Front Page Titles (by Subject) Appendix D: Questions before the Select Committee on Metropolitan Local Government 1867 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings
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Appendix D: Questions before the Select Committee on Metropolitan Local Government 1867 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1989).
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Questions before the Select Committee on Metropolitan Local Government
“Third Report from the Select Committee on Metropolitan Local Government, etc.; together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, and Appendix (20 May, 1867), PP, 1867, XII, 443-660. The Report covers the Committee’s meetings on 5, 6, 26, and 28 March; 1, 4, 8, 11, and 30 April; and 2 and 6 May. Mill attended all the sessions, with the exception of the initial deliberations on 28 February, which were not reported.
28 March, 1867
[John Locke2put forward in his questions the position that, as he had been arguing for a decade, the jurisdiction of the Corporation of the City of London should be extended throughout the whole metropolis.]
775. Supposing that what the honourable Member for Southwark has proposed, namely, to have but one municipality for the whole metropolis, were thought to impose too much upon one body, and that instead of that every one of the Parliamentary districts of London were made a municipality by itself, there being also a general body which represented the City fairly, as well as each of those municipal bodies, and which might take the place of the Metropolitan Board of Works, would not that remove all difficulties?—That would be my own opinion; I think that such an enormous Corporation as that suggested by the honourable Member for Southwark, would be unworkable, and difficulties would arise from the localities not being attended to, whereas if the municipalities were scattered about, each would attend to its own local wants, and then there might be some such plan as is suggested by the honourable Member of forming a board, in which all would have confidence.
[In response to Locke, the witness said that there might be ten mayors with one Lord Mayor.]
777. Supposing that each of those municipalities, the City included, had the control of the numbering and the naming of the streets, and all matters of that extremely local character, and that matters which were regarded as concerning the metropolis generally were put in the hands of a representative body, so constituted that every one of the municipalities, the City including, should be duly and fairly represented in it, do you think that all the powers of the Board of Works should be transferred to this body; and that, in fact, the Board of Works might in some measure be considered as merging in it; would such an arrangement meet your views, and do you think that it would be acceptable to the City?—I have no means of ascertaining what would be acceptable to them; but I think if you had municipalities in the way suggested by the honourable Member, the work of any great board would be very little; indeed, I think it would resolve itself, principally, perhaps, into the entertainments and matters of that sort, and you might very well leave that where it is; but such a board as is suggested, with representation by municipalities in a sort of federal council, might work.
778. You do not think that there are any circumstances sufficiently common to the whole metropolis to be properly transferred to that central body, except the duty of giving entertainments?—In my own opinion I think not. I think most of those things which the Metropolitan Board of Works execute would be better done generally by the Corporation of London and those other municipalities. Supposing there were a municipality for Westminster, for instance, they could attend to all the matters there, and I almost think myself, although of course it is merely my private opinion, that for any great undertakings you might come to Parliament on each occasion.
[The Chairman, Acton Smee Ayrton, M.P. for the Tower Hamlets, asked a number of questions about the inconvenience of different jurisdictions over thoroughfares, specifically instancing the problems connected with a great fall of snow (such as had occurred the previous Christmas).]
796. Do you not think that, on the supposition which I have referred to, it would still be necessary to have some central body which was bound to look after the interest of the whole metropolis, and which should have the power of compelling those municipalities to do their duty in any such cases as clearing the streets, supposing they neglected or omitted to do it?—I certainly think it would be an advantage to have some authority to compel those who neglected their duties to perform them.
[Appearing on behalf of the Corporation of the City of London, Scott responded to the Chair with a number of statistics concerning the policing of the City ofLondon. In particular Scott challenged the way in which the number of inhabitants of the City was calculated.]
835. In making a comparative estimate per head of the City police and the general police of the metropolis you contended with great reason that the population of the City ought not to be counted merely as a population which sleep there and are reckoned in the census, but that the day population should be taken into account; but is it not carrying that argument rather too far when you contend that those frequenting the City besides being added to the population of the City should be subtracted from the population of the remainder of the metropolis, because although they may frequent the City, still they live and pass the greater part of their time in some other district; and consequently do you not think that they ought to be counted both as the population of the City and also as the population of the metropolis generally?—I have considered, after a great deal of thought upon the subject, that first a portion of them ought to be added to the City (not the whole of them), that the City population should then be added to that of the Metropolis; and that then you should deduct from the whole those who will be absent in another place. They cannot be in both places at once.
