§ House again in Committee (according to Order): The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.
§ Clause 49:
§ Travelling expenses.
§ 49.—(1) As from the appointed day it shall, subject to the provisions of this section, be lawful for the council of any county to defray any expenses necessarily incurred by members of the council or of any committee thereof to which this section applies in travelling to and from meetings of the council or committee or in travelling by direction of the council or committee for the purpose of carrying out any inspection necessary for the discharge of the functions of the council or committee.211
§ (3) No expenditure by a county council under this section shall be taken into account for the purpose of determining the amount of any sum payable to the council out of moneys provided by Parliament.
§ (4) This section shall apply to any committee of a county council appointed for the discharge of functions throughout the whole area for which the county council is charged with those functions, and Shall also apply to any sub-committee or joint committee so appointed as if it were a committee of the council.
§ (5) In this section the expression "sub-committee" means a sub-committee of a committee of a county council, and the expression "joint committee" means a joint committee or joint board appointed by a county council jointly with the council of another county or of a county borough or with a court of quarter sessions.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in subsection (1), to leave out from the beginning down to and including "necessarily" and to insert "The council of any county shall defray any expenses reasonably." The noble and learned Lord said: The object of my Amendment, which I think is an important one, is to ensure as far as one can that in the transfer of the old guardian powers amongst others from a localised to a central county body, the county body shall be put as far as possible on a representative basis and particularly shall include a sufficient element of the poorer or working classes. The Lord Chairman has told me he can put my Amendment so as only to raise one point at this stage. The point is this. I desire that it should not be optional for the county councils whether they provide certain payments or not—the nature of the payments will arise at a subsequent stage—but that there shall be an obligation upon them to provide those payments, whatever they may be, so that as far as possible we may ensure that poorer people can go to their county councils in the country districts.
§ It would be impossible without payment for them to do it. So the question really arises whether that ought to be an option or a uniform obligation. I suggest there is every reason why it ought to be a uniform obligation. Your Lordships discussed uniformity yesterday on a different subject matter, and the Lord Chancellor declared the advantages of uniformity in that particular matter. Surely the case is far stronger here. It would be wrong, it seems to me, to have what would be practically a different 212 franchise in different county council districts, and unless there is payment, and payment in the same way and substantially on the same terms and to the same extent in the two instances, you would really have different bodies represented in the one case and in the other.
§ I am very anxious not to raise matters in regard to which no difference arises. We all desire, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, pointed out in his White Paper and in his speech on the Second Reading, local assistance and local help so as to keep alive as far as possible the knowledge already existing in the local guardians. I think I may take the noble Earl's view upon that point to be the same as that of all of us. As to the question of means and measures, let us see how the thing stands. Supposing it is optional you may have county councils taking different views. First, as regards the people in whose favour such an option is exercised, it is very difficult to prevent their being placed in what is really a somewhat subordinate and inferior position in having to make what amounts to a special application that their cases might be considered with regard to optional payments. I know from my own knowledge of these matters that on a point of this kind, particularly in the county councils, there is a great deal of sensitiveness, and rightly so. One understands that if you are a member of a body or society the fact that unless it provides a certain payment you have to cease to be a member, is not by any means a position which ought to be established in a Bill of this kind. We want the best form of local government.
§ Other members of your Lordships' House have Amendments similar in character and can support what I say. I have not been able to see the Scottish Bill. I have tried once or twice but have not succeeded. I think that in the Scottish Bill what I am asking for at the present time is already inserted. There it is not a matter of option but a matter of obligation. I may be wrong in that but the Lord Chancellor will correct me if I am. That is a very strong additional reason. You have two systems of local government in Scotland and in England paid for out of a common fund. You cannot separate payment for the one and the other, but the ordinary proportion which is allocated to Scottish purposes will be allocated 213 out of the common fund. So far as English contributions are involved, as they will be in the Scottish fund, they go to the payment of Scottish members who otherwise could not perform their duties as county councillors. Why not the same in England? I cannot conceive why the same principle should not be applicable in both cases. I do not think I need detain your Lordships further on this matter. The Lord Chairman will put my Amendment in a form so that the only question raised will be that of obligation as against an optional system. I beg to move.
Page 45, line 34, leave out from the beginning to ("incurred") in line 36 and insert ("the council of any county shall defray any expenses reasonably").—(Lord Parmoor.)
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The Question I shall put is that in Clause 49, page 45, line 34, the words "As from the appointed day" shall stand part.
I have an Amendment on the Paper which is to the same effect as that moved by my noble and learned friend, but with the expression "it shall be the duty." Perhaps I am a little fond of my own expression but I am willing to accept any form of words provided it gives what we ask for. My noble friend has said all that I desire to say in the matter except this. I have some very striking figures showing in how few cases, comparatively speaking, contests take place at council elections—perhaps I shall have to enlarge on that further on another Amendment which I have on the Paper—which certainly indicates that representation on the county councils is very much limited to people of independent means. In another place, when this question or an analogous one was debated, it seemed rather to be suggested that the people most concerned were the Labour Party, but I am by no means sure that other people who are not members of the Labour Party are not a great deal more interested. Many Labour representatives get their expenses paid by their unions, or from some other funds, and there are many small traders and other persons of small means to whom the 7s. 6d. or 10s. a week is of immense consequence, and who have not this ad- 214 vantage. I submit, as my noble and learned friend did, that in this matter it is at least as desirable as in any other that there should be uniformity, not only as between the different counties, but also as regards the treatment of any persons who may desire to receive payment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM)
In opposing this Amendment I ought to tell your Lordships how the clause comes into the Bill at all. In the Bill as drawn there was no provision of this kind. In another place an hon. member—Sir Edward Thurtle, I think—as the representative of the County Councils Association introduced this clause in this form and persuaded the Minister of Health to accept it as being what the county councils themselves desired. This being the county councils' own request, the Minister of Health thought it right on behalf of the Government to accept his proposal and accordingly it found its place in the Bill. Therefore, the first observation I have to make is that the change which the noble and learned Lord desires is a change contrary to what the county councils themselves have asked for, and they, after all, are perhaps the hest judges of what is suitable. Secondly, it is said that uniformity is desirable in this matter. The answer is, uniformity is very desirable, of course, but there must be uniformity of conditions in order to justify uniformity of treatment, and you have not got uniformity of conditions in the different counties.
Let me remind your Lordships of the purpose of this clause as it appears, and as it was stated on behalf of the county councils themselves. There are some counties in which the meeting place of the county council is comparatively inaccessible. Instances were given in another place in which considerable expense must necessarily be incurred in going from one end of the county to the other. There are other places where the county area is much smaller, where the place of meeting is much more accessible, and where the expense of attending, therefore, is very much less. In the one case it may well be thought that the nonpayment of travelling expenses would be a real deterrent which would prevent otherwise suitable people from accepting 215 membership, while in another county it might be found there was no such deterrent, and that, therefore, there was no such reason for providing the payment. We none of us, I hope, at this time want to be unnecessarily extravagant with public funds, whether they are to come out of the rates or out of the Exchequer. Under the clause as it stands it is optional for any county council which thinks it desirable in the interests of its own local government to provide for the payment of the travelling expenses of its members on county council business. The noble and learned Lord opposite desires to compel those county councils which do not think it necessary or desirable to make that payment. The Government thinks that the clause, as the county councils ask for it, is quite a sufficient provision to prevent the mischief of suitable people being kept away, and that the clause, as the noble and learned Lord desires to alter it, would go further than that and merely be an extravagance with county council monies which the county councils themselves do not desire.
Reference has been made once again to the Scottish Bill. The noble and learned Lord said that I was to correct him if he was wrong as to what was in the Scottish Bill. I am sorry I have not read the Scottish Bill which, as far as I know, is at present in process of discussion in another place. I propose to wait till they have decided in what form they will send it to us before I make it my duty to study its provisions. I have heard that there are provisions in the Scottish Bill which not only make it compulsory but also provide for payments for actual loss of time and things of that kind; or there were at some stage some such provisions, and I have heard it suggested that that is the existing Scottish law. I am afraid I am not an expert on Scottish law, so I cannot say if that is so, but if it is so then at present the system as between the two countries is wholly different. In England we have never paid our county councillors their travelling expenses or payments for loss of time. If in Scotland they have hitherto done so and they propose to go on doing it, it may or may not be desirable, but at any rate it is no reason why we should depart from a practice which in our experience has 216 worked well as a whole, except to the extent which the county councils themselves think desirable, and to that extent the clause as it stands already makes provision.
§ EARL BUXTON
The noble and learned Lord has brought forward two arguments against this proposal. The first was that this clause was not originally in the Bill at all, and that the county councils made representations to the Government in the form of this clause which the Government accepted. He says that is, therefore, the considered and final view of the county councils. But surely they were in the position of wishing the Government to accept some clause and they naturally put the minimum proposal before the Government. It does not in the least follow that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, is entitled to say that they would have opposed this Amendment. The other argument was that there is no advantage in uniformity in this matter, but as I understand it this Amendment, if passed, will bring uniformity to this extent, that each county council will be required to defray any expenses reasonably incurred. That will bring uniformity to some extent, although it is true that in counties where distances are great the expenses will be great, and that in other counties expenses will be small because the distances will not be so great.
But whether expenses are great in one case and slight in another, equally each county council ought to defray the expenses of its members. If the expenses are not great the charge will be light and if the expenses are considerable the charge will be heavier, but what my noble friend had in mind, I think, is that no county council ought to have the right by not adopting this clause of putting an obstruction—it may be a small one, or it may be a large one—in the way of any citizen becoming a member of the county council. Surely, if the obligation is put on the county councils there will be uniformity, not necessarily in the scale, but in the basis on which the scale will be assessed throughout the country. I think, therefore, that the argument on the question of uniformity is entirely in favour of the Amendment proposed. I do not think the Lord Chancellor has really appreciated that 217 at the present moment, as my noble friend behind me pointed out, contests in county council elections are very few. Why is that? It is not on account of any blame which should attach to the county councils or members of them, but it is simply on account of the fact that practically only one class have the time or opportunity to become members of county councils.
§ EARL BUXTON
Some noble Lords say "No," but surely it is so in the vast number of cases. The Government are taking away local representation in the persons of the guardians and they desire that in place of that representation there shall be members of county councils who represent local interests. That cannot take place under present conditions. It can only take place in a large number of cases if expenses of county councillors—I should go further and say salaries—are paid. The time consumed not only in the work of the councils themselves but in going backwards and forwards, and the travelling expenses involved, are so serious in many cases that the result is to restrict representation on the county councils. Surely, it ought not to be at the option of any county council to say: "We will remain as now, taken from a small representation." It seems to me vital, in view of these new duties which the county councils will have to carry out, that membership of the councils should be upon the widest possible basis.
This clause deals with the payment of travelling expenses, in itself a fairly simple matter, but the method in which it is dealt with, as I shall hope to show your Lordships, is not so simple or unimportant. There are several Amendments on the Paper in the name of my noble Leader and myself and others in reference to this matter, but I think at present we shall be discussing simply the principle of whether this ought to be an obligation upon county councils or whether it is to be a matter for them to decide. I agree entirely with what has been said by the noble Earl who has just sat down. This clause, as drawn, provides something which the noble and learned Lord says is new to English county councils. No doubt that is so, but it provides it in a spirit of grudging- 218 ness to which, as I shall show your Lordships, we on this side of the House attach a great deal of importance. There is a sort of suggestion running all through the clause that no really nice person would wish to have travelling expenses, that it is a sort of concession to people whom you have to allow to go on county councils, but that you do not make it willingly or in a cheerful manner.
What does the clause actually say? It says that the council may, if it thinks fit, "defray any expenses necessarily incurred." I would ask your Lordships to think what that means in practice. There is a county council consisting mostly of people to whom travelling expenses are an insignificant matter, which gives them no concern at all, and they would never dream of asking repayment from anybody. There may be two working-class representatives on that county council, or possibly three, to whom an addition to their actual out-of-pocket expenses of £8, £10 £15 or £20 a year may be a very serious matter. What have they to do? They have to beg the county council to be so kind as to pass a resolution in order that they may get these expenses back. They will have to make the suggestion that the resolution should be passed and they will have to appear as suppliants in a very unpleasant position.
One of the arguments of the noble and learned Lord as to the discretion of county councils seems to me quite extraordinary. Yesterday we were told that county councils were not fit to exercise discretion about so domestic a matter, a matter with which they alone are entirely concerned, as to who should, or should not, maintain roads in the county. This was a matter on which they were not fit to exercise discretion, and it must be left to the Minister in any case where they did not want district councils to do the maintenance of their roads for them. Now we come to a matter which concerns, not the county council as a whole, not its administration, but the carrying on of its work, and we are told that this is not for Parliament but for the county council to decide. That is wrong in principle. If it is right that people should be paid their travelling expenses then it is for Parliament, and not for the county councils, to say so. The decision is a matter for us and not for 219 them. Why should it be left to the good nature—because that is what it comes to—and the good feelings of members of a county council to pass a resolution to enable some two or three of their poorer fellow members to recover their travelling expenses? If Parliament thinks it right that the expenses of people of that sort should be paid then Parliament ought to say so, and the person who wants these expenses paid ought merely to have to make application to the clerk of the council or the proper officer and send in his bill and have the matter dealt with.
Your Lordships may think this is a comparatively small matter, but it is really nothing of the sort. The effect that it produces upon the public mind—and we shall take ample care that it is fully understood—is that the Government are really unwilling to make easy the path of the poorer county councillor, that they are anxious to put every little obstruction in his way that they can. I do not for a moment believe that this is true of any noble Lord on the Bench opposite, but that is the effect that will be created, I think rightly, by a clause drawn in this form. You are saying in a grudging sort of way: "If you can get your county council to pass a resolution, then you may have your travelling expenses." It is a sort of concession that you have to extract from a county council. A suggestion was made by the noble and learned Lord that some county councils might not pass this resolution merely on the ground that the travelling expenses were small. The noble Earl who spoke last said quite truly that this is a matter, not of amount but of principle, and if a man is entitled to recover a fare of 15s. he is equally entitled to recover a fare of 3s. An impression upon the public mind will undoubtedly be created, and rightly created, that the Government are indifferent to the case of these poorer members of county councils. I think their indifference comes chiefly from a want of imagination as to the position of these people who serve upon county councils, surrounded as they are by people who, compared with them, are well off and have very little sympathy with their small requirements.
This is a matter in which you have to make up your mind what the county councils are going to do under the clause in its present form. Are they all going 220 to pass resolutions saying that expenses may be paid? If so, there is no advantage in doing it in this roundabout way. Are some of them not going to adopt a resolution that expenses may be paid? If so, how are you going to justify the injustice of these particular cases? This is not a matter for the private discretion of the county council. I say emphatically that it is a matter for Parliament, and I ask your Lordships to put one or two questions to yourselves. Do you desire to make it difficult and almost impossible for poor men to sit upon county councils? Of course the answer to that is "No," with whatever degree of conviction that answer is given. Then I come to a further question. Do you desire to put the people who have to ask for these expenses in a position of supplication and of unnecessary humiliation, or do you wish them to have those expenses as a matter of right if they require them? I do not care what particular form of words is adopted. I have suggested the words "shall on demand" in order that the council shall not pay fees to anybody who does not want them. We should be perfectly willing to accept words providing that payment shall be made in accordance with a scale approved by the Minister, if that be desired, so that there shall be no extravagance. The principle for which we contend is a very simple one. It is that these members should be paid as of right, and that the right should be granted by Parliament. I assure your Lordships that this is no small matter. We regard this clause very seriously indeed, and I do urge the Government to consider the very bad effect that will be produced if they stick to the clause in its present form, at least with the extremely indefinite reason that we have so far heard from them.
I will detain your Lordships for only a few moments, but I wish to deprecate the constant reference that has been made to the Scottish Bill. That Bill is not yet before your Lordships and I do not think it ought to be discussed at all. I think the Lord Chancellor was in some uncertainty whether Scottish county councillors are paid or not. As one who has been a member of a county council in Scotland for the last twenty years, let me say that Scottish county councillors are not paid, nor do they receive travelling ex- 221 penses to the place of meeting. I make this statement in case any noble Lord may think that the English county councillor will be put upon the same level as the Scottish county councillor in being paid for his Services. The Scottish councillor is not paid and never has been paid.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
I think the noble Earl opposite drew rather an Imaginary picture of the result of passing this clause in the form in which it is drawn. I believe that almost every county council will pass a resolution adopting this clause immediately, with the minimum of friction. I should like to ask whether county councils will be entitled to draw up any regulations for their procedure under this clause. For instance, will it be meumbent upon them to pay first-class fares, as in the House of Commons, or may they limit them to third-class fares? Will they be required to pay the expenses necessarily incurred by a member of a council who happens to be in London during the summer, possibly as a member of this House, and who travels to Northumberland for the purpose of attending the council meetings? Will they be entitled, as is the practice in territorial associations with which I am familiar, to limit the travelling expenses to those incurred within the county to which the association belongs?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In answer to the questions which have just been put to me, I think on the wording of the clause the council is authorised to defray expenses necessarily incurred. I think it will be quite open to them to say that they will pay first-class fares. I do not think that the clause as it stands will limit expenses to expenses within the county. I think it will be a question of fact whether a particular expense was necessarily incurred through travelling to the meeting of the council. This might cover fares outside the area of the council. I am answering the noble Earl without having had the opportunity of consulting the Ministry of Health, but I am giving him what I think is the right answer on the wording as it stands. As regards Scotland, perhaps I should apologise to the noble Lord, but I did not introduce Scotland. It was introduced by some other noble Lord and I think I took the same point as he did, that it was undesirable to discuss a Bill 222 which has not come before us. I know very little about the Scottish Bill, and I am glad to know that this clause is not going to create the difficulty which it was suggested yesterday that an earlier clause created in the minds of some noble Lords.
With regard to the observations of the noble Earl opposite, I only desire to say that we on this side of the House have heard with interest that he, being satisfied that it is not the desire of the Government in this clause to prevent working men from going on to the county councils, is going to take care that this impression shall be created in the country before the next Election. That, no doubt, is characteristic of methods to which we are becoming accustomed, but which we are not accustomed often to hear so openly avowed. All I can say on that point is that, if he does so, I shall be very glad to follow him with a quotation from his own speech this afternoon. I will only add that it is an odd way of preventing people from becoming members of county councils to give to the county councils the power, which they do not now possess, of paying travelling expenses.
§ LORD PARMOOR
There are two points with which I think the Lord Chancellor has not dealt but which appear to me to go to the foundation of the matter. I will not go into the question of Scotland. Certainly I was under the impression that county councillors in Scotland were in the same position as in England, and that their expenses were not paid. That is a question which we shall have to consider by and by. The present proposal is a different matter altogether. I do not think that the Lord Chancellor has answered the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, regarding uniformity. In a matter of this kind, which is really a question of franchise, we surely ought to have uniformity. But what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, suggested, was that you would not have uniformity, because the expenses involved would be different in different places and in different counties. Of course, but the uniformity is in the payment of expenses, whatever they are in any particular case. It is no advantage to a poor man who has to pay 10s. only to be offered 3s., which is the expense in another place. That is not suggested. 223 In my own County of Buckingham I am not sure whether there is any working man on the county council at the present time, but it is really quite impossible for any working man, or the poor man referred to by Lord Sandhurst, to attend the county council meetings, unless his expenses are provided.
This is a matter of policy. Do you intend it or not? Do you intend that the poor man and the working man should take part in the new work conferred upon the county councils? There can be only one answer to that. You have to recollect that although there is devolution here the policy of the Poor Law will rest with the county council, and not only the policy, but the payment, and the appointment of officers. All those are matters in which the local element ought to have its voice properly and adequately expressed. Without that, I have more than once expressed my view, you could never get, so long as the Poor Law exists, proper consideration or anything like as good consideration as you get now in regard to the destitute poor. I do not think that the importance of this question can be exaggerated.
The noble and learned Lord endeavoured by way of reply to fix me with a dilemma as to my position. I remain quite unmoved by that. I shall say, and be justified in saying, that these matters having been pointed out to the Government, and the Government having refused to make any change, the Government are responsible for any consequences which flow therefrom. There is an old rule of law with which the Lord Chancellor will be well acquainted, that people must be taken to intend the reasonable consequences of their actions, and that is all I shall say. I will add to it, if it affords the noble and learned Lord any satisfaction, that it was done by well-meaning persons. If that will soften the blow I am prepared to say it, but I shall never cease from saying that the Government, having had the difficulties pointed out to them, have refused to recognise or to show any sympathy with them, or to take any steps to meet them.
