§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a"—(The Lord President [E. Kimberley.]
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS,
in moving that the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the further consideration of the Poor Law Clauses, said, that he owed their Lordships some explanation and apology for the course which he had adopted in making this Motion. Some time ago he had met his friend "The Man in the Street," who was always better informed than any other person, who told him that their Lordships were likely, under the guidance of his noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition in that House, to deal effectively with the Poor Law Clauses of the Bill. The other night, to his great surprise, the Duke of Devonshire took the compound householder under his protecting wing, and the Marquess of Salisbury then threw up the sponge in a way that practically left the Poor Law administration in the position proposed by the Bill, with the exception of an Amendment moved by Lord Selborne with regard to the qualification of elected persons, and barring the remedy suggested by his noble Friend the Duke of Devonshire, that if the com- 354 pound householder voted away the rates too freely his landlord would raise his rent. That was, in his opinion, no remedy at all. The man should be made himself to feel responsibility more directly than he would by the raising of his rent. The suggestion showed a forgetfulness of what had passed in legislation during the last 20 years. For could anyone doubt that if that remedy were resorted to the same result would follow as had been seen in Ireland and in parts of Scotland? Therefore, he passed by that remedy as worth nothing. He was, indeed, starting for his home in the North, but had felt compelled to remain for the Third Reading, having received a letter from a Member of that House bearing an historic name—a name always associated with true liberty, and not such spurious liberty as was represented by the present occupants of the Treasury Bench. He referred to Earl Grey, and as that nobleman was now 91 years of age he was really a grand old man. Lord Grey had written to him in these words—I am more distressed than I thought I could now be by any public event by what I gather now from the newspapers to be the probable passing of that most mischievous Lavish Councils Bill with the Poor Law Clauses left to work all the evil sure to follow from the proposal of the Government. I had hoped, from Balfour's letter in The Times in reply to mine, that his Party meant to use their power in the Lords to prevent this act of wanton folly being committed, but I gather from the newspapers that this hope is to be disappointed, and that no material improvement in this worst part of a detestable measure is to be seriously attempted, and that we are, in consequence, to have it passed in a shape"—mark this, my Lords—"that will make its effects absolutely disastrous to the whole social system of the nation. In these circumstances is it not the duty of independent Peers to make a determined effort to avert so great a calamity.' Pray consider whether you cannot do something. Would it not be a natural course to insist that the subject of the administration should not be dealt with in this Bill, but reserved for future and more careful consideration? And for this purpose on the Report stage a Motion might be made for omitting this part of the Bill altogether. A strong effort on the part of the independent Peers might still carry such a Motion. Pray consider whether you cannot do something for this purpose. I have very imperfectly expressed my feeling of dismay at the prospect before us if nothing effectual is done to avert the threatened calamity.Lord Grey spoke in the earlier part of the letter of the Act of 1834 as the greatest and most successful piece of 355 legislation of the century. Their Lordships would understand that upon receiving such a letter as that ho felt it to be his duty to bring the views of so distinguished a Member of that House before their Lordships, and that must be his apology for interfering at this time. What Lord Grey dreaded was that the effect of this legislation would be to bring back the state of things which existed in this country before the Act of 1834 was passed. The Poor Law Clauses of the Bill would most seriously affect that most successful piece of legislation, which had proved to be neither more nor less than the salvation of the working people of England. There was great danger that the sound principle of the Poor Law would be set aside in the present day as the result of agitation by people out-of-doors. People who had not been obliged to go as ho had into these matters could have no idea of the state of degradation to which the people of this country had been reduced by the maladministration of the Act of Elizabeth. The Poor Law Act of 1834 was passed after full inquiry. The evidence then given showed that relief was given in aid of wages. The amount of that relief depended on the wants of the employer. The labourers were reduced to a state of slavery, and 20 were knocked down in one week to 10 farmers for 5s.; at Taunton labourers received a portion of their wages out of the poor rates. Men would say, if they did not like their work, they would go and get 12s. a week by working on the roads, and their wives were anxious they should become paupers rather than work as labourers. At Kettering men said they must have their 10s. or 12s., and expressed themselves that they "Would not be such fools as to work," saying "Blast work—damn me if I work." Wages were paid out of the parish funds, and farmers consequently turned off the regular hands in order to hire men by auction, the difference being, of course, paid out of the rates. The Act of 1834 caused a revolution and dragged the labourers of this country out of the mire. That was the Act which Parliament was now undermining by this measure. The Committee of the House of Commons appointed in 1838 to consider the working of the then new Poor Law administration made a Report, in which they said— 356The Committee are convinced that the utmost benefit has resulted from the general adoption of this system of relief (relief of able-bodied paupers in the workhouse), and they strongly recommend that it should in future be adhered to, subject to such occasional departures from the ordinary rule, under the pressure of special circumstances, as it appears that the Local Hoards have been ready to adopt and the Commissioners to sanction in cases of real necessity.The result appeared from a contrast of well administered and badly administered parishes. Sir Albert Pell, a great authority, had given him an instance from his own parish of Hazelworth as a reason for not giving way on this question of outdoor relief. In 1834 the population was 13,500—