836. They could not be in two places at once; but they could be in the City during a part of their time and elsewhere during another part, and therefore they count, I take it, as part of the population of the other districts as well as of the City for police purposes?—They are included in the census tables in the metropolis, because the census is there taken at the maximum, whereas, the census is always taken in the City at the extreme minimum. It is very difficult, indeed, to ascertain what would be the right proportion so as to contrast them. All I contend now, is, that Sir Richard Mayne has gone to the extreme of testing it unfairly as regards the City of London, because he has not made any allowance for the day population, and has made no allowance for any frequenters whatever.4
837. I do not object to that argument, but only to what seems to be carrying it, perhaps, rather beyond its fair limits?—[The inhabitants of the City, wishing better protection, choose to pay a higher price for a more efficient police. Mayne’s figures are absurd: according to them,] every adult person in the City, male and female, must have been in prison over three times during their natural lives; [and each inhabitant must have been guilty of a grave crime, such as wounding with intent, shooting, stabbing, and garotting, once a year. Proper counting of actual and transient inhabitants destroys these conclusions.]
[The Chair established the witness’s identity, and Mill began the substantive questions.]
915. You are a vestryman of St. James’?—I am; I became so very soon after the passing of the Metropolis Local Management Act.6
916. You have therefore considerable knowledge of the administration of other parts of the metropolis as well as of the City?—I am a member of the Court of Common Council, and I have been so for seven or eight years. I have had the opportunity, certainly, of becoming well acquainted with the working of the municipal system in the City and the working of the vestry system outside the City.
917. Have you formed any opinion as to the merits of those systems, and the amendments of which they might be susceptible?—I have formed an opinion; and the opinion taken as a whole is, that the vestry system, especially taken in connection with the Metropolitan Board, is a failure. I have come to the conclusion that no trust property in the country is managed more economically or better than the trust property which is managed by the Corporation, as trustees; and not only is it managed faithfully and well and economically, but I think that it is managed with great intelligence and efficiency. I am quite clear that that is the case in contrast with many trusts with which I am acquainted, and I believe it to be so taken as a whole.
[After an intervention concerning the responsibilities of corporations as trustees, Mill resumed his line of questioning.]
919. As you have begun a statement regarding the City, will you continue that subject, and state your opinions fully upon the City administration, before proceeding to that of the vestries?—[Medwin argued from his own experience that the Corporation in this respect was much better than the vestries because the quality of its members was much higher: they gave more time to the business, had more confidence in one another, and had higher intelligence and social position. Further, its composition had improved over the past thirty or forty years. In response to other questions, he indicated the benefits that might result from the sale of trust properties. The questioning then turned to the way in which a central body might be chosen. Medwin was in favour of annual elections, a principle to which Lord John Manners objected, on the grounds that major works requiring many years to complete should be overseen by experienced members.]
964. Do you not think that a large majority of the members of the central board, unless they had given great dissatisfaction to their constituents, would be almost certain to be re-elected, so that in all probability no actual interruption of the works in progress would take place by its transfer from the hands of those who have acquired some knowledge of it, to those who are entirely inexperienced?—I would answer that question by saying that in the large works which we have in hand in the City, such as the construction of the Holborn Valley Viaduct, and the SmithfieldMeat Market, the members are returned frequently year after year to the same committee, and we find the advantage of doing it.
[After further questions by others on the Committee about the period of service and the likely quality of Members, Mill returned to the comparison of the Corporation with the vestries.]
973. I think I understand you to state that, in your opinion, the members of the Corporation of the City of London have, in their character for intelligence, improved very much of late years.?—Very much.
974. Do you think the same has been the case with regard to the members of vestries?—I think there has been a deterioration, and practically we have found a difficulty every year in getting a candidate in St. James’s, Westminster. He is hunted for, and he gives his consent through being entreated, in fact solicited, as a personal favour, to become a candidate, and then he seldom comes in many cases.
975. Then do you think it is more and more difficult to induce the most desirable class of men to become vestrymen?—I do.
976. How do you account for the increasing difficulty in that respect?—I think that if the difficulty has been gradually increasing during the last 10 years, it is fair to assume that it will go on for the next 10 years.
977. Can you give the Committee any idea of what are the causes of this increasing reluctance to become members of vestries?—No, excepting that the major part of the works of an important character, and which give dignity and character to the bodies who execute them, do not fall into the hands of the vestries for execution, but the works which give a little honour are taken from them and done by the Metropolitan Board of Works.
978. Do you think the office of vestryman is considered an office of much less importance than it used to be?—I think so.
979. And you think that that objection would not exist in the case of municipalities?—I think so.
980. Particularly if the functions of the central body were of the very restricted character which you seem to anticipate?—Yes.
981. Do you not think that there are other things besides the main drainage which would properly come under the jurisdiction of the central body, for instance, a matter which has excited a good deal of discussion, and is now before Parliament, namely, the regulation of the traffic of the metropolis;7 do you not think that regulations for that purpose might advantageously be made by such a central body as you are proposing?—It might, but the position and necessities of one borough so differ from the position and necessities of another borough, that if you legislate for the borough of Westminster, you would enact regulations whichwould be extremely inconvenient for the borough of the Tower Hamlets, or for the borough of Greenwich; and therefore though a central board might be entrusted with those things, I do not think that in such matters a necessity arises for one board or against separate jurisdictions.
