§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS)
My Lords, I have the honour to move the Second Reading of this Bill, the object of which is to extend the powers of the Secretary of State for imposing a rate for police purposes in London. This is not the first time that the Bill has appeared in this House. On the last occasion it failed to obtain a Second Reading at your Lordships' hands. Let me recall what happened. I moved the Second Reading on December 14 last year. The noble Viscount opposite, Lord Midleton, took objection to the Bill on the ground that the date at which it had been introduced had left no reasonable opportunity for discussion in another place or for the London County Council to consider its provisions. I explained to him that many of the facts which necessitated the Bill had only matured late in the year, and that there had been a change in the Home Secretaryship. But he took a more serious objection to the Bill on the ground that the powers which it sought to confer upon the Secretary of State with regard to rating were more than sufficient to meet the exigencies of the situation, and the noble Viscount secured the rejection of the Bill in a very thin House, the figures being twenty-two to fifteen. The Bill which I have the honour to introduce to-day is the same Bill as that which was introduced last session with one very important addition, which is contained in proviso (b) of Clause 1. This provision should go far to reconcile the opposition to the Bill and dispel any honest misgivings which may be entertained with regard to it.
Let me first state briefly what the Bill does. The Bill raises the statutory maximum rate which the Secretary of State may impose for police purposes from ninepence, which was fixed by the Act of 1868, to elevenpenee. This is necessitated by actual and prospective deficiencies in the Police Fund. Those deficiencies have been caused, on the one hand, by the growth of expenditure, and, on the other, by the lack of corresponding expansion in the revenue. The main items which account for the growth of expenditure are the one day's rest in seven accorded to the police by general consent last year, the better remuneration to which they were generally 572 considered to be entitled, and the necessity of continually increasing the number of the police in its ratio to the population of London on account of the various and obvious problems with which the metropolitan police have to deal. And I might also mention that there is the general rise in the price of commodities, to which the police are subjected as much as anyone else. Alongside this growth of expenditure there has been a decline in the revenue, and the first reason for that is due to the decline of the rateable value of London, which, of course, affects the productivity of the rate. Ten years ago the rateable value of London increased by £2,000,000. At the next quinquennial period there was only an increase of £1,500,000, and last year there was a positive decrease in the rateable value to the extent of £350,000. Your Lordships will easily see the significance of that from this point of view. There is a further diminishing source of revenue caused by the failure of the Exchequer contributions. I do not mean to say that the Exchequer contributions paid out of the Local Taxation Account to the local authorities have actually diminished, but the percentage which those contributions bear to the general expenditure has diminished, with the result that all the services which they are intended to supplement have suffered, and the police rate has suffered with them.
Perhaps your Lordships may feel, in regarding the items of this balance sheet, and especially in view of the diminished Exchequer contributions, that the ratepayers of London are entitled to special consideration at the hands of the Exchequer. I would point out to your Lordships in reference to this consideration that the London Police Fund already enjoys a grant of £100,000 a year from Imperial sources, which is supposed to cover the national and Imperial service which the police render in the metropolis, and I understand that that amply covers the services they render under that head. Further, the salaries of the metropolitan police magistrates, which amount to £40,000 a year, are defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund, and the Police Pension Fund enjoys a subsidy of £150,000 a year from Imperial sources; so that the Exchequer has already made very considerable contributions to the expenses of the London police. Further, if we consider the position of London in comparison with the position of counties and boroughs, we 573 find that the contributions paid out of the Local Taxation Fund are larger in the case of London than they are in the counties and boroughs. In counties and boroughs the contributions amount to 39˙5 per cent. of the total cost of the police; in London they amount to 44˙7 per cent., so that I do not think there is much of a case to be made out in comparison with the position that obtains elsewhere.
But I am quite prepared to admit that the police are a burden on the ratepayers. Your Lordships are aware that a Royal Commission reported recently, and I dare say you may also be aware that a Departmental Committee is at present sitting considering the Report of that Commission, and I have no doubt that when the Departmental Committee has concluded its labours a case may be made out for further contributions from Imperial sources to the rates under this head. I would point out to your Lordships that the Bill recognises to some extent that fact. In subsection (a) of Clause 1 there is a proviso which amounts to this, that whereas the contribution paid by local authorities bears, roughly speaking, the proportion of four-ninths of the total of the expense, no additional contribution is expected from them in respect of this additional rate which we are now asking leave to impose.
