§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Pentland.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, this Bill came on for Second Reading very late at night, and insufficient opportunity was afforded for discussing it. Therefore if your Lordships will allow me to say a few words I think I can explain exactly what our position is with regard to this Bill to-night. I can point out to your Lordships the part of the Bill which is not objected to, and which, therefore, we shall not have occasion to discuss, or, at all events, to have any difference of opinion upon. On the other hand, I can point out the part of the Bill which is objected to. The essence of this Bill is contained in Clauses 4, 6, and 18. The purpose of the Bill is to increase the number of short lets, and to prevent it being any 597 longer necessary for a tenant who is going to occupy a house to give a very long notice that he is going to do so before that tenancy commences. Your Lordships will find, if you look at Clause 4, that—No agreement, whether verbal or written, for the let of a small dwelling-house shall be binding if the same has been made more than two months prior to the date of entry to such dwelling-house.There is no objection to that. The next is Clause 6, which says—Either the owner or the occupier may give notice of removal with a view to terminate any tenancy of a small dwelling-house on the day upon which the next payment of rent falls due.That is subject to certain notices which are afterwards detailed and which are necessary in order to be clear. Under that clause it will no longer be possible for any house-owner or tenant to make with certainty a let for a year. That is to say, either of them will be able, under Clause 6, if the tenant has taken a house for a year on, we will say, monthly payments of rent, to give notice at the next monthly payment, supposing the notice is sufficient in other terms of the clause. That, of course, is a great change in the existing law. That is the real object of this Bill, and to that also there is no objection—at least, no objection is going to be taken in Parliament. It is quite true that some of the burghs, and particularly some of the smaller burghs, think this Bill is altogether unnecessary. Their population not being migratory, and their business being tolerably steady in quantity, the tenants prefer to hold and to take houses for a year. But, of course, in Glasgow and places where trade fluctuates, it is not so. The other clause is Clause 18, and that says—All bedding material as well as all tools and implements of trade used or to be used by the occupier of a small dwelling-house or any member of his family, as the means of his, her, or their livelihood, which are in the dwelling-house, and furniture and plenishing in a small dwelling-house to the value according to the sheriff officer's inventory, of ten pounds, shall be wholly exempt from the right of hypothec of the landlord.To that also there is no objection, and in those three clauses combined is the essence of the Bill. Therefore your Lordships will see that no objection will be taken to those, but what will be really objected to are the clauses which by way of description I will call the rating clauses. These are Clause 2—on which my noble friend Lord Clinton has an Amendment—and 598 Clauses 12 to 17, which are known as the compounding clauses. Of course, as they stand, they extend very largely the system of compounding rates. Your Lordships will, therefore, see the points which, when we go into Committee, we shall have to discuss.
One word with regard to the history of this Bill. When we were on the Second Reading I put several questions to the noble Lord, but I was not sufficiently fortunate then to obtain much of an answer. I hope on this occasion I may be more fortunate. This Bill as originally introduced applied to houses up to £15 of rent and was optional. It went up to Grand Committee, and at a certain stage was entirely transmogrified by a new definition and a new clause introduced by the Lord Advocate. It was made compulsory on all burghs except those with a population of under 10,000, and the figure which had stood at £15 was raised to £21 and £26. I want to know the reason why this change was made. In the House of Commons up to the present time they have received no explanation whatever as to why and at whose instance the Bill was altered, because it is no longer the same Bill. I ask, Was it altered at the instance of the burghs? There are 205 burghs, and of course there are 205 interests, and I am not aware that they were consulted about this enormous change in any way whatsoever. What we are told is that one or two Members of Parliament suggested the change, and on their suggestion it was made. I want to know whether that was the case, and whether these burghs had an opportunity of representing their objections. I cannot think they had. But there was one thing which was more surprising than this, for when I asked the noble Lord whether he was aware that there was objection to his Bill on the part of the burghs, he said he was not aware. At that moment I will undertake to say there was not a single Scottish Peer in this House who had not received letters and applications and memoranda from a number of burghs, and how it can be contended that the Scottish Office alone was ignorant of this passes my comprehension. I can quite understand that so far as the Lord Advocate is concerned he might be ignorant, because the business of the Lord Advocate at the present time appears to be going about the country advocating the most Socialistic doctrines, such as land nationalisation, and we do not 599 even know whether he is an emissary of His Majesty's Government or not, because when the noble Earl the Leader of the House was asked whether he agreed with these doctrines, he seemed to me to be in a much greater dilemma than I have seen him in since he has led this House. He shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and said nothing. So much for the Lord Advocate; he might be otherwise occupied, but the noble Lord is not otherwise occupied, and he surely must have known—I cannot understand how he did not know—that the burghs objected to this.
Let me give a few of the names of the people who have applied to me—the City of Edinburgh, the Convention of Royal Burghs, Aberdeen, Perth, Dunfermline, Ayr, Paisley, Forfar, Musselburgh, Partick, and Hamilton. I presented to your Lordships a Petition from the City of Edinburgh against the Bill, and I take this opportunity of presenting a similar Petition from Musselburgh. But that was not all, because the Convention of Royal Burghs issued a circular letter to all the boroughs—they gave them very short notice—asking them to express their opinions about the Bill; and it was condemned by the whole of them, including among others, Hamilton, Port Glasgow, Denny, Lanark, and Rothesay. I saw those replies, and so far as I could see there was not a single answer in which the Bill as altered was favourably received. How it was that the noble Lord never heard of one of these I cannot understand, and I hope he will kindly tell us whether before this change was made any effort or attempt was made to ascertain what the feelings of the burghs who are affected were on this Bill.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (LORD PENTLAND)
If it is to the convenience of your Lordships that at this moment I should say a word or two in reply to the noble Earl who takes so great an interest in this Bill, I shall be very glad to endeavour to do so. In reference, in the first place, to his criticism of myself, and to the opinions of certain local authorities in Scotland, I really am not quite clear what the charge is that he brings against me.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Let me tell the noble Lord. I asked him on Second Reading whether he was aware of these objections and he said he was not aware that 600 there was any objection on the part of these burghs.
§ LORD PENTLAND
Whenever the burghs have intimated to me their opinion I have done my best to give it consideration; but no one knows better than the noble Earl that it is only recently that active interest in this Bill has ripened in Scotland.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I can only say that before the Second Reading I received a number of these applications.
