§ House in Committee (according to Order).
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:—
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
The Amendment which I have to move to Clause 2 so alters the clause as to provide that no woman shall be eligible for the office either of alderman or of councillor. I feel very strongly upon the principle which is embodied in the clause as it stands, and I entertain a very strong objection to it upon two analogous but somewhat different grounds. I think the clause as it stands will not only be of no benefit, but will be of considerable detriment to us both in public and in private life. The principle involved in this clause is so novel and so large that it cannot, if it becomes law, be long confined to the bodies to be created under this Bill, but will very speedily extend over a much larger area of operations. In my opinion 538 a principle of this character ought not to be allowed to sidle its way into recognition on the Statute Book in a clause of a Bill, but ought to be brought before Parliament either as a small and distinct Bill, or by means of a Resolution, so that in some way Parliament could have an opportunity of considering the question in all its hearings. I trust that those of your Lordships who have the slightest doubt as to the wisdom of the principle will not forget that the clause found its way into the Bill in the other House of Parliament practically through an accident. It does not, therefore, come up to your Lordships with the sanction and weight of adequate discussion in the other House, nor with the support of any deliberate opinion expressed by that branch of the Legislature. The principle of removing the disqualification of sex and allowing women to sit as councillors and as aldermen on the new borough councils to be created in London is an absolutely new principle; or, if it is contended that it is only an extension of the present principle which prevails in the case of the vestries, it is, at any rate, so great an extension as to be tantamount to novelty. I think your Lordships will agree with me that if the disqualification is removed so far as the municipal bodies to be created in London are concerned, it will be absolutely impossible, with any show of reason or logic, to prevent its removal in connection with municipal bodies all over the country. If it is a good thing that this disqualification should be removed in the case of the London municipalities, on what possible principle can that good thing be withheld from the municipal councils and county councils in all the great cities and towns? And if it is a bad thing, what harm have these, as yet, uncreated London municipalities done that this experiment should be tried upon them? I do not think it will be possible, with any regard to logic or reason, to confine the operations of the clause to the position of councillors and aldermen, and I should like to know on what earthly principle a woman, if she can be an alderman, should not be a lord mayor, a mayor, or a chairman of a county council. I suppose women are excluded in this Bill from becoming mayors because the latter exercise judicial functions, but if you are going to enact that the women are eligible to sit as borough councillors and 539 as aldermen, I submit you will be forced very shortly to make them eligible as mayors and county councillors. I think I might really carry that argument still further. If you are going to allow women to exercise the functions of councillors and aldermen in connection with the new borough councils, that principle will of necessity extend to all the municipal councils throughout the country, and also, to be logical, to the Corporation of the City of London; and I fail to see how you can find any sound grounds on which to prevent them taking part in the legislation of the country, and sitting in Parliament. I admit that there is considerable difference between the functions of Parliament and those of the great municipalities, but still the latter bodies have to deal to a certain extent with legislation in the framing of bye-laws, and with enormous questions of finance and other matters so important that if you consider women qualified to sit upon these bodies, you will find it very difficult in the future to give a sound reason why they should not sit in Parliament also. However, I do not wish to press that point. All I want to impress upon your Lordships is this, that in voting for this clause, which says that disqualification of sex and marriage shall be removed so far as the borough councils to be created in London are concerned, you are in reality expressing an opinion that women are eligible, and should be elected as councillors and aldermen, not only on these new bodies, but on all the old existing bodies throughout the country, including among, them the Corporation of the City of London and the London County Council. Well, my Lords, I think that is so large a departure from existing practice that it ought not to have been introduced as a clause in a Bill, but ought, as I have said, to have been brought before Parliament and the country as a distinct measure upon which Parliament could give a distinct and clear opinion. All that my Amendment does is to bring the new municipal bodies to be created into line with the municipal bodies already existing throughout the country. We are, under this Bill, extending to London the same principles which obtain all over the country, and I cannot understand on what principle this departure with reference to women is made in the case of London. It would be much more in accordance with our usual legislative methods if, in creat- 540 ing municipal bodies in London, we carried out the main principles and the main details which govern municipal bodies in other parts of the country. It may be argued that as the greater contains the less, and as the new borough councils will take over the work and exercise the functions of the present vestries, the effect of my Amendment will be to deprive persons of statutory rights which they already possess in regard to the vestries. In the first place, there is an enormous difference between a municipal council and a vestry, and before dealing with that point I would remind your Lordships of the fact that the disqualification of sex and marriage was removed, so far as the London vestries were concerned, entirely by a mistake. Parliament was not in the least aware of what it was doing. Your Lordships will remember the long session of 1893–94. Parliament sat for a little over a year. It met on the 31st of January, 1893, and sat till March 3, 1894, and the Parish Councils Act of 1894 was debated at intervals all through that session. It was read the first time in the House of Commons in March, 1893, and the third time in this House in the same month of the following year. It was discussed on every stage, and was no less than 32 days in Committee in the other House. The Bill was debated in both Houses of Parliament until obviously Parliament scarcely knew whether it was on its head or its heels, and certainly did not, understand the meaning of the later clauses which were introduced. I will, if your Lordships will permit me, briefly explain how women became eligible to sit on the vestries under the Local Government Act of 1894. The Bill as introduced abolished the qualification of guardians, but had nothing whatever to do with the London vestries. The anomalous position thus created as regards the property qualification was called attention to on the First Reading of the Bill by Sir Charles Dilke. It was commented upon on the Second Reading by Mr. James Stuart, Mr. Rowlands, and others. I do not want to trouble your Lordships with quotations, but the gist of the contention was that the property qualification, having been removed in one case, ought to be removed in another. Mr. Stuart said:One thing was certain, and that was that the property qualification for vestries would have to be abolished, and the electorate put, 541 upon all fours with the electorate of district councils.Mr. Rowlands put the thing in a nutshell when he said:He felt very keenly the exclusion of London from the general provisions of the Bill, because if the measure became law London would be the only part of England in which the property qualification would remain for vestries.That was the nature of the criticism on the Bill—namely, that the property qualification having been removed so far as the country was concerned, should also be removed in the case of the London vestries. Section 23 of the Bill, after a great deal of discussion, was passed, enabling women to sit on parish and district councils. Then came Section 29, which applied certain provisions of the Act—the provisions dealing with property qualification in respect of guardians—to the London vestries, but that section specially specified that except in that respect the provisions were not to apply to London. The result was that the property qualification still applied to the London vestries. To remedy that condition of things the Minister in charge of the Bill, Sir Henry Fowler, moved an Amendment, which eventually became Clause 31 of the Bill. That is the clause under which women became eligible to sit on the vestries, and it is perfectly obvious that the Amendment was moved for the purpose of meeting the objections to the fact that the property qualification remained in respect of the vestries. It abolished the property qualification, it abolished the ratepaying qualification for electors, and it also abolished the ex officio right of incumbents to be chairmen of vestries. I have carefully read the Debate that took place, and I find that the whole discussion centred upon those three points—the taking away of the property qualification, the ratepaying qualification for electors, and the ex officio right of incumbents to be chairmen of vestries. There was not a single allusion made to the