HL Deb 01 August 1889 vol 339 cc5-36

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in rising to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill I cannot but express my regret that it has not been in my power to introduce the measure to your Lordships' House at an earlier period of the Session, altering as it does the whole condition of the County Government of Scotland. I should have been glad if it had been in my power to bring a Bill of this nature before your Lordships at a period of the Session in which you could have given a more adequate consideration to it. From the condition of the Benches of the House I am glad to see that confidence is felt in Her Majesty's Government, because it would appear from the number of noble Lords present that there must be a general conviction that the Bill is a good one, and that there is no desire to go very much into the details of it at this stage. But I should have preferred that those noble Lords who are connected with Scotland should have been present in greater numbers to go somewhat into the details of the measure. I need not enlarge upon the principle of this Bill, because it is one to which your Lordships have already given your assent by the passing of the Local Government Bill for England last year. The Bill now before your Lordships' House simply gives effect as regards Scotland to the principles which your Lordships' House then accepted. But the circumstances of Local Government in Scotland, are so different from those which prevail in England, or which prevailed in England before the passing of the Bill of last year, that the Bill which I now place before the House necessarily differs in very important particulars from the Bill passed with regard to England last year. In some degree those differences make it more difficult to frame a measure which is to be applicable to the whole country than was the case in England, for I do not think the condition of things in England as regards the most distant parts of the country from one end to the other vary so greatly as they do between the more thickly populated and prosperous parts of Scotland in the south, southeast, south-west, and north-east, and the isolated, more thinly populated and often poverty-stricken districts of the north and north-west of Scotland. I must ask your Lordships to bear with me while I endeavour as shortly as I can to go into the details of the Bill, touching only on the more important points now, asking you to reserve the consideration of the details more particularly for a later stage when the Bill comes into Committee. But before going into the details of the Bill I think it would be convenient that I should shortly describe the existing condition of the administration and of the administrative bodies, for without that it would be difficult to explain to your Lordships what it is that is now proposed to be transferred from the existing bodies to the new County Councils. The first and most important body which now exists in the County Government of Scotland is that which is called the Commissioners of Supply. They are the chief County Authority. The Commissioners of Supply are composed of owners of land of the annual value of £100, and the owners of houses of the annual value of £200. They have a chairman elected from among their own body, who is called a convener. I allude to the name of the convener simply because it is proposed that the Chairman of the new County Councils should be called by that name. Their especial powers have reference to the police administration, to the valuation of lands and heritages, the preparation of the valuation rolls, the preparation through their assessor of the Parliamentary Register, the provision of lunacy accommodation through the District Boards, and general county business, including the payment of clerks, supply, and all other officials. As I have said, this body is composed almost entirely of owners of property; they have practically the whole administration in regard to all the points which I have just named to your Lordships. The occupiers have no voice in the government of the county at all, but on the other hand the occupiers have no responsibilities in respect of the Government of the County, because the owners pay the entire amount of the rates which can be levied under the authority of the Commissioners of Supply. Therefore, while the owners have the entire administrative power in the county, yet, as they pay the whole of the rates levied under their authority, the principle of representation and taxation is carried out in that instance. It is not, as your Lordships see, in any way infringed by the system of administration and County Government at present existing in the counties of Scotland. Under the proposals of the Government in this Bill, the whole of the powers and duties now exercised by the Commissioners of Supply will be transferred to the new County Councils. Then, the second administrative body in the counties of Scotland to which I will refer, is the County Road Trustees. These bodies were called into existence by the County Roads Act, 1878, and they consist of all the Commissioners of Supply, and of two or more, but not more than four, representatives of the ratepayers in each parish, who are elected triennially. They manage and maintain all the highways, there being no distinction under the Act of 1878 between main and other roads. They impose all road rates, which, at their option, may be imposed on several parishes or on the parishes separately. But under these bodies elected triennially as regards the representatives of the ratepayers there are what are called the Road Boards. They are nominated annually by the general body of the Road Trustees, and they practically undertake the management of the roads in the counties. A county is, generally speaking, divided into several districts, and each district is under the charge of the General Committee, which is annually appointed. But, my Lords, the incidence of the rates levied under the Roads Act is not to be quite these me as it is under the authority of the Commissioners of Supply. The owners and occupiers pay each half the rates for the repairs of the roads, but upon the owners alone fall all the rates for payment of the debts which have been incurred and for any new work. Therefore the owners pay the larger proportion of the rates which are annually required for the maintenance and keeping up of the roads. The whole of the powers exercised by these bodies will be transferred under this Act to the County Council. The third class of adminitrative bodies in the counties dealt with under this Act is the Local Authority in each county administering the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. These bodies consist half of occupiers, and half of ratepayers or owners. They vary in number from 8 to 30 in different counties, but in all cases as I have said they are half occupiers and half owners. The rates in this case are divided nominally half and half— that is, they are nominally paid half by the owners, and half by the occupiers. But the rate is levied first entirely on the owner, and he can recover from the occupier if he chooses to enforce it. But I believe it is very seldom found that the owners have enforced that rate; therefore, practically the owner has been in the habit of paying the rates levied under the Contagious Diseases(Animals) Acts. Generally speaking these Local Authorities adminster the law with regard to cattle diseases, and put into force Orders in Council with regard to them. As to the rates, they issue a requisition to the Commissioners of Supply, who rate according to that requisition. Then the only other administrative Authority in the counties which I need refer to is the body of Justices of the Peace. In England those authorities are a very important body, and they have very important functions to perform; but in Scotland their adminstrative powers are small. Under this Bill the whole of their powers will not be transfered; only their adminstrative powers will be transferred to the County Councils, and not those with regard to the granting of licenses. The most important duty which now falls on the Justices of the Peace will be retained by them—namely, the granting of licenses. It is not proposed by this Bill to make any change in that respect. Those, my Lords, are the four existing authorities with regard to County Administration in Scotland. It will be necessary for me, I think, to refer also to the Parish Authorities. They are three in number. The first are the Parochial Boards, administering relief both to ordinary