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to exact conditions which partake somewhat of the nature of blackmail. Not the least of the grounds is that, as Mr. Gray pointed out, it is not the greater municipalities of whom any complaint can be made. The authorities in such towns as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, Huddersfield and Glasgow—the list is too long to set out exhaustively -are far too public-spirited and large-minded to put forward unfair terms. It is the smaller local authorities who seem to 'imagine they are entitled to get as much as they can out of the companies by these concessions. The power of the smaller local authorities to give play to this imagination is neither fair to the private companies nor to the interests of the public generally, and the sooner it is removed by Parliament the better.
We have hitherto dealt with the work of municipal corporations within their own area. Lord Crewe's Committee will bave in addition to deal with the operations of local authorities outside their own area. This aspect of the question is not complicated by extensive consideration of the subjects with which those operations deal. As yet the efforts of municipalities to obtain powers beyond local boundaries have not gone much beyond water, light, and locomotion. But the tendency to widen the spheres within which municipal supply of water, light, and locomotion is undertaken has of recent years grown very rapidly, and complications have shown themselves which call for parliamentary settlement, under peril of their becoming sources of inefficiency and friction.
It is difficult to lay down any rule which would prohibit any large municipality having established a well-considered and comprehensive system of water-supply from sharing the benefits of that supply with their neighbours. In Glasgow there is an excellent provision of water; the corporation supply a large area outside the city. They supply it, indeed, at a price about 33 per cent. higher than that which they charge to their own citizens, and thereby place the ratepayers of Glasgow in the position of traders making profit out of the ratepayers of neighbouring districts. But it is probably true that the neighbouring districts benefit by the arrangement. They could not easily find the capital necessary for a sufficient supply, and if they did they could scarcely confine that supply exactly to their own needs. It is probably cheaper for them to purchase from Glasgow than either to establish a system or organise a company with wide responsibilities and powers. When this, how
ever, is granted the problem is not entirely solved. If municipalities may go outside their area, how far may they go? If they may make a profit out of their neighbours, is any limitation to be placed on its extent? Glasgow may be content with supplying a limited area, and with charging outsiders 10d. in the pound on their rental as compared with 7d. charged to citizens. Other municipalities may desire to extend their area and increase their profits. We are no enemies of the London County Council, and have no desire to condemn the energy of that very zealous and selfconfident body; but we shrewdly suspect that, if the watersupply of their own county were in their hands, they would rapidly develope a desire to include Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, and Surrey within their sphere of usefulness.
As with water, so also with tramways, Parliament has found it impossible to confine municipalities absolutely to their own area. The work of tramway companies had clearly no such limitation, and when the Legislature authorised the transfer of tramways, as regards working as well as regards ownership, to local authorities, it found itself at once face to face with the difficulty that exceptions to any such limitations were necessary. A populous or popular place might, for instance, be a few hundred yards outside a local boundary. It is obviously essential to good working of the tramway, and to the convenience of those who use it, that such a place should be connected with the town system. And it would be absurd to lay down the rule that a town might own and work all but a few hundred yards of its system, and that those should be administered by some other body. Or, again, a link might be necessary to connect, say, Leeds and Bradford, and it would be difficult to defend the proposition that Bradford and Leeds might each own and work its own system, but that the connexion between the two must be worked by neither.
But, the door once opened, the opening has become wider and wider. Glasgow is already working thirteen miles outside the city boundary, and expects soon to be working thirty-four. Huddersfield obtained powers this year to establish spurs of its own system, extending in many directions into many areas.
And unless some proper check can be established, we may expect ere long to see a largo number of town councils in the position of a board of directors owning and controlling a network of tramways over a wide district, and comparable in difficulty and importance with many minor systems of railways.
Somewhat similar_is the position as regards electric lighting. Hertford, Taunton, Bangor, Bolton, and Birkenhead have powers of electric supply extending beyond their own cities.