fact that under that clause the disqualification of sex was also removed. Not a single word was said in any Debate which occurred, from the First Reading of the Bill in the other House to its Third Reading in your Lordships' House, to show that women would become qualified under the measure to sit upon the London vestries. In the last Debate 542 which took place in this House in Committee, the noble Earl opposite, the Leader of the Opposition, spoke about this particular clause in the Bill. He said he could not for the life of him see why persons in London who would be entitled to vote for members of sanitary districts, if they lived in the country, should be excluded from voting at the London vestry elections. The noble Earl spoke entirely about voting. He did not make the slightest allusion to the fact that the power was conferred upon women by this clause to sit upon the vestries. Neither did the noble Marquess, who spoke on the same occasion. It is not very strange, my Lords, that Parliament should not have understood the meaning of the clause. It was severely criticised by the Prime Minister, who said the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) had been kind enough to give their Lordships his interpretation and view of what was intended to be done, but the drafting of the clause was so wonderful, said the noble Marquess, that he defied any human being who had not been provided with some special code of interpretation to discover what it meant. The noble Marquess said that probably the noble Earl possessed some, cipher by which he understood what the draftsman meant. In the course of his speech the noble Marquess commented only upon the effect of the voting power of women, and did not refer for a single moment to the fact that the clause qualified women to sit upon the vestries. Seeing that, during the whole of the Debate, not a single reference was made to the fact that the clause would give this power, and that the noble Earl opposite, who had charge of the Bill, and the noble Marquess who criticised it, failed to perceive that the clause admitted women, I think I am justified in pressing it upon your Lordships that the fact that women now sit upon the London vestries is due entirely to an accident, and that Parliament, when it passed that clause, had not the slightest idea that the clause would have the effect it did. I ask your Lordships, therefore, to agree with me that there is no sound argument for saying that if my Amendment is carried in your Lordships' House any persons will be prevented from enjoying any right or privilege that Parliament ever intended they should possess. There is an enormous difference between the whole status of the London vestries 543 and the new municipal bodies to be created under this Bill. It is true that the borough councils will be largely occupied in carrying on the work of the vestries, but they will have a great deal more to do. They will exercise additional powers under the Adoptive Acts, and will have further powers transferred to them from the London County Council. In any case, the areas are in almost every instance considerably larger, and the borough councils will have to deal with matters much more complicated, financial and otherwise, than the vestries now have under their control; indeed, I submit that the whole object of this Bill is to create municipal bodies which should be superior to, and different from, the existing vestries and district boards. I do not think that any advantage to the public service can accrue from women sitting as councillors and aldermen. The work they would have to perform is not work which is congenial and natural to them. Women sit at present on Poor Law boards and deal with educational matters, and they perform invaluable service as factory inspectors. In all these matters I am sure the House will agree with me that the country has derived enormous benefit from the work of women, and that it owes them a great debt of gratitude for the energy and the intelligent manner in which they have on these bodies performed their duties. But these are matters women are particularly qualified to deal with; they are all matters in which humanitarianism comes into play. As Poor Law Guardians, members of educational bodies, and factory inspectors women have done admirable work, and the country can very ill afford to lose their services, and it is for that very reason that I do not desire women to be encouraged to go into work which is not congenial and which is unnatural to them. I never yet have understood that women take a particular delight in drains or are interested in paying, or derive much joy out of ascertaining the cubic contents of buildings. Neither do I understand that they take any interest in unravelling the intricacies of finance, or studying the stern simplicity of a balance-sheet. These are matters which men can attend to considerably better than women, and for many reasons. It is impossible for your Lordships to say that in passing this clause you are passing a permissive clause. If Parliament makes such a 544 great change as this, it is tantamount to Parliament saying that it is desirable that women should do this kind of work. They can perform the work in which they are engaged, and to which I have referred, just as well as men, and in many respects better; but I believe you will be doing great harm to the conduct of our public affairs if, by retaining this clause as it is, you encourage women to embark upon work for which they are not fitted, and abandon work which they have shown themselves abundantly qualified to perform. There are all kinds of minor inconveniences in this Bill which I do not think I need parcularly mention to your Lordships. For instance, a man is disqualified from sitting on a council if he is pecuniarily interested as a contractor. In such a case, can that man's wife sit upon the council? Would not that be rather contrary to the general spirit in which we regard the marriage relationship? Moreover, if the clause as it at present stands is adopted you will have to make some little modification in the English language, for your Lordships will scarcely, I am sure, tolerate the barbarism of speaking of a woman as an "alderman." "Alderman" is a good old-fashioned word, and means "an elder of the community." If you pass this clause you ought also to enact that in future "aldermen" shall be "old women." I am curious to know, if a lady should become Lord Mayor of London or an Alderman, whether her husband would derive any precedence, glory, honour, or title of any kind from the position held by his wife. These are comparatively unimportant matters, but when you see small matters of this kind which require a change in the general meaning of an old English word, you may be sure that, small as the matters are, they relate to something which goes very deep into the lowest strata of English society. I do not know that I need address your Lordships at any greater length, but I sincerely hope that the clause will not be allowed to remain in the Bill in its present form. If it is so allowed, I believe it will do a great deal of harm to the public service, and will prevent women from doing a great deal of good work which they now admirably perform, by inducing them to undertake work which is not suitable to them. I do not know that I would describe the position of things thus created in language 545 quite so vigorous as that which was used by the Prime Minister not very long ago. Lord Salisbury delivered a wisely humorous speech, which I am sure your Lordships will remember, at the recent banquet of the Royal Academy. He there said that he believed that if there were a Dante to write an artistic "Inferno," its lowest circle would be assigned to the ladies who dressed themselves in the divided skirts or knickerbockers. The noble Marquess went on:A few years hence those who are then alive will see all the principal ladies of their acquaintance as aldermen and common councillors.I am glad, therefore, that I may feel confident of receiving the strong support of the noble Marquess in putting off to the furthest possible date the realisation of that horrible nightmare. I thank your Lordships for having listened to me with such patience, but I have spoken at this length because I feel that if you pass this clause you will not only be introducing the thin edge of the wedge, but that you will be driving the wedge home in such a way that some day or another it will be calculated to split the fabric of society. I think the enormous influence for good which women exercise, the great civilising influence that they possess, is due principally to the fact that they do not jostle men, and are not jostled by men in fulfilling the onerous duties which the possession of all these positions entails. I do not see how, if you agree to this clause, you can logically say that any disqualification of sex ought to be maintained in respect of any position, whether it be administrative, legislative, or executive. Whether that is a wise thing or an unwise thing to do is too large a question for me to go into. This is a matter which appeals more to intuition, perception, and instinct than to argument, and I will leave it to your Lordships' clear perception and common-sense to decide. I would, in conclusion, ask your Lordships to remember that in accepting my Amendment you are not disqualifying women from exercising any of the functions which they so adequately discharge now as Poor Law guardians and on the various other authorities, but that you are simply putting the new borough councils to be created in London upon the same lines as the other municipal bodies throughout the country. I beg to 546 move the Amendment which stands in my name.
Page 1, line 19, leave out from 'councillors' to the end of the sub-section, and insert 'Provided that no woman shall be eligible for any such office."—(The Lord Kenry, E. Dunraven and Mount Earl.)
