HL Deb 27 February 1929 vol 72 cc1099-160

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading, namely, That the Bill be read a second time this day six months, which was moved yesterday by Lord Parmoor.


My Lords, those of your Lordships who were here yesterday afternoon, and all who have studied this Bill, will agree it is seldom that so complicated a measure is introduced into your Lordships' House. It consists of 130 clauses and 12 Schedules. I am sure your Lordships will have been very grateful to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for the clear and lucid explanation which he gave of what is contained in that measure. Indeed, so clear and lucid was it that in the course of his explanation I felt that I myself almost understood what was in the famous formula, although I am afraid, on reconsidering the matter this morning, my understanding of the formula is not quite so clear as it was while the noble and learned Lord was speaking. I hope that when we come to discuss the matter in Committee he will be able to make it completely understandable to every member of your Lordships' House.

This is, we are all agreed, a very large and a very ambitious Bill. It covers a great deal of ground. In the first place there is the reform of the Poor Law, which is contained in Part I and Part II. I regret that Part II was never considered in Committee in another place. Unfortunately the operation of the "guillotine" allowed no opportunity of discussing it; therefore your Lordships will, I hope, be the more ready to give some consideration to Amendments which will probably be moved in Committee of this House dealing with that Part of the Bill. Then, there are the changes in the highway administration which are in Part III, the rating relief to the agricultural, industrial and freight-transport industries in Part V, the institution of new financial relations between the Exchequer and the local authorities in Part VI, and then again the recommendations of the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government, more or less agreed to by everybody, which are in Part IV.

It would be idle for the most determined opponent of His Majesty's Government to declare that there was not some considerable amount of good to be found in this long and complicated measure. It is not our business to point out what is good. It is rather our business to concentrate upon the criticisms which we may wish to make. There is in the first place the considerable increase in the bureaucratic power which is conferred in this Bill. There is running all through the Bill an increase of power to the Ministry, to the Minister himself and also to the members of the Ministry behind him. Let me take a few instances. There is Clause 4 of the Tenth Schedule, there is subsection (4) of Clause 130, and also—and this is the only one with which I will deal at length—there is Clause 123. That, I agree, is only a temporary power to the bureaucracy, but it does confer upon the Minister of the day very large and wide authority. I would only venture to suggest to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House whether it would not be possible to make some little alteration in subsection (2) of Clause 123, which says:— Every Order made under this section shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made. I am not quite sure whether it would not be a good thing if His Majesty's Government would agree to make some such Amendment to this as they have made to the Cloth Manufacturers' Bill, which is to the effect that the Order is to lie upon the Table of your Lordships' House for 26 days before it can become effective. To say that the Order shall lie upon the Table of the House for some unlimited period does not seem to me to give to either House quite the same authority as if there was a definite period fixed in the Bill during which it is to lie upon the Table.

There is also, I think, some ground for complaint of the extent to which this Bill has been brought into your Lordships' House and into another place as the result of outside bargaining amongst the various local authorities concerned. There has been for a very long time a number of consultations as the result of which we may find here, as happened certainly in another place, that Amendments which we may wish to propose have already been made the subject of bargaining between local authorities and His Majesty's Government and that it is difficult for your Lordships' House to make Amendments.

There are really, of course, two principles underlying the Bill. The first is that some change in the local government system should be made. All Parties are agreed that it is necessary that there should be a change in our system of local government to-day. We are agreed upon that, although there are a large number of people who would wish to see the operation of this Part of the Bill postponed until the autumn—not, indeed, that anything is likely to take place under this Part of the Bill until after the autumn, but because after the intervention of the General Election we shall be perfectly certain that this Bill, the principles of which were not before the country at the last General Election, has met with the approval of the country. If such an Amendment were proposed and accepted by His Majesty's Government a very simple Resolution in the next Parliament would allow the Bill to be proceeded with without any further delay. The second principle underlying the Bill is that there should be relief to the rates. We are all agreed that there ought to be relief to the rates, and the criticisms which I shall make this afternoon are on the methods by which both these principles are applied. We are all agreed that in both these matters there is need for a change. Where we part company is that we are not convinced that the methods which are suggested by His Majesty's Government are the best in the circumstances, and we regret that the more because adopting a wrong principle now will make it more difficult to adopt a better principle in the future, and what is already a complicated matter will become still more complicated in the future.

I will venture to make one or two criticisms on the reform of the Poor Law as proposed by His Majesty's Government. In the first place, I would say that His Majesty's Government do not seem to have been bold enough, because, the question of the able-bodied unemployed is not dealt with. There is no greater question before the country than how to deal with the great mass of unemployment which exists. It is really an urgent question which ought not to allow of delay. There is nothing in this Bill which deals with that question. I would even say that the problem of the able-bodied unemployed is entirely shirked by this Bill; there is nothing in the Bill which deals with the matter, which really is one of immediate importance.

In the second place, I would say that the Bill seems to me to abolish boards of guardians and Poor Law unions and to transfer their functions to the county councils and county borough councils without altering the provisions of the law itself. Local public assistance committees will be appointed and that, I think, is a very valuable step, because it will undoubtedly give that local knowledge and that sympathy which are really essential when you are dealing with the classes who are going to be dealt with under this Bill. For myself, I venture to say that the disappearance of the guardians is a matter of sentimental regret. There has been in the last few years an immense improvement in the work which has been carried on by the boards of guardians. Those of your Lordships who remember the Report of the Royal Commission upon Local Government in 1909 will remember how severely they were dealt with in that Report, and how their abolition was recommended, and how at that time people of all Parties were agreed that they ought to disappear. Stimulated, I think, very largely by the criticisms which were made at that time, these bodies are now doing very much better work than they were doing in 1909, and although I am not sure that that entirely justifies their existence, at any rate I would say it is a most praiseworthy development on their part.

These committees, however, are not to be elected committees. I would like to see a certainty that the people upon these local Public Assistance Committees or Guardians Committees will be elected and not selected. Indeed, I would go further and say that I would like to see the members elected by some method or proportional representation, for the reason that it is, unfortunately, a growing custom with some of our public authorities that when one Party secures a majority they should sweep away altogether all the representatives of the other Parties from that same body. I think it has been done by bodies with which noble Lords below me are connected and that is a most unfortunate thing. Very often it sweeps away that continuity of administration which is a very valuable thing in our local administration, and I think it is a very real danger, whether it is done by noble Lords opposite or by noble Lords beside me, that people serving on those committees should be entirely swept off unless they happen to agree with the Party which has a majority upon the county council for the time being.

There is yet another hint or criticism which I would make, and that is whether there is not something in the complaint, of which most of your Lordships must have heard, that the county councils are gradually finding too much work to do. Hardly a year passes in which Parliament does not give to county councils more and more work. Those of your Lordships who are at all associated with local government will, I am sure, bear me out in the statement that the work is increasing to such an extent that it is becoming more and more difficult to find suitable people in the various areas who are able to give time voluntarily to carry out this largely increased amount of work. For the moment they can be found, but I think there is a very real danger that before very long the supply of people of this kind may really be exhausted and it may be difficult to find those who will be able to carry on the work in future. This Bill adds a great deal to the work of the county councils. They will have all the work of the boards of guardians, and they will also be expected to work on the new committees, and as time goes on they will, I think, have more and more work to do. It is really becoming in some areas a very serious question as to how far people will still be walling to come forward in order to carry on this work.

The third criticism I venture to make is that there is no certain abolition of the general mixed workhouse. There is no Party in the State which does not agree with the criticisms made in the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government that there really are evils in these general mixed workhouses which ought to be got rid of as soon as they possibly can be. I very much regret that there is nothing more distinctive in this measure which would secure an object of that kind. The fact of the matter is that this Bill does not really break up the Poor Law: it only transfers its work from one body to another. I doubt whether county boroughs and county councils will always be the best areas to work the Poor Law. Very often their areas are small and the trade interests within the county boroughs are so small as to be homogeneous. In those districts if trade is bad everybody in the area suffers and there is not that chance of elasticity from other trades in the same area doing better while one trade is doing badly. In instances of this kind we really want, if possible, to secure an area sufficiently large to make it certain that if one trade is doing badly, there will be a chance of other trades doing better and therefore of being able to bear the additional burden.

I regret another thing about the Bill and that is that non-county boroughs and urban districts with populations of over 50,000 are not to be given the same status as county boroughs. I do not understand what seems to me to be almost a prejudice against non-county boroughs. Take some of the cases. There is Rhondda, which is bigger than any Welsh county borough except Cardiff, and yet that is to be under the Glamorgan County Council. Take Cambridge, with a population of 59,000. That is to be under the county council. Oxford, which has a population of 2,000 less, 57,000, is to be entirely independent. That is so simply because Oxford is a county borough and Cambridge is a non-county borough. That seems to be an anomaly which might very well be altered, and I am glad to think that one of my noble friends will propose an Amendment in the Committee, affording to non-county boroughs and urban district councils with a population of over 50,000 an opportunity of being put upon the same status as county boroughs, which are very often much smaller than they are themselves. I think Canterbury is a county borough with a population much smaller even than that of Oxford or Cambridge, and yet it is to have independent powers which are denied to non-county boroughs in Essex, including Ilford, with a population of 108,000, Leyton, with 128,000, and Walthamstow, with 124,000. All these are to be put under the authority of the county council. The county boroughs, which I think on the whole are rather artificial divisions, will be independent, while these very much larger non-county boroughs are to be put under the authority of the county councils.

I will venture to make yet another criticism—namely, that there is no grant in this Bill for the assistance of poor relief as such, and it extends Government control over county boroughs by bringing Poor Law expenditure under district audit, from which it is now free. I am not at all sure that that is not another example of the centralisation and bureaucracy of which your Lordships have expressed more than once in debate, although never in Division, your apprehension and doubt. I am not quite sure whether it would not have been a good thing if the Government had taken this opportunity of making larger regional units to deal not only with the highways but with other subjects of the same kind. The roads almost certainly ought to be dealt with by regional units, and although there is power for county councils to combine among themselves and to consult with county boroughs, I am not sure that it would not have been a good thing to allow them to make a more compulsory scheme than at the present time. There are, at the present time, 82 county boroughs and 62 county councils, and I am not sure whether, if larger units are instituted for these regional objects, it would not be a good thing to consider the appointment of smaller bodies for the Poor Law, which needs a democratic and personal touch.

There is an alternative, upon which I will touch briefly. It is that the Poor Law functions should be split up altogether in three directions. In the first place, all the health, the mental deficiency and the children's services should have been given to the county councils, the county borough councils, and the non-county borough councils, to be dealt with under the powers which they already have to deal with those not under the Poor Law. All those authorities have considerable powers to deal with other people, and it seems to me that the relief of the able-bodied poor might have been delegated to those insurance committees of which we have heard something, linked up with the unemployment insurance scheme; and that the relief of the other poor should have been entrusted to the home assistance committees of which there is some real need. Probably the best thing would have been a kind of registration committee, which ascertains what kind of relief or assistance is going into the various homes. I do not think that that would have been a very difficult thing to carry out.

The problem is not so very large. There are, at present, under poor relief, 450,000, including dependants, receiving domiciliary assistance—part of the unemployment problem—and out of these it is generally considered that there are some 200,000 amongst the unemployed at the present time. Then the sick and lunatics, whether in institutions or not, number 507,000, and those might be treated with other people not paupers, for whom services are already provided by the local authorities under various Acts. There remain, in and out of institutions, 407,000. These can be further divided. Over 230,000 of them are children, with whom it is quite evident the local authorities should deal as part of the general educational system. Then there are 118,000 women, of whom 100,000 receive relief at home, and many of whom are old age pensioners. There remain only 58,000 men, of whom 53,000 are in institutions and 5,000 receive relief at home. I cannot help feeling; that by dealing with them under the unemployment insurance scheme we might have done more by co-ordination to deal with the problem in a more satisfactory way, especially in view of the fact that the whole problem of the able-bodied poor is not dealt with in the present Bill.

