§ House again in Committee (according to Order): The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.
§ Clause 7:
§ Guardians committees and sub-committees.
7.—(1) In the case of a county the administrative scheme shall provide—
(c) for the discharge, subject to such general or special restrictions or conditions as the county council may from time to time impose, by each guardians committee or a sub-committee thereof of such of the functions transferred to the council under this Part of this Act as relate to the following matters—
(iii) the determination of the amount to be paid by any recipient of relief, or the persons liable for his maintenance, towards reimbursing the council the amount expended by them or his relief;
so, however, that the functions to be delegated under this subsection shall not include the appointment or dismissal of any officer:
§ Provided that upon representations made by the council of any county that special circumstances exist in that county or in any part thereof the Minister may, if he thinks fit, direct that the provisions of this section shall not apply as respects that county or part.
§ (5) The scheme shall determine the place where a guardians committee shall sit, and any local authority shall allow a guardians committee to use free of charge for the purposes of their meetings, at any time when not required for the use of the local authority, any premises belonging to the authority.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The first four Amendments, which are in the names 86 of Lord Hemphill and Lord Balfour of Burleigh, are consequential upon Amendments which have already been disposed of and therefore the first Amendment to be dealt with is that in the name of Lord Parmoor:
LORD PARMOOR moved, in subsection (1) (c) (iii), after "the determination of," to insert "whether any payment should be made," and after" amount "to insert" if any." The noble Lord said: This is, I think, an important matter, although it does not arise in acute form at this stage. We shall no doubt have a discussion later as to what payments are to be made and in what way they are to be made, but as the matter stands in the Bill, the words are:—
the determination of the amount to be paid by any recipient of relief.
I want the question also to come before what I may call the committee of guardians, who have special local knowledge, not only of the amount but whether any payment should be asked at all. I have a very strong view that the whole question of payments, whether for hospital treatment or for so-called paupers, should only be allowed within narrow limits. As a preliminary I should like the question whether payments should be made to be determined by a body which alone would have intimate knowledge of the matter—namely, the guardians committee, which supersedes the old board of guardians. I hope the noble Earl will consider this Amendment, which it appears to me for administrative purposes would distinctly improve the Bill.
Page 6, line 39, after ("of") insert ("whether any payment should be made"), and after ("amount") insert ("if any").—(Lord Parmoor.)
THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
Really I think this Amendment is only a question of drafting and not a question of substance. I do not hold myself out as an expert draftsman, but I am advised that this Amendment is really merely verbal, and would not alter the effect of the paragraph which it purports to amend. In those circumstances I hope that the noble and learned Lord will consider that his point is met.
§ EARL BUXTON
I am entirely with my noble friend in reference to this matter, but on the next clause we shall have an opportunity of discussion upon it. I do not think it would really alter the substance of the clause.
§ LORD PARMOOR
The noble Earl says my Amendment would not alter the effect of the clause. If so, surely this is a case in which lucidity of drafting might be indulged in, because I read this with extreme care and as a jurist I do not think that the interpretation which the noble Earl has put upon the clause is really expressed.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
What I said was that the words would not alter the effect of the paragraph. I do not know whether the noble Lord intended to alter its effect. Perhaps he did. My point is that a simple form of drafting should be left as it stands.
§ LORD OLIVIER
Does the noble Earl think that "the determination of the amount to be paid" can mean that no amount may be paid?
§ LORD PARMOOR
The words "the determination of the amount to be paid" surely mean that some amount is to be paid. What I want to make quite clear is that the two considerations should come forward—whether any amount should be paid and what the amount should be.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Of course, I will look into the matter, but our contention is that the effect of the paragraph would not be altered and we are disposed to think the drafting is correct as it is. It is not very wise to try to deal with details of drafting across the floor of the House, but if the noble Lord wishes me to look into a drafting point I will willingly do so.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.88
§ EARL RUSSELL moved, immediately before the proviso in subsection (1), to insert: "Provided that any person aggrieved by a decision of a guardians committee shall have the right of appeal to the Public Assistance Committee." The noble Earl said: If your Lordships will look at the last part of subsection (1) you will observe that part of the duties of the guardians committees will be the consideration and examination of applications for relief, the determination of the nature and amount of the relief to be given, and the determination of the amount to be paid as a contribution by any recipient of relief or by the person liable for his maintenance. I imagine that the cases in which the appeal that I propose will be exercised will probably not be very numerous, but there might be cases where there has been a feeling that there was perhaps some local prejudice, or some too hasty consideration of the circumstances, and where it would be desirable that a person who really felt a grievance of that kind should have the opportunity of going to the central committee, presenting his case, and getting it considered with at any rate sufficient dilution of local prejudice. It seems to me that probably the proviso might be useful in another respect—in the matter of standardising such things as rates of relief and so on, and providing some sort of general scale which would be for the guidance of guardians committees. I do not know that there is any administrative objection to it, and I hope the Amendment may be accepted, because it would lead to the removal of any feelings of injustice.
Page 7, line 7, at end insert the said proviso.—(Earl Russell.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The system which we have sought to set up under this Bill is that the area of charge should be widened to an extent which makes it fair for the whole area of Poor Law authority to bear charges equitably, and to detail the local administration to local bodies—the guardians committees, which represent to a certain extent the old guardians of the Poor Law unions. The noble Earl says that these appeals would not be very many. I think it is very difficult to be sure of that. There might be a very large number of appeals, indeed, I think it highly possible that 89 appeals would be frequent, if not constant; and if we are to secure the proper working of the machinery, it would be very difficult indeed, if not impossible, to contemplate a series of appeals from the guardians committees to a superior body. After all, the members of the guardians committees in the first place have local knowledge, and, secondly, they are local people living on the spot, and it is their business to go into the cases in detail, and to deal with them. At present there is no appeal from the boards of guardians to any superior body, but there is a power now, which will still continue, to address a complaint from anybody who feels himself aggrieved to the Minister. If the cases are not very numerous and if they are cases of real substance, that would be a method of dealing with any possible grievance. But under the Bill there is another course that an aggrieved person can take. He will be able to make a complaint to the Public Assistance Committee. Now, a complaint and an appeal may sound much the same, but they are not really the same, and they will not entail so much work upon the Public Assistance Committees.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Anybody can make a complaint. That exists at the present moment. If you introduce the machinery of appeal it will complicate the business very considerably, and I hope that your Lordships will not add this duty to the duties of the Public Assistance Committees.
When the noble Earl spoke about making a complaint I thought he meant making a complaint in some formal manner recognised by the Bill, or by some Statute. I do not know what attention he supposes is likely to be paid by the Public Assistance Committee to a casual letter from a person complaining of something that the guardians have done. They will probably say that it is a matter for the guardians, just as I should imagine the Minister would probably say that it was a matter for the discretion of the guardians if a complaint was made to him. I recognise that you are spreading the area of charge and I recognise that the old board of guardians could not 90 be interfered with in their decisions in their own areas; but I thought it was desired to create uniformity by this new scheme, and uniformity of administration as well as mere uniformity of area of charge.
If in one union there is a certain scale of relief and in another union there is a higher or lower scale of relief, that would obviously lead to a feeling of grievance and there might be numerous appeals at first. That would very soon come to an end if some simple machinery were laid down for dealing with it. Those who think there would be any harm in allowing an appeal from the decision of a guardians committee are, I believe, mistaken. I take it that if the complaint were frivolous or groundless it would be turned down out of hand. It seems to me there may be substantial cases which might well go to some tribunal which is not so entirely subject to local influence, and it may be an advantage from that point of view to have an appeal.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think the noble Earl has rather changed his argument from what I understood it to be. From what he said at first I gathered he was referring to the appeals from individuals that they had been harmed by a decision of the guardians committee.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
But in his second speech he said that they would deal with the general rate of relief in one area differently from the rate of relief in another area. That would be dealt with by the Public Assistance Committee, upon which, I imagine, the particular guardians committee would be represented. It is not the same thing as an individual appeal from some person who thinks he ought to have more relief than he has got. The guardians committee would deal with that and would make such arrangements as were necessary. If a person who says: "I ought to have some more relief," could go to the Public Assistance Committee, any system which would permit that would involve, a very large amount of work. I do not think you could help having a constant series of appeals from people who thought that they ought to be rather better treated by the guardians committee. I think probably all of us would be in that position if we were given assistance from any public body. 91 We should imagine that they had not given us as much as they ought to have done—for instance, the Income Tax Commissioners or any one else. I think we should all feel like that. Supposing you have a really bad case, the person who is aggrieved complains and says that so-and-so has happened, it becomes public property and the newspapers take it up. I think that would be a safeguard against any real abuse or injustice.
The noble Earl rather disarms me with his last argument, but I understand that the matter in that case will be left like this—that if A. B., an applicant, does seriously and honestly think that he has been treated with gross injustice the only remedy left to him is to write a letter to the Minister.
Or to the Public Assistance Committee. I am sure the noble Earl does not represent to your Lordships that that is a remedy which will be of very much use to him.
THE EARL or ONSLOW
It is more than he has at present. At present the guardians have the last say unless there is a complaint to the Minister. Now a person will be able to complain to the Public Assistance Committee, and if he does not get satisfaction there he cancarry it further to the Minister.
Yes; my only suggestion is that they are both loaded with blank cartridge. However, I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, in subsection (5), after the first "committee," to insert "and any sub-committee thereof." The noble Earl said: This is not quite a drafting Amendment. The effect is to require the local authorities to allow the free use of their premises for meetings not only of the guardians committees but of their sub-committees. It is very important that these facilities should be available. I beg to move.
Page 7, line 38, after ("committee") insert ("and any sub-committee thereof").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.92
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, in subsection (5), after the second "committee," to insert "or any sub-committee thereof." The noble Earl said: This Amendment is not quite drafting. Its object is to make it necessary for a scheme to determine the place of meeting not only of guardians committees but of their subcommittees.
Page 7, line 39, after ("committee") insert ("or any sub-committee thereof").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 8:
§ Approval of schemes.
§ 8.—(1) As soon as an administrative scheme has been submitted to the Minister, the council submitting the scheme shall publish in one or more newspapers circulating in their area a notice stating that the scheme has been so submitted and that a copy thereof is open to inspection at a specified place, and that representations thereon may be made to the Minister within four weeks after the publication of the notice, and in the case of a scheme submitted by a county council shall send a copy of the scheme to the council of each district wholly or partly within the county.
§ (2) No scheme so submitted to the Minister shall be of any effect unless and until it is approved by the Minister, and the Minister, after considering any representations with respect to the scheme which may be submitted to him within four weeks after the publication of such notice as aforesaid by any local authorities and other parties who appear to him to be interested, and after consultation (if and so far as the scheme relates to education) with the Board of Education, may approve the scheme with or without modifications.
VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved to insert in subsection (2):—
Provided that where the Minister proposes to modify a scheme the modified scheme shall not be approved except after a local inquiry unless all the local authorities concerned consent.
§ The noble Viscount said: Clause 3 is somewhat similar to Clause 8. In Clause 3 there is a proviso similar to the one I have placed on the Paper. It may be that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill has some good explanation of this, in which case I should not trouble your Lordships any further. I beg to move.
Page 8, line 41, at end insert the said proviso.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
If your Lordships accept this Amendment and add it to the Bill it will prevent the Minister from modifying a scheme which has been submitted for his approval, until he has held a public inquiry. The noble and learned Lord behind me told your Lordships, I think, yesterday, that one of the great difficulties we have to contend with in bringing this Bill into force is that of time. County councils have to submit their schemes not later than six months after the passing of the Bill; that is to say, some time in September or October probably of this year. If there is any exceptional case where it may be necessary that the time shall be extended the clause referred to in the Bill provides for four weeks' delay during which representations can be made to the Minister. It is only after these representations have been made and after everything has been received by him that the scheme can be approved.
It will be clear to your Lordships that it would be an absolute physical impossibility to undertake to hold local inquiries in all cases in which there may be some prima facie ground for modification suggested in the representations the Minister will receive during those four weeks. It is necessary to get the schemes approved so as to enable the county councils to prepare their arrangements in order that the Bill may be brought into operation on the appointed day, that is to say, on April 1, 1930. If necessity should arise and it should be obviously desirable that it should be pressed and, indeed, that the Minister should agree—I imagine that if it was really necessary the Minister would not withhold consent unreasonably; I cannot imagine that he would for a moment—there is nothing whatever to prevent a local inquiry being held. But, generally speaking, for the chronological reasons I have given your Lordships such procedure as is suggested by the noble Viscount in his Amendment would not really be possible. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will accept the Bill as it stands.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9 agreed to.
§ Clause 10 [Disqualifications]:
§ EARL DE LA WARR moved to add the following subsection:—"(4) for the pur- 94 poses of this section, poor relief shall not include relief on loan." The noble Earl said: Clause 10 deals with the point of the disqualification of paupers from sitting on county councils. In that clause there are a certain number of exceptions and this Amendment proposes to add another. It is generally known, of course, that a great number of unemployed men to-day have, during certain periods of the year and owing to gaps in the present unemployment insurance system, to go temporarily on to the rates. A great number of those do not receive a permanent gift of relief; they receive relief on loan; and it is proposed by this Amendment to exempt these men from the disqualification of sitting on county councils and on the sub-committees of county councils. I think your Lordships will agree that this is a very reasonable Amendment in view of the fact that the vast majority of these men are not paupers at all, but are simply men who are temporarily hard-up, have borrowed money from the local authorities end are liable to pay those local authorities back. Those men who have had a short term of ill-luck are just as suited to sit on public bodies as any one else. I beg to move.
Page 10, line 17, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Earl De La Warr.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Government ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment. Clause 10 is designed to reproduce towards members of county councils and other bodies which are now going to be responsible for the administration of poor relief the existing disqualificaton which affects boards of guardians. The principle, as I understand it, is that it is undesirable that persons should be qualified to sit on public bodies when they have been in the immediate past, or when they may at the time actually be, in the position of receiving relief from those public bodies. That objection is just as strong whether the relief is given by way of gift or by way of loan, which may, or may not, ever be repaid. With regard to what the noble Earl has said that the fact that they have received relief ought not to disqualify them, of course it does not disqualify them permanently. All that the clause provides is that if they are actually receiving, or have been 95 in receipt of within twelve months before the date of the election, Poor Law relief then they cannot become members of the county council. Whether they receive the relief by way of loan or by way of gift seems to us to make no difference in principle, and therefore we ask your Lordships not to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I should like to call the attention of the noble and learned Lord to one matter. At the present time Poor Law relief does not affect in the sense of disqualification a person wishing to become a county councillor. If noble Lords will look at the proviso in subsection (1) they will see it is in these words:—Provided that a person who is at the date of the commencement of this Act a member of any such council and has received poor relief before that date, shall not be thereby disqualified for being such a member.Therefore, this is a new disqualification so far as the county council is concerned. I very much object to any extension of disqualification on the ground of poverty. I agree with the noble Earl who moved the Amendment that poverty is the result of misfortune. Misfortune is the ordinary cause which produces poverty, and should not in itself be a disqualification. It is no longer a disqualification in many directions. Of old it was always a disqualification when we had a property basis for our electoral system. Now that time has gone by, and there is no reason why poor men should be in any different position as regards the county council from a rich man; in fact, in my view, every inducement should be given to him to become a member of a county council.
The basis of the noble and learned Lord's argument is this. He says that the county council will now take part—it only takes a part—in the distribution of Poor Law relief, and it is only extending the present disqualification which applies to boards of guardians. Surely that, is not so. The county council's business is a great deal different from that of the board of guardians. It includes tens and hundreds of subjects with which the board of guardians have nothing whatever to do—some of them most important questions of local government. What the noble Earl who proposed the Amendment has said is that in those circumstances, having regard to the fact that the change that is being made is to the disadvantage of a poor man 96 who otherwise could become a county councillor, any one who only receives relief in the nature of a loan ought not to come under the disqualification. That seems to me to be reasonable.
The noble Earl is quite right, as everyone knows who is accustomed to these matters; the relief is very probably only temporary, and is something which has been brought about by bad conditions of employment or by something quite outside the control of the particular working man. Many a person of that kind may be a most excellent county councillor. I am, sure in many cases he would be and would do admirable work for the county; yet, if he gets temporary relief in this way, he is to be disqualified. It is a new disqualification and I very much object to the extension of the old disqualification to this class of man. While I dislike disqualification altogether, it would be very much mitigated if the noble Earl's Amendment were accepted. I hope the Lord Chancellor will reconsider the decision he has come to.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12:
§ Repeal of 5 Edw. 7. c. 18.
§ 12. The Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905, shall, as from the appointed day, be repealed, but the Minister may, on such repeal taking effect, make such orders as were by section eight of that Act authorised to be made on the expiration of the period for which that Act as originally enacted was to continue in force, and any such order may provide for applying, subject to the necessary adaptations, to officers appointed under the said Act the provisions of this Act as to the transfer and compensation of officers.
§ EARL RUSSELL moved to leave out all words after "The Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905, shall, as from the appointed day," and to insert "have effect as if in the Act the London County Council were substituted for the London Unemployed Body as the authority under the Act for the County of London, and as if the council of a county or county borough had been made the authority under the Act for a county or county borough, respectively." The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will recollect that some discussion took place yesterday about the Unemployed Workmen Act of 97 1905, which it is proposed by Clause 12 to repeal. The principal object of this Amendment is to object to that repeal and to substitute for the repeal provisions which might take effect under that Act. It is to strike out all the words after "day" in line 36 so as to insert the words on the Paper. We do not think that the value of the Unemployed Workmen Act of 1905 is entirely spent, as the noble Earl seemed to think yesterday. We think it may be of some useful purpose in this matter. Therefore I beg to move this Amendment.
Page 10, line 36, leave out from ("day") to the end of the clause and insert the said words.—(Earl Russell.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
As the noble Earl said, we did have some discussion upon this particular point yesterday. I need not elaborate the arguments which I ventured to submit to your Lordships on that occasion. After we had discussed the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, yesterday, we came to another Amendment with reference to which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, used language which made me rather surprised that he should have continued with this Amendment. I ventured to suggest to him that it was very desirable that the functions of all the authorities should be co-ordinated, and on an Amendment which dealt with the payment of expenses in certain cases I ventured to use the argument that it was very desirable that these powers should be worked through one body like the County Councils Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, and so on. This Amendment proposes to retain the functions under the Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905, and I suggest to your Lordships and to the noble Earl, if he will forgive me for doing so, that by maintaining that Act he would simply be creating duplicate machinery.
The bodies working under the Act of 1905 had two main functions—one, the measurement of the existence and extent of unemployment at any time; and the other, the provision of relief works. That, I think, we discussed yesterday. Now the first function has been taken over by the Ministry of Labour. Of course, the Ministry of Labour did not exist when the Act of 1905 was passed, but before the Ministry of Labour was created, as your Lordships will remember, the Board 98 of Trade created labour exchanges and those particular functions under the Act were performed by the Ministry of Labour and the labour exchanges. The second function is replaced by a system of giving grants directly to councils which are able to put relief works into operation. Then there was another body which was also referred to yesterday, which had the power of assisting emigration, and those powers included training men for the careers they were likely to follow abroad. The councils of counties and county boroughs had limited powers under the Act of 1888 of assisting emigration. The whole of these powers under the Unemployed Workmen Act and the other powers I have mentioned will be centralised in the hands of one body, and I venture to think that that is really the best solution of this problem. The noble Earl did not mention it, but perhaps he had in mind the work of the Hollesley Bay Colony. That is the only surviving activity of the Central Unemployed body that will be transferred en bloc to the county council. In the circumstances I venture to hope that your Lordships may consider that the scheme proposed in the Bid will really meet the case.
I do not quite know why the noble Earl should accuse me of objecting to co-ordination, because if he looks at the Amendment he will see that it proposes that the whole of these powers should be transferred to the county council. I only suggested that the powers might be worth preserving. I understand the noble Earl to say now that county councils will have these powers as to relief work, and such grants as are proper for carrying them out.
THE EARL 0F ONSLOW
Might I just add that as I understand the Amendment he would drive a horse in each hand instead of driving a pair.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 12 agreed to.99
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, after Clause 12, to insert the following new clause:—
§ Consultation by councils of counties and county boroughs with bodies representing voluntary hospitals.
§ ".The council of every county and county borough shall make such arrangements as they think desirable for securing that the functions transferred to them under this Part of this Act with respect to the provision of hospital accommodation will be discharged after consultation with such body, if any, within the county or county borough as they consider to represent the voluntary hospitals in the area."
§ The noble Earl said: In accordance with the undertaking I gave to the noble and learned Marquess last night, I beg to move the clause standing on the Paper in my name. There was a mistake in the Marshalled List of Amendments as printed, and words which the noble Lord, Lord Dawson, had put down were attributed to me. The Amendment has been corrected in Papers which are at the disposal of your Lordships. I only mention that in case any of your Lordships should be under a misapprehension. I beg to move the Amendment as it stands on the Paper, subject to the undertaking which I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Dawson, that on the Report stage I would add words to provide for consultation, not only with the representatives of voluntary hospitals in the district—that is, in the county or county borough—but also with the medical and surgical staffs of the voluntary hospitals. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, suggested that we might deal with the Amendment to-day, but that, I think, would be rather hurrying matters. The noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, suggested yesterday that he had had very little time for considering it and I should like this Amendment to have the fullest consideration. Therefore, I would beg your Lordships to allow me to postpone any further observations until the Report stage.
Page 10, after Clause 12, insert the said new clause.—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
There is one observation I should like to make, and that is that during the discussion yesterday it was made quite clear that there were words which required further consideration. The noble Earl said at 100 the end of that discussion that he would consider it before the Report stage. I am not asking for anything more. The clause was only put down yesterday, and I made one suggestion in particular, which was that the words "consider to represent" are very unsatisfactory, and that it might be better to put in words such as "as represents the voluntary hospitals" or "representative of the voluntary hospitals of the area." The point that I am a little anxious to make clear is that it must be a body that is representative. I am quite satisfied if the noble Earl states that he will undertake to consider the language of the clause between now and the Report stage, but it is a little difficult to accept it as it stands.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
One of the objects I had in suggesting postponement was that I had not had time to consider the clause. Of course, any observations which have fallen from your Lordships to-day or yesterday will receive most careful attention.
One point that I would ask to be taken into consideration is in regard to the words "within the county or county borough" and also the words "represent the voluntary hospitals in the area." I would suggest that these words "within" and "in" would hardly carry out the intention of the clause. Hospitals, particularly those with medical schools attached, have fairly definite spheres of influence, but they very seldom march with the boundaries of a county or of a county borough. I would ask that in reconsidering the wording of the clause these words should be taken into consideration.
