HL Deb 29 October 1908 vol 195 cc433-51

My Lords, I rise to move, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that His Majesty will annul Regulation No. 25 which has been laid before Parliament in pursuance of the Old-Age Pensions Act, 1908." I propose to ask your Lordships to agree to this Motion for two reasons. The first is that already the Treasury and the Local Government Board seek to impose on county councils a charge which, so far as I can ascertain, they have no legal authority to impose, and which the county council has no legal power to comply with. My second reason is that the Treasury proceeds to direct that this shall be charged upon the general county fund, "any statute to the contrary notwithstanding." To me it appears that that is an attempt, on the part of a Department, to dispense with statutes— a power which, so far as I know, has never been exercised even by Parliament itself, and which I believe has never hitherto been claimed by any Department.

If this were my own opinion only, I should attach comparatively little importance to it, because the question is to a considerable extent a legal one; but I have consulted several eminent persons learned in the law, and they all take the view which I have mentioned to your Lordships. I have the authority of Lord Halsbury, who unfortunately has been ordered by his doctor not to leave his house to-day, to say that in his opinion the action of these two Boards in this matter is both illegal and unconstitutional.

In order to explain my Motion I think it will be better that I should remind your Lordships first of all what are the powers and duties of county councils under the Old-Age Pensions Act; secondly, what are the powers given to the Treasury by the Act in regard to finance; and, thirdly, that I should point out what the Treasury and the Local Government Board have actually done in this Regulation. Under Section 8, subsection (1), of the Act, county councils and borough councils are directed to appoint pension committees. When they have done that they have discharged their whole duties. They are not mentioned again in the Act, and, as soon as they have made these appointments they are, so far as I read the Act, functus officio. Further than this, your Lordships will remember that the Pensions Act throughout the whole period of its passage, both through the other House and this House, was treated as being entirely a national Act, a matter for the taxpayers and in no sense as connected with local government or with local rates; and your Lordships will find stated in two or three places in the Act that the whole of the money is to be found by Parliament.

Let me make another observation with regard to county councils and their power of complying with the demand to make an advance under this Act. So far as I have been able to ascertain, county councils are bound strictly by the Local Government Acts, and in levying the rates and appropriating them they are bound by the statutes; their accounts are liable to audit, and, if they make any illegal charges, my belief is that they would be liable to surcharge by the auditor. Let us turn now to the Treasury and the Local Government Board. What powers are given to them as to the finance in the Act? The first subsection of Clause 10 of the Act provides that— The Treasury in conjunction with the Local Government Board and with the Postmaster-General (so far as relates to the Post Office) may make regulations for carrying this Act into effect, and in particular"— And the last of the three following paragraphs reads— (c) As to the number, quorum, term of office and proceedings generally of the local pension committee and the use by the committee, with or without payment, of any offices of a local authority, and the provision to be made for the immediate payment of any expenses of the committee which are ultimately to be paid by the Treasury. Those words, as I read them, mean any provision which can be made legally, that is, without departing from statutes to the contrary. If Parliament had intended to say that they might make any provisions they chose Parliament would have said so, and would have stated that they might make provision "notwithstanding any statutes." But Parliament did nothing of the kind, and one can only read the words as they stand in the statute.

Now what has the Treasury done? I refer your Lordships to Regulation No. 25— 25.—(1) For the purpose of providing for the immediate payment of any expenses properly incurred by any committee (including any expenses properly incurred by any sub-committees appointed by the committee) the council by whom the committee was appointed shall from time to time advance such sums as may be necessary to provide for the payment of those expenses. Under what part of the statute is power given to impose a charge on the county council? Not only that, but supposing this charge is made, what power has the county council to comply? They are bound by the various Local Government Acts. This Old-Age Pensions Act was never contemplated in the Local Governments Acts, and Parliament has distinctly stated that it is not an Act connected in any way with local government. Then I ask, what power have they to order the advance to be made? I think the Treasury entertained some doubt as to whether their action was legal, because if your Lordships will read on, you will find this provision— Any sum so advanced by the council shall, notwithstanding any statutory provision to the contrary, be provided out of the county fund. Do not those words show that the Treasury were aware that they were acting contrary to statute? Again, what power had the Treasury to say that this was to be a charge on the county fund?