Returning for a moment to the actual deficiencies which we have to meet, I will give your Lordships the figures with respect to the coming financial year and the two succeeding financial years. If we assume that there is no increase in the police force in order to meet the one day's rest in seven, there will be a deficiency in the financial year 1912–13 of £82,500; in the year 1913–14, of £75,900; and in the year 1914–15, of £141,300. That represents the normal growth of expenditure, and is the net deficiency over re venue on the present rating maximum. But if the one clay's rest in seven is provided it must add to those figures a further £30,000 for 1912–13, a further £51,000 for 1913–14, and a further £54,000 for 1914–15; and if a further 200 men a year are to be added for the normal growth of the population you must add a further £10,000 for the coming financial year, £27,000 for 1913–14, and £40,000 for 1914–15, so that the net deficiencies in the three years are £122,500, £153,900, and £241,300 respectively, on the assumption that the rest day is given and that the force is increased in a normal manner.
574 But that is not all, because for seven years past the balances of the Police Fund have diminished, and it is estimated that if those balances are to be replaced in a satisfactory position to avoid the necessity of considerable loans to finance the force, a further sum of £108,000 is needed this year to restore the solvency of the fund, so that the total for this year is £230,000. A penny rate produces approximately £233,000, so that of the additional two- penny rate which I am asking your Lordships to sanction one penny is immediately absorbed in the current year. The justification for the second penny is the possibility of emergencies arising. I would point out that in cases of emergency caused by labour troubles it might be necessary to recall the pensioners of the police, and supposing 1,000 pensioners were recalled the cost would run into about £10,000 a month. It might also be necessary to engage additional men or to enroll special constables, and although for a short period the citizens of London might be expected to serve without pay, if the crisis were prolonged it might be necessary to engage some thousands of extra men, which might run us into an expenditure of £20,000 or £30,000 a month. So that it is conceivable that in the case of serious labour troubles the Police Fund might be called upon to meet something like an expenditure of £100,000. That is the justification for our coming to the House and asking leave to increase the maximum rate to elevenpence instead of to tenpence.
To turn to, perhaps, the more controversial issues which this subject arouses, I think one might say the controversy has advanced since the subject was discussed in this House last cession. I do not think noble Lords who spoke on that occasion will revive all the arguments on which they relied then and which they employed to secure the rejection of the Bill. I do not think that the node Viscount, Lord Alidleton, will tell us now that only £50,000 is wanted, as he did last year. I hope I have made it quite clear that we need at least £122,000 to carry on the coming year. And then the noble Earl, Lord Dunmore, told us that the ninepenny rate at present in force produced a surplus of £150,000. When he said that I think he entirely overlooked the deficiency in the Police Pension Fund, which accounted for £282,000 last year. We have no surplus. The balances have been increasingly depleted. In 1905 the balances stood at 575 £541,000, and they have been reduced, as I have explained, to £367,000, and this year we need £108,000 to restore the balances to something like a reasonable figure. Then the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, told us last year that if the Bill were thrown out, as it was, not a single policeman would go short of a farthing and not a single administrative act would be changed. I told the noble Viscount then that if he secured the rejection of the Bill all recruiting to give effect to the one day's rest in seven would have to be stopped, and it has been stopped.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My point was that it was not necessary to stop it. On the contrary, it has been proved that there was no necessity whatever to stop the recruiting for the one day's rest in seven.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I thought I had made it clear that if the one day's rest in seven is to be provided an additional deficiency will be incurred of £30,000 next year. Anyhow, I hope I made it quite clear that it was impossible to go on recruiting to give effect to the one day's rest in seven, and recruiting has since last December been at a standstill. I do not complain of all the arguments which the noble Viscount used, because to some extent I sympathise with him. He had very little time for considering the Bill, and no doubt some of his figures were rather hastily obtained. I suggest to-day that the controversy between us is narrowed, and it is narrowed to this, not whether the eleventh penny should be authorised, but subject to what restrictions and to what guarantees that authority should be given. And here we come to the important subsection to which I previously alluded. It runs thus—(b) before approving the issue of any warrants under section twenty-three of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1829, be the effect of which the annual sum to he provided for the purposes of the Metropolitan Police in any year will be for the first time increased above the rate of tenpence in the pound, the Secretary of State shall lay before the House of Commons a Minute stating the reasons for such increase; and if within the next twenty days on which the House has sat after any such Minute has been laid before it, an Address is presented to His Majesty by the House praying that the said increase be not made, the said increase shall not then be made.I am aware that that is not what the noble Viscount asked for. What he asked for was that this second penny should not be levied unless a substantive Motion were introduced 576 and carried. But although there is a difference I suggest to him that the difference is not so very great, especially in view of the fact that he was then content, and I suppose is still content, to leave the duty of safeguarding the interests of the ratepayers to the House of Commons. I will read what the noble Viscount said last year about that. He said—In several measures which have passed the House of Commons it was required that the Act should not be put into operation until a substantive Motion had been moved and carried in both Houses. I do not here say both Houses of Parliament, but I do ask that if the Secretary of State, who cannot possibly for some years to come require more than a penny rate, desires to raise the other, he should give a pledge that a substantive Motion shall be moved in the House of Commons and carried before any portion of that further penny rate is applied to the services of the police.As I say the difference between the noble Viscount's substantive Motion and what is placed in the Bill is not very considerable. It really whittles down to this, whether the discussion on this subject in the House of Commons should take place before eleven o'clock or after eleven o'clock, and I submit to you, if there is sufficient interest—I dare say there will be—on this subject in another place, that after eleven o'clock will afford ample opportunity for any individuals interested in the matter making an effective protest if they desire to do so.