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
accepted the correction. Of that number 11 were receiving outdoor relief, and 100 were in the workhouse. Eighteen months ago 32 only were receiving outdoor and 62 indoor relief. £60,000 had been saved to the ratepayers, and 2d. in the £1 was all that was required for outdoor relief. He had asked Sir Albert Pell whether the law had been harshly administered and people possibly driven out of the parish, and he replied that that was not the case; that none had left the parish, and wages which were 10s. in 1869 had been raised to 13s. So much for a country parish under proper administration of the existing Poor Law of 1834. He would next take London under good administration. A great deal had been said about the state of poverty in the East End parishes—St. George's-in-the East, Bethnal Green, and others. There was now a wild scheme for the equalisation of rates, by which those parishes which were well administered would have to pay for those parishes which were badly administered. For example, in St. George's-in-the-East there was no outdoor relief; in White-chapel during the last 20 years the expenditure on account of outdoor relief had been reduced from £7,000 to £100; and these reforms were the result of sound administration of the Poor Law, unaccompanied by the slightest cruelty or hardship. In contrast to these examples were Chelsea, where £253 was 357 spent on outdoor relief; St. George's, Hanover Square, where £279 was spent: and Westminster, where £108 was spent; while in Stepney it was only £22. He had shown their Lordships the dreadful state into which this country had fallen down to 1834, and the good results in raising the condition of the people both in country and town under a proper administration of the existing law. Mr. Wilkins, the late clerk to the St. James's Vestry, had well laid down the principle on which the Poor Law should be administered. It was the principle which permeated the whole of the recommendations of the Poor Law Commissioners. Mr. Wilkins, in his Memorandum on the Poor Law, said—Any attempt to alleviate distress, whether chronic or transient, must, to be effectual, be based upon a well-established administration of the Poor Law: that is, making a discrimination between those who are able and willing' to work and those who are not.Nowadays there was a great danger of this principle being set aside, in the great gush of sentiment which prevailed. There was no one of their Lordships who, if by sacrificing a large part of his possessions could make the poor better and happier, would not willingly do it; but principles were sounder than sentiment; and a, firm administration of the law, making the position of the man who sought relief less desirable than that of the man who did not, was in many cases what Shakespeare called being "cruel only to be kind." There was, no doubt, a great want of employment; but it, was not greater now than in 1887, and it should be remembered that the condition of the unemployed was being used as an argument by those who desired great social revolutions. The great question at present was whether they could look for safety to the Government of the day? One of the first acts of Mr. Fowler's administration was to lower the qualification of Guardians from £23 or £30 to £5. The result in Poplar, whore there was no plural voting, was that relief in the able-bodied had gone up; outdoor and indoor relief had increased; and workshops had been established at the expense of the ratepayers. The climax of this sort of thing was reached in the programme of a committee which had 358 been formed in Battersea for the purpose of electing Guardians, and with which Mr. Champion was connected. On this question, however, Mr. John Burns appeared to hold sounder views than Her Majesty's Government. He had said—Every man who has been out of work cheers the man who is in favour of outdoor relief. Every loafer at the street corner who lives on it, says 'Three cheers for a pound a week out relief.' I have always been against it except when administered with the greatest rigidity and given to the right people. If Social Democrats were to promise, as some Guardians—not the labour Guardians—did at the last election, that outdoor relief would be generously administered, where would our poor rates be.' Every democrat would be clamouring for money and spending it at the 'Pig and Whistle.' It means the complete prostitution and degradation of those whom we (night to raise and educate by better means.Lord Palmerston said, when the franchise was lowered, that politicians would no longer play to the stalls and boxes, but would in future play to the gallery. The present Government, by their recent legislation, seemed to be playing to neither the boxes, stalls, nor gallery, but to the casual ward. There was not only the example in England—there was the object-lesson of what happened in France in 1848. M. Louis Blanc then established the atéliers nationaux in response to demands for employment. The result was that there was a stoppage of private trade, a demoralisation of the working classes, and an impending bankruptcy of the Government. Of course, the national workshops had to be abandoned. On February 28, 1848, there were supposed to be 8,000 working men out of employment in Paris. The workshops having been established, there were, on March 15, 14,000 unemployed; and on April 1, 40,000; on April 16, 66,000, costing 94,500 francs daily. On May 25 there were 87,000 