§ On Question, Whether the words "As from the appointed day" shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 26.225
|Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Scarbrough, E.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Spencer, E.||Forester, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Wellington, D.||Astor, V.||Hastings, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Bath, M.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Hood, V.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Younger of Leckie, V.||Islington, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Lamington, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Addington, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Ampthill, L.||Monk Bretton, 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.)|
|Fortescue, E.||Carson, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Halsbury, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clan-william.)|
|Ilchester, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Clinton, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Cranworth, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Danesfort, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Darling, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||de Clifford, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Deramore, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Templemore, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Desborough, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dynevor, L.||Wargrave, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Ernle, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Reading, M.||Buxton, E.||Russell, E.|
|Beauchamp, E.||De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Allendale, V.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Buckmaster, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Knutsford, V.||Daryngton, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Southwark, L. Bp.||Morris, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Northington, L. (L. Henley.)||Tenterden, L.|
|Aberconway, L.||Parmoor, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Arnold, L.||Sandhurst, L. [Teller.]|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The Amendments in the names of Earl De La Warr and Earl Russell are covered by the decision already come to, and I will therefore call upon Lord Sandhurst.
§ LORD SANDHURST moved, in subsection (1), after "county" to insert "(a)." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is really introductory to one which I shall move later on, at the end of subsection (1)—["(b) To pay to the members of such county or of any committee thereof to which this section applies allowances at uniform rates to be prescribed by the Minister in respect of time necessarily lost from ordinary employment,"] It is necessary to insert the letter (a) in order to add the further paragraph. I am afraid it becomes necessary for me to refer again to the Scottish Bill. My Amendment was originally framed upon language appearing in the Education (Scotland) Act, where the principle is recognised, but since then I have been furnished with a copy of an Amendment placed on the Order Paper in another place by the Secretary of State for Scotland—I am not sure whether it has yet been introduced—in which provision is made for the personal expenses to be paid. I should have thought, in view of the observations which fell from the noble and learned Lord opposite, that what is good for Scotland is also good for England in a case of this kind; and, at any rate, the English county elector ought to be put upon as satisfactory a basis as the Scottish county elector. I find it very difficult to conceive any reason why that should not be so. It is true, no doubt, that some Scottish counties have less suitable facilities for travelling than others, but that is also true of English counties. There are many counties, both in England and Wales, where travelling is extremely difficult, and where, not only travelling, but time is taken up in going to and fro which is out of all proportion 226 to the travelling expenses involved. In fact, I am credibly informed that there are cases in which members of county councils are not able to get home the same night and have to sleep out.
§ I have some rather striking figures on the subject of the proportion of contests to seats in counties, and I propose to quote a few as examples. The largest number of contests occurred in the County of Durham, where there are 74 seats; the number of contests was 47, that is, a little more than half. The next largest was the West Riding of Yorkshire—90 seats and 46 contests, or just over a half. Those are the only two counties in which more than half the seats were contested. Other figures are:—Berkshire, 52 seats, 3 contests; Hereford, 52 seats, 4 contests; Leicestershire, 54 seats, 5 contests; Northampton-shire, 54 seats, 5 contests; Suffolk, West, 51 seats, 4 contests; Warwickshire, 53 seats, 5 contests, or about one in ten. Now, what does that mean? It means that the county councils are really necessarily in the hands of people of independent means. I do not blame those people; on the contrary, we all owe them a great debt of gratitude for giving the time and the industry which they give to public service. But it is really not satisfactory that the field of selection should be so much narrowed. I do commend to your Lordships this Amendment upon that ground: that the field from which candidates can be drawn should be enlarged, and every facility should be placed in the way of people of moderate means—as I have said before, that does not mean from the Labour Party; it means people of moderate means of all kinds and classes—in order that they may be able from their local knowledge to contribute to the discussions and the work of the county councils. I beg to move.
Page 45, line 36, after ("county") insert ("(a)").—(Lord Sandhurst.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
After the discussion on the last Amendment your Lordships will not be surprised if I am 227 bound on behalf of the Government to ask you to reject this one. The noble Lord began his argument by saying that there was some Amendment down in the Scottish Bill which, when it was passed, would produce some such effect as this, and that what was good for Scotland was good for England. I respectfully accept what was said by the noble Lord behind me. I think it is impossible for me to discuss what is in the Scottish Bill which I do not know—I am not doubting what the noble Lord said—or to discuss reasons why it is in, as to which I know nothing, or to discuss what the differences are, if it is in, which may justify different terms in one case or the other. Nor do I know, if in fact it be different, that the Scottish method is a better one than the English method. That is not always true. I prefer to deal with the Bill that we have before us and with the Amendment on its merits. On its merits I venture to submit it has very little to recommend it and a good deal against it.
The argument in favour of it was that the noble Lord was able to show a number of cases in which it appears that there were very few contests for county councils, and he said that proved that people of independent means were the only people who could be members of county councils. With great respect to him it proves nothing of the kind. It may be because, unfortunately, there is not enough interest taken in some districts in county council work. It may be that the altered functions which we are conferring by this Bill will in themselves go a long way to remedy anything of that kind. It may be that the people who are willing to come forward in the county districts for county council seats, are such as command so large a measure of public approval that really there is no one who can stand against them with any reasonable prospect of success. That would be a very satisfactory reason and I am sure that in some cases at any rate it is the real reason.
I think there is no evidence at all before your Lordships from the mere fact that there are few contests, that the people who are county councillors are not very admirable public servants and are not fully equal to the discharge of the duties which they undertake. That is the question. If you can show that the county council is composed of people who are unfit to discharge their func- 228 tions properly, and that if you introduced instead a class of professional politicians you would get a better type of work, then, of course, there would be something to be said for the Amendment. Obviously you can prove nothing of the kind. We all know that the county councils do their work admirably. We know that the men who are willing to accept the duties do the most excellent public service ungrudgingly in the public interest and do it with perfect efficiency. Those of us who are at all acquainted with local government in our own districts know how well the work is done.
I should have thought that to make payments for lost time, which is in effect to make it a salaried job to become a county councillor, was the very worst way to get the best type of man to become a member of the county council. If you do it there is no possible logical reason why you should not do the same for every district council, and you will very soon find that the whole of the public work of the country becomes the prey of the professional political man instead of, as at present, the honoured duty of people who are willing to give their time to the public service. It is not true either to say that poor men cannot belong to county councils. As a matter of fact we all know, if we are to face facts, that where working-class organisations think it worth while to have a representative on one of these bodies, they are quite willing and able to pay a salary if they think it desirable so to do. In such cases actually the labour representative, if I may so describe him, the representative of the Socialist Party, namely, is better off financially than any other member of the county council because he is the only one who is paid. I do not advocate that as a general practice. I think it is an unfortunate practice that people should be paid for work of that kind. The position at present is that the work is admirably done without professionalising those who do it, and I should be very sorry to see a departure in the direction which is desired by the noble Lord.
§ EARL BUXTON
It is unnecessary for the Lord Chancellor to defend the present county councils in the conduct of their duties. There is no need to defend their personnel or the admirable way in which 229 they do their work. My noble friend Lord Sandhurst specially desires to make it clear that in his Amendment no attack was meant of any sort or kind on the county councils as at present constituted or on the way in which they perform their duties. What I think the Lord Chancellor forgets, in connection with the Amendment, is that a new position has arisen. Up to now the work on the county councils has been generally done by practically one class. The Lord Chancellor said that the fact that there were no contests did not show that it was more or less from one class that the candidates were selected. Nobody would deny for a moment that the county councils are constituted more or less from the leisured class, those who are in a certain position and are able to give the time and money involved in attending the meetings.
A new position has arisen. This Bill gets rid of the board of guardians and other bodies, which until now have been democratically elected and whose committees and other bodies have been constituted from all classes of society, and in many cases especially from the labouring classes. If the duties are taken away from these democratic bodies, who have also carried out their duties to a very large extent admirably, and are put on to the county councils, it surely would be right that every opportunity should be given and every endeavour made to enable the electors to select the members from the largest possible area of selection and not from one class. The Lord Chancellor refuses this proposal on the ground that it is unnecessary because the county councillors are at present unpaid. That is perfectly true; but what we desire is that in order to have a large area of selection for the electorate to choose from and to give those persons who up to now have undertaken these duties time and opportunity of continuing to do so, this payment shall be made to the members of county councils. That will enable the poorest person to become a member if he wishes to do so. The only possible way of doing that is to accept my noble friend's Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD THOMSON moved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Lord said: 230 It would be interesting to know from the Lord Chancellor whether, when the county councils asked for this clause to be inserted, they asked at the same time for this subsection of it. If they did it must surely be the first case on record of a body like a county council more or less hinting at an expenditure which might possibly be passed on to the national Exchequer, but which would be borne by themselves. If the county councils did not suggest this subsection, I am at a loss to understand why it is inserted, because the sums of money referred to in the subsection are presumably paid out under the operation of the formula. If the formula does not give money for this purpose, why does the subsection go out of its way to remind county councils that they cannot get this money out of the national grants? It looks to me very much as if it was an attempt to discourage county councils from giving these travelling expenses, as if that which was given to them grudgingly with the one hand in the part of the clause which they did ask for is being taken away from them with the other hand in this subsection. If that were not the motive I suggest that my Amendment might be followed and the subsection deleted. I beg to move.
Page 46, lines 9 to 14, leave out subsection (3).—(Lord Thomson.)
I can suggest to your Lordships three perfectly good reasons why this subsection should be deleted, and I shall be interested to hear the reply of the noble and learned Lord on the matter. First of all the matter is very small. The total possible amount of these expenses is something quite insignificant in the total county council budget. It must be a very small fraction of one per cent., probably not sufficient to pay for the additional expense which will be incurred by keeping separate accounts of it as a matter of accountancy. Secondly, it seems to be a matter of principle. Expenditure which is incurred by a county council under this clause is just as much an expenditure for the purposes of the county council and for the purposes of the work of the county council as travelling expenses paid to its officers and servants. It comes in exactly the same category and, 231 as a mere matter of accountancy, it ought to be dealt with in the same category. The third reason seems to me the most important of all. It is the one to which my noble friend alluded in moving the Amendment. This subsection constitutes a sort of sneer at these travelling expenses, a sort of suggestion that there is something a little odd and unusual about them, and that they must be put in a separate category and be dealt with in that way. Those seem to me three excellent reasons why this subsection should disappear, and I have no doubt they are three reasons which will appeal to the Government for letting it remain.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Government certainly ask the House to let it remain but not for the three reasons the noble Earl has suggested. The mover, Lord Thomson, said this money was paid out under the formula. That, if he will forgive me——
§ LORD THOMSON
I did not say that. I said it is obviously not paid out out of the formula, and if it is not being paid out of the formula why remind the county councils they are not getting it? That was my whole point.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The formula has nothing in the wide world to do with this subsection. The formula is one which provides for the distribution of certain Exchequer grants which are ascertained quite independently of the formula. The amount of the Exchequer grant has nothing to do with the formula. It deals only with its distribution. The reason the clause was put in is that this is dealing with those percentage grants which remain. Let us take one instance, because it happens to be the one which occasioned the subsection going in, the education grants. The Board of Education see no reason why the percentage grant for educational purposes should be increased because a particular county council thinks it right to pay the travelling expenses of its members. I cannot say whether the subsection was put in by the county councils in the clause they originally submitted, because I do not happen to have the official Report here, but I gather that they have raised no objection to it. Whether they actually put it in or whether it was inserted in another place I am not quite certain. 232 At any rate no objection has been raised by the county councils. I know the Board of Education desire it, because they see no reason why these travelling expenses for purely local matters should be treated practically as Exchequer percentage grants.
The noble Earl gave three reasons why the subsection should be omitted. First of all, that the matter was a small one. Since the days of the famous lady in Dickens I do not ever remember that argument being used with effect. Even though it be only a little one, it may still be one which is worth dealing with. Then the noble Earl said that as a matter of principle it ought to be included because these are expenses for the purposes of the county council. It is true they are expenses for county council administrative purposes, but that is not the test. The test is whether or not you are to include them in calculating how much the Exchequer has to pay to the county council as a percentage of certain expenditure which attracts national moneys, and we see no reason why the fact that a particular county council resolved to pay the travelling expenses of its members should be a reason for giving it in addition to those expenses, which will come out of the rate, an additional sum out of the Exchequer by way of percentage grant. Finally he suggested that it looks like a sneer at the travelling expenses. From the explanation I have given your Lordships will see that that is not the fact. On those grounds I ask your Lordships to retain the subsection.
§ LORD PARMOOR
The noble and learned Lord has raised a question which I confess I did not understand. Of course, an expenditure of this kind could not come within a percentage grant such as an education grant.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
May I interrupt the noble and learned Lord for the purpose of clearing this up? One of the committees for which the travelling expenses will be paid is an education committee, and the expenses of that would, therefore, unless this subsection were in, be included in the education expenses which would attract the percentage grant.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I did not understand that was the noble and learned Lord's view, but I think that disposes of his argument. Supposing expenses of this kind are proper in connection with county expenditure, in connection with expenditure properly incurred by the education committee, why should they not be regarded as an element in determining what the percentage education grant is? This expenditure is really necessary for the earning of a certain percentage grant. These members, according to all our ideas, ought to be paid. The travelling expenses of members of the education committee in every sense come within and ought to come within education expenditure in respect of which grant is received. As a matter of principle it is quite inexplicable why this expenditure should not be taken into consideration in the percentage grants for education. You are going to say that these traveling expenses are not necessary in connection with a particular work which the councils are carrying on. The members of the education committee are the central part of the education work. You cannot carry on your education without them. Therefore they are an essential part of education expenditure. I agree with the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD THOMSON moved to leave out subsection (4). The noble Lord said: My reason for moving the deletion of this subsection is that it seems to me that the guardians committees will not be able to get their expenses. That seems to me to be so because the words in the clause are "the whole area." The guardians committee, I presume, will be a localised committee dealing with a certain part of the whole area. Therefore, members of a committee which probably will have most need to travel will not benefit by the allowance for traveling given generally and rather grudgingly in the clause. That is my reason for moving the deletion of this subsection.
Page 46, lines 9 to 14, leave out subsection (4).—(Lord Thomson.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord is quite right in supposing that the effect of this subsection is to 234 prevent payment of traveling expenses to, amongst others, guardians committees. The purpose of the clause is to ensure that where there is a substantial expenditure on travelling over a long distance then it shall be within the power of the council to say that provision shall be made for meeting that expense. It is deliberately not intended to provide for the payment of travelling expenses when the committee is a purely local one, because the committee will consist of people who are on the spot dealing with one particular area and they will have no lengthy journeys to make. A guardians committee will naturally deal with a small district in which the members themselves, the representatives of the county council and of the district council and the co-opted people, are on the spot. If you give these people travelling expenses I can see no possible reason why we should not pay all the travelling expenses of members of a district council, for example. The scheme is to pay travelling expenses when they are substantial for journeys over long distances, and not to pay the expenses of small local committees such as guardians committees.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I should like to say one word on that. Subsection (4) goes quite outside what the noble Lord has said. I can only say that judging by experience of county councils there are a large number of committees the members of which have a considerable amount of travelling expenses, although the committees are not committees conducting business throughout the whole area of the county. You would only have to make your committee function over an area which does not include some small portion of the county and then their travelling expenses cannot be paid. Is that intended?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The test which is laid down—I think it is a plain one—is whether a committee of the county council is appointed for the discharge of functions throughout the whole area for which the county council is charged with those functions, that is to say, whether the county council appoints a committee to which are delegated functions over the whole area. The reason these words are used instead of saying merely "apply to the whole county" is because there are matters, such as education, where 235 the area of the authority dealing with that and the county are not coincident. It is not intended that the provision shall apply to travelling expenses of committees which only deal with a limited area. The noble Lord says that a council could get out of this by appointing a committee for only a part of the area, but as the clause is only optional it is obvious that if a county council did not wish to pay expenses they would not need to resort to a subterfuge, they would only refrain from passing a resolution.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I did not mean to suggest a subterfuge. I only meant that a committee might be appointed which would not cover the whole area, although some particular member of the county council would have in fact to incur considerable expenses in performing his duties as a member of that committee. The county council might be willing that he should be reimbursed for that expenditure but would be unable to do that because of this provision. That was the case I had in mind. However, I will not argue it further.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ EARL RUSSELL moved, in subsection (4), after "area", to insert "or if the Minister shall so direct a part of the whole area." The noble Earl said: The noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, has come very near to dealing with this Amendment. This is merely a practical question and I only want to put it to the noble and learned Lord to hear what his answer is. I propose to insert after "whole area" the words "or if the Minister shall so direct a part of the whole area." You may in fact and practice have a committee dealing with perhaps half the county or one-third of the county. Quite a reasonable amount of travelling expense might be incurred which should properly be payable. Might it not be wise to give power to the Minister to meet these cases by directing that they would be proper cases for payment of travelling expenses? It is purely a practical point that I want to put to the noble and learned Lord.
Page 46, line 11, after ("area") insert ("or if the Minister shall so direct a part of the whole area").—(Earl Russell.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I appreciate the reasonable way in which the noble Earl moved his Amendment. My answer, I am afraid, must be the one I have already given, that the view of the Government and of the county councils who asked for this is that it should apply only to committees appointed to deal with the whole area, and that it should not apply in cases of local matters where there will not be the same necessity for payment of travelling expenses. Therefore, it is intended to limit it in that way. There is a still further objection that if the noble Earl's Amendment were accepted it would give to the Minister—to each particular Minister who came into office—absolutely arbitrary discretion as to what areas should, or should not, be included. One Minister might allow it in every case and another might limit it to the whole county. There would be no sort of guide laid down in the Act as to the principle on which the Minister should apply his discretion.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD STRACHIE moved, in subsection (5), after "borough," to insert "or borough." The noble Lord said: This subsection deals with the payment of travelling expenses in the case of joint boards or joint committees. If a county council have a joint board with a non-county borough then the expenses of the members could not be paid. That is an omission which I desire to see remedied. There are very large and important non-county boroughs and it would be rather ridiculous if they had a joint committee with the county council or with a county borough, that the expenses of their members should not be paid. Therefore, I propose to insert these words to remedy what I think must have been an unintentional omission.
Page 46, line 20, after ("borough") insert ("or borough").—(Lord Strachie.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Government think that the object which the noble Lord has in view is quite a reasonable one, but I would suggest that a simpler and more satisfactory way of making the Amendment would be to omit the last "county" in the subsection. The subsection would then cover both boroughs and counties. If the noble Lord will move the Amendment in that 237 form with the permission, I hope, of the Lord Chairman, the Government will accept it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 46, line 19, leave out the second ("county").—(Lord Strachie.)
LORD ARNOLD moved to insert as a new subsection:—
(6) This section shall extend to the County of London.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Russell. I need not say more than a very few words. The County of London covers a wide area and, if this Amendment is accepted, I think it will conform to the principle, as I understand it, which the Lord Chancellor has laid down that travelling expenses should be substantial. They could be substantial in this area, and therefore I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.
Page 46, line 20, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Arnold.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am afraid that the Government cannot accept this Amendment. This clause, as your Lordships have heard, was put down at the instance of the County Councils Association. It applies entirely to county councils in the strict sense of the term, and there was no intention of applying it to other bodies. It was intended to meet the special conditions in large counties where councillors have to travel considerable distances to the place of meeting. The London County Council, though technically a county council, is quite a different body from the County Councils of, let us say, Surrey or the West Riding. Its circumstances are utterly different, and it is more like the City Councils of Birmingham, Liver-pool, Manchester or one of the great county boroughs. If the Metropolis were included it is quite possible that application would be made to include other towns that might be of considerable size, though not comparable to London. That, of course, was not the intention of the clause, and it is stretching it beyond the limits for which it was framed.