In this matter we are, of course, very much in the hands of noble Lords opposite. But I appeal to the noble Viscount—and I would have appealed to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition if he had been in his place—whether it is judicious for this House to appear to dictate to another place what is, after all, largely a matter of domestic concern to them, because it is very little more than a matter of machinery whether the opportunity for discussing this subject should take the form of a substantive Motion put down by the Secretary of State or whether it should be left to any individual member of the House of Commons to raise the question in the manner which is provided. The noble Viscount has, I think, good reason to be satisfied with what he has achieved. If he has not got all, he has got nearly all he asked for. He has occasioned delay, he has occasioned ample consideration of this subject in another place—two debates took place, as he well knows—he has accomplished a revision of the Bill, he has secured important concessions; and I put it to him, seeing that when he was in the position of Secretary of 577 State he asked for and obtained at the hands of the House of Commons and at your Lordships' hands wide and ample discretionary powers far larger than any we are considering to-day, whether it is not a little unbecoming of him to cavil when the Secretary of State comes down to your Lordships' House and asks you to give him certain discretionary powers, subject to the safeguards which are now in the Bill, in order that he may use them, if he thinks fit, in the public interest.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Ashby St. Ledgers.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNMORE
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken prefaced his remarks by drawing attention to the alteration which has now taken place in this Bill, and he expressed a hope that we would now regard it with more satisfaction. Speaking for myself, I cannot say that I do regard it altogether with satisfaction. I think that any increase over the penny should only take place by Resolution of the House of Commons. But I will express my satisfaction at the figures which the noble Lord has given to the House this evening. Those figures show that it would require to meet the extra expenditure on the police force an additional sum of approximately £230,000. Your Lordships will recollect that when this Bill came up to us last December we refused to pass a measure which took power to impose, not a penny rate, but a twopenny rate—an extra burden of nearly £500,000 on the ratepayers of London—without the local authorities representing those ratepayers having had any opportunity of putting forward their views. Now the figures which the noble Lord has just given us provide, even taking the same basis for calculation as the noble Lord has done, ample and a complete vindication of your Lordships' action. That action was taken on a Motion by the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, that if it was found desirable to raise anything further than an extra penny rate a substantive Motion should be moved and carried in the House of Commons before any portion of the further penny rate was applied to the services of the police.
It is quite clear that a penny rate will be sufficient to meet the deficiencies in the Police Fund for the next three years. I will take the figures which the noble Lord has 578 himself given us this evening. He says there is a deficiency over revenue of £82,000. He then went on to say that it would require another £30,000 to provide one day's rest in seven under the Act of 1910, and then he asked for an additional £10,000 to cover the cost of recruiting a further 200 men. That leaves a net balance of £108,000 if a penny rate were imposed—a net balance which he suggests should be utilised for restoring the depletion in the working balance of the Police Fund. But I ask the noble Lord, Why does he propose to restore the working balance at one fell swoop? Would it not be more reasonable—it is not a recurring charge—and more in accordance with business methods, certainly under the circumstances, to spread this payment over two or even over three years if that were done, it would not be necessary to impose even an additional penny rate—a ¾d. rate would be quite sufficient for the year 1912–13, and the whole of the penny rate could be imposed in the following year, and the twopenny rate might be relegated to future years for our grandsons or granddaughters whoever controlled the Treasury in those days.