unemployed, and on June 20, 115,000, when 3,000,000 francs were voted, with more to follow. On June 28 the workshops were closed, and an insurrection in the streets of Paris followed, when 12,000 workmen were killed and Cavaignae was made Dictator. He remembered Mr. George Smythe, who happened to be in Paris at that time, saying that he found the streets of Paris flowing with blood as the result of all this, Their Lordships ought to have this 359 lesson in their minds in considering the measure now before them. Before concluding he would say a word as to their Lordships' position with regard to the abnormal legislation of this most abnormal Session. Ho road the other day, in a speech of Sir Charles Russell's, an insinuation that their Lordships had not dealt fairly with certain measures sent up to them by the other House. He seemed to regard those measures as a sort of immaculate conception of another place, and that it would be sacrilege to touch or lay a finger upon them. But he was happy to say their Lordships had hitherto dealt boldly and courageously with the measures sent up to them. They had in one instance saved the Empire from disruption. In the case of the Employers' Liability Bill they had affirmed the principle of freedom of contract, which was the very life blood of a commercial nation, and he hoped that when that Bill came back to them they would not enter into any foolish compromises which would absolutely set aside that principle. He could not imagine a better election cry than "Liberty and the Lords!" On this Bill their Lordships had also shown themselves to be defenders of the great Liberal principle that taxation and representation should go together, and ho hoped their Lordships would be induced to follow the advice of Lord Grey, and deal with this great measure in a wise, statesmanlike, and prudent manner. If by any act of their Lordships they could save the beneficent Bill of 1834 from mutilation and maladministration they would save this country from misfortune, and the people of this country from being pauperised, demoralised, and degraded as they had been before 1834.
To leave out from ("be") to the end of the Motion, and insert ("re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the further consideration of the Poor Law Clauses").—(The Lord Wemyss [E. Wemyss].)
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (The Earl of KIMBERLEY)
In reference to the last words of my noble Friend's speech, I would remind him that the maladminis- 360 tration which we all know existed in the Poor Law before 1834, if I am not forgetting altogether the history of the matter, was when that law was administered by Justices of the Peace. It is not always a perfect security for good administration if you place the matter in the hands of persons who do not belong to those whom my noble Friend regards with such terrible apprehension. Whatever else may happen, I do not think it would be unsafe to predict—although pre-dictions are said to be dangerous—that we shall not return to the state of administration of the Poor Law which prevailed before 1834. I think that is very improbable indeed. My noble Friend has no doubt put before us some of those very obvious reflections which would occur to anybody when a change was about to be made in the administration of the law, which undoubtedly would place great power in the hands of those who stood much nearer to the probable recipients of relief. But my noble Friend quite omits from view that there is such a thing as making your institutions conform to the general spirit of the time in which you live. I think it is probable that my noble Friend regrets that the franchise was lowered.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I have no doubt that ho voted against the extension of the Parliamentary franchise, and opposed it on grounds similar to those now advanced with reference to this extension. It would be quite useless to go now into the subject of the Parliamentary franchise. A great many people in 1867, whose opinion was not in general to be disregarded, did apprehend very terrible results from the lowering of the Parliamentary franchise. Let mo say this to my noble Friend: If those who now possess the franchise had acted in the extravagant manner in which my noble Friend now expects those to act who under this Bill will have this parish franchise, then no doubt the country would have been placed in a position of the most absolute peril, and society would have been disorganised.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Nobody would doubt that my noble Friend thinks so. But does anybody suppose at the present moment, and after our experience of some years of the Parliamentary franchise, that whatever changes are made, we are on the eve of a revolution in which the whole framework of society will be destroyed? Nobody expects anything of the kind. Why are we to conclude that the very same people, who have exercised the Parliamentary franchise with no danger to society, are to act in a totally different manner when they have to exercise the parish franchise under this Bill? The idea is neither rational nor in accordance with probability. If I were to enter upon an augury with regard to the administration of the Poor Law, I should imagine that the direction which these new Boards would lake would be in the form of granting some kind of pensions in old age to those who have not been able to make provision for old age. I should not be surprised if an attempt were made to draw some distinction between those who are commonly regarded as the deserving poor and those who may be considered as not deserving at all. Those are the directions which it is not altogether improbable that changes in the Poor Law may take, but I have not the smallest belief in the whole population of this country—or what is the main population of the country—those who live by the labour of their hands—being so absolutely blind to the consequences that would ensue as to embark upon a system of indiscriminate relief and indiscriminate works. My noble Friend fears that blood will be flowing in the streets in consequence of this Bill. His imagination is very vivid, but I think