HL Deb 25 January 1894 vol 20 cc1567-624

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, before I proceed to invite your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill, it is necessary that I should say a few words in explanation of my being the person on whom that duty has now devolved. It was the original intention of my noble Friend Lord Kimberley to take charge of this Bill himself. It is, as your Lordships will, I am sure, recognise, a Bill of great importance, and one which, I think, we should prefer to see in charge of the Leader of the House. Unfortunately, however, some weeks ago my noble Friend was seized with a severe illness, and it was quite impossible for us to hope that he could be present in the House at an early day. The Second Reading of the Bill was, therefore, put down in the name of my noble Friend Lord Monkswell, who represents the Local Government Department in your Lordships' House. Within the last few days my noble Friend has had some conversation with me on the subject of moving the Second Reading. My noble Friend had learnt that some objection was being taken to a Bill of this magnitude not being moved by a Cabinet Minister, and he placed himself entirely in the hands of Lord Kimberley. I thought it to be my duty to consult the Leader of the House on the subject, and he informed me that although he entertained the fullest possible certainty that the Bill would be treated in the ablest manner by Lord Monkswell, of whose ability your Lordships are well aware, nevertheless he did think that there was something in the objection taken in certain quarters, and that on the whole it would be better that I should, on behalf of the Leader of the House, take charge of the Bill at the present stage. I am in hopes that my noble Friend the Leader of the House will himself be here when the Bill reaches Committee, and I am sure that both sides of the House will be glad to hear that I have this morning received a communication from him to the effect that he is very much better, and hopes to be in the House in the course of next week. What I have said, therefore, will show your Lordships the great importance which the Government attach to this Bill. I do not think that it will be necessary for me to argue at any length in order to prove to your Lordships the importance of altering the organisation of our system of local government. The administration of our different Local Authorities—the parish, the union, or the county—lies at the very basis of all the institutions of the country. It is the foundation on which the higher institutions of the country rest; and, it is, therefore, a matter of very great importance that our institutions of local government should be organised in the best possible manner consistent with the spirit and tendency of the times in which we live. If we had been a logical nation—which is an advantage (if it be an advantage) to which I do not think we have any right to lay claim—we should have begun, I suppose, at the bottom and built up our institutions to the top; and, instead of starting with the reform of Parliament and then with the eslablishment of County Councils, we should have created Parish Councils in the first instance. But your Lordships are well aware that this is not the course which has been followed in this matter. So far, however, from the reform of local government in our counties being a reason why we should not deal with the other Local Bodies lower in the scale, the fact seems to me to be only another reason for dealing without delay with those institutions and for bringing them into harmony with the arrangements under which the county itself is now administered. But, apart altogether from this more general consideration, which I think is not without considerable weight, I am quite sure your Lordships will agree with me that our system of local government at the present time below the reformed institution of County Councils is one in a very high degree unsatisfactory. It has grown up, like many other things in this country, to a large extent almost by accident. It has been the creation of a series of legislative enactments which have dealt, not with the whole subject on a general principle, but with each individual question of local government as it has arisen, and in order to meet the particular circumstances and needs of the moment. The result has been that we have now a system of local government to which has been applied more than once the epithet "chaos"; it is so complicated, so intricate that it has been a puzzle to many statesmen to know how to deal with it, and many of them have shrunk continually from the task. There is no need for me to enter to-night into an examination of the present system of local government. Your Lordships, who take so large a share in the administration of local affairs, know what that government is only too well. You are aware of all the complications which exist in regard to it, and you are aware of the troublesome and inconvenient confusion of authorities, of areas, of rates, and of the constitution of Local Bodies, which exists at the present time. I need not, therefore, prolong the remarks which I shall have to make by entering upon a detailed account of the existing system, because I do not think your Lordships will in the least degree contest the description of it which I have just given. In such a state of things as that, it is only possible to deal with the anomalies and the evils which exist under such a system by gradual legislation. We do not propose—we do not hope—by this Bill to put an end to all those evils. We hope, however, to make a considerable advance in the direction of removing them, and of rendering our system of local government more suited to the exigencies of the present day. By the Act of 1888 a great step was taken in the matter of local government—a large and statesman like attempt was made by the Government of that day to deal with it. I, for one, and those with whom I am politically associated, think that a debt of gratitude is due to Mr. Ritchie and his colleagues for the legislation of that time. The Government of that day, however, were not able to carry out the whole of their intended policy. It was proposed to establish County Councils, and under them general District Councils; but the scope of the Bill had to be modified, and the provisions relating to District Councils were withdrawn. Promises were made that the question of District Councils would be dealt with speedily, but for one reason or another it has been postponed, and no practical step has been taken within the last six years to establish the District Councils promised and proposed at that time. It was not the establishment of District Councils only that Mr. Ritchie had in his mind; for he said, on introducing his Bill— The Government would have been glad to have proposed a re-construction of parochial organisation. I now pass to a brief explanation of the provisions of the Bill. The first proposal of the Bill is the re-organisation of the parish, which is, I believe, the most ancient territorial division in the country, its present organisation, if organisation it can be called, being most ineffective for all practical purposes of parochial management. There is the Parish Vestry at present with Churchwardens and Overseers. Over that Parish Vestry the Incumbent ex officio presides, and questions are decided by show of hands; if a poll is demanded then there is plural, voting. The meetings are generally held at inconvenient hours for the attendance of most of those who might attend if they conveniently could. The powers of the Vestry are narrowly limited, and as far as I can see regulated upon no system, and it was present, as I have shown, in the mind of the Minister of 1888 in the other House that the re-organisation of a parish on a basis more in accordance with the rest of our system of government was a press- ing necessity. That necessity has not grown less. The need of a reorganisation of the parish has been felt more and more since the stimulus given to local government by the Act of 1888, which created a desire for the better organisation of other portions of our local system, and there is no doubt that the wish for an improved and more satisfactory arrangement of the parish has been growing during the six years since the Act of 1888 came into operation. Therefore, as I have said, the first object of this Bill is to put the organisation of the parish on a sound footing, and to make it a reality, and for that purpose it is proposed that in every rural parish there shall be a parish meeting, constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Bill, of all persons who are on either the Parliamentary or the Local Government Register. So that any man who can now vote for a Member of Parliament or for a member of the County Council would be on the Register of local electors, and would have the right in the first place to attend the parish meeting. The foundation of the Bill is the introduction of the parish meeting into our parishes; but we hope, nevertheless, that in the great majority of the parishes Parish Councils will be established. In every parish which at the last Census had a population of 200 there will be established a Parish Council. In every Parish between 200 and 100 a Parish council shall be established if the Parish meeting makes application to the County Council to that effect. In parishes having less than 100 the County Council will have power to establish a Parish Council if it thinks it desirable to do so, provided the parish meeting agrees. Then there come those powers of the Bill which relate to the grouping of parishes. In the course of the discussion in the other House it became evident that there was considerable opposition to compulsory grouping owing to local jealousies between adjoining parishes; and the consequence is that the power of compulsory grouping has been taken away from the County Council. I hope that the difficulties as regards grouping may as time goes on be got over, and that there will be very few planes in the country which will not be under the administration of a Parish Council. Some parishes are extremely small and have a very limited population indeed, and grouping would, in such cases, be a very great advantage if it, can be carried out by consent. Those, my Lords, are the provisions under which the Parish Councils will he set up. Under Clause 38 the chairman of the Parish Council will be the chairman of the parish meeting, and in his absence the parish meeting will elect its own chairman. As to the powers of the Parish Council, they will be extensive and of great importance to the parish and to the interests of those who live in the parish. In the first place, the Council will take over on its establishment all the powers of the existing Vestries and all the powers of the Churchwardens which are not connected with what has been called the affairs of the Church, or with ecclesiastical charities, and certain powers of the Overseers. The Parish Council will appoint the Overseers, and Churchwardens who are at present ex officio Overseers will cease to be Overseers. The Bill gives power to provide buildings and acquire land for such buildings. The Parish Council will also have power with regard to the maintenance of village greens and recreation grounds and the preservation of open spaces. The Parish Council will have power to utilise wells and springs for water supply, and to deal from a sanitary point of view with ponds and ditches—all this, subject to the rights of the parties interested in the wells, springs, ponds, and ditches. Then the Parish Council will have the power to acquire by agreement any rights of way, and they will have power to accept and hold property which may be given to the parish, and to execute all works connected with the various duties cast upon them. My Lords, that is a brief account of their duties, though it does not exhaust all possible duties to which their attention may be devoted on behalf of the parish. The present law gives power to adopt certain measures which have been called the adoptive Acts. The 7th clause of this Bill provides that the parish meetings shall have power to adopt by vote those Acts which are all set out in that clause—the Lighting and Watching Act, the Baths and Washhouses Acts, the Burial Acts, the Public Improvement Act, and the Public Libraries Act. If this Bill passes, the Parish Council will he the executive of the village in the sense in which the Town Council is the executive of the borough. There are certain matters in respect of which the Parish Council may make application to the County Council, just, as a certain number of ratepayers may do now; but the ratepayers will not thereby be ousted from the powers they now possess. Power is given to the Parish Council to hire land compulsorily for allotments. The clauses giving these powers have met with a considerable amount of opposition; but I must say the proposal seems tome to be a very reasonable one, and a, very potent mode of obtaining allotments for those who need them, that laud should he hired compulsorily, if it need be, for allotments. It is the policy of Parliament to facilitate the establishment of allotments; and the process has been hampered in many ways by the complication of the existing Acts. Under them land is to be acquired only by purchase: and, that being the case, the Acts have been, to a great extent, neglected. I should certainly have thought that hiring might be regarded as equally, if not much more, satisfactory to those to whom the land belongs. These clauses of the Bill have been guarded very carefully in its passage through the other House. The land is to be taken for not less than 14 years, and it is to be held upon terms which I am bound to say seem to me to be exceedingly favourable to the landlord. There is the greatest difference, as far as my experience goes, in the demand for allotments in different parts of the country. I have had to do with parts of the country in which the efforts of labourers to obtain allotments have been active and earnest; I have also bad to do with parts of the country in which the demand for allotments has been small, and it seems to me that the demand has varied according to whether wages were high or low. Looking at the requirements of the population in different parts of the country, with the differences in local wants and necessities, two methods of obtaining land may be con- venient; and I believe that the provisions for hiring land will be found to give a great stimulus to the distribution of allotments among the rural population. The interests of the landowners are effectually safeguarded. The provision that an allotment of pasture land may be as much as three acres recalls the fact that it few years ago a right hon. Gentleman proposed to establish universally allotments of three acres and a cow. This extension of the quality of land which may be allotted under the Bill is a step in the direction of three acres and a cow, and I do not expect, therefore, to hear any objection on that point from my noble Friends opposite.


Do yon propose to insert, the cow?