982. On the other hand, do you not think there is a great advantage in having those regulations, as far as convenience admits, uniform, in order that people may know what regulations they have to observe, and may not have to commit to memory a great many different systems of regulations?—That would be a great advantage, no doubt.
983. You have made some general remarks upon the administration by vestries, but I do not think you have made any full statement on the subject; will you state in a few words what you consider to be the defects of the present system, which you would wish to remedy by substituting municipalities for vestries?—I think that in vestries there is wanting the bond of pecuniary results and interests which bind many committees and bodies of men together, and under which they work effectually; there are other societies which are brought together by a desire to do good, and in those a feeling of philanthropy is the bond, but I know of no bond of that kind, or of any other sufficient kind operating upon the minds of vestrymen, so as to secure the intelligence of a parish or district, and that love for the work which I see evinced elsewhere.
984. Then in the Corporation of London, I suppose you think that the desire to keep up the credit of the Corporation is the bond of union which you desiderate in the other cases?—I do.
985. And you do not think that that desire exists in the case of vestries?—I do not.
986. But you think that it would exist in the case of municipalities?—I do.
987. You think that there would be a general feeling for the honour and credit of the municipality which does not exist with regard to a parish or vestry?—That is my opinion. I think they would have greater power. A municipality would not exist long without either obtaining by Act of Parliament, or from other sources, some opportunity for their members to come together occasionally for social purposes, for conversaziones, or for lectures. Something of that sort would grow out of every municipality, and would constitute a bond of union and an inducement of an interested character to bring people into the new corporations, which do not exist now or in the case of the vestries.
988. You think the vestries are not sufficiently large or important bodies to excite that feeling?—They are not, and important works are denied to them.
[A varied series of questions led to comparison with municipal arrangements on the Continent.]
1127. Do you know that in Paris the municipality is entirely nominated by the Crown?—I have understood that it is a representative of the Crown, and not of the people.
Sir John Thwaites8
[The questioning of Thwaites having covered many issues, Mill set out on a path of his own.]
1387. You stated, did you not, that there was considerable difficulty in inducing owners of property to take such an interest in the proceedings of the Board as to be willing to serve as members of it?—With regard to the Metropolitan Board of Works, that was not my statement.
1388. Perhaps you will be so good as to say what your statement was?—My statement had reference to the district boards and vestries.
1389. You stated, I believe, that they were not willing to become members of district boards and vestries; but do you think they would be unwilling to give votes for district boards or vestries, or for the Metropolitan Board of Works, if votes were assigned to them in their character of owners; do you think that if there were a provision that owners of property, as well as occupiers, should have votes in virtue of their property, they would be unwilling to give votes, whether by voting papers, or otherwise?—Then they would vote as residents and as owners of property also.
1390. They might be owners of property in one district, and residents in another, and in that case perhaps there would be no absurdity of their having votes for both; is there not at present a Bill before Parliament, promoted by the Board of Works, under which a metropolitan improvement rate would be raised, half of which would fall upon the owners?9 —That is so.
1391. Do you not think that, if a rate can be levied by the Board, a portion of which has to be paid by owners, it would be just that the owners, as such, should have a voice in a choice of the body which imposes those rates?—I have gone to the full length already of admitting that it would be a great advantage to the district, and to us, if owners would take their proper share in the government of the metropolis.
1392. Do you not think that, if rates were imposed upon them as owners, that would give them a motive to interest themselves more in local business?—Then it is a very strong argument in favour of the Bill which we have introduced, that it will create activity in a direction where it has been very sluggish.
1393. Is there any way which you could suggest by which owners of property, as such, might be represented upon the Metropolitan Board of Works?—I confess having given the subject very earnest attention, that I can point out to the Committee no machinery by which such persons can be specially represented as owners of property.
1394. Is not that a considerable objection to the present mode of choosing the Board of Works, namely, by delegation from the vestries; because if the Board of Works were chosen directly by the ratepayers, there would be no difficulty, I apprehend, in enabling the owners of property, as well as the occupiers, to give votes in the election of the Board of Works; whereas there is a difficulty, undoubtedly, in introducing a representation of the owners of property, when the members of the Board of Works are elected by the vestries, who are themselves elected by the occupiers only?—No doubt; unless the owners of property would exercise their influence, which they can exercise if they have the disposition, by electing a different class of persons from those who are at present on the vestries and district boards, which would accomplish their object indirectly, I admit.
1395. In that case, the influence which any individual’s vote would have might be extremely small in proportion to the degree in which his interest as an owner might be at stake; because he might be a very large owner, and still he would only have a vote as a single occupier?—That would be so.