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, my noble friend did me the honour to quote some observations that I made some time ago upon the dress of women. I have not the least objection to the quotation if he would make it correctly. I did not object to women being aldermen or common councillors any more than I object to their riding bicycles. What I objected to was their putting on an absurd and offensive and comical costume to do so. That is a matter which, however grave, hardly enters within the purview of this Bill. My noble friend introduced a simile to which we are very much accustomed—namely, the use of the thin end of the wedge. That is a very ancient simile, to which I render all homage, and I daresay I have often used it myself; but in order that that simile of the thin end of the wedge should be in the least applicable the end of the wedge must be inserted in the log upon which it is intended to operate. If the thin end of the wedge is inserted into a totally different log some distance away there is no fear to be apprehended for the welfare of the original log. Therefore, that suggestion is wholly irrelevant. If there are persons who really believe that, because you allow women to sit as members of these new bodies, you are therefore hastening the admission of them to the Parliamentary suffrage, I can only say that that is a system of argument I am wholly unable to understand. The two things have nothing whatever to do with each other. Whenever woman suffrage, if ever it does, comes up to be judged in this House, we shall know how to pay attention to the nature of the proposals that are made and to the conditions under which they are laid before us; but they are not before us now. There is not the slightest chance of their being discussed or passed, and it is merely leading us off on a false scent to ask us to discuss these things on this Bill. 547 My Lords, my noble friend evidently felt that his great difficulty was the action of the House of Commons and the action of Parliament, and he suggested a very original method of disposing of difficulties of that kind. If the House of Commons in this session, or Parliament in former sessions, has come to any conclusion distasteful to him, he says, "Oh, they did that by accident." Well, of course, that destroys the authority of Parliament altogether. If the House of Commons and the House of Lords are incapable in the course of twelve months of appreciating the fact that they are introducing so large a revolution as my noble friend depicts the admission of women to vestries to be, they are certainly unfit to be entrusted with the legislative business of this country, and in the same way this clause comes up to us with the sanction of the House of Commons, which has been given twice and once refused. It seems to me very irrelevant and trivial to say that the refusal was given after dinner and the acceptance was given before dinner; but that is really the only ground upon which it is possible to criticise the decision of the House of Commons. We must take the decisions as they reach us. The suggestion that if a Division was taken suddenly only the friends of women would be found in the lobby, and those who are against women would be better employed elsewhere, is not respectful either to them or to the House of Commons. I think my noble friend has given your Lordships what seems to me an entirely false view of the clause which he is opposing. He represents it as a great innovation and as introducing something that is absolutely new. What it does is to give to women precisely the same access to the new municipal councils which they have to the vestries at present. These councils differ very little from the vestries. It is not pretended that they do. They have one or two additional powers, one of very great importance, to which I shall refer in a moment—namely, the housing of the working classes; but beyond that the change is only a change of the area of jurisdiction and a change of name; and because of a mere change of name you are asked to strike off women who are now serving. It really amounts to a Parliamentary condemnation to turn them out of the seats and jurisdiction they have hitherto held and exercised, and that not 548 on the ground that they have been unworthy of the trust reposed in them or that they have done harm with the powers entrusted to them. That seems to me so violent a step that some cause should be shown for it. It is not enough to tell me that a new name has been given to the bodies to which they belonged. I gather from my noble friend that he fears there is something infectious in a name, and that if these bodies are called municipal councils in London, and women sit on them, straightway all over the country women will start up and want to sit on the municipal councils in all the other towns. Is it really contended that our institutions are constructed on this logical basis? Are there no cases in which a different arrangement has come down from other times, so that bodies having the same name have, in many respects, different powers and different constitution? You are perfectly aware, my Lords, that there are, and that the mere fact that the new London bodies are called municipal councils will no more introduce women into the municipal bodies of Manchester and Birmingham than it will change them into some unknown animal. It is ridiculous to suppose that so great a change will come over municipal bodies, because what were formerly called vestries in London are now called municipal councils, and because these bodies contain women, that therefore women will sit on municipal bodies in provincial towns. It is so absurd an assumption that you cannot possibly deal with it as affording sufficient ground for condemning women who have already performed the duties cast upon them by Parliament, or for suggesting that they have performed those duties badly, or for repealing the powers which five years ago were so deliberately conferred upon them by Parliament. I think merely on the ground of justice that would be a most objectionable thing. But there is a good deal more than justice. My noble friend had the hardihood to say that the new duties imposed on women were alien to their nature and capacity. He said: "You must not tell me that they are on boards of guardians, because there a humanitarian element enters." Has he noticed the fact that one of the main duties of these bodies will be to provide for the housing of the working classes? Is there no humanitarian element in that? On the contrary, my 549 Lords, I believe it is one of the most burning and difficult questions with which our future local governments will have to deal. The difficulty increases year by year. It is not the first time we have discussed it in this House. Many years ago, at the request of this House, a Commission was appointed to examine into the condition of the lodging of the working classes, and the result which that Commission reported was most un-satisfactory and, I should add, most alarming, and yet things have got worse since. The difficulty of the conditions is that the ordinary economic laws do not come into play. You are yourselves obliged constantly to destroy vast masses of poor men's dwellings, and every effort to provide an adequate substitute has hitherto, I am afraid, been a failure. And it is not only that. There is a constant flow of the working-class population from the country to the town. They all press, as it is natural they should, near the scene of their employment and their work. To remove them far from the scene of their work is a very great hardship, and rather than incur this hardship they will submit to conditions of lodging in which health and decency, one would almost say morality, are surrounded with the most fatal difficulties. This is an evil which has been so much discussed that I need not press it on your Lordships, but it is an evil with which these local bodies will have, above all things, to contend. The London County Council itself has undertaken part of the duty, but it will not be only on the London County Council that this duty will fall—the duty of providing, I will not say of providing but of striving to provide, adequate lodging for the vast multitudes who inhabit this city. It is one of the principal duties which these municipal bodies will have to perform, and you ought to arm them with every weapon and every assistance that may enable them to perform it with success. Now, I maintain that women are as necessary for the purpose of assisting these local bodies to provide decent lodging for the working classes as they are for the purpose of administering the Poor Law. It is quite as essential, and a far more pressing and urgent duty. And it is an entire misapprehension to suppose that this work is removed further from their ordinary functions or the capacity which they possess. These women are, I may say—I am anxious, in dealing with the matter, not to use words 550 of exaggeration, but I think it is true to say that women are in closer touch—these women who give attention to the working classes are in closer touch with them than any man can be. What touch there is, what contact there is, between the working classes and the classes that are above them—apart from matters of business—passes almost entirely through the hands of women. All the charitable work—I will not say charitable, because it conveys, perhaps, an unjust interpreta-tion—but all the sympathetic work, and the knowledge of their daily life, is, to a very large extent, the possession and the privilege of women, and not of men. They are in touch with the working classes more, I think, than men. They are able to guide the bodies on which they sit in the administration of those parts of the law which most closely concern the social life and the moral existence of the working classes, and you will be sacrificing a very great instrument of good if you remove from these councils those who are able to guide the administrators charged with the execution of the law in a way in which they can only be guided by those who know the wants, and not only the wants but the wishes, of the working classes themselves. My Lords, there is another consideration on which I can only dwell lightly, but we ought not to leave it out of account. The vestries have not hitherto enjoyed a very high reputation. They have been accused—I know not whether justly—of using their prerogative more for the purpose of protecting their own interests than of advancing those interests which are committed to their charge. Whether that be true or not I do not know, but it seems to me that in the presence of a woman on those councils you have a security against indolence, against selfish administration, which you will not have if they are removed. They—to use the words of my noble friend—are impressed with the humanitarian element. They feel the terrible evils with which vast multitudes in this city are oppressed. They are moved to act in those matters less by motives of a secondary character and more by the highest philanthropy than the men by whose side they sit, and if you remove them front the council chamber you are taking away from that council one of the highest, one of the most constant, and one of the most reliable stimulants to a true, and honest, and 551 unflagging administration of the law. These, my Lords, seem to me considerations of the highest moment. The power with which you have armed these bodies is in the present state of London one of the most momentous powers which they can be called upon to exercise. It is not right to remove from them any condition which will help them in the execution of their duties unless you are led to do so by motives of clear and overwhelming cogency. Such motives, I maintain, do not exist. It is nothing but a name—in order to secure the identical meaning of a name you are asked to drive these women from the council chamber; you are asked to prevent the influence which they have hitherto exercised, and which they will in the future exercise, I believe, in a much higher and more beneficial degree; you are asked to prevent them merely for a technicality—for a pedantic similarity of meaning in the name of two different organisations. I regret very much that I know I am opposed in this matter by many with whom I usually act. I earnestly deprecate the idea that there is anything in the name or principles of Conservatism which is opposed to making these councils as efficient as they can he made for the beneficent purposes for which they are to be set up. I earnestly protest against that idea. I protest against our being asked to differ with the other House of Parliament on a matter of this kind, to refuse to make use of all the instruments of good that lie to our hands, and to do so from motives which are of a trivial character and from apprehensions which do not deserve a moment's thought. Whatever may be the feelings of others, for myself I cannot refuse to vote for that course which will help forward in some degree, it may be to a great degree, a high and noble cause, and which is the course of right, of justice, and of true philanthropy.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The EARL OF HALSBURY)