I have spoken so far of the amendment of the Poor Law, and I would like to say something with regard to the financial provisions of the Bill. The complicated formula I have already referred to, and I will not venture to repeat my remarks, but I think we ought to remember that this formula does not come into full operation until 1947, and that until then there is a series of transitional measures under which the grant is given. The real difficulty about the formula seems to me to be this, that the Government necessarily had in the given circumstances, and because of the premises they laid down, to make good the loss of rates to the local authority and redistribute the grant, and they tried to do it under one formula. I think it would be easier to make some formula for either one or the other; but it is extremely difficult to have any single formula to deal with both, because the conditions are so different that it is almost impossible to make a single formula which deals with both cases. And indeed, on the whole I would say that the difficulties might almost have proved to the Government that they were perhaps proceeding upon a wrong path, and that they might have tried a different method.

But I suppose the real criticism which most of us will make in the country, and which, therefore, it is only right to mention here, is the criticism which the Lord Chancellor seems to be quite conscious that we should make, find that is that in the circumstances of the case a great deal of this relief will go to prosperous industries, as well as to industries which are not prosperous. A certain amount of it, of course, will go to agriculture, and here we have to deal with the question as to who gets it—whether it goes to the landlord or to the tenant. The object of the Government was to secure that any relief under this Bill should go to the tenant. The noble Lord who spoke last night and moved the rejection of the Bill said that in his opinion it would certainly go to the landlords, and I really do not know which view I ought to take. But, on the whole, I thought the right thing to do was to refer to a previous debate which was mentioned by the noble Lord, which took place in another place in the year 1896, and I was very much struck by reading what was then said by a right hon. gentleman who has been mentioned in this House before, Mr. C. A. Cripps. Now, Mr. Cripps in 1896 had a very different opinion from that which Lord Parmoor expressed last night.


I do not wish to interrupt the noble Earl but—


The noble Lord did not wish to interrupt, and I do not know why he did it. The noble Lord is more anxious than anybody else in the House that nobody else should speak while he is speaking, and if he claims that right himself he really must allow other people to claim it for themselves.


Where a misrepresentation is made, as a matter of order one is entitled there and then to say it is a misrepresentation. But for that, you could not have an ordered discussion.


Of course, there is no question of misrepresentation. And if the noble Lord really insists upon the matter I would venture to go a little further, and point out to him that, while he is speaking no member of your Lordships' House is allowed to speak. I always thought it was the inalienable right of any noble Lord to speak to his neighbour if he is not interested in the speech which at that moment is being made, and in another place it is the obvious way in which members express their opinion of the speaker who is then addressing them. The noble Lord is the only member in your Lordships' House who never allows us to exercise that right, and I may say that it is very inconvenient on his part.

I will now resume what I was saying when the noble Lord said he did not wish to interrupt my remarks. He said last night that the benefit will not go to the farmers, but in the main to the landowners. As I say, Mr. Cripps in 1896 had a very different opinion, and he expressed it not only once, but three times. First of all, on April 28 he said that far the largest part of the relief would go to the tenant and not to the landlord, though the labourers might get a little share; on June 23, he said that the tenant would get the benefit in the vast majority of cases—in some cases the labourer, and in some cases the landlord, who ought to get it; and on July 1, he said the benefits would go to tenants and labourers. In those circumstances I naturally found myself in a great difficulty. I really did not know which was the right opinion, and on which side I ought to come down, but I will admit that in the end the correspondence which took place between the Ministry of Agriculture and the local authority at Sutton Bridge convinced me that on the whole it would go to the landlord. Because on that occasion the Ministry wrote to the local authority to say that, having regard to the relief which was to be anticipated under this Bill, the rent in future which was paid by the local authority should be higher than it had been in the past.

As your Lordships know, industries are to have 75 per cent, relief whether the rates in that area be 36s. or 8s. It is as if His Majesty's Government went to industry as to an unjust steward, and said: "Take thy bill and write down quickly. Write off 75 per cent, of the rates that you owe." This relief, when it comes to be translated into what is useful to the consumer, represents but a small sum, and amounts in the case of the brewer to 144th part of a penny on a pint of beer; or one-fiftieth of a penny on a packet of ten cigarettes, or one fiftieth part of the cost of a penny newspaper. Remissions of that kind can only lead to an increase of dividends, and not to a reduction of price to the consumer. That is one of the chief reasons why we object to it.

But there is this, too, that there is nothing for the benefit of housekeepers or shopkeepers, who are very often themselves much worse off than these prosperous trades, and who may find that while their assessment will very likely be higher they will also have to pay the Petrol Tax. It is rather hard on shopkeepers and householders who are badly off to find themselves mulcted to that extent. We would wish rather in the first place to relieve distressed areas, and also to take the pressure from the poor people who feel the burden. This Bill ignores almost entirely the shopkeeper and the householder, however badly off they may be, however high may be the pressure of rates upon them; and it confines its attention to freights, agriculture, and manufacturing industries. It is based, further, upon an arbitrary distinction between production and distribution—a confusing distinction, and one which, I think, is very likely to give a great deal of employment to the legal profession during the next few years. After all, what is a baker? Most of us would say that a baker produced bread, but, as I understand, the baker will not benefit from any relief of rates, while he will have to pay an additional amount for the Petrol Tax when he goes round distributing the loaves, of bread in the villages which he supplies. Very often the small shopkeeper needs help much more than the successful manufacturer, who is working on a very large scale. They may, indeed, not only find that they have no reduction of rates to-day, but that in the future their rates will go up. They may pay more because the guarantee of 1s. per head, which was referred to by the Lord Chancellor yesterday, is based on the standard year of 1928, and does not cover those increases which are almost certain, due to better education and increased expenditure upon health services.

There is this additional hardship on the shopkeeper and the householder, that any future increases of rates will be levied upon a narrower basis, because agriculture will be left out altogether and industry will be relieved to the extent of 75 per cent. The result must be that the shopkeeper and housekeeper, if there is any large expenditure upon education and health services, such as we all of us on both sides of the House wish to see, will have to pay more because the rate is levied upon a narrower basis. These health services, I am sure, we are all anxious to see extended as far as possible. They are already doing great service to the community. They have, I am quite sure, a real effect upon the death rate, and all of us, irrespective of our politics, congratulate ourselves and the country as we see those services growing and prospering. We wish to see them grow still further. It is a very curious thing and very hard upon the shopkeepers and householders that the very large increase which is taking place must really be paid foe by the shopkeepers and householders, and that these large and successful factories will be relieved of the burden except as to 25 per cent of their rateable value.

These seem to be anomalies which might well have been like a finger post to His Majesty's Government, making them ask themselves whether they were not really treading the wrong road and whether they might not have found in some other methods a better way of relieving the over-burdened ratepayers of this country. There is a curious anomaly in Clause 96, which was referred to by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack yesterday, the clause by which the Minister of Health can stimulate these health services. The only way he can stimulate these health services is by taking away all the money which they are allowed to spend on that particular object by way of stimulating them to spend a little more. Surely, the Government could have devised some other method which would have been better and would have done more to help these health services to be continued.

I confess that I distrust the system of block grants. The percentage grants have not operated badly on the whole. Something at any rate has been accomplished, and with more pressure on the part of the Minister in Whitehall more might have been done. The whole additional cost will now fall upon a narrower basis, on people whose assessments, as I have said, may be higher, and who will also have to pay the Petrol Tax. I am not sure that it would not have been better to have had a combination of the block grant and percentage grant systems. There might have been, for example, a block grant to begin with and on top of that a percentage grant to encourage the local authorities to spend more on these services than they do at the present time.

The noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack rightly pointed out last night that under the scheme of His Majesty's Government a very large portion of the rate relief is made to industries which are suffering particularly at the present moment. That is so far true. On the other hand, there are a certain number of prosperous industries which get more than it seeems to me they need get. It is true that coal, cotton, iron and steel all get a very large proportion of the relief and so does engineering, which is undoubtedly suffering, but, on the other hand, industries like the chemical industries, breweries, bleaching and dyeing, foods, tobacco, paper and allied trades, which are comparatively prosperous and some of them very prosperous indeed, are getting a good share of this money which might well have been given to industries or individuals who are suffering very seriously to-day. I doubt very much whether the £5,000,000 of new money will be enough. It is not fair to speak of it as new money; a great deal of it comes from the Road Fund. I cannot help feeling that before very long, probably in three years from now, there will be a considerable deficit to be met by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Petrol Tax, unless it increases very largely, will be quite insufficient to pay for the relief now given, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a few years will probably be obliged to meet fresh expenditure and to impose fresh taxation upon the country. Nor do I feel altogether certain that these large industries will in future pay even for the services which they receive or that the rates that they pay will cover the benefits they get in such matters as police, sewage, and street lighting. The extra charge will be thrown upon those small ratepayers, of whom I have already spoken, who are just as much burdened by rates as these larger factories.

While all of us are in favour of the principle that some reform in local government is needed and that some relief should be given, we have a profound distrust of the methods adopted by His Majesty's Government. The Government have diagnosed the evils. Other people have diagnosed and exposed those evils even before His Majesty's Government introduced this Bill. My political friends have pointed them out, but instead of the remedies which we proposed we have the remedies embodied in the Bill which I have ventured to criticise to your Lordships this afternoon. I hope that the remedies in this measure, proposed in haste, will not be repented at leisure. For myself I think that in many respects which I have indicated they will prove to be unsound and deleterious.


My Lords, whatever may be the opinions held on this Bill, all will be agreed that it is a great constructive measure which shows vision and far-reaching knowledge. For myself, in spite of the lucid exposition given by the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack last night, I still find myself in the maze of derating. I pro- pose to limit my remarks to Part I of the Bill of which I have some knowledge, and particularly to that part of it, which concerns the foundation of hospitals. I do so with less hesitation because in another place pressure of time was such that discussion was strictly limited. In the clauses of Part I of this Bill there are clauses which enable, and, more than that, may easily encourage, councils to found general hospitals for the treat merit of general medical and surgical cases. Whether this is a right or wrong policy, it is wise to impress upon your Lordships that this is a new departure, a departure which probably ushers in a new era in the administration of medicine in this country.

For myself, I am inclined to think that the proposals are right if they are suitably safeguarded. I ask your Lordships to imagine the whole field of curative medicine of which neither the councils nor their medical advisers have had any previous knowledge or experience. They have gained a certain limited knowledge in the application of curative medicine in the tuberculosis clinics and in maternity. As regards that large field of general surgery and medicine which are treated in the general hospitals of this country their experience amounts to extremely little. The fact that the councils have run Poor Law hospitals is but little training for the running of big general hospitals as we know and understand them. These powers which are given in the Bill not only enable the councils to convert Poor Law hospitals into general hospitals, but give them the power of founding general hospitals. These powers come at a time when the demand for hospital accommodation is increasing throughout this country. The fact is that the hospitals are no longer the need of a class; they are the need of the whole nation. They used to be for the sick poor; now we are all poor and sometimes sick. Anyone may need a hospital in these days. The progress in knowledge demands it. Social and economic conditions demand it.

The first reason why is the progress of knowledge. The art of medicine now calls to its aid a number of sciences, sciences mobilised on its behalf. These new sciences require team work. If I may give a simple example, years ago a cough, a disease of the chest, required a stethescope and a bottle of medicine. To-day it requires, besides, the clinical knowledge of the physician, the radiologist and the bacteriologist. A surgeon who wishes to operate on the stomach now requires in addition to his own skill, the skill, perhaps, of the chemist or the radiologist. In other words there is the necessity of bringing together many branches of knowledge which have to act in co-ordination if you wish to attain your result. That can only be done by organisation. Each of these specialities requires its equipment. These equipments have to be brought together not only for efficiency but for cost, because you have the striking fact that the more that science progresses the greater the cost of treatment becomes. Therefore, but for what I might call mass production a large proportion of the community would be without those benefits. That, then, is a reason why people in increasing numbers need institutional treatment, which, in other words, is hospital treatment.

It is a fact which has to be admitted that the voluntary hospitals of this country cannot entirely fulfil those functions. It seems to me that the question—I have no doubt that it was before the Government when they drew up this Bill—is how this hiatus is to be filled up. There is one way in which there can be a considerable extension of a, form of co-operative hospital in those homogeneous communities which are increasing in number and are known as garden cities and garden suburbs. There is great scope there for a system of cooperative treatment and for co-operation in matters of health. By linking up these co-operative health societies with the insurance companies there could be a certain solution of the difficulty of hospital provision. Even when that is allowed for there still remains a large gap to be filled. That is why I think it is proved and that the case is made out that further hospital provision is needed. In short it comes to this, that all the conditions of to-day tend to move the location of illness from the home to the institution, and the need for this hospital accommodation is great.