The words "notwithstanding any statutory provision to the contrary," appear to me, as they appear to my noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury, to be unconstitutional. Here is a Department arrogating to itself a right to dispense with the statutes. Such a right has never been exercised by Parliament itself. When Parliament wishes to alter a statute it alters it, but it does not begin by disobeying it. I lay stress upon this because it is the general tenor of the legislation now coming before this House. I appeal to the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees whether an attempt is not being continually made by Departments to arrogate to themselves the powers of Parliament. I cannot believe that His Majesty's Government will support this, because, if I may be permitted so far to transgress the order of debate, I would refer to an incident that occurred in the House of Commons only two days ago. The Town Planning Bill was under consideration, and there was in that Bill a clause very similar to this, but with this important difference, that the Local Government Board was asking the consent of Parliament to do away with statutes; it was not doing away with them without asking permission. But when the matter came before the Committee they decided that no Department could be allowed to interfere with public statutes, and the Government accepted an Amendment on the point. Therefore it seems to me that the Government can hardly defend what has been done in this case.

Turning to another aspect of the question, it may be argued that there was no other way of carrying out the Act except by imposing this charge. If your Lordships will read subsection (3) of Regulation No. 25 you will see that the Treasury provide a way themselves. The subsection runs— The Treasury may, for the purpose of providing for the payment by any such council of any such expenses, if they think fit so to do, advance to the council such sums as the Treasury think proper for the purpose, and the council shall apply the sums so advanced accordingly. Therefore it was within the power of the Treasury to do this in all cases, and there was no necessity, as far as I can see, for them to go to the county council. What is there in the Act which in any way suggests the county council rather than any other body, private or public—let us say, for instance, the Licensed Victuallers' Association—as the body on whom the charge is to be made?

Just let us suppose a case. Suppose that the Regulation stands and that some county councils, as very probably they will, decline to comply with it, and say that it is not their duty to find funds and that they have no legal power to do so. What will happen then? Will the Treasury apply for a mandamus? I put that point to Lord Halsbury to-day, and he informed me that in such a case he believed the Judges would be compelled to find that there was no legal authority in the Treasury to direct the making of this charge, or in the county council to impose such a charge. What is the cause of this regulation, because obviously it has not been very fully considered? The cause really is hurry. The Bill came up to this House on 20th July and we had finished it, very much against our will, by 30th July. Many noble Lords desired the consideration of the Bill to be postponed until the present time, and the only reason we did not insist upon that was that the Government informed us they would not be able to bring the Act into operation by 1st January if postponement were insisted upon. What is the consequence? These Regulations were drawn up in tremendous haste. Parliament adjourned on 1st August. Looking at the Regulations casually you might suppose that they were issued on 15th October, the date which appears on the front page, but at the bottom of page 16 there is a line to this effect— These regulations shall be deemed to have had effect as from the 20th day of August, 1908. So these Regulations appear to have been drawn up in three weeks. They are signed by two Lords of the Treasury, by the President of the Local Government Board, and also on behalf of the Local Government Board for Ireland, but I do not believe that any one of those Ministers signed them in any other way than ministerially.

How is it possible that a set of Regulations affecting an intricate Act of this sort could be properly drawn up in three weeks and examined by the various Ministers who signed them? I am quite sure that all the permanent officials at the present time are very much overworked. I may say further that there are, in my opinion, other irregularities in these Regulations and Instructions to which I may call your Lordships' attention on some future occasion. For the present, however, I will limit myself to Regulation No. 25, which appears to me to be the chief offender. If Regulation No. 25 stands and Parliament permits it to have the force of law, then a most mischievous precedent will have been created, because you will have passed a Regulation under which two Departments acted in defiance of statutes and placed themselves above the law.

Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that His Majesty will annul Regulation No. 25 which has been laid before Parliament in pursuance of the Act."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)


My Lords, nobody can be astonished when any question bearing upon county finance, however indirectly, claims the attention of your Lordships' House, because we are all aware that there is at the present time, not at all unnaturally, great anxiety in regard to local finance generally and the constant growth of our rates. Therefore, every proposal, however small, which directly or indirectly throws, or appears to throw, an increased burden upon the ratepayers, is scanned with extreme jealousy in this House and in the House of Commons.

The noble Earl has dealt with the legal aspect of the matter as well as the financial aspect, and, in regard to the former, he has had the advantage, of which he has availed himself very fully, of delivering to the House a message from a high legal authority whose absence from his place this evening, and still more the reason, we all deeply regret. But I cannot help thinking that messages of this kind, even when coming from a high and much-respected source, are in many ways inconvenient, but chiefly because they place the House at a disadvantage. They partake of the nature of hearsay evidence, if I may take what may seem, perhaps, a technical objection, and are subject undoubtedly to the disadvantages which attach to all statements made upon the authority of a person who is not present and cannot be called upon to reply himself.

In regard to the legal aspect, though, of course, your Lordships cannot possibly attach that importance to any opinion of mine which attaches to the opinion of the noble and learned Earl, I think I shall be able to show without very great difficulty that my noble friend has, to say the least, very greatly overstated his case. A reference to Clause 10 of the Pensions Act will show that the Treasury have power to make Regulations, which shall have the force of law, and, amongst other things, provision can be made for the immediate payment of any expenses of the pensions committee which are ultimately to be paid by the Treasury. That is absolutely free from any possibility of contradiction. It appears on the face of those words that Parliament evidently contemplated payments being made in the first instance by one set of persons and the repayment by another. That is absolutely clear.

Therefore, what we have to consider is, is there anything in the Act which prohibits the Treasury from selecting and calling upon the county council, or the borough or urban district council, as the case may be, to make the advance in the first place? That point my noble friend Lord Camperdown did not attempt to deal with seriously. He seems to think that, because there is no express direction in the Act to the local authority to pay, this Regulation is ultra vires. I put the exact converse to your Lordships. There are no words of limitation in the Act, and therefore, the Treasury had full power to select the authority to make the payment in the first place. That brings me to my second contention, which is that it would have been exceedingly inconvenient if the Treasury had selected any body other than the local authority to make the advance. The whole Act is based upon the co-operation of the Treasury and these local authorities.


No, no.


I should have thought that was a matter not in dispute.


Will the noble Lord quote the clauses?


I refer to the whole Act. I say it is based upon the harmonious working of these local authorities and their committees with the Treasury. The Act of Parliament itself certainly indicates the local authority as being the body to which the Treasury would look to make the advances.


Where is that in the Act?


I understand that the noble Earl desires that there should be at once a system of advances to be made by the Treasury. That is contemplated. When a county council thinks that an inconvenience to them is likely to result from being called upon to advance money, they have power to apply to the Treasury for an advance. So far the time has been short, and no county council has made any such application, but in the course of the year I think it is exceedingly likely that the Treasury will receive applications. But there can be no doubt at all that, looked at from the taxpayers' point of view, it is convenient that at the start the arrangements should be made by te county councils. They are on the spot, and are conversant with the actual necessities of the case. They will be able to judge easily, rapidly, and correctly what money is necessary, and then they can send in their claims to the Treasury. There will be no delay, I am informed, in dealing with these claims. They will be comparatively simple, and I believe that in all probability it will be found that very seldom will a period longer than three or four months at the most elapse between the time when the claim is received and when it is actually paid by the Treasury.

The noble Earl appears before your Lordships to-night as the vindicator of the Constitution, which is in danger through the wiles of a wicked Liberal Government, and he has called your Lordships' especial attention to the words in the regulation that this is— To take effect notwithstanding any statutory provision to the contrary. Those words are really not of the immense importance which the noble Lord thinks. These Regulations are made under an Act of Parliament and they have the force of law, although no doubt the Local Government Act, 1888, expressly forbids any advance or payment out of local funds, except for certain definite purposes therein specified. The legal point on which I entirely rely is that, taking the clause upon which my noble friend and I have dwelt, there is full power to issue a Regulation of this kind calling for an advance from the local authority, notwithstanding the provisions of the Act of 1888, and the words which my noble friend has quoted are simply inserted "ex abundanti cantata."