My Lords, I regret very much that I am obliged to differ on this subject from my noble friend at the head of the Government, but the argument of the noble Marquess I am unable to follow. That the question is far wider and more important than my noble friend regards it the crowded and unwonted state of the benches furnishes conclusive evidence. Does anybody in their senses believe that if the only question involved 552 in this matter was whether a woman was to become an alderman or not the state of the House would be what it is at this moment? When I look at the state of the House I recognise the fact that it is felt on both sides that the question at issue is not less momentous than this—whether or not, for all purposes and in respect of all political power, distinction of sex or disqualification of sex shall be maintained. This is a matter of great delicacy, but I venture to remind your Lordships that this clause had not found its way into the Bill when it was originally introduced by the Government. It occurs to me that, when this Government Bill was first introduced, those who had to consider this question must have had it before their minds. Yet the Bill was introduced without this clause, the history and importance of which is well known. The profession of faith which is involved in the retention of this small clause is not made very prominent. I would ask the right hon. Member for Bodmin, if he were here, whether this is or is not part of the change in the Constitution which he and his friends recommend—namely, that women should be admitted to the franchise, and that they should vote——
§ * THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am delighted to hear my noble friend say that. Of course, my noble friend's view is entitled to great weight and authority; but its importance is I think, considerably diminished by the observation which I have succeeded in eliciting. I do not follow my noble friend in the view he takes that the change will rest here. Where is the line at which we are going to stop? What argument that has been advanced, or suggestion that has been made, will not be equally applicable to the question of a Parliamentary vote? I quite admit the distinction between government and administration, and no one can appreciate more strongly than I do the admirable work women have done in administration as distinguished from government. I cannot, however, help admiring the wonderful subtlety with which my noble friend introduced his observations about the housing of the working classes, from which I suppose no one will for a moment differ, and wove them into his defence of 553 this particular clause. If one has not good and cogent arguments for the proposition one endeavours to maintain, it is very wise in rhetoric to introduce something else as to which there will be no contradiction, and then assume that the one thing involves the other. It seems to me that that is what the noble Marquess did. I have myself to make confession on this matter. I admit that at one time I took a different view, and thought that it was an anomaly in our Constitution that the possession of property should give a vote to one sex and not to the other. If I may venture to say so, it was not an unnatural mistake, but my experience in political life for the last 10 or 20 years has taught me that I was mistaken, and therefore I come forward and confess myself, in a white sheet, as a penitent. When I refer to my past political experience your Lordships will understand that I mean the attitude assumed by women in regard to various public questions that have come before us. There are some questions on which, for obvious reasons, I do not desire to enter. The attitude of women on the Turkish question, the temperance question, the vaccination question, as well as one or two others that I would rather not discuss, has convinced me that those very qualities which are exhibited in the burning zeal of a woman to do what she believes to be right, so that she will accept of no compromise—will accept nothing that is not perfect—render her a dangerous guide in political questions. That is no derogation to women's character, on the contrary what makes them the light and charm of human life is the possession of these qualities; but the fact that they will neither consider ways and means nor those considerations of statesmanship without some portion of which no State, I believe, can long continue, renders them unfit to be entrusted with political power. It seems to me that when once you invest women with political power it is not true to say that you will get the average women; those who put themselves forward as representing their sex will not be the best. Unfortunately, also, it is not unlikely that those who would shrink from advancing into political life may be influenced by others. It seems to me that those elements of citizenship—the possession of an independent mind, and the power to act according to one's lights with both 554 prudence and courage—are not qualities which we can expect from women. I regret that for these reasons I am unable to take the same view as my noble friend. I think this is a most serious constitutional change, and my Conservatism undoubtedly does recognise the fact that the Constitution, which has been supported and guided by men, is a Constitution with which it is extremely unwise to tamper, and it would be a most unwise thing to hand over half the government of this great country to women. Then there are the difficulties that may arise with reference to a vote for married women. I know it may be said that I am not arguing the question now before the House. That is the whole point between us; I say that this is the question with which we have to deal. It is part of a dangerous policy, and I shall therefore vote against my noble friend, for the first time, I believe, since I have been in this House.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, if I thought this was a question of granting political franchise to women, with all the consequences which might follow, I certainly should take the same view as the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down. I am not, and never have been, in favour of granting political franchise to women. It is, no doubt, an extremely convenient thing, and a very good rhetorical artifice, to introduce into the discussion a question which, in my opinion, does not really belong to it. It seems to me there is a wide distinction between allowing women to perform the duties which they might perform if they became members of these councils, and allowing them to perform duties of an entirely different nature—namely, legislative duties. To my mind the point that was cogently put by the noble Marquess opposite ought to weigh even with those who might have doubts whether it is expedient in itself that women should be—members of these councils—I mean the point that they already in the vestries enjoy the privilege. As to the Bill of 1894, one clause says in distinct terms that the members of urban district councils may be women, and another clause applies that without reservations to the members of vestries. There could be no mistake about it; it was not by a side wind, it was put openly and distinctly by the Act, and no one who took part in the 555 discussion could be under the smallest doubt that that was the distinct pledge and well-known intention of the Government which brought in the Bill, and to which I belonged. I entirely agree with the noble Marquess opposite that it is contrary to our usual practice, and I think to an ordinary sense of justice, that having given to women the privilege of sitting upon certain bodies, you should take that privilege away when you merely change the names of those bodies, and add a few new powers which certainly women are as well able, if not more able, to exercise as any other members of the vestries. There is not one tittle of allegation that they have misused their power, or one argument to show that they are not as well fitted to discharge the duties of these local bodies as the duties of the school boards or of the boards of guardians. I draw a wide distinction between that and the political franchise. I believe that women are quite well qualified to deal with many of the subjects which come before these local bodies, and I agree with the noble Marquess that it would be a great misfortune if you excluded them from these bodies in London. I think there are a great many people who are terribly frightened by the famous old argument about the thin end of the wedge; but I must confess I am not very much disturbed by that; if I were I should not vote in favour of this clause. I believe the existing privilege they enjoy is a useful one, which ought to be maintained, and I am further distinctly of opinion that no one who votes in favour of maintaining the clause as it now stands commits himself in the slightest degree to giving political franchise to women.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, my noble friend at the head of the Government has said that in the views he has expressed he does not find himself in accordance with many of those with whom he usually acts; but I do not think he stated as clearly as was stated by the Leader of the other House that this question is one upon which, as a Government, the Government are not prepared to advise Parliament; votes, therefore, will be uninfluenced by Party allegiance. No doubt that position has been made quite clear by the speech of my noble and learned friend beside me me (the Lord Chancellor); but I may say 556 that, so far as I am aware, the only members of the Government who are strongly opposed to the Amendment are, I admit, two of its most distinguished members, but they are not, I think, supported by any of their colleagues. In what I say on this subject I shall confine myself to it as affecting the Bill itself, apart from the more general question that has been raised. The question is one which presents difficulty only to one side of opinion on the subject of women's rights. Of course, all those who are in favour of a wide or the widest extension of those political rights are strongly in favour of anything that admits them to, or claims for them, any new privilege approaching a political character; it is only to those of us who are, generally speaking, opposed to a wide extension of this kind that the question presents any difficulty at all. We none of us desire to deprive women of any of those privileges or duties they so admirably discharge in connection with the administration of the Poor Law and of education; but the one argument addressed to us for the Bill as it stands and against the Amendment is that women are already qualified to sit as members of vestries, and that, inasmuch as vestries are to disappear and to be replaced by municipalities, they will no longer be possessed of that privilege. But that argument applies to a great number of people besides women. The effect of the Bill will be to replace by a number of other people several hundreds of vestrymen, many of whom have admittedly discharged their duties well and efficiently. If you are going to look at the question from the point of view of the privileges of a certain class or of certain persons you must not confine your attention to the case of women alone; you must extend your attention to the privileges of vestrymen who are necessarily under the Bill going to be disqualified from the further performance of duties they have hitherto well discharged. You have, however, decided to abolish vestries and to replace them by bodies governing larger areas; and you are bound, in my opinion, to accept the consequences of the change. You cannot retain the incidents of the old system and ignore those of the new. It would be most unfortunate for the future working of this measure if you were from the outset to stamp these new municipalities you are 557 going to create, and which you are doing all in your power to make closely resemble those now existing all over the country—if you stamp them from the outset with this obvious inequality, saying, as in fact you do say if you pass this clause without the Amendment, that whatever you may choose to call these new bodies they simply are vestries under a new name, and your intention is that they shall remain vestries. It is argued that women are as well qualified as men to discharge the duties of councillors and aldermen, not only on these, but on other municipalities. In reply to that, I agree with the noble Earl who moved the Amendment that this is not the time, nor the