paupers and as required under the Poor Laws. The second Parochial Authorities are the Local Trustees for administering the Public Health Acts. They carry out the sanitary laws Generally the Administrative Authority is the same as the parochial body. The rates levied under the sanitary laws are paid half by owners and half by occupiers. It is proposed to transfer the jurisdiction under the Public Health Acts from the Local Authorities to the County Councils by this Bill. The third authority of this class, which I need only refer to by mentioning it, as it is not affected by this Act, is the School Board which administers the Education Acts in each parish. Therefore, my Lords, what it is proposed under this Bill to do is to transfer to the County Councils the powers and duties of the Commissioners of Supply, of the County Roads Trustees, of the Local Authorities administering the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, and of the Justices of the Peace, as far as administrative powers are concerned, but excluding the powers with regard to the granting of licenses; and to transfer the jurisdiction of Parochial Authorities as far as the public health is concerned, but not deal- ing with their administration of the parochial laws, or the powers of School Boards under the Education Acts. I think now, my Lords, having stated what are the powers which it is proposed to transfer to the County Councils, I should refer to the constitution and powers of the County Councils themselves. First, as regards their constitution: Under the third clause of the Bill the County Councils are to be charged with the whole of the administrative and financial business of the counties. Under the provisions of Clause 4, as your Lordships are probably aware, the Councillors are to be elected. Perhaps here I might point out the position which under this Bill it is proposed should be given to the small burghs. In Scotland, as those of your Lordships who are acquainted with the Scotch Burghs are aware, there is a large number of Royal and Parliamentary Burghs, the populations of which vary in a great degree, many of them—most of them indeed—being of very ancient origin. Some of them have, of course, almost dwindled away, and have but small populations; but on the other hand others have greatly increased and have already become large and important towns. By the Report of the Committee upon the Burgh and Police (Scotland) Bill, which sat in the other House in 1888, it was recommended that all burghs having a population under 7,000 should be amalgamated with the county. In preparing this Bill the Government have followed the suggestion and recommendation of that Committee, and it is proposed that all the Royal and Parliamentary burghs having a less population than 7,000 should for the purpose of police administration and in regard to dealing with contagious diseases among animals be amalgamated with the counties. Royal and Parliamentary burghs above that fixed limit of 7,000 will not be disturbed by this Bill. But there is another kind of burgh in Scotland. They are called police burghs, and some of them, such as Govan, have enormous populations. These burghs will, for the purposes of this Bill, be treated as in the county; they will be subdivided into wards, and each ward will send a representative to the County Council. Then this proposal has been made with regard to the small burghs: that they are to them- selves elect their representatives (according to a number to be fixed by the Secretary for Scotland) from among the Town Councils, so as to avoid the expense and trouble of separate registration and separate elections. Then at first there will be in addition to the numbers fixed by the Secretary for Scotland under the Bill, four ex officio Councillors, who have been connected with the former authorities. That is to say, at the first election there will be those members in addition to the fixed number, and the object of that is to ensure there being on the first Councils some members who have been concerned in and are acquainted with the administrative work of County Government. There will be no Aldermen under this Bill: the number of the Councillors for each county will be settled by the Secretary for Scotland, and for the first election, when the number of Councillors for each County Council has been definitely fixed in each county, the Sheriff will divide the number of districts necessary according to the number of Councillors who are to sit on the Council, and each separate district will return one Councillor. After the first election there will be Boundary Commissioners appointed who will no doubt be able to perform the duty of dividing the districts more accurately than can be done by the Sheriff, who will make the division in the first instance. I now come to the question of the county electors, which is, perhaps, rather a more serious question. The electors will consist, first, of all the Parliamentary electors who are at present on the register for the Parliamentary elections, including those members of the electorate who are called "service franchise voters." In addition to that, all Peers will be placed upon the register, and women otherwise qualified as Parliamentary electors. The payment of county rates is made a condition of voting for these elections except in the case of service franchise members. Therefore there will be two payments of rates which will be essential before anyone can vote for members of the County Council; in the first place being on the County Register he will have to pay the Poor Rate, and in the second place being placed on the register for the election of County Councillors he will have to pay his portion of the Consolidated County Rate. But with reference to the service franchise voters, they are placed in rather a different position; they will not pay any rate directly, but they are liable to their employer, who can, if he chooses, at any time insist upon the repayment to him of any rate in respect of the houses which they occupy under him. These proposals are merely giving legislative recognition to an existing practice. It is also expressly provided that if the service franchise voter has had any deduction made from his wages in the nature of rates, no further claim can be made upon him in that respect. Then there is a provision that county electors can only vote in their own divisions. Then, my Lords, comes the register. I do not think I need say much about that. The register will consist of the Parliamentary and supplemental registers, having upon it the names of Peers and of women, who would not otherwise be qualified to vote as Parliamentary electors. In reference to what I said just now about the payment of the county rates, provision is made in the Bill that in the register a mark is to be placed against the name of every elector who has not paid his county rates, and who will therefore be disqualified from voting at an election. I see that a notice on this subject has been placed on the Paper, and I think perhaps we owe it to the fact that women are not eligible to sit as County Councillors; but in that respect we are simply following out the provisions of the Municipal Elections Acts, where they are not allowed to sit upon Town Councils. The elections are to be triennial. They will take place on the first Tuesday in December, except that the first election is to be on the first Tuesday of February next year, it being impossible to complete the registers earlier, so as to allow the election to take place at the ordinary period. In addition to the powers and duties which I have already referred to, which will be transferred from the Local Authorities to the Town Councils, they will have power to appoint Medical Officers and Sanitary Inspectors for the Counties. That, I think, your Lordships will agree is a very desirable provi- sion, because it is very desirable for the public health that the Inspectors and medical officers should have supervision over a larger area than is now possible. They will also have power to enforce regulations under the Rivers Pollution Acts. Now as to the question of rating. The principle of the Bill is that the rates should be paid half by owners and half by occupiers. But there is a very important deduction to be made from that principle, that is to say, a very important qualification as regards that principle, because the rates now levied solely on the owners have been stereotyped on the average for the last 10 years. They will continue to be paid by the owners only upon that average; and any increment above that will be paid half by the