1396. Is any inconvenience experienced in the proceedings of the Board of Works from the insufficient number of the Board?—I think not.
1397. Do you think that there is no special reason for any increase of the number, except that which might arise from the new districts?—An increased representation of 8 or 10 members would not affect the principle which I hold to be important in an executive and deliberative body, viz., that you should not get beyond a certain number, otherwise you would not get through your business. The members of our Board, when they meet, meet for the purpose of the dispatch of business, and we have so much to attend to that we have not much time for talking.
1398. Do you think that the present number of the Board of Works, or something like it, hits the correct medium between a number which is insufficient for the business and a number which is so great as to cause a loss of time in mere discussion?—Yes; I mean that as regards the question of whether you should have five or six representatives of property, if I rightly understand the term, or owners of property, or representatives of owners of property, added to our Board, I should not have the slightest objection whatever. All we want is respectable, and intelligent, and honourable men in the discharge of their duty.
[The history of conflict over improvements between the Crown and the Board of Works was discussed, and Thwaites agreed that the Crown might, because of its large property in the metropolis, be represented on the Board.]
1406. Do you not think that the interest of the owners of property in a locality is more closely and more permanently connected with the interests of the locality than the interest of the mere occupiers?—No doubt they have a permanent stake, and an interest beyond that of a mere occupier who may be a yearly tenant.
1407. Is it not the case that many improvements are often desirable in a locality, the advantage of which will not be likely to be reaped within the average terms for which occupiers may hold their occupation, but which will be advantageous ultimately to the owner?—Yes.
1408. In that case is it not important that owners should be represented upon any body which has the power of making those improvements; and are not improvements very often delayed because they depend upon the occupiers, and the occupiers have not a sufficiently long interest in their occupation to render it worth their while to incur any expense for those improvements?—No doubt if you could induce that class of persons to take an active part in the local government of the metropolis, great good would result from it.
[It was asserted that there was some disinclination of owners to serve on district boards, but Thwaites indicated that the problem did not exist in the case of the Board of Works.]
1412. The owners of compounded property, I apprehend, on the contrary very often do serve upon the vestries and district boards, do they not?—I believe that in some vestries they are very numerous.
1413. And it is understood that they are not that portion of the vestries and district boards, whose influence is exercised to the greatest public advantage?—No doubt.
[Considerable discussion arose over the representation of owners on the Board, especially concerning the difficulty of identifying various classes of owners.]
1432. Would not the Parliamentary Register show who are the freeholders, and who are the leaseholders, or the owners of property in a certain district, above a certain value, to which value it might perhaps be expedient to restrict the right of voting?—There would be no difficulty in ascertaining the number of freeholders, which would be very large; but the difficulty is in ascertaining the beneficial leaseholders who have great interest in metropolitan property, and adapting the machinery to give them a representative.
[The questioning dwelt on the overcrowded housing conditions of the poor, and the powers of the Commissioners of Sewers, guided by the advice of the Medical Officer who made inspections. Letherby’s observation was that following the Sanitary Act of 1866,11conditions had much improved, and he believed that in the City of London there were no houses in which sleeping lodgers covered the floors.]
1607. Are you speaking of common lodging-houses, or of others?—The common lodging-houses of the City of London are different from those outsidethe City. The common lodging-house outside the City of London is occupied by tramps for the night, and is under the supervision of the police, but a common lodging-house within the City, is also a place in which the rooms are let at 3s. 6d. per week or less; and so advantageous has been this supervision and control by reason of the provisions of the City Sewers Act, that it was made the subject of a clause in the Sanitary Act of 1866.12
1608. So that a very large number of houses occupied by the poorer classes have been placed under your control, and have been inspected by you?—Yes.
[Discussion of the most equitable way of taxing services such as road cleaning and sewers turned to a comparison of costs in poor areas and in affluent ones such as St. George’s, Hanover Square.]
1822. There would be also a much smaller length of street in the highly-rated districts, would there not?—I think not. You will find that in the highly-rated districts the houses are very close together indeed; and the streets in those districts bear a very large proportion to the whole area. In the case of the City of London, in a square mile there are nearly 50 miles of thoroughfares, and probably something like 25 per cent. of the whole area is street. I think in St. George’s, Hanover-square, you would find a very great length of street in relation to the whole area; and those streets are of a very important nature, as regards the whole public, and not only as regards that locality.
John Francis Bontems14
[The witness asserted that many of the difficulties of vestry government, as illustrated in Islington, would be avoided in larger municipalities.]
1892. Do you find that inconveniences arise from the small extent of the districts under the present vestry administration?—Yes; in speaking of the advantages which I anticipate from the proposed municipalities, I shall refer to that point.