We have to remember, however, that neither the councils nor their medical advisers have had up to now any experience of the curative treatment of disease. If, for example, you take the medical staffs that advise the councils, they con- sist of medical officers of health and certain people who look alter the clinics. Their experience is limited to their own domain and very excellent work they do; but their experience of curative medicine is little or none; yet they will be called upon under this Bill to fulfil those important functions. It must be borne in mind that four-fifths of the medical men of this country are engaged in curative medicine. It is in this respect that I think Part I of this Bill is defective. It seems to show a lack of appreciation or the essential conditions of success. It is almost as if it said in effect to the Public Assistance Committees: "You can convert your Poor Law hospitals if you wish. You can build large hospitals if you wish. We would like you to co-opt a few people who know something about the running of a general hospital, but we will not force you to do so."

No doubt some councils will think that anybody can found a hospital. I would point out to your Lordships that a hospital is not a building made with hands; it is an organisation, it is an assemblage of great traditions. The hospital service of this country has grown up through the years. Its efficiency, its flexibility of administration, its public spirit and its warmth of heart have all gathered round what is called the voluntary system. That system has made the hospitals of England famous throughout the world. More than that, these hospitals draw to their service the young man of talent. It is his great ambition to get there. There he works for years at a pittance in order to gain experience. There he earns his reputation and his discipline. There he gets that curious atmosphere of knowledge and service. That is the current of events. That is the recognised road within the profession. Further than that it is from these hospitals that the nurses come.

Is it not obvious that the voluntary hospitals of the country should be made the centre, the kernel round which any new hospital system should be built, and that any legislation should provide that this mode of progress is not only permitted but secured? Surely, the correct policy is to foster the voluntary hospital, remembering that it is a very tender plant and might easily be killed. Let the voluntary hospital lead, let it direct you in building up what I admit is needed—that is, a new and extended hospital policy for the country. The dangers of not doing this are very real. Supposing there is no co-opted minority on these Public Assistance Committees. Supposing, for example, they have a free hand to do what they will. Supposing (and this is not imagination) a council is returned committed to the policy of a whole-time municipal medical service. That council would set out to build up a service independent of the voluntary hospitals, competing with them and overlapping them, and there is no one to say them nay. That is no mere figment of the imagination. There are, at this moment, boroughs running, or trying to run, a municipal service. There are certain people who avow that their object is to set up municipal hospitals, to staff them with a full-time staff, and run them as a form of municipalised service. That surely would be a disaster.

How are they going to get their staff? I presume they would advertise for it, just as if skilled men like physicians and surgeons grew like gooseberries on a bush. It has already been tried. Advertisement does not bring the right people. It does not secure that round pegs go into round holes, and already there have been consequences which are lamentable as the result of the wrong people staffing hospitals and doing work for which they were not trained and are not suited.

There is a danger, and a very serious danger, if you permit the councils, whose experience of running curative medicine is up to now small, almost to diminishing point, to undertake this new venture without on the one hand any form of co-option of people who are skilled in the administration of hospitals, and on the other hand without any assistance from doctors whose lives are spent in doing the work of curative medicine. I plead that the Government will make it compulsory that there shall be co-option of a minority skilled in hospital work on these Public Assistance Committees. It was done in the case of education. On the Education Committee it is compulsory that there shall be a co-opted minority of people skilled in education. If it was sound to do it for education, why not do it for health? There is no argument for the one which is not applicable to the other.

One knows that when this Bill was before another place the Government had not been able to take a full measure of the opposition to the Bill, and I have no doubt that when they made co-option optional they did it because they did not wish to increase the opposition in the country. But it is surely clear now that the country is in favour of the Bill, and there is no longer, therefore, an excuse for not doing that which all those people who are connected with the public health outside the official world are in favour of doing. The medical profession, by practical unanimity, has requested that the co-option of the minority skilled in hospital work shall be made compulsory, and we do appeal very strongly to His Majesty's Government to concede that point. King Edward's Hospital Fund has taken the same line, and, on its merits, I put it to your Lordships, would you start a new venture and a sound venture, one that may lead to a wide establishment of municipal hospitals for curative medicine in this country, and neglect all the traditions and the knowledge that have been gathered during the years?

There is one other Amendment I would urge on His Majesty's Government and that is this. Up to now the medical staff of the health services of this country has been run by a small number of medical men. They have been men who have specialised in preventive medicine. They have consisted in the country of medical officers of health, tuberculosis officers, school medical officers, and I would like to guard myself by saying that there is no one who admires their work more than I do, but it is a work of a strictly limited application. They have never had anything to do with disease. Many of them have never had any contact with hospitals since their student days. How can those men be expected wisely to advise their councils on this large question of curative hospitals? Ever since the Ministry of Health Bill was passed it has been a most regrettable fact that the policy of the official doctor—the doctor who is paid by fee, the medical officer of health and the officers I have already noted—proceeds on lines totally divergent from that of those doctors who constitute four-fifths of the profession and who belong to the curative branch. That divergence is lamentable. It was a serious matter when the council only had to deal with preventive medicine, and it is a still more serious thing if this divergence should continue now—this divergence for which the Ministry of Health has been responsible, from the time the Ministry was founded.

To meet that I suggest quite a simple method, which has been before the Ministry of Health for some time, and that is that there should be set up under the chairmanship of the medical officer of health an advisory council of doctors in each district which the council administers. That is a simple remedy. It would bring the experience of the men who know to the benefit of the medical men who have to administer. I believe that the hospital policy in this Bill is capable of great and continued benefit to the community, and if only the Government will accept the safeguards which I have adumbrated, and which should take the form of Amendments at a later stage, they would ensure that this scheme not only reforms but opens up avenues of progress which will lead to the greater health of the people, in which respect we fain would see this country show the way.


My Lords, having until quite recently been shamefully ignorant of the subject of local government, and having given a considerable amount of study to it during the past three months, I have come to the conclusion that this Bill is an attempt at government of the people by experts for experts. I do not think I have met a single expert even who understands it all, but I am living in hopes that the noble Earl (Lord Onslow) will prove a brilliant exception to my experience. There are a great many experts, like the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, who understand part of this Bill, but very few, in my limited experience, who really grasp it as a whole. At the same time there has been an atmosphere of unreality about recent discussions on this Bill. As the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, said, the battle has been fought really outside Westminster between the Ministry of Health and the local authorities in different parts of the country. They fought each other to a standstill, and they stand oposite to one another with heads blooded but deeply bowed, and no one, really knows what is going to happen once this measure is passed.

This House does, I think, possess an expert, or several experts, on nearly every conceivable topic of discussion. I certainly think, after hearing the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, last night, that we have had a very great deal of luck in meeting a Peer who is a member of a county council, of a rural district council, and of a board of guardians, all at one and the same time. He was certainly an expert on agricultural labourers' cottages. If he moves the Amendment on Clause 65 which he envisages he will certainly get my support. To prove the complexity of the Bill and how difficult it is for an ordinary layman to follow it, take the case of the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack. Personally I always listen to his speeches with a kind of terrified admiration. Their architecture is at once so massive and so simple. On this occasion I observed that the noble and learned Lord made use of copious notes and read large portions of his speech. Nothing could be a better proof of the complexity of this Bill. Feeling that deeply, I took the trouble to consult various experts from different parts of England and even of Scotland. I did not confine myself to partisans of the Labour Party. In fact, the expert I am going to quote to-day was—I will not say is—a staunch Conservative. He may be a Conservative still, but he is no longer staunch. I doubt if ho will vote at the next Election. What recommended him to me was that he was and is a fervent admirer of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. I need hardly say that, when I discovered that, my already high opinion of this gentleman was confirmed.

I am going to give his criticisms of this Bill because I think that in a sense they are really likely to be most damaging to this measure in the eyes of its Conservative supporters—a measure which, in my view, is really not a good one: I will put it no higher than that. Let me begin by saying what this expert thought were the points in favour of the Bill. He said there were three. He said he thought that the co-ordination of health services was a move in the right direction. He said that he thought highways finance was being put upon a better footing. This expert was a councillor for even more years than the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor. I am judging by his appearance. I think he has been 35 years a councillor. He has been mayor twice of a non-county borough. He is an alderman, I think, at this moment. He said that though the highway services had been put upon a better footing, he and his colleagues on the municipal council felt that the Government had not done all that they might have done in regard to relieving municipalities of such charges as the charges for main roads. His municipality suffers from a plague of main roads. The third point upon which he thought the Government had excelled was the payment of county councillors' expenses. I am not sure that this Bill does provide really for the payment of county councillors' expenses. I know that there is provision for the payment of Scottish county councillors' expenses, but then Scottish people are notorious for being able to arrange these things better than we do.

I took the trouble to sit in the gallery of another place the other day and I witnessed a sham fight. There was a member of my Party with a strong Doric accent—I think he is member for Dumbarton—who was on the most friendly terms with the right hon. gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland. They really did not differ. All these Scottish members of Parliament were purring at each other in the Doric, and I had a most uneasy feeling that it was we Anglo-Saxons who were going to pay the expenses of the Scottish county councillors when they travel. I hope the noble Earl will remove my misgivings on that point, but I am almost certain that none of these Scottish members would have looked so pleased unless they had been almost certain that we were going to pay. They are far cleverer than we are and I have heard dark rumours of some clause tucked away in the 177 pages of this Bill which makes that enormity possible.

Now let me pass to the criticisms of the Bill by my expert, the county councillor of 35 years standing. He says it is a gamble. He says that it is based on figures which are mainly guesswork, that it is roughly estimated on insufficient data. He complains that the formula provides a rule—a rule of thumb, if you will—but it does not embody any principle. He says that if it is slavishly and unintelligently followed—as most likely it will be when one thinks of the large variety of people who are going to use this formula—it will be open to very grave abuse. He admits that in an empirical way it may be effective in certain cases, but he, with his vast experience of local government in a non-county borough, is filled with genuine alarm about the slavish unintelligent application of this formula. Those of us who have had anything to do with State Departments know that formulas are slavishly applied. He then says that the Bill subordinates the local authorities of non-county boroughs—most important boroughs, as I am sure the noble Earl will admit—to county councils whose members really do not understand local problems. The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, has given us many cases of non-county boroughs. They are very important places—no one denies, that—and many of them are industrial centres. They are going to be subordinated to the members of county councils who are generally chosen from a class of person who is not really acquainted or conversant with the problems of non-county boroughs.

He says—and this is a very serious charge—that it will not help at once, and, until there is a trade revival, in his view never at all, the depressed industries. He gave me several instances of that which I will not inflict upon your Lordships. He gave me figures of large firms and of small firms. He said this money is being put into people's pockets, but so little of it that they will not be able to pass on the benefits conferred by this Bill to the consumers in the form of reduced prices. This is a man who is not speaking in any bitter spirit. It is his genuine opinion. He gave me the case of a firm with a turnover of £100,000 a year. He said that firm might get £1,500 a year out of this measure. A percentage like that cannot be passed on to the consumer in the form of reduced prices, and if it is not passed on in the form of reduced prices, he argued, and I think quite correctly, then you are not going to help trade, you are not going to promote that trade revival on which the success of this measure really depends. He then said—what I think Lord Beauchamp pointed out—and he gave mo chapter and verse, that this measure must in the end bear very hardly on the private householder and shopkeeper. It seems inevitable—the money has to be found from somewhere—and he proceeded to explain how this Bill would, in his particular locality, actually discourage trade expansion. He said: How are we to build working class dwellings, for example, which are a concomitant of an expansion of trade, if we are not going to get back on the rates we can charge on them anything like what we require for local services?