§ LORD DAWSON OF PENN had given Notice to move as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to add the words: "and with any body existing in the area which is so constituted as to be representative of the duly qualified medical practitioners and of the medical and surgical staffs of the voluntary hospitals in the area." The noble Lord said: The noble Earl opposite has brought forward a new clause in order, as I understand, to meet the widely expressed wishes of your Lordships in regard to the representation of voluntary hospitals in cases where reorganisation is going to take 101 place. It will be within the memory of your Lordships that the noble and learned Lord opposite showed pretty clearly that the words of the clause were worth very little. The noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, has stated that he wishes to reserve his approval of the language. It seems to me perhaps a little illogical to proceed with a clause which does not satisfy those whom it is designed to satisfy. As the noble Earl opposite has stated that he has not had time to reconsider the language of this clause, I would suggest to your Lordships that it is unwise to commit yourselves to a wording which admittedly does not meet the wishes of those who desire the voluntary hospitals to be taken into account. Would it not be better to reconsider the whole matter? If the noble Marquess thinks otherwise, I am prepared to defer to his greater experience.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
Perhaps the noble Lord will permit me to say that I would prefer to have the clause inserted now in accordance with what was said by the noble Earl. I am quite content with the statement of the noble Earl that he will reconsider the language of the clause before we get to the Report stage. When the Bill comes up for that stage the clause will be in it and it will be open to us to make any suggestions that we desire with the object of strengthening or clarifying it. That seems to me to be the best course to take in regard to this particular clause, though I quite agree that it does not touch the Amendment of the noble Lord who has just spoken.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I was under an obligation to the noble Marquess to bring this clause in. Your Lordships thought that the clause required reconsideration, and I gave an undertaking that it would be reconsidered, but I have not yet been able to reconsider it, and therefore I cannot offer any further opinion at present. I am in your Lordships' hands.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I quite accept what the noble Earl has said. I do not' think that there is any difference of opinion between us. This is really a question of procedure, and it seems to me that it would be much better and more convenient that the clause, as now drafted, should be in the Bill and should 102 be considered with the Bill on the Report stage. We can then reconsider any questions that arise upon the language or upon the extent of the powers given. There is no danger that it may be said that I had accepted the clause and had therefore debarred myself from any futher comment upon it. That is impossible now, in view of what took place yesterday and of what the noble Earl has told us to-day.
§ LORD DAWSON OF PENN
I fully accept the judgment of the noble Marquess in this matter. I will pass on to the concluding remarks which the noble Earl opposite was good enough to make. He told us yesterday that ho would try to find words which would meet the words of my Amendment. I would only remind him, since he said just now that he would try to meet me on the question of the representation of the medical and surgical staffs of hospitals, that this is not all that is wanted. We want a body "representative of the duly qualified medical practitioners and of the medical and surgical staffs of the voluntary hospitals." I point that out as a reminder to the noble Earl. I would only add that the people who are concerned with hospitals in this connection and have experience of them number something like 30,000, whereas those who are concerned with whole-time administrative duties, the medical officers of health and other whole-time officials, number only something like 1,700.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I take it that the noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn, does not move his Amendment to the Amendment to-day.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 13 [Consequential amendments to certain Acts]:
LORD STRACHIE moved to insert as a new subsection:—
(6)Subsections (1) (2) and (3) of section 29 and section 31 of the Poor Law Act, 1927, which confer upon the Minister powers with regard to the appointment, payment and tenure of office of Poor Law officers, shall as from the appointed day cease to have effect.
§ The noble Lord said: I am moving this Amendment on behalf of the County Councils Association. I may say, on behalf of that association, that we very 103 much appreciate the conciliatory way in which the Minister met us on a good many points, but there are certain points in this Bill which could not be discussed in the House of Commons on account of the "guillotine" and we think that they should be brought before your Lordships' House. This Amendment proposes that certain sections of the Poor Law Act, 1927, shall cease to have effect. Without consulting that Act, one might be under the impression that it is a piece of recent legislation and is applicable to present conditions, but, as a matter of fact, it is a consolidating Act referring to many old Acts of Parliament dealing with boards of guardians.
I venture to say that it is a very different thing to apply these restrictions to county councils and to apply them to boards of guardians. I will not trouble your Lordships with the whole of Section 29 of the Act of 1027, but I will quote from it certain of the words which we particularly dislike. It says:—
The Minister may define the duties to be performed by officers, and the limits within which officers are to act in the performance of their duties, and direct the mode of appointment and determine the continuance in office or dismissal of officers and…may, if he thinks fit, regulate the amount of their salaries and the time and mode of payment thereof.
This may have been very proper for boards of guardians but I venture to think that the many noble Lords in this House who are members of county councils will agree that it would hardly be the right way to treat those councils. It would put them in a very inferior position and would leave them very little power over the payment and dismissal of their own officers. It would be quite contrary to the present position enjoyed by the county councils. I pass on to Section 31 which says:—
The Minister may, by order, either upon or without any suggestion or complaint in that behalf from the board of guardians, remove or suspend any paid officer of the board whom he considers unfit for or incompetent to discharge his duties, or who at any time refuses or wilfully neglects to obey and carry into effect any rules, orders…
and so on. That is hardly a right obligation to put upon the members of county councils, which are large and important bodies and ought not to be put in the same position as small boards of guardians.
Perhaps the noble Earl will say that the Minister ought to have some power. He will have a great deal of power, because I do not propose to touch Section 30 of the Act of 1927. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to read that section, which gives great power to the Minister and will now become applicable to the county councils. It runs:—
If a board of guardians fail for a period of twenty-eight days after receipt of a requisition from the Minister in that behalf to appoint…any officer whom they are lawfully required to appoint, the Minister may, at any time after the expiration that period, by order, appoint a fit person to be such officer, and determine the salary or remuneration to be paid to him by the board.
I venture to think that, even if Sections 29 and 31 are struck out, the Minister will still have very great powers and will be able to control the county councils if they do anything that is unreasonable. As regards the general principle that county councils should be masters in their own house, I am sure that those of your Lordships who are members of county councils will agree with me that it would not be very dignified for great bodies like county councils to be put in the position in which they will be if the two sections to which I have referred remain in force. I beg to move.
Page 11, line 42, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Strachie.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
On the Second Reading debate I ventured to lay some stress upon the principle or principles which had guided the Government in drafting this measure. One of those principles was that we should not attempt at the present moment to reform the Poor Law as it stands in the Consolidation Act of 1927, that we should not attempt to deal with it in detail but only to deal with the transfer of the existing Poor Law powers and duties to the county councils and county boroughs. I ventured also to say to your Lordships that it had always been contemplated that when the new authorities had acquired experience of their new duties, and had thorough knowledge of the working of the Act of 1927, and the regulations which the Minister is under an obligation to issue, in order to fill in the general details of the scheme, 105 then would be the moment for discussing any Amendment of the Act of 1927 with the new authorities; but that we could not contemplate in this Bill an Amendment of the details of the Act of 1927.
The proposal which my noble friend Lord Strachie puts before your Lordships is scarcely one of detail. It is one of principle almost; it affects the principle of the Act of 1927. The noble Lord said that that was only a Consolidation Act, but when you have a Consolidation Act it represents the considered opinion of Parliament for many years—in this case something like 300. I now come to the difficulty which the Act of 1927 in this respect seeks to cover. The noble Lord has told us, and I agree with him, that county councils should be masters in their own house, but they should be masters to deal with those duties which Parliament has entrusted to them. In this case the Poor Law service differs from other services in the hands of county councils. In every other case except Poor Law the local authorities are responsible for the administration of the services entrusted to them.
Now the Poor Law services are entrusted definitely by Parliament to the Minister who, under the Act of 1927, is charged with the direction and control of all matters relating to Poor Law relief throughout En land and Wales. The Minister is responsible for seeing that the pauper is not ill-treated, and is responsible for the control or policy of the local Poor Law administration, and he does that by regulation, and the security of tenure of officers is assured by Section 29. The power of the Minister over officers is one which is necessary to him to enable him to carry out the responsibility which the Act of 1927 places upon him, and I do not think it is possible to accept the Amendment. If we did, we should be cutting at the root of the principle which guided the Government in drafting the Bill—namely, that we
§ should not interfere with the general principle of the working of the Act of 1927. Therefore I am unable to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD STRACHIE
I cannot say that I am at all satisfied with the reply given by the noble Earl, who seems to think as regards this question of dealing with officers that it is the most important power that could be handed over to the county councils. He talks as if that was the only thing which mattered, but I would venture to remind him that under this Bill very large powers are handed over to the county councils and to the borough councils which I should have thought were a great deal more important than the question of salaries. I cannot agree with the noble Earl that we are justified in handing over to the county councils and borough councils the whole of the powers of the boards of guardians except these particular powers, and I must press my Amendment.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I must have entirely failed to make myself clear to my noble friend. I did not say that this was the most important matter. I said that it was a very important point to enable the Minister to undertake his duties and responsibilities to Parliament. If you accept this Amendment and alter the Bill in this way, you will alter the Act of 1927 in details which will affect the responsibility, or at any rate the security for carrying out the responsibility, which the Minister possesses, and that is a matter which we cannot accept on this Bill. As regards the other duties, I agree that they are very important duties, but they come within the general scope of the Bill, which is to transfer duties from the guardians to the county councils and the county boroughs.
§ On Question, Whether the said new subsection shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 78.107
|Fortescue, E.||Aberconway, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Lindsay, E.||Deramore, [Teller.]||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Forester, L.||Strachie, L. [Teller.]|
|Northbrook, E.||Hindlip, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Hailsham, L. (L, Chancellor.)||Yarborough, E.||Desborough, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Astor, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Chaplin, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Churchill, V.||Greenway, L.|
|Bath, M.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Hood, V.||Harlech, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Harris, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Islington, L.|
|Cromer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Younger of Leckie, V.||Jesse], L.|
|Airlie, E.||Worcester, L. Bp.||Kylsant, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Marshall of Chipstead, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Askwith, L.||Monson, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Avebury, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Banbury of Southam, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Carson, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Halsbury, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Cornwallis, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Cranworth, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Cushendun, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Danesfort, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Darling, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Daryngton, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Dawson of Penn, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Spencer, E.||de Clifford, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Wharton, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 13 agreed to.
§ Clause 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 15:
§ Recovery of expenses.
§ 15.—(1) As from the appointed day not shall be the duty of the council of every county and county borough and of every other local authority to recover from any person who has been maintained by them in any institution, other than a person who has become an inmate of an institution for the purpose of receiving treatment for infectious disease, or from any person legally liable to maintain that person, the whole of the expenses incurred by the council or authority in the maintenance of that person, or, if the council or authority are satisfied that the persons from whom the expenses are recoverable cannot reasonably, having regard to their financial circumstances, be required to pay the whole of those expenses, such part, if any, of the expenses as they are in the opinion of the council or authority able to pay.
§ (2) Any expenses recoverable under this section shall, without prejudice to any other remedy, be recoverable summarily as a civil debt.
(3) For the purposes of this section—
Institution" means any hospital, maternity home or other residential institution accommodation wherein is provided by the council of a county or county borough or other local authority under
the powers conferred by the Public, Health Acts, 1875 to 1926, or the corresponding enactments relating to London, the Local Government Act, 1888, as amended by this Act, or the Maternity and Child Welfare Act, 19l8.
The expenses incurred by the council or authority in providing for the maintenance of a person in an institution shall, in respect of each day of maintenance in the institution, be deemed to be a sum representing the average daily cost per patient of the maintenance of the institution and the staff thereof and the maintenance and treatment of the patients therein.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved to leave out subsection (1). The noble Lord said: The subject matter of this clause is very important. The clause deals with hospital treatment, and in my view you should encourage hospital treatment, and encourage the poor to resort to hospital treatment at an early stage, in order that they may get the full advantage of all that medical and surgical science can do for them. That is the effect of the present system of our great voluntary hospitals. The effect of this subsection is to impose upon the county council, who for this purpose are an administrative body, an obligation to recover from any person who has been maintained in any hospital the incidental expenses incurred. That is a very harsh measure, 109 and it is just the sort of thing which will prevent people who ought to go for hospital treatment, and for whom hospital treatment is really provided, from taking advantage of it.
§ May I remind the Lord Chancellor of the present position of the voluntary hospitals? They have no power to recover charges in respect of patients who have applied to them for medical or surgical assistance. That is a well known legal principle. All that they can do, when any one is brought into the hospital whose position in life is such that he can afford to make an adequate payment, is to ask him to pay. That is natural enough, but there is no compulsion of any sort. The hospital with which I am connected is St. Bartholomew's, one of the great hospital institutions of this country. I forget how many patients we deal with in a year—I think the number exceeds 100,000 at any rate. There is no question there of any payment being enforced. A man, however poor, comes in and receives exactly the same treatment as a millionaire; the whole of medical and surgical science is at his disposal, and there is no other way in which any person who is ill can get the same measure of scientific treatment. In those circumstances surely you ought not to put upon a local authority like a county council, which, after all, is the administrative authority and the authority immediately dealing with these matters, the obligation—because it is an obligation—to recover all charges (I do not see any limitation) from the patient; and not only from the patient but from "any person legally liable to maintain that person."
§ I have not the slightest notion what that means. Does it mean a Common Law liability? I do not know of any such Common Law liability, or, as regards any other liability, any power to make a charge of that kind. The person who is legally liable to maintain is not liable for all the expenses but only for some specified part of them. I should like to say, and the noble Earl will no doubt have it in his mind, that where this same matter is dealt with in the Public Health Act, 1875—it has been dealt with for a long time now—there is no possibility of making any person legally liable to maintain the patient also liable for the hospital expenses whatever they may be. 110 So far as I know this is novel with regard to hospital expenses. But my objection goes far beyond that. The object of this Bill is to improve the Poor Law. It does not mean to break up the Poor Law; it does not pretend to do that. But it ought to open all facilities and at least the same advantages as can be obtained from the voluntary hospitals, and all surgical and medical appliances known at the present time, for the advantage of the poor patient. Can any one really dispute that?
There is one rather curious exception in this case about which, perhaps, the noble Earl will tell me whether I am right? In subsection (1) these words appear:—
other than a person who has become an inmate of an institution for the purpose of receiving treatment for infectious disease.
I think the only two infections diseases aimed at there are venereal disease and tuberculosis. Some of these matters are technical. I am sure the noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I know those are the only two exceptions. Why should there be those exceptions? I think the exception here is the right principle to follow throughout, and that the poor man should be encouraged and everything should be done to invite him to go to a hospital at an early stage of the disease, in order that the public health of the mass of the people of this country may be maintained at the highest possible level.
With regard to the further part of subsection (1), I am bound to say that I disagree with the whole principle of it and the words in which it is stated. It says—
… if the council or authority are satisfied that the persons from whom the expenses are recoverable cannot reasonably, having regard to their financial circumstances, be required to pay the whole of those expenses…
they are still to be required to pay such part, if any, as in the opinion of the council or authority they are able to pay. Just consider what that means. I happen to have been a member of a county council for twenty-five years, and I will assume that a question of this kind is coming before the council. There is no option. They may say: "This is a terrible case. The man ought certainly to have gone for hospital treatment when
he did and he ought to have been encouraged to go for it. It is for everyone's advantage and it is a blessing that the treatment has proved to be successful." "The poor fellow is without resources, so what are you going to do? Are you going to make him bankrupt, or take steps against him because he has taken advantage of hospital treatment, to which I think he is entitled, or are you going to do the same with regard to some other person who is said to be liable to maintain him? I take a very strong view indeed of this clause, and I say it is contrary to the whole principle of the treatment of poor people by hospital measures and ought to be deleted. That is the reason why I propose that the subsection shall be omitted.
§ As a matter of practice, this matter being in the hands of the guardians, there is never an attempt to recover expenses at the present time. Conditions are such that even to suggest such a thing in the circumstances is the very way to create misery and poverty. And so far from making this Bill a Bill of reform it would be in this respect a Bill of reaction of a cruel kind. I think that many provisions in this Bill are of advantage, because the enlarged areas and so on may allow of better administration. But why should this blot be introduced? I ask your Lordships to support me in getting rid of it. I ask your Lordships whether it is your opinion that a poor man ought to be put under a disability by a threat of having expenses imposed upon him which he cannot pay or for which some other person may be liable, when all the science and knowledge of the country ought to be open to him both for his own recovery and for what is still more important—maintaining at a high level the health of all persons in the country, especially including those of the poorer classes. I beg to move.
Page 13, lines 6 to 20, leave out subsection (1).—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Lord wound up his impassioned appeal by asking your Lordships to say whether the poor man ought to be put under a disability by the threat of being asked for expenses which he cannot pay. If that was the question—which your Lordships had to determine, I imagine you would have very little 112 doubt as to the answer. But the question has no relation whatever to the Amendment. Let me explain to your Lordships in a few sentences the reason for the clause having regard to the existing law. Under the existing law guardians are under a statutory obligation to recover from persons to whom they supply relief and from persons who are legally liable to maintain those persons the cost of providing that relief. The noble and learned Lord said that he did not know who were the people legally liable to maintain others. The answer, of course, is their parents and grandparents. But that is only by the way. I think the noble and learned Lord will remember when he thinks for a moment——
§ LORD PARMOOR
What I referred to was not that, which is quite accurate; but the question of the liability to pay towards the expenses of hospital treatment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
the expression is not legally liable to pay for the expenses of hospital treatment, but legally liable to maintain that person.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Lord said that he did not understand the phrase. I am only reminding him that the phrase has a perfectly well known meaning in law. The persons who are legally liable to maintain are the parents and the grandparents. The noble and learned Lord said that those persons were not legally liable to pay their hospital expenses. That, if he will forgive me saying so, is not universally true. The position is this. To-day, if guardians provide relief to a pauper, whether it be in the form of relief in an infirmary or in a workhouse, the person who receives that relief and those legally liable to maintain that person are liable for the cost of the relief so provided, and the guardians are under a statutory obligation to recover that sum from those paupers and the persons legally liable to maintain those paupers. Your Lordships will remember that under a series of Acts, of which the Public Health Act was referred to by the noble and learned Lord, power is given nowadays to county councils to provide cer- 113 tain hospital benefits apart altogether from the Poor Law institutions. One of the main purposes of the Bill is to consolidate and centralise that provision, and to encourage county councils, where they have the power either to provide hospital treatment under the Poor Law or to provide it under the special Acts of Parliament which are set out in Clause 5, to use the powers of Clause 5 rather than the Poor Law power, but it is open to them to use the latter if they like.
If this clause were omitted, as is now suggested, the result would be this. Wherever a county council chose to exercise its Poor Law power—the power transferred from the guardians—to provide hospital treatment for poor persons, they would be under the same statutory obligation that the guardians are under now to recover the cost from the persons so treated in that hospital. On the other hand, if they chose to provide a hospital not under their Poor Law powers but under other Acts of Parliament, then, unless this clause exists, they would not be under any obligation to recover the cost. The result would be that, in two adjoining areas of two county councils, one sets up a hospital exercising the Poor Law power and is bound to recover the cost, while the other county council sets up its hospital under one of its other statutory powers and, unless this clause is retained, is under no obligation to recover the cost. That is the anomaly. It would not even stop there. Supposing a county council set up a hospital under its Poor Law power and sent there a destitute person—a pauper—then presumably it would be supplying relief to a pauper and it would have to recover the cost if possible. Next door, in the same hospital, in the same ward, perhaps in the adjoining bed, lies somebody who has ample means to pay. Because he was not a pauper the county council would be under no obligation to recover any part of the cost. That seems to me an indefensible, anomaly.
It is not true to say that under this clause county councils are bound to threaten destitute persons—threaten the poor people—in order to recover expenses which they cannot pay. The provision in the clause is not that the county council shall in all circumstances exact the cost of the maintenance of any one 114 who goes into any one of their hospitals. The provision is that they shall recover the cost, but if they are satisfied that the persons cannot reasonably, having regard to their financial circumstances, be required to pay the whole of their expenses, then they have only to ask for such part, if any, of the expenses as they are, in the opinion of the council or authority, able to pay. Careful provision is made that the council is not to ask from poor people that which they cannot pay, but only that which they can reasonably be expected to contribute. I submit it is in the last degree unreasonable so to arrange the law that the pauper shall be liable to pay the whole cost and that the better-off man should be relieved from liability merely by the accident of the fact that he is better off. So far as the Public Health Act is concerned, which is the one Act that I think the noble and learned Lord specifically referred to, if he looks at Section 132 of that Act he will find that the county councils already have the right to demand payment from those to whom they provide assistance under that Act, and, therefore, this merely makes it obligatory for them to do that which they have already the power to do independently of this clause altogether.
§ LORD PARMOOR
That was not the point I made. I said they had no power under the 1875 Act to recover from other than a patient. The patient was the only person.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I beg the noble and learned Lord's pardon, I thought he said they had no power to recover. Under Section 102 they have the power to recover from the people who get the treatment, and under Clause 15 which we have here they will have the power. The obligation already exists in the case of persons who come within the Poor Law to recover from those Who are legally liable to maintain such people the reasonable costs of their hospital provision—provided always that they are able reasonably to pay. There is only one other observation. The noble and learned Lord said that the reference to infectious disease meant only tuberculosis and venereal disease. I hesitate to differ from him without having looked into it more carefully. I do not at present understand where he gets that from. I should have thought, 115 whether you sent a man to a scarlet fever or a smallpox hospital, or to a tuberculosis or venereal disease hospital for treatment, and you treated him for an infectious disease, the exception would apply. The reason why infectious disease is differently treated from non-infectious disease is that it is in the essential interest of the public that the person should be treated in the infectious hospital in order to prevent his spreading the disease to other people, and therefore, inasmuch as he is sent there not so much for his own benefit as for the benefit of his fellows, and to protect his fellows from the risk of contagion, it is thought right, in those cases, that the public, which is gaining the benefit, should pay the cost. I hope for these reasons that your Lordships will not accept the Amendment.
§ EARL BUXTON
I cannot help expressing my regret that my noble friend has moved this Amendment. I had hoped that we should have an opportunity of discussing the first subsection on its merits. In my opinion, and in that of many of the House, it goes much too far in its obligatory character, and in its wording in regard to the question of the recovery of the cost of maintenance and of medical services. As I understand this Amendment, if it were carried it would prevent in any case, except in regard to paupers, any possibility of obtaining payment from any patient towards the maintenance cost to which the authority has been put. That is going too far. In moving his Amendment my noble friend has gone a good deal beyond any Amendment moved in another place. There the Amendments moved were directed to mitigating the severity of the subsection as it stands. I think everyone will feel that where persons are able to contribute something towards the cost of the medical treatment and maintenance they have received, they ought to contribute that amount for the public benefit and should not go scot free. If this Amendment is passed it will have that effect.