William Corrie (recalled)
[Corrie cited the Acts and parliamentary amendments that tended to show that, since the establishment of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the jurisdiction of the City of London was separate and distinct from that of the Board, sewers being an exception.]
1974. Has it ever been maintained of the Metropolis Board of Works that they have the power in question under Acts of Parliament previous to this one?15 —They know that they have not the power, as the honourable Member for Bath says; they would say, “Our sewers ceased at Holborn Bars, and therefore we thought it very desirable to have this power.”16
1975. It is an undisputed point, is it not, that the Metropolitan Board of Works had no power within Holborn Bars previously to this Act which did not give them any such powers?—Precisely; that is how it is. I have not troubled the Committee with the names of private Acts of Parliament, in which the same sort of things have been done, because they are very often inserted by promoters at the request of different parties, and perhaps there is no great authority in them; but this is a case in which the question was distinctly raised and discussed before Committees of the two Houses of Parliament, and no attempt was made by the Board of Works to go to either House to try to reverse the decision of the Committee.
[The witness continued to assert that the separation of jurisdictions was proper.]
1990. I presume that you mean that those local improvements which are for the interest of the inhabitants of the City, and which concern them only, should be exclusively made by the City authorities; you do not mean that improvements of a larger character, which extend to other districts of the metropolis, as well as to the City, should be made exclusively by the City, or by the local authorities of those other districts; and that there should be no general body whatever empowered to make such improvements?—My opinion is this: I think first of all that these local improvements ought to be in the hands of the local authorities; I cannot imagine any great case in which the parties must not come to the Legislature upon that subject; and I think that the proper time to determine who is to do the work would be, when they come before the Legislature. It would not do to entrust any local authority with the power of raising sums of money as was proposed, and is proposed this year by the Metropolitan Board of Works and all the metropolis, I believe, are protesting against that power being given to them.
1991. But assuming that it would not be proper to have any of those great improvements made without obtaining the authority of the Legislature for making them, that authority, if given, must be given to some executive body or other; and do you not think that when the improvement is one which regards the whole metropolis, the body that is entrusted with executing it, ought to be one that has authority over the metropolis throughout?—[On the supposition that a proposal was made to Parliament to make a great street running east and west through the City,] if I might humbly suggest what the proper course would be, I should say that it would be to appoint some persons from both districts, to appoint some from the City, and some from outside, and to let them execute the work; I do not think for such works as that any central body is necessary.
1992. Would you have a special body constituted for the whole metropolis, for the express purpose of that particular improvement?—Suppose it ran from Westminster through the City, and supposing Westminster were then a municipality, I would let the Corporation of Westminster and the Corporation of London execute that work jointly, and that would then be, I think, a very good body for doing it; but I do not see that the inhabitants of Woolwich or of Hampstead would be wanted at all to assist in such a matter.
1993. Do you not think that a great line of communication of this sort, to use your example, would be materially for the advantage, not only of the particular districts through which it might pass, but of all the districts which would be enabled to communicate with one another through it? Do you not think that, for instance, a great street passing through the City, and through Westminster, would be of great use to the Kensington and Chelsea districts, and also to the Finsbury and Tower Hamlets districts?—Then, I say again, let the Legislature determine what parties are interested, and let those parties be represented.
[The case of the Thames Embankment being instanced, Corrie argued that it was an exception, and maintained again his position about the propriety of the current arrangements.]
2000. Would you not think it very desirable that there should be some authority charged with the express duty of planning and originating the improvements which may be necessary in a great town like the metropolis?—My idea upon that is this; you will always find projectors; it would not be the Board of Works, or the City of London, or the central authority, it would be some clever projector who would come and lay this plan before them, and then it would be carried out afterwards.
2001. No doubt all proposals for improvements originate with some individual or other, but would you think it desirable to leave the whole business of suggesting the improvement, and of getting together the people who are to bring such improvements before the Legislature entirely to individuals?—I do not see the necessity, but, however, I do not wish to combat that suggestion; but I wish to say, that I feel very confident that the Metropolitan Board of Works ought not to be that authority; I think they ought to be elected for the express purpose, and also elected directly by the ratepayers.
[In particular, Corrie asserted, the localities most concerned in improvements could be outvoted on the Board by representatives of distant districts.]
2008. Do you think that, in the case of such an improvement as that which you mentioned of a street passing through the City and through Westminster, but which would benefit other parts of the metropolis and not only those two districts, it would be just to expect that the City and Westminster should, or do you think they would voluntarily, consent to defray the expense of this work by rates borne wholly by themselves and not paid by other parts of the metropolis?—I think if it were shown, as is suggested by the question, that other parts of the metropolis were interested, they would in some way or other have to contribute towards it: and the Legislature would then determine how far those other districts were to be represented according to the contributions which they might make.