238 Everybody admits that London is special case, unique in this country and, indeed, in the world, and its conditions are met by provisions in its own Local Acts. For example, the London County Council (General Powers) Act, 1911, empowers the council to pass a resolution to pay travelling expenses to members of committees for attendance at meetings elsewhere than at the County Hall or other offices of the council to an amount not exceeding the expenses that they would have incurred in travelling from or to the County Hall to or from the place visited. Then there is an Act of 1926 which extends these powers to travelling and subsistence expenses of members of committees for visits of inspection to institutions or other places outside the county. If the London County Council had desired to come under the clause it could have made representations to Parliament at the same time as the County Councils Association did so. As it did not, do so, presumably the matter is governed to its satisfaction by its Local Acts, and therefore I hope that your Lordships will leave the clause as it stands.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I am much obliged to the noble Earl for his full reply on this Amendment. I do not find it convincing and, in fact, the general purport of his observations seems to me rather to strengthen the case for the new subsection. He said that if this were done for London it might establish a precedent for other large towns. I should not object to that, at all, and I am not at all frightened by the prospect. The noble Earl has told us that the London County Council already have certain powers under special Acts—I think exceptional powers as compared with other local bodies. They are certainly in an exceptional position, but that is an additional reason for making this subsection operative. Finally he said that representations were not made by the County of London. I do not think there is very much in that point. There are a great many things that they would like to see in the Bill that they have not made representations about, and the same remark applies to other bodies. However, if the Government are not going to do it, they are not going to do it. I will only say that we find at almost every stage that, although the noble Earl is most courteous and gives us very full replies, which we 239 appreciate, he is very rigid and does not give much away. I do not think that this is entirely his fault, and so I leave the matter there for the time being.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am glad to have such a good character from the noble Lord. The point is that this clause was put in at the request of the County Councils Association in the form in which they asked for it and to make any addition to it would be to go outside the scope of the clause as it was originally brought into another place.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
Before this clause is agreed to I should like to ask His Majesty's Government whether, before the Report stage, they will consider and deal with the points raised by the noble Earl behind me as to the very indefinite character of the allowance to be paid for travelling expenses. I need not repeat what the noble Earl said, but it seems to me that the most satisfactory plan would be to adopt the method that prevails among Territorial Army associations of paying expenses from the residence of the individual to the place where the meeting is held. I believe that in some cases county councils hold their meetings outside their own area, but I do not think that this need prevent the adoption of this principle. I think the Government should give some consideration to this important point, because people might travel the length of the Kingdom and have their expenses paid. To my mind it is a great pity that the clause was ever introduced, but I would ask the noble Earl for an undertaking that the Government will consider the basis of these payments.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
This debate has been very interesting and useful and shows what great advantages your Lordships' House offers to the public as a revising Chamber. This particular point has not, I think, been raised before either in your Lordships' House or in another place, and accordingly I am unable to reply to my noble friend Lord Lamington on the subject at the present moment, but I can give him an undertaking that the matter will be considered between now and Report, and if 240 he or any other noble Lord raises the question again, we shall have a considered reply to give.
§ Clause 49; as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 50:
§ Borrowing and appropriation of land by county councils.
§ 50.—(1) Subsection (5) of section sixty-nine of the Local Government Act, 1888, and subsection (1) of section one hundred and twelve of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, which fix respectively the maximum period within which loans by county councils and by councils of boroughs are to be repaid, shall have effect as if for "thirty years" there were substituted "sixty years."
§ (2) A county council may, subject to the approval of the Minister and subject to the like restrictions as are contained in section ninety-five of the Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1907, with respect to the appropriation of land by local authorities under that section, appropriate for any purpose for which they are authorised to acquire land any land acquired by the council for some other purpose and not required for that purpose:
§ Provided that where powers of appropriation of land are conferred on a county council by any other enactment, nothing in this section shall affect the powers under that enactment or dispense with the necessity for complying with any conditions imposed by any such enactment.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, at the end of subsection (1), to insert "Provided that nothing in this subsection shall affect the date of repayment of any loan issued before the passing of this Act." The noble Viscount said: Since putting this Amendment upon the Paper I have had the opportunity of studying the sections referred to in this clause and I am not at all sure that the Amendment is necessary. Certain noble Lords are still apprehensive on the point, and if the noble Earl can give me a definite statement I shall be very much obliged to him.
Page 46, line 28, at end insert the said proviso.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The noble Viscount is quite correct. This Amendment is unnecessary. The clause as it stands would not affect any loan arrangement entered into by a county council or county borough council before the passing of the Act.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.241
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved to omit subsection (2). The noble Viscount said: There are two things which I do not like in this subsection. The first is that there is nothing about the interested parties being heard in opposition. Secondly, I understand that under this clause land could be acquired for site value only, and then means obtained for using it for some quite other purpose, and had that other purpose been known in the first place when the land was acquired, better compensation would have been payable to the owner of the site. The introducer of the Bill did not mention this clause at all, and I cannot say that I am very much surprised, because I think it is a rather objectionable clause.
Page 46, line 29, leave out subsection (2).—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
In the first place let me explain to your Lordships that by the definition in Section 3 of the Interpretation Act of 1889, land covers both land and buildings. At the present time county councils have no general powers to enable them to appropriate to another use land and real property acquired for a particular purpose, and which they no longer require for such a purpose. This Bill puts functions upon county councils which render it necessary that they should have these new powers, because the transfer of the Poor Law and the duties thereof from the guardians to the counties will place a large number of institutions in the hands of the counties, which they will administer in conjunction with those institutions which they already possess. These buildings have been acquired by the Poor Law guardians for certain purposes. When the counties have all these buildings on their hands they will be able to allocate them for certain purposes—one building perhaps for tuberculosis and another for chronic cases, and so forth. If they do not have these powers the institutions would not be able to be used for the most necessary purposes and the most beneficial purposes to which the county councils now have an opportunity of putting them. It is quite true that certain restrictions apply which are set out in Section 95 of the Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1907, but unless the clause were put in I do not think that the county councils would be able 242 to carry out their new functions under the transfer of the Poor Law.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I think your Lordships will do well to consider a little before accepting such a wide subsection as this. The noble Earl is going to assume that everything is going to be done in the best possible way in the best of all possible worlds, but one has to see whether or not that always takes place, and if not what the difficulties are likely to be. It is perhaps somewhat illuminating to find that under very similar powers an actual definite case came up in the Courts the other day and was decided by a Divisional Court, over which the Lord Chief Justice presided. It is true that the case has gone to the Court of Appeal, whose judgment has not yet been given. The judgment of the Divisional Court may stand or not, but I think it is somewhat useful to see what was said in a case under a similar provision of the Housing Act.
It was a case in which a rule of the High Court was sought to prevent the Minister approving a scheme that had been put forward, and the Lord Chief Justice began his judgment as follows:—The substance of the argument in support of the rule was that under the agreeable name of an improvement scheme the corporation was minded to acquire a slice of very valuable land in the heart of the City of Derby, not for any purpose of rearrangement or reconstruction, but for the purpose, if and when the corporation thought fit, of resale, and, of course, resale at the highest obtainable price. One naturally asked whether the Act of 1925 contemplated any such power as that. In his opinion, if Parliament had really intended that the local authority should have such a power, that power would have been expressed in unambiguous terms, and not, as was suggested, by implication from the language of Section 38, subsection (4), and Section 46, subsection (1). It was said that the Minister had power to confirm a scheme with modifications, and that he had in fact never confirmed a scheme containing the power of sale, etc., in this unqualified way, but had imported into such schemes words requiring his approval. But he (the learned Judge) could not resist the inference that if the Minister believed that he possessed the power to confirm this scheme he might use it.This subsection is in quite unambiguous terms. It gives them power to use land acquired for one purpose for any other purpose that they choose. Is it wise to confer that very wide power 243 on the Ministry, when one sees that at this particular moment, under similar powers given under a different Act, you get abuses of this sort coming up and being condemned in the strong words I have read from the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice? I certainly will support the noble Viscount if he presses his Amendment.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
Before the Government answer I would like to ask this question. As I read the subsection, it appears to me that a county council might obtain certain land under the Acts quoted for the purpose of re-housing or of building additional houses. Having got the land, they might say: "Oh, we find we have made a mistake. There are already plenty of houses and we shall not use the land for that purpose." Having got the land for a particular object, and under a particular Act, they then say: "As we cannot use it for that purpose and we must use it for something—we cannot leave it derelict—we will start a cinema or a municipal entertainment," or something of that sort, for which, if they had in the first instance asked to obtain land for that purpose, it would have been refused to them. It seems to me possible that that could be done. I do not know what answer the Government may give, but if it is an answer that the county councils would not do such a thing, then I beg to say that I do not agree with them. County councillors, like all of us, are human, and they are inclined, some of them, to achieve their end without being very particular by what means. Therefore, unless I am shown to be wrong, I shall have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think there is a little misconception, and I am not surprised, after the speech of the noble Earl. He cited a passage from a judgment which is now under appeal to the Court of Appeal and may ultimately come to this House. I think it undesirable, to say the least, that I should discuss that judgment at this stage, because it may be that later on your Lordships will have to consider it judicially; but inasmuch as that case has been referred to, I should like to explain that so far from its being a case of analogous powers, it is a case which has no sort of analogy to the case which we are dis- 244 cussing. It was a case in which a county council prepared a housing scheme, for the acquisition of land in certain slum districts, in order that they might recondition. Under the Act which deals with the acquisition of land for these purposes it is necessary for the Minister of Health to approve the scheme. It appears that the county council in that particular case—I am not sure whether it was the county council or the county borough, but it does not matter—the county council, not being quite sure whether all the land would be wanted or not for the purpose of their housing scheme, put in a power to sell or lease any surplus land. The Minister was asked to approve the scheme, and the Court has decided that the Minister had no power to approve a scheme which contained so wide a provision.
It was so far from being an analogous power to the one sought that it was a case in which the power conferred by Parliament was a power of compulsory acquisition of land for a certain purpose. Here we are not dealing with the acquisition of land at all; we are dealing with land which has already been acquired and belongs to a county council; and what is sought here is that where the county council have land which they have been authorised to acquire, and which they do not find necessary for the purpose for which it was originally acquired, can turn it to some other useful purpose. My noble friend Lord Banbury said: "Could they start a cinema?" Of course, the answer is "No." I should think it very unlikely that a county council or county borough is already empowered by Statute to run a cinema, but the answer is certainly, "No." Under this subsection you do not empower the county councils to do things which they are at present not authorised by Statute to do; all you do is to authorise them to use land, which they have acquired for some particular purpose, for some other purpose which they are by law entitled to carry out. You do not authorise them to do things which they may not do; all you authorise them to do, if it turns out that the land was not necessary for the purpose for which it was originally obtained, is to use it for some other purpose for which they are lawfully entitled to use land.
245 The power which was regarded as so revolutionary is a power which was given so long ago as 1907 by the Public Health (Amendment) Act in the case of all sanitary authorities; and the provision, as the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has pointed out, is a provision which is really essential if we are to carry out what I think everybody in the House desires and wishes—namely, centralisation of different kinds of treatment in different kinds of institutions. Because it may well be that they will find themselves in possession of two or three institutions which have been supported by two or three Poor Law authorities, which are all transferred to them under the provisions of Part I of the Act; and they will find it unnecessary to use those institutions for that purpose, and will desire to put in one, say, a hospital, in another something in the nature of a workhouse, and in another case to use the land for some other lawful purpose.
It is quite a mistake to suppose that subsection (2) entitles a county council to do anything which they are not by Statute empowered to do now. All it does is to allow them to use the land which has come into their possession, and which has lawfully reached their possession by virtue of Part I of the Act or by virtue of their previous acquisition of it, for some other purpose than that for which it was originally acquired, if, on the centralisation and rearrangement and reorganisation which is
§ going to take place under Part I, they find it more useful and better in the public interest that they should so use it. I do hope that, with that explanation, your Lordships will see that this is no wild entrusting of powers to county councils which they do not possess, but merely a necessary, incidental power to enable them to carry out their functions with economy and in the public interest.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I am under the impression that a county borough might have a cinema or might even start a co-operative store under this clause, but perhaps I am wrong. I am very glad, however, to hear from the Lord Chancellor that a Judge has at last said that a Minister has exceeded his powers. I should like to offer my congratulations to that Judge, and I hope his example will be followed by many more.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
Notwithstanding the fact that the county council cannot do anything unlawful, they can get their Bills varied by the Minister, who is taking rather a wide view of his powers to vary Acts of Parliament. Therefore I am afraid I cannot withdraw my Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether subsection (2) shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 92; Not-Contents, 13.247
|Hailsham, L. (L.Chancellor.)||Sandwich, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Clanwilliam L. (E. Clan-william.)|
|Wellington, D.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Bath, M.||Allendale, V.||Clwyd, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Astor, V.||Danesfort, L.|
|Reading, M.||Chaplin, V.||Darling, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Daryngton. L.|
|Airlie, E.||Elibank, V.||de Clifford, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Deramore, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Hood, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|Buxton, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Desborough, L.|
|Chesterfield, E||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Cranbrook, E.||Knutsford, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|De La Warr, E||Peel, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Fortescue, E.||Sidmouth, V.||Hanworth, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Younger of Leckie, V.||Harris, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Hemphill, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Southwark, L. Bp.||Hindlip, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
|Lytton, E.||Aberconway, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Abinger, L.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Addington, L.||Islington, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Ampthill, L.||Jessel, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Arnold, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Askwith, L.||Monson, L.|
|Morris, L.||Remnant, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Newton, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Northington, L. (L. Henley.)||Russell of Liverpool, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Olivier, L.||Saltoun, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)||Sandhurst, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Parmoor, L.||Sempill, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-borough.)||Sinclair, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Bristol, M.||Midleton, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Forester, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V. [Teller.]||Lamington, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Lawrence, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Halsbury, E. [Teller.]||Cranworth, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 50 agreed to.
§ LORD ISLINGTON moved, after Clause 50, to insert the following new clause:—
§ Repeal of 45 and 46 Viet. c. 50. s. 236.
§ "Section two hundred and thirty-six of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882 (which contains provisions as to the publication of notices and correspondence with respect to the approval of sales, loans, and other financial arrangements proposed to be effected by certain councils) shall cease to have effect."
§ The noble Lord said: This new clause is one that the Association of Municipal Corporations have asked me to move. It has this merit, that, although it is a new clause to an already very exhaustive Bill, it only proposes to repeal certain sections of an old Statute. It is a very small matter and I hope your Lordships will regard it in that light. It requires very little explanation from me. Under Section 108 of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, the council of a borough is prohibited from selling or mortgaging corporate land without the approval of the Treasury, now the Ministry of Health. The proposed new clause leaves that provision undisturbed. It merely repeals the provisions in Section 236 of the Act which prescribe that notices have to be given.
§ The practice in giving these notices is that for a month before such sale or mortgage, the notice has to be affixed to the town hall, and if there is any objection raised the notice of correspondence has also to be affixed to the town hall. The Association of Municipal Corporations, I believe unanimously, on behalf of their members, regard this practice as one that has become obsolete and un- 248 necessary and can, therefore, quite well he removed from the Statute. These notices are never read. There is a much simpler and more up-to-date method of obtaining information than that which prevails under these notices. It is asked that this prescription should be removed from the Statute Book and that the notices should no longer encumber the notice boards of corporations. As I say, the notices are not read, it is a waste of time to place them there and there is a certain expense in drafting them. I think I have put the case as it stands and in the way in which it is regarded by the corporations, and I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
Page 46, line 42, at end insert the said new clause.—(Lord Islington.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I do not think I need detain your Lordships in regard to this Amendment. The clause has been very carefully explained by my noble friend and the Government are quite prepared to accept it.
§ LORD STRACHIE moved, after Clause 50, to insert the following new clause:—
§ Application of Borough Funds Acts to rural district councils.
§ " Subject as hereinafter provided, the council of a rural district shall have the like powers of promoting and opposing Bills in Parliament and of prosecuting or defending any legal proceedings necessary for the promotion or protection of the interests of the inhabitants of their district as are conferred on councils of urban districts by the Borough Funds Acts, 1872 and 1903, and accordingly in those Acts, the expressions 'governing body' and 'council' shall include the council of a rural district, and the expression 'chairman' shall include the chairman of such a council:249
§ The noble Lord said: The object of this new clause is to enable rural district councils to exercise the powers already conferred on urban district councils by the Borough Funds Acts, 1872 and 1903, to promote and oppose Bills in Parliament and to take or defend any legal proceedings which may be necessary in the interests of the inhabitants of the district under their charge. It is very desirable to give this power to rural district councils. The probability is that rural district councils will be largely increasing their areas and therefore will have the more reason to promote Bills in Parliament. This provision may recommend itself to the Government and I hope they will see their way to accept it in the interests of those rural district councils on whose behalf I propose it.
Page 46, line 42, at end insert the said new clause.—(Lord Strachie.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am glad to say I am able to accept this clause, all the more so because I think it is the only recommendation of the Royal Commission which has not been dealt with in the Bill.
§ Clause 51:
§ Provisions as to expenses of rural district councils.
§ (3) Any determination or apportionment by a rural district council under this section shall be binding and conclusive on a11 parties concerned, notwithstanding any enactment conferring a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions.
LORD ASKWITH moved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment in order to ask whether there is any particular reason why the apparent right of appeal to Quarter Sessions should be taken away. At present there is a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions against a Poor Law assessment and also, under the Public Health Act of 1875, a right of appeal against a separate rate for special expenses for rural districts. Now this subsection says that—
Any determination or apportionment by a rural district council under this section shall be binding and conclusive on all parties concerned, notwithstanding any enactment conferring a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions.
For anything I know to the contrary advantage may be taken by means of this Bill to prevent the right of appeal to Quarter Sessions by people who want to get their assessments altered. Does this subsection take away such right of appeal, and if so, for what reason?
Page 47, line 17, leave out subsection (3).—(Lord Askwith.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The noble Lord has asked me what the reason was for this particular Subsection. The clause deals with provisions as to expenses of rural district councils. It seems to me that the question whether a rural district council should contribute or should not contribute from their general fund towards expenses incurred by them and payable as special expenses, and also the manner in which a council should apportion between contributory places any expenses incurred by them, are essentially matters of local government. It is essentially a question for the elected representatives of the district to decide for themselves. I think they may fairly be trusted to settle such matters. I do not think it is usual for Quarter Sessions to deal with matters of this kind. Quarter Sessions deal with issues affecting particular individuals, particular interests, and so forth, rather than questions as between the general body of local ratepayers. They have jurisdiction, of course, over appeals where proceedings are taken by local authorities for the abatement of nuisances on private property. They would then have to deal with offences against public health, but the questions which we are considering here are purely domestic questions for a local authority, and do not seem to be matters which are properly referable by appeal to Quarter Sessions. They are matters which I think are properly settled by the local authorities themselves who are quite competent to come to a final decision.
§ LORD ASKWITH
I suppose that is intended as an explanation. It seems to me a rural authority has to get its money from somewhere by a special rate, and has to tell the overseers of the contri- 251 butory district to obtain the money. In the circumstances I do not press my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 51 agreed to.
§ Clause 52 [Relations between county councils and district councils in respect of public health functions]:
Page 47, line 28, after ("supply") insert ("of water").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ LORD STRACHIE moved, after subsection (1), to insert:—
§ "(2) A county council may, where they are satisfied that a scheme or further scheme for the supply of water, or the disposal of sewage, or the establishment of sewerage works is necessary for a district or combination of districts wholly or partly within the county, but cannot or will not be provided by the district council or councils concerned, prepare such scheme as they consider appropriate for the purpose, and the said district council or councils thereupon shall, subject to such appeal to the Minister as is mentioned in subsection (4) of this section, give effect thereto.
§ (3) A scheme prepared in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall contain directions for the commencement and completion of the works specified therein, and in the event of the district council or councils failing to comply with any of the directions so given the county council may themselves undertake such works as may be necessary to give effect to the scheme.
§ (4) The county council shall, within fourteen days after the making of a scheme under the provisions of subsection (2) of this section, send a copy of the scheme to the Minister and to the council of each district to which it applies, and any such district cou0144cil may, within three months after the making of the scheme, appeal against the whole or any part thereof to the Minister, who may thereupon either disallow the scheme or confirm it with or without modification:
§ Provided that for the purposes of this subsection a scheme shall be deemed to be made on the date on which it is adopted by a resolution of the county council.
§ (5) All expenditure incurred in connection with the works authorised by the scheme and the subsequent maintenance of such works shall be defrayed by the district council or councils to whose area or areas the scheme applies in such manner as is provided by the scheme, but the county council may make a contribution towards such expenditure in accordance with the power conferred upon them by subsection (1) of this section."252
§ The noble Lord said: This is rather an important Amendment dealing with the question of public health. The chief object of the Amendment is mostly stated in subsection (2). The object—and it is quite optional—is to allow county councils to contribute, in the interests of public health, towards the cost of water supplies, sewerage works and general sewage schemes in particular districts in the county where they are necessary and in which districts there may perhaps be none at all. The county councils are here given power to contribute to these expenses if they think fit. The expenses will be incurred by rural district councils or small authorities—this does not apply to rural district councils only but also to small urban districts within a county. The other provisions are all in the interests of public health. You may have small authorities who are unwilling to incur expenditure which is necessary in the interests of public health, and in such cases the county councils would have the right to insist on expenditure being undertaken. But there is power for the Minister of Health to interfere if anything is improperly demanded by a county council. In such a case the Ministry of Health would act as an appeal tribunal.
Sometimes the Government support the recommendations of the Royal Commission and on other occasions they go against those recommendations. I hope on this occasion they will prefer to support the Royal Commission. In the Second Report of the Royal Commission, paragraph 66, the following appears:
We observe that the Minister of Health would prefer to see county councils empowered to secure the proper discharge of 'public health functions' without discrimination, and that be would leave it to the discretion of the county council to make a contribution in the case of any service which they determined could most suitably be stimulated by financial assistance.