rather baseless. Then, I was rather surprised at the remark of my noble Friend that we were not even playing to the gallery, but to the casual wards. That does not convey to my mind a very precise notion of the administration of the Poor Law. If there is one thing that is more certain than another, I think it is that the labouring classes of this country will not have the slightest sympathy with the vagrants who drift into the casual wards. Therefore, my noble Friend will permit me to say I think that is not a very apposite remark. I do not think it necessary at this period of the Bill to go into any general dis- 362 quisition on the Poor Law provisions in the Bill. I do not believe it would be possible for any length of time to maintain the administration of the Poor Law on a perfectly different footing as regards those who are elected to the Boards of Guardians from the basis on which you have placed the election of the administrators of any of the other institutions in the country. It is quite out of the question that any such system could be maintained. That, of course, is merely an opinion of my own, and it may be prompted by my natural wish to represent the measure of the Government in its proper light. But the subject is not new to us. It has often been suggested that these changes should be made, and I believe that the apprehensions of people for whom I feel great respect are much exaggerated. It is possible to take a fairer view of the measure which we are now carrying into effect. Upon the whole, I believe it is far more likely that we shall be able to preserve the administration of the Poor Law upon a sound footing if we have the sympathy of the population whose affairs have to be administered—if we show that we do not intend to embark upon a most Quixotic, enterprise, and sever this portion of the local administration from all the rest of the administration of the country, and if we in this particular matter do not evince a spirit of distrust of the people, which we do not manifest with regard to other institutions. I will not trouble the House again with other reasons, but these are the main principles on which I support the Bill, and recommend it to your Lordships.
§ *EARL FORTESCUE,
speaking with an experience of more than half a century upon a Board of Guardians, of which over 30 years as Chairman, confirmed his noble Friend's view of the danger of putting the disposal of the rates into the hands of people who did not pay them, and upon whom Her Majesty's Government had taken particular pains to avoid imposing them. Though Mr. Fowler's statement about the general payment of rates in the rents might hold good in towns and populous places, it was baseless as regarded the rural parts of the country. Rates were essentially different from 363 taxes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made his calculations, and taxation was spread over the whole nation directly and indirectly, whereas rates were all levied locally. It actually happened in one parish, before the reform of the Poor Law in 1834, that the whole property of the parish was insufficient to pay the rates required. When the noble Earl spoke of the maladministration of the old Poor Law by Justices of the Peace it should be remembered that the great reform then made was in placing the election of those who had to administer the rates in the hands of those who paid them. It did not follow that because there had been some maladministration by the Justices in former times therefore Parliament should go to the other extreme of putting the power into the hands of people who had paid and were to pay no part of the rates. Surely there was an intelligible interval between the independent Magistrates who were not obliged to appeal to any elected body for authority in giving the relief, and the mass of the non-rate-paying inhabitants of the country. He spoke not only with knowledge of Poor Law as a Guardian, but also as having had to do with the general administration throughout England when Secretary of the Poor Law Board. He could not believe that the system established by this Bill would lead quite to the extent of demoralisation and degradation which prevailed in former times. Still, on looking back to his earlier experience he had observed that latterly greater reluctance had been shown in some places in giving orders for the workhouse; and children who were perfectly able to assist their indigent parents, and were compellable by law to do so, had more seldom had demands made upon them. But with the tendencies to relaxation now visible it was a very unwise and dangerous thing to place the administration of local rates practically in the hands of those who did not now and would not hereafter pay them. Sir Edwin Chadwick, in his masterly Report on the conditions under the old Poor Law, stated his strong conviction that wages had been kept down, and prophesied that they would rise under a better system of administration. Wages were kept down in two ways; the means of employers were diminished by the 364 outrageous demand for rates, and those who received part of their money from the rates and only part from their employers could afford to under-bid others who had to live by their industry. Exactly what was predicted in that Report, and which the law founded on that Report was intended to remedy, took place. Wages had risen, according to the Report on the working of the new Poor Law in 1838. He had never forgotten a statement of Sir Edwin Chadwick of his having elicited from a large slop-seller thathe could not afford to employ any woman who was not either on the parish or on the streets":he would not pay, whether for piece or day work, what was called a living wage, and it had to be supplemented either by petty doles from parish rates or by the unhappy recipients' shame. An extensive system of outdoor relief was not only pecuniarily wasteful, but, which was far more serious, had a distinctly degrading and demoralising tendency. It encouraged lying, trickery, and false pretences of all sorts in order to obtain relief, or increased relief; and it discouraged the honest and independent labourer who sought to live by his industry and thrift.