No; the cow will probably come afterwards; at present she is not in the Bill. Then, my Lords, with respect to the financial arrangements regarding the Parish Councils, you will observe that by Clause 11 there is very properly a limitation on the expenditure which may be incurred by the Parish Councils. A Parish Council may not incur any expenditure involving a rate of more than 3d. in the £1. without the consent of the parish meeting; and in no case is its expenditure to exceed 6d. in the £1. A Parish Council cannot contract a loan without the consent first of the parish meeting and then of the County Council, the County Council taking, to a, certain extent, the powers which have hitherto been exercised by the Local Government Board, and taking them in entire accordance with the intention of the Act of 1888. The purposes for which a Parish Council may borrow are strictly laid down in the Bill. I should have mentioned that they have certain powers for protecting footpaths and rights of way to which the public have been entitled by custom. The last point on which I have to touch is the power of the Parish Council with regard to charities. The question has been a good deal discussed. In many parts of the country the question of the management of parish charities is one upon which the inhabitants of our rural parishes feel most strongly. That the people might have a voice in the management of the charities has been one of the principal motives which has stimulated the demand for Parish Councils. The Bill distinctly and quite rightly excludes ecclesiastical charities; and the definition of an ecclesiastical charity in the Definition Clause is a very wide one. It covers, I believe, all that can properly be called ecclesiastical charities, whether they belong to the Established Church or to other Religious Bodies. With these we do not in any way interfere, and they are excluded altogether from the scope of the functions and labours of the Parish Councils. But secular charities the Bill undoubtedly does put under the management of the representatives of the parish; and it would be impolitic to withdraw those charities from their control. To do so would give great dissatisfaction to those who feel themselves directly interested in charities of that description. There are many other points in respect of the provisions as to Parish Councils on which I might touch, but I am afraid that I have already occupied more time than I ought to have done in laying the provisions of this Bill before your Lordships. I now come to District Councils, as to which I believe an opinion was expressed in recent discussions, by no less an authority than Mr. Walter Long, that these Councils are not wanted. I venture to submit that in your local organisation you want an intermediate body between the Parish Council and County Council; and I do not believe that if we had departed from the policy of the Government of 1888 and had abandoned the idea of having District Councils we should have satisfied the reasonable requirements and demands of the local districts throughout the country. Now, my Lords, as far as concerns the character of the District Councils winch we propose to establish, we are very much in accord with the Bill of 1888. The principle there laid down was that District Councils should be elected upon an equally popular basis with the County Councils. We have adopted that principle; but I may just indicate wherein we have deviated from the intentions expressed by Mr. Ritchie in 1888. The Bill of 1888 proposed to establish District Councils alongside the Boards of Guardians. It proposed to give to Rural District Councils—I am speaking generally—the powers of the Rural Sanitary Authority, and to leave standing beside them, unchanged in any form, the Boards of Guardians to deal with the Poor Law part of local administration. I confess that appears to me to have been a mistake in the Bill of 1888. I cannot think that it would be desirable to separate sanitary duties and Poor Law duties and to establish a new body to deal with the former alone. Those two duties have been discharged by one body—the Board of Guardians—in the past, and well discharged by that body, and I cannot think it would be a good system of administration to set up by its side another body for that purpose. Then, again, my Lords, surely it is very undesirable to multiply our Local Bodies. Looked at from a theoretical point of view, we have too many Local Bodies now. It would be far better to have them more concentrated than they are, but I cannot think it would be wise in any sense to set up a second Local Body in a rural district and to entrust it with powers to deal with a part of the functions now performed by Boards of Guardians. And, lastly—and this is the strongest argument to my mind against the policy of 1888, and in favour of the policy of 1894—if you took that course, I am perfectly certain that the popularly-elected body would drive out the body elected upon less popular principles, with its plural voting, ex officio members, election by voting papers instead of by ballot, and all the rest of it. Here, too, it should be pointed out that, as regards the question of Poor Law administration, the only change we propose is a change in the mode of election. The Rural District Councils will be exactly in the same position as the Boards of Guardians. The Poor Law provisions remain unaltered, and the powers of the Local Government Board to apply them remains undiminished and unchanged. It would not have been wise to have a second hotly elected upon a totally different and more popular principle alongside the Boards of Guardians, and it would have been impossible to maintain the two for any length of time. They would consist either of the same or of different people, and the supply of men capable of undertaking the duties of local government is not so large that you should desire to multiply offices for that purpose. Now, my Lords, as regards powers, we propose to hand over to the District Council all the powers of the Rural Sanitary Authority and of any Highway Authority in the district. There are, I know, many persons who like the parochial management of highways. I am not one of them. I believe the management of highways by larger Representative Bodies tends to increase the efficiency of highways. In the West Riding of Yorkshire there was formerly great jealousy on the subject of highway management; but since the establishment of County Councils there has been, I think a marked change in that respect, and certainly my experience in the working of County Councils has led me to think that the transfer of the management of highways to a larger body than the representatives of the parish will be a marked and distinct improvement. The District Councils have various other duties entrusted to them, but they relate mostly to minor matters, and therefore I need not occupy your Lordships' time by referring to them now. There will he power in the Local Government Board to entrust the Rural District Councils if it pleases with the powers now possessed by urban districts. With regard to urban districts, it is proposed that every urban district should be a Rural Sanitary Authority. Considerable objection has been taken to that proposal because these Local Bodies have been established, first one and then another, upon very various principles, and with areas not at all arranged for the general convenience of the districts. But the Government felt that they could not establish a new body. We have, as I have already ventured to suggest, too many of these bodies, and it would have been highly undesirable to establish a new one. We were therefore obliged to follow Mr. Ritchie's proposal, and make the Rural District Bodies the Sanitary Authorities. The Bill also contains provisions for the adjustment of areas and boundaries. It is the curse of our rural life—the existing overlapping and crossing of areas. The difficulties there from arising form most serious obstacles to any kind of rural reform. I hope that under the provisions of this Bill there may be an improvement—I fear it will be but a gradual one—in that respect, and that we shall be able, as time goes on, to make local boundaries and local divisions more coterminous than they are at present. One clause—Clause 58—may have attracted little attention. It gives the County Councils power to employ District Councils as their agents. My experience of County Council administration is that that will be a very useful power, and in my part of the country I have every reason to believe it will be considerably used. It is also provided that the chairmen of the Councils will be Justices of the Peace. That will considerably increase the number of Justices appointed from popular sources. I do not think that I need trouble your Lordships with further observations. This is essentially a Bill to be discussed in Committee, and I have no doubt, as we have in this House so many men thoroughly acquainted with the details of local administration, that the discussions in Committee will be full and fruitful. My Lords, nobody pretends that this Bill will put an end at one swoop to all the anomalies of our present system of parochial administration; I am afraid it will not, and that further legislation will be required for that purpose; bur at least it will be a long step towards that desirable end. It will, to a large extent, complete the system which was commenced in 1888; it will complete the three grades of Parish Councils, District Councils, and County Councils, and it will in that way place our system of local government upon a sounder and better fooling. What is proposed in this Bill will bring rural administration more into harmony with the principles which regulate the higher representative institutions of the country, and will make it more in accordance with the spirit and tendencies of our time. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.