One fact, however, stands out quite clear. It is that, however you deal with these figures, on whatever basis you make your calculations, the produce of a penny rate is amply sufficient to cover the whole of the required expenditure at the present time and for the next few years. I ask your Lordships why, under those circumstances, did the Home Secretary try to make Party capital out of the rejection of this Bill last year? What was the foundation for the Home Secretary's statement in the public Press that we were responsible for preventing the metropolitan police from securing the benefits of the one day's rest in seven? This House was perfectly willing to accept a measure giving immediate power to impose an additional penny rate, but the Government were unwilling to restrict their measure in such a way as to give some security that Parliament should have an opportunity of discussing the matter before any further expenditure over and above that extra penny was imposed. What do we now find? The Home Secretary again produces this Bill taking power to impose an additional twopenny rate, against which even Members on his own side voted. When this Bill came to be discussed in Committee criticisms were freely offered from both sides of the 579 House, and the Bill, which was passed in the previous December without any discussion, owing to the circumstances under which it was smuggled through the House, found no friends when it was brought forward in a more constitutional manner. Mr. McKenna himself, with refreshing candour, made the following remark—After listening to the whole of the debate the one fact obvious is that nobody likes this Bill.The Bill which the Home Secretary discovered on February 29 last was a Bill which nobody in the House of Commons liked was the same Bill to which he referred in his letter to The Times on December 21 last as having passed through the House of Commons by agreement. I really think that the position must have been a somewhat trying one, even for a gentleman of his great ability, to talk of a Bill having passed through the House of Commons by agreement, and then, when he conies to reintroduce it, to find that it meets with such vehement opposition that he is forced to bring forward a very important Amendment which has since been embodied in the Bill. This Bill is not the same Bill that we discussed last year, and in view of the alteration in it I might well ask the noble Lord opposite a question which I am afraid he cannot possibly answer, and that is, What about the agreed Bill out of which Mr. McKenna made so much Party capital? The agreed Bill was objected to by both sides of the House of Commons and has disappeared. The noble Lord asked whether it was advisable for us to dictate to the other House. My Lords, where was the dictation to the other House when the other House had no opportunity of discussing this Bill?
§ THE EARL OF DUNMORE
We have not, as far as I know, this evening dictated to the other House. In my opinion we have clone what we wanted to do. We have given the other House that opportunity of discussing the matter which it was our duty to do. Substantially it comes to this, that the House of Commons, when afforded a reasonable opportunity of discussing and considering the matter, has taken the same view of the proposals of His Majesty's Government as was taken by your Lordships last December.
LORD MONK BRETTON
My Lords, I think we can all agree with the noble Earl who has just sat down that an extra penny rate is sufficient for the needs of the police at any rate for the next three years. I gather from the remarks of the noble Lord who introduced this Bill, and also from the remarks which were made in another place by the Home Secretary, that the only two circumstances which led to the asking for the second penny were, in the first place, the possible progressive decline in the Exchequer Contribution Account; and, secondly, the fear of labour tumults. I noticed that this evening the noble Lord laid very little stress on the former—on the possible progressive decline in the Exchequer Contribution Account. I venture to say there is a balance at the present moment and that it will be time enough to legislate for a possible progressive decline in that account when it arises, more especially as last year was a year of abnormal expenditure connected with the King's Coronation.
But the second contingency on which the noble Lord laid stress was the possibility of labour troubles. Far be it from me to say that that is not a very important matter at the present time, but what I would submit to your Lordships is that labour troubles are matters of great emergency and require emergency methods to meet them. It is the practice of the Home Secretary every year to borrow money for the purposes of the police. That has been explained by Mr. McKenna in another place, and it was alluded to this evening by the noble Lord, and if a great emergency occurs, surely that is a very proper case for an emergency loan and not a reason to impose taxation to the amount of £250,000 permanently upon the ratepayers of London. Those ratepayers, in spite of what the noble Lord has said, have had somewhat hard treatment in regard to payments to the police. Originally, and for a great number of years, the proportion was 4d. from the Exchequer and 5d. from the ratepayers Then, under the policy of the Act of 1888 and the assigned revenues from which the Exchequer Contribution Account was drawn, an alteration began to set in, and in the year 1907 the ratepayers paid a fraction over 51 per cent. as against the Exchequer's contribution of a little over 48 per cent In 1910 the ratepayers paid 55˙3 against the Exchequer's 44˙7 per cent. That was quoted by the noble Lord. What he did not 581 quote was that in the Estimates for this year the amount from the Exchequer Contribution Account is only 41˙7 against the ratepayers' 58˙3. Consequently the ratepayer is being increasingly burdened, and that in spite of the fact that the Royal Commission to which the noble Lord, referred recommended, that the contribution should be as 50 and 50, or half-and-half, and therefore I do say there is a very sound case to be made out for the consideration of the ratepayers of London in connection with this matter.