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not like to let the Debate pass without taking notice of a fallacy which the Loader of the House has repeated, for he has certainly not mentioned for the first time that we ought to look with perfect freedom from apprehension at this extension of parochial power to those who pay no rates because a similar extension has taken place with respect to the Imperial franchise. I should have thought it must have been obvious to anyone that the enormous mixture of classes and interests of all kinds which take part in providing Imperial government furnishes us with no guide whatever as to what we are to ex-poet when you take so small an area as a parish and hand over the whole discretion of what money shall be raised and what money shall be spent to those who contribute to it nothing themselves. I quite agree that we may easily exaggerate the evil. There are two faults in political prediction which are often committed—one is the laying on of the colours too thickly; and the other is to imagine that the evil results which you apprehend will occur immediately. But 365 it takes a long time for a political poison to work; and I think it is very likely that for a long time to come we shall not see the results of this measure. I still, however, entertain apprehensions as to the passing of the Poor Law Clauses without practically any legislation affecting the predominance of the compounder over large areas of the country. Practically, all attempt to remedy the evil of compounding has been, perforce, abandoned in this House, and the result is that in many places the compounder will have the absolute dominion. There is no doubt that yon would not expect such a state of things in any other circumstances. If it were proposed that the people of Essex should determine what the people of Suffolk should pay, the people of Essex paying nothing themselves, you would say that it was the most monstrous proposal ever suggested. In the same way, if the people of St. Martin's should tax the people of St. Anne's, the people of St. Martin's paying nothing, again you would say it was a monstrous proposal: but you say that the community which pays shall be governed by the community which does not pay, because they happen to live on the same area of soil, and you say that is a perfectly natural and safe operation. I cannot believe that is the case. What the precise form of the evil will be I do not venture to predict. I believe, with the Leader of the House, that we shall not repeat history and come to the precise form of evil which was caused by the liberality of the Justices prior to 1834, but that great extravagance, that a great burden on the ratepayer, may be the result of this Pill I fully believe. I believe that the ratepayer this been left wholly without defence—[The Earl of WEMYSS: It is entirely his own fault]—and the consequence will be that taking these provisions, with, I must say, some of the provisions of the Allotments Clauses, it is a new burden, disability, and disadvantage to the owning and occupying of land inflicted at a time when, of all times in this century, the agricultural industry can suffer them the least. And the result of all additional burdens on the owing and occupying of laud is to aggregate land in larger estates. You find violent Radicals, who bate the large owners of laud, think that 366 they can diminish the large ownership of land by adding to the burdens under which land suffers. They are very foolish people. The operation is precisely the reverse. The large landowner is the man who can defend himself, and who can bear without being crushed the additional burdens you place upon him. The small landowner, especially in this season of trial, will be crushed out of existence by the additional burdens you are placing on him. His property will be purchased by the large landowner, and the growth of large estates, which you profess, no doubt sincerely enough, to dislike, will only increase more and more by the very operation of the policy which yon are here carrying out in order to attack it. That seems to be one of the great evils which you have to fear. I have already indicated another—that you are discouraging, and fatally discouraging, the easier and the more educated classes from taking part in local government. That is a serious evil which will also increase. How far there may be other evils I will not venture to predict. It is possible that in countries where great industrial conflicts are going on, if a majority of the population are interested as labourers in those conflicts and are the masters of the situation, strike pay will be thrown upon the rates, and that the campaign of the strikers will be conducted at the expense of the ratepayers. If that should be so, the increase and prolongation of industrial conflicts will be terribly aggravated, lint all these evils, it appears to me, will be the result of having undertaken a vast revolution of this kind hastily and hurriedly, with little preparation, with no inquiry, and with no fair opportunity to the people of this country to express their opinion as to the nature of the changes that are being made. I deeply regret that this should be done, but I do not think the remedy which Lord Grey proposed is one that would benefit our legislation or permanently avert the evil which has been created. Lord Grey's advice is the voice of the statesmanship of the past speaking from a very long distance to what may be called, with charity, the statesmanship of the present. The experience of the past, how-over, is of very little good to us under these new conditions. The most noticeable feature in our modern controversies 367 is the utter powerlessness of language or representations to influence the people of this country. They bear around them such a din of controversy that they have learnt to disbelieve in words and will only believe in facts, and my opinion is that it would be of very little use to put off these clauses, even if we were resolved to do so. They would only acquire an intense value, and a most exaggerated value, in the eyes of those from whom they were being kept, and they would be forced at some