place, nor is this the measure upon which so great and far reaching a change ought to be proposed. It is absolutely, certain that this extension will be made the basis of a demand—whether successful or not it is not possible for me to say—but it certainly will be made the basis of a demand for the extension of the privilege to women on all municipal councils, and, notwithstanding what has fallen from my noble friend at the head of the Government, I personally should have great difficulty in finding a logical argument that would enable me, if I resisted this Amendment, to refuse a demand made in respect to other municipalities. I confess I am not prepared to assent to the establishment of a principle of such importance, at any rate until I know more of the feelings of municipal councils themselves and the constituencies they represent. My noble friend says we can go thus far and stop here, but that is not our experience in respect to the agitation for the extension of women's political privileges. Concession has been followed by other claims; women obtained the municipal franchise, and the question was immediately asked, Why should they not have the Parliamentary franchise also? So, again, it being decided that women were qualified to be members of vestries, that concession is taken advantage of to found a claim to be considered qualified as members of municipalities and as aldermen. I cannot help thinking that when you have given the right which you will give if you reject this Amendment the question will certainly be asked, Why should you prevent women from representing the people in Parliament also? Whatever the decision of Parliament may ultimately be, it is a question a great deal 558 too large, a great deal too wide, to be decided incidentally in a measure of this character, and is one which ought to be brought forward as a separate measure, and decided on its merits; and I certainly think further demands ought not to be raised on the very inadequate foundation that women have in the past made good members of vestries, and are therefore necessarily qualified for the more important and responsible positions on borough councils. For these reasons I, without hesitation, shall certainly support the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Earl.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, there is one consideration, to which attention has not been drawn, which is of some importance, and may go some way to allay the somewhat wild alarm of more than one speaker who has addressed your Lordships, and it is this, that the ultimate decision of the question will rest, as it ought to rest, with the people, who will be under no constraint whatever to elect a single woman as a councillor. The result of the elections will show whether we have mistaken the feeling of the constituencies or not. If we find that they elect very few or no women to be members of the new borough councils, it will show that the Amendment was justified; but I believe the result will be very different, and it is because I believe this will be so that I feel bound to vote in favour of the retention of the clause as it at present stands. Observations have been made in the course of this Debate which seem to disparage the power and fitness of women to deal with the important questions which will come before the new borough councils. I will not repeat the argument that they have already been occupied in dealing with a number of these questions as members of vestries, but taking the larger question as affecting the comfort, happiness, and housing of the poor, which I do not admit is in any degree irrelevant to this discussion, I cannot forget that, after, perhaps, the great name of the late Lord Shaftesbury, more has been done to promote the comfort and well-being of the poorer classes of London by women, two or three of whom are happily still alive, than has been done in the last 20 or 30 years by any association of men. The capacity shown by women in success-fully dealing with such questions proves 559 that they are qualified for places on the new councils, and I think we shall be doing right in rejecting the Amendment which has been submitted by the noble Earl.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I have had the privilege for two years, ending only last year, of presiding over one of the most important public boards in the whole of the Empire—I allude to the London School Board. At that time there were four ladies who represented constituencies on that Board—I believe the number is larger now—and they discharged work of an extremely useful character on the committees to which they were allotted. They frequently took part in our weekly debates, and their speeches were always of a thorough and explicit character, and enjoyed the additional advantage of never being too long. I frequently found that if the Debates had somewhat wandered away from the question under discussion, but not so far that I felt myself compelled to intervene, the lady members always brought them back into the original channel and gave them a thoroughly practical turn. I had the advantage, during those two years, of visiting various parts of London which were represented on the School Board by these ladies, and I therefore had the opportunity of seeing the enormous good they were doing in details connected with education and other work of, to use the words of the noble Marquess, a humanitarian character, and which I do not think they would have had the means of performing had they not the prestige and the influence of being members of the London School Board. There are, as your Lordships are aware, what are called "go-betweens" between the members of the London School Board and the teachers—a large number of ladies and gentlemen known as School Board managers. These managers do splendid work, and, of the vast number of managers, upwards of 500 are women. I venture to bring this matter before your Lordships became, when we have women doing this good work on school boards and upon local governing bodies, it seems hard to deprive them of the opportunity of doing similar work on the bodies about to be created. I know something of the good work done by women in the overcrowded districts in the metropolis, and of the influence 560 they have brought to bear on their fellow women in their homes. That influence, I am convinced, has had, and will continue to have, a great share in lessening the rate of mortality. I can endorse what the right rev. Prelate has said will be the opinion of the electors in the future if this clause is allowed to stand as at present. The electors have embraced the opportunity afforded them under the Act of 1893 to return a large number of women to the public boards, and under the new Local Government Act in Ireland there are already 4 women members on urban district councils, 27 on rural district councils, and 82 on boards of guardians. I would ask your Lordships not, by passing the Amendment, to stultify your previous action, but to allow women on the new bodies to do a still greater work than they have yet had an opportunity of doing. As to giving women the Parliamentary franchise, I certainly do not say that, if they are permitted to become councillors and aldermen, they may not desire to be given the Parliamentary franchise, and I do not deny for one moment that there are many women who are more qualified to enjoy it than men; but that does not alter my extreme objection to any measure of that sort. I consider that the extension of the Parliamentary franchise to women would be disastrous to Parliament and to the country, and, whilst in favour of having them as members of school boards and local government bodies, I would retain to myself the right of doing the utmost I can to oppose the extension to them of the Parliamentary franchise. I give my most hearty support to the clause as it stands, and shall vote against the Amendment when the Division is taken.
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, the speech which has just been delivered, however convincing it may have been, was a speech in favour of extending to women seats upon all municipal councils, and every word uttered by the noble Marquess was an entire corroboration of the argument that you cannot stop here. I will yield to no one in my appreciation of the work which women have done in the way of educating people in sanitary matters in our great towns, but much of that valuable 561 work has been done by women who have not had seats on the public bodies. I need only mention the name of Miss Octavia Hill, who has done more for this metropolis, perhaps, than almost any other woman, and she has done the whole of that work without a seat on any Board so far as I am aware. I want for one moment to bring this Debate into the narrowest compass. I do not wish to discuss whether this Amendment will, or will not, lead to further change. I wish to put before the House one or two considerations with regard to the measure itself. It seems to be an unfortunate incident associated with this metropolis that legislation with regard to it has for a long time been in an experimental stage. This is unavoidable, because you have no precedent to go upon. The size of London renders it an exception to all rules, and, therefore, you have been obliged to try one experiment after another. You tried the Metropolitan Board of Works, which was not altogether, I believe, an unmitigated success. You then tried the County Council, and no one who was present at the Second Reading of this Bill, and who witnessed the manner in which the Bill was received by noble Lords opposite, could have failed to observe that even from them it received a certain amount of acceptation, and that the worst they had to say was to damn it with faint praise. Therefore, I take it that a change of some sort or kind is again admitted to be necessary, and until the noble Marquess spoke to-night I imagined that it was the intention of the Government to convert the vestries into municipalities, with all the importance of municipalities, so far as the peculiar conditions of the case would allow. It was impossible, no doubt, to give them all the powers possessed by municipalities in the provinces; but, while you were unable to put them on urn equality with other municipalities in every respect, I believed you were going to give then all the dignity and privileges of those municipalities in order to attract the best men to serve upon them. The noble Marquess has informed the House that the proposal is merely to call the vestries municipalities, and to give them a few slight additional powers, and he says it is very hard, therefore, to take away from women the powers they at present exercise when so very little change is to be made. I confess that I hardly understand why, if that is really the 562 nature of the Bill, the Government have considered it such a very important measure as to spend so much time upon it in the other House. I prefer to think this is an honest attempt to magnify these bodies in every way possible, and to make them equal to the other municipalities, and I contend that you will stultify your action if you give them a franchise or representation which is different from that of any other important body in the country. By so doing you will be saying, in other words: "We propose to call you municipalities because we think you are vain enough to like it better than the term 'vestry'; we are giving you aldermen and other titles, but you are to be in effect what you have always been—a vestry, and not a municipality." I cannot help thinking that this is a very unwise course. Although the noble Marquess rather deprecated our referring to what happened in the Lower House, I venture to think we are allowed to use the knowledge which comes to us through the public prints of what goes on in the other House upon any question of this kind, and to form our own judgment. That being so, I cannot refrain from saying that if your Lordships vote against this Amendment you will be taking advantage of what was really a chance vote in the House of Commons. An effort was made to have the question reconsidered in the other House, but the forms of the House made that inconvenient. I contend that your Lordships should have a mind of your own, and not follow the lead of the other House. We are often told that this is a House for revision, and I think we may all admit that if ever there was an occasion on which we should give the Lower House an opportunity of again considering this question, surely this is the occasion. In conclusion, I would like just to point out that if you admit women to the new municipalities you will be taking an irrevocable step. On the other hand, if you adopt the Amendment, you will not take an irrevocable step, because it will be open to you, supposing the House of Commons returns the Bill with the clause reinstated, to adopt it.