I think it is not really unjustifiable to stress the question of these non-county boroughs, because if we are going to have a trade revival and industrial expansion in this country it is more than likely that it will occur in those localities. I have given the criticisms of an expert, and I will refer only briefly to the more sweeping criticisms made by my own friends. I think that the criticism that this Bill is timorous cannot be resisted by any noble Lord opposite. It is timorous. It does not attack the central and urgent problem of unemployment and necessitous areas. Can any noble Lord opposite deny that there was need for discrimination in regard to necessitous areas, where unemployment is excessive? It seems to me that it is not a question of general economic principles. There is this stark tragedy going on in South Wales and other parts of the country. Everybody admits that the tragedy is concentrated, and yet on the ground of some general principle the Government say that you must give it to the just and the unjust unlike, that you must give it to the prosperous as well, and that you must not penalise success, with the consequence of the various anomalies which are occurring in this Bill.

I understand—Lord Beauchamp gave the figure—that the brewing industry cannot pass on the benefit under the Bill because a penny off a pint of beer means a loss of £30,000,000 annually. I calculate that that means that we as a people are drinking 7,200,000,000 pints of beer each year, but, of course, £400,000 to an industry like that is only a drop in the great ocean of beer. Why give it in the name of general principles? It seems to be most wasteful, and almost heartless in view of the suffering that is going on. Another criticism is that this measure is perverse. It is perverse because it is a kind of back-door Protection. It gives a subsidy or bonus to certain industries, and, as is usually the case with proceedings of that kind, it hits other industries. There is a case which I trust Lord Onslow will deal with. It is that our export coal is being cheapened for the benefit of brick manufacturers in Belgium, who are competing with our own manufacturers at home.

I have always understood that the noble Marquess was a Free Trader. He comes of a family only accustomed to ruling this country by making people happy, contented and prosperous, and there have been certain people in his Party who have said that the way to do that is to make the foreigner pay. This is a most astonishing reversal of that policy. Here we are subsidising foreign manufacturers at the expense of our own men at home in a trade which in proportion to the capital involved gives an exceptionally large amount of employment. The Government took office pledged to deal with this matter of unemployment. They have run away from Protection. They found a precarious refuge in Safeguarding, and now they have produced, in their fifth year of office, this Bill whose fruition, as I understand its clauses, will not be complete for another seventeen years. The noble Viscount doubts me, but all the provisions of the measure will not come to pass until then. The first stage is seven years—


The advantages begin at once.


I do not know that. The noble Viscount was not present when I gave the criticisms of my expert, a staunch Conservative.


What is his name?


It would not be fair to give his name but he is a really live man, and I repeat that he is a fervent admirer of the noble Marquess (Lord Salisbury). In their fifth year of office the Government, pledged to reduce unemployment, put this measure before us. I am inclined to describe it as a legislative octopus. May I read to your Lordships what an octopus is? I looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary this morning. It is: A genus of cephalopod mollusc with eight arms"— the eight Parts of this Bill— surrounding the mouth and provided with suckers. Body small, but it has logs 1½ feet long, with about 250 suckers in each leg. The legs are the schedules. I think they are twelve in number: I doubt whether even the noble Earl (Lord Onslow) has read through the Eleventh Schedule.


It is a very interesting Schedule.


It is sad to think that so distinguished a public servant should go through so much to get so little. This is the figurative use of the word "octopus": Usually applied to an organised power having extended ramifications and far-reaching influence especially harmful and destructive. We might have had to-day the Committee stage of a Bill put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, on Second Reading, with his accustomed force and eloquence. I cannot help regretting that we did not have it to-day before starting on this Bill because it seems to me to be extraordinarily pertinent. Here we have a sort of misbegotten offspring, fathered by conflicting interests, its mother the national distress, the midwife (if I may say so), a lot of inexperienced county councillors, the destined dry-nurse a centralised bureaucracy, and it is going to be spoon-fed with a formula. How that infant is going to grow up Heaven only knows. As my expert friend says, it is a gamble. But as the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, has pointed out, it is going to obstruct the path of simple, clear legislation in this matter—legislation which is badly needed. I therefore suggest to your Lordships that you can really play a useful part to-night by exercising a form of legislative birth control, and refusing to give a Second Heading to this measure. We can postpone its Second Reading for six months. By then there will be another Government in power—I am not here to prophesy what kind of Government.


We know all right.


But we as an Upper House will, anyhow, have had some time to rub up our algebra. I beg to support the Motion of my noble friend and leader, Lord Parmoor.


My Lords, I rise with some considerable diffidence to address you to-day, because I am well aware of what the dominant thought among most of you is, and that is that anything worth saying about this Bill, besides a good deal else, has probably already been said. Yet, as a dweller in one of the poorest agricultural counties in England, perhaps the poorest, and as one who will have some small part in the administration of this measure, I should like to say a few words as to why I give it my very hearty support. The first reason is because of the relief that it gives to agricultural land, and also to farm buildings, which I have not heard mentioned in your Lordships' House. I was glad, indeed, to hear the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack mention that that had been put in as a matter of pure justice. I have seen several programmes which dealt with the suggested improvement of agriculture—one by the Farmers' Union, another by the Land Union, another by the Central Landowners' Association, another by the Land Agents' Society; and in every one of these, and in the forefront of the programmes, was placed the total relief of land and farm buildings from rates. I therefore feel that we must dwell on this.

I agree with the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that there has been no great gratitude shown for this particular clause, but I profoundly disagree with the reason that he gave for that ingratitude. I understood him to say it was because the farmer realised that eventually the bulk of that relief would go into the pockets of the landlord. That is an argument that I was somewhat surprised to hear in your Lordships' House, although I was well prepared to find it used later on upon the hustings. After all, what does it amount to? I take it that it amounts to this, that in some few cases farms that would otherwise have gone derelict will, with this aid, be let to tenants, and some few men will be found employment who would otherwise have lost it. Is that such a serious objection to this help? If it is, does it not apply to almost every other help that you can give to agriculture? And, if so, am I to take it—I think I am right in assuming that I can take it—that any measure of help to agriculture will have the opposition of the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill?

I think the ingratitude comes from other causes than that. The first cause is the parlous state in which the farmer finds himself to-day. If a man finds himself, say, £1,000 down, he has not a great deal of cause for gratitude when he is told that he will at some future, date be let off £50 which he has long thought was his due. The second cause, I think, is due to the delay in getting this relief. The farmer will not get the relief till next October, and in the meanwhile every farmer who has a tractor is finding some additional sum to provide the means whereby the relief will be given. I, like many others, was brought up on the principle that the jam followed the Gregory powder, and vice versa, but an interval of eighteen months is more than I, for one, was accustomed to. And the third reason was this—and I would call the attention of your Lordships to it rather particularly. It is an undoubted fact that assessment committees in various parts of the country have, contrary, I know, to the instructions of the Central Valuation Board, and contrary to a clause in this very Bill, put up the assessments on farm houses, and in some cases to such a degree that the whole of the advantage gained by this relief will be lost, owing to the increased assessments of farm houses. I know you may say that assessment committees probably have farmers on them, and it is up to them to see that their assessments are right. Assessment committees are very largely led by the official who is in charge of them, that is to say, the Government valuer. And I, for one, wish that it had been possible to give some more definite instructions that these assessments should not be made.

The second ground on which I welcome this Bill is that it seems to me to be almost the first measure which has realised the great, I might almost say the overwhelming, burden which, in a county like mine, has fallen upon us in the upkeep of the roads. We have had to, find (1 do not wish to exaggerate) two-thirds of the upkeep of roads, on which perhaps nine-tenths of the user and the damage have been done by persons dwelling outside the rate-paying area. Now that has been realised and dealt with in this Bill. It is realised in two ways—first, by the increase of the percentage grant from 50 to 60 per cent., and, secondly, by making it a factor in the formula for estimating the Government grant. And, although I know that the formula has given great cause of pleasure to many people, and been a great cause of mirth in your Lordships' House, there are two things that I have not heard about the formula—one, that it was not necessary to have a formula, and the other that anybody else had a better one.

The third reason for which I am especially grateful for this Bill is that it makes the first attack on what I call the pernicious tyranny of the percentage grant. I have been a member of a county council for more years than I care to say—very nearly as many as the friend, the mysterious friend, of the noble and gallant Lord who last spoke; and if I had one quarter of the money that I have seen wasted through the operation of this percentage grant I should be a source of gratification, and not of grief, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Again and again expenditure, sometimes running into thousands of pounds, has been on the point of being turned down, because either it was unnecessary or not so necessary as some other reform. There may be some still small voice, perhaps an official, more often a councillor, who said: "You know, if you turn that down you lose £2,000 of public money"; and nearly always that, to my mind false, argument has won the, day, and the expenditure has been carried through.

I regret about this Bill this one thing: When the Bill was first introduced I received with the utmost pleasure reports of speeches and statements which said that this attack was to be made upon this pernicious system of the percentage grant, but I regret to find that it really amounts to little more than carrying the outpost line. The percentage grant still in large measure persists. But I shall venture to hope that at no very distant date the attack will be pressed further and possibly the whole position carried.

When this Bill was first introduced I confess that I, no doubt in common with many of your Lordships, was very much worried as to the difficulties in administration and reorganisation that would be entailed on county councils. Your Lordships must have had experience of how much more work is now thrown upon all classes of men. The farmer has to spend more time on his farm if he wishes to reduce his losses, the landlord has to spend more time looking round his estate, the man of business has to spend more time looking after his business. I had a fear, and I think a justifiable fear, that, if any more work was thrown upon the county councillors, the work would in time devolve upon two classes of people—(1) the rich man with no occupation, and (2) the professional politician, both to my mind little more than parasites upon the human race. Amendments have, however, been passed lately which have removed from my mind most of this apprehension. I believe now that in a county like my own hardly anybody who has been undertaking public work and doing it efficiently will not be found available for work under the county councils. I am indeed glad of that for if we have been forced to decrease the basis of taxation in this matter we do not wish to decrease the basis of public service.

I believe this Bill to be a great one, I believe it to be the best Bill, perhaps, that has been brought forward since the War. It has two great advantages. The first is that it will loosen some of the shackles which handicap our industry in foreign competition, and the other is that it will shift the burden of local taxation to the shoulders that are fittest to bear it. I know that noble Lords opposite are bound to oppose and criticise this Bill, but if they are bound to oppose and criticise these two principles, I feel—and the noble Earl who spoke this afternoon admitted it—that they do it with a certain sense of unhappiness.

I would like to refer to one thing which has been said about this Bill outside, though not here. I do not believe that the Bill is a great vote-catching effort. I do not see a poster saying "Vote for Jones and his nice new formula." I do not think their bitterest opponents would ever accuse His Majesty's Government of having an excess of political acumen. I am no politician myself, but I would have thought; as a simple man that, if they had had this excess of political acumen, they would have started this work with the reform of your Lordships' House, they would have proceded to this Bill, and they would have finished up with a measure giving pensions to widows and orphans. Yet, as it is, there are some in your Lordships' House who say that the reform of your Lordships' House has been subject to some degree of bungling. And there are some outside who say the Widows and Orphans Pensions Act is a Socialist measure to which the only contribution of His Majesty's Government is the contributory portion. Nevertheless, I myself do not grumble very much that they first brought in a measure giving justice to the widows and orphans and finished their work with this great reform which I believe in years to come will redound to their credit. When the verdict on this measure is given, not the verdict of that licensed period of mendacity which is known as a General Election but the verdict of the clear light of history, I believe that His Majesty's Government will have no cause to be ashamed of what they have done.


My Lords, after the perfectly admirable and convincing speech to which we have just listened, and after the somewhat unconvincing utterances—I will not say arguments—addressed to us from the now somewhat empty Opposition Benches, I feel it is almost an intrusion on my part to participate in this debate at this hour of the evening. There was, however, a very surprising contention put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, which I feel bound to refute to the best of my power. Of course, the noble Earl opposite who leads the Liberal Party has been so eloquently scathing in his comparison of the noble and learned Lord in the days when he used to sit alongside some of us on the Tory benches of the House of Commons and as he figures to-day as the Leader of his Party in this House, that it is almost unnecessary for me to press the point once more that there was no member of the House of Commons in the old days with all the experience that he possessed—and he never failed to remind us of his experience as a member of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation—who so often or so emphatically referred to the rate burden as an injustice to the agricultural community which ought to be either removed or alleviated at the earliest possible moment. Some of us have unfortunately lively memories and we cannot fail to regard the remarks made in this connection by the noble and learned Lord yesterday as positively staggering. When he goes so far as to say that there is no possible advantage to agriculture in this Bill and that not a single acre that has been laid down to grass will continue under arable cultivation, I should like, as a somewhat extensive farmer, to tell him that I am only one of several farmers in the West of England who feel justified in holding our hands at the present time from the nationally undesirable work of laying down land to grass in consequence of this Bill, because we feel it is a premium on the retention if not on the extension of our arable laud and on the employment of persons in arable cultivation.