political crisis or other through Parliament by the power which would be created by the exaggerated hopes which our own action would encourage and had produced. It is a painful conclusion to come to, but it is one which we cannot resist, that, after measures have been taken up by a very large portion of the people of this country, and have been recommended by great authority, and great advantages have been attached to them, very serious evils—evils possibly as great as the measures themselves could bring about— have resulted from their having been refused. I do not, therefore, recommend the course which Lord Grey and Lord Wemyss advise. I deeply regret that it has not been in the power of this House to apply a remedy—I do not say that circumstances would possibly have admitted it—to the evil of compounding, which threatens the security and the honest working of our Poor Law system; but I do not think that now it will be wise to take any other course except to send down the Bill to the other House with the alterations which we have suggested for their consideration. I should not like to close this Debate without expressing the sense which must be common to all your Lordships of the great skill, judgment, courtesy, and patience in the course of these deliberations which have distinguished the Leader of the House in carrying this measure through the House. It has been a measure of great detail, which must have caused him infinite labour to master in addition to the other great labours he has in hand; and I am sure that, whatever differences of opinion there may be with regard to the Bill, we shall all agree that we could not have had a better guide in our deliberations than the noble Lord has proved himself to be.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, he would not press the Motion, as his object had been obtained by procuring a discussion upon the Poor Law Clauses in the Bill.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
§ *THE EARL OF WINCHILSEA
desired, before the House proceeded to read the Bill a third time, to call attention to a matter of public importance. He wished to enter his most emphatic protest against gross misrepresentations which had been made in the country not only by prominent politicians, but by responsible Members of Her Majesty's Government, with regard to the Amendments which, in the exercise of their public duty, their Lordships had introduced into the Bill in that House. He particularly referred to the statements of the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce), who at Liverpool on the 9th instant said—This was the Body"—their Lordships' House —"which had just deprived thousands of parishes of a Parish Council by raising the limit of population to 500.This statement was grossly misleading and entirely untrue. Not a single parish had been debarred from having a Council by the clause if it chose. Their Lordships had conferred upon small parishes the choice whether they would adopt the simple and inexpensive machinery of a parish meeting, also provided by the Bill, or the more cumbrous and costly electoral machinery of a Parish Council. Ho had written to Mr. Bryce on the subject, to ask him if he was correctly reported. In reply, the right hon. Gentleman did not deny that he had been reported with substantial accuracy, but he went on to say that since he had received the letter he had seen one by Lord Denbigh which led him to think that the meaning which had been put on his words was, of course, not his meaning. What other meaning could be put on the words except the meaning suggested by Lord Denbigh, who had taken the words in their natural sense? A different meaning could only be arrived at by a process of Jesuitical mental reservation. Mr. Bryce also made the statement that their Lordships had refused to the Parish Councils the right to use rooms in schools receiving grants of public money. It was only 369 necessary for him to read the clause dealing with this point to show how incorrect this statement also was. The clause provided that—4.—(1.) In any rural parish in which there; is no suitable public room which can be used free of charge for the purposes in this section mentioned, the parochial electors and the Parish Council shall be entitled to use, free of charge, at all reasonable times, and after reasonable notice, for the purpose of—and yet the right hon. Gentleman said that this House had refused to Parish Councils the right to use rooms in schools receiving grants of public money. He did not know what mental reservation the right hon. Gentleman made when he uttered that statement. At all events, it had been commented on in its natural sense by Liberal newspapers all over the country, which asked their readers to believe that their Lordships had debarred thousands of places front possessing Parish Councils by the Amendments they had made in the Hill, or had denied them the use of schoolrooms. The noble Marquess opposite, in his conciliatory speech introducing the measure, said—
any suitable room in the schoolhouse of any public elementary school receiving a grant out of moneys provided by Parliament";
- (a) the parish meeting or any meeting of the Parish Council; or
- (b) any inquiry for parochial purposes by the Local Government Hoard or any other Government Department or Local Authority;This is essentially a Bill to be discussed in Committee. As we have in this House so many noble Lords who are acquainted with the details of local administration it may be expected that the discussion will be full and fruitful.That statement made in good faith was accepted in good faith, and their Lordships had endeavoured to improve the Bill and make it more workable—to make it more beneficial to the labourers without being unjust to the tenant-farmers. Noble Lords on his side of the House had no reason to dread the advent of Parish Councils. They had been the pioneers of the movement for small holdings; and years before the agricultural labourer had a vote ho possessed allotments on many of their Lord ships' estates, let at agricultural rents, a fact he particularly recommended to the Lord Chamberlain, who was always telling them about his allotments, but forgot to 370 state the rents at which he let them. He had no desire to be misunderstood. If the Government, possessing no policy to put before the country, and having an absolutely blank record in regard to legislative achievements, chose to organise an attack on an integral branch of that Constitution, which they of all people were most bound to defend, it was very desirable to know whether that warfare was to be conducted by responsible Members of the Ministry with the poisoned weapons of calumny and misrepresentation? He appealed to the noble Earl the Leader of the House, whom he believed to be personally incapable of either, to inform their Lordships whether the words of his right hon. Colleague were fair and true, and, if not, to repudiate them on behalf of the Government.