There is a note to that stating that this evidence is given on behalf of the Minister of Health by Sir Arthur Robinson, and therefore it has great weight. In another paragraph (67) the Report says:
We, therefore, recommend that county councils should be empowered to contribute, at the expense of the ratepayers of the administrative county as a whole, to the cost of the provision of water supply and sewerage (including sewage disposal) by councils of county districts, if it appears to a county council that such provision ought to be made in any county district, but that
it would entail a financial burden which it would be unreasonable to expect the council of the county district to incur unaided: Provided that the council of any county district should be empowered to represent to the Minister that an unreasonable burden would be imposed upon them by a proposal of the county council to make a contribution to another district.
I do not think we can have anything stronger than the passage I have quoted from the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government regarding this matter.
§ The Royal Commission unanimously passed this recommendation and I hope your Lordships will agree that this Amendment ought to be accepted because there are undoubtedly certain districts which would not be able to carry out necessary work without assistance. We had cases brought before us, for instance, of watering places which had only a season lasting for a few months and which were over-crowded at that particular time. A system of drainage ought to be carried out and the public health was suffering because it was not carried out for the reason that the amount raised by a penny rate was insufficient to enable the council to carry out necessary improvements. Cases such as that are cases in which it is quite right that the county council should contribute towards the expense. In cases where anything unfair was done by the county council there would be an appeal to the Minister, who could be trusted to see that no unfair burden was placed on any district. I hope that the Government will accept these subsections because they are founded entirely on the Report of the Royal Commission who were perfectly unanimous on this particular point.
Page 47, line 30, insert the said new subsections.—(Lord Strachie.)
§ LORD OLIVIER
I would like to support the proposal of the noble Lord. The, Bill, as it stands at present, is an improvement on the present position because it does enable county councils to come to the aid of poor districts whose borrowing powers are not sufficient to provide for a water supply. That is a relief for which country districts are indebted to the authors of the Bill, but it is not quite enough. Even in those circumstances there will be constantly found, I am afraid, in country districts which are in 254 want of an improved water supply, an indisposition to move when really the standard of public health demands that movement should be made. That is the case in the district in which I live. All round Oxford there has been an increase in population and as there is not the necessary housing accommodation people have gone into villages twelve, thirteen and fifteen miles away. There is no proper water supply in those villages and the rateable value is not enough for them to raise a loan to pay for a water supply.
Moreover, the original population are very conservative. They say: "What was good enough for our fathers is good enough for us. We can go to the well and that is all we want." But the people now going into these districts are people of a higher civilisation, or, at any rate, of better habits of civilisation, and they demand a good water supply. They go into these districts because they have children and cannot get accommodation in the towns. They have modern standards of cleanliness and are accustomed to an abundance of water, and it is very irksome to them not to have water simply because their neighbours are not disposed to think that it is necessary for them. In such cases county councils which have these higher standards should come to the rescue and say to the inhabitants of these villages: "You must have a proper water supply, even though you do not like to pay the rate of 2d. or 3d. which it would put upon you. We will make up the balance and we will require you to carry out a scheme." I think the additional powers proposed by the noble Lord are really required.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am sorry to find myself defending a clause in the Bill which my noble friend who was a colleague of mine on the Royal Commission thinks is at variance with the decision unanimously arrived at by that body. I find myself in entire agreement with everything that has been said by the two noble Lords, and I am in wholehearted sympathy with Lord Olivier in the disabilities which he so eloquently described. I trust the Bill will, at any rate, afford him the satisfaction that under it they can be removed. It is not done in quite the way in which Lord Strachie suggested, but I venture to suggest that the Bill does carry out the 255 recommendation of the Royal Commission. If your Lordships will look at the clause you will see that it says that "the council of a county may agree to contribute towards the expenditure incurred" for this purpose—this very necessary purpose. If you turn to subsection (3) of the clause you will see that in case of default, which is really the point, I suppose, the Minister may take action, and "may by order transfer to the county council the function with respect to which default has been made."
It is true that a difference comes in here, but I do not think that there is any discrepancy between the recommendation of the Royal Commission and the provisions of the Bill. It is true that, under subsection (3), initiative would rest with the Minister, whereas under the Amendment proposed by my noble friend it would rest with the county council to take action in the first place. I do not think there is really any material difference, because if there was a case in which a county council wished to take action they would make representation to the Minister and ask him to deal with the matter in the manner laid down in the Bill, which is entirely in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commission. The county council, therefore, I think, have absolute power to secure what my noble friend wishes to obtain. I would deprecate any alteration in the Bill which gives every opportunity for county councils to exercise these functions. As I think my noble friend will remember, the matter was one on which there was considerable debate between various local authorities, and I think myself the way in which the Bill is drafted will prove most agreeable to the various district authorities themselves. I think the clause does meet the recommendation of the Royal Commission and I venture to hope that my noble friend will agree.
§ LORD STRACHIE
I accept the explanation given by the noble Earl as satisfactory and therefore I ask leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 52, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 53:
§ Provisions as to medical officers of health.
§ 53.—(1) The council of every county shall, after consultation with the councils of dis- 256 tricts wholly or partly within the county, formulate arrangements for securing, whether by means of a combination of districts or othewise, that every medical officer of health subsequently appointed for a district shall be restricted by the terms of his employment from engaging in private practice as a medical practitioner.
§ (4) Where such arrangements as aforesaid have been formulated, then, on a vacancy occurring in the office of medical officer of health for any such district, it shall be a term of the appointment of a person to fill the vacancy that he shall not engage in private practice as a medical practitioner:
§ Provided that if upon application made to him by the council of the district in connection with any such proposed appointment the Minister, after considering the arrangements formulated and any representations which may be made to him by the county council or by the councils of other districts concerned, is satisfied that such a term cannot conveniently form part of the terms of the proposed appointment, he may dispense with the foregoing requirement as respects that appointment on such conditions as he may think fit.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words after "securing" and to insert "the future appointment by district councils of medical officers of health, whether by combinations of districts or otherwise, which shall most conduce to the efficient carrying out of public health services within the county as a whole as well as within the districts to which they are respectively appointed." The noble Earl said: The Amendment standing in my name really originated with my noble friend the Earl of Midleton, who, unfortunately, was unable to move it himself and asked me to put it on the Paper. It can be explained very shortly. Clause 53 says that in future when any medical officer is appointed he shall be appointed as a whole-time officer and shall not be allowed to take part in private practice. It is quite true, and quite fair, to say that there is a proviso at the end, that the Minister may in exceptional circumstances waive that condition, but that is to be the ordinary and primary condition.
§ There is something else that it is quite right to say. I am going to refer to a document which I will not suggest is a document on which this Bill is based. It is the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. I would rather refer to it as a document which 257 flits in and out of this debate from time to time as the Government think it expedient to bring it forward or leave it in Obscurity. It is only fair to say that the unanimous finding of this particular Report is in accordance with the clause as drafted, but the criticisms, that, I think might fairly be made is that, when we come to look at the Report, we see that this finding was based on evidence given by the Minister himself.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
The noble Earl corrected me too soon. It was based on evidence given by the Minister himself, by the county councils, by the rural councils, by the borough and, I think, the urban district councils. Is it not clear that, when you have evidence based on views of administrative bodies, they are thinking primarily of what would be most convenient to them? Undoubtedly the use of whole-time servants would be more suitable for their purpose, and these servants would be easier to deal with. But is that quite the question? The question is whether the medical officer of health would not be more efficient in his district if he were to keep up what is known as the curative part of his work as a doctor, and were not confined to an administrative position where he does not exercise his profession. I had hoped that when this Amendment came on Lord Dawson of Penn might have been in his place, because I tell your Lordships quite frankly that this is not an Amendment that originated with me, nor do I pretend to be an expert in the matter, but it was suggested that the point ought to be laid before your Lordships before you agreed to the clause as it stands, and for that reason I have thought proper to move the Amendment.
Page 48, line 30, leave out from ("securing") to end of subsection and insert the said new words.—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
This cuts at the root of the whole of the recommendations in this connection of the Royal Commission which are embodied in the Bill. The noble Earl corrected me when I ventured to interrupt him, and said that the findings were based on the evidence of the Minister, of the county 258 councils, of the Association of Municipal Corporations and of the Urban District Councils Association. That is true, but he did not mention the Rural District Councils Association. If your Lordships will turn to paragraph 100 you will see that the Rural District Councils Association considered it desirable that the medical officer of health should be a whole-time officer wherever practicable. It is, of course, in the rural districts, where the work is not so arduous, that the part-time officer is most usually found. The rural district councils agreed that it was desirable to have a whole-time officer wherever possible.
I would also draw your Lordships' attention to a letter from the medical secretary of the British Medical Association which appeared in The Times yesterday, in which he says that he would appreciate an opportunity of stating the policy of that body as adopted in 1911—namely, that:—In the general interests of public health and of the medical profession it is desirable … that medical officers of health should as a rule (and without prejudice to those at present holing part-time appointments) be required to devote their whole time to official duties.The arguments in favour of having a whole-time officer can be briefly stated. There has been a tremendous development of these duties in recent years, and the demand for specialised knowledge has made it necessary that the medical officer of health should have a diploma of public health. Further, the private practitioner has other interests than those of the medical officer of health. He has to attend to his private as well as to his public duties, and the two activities might conflict. I submit to your Lordships that it is undesirable that a man should be placed in a position where public and private interests might conflict, and it is desirable that the medical officer should devote his whole attention to public work.
Of course it is not necessary that he should be medical officer for one district alone. He might, serve two or three districts, or a rural and an urban district, but it is desirable that he should be a whole-time public servant. Another point is that there might be an epidemic, and a private practitioner with a great demand upon his time would have to choose 259 between the interests of his private patients and his public duties. One can conceive numerous cases in which that choice would be very difficult. The consensus of opinion of local authorities and of the British Medical Association is in favour of the appointment of whole-time officers. There is a proviso in the Bill by which, where there are part-time officers and the system is working well, a loop-hole is given. That is quite right, for one should always have an opportunity of dealing with special cases, but as a general rule I am quite certain that the right policy to follow throughout the country is to have whole-time medical officers of health in accordance with the terms of the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
It is quite obvious that there must be something to be said on both sides of this question. After what has been said by the noble Earl, who has pointed out that all these matters have been gone into carefully and that the Government have come to the conclusion that the whole-time officer is better as a whole, naturally I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 53 agreed to.
§ Clause 54 agreed to.
§ Clause 55:
§ Maternity and child welfare services.
55. Where in any district any services under the Maternity and Child Welfare Act, 1918, are being provided by a council who are not the local education authority for elementary education for the district, and the Minister, on representations being made to him by the council who are such local education authority for the district, is satisfied that the transfer of the services to the council who are such local education authority would conduce to the more efficient administration in the district of the functions relating to public health and education, the minister may, by order—
(a) withdraw his sanction to any arrangements made under the Maternity and Child Welfare Act, 1918, by the council who are providing the services, and
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, shortly before paragraph (a), to leave out "and education" and to insert "having regard to local conditions and requirements." The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment to deal with the maternity and child welfare schemes of certain urban district 260 councils. I can put the case very shortly. There are certain districts that have grown very much in the last twenty years. For instance, you have Coulsdon and Purley, which have now a population of 35,000 persons; Sutton with 42,000; and Barnes with over 34,000. These districts administer schemes of maternity and child welfare but, as they had not in 1901 a population of 20,000, they are not the local education authority. That authority is still the county council, and can apply to the Minister of Health to transfer maternity and child welfare schemes. By this clause, if your Lordships will read it, the Minister of Health can really take away the arrangement under which these urban district councils are administering maternity and child welfare schemes. My Amendment proposes that the Minister of Health shall not be able, on the application of the county council, to transfer these services to the county council, unless he is satisfied that the transfer would conduce to the more efficient administration in the district of the functions relating to public health, "having regard to local conditions and requirements."
§ I think that is a reasonable position. The county councils will have quite enough to do under the various provisions of this Bill. They will have their powers and functions largely increased, and they will be over-burdened without the necessity of administering maternity and child welfare schemes which are being, and have for years been, well administered by others. It is only in respect of such services that I urge this Amendment. If it really would be in the interests of public health, having regard to local conditions and so forth, to make these changes, they can still be made under my Amendment, but my Amendment would alter the clause as it stands, and I think would improve the operation of it in the interests of the community all round. Why, I ask, should we upset existing arrangements if they work well? The noble Earl may say that the Bill will not really upset them, because things will go on very much as before, but I submit, with respect, that there will be a change, for the control will be taken from the urban district councils, and I think that on the balance there are strong reasons why my Amendment, which is a very modest one, should be accepted.261
Page 49, line 41, leave out ("and education") and insert ("having regard to local conditions and requirements").—(Lord Arnold.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am in great sympathy with what the noble Lord has said, and especially with the question which he has asked—namely, why should you interfere with an institution which is running well? I agree, and I do not think that the clause necessarily causes you to do so, and I should like, if I may for 'a moment, to deal with the question of maternity and child welfare. The whole matter was gone into with great care by the Royal Commission, and the point raised a discussion of great interest, and perhaps, as it joins on very closely with other matters, I may be allowed to speak upon it for a few minutes. The Act of 1918 provided that a district could become a maternity and child welfare authority. While this Bill does not insist upon it, it encourages and provides machinery for the transfer of the duties of a maternity and child welfare authority to a body which is a school medical authority, that is to say, generally speaking, it is considered advisable that the maternity and child welfare authority to a body the school medical authority. This clause gives effect to that to a certain extent, but it does provide for a, great deal of latitude, so as not to interfere with a child welfare committee which is doing good work, though it indicates the policy of combining the functions under an authority which is also a school medical authority.
The reason for it is this, and it raises another point which I think is going to be dealt with by noble Lords 'at a later stage. The object of the various clauses in the Bill dealing with the subject of maternity and child welfare is to get the supervision of the child—and the mother also—from pre-natal days until the child ceases to be of school age and under the care of au authority at all, in the hands of one and the same local authority. The object is, in the first place, to have a maternity and child welfare committee which deals with the mother and child in pre-natal days. Then comes the period of birth and the child comes under the supervision of the midwife. Provision is made to bring the midwives under the same supervision, whether district or 262 county, as the maternity and child welfare authority. Then you come to the period when the midwife has left, and the child in its early days comes again under the care of the maternity and child welfare committee, and it is desirable that the same authority should have control. Then you come to the school age. The school medical authority, whether district or county, is the authority which will take over the child's welfare, and it is desirable that the school medical authority should be under the same body. If we follow the policy in the Bill we shall get the maternity and child welfare, the mid-wives and the school medical authority all under one body, whether district or county authority. I admit quite freely to Lord Arnold that a body which is not an education authority—I think he mentioned Barnes—I do not quite understand——
§ LORD ARNOLD
Perhaps I should explain that it was in 1901, when the population was then under 20,000, and it has grown since. If that could be but right, there would be no difficulty.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think that an authority which was doing well would not be interfered with, but as a matter of broad policy it is desirable to get all the authorities under one body, and you must trust to administrative ability on the part of the Ministry of Health to see that the power is not unreasonably used, and that in order to obtain uniformity we shall not take away what is being well done already by somebody else. Gradually, no doubt, uniformity will be obtained, but one does not want to interfere with district councils which are doing good work, and the Bill has been carefully drafted to secure that.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I am very much obliged to the noble Earl for his full reply. I am somewhat reassured, because I had fears that under the clause as it stands in practice it would mean that before long every one of these maternity and child welfare schemes would be moved from the district authority to the local education authority, which is, for reasons stated, the county council and county education authority. The noble Earl says that in his view that would not happen, and that if schemes are being well administered he thinks they will be allowed to 263 remain as at present. I am very glad to hear that. He is evidently not going to accept my Amendment, but if the Bill is administered in the way in which he says it will be then there will not be very much cause for complaint. I recognise that where schemes are not being well administered there would be a case for transferring, but if they are I think they should be allowed to remain with these urban bodies. I think that that reassurance will do something to remove the misgivings of these bodies. As I have pointed out on a previous occasion, there is not very much inducement to go on an urban district council. The prestige is not great, and, if the good work which they are doing is to be taken away from them without sufficient reason, I think that is undesirable. But I am a good deal reassured, and in the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 55 agreed to.
§ Clause 56 agreed to.
§ Clause 57:
§ Supervision of midwives.
§ 57.—(1) If the council of any district have established a maternity and child welfare committee and employ a medical officer of health who, by the terms of his appointment, is restricted from engaging in private practice, the council may apply to the Minister to be made the local supervising authority under the Midwives Acts, 1902 to 1926, and the Minister, if, after consultation with the county council he is satisfied that the district council are in a position to discharge the whole of the functions of a local supervising authority under those Acts, may, by order, direct that the council shall become the local supervising authority for the district in place of the county council, and provide for the manner in which the expenses of the district council and the county council under those Acts are to be defrayed.
§ (2) Where an order' has been made under the foregoing subsection, the Minister may at any time, if he is satisfied that the functions of the local supervising authority, should be retransferred to the county council, make a further order revoking the original order, and thereupon the county council shall again become the local supervising authority under the said Acts.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, in subsection (1), after "If the council of any district," to insert "being a local education authority." The noble Earl said: Here, again, I am moving an Amendment suggested by my noble friend 264 Lord Midleton with regard to the question of midwives. The Amendment gives a larger area than the Bill for the control over midwives. The case for the midwives is put rather in this way. Their first objection is that there is bound to be a difficulty arising by reason of the fact that if they are under very small areas their work will certainly take them outside those areas, and they will find themselves under a dual control—at one time under that of the small area and at another time under that of the county council. The effect will probably be that there will be conflicting rules and regulations made by the two bodies, and the rules with regard to disinfection, for example, and the times of disinfection, and various things of that kind, will vary in the two different areas. It would, therefore, be better from their point of view if they could remain under the larger area rather than be put under the smaller area.
§ The next point is this. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill will probably not think I am overstating what appeared in the Report of the Royal Commission when I say, having read through the part which deals with the maternity question and the question of midwives, that he seems to make it the pivot of the whole of that part of the Report that the control should start with, and largely be kept in the hands of, the local education authority. If so, my proposed Amendment would not be at variance with the findings of the Royal Commission. If the district were that of the local education authority it would be a district of some size. That undoubtedly would please those who advise the midwives, and who, in this matter, comprise practically every well known body concerned with midwifery. The larger the area the broader the view, and the lees likelihood of local difficulties being put in the way—such a difficulty as that of a doctor preferring one particular midwife because he has been working with her, and employing her to the exclusion of others. Furthermore, it would be much easier to get an experienced inspector for the larger than for the smaller area.
§ I think one is entitled to look to what has happened in the past. Under the Midwives Act, 1902, there was a power for counties to delegate the inspection of midwives and the general question of 265 midwives to a smaller committee. Ten counties adopted that, but every single one of them, after trial, gave it up. In 1909 it was suggested by the Departmental Committee that that delegation to small committees should be given up entirely, and, in fact, when the Midwives Act, 1918, was passed it was repealed. Therefore, I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that this question might be considered again before this part of the Bill is passed. I have a second Amendment lower down which really runs with the first. It proposes that if there is any difference between the county council and the district council with regard to a possible order that may be made by the Minister in accordance with this clause, he should hold a local inquiry among the people who know the circumstances, and the matter should be gone into at the place where the difficulty has arisen rather than be inquired into departmentally at Whitehall.
Page 50, line 24, after ("district") insert ("being a local education authority").—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
I have an Amendment down to the same effect as this, and I wish in every way to adopt the noble Earl's argument. I think that the transference to the smaller authority would be a mistake. I have before me a document showing that the Incorporated Midwives Institute and every other similar association is opposed to this provision. The change has already been tried and given up in the cases to which the noble Earl referred. This Amendment, I believe, was on the Report stage in the House of Commons in the hands of a great expert on this subject, Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle, but, owing to the effect of the "guillotine," he was unable to bring the matter forward. With regard to the later Amendment concerning a local inquiry, I think that is a very important safeguard. There is an Amendment before my Amendment on this subject, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Strachie and Lord Cottesloe, and it seems to me that that Amendment goes substantially to the same length as we desire. I am not quite sure that I am right about that, but I think it does, and I certainly commend this present Amendment as one right in itself, as representing the result 266 of experiment, and as one supported by everyone who has had substantial experience in this matter.
When Lord Parmoor and I were in a former state of life he often had the honour of leading me, but I never knew before that I should have to speak at greater length than he. I shall try, however, to be as short as I can. I will not quote now the opinion of an anonymous expert such as we heard the other day. I am going to tell you, if I may and as shortly as I can, what the opinion of everybody concerned with the training of midwives is on this subject. I am authorised to say that the Central Midwives Board object to this transfer of the powers of the inspection of midwives from the county council to a district council. Queen Victoria's Jubilee Nurses, who are the largest employers of midwives, object to it. The Incorporated Midwives Institute object to it, and the College of the Nursing object to it. (I am speaking to Amendments generally.) All those bodies object to having the inspection and supervision of midwives transferred to the smaller body. They have been unfortunate in this business, because they were "guillotined" in the discussion in another place, and when they were prepared to place their evidence before the Royal Commission on Local Government they were not heard. Therefore, this is really the first opportunity (I am sorry it is in such poor hands) there has been of voicing the unanimous opinion of everyone of the bodies concerned with midwives and everyone who employs them.