§ On Question "Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause," their Lordships divided: Contents,68; Not-contents, 182.565
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Selborne, E.||Erskine, L.|
|York, L. Abp.||Spencer, E.||Glenesk, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Hawkesbury, L. [Teller.]|
|Argyll, D.||Hobhouse, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Bridport, V.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll)|
|Cobham, V.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Manners, L.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Knutsford, V.||Monkswell, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Peel, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Mount Stephen, L.|
|Chester, L. Bp.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||London, L. Bp.||Reay, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Manchester, L. Bp,||Rendel, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Winchester, L. Bp.||Robartes, L.|
|Carrington, E. [Teller.]||Worcester, L. Bp.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Craven, E.||Battersea, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Boston, L.||Thring, L.|
|Grey, E.||Braye, L.||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Kimberley, E.||Burghclerc, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Wantage, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Colchester, L.||Welby, L.|
|Russell, E.||Coleridge, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Saint Germans, E.||Davey, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Fortescue, E.||Ashcombe, L.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Hardwicke, E. [Teller.]||Balfour, L.|
|Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Hillsborough, E. (M. Downshire)||Barnard, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Iddesleigh, E.||Belper, L.|
|Beaufort, D.||Jersey, E.||Bolton, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Kilmorey, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)|
|Fife, D.||Leven and Melville, E.|
|Grafton, D.||Lichfield, E.||Brampton, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Malmesbury, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Mansfield, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Portland, D.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Burton, L.|
|Richmond, D.||Morley, E.||Calthorpe, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Morton, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)|
|Westminster, D.||Onslow, E.||Chelmsford, L.|
|Orford, E.||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Portsmouth, E [Teller.]||Churchill, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Powis, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Ravensworth, E.|
|Hertford, M.||Romney, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Shaftesbury, E.||Cranworth, L.|
|Sondes, E.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.)||Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Crofton, L.|
|Temple, E.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Waldegrave, E.||De Mauley, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Westmorland, E.||de Ros, L.|
|Annesley, E.||Yarborough, E.||Digby, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Bangor, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)|
|Bradford, E.||Falkland, V.||Elphinstone, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Falmouth, V.||Farnham, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Hood, V.||Farquhar, L.|
|Cowper, E.||Landaff, V.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
|Dartmouth, E.||Portman, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Dartrey, E.||Sidmouth, V.||Gerard, L.|
|de Montalt, E.||Greville, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.) L. Chamberlain.)||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Harlech, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Harris, L.|
|Drogheda, E.||Aldenham, L.||Hatherton, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Heneage, L.|
|Durham, E.||Ampthill, L.||Herries, L.|
|Egerton, E.||Annaly, L.||Hillingdon, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Hood of Avalon, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||Monk Bretton L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Iveagh, L.||Morris, L.||Southampton, L.|
|James, L.||Mostyn, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Kelvin, L.||Muncaster, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Newlands, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount Earl.) [Teller.]||North, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Norton, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Kenry, L.||O'Neill, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Ormathwaite, L.||Tredegar, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||Penrhyn, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Leconfield, L.||Rathmore, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Llangattock, L.||Revelstoke, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Loch, L.||Romily, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Macnaghten, L.||Rothschild, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby.)||Rowton, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Saville, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)||Scarsdale, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Methuen, L.||Shand, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Middleton, L.||Sherborne, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
On Question, "That the proposed words shall be here inserted," agreed to.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
Though the Amendment of which I have given notice looks a formidable one, it is not meant to be so. It endeavours to set out clearly what is to be gathered by inference from the clause as drafted. It is an inconvenient practice of Parliamentary draughtsmen, instead of stating clearly what the particular provision is, to refer you to several other Acts of Parliament, and compel you to gather from them the meaning of the clause. I have endeavoured to understand the references, and have obtained the best legal assistance, but it seems that there may be two interpretations as to the qualifications necessary for election to the office of alderman. It may be, on the one hand, that he is to be a person who may be 'elected a county councillor, or, on the other hand, a person who is fit to be a member of the borough council. I have come to the conclusion that the former is really what is intended to be the qualification. It does seem to me that, if I have found difficulty in understanding what the qualification of an alderman is to be, some reason exists for thinking that great difficulty will also be experienced in this direction when the Bill is passed, unless the matter is cleared up. It may be that I have set the qualifications out wrongly. I am very sorry if that is the case, but I do not at all wish to insist upon my words. The object of my Amendment is simply to draw from those who are in charge of the Bill their assent to the principle that it is desirable to set out in the Bill definitely and clearly what the qualifications necessary for aldermen in the new borough councils will be.
In page 2, line 1, leave out sub-section (4) and insert the following sub-sections:
'(4)—(i.) The aldermen shall be fit persons elected by the council from among persons qualified to be London county councillors, provided that women, whether married or single, shall, if otherwise qualified, be eligible for election.
'(ii.) If a councillor is elected to and accepts the office of alderman, he vacates his office of councillor.
'(iii.) The term of office of an alderman shall be six years.
'(iv.) On the ordinary day of election of alderman in every third year, one-half of the whole number of alderman shall go out of office, and their places shall be filled by election.
'(v.) The half to go out shall be those who have been aldermen for the longest time without re-election.
'(5)—(i.) The mayor of a metropolitan borough shall be a fit person elected by the council from among the aldermen or councillors, or persons qualified to be such, provided that a woman shall not be a mayor.
'(ii.) An outgoing alderman is eligible.
'(iii.) The term of office of a mayor shall be one year, but he shall continue in office until his successor has accepted office, and made and subscribed the required declaration.
'(iv.) He shall, by virtue of his office, be a justice of the peace for the County of London, but before acting as such justice he shall, if he has not already done so, take the oaths required by law to be taken by a justice of the peace other than the oath respecting qualification by estate.
'(v.) Sections 60 and 61 of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, shall apply to the election of aldermen and mayors under this Act, provided that aldermen shall not as such vote at the election of an alderman."—(The Lord Tweedmouth.)
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
It is not, I think, for me to defend on this 567 occasion the principle on which Government Bills are now drafted, and I am inclined very much to agree with my noble friend that to the non-legal mind, at all events, the form is extremely inconvenient. Your Lordships would, however, hardly be inclined at this stage of the Bill to set about re-drafting it. A large number of controversial issues would certainly be raised if the clause went back to the other House in the form proposed by my noble friend. As to the substance of the clause, I do not believe there is any fundamental difference between us, and I am advised that there is no doubt whatever about the qualifications in question. Any person is qualified to be an alderman who is rated in respect of property occupied within the borough, or who has the ownership qualification in any part of the County of London.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
Do I understand that property ownership in any part of the County of London would qualify a person to hold the office of alderman in any of the borough councils?
§ LORD DAVEY
My Lords, I much regret that the Government cannot see their way to accept the Amendment. If the House could only realise the amount of trouble, confusion, and difficulty which is occasioned to those who have in judicial places to interpret the law in consequence of this referential form of legislation, I am sure the Government would determine to set out plainly on the face of the Bill the nature of the enactments which they mean to make, instead of leaving them to be ascertained by looking through a number of other Acts of Parliament. If it is difficult for persons skilled in the interpretation of Statutes to understand it, how much more difficult is it for those who are not acquainted with Acts of Parliament? If a man wants to find out whether he is qualified for the position of alderman or councillor, and the conditions of the office he wishes to seek, he looks in this Bill, and he looks in vain. I contend that it is absolutely impossible for a person unskilled in the interpretation of Acts of Parliament to discover without assistance what the qualifications are, and I think it would be much better to state them clearly on the face of the Bill.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The next Amendment I have to move to reduce the number necessary to constitute a quorum of the new bodies from one-third to one-fourth. With a quorum of one-third it would be necessary to have 24 members present in order to do any business, and this number seems to me extremely high for the purpose of transacting the ordinary routine work which comes on at the beginning and at the end of the meetings of these bodies. A fourth of the members of the London County Council constitutes a quorum, and in the case of boards of guardians it is laid down that a third shall be the quorum, provided that in no case the number need exceed seven. This clause, as I have said, would require a quorum of 24 out of 70. My proposal is that the quorum should be 18 out of 70. The change I am asking the noble Duke to agree to is a very small one, and one which will facilitate the business of these councils and enable the work to be carried on much more expeditiously than could be the case if the clause is passed as it at present stands.
In page 2, line 16, to leave out 'one-third' and insert 'one-fourth.'"—(The Lord Tweedmouth.)
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, the Bill follows the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act in the matter of the quorum, and I see no reason for departing from well-established precedent. I do not believe that in any case there will be difficulty in securing a quorum of one-third. One of the objects in adopting this proportion is to endeavour to secure a better attendance than has hitherto been usual in the case of vestries, and we have every reason to believe that the councils elected under this Act will, if only from a wholesome dread which they may feel of their constituents, be more regular in their attendance. I think it would not be advisable to depart from the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act, and therefore I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I have a separate sub-section to insert, with the object of clearing up a point that is in doubt in this Bill. Under the various Acts there are different periods within which the acceptance of office must be specified. The period prescribed by the Vestrymen and Auditors Election Order for acceptance of office by vestrymen is one month. The period fixed for existing vestrymen will apply to the new councillors, and it is proposed to adopt the same period in the case of the mayors and aldermen.
