HL Deb 25 February 1890 vol 341 cc1133-49

My Lords, I rise to call attention to the financial engagements which were made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Local Government Hoard when the Local Government Act was passed in 1888; and to inquire whether Her Majesty's Government are prepared to consider the possibility of making provision during the present Session for the fulfilment of those engagements, so that the County Councils of England and Wales may receive, without further delay, the additional sum of not less than £700,000 per annum in relief of local rates which was promised to the ratepayers? I do not think it is necessary that I should make any apology for asking your Lordships' attention for a short time to a matter which greatly affects the County Councils throughout England and Wales. For I am well aware that many of your Lordships have taken a very keen and active part in these new and important Bodies having been elected to them by the new popular constituencies established by the Act of 1888. I feel it is a matter of importance that Her Majesty's Government, and others outside this House, should be aware that on these matters of finance a very deep interest is taken by all the County Councils of the United Kingdom. Now is the time when we ought to make our voices heard in regard to local taxation, because, doubtless, the financial proposals of the year are now being finally arranged. I think it is best that I should, in the first place, recall to your Lordships' recollection what the financial engagements were to which I allude, which were finally made in connection with the Local Government Act, 1888. Those financial engagements were stated by Mr. Ritchie very fully at the time of his introduction of the Bill. I will shortly recapitulate what they were, and I beg your Lordships to remember that upon the financial proposals of the Government with regard to this great measure the favour with which it was received largely depended. The proposals were the following: All grants in aid of rates formerly made to the County Authorities were to cease. The effect of that was at once to knock off £2,600,000 per annum. Instead of that grant in aid the County Authorities were to receive in future from the liquor licenses, £1,378,000; from other existing licenses, £1,590,000. Beyond this, from personalty in some form or shape, Mr. Ritchie stated they were to receive £1,800,000, and from new licenses they were to receive £826,000, making a total grant from the Imperial Exchequer to local taxation of about £5,600,000 per annum. At to both these latter grants he declined to state from what special source they would be drawn: throwing the responsibility of this upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Deducting, therefore, the old grants-in-aid, which were to the amount of £2,600,000, there was what was called by Mr. Ritchie throughout the discussions in the House of Commons, a round sum of £3,000,000 per annum to be furnished in aid of local taxation from Imperial sources, in addition to the £2,600,000 formerly given by the abandoned grants in aid. That, I hold, was the key to the whole of the Government proposal with regard to the Bill of 1888. Personalty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer afterwards told us, was to be made to contribute to local taxation by means of making over to the Local Authorities about half the Probate Duty; the new licences were to be what were called the Wheel and Van Tax and the Horse Licenses. But your Lordships will observe that in all the early discussions upon this great measure the details of these new grants in aid were left entirely out of the discussion by the President of the Local Government Board. He simply adhered to the one great principle that it was necessary and fair to give an additional subvention of £3,000,000 sterling per annum to the Local Authorities in relief of local taxation. That was the constant burden of every speech that he made. I will go on to consider a little further, if your Lordships will allow me, what was the tone which was adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to this great matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went into this question of Imperial and local taxation most carefully, and he put this question to the House. He said he thought he ought, to ask to what extent the ratepayers were entitled to the relief which was to be given to them—this additional and now relief of £3,000,000 sterling per annum; and he then went on to protest strongly against this relief being considered simply a relief to what he called the squirearchy, and he impressed upon the House of Commons that a very large portion of that amount would go "to the relief of the poorest class of ratepayers in the poorest towns of the Kingdom." I quote his words. He then proceeded to point out that of late years there had been an enormous increase in the rates levied on houses and lands, and stated that in the 20 years from 1868 to 1888, the local rates had risen from £16,000,000 to £26,000,000 per annum—a total increase of £10,000,000 per annum in 20 years. And he reminded the House that the case was worse even than it looked, because that increase in local rates had taken place at a period of very depressed trade, and when the value of land had enormously decreased. Then he summed up the position, by saying he thought he had fully proved the case that the ratepayers were entitled to the relief (that is the£ 3,000,000 sterling per annum), which the Government proposed in that Session to give them. He then went on further to claim for his proposals that they were conceived in a just spirit; that it was an act of