owner and half by the occupier. That is to say, the average rate of payment for the last 10 years by the owners in regard to the cost of police and for the different charges of administration in the county will be stereotyped, and the Sheriff is to fix that as the amount. There will be no appeal from his decision. But that average in the stereotyped rate is not to include any payment of debts, or the payment of any interest upon those debts. The average amount will be calculated, leaving out of that item the payment of any instalments of debts or of interest on debts. Otherwise the whole of the payments made under the authority of the Commissioners of Supply will be stereotyped upon an average of the last 10 years, and will fall to be paid by the owners only. Above that stereotyped amount any increment will be paid, half by the owners and half by the occupiers. I think this provision is a very satisfactory one. It has been adopted in recognition of the principle of representation and taxation. If the whole of the payments had been divided absolutely between the owner and the occupier, it would have placed upon the occupier to a very large extent a burden which he has never had before. It has, therefore, been thought right that, while the owner should continue to pay the average rate which he has paid during previous years, any increment upon that rate should be paid equally between him and the occupier after the establishment of the County Council. Then, my Lords, with regard to certain functions of administration, it has been thought that the country, as a rule, is too large an area; and under the Bill, except in very small counties, not exceeding six parishes, they must appoint District Committees. They must divide the counties into districts for certain purposes. The two particular points to which I desire to refer, in regard to which the Committees will take the place of District Councils, are, first, the management of the roads; and, second, the administration of sanitary matters. The Bill commits the administration under both these heads to the District Committees to be appointed under the Act, consisting of the district officers, and one representative from each Board within the district. This Board will supply the place of the Council, and does not involve any separate cost of election. Now, my Lords, I come to another point, and that is the Standing Joint Committees. In speaking just now of the constitution of the Commissioners of Supply, I did not refer to the Statutory Committee which is appointed by them —namely, the Police Committee. Under that Police Committee is the Statutory Committee. I think its number (speaking under correction from noble Lords present, who are well acquainted with these matters) must not exceed 15. They include the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and the Sheriff of the county. Their powers are very large. They have the appointment of the Chief Constable, and they have to report to the Commissioners of Supply at the general annual meetings. They have in their hands the general management of the police. It is now proposed by this Bill that a corresponding body called the Standing Joint Committee shall be appointed by the Council. The Bill proposes to give borrowing powers to the Standing Joint Committee of the Council, and the Commissioners of Supply, consisting of such number of County Councillors, not exceeding seven, as shall be appointed by the County Council annually at their meeting in May. The Sheriff of the county is to be an ex officio member of the Standing Joint Committee, or in case of his absence one of his substitutes to be nominated by him for the purpose, and the Committee are to elect one of their own number to be Chairman. For this purpose only will the Commissioners of Supply be retained; all their functions will be transferred to the County Councils; but for this purpose only—namely, that of electing seven members of their Board to sit upon the Joint Committee, will they be kept in existence. The Standing Joint Committee, in addition to the duties and powers which are now held by the Police Committee, will have a veto on all capital expenditure; that is to say, that it the Council determine to expend a sum of money upon constructing roads or furnishing water supply, or incur any capital expenditure of that kind, their decision will be subject to the veto of the Standing Committee; and the Standing Committee will have also a veto upon the borrowing powers and in regard to charging the future revenues of the county, which I think your Lordships will consider is a desirable power for them to have, so as to prevent future extravagance and future risk of a drain upon the county funds. Another point is that the Bill provides for an efficient audit. At present there is no general audit of accounts in Scotland. I think your Lordships will agree it is exceedingly desirous that a more efficient, general, and uniform system of official audit should be established for Scotland. I have already referred to the Boundary Commissioners to be appointed under the Act. The Commissioners are mentioned in the Act. Their function will be after next February to adjust the boundaries of parishes, and to make pecuniary adjustments wherever necessary between counties and parishes where the boundaries are altered, so as to involve financial changes. Now I have gone through the general provisions of the Bill, and I come now to the financial relations with the Exchequer. Upon this point your Lordships will probably take a greater interest in the measure. As you are aware, last year, under the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a now arrangement was made, by which the Probate Duties were returned—I am now speaking of Scotland alone—and an undertaking was given that the Excise Duties and License Duties should also be returned to Scotland. According to the estimates of the Probate Duty in Scotland the share of the Probate Duty amounted to £234,000. The Bill provides for grants in aid of £30,000 to the Highlands and Islands. For the police there is £155,000, for pauper lunatics £90,500, and for the medical relief of the poor £20,000. The amounts in those respects in all come to £265,500. The total amount received by Scotland during the current year is 1889–90 £499,600. Now, my Lords, to pay the grants amounting to £265,000 as regards police, medical authorities, and pauper relief, provision is made by the Bill. There is a special grant for maintenance of roads of £35,000. That makes a total grant of £330,000. Deducting that from the previous sum mentioned leaves £169,500. That is for the current year. In the next year, 1890–91, the local tax licenses, which are not, of course, included in the Returns I have given, will amount to £323,000, and the Probate Duty will come, as in this year, to £234,000, making a total of £557,000. The sums payable for police, pauper lunatics, and relief of the poor are calculated to be exactly the same — namely, £265,000. The sum paid for the roads will be £35,000, just as during this year; but for the Highlands and Islands only a sum of £10,000 will be allowed, instead of the £30,000 which was allowed this year and last year only as a temporary measure. The sum total, therefore, which will be required to pay for the items which I have mentioned to your Lordships will be £310,500, leaving available for further purposes £246,500. Now, the question to be decided was, what was to be done with this surplus money? As your Lordships are probably aware, in deference to the wishes of the Scottish people it has been proposed to devote those sums of £169,500 for this year, and of £246,500 for next year, to the payment of the school fees in all the State-aided schools in Scotland. My Lords, I should like to say one word upon that point, because I know it is a matter which has aroused great interest in this House and elsewhere. There are those who are of opinion that there should be absolutely free education in Scotland up to the Fifth Standard on the one hand, and there are others who think that such a system is dangerous in the extreme, and that, except under exceptional circumstances, there should be no free education at all. Upon that disputed question I do not propose to enter now; but I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the facts of the case. As I stated just now, the money which has been given back under the arrangement of last year has been given back to Scotland in the manner most agreeable to the Scottish people. It is entirely Scottish money. It is returned to Scotland in respect of payment of the