It does seem also, as pointed out by the Lord Chancellor, that if this subsection is left out the anomaly would be so intense and so grave that it really could not be defended. That is to say, if the Amendment is accepted you will be able to recover from a pauper but 116 you will not be able to recover from anybody who is not a pauper. Anybody who is not a pauper and who not only could but ought to contribute something would be entirely exempt from such contribution. I hope, therefore, my noble friend will not press his Amendment to a Division. Later on there are Amendments in the name of some of his noble friends to which I will give my strongest support, believing that the clause as it stands goes far beyond the Act of 1875. To that extent it is a retrograde step, and I think it would be a very severe penalty on those who attend these hospitals and a considerable deterrent in many cases to their attending. So far as this amendment is concerned I think the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has made it obvious that it is impossible to accept it because the resulting anomalies would be so great.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not intend, having regard to what has been said by the Lord Chancellor and the noble Earl, to press my Amendment to a Division. I am sorry I do not agree entirely with the Lord Chancellor in some of the law he has stated. I am sure he will realise that I do not say that in any antagonistic spirit because he wants and I want to come to what is an accurate statement of the law. After that, we have to consider, of course, what is the operation of the law. I do not follow the other matters to which the Lord Chancellor has referred because in the circumstances I propose to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "it shall be the duty of." The noble Lord said: The Amendment which I move will make the operation of this clause optional for the local authority instead of compulsory. I think there are very strong reasons why that change should be made. A certain amount of discussion has already taken place upon the clause which reduces the task I have in speaking on this Amendment, but I would point out to the Lord Chancellor that whereas it is contended by the Government that the reason for this clause is to make uniform, or virtually uniform, the practice as between what is done in these matters under the Poor Law and what will be done under the Public Health Act, in point of fact 117 this clause does not establish that position. I will not go into the differences between its operation and the operation of the existing Poor Law, though they are substantial. They are complicated and they are substantial. But even supposing that this clause did effect this uniformity, the point which I should like to put to the Lord Chancellor is that, though uniformity might be legally established theoretically, in practice the result would be different.
§ Of course in practice, as has been stated, a very large number of those who are in Poor Law health institutions are paupers. They can pay nothing and they are not asked to pay anything. In some cases perhaps they are, but in the very large number of cases they are not. In public health institutions, speaking broadly—I am not laying down hard and fast rules—patients will be in a better financial position and under this clause it is not merely to be the option, as it is now, of the local authorities to ask for money towards maintenance of a patient in such an institution, but the local authority will be obliged to do it. They must do it. It is quite true that the clause was altered so that where the patient cannot reasonably be expected to pay there is power to remit either the whole or part of the sum alleged to be due. When the clause was first introduced that was not the case, and the local authority would have been obliged to have charged a patient, and perhaps to have taken from a working man his savings of several years, because he had the misfortune to be ill. That has been altered, and it is a considerable concession, but it by no means, I submit, makes the position satisfactory.
§ This clause does alter the existing position in several vital respects. Some of them were mentioned in the course of the discussion on the last Amendment. Apart from the fact that it makes it compulsory it also fixes the cost to be charged to the patient on a quite different basis from that of Poor Law practice. That is one of the differences I had in mind. Then there is the point—I have another Amendment dealing with that, but I will not speak of it now—that it is totally different from present practice, for not only is the local authority compelled to charge the patient but it is to go beyond that to those who 118 are liable to maintain the patient. Who exactly they are is in very grave doubt, as I shall point out when I come to my further Amendments. Again, there is a point with which the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, proposes to deal—that of treatment in maternity cases—and there is also the matter of infectious diseases. I have an Amendment dealing with that. At present the clause is most ambiguous and unsatisfactory. I am going to ask the Lord Chancellor or the noble Earl who sits beside him whether any public health authority has asked for this to be made compulsory. Is there a single public health authority that has asked for it? They have had optional powers and as far as I know they have been quite satisfied with them.
§ I would point out that as far as expenditure is concerned this clause has little or nothing to do with the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health is stopping the percentage grant system and substituting block grants. My noble friend Lord Olivier will deal with that in a later Amendment. That being the case, the Ministry of Health will not benefit by the operation of this clause nor will they lose by it. It really will not affect them. Therefore the financial consideration does not apply. One very important point on which I should like to have an answer—I think your Lordships will agree that it is worthy of an answer—is that in the Scottish Bill this power is left optional. Why should it be left optional in Scotland and made compulsory in England? I should like the Lord Chancellor to reply to that question. It is a perfectly clear question. What is the underlying principle, in experience or theory or anything else? Why should this clause be optional in Scotland and compulsory in this country? It is a definite question to which I should like a reply. The clause will act as a deterrent to certain people who ought to go to health institutions for treatment which they need and therefore, if it is put into practice in its present form, it will be inimical to the public health. That is the point we wish to press. I think there is a very strong combination of facts on which to urge that the clause should be made optional. We are not, if my Amendment is passed, taking away any power from local authorities. I wish to make that clear. They can do it and therefore I wish to submit to the 119 Lord Chancellor that the case will be met if it is left to their discretion in the future as it has been left to their discretion in the past.
Page 13, line 6, leave out ("it shall be the duty of").—(Lord Arnold.)
§ EARL BUXTON
I was unfortunately obliged to oppose the last Amendment, but I should like to give this Amendment my hearty support, because it seems to me that the great fault of this clause as compared with the existing law is its mandatory character. I cannot understand on what really material ground the Government have brought in a clause of this sort dealing with the question of recovery of payments for maintenance and medical treatment. The Act of 1875 says that any expenses incurred by a local authority in maintaining a patient in a hospital may be recovered from him at any time within six months of his discharge. That is to say, they are left the option of recovering costs where, in their opinion, it is a case in which some costs should be recovered. That system has worked very well, without friction or difficulty. The costs are recovered in a large number of cases, but it is not obligatory on the local authority to secure recovery. That is the difference between the present law and the new proposal. Under the clause as it stands the local authority must recover costs of treatment, instead of its being optional upon them to do so. They must recover the charges to which they have been put by the patient and they must recover the whole expenses. That is in the body of the clause.
It is true that there is a proviso, but it is a somewhat grudging one. It enables the authority in certain circumstances, after making careful inquiries in regard to each individual case, to remit a certain amount of the charges. That still leaves it more obligatory upon the local authority to recover costs than under the present system. I should say that in each case, unless they have recovered full costs from a particular patient, it will be the duty of the auditor to draw attention to the case and ask why they have not done so. Thus, instead of the elasticity of the present system in which a certain amount is recovered without any friction, each case will have to be considered and the cir- 120 cumstances, not only of the patient but of his relatives, will have to be investigated and a very invidious duty will be thrown upon those who have to make inquiries. This will certainly throw additional difficulties in the way of the patient. Under present conditions the ordinary patient knows that he will be treated with consideration. If he has no means, that fact will be taken into account, and if he has a certain amount of means he knows that he may be asked to contribute a certain proportion of the costs and that it will be done in a humane way. He knows that he will not be mulcted in costs which he cannot pay.
I will only say in conclusion that I am very much afraid that this clause will act as a deterrent in a large number of cases of persons who are not paupers—those are already provided for—but persons who have a certain amount of means. They will not be able to estimate what they will have to pay, and they will know that the local authority has to get out of them every sixpence that it can. The last thing that we desire is to provide any deterrent in maternity cases and cancer cases and so on, to prevent people coming to hospitals. It would be a serious public calamity if people came to hospitals for treatment less and less instead of more and more. My noble friend referred to a precedent for his Amendment in the Scottish Bill. I have not seen the Scottish Bill, but I am afraid that we cannot treat it as much of a precedent, for if, in a Scottish Act, the word "may" is used in relation to the persons who are to extract the money, it is exactly the same as if it were "shall." because they will certainly do it in every case. Apart from that, I feel that this clause will be a real deterrent in the way of patients going to hospitals. I cannot see any possible advantage in these compulsory powers of extracting the last farthing from these unfortunate patients. Under the system that has worked very well for fifty years there has been no friction or difficulty. Patients who could afford to contribute have to do so, but there has been no deterrent to prevent their attending hospitals.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The supporters of this Amendment have supported it on a ground which I cannot help thinking cannot be established if 121 one examines into the provisions of the clause. The law as it stands at present is that, in the case of the pauper, who will be, of course, among the people treated in these hospitals, the local authority is bound to recover such expenses as it reasonably can. The proposal put before your Lordships is that, in the case of a person who is not a pauper, the local authority may recover such expenses as it reasonably can but need not do so unless it chooses. The first observation that I have to make is that, although the anomalies caused by omitting this clause altogether would be very great, because you would have the pauper and the non-pauper in the same hospital differently treated and you would have the county council which exercises its powers on the one side and the one that did not exercise them on the other, yet, if this Amendment were carried, the anomalies would become even greater, because then you would have different county councils exacting payment, not according to the means of the patient, but according to the generosity of this or the other council. One council would say: "We will ask the man to pay". Another would say: "It is a popular thing not to ask people to pay; we are more likely to be elected if we do not, and we will not exercise our powers". That sort of anomaly is even greater than those which would be created by omitting the clause altogether.
It is said that this clause will discourage people from going to the hospitals. With all respect to the noble Lords who have urged that view, I cannot see how in logic it can hold. If the Amendment is carried the county council will have the right, if it chooses, to demand from patients in the hospital such expenses as they can reasonably afford to pay. If the clause stands as we have it, the county council will be under the obligation to exact from people who come to the hospital such expenses as they can reasonably afford to pay. Why should a person be encouraged to go to the hospital by being told that the county council can ask from him as much as he can reasonably afford to pay, and discouraged from going by being told that it is the duty of the county council to ask from him as much as he can reasonably afford to pay? If the county council exercises it option, the amount which 122 will be recovered is the same and I really do submit to your Lordships that in dealing either with a pauper or a non-pauper, whether in one county or in another, whether treatment is given in a Poor Law institution or in another hospital, the right test to apply is, not the caprice of the county council, not the category in which the man happens to fall of pauper or non-pauper, but the question how much that person is reasonably able to afford towards the expenses of his treatment. That is what the clause does as it stands.
The noble Lord who moved the Amendment said that it did not concern the Ministry of Health, because they gave a block grant. But it concerns the ratepayers whether or not the reasonable expenses, so far as the persons affected can afford them, are recovered from those to whom benefit is given. If you are going to leave it that they need not recover unless they choose, it will be quite uncertain, according to which sort of view a particular county council takes, whether a person is asked to pay or not. In one case the millionaire referred to by the noble Lord may get off scot free, and on the other hand a working man may be asked for the last penny he can afford. That is not a reasonable or a just distinction. I can see no ground why it should be left optional, and I think the right position is to make capacity to pay the test of liability to pay. I was asked one or two questions. I was asked why the Scottish Bill is different. In the first place I do not know what is in the Scottish Bill, but the noble Earl who spoke last seems to have given a very plausible explanation. Then I was asked whether the county councils had demanded an alteration. I have made inquiries, and although they have been fully consulted at all stages of the Bill, and before it became a Bill, I am told that no criticism has been received from any county council with regard to this proposal. I therefore ask your Lordships to reject the Amendment.
The Government have not accepted any Amendment to this Bill as yet and this, I think, might be a very good place for them to begin. The noble and learned Lord who has just sat down has used a great many arguments, but I think on examination they will prove to be more ingenious than convincing, and 123 a good many of them are self-contradictory. At one moment he speaks as if the county councils are not to be trusted to take proper care of public money, and suggests that they would be influenced in their generosity to hospital patients by thought of the effect at the election. At another moment he has spoken of them as representatives of the ratepayers influenced by other considerations. He cannot have it both ways, and I think we must assume, for the purpose of this discussion, that the county councils and similar bodies would behave reasonably with regard to the position of trusteeship which they occupy in their care of public money.
Take the clause itself. I agree entirely with the noble and learned Lord that whether you keep the clause in the form it is in now, or strike out the words "it shall be the duty of" and put it in the form which we suggest would be preferable, the ultimate amount of the proper cost that would be recoverable and recovered from any patient would very likely be the same. I quite agree, and I suppose I shall at once be asked: What then is the reason for the change? It is this. That the form of the clause is ungracious and deterrent, and the other form which we suggest gives a much freer hand to any local authority. The noble and learned Lord quoted several times the precedent of the Poor Law. The Poor Law is a very harsh law, founded long ago in very harsh times, and with very harsh rules about the recovery of expenses and the cost of maintenance, both from patients and inmates and their relatives. It is time, I think, that we departed a little from that ideal, and got on to something a little more modern.
It was suggested that there would be a difference between one county council and another, and I will put it to your Lordships that there may be cases in which it would be perfectly right and proper that it should be so. Each county borough will, I understand, be a separate authority under the clause. A large county borough with a large industrial population may think it well worth while, for the purpose of preserving the general health of the population, to give them hospital treatment at something under cost. They may persuade the electors who return them as representatives that 124 that is money well spent in the interest of public health, and if they think that, why should they be prevented by Parliament from doing it. Why is Parliament to say you must and shall recover all the expense which these people can possibly pay? Under this clause as it is drawn no honest county councillor can on any ground of that sort recover from any patient or his relatives less than he or they can reasonably pay. The only ground on which he can do it is the ground of financial distress and hardship. It cannot be done on grounds of public expediency.
Is it not perfectly right that they should be given this option? I am certain that many large industrial areas would think it well worth while to ensure for their population hospital treatment, in order to have a healthy population, and among other things healthy mothers for future generations—not at all an unimportant point. I cannot help regarding the form of this clause as unnecessarily and unreasonably harsh, and as unlikely to serve a useful purpose. I am unable to follow the arguments of the noble and learned Lord as justifying it, and we shall very likely have to divide the House upon the matter, and perhaps raise the matter again, because it seems to me that the Government and the Minister of Health, of all people, are doing something to discourage what is an opportunity of keeping up the standard of health and increasing the availability of hospital treatment throughout the country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
It seems rather a pity that the Government should insist upon the provisions of this clause. I have listened to the argument of the noble and learned Lord, and at one time was impressed by it, but I cannot on consideration see that he has really met the point. Every lawyer understands the difficulty of inserting the word "shall" where the word "may" would achieve the object. Of course, those who practise in the Courts know that there is an important difference. The word "shall" is obligatory and there is no possible exception. I confess I was much impressed by the argument of Earl Russell, who seemed to me to put his finger upon the weak spot of the case for the Government. As I understand the situation, the object which the Government have in view is no doubt 125 right. I agree that there should be some provision by which they can recover from those able to pay, or a less amount from those who are in more difficult financial circumstances; but there are circumstances in which the decision might safely be left to the county councils.
Every industrialist, I think, will tell you that it is of the greatest importance that those who are employed by him should be able to go to the hospital when necessary. In fact it goes so far now that, as your Lordships are aware, the practice is spreading—and I rejoice it is so—of providing some kind of treatment in the great industrial establishments of the country. This, however, can only be for small ailments, and is perhaps really for telling the workman that he ought to go to the hospital because the matter is too serious to be treated in the establishment. If that is so, there should not be the slightest deterrent, and I suggest to the Lord Chancellor that the point should be met, unless it is to be assumed that the county councils are capricious. If we are to assume that, then the whole of the Bill is wrong, because the Bill places in the hands of the county councils greater powers than they have ever exercised before because it is thought that they will more efficiently exercise those powers than the authorities which have hitherto had the authority and influence. All that is suggested now is that, instead of saying "it shall be the duty of," you should say "the county council may." It will enable them, in every case in which they think it right, to recover the money; on the other hand there may be cases where they would like to recover a little less.
On the point of general policy I am myself desirous that you should give consideration to this important aspect. Where you have great masses of people employed it must be an advantage that they should be encouraged to go to the hospitals, encouraged to take advantage of the powers that the Government is giving in this Bill, and not discouraged. It is true the Lord Chancellor asked why should a person be discouraged because the county council is under a statutory obligation to recover either the full amount, or, in cases of financial difficulty, a less amount. The answer is we do not want to make it impossible; on the contrary, what we are seeking is 126 that the county council should have the power. The only difference between us is that we say it should be left to the discretion of the county council. It is hardly to the point to say that one county council may take one view, and another may take another, and it may be just a question of chance whether you get to one county council or the other. That, unfortunately, is true of everything we do. It is even true of justica—even true of Lord Chancellors. But surely what you ought to do is to entrust these authorities with full power. Do not make your Bill so stiff and so inelastic that the county councils, however much they may desire to follow a policy of public health—and that, after all, is most important, far more important than the recovery of money—will be bound by a statutory obligation. I would appeal to the Lord Chancellor to give consideration to the point, and see whether on the whole it might not be met by accepting the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
Surely there is sufficient discretion and elasticity as the clause stands at present, be, cause if the council or authority are satisfied that the persons "cannot reasonably, having regard to their financial circumstances, be required to pay" then they do not have to proceed against them.
Some reference has been made this evening to the Scottish Bill, and I must confess that it passes my comprehension why in one case the thing should be optional and in the other compulsory. The noble Earl, Lord Buxton, has been very jocular at the expense of Scottish Peers, and I happen to come from a part of the country called Aberdeenshire, where they say there is a joke factory for manufacturing jokes against themselves; but if it is suggested that they are very stingy, and wish to extract every penny from the unfortunate people who go to the hospitals, I differ entirely. But it passes my comprehension why the law should be compulsory in England and voluntary in Scotland, and I shall have to support the Amendment.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK
I join with those who ask the Government to accept the Amendment, and I base may appeal on one ground only—namely, that it is a matter of extreme importance that those who desire hos- 127 pital treatment should go to the hospitals as soon as possible, rather than delay till the last possible moment. Any one who has any knowledge of the hospitals in our large industrial districts will know that much suffering would have been avoided if only patients had gone there rather earlier. A clause like this one in its present form will be a deterrent. At the very commencement you insist that "it shall be the duty of the council"; later on, it is true, occasional exceptions may be made; but the general effect of this clause will be to put another deterrent on people going to the hospitals which they need so much. I recognise that there are many eases in which the cost should be recovered, but in the form in which the clause stands the demand is so imperative that it is bound to act as a deterrent.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Nobody would wish less than the Government to discourage people from going to the hospitals, but what I have so far been quite unable to appreciate is why the clause in the form in which it is proposed it shall stand is going to be any less of a deterrent than the clause as it stands now. If the question had been whether or not hospital treatment should always be provided free, which was the Amendment suggested by Lord Parmoor, then of course there might be a great deal of force in it; but I cannot see poor people, when they are thinking of going into hospital, sending for the Local Government Act, and looking to see whether the county council is bound to recover such expenses as they can reasonably afford, or whether the county council "may" recover such expenses as they can reasonably afford—and that is the only difference between us, and the noble and learned Marquess has given no answer to that point. There is no difference in the discouragement, if it be a discouragement, whether the county council has the right to recover all that the man can reasonably afford to pay or whether it is the duty of the county council to recover it.
Then it is said that our object is to enable the county council to recover these expenses. That may be true enough, but another object which we have is to assimilate and make consistent the law in different counties, and towards different categories of patients. If the 128 Amendment be carried, you produce the curious effect that if any person who is a pauper goes to a hospital, the county council is under an obligation to recover from him, and from those legally liable for maintaining him, all that they can reasonably afford to pay; whereas if the person is better off, and so does not, come under the category of a destitute person, if this Amendment is carried, the county council only has an option. So that in effect the richer the person is the less obligation there is on the county council to recover the cost. That seems to us an anomalous and unreasonable position.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I am quite sure that anybody with any common knowledge of the way in which working class people think and feel will have been devastated by the attitude of mind shown by the Lord Chancellor. If we on these Benches were not accustomed to that attitude of mind we should be surprised, but I am not surprised. Everybody knows that when a person is considering whether he should go into a hospital or not, it makes all the difference in the world if you say: "Oh, you go into hospital, and you will pay what you can, and they will not be too hard on you"; whereas if this Bill is enforced as the subsection at present stands everybody in the county will know perfectly well that if he goes into the hospital the county council will have to charge him. That is the psychological aspect. If the noble and learned Lord would look at it from the point of view of his human knowledge he would know that that is the case.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WORCESTER
It is just on the side of that human knowledge that the noble Lord opposite fails. He does not realise what is going on among the patients of the great voluntary hospitals. Everybody who has been connected with them at all—I remember it from my London days and I am glad to say I know it still more in the City of Worcester—remembers that there has grown up for years past a tendency to accept the situation that a poor person should pay in accordance with his ability. The great hospitals have their almoners, gentle, kindly, most unmandatory people, whose business it is to suggest to patients what they can reasonably pay.
Something else has gone on in recent times which the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, 129 has to bear in mind especially as he comes from Oxford—namely, that in connection with the great voluntary hospitals, people are now paying before they go in and even if they do not go in. We have learned in Worcestershire by the good example of the Ratcliffe Infirmary at Oxford, and a large number of persons in Worcestershire who, please God, will never go into hospital at all, are week by week giving something towards it. If you put in this mandatory clause you will be doing something to establish that which is already in their hearts, and they know by happy experience that when public bodies assess them to a certain sum they will only assess what is reasonable.
The right rev. Prelate will remember that the voluntary hospitals have no power to recover. It is a voluntary gift.
That is a very different position. It may interest your Lordships to know that in London alone to-day no fewer than 500,000 working men with below a certain standard of income subscribe 13s. a year so that when they do go into a hospital they may be able to pay those voluntary contributions. I cannot conceive why some such scheme of insurance should not apply to these new hospitals, so that if you do go in you will have to pay unless you are already an insured person.
I should like to say something on this matter from the Scottish point of view. I agree with what my Scottish colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, has stated, that it places Scottish Peers in the very difficult position that if they do not support the Amendment which has been moved to-day they will find themselves a week or two hence faced with an Amendment to the Scottish Bill which certainly will not find favour in Scotland. I listened to the arguments that have been put forward, and I agree with my noble friends on the other side that the Amendment is a fair and reasonable one. I cannot believe that if this clause is stated in an optional manner the county councils will not fulfil their function of obtaining the views of the patients who go to these hospitals. I 130 propose to support the Amendment because I should certainly resist any Amendment to the Scottish Bill which made this clause a mandatory and not an optional one.
