HL Deb 28 July 1898 vol 63 cc135-45

Amendment proposed— Page 21, line 9, after 'the,' insert 'expense of the.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)

Question put.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 21, after line 21, insert as a new sub-section— Except with the consent of the Local Government Board the expenditure of any county council, district council, or board of guardians (as the case may be) shall not in any year after the passing of this Act exceed by more than, one-fourth the amount certified by the Local Government Board to have been the average expenditure in such county, district, or union (as the case may be) during the three years next before the passing of this Act in respect of the following items:

  1. "(a) Expenditure on outdoor relief;
  2. "(b) Expenditure under the Labourers Acts, 1883 to 1896;
  3. "(c) Expenditure in respect of any of the excluded charges specified in the first subsection of section fifty-six of this Act;
  4. "(d) Expenditure on industrial schools or on the maintenance of children therein. Provided always that no expenditure shall exceed any limit fixed in any existing Act in respect of the same."—(Lord Inchiquin.)


I wish to point out that there is one error in this Amendment. In sub-section 3 it should be "fifty-seven of this Act," and not "fifty-six"; and the words at the end— provided always that no expenditure shall exceed any limit fixed in any existing Act in respect of the same, apply to the whole of the subsections (a), (b), (c), and (d), and not to the '(d)' only, as appears to be the case from the way the clause is printed. This Amendment is practically identical with that moved by my noble Friend Lord Londonderry the other night. It is couched in different words, but in point of fact it would have the same effect. It raises the question of the 25 per cent. limit to other subjects than roads. Your Lordships understand that the clause in question limits the expenditure of the 25 per cent. to roads only. What we think is this: that the limit should be extended to cover the various points which are mentioned in my Amendment, and those points are these: expenditure on outdoor relief; expenditure under the Labourers Acts, 1883 to 1896; expenditure in respect of any of the excluded charges specified in the first sub-section of section 56 of this Act; and expenditure on industrial schools, or on the maintenance of children therein. These are subjects of such great importance, and involving such large expenditure, that we fail to see the force of, or agree with the argument of, the noble and learned Lord, that the 25 per cent. limit should not be extended to them. Now, the object of my Amendment is simply to extend that limit to these subjects which I have mentioned, and in asking your Lordships to agree to this I wish it clearly to be understood by the House that there is nothing whatever to prevent any of these works being allowed to be carried out. No one is more ready to agree than I am that such works as waterworks, sanitary works, and all those other works, are of the utmost importance, and ought to be carried out. The question is, are you going to give carte blanche to a new body like the county council and the district council to spend all this money without some control? We think they ought to be controlled. It is not because we object to the expenditure of money, nor do we say that the money ought not to be spent in certain cases, but we think that the Local Government Board should have a word to say upon these matters. As your Lordships will probably recollect, I moved an Amendment the other day which the noble and learned Lord objected to, which was for keeping up the law of traverse, and one of the points of importance in that was in reference to railways, and other matters of that kind, which would come before the county council, and I pointed out that if that law of traverse were done away with, there would be no protection for the county council going into large expenditure with reference to the tramways and light railways. The noble and learned Lord said it was impossible to allow such a thing under the new system, but the same purpose of protecting the interests of the ratepayers will be served if this Amendment is adopted, because in all such cases where a large expenditure is required it will be necessary to have the sanction of the Local Government Board, and that is practically what I want. Now, I will give your Lordships a case in point. A few years ago, in our county, a large expenditure upon waterworks, if I remember aright, was proposed to be spent in the town of Ennis. It was a first-rate scheme, and I have nothing to say against it; but that scheme was one promoted by men whose sole object was to make money out of it. They promote these schemes in Ireland, and go round to the ratepayers, saying: "Look at the engineers that will be employed, and the labourers," and they get by that means the ratepayers to sanction schemes which are not sometimes desirable. That is really such an important point that I cannot for the life of me see why the noble and learned Lord should propose a 25 per cent. limit on the road question, which is, of course, an important question, and object to having it on these other matters, which are of the very greatest importance. There is another point which I may mention, and I alluded to it the other day, and that was with reference to the building of workshops for our light railways. That is important and absolutely necessary. You must spend money in that direction. I leave it to your Lordships to consider what a very important thing it is that the Local Government Board should have the power of saying what the really necessary expenditure is, and not allow the county to be put to an enormous expense simply to put money into engineers' and surveyors' pockets. These engineers' plans might sound very well before the county council containing men, perhaps, who would like to give them a job, but they would in all probability recommend a larger expenditure of money than was absolutely necessary, simply in order to get a larger percentage; and I cannot see why the Local Government Board should not have a discretionary power. That would not stop any of these works, but it would mean that the Local Government Board could say how they are to be carried out. I think this is a matter of such great importance that I wanted my noble Friend to receive this Amendment, but he seems to be rather reluctant to do so. He also, as I understand, has come to some understanding with reference to his vote on this matter which might prejudice him. I mean to press this to a Division, because I consider the matter of such great importance that I propose to ask your Lordships to divide upon it.