§ LORD PENTLAND
If the noble Lord will kindly show to me the precise paper or the precise criticisms which have been handed to him, I will gladly inform him of the date on which those criticisms arrived at the Scottish Office. I am perfectly willing to make known to him, so far as it is for his convenience that I should do so, when the communications arrived at the Scottish Office. On the other hand, I, think you will agree with me that it is for a Minister on his own responsibility to consider representations that are made to him from those interested in legislation over which he has charge, and though the noble Earl has made this complaint, against me to-day, and I regret he should find cause to make it as I endeavour to discharge my duty to the best of my ability, I am bound to tell your Lordships that the same complaint has not reached me from any of the local authorities concerned. There has been no complaint that I have heard that their representations have not been duly considered at the Scottish Office, or that that Office does not welcome any opportunity of ascertaining their views. If that is the case, and if there is complete harmony on that point between myself and the local authorities, I cannot see, with the greatest respect, that the charge which the noble Earl has brought against me to-day is really of any serious weight. Therefore, with your Lordships' permission I pass from that point.
The noble Earl went on with some criticisms of the Lord Advocate which, I think, 601 has very little to do with the matter before the House. The Lord Advocate, of course, was the Minister in charge of this Bill in another place, and I am not aware that on any day when it was his business to conduct this Bill, either in Grand Committee or the House of Commons or the Scottish Office, that he was absent from his duties, as the noble Earl is good enough to suggest. The Lord Advocate is not here to speak for himself; therefore I am bound to make this protest on behalf of my learned friend who, in every possible degree, is most assiduous and diligent in the exercise and discharge of his duties. He was in charge of the Bill in the House of Commons, and was responsible for the change in the Bill to which the noble Earl objects. The noble Earl seems to think that this was a surreptitious change. I shall not endeavour to disabuse his mind on that ground. The clause fixing the limits of rent to which the noble Earl takes objection and criticises was brought up before the Grand Committee on June 24. Lengthy discussion took place in the presence of the Scottish Committee, which contains every Scottish Member, and therefore by the constitution of that Committee every local authority in Scotland had direct access to it. The clause was considered by that Committee at some length, and with the agreement of the Committee the Lord Advocate postponed its discussion to a later date. It was not taken up again before July 22. Nearly four weeks, therefore, elapsed between the date of its postponement and the date when the Lord Advocate brought up an amended edition of the clause. That edition was arrived at only after the most careful deliberation and consideration by the Lord Advocate, by myself, and by the officials of the Scottish Office. I am only describing the ordinary procedure of a Government Department in such an event. We carefully considered the desirability of amending the clause in that Bill, and after acquainting ourselves, as we deemed right and at, with local and individual opinion as to the whole subject, it was decided that the Lord Advocate should bring forward his amended clause.
§ LORD PENTLAND
What does the noble Earl mean? If he means did we address a circular to the burghs, we did not. But we had before us a lengthy and detailed Report of the Committee which sat on this 602 question; we had received representations from nearly every local authority concerned in Scotland; and we took such steps as we deemed right to supplement the information which we had before us. And really, if we did not consult the burghs, and if we therefore acted without information, the loss is our own, but we took, I think, sufficient and all adequate steps to guard against being in any error as to opinion on this subject. I therefore cannot concede the claim which the noble Earl seems to make that he in this matter represents Scotland, and that the Government do not.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I beg the noble Earl's pardon if I have misrepresented him, but his object was to show at any rate that this Bill did not represent Scottish opinion on this matter.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]
After the words 'dwelling-houses' to insert the words 'in burghs.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ LORD PENTLAND accepted the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Title, as amended, agreed to.
In page 1, line 5, to leave out the word 'House' and to insert the words 'Small Dwelling-houses in Burghs.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question. Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
2. In this Act—
The expression "small dwelling-house" means in burghs to which this Act applies without adoption
a dwelling-house entered on the valuation roll at a yearly rent or value of twenty-one pounds or under, unless the burgh contained within the police boundaries thereof at the date of the census of nineteen hundred and one a population of fifty thousand or upwards, in which case it means a dwelling-house entered on the valuation roll at a yearly rent or value of twenty-six pounds or under; and means in burghs in which this Act has been adopted a dwelling-house entered on the valuation roll at a yearly rent or value of fifteen pounds or under;
The expression "assessing authority" includes a town council, a parish council, and every other body entitled to impose an assessment; and
The expression "assessment" includes all rates, charges, and assessments imposed, assessed, or levied by an assessing authority, the proceeds of which are applicable to public local purposes and which which are leviable in respect of the yearly value of lands and heritages, and includes any sum which, though obtained in the first instance by a precept, certificate, or other instrument requiring payment from some authority or officer, is or can be ultimately raised out of an assessment;
The expression "magistrate" includes judge of police;
The expressions "owner" and "occupier" have the meanings assigned to them respectively in the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892; provided that section fifty-eight of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1903 (which limits the obligations of factors), shall apply for the purposes of this Act as if it were herein re-enacted with the substitution of this Act for the Burgh Police Acts specified in the said section.
§ LORD CLINTON moved the first of a series of Amendments having for their object the alteration of the definition of "dwelling-house" so as to make the Bill apply in burghs with less than 20,000 population to houses of a yearly value of £10 or under, instead of £21 as proposed in the Bill; in burghs with a population of 20,000 and upwards, to houses of £15 yearly value, instead of £26, the value proposed in the Bill to apply in burghs with 50,000 population and upwards; and in burghs with a population of 500,000 and upwards to houses of a yearly value of £20 or under.
§ He said he had a considerable number of Amendments upon this clause, but they were all put down with exactly the same object, and for convenience he would treat them all as one in this discussion. This particular point had already received some consideration. His object was to alter the definition of "dwelling-house" so that the number of houses and the class of houses might be limited under this Bill. The figures which he had put in his Amendments were practically the same as those which appeared in the Bill when it was first introduced. But what was much more im- 604 portant was that the figures as he proposed them practically represented the considered opinion of, he believed, the whole of the burghs of Scotland. He gathered that the noble Lord was not prepared to accept the Amendments; but this view had been strongly impressed upon some of their Lordships on that side of the House by-the whole of the burghs, and it was the unanimous view of the burghs. The Earl of Camperdown had pointed out where they began to differ on this Bill from the Government, and one of the points was in regard to classification.
§ He would like their Lordships to consider what was the class of people who really felt the grievance which it was admitted existed owing to the system of long letting of houses. It was entirely that class of working-men who, through the exigencies of their labour, through the class of work they did, and through the unfortunate necessity which so many of them had of constantly moving about in search of employment, that they found it exceedingly difficult and inconvenient to be bound down for a long let. They were anxious to be able to give up their house at short notice. Still more important for his purpose was the class of house which these people required. It was obvious that when a man wanted a house merely for a short period, he would take, if possible, a small and low-rented house. After consultation with the burghs, he had placed in his Amendments those rentals which it was believed entirely covered those whose grievance they wished to remove. Of course, rentals varied and had to vary in the different burghs; they had not chosen their limits in any haphazard way, but after having taken a considerable amount of evidence in the matter; they had sifted it down so as to get at the different classes of the populalation in burghs. He submitted that when they went beyond the limit which he had placed, and went as far as His Majesty's Government suggested, they immediately got to a class of house totally different from the one they were discussing and which was inhabited by a totally different class of occupants.