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Before I answer the noble Earl I must acknowledge the very kind way in which the noble Marquess the Loader of the Opposition was pleased to speak of me. I must say I appreciate his words very highly its coming from him. The noble Marquess has occupied the highest positions in the country and occupies now a position of great power and authority in this House, and any opinions expressed by him are always much appreciated, and in this case fall, I can assure him, upon no ungrateful heart. If, in the conduct of the Bill through your Lordships' I rouse, I have been fortunate enough to exhibit courtesy and patience, I am, on the other hand, indebted to the whole House for the extreme forbearance and kindness with which I have myself been treated. With regard to the remarks of the last speaker, I wish to say that no one would regret more than I should that the cause of the Party to which I belong should be fought with any weapons poisoned or calumnious: but I cannot help thinking, however, that the noble Earl opposite has used, in reference to my right hon. Colleague the Chancellor of the Duchy, phrases which are entirely unwarranted. The quotation from Mr. Bryce's speech is, I think, correct, and Mr. Bryce himself admits that his words in the broad way in which ho stated the proposition which they conveyed, that these parishes had been deprived by the Amendment of the noble Earl of Parish Councils, were liable to be misunderstood. 371 I have nothing to add upon that point. The noble Earl opposite will admit that a very considerable change has been made in the Bill, owing to the Amendment which has been inserted. In the view of Her Majesty's Government a large proportion of the 4,439 parishes which are brought within the scope of the exception inserted in the Bill will be placed at a very considerable disadvantage as compared with those parishes which will have Parish Councils under the Bill.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Surely there is a great difference in having to fight a battle every two or three years when the question may be raised again? It is a great advantage to have a Parish Council secured to a parish by Statute, and not to have to fight for the Parish Council at such short intervals. No one can possibly argue that the two categories of parishes are placed on the same footing. I have no information as to whether the words attributed to my right hon. Colleague, Mr. Bryce, in regard to the use of schoolrooms, are accurately reported or not; but if the words which have been referred to by the noble Earl are a correct report, it is but fair to say that the Amendments of your Lordships have not deprived Parish Councils of the right to use the rooms of schools receiving grants of public money.
§ *THE EARL OF SELBORNE
said, in regard to the latter point, that if the House deserved vituperation on account of the change that had been made as to the use of schoolrooms, no one deserved that vituperation more than the Member of their Lordships' House upon whose Motion the change was made. He should not have expected that matter to be represented otherwise than with candour and judgment by the right hon. Gentleman to whom reference had been made. Even if the language used meant something different from what it literally expressed, he could not help thinking that it was not right or candid to speak of the Amendment which the House had made about the use of schoolrooms in the tone reported to have been employed by that right hon. Gentleman. The Bill as it now stood went not only as far as, but even a little farther, upon that point than the measure as the The Earl of Kimberley 372 Government thought right to introduce it into the other House, inasmuch as it now permitted the use of the rooms for public inquiries. People might reasonably be expected not to refuse to recognise the motive which prompted a proposal, even if they did not agree with its substance. The motive for declining to assent to an unlimited and indefinite conversion of those schoolrooms into parish offices, for purposes unconnected with education, was to keep them, as far as might be, for their proper uses, and to prevent heavy burdens being thrown upon managers and on the schoolmasters and mistresses who had the charge of them for those uses. He could not help hoping that when the matter came to be considered in another place the changes which had been effected in that House would be considered in a different temper from that in which they had been spoken out-of-doors.
§ Original Motion agreed to; Bill read 3a", with the Amendments.
§ On question, that the Bill do pass?
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of MORLEY)
said, ho would not propose Amendments at that stage which made any substantial alteration in the sense or wording of the Bill. His Amendments simply made the meaning clearer, and he would move them with the permission of the House.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HERSCHELL)
This House is very strict in not allowing Amendments on Third Readings without notice unless merely verbal or drafting. That is a matter which I have always watched narrowly, and in that I have had the support of your Lordships. I have looked through these Amendments, and I think they fairly come within that category mentioned by the noble Earl, and may be proposed on Third Reading.