What I wanted to refer to was his suggestion that this is a Bill to relieve agricultural landowners. He seems to have forgotten that, unlike the agricultural industries in most other parts of the world, the industry in this country is run by two partners who furnish their share of capital and that the larger holder of agricultural capital is the landowner and not the tenant farmer. There is no more serious detriment to the agricultural industry in this country to-day than the ever-developing deterioration and neglect of farm equipment and farm buildings, land drainage, liming and other expensive capital improvement work which would normally be carried out by the landlord but which, unfortunately, in existing circumstances, the landlord cannot to-day carry out. There is a serious and growing deterioration and detriment of the agricultural industry. I cannot imagine anything more calculated to put a premium upon the almost non-existent landlord enterprise which we so much want to see than the realisation that some of this benefit may conceivably pass to the landlord; at any rate, he has some encouragement to maintain the equipment on his land and so maintain his rent, which is a very desirable thing to do, as Cook of Norfolk, who is our great pioneer of agriculture in this country, emphasised more than anyone else, and he was a Liberal; and not only to maintain the rent but to maintain the productivity of the land which he owns.

I want to ask your Lordships whether you realise this effect. I venture to say, and I speak with some little experience on this subject because I have travelled pretty extensively on agricultural tours in various other countries of the world, that I have reason to believe that there is no country in which the rent of agricultural land is so low, bearing in mind the quality of the land and its accessi- bility to markets. I go so far as to say, and most agricultural experts in other countries contend, that it is not a good thing for the country, that it is not a good thing for the agricultural industry that the rent-producing capacity of the land should be so low as it is in this country. There is the fact that our agricultural land is not costly land. It is cheap land. It is land that really is too cheap. Finally, if there was some greater encouragement to invest capital in our agricultural land and farther to develop it for agricultural purposes it would be all to the advantage of the agricultural industry, and it is just the sort of impetus which this Bill provides, which is calculated to give that encouragement to agricultural owners, that is so much needed.

There is only one other matter I want to refer to and that was most fully dealt with by my noble friend Lord Dynevor yesterday. I venture to hope that the Government will see their way to put a stop to the process which has already begun under the system of valuation or re-valuation which is now being conducted in compliance with the provisions of the Valuation Act of last year. My noble friend Lord Dynevor found no fault with the basis which is usually adopted for the re-assessment of farmhouses. Upon that I am afraid I should differ to some extent. I should feel more inclined to agree with my noble friend Lord Cranworth. But what is going on in the case of untied agricultural cottages is very serious indeed, and if my noble friend Lord Dynevor puts down an Amendment I shall feel bound to support it along the lines which my noble friend indicated. Clause 65 of this Bill not only puts a premium upon tied cottages—the sort of cottage which in my judgment is in some cases most desirable where stock owners, particularly, have to provide for accommodation close to the stock which their keepers tend, though it is at any rate thought by many noble Lords on this side of the House to be in principle undesirable and is always put forward from the Liberal Benches as the type of cottage which should not be encouraged—but it unfortunately puts a premium also upon tying cottages which are at present untied.

My noble friend Lord Dynevor suggested that it would put a premium upon letting them to week-enders. In my own part of the country I am afraid we have not many week-enders because we are too far from London or from any large city that provides that profitable type of human being. But we find that there is considerable competition by the employees, particularly the clerks and other well-paid employees, of other industries in the district, and there would be more than a temptation on the part of many landowners to-day, if Clause 65 is passed in its present form, to give preference to an occupier of a well-equipped cottage who can pay something like £10, £12 or £15 a year for it rather than to an agricultural worker required upon the farm on which the cottage is situated, and who, of course, can only provide, or have provided for him, a low rent of something like £7 or £8 a year.

I should not have referred to this but for the fact that I myself am having upon my estate an unfortunate experience of this kind. Only some six years ago I put up two well-equipped cottages for the benefit of the stock-keepers close to a large dairy farm building. In those cottages to-day are the foreman of the farm and the cowman. Unfortunately, I had this farm on my hands for some years and it now comes to be let. It has been assessed after being considered by the assessment committee of the district at an annual value of no less than £18, with the result that the incoming tenant, a shrewd man from Scotland, says that he cannot possibly take over that cottage for the purposes for which it was provided, and I am requested by my own agent to consent to a clerk occupying that cottage at something near, but not as much as, a rent of £18 a year.

That cannot be in the interest either of agriculture or of the community generally, and I venture to ask that Clause 65 shall be so altered as to render it possible for the cottage of any bona fide agricultural worker for whom it is intended and in which he is at present living, to be assessed for the purposes of this Bill at the sort of rent which may be deemed a proper rent for the dwelling of an agricultural labourer. At any rate there is a most dangerous trend all over the country to-day in the direction of putting a premium upon the tying of agricultural cottages and letting essential agricultural cottages to persons other than those belonging to the agricultural community. I venture to hope that the noble Earl will see his way to accept an Amendment on this subject and that your Lordships will see your way to pass it.


My Lords, it will be gratifying, I am sure, to my noble friend who moved the rejection of this Bill to learn that he has succeeded in staggering the noble Lord opposite. He is not so easily shaken. I am glad to think that ho did not succeed in staggering the noble Earl who leads the Liberal Party in this House and did not prevent him from having his usual gibe at this Bench in the course of his remarks. The proposition which seems to have upset the noble Lord may be stated in this way, may it not?—that the market rent of land with a certain burden is not affected by the burden upon that land being lessened, but the market rent remains exactly the same whether the burden upon it be larger or smaller.

I will relieve your Lordships' mind at once by saying that I am proposing to deal almost entirely with the First Part of this Bill. A lean and hungry opposition have had to study this Bill without having had the special advantages of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Onslow) which we have read of in another place, though from the trade union point of view we regret to observe that he has been paid on piece-work and has not apparently been paid for overtime. We look upon that with envy, but without ill-will and without any grudge. We have not those advantages. But one of the additional reasons why I should like to speak specially about Part I of this Bill is that I have also in the past had experience upon these small local government authorities, and I know something about the work of guardians and rural district councils. Much of Part I of the Bill does what I think may be regarded as useful, but it has the aspect which my noble friend referred to of being timorous in not really carrying out the full reform that is possible. Taking the guardians first, they appear to be abolished with the one hand and to be restored with the other. Their functions are all transferred to the county council, but no sooner have you done that than you come back and set up again the guardians committee upon which you are to co-opt many of those guardians.

I am not at all sure that this is necessarily bad. In administration you get, of course, the advantage of a wider area. You get the advantage of reducing expenses in many ways by having the wider area and the wider field to choose from where institutional treatment is required. You lose the advantage of the local interest and the local knowledge which these small local bodies have. I understand the provisions of this Bill to be intended to preserve as, far as possible that local interest and to restore it as far as possible by means of the people who are to be co-opted upon the guardians committees. That seems to me to be a perfectly good idea, but, unfortunately, although you change the authority and the name of the authority, you have done nothing to change the Poor Law. In this measure at any rate there is no abolition of the Poor Law, and there is no breakup of the mixed workhouse. I would like to ask the noble Earl who is going to reply, this question. As I understand it, all the institutions—which means the workhouses, the workhouse infirmaries and so on—are to be taken over and managed, save in exceptional cases, by the county council through the local government committee.


Unless they are delegated.


Save in exceptional circumstances and subject to the county council deciding they should be delegated. Is it contemplated that that procedure may be used to abolish to some extent the mixed workhouse, and where you have four or five or six workhouses, to allot a particular institution to a particular purpose? If you do that you will have done something to do away with the mixed workhouses, which were of course the great cause of complaint in the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission of many years ago, which your Lordships no doubt remember and have often heard of.

Then I have been a little interested in a matter in which I have a special interest, and that is as to the pauper lunatics. They were, of course, the charge of the guardians, and I rather gather from this Bill that the guardians committee, with the county council money, will now pay the maintenance rate to the asylum or institution in which they are maintained, just as the guardians did before. I am not quite clear what will happen to the visiting powers of the guardians, powers to which, the noble Earl will I am sure remember, the Royal Commission attached some value. I am very glad to see in the White Paper which accompanies this Bill that it is contemplated that at some time in the not too distant future some steps will be taken to deal with the administration of lunacy on the lines recommended by the Royal Commission. That reform, as I have pointed out to your Lordships before, is urgent and long overdue, and I am glad to think that it is clearly contemplated by the Minister of Health that at an early opportunity he will deal with that as supplementary to this Bill.

There are one or two questions about the co-opted members about which I am not clear. Are they to have full membership of the committees upon which they sit, including the voting of money? Those committees, as I understand, will have the spending of the public money of the county council, and it may seem, as a question of policy, doubtful whether co-opted members should have the power to spend the public money and should be able to vote upon questions of that sort. I can understand that their advice and assistance may be very valuable. I need not deal with Clause 12. I do not know whether it is contemplated now or at any future time to combine in any way the management of the mentally deficient and of the insane. I am well aware they are two very different classes of case and they require very different treatment, but if you are to put the whole thing under the county council it seems to me that it may be possible that something will be done in that respect.

There is a point I would like to put to the noble Earl, and which we shall make the subject of Amendment afterwards, upon Clause 15. Clause 15 begins by stating that it shall be the duty of the councils to recover the whole of the expenses incurred, and later on there is a definition which says that those expenses include the fabric of the institution as well as the maintenance. It is perfectly true that later on in the same clause it is provided that they need not do so if they are satisfied that the patients cannot reasonably be required to pay the whole of them, but I confess I would rather myself the clause were turned the other way round, because there must be innumerable cases in which the relations of those maintained in institutions may be able to pay 5s. a week 8s. or 10s. a week perhaps, but would obviously be quite unable to pay the 30s. or 35s. which would be represented by the maintenance charge. The clause rather reads as if their primary duty was to exact the last farthing from these people, unless the council come to the conclusion that they cannot be required to pay the whole, having regard to their financial circumstances. I think something might be done to soften the rather harsh character of that clause.

There is a minor point which we propose to make the subject of an Amendment that I should like to mention—I think it can be introduced into this Bill—and that is the point that arises upon the judgment given by Mr. Justice McCardie the other day, with which I am sure the noble Earl is quite familiar. The Judge decided that no matter what agreement was made with a certain local authority, at any rate in certain cases, none the less the appointment was held at pleasure and was determinable without cause and without notice at any moment. It does not seem to us right, and it does not seem likely to make for good administration, nor likely to make for securing the best people, that, no matter what agreement is made with them by the local authority, no matter how far the local authority pledge themselves to give three months or six months notice, nevertheless they are to be able under Statute to turn round and say that the agreement is not worth the paper it is written upon, and you are to go. Security of tenure, as your Lordships will appreciate, is one of the first conditions of obtaining good service, and if an Amendment can be properly introduced I hope we shall be able to do something in that respect.

The next point which I wish to touch upon is the question of the rural district councils. The maintenance of the roads is to be transferred from these councils entirely to the county councils.


Unless they are delegated by the county council, which they have a right to do.


Yes, but none the less they will still be merely the agents of the county council. The primary responsibility for the roads, including the smaller roads, which now rests upon district councils, will be transferred to the county council. If these functions are taken from them I do not quite understand why rural district councils are maintained in existence at all. The only thing that I can see left for them to do is to maintain footpaths and rights of way or something very small.


They remain the sanitary authority.


I see. They will remain, therefore, the people who look after nuisances and the local drains and so on.


There will be water and sewerage.