Probate Duty, and in future what will come from the Excise Duty. I think, my Lords, after the expression of opinion in the other House of Parliament, which did not come from one Party or from one section only, but which came with absolute unanimity from the Representatives of the whole people of Scotland, Her Majesty's Government would have taken a very heavy task upon its shoulders in declining to listen to the wishes of the Scottish people. These proposals were laid before the other House; they were adequately discussed, and there was no question whatever that if the matter was to be left to the discretion of the people of Scotland it would be determined in the manner now proposed by this Bill—namely, for the relief of school fees in the first five Standards. I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the clause under which this proposal is carried into effect. By Clause 22, Sub-section 6, it is provided that— The balance shall be applied towards relief from payment of school fees in the State-aid Schools in Scotland, and shall be distributed in such manner and in accordance with such conditions as may from time to time be set forth in the Scotch Education Code annually submitted to Parliament. Of course, the Scotch Education Code now submitted to Parliament cannot contain that regulation; but as soon as this Bill passes, a Minute will be laid upon the Table of the House from the Education Department, showing the proposed distribution of this money and the safeguards under which it is distributed to the different School Boards and Voluntary Schools in Scotland. The amounts received from the Exchequer for distribution by the County Councils will be under the direction of the Secretary for Scotland, and the Licensing and Excise Duties and Probate Duties will be paid over in the same manner as the existing grants. After the existing grants have been provided for, as I have explained to your Lordships, they will be distri- buted according to the provisions of a Minute which will be submitted to Parliament as soon as this Bill passes into law. There is every reason to believe that the money so available will be found sufficient to relieve the school fees in the whole of the first five Standards. If your Lordships will allow me, I should like to say a few words upon that to show why I think there is reason to suppose that the money will be sufficient to relieve education in the first five Standards. The average school expenditure in Scotland at this moment is £503,000, and the amount of all fees is about £310,000; but of that sum from the fees in first five Standards about £260,000 to £265,000 is received. I do not say that I am quite accurate in these figures, but I am as nearly right, I think, as it is possible to ascertain them. So that for the first five Standards there will be about £265,000 to be provided. Over the whole of Scotland the average amount received from fees over the whole six Standards comes to about 12s. 10d.; but the average received from fees in the first five Standards comes to less than 11s., and, by next year, it will come to about 10s. per head. So that there will be provided very nearly the amount required to exempt the first five Standards from any payment of fees. I do not say the amount will be exactly met; but under this Bill a certain number of schools will be allowed to exact fees in populous places like Glasgow and Edinburgh, where there may be some loss experienced in respect of the fees from the first five Standards, and they will be able to recoup themselves; so that there will be sufficient money to relieve the first five Standards from payment of fees. The first proposal is to distribute this money for relief of rates and for public purposes, and this exemption from payment of fees coming to 10s. per head will very largely go to the relief of rates or ratepayers in Scotland except in places where the fees charged are very high. I think I have now gone through the principal provisions of this Bill. I have not attempted to go into any details upon most of its provisions, judging that the consideration of those details will be very much better left to occupy your Lordships' attention in Committee, and that they will be very much better discussed there. But I should like, before I sit I down, to say a few words generally upon the change which by this Bill it is proposed to make. In proposing this measure to Parliament, and in making these changes in local administration in Scotland, I desire to say that I have not any fault (and I am sure I may speak for Her Majesty's Government when I say so) to find with the local administrative bodies. On the contrary, I am very glad to have this opportunity of recognising how earnestly they have done their work, that they have done it with zeal, efficiency, economy, and the greatest public spirit; and that while, on the one hand, they have avoided extravagance of expenditure, they have, on the other, always fully recognised the duties and responsibilities imposed upon them. This I know from my own private experience in Scotland; and I am glad to have this opportunity of saying that that experience has been amply borne out by the wider experience which I have obtained since I have had the honour to hold the office of Secretary for Scotland. But though I look upon the supercession of those bodies who have done their work so admirably in the past, with (as I confess I do) some feeling of regret, and though I feel that the responsibilities which will be thrown upon the Secretary for Scotland will be largely increased if this Bill passes, especially with regard to the educational system, it is with no feeling of doubt or misgiving that I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill, and I have every confidence that the work of local administration, placed as it will be on a broader and more extended basis, will be done as well as it has been done before. I am aware that at first there may be some friction. A new system cannot be introduced without some friction, and some difficulty. There may be at first some over zeal, which may be over zealous, some energy which may not be tempered with sufficient discretion, but on the whole the work will be satisfactorily done. If friction and difficulty should at first exist, that state of things will soon pass away, as it has done in the case of other newly created bodies, and I think that in course of time we may look for good solid work to be done by these bodies in Scotland. We are getting a better system of education; with better education there comes greater knowledge; and then with greater knowledge there comes a most legitimate and proper desire to take a more effective part, not only in the work of the Imperial Parliament, but in the work of the county in which the people live, and which is nearer to them, and more important to their needs. Naturally, I myself do not think that my countrymen, the people of Scotland, are as Conservative as I should like to see them—not nearly so Conservative; but from one point of view, I do think the people of Scotland are strongly and thoroughly Conservative. They are so proud of their ancient history and institutions which affect themselves and everything connected with their daily life, that they would be reluctant to make any change which would tend to cut them off from the system of County Government which has gone before, and from their historic and local associations. Consequently I look forward with great confidence to the exercise of the increased powers which will be given by this Bill to the county electors of Scotland. I cannot help thinking that you will agree with me that such a measure as this is a guarantee for increased and substantial political progress, recognising as I think it does existing interests, and at the same time giving effect to that desire which I have alluded to—namely, a closer participation in Local Government. I think that such a measure as this, bringing home as it does to all who are interested in Scottish affairs the fact that with the new privileges given to them by this Bill there will come new duties and new responsibilities and with them new burdens, when this Bill passes into law, if your Lordships give a Second Reading to it, as I hope you will to-night, will confer lasting benefits upon the local Government and people of Scotland. My Lords, it is in that spirit that the Bill has been drawn; it is in that spirit, I hope, that the Bill will be considered in Committee, and I ask your Lordships now to give a Second Reading to this Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Lothian.)


