HL Deb 24 April 1896 vol 39 cc1610-2

When the Council has made an Order under the last preceding section, the first election of vestrymen of the vestry on whose application such Order was made shall take place on such day in the month of May next after the making of such order as the vestry appoint, and every subseqent election shall take place in every third year, on such day in the month of May as the vestry appoint, and at such first and every such subsequent triennial election the full number of vestrymen of which such vestry is to consist under the provisions of the Metropolis Management Act 1855, shall be elected.

THE EARL OF DENBIGH moved to insert before "the month of May next" the word "third." He said that when the Bill was read a Second time, he expressed a doubt whether it was required; but the House had decided that question in the affirmative. Therefore, as a matter of public convenience, it was highly desirable that the Bill should be taken advantage of by every vestry in London. It would be inconvenient that some should continue to be elected on the present system, and others should adopt the triennial system. As the Bill stood, the London Vestries were asked to adopt the triennial system in the month of May next after the passing of the Bill. In other words, two-thirds of the members elected were asked to commit a kind of official suicide. Those who were elected last May were asked to run the risk of a contested election in the following May, while, if they adhered to the present system, they would be safe in their seats for three years. In the same way another third of the vestrymen would have to run the risk of a contested election at the end of two years, instead of remaining three years in their present security. Thus, two-thirds of each vestry would be practically against the adoption of this Act. He had put down the Amendment on behalf of several persons who were keenly interested in municipal politics in London, and who had practical experience of the working of London Vestries. He was assured that there was a strong feeling on this point, and that the Bill would be rendered nugatory without the Amendment he proposed. The object of the Bill was to assimilate the election of vestrymen to the election of boards of guardians, under the Act passed three years ago; by which boards of guardians were given the option of adopting the triennial system. They had adopted it because the effect with them was exactly the contrary of what it would be with vestries under this Bill. He understood the proposal was somewhat distasteful to the Local Government Board, because some members who had been elected for three years would be allowed to sit for five years. He was aware that the effect of the Amendment would be that members would retire by thirds at the end of three, four, and five years. The guardians were elected for three years, with the knowledge that those lowest on the poll would retire one-third in one year, and another third in two years. Yet the guardians were given the option of practically prolonging their existence, and all he asked was that the same option should be given to vestrymen in order that, as a matter of public convenience, we might have a uniform system among the Metropolitan Vestries, and we should be subjected to the inconvenience of seeing the Measure adopted by some and rejected by others.


said, the logical outcome of the noble Lord's speech would be that the Bill should be compulsorily applied to the vestries, and it should compel all the members of a vestry to retire every three years. It was proposed to leave the matter to the option of the vestries, and it was thought the best plan would be to give them no personal inducement to adopt or not to adopt the Act, and to leave them free from any bias, except considerations of public convenience. No doubt, as the Bill was framed, it offered a slight personal inducement to some not to adopt it; they might have some slight bias against it; but under the Amendment, if they consulted only their own personal convenience, they would be desirous to adopt the Bill. He thought it undesirable that vestries should be put in such a position that the members should have a strong personal inducement to vote one way or the other. He would suggest as a compromise, the insertion of the "second" month of May, and then the personal inclinations of the members would be more equally divided. His own feeling was that the vestries should not be put under a personal bias but should be left to vote according to their views of the public convenience.


said he could not contest the fact that under the Bill there would be some who would not enjoy the delights of office for as long as they had anticipated when they were originally elected, but from the point of view of a Government Department, it appeared that that was more desirable than that the Government should, by its own action, ensure a certain number of members remaining in office for two years and longer than they were originally elected for, and in certain other proportions for one year longer. If the Amendment was pressed to a Division, he must, on behalf of the Local Government Board, ask their Lordships not to accept it; but he would mention to the President the suggested middle course, and ask him to consider that as well as the Amendment. As at present advised, he must oppose the Amendment.


said he was willing to accept the compromise, and would now withdraw the proposed Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.