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


My Lords, I rise at once to reply to the noble Marquess opposite, for the purpose of assuring him that he need anticipate no opposition whatever upon our side of the House to the Second Reading of the Bill. Ho is perfectly right in the intimation ho gave that the broad policy of this Bill is merely a continuation and completion of the policy pursued by the late Government in introducing the County Councils Bill, and, so far as that precedent will cover it, as far as can appeal to the provisions proposed by the late Government, or even to the language that was used by them, I have to assure him that, we remain of the same opinion that we were then, and that we shall very heartily co-operate with him in carrying out the general objects we had in view. But, while I say that, I am bound to observe that in some particulars, and in some most important particulars, he has departed from the precedent that he claims, and that this Bill goes in some respects into fields which Mr. Ritchie did not attempt to cover, and makes proposals which he never offered to Parliament. I cannot concur with the noble Marquess in the general censure which he passed on our existing institutions. I do not doubt that it may be expedient to bring them into a position of greater simplicity. This age has a passion for symmetry—for what we may call tidiness in legislation, and I do not suppose it would be possible, even if it were desirable, to set ourselves against that general inclination. But I am bound to say that the present local institutions of the country seem to me, on the whole, to work remarkably well. I cannot pass by the intimation of the noble Marquess that it is a condition of great confusion and abuse which has drawn this Parliamentary interference upon them. It is rather a desire to have everything at right angles and on the square, to have everything on the general principle of Swift's Laputa, which I think has affected all parties in the present age, and from which certainly the Party to which the noble Marquess belongs has suffered more severely than any other. I have only risen to express my general assent to the principle of the Bill, and I will not detain your Lordships more than to indicate one or two points in which I think the Bill has gone beyond the precedent which the noble Marquess cites, and as to these points I think it will require most careful attention by this House when it gets into Committee. Dealing, first, with the Parish Councils part of the measure, I do think that the institution of these Parish Councils will, on the whole, be an advantage, and certainly will be no injury. But I think that the benefits which the labouring classes have been encouraged to anticipate from the creation of these Councils have been much exaggerated. I believe the benefits will be very small indeed. But, still, after the subject has been once canvassed and discussed, and the institution of these Councils has been held up to the people of this country as an object of great desire, I think if we were to refuse or unreasonably to delay their establishment we should raise a suspicion in the minds of the labouring classes that some advantage had been taken of them, and that would tend to diminish their attachment to the institutions under which they live. For these reasons, I think it was a wise measure to introduce Parish Councils, although I believe those who originally recommended them entirely overrated their advantages. I think it was Mr. Morley who said that they would give greater interest to rural life, and when he said that he about stated the amount of the value which they will be to the inhabitants of the rural districts. But I much regret that in instituting these Parish Councils it has been thought necessary to travel into ground which it was unnecessary to disturb. I do not see why it was necessary to deal with the question of charities at all, and it was not only unwise and unnecessary to do so, but it was a distinct breach of the promise which the Ministry held out when the Government, abandoning the lines on which they had constructed the Bill, proceeded to take away from the ecclesiastical officers the charities which for many generations and without dispute by the will of the founders they had administered. That is a great evil to which your Lordships' attention will necessarily be drawn. I can call, by way of illustration, the attention of the House to some passing events in urging your Lordships not to pass by the provisions which overrule the intentions of the founders altogether. The great danger of overruling the intentions of the persons who founded the charities, and of handing those charities over to some new body which is your pet for the moment, is that future founders will not attempt to leave their money for the benefit of their fellow-citizens, but will always distrust Parliament, because they will know that their bequests are liable to be confiscated ill obedience to the dominant crochets of the day. That is the great danger. Have yon not an illustration of that danger at this moment? Has anyone followed the fate of Christ's Hospital, which is now being starved and hampered and almost, paralysed because certain most amiable and estimable, but most doctrinaire, philosophers thought they might despise the engagements into which they had entered with benevolent persons and deal with the contributions of private individuals as if they were entirely at their own disposal? The result has been that contributions have been withdrawn, and that the charity is in great, danger of being paralysed. My Lords, this carries a lesson which we should do well to apply to other charities, for I fear if we pass this Bill as it stands that we shall inflict a very heavy blow on that spirit of benevolence which has done so much for the relief of the population of the rural districts up to the present time. There is one special injustice in the clause dealing with the matter, an injustice which will, no doubt, be more dwelt upon when the Bill is in Committee, and that is that it has within the last generation been the habit of men, or bodies of men, to build parish rooms more or less in connection with the Church. If this measure passes, the parish rooms will be placed in the hands of a majority of trustees appointed by the Parish Council, and if the trustees are hostile the rooms which have been built for the benefit of the Church will be used for the purpose of holding Liberation meetings and other meetings directed against the existence of the Church. Some bitterness will be felt by persons who subscribed their money for the building of these rooms when they see them devoted to precisely those objects which they desired to frustrate and prevent, and it will be a, warning, which people will not neglect, never to risk their money on a credit so dangerous as the good faith of the Imperial Parliament. These matters, I have no doubt, will be dealt with in Committee by those of your Lordships who are more familiar with them than myself. The only other point as to the jurisdiction of the Parish Council to which I think your Lordships' attention should be very carefully directed is the provision enabling Parish Councils to take land otherwise than by agreement. The clause which permits the hiring of land otherwise than by agreement will not in itself be necessarily unjust to owners. On the contrary, it will very often be a great benefit to owners. It is not always that we can get a 14 years' lease at the present time upon a reasonable rent, and I am not sure but that a great many owners would be considerably benefited by this proposal. The Parish Council will compulsorily lease land for 14 years; it will have to give a rent fixed by the arbitrator, and that rent, will be paid to the fortunate owner by his immediate neighbour, who will also pay the rate. Some owners may suffer a very great injury, but others will get a considerable spoil. I am not saying that owners as a class may not even be benefited by this provision; but the people who will suffer are the unfortunate tenant farmers, for to them it will be a very cruel provision, for von practically give to the Parish Councils the power of taking out of a, man's farm any bit, of land to which the labourers have taken a fancy. What man will invest money in the improvement of his farm with such a sword of Damocles hanging over his head, with the possibility that at any moment his land may be taken from him by the vote of the Parish Council? You know what the vote of a Parish Council will be. The noble Marquess has told us what would happen in Wales and in many parts of his county where, as a rule, the parishes are very small—often under 200 in number. The general rule is that one in eight are voters, so that where you have 200 inhabitants you will have 25 voters, of whom the majority will be 13. These will be men who are wholly unused to the transaction of public, business, and who are quite unconscious of the dangers that may arise from any errors finer may commit. These men will have the power of taking out of the hands of any farmer any land they take a fancy to. There is no check over them in the District Council or the County Council; there is only one check, and that is a check which I venture to think absolutely worthless—that of the Inspector of the Local Government Board. I wish to speak with all possible admiration and respect of the responsible Civil servants of the Crown. I believe that they perform their duty with wonderful devotion and integrity, and that no word can be uttered against the purity of their actions or motives, but that is because they have been confined to duties which naturally fall to their Departments. But this is the first time it has been proposed that when one man desires to have land which another man occupies you give absolute power of decision to a servant of a Government Department. Up to this time we have said that the issues between man and man concerning property shall be decided by the Judges, by men who act in open Court in the presence of a trained and well-known Bar and of public opinion, and by men who, above all, are appointed for a durable and permanent tenure and who cannot be dismissed at the will and pleasure of any superior. The officers of the Local Government Board have their whole official life and breath at the pleasure of the head of the Local Government Board. The head of that Board is a politician—very often a very extreme politician. These questions of land—I do not mean to say in all counties, but in some parts of the country—will be questions in respect of which political, religious, class, and racial feeling will be very strongly excited. Even if the representative of the Local Government Board, to whom you give this enormous power, has that purify, which no history justifies you in trusting to—even if ho has the integrity and the purity which make him superior to any intimations from his Departmental Chief, and make him superior to all political partiality, at all events he will never be free from suspicion of having given way to political partiality. Thus your law will never be respected as the law between individuals in these matters ought to be. I think that in respect to these matters, though they are small, there is great danger in the adoption of this new principle. There is much greater danger in that it is the germ from which a great evil will grow. It is the introduction of a new principle which is so convenient that, once sanctioned, it will be widely spread. The practice of allowing officers of Government Departments, who absolutely depend upon the beck and call of Departmental Chiefs, to decide when one man claims what another man enjoys—that practice will spread to a much larger extent, and great cases of corruption and partiality will come in. We are not careful and jealous enough to maintain and to safeguard that integrity which is the pride of our Civil Service—I may say above all Civil Services in the world. We have recently had terrible events in a neighbouring country. The French are not less pure, not less careful of justice and honesty than we are. By no means. Their Civil Service is worthy to compare with our own, but because the requisite precautions were neglected, and because the old jealousy which watches round the integrity of everyone who handles the interests of his neighbours was forgotten, great scandals have arisen which have been fatal to the reputation of even many great and distinguished politicians in that country. We cannot sufficiently boar in mind the evils to which such a principle may lead; but, apart from the evils, the actual injury that might be done to individuals is very great. I am well aware that this principle has been introduced for the sake of cheapness, and that is an object with which I entirely sympathise. I quite desire that the obtaining of these allotments, whether for hire or purchase, should be done as cheaply as possible; but if you want to obtain cheapness you must do it by making procedure cheaper, not by making procedure inferior, not by diminishing the securities for purity, integrity, and justice. I believe that by dealing in another way with the clause it will be perfectly possible to make the procedure for obtaining allotments cheaper, but I own my earnest opposition to any proposal that shall convey what is practically an attribute of the Judicial Bench to those whoso official existence depends upon the breath and the will of politicians. I will say nothing more upon that clause of hiring now. It is a wonderful specimen of bad drafting. There is a celebrated picture by Hogarth, in which he brings together all the faults of perspective which it is possible for a tyro to make. I should like to take this clause and to put it in a glass case, as a specimen of all the blunders that it is possible for a Parliamentary draftsman to make. Among them there is one extraordinary proposal, which, I believe, issued from the august brain of the Solicitor General himself. That proposal is to pay the farmer whose land you take for his tillages, and for the improvements he may have made, not in cash, but by the strange proposal that the rest of the land which be holds of the landlord shall be held at a cheaper rent in order to compensate him for the tillages which he has on the land taken by the County Council. Of course, it does not seem to have occurred to the brilliant author of this suggestion that next year the landlord might raise the rent, and where then would be the compensation of the unfortunate farmer? The clause is full of strange devices, and I hope it will occupy your Lordships' most careful attention, But the part of the Bill which is most important, though perhaps at this stage it does not offer a field for much detailed observation, it that which deals with the Poor Law. The present Poor Law has been in existence 60 years. It was introduced as a great remedy for evils universally fell, and, if ever a Government could have been justified in hasty or precipitate legislation, it was the Government of 1832 in the face of all the abuses of which the Poor Law had become the centre. But unlike their successors they did not rush into this legislation. They did not defer it to the fag-end of a Session and to a jaded House of Commons sitting in midwinter. They appointed a. Commission consisting of some of the strongest men of the day. the Commission sat three years, and on the Report of that Commission in 1834 the Bill was brought in. The result of its being brought in with so much care, each provision having been publicly discussed, was that the Bill was passed almost unanimously. I think the Divisions were 300 to 20 in the House of Commons, when the distinguished relative of the noble Ear! opposite brought in the Bill. This Pill has been brought forward in another way. It was introduced without any intimation that it was at all recognised that London and urban parishes were to share in the general change. That was discovered only at the last, and the change has been much more complete than was the change that took place in 1834. There is no change, it is true, at present in the policy of the law, because the policy of the law is under the consideration of a Commission, and until that Commission has reported it cannot be dealt with. But the noble Marquess omitted to point out that the change of election which this Pill contains constitutes an absolute transfer of power. There are three very important changes: One is the entire disestablishment of ex officio Guardians; there is also the abolition of the plural vote; and the third change is the vote by ballot. The vote by ballot is important in two senses: It is important not only in that it provides for secrecy with the usual results that come from that, but in that a much more conspicuous and, to my mind, much more pernicious result of the ballot will be that it will practically prevent a large proportion of the constituents from voting. Now, in voting, the poll comes to the elector, and he has no trouble. Henceforth all electors must, go to the poll, and everyone knows how difficult it is, even in the more important elections, to bring up persons for anything that is not of the magnitudeof a Parliamentary contest. My impression is that the proportion of the constituents who will vote for Boards of Guardians, if they have themselves to go and record their votes, will be very much less than one-half. You may say that this is very wrong of them. Very likely it may be wrong; but you do not mend matters by reproaching them. You have the fact of human nature—namely, that people will not take the trouble to go to the poll. This fact was recognised by those who enacted that the voting papers should be left at the houses of the electors. The result of the change will be that more and more the class who have other occupations or interests elsewhere will not take their share in the elections. There will be an entire transfer of power. Power will now be mainly in the hands of the class to whom the questions of relief are matters of profound importance. You will say that it is very desirable that they should be represented. I admit that it is. But there is another class that is also very much interested in the policy of Boards of Guardians, and that is the class who pay the rates. That class will be entirely in a minority. By the action of the compounding law the majority of the electors in many parishes will not be ratepayers at all, and even where they are ratepayers of course the vast mass of the ratepaying property, in value, will be at an infinite disadvantage in any conflict of the kind. I am not saying that if you deal with this matter changes of this kind could have been altogether avoided; but I do very much regret that the matter was not dealt with more carefully, with more deliberation, and with more examination, and, above all, was not submitted to a House of Commons which was in a condition to exercise free, unfettered, and unjaded opinion on the subject. I do not say—if you ought to have dealt with Boards of Guardians at all—that it was possible to retain the exact constitution which exists now, but I should like to have seen it deferred for a special reason. It appears to me that, though you cannot object to that class of alterations which are called democratic with any prospect of success, there is a remedy for any such evils that you may possibly fear from an extended suffrage—a remedy which ought to have been applied. The remedy is to be found in larger areas. The present areas are much too small. In times of great excitement and industrial warfare there is great danger that the elections of Guardians will fall into the hands of particular trades or interests, and in such times you will find that through the medium of the election of Guardians the rates will be used to supply the sinews of war by which industry will be paralysed. Those are great dangers. I do not say that that can be altogether avoided. I am very sensible of the difficulty in which the Government have placed us by carrying a Bill of this kind with such precipitation, so far, raising expectations which it may not be prudent to disappoint. I will not now enter into the remedies which such legislative proposals may require, but I think that they will demand the very careful consideration of the House, and I earnestly hope that we shall so modify the Bill that at all events we shall not ruin one of the finest achievements of modern legislation —namely, the new Boor Law of 1834. I entirely agree that the time may have come when some of its provisions will have to be modified, and I can quite see that the present state of things differs widely from the state of things which existed at that time; but we shall not accommodate it to modern needs; we shall not meet the demands which are made on all sides by this careless, heedless, headlong legislation, in which provisions dictated by a small Radical clique are enforced by the Nationalist janissaries of the Government. My Lords, I will not detain you. I will only express the hope that the Government will not press this Committee at too early a date. I do not think that if we are to have time to prepare our Amendments we can possibly deal with it in that stage before this day week, and that will hardly give us time to prepare the requisite Amendments.