My noble Friend has alluded to myself, and therefore your Lordships will excuse me for trespassing upon you in discussing the provision of this very important Amendment. The other night I alluded at considerable length to what I thought might be the extraordinary expenditure that might take place under the coming district councils unless some limit was imposed. In pursuance of that idea, I put down what I considered the most important Amendment submitted to your Lordships' House—namely, that the 25 per cent. should embrace all expenditure of all kinds at the hands of the district council, unless permission was given for extra expenditure by the Local Government Board. My noble Friend has said that I was unable to put that down in my own name. I had, together with some of my noble Friends, entered into a compact with my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor for Ireland, that I anticipated that after the Committee stage had passed no Division would take place in this House on any other question. I was careful to say that I could only pledge myself on that matter, and that there were many noble Lords who knew far more about Ireland than I did who might not agree to be bound by that compact, and it was necessary that they should have a free hand upon that matter. That is the course that I have pursued; therefore, though I cordially endorse what has been said, I do not feel justified in supporting him by voting. I do agree most cordially with what he has said, that there should be this limit of expenditure, for the simple reason that abuse has taken place with respect to outdoor relief in Ireland which would not be for a moment tolerated, or would take place, in England. I know a number of cases showing the abuse that has been perpetrated by boards of guardians. Boards of guardians will be virtually district councils in the future, and if this abuse has taken place in the past, why should it take place in the future? I remember quoting cases more or less connected with the Secretary of State for War in which the evicted tenants were supported as candidates for outdoor relief. That, to my mind, is an absolute abuse of the power of boards of guardians, and a continuance of it would be an absolute abuse of the powers of district councils. I pointed out, I remember, that I was asking nothing in my Amendment—which I did not press to a Division—which was in any way an infringement of the principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill referred this question to the discretion of the Local Government Board. If I had suggested that that limit should be referred to any other body—had I submitted that there should be any other safeguard besides that, I could understand the Government refus- ing to accept it. This Amendment involves no infringement of the principle you have laid down. You do not think it a hardship that the district council should be limited with regard to the expenditure on roads; Why, therefore, should it be considered a hardship that their expenditure with regard to other matters should be limited, and when that limit would only be imposed if the Local Government Board considered it wise and necessary. I therefore, so far as I am concerned, most cordially support the Amendment of my noble Friend, and I only regret that I am not able to give him my vote.


I am in the same position. I am unable to vote for this Amendment, and I regret it much because I consider the Amendment a very good one, and one which, if added to the Bill, would help very much to protect the ratepayer from any extravagance in the various districts of Ireland, especially with regard to outdoor relief. I am really quite alarmed at the power given with regard to outdoor relief. It is more than possible that a very large impetus will be given to those who favour outdoor relief. I hope the Government will be willing to accept this Amendment, because, if carried, it will do a great deal of good.