My Lords, I have often had the misfortune to address your Lordships' House, and to be misunderstood from not having heard the Question put, whether upon a Motion for a Bill brought forward by myself or in opposition to any Motion brought forward by noble Lords. It is my privilege to be able to come and say whether I withdraw any Motion that I may make, or whether I am justified in my persistence in conduct which, with great reluctance, I pursue. This matter is one of principle. If my Motion were carried, the proposal for the word "now" could not be put. As to the Bill now before the House, it is said in the Scriptures that "In the multitude of counsellors there is safety." The noble Earl who has just sat down, the Secretary of State for Scotland, has given us a most excellent account of the composition and duties of the different bodies, which it is now proposed to supercede by a very much smaller number. My Lords, this is decidedly an experiment. It is impossible to say that the Local Government Bill of last Session was not an experiment. It is a case of paulo post futurum legislation. It has given a great deal of trouble and perplexity, and even the Commissioners who were the final referees say if there was any difference between counties and boroughs, they must alter their opinion. As to the division of money between them, everything is kept uncertain. We knew what we had to look to, when we had the Commissioners of Supply, when we had the Magistrates, and when the maintenance and care of the roads were under the control of most carefully selected bodies, who always, in my humble opinion, acted with great caution and great prudence. My Lords, I see no necessity for this Bill. It was my duty when in the Courts of King's Bench and Queen's Bench to submit to the Lord Chief Justice an abridgement of every record; if I made a mistake that mistake was a very serious one, and I believe I hardly ever had a record referred to in that way. The question before your Lordships is whether you will institute an entirely new system without being satisfied that the system which has now been attempted in England as an experiment will turn out to be a decided success or not. Money is wanted; every Council is asking for more. It puts one in mind of the caricature by H.B. of Lord Brougham repre- sented as a schoolmaster and entitled "Henry asking for more." There is not a single instance in which "more" has not been demanded, and in which money has not been thrown out to be scrambled for. That is what comes from consulting demands made in the name of the community by County Councils. My Lords, I am certain if this Bill were postponed for three years you would better have seen by that time how the Local Government Bill for England has really worked. With regard to the attempt now being made, one is reminded of the words addressed by Falstaff to Henry V., when Prince of Wales, as to "robbing the Exchequer with unwashen hands." Even a Cabinet Minister responsible for the affairs of India has talked about reducing the tax upon plate. Every old tax is worth keeping, because of the extreme difficulty of introducing any new tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is a very ill-used man—40 millions! I never heard of such a sacrifice, and what has been the effect upon the taxes of this country? We may wish to have some modification of the Licensing Duties; we may wish to have some alleviation from the hardships of the Probate Duties, but we are going to tie our hands for ever. My Lords, we do not, because we are members of this House, forfeit all claim to common sense. I am satisfied that this Bill will be carried in a hurry if it gets through to-day. I have read it carefully, and there are provisions in it which I do not like; but I would not attempt to support any Amendment in Committee which would send the Bill out to the country with a slur upon it. What is the consequence if you want to alter a Bill at the end of the Session? The only time when there ever was a chance of asking this House to go on to the end of a Session was in a statute, now repealed, which gave a Peer the right to shoot a buck in Her Majesty's Forests on his way to Parliament, and another, in the presence of a keeper, on his return, when, if a Member did not stay to the end of it, he lost his pay. I am quite satisfied that this principle of saying there is no time to do this or that is a fallacious one. As if this House was not capable, if necessary, of sitting every month in the year! I have seen it sitting every month except October, and I have seen good work done. I remember, in particular, the measure as to locomotive engines. A suggestion was made for compromise. It was very late in September, and the Lord President of the Council the Duke of Richmond being here in his place, and Lord Watson, Lord Advocate, I wanted a uniform system to be adopted; but it certainly was very late, and probably that had something to do with the result. Parliaments have met at all times of the year, and in all parts of Her Majesty's Dominions. I am not sure that the Imperial Parliament has ever been confined to a particular locality or that anything has been so confined, except the Court of Common Pleas, which by a statute, perhaps repealed, was always to sit at Westminster. I believe Her Majesty might sit at any time and hold an Imperial Parliament in any part of her dominions. I would only recall the Parliament held in the time of William Rufus at Rockingham Castle. There is a Rockingham Castle also in Ireland, where they want Home Rule. I venture to say that in according to these Local Governments anything as a substitute for Home Rule, you are giving way to the greatest delusion that ever was entertained. It is a system, which will cause disunion, debate, and discord. It is impossible to go on unless we assist the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise the revenue by fair means, and I am sure that unless you will give him back the Probate Duties and the Licensing Duties you will repent it. With regard to taking away the jurisdiction over the police from the Magistrates, I think that is very objectionable, because the Magistrates are the only persons who know what the police really do. My Lords, I cannot see the use of having a Bill like this forced upon us, until the effect of its kindred Bill here is seen by the public. I am not one who looks to the effect of the future elections. Last Friday was the fourth anniversary of this Parliament. Mr. Brodrick said it was the third anniversary. Well, if so, my Lords, I can only say it has been a triennial Parliament so far, and I earnestly hope that it may last three years longer. Mr. Fox once held certain opinions, but changed them with regard to triennial Parliaments. I hope your Lordships will be on the register before the next Election. My noble Friend reminds me that in this Bill there is a very peculiar privilege given to women which might operate curiously with regard to any woman not living with her husband. If they are to be invested with political power it is rather a temptation to them I think, to leave their husbands. But the Reform Bill of 1884, I venture to say, was imperfect in that respect, as the suffrage was not given to duly-qualified women. I ventured, on behalf of married women, to put in a claim for them in case their husbands ill-treat them and if they had to get a divorce from their husbands; but I hope that in all cases divorces may be discouraged, and especially in Scotland. This Bill gives a right to married women even if not divorced. My Lords, I have often been without a Teller, and with regard to any opposition to this Bill I am sure that I have had no communication with a single person throughout the progress of the measure, except Lord Thurlow just now. I wish to see that the Bill may have fair play, but I think that the registration provided for is extremely imperfect. The names are not placed on the church-doors, and any new claims should have been made by the 31st of last month. There is plenty of time to consider the Bill if your Lordships choose to adjourn for a short period. On one occasion two Bills were carried which only took two minutes each, because I did not hear the Question put. If your Lordships would adjourn there would be an opportunity for you to visit Ireland and see what is going on there. It might do away with some prejudice. I am sure that if this Bill were extended to Ireland it would have no good effect. I firmly believe that we are much better without it. We are better as we are, especially with the attachment of the people of Scotland to old institutions. I know that from my own observation, and I am quite certain, also, that there is no complaint with regard to the owners in regard to paying their proper share of the rates which are levied. My Lords, it would certainly be a very strong measure to refuse all these very large sums which are offered for the assistance of the counties; but I firmly believe that if you allow the present economical Magistrates to carry on the business of the counties, and if you do not take away their powers to tax the owners and occupiers—if you trust to them, you will find that there is no improvement likely to be made by creating a hybrid body which will always be in a state of opposition one part of it to the other and to the Legislature. I am certain that the necessities of the country require that the Magistrates of Scotland and the Magistrates of England and of Ireland—you are increasing the powers of Magistrates in Ireland, and degrading the Magistrates in England, and trying to lower the Magistrates of Scotland —should be left in their present situation. That is their own view; and one gentleman, who had been a High Sheriff, said to me recently, talking of the Bill, "We must grin and bear it." We have been complimented by the noble Lord at the Board of Trade for being an economical body, and I am sure we have been an economical body. We have 200 Magistrates in Derbyshire, and only 150 County Councillors with various qualifications. I say it is imposing duties upon small bodies which it will be most difficult for them to discharge, even if they have physical endurance to be able to go through the duties imposed upon them. My Lords, I venture to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now" and add at the end of the Motion, "this day six months."—(The Lord Denman.)