justice, and not an act of mercy, which he was proposing towards the oppressed ratepayers of the United Kingdom. He concluded his statement of the financial arrangements proposed by the Government by saying that the financial adjustment which he now proposed was to be a final settlement between the local ratepayer and the Imperial taxpayer; that he had felt great difficulty in making the adjustment between Imperial and local taxation; and that the circumstances of the time were such that they had been obliged, once for all, to settle the contributions to local expenditure, and so to place them upon a, firmer basis. Now, my Lords, what was this final settlement? It was that this £3,000,000 sterling per annum was to be paid over in addition to the grants hitherto received by the Local and County Authorities. We must always remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that this was a thing to which the ratepayers were entitled, and that this grant was by no means equal to the heavy growth of rates, but he was afraid it was all that Parliament could give. It was stated to be a final settlement between the local and Imperial taxpayers, not a gift or an act of mercy, but an act of justice towards the local ratepayers, something to which they were entitled. Now, what is the result at present after that careful treatment of the matter, and final pronouncement as to what was just, by the greatest financial authority of the day? It comes to this: that instead of there being £3,000,000 per annum to the good at the disposal of the Local County Authorities, they have only about £2,200,000 per annum—that is to say, almost a third less than was stated to be what was due to the ratepayers. My Lords, I think I have made out a case showing that this matter is one requiring the gravest consideration, and one which we may very properly press upon the attention of Her Majesty's Government. I would remind your Lordships that during all the debates in the House of Commons there was no hint whatever given that if the Wheel or Cart Tax and the Horse Duty were not accepted by Parliament, this subvention of £3,000,000 a year would be reduced. I have very carefully studied the debates, and I do not find that that was ever held out; on the contrary, it was always considered that that sum represented what was fair and just to the Local Authorities, and that the Government would have to find the £3,000,000 somehow or other. The first hint of danger was given in this House. My noble Friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, in his able statement of the case, certainly did throw out a doubt on the subject when he said that— The relief to local taxation would tie not less than 5d. in the £1 if the Wheel Tax, &c, were authorised, but that it would only he 3½d. in the £1 if those taxes dropped. But that was only in allusion to the chances of House of Commons procedure at the close of the Session. My Lords, this is no light matter. I have the honour to be Chairman of the Staffordshire County Council, and as far as I can make out from the statements of our experts, the loss we have sustained by the reduction of the £3,000,000 to £2,200,000 is something like £20,000 a year, which is a serious loss to the ratepayers. Well, the Bill passed into an Act in August, 1888, and it passed with the general understanding that £3,000,000 was to be the amount given. There was to be an Autumn Session, and it was supposed that the final arrangements would then be made. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was besieged by questions upon the subject of the Wheel Tax and the Horse Duty. His answers were all in the same vein: he scorned the idea of their not passing. Up to the 29th of November his answers were hopeful and buoyant. Then, at last, the fatal 29th November came, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopted a different tone. He said the condition of public business was such that it was impossible to go on with the Wheel and Cart Tax and the Horse Duty that Session. They had to be abandoned owing to the state of business in the House of Commons, and he threw out, apparently, merely a suggestion that it might be better thereafter to ascertain what the County Councils themselves thought about those taxes, so that the Government might be guided somewhat by their opinion. That was the first sign of the new policy which was adopted on this subject. Well, the Session closed, and Parliament met again in 1889, and the first real discussion upon this important financial question took place when the Budget was brought before the House of Commons. I am afraid we must come to the conclusion that though the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been most ardent in favour of the ratepayers in 1888, and could find no words too serious in which to speak of their injuries in the past, and to express his intention of setting those injuries right, other people had wooed the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Recess. The words which I will read to your Lordships from his Budget speech were alarming. He spoke of the advocates of local taxation reform as Cormorants who were dipping their hands in his pockets, and then he said— It belongs entirely to the Municipal and County Authorities to say whether there will be a revival of this tax; and then— It is rather the President of the Local Government Board who has to do with these matters than the Chancellor of the Exchequer —a very different tone indeed from the sympathetic language of 1888. The tone of sympathy and compassion for the local taxpayer had vanished, and that individual was now represented as appearing in the form of a pauper at the gates of the