In page 2, after line 17, insert as a separate sub-section, 'The mayor and an alderman of a metropolitan borough shall be required to accept office within the same period as is allowed in the case of a councillor.'"—(The Lord President of the Council.)
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3, amended, and agreed to.
§ Clause 4:—
§ * LORD WELBY
My Lords, the Amendment which I have to move to Clause 4 will, I hope, find acceptance at the hands of the noble Duke. The clause transfers to the new borough councils the powers hitherto possessed by the vestries and district boards. Among those are the powers of raising loans, and that power is exercised in most instances subject to the sanction of the London County Council. The Bill, as it was amended by Her Majesty's Government, kept that power of sanction to the London County Council, and only added this restriction—that, in case of their refusal, there should be an appeal to the Local Government Board. Later in the day, however, a further Amendment was moved in the House of Commons by the hon. Member for South St. Pancras, and accepted by the Government, which provided that if the London County Council did not, within six months after the application to them, give their sanction to a loan, an appeal 570 should lie to the Local Government Board. I cannot help thinking that there is a certain slight of the London County Council in the insertion of such a provision as that. It is, if I may so call it, a punitive provision which assumes that the County Council unnecessarily delays dealing with applications for loans. I understand that the hon. Member who moved this clause in the House of Commons supported it by reference to a statement that the County Council had unduly delayed for a long period various applications for loans which had been made to them. I have had an opportunity of investigating the number of loans for which the Parish of St. Pancras have applied, and I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member made his statement under a very great misapprehension. By far the larger number of the loans which St. Pancras applied for were granted in a very short time, and without any delay. There were a few which extended over the period of six months, but in each case there exists a very fair explanation. The explanation is that St. Pancras applied to the London County Council prematurely, and before the works in respect of which the loans were to be taken up were ready to be commenced. In other cases where delays have arisen the London County Council have had very good reason for not giving their sanction. Mr. Courtney's Commission reported that the power exercised by the County Council in this direction was not exercised in what they called an arbitrary manner, and I may add further that our requirements, before we give our sanction to loans, are those which the Local Government Board insist upon. I hope that the noble Duke will see his way to remove this punitive provision, and insert after the word "made," the words "with necessary particulars." Delays are often caused through the local authorities not supplying the necessary particulars when they make application for loans.
In page 3, line 17, after 'made' to insert 'with necessary particulars.' "—(The Lord Welby.)
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I am advised that the words which the noble Lord proposes to insert are unnecessary, because the Local Government Board 571 would not countenance appeals if the necessary particulars had not been supplied. In such a case the application could hardly be held to be a proper application. Therefore I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ * THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
Having the honour of a seat upon the Finance Committee of the London County Council, I feel with Lord Welby that the reference which was made to the London County Council and the Finance Committee by Captain Jessel, when he spoke in the House of Commons in reference to this matter, did imply that the Finance Committee were rather lax in attending to the matter of sanctioning loans. As a matter of fact, the contrary is the case. The applications for loans are dealt with by the Committee as speedily as possible, and, so far as St. Pancras is concerned, it is well known by members of the Finance Committee that it is extremely difficult to get that Vestry to comply with the very necessary requirements of the Committee, and to supply the particulars of the different improvements to carry out which they desire to borrow money. I am sorry Her Majesty's Government do not see their way to accept this Amendment, because it will give the new borough councils who apply for a loan, and withhold the necessary particulars, thereby causing delay, power to apply to the Local Government Board at the end of six months and say that the County Council have not given their consent, when, as a matter of fact, the delay had been caused by the withholding of the necessary particulars on the part of the new Borough Council.
As a member of the Finance Committee of the London County Council, I should like to endorse what has fallen from the noble Earl who has just spoken. From my experience on that Committee, I can safely say that there has been no unnecessary delay in the sanctioning of the loans that have come before us.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I quite agree with the noble Lords that there is no reason for accusing the Finance Committee of the London County Council of any undue or unnecessary delay. The effect of this Amendment will be to im- 572 pose upon local authorities the obligation of furnishing particulars of their applications within reasonable time, and I believe there is no case in which a local body has failed to furnish the necessary particulars within six months. I do not think the Government regard this as a clause which penalises the County Council in any way.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The St. Pancras Vestry applied on July 11, 1898, for a loan. The London County Council asked the Vestry to supply them with particulars, and these particulars have not yet been supplied.
§ * LORD WELBY
The Vestry once wrote asking why the sanction of the County Council had not been granted, whereas the sanction had been some two or three months in their hands.
§ On question, "That the words 'with necessary particulars' be here inserted," resolved in the negative.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The object of the Amendment standing in my name is to secure uniformity in the administration of the Adoptive Acts throughout the whole area of a borough. There are a number of Acts which enable local authorities to take over powers with regard to public libraries, baths, and wash-houses, the maintenance of burial grounds, and so forth. These powers have been adopted and undertaken by many local authorities throughout London; but it happens that in the amalgamation of these local authorities into borough councils it is found that one parish has adopted the Baths and Libraries Acts and that another has not. The effect of the Bill as it I stands will be to set up within the area of the borough council different sub-areas dealing with these subjects and being individually rated in respect of them, instead of the rate being spread over the whole area of the new boroughs. Simplicity of government is one of the great objects to be aimed at, and I contend that, when the present authorities are merged into boroughs, the latter should assume all the responsibilities which have been taken over by the various local authorities under the Adoptive Acts. It may be said that this would be unfair to those portions of the new boroughs 573 which, up to now, had not adopted these Acts; but as the new boroughs will share in the advantages of these institutions it is only fair that the charge in respect of them should be spread over the whole of the area.
In page 3, line 26, at the end to add, 'and the council shall have and exercise the powers of any such Act over the whole area of these boroughs.'"—(The Lord Tweedmouth.)
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
There is a provision further on in the clause which provides that, where any of the Adoptive Acts adopted before the appointed day do not extend to the whole borough, the Act may be adopted in the rest of the borough in like manner as if it were a separate borough, and the borough council were the council thereof. I think it would not be safe to extend the provisions of the Bill further in this direction. If the Amendment were carried, and one part of a borough wished to adopt the Libraries Act, the whole of the rest of the borough would be obliged to adopt the Act whether it wished to or not.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I desire to raise a point at this stage which is of some little consequence to a particular parish in London. If Lord Tweed-mouth's Amendment were adopted no question would arise such as the one I am about to put. I refer to the case of Chelsea, which is a very peculiar parish. The parish of Chelsea includes the outlying district of Kensal Town. Chelsea has adopted the Libraries Act, but Kensal Town, being an outlying portion of that parish, must, under this Bill, be joined to some neighbouring parish. The two neighbouring parishes are Kensington and Paddington. If Kensal Town should be annexed to Kensington, then I conclude that it would be able to maintain the library under the Libraries Act which has been adopted in that parish; but if it should be annexed to Paddington, there arises a very important point. The area of Kensal Town only produces £236 by means of a 1d. rate—the total rate allowed in respect of the Libraries Act—but the expenditure incurred in Kensal Town in maintaining the library amounted last year to £1,104. Therefore a large portion of the expenses of keeping up the library in Kensal Town 574 will fall upon the rest of the parish of Chelsea, and the question which I, and those who are interested with me in this matter, have never been able to solve is whether Paddington will have to bear the whole of the additional sum to make up the £1,100, and, if so, under what power in the Act can the rate be levied; because Paddington, not having adopted the Libraries Act, has no power to raise any money under the Act. I cannot see that there is any power given in the Bill to enable Paddington, if it does not adopt the Libraries Act, which it is not likely to do, to provide the necessary sum. In another part of the Bill it says that adjustments are to be made in order to prevent any undue charge falling on one parish, but I think power should be given, in case Kensal Town is joined to another parish where there is not a library rate, to enable the amount necessary to make up the cost of maintenance to be raised by the parish. We are by no means certain that the Commissioners would have the necessary power to enable them to make this adjustment.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I believe this point is specifically raised by the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Windsor.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
If the Amendment of Lord Windsor is adopted, of course all that I have said falls to the ground. If the noble Duke intends to accept that Amendment, the case is altered.
