§ Read 3a (according to order), with the Amendments.
§ *LORD HENNIKER
On Clause 4 I have an Amendment. It is with regard to questions which were put in Standing Committee the other day by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Lingen. The Amendment, I think, meets the wishes of the noble Lord as far as possible and clears up the difficulty. As the words stood, it might have been impossible for any Alderman or County Councillor to resign, but as they will stand by my Amendment, it is possible that there should be such resignation. That is my intention in moving this Amendment; in fact, that the law remains as it is at present.
§ Amendment moved, in Clause 4, page 2, lines 34 and 35, to leave out ("shall continue in office until that day") and insert ("their term of office shall be extended accordingly.")—(The Lord Hartismere [L. Henniker].)266
§ *LORD LINGEN
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for having introduced the words he proposes into the Bill, and I am quite willing to take his opinion, given no doubt under legal advice, that the words are sufficient for the purpose. The words provide that the chairmen and members mentioned in the beginning of the clause, whose term of office would have expired but for this Act on the ordinary day in November, "shall continue in office" until the new date; and this, it appears to me, somewhat infringed upon the privilege which is given by Section 36 of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, and which is embodied in the Local Government Act, 1888, to the effect that the office-bearers of the Councils may resign their offices upon terms to be settled by the bye-laws of their respective Councils. The bye-laws of the County Council of London state that those officers may retire upon payment of a fine of £1. The words which the noble Lord has consented to introduce will, I believe, be sufficient for the purpose. I have conferred with my noble Friend Lord Hobhouse upon the matter, and he is, as well as myself, satisfied with the words. I therefore beg leave to accept them. Perhaps your Lordships will grant me your patience if on the Third Reading of this Bill I make one or two further observations upon it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved, in line 42, to leave out ("shall continue in office till that day") and insert ("their term of office shall be extended accordingly.")—(The Lord Hartismere [L. Henniker].)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *LORD THRING
My Lords, I have to introduce an Amendment by permission of the Local Government Board. It is for the purpose of removing a doubt, which was considered to be serious, with regard to the qualification of a County Councillor. A Councillor would be disqualified under the Municipal Corporations Act if he holds any office of profit relating to the County Councils. There is a Return of County Council officers specially required. The Chairmen have been made Returning Officers, and they are entitled to fees and expenses. Those fees have not been received by the 267 Chairmen. They have appointed deputies who have received them, and they have not been disqualified. Of course the consequences of such disqualification would be most serious, and this clause has been introduced to prevent that. It can do no harm, and will remove the possibility of most serious consequences if it is retained.
Amendment moved, after Clause 5, to insert the following new Clause:—
("It is hereby declared that a person shall not be disqualified, nor be deemed ever to have been disqualified, under section twelve of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, for being a member of a county council by reason only of his being appointed returning officer by that council, except where he has directly or indirectly by himself or his partner received any profit or remuneration in respect of such appointment."—(The Lord Thring.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *LORD LINGEN
I have already stated to your Lordships such reasons as occur to me why I think that this Bill is an inexpedient one in regard to the County Council of London, and in answer to those reasons the noble Lord who has charge of the Bill has brought forward his own arguments, and I have no doubt he has brought forward those which he considers the strongest; but I really think that, if it were worth while at this stage to do more than notice them, there are some which call somewhat for the consideration of this House. It has been made a great argument against the London County Council that upon this question they changed their minds. Well, I will not say that their change of mind is supported by a proverb of some weight, that second thoughts are best; but whether it was consistent or inconsistent to change their mind, I think the real question before this House is whether their second resolution was an expedient one or not. I do not think the mere fact of changing ought to be quoted against them. Then another argument which my noble Friend brought forward was this: that although there was a majority of two to one in the County Council for retaining the old date of election, yet the County Council was not the only representative of the ratepayers who were also represented by the Members of Parliament who sat for constituencies within the County of 268 London. I do think, my Lords, that is rather an extraordinary argument for a Government which has brought in a Local Government Bill to put forward. The constituencies which they speak of were constituted in the year 1885, and the date of the Local Government Bill is 1888. If there was no occasion for a further and separate representation of the ratepayers, I really fail to see why the Local Government Bill was brought in at all. But, as I understand the Local Government Bill, it does give to counties representation, a representative and an executive function, over certain matters which Parliament is content to delegate to them. Another argument which was urged by the noble Lord was, that be the inconvenience what it might, it would only occur once in three years. If it occurs at all, that I think is very scant comfort indeed to the Council. I do not wish to bring these points before your Lordships, except in the way of protest against this Bill. I think it is a Bill which does not rest upon sound arguments drawn from the municipal government and condition of London. Regulations which may be desirable for small County Councils representing small areas plainly, as a matter of common-sense, do not apply to such a county as London. I venture to say that the attempt to apply such regulations to such a county cannot be lasting, and I believe that at no very distant day your Lordships will have this question before you again.
§ Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.