Imperial Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman doubtless allowed that the Government would still continue to give the subject their serious attention; but he said that it would be for the Local Boards to take the initiative in regard to any fresh taxation; and that, if their local resources proved to be insufficient through not having these taxes, they might move in the matter. The right of the ratepayers which was before acknowledged in every way, to receive this sum was now apparently dropped. Their right to this distinct sum was entirely put aside, and I am afraid we cannot conceal from ourselves that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's mind on the subject was altogether altered. There is one point which must not be overlooked, to which will particularly call your Lordships' attention. It was said when the subvention of £3,000,000 was first made over to the Local Authorities, that the taxes were increasing taxes, so that the receipts from them would increase with the growth of the wealth of the country, and would meet the growing local expenses. Therefore if we are now told that as the receipts from the Probate Duty and the old licences have increased there is not the same claim for the £700,000 or £800,000 promised from new sources, that is no answer to us, because that very increase was promised and considered when the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised the £3,000,000. So much for that subject. Now with regard to the Wheel and Cart Tax and the Horse Duty. When it is said that the Local Authorities should themselves decide whether they desire them or not, I beg your Lordships to observe that the Government could not more successfully have thrown an apple of discord between town and country than by asking them to express an opinion upon these measures. It is exactly a matter which would separate town and country, and I think it was rather an unfair act to throw this responsibility upon them. With regard to the taxes themselves, I hope your Lordships will understand that I am not arguing in favour of the Wheel and Cart Tax or the Horse Duty or anything of the kind. I do not think it would be right for your Lordships in this House to express any distinct opinion with regard to imposing fresh taxation. And for myself, I entirely decline giving an opinion upon the merits of that tax, and I do not think it is the business of the Councils to do so. It is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to decide what is the fairest tax to be imposed, taking everything into consideration, as to the relative burdens of different classes of ratepayers and taxpayers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was the most difficult thing to adjust the balance between local and Imperial taxation, and he announced that this £3,000,000 per annum might be considered as the final determination of the matter. I would once more most emphatically deny that it is the business of your Lordships' House or of the County Councils to express any opinion upon this subject whatever; while I hold that the Government, having committed themselves most strongly upon this grave subject, and Parliament also having expressed itself most strongly upon the question of this subvention, we have a right to claim this sum from some source or other from Her Majesty's Government I do not believe that these great popularly-elected Local Bodies will ever give up the subvention of £800,000 a year now that it has been once promised them, and I cannot, think that any Government can decline for long to give this large portion of the subvention upon which the Act of 1888 was based. And why should they decline to give it now? Surely they should not do so at this moment when, in all the counties of England, we want all the aid we can get. The first starting is necessarily costly, and it is at first starting that the counties specially require all possible financial assistance. I need only allude to the heavy cost of putting in order the whole roads of the country—disorganised by the House of Commons' action in sweeping away turnpikes without supplying proper and fair means for their maintenance—to show the pressing need at present for aid to local resources. Then I would venture to remind the House and the Government that all over our counties leading men of business—in all the various and very different walks of life—have come forward heartily and warmly to give their time and thought and trouble to the starting of these great County Councils. If it is found at the end of the three years that, owing to the lack of this £800,000 a year, there is bitter disappointment felt at the results and at the financial condition of the Councils, those people who have come forward and taken the chief part in them will be the first to be blamed by the local constituencies. So that I venture to appeal to Her Majesty's Government on behalf of those who have come forward to promote the success of these important new institutions to make their path in futnre as easy as possible, and to enable them to manage successfully the finances of the Councils by giving them this subvention as promised. I claim it, however, not only as a matter of policy but of right, and I take my stand upon those distinct assertions of the greatest financial authority of the day,—the Chancellor of the Exchequer —when he said his proposal was fair and just, that he proposed to make a final settlement of the matter by this subvention of £,000,000, and that his scheme which he then brought before Parliament, and the nation was the relief which was due to the ratepayers of this country. My Lords, I ask Her Majesty's Government the question which stands in my name.


