§ (SECOND READING.)
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The DUKE of DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill it will not be necessary for me to enter at any length into the history of previous legislative attempts to deal with the great question of the government of London. Prior to 1855 it may be said that no attempt to deal with that question by public legislation had been made at all. Such provision as existed for the government of London was the result of a series of local Acts passed very much at haphazard, and certainly without much 8 reference to each other. They had no settled plan, and rested upon no defined principles. It is true that a central authority did exist, charged with the administration of certain matters common to the whole metropolis. That body existed under the name of the Commissioners of Sewers, but, outside the administration by that body of such matters as had been entrusted to them by one of these Acts, the administration of all those other matters which in our large towns are managed and controlled by great and powerful organisations created under the Municipal Corporations Act, was left in London to the vestries, in exactly the same way as the affairs of any country parish. In 1855 that extremely primitive administration was to a certain extent reorganised. Administrative vestries were created, bodies directly representing the ratepayers of certain parishes. District boards were also established, which were indirectly elected by the vestries of the smaller London parishes. The central authority was reconstructed and reorganised by the substitution of the Metropolitan Board of Works for the Commissioners of Sewers, with larger and more extended powers. That body, also, was indirectly elected by the parish vestries and district councils. It is now, I think, admitted that the Metropolitan Board of Works did much work of a very useful and valuable character—more, perhaps, than was admitted at the time. But the records of that Board were certainly not in all respects satisfactory, and the mode of its election was so entirely dissimilar in principle to that which had been adopted for the governing authorities of all our other great cities that it is not to be wondered at that the opportunity was taken, which was offered when the Local Government Bill was under consideration, to give London, by the creation of a County Council, a central authority more resembling in its nature, constitution, and mode of election that which had been the principle accepted for the other great urban communities. But it was never intended that the creation of the London County Council would do all for the metropolis that is done by the municipal corporations which exist in the other great cities. The Local Government Act of 1888 definitely created, and finally settled, a central authority for London which, as, far as I know, no one at present wishes 9 to interfere with or disturb. But that Act did not profess to be a complete Act for the government of London. It avowedly left unsettled the question of the minor authorities, which it was always understood was reserved for future consideration. Up to now no attempt has been made to deal with these ancillary and auxiliary municipal authorities, the necessity of which has always been admitted, and is more than ever admitted at the present time. In approaching the question of smaller authorities and administrative areas for London it was necessary to consider what materials were at the disposal of the Government for the purpose of framing their policy in regard to them. We had the Report of the Commission appointed by the late Government in 1893, and which, under Mr. Courtney, reported in 1894, and I believe that, in the opinion of some noble Lords opposite, our policy in regard to the government of London ought to have been founded on the main recommendations of that Report. I do not think it would be worth while for me to spend much time in the discussion of those proposals, or in discussing whether the late Government were well advised in framing the terms of the reference to that Commission, and whether those terms, for the object they had in view, were wise or not. But the terms of the reference in the case of that Commission made it impossible for the present Government to accept that Report as a basis for its legislation. The terms were:To consider and report upon the conditions under which the amalgamation of the City and County of London could be effected, and make specific and practical proposals for that object.That reference assumed that the Corporation of the City was to cease to exist as an independent body, and was to be merged in the County Council. It was not open to the Commission to report whether such a policy was expedient or not. That question was decided for them, and all they had to do was to report as to how this amalgamation and unification could be carried out. However possible such a policy might have been for our predecessors, or may be for our successors, it was a policy impossible for the present Government to accept as a basis for their proposals. The Conservative Party, which forms the great majority of the supporters of the present Govern- 10 ment, are almost unanimously pledged against any attack upon the privileges and constitution of the City of London, however veiled or qualified that attack may be. There are others, no doubt, who support the present Government, who, like myself, are less committed by any previous declarations on this subject. But, in my opinion, there are few indeed who are of opinion that there are practical reasons, or any reasons at all beyond purely speculative and theoretical reasons, why Parliament should, at the present time, be invited to undertake a task of such magnitude, and which would involve such opposition, as any proposal to merge the Corporation of the City of London in the County Council. I do not believe that it is in political circles only that such an attack would be resisted and resented. I believe that the City of London—the unreformed Corporation of the City of London, as you may call it if you please—is regarded by many, if not all, of our great reformed corporations as still one of our greatest municipal institutions; and many of them, proud as they are of, respecting as they do, the history and traditions of that Corporation, would feel that any attack upon it would be an indirect menace to their privileges. But however that may be, and although it would have been a pure waste of time for us to have founded our proposals upon the main recommendations of Mr. Courtney's Commission, there is nothing in this Bill, as was pointed out by Mr. Courtney himself, to prevent a future reformer from undertaking the reform of the Corporation of the City of London if he has the courage and the disposition to undertake the task. If, as I believe some anticipate, the new municipalities to be formed under this Bill are likely to regard with suspicion and jealousy the superior privileges winch will be possessed by the City of London, then, indeed, it is possible that the way may be clear for further legislation which will deprive the City of those special privileges, and which will reduce the City precisely to the same level as the new corporations. But if, on the other hand, as I venture to think is more likely, these new corporations recognise in the City of London not only the most ancient and the most wealthy, but, at the same time, one of the best administered and most respected municipal institutions of the country, then, in my opinion, the position of the City of 11 London will be materially strengthened, and strengthened in the most legitimate and most useful manner. But, while it was impossible for the present Government to base their policy on the main recommendations of the Report of Mr. Courtney's Commission, there were incidental recommendations in that Report which indicated the direction in which reform might be looked for. For instance, in discussing the question of the partition of powers between the central body and the local bodies, the Commission make use of these words:We venture to repeat that we think it important for the sake of the dignity and the usefulness of local bodies, whose status should be enhanced as much as possible, as well as for the sake of the central body, where a continuance of work may be expected, that no duties should be thrown upon the central body that can be equally well performed by the local authorities.The principle thus indicated in the Report of Mr. Courtney's Commission was confirmed and emphasised by the action of important bodies of London citizens themselves. We received representations from large and influential bodies in various districts of London. Those bodies said they had no desire to attack either the City of London or the County Council. They admitted that there were many important functions which mnst continue to be discharged by the County Council. They expressed no doubt as to the public spirit with which it had devoted itself to its labours or as to much of the work which it had done. Some of them may have suggested that the zeal of the County Council might perhaps sometimes have been tempered with discretion, and also that, having as much to do as was well within its power, it was desirable it should