This is not a terrific inroad, modelled upon the conduct of King James II., to destroy the sacred principles of the British Constitution, as my noble friend seems to imagine. I really do not like to use the expression because of the high legal authority he quoted, but really, if it had not been for that high authority, I should be inclined to say that this great legal discovery partook of the nature of a mare's nest; but I have no doubt that, if your Lordships desire it, we shall have the advantage of hearing legal opinions to which the House will attach an importance which I know I cannot claim for my own.

Having dealt with the legal argument, the point I wish to put before the House is this, Is this a matter of such tremendous financial importance? There is to be an advance of the actually necessary sums for administrative purposes by these local authorities, and, as I have informed the House, there is to be a rapid system of repayment. These payments will be made out of the county fund. Those who are familiar with county council finance know that the different branches of expenditure are all out of the county fund which is one drawing account and which is broken up into different accounts at the end of the financial year for the purposes of audit. The whole of the expenditure is one drawing account. Even if the expenditure were considerable it is highly improbable that it would cause any over-draft on the county fund as a whole, especially as the repayments will come in exceedingly quickly. The whole thing is, in fact, a banking transaction. Therefore my noble friend, who thinks he has made a great discovery, has really made no discovery at all; the legal point is one which does not exist, and the financial one is so small that you require a microscope to detect it.


My Lords, like the noble Lord who has just sat down, I am not quite sure that there is a legal point in this discussion. It seems to me that, if there is, it far transcends accurate description by that phrase and rises in several aspects into the higher region of the Constitution. You have at stake, in this apparently technical matter, some of the most important and vital interests of the Constitution. You are proposing first, by these Regulations, to give to the Executive the right of deciding whether rates or taxes are in the first instance to bear a particular burden. You are doing more. These powers conferred by Parliament upon an executive body are familiar in the administration of the law, but they will always be found strictly confined to the region of administration. Till now it has never been suggested that Parliament proposed to devolve upon the Executive the right of arranging for the convenience of the Treasury, not merely what fund shall be drawn upon, but whether the rates of each particular locality shall be drawn upon, for what they have avowed at the beginning is a purely Imperial purpose.

I own that I envy the graceful jocularity of the noble Lord who has just sat down, because I cannot help thinking that if this subject is explained to the constituencies some very ugly and awkward questions will arise. I do not refer to this particular subject of old-age pensions which has been so much vaunted as showing the vast interest that is taken in the poor. I refer to this, that if you allow these Regulations to stand you will authorise the doctrine that Parliament may devolve upon the Executive, because it is too lazy or has not the time to consider the question, some of the most important questions that can affect legislation. Why are those words— Any statute to the contrary notwithstanding put in? I would ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, if he takes part in the debate, to say what are those statutory enactments? The truth of the matter was admirably expressed by Lord Fitzmaurice when he explained that county councils and borough councils were purely statutory bodies, and had their hands tied by the Legislature. The statute which constitutes those bodies not merely directs them to apply their rates to certain specified purposes, but it forbids them to apply them to any other. But I ask further, where, affirmatively, are powers given to levy rates for this object? The Treasury comes gaily along and says: "Oh, never mind that; we call upon you to find so much money, and we tall you to levy rates for the purpose." That is so, because the purse must be filled; and unless it can be shown that the Treasury is possessed of the power of legalising expenditure and rating by county councils for anything it pleases, then I think this must stand condemned.