We want to encourage women to join the profession of midwifery. It is not easy to get them, and one thing that would make midwives more happy in their work is that they should feel safe that the supervision they are under will be supervision, not only of somebody who knows how to carry out the duties that they have to perform, but who knows what is expected of midwives and what standard they have to work up to. They feel certain that they can get better treatment and better supervision from the more important body, the county council, than from a district council. Why? The county council are an important body. The county council contain men of much wider experience than 267 those on a district council. The county council are enabled—and this is a very important point—to employ whole-time supervisors, women who have nothing else to do. It is impossible for a district council to employ a whole-time inspector of midwives' work. They might have only one or two midwives in the whole of their district. The point that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, stated is perfectly right—that if we hand the duties of supervision over to the district councils, a midwife might be working under one district council here, another one there, and another one there, all with a different standard of inspection. I am afraid I am being hurried by time and cannot put to you all the arguments I should like to put; but you cannot disbelieve me when I say that I am voicing the opinion of all of them. You cannot disregard it, and you cannot hand these women over to the inspection of district bodies. They are asking only that they shall be left to the supervision of their work by the more important body, the county council, instead of the district council.
§ LORD HUNSDON OF HUNSDON
My noble friend Lord Knutsford has told you what the views are of the associations of midwives, and has rather advocated, as it seems to me, that the whole of this clause should disappear. I would like to inform your Lordships of what the feeling is in one County at least of which I can speak, Hertford, in regard to this matter. I am speaking for ladies who are connected with the maternity and child welfare committees and the supervision of midwives. They know what they are talking about, and we in the county at all events have the greatest respect for their competence and their opinion. They view Clause 57 with something akin to dismay. I can understand that in the County of London or a county in which there are very important district authorities the case would be different; but in Hertfordshire, so far as I can see, the proposed transfer would be of no advantage either to the county council, to the district council, to the midwives or still less to the patient, who is the person who ought to be most considered.
We are speaking to other Amendments which have not been brought forward but it seems to me that it is a most mild 268 and reasonable request that those who are responsible for the efficiency of the midwives as well as the midwives themselves should have an opportunity of expressing their views before they are transferred from one authority to another. I do not want to use any expression that might be considered offensive, but this clause treats a useful and necessary body of working women as if they were chattels to be transferred from one authority to another without even allowing them to state their case. With all respect, I think that it is also unreasonable not to ask those who supervise the midwives to express their views, and unjust to the midwives themselves.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I ventured to trouble your Lordships with some few words in dealing with the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, because I wanted to explain to your Lordships the whole policy in regard to maternity and child Welfare which governs the provisions of this Bill. I have already explained the point about midwives, and I will not trespass upon your Lordships' time any longer in that regard. It has been said that under this Bill the midwives are likely to come under the supervision of a body of a district which is not so likely to afford them that proper care and control which they would naturally expect from a county council. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the very careful provisions of this clause which is based upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission. It says that if, after consultation with the county council, the Minister is satisfied—the county council, of course, will have an opportunity of stating their views after the district council have put forward their request—that the district council are in a position to discharge the whole of the functions of a local supervising authority"—and so forth, then, and then only, can he give his permission for them to take over the duties of the supervision of midwives.
A great deal of feeling has been expressed in the larger municipal boroughs, and I hope that in this I may have the sympathy of the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp. The larger municipal boroughs have felt that they have had some cause for displeasure because this duty has been taken away from them. 269 It is to be remembered that under the Act of 1925, which was based upon the First Report of the Royal Commission, the size of a county borough in future or of any borough which is constituted a county borough is increased from 50,000 to 75,000. Therefore, there are a large number of towns approaching the 50,000 which will have to wait a long time before there is any hope of them becoming county boroughs. It is to such towns more than others that this particular clause is directed. Though, of course, I have explained that the general policy of maternity and child welfare includes midwives, I do not think it is likely, seeing the careful wording of this clause, that any Minister would transfer the supervision of midwives to any authority unless he was perfectly certain that it would carry out the duties well. If a borough of over 50,000 or any large county borough was the supervising authority it is unlikely that it would do it worse than a county. If, for instance, the Rhondda Valley, an urban district of 250,000 inhabitants, were the supervising authority, one would expect them to be equally competent with a county borough of, say, 75,000 inhabitants. It is part of the general policy, and I would venture to ask your Lordships to consider it in that light and to bear in mind also the fact that for the safeguarding of the interests of the midwives the clause is very carefully drawn, and I do not think they are very likely to be injured by its provisions.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Your Lordships will all, I am sure, agree that this is a matter of the greatest importance. The midwives throughout the country are performing very valuable national services, and I am very glad to have this opportunity of urging, what I am sure is the opinion of your Lordships as a whole, that we ought not to deal lightly with them as a service, nor remove them against their wishes, or allow them to be moved against their wishes, from one authority to another. Nobody has more right to speak with authority, after so many years of devoted service to nursing and hospitals, than the noble Viscount who spoke a few minutes ago, and whose speech, I confess, moved me a great deal. I think the matter is very unsatisfactory in its present position. Your Lordships' House has especial 270 responsibility in view of the fact that this matter was not discussed at all in another place. I am not in the least moved by the argument of the noble Earl with regard to the autonomy of municipal boroughs, because so far in this Bill he has entirely neglected any argument that I have used as to their importance or competence. Now, on this occasion, he tells me that they are perfectly competent people to carry this out. If he had thought them competent on the other occasions I should have listened more readily to him when he makes such an appeal on the present occasion.
I think that an uncommonly good case has been made against this clause by the noble Viscount, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Hunsdon, with whom I am glad to find myself for once in agreement. I am most unwilling at the present time, having heard what has been said by the two noble Lords, to agree to the clause as it stands at the present moment. I regret that we cannot consider the matter a little more at length. This is an unfortunate time of the evening for the matter to be brought forward. What we desire is that this work should be carried on with the greatest efficiency. Those who are engaged in this work themselves, the midwives, speak with the unanimity which was voiced by the noble Viscount, and I think it is very difficult for your Lordships' House to neglect their appeal that we should strike this clause out. The only alternative really seems to me to be to strike the clause out of the Bill: the Amendments which are suggested hardly go so far as I should think is necessary having regard to what has been said.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The words which your Lordships have heard spoken by so many members of this House indicate that there is a great desire among your Lordships for further consideration of this clause. Therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I would suggest that we leave matters as they stand without considering the further Amendments that are down on this clause, and permit me to consider the subject with my right hon. friend the Minister of Health and bring the matter up again on Report. All these Amend- 271 ments might be brought up again on Report, and possibly we might be able to meet noble Lords with other proposals. If your Lordships would allow me to take that course I would undertake to go into it again with my right hon. friend at the Ministry and see how it would be possible to meet your Lordships, leaving, of course, your Lordships entirely free to bring forward any further Amendments on Report that you wish to propose.
THE EARL OF HALISBURY
Naturally after what has just been said I would ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, but I should like to call the attention of the noble Earl to a point for consideration on the Report stage. The clause as it at present stands gives no say in the matter to any of the midwives themselves, and I would like to suggest to the noble Earl that before the Report stage he might at least give a little thought as to whether or not the midwives themselves might be given some say in the matter.
I think it is much better to leave the matter as it is. We have the noble Earl in such a conciliatory mood before dinner that I think we had better accept what we have got, and be grateful to your Lordships for the sympathy you have always shown to people in distress.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 57 agreed to.
§ Clause 58 [Provision of hospital accommodation for infectious disease]:
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I have to move out words in subsection (1) which are unnecessary as a similar general provision exists in Clause 119.
Page 51, line 10, leave out from ("county") to the end of the subsection.—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 59:
§ Power of London County Council to transfer or delegate functions to metropolitan borough councils.
§ 59.—(1) The Minister may, if he thinks fit, on the application of the London County Council or of any association or committee which is in his opinion representative of the metropolitan borough councils, by order provide— 272
- (a) for the transfer to all the metropolitan borough councils of any functions exercisable by the county council other than functions transferred to them under Part I of this Act; or
- (b) for the exercise by any of the metropolitan borough councils as agents for the county council of any functions of the county council other than functions transferred as aforesaid.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (1), after "any," to insert "Metropolitan borough council or of any." The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment which I can move very shortly. Under the clause as it stands the only body which can represent the views of the Metropolitan borough councils is an association or committee which in the opinion of the Minister is representative of the Metropolitan borough councils. Presumably that is the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, but, clearly, the position might easily arise in which difficulties would be created if the clause is not somewhat widened. The Standing Joint Committee might cease to be representative of Metropolitan boroughs. Some boroughs might withdraw and perhaps form an association of their own. In such an event—and it might happen owing to conflicting political and financial interests—a real difficulty would arise. I suggest that the clause ought to be amended so that it would be competent for the Minister of Health to take into account the view of any association or associations, any committee or committees; indeed the view of any individual borough council. Unless that is done the Minister of Health might know of such views, he might even attach weight to them, yet it would be wrong for him, unless the clause is amended, to take into account any views except those of one committee or association. Surely that cannot be right. I cannot see any real objection to the acceptance of this Amendment. It can do no harm; it might well be needed in certain circumstances which might easily arise. I therefore hope it will be accepted. I beg to move.
Page 52, line 36, at end insert ("Metropolitan borough council or of any").—(Lord Arnold.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I rather hope the noble Lord will not press the Amendment. I think I can reassure him. Your Lordships will see that Clause 59 is a clause which gives power to transfer functions to the Metropolitan borough councils which are exercisable by the county council. It has to be done on the clause as it stands, either on the application of the London County Council or of any association or committee which is, in the Minister's opinion, representative of the Metropolitan borough councils. The noble Lord suggests that on the representation of any Metropolitan borough council, the Minister may, by Order, so provide. I think that would be going a good deal too far. The reason he gave is that the present Metropolitan Borough Councils Committee may cease to be representative. I do not think that is a very likely thing to happen. Still more unlikely is it that the Metropolitan borough councils would not have some sort of association or committee representative of their interests. The Metropolitan borough councils themselves, their Standing Joint Committee, and the L.C.C. have accepted the clause as it stands and it seems to us desirable. I think your Lordships will agree that a proposal of this kind should come from some representative body rather than from one individual borough council; and of course, any individual borough council could easily move its association, and, if the association agreed with it, then they would be able to bring their proposals before the Minister. I hope the Amendment will not be pressed.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I am sorry that I do not find that very conclusive because in the first place, although the Lord Chancellor thinks that it is improbable that this Standing Joint Committee would cease to be representative, I am told that there is doubt about that. This Amendment is supported by people outside who have great knowledge of these things and who say that it might cease to be fully representative of the Metropolitan borough councils. I cannot see any objection to widening the clause. Discretion would still be with the Minister. The Lord Chancellor is not really giving anything away. The whole discretion would remain with the Minister. Under the clause as it stands it would be definitely wrong for the Minister to take account of views which he might 274 know of unless they were supported by one association.
§ LORD ARNOLD
But it has to be representative of the Metropolitan borough councils. It is a matter for much argument as to what is meant. If the Lord Chancellor says it is going too far to say that it should be representative of one borough council we might meet him by dropping that part of the Amendment, but I do think it ought to be widened. As it stands the clause might lead to great difficulties. Discretion would still rest with the Minister and that is the point which, I think, with respect, the Lord Chancellor has not dealt with.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 59 agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved, after Clause 59, to insert:—
§ Union of parishes it metropolitan borough.
§ ".Where it appears to the Minister that the combination of the area of all the parishes in any metropolitan borough for the purpose of forming a single rating area would be of public or local advantage, the Minister may after consulting the council of the metropolitan borough concerned make an order for combining those areas for such purpose and such order may provide for such financial or other adjustments as the Minister may deem fit."
§ The noble Earl said: I beg to move this Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Jessel. The Amendment is to provide that in all Metropolitan boroughs there should be only one rate and that the borough should be a rating unit. This is the position in all the boroughs at the moment with the exception of four—Greenwich, Holborn, Southwark and Woolwich. In one of these, the Borough of Holborn, there are no fewer than nine parishes all able to levy different rates and thereby cause unnecessary trouble. I know it will be urged that under Section 57 of the Local Government Act, 1888, this can already be done, but the machinery provided in that Act is cumbersome and expensive, and I believe that some few years ago the City of Westminster had to bring in a Private Bill to unite itself into one parish. This clause has the support of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Com- 275 mittee and of the London County Council and I hope the Government will be able to accept it.
Page 53, line 16, insert the said new clause.—(The Earl of Cranbrook.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think I may say that the Government have great sympathy with the principle which underlies this Amendment, and there is a good deal to be said for providing this simple piece of machinery for doing away with parochial rating which, as the noble Earl says, only exists in four boroughs, and making them into one single rating area as is the case in other boroughs. But I would appeal to the noble Earl not to insist on the Amendment. It is really outside the scope of the Bill. We have done our best to keep this Bill within certain definite limits and if we admit other clauses, however desirable they may be in themselves, we should find it very difficult not to include others which would make the Bill top-heavy and over weighted. The noble Earl has told us—and this is an additional reason for appealing to him not to press the Amendment—that under Section 57 of the 1888 Act this object can be carried out. He has also told us, and no doubt quite correctly, that the machinery of the Act of 1888 is cumbersome. Still the machinery does exist and, moreover, I might point out that a certain amount of simplification is provided in Clause 46. Therefore, I hope that he will not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 60 and 61 agreed to.
§ [The sitting was suspended at a quarter before eight o'clock and resumed at nine o'clock.]
§ Total exemption of agricultural land and buildings from rates.
§ 62.—(1) No person shall, in respect of any period beginning on or after the appointed day, be liable to pay rates in respect of any agricultural land or agricultural buildings or be deemed to be in occupation there of for rating purposes, and notwithstanding anything in the principal Act, or in the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928, no such land or buildings shall be included in any rate made in respect of a period beginning on or after that date.276
§ (2) For the purposes of valuation lists in force at the appointed day agricultural land and agricultural buildings shall be deemed to have no rateable value, and, notwithstanding anything in the enactments herein-before in this section mentioned, no particulars with respect to such land or buildings shall be included in any subsequent valuation list.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, at the beginning, to insert "Subject as hereinafter provided" in order later to move a proviso. The noble Earl said: I hope I may be permitted to claim this amount of credit for the Amendment, that it is perfectly clear in itself. There is no question of legislation by reference and any noble Lord can see what is intended. The object of it, of course, is to protect the tenant from finding that the benefit, which accrues to the land from the remission of rates, is going to the landlord and not to the tenant. Of course, it may go in more than one way. If the land changes hands and a new rent is fixed, it may be that the new rent may be fixed having regard to the fact that the tenant does not pay the rates, or, as exists in some estates, there may be an arrangement between the landlord and the tenant by which either of them at any time may apply to an impartial arbitrator who may fix a new rent. I would like to make it perfectly certain that in neither case should the remission of rates go to the advantage of the landlord. It should go to the occupier of the land, the tenant.
§ It is really necessary that there should be some provision of this kind. His Majesty's Government will realise that the case of Sutton Bridge has raised a great deal of anxiety among tenant farmers in the country. In the case of Sutton Bridge, a letter was written by the Ministry of Agriculture to the local authority saying that the land, which was let to them for the purpose of small holdings, would have to be re-rented and, in view of the fact that agricultural land was to be derated in the Bill then before the House of Commons, the local authority would have to pay more rent. If His Majesty's Government set an example of that kind, it is only natural that all the landlords in the county will follow that example. In those circumstances it is quite obvious that for the benefit of the tenant farmers an Amendment of this kind should be in- 277 serted. I do not wish to press this particular form of words and, if His Majesty's Government object to it on technical grounds, I will willingly withdraw it in order that a form of words approved by them may be moved on Report. That something should be done is very desirable.
Page 53, line 36, at beginning insert ("Subject as hereinafter provided").—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Amendment has a most commendable object, but there are two difficulties. The first is that experience, of which we have had a good deal by this time, shows that an Amendment of this kind really is not necessary. Secondly, the way in which the noble Earl proposes to carry out what he desires would really not be effective. Your Lordships will appreciate that the proposed proviso says that it is to be a condition in every agricultural tenancy after the commencement of the Act not to take into account the derating, and that there shall be a statement in every contract that neither party has taken into account the derating. To deal first with the practical point, how on earth could you prove that anybody who puts that statement in had not been telling the truth? What guarantee or sanction have you that they have not been telling the truth? I am assuming for the moment that somebody did wish to appropriate to himself the derating benefit. I am sure that such an immoral person would have no hesitation at all in declaring with his hand on his heart that he had not taken derating into account, that such a thing had never occurred to his mind, and, since the mind of man is not triable, you could not do anything, however much you might suspect that he had taken it into account. He would say that he thought the land was worth the money without the derating, that he was asking the rent which he thought it fair to ask. You could not prove that he had not complied with this condition, nor would there be any benefit if you did, so far as I can make out, except possibly that there would be no contract at all, which the farmer who had taken the land would probably be the last to desire. Accordingly, if you want to do what the noble Earl thinks necessary, I venture respectfully to submit to him that he has not 278 achieved that object in the proviso that he has put down.
Further than that, in dealing with the derating of agricultural land we are not dealing with a new proposition which is now introduced for the first time into our rating system. Derating began in 1896, it was stretched further in 1923 and now we are taking the last small step of the last quarter and relieving agricultural land altogether. It has not been the experience that the derating benefit in 1896 or in 1923 has been appropriated by landlords, that there has been an increase of rents or that the tenants have gained no benefit. The people who are loudest in asking for the extension of relief are the tenant farmers, and they obviously do not think that they have gained no benefit from the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896, or from the Act of 1923. They, I think, are under no illusion that the completion of the task in 1929 will have any different effect. They were the people who asked for it before they got it, and they are asking for it again. One does not see that rents have increased in the periods that followed either 1896 or 1923. The noble Earl may say that rents were falling. I dare say that they were, but there is no evidence—at least none has ever been produced—to show that the fall in rents was checked, that the benefit was appropriated by the landlords or that it was not passed on in the way that was intended. In view of this experience the Government are disposed to pay more attention to the common sense of practical men than to mere theory, and the fact that the particular provision that is suggested is one that I venture to call on the face of it ineffective and not calculated to achieve its purpose shows the extreme difficulty of translating economic theory into practical legislation. Unless this is proved to be necessary, I think it is best to leave it alone.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I make full confession that I was rather hoping that His Majesty's Government might have accepted this Amendment, subject to an appeal to an arbitrator. I cannot help feeling that something of that kind might have been done, so that the tenant could feel that, in any change of rent to which he was expected to agree, there was some appeal to an impartial person. An ad- 279 mirable scheme was, I think, adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture by which it was possible for landlords and tenants to find in a list of well known people published by the Ministry by mutual agreement men who might arbitrate between landlord and tenant. If the Government had seen their way to provide that an arbitrator of that kind should make himself acquainted with the facts and convince himself that there was no transference of the relief from one party to another, then the case of these tenants would very largely have been met.
I am sorry that the Government do not see their way to accept my Amendment and I do not think it will be very useful to ask your Lordships to divide upon it. If, however, the Government would consider the point which I have just mentioned I should be very much obliged to them. There is that system already in existence in the Ministry of Agriculture and I feel that very often in cases of controversy between the landlord and the tenant the intervention of an impartial person like that is of very great use. Unfortunately I have not been able to convince the Government, although I hope that on some later occasion, when we come to deal with the more general questions of rents and tenure, the noble and learned Lord will be more inclined to agree with me.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Of course anything that the noble Earl puts forward will be considered. I should be deceiving him if I held out any hope that the consideration would be helpful to himself, but I will tell the Minister of Agriculture what the noble Earl has said this evening.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, in subsection (2), to leave out all words after "value." The noble Earl said: Again I rise with an Amendment that was suggested by my noble friend Lord Midleton, who unfortunately, has not been able to put it down in his own name. The point of this Amendment is simply this. I want to call the attention of the Government to the fact that if no particulars are given and are continued about this matter there will be no history for the future. It may be that land which is agricultural land now may 280 suddenly turn over and become something else. Would it not at least be advisable to keep some record of what the general ideas of rating are at the present time with regard to that land? I have said before quite frankly that I am not an expert in this matter and do not pretend to be, but the suggestion made to me was that it would be a pity to lose the history of the rating of any particular land should it come hereafter into a different category. The Government may have a very good answer to it and I am merely ventilating the question, having been asked to do so by my noble friend Lord Midleton.