refrain from the wish it seemed sometimes to entertain to extend even that great mass of work it had already to do. But they said that neither the City, which was remote from them, nor the County Council, which was already overworked, could do for them all that the municipal authorities in our other great towns do for their citizens. They said that their vestries and district boards did not possess either the powers or the dignity which other great towns—towns great but not greater than some of the parishes of London—possessed, and which experience proved attracted to them the services of the best and the 12 ablest of their citizens. They said "Leave the City and County Council alone, and give to us the privilege possessed by the citizens of every other city of petitioning Her Majesty in Council to grant us municipal incorporation under the Municipal Corporations Act." Petitions to that effect were presented from Westminster, Paddington, Marylebone, Islington, and other parishes and districts of London. Those petitions came before the Privy Council, and at first sight it appeared that a solution of the question was thus indicated, and that these municipal institutions might be created without recourse to the assistance of Parliamentary legislation. But our legal advisers were of opinion—and I have not the least doubt were rightly of opinion—that as Parliament had already provided by legislation for the government of London, although in a confessedly imperfect manner, it would not be competent for the Queen in Council to grant municipal incorporation under the Municipal Corporations Act, which would confer upon the newly created bodies powers inconsistent with the spirit of, and in some respects directly contravening, the principles already laid down by law passed by Parliament. It was also suggested that a short Act might be passed, which should provide that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Metropolis Management Acts, it should be competent for the Queen in Council to confer on petitioning inhabitants municipal incorporation as in other places; but that procedure did not appear, on examination, so simple and so satisfactory as it might seem to be at first. The franchise of the London vestries is wider than that of municipal corporations, and by such a procedure many of the London voters now possessing some, though imperfect, municipal rights would have been disfranchised altogether. But what was still more important was that the new municipalities thus created would have stood in a different position to the County Council from that in which any other corporation stands to any other authority; and it was necessary that provision should be made for reconciling the respective rights, powers, and position of the two authorities. The conclusion was forced upon us that the end in view could not be attained by either of those administrative or legislative short cuts, and 13 that Parliament must be invited seriously to consider the problem how the principle of the Municipal Corporations Act could be applied to the peculiar circumstances of the metropolis, possessing as it already did a central authority for certain purposes common to the whole of London, which it was not proposed to disturb; and also be consulted as to how the desire, which was admitted to be a reasonable desire, that the citizens of London should possess privileges similar and not inferior to those possessed by other urban communities, might be conceded. It will be sufficient, I think, if I enumerate very shortly the principal detailed provisions of this Bill. Its principle is, as I have said, to adapt the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act to the different parts of a great community, the magnitude of which has rendered necessary the constitution of a special central authority. If that principle is accepted, its application is necessarily a matter mainly of detail, which probably can best be considered in Committee. The Bill proposes to divide the whole of London into areas, each of which shall become a municipal borough. There is an advantage in this procedure over that which would have been attained by simply following the practice of the Municipal Corporations Act, inasmuch that under that Act these Corporations would have been formed separately, successively and piecemeal, and that in the process of formation there would have existed a variety of administration in different parts of London. There would also have been great difficulty in assigning proper boundaries to each of the new municipalities when it was not known whether the adjoining areas would remain under vestries or would also petition for incorporation. As a result of discussions in Committee in the House of Commons, the principle of the division of London into boroughs has been extended beyond what was originally proposed. The Bill, as introduced, scheduled only seven areas in London which were at once to receive municipal incorporation. The remaining areas were to be mapped out by Commissioners, appointed by and responsible to a Committee of the Privy Council. But as the schedules now stand the whole of London is divided primarily into certain areas, each of which will receive municipal incorporation. At the same time, accord- 14 ing to the usual practice, their exact boundaries are left to be determined by the Commissioners, whose duty it will also be to submit a scheme adjusting the rights, financial and otherwise, as between these municipalities and other existing authorities. This is no new power which is proposed by this Bill to be conferred upon a Government Department; it is a practice which has always been followed, and which, I think, has worked satisfactorily, in the grant of municipal incorporation to any new area. The existing franchise of the vestries, which is wider than the municipal franchise, will be retained. The municipalities will consist in all cases of a mayor, aldermen, and council, the number of aldermen being limited to one-sixth of the number of the elected councillors, instead of one-third as in the case of ordinary municipal boroughs. The House of Commons decided, after a good deal of hesitation and some contradictory decisions, that in the London municipalities, contrary to the practice elsewhere, women should be eligible for the office of councillor and alderman. This point, no doubt, will be raised again before your Lordships in Committee. The number of the members of the council is to be much smaller than that of the existing vestries, and is not to exceed 70 in any case. It is proposed that they should retire annually by thirds, as in the case of municipal boroughs, but a provision has been inserted that on a resolution of the council the Local Government Board may make an order for a triennial election of the whole. The councils will take over the whole of the powers of the existing vestries and district boards under the Metropolis Management Acts, together with the powers exercised by various boards and commissioners under the adoptive Acts dealing with burial boards, baths and washhouses, and public libraries. Certain minor powers are transferred from the London County Council to the borough councils as the result of an agreement arrived at at a conference between the representatives of both bodies, and certain other powers will be made exercisable concurrently by the borough councils; and as to any future transfer of powers, if the County Council and a majority of the new borough councils agree on the transfer of other powers from or to the borough councils, the transfer shall be made by 15 Provisional Order; but it must be made from or to all the councils, so as to secure uniformity. Here, again, an Amendment was, after discussion, introduced in Committee in the other House. Apprehensions were felt that it was possible that a political majority on the London County Council might assent to the transfer of powers which were essential to the usefulness and dignity of the County Council, and an Amendment requiring that such transfer should take place not only with the assent of the County Council, but also of the majority of the newly formed councils, was considered sufficient check to prevent any risk of this description; and similar provisions which render possible the retransfer of any powers to the County Council which may be thought necessary have been introduced into the Bill. Provision is also made for adjusting the expenses incidental to the transfer of powers. As to finance, the Bill provides for the consolidation into a single rate of the several rates for sewers, lighting, and general rates. The consolidated rate thus formed will be called the general rate, and will be levied by the borough council, the duties of the overseers in this respect being taken over by them. The duties of the overseers with respect to the registration of electors and the formation of jury lists will be performed by the town clerks of the new municipal boroughs. All precepts for rates, subject to certain specified exceptions, are to go to the borough council and be executed by them, and the rates are to be levied by one demand note, which is to contain such information as will tell the ratepayers the purposes for which the money is required. This, it is hoped, will lead to great simplification and a better understanding of