§ He had a great fear that if they got up to those high rentals, they were, in endeavouring to remove one grievance, exceedingly likely to create another. The Government's limit would include, he believed, something like eighty per cent. 605 of people living in burghs, and it was not right to say that anything approaching that number were people of unstable habits and likely to be wanderers. As a matter of fact, the people who occupied this class of large house were in steady employment and were anxious to look upon their houses as their homes for a definite period, and who quite justly looked forward to a lengthened period of residence. But if their Lordships passed this Bill as it stood now, they would take away from those people altogether the security they had been accustomed to. They would force and condemn them to live under the constant fear of being obliged to break up their home at the bidding of a landlord at any time after forty days notice. That was a grievance which he feared their Lordships would create unless they fairly and properly limited it to the class and brought it down to the sum which he had suggested. His later Amendments he further contended were founded upon the wishes of the burgh and town councils in in this respect. He hoped that the noble Lord would accept from him that absolute fact, that these were the wishes of the people most nearly concerned. He trusted that the noble Lord would not, at all events, put forward any very strong opposition to this Amendment.
In page 1, line 8, to leave out from the word 'means' to 'a' in line 9."—(Lord Clinton.)
§ LORD PENTLAND said he was sorry he could not accept this and the consequential Amendments of the noble Lord. He was not quite sure that the noble Lord fully recognised what was implied in the assertion which he made, that those with whom he had been in communication were to be taken as absolute and unquestioned guides on this subject. The noble Lord would pardon hint for saying that though his acquaintance with such organisations had not been so great as that of the noble Lord, yet he had certainly had in recent years considerable opportunities of making himself fully acquainted with the opinions of the Convention of the Royal Burghs and with various voluntary associations.
§ LORD CLINTON pointed out that these were town councils.
§ LORD PENTLAND said he was aware of that, but what the noble Lord had said 606 implied that the authority of the convention on this question was in the first place wholly unanimous, which in this matter it was not; and, in the second place, that it ought to have a higher claim on their Lordships' attention than the elected representatives of constituencies and others, which included these burghs, on such a question as this. He was afraid he could not admit either the one ground or the other.
§ The reason he could not accept on behalf of the Government what the noble Lord proposed was this. In the first place, this was a labour question pure and simple. It was a grievance which was intensely felt by working-men in Scotland. It was felt by two classes of people—in the first place by the class to which the noble Lord alluded, the class who were obliged by the circumstances of their trade to go from place to place. Members of the building trade, the shipbuilding trade, the engineering trade, and the larger trades which had specially large centres in the West of Scotland, were under this disability and felt this grievance exceedingly. But there was another very wide class of people—he was not sure that he was correct in calling it a class—who also felt very acutely the disability under which they were now living. There were hundreds of cases where a working man might want a larger house, through, possibly, prosperity, an increase in family, or from one cause or another. On the other hand, there were many who, for various reasons, wished to have smaller houses, and desired as soon as possible to escape the liability under which they lay for a large rent. For instance, when the breadwinner was taken away and the widow and children were left, they desired to immediately reduce the scale of their expenses. In every county and burgh in Scotland there were cases of that kind. Therefore, it was not surprising that this grievance should be felt very widely.
§ Their Lordships might not be aware of the fact, but this grievance was not felt at all in England, where there was a prevailing system of short lets. Scotland was therefore under a disability which was not felt, so far as he was aware, in England. The Scottish people therefore looked to Parliament to place them on an equality in this respect. This was in no sense a Party question. There were no Party politics, as far as he was aware, 607 from the beginning to the end of it. It was not a political question in any sense whatever. The genesis of the question was as he had described it, and came entirely from the grievance he had mentioned.
§ The noble Lord who moved the Amendment had claimed, as he was perfectly entitled to do, that the limits which were placed in the Bill were wrong. His Majesty's Government had considered those limits with the utmost care. The result of the Amendment would be to cut out precisely the better-to-do workmen who were equally the victims of these changes, and who were at least as deserving as those of their fellows who had a smaller income. There are plenty of men working in Glasgow in the building trade—plasterers, say—getting something like £2 a week. Many of those men, he was informed on reliable authority, paid more than £20 a year rent for their houses. Their Lordships might remember a passage in the Housing Report of the 1885 Royal Commission in which it was suggested that the proper proportion of his income which a man should spend in rent should not exceed one-seventh. They would find also in that Report the lament that workingmen, owing to the high rents of houses, were practically obliged to pay between one-third and one-fourth of their income in rent. He could assure their Lordships who might not be aware of the fact that there were plenty of men in the building and shipbuilding trades who were paying more than £20 a year for their houses.
§ The Amendment of the noble Lord would operate in this way. When the contract for a ship was concluded in Glasgow and the men were discharged, as was so frequently the case, or when a large building was completed and the men had to seek work, possibly under the same contractor in England, or Ireland, or elsewhere in Scotland, the operation of the Amendment must be this: The men who were getting the lower rate of wages, unskilled men, would experience no difficulty, but foremen and. the better-to-do workmen would find themselves shut out from the operation of this Bill. He looked at this purely from the point of view of labour. There was no other concern in it, and he was sure, in adopting the limits which the noble Lord proposed, they would unwittingly and unintentionally be inflicting a hardship on the class of men whom he 608 had indicated. There was no difficulty whatever in practice in continuing the system of yearly lets in Scotland. Whenever a house-owner had a good tenant who was willing to take his house from year to year, there would be no breach of that tenancy. It was quite true there would always be, in the case of houses within the limits of this Bill, the right of the landlord or the tenant to terminate an agreement, but good tenants when they came into contact with a good landlord, and vice versâ, would not part company lightly. Therefore, there would exist the same freedom—perhaps he should not say exactly the same freedom, because it might be prejudiced to some slight extent by the possibility of giving short notice granted by the Bill—there would exist almost the same freedom for the contracting of yearly lets as there was at present, while within the limits which His Majesty's Government had put in the Bill there would be this great relief to this desirable class of people.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN desired, very briefly, to analyse the answer which the Committee had just received from the noble Lord. His noble friend Lord Clinton proposed that in burghs under 10,000 the limit should be £10; in burghs larger than that it should be £15; and in places like Glasgow, £20. Lord Clinton had said that the great majority of the burghs were in favour of those limits and had so expressed themselves. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland began his reply by questioning this. The noble Lord being in office had greater opportunities of knowing than Lord Clinton could have had, though that did not seem to have been a very great advantage in the present instance. But the Secretary for Scotland said that the noble Lord was mistaken in supposing that these burghs were by any means unanimous. He (Lord Camperdown) had quoted statements which he had received in regard to this matter. First of all, the Convention of Royal Burghs said that the limit ought not to exceed £15. Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Perth, Ayr, Paisley and Hamilton all supported the Convention. Those were the whole of the answers he had received, and he had not the slightest reason to suppose that there was any single burgh which took a different view. But the noble Lord went on from that and said that this was not a question of burghs; it was a question of labour; and the noble 609 Lord said he had devoted so much attention to the question of labour and he had such intimate means of being in touch with labour that he assured their Lordships that the limits put in the Bill, being the result of great deliberation and great care, were; the figures which ought to be received. When did this deliberation begin? Did not the noble Lord deliberate on this question when he introduced the Bill, because at that time he took the figure of £15? Why should it be £26 now and £15 in January? He said now that £15 was inadequate. Was it that he did not consider the matter at all before January, or had the noble Lord received further information which caused him to change his opinion? They wanted really to ascertain what had been moving the Government with regard to this Bill. He hoped he would get some answer presently. That really analysed all the answer which the noble Lord had vouchsafed to give them, but he hoped he would tell them why £15, agreed to first, was so absurd now.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble Lord who has charge of the Bill made a speech just now the greater part of which seemed to be rather of the nature of a speech on Second Reading than a speech directed to this particular Amendment. He told us that this Bill was very much desired by the working-classes in the large Scottish burghs. I have no doubt whatever that this is the case, nor, as I understand it, is there anything in the Amendment put down by Lord Clinton which is in any way hostile to the policy of the Bill. As I understand it, the policy of the Bill is to be found in the three clauses to which the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, referred—the clause dealing with the time limit to missives, the clause relating to notice to terminate a tenancy, and the clause dealing with the law of hypothec. None of these points are in any way affected by the Amendment of Lord Clinton. The only point raised by the Amendment is this. The noble Lord challenges the particular money limit prescribed in Clause 2 with regard to the value of houses which will come within the scope of this measure. I must say I think my noble friend made a fairly strong case to show that a lower limit than that mentioned in the Bill might reasonably he accepted. In the first place, unless I misunderstand the case, the limit suggested by my noble friend is the limit which was 610 at first adopted by the Government themselves.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Then the noble Lord points out the hardship of excluding some members who might properly be described as belonging to the working-classes from the operation of this particular clause, and he says there are foremen and well-paid operatives who rent houses valued at £20 a year. I have no doubt that that is the case; but surely when you come to persons who rent houses of that kind of value it is fair to suggest with regard to them that they do not belong to the helpless migratory population for whom the advantages of this Bill are specially designed. Men occupying houses of over £20 valuation surely would come within the category described by Lord Clinton of those who are settled in their homes and look forward to a more lengthened period of residence in them. I feel, in dealing with these Scottish questions that we who are not familiar with the intricacies of Scottish matters are somewhat at a disadvantage, and we naturally look to the authority which can be cited on one side or the other. Now Lord Pentland rests himself, I take it, upon the authority of the Scottish Members of Parliament. My two noble friends, on the contrary, rest themselves upon the very strong and decided expressions of opinion that have been laid before us by the local authorities of these burghs. The nobly Lord who is in charge of the Bill went out of his way to tell us, quite correctly, that this is not a Party measure, and I think, therefore, we are entitled to observe that possibly the constituted local authorities of these great cities may upon the whole be at least as reliable guides as the gentlemen who happen for the moment to represent those cities in Parliament, many of whom, it is suggested to me, are not Scotsmen at all. In these circumstances, although I should greatly regret being forced to a Division on the point, if my noble friend divides the Committee I shall vote with him.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that apparently the debate was over, but he again asked for an answer from the noble Lord why £15 was a perfectly good figure in January but had now become a bad one? This figure of £20 was accepted by the Committee as the highest and as likely 611 to include all the workmen in Glasgow; if Lord Pentland would look at the report he would find that this was so; and as far as Glasgow was concerned £20 would be acceptable instead of £26.
§ LORD PENTLAND hoped the noble Earl would acquit him of being surreptitious in his actions with regard to this Bill. To his personal knowledge this had been a debated question in Scotland for the last sixteen or seventeen years, and there had been ten or twelve Bills introduced by private Members into the House of Commons in the endeavour to deal with it. It was an exceedingly difficult and intricate question, and the Government had not felt able to deal with it without further information. They appointed a Committee which reported, but, in spite of that Report, until the Bill was actually introduced and proceeded with active interest in the subject did not arise.612
§ It was perfectly well known that if the Government introduced a Bill on a certain subject at the beginning of a session and no action was taken upon it, however much it affected the interests of local authorities they would receive no communications and no information upon it from those authorities. But the moment it was known that the Government meant to find time to deal with the question interest was aroused, and those who were concerned met and said "We are now forced to come to a decision and make up our minds on this question." That was precisely how more mature, and, he believed, more correct information came before the Government in the later stages of this controversy.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 19; Not-Contents, 99.611
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Morley of Blackburn, V.||Courtney of Penwith, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal)||Glantawe, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Beauehamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Allendale, L.||Lochee, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Armitstead. L.||O'Hagan, L. [Teller.]|
|Chichester, E.||Boston, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Pirrie, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal)||Waldegrave, E.||Farnham, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Wharncliffe, E.||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)|
|Northumberland, D.||Churchill, V.||Grey de Ruthyn, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||De Vesci, V.||Harris, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Falkland, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Camden, M.||Goschen, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Hampden, V.||Kesteven, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Hardinge, V.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Hill, V.||Langford, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Hood, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Iveagh, V.||Leith of Fyvie, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, V.||Ludlow, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Masham, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Abinger, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)|
|Cathcart, E.||Ardilaun, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Northcote, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Barrymore, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Basing, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Derby, E.||Blythswood, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Devon, E.||Borthwick, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)||Rothschild, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||St. Levan, L.|
|Howe, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Saltoun, L. [Teller.]|
|Huntingdon, E.||Carew, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Sherborne, L.|
|Londesborough, E.||Sinclair, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Stalbridge, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Clinton. L. [Teller.]||Stanmore, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Clonbrock, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Morley, E.||Cloncurry, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Ventry, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Digby, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Ebury, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Elphinstone, L.|
§ Amendment agreed to accordingly.
In page 1, line 10, after the 'word house,' to insert the words 'in a burgh'; in line 11, to leave out the word 'twenty-one' and to insert the word 'ten'; and in line 14 to leave out the word 'fifty' and to insert the word 'twenty."'—(Lord Clinton.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN desired to ask a question on the second paragraph in Clause 2, which ran:—
The expression 'assessing authority' includes a town council, a parish council, and every other body entitled to impose an assessment.