My Lords, I trust I may be permitted to say a few words in support of my noble Friend's speech: He has very clearly and ably traced the origin of the promise of Her Majesty's Government to assist County Councils at their first starting. I may say that the County of Kent, with which I am connected, is deeply interested in this question. Not only the Chambers of Agriculture, but our County Councils have passed resolutions in favour of this proposal. My noble Friend has quoted opinions expressed, and statements made, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not only in propounding his Budget, but also in answer to various questions which were put to him; but I may say that I have a later quotation, which seems to me to be rather more encouraging than those made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply to a question put to him in May last by Mr. Swetenham, Member for Carnarvon. His answer was this— Besides the Wheel Tax, the Bill in question proposes the introduction of a Horse Duty, and I may say the President of the Local Government Board contemplates the re-introduction of that proposal; but it is for the County Councils to realise that it is only a strong and general opinion on their part, that would justify us in taking up the question. Now that is exactly what the County Councils have done. They have passed resolutions asking Her Majesty's Government for assistance in reference to local affairs. The subject has been treated so exhaustively by my noble Friend that I would only say in addition, undoubtedly at starting these County Councils the local expenses are largely increased. In my own county there have been a great many contested elections, and they are paid for out of the county rates. Then there is no doubt that the keeping in order of the county roads will be an increased burden. I cannot say what it will be in our county as regards the exact financial results; but I know that instead of there being a saving there has been an increase; and I foresee, though I believe our County Council is doing the business exceedingly well, a still larger increase. I do not expect that an answer will be given to-day; but I hope that the speech of my noble Friend will draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the matter when he is in a week or two, if he is not even now, considering his Budget proposals. I earnestly hope that the forcible way in which he has brought the matter before the House will lead to its being considered in another place.


My Lords, the noble Earl has, undoubtedly, drawn attention to this subject in an exhaustive manner. I only wish that my noble Friend could have done so in the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the subject is one to which my attention has only lately been directed. Of course, I am not so well acquainted with the matter as my noble Friend, who has looked thoroughly into it; but there is one thing which I am bound to notice and emphasise from the beginning, and that is that the system of direct grants from the Exchequer for local purposes has ceased. Direct grants were taken away and resources were to be found from local means, as well as from particular sources; those from personal property to a certain amount were alluded to in the Budget of my right hon. Friend. But with regard to what was undertaken, I am instructed wholly to deny that there was any financial engagement as to the special sum, or as to the special means to be taken, except that they were to come from local resources. Your Lordships are quite as well aware as I am of the history of the Wheel and Van Tax, and of the Horse Duty. As soon as the Wheel Tax was proposed exemptions were claimed from all parts of the country: it was asked whether a cart taking such and such things, or used for such and such pur- poses, would be exempt, and so it went on, so that with one thing and another the Van Tax would practically have been exhausted by the exemptions. With regard to the Horse Tax also, it was so far from being accepted by the agricultural body that it became almost impossible to proceed with it, and the two taxes proposed were attacked in such a manner that they had to be abandoned. With regard to the future, all I can say in respect of this matter is that though it may still be desirable that additional means should be found, they must not be looked for from direct Imperial taxation, but in some way or other from what I may call local resources. That is really all I can say at present upon this question. I am told that practically a similar question to this which my noble Friend has asked has been or is about to be asked in the House of Commons, where it will naturally receive a more exhaustive and fuller answer than I can possibly give, I can only say that I have given as satisfactory an answer as I am able upon the present occasion, and I must leave the matter for the reply of my right hon. Friend elsewhere.