Page 54, line 8, leave out from ("value") to the end of the subsection.—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I confess to sharing with the noble Earl the disqualification of not being an expert in these matters, and I can only give him the answer furnished to me by those who can claim special knowledge. The position is this, that under the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, particulars have to be inserted in a valuation list with regard to every hereditament. Under the Act of last Session, which was preparatory to the present Act—the Apportionment Act—provision was made that in every valuation list agricultural hereditaments should be entered distinct from other hereditaments, and of course that record remains, showing the position as at October 1, 1929. After that date agricultural hereditaments will have no rateable value. In those circumstances it has been thought that there was no real justification for the very considerable labour and expense which would be involved if rating authorities were still compelled to insert particulars and values of agricultural land and building. Further, if the unfortunate occupiers were compelled to continue to fill in returns for the purpose of providing the necessary particulars, those returns would serve no useful purpose because the land, when it had been entered, would be liable to no rates and therefore the rateable value would be unnecessary. It was for that reason that it was thought better not to continue to insert particulars which would involve unnecessary work on those concerns.
I want to be sure that I quite understand what is going to happen. The land which is no longer subject to rating, agricultural land, will never appear in future in any valuation lists in any parish. So far as any record is concerned it will be lost sight of, and in twenty years you may not be able to trace the parcels or descriptions or the rateable value unless you can turn up the, list that was made before the present Bill.
But will it not be lost sight of for all purposes? It may turn into building land. Would it not be better to keep the record of its existence?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the answer is, that so far as the existence of the land and the assessment numbers are concerned there are the records. So far as the future is concerned it is not thought likely that the rating authorities in a parish, if land is built on, or if factories are erected, will be so blind to what is going on as not to be aware that a building or a factory is being put up. After all, these things are not done without communicating with the authorities, and passing plans, and getting sanctions from various people; and it was not thought justifiable to ask people to incur the considerable trouble involved, both to occupiers of the land and the authorities charged with these books, merely in order to keep a record of something which had ceased to be valuable for the purpose for which the record is intended, namely, for the purpose of making out the rates.
I presume, then, that the present record will be officially preserved, and presumably indefinitely, in the absence of any accidents?
§ LORD DYNEVOR
I might point out that the value of the hereditament as a whole will not be lost sight of, because Schedule A Income Tax is still going to be levied on the farm as a whole
§ THE EARL OR HALSBURY
After the explanation of the Lord Chancellor, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 62 agreed to.
§ Clause 63:
§ Relief from rates in respect of industrial and freight transport hereditaments.
§ 63.—(1) The rateable value of industrial hereditaments and freight transport hereditaments shall, for the purposes of valuation lists in force at, the appointed day as from that day, and for the purposes of subsequent valuation lists, be ascertained as follows:—
- (a) in the case of an industrial hereditament or of a freight transport hereditament shown in a valuation list as being occupied and used, wholly for industrial purposes or wholly for transport purposes, as the case may be, the rateable value of the hereditament shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be taken to be one-quarter of the net annual value thereof:
- (b) in the case of an industrial hereditament or of a freight transport hereditament shown in a valuation list as being occupied and used partly for industrial purposes or partly for transport purposes, as the case may be, the rateable value of the hereditament shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be taken to be an amount equal to one-quarter of the net annual value shown in the list as apportioned to the occupation and user of the hereditament for industrial purposes or for transport purposes, as the case may be, together with the whole of the net annual value so shown as apportioned to the occupation and user of the hereditament for other purposes:
§ Provided that as respects any industrial or freight transport hereditament or any part of such a hereditament, elsewhere than in the county of London, whereof the rateable value would, if it had continued to be ascertained under the provisions of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of section twenty-two of the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, or of any scheme made under section sixty-four of that Act, have been taken to be the amount produced by making any deduction from the net annual value, references in the foregoing provisions of this section to "net annual value" shall be construed as references to the amount produced by making from the net annual value the like deduction as would have been made under the said provisions.
§ LORD CLWYD moved, at the beginning, to leave out "industrial hereditaments and," and to insert "such industrial hereditaments as are not used for the purposes of a brewery, distillery, or tobacco manufactory and of." The noble 283 Lord said: In moving this Amendment I am raising a somewhat important point, but, in view of the lateness of the hour and the number of further Amendments to be considered, I will be as brief as possible. First of all, let me express my sense of genuine relief that this is, I think, the first occasion upon which I have had an opportunity of taking part in any debate, or moving any Amendment in regard to the drink trade which is not a Party or political issue. As the House will remember, this Amendment was moved in another place by a supporter of the Government, it was supported there by many supporters of the Government, and, when the Division came, the Amendment had the support of the three Parties.
§ The question raised in the Amendment is whether there are grounds in relation to the trades mentioned in it which justify placing them outside the scope of the Bill. Let me give your Lordships one or two considerations in favour and in support of this assumption. First, these three trades cannot, I think, be regarded as essential to the life of the country. They do not belong to the basic industries of the country. They are not concerned, except, perhaps, to a very small extent, with the export trade of the country. The main object of this Bill, as I understand it, is to stimulate production and, through that, to increase employment. I am put in a somewhat difficult position in that I do not know whether I am right in saying that it is the desire of the Government, through the application of the derating provisions to these particular trades, to increase the production of beer and spirits. However that may be, the position regarding the other issue—namely, that of the increase of employment—seems to me to be clear.
§ I do not see how the application of the derating benefits to these trades can possibly result in increased employment, and for this reason. I have gone a little closely into this question. I have followed what has been said by those who had authority to speak regarding these particular trades, and it has been stated authoritatively that the amount of benefit which will accrue to those trades from these provisions is so small that it will make no alteration at all in the retail prices; in other words, the benefit will not and cannot be passed on to the con- 284 sumers. If the benefit cannot be passed on to the consumers it is somewhat difficult to understand how the provisions can result in any increase of employment so far as these trades are concerned.
§ With regard to the burden of rates, I noted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in moving the Second Reading of the Finance Bill last year, submitted a great number of very interesting figures upon this point showing the comparative burden of the rates in particular groups of industries in the country. As some of your Lordships will remember, he pointed out in respect of the coal industry, which was then, as now, very depressed, that the burden of rates in proportion to profits was as high as 27 per cent. and that in the cotton industry, which was also depressed, it was 23 per cent. Then he specifically referred to the three trades mentioned in my Amendment and said in regard to them that the burden of rates in proportion to profits was only 2 per cent. Let me make it perfectly clear that in emphasising these figures regarding the rates I am making no suggestion as to unfair or inequitable assessment. No question of that sort arises in any way. The disproportion in the burden of rates as between these particular trades and other trades arises from the exceptional conditions under which these trades are carried on.
§ I might very easily refer to the smallness of the numbers employed in these trades in proportion to the capital involved. I might also refer to the very high profits which have been made in these trades in contrast with the results in regard to other trades generally. I know very well that the Government have said, and probably will say again tonight: "Our view is that all trades so far as this Bill is concerned must be treated alike." My answer to that view is: "Yes, let us treat all trades alike that are carried on under like conditions." I think that point is important. The considerations which I have already referred to are not only important in themselves, but in my judgment they are also most important in their direct relevancy to the fact that these three trades are carried on under exceptional and special conditions. Take them one by one. Take the tobacco trade. The raw material in this trade, as we all know, is very heavily taxed. There are 285 other exceptional conditions in connection with this trade which make the de-rating relief which results from the provisions of this Bill of a very trivial character, and if we move on to the other two, the breweries and distilleries, the same factors operate as in the other trades, but here there are other and further factors making the ground still more distinct for separate treatment in their case.
§ The trade in drink—this is not a debatable point, it is a fact—is carried on in this country under virtually monopoly conditions. It is subject to licensing limitations of various kinds; it is sheltered from what I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to as "the fierce storms of competition." It is not necessary for me to-night to go into the reasons why this is so. We all know that the reason for the various limitations imposed upon the trade in drink in this country is due to a recognised element of risk or danger to the community, and the only difference between the views that I hold upon this point and the views of probably the majority in this House is in relation to the degree of the seriousness of this element of risk. But the fact that I wish tonight to emphasise is that there is this element of risk which imposes these special limitations upon these particular trades, and on this ground it seems to me that we are justified in asking for a differentiation in their case in respect of the derating provisions of this Bill.
§ I am anxious to be as brief as possible and I will not detain the House longer in support of this Amendment. I know it is a comparatively easy thing to suggest difficulties, on the ground of strict logic, to making a difference in the treatment of these trades and other trades, but if you look at it from the practical point of view I think you will find that there are ample grounds for making the differentiation. There is one phrase—and with this I will conclude—in the speech of the right hon. gentleman the Minister of Health, when he was replying to this Amendment in the other House, which I regretted. There is no one in this House who admires the Minister of Health more than I do, or who has a greater admiration for the skilful way in which he has piloted this very intricate Bill throughout its stages. He is always, as we all know, in every 286 way most courteous, but he used a phrase which I think was very regrettable. He said: "There is plenty of prejudice but no principle in the selection of these trades." Well, I think that is a pity. After all, whatever I may think upon this point and whatever the Government may think, or other members of your Lordships' House may think, this is a question upon which everyone has a right to come to his own conclusions.
§ I think that it ought always to be assumed, whatever conclusion we come to, that it is reached upon grounds designed to promote the welfare of the country. I can assure the Government that there is in the country a very considerable body of public opinion, lying entirely outside what might be called the temperance view, which protests against the inclusion of these trades within the derating provisions of the Bill. I think that is demonstrated by what took place in the other House a few weeks ago, and I think it will be further demonstrated when the Government have the opportunity of getting into touch with the feeling of the country upon public platforms. For these reasons, which I have very briefly attempted to lay before your Lordships, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
Page 54, line 13, leave out from ("of") to ("freight") in line 14, and insert ("such industrial hereditaments as are not used for the purposes of a brewery, distillery or tobacco manufactory and of").—(Lord Clwyd.)
I beg to support this Amendment. I have an Amendment on the Paper later for the purpose of defining who shall have the benefit of the allowance of rates, but I consider that this is not only a matter to be looked at from a commercial point of view but one which also involves questions of principle and policy. I cannot understand why some method could not have been found of settling the question of depressed industries other than the wholesale subsidising of these trades. There are some who may say there are no prosperous trades. I am not prepared to stand here and give a whole list of them because noble Lords would not want to listen to them and I should not be able to stand here long enough, but there are a number of prosperous industries. 287 A great deal has been claimed for this clause. It has been claimed that it is going to resuscitate depressed industries, that it is going to bring about a great deal of further employment, which, of course, would be a natural consequence, and all that kind of thing.
Let me take the case of agriculture which has been a good deal discussed in this House. Agriculture is already de-rated as to 75 per cent., and we have not yet seen any great resuscitation or any great amount of further employment as a result. That we are still waiting for, and I suppose we have to take it for granted that the remaining quarter is going to bring about that marvellous result. If this is the result of derating a distressed industry by 75 per cent., it does not promise very well for the other distressed industries. During the debate on Second Beading one noble Lord alluded to the fact that there would be a great falling off in the revenue derived from rates owing to the derating of these agricultural interests. That is an indisputable and very important fact. One must add to that the 75 per cent. derating of industrial hereditaments. I do not know where the rates are going to come from if you are excluding all these from the rates. The long and the short of it will be that rates on houses will go up and indirect taxation will go up.
What does £400,000 amount to divided up among the rich breweries? Nothing Why not give it to a distressed industry or to the hospitals? It is not the slightest use giving it to flourishing breweries. With regard to other industries, there is the Imperial Tobacco Company with their capital of millions. Are they going to contribute practically nothing to the rates? What about Courtaulds with £6,000,000 capital and £6,000,000 reserve? Are they to pay nothing to the rates? One can go on naming a great many flourishing industries which are being treated in the same way. Take a smaller instance, well known to those who live in London—Harrods' Stores. They make six or seven hundred thousand pounds profit a year. They are quite able to pay their rates. Does any one imagine that a gain of two or three thousand pounds a year in relief from rates will make Harrods employ a man or a woman more than they do now? No, nothing of the kind. The prosperous industry does not wait for a Conservative Government to 288 come along and finance it. It works out its own salvation by attaining the greatest possible capacity in the way of output. If it has any money it employs all the labour it can.
I waited with considerable interest to hear what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, had to say when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill on behalf of the Government and came to explain why the prosperous industries were to participate in this "dole." He carefully explained all the aims and objects of the Bill. When he came to this clause, he said that the Government considered it was only an act of justice to give an equal relief from rates to prosperous as well as distressed industries. Personally, I cannot see that there is any justice in that at all. Surely, the poor and the rich are not treated alike. If they are, what about the Super-Tax and the Income Tax? You cannot treat the rich and poor on the same footing. Then the noble and learned Lord went on to say that it would not be unfair if the prosperous industries were given this relief and that it was very hard on the depressed industries, which had not got sufficient financial reserves, to have to pay these high rates. I entirely agree with him. It is hard upon the depressed industries. I presume that this clause is introduced for the purpose of assisting depressed industries, but not for the purpose of putting money into the rich man's pocket by assisting the prosperous. That is where I cannot follow the argument at all. It seems to me that there is no argument. I certainly think that the whole thing is wrong in principle.
There is no doubt that this House can take a direct line in this matter and it should not permit money taken from the public funds to be given to industries that do not need it. I may be asked what a prosperous industry is. All I can say is that it is up to the Government, having introduced a Bill for the relief of depressed industries, to find out what the depressed industries are and when they have done that they have their answer. The whole thing is dreadful. Are we really going to do this sort of thing? If we want to help one lot of people must we give money to another lot? It will become very expensive. What about the policy of the "dole"? Have we not got a large part of the population upon the "dole" and 289 is it necessary to put the whole of the industries of the country on the "dole" as well? What else are you doing and how far can we go along those lines? It might go a very long way. You might extend this thing until ultimately we become a bankrupt nation and a nation of bankrupts. I have listened with great respect and admiration to the speeches of noble Lords in this House and I have sufficient respect for the House to feel that your Lordships will not allow this clause to rest as it is.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Your Lordships have listened to a most inspiring and eloquent address which from the premise on which it was based proceeded to a most logical conclusion. The unfortunate thing is that the premise is an entirely false one. The noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships asked whether we were going to give doles to the whole of the industries of the country and whether it was fair to give money to rich people instead of to the poor people who wanted it. If this derating scheme were a method of giving doles I agree entirely with the conclusion that follows, that you ought to give the dole to the people who are in need of it. But that is not the economic basis upon which this part of the Bill proceeds. We are not giving a dole to industry at all. The view of the Government which was adopted in another place, and which I hope your Lordships are going to adopt, is that all the industries of the country are at present unfairly treated by the present rating system. It is perfectly true that it was the difficult position of our basic industries that forced public attention to the inequity of the present rating system. It is true that it was those injustices that led the Government to remove the burden which, to quote the Liberal Yellow Book, which I am quite sure noble Lords opposite study every night, "we should hardly tolerate if immemorial usage did not blind our eyes to its significance." Immemorial usage has blinded our eyes long enough, and we became aware, thanks to the unhappy condition of our basic industries, that an unfair burden was being placed upon industry.
If we are aware of that fact, surely the right course is to remove that burden from industry, and it is not just to say that we will remove an unfair burden on 290 some industries because they happen not to be prosperous and will continue that injustice upon other people because they are rich enough to be able to afford it. Agriculture suffered first from the stress of modern conditions and unrestricted foreign competition, and the injustice was first detected with respect to agriculture and partial relief was given to agriculture. Then, as time went on, unfortunately the condition of steel and coal and the like called our attention to the fact that is was not the isolated experience of one particular industry, but that the whole system was wrong and required rectification. This Bill is designed to rectify it.
If you proceed upon that basis, logically you can only relieve the injustice wherever it is found and not only from those industries which are hard up. It may be proved that some industries are more prosperous than others, and it may be that the particular industries which excite the attention of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment are at present in a particularly prosperous condition. That may be a very good reason, when a Chancellor of the Exchequer is framing his Budget, why taxation should be directed upon those best able to bear it, and the noble Lord admitted quite frankly that the one common characteristic of these particular industries is that they are the most heavily taxed in the country. That is the way to deal with an industry which is gaining an undue profit. You must tax it. On those grounds, which commended themselves in another place, I ask your Lordships to reject the Amendment.
I will say to the noble Lord who spoke last, and who wished to extend the penalty to all prosperous industries, that it is worth considering that it is not always the same industries which are prosperous. He desires to penalise the man who has the enterprise to make his industry prosperous, but that does not seem to be the best, way of encouraging your industries to be prosperous, and although the noble Lord who moved the Amendment has limited its operation to three industries which are prosperous, even these have not always been prosperous. I remember when a few years ago some of our breweries were in a parlous position, and the fact that they are prosperous now is no reason for 291 taking them out of the relief from a burden which we consider to be unjust, although it may be a ground for considering their liability to taxation when taxation falls due to be considered.
§ LORD ARNOLD
The noble and learned Lord commenced his remarks by saying that a noble Lord had based his observations on entirely false premises. I think that description should be applied to the basis of this Bill. In fact the Amendment of Lord Clwyd brings out one of the most essential faults of the Bill and of this clause. The truth is the Bill is neither scientific on the one hand nor is it based on sound and defensible principles on the other, and so it comes about that it frequently falls between two stools. That is exactly what has happened in regard to this Amendment. The noble and learned Lord said industries are unfairly treated under our rating system. That may be so. It is interesting to recollect that only about a year ago the present Government awoke up to the fact that there was rating injustice. Other people found it out long before that. But the injustice of the rating system is not confined to productive industry; it applies also to distributive industries, and if the noble and learned Lord, in his desire for uniformity, was really sincere, he could not defend this Bill, because this Bill discriminates, it picks out certain industries for relief and it leaves others without any relief at all.
Now, this particular Amendment means in cash that you are practically throwing away £650,000 of public money. On what possible grounds is that justified? It cannot be justified on the ground that it will help the consumer. The noble Lord pointed out that it does not do that, and cannot do that in any degree which can be considered appreciable. It has been calculated that the relief to breweries under this derating provision will amount to one one-hundred-and-forty-fourth of a penny on a pint of beer. It has also been calculated that the relief to the tobacco trade will amount to one-fiftieth of a penny on a packet of ten cigarettes. It will require very great skill to pass those minute amounts on to the consumer. This clause cannot be justified on the ground that it will stimulate industry, because it will not do anything of the sort, even if it was desired to stimulate 292 those industries. And it cannot be justified on the ground that it will help unemployment, because there is no unemployment in those trades. What will this clause do? What it will do is to help the ordinary shareholders of breweries and tobacco companies, and it will help them in very great measure.
These companies have been enormously prosperous. Since the War three or four tobacco companies have paid away in bonuses and dividends to their shareholders hundreds of millions of pounds; and yet it is these fortunate persons who are singled out by the Government for further help at the expense of the taxpayer. This clause will give a relief to the breweries of £400,000 a year. Capitalise that—which you ought to do—and you arrive at a sum of £8,000,000. Therefore, the effect of this clause is to increase the value of the ordinary shares—it is the ordinary shares of the breweries—by £8,000,000. Take the tobacco companies. The relief which is given to tobacco companies under this clause is £250,000. Capitalise that, and you arrive at a sum of £5,000,000. And so these shareholders, who are the most fortunate in the country, who have for years been drawing enormous dividends and bonuses, are to have the capital value of their share holdings increased at the expense of the taxpayer by £5,000,000. A man who can defend that can defend anything. But as a matter fact it has not been attempted. The noble and learned Lord entirely burked the issue.
What do the Government say? What is their defence of this extraordinary proceeding? They say: "Well, we must accept this, because, if we do not, we shall have to take out of the operation of our Bill other luxury trades and other prosperous concerns." Why not? It only shows how faulty the whole basis of your Bill is. That is the whole point. When it is said that this must be done to satisfy a principle—because that is what the noble and learned Lord said—it only shows how bad the principle is. It shows you are proceeding on entirely wrong lines. The fact is that out of the total of £24,000,000 which is to be provided—but which, I may remark in passing, has not yet been found—out of the public Exchequer for derating under this Bill, probably £10,000,000 (I think that is a moderate assessment) will go to 293 the relief of prosperous concerns. You are, that is to say, increasing the value of the ordinary shares of those prosperous concerns at the public expense by a capital sum of £200,000,000. It is no good saying that we cannot help it. That is the Bill and we must satisfy some alleged principle of encouraging prosperous firms. That is what the Prime Minister said, that we must encourage prosperous firms. We must encourage these breweries, I suppose, and these tobacco firms.
Can we afford in the present financial position of the country to indulge in the luxury of satisfying this theoretical principle of encouraging prosperous firms? It is merely theoretical and that is the point. I say we cannot at this time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at his wits' end for money, at a time when we are constantly being told by the Government—they are constantly preaching it but never practising it—that we ought to economise. Here you are throwing away £650,000 of public money. You can find £650,000 of public money for the brewery shareholders and the tobacco shareholders, who do not want it and of whom, to do them justice, many have said they do not need it and do not want to take it. Yet under this Bill you are not finding enough money for the health services; that cannot be denied. Why do you not save the £650,000 from one part of your Bill and give it to the health services which would be much the better for it? You can find £650,000 to help breweries and tobacco companies, but you can find practically nothing for the miners for whose condition you are responsible and who have to be left to charity almost entirely.