May I make an observation with regard to the inconsistency referred to by the noble and learned Lord about the Amendment and the provisions of the Poor Law? I am not sure whether it was pointed out yesterday or to-day that this Bill does not deal with the Poor Law, but that when experience has been gained by county councils from the administration of this Bill it will be time to consider the Amendment of the Poor Law. My objection to the clause in the Bill is that it stereotypes a very harsh provision of the Poor Law to which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has referred. When we come to discuss the Poor Law on some future occasion it will be said: "The Local Government Act provides that this clause shall be mandatory. If you now alter the Poor Law in the direction of making it permissive there will be an inconsistency between that Act and the Poor Law." This Bill stereotypes a bad system, and rather than imperil any alteration in the future I would beg the Government to reconsider their attitude in the matter.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Supplementing what has been said by the noble Lord on my right, is it not the idea of the Government, and is it not one of the underlying reasons for this Bill, that gradually and as soon as possible the Poor Law shall be done away with? I think the noble and learned Lord is overlooking that point. This clause in its present form, the justification for which he says is to make uniformity between Poor Law and public health practice, is a step backward and not a step forward. We are hoping before very long to do away with Poor Law institutions altogether. Further, as pointed out before, the clause does not make the practice uniform. The words are different and the practice would be different.
The noble and learned Lord asks how it can be a deterrent, and how is there any difference between its being compulsory for the purpose and being optional for the purpose? The difference will be in practice. These people will 131 not need to get the Act and look at the section; they will know what is done in the neighbourhood. If it is an optional clause it will be administered much less strictly, and more wisely and more in the best interests of the community than if it is compulsory. The present Bill must be brought to the notice of everybody, so how can the noble and learned Lord say that it is no deterrent? He went on to say that there would be some diversity between the practice of different county councils. There is now, and what does it matter? There ought, in some cases, to be diversity of practice. Is it the intention of the Government to say that the practice of Norfolk and of Sheffield shall be the same? Is that the position of the Government? There may be very potent reasons why there should be a difference.
Then there is the Scottish point which remains unshaken and unshakeable. The noble and learned Lord did not make the slightest attempt to deal with it except to say that he did not know. I can tell him that it is so, and perhaps he knows it now from his two colleagues behind him.
§ LORD ARNOLD
It has been discussed already in connection with the Scottish Bill and it is perfectly clear. My noble friend Lord Buxton has a very fine sense of humour which has often given me much pleasure, but I do not think that on this occasion he was as happy as usual. And for the noble and learned Lord to take shelter behind that as a substantial reason, in fact the only reason why this extraordinary difference between the two Bills should be maintained, I think is a position which is unsustainable. I will only add what I said before. I asked for information and now we have it: not a single local authority has asked for this to be made compulsory.
§ the word "shall" is meant to compel the county council to consider whether if a person has hospital treatment he is able to pay. If he cannot pay it is in their power to relax payment to such extent as they think fit. By maintaining the word "shall" the Legislature keeps control over the question of policy. It seems to me that it is right for the Legislature to retain its power over local authorities. It is well known that there are certain public bodies in this country who believe in free treatment just as they believe in free education. If free treatment is a right thing—and that is open to argument—it is a policy which should be determined by the Legislature, but until the Legislature does decide that free treatment is to be given, parallel to free education, surely it is right to retain the word "shall," which ensures that every county council, whatever their private views may be on free treatment as a principle, shall be compelled to consider how far an individual can pay and see that he does pay; of course with every merciful consideration of the fact that they are not to ask for more than he can pay. For those reasons it seems to me conclusive that if the Legislature is to retain control over a big question of policy, they must retain the word "shall".
I do not think the noble Lord who spoke last could possibly have listened to the whole of this debate. It is perfectly clear that no council can give free treatment without a distinct breach of duty. That is perfectly clear in the alternative form of the clause.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 29.133
|Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Exeter, M||Fortescue, E.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Halsbury, E.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Harrowby, E.|
|Airlie, E.||Iveagh, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Birkenhead, E.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Clarendon, E.||Lenven and Melville, E.|
|Bath, M.||Denbigh, E.||Lovelace, E.|
|Bristol, M.||Doncaster E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
|Malmesbury, E.||Bledisloe, L.||Islington, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clan-william.)||Jessel, L.|
|Mount Edgecumbe, E.||Joicey, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Cozens-Hardy, L.||Kylsant, L.|
|Plymounth, E.||Cranworth, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Cushendun, L.||Lawerence, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Danesfort, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Darling, L.||Monson, L.|
|Daryngton, L.||Newton, L.|
|Astor, V.||Dawson of Penn, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Deramore, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|FitzAlan of Dervent, V.||Desborough, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-borough.)|
|Hood, V.||Dynevor L.|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Faringdon, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Peel, V.||Forester, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Worcester, L. Bp.||Hanworth, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Harlech, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Askwith, L.||Hindlip, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Reading, M.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Aberconway, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Arnold, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Buckmaster, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Russell, E. [Teller.]||Clwyd, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Gainford, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Gorell, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Hemphill, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Meldrum, L.(M. Huntly.)||Tenterden, L.|
|Morris, L.||Thomson, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ EARL BUXTON had an Amendment on the Paper to move in subsection (1) after "has" ["has become an inmate"], to insert "received treatment in a maternity home or has." The noble Earl said: I want to raise the whole question of maternity treatment, and I think it would be better that the discussion on that should take place at a later stage. Therefore I do not now move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ LORD ARNOLD had given Notice to move, in subsection (1), after "inmate," to insert "of a maternity home or." The noble Lord said: As my noble friend Earl Buxton desires to leave this matter to be dealt with on Report I will not move this Amendment.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment is one which was on the Supplementary list yesterday, in Clause 15, page 13, line 12, after "infectious," to insert "or any serious."
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (1), after "infectious," to insert "or any serious." The noble Lord said: This is a very important Amendment, because the clause in its present form is very ambiguous and I think quite unsatisfactory. I think I shall be able to convince your Lordships because this Amendment is not moved in any contentious spirit. We only want to get the Bill right in an important matter like this. The clause exempts from the operation of the subsection those who are receiving treatment for an infectious disease and the question is what is an infectious disease. There is a large variety of opinion about that, and a great diversity of views, and I contend that we need and ought to have in the Bill a further definition.
§ Discussion in another place about this matter centred upon three serious diseases—namely, venereal disease, tuberculosis and cancer. I understand that venereal disease is held to be infectious and, according to the view of the Ministry of Health, would be included. But then we come to tuber- 135 culosis. There are two kinds of tuberculosis. There is the kind with which we are mainly familiar, pulmonary tuberculosis, and there is another very serious form. I am rather affrighted to see my noble friend Lord Dawson here and I am glad he is not listening at the moment for fear I should make a mistake, but I think I am correct in saying that this other kind is called surgical tuberculosis. This is a very important point. Ordinary tuberculosis certainly would be deemed to be infectious. What I want to know is whether the Bill covers surgical tuberculosis as well. Surgical tuberculosis, I believe, is not in the ordinary sense of the word infectious. Yet it is a serious disease. This is a matter of very great moment to large numbers of children. The point was raised in another place, but I do not think it reached a very satisfactory conclusion there. Does the Bill, in the view of the Ministry of Health, cover both forms of the disease?
§ This Bill is founded, we are told, upon the Memorandum which was issued by the Ministry of Health. There the words "infectious disease" are used, and I believe it is stated that the expression does include tuberculosis, but it has never been definitely stated whether it can be held to include surgical tuberculosis as well as the other form. I think this is a matter which ought to be cleared up. It is all very well for the Ministry of Health to say that, in their view, it does include tuberculosis. Sir Kingsley Wood said, in another place, that in his opinion—he would not bind anybody else—it did include tuberculosis, but that was as far as we could get in ascertaining the Government's position. The point 1 wish to put is that in the last resort the matter might have to be fought out in the Law Courts, and the Courts would not be influenced by a Memorandum of the Ministry of Health or by a statement from Sir Kingsley Wood. They would only be influenced by their interpretation of the word "infectious," and I think they would not improbably come to the conclusion that surgical tuberculosis, not being infectious, could not be brought under this clause. If that is so, and at any rate there must be considerable doubt about the matter from the strictly legal point of view, what I would urge is that the form of the clause ought to be 136 altered so that it is made perfectly clear that both forms of the disease are included. So much for tuberculosis.
§ There are other diseases as well which I think ought to be brought quite definitely under the operation of this clause. The words which I propose to insert would make the clause read "infectious or any serious disease." I am quite aware that the words are not ideal—in fact, they are far from ideal—but they raise the point to which I want the noble Earl to address his argument. I think it would probably be better to state definitely the diseases which will come under the operation of the clause. There are not very many of them, and I think that might be the best thing to do, but I know the view may be taken that "infectious disease" has a definite meaning because the Ministry of Health may make an order interpreting certain Acts of Parliament in relation to infectious diseases. They can do that, and I think that hitherto that is the way in which the matter has been arranged, but I do not think that is very satisfactory because there might be dispute as to whether the Ministry of Health had legal power to do that. If they were to put surgical tuberculosis into an Order the Law Courts might take a different view. The point is one which I think needs clearing up, and I would like the noble Earl between now and the Report stage to consider putting down some form of words which in black and white will cover the matter I have raised and make the point perfectly clear beyond doubt.
§ There is another disease which I should like to mention, and that is cancer. It may be said that cancer is in no sense an infectious disease, but it is a very serious disease and in the interests of the community persons suffering from cancer ought, I think, to be treated properly. But the expense is very great and they ought not to be deterred from going to these institutions on any ground. They ought to go in and go in as soon as possible. After all, the underlying reason for the exemption of persons suffering from infectious disease from the operation of this clause is that it is in the interests of the community that they should receive treatment. I think that applies equally to cancer and certainly to surgical tuberculosis, because it may mean saving the lives of thousands of children and turning them into useful citizens instead of their 137 being a burden on the community. I think there is the strongest case for further consideration of the words in the clause. I do not expect the noble Earl to commit himself to-night, because it is a very involved matter, but I do ask him to say that he will look into it between now and the Report stage.
Page 13, line 12, after ("infectious") insert ("or any serious").—(Lord Arnold.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The noble Lord at the outset of his speech said that this clause as we have drafted it was a very ambiguous one and I was rather tempted to rejoin that his Amendment would make it more ambiguous than it was already, but lie went on afterwards to explain that he put down the words with a view to raising the whole question. I think he will agree with me that the strict interpretation of the words will be a little difficult. It involves questions as to what are and what are not infectious diseases. He referred mainly to tuberculosis and venereal disease. With regard to the latter, so far as we are aware, it would be considered an infectious disease, and the same applies generally to tuberculosis, but, in regard to the point concerning surgical tuberculosis, I should not like to commit myself definitely as to whether, in the view of the Ministry of Health, it would be considered an infectious disease. The noble Lord's real object was to get a distinct definition of an infectious disease.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Not necessarily infectious diseases only. There are other serious diseases to which, in the public interest, treatment should be given quickly.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Let me deal with infectious diseases first. There are certain diseases which may or may not be regarded as infectious. I am afraid I cannot answer him very definitely on that point. Then he comes to the question of other serious diseases—that is, if I may put an interpretation into his mouth, diseases which are not infectious but which are dangerous to the public health. Would that be a propel way of interpreting him?
§ LORD ARNOLD
Since the noble Earl is good enough to ask me, perhaps that is not quite accurate, because there might 138 be some argument as to whether, for instance, certain forms of cancer were infectious. I think perhaps the simplest way would be to put the actual diseases in the clause.
THE EARL or ONSLOW
We have infectious diseases on the one side and serious but not infectious diseases on the other. The infectious diseases would form a certain list, which I will not attempt to enumerate in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn, and on the other side we should have a list of serious diseases such as cancer. This is quite a new point to me and I must ask the noble Lord if he will allow me a little time to consider it. I cannot give any promise or commit myself or the Government in any way, but I shall be glad if he will allow me to leave it open for the moment and I will certainly attempt to meet him.
§ LORD DAWSON OF PENN
I very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, for raising this matter, for it provides a very fair example, which I hope will impress the mind of the noble Earl opposite, of the importance of having doctors who spend their lives looking after curable disease associated in some way with the medical officer of health from the very moment these councils undertake these difficult questions. It proves the point that I tried to raise yesterday. Turning to the noble Lord's Amendment, if he leaves it as it stands upon the Paper with the words "or any serious," I do not think that he could find anybody who would be prepared to say exactly what was or was not a serious disease. I am afraid that, left as it is, it would have the effect of changing the word "shall" to the word "may."
Turning to his point about tuberculosis, it would be impossible to draw up a list of what the medical profession regards as infectious diseases, because knowledge is ever growing and you might put something in the Bill to-day and find that you have to bring in an amending Bill next year. The present opinion would certainly he that there are a large number of cases of tuberculosis which are not in any way dangerous to the health of others. They may be very distressing to the children who suffer from them and to their parents, because of the length of the treatment required, but there are 139 many cases of surgical tuberculosis where the danger of the transmission of the disease to others is a very small one. The same may be said with regard to cancer. The prevailing opinion at the moment is that cancer is not an infectious disease. I am afraid that such words as "any serious disease" might be made to include the greater part of the diseases that are treated in the hospitals, and therefore they would have the effect, however remote it may be from the intention of the noble Lord, of 'altering the word "shall" into the word "may." On those grounds I think the Amendment is impracticable.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
I should like to give an instance of the fact mentioned by the noble Lord who has just spoken that knowledge of the infectivity of disease varies with the growth of medical knowledge. I have good reason to remember the expressed opinion of a Royal Commission of some twenty years ago which sat to consider the relations between human and bovine tuberculosis. They made what would now be regarded as the strange statement that tuberculosis was of a markedly hereditary character. That is an opinion which, I understand, has been scrapped by all enlightened medical men for at least fifteen years. That only shows how important it is to leave it to the authority of the Ministry of Health to decide from time to time in the light of current medical knowledge what is an infectious disease and what is not.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I am very much obliged to the noble Earl for saying that he will be good enough to consider this point between now and Report. I was quite aware that my words were not ideal, but they raise an important point and, if I may say so, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dawson, shows that the word "infectious" is open to great ambiguity. That is the point that I wanted to get at. The noble Lord has shown us that medical opinion is altering from year to year and the opinion that is held now may not be held five years hence. That is an additional reason for putting the clause in a more satisfactory form.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
When the noble Lord raised this point I said that it was quite new to me and I was not able to commit myself. I should like to make it clear that on the main point of 140 the clause we are committed. The reason for exempting infectious disease from the charge is for the benefit of the public rather than that of the patient. Subject to that proviso, I will willingly see if any consideration can be given to the various points that have been raised. That, however, remains the governing point of the clause. It is for the protection of other people rather than of the patient himself.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "or from any person legally liable to maintain that person". The noble Lord said: This Amendment is put down with the intention of elucidating the position. In his remarks on subsection (1) the Lord Chancellor spoke of these words "liable to maintain" as if everybody knew what they meant. I speak with diffidence, not being a lawyer, but I submit that this is not so. It may be said that it means the Poor Law liability to maintain. If that is so, why does it not say so? There are two forms of liability to maintain. It may mean the Poor Law liability to maintain and it may mean the Common Law liability to maintain. They are quite different, and I think we are entitled to know which is meant. If it is the Poor Law liability, it means that any patient who goes into a public health institution for treatment not only must be charged in the first instance—because you have made the clause mandatory—for the cost of maintenance, but, if he cannot pay, you are then to go to those who, under the Poor Law, are legally liable to maintain that person; that is, to the father or mother, the grandfather or grandmother, the son or daughter, or the grandson or granddaughter. That is the position. That, as the Bill stands, if it is to be incorporated, is a Poor Law legal liability to maintain.
§ What does that mean? Take the question of some girl who goes into a hospital and is delivered of an illegitimate child. You have then to reveal her shame to her relatives—not only to her father and mother but even to her grandfather and grandmother, if they can contribute anything. Is that a position which you wish to be established under an Act of Parliament? I say that that goes altogether too far. Under the present public health law there is no liability of this sort. A charge can only be made on the patient, 141 either man or woman, and nobody else, and therefore this is making a very serious change indeed. If a change is to be made surely we are entitled to know what the change is, and I should like to ask the Lord Chancellor, definitely, whether in his opinion this does mean the Poor Law provision—whether the clause here is held to be uniform with the legal position under the Poor Law, and if that is so, would it not be better to put it in and make it clear? I do not want that done, because I say that it is going too far. On the other hand, if it is merely the Common Law liability, will he explain why that is not made clear?
§ Surely the words of the clause are very ambiguous, and the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has repeatedly called attention to the desirability of getting our Acts of Parliament made quite clear. I think this is a real point and that it ought to be met. I think it will best be met by leaving the words out altogether; you ought not to carry this thing to the extent that you are doing. We were told on the last clause, by the Lord Chancellor, that it was no deterrent at all, but I say it is a great deterrent if a man or woman feels that if they cannot pay, the bill is going to be presented to their relatives. The poor are very good to each other, but it is bound to be a great deterrent and to lead to hardship if a man, while perfectly willing to pay if he can, feels that if he cannot do so his grandfather or even his grandmother may be called upon to pay. Surely it is a position which cannot for a moment be upheld, and I very much hope that as a result of this Amendment we shall arrive at a more satisfactory interpretation of the matter.
Page 13, line 12, leave out from ("disease") to the first ("the") in line 13.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord put two points. First of all he said that the phraseology was difficult to understand, and secondly, he said that the proposal was undesirable. Those are separate points and I would deal with them separately. As to the first point, that of the alleged ambiguity of the phraseology, I confess I can see none, and I shall be surprised if any lawyer in the House can see any. "Legally liable" means liable at law to maintain, and 142 whether it is by Statute or Common Law makes no difference. If there is a legal liability, whether it is created by Statute or by Common Law makes no difference, and so far from the words being something difficult to understand, and so far from their being an immense departure from existing practice, although, as the noble Lord said, under the Public Health Act of 1875, the liability of those "legally liable" to maintain a patient was not included; when it came to the London Public Health Act of 1891, the words were deliberately inserted, and you will find that persons liable by law to maintain are included, which is the same thing as persons legally liable. Then in the Children Act of 1908, the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913, the Midwives Act of 1918, and the Education Act of 1921—in all those Acts you have the words "legally liable" or "liable to maintain"; it is the same thing. I therefore cannot think there is any ambiguity in the use of words sanctioned in a whole succession of Statutes, extending over 37 years.
As to whether it is desirable or not, not only is it an amendment which was introduced when the London Act was passed in 1891, but logically it is quite right. Why should the fact that a man goes into an institution relieve those legally liable to maintain him of that liability? Why should they cease to be liable because he goes into an institution instead of staying outside? Whether or not a particular person ought to be responsible for another's maintenance is a matter of general policy. Of course the policy of the law has been to make people responsible for the maintenance of their children, or even granchildren, but once you have a settled policy of law, that liability is imposed upon particular persons to maintain another—not every relative but children and grandchildren——
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord stated accurately what the list was, and then, carried away by his own rhetoric, asked whether we should make it possible for all the relatives of a man to be asked to support him. Of course we do not. We are not altering the category of those "legally liable" to maintain, but merely stating that 143 where liability exists it shall not cease to exist when a man goes into an institution. I hope I have shown that the clause is not unreasonable, and I ask your Lordships not to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I should like to say one word in answer. I do not want to question the law as stated by the Lord Chancellor, but the words here connote liability which the Poor Law puts upon various relatives of a man who has benefited from Poor Law relief. Is it right to put this liability upon these persons in regard to hospital treatment? That is surely an entirely different matter. Accepting entirely what the noble and learned Lord said upon the question of law, it appears to me to emphasise the objection which Lord Arnold took—namely, that to put the Poor Law liability for maintenance upon the relatives to whom he has referred, in reference to hospital treatment, is a very different thing, particularly as we all desire—and I take it the noble and learned Lord himself desires—not to put any deterrent in the way of hospital treatment, and not to put any hardship in the way of any poor person who desires to take advantage of such treatment. Such a person might think very seriously before undergoing such treatment, if the effect of going into a hospital institution is to put a liability of this kind upon relatives who would be made liable under the Poor Law. That is the point which my noble friend desires to make.
I do not know that I quite follow this matter. The Party opposite appear to have a great affection for the Bumble of the Poor Law, and because it is so ancient and so harsh an institution seem anxious to mould these new institutions upon it. But those are Poor Law institutions and traditions, and surely I am right in saying there is no Common Law liability upon a father to maintain a son or a son to maintain a father in the ordinary course, but the Poor Law definitely put upon these immediate ascendants or descendants an obligation to keep alive such of their relations as had to be relieved from a state of destitution in the workhouse.
That may be regarded possibly as a reasonable burden. They had to be fed and housed and kept alive, but now you are coming to quite a different thing. 144 You are coming to expensive institutional treatment in hospitals, and it seems to me to be extending that obligation very largely to put it upon these relations to be responsible for this expensive institutional treatment including, as we shall see later, not merely the maintenance of the patient, not merely the staff, but, apparently, the upkeep and maintenance of the institution itself. All that is to be put upon the relation, simply because in the old Poor Law, intended to relieve the indigent and starving poor, you put a duty on the immediate relative to attend to the immediate necessity of keeping him alive. It is a very large jump from that to a modern tuberculosis hospital.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is not accurate, of course, to say that under the Poor Law the obligation is only to pay for what is necessary to keep a person alive. To-day, if a destitute poor person goes into a workhouse or into a Poor Law institution the cost of his maintenance, including his maintenance in an infirmary, is recoverable from those legally liable to maintain him. We are merely assimilating in this respect the law with regard to the wealthier people to the law which already exists with regard to the pauper.
That is just what we object to. You are taking a bad and brutal precedent, and enlarging it into modern conditions.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD COZENS-HARDY moved to insert at the end of subsection (1):—
Provided that where there is an association or fund for the support of hospitals or the like any such council or local authority may make agreement with such association or fund that if such association or fund pays to the council or local authority an agreed charge in respect of any inmates entitled to benefits from such association or fund the council or local authority shall not exercise its powers of recovery from such inmate or from any person legally liable for his maintenance. Provided further that the council or local authority shall not so agree to any charge which in its opinion would recover less than the average amount otherwise recoverable from such inmates.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is intended to help the practical working of those associations, with weekly contributions from employers and their workmen, which have done so much to relieve the financial anxieties of many 145 of the voluntary hospitals. It is usual in those cases to provide that, if the contributor is in one of the hospitals concerned, no charge shall be made for his maintenance, but it is not an infrequent occurrence that a contributor is unable to wait for a bed in a voluntary hospital, and has, in consequence, to go into one of the Poor Law institutions; and, in such cases, it has been found that the contributor certainly expects the fund to repay to him any costs that may have been recovered by the local authority from him for his maintenance. When the Poor Law hospitals pass over to the local authorities it is probable—and it is to be hoped—that greater use will be made of them, and the number of these cases is likely to increase. As the Bill stands, the local authority is bound to consider the case of each inmate separately—a process which involves the annoyance and the trouble of separate inquiries as to financial circumstances, and separate collection of a large number of small separate charges.