the financial administration of London. The receipts and expenses of the borough councils will be audited by district auditors appointed by the Local Government Board, in the same way as the accounts of the county councils and district councils throughout the country. I believe I have now enumerated the principal proposals of the Bill. I am very glad to believe that the measure is not likely to be met here, as it was in the other House, by a motion for its rejection. I hope that we may see in this a sign that the conciliatory spirit in which the Bill was conducted through the other House is recognised and appreciated. The hon. 16 Member who moved the rejection of the Bill in the other House anticipated that the discussion would be closured, that all Amendments would be refused, and the Bill forced down the throats of the Opposition. Those anticipations have not been realised, and the Bill passed through the other House in a manner, I venture to think, far more satisfactory than was anticipated at the time of its introduction. A leading Member of the opposite party admitted that, if the House of Commons were given full opportunity to mould this Bill in Committee, it might be transformed into an eirenicon of conciliation, and even into a charter of local liberties. I shall not endeavour to show that the Bill accomplishes all that, but I believe that it will be accepted by the great majority of the inhabitants of London as a step, and a very long step, in the direction of reforming and giving completeness and even permanence to their local institutions and placing them upon a level not inferior to that on which municipal institutions in the other great cities and towns in this kingdom already stand. I have the honour, my Lords, to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Rosebery, in one of those recent excursions of his into the region of speculative politics with which he interests us, suggested as an interesting experiment that Liberal politicians should address Conservative meetings, and Conservative politicians Liberal meetings. Well, my Lords, that is the feeling I always experience when I attempt to address your Lordships upon a matter which involves any Party question; and, in spite of the courteous tolerance which your Lordships always extend to me, I cannot help feeling a certain diffidence and discomfort, which I cannot surmount, in consequence of the fact that my views do not receive very ready acceptance at your hands, and that my arguments, however good they may seem to me, are not likely to secure much change in your Lordships' minds. But, my Lords, on the present occasion I feel that I have another drawback. I have the honour to be a member of the London County Council, and, more than that, a member of the Progressive party in that body. I know, my Lords, that those who occupy 17 that position on the County Council are supposed to hold very heterodox views as to what ought to be done in London; but I would appeal to your Lordships to divest your minds of prejudice against me on any of these grounds. Although it is quite possible that if I were not a member of the London County Council I should not address the House on this subject, yet I do not stand before you as the spokesman of the County Council or as one who regards its actions as infallible. So far as I can I will keep the name of the County Council out of my speech; and, with regard to the other point, I do not think this is in any sense a Party measure, for I cannot conceive how Party feeling can he whipped up or exacerbated on the mere details of a local government Bill. I think that this is only a Party measure in the sense that it is brought forward on the responsibility of the Government, and that therefore there falls on the Opposition a certain duty, not necessarily the duty of opposing it—especially when the Members of the Opposition are so unequal in numbers as compared with the supporters of the Government—but the duty of endeavouring to make it as good a measure as possible, and of improving it in its administrative details without attempting to attack the principle upon which it is founded. It seems to me that when we consider the subject of the improvement of the government of London the first idea we ought to have in our minds is the unity of London. I know that it is often said that London is a sort of inconglomerate body, and that citizenship is absent. I do not believe that to be the case at all. I think, moreover, that it is the duty of the Government as far as possible to encourage the feeling of citizenship. No one part of London can exist without the other parts, and I believe the only way to meet the grave problems, and even dangers, which beset the agglomeration of so vast a population in a small area is to deal with London as a whole, and to secure that the various districts of London should bear each its fair share of the common burdens. I should like to attempt to hold out to the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council some ground of agreement between us, and I think that from his speech we may very fairly assume that we may proceed on a common basis. I think that, taking his history of the 18 development of this measure, and his history of London government, I may ask him to agree with me that the present state of local government in London is complex and inefficient, and should be at once simplified, purified, and dignified; and that the very necessity of the case in London demands that there should be a strong central body to deal with the subjects pertaining to London as a whole, and to secure as far as is necessary and desirable uniformity of action amongst the various local authorities throughout the metropolis. If these premisses may be admitted, I will try to show that in some points, at any rate, the proposals of the Government do not altogether fulfil them. The noble Duke began by telling us very frankly the reason why it was not intended to deal with the position of the City of London in this Bill. He said it was because, at any rate, one wing of the party to which he belonged was pledged to support the City of London against any attack. But I do not see why, because it is proposed to deal with the Corporation of the City of London and make it more useful, it should be assumed that there is any intention of making an attack upon the City. On the other hand, it seems to me that to deal with the City in a fair manner would be to dignify it, and to enable the Corporation to really fulfil its great duties. I think it is a deplorable thing that again the opportunity has been missed of dealing with the City of London. This is the second time that Her Majesty's present Ministers have missed that opportunity. They missed it in 1888, in the Local Government Act of that year. It may be said, however, that as that Bill had reference to the whole of the country it would have been overcrowding it to deal on that occasion with the question of the City of London, but I do not think that reason can be given now. Never was a Government in a better position to deal with the City than the present Government. Their views meet with the approbation of the public authorities in the City; they are a very powerful Government, in spite of the wear and tear of four years; they still have a majority of 140 in the other House, and in this House they are supreme. It does seem to me that under these circumstances we might have expected them to have tackled the question of the City of London. All authority is in favour of 19 such action. There was the Commission of 1835, and also the Commission of 1854. It is quite true that the latter Commission first suggested the plan of dividing London up into municipalities. They suggested seven municipalities, but at the same time that Commission also strongly recommended considerable reform in the Corporation of the City of London. Then there was the Commission to which the noble Duke himself has referred—the Commission which reported in 1894. These authorities all agreed that some action in connection with the City of London was imperative, and recommended that action should be taken. I do not think it can be contended, my Lords, that the administration of the City of London is so good or so simple as the noble Duke seemed to wish to indicate. What are the facts? The Common Council and Aldermen number, I think, 232, though dealing with a comparatively small area. Besides that, you have the fact that for the purposes of the Poor Law the City is divided, though it only consists of 671 acres, into 112 parishes, each of which has its own officers and its own expenses. That cannot be said to be a simple or efficient means of administration. Nor can it be said that the Corporation of the City of London attracts to itself the best of City men. I do not find amongst the lists of its Lord Mayors and Aldermen names such as those of Glyn, Lubbock, Rothschild, and Baring. On the contrary, I find that although the men who have held these offices have been no doubt excellent in themselves they are not in the first rank of City life. The ordinary Common Councillors, too, are generally retired retail tradesmen, and not men of distinction and calibre, which would fit them to deal with the administration of the affairs of so important a City. I think it is a deplorable thing that