My Lords, the noble Viscount can hardly expect that his reply will be very satisfactory to those who are interested in the question of the finances of the County Councils. I quite feel the difficulty in which my noble Friend the Viscount is placed, particularly at the present moment, and I trust that the answer he has given is not to be taken as a final answer and an end to all our hopes, because, as the House will see, the case is a very strong one indeed. When the Act of 1888 was passed one of its most important portions was the financial portion. No one is better acquainted than the present Chancellor of the Exchequer with all the questions which have been debated for so long with, respect to local finances; and when he told us in 1888, as the noble Karl has pointed out, that he was making a, proposal which he thought was a just one, offering a subvention to the County Councils, to which he admitted the ratepayers were entitled, in the form of an additional grant of £3,000,000, I think those who are interested in the County Councils were entitled to suppose that the Government would fulfil that expectation, and would give in aid of the local rates a sum of at least £3,000,000. Now, what happened, as your Lordships are aware, was that, in consequence of the failure of a particular proposal of taxation, that sum was reduced by some £800,000—that is to say, by more than one fourth. It appears now to be the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer towards the County Councils to say that it is for them to devise the taxes, by and out of which their funds are to be supplied; but I contend, with the noble Earl opposite, that that is in no respect a proper duty for County Councils; it is doubtless for them to say that they are entitled to grants if they feel they are entitled to them, but as long as those grants are to be made on the authority of Her Majesty's Government it is surely for Her Majesty's Government to say from what source those grants are to be derived; it is for them to make their proposals to Parliament, and for Parliament to determine upon them. If Parliament does not choose to have the Van and Wheel Tax and the Horse Duty, I contend it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to fulfil the expectations they held out, and to provide by some other means this £800,000. I think, my Lords, the Earl of Harrowby did not quite state the case for the immediate consideration of this question as strongly as he might have done. It is not only on account of the special expenses which fall upon these Councils at their initiation and at the commencement of their work that this money is now particularly required; but it is also because the County Councils have had expenses thrown upon them by the action of the Government which they did not at all anticipate. Government grants in aid ceased at an earlier period than was expected by the County Councils. It was supposed that those grants would cease on the 31st March, 1889, that they would be paid up to that date, and that then the County Councils would enter upon the receipt of their funds, and would be able to carry on their work without further grants; whereas those grants have in most cases ceased several months before the 31st March. In the case of the West Riding of Yorkshire, of the County Council for which I have the honour to be chairman, the additional cost of maintaining the main roads for the financial year preceding that in which their financial operations began was no less than£40,000. That sum was not covered by the Government grant; and in the course of the current financial year we have had to pay that £40,000, in addition to the usual sum of £90,000, for the maintenance of our main roads. The same thing has occurred again in respect of other grants for medical officers and other officials. There is great doubt entertained in that case as to whether the course taken by Her Majesty's Government is legal. The question has been raised by the West Riding County Council, and an action is soon to be tried before the High Court. But I do contend that when, by the action of the Government, these extra charges over and above those which belong to the first twelve months of the existence of the County Councils have been thrown upon them, it is of special urgency that the question raised by the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) should be dealt with without delay, and that the deficit in the means which it was promised to the County Councils they should enjoy — should be made up without further delay. The responsibility for doing so appears to me to rest upon Her Majesty's Government. A Resolution on the subject was passed in the County Council with which I am connected with absolute unanimity, and I believe similar Resolutions have been passed in almost all the other County Councils of the country. I venture to assure Her Majesty's Government that if they do not do something to fulfil what I have no hesitation in saying are the just expectations of the County Council, they will find, themselves troubled a good deal with many and loud outcries from the important Public Bodies which they themselves have created.


My Lords, I cannot help expressing my satisfaction that your Lordships have devoted this portion of your time to the consideration of what is certainly a very important, and may become a very burning subject. There can be no question that the County Councils throughout England have been very much dissatisfied by the failure of Parliament to provide something to fill the gap occasioned by the dropping of the Wheel and Van Tax. It is easy to pick faults in any proposal which may be made, and I am far from saying that the Wheel and Van Tax, as originally proposed, would have been popular. In fact, no new tax is popular—it would be true to say that all new taxes are unpopular and perhaps difficult of collection. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having proposed this tax for the purpose of giving aid to the County Councils, or of enabling that aid to be granted, allowed so many and so considerable exemptions to be made in regard to the different classes of persons that the tax was frittered away, and people considered that it would have been no longer a fair or equal tax. That having been the result of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal it would be rather hard on the County Councils to impose upon them, that which it was not their business to give, the expression of an opinion in favour of the re-introduction of that tax, or the responsibility of finding a substitute for it. The Government tied themselves to a plan; that plan failed, for what reason I do not care to inquire more closely; and I think they are bound to find some substitute for that which they proposed in order to provide the subvention which they admitted it was their duty to grant.