My Lords, as far as the Church is affected by this Bill, I may perhaps be allowed to say a few words to express the attitude which I believe the Church will take towards it. I wish to support what has fallen from the noble Marquess opposite in relation to that portion of the Bill. So far from offering opposition to the Bill, our advice has been from the first that the Church at large should accept this measure, which is proposed as part of a great movement tending to increase the knowledge and interest of the working men and of the villagers in political and social life. I use the word "knowledge" advisedly, because it would be very dangerous to increase their interest in those subjects without at the same time increasing their knowledge of them. All that the Church desires is to secure attention to those points by which it and other Religious Bodies are injuriously affected by the Bill as it stands. We have not believed that the Government had resorted to "the good old rule, the simple plan, that they should take who had the power, and they should keep who can." Although on its first appearance the Bill seemed to take much from us, this has not so proved in the issue. The Minister who moved the Bill in the other House gave a series of pledges to which we believe he has adhered as far as possible. Certain changes have been made in the measure since its introduction for which we are grateful. We are satisfied with the recognition of our rights and just claims which have been made in two important particulars—namely, the exemption of elementary schools in Clause 60 from what seemed at first to threaten them. The trusteeship, management and control of elementary schools are preserved to us. Then, again, considerable alarm was felt with regard to the treatment of closed churchyards. Here also we feel that the Bill as it comes from another place has dealt fairly by us, because it does not now propose to transfer the powers of the Churchwardens over those churchyards to the Parish Councils whenever the Churchwardens are prepared to defray the cost of maintaining them. It only transfers those powers when the cost of maintenance has to be defrayed out of the rates. These two things give us hope that the same spirit will prevail in dealing with other matters to which we shall think it necessary to propose Amendments in Committee. There are two points on which the noble Marquess has dwelt strongly. We see no reason way the Churchwardens should be turned out of the administration of parodied trusts. There has been an enormous amount of exaggeration on this subject. We who know the circumstances of our dioceses and parishes do not believe that there has been any real abuse of parochial charities or that these benefits have been confined to Churchmen, except in the few eases where gifts or parochial charities are restricted to communicants. They have not been restricted to Churchmen. Indeed, we can scarcely see how that could be, considering how constantly Churchwardens in our parishes throughout the country are appointed of different forms of belief. I do not myself believe that the system of doles ought to be too sweepingly condemned. I know that there are a good many difficulties in the way of their administration, and I can well believe that in many cases those who administer them would be glad to be relieved of the trouble of administering them. All that is required is that they should be carefully administered with that tact which is necessary to make them as useful as possible. It has been argued that in a large number of cases parochial charities were vested in the Vicar and the Churchwardens because there were no other officials in whom they could be vested. No doubt the Vicar and the Churchwardens were regarded as the most fitting persons to administer Christian charities, but during the same time there were the Overseers of the parishes in whom the charities might have been vested. Since the time of Elizabeth there have been Overseers, and it is since then that most of our charities have been founded. Where the charities have been vested in the Vicar and the Churchwardens we hold that those Church officials should still continue to retain the control of them. At the same time, there is no objection to the Parish Councillors being associated with the officers of the Church in the distribution of these charities, but it would be unjust if a predominant and overwhelming influence should be given to them. It would be monstrous if so many Parish Councillors were to be placed upon the administering body as to paralyse and destroy the voice of those to whom the charities have been committed. The other point to which I wish to draw attention and to take a firm and rightful stand upon is the matter of buildings. There, again, a change has been made in the Pill which has removed some of our apprehensions, because the measure as it now stands excepts what I may call religious rooms built specially for religious purposes, but there is another class of rooms which are not used for religious purposes, but which are set apart for social recreation in order to provide amusement for young men in the evenings, as a reasonable counteraction against the public-houses, and an answer to the question which is put to all people who work in the cause of temperance, "What are the men, the young men, to do in the evenings?" The Pill as it stands only exempts such rooms if it can be shown that they have been erected entirely by Churchmen. That is a condition which it would be impossible to fulfil, and it will, therefore, be necessary to omit the word "entirely," unless great injustice is to be done. It would be impossible to prove such a negative as that not a penny had been obtained from any other source. There are many sources from which money has been obtained and employed in the erection of these rooms, and it would, of course, be impossible to say that none of the money received from bazaars or raised in similar ways had been produced except out of the pockets of Churchmen. We have obtained a Return from four dioceses, in regard to about half the number of parishes. From that Return I find that where in those dioceses 141 sets of rooms have been built for religious purposes 97 sets have been built for secular purposes alone. That is a very large proportion. Then, again, secular rooms have been built by church subscriptions. Thirty-four out of the 97 were built in that way. Others were very largely the gifts of one or two persons, still church people. In the diocese of Durham there are 22 of these sets of rooms, and of those 17 are vested in the Vicar and Churchwardens or the Vicar and selected trustees; while in the diocese of Chichester 15 out of 34 are vested in the Vicar and Churchwardens alone. These almost entirely have been built out of resources of Churchmen, and have been always intended to remain the property of the Church. Nearly all of the rooms have been raised by the exertions of the clergy. We are told that they will remain in our possession if we have used them exclusively for Church purposes: but that seems to me entirely contrary to what was called the tendency of the present day. Plato wrote over his school, "No person untrained in geometry must enter here": and we find now that if we had written over the doors of these rooms, which have been open freely to every body, irrespective of politics, religion, or anything else, "Let no one enter here who is not an Anglican Churchman," they would have been saved. That seems to me to be entirely contrary to the whole tendency of the times, and to the spirit of causes for which we have been working for years past; and I do hope that your Lordships will say that these rooms, which have been allowed to be so freely used for secular purposes, as they are, are to continue the property of the Church.


said, the House was to be much congratulated upon the substitution of Lord Ripon for himself in the conduct of the Bill, and under the present altered circumstances he should not have intervened in this Debate unless at the request of Lord Ripon. The Leader of the Opposition had said that he did not desire to pass any censure upon local institutions as at present constituted; but he did not understand the noble Marquess who opened the Debate as desiring to pass any such censure. All he had said was that there was au array of overlapping Local Authorities, a fanciful distribution of votes, a haphazard selection of property qualifications, a bewildering variety of modes of election, and other anomalies, which constituted a very imperfect and unstable system of local government. If the only good effect of Parish Councils would be to cause more interest to be taken in public life, that would surely be an enormous stop in the right direction, and would constitute a sufficient reason for establishing them. He and his friends believed, however, that Parish Councils would do a great deal more than this, and that, through their establishment, persons wishing to exercise the Parliamentary franchise would have an opportunity of learning, in the management of their own local affairs, lessons that would do them and the whole country good. It was exceedingly important that the system of local government should be reformed and that Parish Councils should be established, especially as the Act of 1888 put what he without exaggeration might venture to call the finishing touch to the absurdity of the present system. They had, by that Act, established, for good or evil, popular government in the counties, while for the smaller areas the old chaotic system continued; and if some such reform as that now sought to be introduced were not carried into effect, the present system of local government would be like the lady mentioned in The School for Scandal, whoso face was modern while her figure was antique, and the present condition of things was so unstable, and even absurd, that Parliament ought at the earliest possible moment to set matters right. Upon the question of allotments, the noble Marquess opposite had been very severe upon Clause 10 with regard to hiring land for allotments, and had pointed out what a hardship it would be for a tenant to have to give up, part of his holding; but he would remind the noble Marquess that, under the Bill, compensation could be given for severance. With regard to the objection to setting up the Local Government Board as the authority for confirming the hiring, if he might venture to say so, lie thought the remarks of the noble Marquess, under this head, were somewhat extravagant, and his suggested parallel across the water was a very poor compliment to the Local Government Board, in connection with which there was nothing to fear in the nature of the Panama, scandals. The question of allotments would be dealt with in detail by the Lord Chamberlain, who had great experience on the subject. It had been urged that the provisions of the Bill would tend to dry up the sources of local charities, but he would have thought that charitable donors would prefer that their gilts should, where necessary, be modified in accordance with the popular views and needs of the day. The noble Marquess shook his head, but he must recoiled that the provisions would only apply to charities which were 40 years old and to buildings of a similar age. He was glad to find the most rev. Prelate in accord with the Government in regard to the bringing in of this Bill, and his criticisms of the measure were really most temperate. The most rev. Prelate, however, took strong objection to what he considered to be the insufficient protection afforded under the Bill for buildings used as social rooms and which were not confined to ecclesiastical purposes. He would point out that the proviso in the definition was furnished at the instance of the Opposition, and not on the initiative of the Government; but if the most rev. Prelate or any other Member of that House really was of opinion that the definition dill not carry into effect what he considered to be the wishes of the House of Commons, it, would be open to him or to any other Member of their Lordships' House to propose an Amendment that would carry that intention into effect. Before passing from this subject he would refer to the Bishop of Worcester's remarks upon a recent occasion, in October last, to the effect that interference with the existing state of things as regarded the transference of doles and charities to other hands thin those of the Churchwardens might, in some country parishes, be positively beneficial, as tending to prevent stagnation and promote healthier life. This, showed that the fears which had been so frequently expressed were not, shared by all the great ecclesiastics of the land. Passing on to the Poor Law, the noble Marquess thought that it ought not to be interfered with at all unless, and until, a Commission of Inquiry should have been held and should have reported. He joined issue with the views expressed by the noble Marquess, whom he would remind that Mr. Courtney, in the other House, had said that the days of ex officio Guardians and of plural voting were at an end. He quite agreed that if the Poor Law had worked well for 60 years it would be an entirely conservative proposal that nothing should be done until they knew exactly how the Poor Law would work under the new system. If it should turn out that the objections to the now administrators were well-founded, what powers ought, to be given by the new Poor Law? It seemed to him exceedingly desirable that the law should be administered by those whom the people trusted. He would be very sorry to think that some of the present ex officio members on Boards of Guardians would not in future take part in the administration of the Poor Law; but why, he asked, should they not undergo election? —which would, he thought, have the effect of causing many of them to pay closer attention to their duties, and he would remind the House that election under the Bill might be cither by the ratepayers or by the Board itself. The noble Marquess spoke favourably of election by voting papers It was his duty some little time ago to draw attention to a case at Chatham in connection with an election of Guardians, in which it was proved up to the hilt that, dead men's names had been inscribed on voting papers, and that, 300 papers had been manufactured for Party purposes by the officials of the Board of Guardians. Yet that was the system which the noble Marquess wished to keep. The noble Marquess laid some stress upon a point in reference to the parish room. But under Clause 4 the parish room could only be used for certain specified purposes and when no other room was available.


explained that he was speaking of a parish room which, as a charity, would come into the hands of trustees who had boon named by the Parish Council. If that was a parish where the Parish Council was hostile to the Church it was obvious that the room would be used for purposes to which Churchmen would naturally object.


was glad he had drawn that explanation from the noble Marquess, as he had misunderstood his observations. Then, dealing with the Bill as it affected the Metropolis, he said the people of London were grateful to the Government for far-reaching reforms in the election and qualification of Vestries and Boards of Guardians. But they were of opinion that a great deal remained to be done. Among other things the election of District Boards by Vestries was left untouched, and that was a question which must be dealt with in the near future. Londoners, however, accepted the Bill as a large and important instalment of what they considered duo to them. With regard to the remark of the noble Marquees that this Bill had been dictated by a Radical clique, he wished to remind their Lordships that the Bill as it came to that House did not represent the views of the majority of the House of Commons. In several important respects changes had been made. With some of these the Government, agreed; others they accepted as fair and reasonable compromises in the most contentious matters. The noble Marquess shook his head, but he was evidently not of the same opinion as the most rev. Prelate. Some of the changes the Government were willing to adopt, and some they had accepted reluctantly. The noble Marquess knew, with regard to the Poor Law, the allotments, and other things, there was a compromise arrived at.




did not moan to say that noble Lords were bound by the compromise made in the other House. He pointed to it as showing that the form in which the Bill passed was not the form desired by the Radicals, and he hoped their Lordships would give due weight to the circumstance that the Bill as it stood was framed to meet the wishes of both Parties, rather than to carry out entirely the wishes of one particular Party. The Bill, in his view, effected very salutary reforms in the present anomalous and chaotic system of local government, at which a blow was struck in 1888 by Mr. Ritchie's Bill for its reform, and made that system worthy of an educated people, who were determined to fit themselves for the discharge of the highest duties of citizens by taking into their own hands the conduct of their local affairs, lie did not suppose this Bill would do much to prevent the immigration, which some so much deplored, into the great towns. The agricultural labourer, like other people, must get work where lie could find it. Parish Councils or no Parish Councils, if he could not find work in the country he must get it in the towns, but probably the Allotment Clauses would do something to alleviate the immigration. But he would say, with confidence, that the agricultural labourer who remained on the land would enjoy a fuller and a happier life, and would learn lessons in the practical management of affairs which would be of the greatest benefit to himself and to the country.