My Lords, I have seen it suggested with regard to this Bill that the changes which it makes in the system of Scottish Local Government are comparatively unimportant. I think that those who make that statement can have bestowed very little attention upon the contents of the Bill. This Bill makes a fundamental change in the whole system of Local Government, because it takes away all matters of local concern from the cognisance of one body and vests them in an entirely new constituency, and places them in the hands of an entirely new Council. This Bill places for the first time the local business of Scotland in the hands of the general body of ratepayers; and it goes even further than that—it places those affairs, to a considerable extent, in the hands of those who do not pay rates. Of course, it may be urged that the service electors do, as a matter of theory and in some manner which we do not quite understand, pay rates by some sort of implied bargain with those who employ them. But I think those of your Lordships who are familiar with county or local business know that, as a matter of fact, this question of local rates is not taken into consideration as far as the service voters are concerned. I would prefer to put it in another way. I think the line which the Government have taken is this—they have adopted the principle that it is the possession of a house which entitles the occupier to take his share of the local burdens and of the local business of the country; and I must say that to me this qualification appears to be the wisest and most sensible which you could possibly devise. It is a sensible qualification because the principle is intelligible; it has in it the essence of finality, and it carries with it some reason why the elector should possess a vote. I think it is very fortunate that the Government have not adhered to the line they first adopted when they introduced this Bill. At first, as your Lordships know, it was proposed that persons who are engaged in service should not possess a county vote unless they formally applied for it. I am glad that has been changed, and I think that change is a very great improvement. I am quite certain if the Government had adhered to their former plan a great deal of dissatisfaction and discontent would have been occasioned, and it would have been felt that even if the vote were given in the end, as of course it would have had to be given, it would have been simply given, not so much as a matter of favour, but because it was impossible to avoid it. Now, my Lords, let me say one word with regard to the powers which it is proposed to confer upon these new County Councils. It is said that these powers are chiefly possessed by Local Bodies in existence now; such, for instance, as the powers with regard to the management of the roads and the administration of the Public Health Acts, which are now entrusted to the Parish Authorities. The change which this Bill makes is that it confers those powers upon an entirely new set of persons. It takes away the powers from the Commissioners of Supply; it also takes the powers away from the parishes and from the Justices of the Peace. I regret that the Bill does not go a little further. I believe it would have been quite possible to have entrusted the power of licensing to the new County Councils, because I think there is a very important distinction in this respect between Scotland and England. I know very well that last year it would have been impossible to pass a Local Government Act for England if it had been proposed to transfer the licensing powers under the Bill; but some of your Lordships know very well that the licensing difficulties are not the same in Scotland as they are in England. It is considered by many as quite certain that before long the licensing powers will have to be transferred to the County Councils. I cannot say how far that expectation might have affected the passing of this Bill into law this Session, but I believe, as far as those powers are concerned, they might have been safely entrusted to the County Councils. This Bill hands over the entire administration of the county finances to a County Council elected by the householders, but it does so subject to a very important qualification. When it affects the question of borrowing money or of capital expenditure or when there is any reference to the management of the police, then it is provided that there is to be a Joint Committee of the Commissioners of Supply and County Councillors, seven of each, and in addition the Sheriff, who, by the way, I am glad to see is not necessarily to be the Chairman of that Sub-Committee. I know that some exception has been taken to this proposal, but I think that on consideration those who are best acquainted with Local Government will admit that this proposal is one of a most reasonable and sensible kind. This principle of a control being exercised when it is a matter of borrowing money for public purposes by some external authority has been admitted in England, and is admitted in Scotland at the present time. If it is sought to obtain a loan for the purpose of carrying out the Poor Law, or for the purpose of administering the Public Health Acts, it is necessary to obtain the sanction of a Board of Supervision, and similar arrangements obtain in England with regard to the same matters. I do not think we are saying anything at all unjustifiable against these new County Councillors if we say that they are not infallible, and that it is very probable, when they first enter upon their office, that they will be very anxious indeed to carry out all kinds of projects in the way of what they consider to be improvements, and that it is at all events most satisfactory that when they propose to make large expenditures of money there should be some body of persons representing those who are interested whose consent would have to be obtained before the expenditures are sanctioned. My Lords, I have seen the evils produced by this want of control in Scotland. I remember in the County of Forfar we obtained a Local Act for the management of our roads, and under that Act it was perfectly possible for the new trustees to borrow money without any check. New trustees coming fresh into office, a great many of them being tenant farmers, would naturally want to have the roads improved as quickly as possible, although it might be—of course it did not necessarily follow—that in a few years afterwards they would be in the country. Therefore, all improvements were carried out at once, thus incurring a great deal of needless expense, and, indeed, a great deal of the money was thrown away. I must say myself, having had something to do with these matters, that it is a most sensible and wise precaution to establish a Joint Committee such as this which is proposed. There is another argument, which people are too apt to forget, and that is that owners of property in Scotland pay half the whole rate, and in virtue of that very large payment it is surely advisable that there should be some representation of property. I do not care how you give it; but, still, I think that owners of property should have some security that their money should not be spent solely by those whose interest in the matter, and therefore in taking care of it, is after all comparatively small, and whose contribution to the funds is necessarily still smaller. Now, my Lords, one word with regard to the numbers of the Councillors. I have received from the noble Marquess a statement of the numbers which he proposes, I do not say finally, but which, in the first instance he has an idea of proposing, for the various counties. I hope that before the noble Marquess comes to any final conclusion on that matter he will consult very carefully the public bodies in the various counties—I do not mean only the Commissioners of Supply, but I allude to the Road Trustees, or any other body which represents the public to any considerable extent, because we all have one interesting this matter—what we want is sensible, intelligent, economical local administration. It would be a great pity if such bodies were too few in number, because then the public would feel that they were not adequately represented; but I think, on the other hand, it would be as great an evil if those bodies were