I cannot say that I ever saw administrative rules or regulations which bore on their face that they were gainsaying the Acts of the Legislature. The matter is not confined to that, because in criticising regulations of this kind you require to find chapter and verse for the Act of devolution by the Legislature on the executive. The only words the noble Lord has appealed to are as to the provision to be made for the immediate payment of any expenses of the pensions committee, which are ultimately to be paid by the Treasury. I ask anyone who reads that provision whether he can seriously say that it was contemplated that the Treasury should look round, and as the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy has expressed it, select a suitable victim and call upon the county councils to make the advance. The easy confidence of the noble Lord in his own case was evidenced by his taking my noble friend Lord Camperdown into consultation on the subject by saying: "What would you suggest? What other body would you suggest?" I venture to think that if in either House of Parliament the proposal had been mooted as we now have it in black and white in these Rules, there would have been a great damping of enthusiasm in various quarters which have been more or less enthusiastic for this measure.

I protest altogether against discussing, as Lord Fitzmaurice did, questions of expediency. "What do you think could be better?" asks my noble friend. "Is it not very convenient?" All that is not for this stage of the proceedings at all. It ought to have been thought out at the outset where the money was to be got at first, and where it was ultimately to come from. This plan reverses the normal operation of legislation. It says that in the long run the Treasury will pay. I suppose the Treasury will look round for a victim—some roost—and requisition the money. I protest on these grounds against this being allowed to pass muster. I will not detain your Lordships longer at this late hour, but my brief observations must not be taken as adequate expression of my sense of the gravity of this occasion. I cannot help thinking, if this were held to be a precedent—and it must be once it has been done—that a Government with a large majority would say: "It does not very much matter what we put in the Bill; we will get our obedient Departments to work it out and choose the purse." I hope the House will rise to the occasion and will peremptorily correct so manifest a deviation from sound Constitutional practice.


My Lords, whether your Lordships approved—some of you, no doubt, did approve—or did not approve in spirit of the old-age pension scheme, I believe the general feeling of the House will be to give that scheme a fair chance, and not unnecessarily upon capricious grounds—I am not suggesting that the noble Earl was capricious—or upon inadequate grounds to try and disturb the machinery by which it is to be carried into effect. That is the first observation I offer to your Lordships. The second is that you should appreciate the real magnitude of the point now under discussion. The noble and learned Lord who has just spoken treated it as one of supreme importance, as if we were rising to the high summits of constitutional law.

The practical point is that provision has to be made by the Treasury for the immediate payment of the expenses of the committees, which are ultimately to be paid by the Treasury. The only question is, Who is to make the temporary advance? That is the only point. I cannot see myself that it involves any deep drafts upon the rates. It simply is a question what provision is to be made for a temporary advance which is to be repaid by the Treasury, and the Treasury has power to make an advance at once to the bodies which are to find the money. That is the whole magnitude of the point. As to the legal question, I confess to feeling some embarassment, because the noble and learned Earl, the late Lord Chancellor, for whose opinion I have the most unfeigned respect, has sent a message to your Lordships that this is all illegal and unconstitutional. Although I have always received the greatest courtesy at the hands of your Lordships, I do not profess to expect that my opinion will be taken as being equal to that of my predecessor, with his record of long service. I detest the idea of differing from a brother Judge in Parliament upon a question of law if it can possibly be avoided. I will, however, tell your Lordships frankly that when I was asked my opinion on this subject I thought that what was done was within the Act. But I will not say that had I a consultation with Lord Halsbury it is not possible that I should alter my mind, nor will I say that if the noble and learned Earl had a consultation with me it is not possible that he would alter his. My view is that these legal questions ought to be settled by courts of law. Here is the opportunity. If a county council thinks itself aggrieved and that the Treasury were wrongly advised, let it go to a court of law and have the point decided there. That seems to me to be the better and more convenient course from a legal point of view.