Of course, there will be something for them to do, but whether it is necessary to have a separate authority in that case I do not quite know. It means that you will have elections just as before when the boards of guardians were in full existence, but if they are deprived of all their powers, except those rather uninteresting sanitary ones and the preservation of rural rights of way, I am not sure that you will find many people very anxious to serve upon them. Then the question of the roads is very difficult to follow. I am sure no one will appreciate that more than the noble and learned Lord' who moved the Second Reading. This is a very large Bill, and it is difficult to pretend that one can follow it even upon a second or third or fourth reading. The noble and learned Lord gave us a simplified statement which did him enormous credit, but I think he will recognise that he did not cover the whole Bill. Roads in some cases, as I understand, are to be taken over nolens volens the county councils by urban districts. They are to have the right to maintain main roads in an urban district.


They have it now.


They have it now I dare say, but you are going to make a change. There again I would ask whether it is altogether a wise provision. It is undesirable, surely, that a length of main road should be cut up more than is necessary and maintained by a larger number of authorities than is necessary. Just because a mile of road passes through an urban district it hardly seems to be a reason why it should be maintained by the urban district rather than by the county council. I should have hoped that the Bill had gone further and had begun the making of national roads. That is a question which is too large to enter upon now, and I merely mention in passing that I think it would be better if many of these main roads were routes nationales and that whoever did the maintenance it should, in fact, be the responsibility of a central authority.

Then there is the clause about the payment of expenses which has already been referred to. I do not think that that clause as it stands goes far enough. If your Lordships will look at Clause 49 you will see that at merely says that a county council may pay expenses. The clause says it "shall be lawful" for the council to pay expenses. That means that they must pass a resolution deciding that they will pay such expenses, in the case of a county council where there are only two or three people to whom it is of sufficient importance that these expenses should be paid, they will be in a very invidious position if a resolution has to be passed covering their expenses when none of the rest of the county councillors desire or require it. Surely, it would be far better to provide that any person who had incurred these expenses should have the right to recover them without any resolution from the county council.

The clause is a little grudging in other respects, because it limits the payment to expenses incurred in the discharge of functions which cover the whole of the county. Subsection (4) of Clause 49 says it shall apply to any committee appointed for the discharge of functions throughout the whole area for which the county council is charged with those functions. It may very well be that in a smaller area than the whole of the county expenses of 10s. or something of that sort may be incurred which may be a burden upon the poorer councillors, of the sort whom we on this Bench want to be able to serve and not to be deterred from serving by questions of personal expenses. That limitation, I venture to suggest, is a rather unnecessary one. That, also, we shall deal with in Committee.

Then in many places throughout the Bill power is taken to make Orders for carrying out the various provisions of the Bill, and, in particular, there is that famous clause taking for a short time a very large general power. That power may be necessary in that large and general form in a Bill so complicated for the purpose of bringing it into operation, but if so I venture to suggest to the Government something which goes a little further than the noble Earl who spoke from the Liberal Benches. I hope I shall be able to carry him with me in this. I suggest that in that, case it should not be sufficient merely to lay the Order on the Table but that it ought to be provided that there should be an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament to the Order. Such an affirmative Resolution presents no difficulty. In your Lordships' House no difficulty will arise from a merely negative Resolution being required, because no one would have any difficulty in raising a debate upon it and, if he could, in carrying a negative Resolution. But your Lordships know very well that in another place that is not so. It would be impossible in another place for a private Member who wanted to challenge one of the Orders to find or obtain time or opportunity to move a negative Resolution before the Order became effective. It is in order that he should be given an opportunity of challenging an Order that I suggest that an affirmative Resolution would be a better manner of dealing with it.

I do not wish to say much to-night on the general point of the exemptions from rating. I was struck, if I may say so, by the courage of the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack when he dealt with points that had been made upon the incidence of these exemptions. He said this is not to be looked upon as being an eleemosynary grant; this is to be looked upon as a matter of justice. To give relief to the rich, to put additional burdens upon the poor, because in the case of such things as breweries, distilleries and tobacco factories you will be putting money into the pockets of people who do not require it and have not the slightest necessity for it, while I think that none of us can doubt that sooner or later, at some time or another, as a result of these proposals, the ordinary householder, including the cottager and the labourer, will be penalised in the amount of their rates—that is not the conception that we on this Bench have of doing justice. I should be glad to hear from the noble Earl how he thinks that can be justified. We shall deal later on, by way of Amendment, with the special case of these breweries and these rich tobacco manufacturers. It does not seem to me to be beyond the wit of man to devise some plan by which the Imperial Tobacco Company and Imperial Chemical Industries should not be enriched at the expense of the public, and it does seem to me to show remarkable courage to be prepared to go to the country and to say you are doing justice by doing a thins of that sort.

The noble and learned Lord spoke-about the statesmanlike efforts and the genius of the Minister of Health in dealing with this Bill. I think he has had to direct his efforts in another place very largely to making a bad egg look like a good egg, and our view is that the longer this egg is kept the more its badness will appear. It is very difficult for this Bill to be appreciated, and although it is remarkably little understood in this country at this moment—that is only natural considering its complex character; probably only a few technical advisers to local authorities grasp what is going to happen when it is in working order—when the effect is felt and you get the ultimate increase of rates and the smaller basis for putting your rates upon, and people begin to notice their particular burden, it will not be a Bill as popular as it was expected to be when it was introduced by the Government. Everyone fears, I think, that all the valuations in the country will probably be raised, as one method of disguising the rise of rates. It will be very easy to point to the fact that the rates have not risen if you succeed in raising more money by raising the valuations. I think everyone is afraid of that.

Then, finally, you have at the end of the Bill those very remarkable provisions about transport hereditaments and the relief given to them. Those provisions seem to me to be some of the most remarkable ever produced. It appears to me to be a remarkably complex scheme, to put taxation upon one form of transport, by road, in order to subsidise another form of transport, by rail, and by that remarkable Schedule XI you are going to endeavour to make that benefit enure to particular industries in particular circumstances. Never in all my parliamentary experience have I known a more roundabout way of achieving an object, and whether you will achieve that object remains yet to be seen. Although there is much in this Bill in the matter of administration which will do good, and which might well have gone further, there is so much in it bad in principle, doubtful in working, and very unfair in its application, that I am afraid we on this Bench are quite unable to support the Second Heading.


My Lords, if my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack had not shown your Lordships, in his most able exposition of the Bill, how comprehensive a measure it is, the criticisms and comments, some friendly and some otherwise, of noble Lords would have shown it to be one of the most far-reaching measures laid before Parliament for many a long day. I have heard the Bill criticised as being complicated, lengthy, complex, and so forth, but I have never heard it before criticised as being timorous. My right hon. friend has been called rash, foolhardy and headstrong, but I never thought that, he would be accused of being timorous in this Bill. The, Bill, in the criticism which it has received in this House, has not, I think, been wholly condemned by any speaker. Even the noble and learned Lord who moved its rejection somewhat reluctantly admitted that, like the egg, part of it was excellent, and Earl Beauchamp began his speech by telling us that some of it was not bad. Even Lord Thomson, assisted by his un-staunch Conservative, who, as we all are, is a fervent admirer of the noble Marquess, had something to say for the Bill, although he compared it unkindly to an octopus, and he read to us the various attributes of that disagreeable animal.

The statesmanship of my right hon. friend Mr. Chamberlain has produced a carefully conceived measure of local government reform which touches local government on all its sides—on its financial side, its administrative side, and its legislative side—and brings it up to date and up to modern requirements; for with the exception of education local government has not been touched since 1894, and indeed most of the structure remains as erected in 1888. Noble Lords have asked me a large number of questions which I will endeavour, in the short time at my disposal, to answer to the best of my ability. Some noble Lords have indicated an intention to raise Amendments at a later stage, and so, if I do not deal at any great length with matters which will be dealt with in Committee, they will understand that it is not because of any discourtesy towards them, but because there will be a better opportunity of dealing with such matters later on.

I will take shortly the general criticism of the Bill. The first criticism is that it has been said to be too long in extent, and that it deals with too many subjects. Of course, it is a long and comprehensive Bill, and does deal with a large number of varied subjects: how can you deal with such subjects without a large and comprehensive measure? It is not so long as the Public Health Act of 1875, nor as the Local Government Act of 1888, though it is a little longer than the Local Government Act of 1894. But in spite of the criticism coming from some quarters that the Bill is too long, others of our critics would have had it a great deal longer still, and would wish it to deal with such questions as the amendment of the Consolidation Act of 1927 as well, and perhaps with other things also.

There is one other point which I think I ought to deal with and that is the extension of the bureaucratic power which the noble Earl condemns in this Bill. I would mention a circumstance which came to my knowledge the other day. I had the honour of being Chairman of the Royal Commission on Local Government, and we produced a Report which is largely embodied in Part IV of this Bill. I was speaking of that Report to a friend, a prominent county councillor. I asked him what he thought of it, and he said that he did not dislike it on the whole, but what he did not like was the way in which it was strewn with appeals to the Ministry of Health. I replied that it was impossible to help it. I said that in a Bill of this kind, which arranges for the transition of local government powers, there must be naturally disagreement between local authorities, and that if you have disagreement between two authorities you must have a third person to whom they can apply, and that obviously the third person should be the head of the Government Department entrusted with local government. I think that is generally recognised and was recognised by my friend, a very distinguished person in county council matters.

I think the best way that I can deal with this matter is to take the Bill Part by Part. The first question that I have to mention is that of the Poor Law, which was dealt with by practically every speaker. In the first place the principle of the Act of Elizabeth is not interfered with. In the Act of 1601 the unit of the parish was taken. Sparseness of population and inadequate means of communication rendered that necessary. The legislators of those days legislated well, because that provision lasted for some two hundred years, and it was not until the Act of 1835 that any alteration was made. That Act made no alteration in principle, but the unit became the union of parishes and the area of charge was spread over a larger district. Now we cannot say that the legislators of 1834 did worse than their predecessors of Elizabethan days, because I do not think anybody would contend that the difference in conditions, population, communications, and so forth, between to-day and 1834 is not as great as, if not even greater than, it was between 1834 and 1601. And we do not change the principles of 1601. As the parish of 1601 became the union of 1834, so the union of 1834 becomes in 1929 the county, the union of unions, as we might call it. In local government before 1888 there was no really cohesive policy. Much was left under the justices, many things were handed over to ad hoc bodies.

Then came the Acts of 1888 and 1894, when the system of local government crystallised. After the reform of 1894 there was only one service remaining outside the jurisdiction of the county council—and the district councils, of course, in certain cases—and that was education, which was brought into it in 1902. We simply follow the same principle, and the Poor Law is brought under the county council in the same way as education was in 1902. And the principle which we follow is the same as was followed in 1834 in regard to the Poor Law, and that is that the area of charge is spread widely, and, while the general administration and the cost are spread over the larger area, yet the detail of local control is left with the local inhabitants, who best understand it. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, said: "You are taking from the guardians with one hand and giving back with the other." To a certain extent that is true. I do not think the noble Earl particularly quarrels with the system, but rather thought that was one of the parts of the Bill which was not so bad as the others. So I need not dwell upon that.

I would like to point out that it is not only in the Poor Law that this principle is followed. It is also followed in the case of the roads. The expense and the responsibility of finance for unclassified roads will be taken over by the county council, the management will be delegated to the rural district councils, and in the case of urban councils they have, of course, considerably more powers than the rural district councils possess under the Bill. I think the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, criticised the constitution of the Guardians Committees, and said that the Guardians Committees will have no control and so but little important work to do. But if the noble Lord studies the Bill he will see that it is laid down that they have detailed control of all the relief in their area, and the only supervision which they will have will be the necessary supervision which they will be under—the financial control and the appointment of officers which will be in the hands of the county council. I think the only way in which the noble Lord's idea could be followed out would be to put the Guardians Committees in a position to raise a rate. If that happened, the utility of the county council's control would disappear. And there is another thing—the difficulty of finance, which has been alluded to so often, would not be met, because you would not then spread the area of charge. The area of charge would remain the union, or whatever takes the place of the union.

Now I think that under the Bill what will happen will be this. The Guardians Committee vis-à-vis the county council will be in the same position as a Government Department is to Parliament. The Guardians Committee will have the administration of poor relief in the same way as Government Departments administer the business entrusted to them. The financial control will be in the hands of the county council in the same way as the financial control of Departments is in the hands of Parliament. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, asked a question as regards co-opted members—would they be allowed to vote? The answer is that they would. I think that the noble Earl who leads the Liberal Party was under a misapprehension in one particular. He complained, if I understand him rightly, that the members of the Guardians Committees were appointed members and not elected persons. In a certain sense that is true. Under the Bill the elected county councillor and the elected district councillor are appointed to the Guardians Committees, but they are elected persons, and the co-opted persons are in the same position as co-opted persons on any committee set up under the Bill. But the principle of election is certainly adhered to, because two-thirds of the members of these Guardians Committees are elected persons, and only one-third co-opted.