2009. The Legislature might fix a maximum of rates which it should be allowable to levy on the metropolis generally, or on any of its parts; but as they could not fix the exact sum, I apprehend they must confide to some authority or other the power of levying the rate; and, as they would probably not be willing to vest in the representatives of the City and of Westminster the power of levying rates on other parts of the metropolis, would it not be necessary that they should appoint some special authority representing the whole metropolis for that purpose?—I intended to say, I think, that it would be a good plan if this were done; but I do not think it is necessary that you should keep up this central authority, for perhaps once or twice in the course of a century an improvement of this sort being made, because it is kept up at great expense. However, I do not express my opinion at all upon that subject.
[Further questioning dwelt on the specific powers of the Board.]
2020. Upon your construction of the Act17 the local authorities of the different districts can make those improvements with the consent of the Metropolitan Board of Works, but the Metropolitan Board of Works cannot itself make them?—The Metropolitan Board of Works cannot itself make them. They have no power to do so.
Thomas John Bedford18
[Mill initiated the questioning of Bedford.]
2077. Are you an Officer of the Corporation?—I am a Commissioner of Sewers. It has been stated that the right of pre-emption operated in the City of London as a bar in carrying out our local improvements under the Act of Parliament;19I say, in reply, as a member of the Commission, that we never found anything of the kind, and never had the point raised. It never operated to the slightest extent against our carrying out our full powers. Our powers are almost unlimited, and we had a decision in the Court of Chancery last year which confirmed that view. We have very large powers, and we exercise them very fully. Nothing stops us but want offunds. I may say that, at the present moment, we have laid down and commenced lines in the City of London, which will cost to carry out between £800,000 and £900,000. No right of pre-emption ever stops us for one single day.
2078. I understand the right of pre-emption to consist merely in the obligation which the City of London is under, to give the owner of the land the first offer of buying back any portion of that land which is not wanted by them for their improvements?—Quite so.
2079. But if they refuse to buy it back, then it is open to the public in the same manner as if no right of pre-emption had ever existed?—Quite so.
[Tite intervened with questions about specific cases, concerning which the witness denied there had been any hindrance.]
2085. The City is not bound to sell land to the original owner of it at his own price, but only at the same price which they can obtain for it from others?—A fair market price.
[Discussion turned to taxation, which the witness said had reached beyond its proper maximum in much of the City, and argued that the burden should be equalized.]
2095. Is there any other subject connected with the general question of the government of the metropolis to which you wish to direct the attention of the Committee?—I may say that the Metropolitan Board of Works is exceedingly unpopular in my neighbourhood. I do not know that they deserve it; but it is because all the increased taxation springs from them.
2096. So that you consider that a great portion of the City of London is generally over-taxed, and therefore they dislike any authority over them which imposes more taxes?—Quite so. With regard to the local government of the metropolis, having given some little attention to the matter, I may say that I should generally approve of municipalities for the Parliamentary boroughs, and that some body emanating from them for special objects might be appointed where the matters in hand affected the whole metropolis. That seems to be the popular opinion out of doors wherever I go.
[Bedford argued for direct representation on municipal bodies, asserting that larger ones would attract better candidates than at present in the vestries.]
2121. Do you think that the extent of the suggested municipalities, as compared with the extent of the districts under the district boards, would have much to do with the result which you anticipate?—I should think so.
Benjamin Scott (recalled)
[Once more Mill began the questioning.]
2154. You gave the Committee on a former occasion a great deal of information upon the subject of the local administration of the City;20 but you have turned your attention, I believe, to the more general question of improving the local administration of the metropolis; will you kindly put the Committee in possession of your opinions upon that subject?—I shall be very happy to do so; but previously to doing it, I was requested to put in two documents, which I had not with me, on a former occasion; the first is a list of the improvements and public works conducted by the Corporation, of which Mr. Corrie in his evidence gave a very insufficient account. The account includes all public works and improvements from the date of the building of Blackfriars Bridge.
[Scott outlined the history and general state of improvements planned by the City Corporation, and mentioned other documents that he could supply.]
2160. Have you another paper to put in?—[The witness handed in a paper concerning the new street from Blackfriars to the Mansion House.]
[It was established that business failure was a disqualification for membership in the City Corporation and courts of the livery companies.]
2170. Will you kindly enter into the general subject of the municipal government of the metropolis?—[Having given much thought to the matter for some thirty-seven years, Scott asserted that the only satisfactory government of the metropolis would result from enfranchising all the districts’ municipal institutions. Originally the City expanded by the addition of “Out Wards,” but parliament became jealous of the City and tried, vainly, to prevent its further expansion. The result was that the areas that grew up around the City did not have the municipal institutions that they needed and that were found in much less significant municipalities through the kingdom.]
[The history of Southwark was discussed as a specific instance.]