§ LORD ARNOLD
It is certainly the effect of your policy. You cannot find money for the miners, but you can find hundreds of thousands for the Irish loyalists in a few minutes when you are pressed about it. You can find £650,000 of public money for the shareholders of breweries and tobacco companies, but you want to save £12,000—this is one of the achievements of the Minister of Health—on the supply of milk to maternity centres. You can find £650,000 for brewery and tobacco shareholders and you cut down the unemployment pay of 294 a young girl to 8s. a week. That is the record of the Government. We are told that we must economise. It is not very long ago that the noble Marquess stood at that box and announced with all solemnity that the Government had decided to abolish, to do away with the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Mines, and the Overseas Trade Department. This was done under the pressure of Press clamour. The cost of those three Departments, even if they had been done away with—but the Government did not do away with them, because they found they could not abolish them; as is so often the case, they spoke first and thought afterwards—would only have amounted to the £650,000 that you are now throwing away. The Government have frequently expressed in this House their desire to economise. We have had Motions moved in regard to it. Yet I notice that Lord Hugh Cecil said last week that of all the failures of this Government that which was most lamentable and disastrous and disappointing was its failure to economise. Here the Government have the opportunity.
One final reason I will give, a new reason since this matter was discussed in another place, why this Amendment should be passed. In consequence of that surrender to their Back Benchers the Government have committed themselves to a further expenditure to the Irish loyalists which, before they have done with it, will probably absorb a considerable part of the sum of £650,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has never been able to find any money to help the health services and the Poor Law and so on, will have to find that money. What better way have you than accepting this Amendment? Then you will get your money and balance your finance. In all these considerations there are very strong reasons why this Amendment ought to be accepted. There is a strong feeling about the matter in the country. There will be a stronger feeling about it when the General Election comes. You are always very bold in this House in saying that you do not mind that. Be it so. But the consciences of many people have been outraged by this proposal to throw away this vast sum of money without any justification whatever.
I am very glad indeed to learn from the noble and learned Lord opposite that the Government intend to stand firm upon this matter. I can imagine nothing, or very few things, that they will do that will be more useful to us in the next few months, and I am not at all surprised at the restiveness of noble Lords opposite as to things that have been said by my noble friend who has just sat down. I am not going to discuss, nor shall we discuss with the general public, this question of fortieths of a penny on a packet of cigarettes. There is the simple outstanding fact which they understand, and which they have no difficulty in understanding, that when you are preaching economy and when you are refusing money for essential things, you are none the less, because you say you will not distinguish, throwing away this money upon prosperous industries and upon what I believe you call productive industries—beer, whisky and tobacco. In any sane view of a social state what sort of a productive industry is represented by beer, whisky and tobacco? That is what you are spending this money on. I can imagine no better ammunition for the coming campaign than this clause, this proposal and this decision to-night will afford us.
In another place, your Lordships will remember, where the wind of public opinion is a little more felt than in this Chamber, a good many of the supporters of noble Lords opposite joined in the demand that this matter should be put right. Their consciences were outraged, their principles were shocked by this proposal, and you had a small revolt on the subject even among your own followers. If that takes place among your own followers what do you think the feeling will be in the country outside? We are quite content to leave the matter there.
When one listens to the speeches made by the noble Earl who has just sat down one feels a sense of reasonable plausibility which appeals to one and makes one think that what he has said contains a great deal of truth and accuracy. After the noble Earl has made a speech, I am almost in- 296 clined to agree and go into the Lobby with him. But when I listen to the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, I always feel in entire disagreement with him from start to finish, because he speaks with a spirit of dogmatic assertion which leaves no argument on the other side. He always says that there is no argument on the other side, that what he has stated must be true, that there can be no other story. To-night he has accused our Party of being responsible for the present position in the mines, he has accused us of being responsible for other enormities, and all without any sense of the arguments which have been advanced by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, which, in my opinion, met the opposition absolutely. If you happen to be a landlord, if you happen to be a brewer, then you are a criminal. In another place I always found that that was the case. In this case we have learned it from the noble Lord, Lord Arnold.
I think that when the General Election comes the story which the Opposition will tell with regard to the case which has been presented by them tonight in this Amendment will not go down in the country as they believe it will do, because the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has given an argument to-night in reply to that Amendment which I believe will find a great response. After all, as he has stated, if an industry is too prosperous, land or anything else, then the State always has the opportunity of placing a tax upon that industry and recovering the unearned increment—a phrase dear to the mind of the noble Lord, no doubt—which belongs to the State. To alter a general principle which is being applied in the case of this Derating Bill would, I believe, be absolutely wrong. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will stand fast against this Amendment and that we may go to a Division upon it.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 17.297
|Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Bertie of Thame, V.||de Clifford, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Deramore, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Elibank, V.||Desborough, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Dynevor, L.|
|Wellington, D.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)|
|Hood, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Bath, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Exeter, M.||Faringdon, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Forester, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Peel, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Ancaster, E.||Sidmouth, V.||Harris, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Abinger, L.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L,|
|Iveagh, E.||Askwith, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Lovelace, E.||Avebury, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clan-william.)||Redesdale, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Sempill, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Clinton, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Cranworth, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Daryngton, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Reading, M.||Russell, E.||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Allendale, V.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Chesterfield, E.||Arnold, L.||Strachie, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Clwyd, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Hemphill, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 63 agreed to.
§ Clause 64 [Amendment of valuation, lists on or after appointed day and making of subsequent lists]:
LORD ASKWITH moved to insert the following new subsection:—
(5) As from the appointed day and in subsequent re-valuations a rating authority shall not take into valuation for the purposes of amending valuation lists the relief from rates provided for in sections 62 and 63 of this Act.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is of great importance to the derated industries. Even now, before the Bill has passed, figures have come in showing that the rates have been put up exceedingly owing to the derating under this Bill. There is considerable apprehension, judging by the results of what the local authorities are doing, that in subsequent assessments the advantages given by this Bill to industry will be very much taken away. Under derating the profit-making industries will have the net benefit reduced by having to pay a larger Income Tax, while they also pay the Petrol Tax and Light Oil Tax, and the balance is one which they wish to preserve as far as possible.298
§ If, as I am given to understand, the law now provides that assessors have to assess upon the net rental value, then they would be obliged to take the increased advantage in the net rental value which the industry might have after three-quarters of the rates were taken off. Supposing you were going to buy a house or a business, you would take into account in your purchase price the amount of cash that you would have to pay annually in necessary outgoings, and this would certainly include the amount of the rates in the district where you were going to live or establish your business. Since it is intended that this relief should be given by Parliament, it is of some importance, I think, that it should be duly protected and should go to the quarter to which it is intended to go, and that you should not give an apparent relief with one hand and take it away with the other.
§ I am not wedded to the wording of this particular Amendment. I am not quite sure that it carries out the intention that I have laid down, but the draftsmen who so carefully and well drafted this Bill would probably be ab1e to express that intention in a better manner. The principle, as I have said, It is quite simple. It is that you should 299 permit the relief that this Bill is intended to give to go to the people for whom it is intended. This is a matter of far-reaching importance throughout the country, and particularly in localities where those responsible might perhaps feel that they are obliged to put up the rates because of the increase in rental values that the premises would command after the derating scheme. I beg to move.
Page 57, line 18, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Askwith.)
§ LORD OLIVIER
The very acute mind of the noble Lord has seized, as it naturally would, upon one of the difficult results that arise from this Bill, and he is asking you to do in another department precisely what my noble friend Lord Beauchamp asked you to do in regard to rent—that is to say, when you have actually increased the value of a thing to say by law that you have not increased it. I understand that the Government declined to accept the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Beauchamp, and I cannot see on what principle they can accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, which is based on precisely the same principle and designed to effect precisely the same hanky-panky for the purpose of remedying the defects of this Bill.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The noble Lord, Lord Gainford, put down an Amendment to this clause, and my noble friend Lord Askwith has done the same. The Amendment now before your Lordships is, I think, precisely similar in effect to that of the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, which was not moved. Lord Askwith's Amendment is more tersely worded but it produces exactly the same effect, and the argument which has been used is that the effect of reducing by 75 per cent. the rateable value of any given hereditament will be to increase the rent which any given tenant will give for it and therefore increase the net annual value, and thus make the new reduced rateable value something more than one quarter of the present rateable value. That is the argument which has been brought before your Lordships in favour of the Amendment. Will that really be the case? Those who support the Amendment assume that the rateable value of industrial property is 300 arrived at by making a reduction in respect of rates from some defined figure representing letting value, but is that really the way in which assessments are arrived at? What the valuer has to regard is the rent at which the property is let from year to year on the assumption that the tenant pays the usual rates and taxes. That is a different way from ascertaining a value which is taking an ascertained value and then deducting the amount of the rates from it.
I think the figure which valuers endeavour to find is what a property of the description which they set out to assess is actually fetching in the market at the time. The market value from year to year is dependent upon many factors and I do not think it would be sound or true to single out one of those factors—namely, the amount of the rates—and then say it shall be deemed to be something other than what it is. The rates, I do not deny, would enter into the question of the rent which the hypothetical tenant would be willing to give, but the dominating factor in ascertaining the value is the supply of and demand for such properties, and I do not think it is contemplated that there will be any general increase in the value of industrial properties merely because of the derating clauses of the Bill. I do not think that the effect which the noble Lord fears will really take place, but that any effect will come from the ordinary laws of supply and demand, rather than from the derating of 75 per cent. In those circumstances, I venture to think that your Lordships can with confidence leave the Bill as it is, and that it will not have the adverse effect upon rateable value that my noble friend anticipates.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I am most astonished at this last speech of the noble Earl. Does he really suggest that supposing suddenly an Act of Parliament is brought in, saying that a particular share on the Stock Exchange shall no longer be required to pay Income Tax, it would have no effect upon the value of that share in the market next day? Here you have definite property under an obligation to pay, say, £100 a year to the Government: suddenly you find that obligation drop from £100 to £25, and the noble Earl says its value is going to be the same in the market to the hypo- 301 thetical tenant. I cannot understand it for a moment. He then goes on to say that you start with a definite value. You do not. You start with the value to a hypothetical tenant who is going to take it. Its value is dependent upon various things which the property is under obligation to pay, and you take off one of those obligations and the noble Earl says the property is of the same value.
Then, finally, he came to a remark that I could not follow at all. He said: "You must not take only one of the factors, namely, the rates"; but that is the particular factor that he is dealing with. I should have thought it was the one factor you must take. I should have thought this Amendment was absolutely essential to the Bill. I am not arguing that it necessarily means an equivalent amount, that is to say that necessarily, because you take off so much in the rate, you are going to put the rent up to the actual figure. But what I am saying is that it is grossly unfair to suggest that the person who is derated under this Bill is, without this Amendment, going to get anything like the amount that the Government have promised him. For that reason I shall certainly support the Amendment.
It is extremely gratifying to us to hear from Lord Halsbury that, forgetting for the moment his Party and remembering only his experience, he is supporting the contention we have always put forward, that the benefit of these proposals must in the long run inure to the benefit of the landlord.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
It seems to me that the Government are giving with one hand and are going to take away the advantage of what they are giving with the other.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 64 agreed to.
§ Clause 65:
§ Valuation of agricultural dwelling-houses.
§ 65. As from the first day of April nineteen hundred and thirty, the gross value for rating purposes of a house occupied in connection with agricultural land and used as the dwelling-house of a person who—
- (a) is primarily engaged in carrying on or directing agricultural operations on that land; or
- (b) is employed in agricultural operations on that land in the service of the occupier thereof and is entitled, whether as tenant or otherwise, so to use the house only while so employed,
§ LORD CLINTON,
on behalf of Lord Bledisloe, moved, after the first "land," to insert "and whether normally let therewith or not." The noble Lord said: The object of Clause 65 is to restrict the gross value of houses for rating purposes, when they are occupied in connection with agricultural land, to a value which will be placed upon them presuming they can be occupied for no other purpose. The intention of the clause, so far as I understand it, would be to restrict this new value to what we know as tied houses on the farm. I do not think it is the intention that any other houses occupied by agricultural labourers should come under the advantages of the clause. It seems to me that this will have a very serious effect upon the housing of agricultural labourers generally. Two cases in point have been sent to me of houses which were built for agricultural labourers and let at, the ordinary agricultural rent; but the valuer, seeing that they would let at a higher rent from year to year, has put that value upon them and has brought them up to about £18 a year. It is clear that even though an agricultural labourer may only pay a rent of £5 or £6 a year, he cannot in addition pay the rates upon such a high value as £18 a year.
There may be a way of getting over the difficulty by tying more houses to farms, but that is not a generally popular method of doing it. I think the noble Earl should really take into consideration whether it is right that houses built for the purposes of the agricultural labourer, the rent of which is brought within the limit of his wages, should have an assessable value put upon them which they might fetch if let to a weekend tenant, but which it is clear they would never fetch if let to the men for whom they were intended and who would always occupy them. The noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, has a later Amendment 303 which is intended to effect practically the same object; but I am moving that standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Bledisloe. I beg to move.
Page 57, line 22, after ("land") insert ("and whether, normally let therewith or not").—(Lord Clinton.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The Amendments to this clause are all cognate Amendments and hang very largely together; so if I venture to touch upon one or two of the others which are on the Paper but not actually before your Lordships perhaps you will forgive me. The noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships and has moved the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Bledisloe, suggests that the special basis of valuation which the clause lays down for tied farm cottages should be extended to include the cottage of any bona fide agricultural worker. There is another Amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, who is not in his place at the moment—I presume that other noble Lords on the Front Opposition Bench will act for him—which has the object of extending these provisions to tied cottages occupied by persons employed in connection with industrial hereditaments and freight transport services. Your Lordships have two proposals before you both of which extend the operation of this clause very widely indeed.
I must first, I think, explain the reasons why this clause was put in the Bill. The reason is that the Twelfth Schedule of the Bill contains a provision repealin; the whole of the Agricultural Rates Acts. In view of that and in order to maintain the present position it was necessary to put in a clause to safeguard the existing position in regard to agricultural dwelling houses. Now noble Lords seek to extend this principle and in extending the principle of the Agricultural Rates Act they will introduce, if their suggestions are adopted, a new principle in rating—namely, that the rating of a hereditament shall depend upon the occupation of the tenant for the time being. It would not be governed by the value but by the occupation of the tenant for the time being.
I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, has told us, that there is a 304 cottage for which an agricultural rental is being paid which may be liable to an assessment on its full rack rent value. But what would result if this Amendment were accepted with regard to cottages occupied by agriculturists? You would have a pair of cottages in a village, built at the same time as a pair, exactly similar in every particular but which would be differentially rated if one were occupied by an agricultural tenant and the other by someone else, say, a cobbler or any other person who cannot be described as an agricultural worker, and it may be that the agricultural tenant may leave his cottage and that it would be occupied by another person, not an agricultural worker, when the rate would automatically increase, or the one occupied by the person not an agricultural worker might be taken over by an agricultural worker, when the rate again would decline. It would be very difficult to enforce such a provision. In addition to that, to alter the whole principles of rating would be entirely outside the scope of the Bill. We do not seek to alter the principles of rating in the Bill. I think if you were to give preferential treatment in regard to rating to one class of the community—to agricultural labourers, for example—it would open the door to other interests to suggest that they should also receive similar treatment, and Lord Parmoor's Amendment has already made that suggestion. Doubtless his argument will be that if the farm labourer's house is to be specially treated in the matter of assessment so should the factory hand's house and the railwayman's house and so forth.
If you are to alter the principles of rating in one direction why not alter them in other directions? All the Amendments to this clause have the same effect. They alter the general law of rating in regard to dwelling-houses. The provisions of the Act of 1896 are part of the present general law of rating and this clause merely repeats them. To be quite frank, it does go a little further. It carries it on with a small additional extension to a tied cottage the subject of a tenancy with a rent payable. To extend this special treatment of the Act of 1896 to cottages which are not tied to an agricultural holding would be a considerable alteration in the general law, and, of course, so would be the pro- 305 posal of Lord Parmoor that we should extend the principle to the tied cottage which is occupied by the factory hand or railwayman. I foresee very great difficulties in accepting either of the Amendments proposed by the noble Lords for the reasons I have stated. I hope that your Lordships will see the difficulties which they present and I venture to hope therefore that the noble Lord will not press the Amendment.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My noble friend Lord Parmoor has asked me to take charge of any Amendment on the Paper for him if I thought it my duty to do so and therefore I take charge of this Amendment. May I say that I entirely agree with everything that the noble Earl has said, because on this occasion he was speaking, if I may say so, not clothed with this Bill but clothed in his right mind, and he gave a perfectly sound argument why the proposal should not be made, but the fact is that rating is dealt with in this Bill upon no sort of principle at all except the principle of giving money to certain persons to whom you want to give money. If the noble Earl and myself were to discuss the principles of rating we should find ourselves more in agreement than we are over this Bill.
But if you say that this Bill is based on the definite principle that you want to give assistance to agriculture and to persons engaged in agricultural production, why on earth should you grant exemption to an agricultural labourer who happens to occupy one cottage and refuse to exempt the agricultural labourer who occupies another? If you are going to give relief to those engaged in agriculture all labourers in agriculture should have their houses rated according to the principles of this Bill. I should like to go further on behalf of all kinds of productive industries and say that the noble Lord has made a very arbitrary selection of productive industries, but that would be beyond the scope of this Amendment. But having set up the principle of giving relief to agriculture it is most illogical to derate some agricultural labourers' cottages and not others.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
We do not derate. That was done in the Bill of 1896. We merely continue by this Bill the same provisions.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
I do not want at this moment to discuss the Amendment which I have placed on the Paper but to make some remarks about the Amendment moved by Lord Clinton on behalf of Lord Bledisloe. His Amendment may be as good as or perhaps even better than mine, but at the moment I am not quite clear that I understand it, for this reason. My noble friend spoke only about agricultural labourers' cottages, but I notice that his Amendment is to insert words after the words "agricultural land" in line 22. Therefore it covers both farmhouses and agricultural labourers' cottages. If he puts in the words "whether normally let therewith or not" and applies them to farmhouses I do not quite see the meaning of his Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Before Lord Clinton replies there is one matter that rather puzzles me, and that is what is the meaning of "normally." Does "normally" mean usually? I am only asking that question because I always like to know what I am supposed to be voting on, and at present I do not understand what "normally" means.
§ LORD CLINTON
I am certain that the noble Earl can define a word better than I can. I gather that the intention of the Amendment was that it should apply to the ordinary occupation of cottages by agricultural labourers. That clearly was the idea of the noble Lord who framed the Amendment.
§ LORD CLINTON
I should think my noble friend would accept that word, but Lord Dynevor has pointed out that this Amendment goes further than the original framer of the Amendment intended. I think it would apply to cases of cottages occupied as farmhouses, but I do not think it was intended to do so. In reference to the noble Earl's reply I recognise the real difficulty of applying this to the whole body of agricultural workers. Yet against that there is the real trouble we shall be in in housing the agricultural labourer, who will now be required to pay rates on the full letting value of his house, which he has not had to do before. I would suggest to the noble Earl that the instances he has brought up against me 307 are really not very conclusive. He spoke of the great difficulty there would be in having a pair of houses side by side, one occupied by an agricultural labourer and lightly assessed and the other occupied by somebody else and assessed at a higher value. You get the same position now where one house is under the Rent Restriction Acts and the other is not. There are different values put upon them. You would get the same position under the Bill, one being a house tied to the farm and the other not. If my noble friend Lord Dynevor is going to move his Amendment I would like to withdraw mine and deal with his when he moves it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD DYNEVOR moved to leave out paragraph (b) and to insert:
(b) is employed in agricultural operations and whose wages are subject to the provisions of the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act, 1924.
§ The noble Lord said: On the Second Reading of this Bill I said I should move an Amendment to Clause 65. I do not wish to repeat too much of what I said on that occasion. The clause as it stands is an order to assessment committees as to how they are to assess agricultural dwelling-houses as from April, 1930. Up to date there has not been any order regarding how to value farmhouses. Some are being assessed high and some low. This now lays down the law and the provision in paragraph (a) as regards farmhouses seems to me quite satisfactory. When one turns to paragraph (b), which refers to agricultural labourers' cottages, I am far from satisfied, especially with the words "on that land" and "so to use the house only while so employed." Those are very limiting words and will only apply to a certain number of cottages, including tied cottages. My Amendment is to delete that paragraph and substitute the one I have proposed. I agree with what has been said about differentiation in the assessment of agricultural labourers' cottages. Supposing there are four cottages in a row two of them tied cottages and two belonging to Mr. Snooks, who is not a farmer and who lets them to an agricultural labourer at 2s. a week, then the two tied cottages under the Bill as it stands, can be asses- 308 sed at a lower figure than the untied cottages.