My Lords, in the few observations which I desire to make at this stage of the measure I propose to confine myself almost entirely to one portion of it. There are, no doubt, many interesting questions which arise and which have been touched upon, to some extent, in the speeches of the noble Marquess opposite, the most rev. Prelate, and the noble Lord who has just sat down— points which refer to the constitution and more especially to the powers proposed to be conferred upon Parish Councils. These points, however, are, I think it is admitted, chiefly in the nature of questions of detail, which can more properly and conveniently be dealt with in Committee. It is agreed on all hands that we are to have Parish Councils, and all parties are agreed in desiring that this institution should be created and invested with as large powers as may be safe and practicable. Perhaps, under the circumstances, it is not necessary to discuss the precise powers with which these Parish Councils are to be invested. They must be to a very great extent in the nature of detail, which can only be discussed with advantage in Committee. But, in my opinion, the second part of the Hill, which has been already referred to by the noble Marquess opposite, raises questions of a somewhat larger character, and which may be described as questions of principle. Attention has chiefly been called to the Parish Councils part of the measure—so much so that it is almost invariably known as the Parish Councils Pill. But it is not only a Bill for establishing Parish Councils: it professes to be a Bill for establishing also District Councils, which will be intermediate between Parish and County Councils; but, in my opinion, it is scarcely accurate to say that it establishes these District Councils. What the Bill seems to me to do is to stereotype the existing urban and rural sanitary areas and authorities; at the same time, it makes great changes in the position of those authorities, and almost by a side wind introduces equal, if not still greater, changes in the administration of the Poor Law. I would desire to suggest that the questions of the intermediate Local Authority and areas which are to be interposed between the Parish Councils and I he County Councils and the question of the constitution of those authorities, the powers which they are to exercise, and the areas within which they are to be exercised, are questions which deserve a much greater amount of attention than they appeal to have received from the framers of the measure or the other House of Parliament. I know it may be said that in the lines which they have followed in framing this Bill as regards intermediate Local Authorities they are supported by the precedent set them by the late Government when they introduced their reform of local government in 1888. It may be said, and it will be said, that their also adopted the areas of the Unions, and that they adopted the Sanitary Authorities and the Urban Authorities as their District Councils. I am willing to admit it is a presumption in favour of the course taken by the Government that it is one which in principle has been adopted by both political Parties; but I am not prepared to admit that that consideration is conclusive on the subject. Further, I would say, as has been pointed out by the noble Marquess opposite, the Bill of 1888 differed entirely from the measure which is now before the House, because it did not touch, it did not profess to touch or to alter in any degree whatever, the administration of Poor Law relief. But the question of areas is one which I believe has presented the greatest difficulty in the way of all local government reform. They have had two areas which it was almost impossible for them to escape from or disregard. The parish and the county have historical and local associations which it is absolutely impossible to set aside or disregard in favour of any geographical or scientific reasons which may dictate or recommend another area as a unit of local government. Local government reformers have therefore been restricted almost by the absolute necessities of the case to the parish as the unit on the one side and the county as the more extensive unit on the other. The intermediate area, that of the Union, does not possess the historical or local associations which are attached either to the county or to the parish. This is an area of comparatively modern creation. It was framed for administrative purposes—for one special and limited object. It was stated, I think, on the introduction of this Bill in the House of Commons by the Minister in charge of it, that the idea of the Legislature in framing the Union appears to have been the grouping of a certain number of parishes round a market town which would be convenient of access to those who administered the Poor Law, and that scarcely any other local consideration whatever appeared to have dictated the formation of the Union. It is not impossible—it is highly probable, in my opinion—that if all the requirements of local government as they are now understood had been in the minds of the framers of the Act of 1834 a very different area might have been adopted from that which was adopted for the special and limited purposes of the Poor Law. The area, as Mr. Fowler has said, was adopted apparently for one single limited purpose without reference to any local consideration except that of convenience for the meetings of the Guardians who were to take part in the Poor Law administration. The area we are now invited, without inquiry, without examination, to accept as an intermediate area be-tween the parish and the county is to form part of what we hope will he a complete and final settlement of local government. That is not all; the Poor Law Union for Poor Law purposes is to remain intact; but for all sanitary and other purposes of local self-government these Unions have, since 1834, undergone a great and remarkable transformation. Noble Lords are aware there are at present two different descriptions of Sanitary Authorities. There are urban sanitary districts, including more or loss rural towns and in some cases large and populous towns. There are also sparsely-populated districts differing very little, indeed, from the country which surrounds them. There are, again, rural sanitary areas which consist of the whole area of the Poor Law Union which are not included within the radius of the urban sanitary districts. This is an arrangement which may have its advantages, but it has always seemed to be an inconvenient and, in some respects, a fantastic arrangement. It is a district out of which a number of more or less populous places are cut for the purposes of sanitary and local government administration; but it docs not appear to me to be a district which is very convenient for the purpose of local administration. Large towns have a claim —no one can deny it—to separate and independent local administration; in the cases of large cities and boroughs we have recognised their equality and have given them County Councils to themselves. We have placed large cities and towns on a complete level with counties as a system of local self-government. Similarly, smaller though considerable towns are perfectly entitled to powers and privileges corresponding to those which are proposed to be conferred on District Councils. It has always seemed to me, with regard to some of the smaller Urban Sanitary Authorities, which exist in large numbers in some parts of the country, that it would be a very much more convenient arrangement if the larger powers proposed to be given by this Bill to Parish Councils—powers of direct local self-government in sanitary matters, upon highway questions, and upon educational questions—were conferred upon a larger District Council appointed by a larger constituency. It seems to me, therefore, it would be worth while to consider— setting aside altogether all considerations connected with the administration of the Poor Law, and from the point, of view of local administration generally, from the point of view of sanitary, highway, educational, and financial matters—whether it is absolutely certain we have yet got hold of the right area and the right authority to interfere between the parish and the county, and whether it would not be better to give a little more consideration to this question before adopting, without detailed examination, the system of District Councils as the future unit and perhaps the most part of our whole system of local administration. The question is a far more important one from the point of view of the administration of the Poor Law. Upon that point there are many matters to be examined in Committee. It is admitted by everyone on both sides in politics that we have here to deal with one of the most important and most vital questions that can come under our consideration. Hero we have not only the question of economy on the one hand and extravagance on the other; we have to deal not merely with the imposition of heavy local rates or light local rates of taxation, but with the question of the character and future condition not only of the people of the present day, but perhaps of future generations. It is admitted on all hands that a wise administration of the Poor Law can do much, and has done much, to improve the condition and raise the character of the population. It is admitted that an unwise administration of the Poor Law has in past times done, and may again do, much to demoralise and pauperise the people. It is admitted that, with certain exceptions, not with uniform results, not with uniform success, but speaking broadly and generally, the administration of the new Poor Law has bean suncrssful, and has accomplished great and Beneficial results. It is admitted that this wise and successful administration has been due, at all events in a great degree, to the character of those who have taken part in that administration, and due in a very large measure to the mixture of classes and to the variety of elements which have been united together in the administration of the Poor Law. It is admitted that the successful administration of the Poor Law has been greatest in those instances in which this mixture of classes and representation of a variety of interests has been most effectively carried out. All these things are admitted on the one hand. On the other hand, it is admitted with almost equal unanimity that the methods by which these generally successful results have been accomplished are not in all respects suited to the ideas of the present day, and are not altogether in harmony with the democratic spirit of our existing institutions. It is admitted that such devices as the ex officio Guardian, or the plural vote, or the use of voting papers are no longer consistent with the principles which we have adopted in other and perhaps more important institutions, and that they cannot remain. But when you are attempting to set up a new and complete -system of local self-government throughout the country it seems to me to be wise to conside, when, on all hands, some changes in this system are admitted to be necessary, whether other changes might not have been made at the same time which would have secured to a, certain extent the same results which we have hitherto enjoyed, and given to us the advantage of that variety of representation in the administration of the Poor Law which might have obviated some of the risks the existence of which is hardly denied in any quarter. I will not detain your Lordships by going into any detailed discussion as to the suggestions which might be made, but the variety in the representation of interests which has hitherto been secured by what I have called the devices of ex officioGuardians, plural voting, and so forth, might possibly, as suggested by the noble Marquess opposite, have been accomplished in some degree by the extension of areas which would have included a greater variety of interests and occupations; it might conceivably have been accomplished by a different system of voting, or even by such a system as was discussed in the other House—that of indirect election. The compounding system has been adopted for the purpose of administrative convenience, and, I have no doubt, has been attended with great administrative convenience. Put the immediate and direct effect of the practice of compounding is to diminish the sense of responsibility on the part of those who do not directly pay the rates themselves. It diminishes the sense of their responsibility for economical or extravagant administration. It might have been possible, and I think it would have been wise, to have considered—before we are asked to adopt for the Poor Law Authorities the principle of "One Man One Vote"—this transfer, as it has been called, by the noble Marquess opposite. Before we are asked to adopt the principle of transferring the practical administration of the Poor Law from the few to the many, it would have been wise to have considered whether some system might not have been devised which would have brought home to the many some souse of responsibility to themselves and their descendants. I will not enter into any of the other infinite suggestions which arise in connection with this question, many of which, I think, would have been worth consideration in regard to such a great change as the transfer of power which is now proposed. I will not be presumptuous enough to suggest that any such changes as those I have merely indicated and not dwelt upon could be embodied in this measure, which appears to me to be already somewhat overloaded. But the conclusion which I think these indications point to is that it would have been wise, and it still may be wise, to examine some of these questions from some of these points of view somewhat more closely before we assent to changes which are in some directions so sweeping, but which in other directions are so utterly partial and incomplete. The question remains—and it is the only practical question which remains for our consideration—What is the wisest course for your Lordships to take in this matter? There is little doubt in my judgment that the logical course in the abstract, and probably the wisest course in the circumstances, would be for your Lordships to remit the clauses which deal with the creation of District Councils and which alter the mode of administration of the Poor Law for further consideration and examination. The wisest course, and that most in accordance with the considerations which I have ventured to suggest, would be that in the present Session we should be content in this Bill with establishing Parish Councils, in organising the parish, and in defining the powers to be exercised by the Parish Authorities. But as I have said before in this House, I am quite aware that the House of Lords is not always in the position to act upon its own sense of what would be the wisest and the best course. It is not in a position to act in every case upon the judgment which we ourselves may form as to the best and wisest course to be pursued. We do not require the speeches of Sir William Harcourt to tell us that our powers are limited, and that those powers must be used under that limitation. I gather from the declaration of Members of the Government in the House of Commons that they are not so confident of the popularity of this measure as to be willing to risk its acceptance by the country as a Parish Council Bill pure and simple—I gather from the declarations they have made that they are disposed to insist upon withholding this reform, this necessary and desirable reform, a reform upon which we are all more or less agreed, unless they can also claim credit for bringing forward a complete measure of reform of local self-government, and the further credit of democratising in a partial and inconclusive manner the whole management of the Poor Law. It will be for your Lordships to consider not on this occasion, but when we come to discuss this important question in Committee, whether you will risk the passing of this Bill, and all the good which it is admitted to contain, in order to secure the reconsideration of the part which, I believe, most of your Lordships agree would be improved if it could undergo such reconsideration. But of this I am quite sure: that if your Lordships can by any moderate Amendment induce Her Majesty's Government and the other House of Parliament to give some further consideration to the principles which are involved in the creation of District Councils, and to the principle which underlies the adoption of the areas of District Councils, they may not only do much to guard against some danger the existence of which, I think, no man and no Party altogether ignores, and, at the same time, they may do much to facilitate the working of a Bill which we all hope will be the foundation of a real and an efficient system of local self-government.