I do not think that your Lordships' House has any idea of objecting to the Second Reading of this Bill. Your Lordships never did object to the first penny. You recognised its necessity and endeavoured to meet the difficulty last December. But, as the noble Lord has pointed out, this Bill comes back to us with a very important change in it, and that change—I will call it Mr. McKenna's clause—the noble Lord read to the House. I do think that it is not fair, having regard to the press of business in another place and to the procedure there, to say that this second penny may be imposed without a Vote of the House of Commons. I think that it ought to be imposed by a Vote of the House of Commons. That would be a proper way to vote this very large increase. When you come to the Committee stage your Lordships will find that in any case you will have to amend this clause, because if you look at it you will see that it runs—And if, within the next twenty days on which the House has sat alter fly such Minute has been laid before it, an Address is presented to His Majesty by the House, praying that the said increase be not made, the said increase shall not then be made.What does "then" mean? Does it mean this year or next year? Does it mean that the House of Commons may pass an Address that the increase should not be voted, but that the increase, though not then made, may be made the following year? The drafting of this clause, particularly in regard to the use of the word " then," is so ambiguous that in any case it will be necessary to amend it in Committee.
But that is not the whole ground of my objection to this clause as it stands. This clause contains the most unprecedented procedure. It has been the habit in many recent Bills to say that such and such Regulations or such and such Papers 582 should be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament and that certain things should only take place concurrently with them. That was the procedure in the National Insurance Act of last year, in the Finance Act of 1909–10, in the Trade Boards Act, 1909, and in the Labour Exchanges and Town Planning Acts. In all of those measures it was required that certain Papers should be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament. I can find no precedent for the language in this clause, that the Minute shall be laid on the Table of the House of Commons only, But I believe I did discover where it might have arisen, because I looked in the Speaker's Manual as to the procedure of the House of Commons, and I found that this language has to be used in cases where Bills have been rejected three times under the Parliament Act, and are required to go to Royal Assent without the consent of your Lordships' House, or in the case of Finance Bills under the Parliament Act. But, so far as I am aware, this clause introduces new language which I believe is without precedent, at any rate in recent times, and therefore I submit that this is a matter for the grave consideration of your Lordships' House when this Bill goes into Committee.
I hope that your Lordships will not give the Home Secretary a blank cheque as to this second penny. I do not want to say extravagant things, but, after all, it was the Home Secretary who recently set the example of sending the metropolitan police to Wales. This year they may go to Ireland for all I know. That is not a matter which I wish to criticise. It may be necessary in the public interest. But what I do say is that if the metropolitan police are going to be used by the Home Secretary in this way, it is more than ever necessary to safeguard the interests of the London ratepayers, and that if they pay for a man to watch them they at least should have the benefit of his protection.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, do not wish to reiterate any of the arguments which have been ably put by my noble friend with regard to the financial question raised by this Bill, but there are two points on which I should like to ask for explanations before we give the Bill a Second Reading. I think that we have grave reason to complain of the language used by the Home Secretary and the 583 statements made after the rejection of this Bill on December 14 last year. Lord Ashby St. Ledgers has said to-night that he told us then that if the Bill was rejected the recruiting to supply the one day's rest in seven for the police must necessarily be stopped. He did tell us that, and it was repeated by the Home Secretary, but the statement had not a shadow of foundation. I say with great respect that recruiting was stopped as an electioneering appeal to the metropolitan police to prejudice them against your Lordships' House and against those who had stood in the way. The whole cost of the additional men to be raised for the metropolitan police for this particular service amounted to £51,000 a year, and the delay in regard to money caused by your Lordships rejection of this Bill three months ago would have accounted for something between £15,000 and £20,000 at the outside, and that in an expenditure which already amounts, from the ratepayers alone, to £1,500,000 a year. This fact makes it almost ludicrous to suppose that there was any foundation for the proposition put forward.