to be too numerous, because that would throw a very large expenditure upon the rates, and if you have once established a large body it becomes very difficult indeed to reduce its numbers at any period afterwards. There are, of course, a great many matters of detail in such a measure as this, and with those I do not intend to trouble your Lordships now. There is only one to which I will allude, and that is that, in forming the District Committees with regard to the management of roads, I am sorry to see that it is proposed to appoint only a member connected with each parochial body. I should object more than I do to these proposals if I did not believe that the constitution of these parochial bodies is very likely to be enlarged. At all events, the noble Marquess will have observed that in the District Committees those representatives will almost in every case outnumber the County Councillors with whom they will have to sit. Those, my Lords, are all the remarks with which I will trouble you on the Second Reading; and I may say of this Bill that I regard it as a measure for creating a new machinery in the shape of County Councils. It is obvious that, if it is found to work well, its provisions can be largely extended hereafter; and I observe that it is in the power of the Secretary for Scotland to entrust to these Councils hereafter any other matters of local interest which he may think it advisable to entrust to them, subject always to the sanction of Parliament. The Commissioners of Supply have done their work well, as the noble Marquess has said. They have been very economical; they have done their work very sensibly, and they have restricted their action to the subjects with which they had to deal. I have every confidence that their successors will follow their example, and I think it is high time we should take a clear step of this kind in popularising Local Government. I think, on the whole, that under this Bill the new County Councils will do the work of Local Government in a very practical manner.


I do not intend to occupy your Lordships' time at any length, but I wish to make one or two remarks upon this Bill with regard to a subject which, I think, will justify me in asking your Lordships' attention. In the first place, I wish to add my testimony to the great value of the measure which has been introduced this evening. I believe it will carry out its aim and object—namely, the placing of Local Government in Scotland on a more popular basis than that on which it has hitherto stood. It is quite true, as has been remarked, that local affairs have been hitherto admirably administered in Scotland, both as to economy and efficiency; but the management has been in notoriously too few hands, and the extension of the control of local matters, and the placing the administration of them on a more popular basis, will, no doubt, be of great benefit to Scotland in many ways. The particular point to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention, in the first instance, is this. Some of your Lordships are aware that Corporations in Scotland, such as Gas Corporations, Water Companies, and Railroads, have hitherto enjoyed a representation, in respect of the rates which they paid, to a very large extent. They are represented on the Boards of Commissioners of Supply; they are represented on the Boards of Road Trustees; they are represented on the Boards of Local Authorities and upon the Parochial Bodies. By this Bill every sort of local representation is swept away, and they are left without any voice in the election of the Councillors. This seems to me to be altogether inconsistent with the intention of the Bill. The noble Marquess used the words that payment of rates was essential to taking an active part in the elections to the Councils. When I tell your Lordships that the railroads alone in Scotland pay £200,000 a year in rates, you will not be surprised to hear that hitherto they have had some voice in the management of local affairs in respect of those rates. I am not able to speak so well with regard to the Gas and Water Corporations, but I have no doubt that they contribute largely also. I have a list of counties here amounting to 18, in which they are the largest contributors to the rates in those counties. Yet, notwithstanding this, as I said before, their representation is to be entirely swept away. Now, having regard to the fact that the only change which was made in this Bill in its passage through another place was with regard to the right of eligibility to the Council being extended to parties who practically pay no rates whatever, it does seem strange that those who have hitherto enjoyed the right of representation should have that right entirely abrogated. I hope the noble Lord who has charge of this Bill will take this matter into consideration; and I do not think it will be difficult for him to devise some means by which those powerful Corporations who contribute so largely to the rates in Scotland as well as in England should have a voice in the representation. Another of the points on which I should ask your Lordships' attention is with reference to the rules relating to the appointment of officers under Clause 82. It seems to me of very doubtful expediency compelling the new Councils to appoint the Clerks of Supply. Under that clause they have no option, but they must appoint for the first year whoever happens to be the Clerk of Supply. The Clerks of Supply will be, in many instances, by no means the least important of the officials who will be brought under the County Councils. In the County to which I belong the Clerk to the Road Board is a more important individual, and is far better paid than any other, and it seems to me either that the Councils should be permitted to appoint their own officers from the first, or they should be allowed to select from among the officers brought under their control. In that way I should prefer myself giving them full liberty in the choice of their officers. It is more important, especially at the commencement of such an institution as this, that the Council should have the best advice that they can possibly get. Anyone who has had anything to do with Scottish business knows the importance of this, and how much the efficiency of the administration of Scottish local business will depend upon these posts being properly filled. I think the County Councils should at least have the option of appointing any officer whom they think most efficient to act as County Clerk. Then, my Lords, Clause 22, which has been referred to by the noble Lord, deals with the question of the appropriation of the License Duties and Probate Duty Grants. Those grants are distributed in six different ways. In the first five the sum allocated is a fixed sum, and the sum which is to be given in relief to State-aided schools is to be the balance. This sum may vary very considerably, but it seems to me to be very desirable if it were possible that the sum should be so far as it can be made a fixed one. I do not know whether that is impossible to be done, but I should like to suggest, at any rate, whether it would not be practicable to strike an average, say, for the last ten years, so that the Local Board might know pretty nearly what sum they would be entitled to in regard to the relief of school fees. The only other point which I have to refer to is the appointment of Justices of the Peace under Clause 10. That clause says that the Chairman shall be by virtue of his office a Justice of the Peace of the county. Justices of the Peace have hitherto been appointed by the Crown. I do not know whether the appointment by an Act of this kind will make any difference, or whether it will be necessary to make any new provision under which a Justice of the Peace will in future be made otherwise than by the Crown. I have no other observations to make than to say that I believe this measure will be attended with great advantage to Scotland. We have all had experience of popular Government in the administration of roads and schools, and, speaking for myself, and in my capacity as chairman of bodies of both kinds, I can only say that the introduction of the popular element has been attended with complete success. I have, therefore, no fear whatever of the operation of this Bill.