I venture to think my noble Friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill has every reason to congratulate himself upon the tone which this Debate has taken this evening, and we who support him have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon the way in which this Bill has been received by your Lordships' House. The noble Marquess opposite, at the beginning of the Debate, very frankly told us that so far as the Bill could be regarded as a corollary of the Bill of the late Government that he was prepared to support it. He frankly admitted, of course, that there were several points in the Bill to which he took exception, and he reserved to himself full liberty on those points. The most rev. Prelate made a most conciliatory speech, so far as the Church charities part of the Bill was concerned, and we have had the pleasure of listening to the very weighty words just uttered by the noble Duke the Leader of the Liberal Unionists. Now, so far as I can understand, there are three difficulties in the way of the noble Marquess opposite. He has three objections to the Bill as it stands now: First, he objected to the 14th clause, which deals with parochial charities. Then he objects to the administration of the Poor Law as laid down in the Bill. Lastly, he objects to the compulsory powers with regard to the acquisition of land which will be found in the Bill. I do not propose to touch on the first two objections, but I wish to address a few remarks to your Lordships on the subject of the compulsory acquisition of land. We have not heard this evening so many objections as I had expected would be made to the compulsory hiring and sale of land. In another place, and in the public Press, we have been told over and over again that there is no necessity for compulsion; that the demand for laud is greatly exaggerated, and that where there is a demand there is also a supply. I venture to think, so far as my small experience goes, that the facts are not quite accurately stated. I do not think it is quite recognised how great a desire there is amongst the labouring classes to obtain small portions of land. That desire is not confined to what are called the agricultural parts of England. The Loudon County Council has found itself obliged to appoint a Small Holdings Committee, of which I am Chairman. Already in different parts of London we have allotments which are self-paying, and these allotments are freely and readily taken up by the working classes of London. I also find, from my own small experience, that though I have done as much as I possibly could to provide allotments for all those who may require them, yet in three parishes in which I have some property the demand is a great deal greater than any supply which we are able to give. In one of the parishes of Lincolnshire—that portion of Lincolnshire of which Lord Brownlow is Lord Lieutenant—there are at present 13 parishes that have been agitating for the last 12 months to obtain allotments, and up to the present moment they have been unable to obtain them. In my own County of Buckinghamshire there are great difficulties in getting allotments. When I came back from New South Wales and visited outlying parts of my property, particularly at a place called Marsh, where I have only one field, I was met by the villagers who said they could not get any land, and at Marsh they asked for my field to be given up to them. At Stewkeley several men sat for hours in the pouring rain to ask me for allotments, and this in a great straggling village where there were various landowners. There is another objection which has been made a great deal of, and which has been mentioned to-night—namely, that tenants will take up the good land, exhaust it, and then throw it up. I am bound to say that in my own experience that does not take place. I have over 1,850 allotments, besides small holdings, and on the authority of Mr. Carter Jonas, of Cambridge, one of the best authorities in England, that land has been increased at least 10 per cent. At Spalding, where the allotments are let in one acre allotments, the profit per harvest when all expenses, including labour, have been paid, has been £6 1s. 3d. per acre. That makes a profit of £200 on a field of 33 acres. Perhaps I may be told that the late Government did what they could to meet this want in the Allotments Acts which they passed. I well know that the Government relied more on the influence which these Allotments Acts of 1887 and 1890 would exercise upon private owners than the influence which they would exercise on Local Authorities, and a great deal of good no doubt—I am very glad to confess it—has been done voluntarily. But these Acts must have had some other object besides inducing private persons to grant allotments, and what do I find in the last Return moved for in another place by Mr. Channing? It is a Return as to what has been done by authorities. Only 56 Rural Sanitary Authorities and four County Councils have acquired 1,207 acres in 102 parishes, and these have been let to 2,891 tenants in seven years. That shows that the Act has been used in only 102 parishes. In the County of Norfolk I think I may say there are at least 500 parishes, and when you think that in all England the Act has only been put into force in 102 parishes in seven years, and these Acts have produced only one-third more allotments than have been supplied by myself, this cannot be considered satisfactory. It has been well put before your Lordships how the confirmation of Parliament to compulsory acquisition of land has been obtained. One of the objections put forward is that when land is taken by compulsion the confirmation by Parliament is not required under this Bill. The old process was very long and very tedious. The Sanitary Authority went to the County Council, and the County Council asked the Local Government Board for a Provisional Order, and the Board included this Provisional Order in a Bill. The Bill was then introduced into Parliament as an ordinary Bill, and if it was petitioned against it was referred to a Committee in the same way as a Private Bill against which there was a Petition. Witnesses would he called and heavy expenses entailed, which would have to he borne by one or the other, and sometimes by both the parties. The result of this cumbrous machinery was that it never was put into force. What does the Bill now propose? It proposes the same machinery as regards notice to be given to the lessees and occupiers when the land is to be taken, and then the Local Government Board send down one of their local Inspectors, and when the facts are fully investigated, and all the parlies interested have had an opportunity of being heard, a compulsory Order for the purchase of the laud is issued. How is it issued? It is only issued when the Local Government Board are satisfied. After all this, the Order is issued by the Local Government Board on the authority of the President.


A politician.


A politician I grant, but an honourable man. But I will not now go further into that objection. I will pass on to the third objection of the noble Marquess. The third objection is that the arbitrator in fixing the rent shall not make any addition in regard to compulsory hiring or sale. It has been an almost invariable custom when laud has been compulsorily taken that 10 per cent, should be added to the price. This has been such a general custom that provision had to be put in the Bill to prevent the continuance of that. Without this provision the 10 per cent, would have become the custom of the country, and it was necessary to stop this custom. In determining the rental all the circumstances are to be considered by the arbitrator. If full compensation is given to the landlord why should there be 10 per cent, added on to the price on account of compulsory hiring? I know this has been much considered in another place, and that it was thought a hardship, but I cannot myself see the hardship. The last objection to the Bill is to hiring instead of purchase. It has been said by many people—"Oh, I have no objection to your taking my laud and paving me for it, but I object to your hiring it. I do-not think it is fair you should come and compulsorily take from me laud which I may want for other purposes, and hire it from mo for a certain time only to throw it back on my hands." But in the compulsory selling of land the hardship must fall either on the ratepayers or the tenants. Under the Small Holdings Act of 1891 I sold to the Spalding County Council 88 acres, and got £42 an acre for it. That is at the rate of 25 years' purchase, the payment being spread over 50 years. The terms of payment were £1 17s. 6d. an acre, and that the County Council let to the men at £2 an acre. The men were very glad to get the land; in fact, there were twice the number of applicants for the allotments. It seems very hard that these men who took the allotments should have to pay, as they will have to pay, more per acre in order to provide a sinking fund out of their rent for this land until it becomes the property of the Spalding County Council. Either the ratepayers will have to pay it or the tenants. My trustees were satisfied with the price I got for the land. The labourers were very anxious to get land and were satisfied with the price they gave for it, and I suppose in 50 years, when Lincolnshire gets that land, Lincolnshire will be satisfied with it. I suppose this system will spread in time to nationalisation of the land. I do not moan to touch further upon that, but my noble Friend Lord Onslow knows well enough, as he has lived in Australia, where two-thirds of the land and the railways belong to the State, and where the State is able-to help its tenants in the way of making facilities by carrying wool and grain at cheap rates. It is, unfortunately, the-case that that system does not exist in this country, but that is, of course, a matter I cannot touch upon now. I have only one more word to say, and that is that every one knows how much the landlords of England have done in many instances for their property. Those people who say that m a great many instances The landlords of England have not done their duty to their tenants, say not only what is unjust and ungenerous, but also what is untrue. I am proud to say that first and foremost amongst the landlords of England who have done their duty to their tenants are the Members of your Lordships' House. There is the Heir to the Throne, the Prince of Wales, who has set an honourable example in that way. A great many of your Lordships may remember the horrible state Sandringham was in 30 years ago, and now it is certainly a model estate. There are also other names which will rise in everyone's mind—the name of the Duke of Bedford, the late Duke of Cleveland, and also the name of Lord Tollemache, the hitter of whom has had the credit and honour of being one of the first—the pioneer of this allotment movement. Those names will go down in the agricultural history of England as household words. Now what do we present to this House and to this country? We present a Bill which we believe will meet a great national want. We believe that this Bill will help the labourer to supplement his income, and will help him in hard times to get through the winter. It will help the farmer, because he knows when he cuts down his wages bill that the men will have something to help them. It will be of benefit to the community, because I firmly believe it will keep the men on the land. In 1892, 20 labourers would have left Wintringham if it had not been for the small holdings I had provided. As a landlord, entirely dependent upon land, for every shilling I have got is dependent upon land, I do not fear the Bill as it stands. The reception the Bill has had to-night causes me to hope that after due debate, and the deliberation which it will receive at the hands of this most practical Assembly, yon will pass it without any material alteration.