I am afraid I must go a step further. We; have never been treated fairly and frankly in this matter. Everybody knows —the figures have shown it most conclusively and it was proved in the House of Commons—that these additions which are to be made to the police are to be made on three grounds—first, the rest day, the charge in respect of which I have already mentioned to your Lordships; secondly, the normal increase of the police due to the increase of population; and, thirdly, in order to have a larger reserve of men available for possible emergencies, which have nothing whatever to do with the rest day. Those emergencies had an extremely apt illustration last year, when for three or four months the metropolitan police sent a large body of men to Tonypandy. But there has never been a proposal to reimburse the ratepayers for their share in the cost. It is quite true that the Government are going to pay for the actual period during which those men were away, but everybody knows that if you are to be ready to send 1,000 men at any moment for two months or three months away from the force, you are putting upon the ratepayers the expense for the other nine or ten months of keeping these men so that they may be available, and that was the main object for the 584 increase. The numbers required for the weekly rest day in addition to those raised before did not justify the Home Secretary in the remarks he made and in the attempt he made in the public Press to declare that by your Lordships' action his hands had been tied in the policy with regard to one day's rest in seven, on which we were all agreed.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I said that national services such as those to which the noble Viscount alluded are more than covered by the grant of £100,000 per annum from the Exchequer.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
It is a pity that the noble Lord has not given us the exact figures as to the number of men, which would have assisted us in forming a judgment as to the truth of the Home Secretary's statement. We have the figures at the London County Council, and we know the facts. The public, if they had them before them, would see at once that what I have stated to your Lordships is absolutely correct.
I am only concerned with two or three points this afternoon. The first is to point out that your Lordships were amply justified in the course which was taken three months ago. We asserted then that an extra penny would be sufficient., and it has now been proved in the House of Commons that an extra penny rate will be sufficient for the next three years. We contended that the Bill had been hastily considered, and that no opportunity had been given for the expression of adverse opinion. That has been proved; because not one single London Member in the House of Commons rose to support the Bill during the two evenings on which it was under discussion. Every London Member, so far as we know, opposed the Bill, but after an appeal had been made by the Home Secretary to their patriotism to Party a number of those who had spoken against the Bill finally voted with the Government. We asserted also that it was absolutely necessary that there should be some safeguard before the second penny was raised. That safeguard has been put in, but not in a form for which there is any precedent or which can be well defended. It is quite true that I suggested that a substantive Motion should be made. Unquestionably it is one thing to say that for a particular object the 585 Government shall propose a substantive Motion in one House, and it is quite another to say, when you insert a provision that objection can be taken, that this House shall be placed in a different position from that which it has always occupied.
I say it was a most serious charge which was made against us that this House was alone in standing against the Bill. It has now been proved that this House had the support of all those who represent the ratepayers of London. What we succeeded in doing was to stop the Government from smuggling this Bill through without proper discussion. I confess that I feel it very strongly, when those who represent the ratepayers are struggling to keep down the rates of London, to find so large a sum placed upon the ratepayers which has always before been divided between Imperial funds and the rates. We have a most valuable admission in addition to the other points from the noble Lord this afternoon, because he told us that it might certainly be considered that a case had been made out for further contributions from the State, and if we obtain that alone, of which we take note, we have obtained something which the ratepayers would have lacked but for the action taken by your Lordships' House in December last.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
My Lords, by the indulgence of the House I should like to make a few remarks upon what has been said. I understand that the noble Viscount is more or less satisfied with the safeguards at present provided in the Bill, but he feels that if there is not to be the substantive Motion for which he asks the Minute should be laid on the Table of both Houses. [VISCOUNT MIDLETON nodded assent.] I understand that if it is by a substantive Motion the noble Viscount would not expect it to be moved and carried in both Houses, but if the safeguard is to take the form in the Bill then he thinks the Minute ought to be laid on the Table of both Houses. If that is his point and if that is really all there is between us, and if, subject to that, the Bill can go through in its present form, I think I can undertake that the Secretary of State will be prepared to accept that alteration in the subsection.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Then I understand the noble Lord will accept an Amendment to that effect if it is moved in Committee?
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I cannot absolutely pledge the Secretary of State, as the noble Viscount will understand, but if he or any other noble Lord puts down an Amendment to that effect for the Committee stage I will see the Secretary of State and ascertain whether it would be accepted. I think very likely it would be.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.