The next point in regard to these Committees was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor. He regretted the fact that women might be squeezed out from these various Committees. Well, is that so? At the present time there are some 20,000 guardians. Nobody knows until the scheme is completed how that will compare with the numbers of the Guardians Committees. Of those 20,000 guardians 2,319 are women, that is to say, one in nine. But here is the point: at the present time, no woman has a statutory right to be on a board of guardians because she is a woman; that is to say, no board of guardians need necessarily have a woman member. Under the Bill women as women will have a statutory right to be on every one of these Committees; the Committees must co-opt a certain proportion of women. That will be settled in the scheme.


There is no proportion in the Bill?


No, there is no proportion in the Bill, but that will be settled in the scheme. But women must be on these Committees. It is a statutory obligation on every Committee to co-opt women, or, at any rate, one woman.


My point was the proportion.


Of course, I cannot answer that question now. That will be in the administrative schemes, which will be developed later on. Now I come to another point, and that is the question of the recovery of expenses. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, said he was going to move an Amendment, which we can discuss when he moves it, but I may say it is not the primary duty of the authority to exact the uttermost farthing. It is the case now that such payments should be demanded from patients as they can properly be expected to pay. It is not only in these institutions, but it is done in maternity homes and hospitals all over the country. I was, I remember, chairman of a maternity hospital in London, and the work was done by the almoner, and the payment was, I must say, very ready and free. I do not think we need anticipate that terrible pressure will be put upon patients to make payments beyond their means.

I turn to another very important question, and that in the statement, made very freely, that this Bill does not break up the Poor Law. The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, made that statement, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, also. I should like to make that quite clear. This Bill only deals with the transfer of the Poor Law powers from the guardians to the counties and county boroughs. It does not pretend to break up the Poor Law—at this time. It is intended to encourage the break-up of the Poor Law and the adoption of the transferred functions under other Acts, so far as that is possible; but it does not pretend to reform in detail the Poor Law, which was consolidated in the Act of 1927. This Bill is accused of being too long, and if you had attempted to amend the huge Consolidation Act of 1927, you would have over-weighted the Bill quite hopelessly. There is another point. If you attempted to do that now, you would not have had the advantage of being able to discuss the amendment of the Poor Law with those actually administering and responsible for it at the present time, because the guardians are now in a moribund condition and the counties and county boroughs have not yet come into their inheritance. It is recognised that the existing Poor Law and Poor Law arrangements must be discussed with a view to reform and therefore it is proposed to initiate discussions at a convenient time after the passing of this Bill with the association representing the Poor Law authorities as to what changes may be necessary in the Act of 1927. As to the question of mixed workhouses, I cannot deal with that at length. It must be left to the local authorities and to the schemes they put forward. As to institutions, the Bill will give the county councils an opportunity of reorganising the whole of the institutions within their areas. They will have not only the Poor Law institutions but those which they maintain themselves.

Now I come to the question of unemployment being a national service. The question put to me is: "Why do you not take unemployment out of the Bill altogether and deal with it as a national service?" What would happen if you did? If you had a national system of dealing with able-bodied unemployed, it would lie quite impossible to avoid a rigid bureaucratic organisation with more hard and fast rules than are necessary under the organisation proposed in this Bill. If you had a rigid bureaucratic organisation you would have to have an army of officials to administer it. There is nothing at present in existence which could do the work and you would have to create the whole machinery. Another and far greater objection is that you would have two authorities dealing with the same people. The national or central authority would deal with them when they were well or able-bodied and the local authority would deal with them when they were ill. Obviously, there is no hard and fast distinction. You cannot draw a dividing line between the sick man and the man who is well. You cannot draw a line between the same man when he is well and when he is sick. The result would be constant confusion, overlapping, delay and dissatisfaction. Lastly, there is another difficulty. In my humble opinion, it would be difficult to administer this service nationally without a return to the principle of the "dole." I do not think it would be possible to expect any Government, certainly not this Government, to consent to such a course in view of the Act of 1927 which put unemployment insurance upon a sound contributory basis.

A small point has been raised in regard to lunatics. As the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said, this Bill does not deal with lunatics. Just as we are waiting for the Act of 1927 to be amended, so we are waiting for another Bill which will deal with this question after consideration of the Report of the Royal Commission of which the noble Earl was so distinguished a member. The answer to the question he put to me is that with the duties of the guardians go their liabilities. When the duties of the guardians are taken over the maintenance of a pauper lunatic will be paid for by the county. That is covered under Clause 1.

I now come to the question of the hospitals which was so ably dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn. He was on the whole in sympathy with the measures which this Bill adumbrates. I would like to say something about the hospitals because it is borne in upon me that there is some misapprehension as to the effect the Bill will have. The Bill only makes one change in the law. That is to give the county councils the same powers possessed now by the county boroughs and county districts to establish hospitals or to subscribe to existing voluntary hospitals. Those powers were given under Section 131 of the Act of 1875. That section gave the powers to local authorities, but in those days local authorities did not include county councils for the very excellent reason that county councils did not exist until thirteen years afterwards. This Bill, therefore, merely puts county councils in the same position as county boroughs.

As to the other point mentioned by Lord Dawson, the control of institutions which the Bill gives to county councils, it gives, of course, the county councils the right and the duty to take over the existing Poor Law institutions and manage them together with those they manage themselves at the present time. They will allocate them all to the best advantage, using one for tuberculosis, another for chronic cases and so forth. As to voluntary hospitals, existing or to be established in the future, we look to the closest co-operation between them and the local authorities. We regard it as of the greatest importance that the county councils, with their new hospital activities and powers, shall work in close co-operation with the voluntary hospitals in London and everywhere else. As Lord Dawson mentioned, co-operation between voluntary hospitals and local authorities has been growing fast recently and we hope that this Bill will prosper and increase it. As to the particular point Lord Dawson mentioned, co-operation between the voluntary hospitals and the local authority is a matter to which we look forward and I am sure we shall not look forward to it in vain.

As I understand that he will put Amendments on the Paper about it, I shall not now deal with it at great length. I may say that it will be a very difficult matter to insert an Amendment on this question in the Bill so as to make a statutory provision. I should suggest that possibly the machinery of the Voluntary Hospitals' Committee constituted by the Voluntary Hospitals' Commission some years ago, which includes representatives of the hospitals, the medical men in the district and the local authorities, might be made use of. The noble Lord also spoke of co-option. He has to recognise that co-option exists on the Public Assistance Committees and is compulsory on the Guardians Committees. He wants co-option to be made compulsory in all the committees.


Will it be compulsory on the Public Assistance Committee just as it is on the Education Committee?


Perhaps it would be easier to discuss those details if he would move an Amendment. I now come to Part II of the Bill. Lord Parmoor mentioned that there was some discontent in regard to this Part. I have had the same letter as he had. There is a misapprehension. Representations have been received in regard to certain superintendent registrars. Those gentlemen will not be affected by the Bill unless they want to be. Existing officers can remain on the same basis as they are at present and no change will be made until there is actually a change of personnel. The other registrars I believe are practically all strongly in favour of the Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, said he was going to move some Amendments to this Part of the Bill, but I will not deal with them because he did not mention what they were.

Coming to the question of roads, two of the noble Lords who sit opposite were somewhat in disagreement, I think; at any rate, the unstaunch Conservative of Lord Thomson was in disagreement with that staunch member of the Labour Party, my noble friend Lord Russell.


I do not mind disagreeing with a Conservative.


I was only quoting.


The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, said, or said vicariously, that the urban districts would be overwhelmed with the duties which would fall upon them under the Bill in respect to the maintenance of roads. I would commend to the noble Lord's notice Clause 33, which gives them an opportunity of escaping from their difficulties should they wish it. Then the noble Earl, Lord Russell, told us that the urban districts have been far too well treated because certain of them were allowed to claim the management of roads.


Of main roads.


Yes. I would like to point out that all urban districts now have the right to claim. As the noble Earl is well aware, there are some which are admittedly of an unurban description and they would be allowed to claim the roads if they wished to do so. The whole of this question was examined by the Royal Commission and we made a recommendation on which this is based, that the right to claim should be still exercised by the urban districts which have a population of over 20,000. A town with over 20,000 inhabitants is a considerable place, and it ought to be able to maintain its main roads which, of course, are the streets of a town, probably the high street, in a suitable fashion in agreement with the county council. I do not think that is really a very wrong provision to make.

My noble friend Lord Russell also said: "You are going to take away from the rural districts all the duties they have to perform." But they remain responsible for the sanitation, the water and the sewage, both very important matters. They may not be visible, one doss not want them to be, but still they are none the less important. There are certain provisions in Part IV of the Bill which deal with this question of sanitation, water and sewage very minutely and which will enable those rural districts, which at present are really not able to do justice from poverty, not from want of will, but want of money, to deal with these very important questions in a right and becoming manner. All those duties are left to the rural districts. They have also the right to ask that the roads should be delegated to them and the county council cannot refuse unless there is a really good reason, either that the district does not administer the roads economically, or that they are extravagant or inefficient, which they are not very likely to be. It is only in those cases that the roads will not be left to their management.


Have the rural districts the right to insist upon the maintaining of the roads?


Certainly. They can claim under Clause 34 of the Bill, and can go to the county council and ask for delegation. It is within three months, I think, after the appointed day and after every quinquennial period.


I thought it was only permissive.


They can claim delegation and it cannot be refused unless there is good reason, and they have an appeal to the Minister of Transport. There is only one other point I want to make in regard to roads and that concerns the Road Fund, it has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, and it was mentioned the other day by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that the £3,000,000 payable from the Road Fund towards the general Exchequer contribution is not new money but old money.


Hear, hear.


The noble Earl says, "Hear, hear"; I am quoting him. This sum of £3,000,000 comes out of the Road Fund which, as the noble Earl knows, was started in 1920. In that year the Road Fund produced £8,000,000. That income is now very much larger. It has increased, and it is increasing, and it is morally certain to go on increasing. Therefore, the payment of £3,000,000 from the Road Fund to the general Exchequer contribution is clearly utilising money produced, from the source from which the Road Fund is obtained, for the purposes of the roads. It is going to the roads, and it is new money which is derived from a source of taxation which is constantly increasing.

Parts V and VI of the Bill are all that are left for me to deal with. It has been generally agreed by all speakers that the rating system is not all that it should be. That has been the opinion of many people for a very long time indeed. It was indicated so long ago as the Public Health Act of 1848. It is provided in a section of that Act that the payment, not for the Poor Rate but the general district rate, should only be one-quarter of the rateable value in regard to agricultural land, canals, railways and so forth, and that was repeated, of course, in the Act of 1875. Then there came various other Acts providing for certain exemptions and differentiations which culminated in the recent legislation dealing with agriculture, which exempted all agricultural land and buildings from the rates up to 75 per cent. That is a measure which I know had the approval of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, because he said so when it was brought in and he repeated that statement yesterday.

It is obvious, not only from what Parliament has done in legislation but also from the Reports of Royal Commissions and Departmental Committees, as well as from the strenuous representations both of employers and employed, that the rating system which obtains today is obsolete and out of date and is therefore unjust and unfair. That being the case reform is obviously demanded and this Bill produces that reform and carries it along on the same lines as have been followed in the past. We have been told that this rating reform—I insist upon the term—is a "dole" to industry. To me that description of it is really a travesty of the facts. If de-rating agriculture by 75 per cent, was a debt long due, overdue I think Lord Parmoor said, to agriculture in 1923, how can the increase of that 75 per cent, become a "dole" in 1929? I know what the noble Lord said yesterday. He said that we were exempting agriculture when we ought to classify it. Does he say that 75 per cent, is the limit of classification or does he say that so long as you keep some charge on the rates against agriculture that you are doing wisely and well; but if you exempt agriculture altogether you are doing wrong? Does he say that you may exempt agriculture from rates up to 99 and 99-100ths per cent, and that so long as you leave one-hundredth of one per cent, that is classification, but if you go to the extent of 100 per cent, you are making exemption? That is really a very fine distinction, it seems to me. I am afraid I am so obtuse that I do not understand it. But I would submit that if the de-rating of agriculture up to 75 per cent, is right, if the de-rating up to 100 per cent, would be of assistance to agriculture, then we are right in this Bill in taking the measure we have taken.

