§ LORD BELPER rose to move to resolve "That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to inquire into the application of the provisions contained in the Local Government Acts, 1888 and 1804, and the Local Government (Scotland) Acts, 1889 and 1894, relating to financial adjustments consequent on the alteration of the boundaries of a local government area or on an alteration in the constitution or status of the governing body of a local government area, and to report to the House if they are of opinion. that any amendments in such provisions are desirable."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which I have put on the Paper is the same Motion which was agreed to at the latter part of last session and in precisely the same terms, and is for the purpose of setting up a Joint Committee to try and solve the vexed question with regard to financial adjustments between counties and county boroughs in the case of extension or alteration of the boundaries of areas. This Motion was accepted last session by His Majesty's Government. Since then I have heard some criticism of the wording of the Motion, and the point has been raised whether the words "financial adjustments" need necessarily include the question of compensation, which is one of the questions with which it was obviously intended the Joint Committee should deal, because its suggested appointment arose out of the difficulties which had arisen between boroughs and counties in consequence of the judgment of the House of Lords in the Hartlepool case. In my view it is perfectly clear from the wording of the Motion that the Joint Committee would he appointed for the purpose of considering the whole subject, including the question whether or not compensation should be payable. Indeed, if that were excluded the appointment of the Joint Committee would be absolutely futile. Therefore I cannot conceive that there is any necessity to alter the wording of the Motion.
§ May I also remind the House that nearly every speaker both here and in another place specially alluded, in discussing this 74 subject, to the question of compensation, and as far as I myself was concerned that was the whole of my case in bringing forward the Motion, the difficulty having arisen in consequence of the judgment to which I have referred and in which it was decided that compensation could not he paid in these cases for loss of area or rateable value. I would further remind the noble Earl the Leader of the House that the President of the Local Government Board stated, in the discussion on the subject in the other. House, that he intended to refer the vexed question of compensation to county authorities for loss of rateable value to a strong and impartial Joint Committee of both Houses and that it would be set up as soon as possible. Unless, therefore, there is any authority in this House who thinks it necessary to make an alteration in the wording of the Motion as it stands on the Paper I do not myself propose to pay any attention to that criticism.
§ Let me add that I hope the Joint Committee will be appointed as soon as possible. It is extremely desirable, not only that this vexed question should he settled, but that it should be settled before the Bills which are now before Parliament, and which may all be affected by the decision to which the Joint Committee would arrive, get through their various stages. There is the Birmingham Bill itself, out of which this proposal to set up the Joint Committee chiefly arose, and there are Bills for the extension of the borough of Reading and for the extension of Bath. The Bath Bill has already got in front of the other Bills in its passage through the House of Commons—I believe it has practically passed through that House. Perhaps the noble Lord who is acting as Chairman of Committees will consider whether, when the time comes, it might not be desirable that the Birmingham Bill—the principal Bill and the one on which the fight will really be fought—should be taken in this House in front of the Bath Bill. I will not, however, go into that. question, which is not one for me to consider. I hope this Joint Committee will be appointed without. unnecessary delay, and that there wilt be an opportunity for them to fully discuss the matter and come to a decision with regard to the clauses which will have to be inserted in these Bills before the Bills reach their final stage, because the clauses to be inserted might reasonably affect the other clauses in the Bills. In the confident hope that the noble 75 Earl the Leader of the House will accept this Motion, as he did last year, I beg to move.
§ Moved, to resolve That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to inquire into the application of the provisions contained in the Local Government Acts, 1888 and 1894, and the Local Government (Scotland) Acts, 1889 and 1894, relating to financial adjustments consequent on the alteration of the boundaries of a local government area or on an alteration in the constitution or status of the governing body of a local government area, and to report to the House if they are of opinion that any amendments in such provisions are desirable.—(Lord Belper.)
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE EARL OF CREWE)
My Lords, I need scarcely assure the House that I have no opposition whatever to offer to the Motion made by the noble Lord. On the contrary, I am glad that he has proceeded with it at so early a date in the session. The House will remember that in the early part of July last year we went with tolerable fullness into the whole of this vexed, difficult and complicated question, and it was agreed that the best chance of solving it was to he found in the appointment of a Joint Committee. That view was also accepted in another place, and the Joint Committee was authorised by both Houses. As regards the point raised by the noble Lord, or rather raised by other people against the noble Lord, in reference to the actual wording of the Motion, I confess it seems to me most unlikely, and indeed almost inconceivable, that the Joint Committee could take so narrow a view of their functions as to suppose that the term "financial adjustments" did not include the possibility of discussing and deciding on the question of compensation; and in the absence of any expressed opinion to the contrary I should not myself be disposed to advise the noble Lord to alter the wording of his Motion. I agree that for the reasons given by the noble Lord it is desirable that the Committee should be nominated as soon as possible, and I hope steps will be taken to that effect.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: Ordered, That a message be sent to the Commons to communicate this Resolution and to desire their concurrence.