2203. In what particular form would you give municipal government to the metropolis?—I am disposed to think that it is too large to create one corporation out of. Parliament seems already to have settled that principle in dividing Manchester and Salford into two municipalities.
[Scott affirmed that the size of the proposed metropolitan municipality would not be a genuine threat to parliament.]
2205. You do not think there would be any difficulty in keeping such a body within its proposed functions, namely, those of local government only?—[There would be no true difficulty; the instinct of the people was for good government, and the “trading class” generally represented on municipal bodies wanted only “peace, quiet, and order” for themselves and for the protection of trade. The main practical problem lay in the proper division of the whole into districts: ten would be best, with the parliamentary and municipal boundaries coinciding. It would also be convenient to extend the rural boundaries of the metropolis to] take in the collection of the coal duty, and then the coal duty would be expended in the district taxed, and the parties who pay the duty would be represented.
2206. Does not the coal duty extend to such a very great distance from the metropolis proper, that the effect would be to introduce so large a population as would interfere with the purposes of the municipality?—It extends for a radius of several miles further in most places. The coal duty boundary, according to a Return placed before the House of Commons, extends from 13 or 14 miles to 16 miles from Charing-cross, whereas the proposed limits of Mr. Beal’s Bill extend from about 9 to 12 miles, I think, from Charing-cross. There would be an addition of a good deal of geographical territory, but very little would have to be added as regards population and rateable value.
2207. Do you think that, to make the district from which the funds were derived co-extensive with the authority that would dispose of those funds, would be an advantage which would overcome any disadvantage there might be in including a rural population?—[Yes: one advantage is that the police boundary is coterminous with the coal duty boundary. It would be very inconvenient to introduce another anomaly when trying to reduce them.]
2209. Do you think it important that the divisions of the metropolis should be the same for all kinds of public business?—As far as possible. I think that if any alteration is made, an attempt should be made to introduce something like uniformity of administration, and uniformity of boundary.
2210. What are your opinions as to the manner in which those municipal bodies should be constituted and elected?—I think, generally, that the principle which exists in the provinces, and in the City of London, and which has been tested for very many centuries, should be applied to London. If the vestry system is better than the municipal system, then Manchester and Birmingham should have a central board appointed by the vestries, and the municipal system should be superseded. But I apprehend, no doubt, that at present Parliament is satisfied with municipal administration, as it exists in the large towns; and I conceive that there can be no valid reason offered why it should not be introduced into the metropolis.
[Questioning turned to the placing and extent of control in officers, particularly over the police.]
2235. You say that you would have a court of quarter sessions in each municipality; would you have the administration of justice conducted by stipendiary magistrates, or by the ordinary magistrates of the municipality?—I prefer, personally, the elective system, and, I think, that it works well; but the stipendiary system is working well in the provinces, and I think that is a matter of detail and not a matter of principle.
[Jones not being a very responsive witness, establishment of his credentials as a vestryman took several questions.]
2267. Your district is included in the Strand Union, I presume?—Yes.
2268. So that it does not exercise the ordinary power of a vestry?—We elect officers to the district board.
[Jones’s grievance centred on the government’s refusal to pay its proper share of rates for Somerset House, which occupied about half of his parish in the Strand. In his view, a larger municipality would be better able to establish equitable taxation.]
2270. What do you propose with a view to give you this greater authority?—I think that if we had had an organised authority for the district, such as the City of London have, we should have had a power at once to be attended to, but the several parishes just going up very feebly, each of them by itself, are very little noticed.
2271. Do you think that a municipality would be more listened to by the Government and by Parliament?—I do think that a municipality, as being a larger power, would be more listened to by the Government and by Parliament than a parish, and naturally enough.
2272. Have you any other suggestions to make to the Committee?—Then I think that it is also very unreasonable that a resident in London, and a man holding a moderate position in the world, and who is able to understand things, should be dictated to, and be told to pay so much towards a county rate in which he has no voice whatever; I, as one of the parish, have to do with the making of the poor rate, but in the case of the county rate, without any communication, we are bidden by some central authority over which we have no control, to add so many pounds to our rate book, to provide for a county rate. Now I think that that is a position in which citizens of this metropolis ought not to be; we ought to be under no such subservience as that any power should be able to tell us how much to give without our having any voice in the matter.
2273. Do you think that the whole metropolis should be itself a county, and should vote its own county rate?—I claim the power of appointing those men who have the power of dictating county rates to me. I claim the power also of having a voice in the management of those men who claim a police rate from me; and, I think it a reasonable claim, that every citizen ought to have the power of asking by what right they put those burdens upon us, and that they should also account to us as to whether those things are wisely expended which we have contributed as part of the rates. That is what I should like to know in the first instance. I sent up some months ago to know at the police office how many men were supplied to my parish. We pay in my parish, which is a very small-one, some 280l. a year; and I wanted to know how many men it furnished for our district; but the police had no orders to give any answer; I consider that that was rather an inferior kind of answer to what I ought to receive, and therefore, I consider that all tradespeople who are resident in Westminster ought to be able to ask with authority how the money taken from us is disposed of, and so hearing that this matter was before you, I came.