I am very glad to hear that the noble Lord who has just sat down recognises that, the measure must be treated with deliberation, because there is no doubt that a great portion of it has been passed by the other House at railway speed. To improve the condition of the agricultural labourer the Government propose to give him a, village parliament, and a share in the administration of the Boor Law. We have been told by the Government that the Bill would accomplish many things, but they have been silent about one matter—namely, the great increase of expenditure which will result from it. In open parishes, which are owned by a large number of people, the rates will probably be looked after carefully, but the increased expenditure will nevertheless be considerable, and I fear that the pressure of the rates will be too heavy for a great many poor people. The other day the Chief Secretary for Ireland made a great appeal to the labouring classes, and he said that the fields of Essex and Suffolk ought to be waving with corn, which I suppose means that if the wicked Tories did not own the land and the good Radical did, the latter would grow corn and lose money by it. As to the poor Law Clauses, I notice a, remark made, by the noble Lord who represents the Local Government Board in this House. He said the Bill effected no change in the law. I am perfectly willing to admit that. But supposing your Lordships were to make a passage across the Atlantic in one of the great Liners, and you had satisfied yourselves that, the ship was in excellent order, and the watertight compartments all right, and that an efficient staff of officers were navigating her, but just at the starting you were told that these trained officers were not to navigate her, but that she was to be given over to the common seamen, I think you would want your passage money returned. That is just what you are doing with the Boor Law. You are taking away the administration from those who have had the greatest experience, and you are placing it in the hands of men who are untried and have very different interests to serve. The noble Lord who has just sat down spoke a, great deal about the hiring of allotments under this Bill. I have always been most desirous that everything should be done to provide the labourer with allotments, but I cannot agree with the noble Lord that there is still a very large unsatisfied demand for allotments. I believe that a few years ago there was unquestionably a very great demand all over the country for allotments, but that demand was stimulated in no small degree by the prominence which was given to the question of allotments and their supposed value to the labourer. A large number of men took land who have since found their expectations disappointed, and have thrown back the land upon the persons who took it for the labourers. Whereas formerly the Charity Commissioners used to consider applications weekly at their meetings now those applications have fallen to about one a quarter. I think we may safely say that the supply of allotments is approaching the demand. I am not disposed to take a strong exception to enabling Parish Councils to obtain allotments by hiring. I believe the principle of compulsion has had a great and material influence, although not put in force in many parts, but I think your Lordships in Committee ought to very carefully consider this clause, and to see if the interests of all parties are properly safeguarded. There are some men who from no fault of their own are unpopular in their own locality. A man may be reserved or old-fashioned, and it is not unlikely, in a small community like the parish, that there would be some who would like to do him an evil turn. We must see that such a case as that is properly safeguarded in the Bill. I am glad a limit of one acre of arable has been adopted, because that is quite enough for a man in regular work, while four acres might not be enough for a man who has no other work. There are many clauses in this Bill to which I would like to refer, but I feel I should be detaining your Lordships at too great length. The Government will, I expect, at the next Election claim very great credit for the introduction of this Bill, but the fact is it is the spontaneous effect of political influences working upon both Parties in the State. The desire of all ought to be to train the labourer in the exercise of those duties which he ought to perform towards his fellow-men. We are now in a period of transition. We have arrived at the time when we are democratising our institu- tions before those who will have to administer the affairs have been fully educated to discharge their duties. I believe the time will come when the democracy will be able to exercise the functions of government as well as the upper classes did for centuries, and as the middle classes have done in recent times; but I think the Liberal Party, when it conferred the Parliamentary franchise upon the agricultural labourer, before they gave him administration of his parochial affairs, was putting the cart before the horse. He was called upon to discharge matters which have exercised the minds of Cabinet Ministers, and driven some across the floor of the House and back again. And all this before you give him the management of his local affairs! This Bill will, I believe, be productive of a great impetus in the training of the agricultural labourer, and will teach him to know who are and who are not his friends.


said, he thought all their Lordships would re-echo the words with which the Lord Chamberlain closed his speech—that this Bill might be productive of greater comfort to the rural labourers. There was no body of men who knew the people low as well as high better than their Lordships, or who had done as a class more to ameliorate the condition of those living on the land. This extension of local government on the elective principle was a question which he had considered for many years past from his position as Chairman of the Staffordshire County Council. He had watched and considered very carefully these questions of local government, and he confessed he was impressed by the enormous importance as well as the difficulties of the Bill before the House. The broad treatment of the Bill by the noble Duke (the Duke of Devonshire) would, he thought, recommend itself to the judgment of the House as more appropriate to the occasion than entering into details. With regard to the general principle of the Bill, he was strongly in favour of Parochial Councils and also of District Councils in a new form, if well and properly arranged. He thought, with the noble Duke, that the whole question of District Councils was one that had not been fully thrashed out, and in his opinion it was impossible to overrate the importance of those District Councils in the life of rural communities. While he was ready, in common with their Lordships, to consider the Bill from a most friendly point of view, and while he was fully prepared to accept this wide extension of the elective principle, he desired to impress upon their Lordships the very great changes proposed in some important matters. With regard to charities, the relief of the poor, the administration of the rating powers, sanitary questions, and matters touching education, assessment, and the dwellings of the poor, the changes were very great. And why? Hitherto in the larger as well as the smaller districts by hook or by crook they had contrived to get leading men of influence and business to take part in the administration of these local affairs. But with the proposed change could they give any security that they would get any of these men to serve on the new Governing Bodies? In the past they had taken care to secure the use of the trained intellect and experience of the best men amongst the farming, professional, and landed classes, but in this change there was the risk of losing them all. Anybody who had watched the working of the County Councils must know that the pressure of local duties upon the best men in the counties was becoming increasingly great. There was certainly a risk of losing the best men at a time when it was becoming more and more important to procure the best experienced and most distinguished of all sorts, and not leave the matter to chance as this Bill did. As far as he could see, the changes submitted in regard to London and county boroughs were enormous, and it would be necessary to take the most earnest care to see that these matters were satisfactorily worked out, and they would all require most careful consideration not only in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but also in the country. But what time had the country been given to sift these various matters? The House of Commons had discussed the Bill from the beginning of November to January 12, and it had undergone such an entire alteration that the only Bill which was now worth considering by the country was that which had only just left the other House, and not the Bill that went into it. An enormous responsibility, therefore, rested upon their Lordships to sift the measure thoroughly in the most friendly spirit, and on no account to scamp the examination of it. How had the Bill been treated in the House of Commons? It had been before that House for 37 days. There were about 93 Divisions on the Bill, but at only 17 Divisions were more than 300 Members present, and only in six Divisions did more than half the House of Commons vote. The highest number that ever voted was 378, and in 34 out of the 93 Divisions less than 200 Members voted. On the question of the abolition of compounding and the personal payment of rates there was a great number of Divisions, but the highest number that voted was 250. On the cumulative or proportional vote the highest number was 238, while on the compulsory hiring of allotments in no Division did more than 250 Members vote. With regard to Mr. Cobb's Amendment giving the majority of the trustees to the Parish Councils, on only one of the many Divisions on that matter did more than 200 Members vote, and only 157 voted finally for the clause itself. While the great change in the matter of the Poor Law was under discussion the Members present and voting in all the many and important Amendments were generally below 200, and in only four eases did they exceed 200, the highest figure being 247. Under these circumstances, it was really a grave duty which their Lordships owed to their country to consider every clause with the greatest care, and with the determination to make the Bill as workable and useful to their fellow-citizens as possible. They had been called upon to throw themselves into a new movement of the Councils, and they would do all they could for the District and Parish Councils when they were set up, but he would not conceal from their Lordships that many who knew the country well thought unlooked-for results might come from these Parish Councils. As a landed proprietor, he should feel glad to have the assistance in the parishes of responsible persons who would tell him what the people really wanted. Mistakes had oftentimes been made between landlord and tenants, or between tenants and the labourers, simply because the real state of the feelings of the poorer brethren could not be ascertained. It would be a considerable support to landlords to have a properly accredited body in the rural parishes. One thing seemed to him to be clear. Whatever might be the result of this Debate this matter needed the most careful and deepest consideration of their Lordships. He believed that their Lordships' House was probably the one Assembly which had an intimate acquaintance with the habits of the poorer classes in the country—an acquaintance which would enable them to make invaluable additions to, and improvements of, this Bill, approaching it as they did with a desire to make the treasure as perfect and as widely beneficial to all classes as possible.


said, he took a considerable interest in the Poor Law question, having been for more than 20 years Chairman of the Parochial Board which administered the Poor Law in that part of Scotland in which he resided. That part of the Bill which dealt with the administration of the Poor Law was so important that it might be said to be of Imperial concern. The Lord Chamberlain had given the House some interesting personal reminiscences, and had mentioned an instance in which a large profit had been made out of ground used as allotments. This profit was said to have amounted to £6 an acre. He was certain that a statement made so deliberately must be accurate; but he should, at the same time, like to have access to the balance-sheet in order to see in what method the accounts were made up, and by what means so large a profit had been obtained. If the noble Lord's experience was given as an argument in favour of the necessity of compulsory powers for the hiring of land, and if the noble Lord could show such profits by dividing land into allotments, there ought to be no necessity for granting compulsory powers, because landlords would be tumbling over one another in their desire to dispose of their land for allotments. The Bill made a great change with regard to the administration of the Poor Law—a change which was fraught with the most important consequences, and which, in his opinion, might have most lasting effects on the comfort and well-being of the great masses of the people of the country. No one would deny that those who had experience of the administration of the Poor Law looked with considerable apprehension as to the probable results of the policy of the Government. Both the noble Marquess who moved the Second Reading of the Bill and the noble Lord who represented the Local Government Board in that House glided very quickly from that part of the Bill. Lord Monkswell said that if they were going to reform the Poor Law the logical process was to have it administered by those who had the confidence of the people. Who were the people? Were they those who paid the rates, or those for whose benefit they were levied? A Poor Law which had been in operation 60 years might very well require reform, but the reform ought to be in the direction that there should be a more complete and thorough classification of different classes of those who came upon the rates. Those who had borne a good character, and were well-known in their locality, ought to be provided for better than those who had never done anything for the good of the community. If the Poor Law was to be reformed it would be wiser to retain in power those who had had experience in the Poor Law administration than to replace them by another body of men who had no experience whatever. It was all very well to say that the Government were not going to alter the policy of the law, but in this case much more depended upon the administration of the law than upon the policy of the law. Everything depended upon the competency and knowledge of those who were to administer the law, and everything depended upon whether they could maintain a settled policy. In this Bill it was proposed to do away with ex officio Guardians, nominated Guardians, the plural vote, and other safe- guards. He did not say that ex officio or nominated Guardians were a perfect method of carrying out the administration of the Poor Law, but he thought that if they abolished all the existing checks at one time and placed the election of those who had to administer the Poor Law in the hands of a constituency which was not a ratepaying one, the Government took a very dangerous step, and one which ought only to be taken with the greatest possible deliberation. Did the House understand the exact constituency to which the administration of the Poor Law would be confided? The Parliamentary, and the Local Government or County Council Roll would be put together, and there would be upon it not only the ratepayers, but also those who paid no rates at all. They would have lodgers and all those on the service franchise. It would have been wiser to have made this reform of the Poor Law part of the whole reform which by common consent seemed to be contemplated, and only to make it when they could have such safeguards as might be necessary to secure a sound, safe, and settled administration of the law. While conceding that firm administration might be secured from a really popular constituency, he maintained that this constituency ought to be one spending its own money, and knowing what would be the cost of any operation it undertook. It might be urged that the system of compounding had eaten very deeply into the ratepaying system; but the arguments in favour of it did not depend on any sounder or better opinion than this: that it was merely for the sake of the convenience of the Rate-Collecting Authority. He was afraid that the check to be put on extravagant expenditure would not be effectual, from fear of a rise of rent, nor did he look to much in that direction from the power given to the Local Government Board. He did not speak entirely for himself, for the recent Conference in St. Martin's Town Hall, composed of men of all Parties, condemned this part of the Bill. Those who had spoken for the Government that night had bestowed scant attention to these clauses. He sincerely hoped that whatever might be the result of the discussion in their Lordships' House that the Government would come to a discussion of this part of the Bill with an open mind, and would realise that, however important it might be in the abstract to make the change at the present time, it would be better in the interest of a wise and settled administration of the Poor Law to have a little delay in order that the whole matter might be considered. A matter which meant so much to the best interests of this country ought not to be hastily decided. It would be very difficult for them or their successors to retrace their steps when a sad experience showed that a false step had been made by the present Government.