§ Verbal Amendments.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, his Amendments referred to matters which had already been dealt with, but it seemed rather hard that the Parish Councils should not have the opportunity of appointing Vestry clerks, if they liked, to be clerks of the Councils. That would very often be an economical course—the Vestry clerk would get 373 something from his own employers and something in addition from the Council. He did not know why the liberty of the Parish Councils should be limited in that respect, as the qualifications were the same in both cases. Then another mutter was that the Councils should appoint their treasurers without remuneration, and, having; so provided, the clause went on to say that he should give security. Surely the treasurer would consider that a bad joke was being played upon him if they gave him nothing and required him to find security. One of those conditions should be withdrawn—either give him something or do not ask him to provide security.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, with regard to the first, point, of the Assistant Overseer being clerk, that was done to save expense. He was always a paid officer, and that being the case it was thought desirable that the parish should not make another appointment, but should employ that paid officer as their clerk. No doubt some Assistant Overseers were unsatisfactory officers, but in that case they could be dismissed and other persons employed. Then, with regard to the treasurer, the provision seemed at first sight extraordinary; but he would point out that treasurers to Hoards of Guardians never received any salary, but always gave security, and the reason was that they were bankers.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, that the persons appointed would be of two different classes. In urban districts —often considerable towns—the balance in the treasurers' hands would be quite sufficient for bankers to be appointed without remuneration. In those cases it was very desirable that they should be able to act, giving security. But in small parishes it would be unreasonable to appoint a treasurer without remuneration. Therefore, the words as to giving remuneration might be left out. There was no necessity why a treasurer should be formally appointed, for the money might be kept without it. That was the explanation of the clause, which to himself at first sight seemed strange, but there was more sense in it than appeared. Unless, therefore, the noble Marquess attached great importance to 374 these Amendments, he thought the clause was desirable on the score of expense.
§ Verbal Amendments.
§ Verbal Amendments.
§ *THE EARL OF SELBORNE
said, when he moved his Amendment yesterday making personal payment of the rates a qualification for members of Parish Councils and Boards of Guardians, including the District Councils, he had overlooked the fact that the same qualifications would be required on the same principle under the 23rd clause for District Councillors in urban districts. At present they must be rated for some property within the district at not less than £15 if the population was under 20,000, and not less than £30 if it was more. The effect of his Amendment was that they should be personally rated as in the case of Guardians. There was the additional reason that in the larger districts that would give an abundance of choice. He would move the Amendment as it stood on the Paper, with an addition, to give the same right to any occupier to claim to be personally rated in an urban district, as he would have in a, rural parish. He had thought that this was sufficiently provided for by the amendment already made in the 3rd clause; but, on reference to the words of that clause, they seemed to be confined to rural parishes. He moved, therefore, after the word ("Councillor"), in line 28, to put in the words—("Provided that any occupier of rateable property in an urban district may claim to be personally rated in the same manner as is hereinafter provided").In respect to occupiers in a rural parish, he moved the Amendment on the Paper.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Verbal Amendments.
§ *THE EARL OF SELBORNE
said, the present qualification of a Municipal Councillor under the Act of 1882 was that he must be a burgess or upon the non-resident roll and possessed of certain property rated at not less than £15 under 375 a certain population, and not less than £30 if above that.
§ Verbal Amendments.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
moved an Amendment in page 33, line 3, to leave out "made a separate area," and to substitute the words "separated from the rest of the district." He need not trouble the House with reasons, as the Amendment was agreed to.
§ Verbal Amendments.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
said, the Bill provided that upon disqualification the Council should declare the membership to be vacant, and should take stops to have a new election. Clearly that ought to be applied in the case of original elections as to supervening ones.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, the disqualification must be pronounced on a Petition according to the provisions in the Municipal Corporations Act which was incorporated here, and it would be quite out of the question to place in the hands of the Boards of Guardians the right of determining whether members were qualified or not. There was a defect in the clause, and he would suggest, in substitution for "his," the words "becomes disqualified." It would then be the duty of the Board of Guardians, when the disqualification was pronounced upon the procedure under the Municipal Corporations Act, to declare the office vacant; but to give to the Board of Guardians the power of determining whether a member was qualified or not would be entirely contrary to the principles of the Municipal Corporations Act, and would be placing in their hands a power which they ought not to have.
§ Verbal Amendments.
§ Privilege Amendments agreed to.
§ Bill passed, and returned to the Commons; and to be printed as amended. (No. 301.)