My Lords, I will not again travel over the ground which has been already so ably traversed by the speakers who have preceded me; but I wish to supplement the statements of my noble Friend who introduced this subject, and my noble Friend who followed him by calling attention to the more than probability of the expenses of the main roads going on in an accelerated ratio. Parliament has decided that turnpike tolls should never be renewed, at least as far as the word "never" applies to-anything in legislation — it has set its face decidedly against the renewal of turnpike tolls. Now, the consequence of the lapse of the old Turnpike Acts and the absence of any new legislation with regard to one subject which they dealt with very effectually, namely, the width of the wheels of vehicles carrying very heavy loads, has been a saving of shillings to those who provide timber trucks, and heavy waggons for carrying beer, flour, stones, and so on. There has been a small economy possible in the construction of those vehicles, but it has cost pounds to the ratepayers for the additional repairs to the roads which have been rendered necessary by the use of those vehicles. As one broad-wheeled waggon or timber-truck after another wears out, or becomes disused, my experience has been (and I speak as one who from the commencement of the Highway Act has occupied the chair of a Highway Board) that they will invariably be replaced by others having cheaper and narrower wheels, which do enormous damage to the roads in all directions. A very large proportion of those vehicles issue from the towns. Timber, of course, is generally not cut in the middle of a town, and at all events it has to be transported from the place where it grows on trucks or waggons. But heavy brewers' drays and millers' waggons are very likely to issue from the towns, and the increasing damage done to the roads of the country by the transport of enormous weights on very narrow wheels since the lapse of the Turnpike Acts, and in the absence of any corresponding provision of a like nature to ensure some protection to the roads, is becoming a more and more serious matter. I think that gives the County Councils who are now charged with the repair of the main roads an additional claim upon the Government for the fulfilment of, what I consider, something very like a promise on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and, at any rate, to some general legislation with regard to wheels which will renew some of the protection and safeguard to the roads of the country which existed under the old Turnpike Acts, but which subsists no longer in the absence, as far as I am aware, of any provisions in any legislation passed since the expiration of the Turnpike Acts.


My Lords, I think it is perfectly clear, from the words of the Lord President of the Council, that this is entirely a question for the House of Commons. My noble Friend behind me said, as I understood, that some of the functions of the County Councils could not be performed by the magistrates; but their small numbers in comparison with the number of magistrates would not be sufficient to carry out the business of the country. I assure your Lordships there is a great dissatisfaction at the way in which this Act is being carried out. There are enormous grants already given to the County Councils, and they should be content with those grants. In the last Money Bill that was before the House, I believe, in the Local Government Bill there is a clause providing that the County Councils cannot originate Bills for the ratepayers; they can only defend Bills. Almost every County Council has petitioned for new taxes to be granted to them; but they have already the Probate Duties and the Licensing Duties, and I am satisfied that the hasty legislation which was carried on in a most unusual manner through both Houses of Parliament is bearing no good fruit. My Lords, I am an old man, and I did not think I might live to see this day, but I have felt it my duty to remonstrate against the hasty passing of such a measure as you have passed. You must remember that every extra grant you propose has to pass through the House of Commons. Consequently you are initiating legislation, but you have done very little. Speaking of the County Councils, one of their own Body said rather irreverently perhaps, that it was a case of "much jaw and little wool." My Lords, I do not think it is possible these small Bodies, meeting a few times at a distance from their homes, can ever get through the business of the counties in the way that the magistrates of each county did. The system of election is entirely faulty; it is founded upon the course of the Municipal Elections in Ireland, by which there is cumulative voting for owners provided for. In fact, it is faulty in principle, and I am quite sure that until you have what was proposed in this House on the County Electorates Bill, that every householder shall have a vote, you will do no good. Instead of that, they are only £10 occupiers or owners. That, my Lords, was a very retrograde movement. In 1881, upon the Enfranchisement Bill, it was proposed to take a £10 rental. That system was opposed by many eminent authorities, who said that the principle of scot-and-lot voting was safer than the system of rental. In 1866 a Bill was thrown out because it was based on rental. Rating is the true principle, and you will find that the system is one that cannot work. You cannot expect 60 people to do the work of 200, and of several other Bodies besides. I felt fully justified in moving the rejection of the Local Government Bill on the First Reading, but my Bill was not allowed even to lie on the Table. That was the first instance I ever knew of such discourteous conduct towards any Member of this House, and nearly the oldest Member. I trust this question will receive attention, and if any attempt is made to repeal the Local Government Act of Scotland, which abolishes several most useful Bodies, I hope it will meet with more support than the Motion which I made the Session before last, when my Bill disclosing the irregularities in both Houses of Parliament was thrown out on a First Reading, and not allowed to be printed.

House adjourned at half-past Five o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter past Ten o'clock.