Although I was not present when the communication with the noble and learned Lord took place, and did not know exactly the terms of the agreement until afterwards, yet as the noble Marquess did me the honour to consult me beforehand, I consider myself bound not to give a vote on this Amendment. I also agree with him in hoping that the Government will see their way to accept it. It was said on a previous occasion that there was a check already existing on these items of expenditure. I do not think there is any check on one of them, and that by no means the least important; that is, the industrial schools. There have been considerable complaints made in many quarters about the large sums spent in maintaining children in industrial schools. I do think that that expenditure has got quite high enough, and that a limit should be imposed on future councils not to go beyond what has been done by the grand juries. I do not see, also, that there is any check on outdoor relief, and on other matters. We have this to consider. There is to be a great change, to be produced in the administration of the poor law—the introduction of union rating. I know it is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that this will check outdoor relief; but, from my own experience, and from conversations I have had with ratepayers of different classes, I very much doubt that. I think their argument is derived from what has happened in the distressed portions of Ireland, where the rules as to outdoor relief have been relaxed, and where the extra outdoor relief then granted has of late been made a union charge. The experience has been that the outdoor relief did not attain the same proportions as it did on previous occasions. I do not think that an entirely safe guide. I do not believe the distress was as acute as it has been on previous occasions. I also urge this argument: in the case of sudden great accession of outdoor relief, I can quite understand that the board would refuse to grant it; but if it were to be increased by driblets—one case this day, and another a week after, and so on—I do not believe that the board of guardians would be so likely to object. At present I know, if any charge falls on the division, it is looked after and checked, whereas, if it falls on the union at large, nobody takes any interest in it. I thoroughly approve of the Amendment, although I am not able to give my vote upon it.


Two or three evenings ago, on the Committee stage practically, the Amendment and these topics were all discussed by my noble Friend Lord Londonderry with great force and clearness. I gave two reasons to the House, as well as I could, why in my opinion it was entirely inconsistent with the scope and purport of the Bill to be able to accede to the Motion. The object of the Bill is to extend to Ireland the substantial provisions which are contained in the English and Scotch Act. The popularly elected county council is to have the same power and control over the management of county affairs, aided by district councils in their different spheres of duty, as the English and Scotch bodies. This Amendment would practically put the county council in every single one of its aspects under tutelage and control; and I have pointed out that I think the speeches that have been made by my noble Friends ignored the broad safeguards which do exist. The occupier is now made to pay all the rates. He is the man that will suffer the inconvenience of extravagance, if extravagance goes on, and if there is economy he is the man who will benefit by it. That is an immense change, and it is a great safeguard. £730,000, or some such figure, is the sum that is paid to accomplish the working out of that safeguard, and that is, of course, a good and substantial fact to be borne in mind in connection with this matter. The other safeguard that there is in that very clause is not found in the English Bill—a safeguard in reference to what might be a substantial danger—that is, the tendency to extravagance in making small roads in a district. That I admit is something that might involve extravagance, and that is abundantly safeguarded here. But the proposal which my noble Friends now pressed on your Lordships, would go infinitely beyond that altogether, and would treat all the new local bodies that are to be called into existence as if they were unworthy of being trusted at all. As I pointed out on the last occasion, this Bill leaves absolutely unchanged the poor law system. It does not transfer the administration of outdoor relief, or increase the power of granting outdoor relief. It leaves outdoor relief exactly where it found it, subject to all existing checks and controls—that it must not be given to able-bodied persons, or to a person in possession of an acre of land. It is subject to auditors' examination, and the whole administration of the poor law is left as it was found by the Bill—no new powers are given. The county council has no power in reference to it, and why it is germane to this discussion to seek to introduce checks and embarrassments on outdoor relief I am unable to see. There is already a check by Statute on extravagance. Under no circumstances can the rate for the Labourers Acts exceed 1s. These are matters that, I venture to think, should be taken into account. If the Bill is not to be framed on the broad essentials that are to be found in the Local Government Bills of England and Scotland, that is another and a large question; but if the broad lines are to be taken, subject to the safeguards that I have mentioned, then, my Lords, I say that the Bill is reasonable and fair. Remember the safeguards that we have, remember what the honest and reason able position of a Bill like the present should be, and then I think your Lordships will see that it would be going entirely beyond the scope and object and purpose of the Bill to introduce this clause. It has been said that it makes no change in the principle of the Bill, but it makes a substantial change in the administration sought to be accomplished by the Bill. It is obvious from, the observations I made in Committee, and my observations now, that this is an Amendment that could receive no support from anyone in charge of a Bill, or interested in its welfare. I therefore trust that if there is a Division this Amendment will be defeated.