This Bill by Clause 12 made owners responsible for all rates on houses which came under the Bill—all assessments which were imposed by the assessing authority. What did "assessment" mean? It included "all rates, charges, and assessments imposed, assessed, or levied by an assessing authority." An assessing authority included "a town council, a parish council, and every other body entitled to impose an assessment." This Bill had to do with rating and with municipal assessments. Then how did this term "parish council" come in? A parish council levied the poor rate and the poor rate only, and had nothing to do with house rating or anything of that kind. How had "parish council" found its way into the Bill? It was not in the Bill as originally introduced, but was inserted in Grand Committee. What would be the effect of introducing parish councils into the Bill? A parish council levied the poor rate on the occupier, and on the occupier only. It had no right of recourse for the poor rate to the owner. Yet this Bill said that the rates levied by a parish council were to be included in the rates which came under this Bill. Had Lord Pentland noticed that by inserting these words he had made a most enormous change in the Poor Law, which had nothing to do with this Bill at all? The result would be that the poor rates of occupiers up to the figure in the Bill, would be compounded for and would be paid by the owners, who would have to recover them from the occupiers. There was no necessity for a poor man to pay his poor rates in order to be on the Parliamentary voters' roll. Had the noble Lord noticed that? The question was raised where it came in under owner would pay the rates and would try
to recover them from the occupier. If they looked at Clause 13 they would see that—
Owners shall have relief against occupiers of dwelling-houses for the full amount of such assessments, without deduction, but such assessments shall only be recoverable by such owners from the occupiers along with payments of rent.
Suppose the occupier would not pay the poor rate to the owner who had already paid it. Very frequently an occupier would not pay his rates. The result would be that the occupier would be on the Parliamentary roll and yet would not have paid his rates to anybody. There was a further point. The owner might not pay the poor rates, and in that case nobody would pay them, and yet the occupier would by this Bill become enfranchised. He could not imagine that this was intended. The effect of inserting the term "parish council" had been to make a most important change in the Poor Law, and would have a great effect on the Parliamentary roll. Unless the noble Lord could give some good reason why these words had been inserted he would be bound to move that they be omitted.
§ LORD PENTLAND said that so far as he was aware "parish council" was put with the other assessing authorities. They treated all the assessing authorities in the same way. No doubt this Bill did make changes. He was not concerned to deny it, but they were perfectly obvious on the face of the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN denied that they were very obvious. He was afraid the noble Lord was much cleverer than himself, because it took him some time before he fully realised the effect of it. He had shown their Lordships how a man could be on the Parliamentary voters' roll without having paid his rates. That brought into this Bill the question of the franchise. What in the world had the franchise to do with this Bill?
§ LORD PENTLAND said that if it was their Lordships' wish that the franchise question which the noble Earl had detected in the Bill should be discussed now, he was at their Lordships' service, but he thought it would be more convenient if the franchise question was raised where it came in under the compounding clauses.615
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
It comes in really on the insertion of these words, and I should be much obliged if the noble Lord will discuss it now.
It makes an immense difference on this assessment. I hope the noble Earl will move the omission of these words.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I do not know whether the noble Earl has moved the omission of these words.
To leave out the words 'a parish council.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ LORD PENTLAND said that if their Lordships chose to omit these words it was in their power to do so, but he submitted it would be more convenient and more simple to discuss the question of the franchise on the compounding clauses where it properly arose on the two sets of Amendments which were down in the names of the Earl of Camperdown and Lord Courtney. That would raise the whole subject, and would give their Lordships an opportunity of discussing alternative methods of dealing with it. Otherwise they would be only repeating the discussion.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said there were two different questions raised in this Bill owing to the form which this definition had taken in Grand Committee. One was the municipal rates, which were perfectly germane to this Bill, and the compounding of which they were perfectly able to discuss. But this was a matter which had nothing to do with the Bill, and he wanted to know why the term "parish council" had been inserted, because if retained it would have a most important effect, not on the municipal roll, because that belonged to the Bill, but upon the Parliamentary roll, which had nothing whatever to do with the Bill. He hoped the noble Lord would discuss it now.
§ LORD PENTLAND said the matter was simply this. The working-man did not discriminate between one rate and another. Under the present system he was obliged to take a yearly let, and to pay the rates 616 as a lump sum at the end of the year. The whole system of the collection of rates at present rested upon the system of yearly lets. If they were going to alter that and make it short lets, they could not have the collection of any rates. They must deal with all the rates together.
§ LORD PENTLAND said he would concede to the noble Earl his own view, but he was representing the view of the Government, which had been put into the Bill.
§ LORD SALTOUN said that the provision in question converted this Bill from a House Letting and Rating Bill into a Franchise Bill. He hoped the noble Earl would press his Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved a further Amendment in Clause 2 to insert, after "every other body entitled to impose an assessment," the words "except a parish council." This Amendment was, he explained, consequential.
To insert the words 'except a parish council.'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3, agreed to.
4. No agreement, whether verbal or written, for the let of a small dwelling-house shall be binding if the same has been made more than two months prior to the date of entry to such dwelling-house.
§ LORD PENTLAND moved to omit the words "date of entry to such dwelling-house" and to insert the words "commencement of such let." This was, he said, merely a drafting Amendment.
In page 2, lines 26 and 27, to leave out the words 'date of entry to such dwelling-house,' and to insert the words commencement of such let.'"—(Lord Pentland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.617
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
5. Notwithstanding the date of entry to any dwelling-house all lets of small dwelling-houses, except those for a shorter period than one month, shall terminate only on the twenty-eighth day of a month, or when that day is a Sunday, on the Monday next following and all lets of small dwelling-houses for a shorter period than one month shall terminate on a Monday.
In page 2, line 28, after the word 'any' to insert the word'"—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
In line 29, to leave out the word 'small' and to insert the word 'such.'—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
6. Either the owner or the occupier may give notice of removal with a view to terminate any tenancy of a small dwelling-house on the day upon which the next payment of rent falls due, or if that day is not a lawful date for the termination of a let under this Act, on the lawful date next following the said day, provided that—
§ LORD SALTOUN moved to amend paragraphs (a) and (b) by inserting in each case, after the words "If the house be," the word "expressly." He said he was advised that the insertion of this word was necessary.
In page 2, line 40, and in page 3, line 1, after the word 'be' to insert the word 'expressly.'"—(Lord Saltoun)
§ LORD PENTLAND said he hesitated to pose as a critic in drafting, but he did not quite know what was meant by the Amendment. He was advised that it was not necessary. A house could not be let 618 if it was not let, and to put the word "expressly" into this particular line almost made it necessary to insert the words "expressly let" all through the Bill. He was reluctant to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD CLINTON
Does the noble Lord mean that if a house is let for a year it will still be a yearly let, in spite of the power to give short notice?
§ LORD PENTLAND, No; the notice to quit will remain. Therefore it will not be a yearly let.
§ LORD CLINTON
If the agreement is a yearly let, it will always be subject to the notice on either side.
I am given to understand that this is not clear, and that the words "expressly let" are required in order to make it clear. I am told it is important.