The noble Duke said it would be unjust to insist upon the whole of the borough adopting the Act, but there is injustice caused if that is not done. The noble Duke will observe that, under his own clause, where an Adoptive Act has been adopted, the borough council is to be the body to administer it. In the case of Kensal Town, the new Borough of Paddington, if Kensal Town is joined to Paddington, will not be obliged to contribute to the maintenance of the library, but will, nevertheless, have the power of superintending the library. The whole power of management will be placed in the hands of Paddington. I would suggest that a middle course might be adopted, and that power should be given to the Commissioners, not to rate the whole of 575 the borough, but to decide what additional part of the borough should be rated for the maintenance of this library. It may be that in some parts of Paddington this library will not be of much use, and the noble Duke may say that it is not right that the whole of Paddington should have to contribute; but the best way out of the difficulty will be to empower the Commissioners to carve out a district which would benefit, and which should pay the rate for the support of the library. Even if the Commissioners were to join Kensal Town to Kensington I think some difficulty would arise. I believe the limit of Kensington is a ½d. library rate, and they spend the whole of the stun produced by that rate in supporting their own libraries. The people of Kensington would probably regard it as as injustice if they were compelled to raise their library rate from ½d. to 1d. when they had sufficient library accommodation of their own.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
As regards the case of the Kensal Town Library, I am advised that it will be within the powers of the Commissioners to frame a scheme which will deal with that difficulty. I do not exactly know how the scheme will be framed, but I am afraid the difficulty is one which cannot be dealt with in any other way. I do not see what Amendment we can put into the Bill to deal with this case without inflicting injustice upon someone. Perhaps, however, it will be convenient to discuss the case further when we come to Lord Windsor's Amendment.
§ On Question, "That the proposed words shall be here inserted," resolved in the negative.
§ Clause 5, agreed to.
§ Clause 6:—
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The Amendment which I desire to move to this clause is simply intended to preserve to the London County Council the same power which is now possessed in common with county councils throughout the United Kingdom of declaring roads to be main roads. Under this Bill the existing 576 main roads in London, which cover over 12 miles, are done away with as main roads, and handed over to the several borough councils to deal with, but I think it is conceivable that at some future time, in connection with some improvement, it may be desirable to declare some, road in London to be a main road, and one to be kept up by the central authority.
In page 4, line 27, after 'road' to insert. 'existing at the passing of this Act.'"—(The Lord Tweedmouth.)
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
This was promised, I understand, in the House of Commons, and I agree to the Amendment.
§ Other Amendments made.
§ Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The next Amendment I have upon the Paper is one which I regard as of considerable importance. It is to omit the words giving to the new councils power to promote or oppose Bills in Parliament under the Borough Funds Act, 1882, in order to insert "power to promote Bills in Parliament to make improvements of public utility wholly within their districts, and not intended to be paid for either wholly or in part out of the county fund." The power to be conferred by the clause is such as is exercised by other municipalities throughout the kingdom, but the conditions attaching to administration by the new councils will be very different to those which obtain in provincial towns, where the municipality is distinct, separate, and supreme within its own area. There will be twenty-seven administrative councils in London huddled up together, abutting on and dove-tailed into each other, and to give them this large power unrestricted will, I think, be unwise and undesirable. The powers given to municipalities under the Borough Funds Act allows expenditure from the rates in promoting and opposing Bills in the interests of the inhabitants of the district. That is a very large power indeed. The London County Council 577 succeeded only to the powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and they were permitted merely to promote Bills for the "execution of works." But you are giving to these new boroughs far greater power than that. You are indeed tying them down to nothing at all. I do not ask the House to take away from these new bodies the power of promoting Bills in Parliament, but I do suggest that there should be a certain limit placed upon that power. I propose that the new boroughs should have power to promote Bills in Parliament to make improvements of public utility wholly within their own districts, and not intended to be paid for either wholly or in part out of the county fund. In my opinion the power so limited would be quite sufficient for the purposes of the new municipalities. Personally, I think the London County Council has used its powers in a manner open to criticism, and expenditure has, perhaps, not always been incurred to the best advantage of the ratepayers. The experience of the County Council opens up a dismal prospect to me if we are to have 27 other bodies taking similar action with regard to every Bill which may be said in any way to affect the interests of the inhabitants of these particular boroughs. I can understand that the legal Members of your Lordships' House may be anxious to support the clause, as the provision will certainly bring further grist to the mill of the Parliamentary Bar; but in the interests of the ratepayers I propose this limitation on the powers to be conferred on the new boroughs.
In page 5, line 22, to leave out from 'have' to end of clause, and insert 'power to promote Bills in Parliament to make improvements of public utility wholly within their districts, and not intended to be paid for either wholly or in part out of the county fund.'"—(The Lord Tweedwouth.)
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I do not believe the Amendment of the noble Lord, as it stands, will meet even that which he is willing to concede to the new boroughs. The words "power to promote Bills in Parliament to make improvements of public utility wholly within their districts" would exclude action in cases where two or three authorities might wish to join together to promote or oppose a Bill. The question of limitation upon the 578 power given by this clause has been very carefully and fully considered in the House of Commons, and I do not think there can be any doubt that it is desirable that as far as possible the analogy of the Municipal Corporations Act should be followed, and that appears to have been the strong opinion of the House of Commons. The question was raised by Mr. Stuart, and the provision, as it stands, was maintained by a large majority, and was again maintained on Report. The Borough Funds Act gives considerable protection to the ratepayers against the misuse of the power, and the matter has been discussed in the House of Commons by Members well acquainted with the working of the Act and the dangers likely to arise. I do not think it would be judicious for your Lordships to give to the constituencies a protection which the House of Commons on two occasions deliberately declared to be unnecessary. I think out the whole it is desirable to maintain the clause as it stands. At any rate, I do not think the noble Lord's Amendment carries out what he desires.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The decision in the House of Commons was on the question of withholding this power, which I only propose to confine within reasonable limits. I am afraid I must put the House to the trouble of a Division on this proposal—on the principle of it. I do not myself attach great importance to the particular words I have proposed; it is the principle that this power should be given to the new boroughs only in a limited form.
§ LORD JAMES OF HEREFORD
May I point out to my noble friend that he is really taking away a restriction upon these bodies. Under Clause 10 the powers given are the same as those under the Borough Funds Act. My noble friend strikes out those words, and then gives a direct power to promote Bills where the object is undoubtedly within their districts. He takes away the restriction of the vote of the ratepayers, and the consent of the Local Government Board, and the consequence is that he will be giving to these bodies, if this Amendment is carried, far greater powers than municipal bodies now have. Then comes his limitation, which would very often act in a very inconvenient way. In the matter of electric lighting, for instance, you may 579 want to put one portion of your Bill outside your area; but, under this Amendment, directly you go outside you will have no power. So that the restriction proposed by my noble friend is bad, and I think the extension is equally bad also.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I do not think my noble friend opposite has correctly stated the effect of the Amendment. With regard to the first point, as to the vote of the ratepayers, I do not think that is very material so far as London is concerned. Meetings of ratepayers in the London boroughs are not so easily had as in the case of the country
§ Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 7, amended, and agreed to.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee To-morrow; the Committee to have precedence of other Notices and Orders of the Day.580
§ municipalities. But this I would say, in order to assist the progress of business. If the noble Duke will say that he will consider, at any rate on Report, an Amendment in the direction of the principle that I wish to insist upon, then I will not put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division. If I take a Division, it will be on the principle, and not on the exact words to be found in this Amendment.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of clause, their Lordships divided: Contents, 59; Not-contents, 21.579
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Nelson, E.||Farnham, L.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Onslow, E.||Glenesk, L.|
|Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Selborne, E.||Harris, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Wadegrave, E. [Teller.]||Hatherton, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Heneage, L.|
|Portland, D.||Falkland, V.||James, L.|
|Westminster, D.||Knutsford, V.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Bristol, M.||Winchester, L. Bp.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Lawrence, L.|
|Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.)(L. Chamberlain.)||Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby.)|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.)|
|Aldenham, L.||Muncaster, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Ampthill, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Ashcombe, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Dudley, E.||Balfour, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Egerton, E.||Belper, L.||Tredegar, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Churchill, L. [Teller.]||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Hardwicke, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Colchester, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Morton, E.||De Manley, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Spencer, E.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Monkswell, T.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Burghclere, L.||Reay, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Coleridge, L.||Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Crewe, E.||Davey, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Hawkesbury, L. [Teller.]||Wandsworth, L.|
|Russell, E.||Hobhouse, L.||Welby, L.|