Let us take industry. Everybody agrees that the incidence of rates upon industry is unjust. If you relieve industry from an injustice how can you describe that action as giving it a "dole"? I really think that is a misdescription. I would have dwelt in referring to agriculture on the very old question—I think it has been heard a great deal of before—of who gets the benefit in the derating of agriculture, but my noble friend Lord Bledisloe has dealt with that so faithfully I do not think I need trouble your Lordships with further observations on the subject. I am asked to reply to three questions which the noble and learned Lord (Lord Parmoor) put to me yesterday. He put three questions in regard to agriculture, and at the same time he answered them entirely to his own satisfaction and said: "I shall expect you to confirm that to-morrow." I always try to do my best to oblige my noble and learned friend, but I am afraid in this instance I shall have to disappoint him. I will answer these questions by a short statement. Agriculture at the present time is suffering from the cost of production overwhelming prices. The difference between the cost of production and prices is too small, or the cost of production may even be greater than the prices realised. For that reason farmers have been obliged to reduce the costs of production. One of the means by which they have done that has been by the employment of less labour. That has been possible by putting arable land down to grass. A part of the cost of production is the burden of the rates, and another part is the burden of freight charges. This Bill will remove from those two charges (rates and freights) over £5,000,000 from the cost of production throughout the country—about £4,300,00 in rates, £800,000 in freights, and various other sums under proposals which will cheapen capital. Altogether the cost of production in agriculture will be diminished by over £5,000,000. As arable land has been reduced by the heavy cost of production and grass land has increased for the same reason, so the reduction of the cost of production will increase the amount of arable land and decrease the amount of grass land, and as arable land increases so employment will increase. I think the noble and learned Lord asked me it there would be one single acre more of arable land converted back from grass. We have had that answered by my noble friend behind me, Lord Bledisloe, and I do not think I need say anything further on that point.

With regard to Clause 65 I only want to say one thing, because my noble friend Lord Dynevor is to put down an Amendment and therefore it will be discussed later. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Parmoor) seems to be under some misapprehension. He thinks this is a new provision. It is true it has been slightly extended, but the reason of putting in this clause as it stands is that with the exception of the slight extension I have mentioned, the Act of 1894 is repealed under the Twelfth Schedule—I have got as far as twelve: the noble and learned Lord only got as far as eleven. I will not dwell on that further.

I come to the question of the relief of rates upon industry. I do not think there has been any great objection to the depressed industries receiving relief from the rates, but there have been voiced in many quarters of your Lordships' House objections on the ground that industries which are prosperous receive the same relief as those which are doing badly. Is it really contended that an industry which is well managed and prosperous, because it is well managed and because it is prosperous, should be subjected to taxation which we deem to be unjust and to be based upon obsolete conditions? Is that reasonable? Surely the proper thing to do in every case, whether it is taxation or anything else, is to put your house in order, to put your taxation upon a just basis. That is the first thing. If any particular industry is so prosperous that it will bear further taxation, that is a question which can be dealt with on its merits, but to say that because an industry is prosperous it should therefore be subjected to a bad system of taxation really is the negation of reason. The proper thing to do is to put your taxation in order and then adjust it accordingly.

I come now to another point. Why, it has been asked, should the productive and distributive industries have differential treatment? Why should not the distributive industries have the same relief as productive industries? I do not want to dwell upon this at any length because I understand Amendments will be put down, but I would like to point out that the distributive industries are on quite a different footing from the productive ones. Employment depends much more on the productive than upon the distributive industries. A shop for example, or a house, bears far more relation to the ability of the owner to pay than a factory does, and the relief given to a shop would be far less in proportion to overhead charges than the relief given to a factory.

I will not labour that point at the present time, for I must deal with the question of block grants. It has been contended that the system of block grants, especially in the case of maternity and child welfare, will militate against the efficiency of the various services. It must be remembered that the poorer districts especially will be those in which the maternity and child welfare services are most essential. Those districts are not in a position to spend a considerable amount of money upon them. In order to earn the block grant you have to spend 10s. before you get the second 10s. If you have not a large number of ten shillings to spend, then you cannot earn a high percentage on your expenditure. Under the Bill the necessitous areas, owing to the formula, which I do not think is denied, will receive a larger proportion of the general Exchequer contribution, and so, consequently, the poorer areas will be able to devote more money to maternity and child welfare and other health services than they were able to do in the past. I think it must be obvious that is so.

We have heard it said to-day that there has been too much left to their discretion. The Minister under the Bill has power to withhold grants if a reasonable standard of efficiency and progress is not maintained. The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, said that was a funny way of dealing with a recalcitrant authority—saying you will not give it the money it ought to have spent. Let us examine that a little more closely. Supposing an authority does not spend sufficient money on, say, maternity and child welfare. The Minister, I presume, would say: "You have so much in your block grant. Of that sum you ought to have spent £10,000 on maternity and child welfare You have not. You have spent it on roads or something else. This year"—and this is operative every year, there being a discretion—"we shall not give you £10,000. You will have £10,000 less. If you refuse to spend it on child welfare you shall not be able to spend it at all." That is the pressure which can be brought to bear by the Minister upon a recalcitrant authority. I do not suppose for a moment such a contingency would arise. The existence of the power would be sufficient to prevent it. If, however, the Minister had to call a recalcitrant authority in question under this clause, naturally that authority would come and argue its case and probably a satisfactory solution would be reached by negotiation, but having that clause puts a weapon in the hands of the Government and the Minister which has never existed before. I think your Lordships will see that that power is sufficient to ensure that the block grant will be spent in a proper way and that those services which we have so very much at heart will not be neglected.

One or two question were asked yesterday that I want to touch upon but which I will not deal with at length. One is an important one. That is the question of the export of coal. It has been suggested that what is proposed is a gift to foreign industry and that it will assist foreign industry to make more cheaply goods for export to this country which will compete with British goods. I wish I could give the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, more information on the subject of Belgian coal and Belgian bricks, but I cannot at the present moment. Doubtless, as the noble Lord is not going to let the subject alone, I shall be able to give an answer another time. Generally speaking—I am not touching on bricks, I leave that question in the air for the moment—it has been found after careful inquiry that the bulk of British coal exported abroad is used for purposes which do not compete with British industry very much. I should think the greatest part goes for bunkering ships, including British ships, sailing to foreign ports. Some goes to railways, some goes to electricity works, some to gasworks, and only a very small proportion to industry. British coal sold abroad has to meet very formidable competition indeed. As your Lordships are aware the French Government has given special railway rates all over northern France to its own coal, and Poland has given subsidies to export coal. But perhaps the most convincing proof that this is the best way to help the coal industry is the united demand made both by the employers and employed in the coal trade for the extension of the relief to export coal. Any of your Lordships who had the good fortune to be in the House yesterday and to hear the noble Lord, Lord Joicey, will be convinced of that fact. I think that everybody is agreed that the maintenance of the export trade is essential to the coal industry, and the stimulus given by this relief will contribute very largely to the prosperity of the coal industry.

The noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, said that it might be all very well to give a rebate to coal which is supplied to ships going foreign, but why should not a rebate be given to coal utilised in coastwise traffic. I will explain that if I may. The reason is that coast-wise traffic, although it is carried by sea, is really an internal traffic. If you were to give a rebate to coal used for bunkering coastwise ships you could not refuse to extend it also to coal used for railways in this country. Rightly or wrongly—noble Lords opposite say wrongly, we say rightly—the advantage of the rebate is only given to coal used for iron and steel. It would prejudice railway interests if you were to give a rebate for coast-wise bunker coal and not to coal used for railway engines. The noble Lord quoted the Liverpool shipowners, but I do not think that they suggested that a rebate to foreign bunker coal would prejudice coast-wise traffic. They did not complain that it would cause injury to them to give a rebate to foreign coal. Their com- plaint was that it was not extended to them.

I come now to the question of travelling expenses, and on that the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, has asked a question which I cannot answer, because it related to the Scottish Bill and that Bill is as yet on the knees of the Gods and has not yet reached your Lordships' House. When it does, we shall doubtless be able to give the noble Lord the information which he desires. On this question of travelling expenses the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, asked why it should not be taken into consideration in determining the grant. It is not proposed that the county council shall not be able to pay for travelling expenses out of the pool of the rates and the block grants, the £45,000,000 plus the £135,000,000. It only means that it will have no effect on the percentage grants which county councils will still receive. On the question of the restriction of travelling expenses only to those incurred in relation to business over the whole county, I think the reason is a very obvious one. In the case of subcommittees of county councils formed of local people they have not far to travel. The position will be the same in county boroughs. The people all live there. It will not be a question of a railway fare, say, from south Lancashire to Preston or north Lancashire to Preston.

There is only one other question with which I want to deal, and that has reference to railways. Complaint is made that private railways are not treated in the same way as public railways. That is true in a sense. The relief to public railways is pooled and the advantages are only obtained by those who use the railways for heavy traffic. That is to say, a passenger line is derated, but the advantage of that derating does not go to the passenger traffic but to heavy traffic and is passed on to the user of the railway for heavy traffic. Private lines could not pass on the advantages of the Bill. That is the answer to that question. I have taken too much of your Lordships' time and I know you wish to go to a Division. I do not want to say more than this: This is a very complicated Bill. It is one which has been thought out with the very greatest care, not only by members of the Government but by those distin- guished permanent officials who so ably support my right hon. friend. Noble Lords have expressed misgivings as to the working of the formula and other parts of the Bill, but I venture to prophesy that when history comes to be written this Bill will be classed among the great

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

reforms of local government such as those of 1888 and 1894.

On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 102; Not-Contents, 20.

Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.) Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]
Glanusk, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Bertie of Thame, V. Hanworth, L.
Elibank, V. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Argyll, D. Falmouth, V. Hawke, L.
Somerset, D. FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Howard of Glossop, L.
Wellington, D. Hambleden, V. Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.
Hood, V. Islington, L.
Bristol, M. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Jessel, L.
Lansdowne, M. Joicey, L.
Winchester, M. Novar, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Peel, V. Kylsant, L.
Airlie, E. Lamington, L.
Ancaster, E. Liverpool, L. Bp. Lawrence, L.
Birkenhead, E. Askwith, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Cawdor, E. Avebury, L. Monson, L.
Clarendon, E. Balfour of Burleigh, L. O'Hagan, L.
Cranbrook, E. Banbury of Southam, L. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Dartmouth, E. Biddulph, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Denbigh, E. Bledisloe, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Redesdale, L.
Remnant, L.
Howe, E. Clinton, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Iveagh, E. Cornwallis, L. Ruthven of Gowrie, L.
Leven and Melville, E. Cranworth, L. Saltoun, L.
Lichfield, E. Cushendun, L. Sempill, L.
Lindsay, E. Darling, L. Sinclair, L.
Lovelace, E. Daryngton, L. Strachie, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Dawson of Penn, L. Suffield, L.
Lytton, E. Desart, L. (E. Desart.) Swansea, L.
Macclesfield, E. Desborough, L. Templemore, L.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. Dynevor, L. Teynham, L.
Munster, E. Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.) Trevethin, L.
Onslow, E. Elphinstone, L. Wargrave, L.
Plymouth, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L. Warrington of Clyffe, L.
Sandwich, E. Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.) Wavertree, L.
Scarbrough, E. Faringdon, L. Wharton, L.
Spencer, E.
Beauchamp, E. Cowdray, V. Gorell, L.
Buxton, E. Hemphill, L.
Chesterfield, E. Arnold, L. [Teller.] Northington, L. (L. Henley.)
De La Warr, E. [Teller.] Bethell, L. Olivier, L.
Russell, E. Clwyd, L. Parmoor, L.
Farrer, L. Swaythling, L.
Allendale, V. Forres, L. Tenterden, L.
Thomson, L.