§ LORD PENTLAND
But will the noble Lord be good enough to tell me this? What difference do these words "expressly let" mean? In any case it is more than three months.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7:
§ Drafting Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
§ Clause 10:
§ Drafting Amendment agreed to.619
§ Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
12. Every assessing authority entitled to impose assessments in the burgh, shall levy all assessments which may by law be properly chargeable upon the occupiers of small dwelling-houses, or which, though assessable in respect of occupancy of such dwelling-houses, are by law recoverable from owners, on the owners of such dwelling-houses in place of the occupiers thereof (distinguishing always in each assessment the proportion applicable to ownership and the proportion to occupancy), and that notwithstanding the insertion made in the valuation roll in terms of the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854, and Acts amending the same, of the names of occupiers of such dwelling-houses: Provided that nothing in this Act shall prejudice or disqualify any person whose name is entered in such valuation roll in respect of his qualifications in virtue of the Representation of the People Act, 1884. And provided further that section thirty-one of the Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854, and section three hundred and forty-four of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, and the corresponding section of any local Act shall not apply to any lands or premises being dwelling-houses to which the provisions of this Act apply.
§ LORD PENTLAND said a small Amendment was necessary in the case of the rates which were partly payable by owners and occupiers.
In page 4, line 8, after the word 'assessments,' to insert the words 'or portions of assessments.'"(Lord Pentland.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to strike out Clause 12. He said he had Amendments on the Paper to delete Clauses 12 to 17. He understood that Lord Courtney had the same Amendments down, and he did not know which would be the most convenient way of discussing these Amendments.
§ LORD PENTLAND
What I meant to say was that the purpose of Lord Courtney is not the same as the noble Earl's.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I am quite satisfied of that. Do the Government accept the striking out of Clauses 12 to 17? That is what we both move.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I had hoped the noble Earl was going to give us his arguments. The Government are not prepared to accept the striking out of Clause 12.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said he would assume that Lord Courtney would support him, and he would try to give the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland reasons why he thought Clause 12 ought to be omitted from the Bill. His task had been very much simplified by the fact that they had got rid of the question of the franchise, which had nothing to do with the Bill. Clause 12 had simply to do with municipal assessments. It proposed that every assessment authority entitled to impose assessments in the burgh should levy all assessments which might be properly chargeable to occupiers on the owners of dwelling-houses. That was an enormous extension of the system of compounding. At the present time the rates were compounded in some burghs up to £4 and in others up to £5. Under this clause as the Bill stood before Amendment they would be corn-pounded up to £26, with the practical result that in Glasgow the rates would be compounded for nearly 160,000 out of 175,000 houses. The assessor would have comparatively little to do, because all that would remain for him would be the collecting of rates on the bigger houses in which the labour and difficulty was, of course, the smallest. What were the reasons for objecting to this compounding of municipal rates? In the first place it removed all direct connection between the occupier and the assessing authority. In the second place, it placed an additional burden upon the general ratepayers in respect of the commission which was given to the owner who had to collect the rates. But beyond that it was objected to by the burghs, and it was also objected to by the owners of houses. The owners of houses naturally did not wish to be placed in the invidious position of rate collectors to the great majority of their tenants, and the burghs objected to it, because, as they said, the amount of commission which would have to be added to the total sum levied meant an additional burden upon the general ratepayer. He objected to any extension whatever of this system of compounding; 621 he believed their Lordships also objected to it, as also did the Poor Law Commission and every set of persons who had inquired into this matter. The evil done by this system was almost incalculable. It had led to the condonation of municipal extravagance and to carelessness on the part of occupiers as to the amount of money spent. Though it might be impossible to do away with it, yet to extend compounding until it really embraced five-sixths of the houses in a town was a thing which he hoped would not be agreed to. Those were his reasons for proposing the omission of the clause.
To leave out Clause 12."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH said he supposed he ought to add some words to the speech of the noble Earl, but he must apologise in the first place for intervening in this subject at all, because he was not as acquainted even with the elementary facts of Scottish legislation as he ought to be in order to justify his appearance in the debate. The previous evening he was approached by the representatives, of Glasgow, who desired to have an opportunity of presenting their side of the case to their Lordships. They could not find any one to put their Amendments on the Paper, and so he had consented to do so in the hope that he would have the support of some one of their Lordships connected with Scotland who would be able to speak on the subject, but as a matter of fact that had not happened and he was still left in charge of his Amendments. His duty, therefore, was to explain to their Lordships as clearly as he could what those Amendments meant.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN pointed out that the only Amendment he had moved was to omit Clause 12.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH replied that the noble Earl had supported that Amendment by an argument against compounding. His (Lord Courtney's) own Amendment was for the substitution of another method of compounding, giving, as he believed, a much simpler and more effective and convenient method of compounding than that in the Bill. Moreover, he proposed a clause making the adoption of the system optional, so that his Amendments differed 622 from those of the noble Earl opposite, although they both started with the desire to get rid of Clause 12 as it stood. He would now ask to be allowed to explain the Amendments standing in his name.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN observed that his Amendment stood on the Paper before that of the noble Lord.
§ LORD STANMORE said that surely the only question before the Committee was whether they should or should not strike out Clause 12. The question of the relative merits of the Amendments of his noble friend Lord Camperdown and of the noble Lord, Lord Courtney, would come up for discussion on Clause 17.
§ LORD PENTLAND said that on the general question of retaining the system in the Bill it appeared that the two noble Lords took different roads. As to the noble Earl's charge that the franchise was affected by the Bill, there was no doubt that it was affected.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that that was not the case now, because they had omitted all reference to the parish council.
§ LORD PENTLAND remarked that in that case he was discharged from saying anything further.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH thought he ought to say a word as to compounding in reference to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown. The noble Earl had admitted that the system of compounding could not be got rid of altogether, and what he objected to was any extension of it. The desire of authorities like Glasgow was of great importance, and of smaller cities also; they saw in compounding an absolutely necessary way of getting the rates which might be levied in respect of small holdings. That was what had made the system inevitable in England, and with short lettings he submitted compounding was practically inevitable. It might be left to the local authorities whether they would adopt it or not, but in course of time they would all have to adopt it in connection with small lettings. The expense of collecting rates from tenants on short lets was so excessive and the risk was so great of not getting them at all that that system could not be maintained. The noble Earl objected because he said the authorities would lose 623 the amount of the commission which they would have to give to owners who became collectors of the rates. He would point out that Glasgow would not adopt the system if they thought they were going to lose by it. He submitted that the system of compounding was inevitable if they were going to allow short lets to obtain and to be extended in Scotland, and the question whether it was advantageous or not to the funds of the municipalities was a matter to be left to them. They would not adopt the system unless they thought they would gain more in the way of revenue by receiving the rates through the owners than they could possibly gain if they tried to extract them direct from weekly or monthly tenants. He did not agree that compounding deadened the interest of small occupiers in the rates because they did not pay them direct. In meal or in malt they had to pay; it was merely a matter of collection. He would not go into the political aspect, which had been the subject of great controversy in the past in their Lordships' House. Because of some supposed political deleterious effect compounding was abolished in England under Mr. Disraeli's Reform Act, but it had to be re-established within three years and had prevailed ever since, and it was impossible to prevent it if they were to allow that liberty of contract which had not prevailed so much in Scotland as in England and which was expressed in the system of short lettings. Unless they meant to destroy the system of compounding it was unwise to throw out the clause. He was only prepared to alter the method, and as it stood he was afraid he would have to vote against his own Amendment.