§ The Amendment aims at avoiding all that by empowering the local authority to arrange with the managers of a contributory scheme to collect from the fund a sum equivalent to what they would on the average have recovered from the individual contributors. An arrangement of that kind abolishes a great, deal of unnecessary work—clerical work and inquiries by almoners; and it substitutes for a large number of small debts, often recoverable only in instalments, a single debt payable by a solvent fund. I feel sure that the intention of the Amendment is one which will be acceptable to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and if he is unable to accept the actual wording which I have put down I hope he will at any rate be able to give an assurance that before the next stage he will agree to put down wording which will effect the same object.
Page 13, line 20, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Cozens-Hardy.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
This Amendment did not appear on the Paper until a rather late stage. It raises a point which I do not think has been raised in another place or in your Lordships' House before. It is a very interesting and a very important point, and I should not like to offer an opinion upon it without a little further consideration. There- 146 fore, if I may accept the suggestion made by the noble Lord, that if I were unable to give an answer now we should postpone the matter for consideration on Report stage, without giving any promise as to whether we accept this Amendment or an Amendment like it, or in any way committing myself, I would ask him to postpone consideration of the matter until the Report stage, when I shall have had time to consider it with the Ministry of Health, and can give him a considered reply.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
EARL RUSSELL moved, in the paragraph relating to expenses, to leave out "the institution and". The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will see at once what the effect of this Amendment is. The amount of maintenance is to
be deemed to be a sum representing the average daily cost per patient of the maintenance of the institution and the staff thereof and the maintenance and the treatment of the patients therein.
The effect of my Amendment would simply be to leave out the maintenance of the institution itself, and to leave merely the cost of the staff and the treatment of the patient as representing the amount to be recovered. Coming, as this does, at the end of a clause on which we have already had a great deal of discussion as to its mandatory character, it seems to me an unnecessarily large order to put in the cost of maintaining the bricks and mortar as well. The unfortunate patient who finds himself in an institution has no say whatever as to the extravagant or other scale upon which the institution may have been built; and it seems a little, hard to charge him with his share of the maintenance of that institution when he would probably be quite willing to be treated in a cottage home or something of that sort. That was the only reason why I suggested that the words should be left out. But of course if the Government remain as stiff about this as about everything else it will hardly be worth while saying much more. I beg to move.
Page 13, line 41, leave out ("the institution and").—(Earl Russell.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
It would be very difficult, I fear, to carry out his desire of differentiating between the cost of maintenance on the one side and the cost, we will say, of the rest, I think that is the best way of putting it. It would first depend upon an arbitrary definition of maintenance and what was included in the maintenance charge. Then you would have a very elaborate system of accounting in order to see what should be credited to the maintenance side and what should be credited to the other side in the case of each patient. I must say that I think it would be very difficult to carry out, and it would be sure to lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction because so much would depend upon an arbitrary line being drawn. I am afraid it is an Amendment which we shall not be able to accept and add to the Bill.
I must say that the last objection which I thought the noble Earl would take was the practical objection. Am I not right in saying that in the case of the maintenance of pauper patients in a pauper lunatic asylum, to use what are still, I believe, the legal words though I am not sure, the cost which is charged to the guardians, who are the people who pay the asylum authorities, per patient, is the cost of that patient's maintenance divorced entirely from any charge for the maintenance of the institution? I think I am right in saying that that is so. If it is so it shows that these great practical difficulties are overcome every day in practice on a very large scale. I think the noble Earl will have to advance some better reason than that.
§ LORD ARNOLD
As a matter of fact there really is no such difficulty in this matter to the extent suggested by the noble Earl. The matter of accountancy could be done perfectly well. Indeed, there might be advantages in doing that from every point of view, because the more costing and so forth, the more knowledge there is of exactly what the sections of the institution are costing the more probability there is of reason- 148 able economies being effected. I do not think that is the reason why the Government are rejecting this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 15 agreed to.
§ Clauses 16 to 18 agreed to.
§ Clause 19:
§ Application to unions with appointed guardians.
§ 19.—(1) The provisions of this Act shall apply as respects any Poor Law union with respect to which an order under the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act, 1926, or section two hundred and twenty of the Poor Law Act, 1927, constituting an appointed board of guardians for the union is in force at the commencement of this Act, or is made thereafter, subject to the provisions of this section.
§ (2) The Minister may by order declare that as respects the whole or any part of any such union the provisions of this Part and Part VII of this Act except such as may be specified in the order shall not come into operation until the first day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-five; and where such an order is made, then, as respects the Poor Law union or part thereof to which the order relates and subject to any exceptions contained in the order—
§ LORD SANDHURST moved, in subsection (2), to substitute "nineteen hundred and thirty-one" for "nineteen hundred and thirty-five." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is one of some substance and is designed to limit the power of the Minister to postpone the operation of the Act regarding Poor Law unions in respect of which an order under the Boards of Guardians (Default) Act, 1926, has been put into force. The clause gives the Minister only a very limited discretion. It gives him power to postpone the operation of the Act for certain unions or parts of unions—West Ham, Chester-le-Street and Bedwellty—for a period of five years. It does not give him power to postpone it for any intermediate period.
§ In another place the Minister was asked over and over again to give reasons for the insertion of this clause and, as far as I was able to gather, no reason whatever was given except that he wished to have power to postpone the operation of the Act in regard to these unions. I conceive that the reason was that the guardians in those unions were found to be untrustworthy in the execution of 149 their duties. But after April 1 next year the old guardians will be entirely superseded. When you are starting a new scheme it is desirable, surely, to start by giving confidence to the people in whose hands you place the powers that are being transferred. Are we to suppose that the county councils and county borough councils to which the old powers are transferred will also prove to be untrustworthy? Is that to be assumed? I can only imagine that it is because that assumption has been made that this clause has been put in.
§ I would pray in aid some observations made from the Government Front Bench on the subject of consistency. In a case of this kind I should have thought it was very desirable that the consistency contended for should be followed out. In the counties there will be unions which are administered by the county councils, and if the Minister exercises the power conferred upon him by this clause, there will be certain unions excepted from the power of the county council. In the case of West Ham I understand that a portion of the old union will be in the County of Essex and that the other portion will be administered by the County Borough of West Ham. And there will be a most anomalous condition of things unless the Bill is made uniform for all these places. I can understand that a certain time may be required for the ad hoc guardians to complete the work which they have in hand. It is conceded that they have done very good work. In any case the Bill will not come into operation for another twelve months from now and my Amendment will enable the Minister to suspend the Act for another twelve months in regard to those unions. I should have thought that quite sufficient to satisfy the Government and that any further prolongation would really run counter to the whole spirit of the Bill. I ask your Lordships to place confidence in the county councils to which you are transferring the powers of the old boards of guardians and not to prolong this anomaly. I beg to move.
Page 17, lines 37 and 38, leave out ("thirty-five") and insert ("thirty-one").—(Lord Sandhurst.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
As the noble Lord who moved the Amendment has said there are three unions with 150 regard to which this clause can operate. It has been stated in another place that the intention of the present Minister is to exercise the power in the case of the Borough of West Ham, and, therefore, it is with regard to West Ham that it is necessary I should tell your Lordships the reason for the power being given to postpone the operation of the clause. Your Lordships appreciate that the clause which we are discussing is a clause which gives the Minister power to postpone until 1935—that is to say, for six years—the transfer to the county councils of the functions of the board of guardians. In the case of West Ham, as your Lordships are aware, there was, before 1926, an orgy of extravagance which was ruining the whole morale of the district, and was spreading its contagion far and wide. It was found necessary, in view of the deliberate and persistent defiance of the law by the board of guardians there, and their failure to carry out their duties in accordance with the Statute, to supersede them, and to substitute certain nominated persons to carry out their duties.
The effect of that substitution has been most remarkable. I do not want to trouble your Lordships with the detailed figures contained in three reports that have been published by the present guardians—the persons who were appointed by the Minister—but, if I might, I will give your Lordships just one or two to indicate the extent of the improvement which has been effected. In July, 1926, which was when the late board was superseded and the new guardians appointed, the number of persons on out-relief was 58,872. On the latest date for which I have figures, February 26, 1929, the number of persons on out-relief was 19,484, a reduction of nearly 40,000. The weekly cost in July, 1926, was £17,405; the weekly cost at the end of February of this year was £4,900. The rate in the pound which the elected guardians were asking for the last half-year they were in office was 4s. 8d.; in the present half-year it has come down to 3s. In the last completed year that the old guardians were in office the increase of debt was over …450,000; during the last year of the present guardians the debt has been reduced in the year by £200,000. The total expenditure in the last completed year of the old guardians was £2,345,930. The total expenditure of the nominated guardians in 151 the year 1927–8 was £1,362,000. In other words £1,000,000 a year was in round figures being wasted.
The noble Lord who moved the Amendment says: "Oh, well, cannot you trust the new county councils?" It is not a question of trusting the new county councils; it is a question of whether it is fair and reasonable, first of all in the interest of the county councils themselves, to impose upon them the financial and administrative difficulties which have been created by that long continued orgy of extravagance, and in the view of the Minister of Health, who is in close touch with the situation, it would not be fair to do it. More than that, after what has happened in West Ham, there was not merely extravagance going on—that was the least evil—but there was a demoralisation of the whole population, so that they ceased to be unemployed and became unemployable. They ceased to be people who could not get work and became people who would not work. The present régime is necessary to re-establish the spirit of independence and the spirit of desire to work, which I am glad to say the present guardians are successfully building up again, and to restore their self-respect and the whole morale of the district that had been demoralised by the West Ham Board.
In that task the nominated guardians are being very successful. The Minister has no doubt that they are gradually building up and restoring the population to the condition from which it ought never to have been degraded. To impose on new councils wholly inexperienced in Poor Law work the task of dealing with this population would be very likely to undo a great deal of the work that has been done, and would throw upon the councils a task they could not fairly be expected to perform. This postpones the coining into operation of this Part of the Act dealing with Poor Law relief until 1935. By that time it is hoped, and confidently believed that the position will have been so far restored that there will be no undue pressure or burden put upon the council if they are asked at that time to take over a district which by that period, and not much before, will have been rendered fit to be handled like the rest of the country.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 19 agreed to.152
§ Clause 20 [Transfer of functions under Registration Acts]:
§ LORD PARMOOR had an Amendment on the Paper to move, in subsection (2), to leave out "until such schemes as hereinafter mentioned are made." The noble Lord said: I think it would be convenient to the Committee to say at once that the noble Earl has convinced me that I am wrong in putting down this Amendment. I have read the document to which he referred with great care; I am always open to be convinced by him. Therefore I do not propose to move any Amendment which deals with the registration point.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW: I beg to move.
Page 19, line 17, after ("as") insert ("are").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, at the end of the clause, to insert: "Provided also that the area of non-county boroughs containing more than 100,000 inhabitants shall forthwith be constituted a separate registration district." The noble Earl said: This is a small Amendment compared with those which have been moved earlier in the evening, and much smaller in its effect than those moved from these Benches. The object is to give county boroughs much more authority than is allowed under the scheme of the Bill introduced by His Majesty's Government. This will give them power over the registration, and there is no other suggestion in the Amendment. I think your Lordships will readily understand that in the case of a large non-county borough of over 100,000 people it is quite natural that they should desire to have their own registration officers in order that their wishes may be gratified. I beg to move.
Page 19, line 34, at end insert the said proviso.—(Earl Beauchamp.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I had some difficulty in understanding what the noble Earl really aimed at in his Amendment because it would only touch two towns in the whole county—namely, Ilford and Leyton. It would not take them away from the county. It would just amalgamate them like any other non-county borough or urban or rural district, but it would insist on their being 153 one separate district. They would not get any additional powers by this Amendment, but they would be obliged to be simply one separate district and to manage their registration affairs in one unit. It might be very much more convenient for them to divide into two. I should have thought that in these circumstances it would be really better for these two boroughs, Ilford and Leyton, to be left to arrange their registration affairs as was best suited to their geographical and other circumstances. I think it probable, if I may say so, that the noble Earl desired to put these two boroughs into the position of county boroughs, as for example Birmingham or Manchester or Liverpool or any other great county borough. It would only affect these two towns in the whole country, but it would be cutting at the principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill is that you should divide registration between the county councils and the county boroughs, and if the noble Earl sought to transform these municipal boroughs, these non-county boroughs, into county boroughs for this purpose, I should be obliged to resist. With regard to these two towns, I do not think it would be well to force them into one registration unit, because it might be better for them to be two, or to amalgamate with another area, as is already done in the case of Ilford which at present is part of the Romford registration area.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I shall not press my Amendment in view of what has been said by the noble Earl, but I still think that in the case of non-county boroughs with a population of 100,000 it is not an undue demand to make that they should have the power of dealing with this matter by themselves and not be subject to the county council.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 21 to 27 agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It will probably be convenient to your Lordships as we have come to the end of Part II of the Bill that we should take our short adjournment.
§ [The sitting was suspended at a quarter before eight o'clock and resumed at nine o'clock.]154
§ Clause 28:
§ County roads.
§ 28.—(1) Every road which at the appointed day is a main road, or which would, apart from this section at any time thereafter have become a main road, and every road as respects which a county council become by virtue of this Part of this Act the highway authority, shall be termed a county road, and the county council shall, in relation to county roads, have the like functions as with respect to main roads, and all enactments relating to main roads shall as from the appointed day have effect as if for references therein to main roads there were substituted references to county roads.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (1), after "county roads," where that phrase first occurs, to insert "other than such county roads as an urban district council have claimed or are deemed to have claimed to exercise the functions of maintaining." The noble Lord said: It is a happy circumstance that the proceedings were adjourned at the point we reached before dinner because it enables me to open the debate by moving an Amendment which I think the Government will accept, and hitherto no Amendment has been accepted. This is little more than a drafting Amendment, but it is essential to make the clause quite clear. The point is that Clause 28 includes all county roads but Clause 31 enables urban district councils with a population of over 20,000 to claim to maintain and repair all county roads in their districts. Those urban district councils who now maintain county roads will continue to do so and other urban districts who claim the right will now become the road authority for those roads. That being so, and in view of the provisions of Clause 31, it seems clear that the county roads which urban district councils have claimed or are deemed to have claimed to maintain should be excluded from county roads under Clause 28, seeing that that clause, as I have stated, refers to all county roads. Otherwise there is an ambiguity. The necessity for the Amendment is quite obvious.
Page 25, line 23, after ("roads") insert ("other than such county roads as an urban district council have claimed or are deemed to have claimed to exercise the functions of maintaining").—(Lord Arnold.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I do not know that this Amendment is really necessary and I should like to look into the drafting again, if the noble Lord will allow me, as the Amendment was put down very late.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I am quite willing to fall in with that suggestion, but if the noble Earl will look at the clause he will see that it is clear that it refers to all county roads, and in view of Clause 31 it cannot refer to all county roads. It is essential that this Amendment which is little more than a drafting Amendment, should be accepted.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 28 agreed to.
§ Clause 29:
§ Transfer to county councils of functions with respect to highways in rural districts.
§ 29.—(1) As from the appointed day every county council shall be the highway authority as respects such part of the county as is for the time being comprised in any rural district and as respects the highways therein, and as such shall have all such functions under the Highway Acts, 1835 to 1885, as were exerciseable by rural district councils who by virtue of the Local Government Act, 1894, became successors of highway boards, and rural district councils shall cease to be highway authorities:
§ Provided that nothing in this section shall affect the functions of rural district councils under the Local Government Act, 1894, as respects rights of way and encroachments on roadside wastes, or any functions not being functions with respect to highways exerciseable at the appointed day by rural district councils as successors to surveyors of highways or highway boards.
§ (4) Nothing in this section shall affect the right of any rural district council having such power to exercise the power of making byelaws under section one hundred and fifty-seven of the Public Health Act, 1875, with respect to the level, width and construction of new streets:
§ Provided that a rural district council before making any such byelaws shall consult with the county council, and if a rural district council do not within six months after a notice from the county council requiring them to do so exercise the power of making such byelaws, the county council may themselves exercise the power.
LORD STRACHIE moved, after subsection (1), to insert:—
Provided also that if any highway to which this section refers is not, in the
opinion of the county council, in a reasonable state of repair and condition at the appointed day, the county council shall forthwith (unless the district council themselves undertake the work, which they are hereby empowered to do) proceed to put such highway into a reasonable state of repair and condition, and the amount of the cost so incurred by the county council shall be added to the amount of the county rate payable by the ratepayers of the district concerned, any dispute between the county council and the district council with reference either to the state of any such highway or to the work necessary to put it into reasonable repair and condition being determined by the Minister of Transport, whose decision shall be final.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is for the protection of county councils when the rural district council have neglected to keep up their roads in view of their being taken over. That is not an unlikely case to happen in the case of some of the smaller authorities who, in view of the heavy rates and general depression, are very anxious to save, if they can, in their expenditure. They might neglect their roads thinking that it does not matter because the county council will have to take them over under this Bill. In that case it seems rather hard that the county council should have to throw the cost of making good these defects on the ratepayers of the county, in order to save expenditure in some particular small area. The county council will have to make good that defect.
§ In this proviso, I am asking that the Ministry of Health shall see to it that, if there has been unreasonable neglect and the roads are not in the proper state of repair, the Minister shall undertake to withhold the grant that would otherwise be made and to hand it over to the county council, so that the latter may be recouped for the neglect of the district council, which, in the interval after the passing of the Bill, has not done reasonable repairs. I think the noble Earl will agree, from his own knowledge of these matters, that it might be a very serious thing indeed if the district council neglected its roads and it might lead to very heavy expenditure on the principle that a stitch in time saves nine. It is very necessary that there should be some protection. I do not insist upon the form of words, and I shall be satisfied if the noble Earl can assure me that something will be done 157 to see that the county council shall not suffer from neglect by a district council in this matter.
Page 26, line 17, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Strachie.)
§ LORD OLIVIER
This seems to me a very reasonable Amendment. It is obvious that any tenant of an expiring tenancy is always under a certain temptation to neglect his repairs, and this Amendment simply puts the county council in the position of an ingoing tenant of a transferred tenancy who is able to get reasonable dilapidations from the out-going tenant. It seems a reasonable provision.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
This Amendment, I think, has two aspects. In the first place, it might be interpreted as seeking to enforce upon a district, before the roads in that district are taken over by the county council, the duty of bringing those roads up to a perfect state. Taking that point first, I admit that there might be roads which are not in such a good state of repair as they ought to be, and as we hope that they will be in the future. The reason why many of these roads have not been brought up to a proper state of repair is really the res angusta domi—that is to say, the financial stringency due to the present narrow basis of charge—and it would really, I think, be illogical to require these very poor rural districts that have been over-burdened through want of revenue to undertake very heavy charges to bring the roads up to the state in which the county council would wish them to be before they take them over, and in which we hope they will be in the future. The general principle of the Bill is that the county council should take over the roads in rural districts in their existing condition and should also undertake the loan charges which have been made in respect of works carried out upon them in the past. That is one aspect of the Amendment and, so far as that point is concerned, I am afraid that I should not be able to accept the principle which it implies.
Then the noble Lord goes on to deal with another aspect. The roads will not be taken over when this Bill becomes law, but later. As your Lordships know, the Government through the ministry of Transport make grants to rural districts 158 in respect of the maintenance of unclassified roads, and if a rural district were to neglect its roads between now and the appointed day pressure could be brought to bear upon it to make it do its duty, and it would be told that its grants from the Road Fund would be imperilled. This Amendment would produce a certain anomaly. On the one hand if the district council between the passing of this Bill and the appointed day reconstructed the road by means of a loan, the liability for the loan would pass to the county council. On the other hand, if the district council did nothing, the cost of putting the road in repair would fall upon them under the Amendment. I think, therefore, that it is not necessary to accept the Amendment in order to force rural districts to do their duty between now and when the roads are taken over, and the rest of it I am afraid would go against the principle of the Bill if accepted. Therefore, I am unable to accept the Amendment.
Speaking as a county councillor, I am sorry that the noble Earl cannot accept the Amendment. We have had various roads taken over by the county councils—roads that link up the main roads. One was taken over the other day. It naturally had to be put in a reasonable state of repair by the district council before it was taken over, and so I am sorry the Government cannot accept what I should regard as a very reasonable Amendment, and one which would save the county councils enormous expenditure. I hope that the noble Lord opposite will press his Amendment, because I think it is a very reasonable one, and I cannot see why the Government cannot accept it.
When the district councils were first formed, before they took over a road the parish council had to put it in repair, and I do not see why that should not now apply. In the case of a great many of the roads which the county councils have taken over the Ministry of Transport have paid 75 per cent. and the rural districts have paid 25 per cent. They have borrowed that money, and now the county council will have to take over that debt. Surely, in the case of all other roads the district council ought to put them in repair. I hope that the Government will agree to this Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the proposed proviso shall be there inserted?
§ LORD STRACHIE moved, in the proviso in subsection (4), after "and" to insert: "the Minister of Health shall, before confirming any such by-laws, ascertain and consider the views of the county council with regard thereto: Provided also that." The noble Lord said: The county councils have no objection to this proviso, but they think there ought to be some right of appeal to the Minister of Health.
Page 27, line 3, after ("and") insert ("the Minister of Health shall, before confirming any such by-laws, ascertain and consider the views of the county council with regard thereto:
§ Provided also that").—(Lord Strachie.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I do not think that this Amendment is necessary, because the general scheme of Acts of Parliament which give power to make bylaws is that the responsible local authority should make its by-laws and then secure the approval of the appropriate Department of Government, whether the Home Office, the Ministry of Health, or whatever it may be, after—and this is the important point—they have given public notice in the district and there has been a period for the deposit and public in-
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 26.159
|Beauchamp, E.||Chaplin, V.||Forester, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Lamington, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Bledisloe, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Olivier, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Clwyd, L.||Strachie, L. [Teller.]|
|Cozens-Hardy, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Allendale, V.||de Clifford, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Deramore, L. [Teller.]|
|Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor)||Leven and Melville, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Daryngton, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Macclesfield, E.||Desborough, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dynevor, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Plymouth, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Exeter, M.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Hood, V.||Jessel, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Knutsford, V.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ spection of the by-laws. The only effect of this Amendment would be to give the county council a second opportunity, through the Minister, of bringing pressure to bear on the local authority for the modification of the by-laws. The Bill already proposes to modify the existing system by which the local authority has to give notice before it sends up a bylaw for approval.