The attendance on both sides of the House is not very encouraging to anyone to rise to make a speech, and certainly I do not intend to trouble your Lordships at any great length on the present occasion. I think it right, however, to say a, few words on the part of the Government, in reply to some observations which have been made in the course of the Debate. First of all, I should like to refer to the speech of the most rev. Prelate, who touched on one of the points which excites much interest—I mean the effect which the Bill has, or will have, if it, passes, on the ecclesiastical charities of the Church of England. As far as I can gather, with some exceptions, the changes in the Bill made in the House of Commons were received with satisfaction by the most rev. Prelate. Now, my right hon. Friend who introduced the Bill in the House of Commons has been accused of not keeping promises, of not fulfilling statements made when he introduced this measure. I do not admit that for a moment. It was never the intention of my right hon. Friend or the Cabinet to curtail by a side-wind any of the rights of any Church or denomination. On the contrary, from the first my right hon. Friend stated in the other House that he was ready to receive any criticism on the clause which dealt with this subject; and that if it should be shown that the words in the clause were not sufficient, he would be ready to amend them. Accordingly in another place various verbal alterations were made in order to secure that paramount object. We in this House will repeat the same statement. We believe that the Bill as it stands does defend the ecclesiastical rights of the Church, but if it does not we shall be ready to listen to any suggestion which may be made, and, if necessary, to make alterations in that direction. With regard to another point which has been discussed—a subject which is the most important connected with this Bill—I desire to say a few words. I refer to the allusions which have been made to Poor Law administration. Like many of your Lordships, at an earlier period of my life I have taken part in the administration of the Poor Law, and I have, since I have been occupied in other spheres and in other countries, followed the administration of that law in my native county. I am one of those who believe firmly that the administration of the Poor Law should be on a sound basis, and that if it is administered in a lax manner, or if indiscriminate outdoor relief is granted, it will tend directly to the demoralisation of the poor, prevent thrift and independence, and act injuriously eventually on wages in the district. Having that view, and having myself witnessed the very strict administration of the Poor Law—for in my own Union outdoor relief is brought almost to a minimum—I attach very great importance to this subject, and I would be most reluctant to do anything which would lead to a repetition of the disasters which occurred 60 years ago, before the new Poor Law came in. At the same time, I am one of those who think that a reform can be made. Those reforms were referred to by my noble Friend who last spoke, and who has had considerable experience in the Poor Law Department. It is quite clear that some reforms are desirable, and I should welcome them if based on sound principles. Why is it that this portion of the Bill has boon so attacked? We have scrupulously avoided dealing with the principles of the Poor Law. Those principles will remain as they exist at the present time the moment the Bill passes into law. The trust will remain the same, although no doubt the trustees may be altered. Now, the noble Marquess (Lord Salisbury) referred to the great measure of 1834 on the new Poor Law, and he stated that at that time a Commission was appointed; that that Commission sat for two or three years, and that upon the Report of that Commission a Bill was introduced and carried with very little dissent in the House of Commons. The noble Marquess compared that with the present proceeding. I quite admit if we were going to change the great general principle of administration we ought to follow some precedent of that sort, but I do not believe that there will be a very serious change in consequence of the proposals that we make. What are those proposals? We propose to alter the franchise and the mode of constituting the Boards of Guardians. Now, the Bill of the late Government in 1888 did not propose to deal with the Poor Law administration, but it did set up District Councils, and gave them some wide powers with regard to sanitary and other matt which are now in the bauds of Rural Sanitary Authorities. Did they propose to maintain plural voting and ex officio voting? They threw these methods over. They knew very well they could not maintain the old system in the face of the franchise under which other bodies throughout the country were elected. They adopted the same franchise for the County Councils which was in operation for the election of Town Councils. Does any one suppose for a moment that if they had set up these District Councils in the same districts as the Poor Law Guardians the old franchise and the mode of electing the Guardians could have stood for a moment? They know as well as I do that they could not maintain that, and that in a short time they would have been obliged to alter the franchise and the mode of electing Boards of Guardians. Take for a moment the ex officio Guardians. They have taken an important part in many districts, but at the same time their numbers and influence in Boards of Guardians had varied very much. I doubt whether you will be able to trace any rule to show that a lax administration of outdoor relief has occurred in districts where there were no ex officio Guardians. In my belief the Poor Law and outdoor relief have been as well administered in districts where there were no ex officio members as in those where there was a great preponderance of them. The present Bill allows a certain number of ex officio members to be introduced. The chairman and vice chairman may be selected from outside, and other members also may be so elected. In my belief good men and men of experience1 will never be left out if they are willing to serve. They will be sought after and put on those Councils, and I doubt extremely whether there will be any great change in the personal character of the new bodies. The noble Lord (Lord Monkswell), who made such an extremely able speech this evening, for which the Government must be very grateful to him, alluded to the importance of having outdoor relief in the hands of a body which had public support. I attach very great importance to that, and I cannot but think we should be doing the sound administration of the Poor Law great good by introducing this popular element. I quite admit that the question of compounding is one of very great interest. I confess myself that if it were possible I should prefer that those who have to elect the Board of Guardians should themselves directly pay the rates. At the same time, there is great and practical difficulty in carrying this out. I can assure noble Lords that this is a subject which has been considered very carefully by the Government. I think those who urge the view the noble Lord put forward forget what occurred some few years ago in regard to the Parliamentary franchise. I think I am right in saying that in 1867, when the compound householder was done away with, there was such a great objection to the change that in 1868 the compound householder had to be restored.


That was Mr. Goschen's Act of 1869.


I believe my noble Friend is right. Why was that? Because of the practical difficulty of doing away with the compound householder. I saw a statement the other day that in one district in London 24,000 ratepayers have all their rates paid by one or two individuals, and yet in that very place there is very considerable economy in the administration of the rate. I believe in rural districts the same difficulty would occur in making the collection take place from every individual house. In close parishes probably very little will be done in the way of increasing rents, but in open parishes where the compound householder also exists I have no doubt rents will be materially increased, and in that case very strong reason will be urged for economy on all those sent to the Parish Council or District Council. The noble Marquess (Lord Salisbury) spoke in great commendation apparently of the system of voting papers, but will the noble Marquess come forward when in power and propose that system for all constituencies? The noble Marquess knows he would not be able to do so. He would get no support from his own people, and that, therefore, is what I may call an academic argument of no practical value. The noble Luke rather led us to suppose—though I am not quite sure what his real meaning was—that if he had his own way he should like to strike out of the Bill the District Councils, though on the whole he would not advise your Lordships to take such a course. Now I think it right to state at once that Her Majesty's Government attach the very greatest importance to those District Councils, and that they will be most loth to accept any Amendment which would destroy that part of the Bill. The noble Duke criticised the areas, and he said that the parish and the county had great local histories about them. There may be no long historical associations connected with Boards of Guardians, but there is an immense deal of association in regard to the habits of those who have been working in a district and associated with it, and I think there would be enormous practical difficulty in throwing over the Unions in considering any increase of local government. For years past those Unions have been in force, and I believe, as a whole, they have stood fire, so to speak, exceedingly well, and very few material alterations have been made in regard to them. Nor do I agree with the noble Marquess opposite in wishing that Poor Law administration were spread over a much larger area than the present Unions. I look on the present Unions as almost indispensable. The County Council is far too large for the purposes of the Poor Law, because they want the necessary local knowledge. The Parish Councils, I admit, are too small, because in many cases you have not behind a Parish Council a sufficient amount of public opinion to get a satisfactory settlement of the great questions connected with the relief of the poor. Therefore you must have an intermediate body—namely, the District Council. I have always looked upon the noble Duke as a practical politician, and I hardly think the suggestions he made for further carrying out entirely new districts are of that nature. They rather belong to the school of politicians, who, no doubt, if they had a clean map to deal with could arrange districts for all kinds of local administration in a much better way than the present one. I need not delay your Lordships except by one or two words with regard to the question of allotments. As I understand, there is considerable objection to the proposal with respect to the power of taking land compulsorily by hiring for allotments. I believe that in the county to which I have the honour to belong there are more allotments than in any other county in England, or at least, as many. I have watched with great interest some of the experiments with regard to allotments. There are a very large number of allotments near what was a very short time ago a rural village, but which is now a town of some importance. The allotments are let to an Allotment Association, which lets them to the people. These allotments are admirably managed. There is no difficulty in collecting the rents, and it is found that the Allotment Association existing there is a far better tenant than any the owners had before. In my own small experiments I have dealt in various counties with Associa- tions, and my experience of Associations taking allotments and letting them out to the people is exceedingly favourable. I would let my land for allotments to Associations rather than to individuals. I cannot but think that these Associations may fairly be said to represent Parish Councils, which will know what the people want, and will be able to administer the allotments to the satisfaction of the people and, I believe, the owners of the land. I entirely agree with what has been said as to some of the Amendments that have been introduced in the other House. I believe that they will be salutary in their operation, and will safeguard the interests of the owners. The provisions that the land cannot be hired for a shorter time than 14 years, that permanent grass should not be ploughed up, and that the landlord should not be called upon to pay an excessive amount of compensation for improvements when the laud is hired for only a short time, are, I believe, useful amendments. These restrictions are, no doubt, in the interest of the owner, and with them I cannot see that there is any injustice in giving the power of compulsory hiring. In conclusion, I will say that the Government are satisfied with the tone of the remarks that have been made, and they hope that attention will be given to this important measure when it comes before your Lordships' Committee. With the great practical experience which many Members of this House possess, I believe that most useful criticisms will be made. At the same time, I hope that the principles to which I have referred will be maintained. If we are able to carry this Bill through, as we hope to do from what has passed here to-night, we shall put upon the Statute Book a measure which will be of importance to the country and will benefit all classes, especially the poorer classes in our agricultural districts.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.

House adjourned at five minutes before Nine o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter past Four o'clock.