§ LORD STANMORE observed, with reference to the optimism of the noble Lord as to the increased receipts of municipalities, that that opinion was not shared at all events by the town councillors of Aberdeen, who calculated that something between £2,000 and £3,000 a year would be lost.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES thought that the noble Lord (Lord Courtney) might salve his conscience because the first Amendment stood in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, Therefore the noble Lord could vote upon that Amendment and need not bother about his own at that moment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.624
§ Clause 13 (Compounding allowances to owners):
To leave out Clause 13."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 14 (Revision of scale of compounding allowances):
To leave out Clause 14."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 15 (Repayment of assessments paid in respect of unlet dwelling-houses):
To leave out Clause 15."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 16 (Saving for remissions of assessments):
To leave out Clause 16."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
17. Every owner shall deliver to the occupier of a small dwelling-house at the beginning of an occupancy a receipt book, rent book, or certificate stating the amount payable in name of rent and assessments to the owner, and indicating separately on the basis of the last assessments for the time being the proportion thereof payable in name of assessments: Provided that it shall be the duty of an assessing authority on application by the occupier to send him a notice of the assessment properly chargeable in respect of occupancy of the dwelling-house.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN, in moving to leave out Clause 17 and to insert a new clause standing in his name, said the effect of his Amendment would be that as regarded all the burghs in Scotland with the exception of the five large burghs mentioned in the Bill the law would remain the same as it was now. Owners were subjected by the Bill to very considerable disadvantages. First of all, they could no longer rely upon a yearly 625 let to any tenant because a tenant could give notice and instead of completing his year could leave before the year expired. In the second place, their Lordships would see that the number of short lets, which of course implied a great deal of additional trouble and expense to an owner, would be very considerably increased. The proposed new clause was not really his own clause but one which had been agreed upon between a very large majority of the burghs, almost all of them with the exception of Glasgow. He could not speak about Edinburgh because Edinburgh up to the day before was perhaps one of the very strongest opponents of the Bill; he had heard that they no longer supported the clause he was moving, why, he was not able to tell their Lordships. Further, there was a power conferred in subsection (b) of his Amendment upon assessing authorities of compelling payment of rates by instalments, which would create great facility in the collection. They should not increase the extent of compounding beyond what existed at present, and that was the effect of his clause.
To leave out clause 17 and to insert the following new clause:
'Subject to the provisions of this Act, the provisions of all Acts applicable within the respective burghs in which this Act may be in force with regard to the liability for and the imposition and recovery of any assessment shall subsist in full force and effect, subject to the following provisions (that is to say)—
In the burghs named in Schedule II of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892—
§ LORD PENTLAND pointed out that the position was that Lord Camperdown had an Amendment forbidding any extension of compounding, and that Lord Courtney had a series of Amendments which would have the effect of introducing compounding under a different method from that adopted by the Government in the Bill. He had some reason for doubting the extent of the support which the noble Earl had for his proposals, for he had told them that Glasgow certainly and Edinburgh he thought both opposed, and they were not unimportant exceptions when they considered the proportion of their population as compared with the rest of Scotland. They were the two most important municipalities in Scotland. They had to choose between compounding in some form or other and rejecting the short let system proposed by the Bill. The objection which the noble Earl took to compounding was that it conferred the franchise on a certain number of people.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said that it did not now.
§ LORD PENTLAND pointed out that they had compounding in England and in Scotland for householders of £4 and under. There was no loss of franchise by non-payment of rates, and there was an allowance to owners who collected and paid the rates of the occupiers. If they began at £15 and under they were faced by the fact that householders of £4 and under were struck out. They were going to deprive occupiers of houses of £5, £6, £7, £8, and £9 a year of a relief which they sought persistently and with great earnestness, because the compounding system was an inevitable accompaniment of a system of short lets. By the Reform Bill occupiers of £10 were not disfranchised 627 by the non-payment of rates, and he considered the Amendment was penal treatment of occupiers between the limits of £4 and £10. They were deprived of the opportunity of compounding which all experience showed gave the boon of an elastic system of house-letting, which no noble Lord could deny was the only fair and just accompaniment of an industrial system which required mobility of labour. He could say honestly that from the beginning to the end of the controversy there had been no ulterior motive or eye to enfranchisement on the part of the Government. Who should say on which side those people, if they were enfranchised, would cast their votes? Municipalities were only concerned with getting their rates paid. It was far from the truth, if noble Lords would permit him to say it, that the collection of rates and the responsibility for the payment of rates were more realised by and more intimate to these small householders under the present system that it would be under the Bill.
§ Under the system which they wished to introduce it was absolutely certain that ratepayers would have their obligations more directly pressed home to them, and although they would pay by instalments they would do what a great many of them did not do now—pay their rates. The Bill did its best to mitigate objections to the payment of rates being thrown in with the payment of rent by the fact that a note was presented indicating precisely on every rent demand the proportion due in respect of rates. To take the case of Edinburgh, Edinburgh did not enforce the payment of rates at all on householders below £5, and in all of the towns there were large exemptions as the result of appeals ad misericordiam of householders who paid more than £5. He thought he was correct in saying that no less than £43,000 was the deficit in a recent year to the Glasgow municipality in the payment of rates. Those who knew—and he was obliged to take their authority for it—were emphatic and clear in their opinion that the method of the Bill, whether it enfranchised or did anything in other respects, would enforce a better collection of rates, and the municipal burdens, so far from being increased, as the noble Earl had said, by the amount of commission paid to owners, would be considerably lessened. The commission would be absolutely submerged in the total gain to the municipalities in 628 the amount of rates collected. Workingmen now-a-days did all their transactions by weekly and monthly payments, their trade and building societies, their investments, their savings banks—every expenditure except the yearly house-letting, was dealt with by weekly or periodical instalments. If a working-man bought, say, a sewing machine, he paid for it by instalments. They would say he was foolish because he naturally paid more. But the working-man did not do it because he was foolish; he did it because he could not afford to pay cash. Municipalities did not care a whit for the franchise; their object was to get their rates paid, and working-men were perfectly willing to submit to the additional burden which they would have to bear.