§ The Bill obliges the local authority to consult the county council but it leaves the responsibility for making it where it is now—namely, with the local authority. The object is that the county council should be consulted so that it should have an express opportunity of suggesting modifications to the Minister, especially with a view of obtaining uniformity in by-laws so far as is possible and necessary. The position of the county council, I think, is really sufficiently safeguarded thereby and is certainly absolutely safe. All that would happen under the Amendment would be that the county council would have another opportunity in the procedure which is suggested of doing exactly what it has done already. Therefore, I venture to think the Amendment is unnecessary. The county council already has sufficient safeguard and would not get any additional safeguard from this Amendment.161
§ LORD STRACHIE
As the noble Earl assures me that the Amendment is unnecessary, I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 29 agreed to.
§ Clause 30 [Transfer of classified roads in urban districts to county council]:
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 27, line 33, leave out ("a road") and insert ("roads").
§ Page 27, line 35, leave out ("maintaining the road") and insert ("maintenance and repair").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 31:
§ Rights of certain urban district councils to maintain county roads.
§ 31.—(1) Where an urban district has a population exceeding twenty thousand, the urban district council may claim to exorcise the functions of maintenance and repair of any county road within their district, and if a claim is made within the time hereinafter limited, then, as from such date as is hereinafter mentioned, the urban district council shall be entitled to exercise those functions, and shall continue to be, or shall become, the highway authority as respects that road, and the road shall vest in that council, and for the purpose of the maintenance, repair and improvement of, and other dealing with, any such road, that council shall have the same functions as if the road were an ordinary road vested in them.
§ (2) Such claim as aforesaid must be made—
- (a) in the case where the population of the urban district exceeds twenty thousand at the appointed day and the road is a main road immediately before the appointed day or a road which will by virtue of the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act become a county road on the appointed day, before the appointed day;
- (b) in the case where the population of the urban district is found by the Registrar General's preliminary report on any census subsequent to the appointed day to exceed for the first time twenty thousand and the road is a county road at the date of the publication of the report, within twelve months after that date;
- (c) in the case of an Act or order being made adding an area to an existing urban district of which the population exceeds twenty thousand within twelve months after the date when the Act or order takes effect;
- (d) in the case of an order being made constituting a new urban district or of an Act or order adding an area to an existing urban district, in consequence whereof the urban district becomes an urban district of which the population exceeds twenty thousand, within twelve months after the date when the Act or order takes effect;
- (e) in the case of any road which becomes a county road after the appointed day, or after the date mentioned in any of the last three foregoing paragraphs, as the case may require, within twelve months after the date when it so becomes a county road.
§ (3) The date as from which the right of maintenance and repair shall be exercise-able shall—
- (a) where the claim is made before the appointed day, be the appointed day;
- (b) in any other case be the first day of April in the year following the calendar year in which the claim is made.
§ Provided that as respects any county roads which—
- (a) may be declared by the Minister of Transport to be roads towards the construction or improvement of which by the county council advances have been made under the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, as amended by any subsequent enactment, and to be roads the maintenance and repair of which should, having regard to the best means of promoting economy and efficiency in highway administration, remain vested in the county council; or
- (b) being situate in a county within which at the commencement of this Act there was in force a local Act empowering urban district councils to relinquish any functions of maintenance and repair retained by them in pursuance of a claim made under subsection (2) of section eleven of the Local Government Act, 1888, are roads as respects which the urban district council were not exercising the functions of maintenance and repair at the commencement of this Act;
§ (4) Any urban district council for the time being so responsible for the maintenance and repair of any county road within their district may at any time, with the consent of the county council, relinquish their functions as regards the maintenance and repair of the county road, and as from the first day of April next after the date of relinquishment the county road and the functions of maintaining it shall vest in the county council in like mariner as if the urban district council had made no claim under subsection (1) of this section.163
§ In the event of the county council withholding consent under this subsection, the urban district council may appeal to the Minister of Transport, who may make such order thereon as he thinks fit, and the order shall be binding on the county council and the urban district council.
§ (5) Where at the appointed day any urban district council are in pursuance of subsection (2) of section eleven of the Local Government Act, 1888, exercising the function of maintaining and repairing any main road, then—
- (a) if the population of the urban district exceeds twenty thousand at the appointed day the council thereof shall be deemed to have duly made a claim under this section as respects the road, unless before the appointed day they give to the county council notice in writing to the contrary;
- (b) in any other case the right of the urban district council to maintain and repair the road shall as from the appointed day determine, and the road and the functions of maintaining and repairing it shall vest in the county council.
§ (6) For the purposes of this section—
- (a) the expression "road" does not include county bridges; and
- (b) the population of an urban district shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be deemed to be the population thereof according to the last census for the time being:
§ Provided that the population of any urban district at the appointed day shall be taken to be the estimated population of that district for the year nineteen hundred and twenty-eight.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "and shall continue to be or shall become the highway authority as respects that road" and, towards the end of the subsection, after "if," to insert "they were as respects that road the highway authority and." The noble Earl said: These are not quite drafting Amendments. They are designed to get rid of an ambiguity. The words proposed to be omitted were inserted during the passage of the Bill in another place in order to make it clear that the urban authority which should maintain the road would be the highway authority for all practical purposes. For example: If authorised undertakers wish to lay a pipe the urban council and not the county council would be the proper authority to whom they should address the application.
§ But the clause, as amended, went too far and had the effect of creating two 164 highway authorities in respect to the same road. Further, under the clause as amended it is doubtful whether a road which is claimed remains a county road as defined in Clause 28 (1). The effect of the present Amendments is to make it clear that the county council remains the highway authority and the road remains a county road though for all practical purposes the urban council always functions as the highway authority. It is mainly a legal point, but it is also a drafting one and the Amendments make the clause clearer.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 28, line 30, leave out from the beginning to ("and") in line 31.
§ Page 28, line 35, after ("if") insert ("they were as respects that road the highway authority and").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "an Act or order being made" and insert "any enactment." The noble Earl said: This is really a drafting Amendment and the other Amendments which follow immediately in my name are also drafting.
Page 29, line 9, leave out ("an Act or order being made") and insert ("any enactment").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 29, line 13, leave out ("Act or order") and insert ("enactment")
§ Page 29, line 14, leave out ("order being made") and insert ("enactment")
§ Page 29, line 15, leave out ("of an Act or order")
§ Page 29, lines 20 and 21 leave out ("Act or order") and insert ("enactment").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in proviso (b) of subsection (3), to leave out "were not exercising" and to insert "have relinquished." The noble Lord said: This Amendment really deals with roads under urban district councils, or roads which might be under their control, in the County of Middlesex. Under Section 11, subsection (2), of the Local Government Act of 1888, an urban district council with a population of over 20,000 can claim the right to maintain and repair main roads in its areas, and 165 some urban district councils in Middlesex have relinquished their rights under that Act. That being so, they might, but for this clause, in due course come to claim their right, but this clause, unless my Amendment is accepted, takes away those rights from urban district councils which have not yet made those claims. It takes away from many urban district councils in the County of Middlesex the right, which all other urban district councils with a population of 20,000 and upwards are getting, the right to repair the classified roads if, in this year 1928, they have that population. That is an anomalous position. It is placing the County of Middlesex, or certain urban district councils in the County of Middlesex, in a disadvantageous position as compared with other urban district councils in other parts of the country.
§ Let me take an example. Supposing you had District A in Middlesex in 1894 and it has now a population of 50,000. You have in Surrey a precisely similar case, a District B whose population is now 50,000. District B would be entitled to claim under the Bill the classified roads, but District. A would not, merely because in the County of Middlesex certain urban district councils have, under a special Local Act, relinquished their rights. What is the reason for this? I understand the Ministry of Transport say that the County of Middlesex is an urbanised area. That is true, but it is not the only urbanised area; there are plenty of other urbanised areas. Middlesex is not in a unique position in this respect. Take Lancashire for instance. In Lancashire there are 101 non-county boroughs and urban district councils and 19 rural district councils. I think practically all of those maintain their main roads. In Yorkshire you have pretty much the same position—120 non-county boroughs and urban district councils in the West Riding. In the western portion of Mon-mouthshire you have an almost entirely urban area. There is really nothing to suggest that Middlesex is in a unique position.
§ We heard earlier in the evening much about the desirability of having uniformity, that we should not have difference of treatment as between one county and another. That was the principle the Lord Chancellor was 166 apparently prepared almost to die for. I submit that here the same position has arisen. The noble Earl shakes his head. What is the reply? Can he deny my figures? Is it not the case that the areas I have named are just as much urbanised as the County of Middlesex?
§ LORD ARNOLD
The figures I have given I believe to be quite unshakeable. I make one further point. An attempt was made, I think in 1925, under an Act which was promoted then by the Surrey County Council, to get a similar provision. There was much opposition to it and it was withdrawn. So far as precedent goes, precedent is against the Government. Uniting all these considerations I think there is a strong case for acceptance of the Amendment.
Page 30, line 12, leave out ("were not exercising") and insert ("have relinquished").—(Lord Arnold.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am very glad that I spent a few moments before coming to the House in fortifying myself with certain figures. The noble Lord was so well armed with figures referring to Yorkshire and Lancashire—correct and, no doubt, meticulously correct—that it is just as well for purposes of defence that I should have a little counter ammunition in the way of figures for Middlesex. The noble Lord said that Lancashire and Yorkshire were highly urbanised districts and I admit that that is perfectly true, but he told us—I think I am correct—that there were 19 in Lancashire.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
In Middlesex there are four non-county boroughs, thirty urban districts and four rural districts. All those rural districts are going to be 167 urbanised immediately so that Middlesex will have no rural districts at all. The whole county will be urbanised, though not in the manner in which the noble Lord suggested Yorkshire and Lancashire are very largely urbanised, but Middlesex will be one entirely urbanised area. Now, the point of this clause is to protect the County Council in this very unique position. Obviously, if they did not have some protection of this kind, the mileage of roads which they would have to look after would be very small indeed. The four non-county boroughs are Acton, with a population of 63,000, Ealing with 95,000, Hornsey with 89,000, and Twickenham with 34,000. The urban districts are Brentford and Chiswick, with a population of 56,000; Edmonton, 72,000; Enfield, 63,000; Finchley, 46,000; Hendon, 80,000; Heston and Isleworth, 60,000; Tottenham, 165,000; Willesden, 175,000; and Wood Green, 52,000. Those are local education authorities. I could not get figures for other districts but there are a good many others with populations over 20,000.
In Middlesex, therefore, not only will non-classified roads all fall to the urban districts, but unless there is some modification very large portions of the county roads might also be claimed. One of the main objects of the highways provisions is to extend county control and so one does not want to abolish county control where there has been county control—under a special Act, if you like. Where there has been county control one does not want the Bill to operate in the direction of taking away that control. The object of the clause is to maintain Middlesex in its existing position, especially as it will be in an even worse position by losing its four rural areas.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I think there is a certain amount of misunderstanding by the noble Earl—if I may say so with respect—about the provision. It is not a question of taking away from county councils. It is a question of taking from urban district councils the right which they have at present.
§ LORD ARNOLD
That is different. It takes away nothing from county councils but it takes from urban district councils rights which they possess. His figures do not vie with mine. I gave figures for Lancashire and Yorkshire. As regards Yorkshire, I said there were 120 non-county boroughs and urban districts. I did not mention rural districts. As regards Lancashire I said there were 101 non-county boroughs and 19 rural districts. They are practically all local authorities, so as regards South Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, how much is left? If he says that if we take away these roads there will not be much left to Middlesex, I submit there will be just as much left as in the case of the counties I have mentioned. The same thing applies to Monmouth. He will find his case is mathematically not at all accurate. As a question of proportion the justice of it is on my side. However, once again we meet with the usual fate. The Amendment will not be accepted so I shall not press it to a Division.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
Page 31, line 14, leave out ("deemed to be the population thereof") and insert ("ascertained").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD STRACHIE moved to leave out Clause 31. The noble Lord said: With regard to this particular clause, I would point out that the explanatory Memorandum submitted as a White Paper to the House of Commons explaining its effects was not accurate. It stated there that it was the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission that the right to claim should be given. I had the honour of being on the Royal Commission and that was not the case. Certainly we did not make any unanimous recommendation of the right to claim. The White Paper submitted to the House of Lords is different. No doubt the officials found that that statement was incorrect and in the White Paper submitted to this House they say that the tenour of the recommendation was to that effect. The recommendation of the Royal Commission is fully set out in paragraph 159:—
County councils should be empowered to delegate the maintenance of classified and main roads to councils of county districts if they think fit; but it is observed from paragraph 14 (iii) in the Proposals for Reform in Local Government (Cmd. 3134) that 'consideration will be given to the question whether, and if so, on what conditions, certain of the other authorities' [i.e., county district councils] 'should not carry out the actual work on their Class I and Class II roads and other 'main' roads.' No doubt the larger authorities will be entrusted with such work. But in the case of smaller urban authorities (e.g., those with less than 20,000 population) it should be open to a county council to represent to the Minister of Transport that it is undesirable that such work should be undertaken by any individual urban authority; and the Minister, after considering the observations of the county district council concerned, should be empowered to give such directions as he thinks proper.
§ There are strong objections to applying this because of the effect which will be produced in particular areas. I will quote a few typical examples to show the way the clause will work in some of the Home Counties. In Essex there will be four authorities in 7½ miles of the Eastern Avenue. In Middlesex, on the North Circular Road in seventeen miles there will be ten authorities, on the Uxbridge Road in twelve miles five authorities, on the Greenford Road in three miles three authorities; there is a different authority for each mile. Then we have the Green Lanes road, with 8½ miles and five authorities. In the County of Surrey we have the Kew Bridge to Esher Road, a short length with five authorities. Then there is the Tolworth-Esher Road, with ten miles and four different authorities. It seems very undesirable, when we are having this great reconstruction of local government and putting the county councils as overlords in most of these matters, that in this particular case there should be this exception. It certainly will not make for economy or efficiency to have so many different authorities concerned with the roads. Finally I should like to say that, though it may be claimed that the Ministry of Transport will ultimately eliminate some of these authorities, the easy way would be to arrange for the county councils to have complete control in all these cases. It does not make for efficiency to allow all these authorities to interfere.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Leave out Clause 31.—(Lord Strachie.)170
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In reply to this Amendment I think it is important that I should tell your Lordships what the existing position is. Under the Act of 1888 urban authorities then in existence were given the power to claim to be responsible for the maintenance of their roads. Under Clause 30 of the Bill now before your Lordships that power is being taken away from those urban authorities and, instead of making the right to claim to take charge of the roads depend upon whether or not an urban authority was in existence as such before 1888, it is made to depend upon the population of the urban area at the time when the claim is made. Urban authorities with a population of more than 20,000 are given the right to claim to take charge of the roads in their own district.
The noble Lord who has moved the omission of this clause says that this is not the recommendation of the Royal Commission. He was a member of the Commission, and I accept at once from him that this was not at any rate his own intention, but the passage to which he calls your Lordships' attention might, I think, have indicated to some minds, as it certainly did to my own, that it was the intention. The paragraph in question opens by saying that consideration is to be given to the conditions on which authorities are to be given the actual work of maintaining roads, and it goes on to say:—No doubt the larger authorities will be entrusted with such work. But in the case of smaller urban authorities (e.g., those with less than 20,000 population) it should be open to a county council to represent to the Minister of Transport that it is undesirable that such work should be undertaken by any individual urban authority; and the Minister, after considering the observations of the county district council concerned, should be empowered to give such directions as he thinks proper.I read that as meaning that, in the case of those districts with under 20,000 population, it should be open to the Minister either to allow or to disallow the claim for maintaining the roads; but in the case of larger authorities, these would, as the Royal Commission say, no doubt be entrusted with the work.
That is the provision to which the Bill gives effect. Your Lordships will appreciate that, if we were to take away altogether from all the urban authorities 171 the right which many of them possess to-day of claiming to be responsible for the maintenance and repair of their roads, we should be taking a step which would be bitterly resented by the urban authorities concerned and depriving them of a right which they have now had for forty years. There are two provisos, the one which we have been discussing in answer to the Amendment of Lord Arnold, which concerned Middlesex, and the other the first proviso, which enables the Minister of Transport to exclude from the operation of the clause certain arterial roads. I notice that one noble Lord referred to the North Circular Road as a road which the Minister of Transport proposes to deal with in that way. Where a certain number of local authorities are concerned it would, no doubt, be inconvenient that power should be exercised by each over a small space. Subject to that safeguard, I venture to submit to your Lordships that it would hardly be fair upon urban authorities to take away a right which they have enjoyed for so long, and which the Royal Commission's Report supports and does not disapprove.
I am interested in this question as a person primarily interested in roads, and I think the argument in support of the course taken by the Government is rather pitiable. We heard a great deal early this evening about the desire for uniformity in administration. When we came to Poor Law, human beings had to be regimented—there had to be no exceptions—but when we come to a matter like roads, economy in construction is apparently of no consequence and we are not to consider the reasonable way of making a main through highway from one part of the county to another, but we are to consider the feelings of the urban local authorities. The noble and learned Lord, towards the end of his speech, let out the real reason for this provision—namely, that it would hurt the feelings of the urban local authorities if it were omitted. Is that a good reason, when you are passing a Bill of this sort, which in a sense is overturning our present local government and making it something quite new—is that a good reason for continuing what is a foolish state of affairs?
It is 25 years or more since I heard comments passed upon the fact that the 172 Great North Road had 300 authorities concerned with it in 400 miles, and in those days it was looked upon as a shocking and foolish thing of which to encourage the continuance. Yet now you hear of these comparatively small lengths of road with which numerous authorities are concerned, and we are told that although you have main thoroughfares running through perhaps several counties, wherever they go through an urban district you are to allow the urban authority to make up and control that part of the road, apparently making it differently from the county council portion, keeping up a separate staff, and incurring all the additional expense of administration which such a course involves. From the point of view of administration is that reasonable, or is it common sense? There was a suggestion made by a noble Lord that if you took this work away from them the local authorities would not have much to do, but there are plenty of other roads in an urban district to be looked after and I maintain that from an administration point of view this is not reasonable.
I do not know why the Government do not take this opportunity of putting this matter of roads upon some reasonable basis. Is this one of the bargains made outside Parliament by which the Government are bound? Is this something which Parliament is asked to sanction because sonic opposition outside has been squared? If not, is your Lordships' House not prepared to assert itself, and to say that you will take the reasonable and practical course, and have these roads looked after by one authority throughout their length, and, if they like to delegate their powers to certain urban authorities, where they do not think it will interfere with the construction and maintenance of the roads, let them do so?
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 31, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 32 [Contributions by county councils to county roads maintained by urban district councils]:
Page 32, line 22, after ("improvement") insert ("are being or").—(The Earl of On-slow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.173
Page 32, line 30, after ("improvement") insert ("are being or").—(The Earl of On slow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 32, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 33 agreed to.
§ Clause 34:
§ Delegation of road functions by county councils to district councils.
34.—(1) The council of any district wholly or partly within a county may within three months after the commencement of this Act apply to the county council for the delegation to them as from the appointed day of the functions of the county council with respect to the maintenance, repair and improvement of, and other dealing with—
(a) the whole of the unclassified roads, exclusive of county bridges, within the district or such part of the district as is within the county;
§ (2) In so far as the application is in respect of unclassified roads, the county council shall grant the application unless they are satisfied that having regard to the best means of promoting economy and efficiency in highway administration throughout the county and to the particular circumstances of the district in respect of which the application is made the application ought not to be granted.
§ LORD OLIVIER,
on behalf of Lord Parmoor, moved to add to paragraph (a), "except, existing main roads." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is really on the same lines as that on the question of urban district councils, but it seems a stronger case. Surely, the county authorities having been clothed with the responsibility of taking over these roads, it is really an idle and foolish thing to hand back to the rural district councils the, strips of main roads which run through those councils' areas. Even with the intervention of the urban district councils, we should, under the Bill—as apparently was intended—have very long stretches of main roads controlled by one uniform authority, under the supervision of the Minister of Transport. That, surely, is the only rational way of dealing with our main roads, and there cannot he such special and private reasons for dealing with these roads in rural district 174 as there are in urban districts. I do not know whether we can hope that the Minister will see the reasonableness of adhering to the main intentions of the Bill in this respect, bit I feel bound to move the Amendment, and to press it very strongly. It rests on even stronger grounds than were advanced in the case of the urban district councils.
Page 33, line 10, after ("county") insert ("except existing main roads—).—(Lord Olivier.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I feel it is right that I should answer the noble Lord on this question somewhat fully, because it touches a matter with which I happen to be particularly acquainted, as it is based on one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, of which I had the honour to be Chairman. The Royal Commission were impressed with the desirability—because I am sure that everybody will agree that it is desirable—that you should offer every opportunity and every temptation to the best possible people to serve on all local governing bodies, whether county boroughs, or rural districts, or even parish councils. I am sure the noble Lord opposite would agree with me there. In order to tempt people, to give them occupation, you must give them really good and sound work to do. That is one reason why it is sought to give the greatest possible responsibility compatible with efficiency to the rural district councils.
Then there is another point. The principle of this Bill is to spread the area of charge over as large a district as possible in order to equalise the effect of the costs on particular districts. It is also one of the principles of the Bill—it has been carried out in the Poor Law clauses—to delegate to the people who live on the spot those particular details of local administration which touch them most closely and which they are really best qualified to carry out. Up to the present time, of course, as your Lordships are aware it was the duty of the rural districts to maintain these unclassified roads. Under this Bill those roads in the rural districts will pass as a charge to the county councils. But it is thought that the rural district councils should have the opportunity of claiming to be agents for the county councils in the 175 maintenance of these roads, that they should go to the county council and say: "We wish to be the agents of and to do the work for the county council in keeping our own roads going." Of course, the responsibility for the overseeing of the business is in the hands of the county council, and it is possible for them to go to the Minister of Transport and point out that such and such a rural district council has applied for the delegation of the roads; but there are such and such reasons—that it will not be economical, or that they have not been economical, or that they will not be efficient and so forth—why that delegation at the request of the rural district should not be granted.