We have got to the old reason, the reason of symmetry. The noble and learned Lord has said that this Bill is on the same lines as the English and Scotch Act. That does not make it better in my eyes, and even if it were, which I do not believe, a good thing for England and Scotland, the countries cannot be compared. I should like to ask my noble Friend who moves this Amendment whether I am right in saying that there is a limit of expenditure on the roads to 25 per cent.? That is so. Then the purport of his Amendment, is that the limit of 25 per cent. should extend to the other matters mentioned in the Amendment. I cannot see why, if in one case it is allowed, it should not be in the others. My feeling is, from what I know of poor law boards, that the less power you give them of spending money the better. They are most extravagant, and those cases that the noble Marquess gave us of poor law boards being superseded by boards of guardians are illustrations of this, and I wish he had added what the effect of the board of guardians was on the expenditure. One of the cases quoted, the New Ross case, is in my own county. There the expenditure was very much smaller under the board of guar- dians, although the work was very much more efficiently done. The noble and learned Lord said that nobody suffered or gained except the occupier. If the noble Lord knew something about Ireland he would know that the occupier, that is the man above the lowest occupier, was very much alarmed about this Bill, and hates this Bill. In fact, perhaps, the noble and learned Lord does not know that nobody wants this Bill except the lowest of the low, and a few political adventurers, and so on, and, of course, the Government want it. It is the lowest voter who will have command over the whole of this machinery, because he will elect the county council and the district council. He has far larger powers and opportunities than the other class of voters; and those who have something really to lose are in a state of great alarm about what will happen to them. I hope the noble Lord will proceed to a Division, and in that case I shall be unlike the noble Lords who say they support the Amendment and cannot vote for it, because I support the Amendment and shall also vote for it.

Question put.

The House divided:—Contents 15; Not-Contents 36.

Rosse, E. [Teller] Mendip, L. (V. Clifden)
Bangor, V. Monck, L. (V. Monck)
Monckton, L. (V. Galway)
Castlemaine, L.
Crofton, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough)
Harlech, L.
Inchiquin, L. [Teller] Rosmead, L.
Macnaghten, L. Sherborne, L.
Massy, L. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde)
Halsbury E. (L. Chancellor) Morley, E.
Onslow E.
Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal) Selborne, E.
Spencer, E.
Stamford, E.
Hertford, M. Stanhope, E.
Lansdowne, M. Waldegrave, E. [Teller]
Salisbury, M.
Camperdown, E. Falkland, V.
Denbigh, E.
Dudley, E. Amphill, L.
Hardwicke, E. Ashbourne, L.
Kimberley, E. Bagot, L.
Balfour, L. Ker, L. (M. Lothian)
Belper, L. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore)
Churchill, L. [Teller]
Clinton, L. Lawrence L.
Fingall, L. (E. Fingall) Plunket, L.
Harris, L. Saltoun, L.
Hood of Avalon, L. Shute, L. (V. Barrington)
Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl) Windsor, L.

Amendment proposed— Page 22, line 5, after 'by,' insert 'an order of.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)

Question put.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 22, line 7, leave out 'provision,' and insert 'provisions.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)

Question put.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 22, line 16, leave out 'revision in,' and insert 'alteration of financial relations in Part Four of.'"—(Lord Ashbourne.)

Question put.

Amendment agreed to.

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