I am not, of course, referring to the constitutional question or the question of policy. As to that question, it seems to me that the matter is a very small one—the advancing for a short time of something that has to be repaid. It would be a serious matter if it were laid down that, whenever power is given by Act of Parliament to make rules, those rules are unconstitutional if they come into conflict with any section of a preceding Act of Parliament. We have a perfect labyrinth of statutes on every sort of subject, and if, on making a new departure like this and giving an authority an unbounded discretion, any rule which conflicted with some preceding Act of Parliament were declared unconstitutional, Parliament would be very likely to thwart its own purpose. It is under an Act of Parliament that these rules and regulations are made. If Parliament does not think proper to give power to make the Regulations, it can withhold it; and if it wishes to limit that power, it can limit it. I say, with the greatest respect, that I should like to see the question of the legality of this proceeding tried by a court of law. The courts of law are open. If it is wrong, it can be stopped by law. My own opinion is otherwise; but I do think the courts of law are the proper tribunal.


My Lords, I wish to make one observation, and I do so as emphatically as I can. I wish to assure the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that, although many of us regarded the passing of the Old-Age Pensions Act with grave misgivings—misgivings which have not been entirely removed—nothing is further from our thoughts than to obstruct the application of that Act, or to increase the difficulties, and they will be very formidable difficulties, of those who will be called upon to administer it. We desire, as the noble and learned Lord does, that the Act should have a fair trial. But when your Lordships' House insisted that the Regulations made under the Act should be laid on the Table of the Houses of Parliament, we took what was no mere idle or formal precaution; and I conceive it is the duty of this House to examine those Regulations and to consider very carefully indeed whether they should be allowed to remain unchallenged.

We have been told on the part of His Majesty's Government that, so far as what I think has been called the practical grievance or the financial grievance occasioned by these Regulations is concerned, that grievance is not a very substantial one. I admit that there is some force in that argument. I do not believe that any one stands to be very heavily mulcted by the operation of these Regulations. But when I am told that the matter is such a very small one I am reminded of an episode in one of Marryat's novels which was a great joy to us in our boyhood. The passage was connected with the somewhat irregular arrival of a little infant, and the mother pleaded, in extenuation, that it was a very little one.

Now I fully understand what is desired by His Majesty's Government under these Regulations. These pension committees are to be called into existence, and it is quite evident that they must be put in funds by one means or another. That is a very obvious view, and the Act, as we have been told this evening, clearly contemplates that means should be discovered of putting them in funds so far as their immediate necessities are concerned, and upon the understanding that the money is to be ultimately refunded by the Treasury. So far all is plain and easy. But then we come to the procedure adopted by His Majesty's Government in order to give effect to this purpose, and we are met by the challenge, "If you think our procedure bad, can you suggest a better one?" I rather object to that argument. I do not conceive that it is our business to explain to the public how these matters can be most conveniently arranged. But I shall have a word of suggestion even upon that point.

We take, however, two objections to the Regulations as they stand. In the first place, under those Regulations the Treasury, acting with the Local Government Board, takes it upon itself to issue orders to, and to interfere with, the county councils in a manner which appears to me to go very far beyond the spirit of the Local Government Act of 1888, from which these councils derive their powers. We have been told that the Old-Age Pensions Act is based upon the co-operation of the Treasury with the local authorities. I am not quite sure that the terms of the Act quite bear out that statement. I have looked through it and I find in it only one reference to the county councils. The county councils are required to call these pension committees into existence. Having done that, the county councils step into the background, and it is the aid of the Treasury and public funds that are invoked.

Then the second objection is that which has been taken upon constitutional grounds, and there I am bound say it does seem to me that the point, even though it be in itself a small one, does raise a Constitutional question of the very highest importance; a question, moreover, which, as has been truly said this evening, is every day more frequently and more urgently brought under our attention—I mean the question of the extent to which you can give a public Department the right of overriding the law as it is found in the Statute-book. I rather understood the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to suggest that the words to which we have called attention—I mean the words which declare that the funds are to be provided out of the county fund notwithstanding any statutory provision to the contrary—were put in as a somewhat formal and not very important precaution. I regard them rather more seriously, and I venture humbly to suggest to your Lordships that those words were surplusage unless it was intended by means of them to give this Department the power of going beyond the scope of the Acts of Parliament which regulated their proceedings.