Those are the principles upon which the Bill is based. If you gave the county council unfettered discretion whether to delegate or not to delegate you would defeat the object which was the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission. I may say that the Royal Commission contained a majority of members who were definitely representative of various local government bodies. There were three members of county councils, three members from the county boroughs, one from the municipal boroughs, and one each from the urban districts and the rural districts. That unanimous recommendation has been embodied in the Bill, and I think it meets the case. It gives to rural district councillors important work to do and it gives the council control over their own local roads subject, of course, to the general supervision of the county, and not taking away the general control from the county council of the management of roads in the county.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I do not feel quite sure that the noble Earl has looked at the Amendment much because he has dealt generally with the question of unclassified roads and rural roads. This Amendment merely proposes to make an exception in regard to existing main roads. It is only of the existing main roads and the trunk roads that I speak. As regards the suggestion that you should give your local talent the best possible means of exercising itself upon the roads, I do not think that at all a sound principle with regard to main arterial roads. You can get the best possible talent and advice and the most en- 176 thusiastic work done, as I used to see when Sir Henry Maybury was surveyor of Sevenoaks, by getting the best qualified engineer to deal with a large line of roads. Certainly, with regard to our main roads which carry the principal traffic it is not the case that you would get the best service by letting your local talent exercise itself upon them.
I would like to see whether I really understand the argument of the noble Earl. Of course, he drew a very suave picture to your Lordships of these rural district councils saying to the county council: "We should like to be your agents," and thereupon becoming the agents of the county council. One has heard comments on the way business is carried on by Government Departments and sometimes by local authorities; but in the ordinary business world, if a business man desires to carry on his business efficiently, he prefers to choose his own agents and not to have them chosen for him by some one who comes and says: "I propose to be your agent; you will have to accept me." It is rather a curious definition of an agent. The noble Earl also said that it resembled the method of delegation, and was on a par with the method of delegation of the Poor Law powers. Surely that is a statement that does not bear examination. He was referring, I take it, to the delegation of the Poor Law powers to the guardian committees. On the guardian committees there is a permanent two-thirds majority of members of the county council. It is hardly delegation when you retain complete control of the delegation body.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
There are members of the district council as well as the county council among the two-thirds. The co-opted are one-third.
And members of the district council. Then there are not a majority of the county council as upon the guardians committees. Anyhow, it is not quite the same delegation. The county council does retain a direct representation and a direct control, whereas in this case I take it the work is to be done for them by an agent they are willing to accept, whom they would not choose for themselves, but who puts himself upon them saying: "I should like to do the work, and if you do not 177 think it administratively expedient, there it is; it does not matter because you have an appeal to the Minister and he can decide in a proper case that the county council need not have this agent put upon them, and that this work may not be taken from them." it is really the Minister of Transport, sitting in London, who, after all, has a good deal to attend to, including incidentally the railways of the country, who is thought to be better able to form a judgment as to whether a rural district council somewhere or other is more fit to be the agent for the county council to look after its roads than the county council of the county is itself able to judge.
The county council is elected by the people of the county, and the people of the county send their representatives there to act for them. I should have thought that on any principle of representative government they were infinitely better fitted to decide than some Minister sitting in London, who can only hear what is said by the parties, and who no doubt would come to an honest decision on the materials before him, but who can never realise the local circumstances of the people who live there. I think this is making for bad administration, and I hope that your Lordships are going to act independently and take steps to express your view upon matters of this kind and not go like sheep, as in another place, following the Government into the Division Lobby without any adequate reason being given for any of these things beyond the fact that they are liked by somebody outside, or that some bargain or arrangement has been made, or that because they have had the powers before they ought to go on having them now. What is the good of changing local government if you leave things unreformed in that way?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Let me answer the two questions that were put to me. The noble Lord, Lord Olivier, thought I had not quite understood him. I quite follow that he referred not only to roads which had been main roads, that he referred to through arterial roads. I would point out that those great through arterial roads will become county roads. They will not be unclassified roads. Therefore, I think I was right in my contention in regard to those unclassified 178 roads. There are a great number of main roads in different counties which are really unimportant and are therefore unclassified. It was to those I referred. I dealt with the whole question of unclassified roads in elaborating my argument with the noble Lord.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, said I was quite wrong in comparing the delegation of the Poor Law powers to the guardians committees and the road powers to the district councils, and he said: "You have a majority of elected representatives upon the guardians committees." The guardians committees under Clause 7 consist of members for the time being of the councils of the district or districts comprised in the area; then the members for the time being of the county council representing the electoral divisions wholly or partly comprised in the area less presumably the district members, and then the co-opted members to whom I need not refer. The council to which the unclassified roads will be delegated will be the rural district council. That is to say, it will be very likely the same as the guardians committee, less the co-opted members and the few members of the county council, so it is an elected body to whom these roads are delegated. It is a body which is elected. It is not an appointed body. Therefore the two things are not analogous, if I may venture to suggest that to the noble Earl.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD STRACHIE moved to leave out subsection (2) and insert:—
(2) The county council shall delegate the maintenance, repair and improvement of and other dealing with unclassified roads to the council of any rural district, but the county council shall be empowered to represent to the Minister of Transport in the case of any individual rural district council that it would be undesirable to grant delegation or that delegation should be withdrawn, and the Minister of Transport, after considering the circumstances of the area affected and the observations of the rural district council concerned, shall have power to give such directions as he may think proper.
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to reverse the procedure under which roads may be delegated to the rural district council by the county council. As the Bill now stands the rural district council will have to apply to the county council to allow these roads to be delegated to the rural district coun- 179 cil. I propose that the procedure should be that the county council should delegate to the rural district councils the maintenance of the rural roads, the unclassified roads. Otherwise it seems to me that you will take away a very large amount of the work of the rural district councils. Practically they will be no longer a road authority. I admit that under the Bill, if the county council refuses an application to delegate the unclassified roads to rural district council, the rural district council may make an appeal to the Minister. I want to reverse that procedure and say that the rural district councils shall by right have delegated to them the control of unclassified roads.
In support of my Amendment I should like to quote from the second Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. This Commission was presided over by the Earl of Onslow and among its members was the Chairman of the County Councils Association, Sir Edmund Turton. Another very prominent member was Mr. Samuel Taylor, and I was also a member. We were all unanimously in favour of county councils delegating the maintenance of these unclassified roads to the rural district councils, subject, of course, to an appeal to the Minister. I will quote paragraph 160 of that Report. It says:
It should be the duty of county councils to delegate the maintenance of unclassified roads to rural district councils; but a county council should be empowered to represent to the Minister of Transport, in the case of any individual rural district council, that it is undesirable to grant delegation or that delegation should be withdrawn; and the Minister, after considering the circumstances of the area affected and the observations of the rural district council concerned, should be empowered to give such direction as he thinks proper.
The Royal Commission were unanimous upon that point, that it should be the duty of the county council to delegate unclassified roads to these rural district councils, but of course they would have the right of appeal to the Minister of Transport if they thought it undesirable in any individual case that these unclassified roads should be maintained by the rural district council.
§ I know that the evidence given by the rural district councils had great weight with the Royal Commission. If you take away the unclassified roads you will take 180 away a great part of the business of these rural district councils, because very often their main business is looking after these unclassified roads. The advantage of the rural district councils looking after non-classified roads is that local knowledge is brought to bear upon local interests. If you have a county council supervising these roads, there is a danger that local interests are neglected, but if the rural district councils have charge of these roads, they will see that they are not neglected. The Royal Commission unanimously reported in favour of my proposed Amendment instead of the proposal in the Bill. Undoubtedly it strengthens the case of the rural district councils before the Ministry if ipso facto the county council has to delegate instead of the rural district councils having to make an appeal that they should be given these powers. I only hope that the noble Lord, who has already voted in favour of an Amendment which was the unanimous wish of the Royal Commission, will see that in this particular case it was also the unanimous report of the Royal Commission, and will support my Amendment.
Page 33, line 17, leave out subsection (2) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Strachie.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord has said that this is a very important matter. I am very sorry but, after giving my best attention, I still cannot see that it is a matter of any great importance at all. The position is this. In the clause as the Government propose it the provision is that, where a district council has applied for the delegation of unclassified roads, the county council shall grant the application unless they are satisfied that, for the reasons stated, having regard to the best means of promoting economy and efficiency in highway administration throughout the county and to the particular circumstances of the district in respect of which the application is made, the application ought not to be granted. In the Bill as drafted when application is made by a district council, the county council is bound to grant the application unless on one of the two grounds given they think it inadvisable. If they refuse it on either of those grounds and the rural district council is not satisfied, the matter goes to the Ministry and the Ministry decides.
181 The proposal in the Amendment is that—just as in the Bill—the rural district council applies for delegation and the county council shall delegate. Then, instead of saying that they shall delegate unless they are satisfied that it is undesirable for the reasons named and then there is to be an appeal to the Minister, this Amendment proposes that they shall delegate and, having delegated, they can then appeal to the Minister against their own decision. Either way it gets to the Minister. The only reason why I prefer the Government's proposal to the noble Lord's is that, under the noble Lord's form of words, there is nothing at all laid down to guide the Minister as to the considerations which should influence him in refusing the delegation and allowing the county council's appeal against their own delegation, whereas, under our proposal, the matter which he has to consider and which the county council has to consider in deciding whether or not they shall delegate, are set out in the clause. They are to grant the delegation unless they are satisfied of two things:—that having regard to the best means of promoting economy and efficiency in highway administration throughout the county and to the particular circumstances of the district in respect of which the application is made the application ought not to be granted.It seems to us that, if you are going to give the right of appeal to the Minister, the Minister should be given some sort of guide as to the circumstances which, in the view of Parliament, ought to influence him in disallowing a delegation which should be a general right. It is on that ground that I feel unable to accept the Amendment. Apart from that, quite honestly I do not think there is anything in whether the county council shall delegate and then appeal against this decision, or a county council shall delegate unless it thinks this undesirable and then the rural council shall appeal.
§ LORD STRACHIE
I am afraid I cannot agree with the Lord Chancellor. I do not say that he has misrepresented my contention, but he has misunderstood me. My contention concerned the question whether the county council should have to delegate the unclassified roads to the district councils or whether the district councils should have to ask to 182 have them delegated. But since the Government have decided that they will go against the unanimous Report of the Royal Commission, I have nothing to do but to withdraw my Amendment. I very much regret their decision in this case.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 34 agreed to.
§ Clause 35 agreed to.
§ LORD STRACHIE moved, after Clause 35, to insert the following new clause:—
§ ".—(1) The county council and any district council may from time to time contract for the undertaking by the district council of the maintenance, repair, improvement and enlargement of, and other dealing with any county road, and, if the county council so require, the district council shall undertake the same, and such undertaking shall be in consideration of such annual payment by the county council for the costs of the undertaking as may from time to time be agreed upon, or, in case of difference, be determined by the Minister of Transport; and for the purposes, of such undertaking the district council shall have the same powers and be subject to the same duties and liabilities as if the road were vested in them:
§ Provided that in no case shall a county council make any payment to a district council towards the costs of such undertaking as respects any road until the county council are satisfied by the report of their surveyor, or such other person as the county council may appoint for the purpose, that the road has been properly maintained and repaired, or that the improvement or enlargement of or other dealing with the road, as the case may be, has been properly executed."
§ The noble Lord said: The reasons for this Amendment are evident from its terms, and I will not trouble the House with a speech upon it. I only desire to hear what my noble friend has to say with regard to it. No doubt, he will be able to assure me that it is unnecessary and that the county council are safeguarded in this matter.
Page 36, line 28, at end insert the said new clause.—(Lord Strachie.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think I can answer my noble friend satisfactorily. This Amendment is quite unnecessary, in view of the provision with regard to delegation.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 36 and 37 agreed to.183
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, after Clause 37, to insert as a new clause:—
§ Saving as to rights of electricity undertakers.
§ ". For the purposes of section 13 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1882, and of the provisions of section 12 of the Schedule to the Electric Lighting (Clauses) Act, 1899, as incorporated with any Act or with any Provisional or Special Order under the Electricity (Supply) Acts, 1882 to 1928, passed or confirmed or approved either before or after the appointed day and of any provisions corresponding with or similar to those provisions and contained in any such Act or Order, the following provisions shall have effect notwithstanding anything in Part III of this Act—
- (a) every county road (other than a road which at the appointed day is a main road repairable by the county council) shall be deemed to be a street repairable by the local authority; and
- (b) the county council shall be deemed to be the local authority as respects every such county road, within the meaning of the said section 13 and such provisions as aforesaid, except where the urban district council have claimed or are deemed to have claimed to exercise the functions of maintaining any such road."
§ The noble Earl said: In the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lord Askwith, he has asked me to move the Amendment which stands in his name. This Amendment deals with the question of electricity undertakers, who find themselves in a difficulty under the Bill. The present position is very simple. Under roads which are repairable by the local authority they have a general power to break up the road in order to lay their cables and carry on their undertaking. By Clauses 29 and 30 of this Bill a great number of roads, in fact the majority, are no longer repairable by local authorities and consequently the undertakers have to go for special leave to the county council before they can break up the roads. If they cannot get this leave they have to go to the Electricity Commissioners, who have laid down certain rules and regulations. They have to deposit plans, to specify every bit of road that they propose to take up and the whole thing is ended by an order that they should pay the costs of the Electricity Commissioners for giving their consent to taking up the road. The whole process leads to delay and expense.
§ I am not dealing with anything in the future but with electricity matters that are going on now and with practical schemes in progress at the moment. If 184 something is not done the effect will be possibly that, where two schemes have been thought out to take place simultaneously, one may be delayed more than the other and it will not be possible to carry them out as was intended. This may be part of the thought-out scheme of the Government, but I move this Amendment, which does not do anything new or bring anything extra into the Bill and merely preserves the rights that the electrical undertakers possess now in regard to schemes which they are at present engaged upon. It may be that the Government have some reason for not desiring to do it, but I think that it is certainly a matter on which one is entitled to ask whether they will be content to allow the present electricity contractors to continue to do as they have done before the Bill passed, and if not, for what reason?
After Clause 37 insert the said new clause.—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
If I correctly understood Lord Halsbury, the object of this Amendment is to obviate the necessity for an electricity undertaking to obtain the consent of a county council before breaking up any road transferred to the county council under the Bill. Under the enactments referred to in the Amendment consent is not required in the case of streets repairable by a local authority, and for the purposes of these enactments a county council is not a local authority. Should a county council, however, refuse consent there is, under Section 13 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1882 (as amended), a right to apply to the Electricity Commissioners, who may give their consent in writing. The Amendment, if accepted, would be liable to lead to confusion, as the powers of the county council in relation to any particular road would depend upon whether or not it had been a main road before the appointed day. One of the objects in the drafting of the highway clauses of the Bill has been to give county councils uniform powers in respect of all county roads. I think it is unnecessary to depart from this principle in view of the fact that a summary remedy is already provided under the existing law in the form of an appeal to the Electricity Commissioners.
185 The Amendment would retain the present position as regards existing main roads vested in county councils, but, as regards the roads to be transferred to the county councils under the Bill, it would place the latter in the same position as local authorities, that is, with power to approve the plan but not to refuse consent ab initio. I do not think the Amendment is necessary, because of the appeal to the Electricity Commissioners. The safeguard is in the hands of the authority and I see no reason to put the Amendment in the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I am rather astonished at the answer that I have received. First of all the noble Earl has not dealt with this point, that at the present time the electricity undertakers have a general power, without the consent of anybody, to break up a road which is repairable by the local authority. That is to be taken from them, and they have then to get an absolute approval from the county council. If they do not get that approval, they then have to go to the Electricity Commissioners, and the noble Earl tells us that the Commissioners can then and there give their consent in writing, and everything will be well. On the contrary, let me point out what is the procedure as laid down by the Commissioners themselves. Firstly, there has to be an application by public advertisement. That is the first thing that has to happen. Then notice has to be given to the road authorities. The next thing is that you have to prepare and deposit plans and detailed descriptions of the roads to be broken up; and finally you have to pay the costs of the Electricity Commissioners for their consent. That is the present procedure, as laid down by the Commissioners themselves, and to be told by the noble Earl: "Oh, they have only got to write straight off, and the whole thing is over", does not seem to be an adequate answer. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 38 agreed to.
§ Clause 39:
§ Power to combine councils for the purposes of town planning scheme
§ 39.—(1) Where it appears to the Minister that it is expedient that two or more local authorities (including county councils) 186 should be combined for purposes connected with the preparation or adoption of a town planning scheme, it shall be lawful for the Minister, by order, to provide for the constitution of a joint committee for the purpose, and to confer on such a joint committee any powers which a local authority under the Town Planning Act, 1925, might exercise in relation to the preparation or adoption of a town planning scheme:
§ Provided that the Minister, before making such an order, shall hold a local inquiry unless all the local authorities whom it is proposed to combine, assent.
§ LORD CLWYD) moved, at the beginning of subsection (1), after "appears," to insert "expedient." The noble Lord said: Clause 39 refers to the town planning schemes for combined areas. The clause as it stands provides that the Minister can by order provide for the constitution of a joint committee for town planning purposes. The object and effect of the Amendment would be to give to the two or more local authorities concerned a similar right of initiating proceedings for this purpose. Town planning is an important matter. Circumstances might conceivably arise when it was really necessary and desirable that those who knew the facts on the spot, the members of these local authorities concerned, should have the right themselves to initiate proceedings. The matter is one of some practical importance.
Page 38, line 33, after ("appears") insert ("expedient").—(Lord Clwyd.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I agree that it is desirable that the local councils should have the power of themselves making these combinations, but the answer to the noble Lord's Amendment is that they have it already. That is why we have not put it in. If he will look at the Town Planning Act, Section 2 (1), proviso (2), he will find that two or more borough or district councils can already combine to prepare or adopt a town planning scheme, and under the clause we have just passed the county council put in the same situation under subsection (2), and therefore Clause 39 gives to the. Minister the power which the councils already have in combination if they choose, and the clause only operates if they have not been able to arrive at an agreement.
§ LORD CLWYD
I understand, therefore, that if two or more councils desire to combine for this purpose they have the right to do so?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 39 agreed to.
§ Clauses 40 and 41 agreed to.
§ Clause 42:
§ Amendment of 15 Geo. 5. c. 16. s. 3.
§ 42. Section three of the Town Planning Act, 1925 (which requires the councils of certain boroughs and urban districts to prepare town planning schemes before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-nine) shall have effect as if for that date there were substituted the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved, before "thirty-nine," to insert "thirty-four, or with the consent of the Minister, a later date, but not later than the first day of January, nineteen hundred and." The noble Lord said: On an earlier clause the noble Earl opposite [Earl Russell] expressed the opinion that if the Government did not accept his Amendment they would convict themselves of being unreasonable. He did lint press his views as to what was reasonable to the extent of the Division Lobby and I, for one, was left with the impression that reason, in that particular case, was rather on the side of the Government than on the side of the noble Earl. But in the case of this Amendment to Clause 42 I should like to adopt the expression of the noble Earl. In fact, I am bound to say that the more I look at it the more astonishment I feel that the Bill was not originally drafted in the way I propose to amend it, and that it was proposed instead to postpone these schemes until 1939. The effect of Clause 42 is to postpone the date by which boroughs and urban councils must prepare town planning schemes from January 1, 1929, to January 1, 1939, ten years. The effect of my Amendment would be to make that date 1934 and at the same time to give the Minister power to postpone schemes in any case where he was satisfied that it really had not been possible to prepare them.188
§ I shall be told that in the case of town planning schemes what is wanted is not quick schemes but good schemes. With that, of course, I absolutely agree; but it seems to me that while that might be a very good argument for refusing to accept the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Buxton, who wants the date to be 1932, it is no reason at all for refusing the Amendment which I am proposing. Consider for a moment what is involved in the question of town planning. First of all, there is the question of the arterial roads. In the last ten years at immense expense new arterial roads have been pierced through such open spaces between villages—I am speaking of the spaces round London—as still exist. Unless town planning schemes are put into force we shall very soon have ribbon-growths of houses all along those arterial roads and bungaloid excresences of every description growing up in every direction, and very shortly those arterial roads will be reduced to the same condition as the old roads which they have largely superseded for motor traffic. We have had one opportunity of making these arterial roads. It is the only one. If we do not safeguard those arterial roads we shall never get another chance of repeating the work of making a clear passage through, in and out of big cities.
§ Then there is the question of playing fields. I should think that every one of your Lordships has interested himself more or less in the question of playing fields, not only for children but for adults, football and cricket grounds—one of the most important things that you can have in built-up and semi-built-up areas. How many playing fields shall we lose if these town planning schemes are postponed till 1939? Lastly, the most important of all these matters is the question of slums. Everybody who has dealt with slums knows that you cannot get rid of them simply by demolishing and rebuilding the slum areas. You have to look ahead in the matter of slums. You have to prevent new slums coming in the future. That is an element in the art of getting rid of slums. I assure your Lordships that the golden hours are flying in which all these vitally important matters can be dealt with, and here we have the Government proposing that the 189 compulsory date shall be postponed till 1939.
§ I have fortified myself with another argument from Clause 44 of the Bill. There you see that the re-arrangement of county districts is provided for. The clause provides that the county councils have to review their areas, and that their review for the purposes of redistribution of boundaries of districts and parishes has to be completed by 1932. I shall be told that it takes a long time to prepare town planning schemes and also that for the next few years all these authorities will be very fully occupied with the big changes which they have to face under this Bill. That is perfectly true. They have until 1932 to do all that under my Amendment and to make their survey for the redistribution of boundaries. After that, they have two more years in which to make their town planning schemes. I submit to your Lordships that in the great majority of cases that ought to be reasonable and sufficient. I shudder to think of the result, if you are to put off the date for authorities who do not want it till 1939, and perhaps two years beyond that. This is a very small Amendment as it stands on the Paper, but I submit that there are great issues hanging upon it. I appeal to the noble Earl, who is extraordinarily tactful and conciliatory with so many people trying to get Amendments out of him, some much bigger than mine, to say: "After all this is but a little one" and agree to give it favourable consideration.
Page 40, line 15, after ("and") insert ("thirty-four, or with the consent of the Minister, a later date, but not later than the first day of January, nineteen hundred and").—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ EARL BUXTON
My noble friend has moved an Amendment somewhat different from the one I have on the Paper, but I am quite prepared to support it on the ground that it is much more likely to be accepted by the Government, than mine. I will not cover the ground that the noble Lord has covered, but having had some knowledge of town planning schemes for a number of years it does seem to me quite inadvisable to wait ten years before county councils who are not anxious to carry out town planning schemes should be brought to book. Ten 190 years is far too long a period. In ten years the face of this country will be entirely altered for the reasons given by my noble friend who has just spoken. All the amenities to which he referred ought to be preserved. One particular point he did not refer to is what I may call the amenities of the countryside. Brighton, near where I live, and the neighbouring districts have, I am glad to say, been forward in this matter and have a town planning scheme which will protect to a great extent large areas of the countryside.