§ I believe it has been suggested that I am making a suggestion that there should be a different assessment for the same kind of cottage. My Amendment is to put all agricultural labourers' cottages on the same footing. I am not introducing the principle of assessing some cottages at one figure and others at another. That is what the Bill already does. It says that a farmhouse let to a farmer is to be assessed at a lower figure than if it is let as a hunting box. The Bill says that a tied cottage is to be assessed at a lower figure than an untied cottage. I am only asking that all agricultural labourers' cottages should be assessed at their value to the labourers and not be assessed at what they could be let at either to a weekender or to some other person who is in receipt of a higher salary. I hope I shall have the Ministry of Agriculture on my side, and I am sorry that Lord Stradbroke is unable to be present, for I am convinced that the Ministry wants to be friendly to the agricultural labourer and does not want to inflict higher rent or rates upon him. If the owner of a cottage is willing to let to an agricultural labourer at 2s. or 3s. a week, he ought not to be penalised and told that he could let at a higher rent to somebody else. I hope I shall receive a favourable answer from the Government.
Page 57, line 26, leave out paragraph (b) and insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Dynevor.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I have already troubled your Lordships with some observations that are relevant to the Amendment and I shall not repeat them. My noble friend Lord Clinton compared the Rent Restriction Act with the provision that he proposes, but I suggest that the differentiation made by that Act is very different from that which he proposes. The Rent Restriction Act places a restriction on the cottage until the tenant leaves it and the cottage is released. There is a definite division between the cottage that comes under the Act and one that is free in the market.
§ LORD CLINTON
Perhaps I did not make it clear, but I was only dealing with the instance that the noble Earl 309 himself raised of cottages standing side by side, one of which would be valued under my proposal at a low rate and the other at a higher one. My reply was that you have that already with cottages of which one may be under the Rent Restriction Act and the other not.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I see the noble Lord's point, and if he will allow me to develop my argument I will point out the difference. I was saying when he interrupted me that a cottage protected by the Rent Restriction Act can go free into the market, and there is a clear distinction between the protected and the non-protected cottage. He suggests a differentiation between a cottage occupied by an agricultural labourer and that occupied by another worker. It is a differentiation based on occupation. The other worker may be earning the same wages and be of the same class. He may be the agricultural labourer's brother. Suppose an agricultural labourer gets a job elsewhere and leaves his cottage and somebody else goes in who is not an agricultural labourer: the latter would not be entitled to the protection which the noble Lord seeks to give. That is a very considerable alteration in the present law of rating, and it would be very difficult to carry out in practice.
I see the object which the noble Lord has in view. He asks why should a man who is occupying a tied cottage and doing the same work have an advantage over a man who takes a cottage in the market, and why should you not introduce some means of putting them both on the same footing. I think that argument goes in the contrary case, as I showed just now. The same class of cottage, with the same class of person would be differentially rated on change of occupation. The noble Lord seemed to think that this was introducing something new. The only alteration which this introduces into the present law is the slight extension put in in another place, which gives a tied cottage which pays a rent the same differentiation as one occupied on service tenancy. The present law is maintained in exactly the same way and is not altered in any degree. The noble Lord seeks to alter the law, and to do so considerably, and we feel that it would be undesirable to do so in this Bill, because in spite of what the noble Lord opposite said it is not a Bill which aims 310 at fundamentally altering the general law of rating. Therefore I venture to deprecate the suggestion that we should adopt the proposal of the noble Lord.
He has said that he is sure that the Minister of Agriculture and Lord Stradbroke, if he were here, would support the Amendment, because they are both friends of the agricultural labourer. I am sure that both the Minister of Agriculture and Lord Stradbroke are friends of the agricultural labourer, as are all your Lordships, and I venture to hope that we may not be thought to be unfriendly to the agricultural labourer if we venture to deprecate the introduction of this Amendment into this Bill. I very much hope that noble Lords will agree that it would be inexpedient to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I think perhaps the noble Earl did not quite understand what I said. I did not say that this Bill altered the principle of rating. I agreed with him that this Bill did not alter fundamentally the principles of rating, but what I argued was that when you proposed to endow a particular industry, it was very unfair to pick out certain parts of that industry and not to endow it as a whole.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
May I ask the noble Earl if he has considered whether there is any reason for the whole of this clause being in the Bill at all? I have had only small experience of the Rating and Valuation Act, but all these different rating authorities throughout the country—assessment and valuation committees—are dealing with these matters of the assessment of farmhouses and cottages. In fact, I am not quite sure that the assessment committee of which I happen to be chairman is not going to be engaged in what is likely to be a test case, as to what constitutes a farmhouse. A building which was erected for a hunting box is no longer used as such, but is used in connection with certain grassland, and the question is whether it should be rated as a farmhouse or not. I understood that all this was being settled under existing legislation, and for the past two years we have been solving these questions. I do not profess to have great knowledge of the Bill, but I was amazed when I read this clause in the Bill, because I thought the whole question had been 311 dealt with by the Rating and Valuation Act of 1925.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I am glad the noble Earl has raised this question, because if the reason for this clause is not present to the minds of your Lordships it is very desirable that I should make it clear. The repeal Schedule contains provisions to repeal the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896. The noble Earl, who is the chairman of his assessment committee, has been working under the Act of 1896 and the subsequent Acts, and if this clause was not in the Bill his labours, I am afraid, would be superfluous, because, without it, the relief given to tied cottages would disappear. It is necessary to put this clause into the Bill in order to maintain the status quo. That is the whole object of the clause.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I still hope that the noble Earl will try to get over the difficulties, for the reason that to-day the agricultural labourer, by reason of the abolition, to all intents and purposes, of the compounding principle, is being exposed to the full blast of competition in, the matter of cottages. Also at the present time the valuation authorities are hard put to it to find the means whereby they can carry on their services. In this Bill there is a definite invitation contained to raise the assessment of cottages that are not expressly excluded from being so raised. When you say that certain classes of dwellings may not have their assessments raised beyond a certain figure it conveys a tacit invitation to those who are raising the assessments so to raise all other dwellings. That is inevitable. Personally, I did not altogether like Lord Dynevor's Amendment, because it even more expressly emphasised that invitation. But when one remembers that the clerks to rating authorities belong to the legal profession it would hardly be complimentary to them to suggest that the existing invitation in the Bill would be likely to be overlooked. Therefore I accepted Lord Dynevor's Amendment as being an improvement upon the Bill.
The undoubted desire of rating authorities will be (and you may say it should be) to raise the assessments to the maximum figure, and an owner of cottages might quite rightly be faced 312 with the contention that, as his cottages could and would let for more than he is now letting them for to agricultural workers, they should be assessed at the figure at which he could let them. In a few instances the owners of these cottages will not be concerned with land, and it might be not an entirely unfair proposition to put to them. But in the great majority of cases that owner of these cottages will be concerned with land. The average landowner only lets a very small minority—the smallest number he can—of his cottages as tied cottages to farmers. He always endeavours to keep as many as possible untied. But the great bulk of cottages in agricultural counties do belong to agricultural landowners. The assessment authority may say to such a landowner: "Your cottage is worth more than you let it for, and you will be assessed accordingly." His answer would be one that under this Bill would be futile, but nevertheless perfectly sound. It is; "Yes, I could get more for my cottages, but if I let them like that what shall I do with my land?" For, after all that is the purpose for which the cottages were built—to maintain the land in cultivation.
We are faced at the present time, I think, with a new set of circumstances, partly because of the extreme need of rating authorities to raise assessments, and partly because of the abolition of the compounding system which, as I said before, exposes the labourer to the full blast of competition in the matter of cottages. When those two things are taken into consideration I cannot help feeling that whatever difficulties there may be—and I readily agree there must be great difficulties—it would be well to strain every means of getting over them; otherwise the labourer will be the victim and we shall find cottages taken out of the occupation of agricultural labourers at a time when there is not the slightest doubt that the noble Earl himself and every member of the Government is most anxious to make it possible for the labourer to live under the best possible conditions and circumstances. I greatly hope that my noble friend will persist in his Amendment.
I also hope that the noble Earl will reconsider the wording of the clause in the Bill. I do not think 313 he recognises that the Bill is dealing with an entirely different set of circumstances as regards agricultural cottages and employees from those of any other class of employees. He is arguing as if the wages of workmen in any other occupation are on the same lines as those of the agricultural labourer. They are not. The agricultural labourer is under a statutory obligation. That being so, why should not the cottage which he occupies temporarily—it may be for only six months or less—also be dealt with on the same lines?
The noble Earl thinks there would be very great difficulty in changing the assessment from that of an agricultural labourer to that of an employee in some other occupation. I dare say it would be inconvenient, but that is the fault of the Legislature for instituting an entirely different system of paying the agricultural workman from any other workman. That is the difficulty the Government are in. It is partly their own fault for accepting a statutory obligation regarding the wages of the agricultural labourer. Having accepted that they have to deal specially with the cottage occupied by the agricultural labourer. If inconvenience is caused from time to time the assessment committee will have to change the assessment according to the employment of the man.
§ THE EARL OF IVEAGH
I should like to support Lord Dynevor's Amendment, but I find it difficult because of my own farm near Woking and I cannot help thinking that lots of other people have farms near growing towns. Some of my labourers live in towns and I have no doubt they move from one cottage to another. Are those cottages to be re-assessed every time they move? It seems beyond one's, imagination that it should operate in that way. It seems to me that a proper remedy would be to tie the cottages. In the Home Counties especially there are lots of districts where the cottages are attractive to look at and have been deliberately taken away from the farms to be let as week-end cottages. Labourers have to go considerable distances on bicycles to find suitable accommodation. How are you going to deal with that? I am afraid that in the circumstances I cannot follow Lord Dynevor though I should like to do so.
Would it be a way out of the difficulty if we went to the individual, if instead of leaving the cottages to be assessed on the same principle we allowed the agricultural labourer, assuming he is such, to claim relief? I suggest that method to the noble Earl.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
We have had some very interesting speeches and some very interesting suggestions, especially the last one of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said the Bill had the effect of tempting the valuer to raise the rents because of the provisions of the Bill. As I have, I am afraid, said to your Lordships several times, this Bill contains no new provisions, except the small ones I have mentioned, which have not existed since 1896, and therefore I fail to see how these provisions can tempt the valuer to raise rents. Possibly if the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, were introduced it might have that effect. I am not going to commit myself to saying it would—I do not know—but if any new provision would have the effect suggested by Lord Hastings, it would certainly be Lord Dynevor's provision rather than the provision which has existed for a great number of years and has not had the effect attributed to it by my noble friend Lord Hastings. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, referred, I think, to the question of the fixed rent.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I misunderstood the noble Lord. I beg his pardon. I would like to call his attention to this possible contingency. Supposing an agricultural labourer, a married man had taken a cottage and let part of his cottage to a married couple: how would you assess the rates on that cottage? Would it be in the occupation of an agricultural labourer?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I only mention these matters to show there are considerable difficulties in the proposals of the noble Lord. With regard to Lord Sempill's proposal to give a weekly rebate I would point out that all these circumstances show the extreme difficulty of carrying the proposals made by noble Lords into effect. I do not think it is 315 possible to draft a new rating law on the floor of your Lordships' House. I really find myself in very considerable difficulty in accepting the Amendment of the noble Lord and I am afraid it is impossible for me to do so.
I hope my noble friend Lord Dynevor will press this Amendment. I find myself in much the same position as my noble friend the Earl of Ancaster. I am the Chairman of the valuation committee in my county and we thought that this matter was all decided under the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925. We issued instructions to our rating authorities that farm cottages occupied by agricultural workers, whether tied or not, should be valued on the same basis in accordance with Section 5 of the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896, and that cottages allotted to farms but not let to agricultural workers should be assessed on the same basis as other cottages let to other than agricultural workers. If Lord Dynevor's Amendment is passed I think it will make things absolutely clear, and we shall know where we are. All agricultural workers whether they are in tied cottages or whether they are in cottages which other people have let to them to enable them to follow their occupation of the cultivation of the land, will be in the same position and we shall know where we are. I therefore hope my noble friend Lord Dynevor will press his Amendment and I shall certainly go into the lobby with him.
§ LORD ASKWITH
I shall follow Lord Dynevor and Lord Forester if it is only to make the adoption of Lord Dynevor's Amendment cause the Government between now and the Report stage to consider how to get out of the difficulty. Lord Harris has put the difficulty of going in and out of assessment and of whether they shall have lodgers or not. In all parts of the country this is an awkward question. I used to have a house myself in a small town on the borders of the Fen country and labourers there did not have cottages in the Fens but lived in the towns. None of the tenements occupied by these men will get the advantage of this derating. So it is in many parts of the country. At present you get the tied tenants de-rated and the others not.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not know whether your Lordships will allow me to say a few words because I am not sure that your Lordships fully appreciate the exact effect of the Amendment Lord Dynevor has moved. The Amendment affects only subsection (b) of Clause 65. That clause deals not with any house but only with houses occupied in connection with agricultural land and used as a dwelling-house by a person who falls within (a) and (b). It is in effect a reproduction of Section 5 of the Agricultural Rates Act.
The position, if I may try to make it clear—because it is important that we should understand it—is that when we partially Berated agricultural land it became necessary to differentiate between land and buildings, and it became necessary under Section 5, I think it was, of the Agricultural Rates Act to define what was to be done with the buildings on land used as agricultural land. Accordingly subsection (c) of Section 5 provided that where there were buildings used in connection with agricultural land they were to be treated as agricultural buildings and not to be treated as ordinary buildings which could Le let at a rack rent. Now that section is repealed. This Clause 65 reproduces that position and deals, and deals only, with houses occupied in connection with agricultural land. Therefore if there were a cottage such as I think Lord Dynevor referred to which was used by agricultural labourers and might be used by weekenders, his Amendment would not assist that. It is not a house occupied in connection with agricultural land, although it is quite true that it is a house used by a person employed in agricultural operations. Therefore, it would not affect his Amendment.
My noble friend Lord Harris has made a very interesting suggestion that agricultural labourers having their wages fixed by Act of Parliament, should have some statutory arrangement under which their rating might be specially dealt with. That may or may not be a very wise proposal. It is not one I have had the opportunity of considering or consulting upon with those more competent to express an opinion than myself. It is not, however, a matter to be dealt with in this clause. This clause is intended only to preserve the advantage which the existing law gives to those to whom it is 317 now given. It may be true to say that there ought to be further advantages given to agricultural labourers in all cases. I can quite understand the arguments addressed to that effect, but it is not for this Bill or this section or this Amendment. Although I am quite sure that this is a matter which will be most carefully considered by the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health—I can promise the House it will be so considered—I cannot undertake that they will accept a proposal which they have not had the opportunity or the time to consider. I do not think it would be quite fair to say to them that we are going to put into this clause a paragraph which we hope deals with this matter, though I can assure your Lordships that it cannot have the effect of anything like what my noble friend Lord Dynevor or my noble friend Lord Harris desires. It is really dealing with a subject not quite germane to this Bill. The only reason Clause 65 comes in is to preserve the status quo and it is interesting to notice that it comes in, not as an independent matter, but as the first of a series of consequential provisions, this being con-
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.318
§ sequential on the fact that you are repealing the old Act and wish to retain the existing position. I can promise your Lordships that the matters which have been raised will receive careful attention.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
This question was fully raised in another place and discussed, and we have got nothing at all. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, says he wants to keep the status quo. What has upset the status quo? It is the legislation of the Government starting all these new assessments. These agricultural labourers are having their assessments put up, doubled and trebled, and the Lord Chancellor only says that the matter will receive consideration. I hope it will. In the meantime I am going to press my Amendment. If the Government like they can alter it on Report. Already we have received a rebuff on this question and I do not want to receive a second.
§ On Question, Whether paragraph (b) shall stand part of the clause?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 27; Not-Contents, 45.317
|Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Abinger, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Chaplin, V.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Airlie, E.||Falmouth, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)|
|Ancaster, E.||Hood, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Knutsford, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Peel, V.||Templemore, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Wellington, D.||Bertie of Thame, V. [Teller.]||Hastings, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Hemphill, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Sidmouth, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Reading, M.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Southwark, L. Bp.||Jessel, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Joicey, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Askwith, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Chesterfield, E.||Clinton, L.||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Cranbrook, E.||Clwyd, L.||Olivier, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Cranworth, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||de Clifford, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Deramore, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Dynevor, L. [Teller.]||Stanmore, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Russell, E.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Suffield, L.|
|Forester, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Harris, L.|
§ Clause 65, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 66 [Deductions from inclusive rents of industrial hereditaments in respect of rate relief]:
Page 58, line 10, leave out from the beginning to the first ("the") in line 12, and insert:
§ ("(2) Where any part of any premises for the time being assessed as an industrial hereditament is let out to a tenant, that part shall, notwithstanding that it is not separately assessed for rating purposes, be deemed for the purposes of this section to be a separate hereditament, and")
§ line 13, after ("landlord") insert ("to the tenant of that part")
§ lines 14 and 15, leave out ("the hereditament is separately assessed") and insert ("it is assessed as a separate hereditament").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 66, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 67:
§ Removal of limit of borrowing powers of local authorities.
§ 67.—(1) So much of any enactment as imposes any limit on the borrowing powers of any local authority by reference to the value for rating purposes of hereditaments within their area shall, as from the appointed day, cease to have effect.
§ (2) Paragraph (3) of section two hundred and thirty-four of the Public Health Act, 1875 (which, subject to the suspension thereof by the Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Acts, 1923 to 1928, prohibits the Minister from sanctioning a loan in certain cases until one of his inspectors has held a local inquiry and reported to the Minister), is hereby repealed as from the appointed day.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved to omit Clause 67. The noble Viscount said: If this clause is allowed to stand the security on existing loans will be adversely affected. At the present time the limit for borrowing powers is two years' assessable value for district councils and one-tenth the ordinary rate for county councils. It is quite true that in special cases these limits have been removed, but now the Government seek to make this a permanency without any hold by Parliament over borrowing by these councils. Then the inspector who is supposed to report to the Minister as to whether these loans are 320 to be made or not is to be done away with and nobody is to take his place. I beg to move.
Page 58, leave out Clause 67.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
This clause has two objects. The first subsection removes the existing limits on borrowing powers, which are based on value for rating purposes. Already these limits have become obsolete in many cases, because, as the noble Viscount said, Parliament has removed many subjects from their scope, notably education and housing, both of which are very important matters. This particular restriction on borrowing was a matter which came before the Royal Commission and it was shown in evidence that the restriction had been a very definite hindrance to sanitation in certain rural areas. Another point is the effect of the derating proposals. I think the object of the noble Viscount in moving the Amendment is to place a check upon any excessive borrowing by local authorities.
I think that that check is better obtained, not by an automatic limit, but by the necessity placed upon the local authority—with, I admit, certain exceptions, but not important exceptions, indeed I think I may say negligible exceptions—to obtain the consent of Parliament, or, in certain cases, of the appropriate Government Department. I do not think the absence of a limit will affect this check. It makes it much more clear that it is upon that check that reliance must be placed for prudent finance, and not upon an automatic limit. Now we come to subsection (2), which the noble Viscount seeks to delete. That subsection merely removes an antiquated piece of machinery, which has already been in suspension for some years. The Public Health Act, 1875, requires the Minister to hold a public inquiry where the loan would bring the total indebtedness beyond the assessable value of one year. This has been suspended, and no ill result has been found therefrom. I do not know if the noble Viscount would suggest the contrary. In those circumstances I hope the clause will be allowed to remain. It is one which I think local authorities are very anxious to see maintained and which will certainly, to the 321 sanitary services in rural areas, be of very definite value.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 67 agreed to.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
May I ask the noble Marquess whether he does not think the time has now come when your Lordships might fairly adjourn? Your Lordships are perfectly ready to sit not only to-morrow, but also on Monday, and in view of that I do not think it unreasonable to ask that we might now be relieved.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
I sympathise with the noble Earl in his desire to go to bed, but we had hoped to get through this Part of the Bill. There are very few more Amendments; it looks more formidable than it really is.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
In my humble opinion my Amendment to Clause 68, which was very much in accordance with the Amendment moved last night by Lord Beauchamp, and, greatly to our disappointment, not pressed to a Division, is one of the most important matters in the whole Bill. It deals with the whole question of whether you are going to have a dictatorship of the Ministry or to keep anything for Parliament. I should deplore that that question, which must come up again on Clauses 122 and 123, should be debated for the first time at this late hour.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My only desire was to meet the convenience of the House, and if the noble Earl wishes to adjourn and thinks his Amendment important of course the Government will not stand in the way of the convenience of the House. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: House resumed accordingly.