the City has not been dealt with in this Bill. I do not, however, intend to suggest to your Lordships that you should now include the City in the present Bill. I accept the Bill as it is, in the full expectation, as the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council foreshadowed in Ids speech, that at some future time we on this side of the House will be able to deal with the City in a manner much more thorough than it would be dealt with by the present Government. Let me now pass to the new bodies which the Bill will set up. I 20 desire to at once say that I think there is-every probability—in fact there is a certainty—that the administration of local government in London will be in far better hands when these new bodies are created than at present. The reduction in the number of local authorities will be an enormous improvement. I think that something like 200 local authorities, comprising vestries, district boards, and so forth, will disappear, and their place will be taken by 27 borough councils. I hope that before the Bill becomes law that number may be even still further increased. I think that if the number were increased to 29 or 30 it would be a great improvement. Even supposing 30 new borough councils were set up with the full number of 70 members on each, there would at the most be but 2,000 borough councillors in place of the present 3,110 members of vestries and district boards. In my opinion, this reduction in the number of members will tend greatly to increase the quality of the men who serve on the boards, and therefore the efficiency of the work. I come now to the constitution of the boards themselves. It is proposed to call their chairmen mayors. I hope that will ensure excellent chairmen; but, for myself, I have not that great faith in the title of mayor which some of your Lordships hold. I do not, however, suppose it can do much harm. But in the provision for aldermen the Government have gone back on recent provisions, and on the principle both of the Scotch County Councils Act and the Irish Local Government Act, in which aldermen were not included. I do not think you will find that the appointment of aldermen will in any way strengthen these councils. I should like to ask on this point for some definite expression of opinion as to what the qualification of an alderman under this Bill is to be. I have myself attempted to arrive at an opinion upon that subject, but have failed, and I should like some noble Lord, on behalf of the Government, to give the House some information before this Debate closes as to what the qualification is to be. With regard to the powers which it is proposed that these councils should exercise, I find that it is intended to give them very large powers as to the delegation of their duties to committees. It is proposed that every committee shall report their proceedings to the council, but that, 21 to the extent to which the council so direct, the acts and proceedings of the committee shall not acquire the approval of the council. Surely that is a very wide power. Would it not be wiser to say that the decision of every committee should be reported to the council, and that the proposals of the committee should receive the sanction of the council? I regard that delegation of powers to a committee sitting in private as a very dangerous one, and one which should be avoided. It is not even laid down in the Bill that each of these councils should have a finance committee to whom all matters of finance should be referred. It is proposed in this Bill that the new borough councils shall have the power of promoting Bills in Parliament and other powers of a very wide character. You propose to give them powers larger than those given to the County Council of London, and larger than those which have been given to the comity councils throughout England. The local county councils have no power whatever to promote Bills, but they have the power reserved to them, of course, of appearing in opposition to Bills. Under this Act it is proposed to give the new borough councils the same powers in regard to the promotion of Bills in Parliament as is given to the great municipalities throughout the kingdom. The County Council have only the powers, in regard to the promotion of Bills, which were transferred to them from the Metropolitan Board of Works. Those powers are confined to the promotion of Bills which are for the purpose of executing certain works within the county of London, but the new bodies under this Bill will have power to promote Bills for any object they may desire, whether within their district or not. That seems to me to be a very large power indeed. The London County Council has perhaps come under just criticism as being a body which has been too fond of promoting Bills in Parliament, and of spending the ratepayers' money in that direction; but in this Bill your are going to give to 27 or 30 bodies, throughout London, powers to promote Bills in Parliament of a much wider character. I think there is great danger in this, and I hope your Lordships will be willing to consider a proposal in the direction of restriction. Although the new bodies are to be called municipalities, they will not have the powers 22 possessed by the great municipalities, throughout the kingdom. Many of the powers which the great municipalities throughout the kingdom exercise cannot be given to these borough councils, because they must be restricted in their operations by the action of whatever central body governs the whole of London. The control of such matters as the fire brigade, the water supply, main drainage, technical education, asylums, and so forth, cannot be given to these bodies, and it seems to me that to call them municipalities when you cannot give them the powers of municipalities is a mistake, and will not really strengthen their position. You may call a thistle a rose if you like, but you will not make it more attractive or make it fulfil the same purpose as the rose by so doing. The mere name will not make the bodies attractive to the people of London, or induce the best men to become members of them. The thing that will make the local bodies attractive will be the work given to them to do, and if you give them large powers and important work you will then attract the best men to them. I desire to touch for one moment upon the proposal in the Bill to create a City of Greater Westminster, which seems to ore a very dangerous experiment. The proposed City of Westminster will be greater in rateable value than the City of London. The rateable value of the parishes to be included in the new City of Westminster is, roughly speaking, £5,000,000, whereas the rateable value of the City of London is only four and a-half millions. I find that by far the biggest of the remaining areas to be created under this Bill is the borough of Kensington, which has a rateable value of £2,199,000. I should have thought that between these various areas there should be something like uniformity, but in my judgment the principle of uniformity is not being adhered to when we here find a proposal to create an area which is more than double the rateable value of any other area proposed to be included in the scheme. Besides, at least three-fifths of the districts that are to be included in the new City of West-minister do not desire to be included in this area. The noble Duke did not refer to this proposal, nor attempt to bring forward the argument that the City of Westminster was an ancient city with an ancient history. He did not 23 attempt to prove anything of the sort. I attach no importance to the argument that you are creating under this Bill cities of the rich and cities of the poor, for it is inevitable, when you come to divide up a great city like London, that the tendency should be to have rich districts and poor districts. What is wanted is an equalisation of the burdens. I would ask your Lordships to approach this Bill with an open mind. Personally I wish it could have been referred to a Committee of your Lordships' House, for you have amongst you many men well acquainted with local government and well able to deal with the details of this Bill. I have no doubt myself that if it had been so referred the Bill would have passed out of the ordeal of that Committee very much improved in many respects. The Bill, however, will come before your Lordships in Committee on Monday next, and I hope that, in considering the Amendments which will be moved, your Lordships will remember the defence that is put forward for this House by its advocates—namely, that it is essentially a House of revision. It certainly seems to some of us on this side of the House that those revising powers are held in abeyance so long as a Conservative Government is in power, and that they only spring into activity when a Liberal Government is in office; but this is a Bill which, as I have said, we do not wish to treat in any sense as a Party measure. We desire to make it as far as possible a good and workable Bill. The Amendments which we intend to put forward will be directed towards improving its administrative details, and I would beg of your Lordships to accept those Amendments in this spirit, and to, at any rate, endeavour to meet some of the views we shall put forward on the various points to which I have called attention.
* THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I confess that I heard with very great satisfaction the noble Lord's statement that he did not desire to treat this Bill in a Party spirit. I think this is the first time any member of his Party has given expression to that opinion. The changes of view of the Party to which the noble Lord belongs have been almost as constant and frequent as the ebb and flow of the tide. It will be within the recollection of your Lordships that when the Bill was first introduced expressions of approval 24 were given utterance to, and the hope was, I think, expressed that the House of Commons would treat the measure very much in the spirit in which the noble Lord has treated it this evening. But there is a heresy which has been adopted by some noble Lords opposite, and one which has served its purpose not altogether ill from a political point of view, to the effect that there is and always has been a desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to destroy, or, as they gracefully express it, to "smash" the London County Council. Cabinet Ministers have without effect denied their intention of doing anything of the kind, and therefore I was not surprised, when the Bill was first introduced, and when it was shown that there was no such intention, that there was at once an expression on the part of the friends of the noble Lord opposite of very great pleasure at finding that the dreadful things said against the London County Council had come to naught. The spokesman for the London County Council in the other House said that as the position of the London County Council was not to be seriously interfered with, he wished to join hands with the Government in making this a good Bill. But then came a remarkable change, and there was aroused an extreme and unworthy amount of jealousy of the new bodies which it was proposed to create, and although it had been the distinct policy of the friends of the noble Lords opposite to extend to local bodies large corporate life, which brings with it dignity and responsibility, they did not so view the measure which is now before your Lordships' House. It was declared on the Second Reading in the House of Commons that the Bill implied disintegration in every clause. I am glad that is not the view of the noble Lord opposite. The noble Lord appears to be of the original opinion expressed by the members of his Party that this Bill is, or at any rate could be made, one which would crown the edifice of local government in London. It has been said that the Bill disturbs the existing system, that it fails to simplify and complete it. I think, judging from the speech of the noble Lord who has just addressed the House, that the fault he finds with the Bill is that it does not disturb the existing system enough. If the Bill had proposed to hand over to the County Council all the privileges, the prestige, and, perhaps, 25 I ought to add, the plate belonging to the Corporation of the City of London, and if it had proposed to adopt the somewhat preposterous suggestion that the area which has been known as the City of Westminster should be called the Westminster District of London and so forth, I think that would have been much more in consonance with the view of the noble Lord. But that is not the view, I am happy to think, which Her Majesty's Government takes of this subject. There has been no attempt in the Bill to destroy or undermine the influence of the London County Council as the great central authority of London. There is one policy, at all events, which this Bill will render difficult to carry out hereafter, and that is the policy of vestry smashing and City smashing. I agree that there is nothing in this Bill which will prevent Parliament from dealing hereafter with the City of London, but I think after the passing of this Bill no Government which desires to enter upon that course will do so with a light heart. The noble Duke has pointed out to your Lordships that the object which the Government had in introducing this Bill was to carry into effect the petition which was addressed to them by a very large and very influential deputation, representing all the larger and more important parishes in London, which waited upon the noble Marquess at the head of the Government and on the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council; and I venture to think that all which that deputation invited the Government to do has been done for them in the Bill which is now before your Lordships' House. They asked for the removal of the stigma attaching to vestrydom; they asked for an alteration in the name and an improvement in the status of the local authorities in London; they asked for the transfer to the new municipalities of such powers exercised by the County Council as had been agreed upon between the representatives of the several bodies; they asked that they might have vested in them the powers of the subordinate local authorities appointed under what are known as the Adoptive Acts; they asked that they might be made the rating authorities, and, above all, that they might be freed from all subserviency to the County Council. I believe all these objects, notwithstanding the changes that have been made inn the Bill since it was introduced into the House of Commons, are secured in the Bill which your Lord- 26 ships are asked to read a second time tonight. They have been accomplished by conferring upon the local authorities the title of municipal boroughs, by conferring upon the chairmen the title of mayor, and by reducing the excessive number of those who act upon the various local bodies of London. The noble Lord said he thought there were at the present time some 3,000 representatives on the local boards of the metropolis, but I think if he will add to the vestries and boards of works, the commissioners for public libraries, baths and washhouses, and so forth, he will find that there are not less than 5,000 men at the present moment engaged in administering the local affairs of London. I am sure your Lordships will readily understand that very little dignity or importance can attach to an office which is shared by 5,000 other people. I am glad the noble Lord sees in this Bill the germ, if not the fulfilment, of the completion of local government in London. That is a view which has not been prominently put forward from the other side of the House up to this moment; but I venture to hope that the scales have fallen from the eyes of noble Lords opposite, mid that they now see, from the manner in which the Minister in charge of this Bill in the other House of Parliament loyally and frankly adhered to the declarations he made at the outset, that there was no intention to undermine the authority of the County Council. I hope they recognise, also, that the sinister designs which it is supposed the Government entertained had their origin solely in the minds of noble Lords opposite and their friends. The noble Lord has found fault with the Government for not having included in this Bill the reform of the City of London. I should like to know who, in the City of London, asks that its system of government should be reformed. There have been no deputations, as in the ease of the vestries, and I venture to say that not one single voice has been raised by any person, whether he dwells in the City by night or works there by day, asking the Government to effect a change as regards that ancient Corporation. Does the noble Lord allege that any injury or any injustice is done by the present system of government to the inhabitants of other parts of the metropolis? I have not heard that any such suggestion has been made, and it. 27 does seem to me that if the people in the City do not want their government reformed, and if the people living in the other parts of London have no cause to allege that they are treated with injustice, then no cause has been shown for making any alteration in the present system of government. The noble Lord entertains considerable objection to the proposal to confer upon the new boroughs the power of promoting and opposing Bills in Parliament.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I do riot object to their having power to oppose Bids; what I object to is the granting to them of the power to promote Bills.
* THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The Government have been desirous of conferring upon these new boroughs all the powers they legitimately can which are exercised and enjoyed by the great municipalities in the other parts of the kingdom, and I cannot see how, under the strict limitations imposed by the Borough Funds Acts, there can be any reason whatever for anticipating the evils which the noble Lord seems to look forward to. The noble Lord objects to the creation of aldermen, but in this case also provincial municipalities enjoy the advantage, if advantage it be, of possessing aldermen. I cannot see why an advantage which they appreciate should be denied to boroughs in London, some of which are larger than all, except three, of the great provincial municipalities in England. The noble Lord asks what the qualification for alderman will be. I am under the impression that any person who is entitled to be elected a councillor may also be elected an alderman. The noble Lord objected to the proposed constitution of the borough of Westminster. I am not going to weary your Lordships with any of the claims which I think Westminster justly has, on account of its antiquity and traditions, to a place of exceptional importance in the government of London. But the noble Lord has selected one qualification, and one qualification only, to which he takes exception. He says that the rateable value of Westminster will be greater than that of any other borough, and greater even than that of the City of London, but he did not give any reason why large rateable value should be a disqualification for the possession of 28 these important powers. I cannot for the life of me see why the noble Lord should object to the addition of Westminster to the list of the new boroughs. I think he said that three-fifths of the people of Westminster do not desire this change. I do not know how the noble Lord has arrived at the opinion of the people of Westminster, but, being a member of the Vestry of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster, I know that that body has passed a resolution by a very large majority in favour of the scheme which is now before your Lordships. It is true that under this Bill, not only in the case of Westminster, but in the case of many other areas which will have to be amalgamated, there are a great many people who now serve upon the vestries, and a great many officials who are now in receipt of salaries, whose services will necessarily have to be dispensed with, and although I fully recognise the manner in which they have discharged their duties, I cannot help thinking that such agitation as there has been has largely emanated from those who will be displaced by the Bill, and that there is no solid foundation for the statement of the noble Lord that three-fifths of the people of Westminster are opposed to this proposal. Some meetings have, I know, been held. One meeting was convened at St. James's Hall on March 28, when 2 per cent. of the electors attended. No more than thirty-seven of these voted, this number representing three-fourths of 1 per cent. of the voters. Another meeting was held at St. Martin's Hall, presided over by my noble friend Lord Wemyss, to which 11,000 people were invited, but at which no more than 100 were present. The majority of these were vestrymen, and they might just as well have stayed at home in their vestry and passed their resolution for all the weight it had as expressing the opinion of the parishioners. The fact is, the people of London up to the present time have taken very small interest indeed in the election of the local bodies. In one ward in my parish, up to 1895, there had been no contest for thirty years, and in another parish there positively had never been a contest at all. On one occasion, when some objection was taken to the election of one of the vestrymen, he examined his nomination paper, and asked, "Who are the two people who have nominated me?" He was informed 29 that one was the bank messenger and the other a stableman in the mews round the corner. There being no contest this gentleman was declared elected, so that these two men practically elected a vestryman. The powers which it is proposed to transfer under this Bill have, as we know, been agreed upon by the local authorities and the London County Council. There is one power, however, to which I would desire to draw your Lordships' attention, which was not the subject of agreement between the County Council and the local authorities, and yet which, I venture to think, is almost the most important power which is proposed to be conferred upon these new councils. I refer to the power which enables them to undertake the duty of housing the working classes under Part III. of the Housing Act. I am in a position to know something of this matter, and I can confidently say that this question of the housing of the poor is one of the most pressing and one of the most burning problems which the people of London have to face at the present time. It is somewhat remarkable, I think, that in this great metropolis, where there are large numbers of unselfish citizens, with leisure and wealth, who devote themselves with great assiduity to works of philanthropy, there is no interest taken in the administration of local affairs. I venture to hope that to sonic extent, at any rate, the reproach in that respect which rests upon London in signal contrast to the civic patriotism which we find in provincial cities, such as Birmingham and Glasgow, may at length be removed. We know that—The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley,but I hope we may have discovered the remedy for the state of affairs to which I have referred. It may be that the causes are deeper seated than we have any knowledge of, but I think your Lordships will agree with me that so far as the Legislature is concerned, all has been done by the measure now before your Lordships' House that can be done to produce and to encourage a spirit of civic patriotism in London. I hope—and I trust I may not be disappointed—that the result will be that this great hive of human beings, the greatest which the world has ever seen, may become a city that all subjects of the Empire of the Queen may be proud of, as 30 exemplifying the system of local government which is particularly the birthright of Englishmen. I hope it may become a sweet and cleanly city, that the health and longevity of its citizens may be living proofs of the care bestowed upon it by those to whom it will be entrusted, and with that hope in view I urge your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill, which, I trust, will pass through all its stages in your Lordships' House without any serious emendation or alteration.
* LORD MONKSWELL
If my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth thought it necessary on his part to deprecate any feeling that might be aroused in your Lordships' minds unfavourable to what he was about to say owing to the circumstance that he was a member of the London County Council, I am afraid that I stand much more in need than he did of the tolerance of your Lordships in the few remarks I am about to make, because I am even more identified with the London County Council than the noble Lord, having been a member of it since its formation, and closely associated with the Progressive party during the whole of that time. I agree with the noble Earl who has just sat down in one thing—namely, that the Bill has been enormously Unproved during its passage through the House of Commons. I am one of those who thought, and there are many who thought with me, that the Bill as it was originally introduced went far to justify the most alarmist rumours that were rife owing to a speech made by the noble Marquess the Prime Minister, in which he coupled the sinister word "suicide" with the London County Council. The noble Earl (the Earl of Onslow) said he was extremely satisfied with the Bill as it now stands, but if he entirely and cordially agrees with the principle of the Amendments that were carried in the House of Commons I do do not think he could have been a very fervent admirer of the Bill as it was first introduced. The Amendments