measure unless the whole of Scotland has petitioned in its favour. The fact that the people of Scotland have not petitioned against it must be taken to be a very important one, because the Scotch people generally know what they are about and what is to their advantage, and seems conclusive that they are generally satisfied with the proposals of the Bill. The noble Earl opposite has no right to imagine that your Lordships will take a different view of the matter from that which was taken in the House of Commons, and with which Scotland was perfectly satisfied. One word more as to the character of this Bill. The noble Earl opposite spoke of this Bill as if there was some mystery about it. I can assure him that there is no mystery whatever. It is not a Government Dill; but it has received the assent and cordial approval of the other House of Parliament, and also of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whose duties are more particularly connected with Scotland; and if the noble Earl is in the least degree doubtful as to the accuracy of my statement, I will clear up that doubt by telling him the names of the three Gentlemen whose names are on the back of the Bill, and I will leave the House to decide as to whether those three names indicate anything of a Government character about the measure. The first name is Sir Windham Anstruther, the second is Mr. Campbell-Bannerman, and the third Sir Graham Montgomery.


No doubt, my Lords, the Bill will suit very well the County of Lanark, in which the noble Duke has told us there are 750 Commissioners of Supply, and that that body is so large and unmanageable that they are obliged, in order to get their work done, to take the illegal course of appointing Committees. This may be a very good reason for a permissive Bill; but the fact that this Dill is a very convenient one for the County of Lanark is no reason why it should be equally convenient for the rest of Scotland, nor why they should force each county to appoint a Committee of the Commissioners of Supply to determine questions of valuation, limiting their number of members to 20. In other counties the Lord President spoke of 150 and 200 as the number of Commissioners of Supply, and he mentioned Perth and Forfar as cases in which there was that number. But, as I am informed, there is an equally large number of magistrates in many cases in English counties who attend Quarter Sessions; yet there is no attempt to take from them their present duties and compel them to appoint Committees to perform some, at least, of their work. In the county with which I am connected there are 300 or 400 Commissioners of Supply, and at one time a Committee was appointed to assist the assessors; but it was found that they could do as well without it, and no Committee was now appointed. I must take exception to what the noble Duke said, when he argued that this Bill should be approved because the whole of Scotland had not petitioned against it. Everybody knows that Bills such as this pass without public notice; you have heard how it passed through the House of Commons; and, in fact, till this Bill came up to your Lordships' House, I am very certain many of you were entirely ignorant with regard to it. The Lord Lieutenant of the County of Forfar, who pays great attention to Public Business, had not heard of it; and many other noble Lords, even those connected with Scotland were perfectly ignorant of it. I cannot, therefore, admit the validity of the answer that has been given by the noble Duke. While, however, I object to the plea of the noble Duke in favour of the measure, I am bound to express my satisfaction that he has not indulged in remarks of the rather contemptuous and disparaging kind such as he used the other night when he spoke of the manner in which the Commissioners of Supply discharged their duties. Whatever may be said about these bodies in other counties, I am bound to say, with regard to those in the counties with which I am connected, that their meetings are conducted with order and in a business-like manner. If my noble Friend who moved the rejection of the measure (the Earl of Camperdown) goes to a Division I shall support him.


My Lords, I cannot see what objection there is to this measure. I have been listening with great attention to what has been said by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Airlie), and the objection he seems to feel is that it is Proposed to appoint a special Committee of Commissioners from among them- selves, by whom the appeals should be heard, and that that would be taking the power out of the hands of the Commissioners. But what would be the result? You will have a small manageable body who would go into the matter, rather than a body consisting of a large number who do not go into the matter. I know, from my own personal experience in some counties, that, numerous as these bodies are, it is very often difficult to get Commissioners of Supply together to hear these appeals, and we often have to wait a considerable time. There is another objection to the present system—that it is not entirely free from abuses. I have heard cases—I do not mean to say recently—but I have heard of more than one case where efforts have been made to induce certain Commissioners of Supply to attend, because they were supposed to be friendly either one way or the other, when the appeals were to be heard before them. I have had great experience myself in the conduct of the business by the Commissioners of several counties; and I should say that on the whole the necessity for appointing particular Committees for the purpose contemplated by the Bill is very obvious, and that the Bill will tend very much to the proper and expeditious conduct of business. The fact is, that in some counties Committees were already appointed who reported to the general body, and in every instance the decisions of these Committees have been accepted at once as thoroughly satisfactory. My impression decidedly is that if this Bill is passed it will be beneficial to Scotland. There is one more remark called for in dealing with the objections to the Bill—namely, the absence of sufficient Notice. But, by looking at a copy of the Bill, I find that in December, 1878, it was laid on the Table of the House of Commons. The Bill must, therefore, have been before every meeting of Commissioners of Supply in every county in Scotland at the meeting of the 30th April last. That this was the case I have no doubt; yet we have not heard of a single county having expressed an opinion adverse to it.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 66; Not-Contents 29: Majority 37.

Cairns, E. (L. Chancellor.) Ashford, L. (V. Bury.)
Bagot, L.
Richmond, D. Blantyre, L. [Teller.]
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Abergavenny, M
Hertford, M. Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Amherst, E.
Bathurst E. Cloncurry, L.
Beaconsfield, E. Colchester, L.
Beauchamp, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Belmore, E. Cottesloe, L.
Bradford, E. Crofton, L.
Cadogan, E. de Ros, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Bucclench and Queensberry.) De Saumarez, L.
Foxford L. (E, Limerick.)
Dundonald E. Gordon of Drumearn, L
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.) Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)
Harrowby, E. Hampton, L.
Lucan E. Harlech, L.
Manvers, E. Kenlis, L. (M. Head-fort
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)
Nelson, E. Lilford, L.
Powis, E. Norton, L.
Ravens worth, E. Penrhyn, L.
Redesdale, E. Plunket, L.
Romney, E. Raglan, L.
Rosse, E. Silchester, L. (E. Long-ford.)
Stanhope, E
Bridport, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Cranbrook, V. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.) [Teller.]
Herding, V.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Strathspey, L. (E. Sea-field.)
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster) Walsingham, L.
Melville, V. Windsor, L.
Strathallan, V. Winmarleigh, L.
Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Arundell of Wardour, L.
Devonshire, D. Hammond, L.
Hamner, L.
Northampton, M. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Airline, E. [Teller.] Leigh, L.
Camperdown, E. [Teller.] Lyttelton, L.
Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Clarendon, E.
Cowper, E. Oranmore and Browne, L.
Dartrey, E.
Granville, E. Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)
Kimberley, E.
Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-borough.)
Powerscourt, V.
Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)
Aberdare, L.
Balfour of Burleigh, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Stratford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Carlingford, L. Sudeley, L.
Foley, L. Truro, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative; Bill read 3a accordingly, with the Amendments, and passed, and sent to the Commons.