We on this side of the House remain of opinion that those words do involve a grave irregularity which it is the duty of the House to take notice of. We feel, moreover, that we are by no means paralysing the operation of the Act when we desire that these pension committees should be financed from some source other than the county fund; because the Regulation itself is the two paragraphs which immediately follow, provides a means of financing them without the intervention of the county fund. A very trifling alteration would enable these pension committees to be supplied with the funds necessary for the performance of their duties, and there should be no difficulty in arranging that those funds should be provided without any straining of the law. For these reasons, if my noble friend goes to a division I shall certainly support him.


My Lords, I do not mean at this late hour to follow any of the very interesting arguments we have heard with regard to the legal or constitutional question; but I do not think it would be right that I should remain altogether silent inasmuch as this matter has been discussed at considerable length by both the Parliamentary Committee and the executive council of the County Councils Association. The executive council only yesterday passed a resolution which declared that the regulations appear to exceed the powers given to the Treasury by the Act, to cast on the finances of county councils expenses which the Act did not cast on them, and to impose duties on their servants which the Act in no way authorised, and recommended that the executive council should support any action that might be taken to bring the matter before Parliament. This resolution was not brought forward in any spirit of hostility to the Old-Age Pensions Act. Indeed, it was mentioned in the discussion that the association had no wish to throw any difficulty in the way of the administration of the Act. So strongly did the executive council feel about this matter that they purposely left out any allusion to other parts of the regulations on which some criticisms had been made, and passed unanimously the Resolution to which I have referred. There is, under these Regulations, to be thrown on the county councils what they believe to be an illegal charge, and it is for that reason that the county councils are of opinion that the Regulations ought to be protested against by all the means in their power. It has been said that this is a small point. It may be a small point if we are to take all the assurances that have been given by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy. But let me point out that these Regulations not only throw this charge upon county councils, but provide—and I think this is adding insult to injury—that the money shall be repaid to the councils at such times and in such manner as the Treasury think fit. Moreover, no interest is to be paid for the money so advanced.


I was able to give an assurance that these advances would be repaid within a short while. It would always be well within the financial year.


I fully accept the noble Lord's assurances. I have no doubt the noble Lord will do all he can to get his assurances carried out, but they have not the effect which these Regulations will have after they are approved by Parliament. I cannot myself see what power the county councils have to raise a rate for this purpose. So far from their being mentioned in the Bill in harmonious conjunction with the Treasury, there is only one clause which refers in any way whatever to them, and that is the clause under which they have to appoint the pensions committees, after which their powers absolutely cease. I can assure the House that the county councils feel very strongly about the matter.

On Question,

Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.) Morley, E. Clonbrock, L.
Northumberland, D. Northbrook, E. Dunboyne, L.
Onslow, E. Ellenborough, L.
Ailesbury, M. Pembroke and Montgomery, E. Faber, L.
Bath, M. Hindlip, L.
Lansdowne, M. Churchill, V. [Teller.] Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
Salisbury, M. Falkland, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Goschen, V. Lawrence, L. [Teller.]
Camperdown, E. Hood, V. Leigh, L.
Cathcart, E. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore). Macnaughten, L.
Cawdor, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Cromer, E. Robertson, L.
Dartrey, E. Ardilaun, L. Sanderson, L.
Denbigh, E. Ashbourne, L. Stalbridge, L.
Fortescue, E. Belhaven and Stenton, L. Stanmore, L.
Harrowby, E. Belper, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Lauderdale, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
Londesborough, E. Clinton, L. Waleran, L.
Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.) Russell, E. Fitzmaurice, L.
Glantawe, L.
Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.) Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.) Herschell, L.
Lochee, L.
Allendale, L. Lucas, L.
Armistead, L. Marchamley, L.
Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Blyth, L. O'Hagen, L.
Burghclere, L. Sandhurst, L.
Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.) Colebrooke, L. [Teller.] Saye and Sele, L.
Carrington, E. Courtney of Penwith, L. Shuttleworth, L.
Chichester, E. Denman, L. [Teller.] Welby, L.
Craven, E. Eversley, L.

The said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.

House adjourned at a Quarter before Eight o'clock, to Monday next, a Quarter past Four o'clock.