that have been inserted involved the gravest questions of principle, particularly with regard to one of the clauses to which we took the greatest exception—namely, the clause dealing with the transfer of powers. That clause has been absolutely remodelled in the House of Commons, and if the noble Earl thought the original 31 clause a good one, he must of necessity regard the present clause as a very bad one. The clause as it was originally drafted gave every possible facility for the transfer of powers from the County Council, but absolutely no facility for their transfer to the County Council, and provisions were introduced which would have resulted in the transfer to one municipal authority after another, bit by bit, of the powers of the London County Council. Then, with regard to the financial arrangements, if the noble Earl thought it right that the vestries should not be what he calls subservient to the County Council in financial matters, how can he agree with the present clause, which says that, subject to appeal, the London County Council shall still be the authority to ratify loans to local authorities? In the matter of the audit we have also carried our point, and the Bill has been very much improved since it was first introduced. The noble Earl did not set a very good example to us to treat the Bill in a non - Party spirit. He said, for instance, that we were unworthily jealous of the powers of the vestries and wanted to minimise those powers. As a matter of fact, during the whole time I have been on the County Council I have over and over again said to my constituents, and also in my speeches in the County Council, that my great desire is that every single power that can reasonably be transferred from the London County Council to the local bodies should be transferred. I entirely approve of their having more powers if those powers can be given consistently with the good government of London. I cannot see how, by giving the chairmen of these new borough councils the titles of mayor, you can do much good, and I am not sure that you will not do a certain amount of harm. And for this reason: Under the new system it will be impossible for a man to retain the office of mayor for more than a year, or, at most, two years. It has been the usual custom of the London vestries, when they had a good chairman, to retain him as long as possible, but I doubt very much whether that will be done under the present Bill, as, if there is any glamour attached to the position of mayor, it will be considered right that there should be annual elections to the mayoralty. There are just one or two observations I should like to make 32 with regard to the speech of the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council. He has echoed the cry of the Tory Party that the County Council is an overworked body, and that, being an overworked body, it is extremely wrong of the members to ask for more work. But what we say is that, even granting that the County Council is overworked, it does not necessarily follow that we ought not to ask for more powers, especially as there is other work which could, with equal efficiency, be transferred to other bodies. Proposals with that object have been mooted from time to time in the County Council. It has been suggested that the industrial schools should be taken away from the Council and placed under the control of the School Board, and also that the asylums, which take up a large amount of time, should be relegated to the Asylums Board. There is a curious omission in the Bill if, as the noble Earl said, the intention or the Government was to glorify the vestries. The way to glorify the vestries is to give them important work to do. There is a most important work which could have been given to these local bodies—namely, the administration of the Poor Law. My chief object, however, in rising is to point out that doubts are entertained in many quarters as to whether the Bill carries into effect the avowed intention of its authors with regard to the maintenance of public libraries and baths and wash-houses. The Bill undoubtedly contemplates the efficient maintenance of those institutions. There is a clause in the Bill to the effect that the Commissioners may provide for their efficient maintenance, but it is doubtful whether in certain cases the powers of the Commissioners are sufficient to enable them to efficiently maintain certain libraries, and whether they are not so hampered that any scheme for the maintenance of libraries and baths and washhouses would not work grievous injustice. As your Lordships are aware, libraries and baths and washhouses are set up under Adoptive Acts, so called because the local authorities may or may not adopt them at their pleasure. Of course, adopting these Acts generally means a rate. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government what will take place under the present provisions of the Bill when a district containing public libraries and baths and washhouses is amalgamated 33 with another district which has not adopted these Acts. I am not certain whether difficulties will in practice arise in the case of baths and washhouses, but they will certainly arise in the case of public libraries. Chelsea, for instance, is divided into two parts-Kensal Town, which is smaller Chelsea, and abuts on Paddington; and larger Chelsea, which abuts on the Thames. Smaller Chelsea is three miles distant from larger Chelsea. Chelsea has adopted the Library Acts, and Paddington has refused to do so. In larger Chelsea, owing, to a great extent to the munificence of Lord Cadogan, we have an excellent library in an excellent situation; but smaller Chelsea, three miles off, cannot make use of that library, and the result is that larger Chelsea, with some generosity, has built and endowed a library for Kensal Town, for the upkeep of which larger Chelsea pays £600 or £700 a year. When Kensal Town is taken away trout Chelsea, as it is bound to be under the provisions of this Bill, it is perfectly certain that the Kensal Town Library must he closed unless it gets a contribution from some where. The maximum library rate—1d. in the £—only produces in Kensal Town £230, which is insufficient for the purpose of paying interest on the building debt. What I want to know is, how, under this Bill, Kensal Town is to get the money necessary to maintain the library, and what the powers are in this respect which the Commissioners may exercise. It is almost certain that Kensal Town will be united to Paddington, and I should like to know if the Commissioners can make Paddington, which has refused to adopt the Acts, pay for the Kensal Town Library. I can quite understand that Paddington may say that it is illegal on the part of the Commissioners to make them pay this library rate when they have over and over again refused to Adopt the Library Acts, and they may possibly call in the aid of Clause 9, Subsection 4, which says:Where any of the adoptive Acts, or any local or other Act, does not extend to the whole borough, any rate required to meet the expenses incurred under the Act shall, subject to the provisions of any scheme under this Act, be levied together with, and as an additional item of, the general rate over the area to which the Act extends.If the Commissioners have no right to rate Paddington, which has taken over the area in which the library stands, the only 34 way to maintain it is to compel Chelsea to pay for the up-keep of a library over which it would have no control, which, in My opinion, would be a monstrous injustice. Therefore I ask the Government whether under the Bill there is any power to keep up the Kensal Town Library Mien annexed to Paddington; if there is, whether the Commissioners may charge Kensal Town or Paddington, at their option, or whether the power is confined to rating Kensal Town alone or Paddington alone. When we know what the views of Her Majesty's Government are with regard to this question, we shall be in a position to draft any Amendment we may think necessary in order to secure justice to Chelsea. I do not in the least desire to deny that in some respects the Bill will do good, and I shall vote with pleasure for its Second Reading.