Near there, however, we have one of the greatest examples of the want of town planning in a place called Peace-haven. While there is a progressive municipality which has carried out town planning at an early date there are in that district a number of areas which have not yet begun to consider the matter at all. I cannot understand why the Government are prepared to give such a very long period of consideration for these town planning schemes. I quite agree that you must give a considerable period—say, two or three years—to those areas which have not yet begun to consider the matter, but to give them so long a period as ten years is really inviting them to do nothing for that period. I really cannot understand why that long period has been put in. I have looked through the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings in the other House but have not discovered in the debate that took place what the arguments of the Government in favour of this period really are. To give ten years to these recalcitrant authorities is to ask for trouble in the future and will tend to the destruction of many of the amenities and beauties of the countryside without any possible advantage to any human being.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I hope I shall be able to meet to a certain extent the views of noble Lords who have spoken if my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh will accept a modification of his Amendment. The modification I would suggest is this: "or such later date before 31 December, 1938, as may be determined by the Minister, either generally or specially as respects any particular council."
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Yes, I am quite ready to accept that, but I gather that the noble Lord does not like the words "general or special." I think it is necessary to keep in that power because general postponement of dates is of some importance. There might be confusion if it was only a special postponement. Therefore I venture to hope that the noble Lord will agree to this.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I am afraid I do not much like the wording proposed, because it will still leave the Minister with the right of general postponement and that is the very thing I want to avoid. I am not suggesting that the Minister intends to make a general postponement, but if you leave the power of general postponement you are advertising the fact that that is what may happen. It is what has happened already because the date in the 1925 Act was 1st January, 1929, and there has been a general postponement. What I would accept would be to leave the clause as it stands with an alteration at the end. It would then read:—… the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-nine, shall have effect as if for that date there were substituted the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, or such later date before thirty-first December, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, as the Minister may in any individual case allow.That, you see, gives the Minister the right in any particular circumstances to make any postponement he thinks fit, but it does prevent him making a general postponement of the whole thing until 1939.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I do hope the Government will go a little further in this. Four years ago Parliament laid down that certain authorities specified in this Clause 42 were under obligation to make town planning schemes. The expression "town planning" is a little misleading. It does not merely apply to what we call towns, but it applies also to a great deal of what we properly call country. Four years have elapsed and many of these authorities have not fulfilled their statutory duties, and now the Government come and suggest that to that four years there shall be added a period of ten years during which they need do nothing. I have not got the terms of the suggested Amendment to the Amendment in my mind—I only heard 192 them a moment ago for the first time—but it is clear that the Government go some way towards meeting Lord Balfour of Burleigh. I submit, however that the Government are not going quite far enough. Every statutory delay in bringing a town planning scheme into operation is a deliberate inducement to the town planning authority to defer consideration of the subject.
It is no good making to-day a town planning scheme which very likely will not come into operation for ten years, because in the intervening period every kind of thing may happen which will prejudice the whole basis of that scheme. Your Lordships well know that local authorities very often like acting together, synchronising their action, for the ordinary and very good reason of neighbourliness in local government. If ten years' delay, or even five years' delay, is added it means that consideration in many areas, especially areas where there is no zeal on this matter of town planning, will be deferred and meanwhile development will continue. It is really heartrending at this stage to have to urge upon His Majesty's.Ministers that town planning is of all problems in this country perhaps the most urgent, transcending—infinitely transcending—in importance a number of great political problems to which we give all our attention. Road zoning, open spaces, housing—everything that affects the comfort and the health and the decency of our people, depends upon proper schemes of town planning and their enforcement. If the Government are now going to say you can put it off for another five years on the top of the four years in which we are now acquiescing I for one will regret that decision.
The noble Lord who moved this Amendment declared that he found me very unreasonable. I am not at all sure that the noble Lord is not himself very unreasonable. We have reached Clause 42 and the noble Lord has extracted from the Government the first concession that has been made. It is true he has not got a whole Amendment but even to get half an Amendment is a considerable concession and he ought to be rather proud of himself. I agree entirely with the noble Earl who has just spoken that this matter of town planning is very important and we on these 193 Benches hope the Government may yet meet this matter more fully.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
After the very eloquent appeals from both sides of the House, I feel that I should be acting churlishly if I did not give away a little more. I will accept the principle of what my noble friend has raised and I will leave the actual drafting to the Report stage.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I thank the noble Earl for the way he has met me. I would like to insert the Amendment in the wording I have suggested.
§ EARL BUXTON
I do not want to appear churlish in the matter and I am glad the noble Earl is prepared to consider it further. I do not think we have got much concession yet in this matter. Although it is true the later date is to be December, 1938, instead of January, 1939, I hope the noble Lord understands that it is only a difference of a month. The general principle of allowing the Minister to have discretion in this matter is one on which we shall all be in accord. I would again press him between now and Report stage to see if he cannot reduce the latest date a little further because the noble Lord, Earl Crawford, has pointed out that these bodies have had four years in which to prepare their town planning schemes and, if they are going to be allowed another ten years of licence, they will have fourteen years in which to adopt and carry out these town planning schemes. The expression "town planning" is entirely misleading. The danger of delay is not in the towns but in the country districts. In the district to which I referred, in Brighton, the vast part is entirely country districts and places of beauty. Unless something is done, fourteen years hence there will be no place left for which to do their town planning. I would appeal to my noble friend in charge of the Bill to consider before Report stage if he can make some further change in the maximum date which these non-progressive authorities should have.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 40, line 15, leave out ("thirty-nine") and insert ("thirty-four or such later date before the thirty-first day of December, 1938, as the Minister may in any case allow").—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.194
§ Clause 42, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 43 agreed to.
§ Clause 44:
§ First general review of districts by county councils.
§ 44.—(1) The council of every county shall as soon as may be after the commencement of this Act, after conferences with representatives of the councils of the several districts wholly or partly within the county, review the circumstances of all such districts and consider whether it is desirable to effect any of the following changes:—
- (a) any alteration or definition of the boundaries of any such district or of any parish;
- (b) the union of any such district or parish with another such district or parish;
- (c) the transfer of any part of such district or parish to another district or parish;
- (d) the conversion of any such district or any part thereof, if it is a rural district, into an urban district, or if it is an urban district, into or so as to form part of a rural district;
- (e) the formation of any new district or parish;
§ Provided that before making any such proposals the county council shall consult with the councils of the county boroughs adjoining the county, and the Minister shall give those councils an opportunity of laying before him their views on the proposals made by the county council.
§ (7) An order under this section shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made.
§ EARL DE LA WARR moved to omit the proviso in subsection (1). The noble Earl said: After the new spirit that appears to have entered into the noble Earl after the dinner hour, I feel almost bold enough to hope for greater success in moving this Amendment than we have hitherto experienced. The only trouble is that this proviso appears to be so novel and unreasonable that it is hard to imagine that it could have been inserted except under very strong pressure from some bodies of which the noble Lord and the Minister must evidently be afraid, 195 and it seems as if it will be difficult to get any concession. This is an entirely new proposal to allow county boroughs to have the right to interfere with the arrangement of the boundaries of urban and rural districts entirely outside their jurisdiction.
§ All of us who have had to do with county council work realise that county councils already have quite sufficient difficulties in keeping hold of their territory. No sooner do districts outside great county boroughs become at all densely populated and capable of producing a large rate than the county borough tries to seize hold of them and obtain that rateable value for itself. In 1926 county councils were placed in a stronger position than before because, under an Act of that year, the Ministry of Health was deprived of the power of making borough extension orders unless the county and borough councils concerned were prepared to agree as to the suggested procedure. That policy, embodied in an Act in 1926, is now being reversed, and the situation produced by this clause will be worse for the county councils than it was before that Act. I would therefore appeal to the noble and learned Lord to reconsider this question with a view to leaving the county councils in the position brought about by the Act of his own Government in 1926.
Page 41, leave out lines 8 to 13.—(Earl De La Warr.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the noble Earl has failed to appreciate the effect of the proviso which he wants to omit. This clause provides that every county council is to make a general review of its whole area and to make suggestions to the Minister as to any alterations that may be desirable so as to equalise the different districts into which it is divided; and the proviso to which objection is taken provides that before making a proposal the county council is to consult with the county borough councils which adjoin the county and the Minister is to consider what they have to say. The suggestion is that the county borough councils shall not be allowed either to discuss the matter with the county council or to have their views even laid before the Minister. The noble Earl said there was some 196 sinister body which exercised some malign influence—a kind of hidden hand—upon Lord Onslow. I can tell him what that sinister body is. It is the Royal Commission. This proposal, which is regarded as so reactionary, is the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission, of which Lord Strachie was a member, and is to be found in the Second Report, paragraph 44, on page 17, as follows:—It should be the duty of the county council, before making representations to the Minister, to consult the councils of the county boroughs within the geographical county; and the county borough councils should have opportunity of laying before the Minister their views on the proposals of the county council.That is exactly the proviso which we put forward.
As to the reasonableness of the Royal Commission's recommendation, I should have thought there could be no two opinions. We are not giving to the county boroughs any right to veto or prohibit, or to insist upon their own particular views being embodied in any particular scheme. All we are saying is that before a scheme is put forward by a county council they must find out what their neighbours think of it, and before any scheme is finally decided upon any county borough shall have an opportunity of putting its views before the Minister. I should have thought that in the interests of the absence of friction and of reasonable dealing all round, it was eminently desirable that the county council should get into touch with the county boroughs and hear what they have to say. Neither the county council nor the Minister is bound to give effect to the representations of the county boroughs, but it does seem eminently desirable that they should have an opportunity of hearing what the county boroughs have to say.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
The matter is not quite so simple as the noble and learned Lord wishes us to believe. Whatever the recommendation of the Royal Commission may be, there is very large and widespread doubt with regard to the wisdom of this particular provision. If the Government had always followed out the recommendations of the Commission I should have been more moved on hearing that this provision is based on the recommendation of the Com- 197 mission, but when we find them going contrary to the Report of the Commission on one occasion and then adopting it on another, I do not attach much weight to the noble and learned Lord's argument. Those of us who are connected with county councils must know the fears which they have with regard to the encroachments of county boroughs. No sooner does any area become valuable than some county borough casts longing eyes upon it and tries to take it away from the county, and that is the fear which is at the back of this Amendment.
I have had communications from more than one county on this subject, so that, whatever the recommendations of the Royal Commission may be, I do know that there is a great deal of apprehension felt as to the result of these communications between the county boroughs and the county councils. These county boroughs for a long time have been looked upon with apprehension by these county councils, and giving them this power of consultation beforehand does make the county councils rather frightened lest they encroach still more on their areas. For these reasons I support the Amendment.
The noble and learned Lord gave us reasons—somewhat better than most of the reasons have been—why this proviso appeared in the Bill. It was taken, he says, from the unanimous Report of the Royal Commission. But it is true, as Lord Beauchamp has said, that a good many county councils themselves do not like the proviso, and do not quite see why it should appear. Because what, after all, are they engaged in doing? They are engaged in adjusting, not the areas of county boroughs, or not even the areas which include county boroughs, but their own areas, and divisions in their own areas, from which county boroughs are excluded. They not unnaturally say: "Why should these county boroughs come interfering with our own domestic concerns?"—because that is the way in which it presents itself to the county councils. County boroughs are themselves in a sense an anomaly, and they have been given a specially privileged position. I do not think that your Lordships can wonder that county councils are frightened by these proposals. What is the position in counties now? The 198 valuable rate areas are taken from them piece by piece. They may fear that horrible suggestions may be made by these county boroughs to the Minister that the districts may be so arranged that it may be easy for these county boroughs in some future extension to snap up a detached area which is part of the valuable rating area. I do not wonder that they do not like the prospect of that happening.
Really this Bill and the actual conditions are going to make life very difficult for rural county councils. First of all, they are going to be overburdened with work—the job of the county councillor is going to be anything but an easy one under this Bill. Then they have their grants fixed and stereotyped, without the percentage grant to help them out under this block grant system, and then they find the greater part of the land in their area deprived of rateable value. They are in an increasingly difficult position, and I do not wonder that they are frightened. It may well be that in the end the remedy will have to be sought—if it is thought desirable for administrative reasons to extend these boroughs in the way they have been extended in the past—by compelling these boroughs to contribute something to the county outside them, which, after all, does maintain the roads on which the people in the borough travel. But they are not always reasonable. Your Lordships will remember a Private Bill Committee in this House last Session, in which a very important borough applied for a very large extension, and was turned down on the case of the promoters. That is the sort of thing which frightens county councils, and I should be glad to hear that there is some sympathy for them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There is every sympathy for them from this point of view, that there is no intention whatever to depart from the principles laid down in the 1926 Act on the basis of the First Report of the Royal Commission, which we followed out in the Act, just as we are following out the Second Report in the present proposal.
§ On Question, Whether the words "Provided that" shall stand part of the clause?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 38; Not-Contents, 22.199
|Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Plymouth, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Daryngton, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Stanhope, E.||Dynevor, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Bath, M.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Chaplin, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Churchill, V.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Elibank, V.||Jessel, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Falmouth, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Hood, V.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Knutsford, V.||Suffield, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Peel, V.||Templemore, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Exeter, M.||Malmesbury, E.||Forester, L.|
|Russell, E.||Hemphill, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Northington, L. (L. Henley.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Allendale, V.||Olivier, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Redesdale, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Arnold, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Clwyd, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||de Clifford, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Deramore, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP moved to omit from subsection (7) the words after "shall" to the end of the subsection and insert "not become operative until it has been confirmed by Resolution of both Houses of Parliament." The noble Earl said: I do not insist on the particular form in which my Amendment is moved and if the noble Earl in charge of the Bill desires it I should be glad to accept any other form of words that he would suggest. I do not particularly want a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. On the other hand, I do not think what is in the Bill really goes far enough. I should like a little more than the Bill—"laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made." Your Lordships heard in the Second Reading debate that there is a good deal of feeling in all quarters of the House with regard to the power given to the Ministry and the permanent officials generally on matters of this kind and I think any check on the part of Parliament would be valuable. As the Division will show, a number of influential people supported the last Amendment—persons representing county councils throughout the country—and throughout the country there is a great deal of feeling with regard to this provision. I hope in those circumstances His Majesty's Government 200 will try to meet us and thereby considerably relieve our apprehensions.
Page 42, line 29, leave out from ("shall") to the end of subsection (7) and insert the said words.—(Earl Beauchamp.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am afraid I must trouble your Lordships with a little historical narrative in regard to this matter. The question of the general review of boundaries of districts was one which occupied a considerable part of the time of the Royal Commission and a great deal of evidence was heard thereon. The object of this clause is that the whole country should, in one general review, be reconsidered in regard to the boundaries of districts and that the various local authorities should have an opportunity of giving their views on the subject. At present when the boundaries of districts are altered—I am speaking of urban and rural districts, not of non-county boroughs—the matter is governed by Section 57, subsection (6), of the Local Government Act, 1888, which makes orders for the alteration of such districts final when confirmed by the Minister—that is to say, the arrangements are made by the county council and confirmation is given by the Minister of Health. That is the procedure in regard to all urban and rural districts.
The procedure in regard to non-county boroughs is a different one. Non- 201 county boroughs have a right to come to Parliament with any question of the alteration of their boundaries. When the whole question of the reorganisation of boundaries in the districts was considered the non-county boroughs gave their evidence. I myself examined Mr. Jarratt, their witness. I said: "Under the circumstances, if there is a general review of this kind, would you be prepared to give up your right under existing Acts of going to Parliament and obtaining a Provisional Order?" They said they would under certain conditions—which I need not go into at length now—for the first instance, and for the first instance only of this general review, submit to the procedure which is proposed in this Bill, that is to say, that they should not go to Parliament for a Provisional Order. The proposal now is that everyone of these Orders altering the boundaries of districts shall be submitted to Parliament before it becomes operative.
There are objections to this which I will venture to lay before your Lordships. In the first place there would be considerable delay. It must be a lengthy process which would take some time in any case. The alteration of the boundaries of districts over the whole country is not an easy matter and requires a considerable amount of research and inquiry. Then the next point is that these proposals for the alteration of the boundaries of districts in a county must be considered as a whole. The alteration of the boundaries of one district here might affect the boundaries of another district there. The whole thing is rather like a jigsaw puzzle. The whole thing has to be fitted in to give the most general satisfaction possible. That is a matter which must require the most meticulous inquiry, and consideration of the feelings—reasonable or unreasonable—of all the districts in the county and in fact of all the ratepayers in the county. That is why we thought it so necessary to provide that county boroughs should be consulted in regard to this revision.
The proposal which is made by the noble Earl is that these Orders, before becoming operative, should come before Parliament, that is to say that they should be confirmed, I imagine by an affirmative Order in Parliament. That 202 would mean that the rights or wrongs of each particular boundary—of each frontier question, if I may so call it—within the county would be settled by a debate in the House of Commons or in your Lordships' House. It does seem to me that that would be a very inconvenient form of procedure. This is such a meticulous form of inquiry that it is not suitable for settlement by debate in Parliament. It is a matter either for the procedure of a Provisional Order—which I think would be impossible because it would render impossible the endeavour to get these district boundaries rectified—or for the procedure which we have proposed: that is to say, the boundaries should be settled by the county council in conjunction with the other authorities mentioned in the same way as county district boundaries are settled at the present time.
The last argument I have to put before your Lordships is that this is one great Act for the whole country. There is no precedent for it. It is expressly provided in the Bill that any subsequent review, any general county review, should take place at some period after the first general review not exceeding ten years but at any rate when necessary; and it is provided that in those circumstances the present procedure of county borough boundaries being altered only by Provisional Order should be maintained. So I venture to hope that your Lordships will accept the principle in the Bill for the reasons which I have given. It is, I think, the only convenient manner and the only possible manner in which we can make this great and very necessary change in our local government system and without it very great confusion may result.
If there is any real instance of the Minister acting in a manner which is unjust or improper or wrong in giving his consent or insisting upon any particular change, then there is always the usual means of calling his actions into question on the Estimates in Parliament. It is of course only a general form of control, but there is that safety valve which still exists. The principle that we should get this great change done with the least possible friction in the quickest possible time is a matter of great importance to local government in this country.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
In view of what the noble Earl has said I will not press this matter especially at this late hour, though I regret the Government are not meeting us in some way. I thought they might have offered some compromise, might have charged this new Statutory Orders Committee with the investigation of these Orders.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 44 agreed to.
§ Clauses 45 and 46 agreed to.
§ Clause 47 [Adjustment of boundaries of counties and county boroughs]:
§ EARL FORTESCUE
I should like to know what happens if the county councils referred to, instead of agreeing to make joint representations, differ. The clause says:—Where at the commencement of this Act any district or parish is not wholly comprised within one county, or where a part of a county is wholly detached therefrom, the county councils concerned shall as soon as may be take the case into consideration, and if as a result of such consideration a joint representation is made to the Minister by those councils, the Minister may…and so on. Supposing that they do not agree to make a joint representation, what will happen then?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This clause provides what is to happen if the two counties agree that there ought to be an alteration. If they do not agree then the clause will not operate.
§ Clause 47 agreed to.
§ Clause 48:
§ Review by county councils of electoral divisions.
§ 48.—(1) The council of every county, as soon as may be after completing the first general review of the circumstances of districts wholly or partly within the county made or treated as having been made by them under this Part of this Act, shall review the electoral divisions of the county and shall consider whether any alteration of the boundary of any such division, or of the number of county councillors and electoral divisions in the county, is desirable, and shall forthwith, after the review is completed and before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, or such later date as the Secretary of State may in any case allow, send to the Secretary of State a report of the review, together with proposals as to the alterations (if any) which they consider desirable, and any such proposals shall have effect as if they had been a representation 204 made to the Secretary of State under section fifty-four of the Local Government Act, 1888:
§ Provided that if in the case of any county the Secretary of State is satisfied after considering such representations, if any, as may be made by local authorities in the county, that it is unnecessary to make any such review as aforesaid, he may direct that this section shall not apply as respects that county.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, in subsection (1), before "is desirable," to insert "or of the method of electing county councillors." The noble Earl said: I have very little hope that the Government will accept this Amendment, the object of which is to secure the introduction of other methods of election. There is a very real danger at this time that the "spoils" system may creep into our general system of local government. Something of this kind has already happened in connection with some of the local authorities. It is a very serious danger if it becomes the custom, when a county council has got a very large majority of one Party, that they should sweep away all the aldermen of experience who do not belong to their Party, appoint to these new committees under this Bill people who agree with them and not allow anybody who does not agree with them any part in local administration. A very serious situation would then arise and there are districts where that position has already arisen. I would urge upon the Government the very real danger they are running in not taking some steps to prevent the extension of dangers of this kind. If they go on His Majesty's Government will look upon it in the future as a most serious and unfortunate thing and will regret that they did not take the opportunity of this Bill in order to provide against this danger.
Page 44, line 36, after ("county") insert ("or of the method of electing county councillors").—(Earl Beauchamp.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
If the noble Earl's Amendment were accepted, the clause would read as follows:—… or of the number of county councillors and electoral divisions in the county or of the method of electing county councillors…205 The provisions of this Bill are to have effect as if there had been a representation made to the Secretary of State under Section 54 of the Local Government Act, 1888, which enables a representation to be made to the Secretary of Statethat the alteration of the boundary of any electoral division or of the number of county councillors and electoral divisions in a county is desirable.This deals only with the alteration of boundaries or the number of councillors, and not with the method by which the latter are chosen to serve. The noble Earl has not put down any specific operative provision to deal with the method of election that he proposes. At present the election is regulated by Statute, and no proposal by the council can alter the law of election without specific statutory authority.
Under this Amendment the method of election might vary in different counties. There might even be a different suffrage. I do not know exactly what the noble Earl contemplates, but this would cause great difficulties. If it is desirable to alter the method of electing councillors, this should be done by Parliament after special consideration and not by the modification of a clause in this Bill. Further, the Amendment would make it necessary to add to the heading of the clause the words "and of the method of electing the county council within the county."
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I apologise for not making myself clear. My object was 206 to introduce a system of Proportional Representation into these elections, so that there may be proper representation of minorities in counties with a very decided opinion.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am obliged to the noble Earl for his explanation. If we are to introduce Proportional Representation into these elections, we should have to consider the whole method of election to local bodies throughout the country. The subject requires more comprehensive treatment than is possible in an Amendment of this kind, whatever the merits or demerits of the proposal.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 48 agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I understand that your Lordships find it convenient to break in upon our labours at this point, and I therefore move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.