My Lords, I have very few remarks to make I feel that matters of detail would be best dealt with in Committee, but I should not like so large and important a measure as this affecting Scotland to pass without expressing an opinion upon it. I should myself have preferred that the Bill should have started upon another basis in dealing with the question of Local Government in Scotland, that is to say, I should have preferred the parish to be taken as a unit to start from, then the election to the District Committee, and then to the Central Council. But I recognise the difficulties of proceeding upon that basis in such a measure, and especially in Scotland; and I think that, taking it as a whole, the Bill now put down for Second Reading is as good a one as could be framed upon the lines upon which it has gone. But there are certain points which I think will have to very carefully considered in Committee. I agree with what my noble Friend behind me said as to the advantages of the Joint Standing Committee for the purpose of controlling the expenditure, but I do not entirely agree with him as to the bearing it may have upon the question of the maintenance of roads. As I read the Bill the whole of the powers now vested in the Road Trustees are transferred to the Road Board, which is to take the place of the Committees of Chairmen— I am now speaking of my own county under our private Act. This Board then delegates to the District Committee the entire maintenance of the roads, and the District Committee will have the management of them and will assess the rates. Therefore the whole of the rating for the maintenance of roads comes through the District Committee. But by Section 18, although they have the power of rating, yet the power of doing certain things for the improvement of the roads, is taken away from them. If your Lordships will look at that clause, Subsections 6 and 7, you will see that no capital works, that is, works involving capital expenditure, can be undertaken in any county or any district, without the written consent of the Standing Joint Committee; and then it is enacted that capital works are to include the erection, rebuilding, or enlargement of buildings, and the construction, reconstruction, or widening of roads and bridges. My experience in Aberdeenshire is that the powers conferred upon the Road Com- missioners have been largely taken advantage of, but as I read this clause in future, though the District Committee will have the power of levying the rates under the Roads and Bridges Act, they will not be able to improve the roads and bridges in their district without the consent of the Standing Joint Committee; and I think that might be modified.


Not if they pay for them out of the rates for the current year.


I was going to add that I see there is a provision for the payment of all works out of the current year's rates. Now, this is a very startling proposal, and will require consideration in Committee. However, I simply call the noble Marquess's attention to that, and perhaps by the time the Bill comes into Committee he will have considered it. Then the only other important point in this Bill upon which I would desire to say a few words is the proposal to devote the balance coming from the Probate and Licensing Duties to the relief of State-aided Schools. Many objections, no doubt, have been raised to that proposal, but I am quite clear that the majority of Scotchmen are in favour of that proposal, and I think the noble Marquess was quite justified in his reference to the almost unanimity with which that proposal has been received. I can only account for that unanimity by referring it to the feeling which has been manifested since 1874 when the Education Act was passed, and when a large expenditure was thrown upon the rates in connection with the schools, which had not previously fallen upon them. As your Lordships know, the Education Act imposed upon the rates a very heavy burden which they had not previously been called upon to bear, and an increase of that kind is always felt very severely indeed by the poorer ratepayers. This Bill will, I think, relieve them, for it is not so much a relief to the parents of the school-children as to the poorer ratepayers. It will, no doubt, be a very sensible relief to them. With those few words I beg to express my approval of this Bill.


My Lords, I shall say but little at this stage of the Bill. I am sorry to see in this measure a repetition of what was done in the English County Council Bill. I have to say that my remarks upon this matter are not original, for they really follow what was said by Earl Beauchamp with regard to enlargement of area. I do not think, in England, the same objection exists, because, there, political feeling does not rise so high as it does in Scotland; but I cannot help thinking that it is unfortunate we should have a repetition of the same state of things. I think, instead of there being one County Councillor for each area as proposed, it would have been much better if the area were enlarged and six or so returned for that area. You would then get, as representatives, different sorts of people. You would get, perhaps, the larger tenant - farmers, the doctors, or the veterinary surgeons of the neighbourhood, whereas, if you have one Councillor only for one area, you will perhaps get the person returned who puts himself most prominently forward. I very much fear that the effect of that clause will be that the most pushing or energetic person, possibly some farmer Radically inclined, will be found putting himself forward. I do not know what may happen to this Bill in Committee, so many Bills disappear at that stage; but I desire to give notice that I intend to move the deletion in Clause 82 of the latter part of Sub-section 3, the whole of Sub-section 4, and the latter part of Sub-section 6. My Lords, it seems tome that this point of one Councillor, one area is an important one and ought to be well considered. In other respects I think the Bill a useful and necessary one.


My Lords, I wish to make only one remark. To my mind this Bill is in many respects a valuable one, and I hope it will work well in Scotland; but, in my opinion, the disfranchising part of it, as regards many of those who are qualified to take an intelligent part in the government of the county is a defect. Those persons are at present rather a numerous body, and by this Bill you are diminishing the number of those who may take part in treating subjects to be brought before the Council. I only wish to make that remark, and I shall perhaps in Committee move an Amendment embodying my views on the point. I rather think that the noble Lord who has just spoken looks upon it in the same light as I do myself.

On question that ("now") stand part of the Motion, resolved in the affirmative: Then the original Motion was agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.