§ The Burgh Police Act of 1892 contained a clause permitting short lets without giving any allowance to the owners for the collection of rates, but it threw the onus of that collection upon them. Owners would not take that responsibility and incur the expense of collectors and agents and clerks and so forth which was involved, and they had never availed themselves of that clause. No system by which responsibility was laid upon owners for the payment of rates would work unless they gave owners a compounding allowance to cover them from the outlay thrown upon them by such a condition. He had shown from beginning to end that municipalities, house-owners, working-men, and—he said it without fear of contradiction—the Government, had simply one object in view—namely, the economic and social adjustment of the question. He appealed to their Lordships to consider the plan proposed, because he believed it was a practical and working plan to provide a social remedy for a most deserving class of men.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN said he rose for the purpose of correcting one or two statements made by the noble Lord. Men who held houses of between £5 and £10 would pay their rates direct as they did now. As to the noble Lord's assurance that all the municipalities were on his side, he was again obliged to cite the authority of Edinburgh and quote from the Petition which Edinburgh presented to their Lordships' House and which he took it expressed their considered opinion. In passing he would say that the commission to the owner must be a sufficient one; it was no good proposing ten per cent. in one case 629 and five per cent. in another. As the Bill stood the Sheriff would have to fix the commission, but it was very doubtful whether he would fix it at such rates as ten per cent. or five per cent. If he did, his belief was that it would not compensate the owners for the trouble they would be put to. Where rates were compounded in England he believed there was no commission so low as five per cent., in some cases it was twenty-five per cent. The petition to which he had referred went on to say that though the system under the Bill would cost more in collection it would not produce any larger revenue, and that it would increase the burden on the occupiers; and, further, that assuming the rate of commission to be fifteen per cent., it would mean in Edinburgh £12,000 a year, or equivalent to one penny in the pound, and that amount would rise or fall according as the commission was higher or lower. That seemed to show that in the opinion of the Town Council of Edinburgh what the noble Lord had just said was not correct.
§ LORD CLINTON pointed out that the really dominant note running through the speech of the Secretary for Scotland was that compounding was a necessary part of letting for short periods. The noble Lord no doubt had studied the Report of Lord Guthrie's Departmental Committee. In that Report it was stated that compounding was not a necessary corollary of short lets. That was really a great authority to quote against the noble Lord. The Amendment provided for the system of instalments which the Committee thought necessary, a system which was just both for the rating authority and for the occupier. He believed that under the Amendment of the noble Earl they provided everything that was necessary to bring short lettings into being, and he was sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Pentland, should, so to speak, have held a pistol at their Lordships' heads and said unless they had compounding they could not have short lettings.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN said that like the noble Lord, Lord Courtney, he made no pretence to be entitled to speak on Scottish questions, but he had given considerable thought and study to the question of compounding in so far as it affected England. He remembered fighting forty years ago for a whole night in the House of Commons against the Act which restored compounding, and he had never wavered from his opinion 630 that it was most unfortunate for local government that in the Reform Act of 1867 payment of rates and political franchise were mixed up together. There was nothing in the whole system of their local government which so conflicted with economic and sound administration as the system of compounding. The noble Lord, Lord Pentland, spoke of the necessity of a system of compounding if they were to have short lettings. His noble friend, Lord Clinton, had already quoted a very great authority against that view. He would remind the noble Lord of what perhaps he might not be acquainted with himself, being a Scotsman, that there were parishes in England at the present moment where rates were collected from individual occupiers, where composition had not been adopted, and yet where short lettings existed. He knew of such parishes himself where the collection of the rates either by quarterly or half-yearly instalments was arranged without any difficulty arising from the absence of composition.
§ LORD PENTLAND asked whether those were rural or industrial parishes.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN was speaking of rural parishes. He could not speak, he admitted, with the same knowledge of industrial communities, but certainly there were large urban parishes in which composition had not been adopted, and even in rural parishes there were frequent changes of tenancy. With regard to the larger communities, he could not agree with Lord Courtney that the system of composition was really approved of on its merits by the local authorities themselves. He thought the real point was this, that the rate collectors found that the system of composition made it unquestionably easier for them to collect the rates than the system of personal payment, and that they had used their influence, which was very great, with the local authorities in order to secure the adoption of composition. He believed it was a distinct loss to local authorities where composition was adopted, for he thought that if they were to allow anything like the allowance made to owners in cases of composition, which usually was as much as twenty-five per cent., to their rate collectors and insisted on personal payment of rates it would be to the benefit of the rates and not to their injury. He did not know how that view might apply to Scotland; he was speaking of England, but he had always imagined that Scotsmen 631 were more thrifty than Englishmen and therefore more capable of paying their rates if, as would be provided under the Amendment of his noble friend Lord Camperdown, proper security was taken for the rates being levied by convenient instalments. He should be very sorry indeed to see the system of composition which now prevailed extended, and therefore he would certainly support the Amendment.
§ *THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY said he did not feel competent to express an opinion upon the proposal in the Bill to extend the compounding system, but on the general question of compounding he wished to give his experience. He was a member of the finance committee of the municipality with which he was concerned, namely, Belfast—and owing to defalcations in the rate collections many suggestions had been offered as to how the rates should be collected, and in going very carefully into the matter the question of the compounding had come up. He was naturally in agreement with their Lordships that if possible the compounding system should be done away with, because he thought the argument that the citizen should understand his liabilities as a citizen should be borne in upon him. But after careful consideration he must support the view of the noble Lord opposite, that with weekly rents and very small houses they could not get rid of the system of compounding; and he thought it would cost municipalities more to collect the rates themselves than to pay a commission to owners for so doing.
§ EARL CARRINGTON, in supporting what the noble Earl who had just sat down had said, pointed out that when he was on the London County Council he was personally responsible for the purchase of three very large estates at Croydon, Tooting, and Tottenham. The estate at Tottenham consisted of 200 acres and cost £90,000, and cottages were to be built upon it to house 42,000 people. It was gradually being covered with houses, although, of course, the new policy of the Moderate majority of the London County Council had now stopped work to a very great extent. There was only one difficulty at Tottenham, and that was that they did not allow compounding. There was no difficulty at Tooting and no difficulty at Norbury, near Croydon. But the result at Tottenham was that though there 632 was no difficulty whatever about the rent, the tenants paying their rent with the greatest possible case and regularity, when they were asked to pay the rates they did what was called "a flit." They bolted, the London County Council lost one week's rent and a very good tenant, and the local authority lost the rates. He did not agree that compounding made a citizen irresponsible for the rates and careless as to whether they went up or down.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clauses 18, 19, and 20 agreed to.
After Clause 20 to insert the following new clause:
'Nothing in this Act contained shall prejudice or affect the provisions of section seventy-two of the Waterworks Clauses (Scotland) Act, 1847.'"—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Remaining Clause agreed to.
§ Standing Committee negatived: The Report of Amendments to be received on Thursday next, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 187.)