[In response to the Chair, Jones said larger municipalities would provide evidence as to which candidates were fit for parliament.]
2275. I understand you to say that you think properly constituted local bodies are a useful training school for Members of Parliament?—That is right: and thatmen would be understood for what they are worth if they passed before us in different gradations of duty.
2276. This is, in your opinion, one of the particular advantages of properly constituted local government, which you consider that the vestry government is not?—Just so. I think it is very feeble.
2277. Is it your opinion that the vestry does not bring forward persons and make them known to the public, who would be useful to the public in capacities of a more elevated kind; but that municipal government does do so?—Entirely. I think it is all part of a general system.
[Mayne objected strenuously to the imputation by Scott that Mayne had, by omitting murder, distorted the evidence of crime in the metropolitan district as compared to the City of London;22he explained that he had omitted it because murder was not generally a crime the police could prevent, and handed in a paper dealing with murder.]
2310. There is no personal imputation against you conveyed in those words of Mr. Scott; he only objects to the principle upon which you proceed?—I am the person who has done what he says is unfair.
2311. There is no imputation upon your intention, or upon your honesty at all. An objection is taken to the principle, which is stated to be unfair in its operation?—I am sure that no such imputation could properly have been made; but the words of that passage seem to bear the meaning, that I omitted the class which was against me, in order to make my comparison unfair as against the City.
[1 ]William Corrie (1806-81), Remembrancer of the City of London from 1864, had been an original member of the Metropolitan Board of Works. He had appeared earlier before the Committee; see CW, XXIX, 443.
[2 ]John Locke (1805-80), M.P. for Southwark, a member of the Committee.
[3 ]Benjamin Scott (1814-92), Chamberlain of the City of London from 1858, had also appeared earlier before the Committee; see CW, XXIX, 443-4.
[4 ]Richard Mayne (1796-1868), Chief Commissioner of Police from 1850, later appeared before the Committee to refute Scott; see p. 406 below.
[5 ]James Medwin, a bootmaker, was a vestryman in St. James’s parish.
[6 ]18 & 19 Victoria, c. 120 (1855). Sect. 31 set up the Metropolitan Board of Works; the vestries’ powers were established by Sects. 67-134.
[7 ]“A Bill, Intituled, an Act for Regulating the Traffic in the Metropolis, and for Making Provision for the Greater Security of Persons Passing through the Streets; and for Other Purposes,” 30 Victoria (27 Mar., 1867), PP, 1867, VI, 423-35.
[8 ]John Thwaites (1815-70) was Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works from 1855 to his death. He had testified earlier before the Committee; see CW, XXIX, 437-42.
[9 ]In Clause 3 of “A Bill to Make Better Provision for the Raising of Money to Be Applied in the Execution of Works of Permanent Improvement in the Metropolis,” 30 Victoria (26 Feb., 1867), PP, 1867, IV, 203-6. The Bill was brought in by Ayrton and Tite.
[10 ]Henry Letherby (1806-76) was Medical Officer of Health under the City Commissioners of Sewers from 1855.
[11 ]29 & 30 Victoria, c. 90 (1866).
[12 ]11 & 12 Victoria, c. 112 (1848), frequently renewed and amended, led to Clause 35 in 29 & 30 Victoria, c. 90.
[13 ]William Haywood (1821-94), an architect and civil engineer, was Chief Engineer to the Commissioners of Sewers from 1846.
[14 ]John Francis Bontems, a vestryman of Islington, was a member of the Common Council of the Corporation of London and of the City Sewer Commission.
[15 ]I.e., the legislation proposed by James Beal, and earlier given to the Committee, “A Bill Intituled ‘An Act for the Establishment of Municipal Corporations within the Metropolis,’ ” App. 9 of the “Second Report,” PP, 1866, XIII, 619-28.
[16 ]William Tite (d. 1873), M.P. for Bath 1855-73, a member of the Committee, actually said (question 1972), not that the sewers, but the Board’s “authority,” ceased at Holborn Bars.
[17 ]25 & 26 Victoria, c. 102 (1862), esp. Sect. 72.
[18 ]John Thomas Bedford (1812-1900) was a Member of the City Court of Common Council from the Ward of Farrington Without.
[19 ]Particularly by Committee members during the questioning of William Corrie on 11 April; see “Third Report,” 568 ff.
[20 ]In his earlier evidence; see “Third Report,” 493 ff.
[21 ]John Jones, a watchmaker, was a vestryman from the Strand.
[22 ]See p. 391 above.