HL Deb 11 May 1882 vol 269 cc446-8

, in rising to call attention to the Report of the Select Committee of last Session on the Highway Acts; and to inquire, Whether Her Majesty's Government, having regard to the relative state of Business in the two Houses of Parliament, will introduce into this House the measure for local self-government in counties, promised in the Queen's Speech? said, that last Session great interest was taken in this question by their Lordships, and it was inquired into by a Committee of 16, eight Members being taken from each side of the House. In their Report the Committee expressed admiration for the system existing in Scotland, where the highways were managed by bodies elected partly by owners of the land and partly by occupiers—bodies analogous to those which might be constituted in this country under a measure creating County Boards. The Committee thought that in any Bill which might be introduced by the Government for the establishment of County Boards, a scheme might be in- cluded for the administration of highways; and they were unanimously of opinion that some relief should be afforded by a redistribution of the charges for the roads, which now fell almost exclusively upon one class of property. Partly in consequence of the Report of the Committee, they were informed in the Queen's Speech, at the opening of the Session, that it was the intention of the Government to invite Parliament to deal with the question of Local Self-Government in Counties, and to make certain financial changes. He had no doubt the noble Lord who represented the Department in that House would say that the financial part of the measure would be so mixed up with the other part that a Bill could not be introduced in that House. But he had reason for hoping that it would not be impossible to do so, if the financial proposals were separated from the Bill; because in the Queen's Speech it was distinctly stated that the proposals for the establishment of Local Self-Government were to be applied to English and Welsh Counties, whereas the financial changes were to be applied to the whole of Great Britain. He fancied, therefore, there need be no difficulty in separating the one from the other. The reason why he was anxious to press the matter upon the Government was because the Prime Minister himself, at the beginning of the Session, had reiterated the statement, in language of solemn promise, that the Session should not be allowed to pass without seeing this measure introduced. The leading newspaper of the day, however, evidently knew more of the capabilities of the Prime Minister than he did himself, for the day after the speech was delivered it characterized the proposal as one that would probably not be realized, but would be as fugitive and as evanescent as a dream. The result of the statement of the Government showed the truth of the maxim, Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. The whole question of Local Government and Taxation had now been put off. He extremely regretted that this had been done, and he still hoped it was not too late to undo it. Even if a Bill were introduced into that House and thrown out, the Government would be no worse off than they were at present; while it was possible that the suggestions thrown out would be of great value in a subsequent Session. On the other hand, if the measure passed that House, time might possibly allow of its being dealt with by the other House of Parliament. He felt bound to take this opportunity of protesting against the practice of not submitting to their Lordships measures which were of the utmost importance to them until the end of the Session, when discussion was impossible. Unless Her Majesty's Government desired to reduce that House to the position of a tribunal for registering the decrees of the other House, he thought they ought to propose for the consideration of their Lordships the measure which was already in a pigeonhole at the Local Government Board.


said, his noble Friend had anticipated the answer which he had to make. The Resolution recommending the establishment of a County Board was carried without a division. Her Majesty's Government had hoped to bring in a Bill this Session dealing with the whole question; but, unfortunately, the Prime Minister had been obliged to postpone the Bill. He was authorized to state that, as the measure dealt entirely with Local Taxation, it was impossible to introduce it in their Lordships' House.