§ * LORD FARQUHAR
I must first apologise for venturing to address your Lordships, having so lately become a Member of your Lordships' House. I should not do so now were it not for the fact that I have the honour to be the president of a society which has for its object the fostering of local government in London. I have listened with great attention to all the arguments which have been put forward, both in your Lordships' House this evening and in the House of Commons, on this Bill, and I think I may venture to say that I have really heard no damaging criticism of the Bill. The complaint has been made that this is not a more heroic measure, but the Government have, I think, adopted a wise course in acknowledging that London is too vast and too diverse to be placed under one uniform system of government. The Bill agrees with the happy epigram which is due to the ever-ready wit of the noble Earl Lord Rosebery who said:We desire to see London united, not London a unit.The Bill proceeds on the only safe and practical lines; and while, on the one hand, it does nothing to weaken or sap the authority of the County Council, it, on the other hand, does everything to raise the status and develop the spirit of the local authorities. The main object of the Bill seems to me to be to strengthen and encourage local spirit. The noble Lord who has just sat down does not appear to think that the change in the 35 name of the local authorities which is proposed under this Bill will do much good; but I disagree with him on this point. I contend that it will add to the dignity of these bodies, and put them on the same level as the City of London and provincial corporations. By diminishing the number of administrators more select bodies will be created, and I feel sin e they will be more efficient, while by adding to the functions discharged by the local bodies the best and ablest men will be attracted. Possibly the Government might have added more to these functions, but as they have not done so I feel sure the matter will soon mend itself. Our democracy is ever requiring increasing administration, administration, and it is not desirable or reasonable to throw every new duty that arises upon the heavily burdened shoulders of the London County Council. If the best and ablest men go on to these new councils, I am certain they will attract plenty of work, and that before long the arrears of London government will be overtaken. It is for these reasons, my Lords, that I beg to humbly thank the Government for having introduced this measure, and also to congratulate them on the very wise course they pursued in ascertaining the views of those most experienced in municipal life before introducing the Bill in the House of Commons.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I wish to make a few observations on the Bill, and perhaps I may be excused for doing so as being specially interested in a Bill which deals with the same subject as the Metropolitan Board of Works Bill, of which, more years ago than I care to say, I had charge in this House. I have little fault to find with the Bill, except that it does not deal with the City. While I appreciate the reasons for which the present Government are unable to adopt the recommendations of the Commission of 1893, I infer, from what the noble Duke said, that he did not look with great repugnance upon the possibility of the City of London being dealt with. The noble Duke also said that this might be hereafter dealt with by the successors of the present Government. I willingly admit that this Bill does not, as far as I can see, in any way obstruct any Government which may think fit to deal with the question of the City; on that point the Bill is fairly drawn and leaves the question where it is 36 now. Noble Lords opposite are strongly against dealing with the City. We on this side greatly desire to deal with the City, but this Bill does not settle the matter at all. In one respect I think the advantage of the Bill has hardly been sufficiently appreciated. One of the merits of the Bill is that it puts an end to the extremely inconvenient distribution of the districts of London. Nothing could possibly be worse than the present arrangement. When we brought in the Metropolitan Board of Works Bill we were obliged, owing to the great difficulty of carrying any Bill through Parliament at that time, to have recourse to the miserable device of grouping together a certain number of vestries, and giving them power to elect to a Board of Works. That was a mere makeshift, and now, happily, it will be ended. In that respect the Bill will be an unmixed blessing to London. The only blot I see on the measure is the creation of the enormous district known as Greater Westminster. I cannot understand what has induced the Government to insert that provision. Some people have suggested that the Government wish to set up Greater Westminster as a sort of rival to the County Council. I dismiss that from my mind because I do not think it is likely to prove a rival in any sense to the County Council. As I understand it, the object of the Bill is to distribute the different councils in London in such a way as to promote as far as possible good administration. Due regard has been paid to such ancient boroughs as Chelsea., and to other boroughs which may have a sort of separate existence; but as to Westminster a considerable portion of the inhabitants do not desire to be merged in this enormous borough. All agree that Westminster should be made a district, but to constitute this immense new municipality seems to be a very serious and a perfectly uncalled-for blot on an otherwise well-drawn Bill. There is the case of Wandsworth. Wandsworth is extremely large, and I understand there is a strong desire on the part of the inhabitants that it I should be divided. That, however, is a question which may be considered hereafter. I am sorry to say that I have considerable doubt as to the effect upon the administration of the local affairs of London which the transformation of the vestrymen into aldermen and 37 councillors will have. I should be delighted to think that that transformation would make them administer the affairs of their district somewhat better than they do at present, for I cannot say I am in the least enamoured of the way they have administered and do administer affairs. I ask anyone who knows London well whether he thinks really that the vestries have well managed the roads of London. The roads in the district of St. George's, Hanover-square, are habitually kept in a most disgraceful condition. I stirred up the inhabitants of Belgrave Square to make some remonstrance, and some attempt at repair was made. This is a matter which concerns not only the people of the parish of St. George's, but all those who live in the metropolis and have to pass through the parish. It is worth considering whether some machinery cannot be introduced in the Bill to compel the bodies concerned to do their duty in respect to roads. Such machinery has been found extremely convenient in respect to country districts. In those districts any ratepayer may complain of the state of a road. If complaint is made the County Council makes inquiry, and if the complaint is well founded they call upon the local authority to repair the road within a fixed time. If they do not do so, the County Council repairs the road and charges all the expenses on the district. The possession of that power by County Councils has had a wonderfully good effect. Again, I think that the uncleanliness of the streets of London reflects great discredit upon the administration. There are a great many other matters in which great neglect is displayed. I do hope that there will be elected upon the new councils men who will carry into effect the sanitary duties entrusted to them. One of the first things they ought to turn their attention to is a careful and impartial enforcement of the sanitary regulations in respect to houses, for in many parts of the metropolis the houses are in a most insanitary condition. As a whole the Bill is one of great interest to the inhabitants of the metropolis. It is not a heroic measure, and may not seem to be of such great importance as sonic of the far-stretching political measures with which we have to deal; but as regards the individual comfort of the inhabitants of this vast metropolis few Bills of more importance have been sub- 38 mitted to the consideration of your Lordships.
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships for more than one moment, but there are some considerations to which very little attention has been paid. Anyone who approaches this question or considers it in any way whatever must at once admit the difficulty of dealing with the government of London, and I would not be behind in recognising the difficulties of all kinds with which Her Majesty's Government must have been confronted. I do nut propose to follow the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Onslow), who twitted those with whom I generally work with their change of attitude, but I think one might fairly say that there was justification for the suspicion with which the birth of this Bill was regarded. Statements had been made by Her Majesty's Ministers which had led those interested in London government to expect a measure of a very reactionary and retrograde character, and I must say that the Bill as first introduced did seem to us to be a reactionary measure. It seemed to make confusion worse confounded, and to disarrange and leave open many questions which were considered settled. But the Bill as it has reached your Lordships' House is very different to what it was when introduced in the House of Commons. Many Amendments of vital consequence have been made in it, and safeguards have been adopted which remove many of the objections to it. There still, however, remains a curious fallacy in the framework of the Bill. The new districts are to be called metropolitan boroughs, and to have mayors and aldermen; but they will be devoid of many of the attributes of municipal boroughs. They will not manage their own police or fire brigade, and only one-sixth of the body will be aldermen, in-stead of one-third. Again, they will have a different franchise to ordinary municipal boroughs, and a different qualification for their members. The borough councils are to be endowed with the power of promoting Bills in Parliament, a power which we are justified in looking upon with suspicion, because the Government have refused to limit it in any way. The reason why I think the Bill has an objectionable framework is that by it the unity of London has been hampered, and that it will be rendered more difficult in 39 the future to deal with this question. Of course, it is perfectly obvious that, in a metropolis of the size of London, local management must be committed to many local bodies with wide powers. But, in the somewhat alarmist desire of Her Majesty's Government to escape from the supposed terrorism of the London County Council, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that each of these areas is only a part of one town which should, as far as possible, be united. I hope that the prevention of unity will not be the result of the Bill, but it is impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact that this is the aim of many who have agitated on this question. I do not wish to detain the House longer, but only to protest against any attempt to set back or destroy the chance of unifying London.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole house on Monday next.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before Seven of the Clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten of the clock.