Manchester is empowered by statute to acquire concessions granted to local authorities adjacent to her boundaries, and has already dealt with five such authorities. Similar permission has been given by Parliament to St. Helens, Blackpool, Bootle, and Stockport. As yet, while the use of electricity is more or less confined to lighting, the areas of supply contemplated and applied for are not of unwieldy extent. But the promoters of the Electric Storage Bills of last session demonstrated clearly the advantages of wholesale dealing in electricity when that energy is used for power as well as light; and the ramifications of municipal enterprise are certain to increase with the growth of the uses to which electricity may be put.
Parliament, therefore, has to deal with a confirmed and rapidly developing tendency of municipalities to extend their operations further and further afield. It is a tendency that appears to be open to many serious dangers. As long as all goes well, the intrusion of one authority into the district of another will probably be regarded as for the interests of both. But in times of difficulty friction is certain to arise, and the jealousy and mistrust which local authorities as well as other administrative councils are apt to feel for each other are sure to come into play. Town councils are not more free from risk of disputes with their workmen than are other employers, and a labour dispute between a large municipality working a huge network of tramways in and outside the borough and the men whom it employs would be greatly complicated by the fact that some of the latter would be ratepayers in another district. So, too, if any question arose as to conditions of traffic or supply. It would be inevitably felt and said that, the primary duty of the supplying authority being to its own citizens, consumers in other districts would be obliged to put up with a second best, which would not be the case were they dealing with a company. The list of circumstances calculated to cause friction might be greatly extended. We have said enough to show that the policy of allowing municipal enterprise to extend the area of its trading operations cannot safely be allowed indefinite expansion. Some check, such as insistence on joint management and a sharing of responsibility by all the authorities affected, will have to be devised, and the higher the authority devising it the better.
The present seems a good opportunity for doing this. For it is easier to check the developement of a policy which has reached a stage little open to censure, and possessing many advantages, than when it his progressed far into a region of controversy. The country is, as we have already said, proud of its municipal government, and has felt confidence in its municipal administrators. It has allowed and encouraged a growth of municipal enterprise which is greatly in advance of other countries. It finds a purity of method which is far from being reached on the other side of the Atlantic. It finds a combination of zeal and resource to which our colonies have not yet attained. The magnitude of the increase of responsibility which has resulted may be appreciated when it is remembered that whereas between 1875 and 1898 the National Debt was reduced by 130 millions, the local debt was during the same period increased by 170 millions. As yet this debt has produced no pressure. It would be rash to say it will never do so. New inventions may at any time destroy the value of undertakings at present remunerative. A European war in which this country was concerned might seriously add to the pressure of a burden now lightly borne. Even if no such daugers become imminent, an unlimited encroachment into the field of private enterprise by rate found capital cannot be regarded without dismay even by staunch advocates of local government.
We have already referred to the limitations suggested by the Lord Provost of Glasgow. Sir Henry Fowler, a friend of municipal administration if ever there was one, pursuing a similar line of thought, has suggested a slightly different definition of the sphere within which corporate enterprise might be confined. He would limit it to such undertakings as are clearly for the common good and the general use of the whole community, and which it is for the public advantage to place under public control. But he at once recognised a qualification of this definition when he went on to point out that general user cannot of itself decide the. question, otherwise would municipal manufacture of tobacco and beer become desirable, with this result, that if the price of these articles as municipally supplied were higher than the actual cost, the consumers thereof would be rated for the relief of those who do not smoke or drink beer; if lower, those who neither smoke nor drink would be taxed to supply those who do.
Again, where a municipality trades in competitive articles
it taxes the whole community, including the private trader, who finds himself compelled to contribute to a fund designed to destroy his profits and ruin his trade. The taxation of the whole body of consumers for the benefit of a limited number of producers is a policy opposed not only to the essential principles of Free trade, but to a view of economy which is taken by a largely preponderating majority of Englishmen who have at all considered the question. Mr. Burns, indeed, and the extreme Socialists who hold that all private property and all instruments of production should be in the hands of the State, may think otherwise. But the sound principle is that which will probably recommend itself not only to the Legislature, but to the general opinion of the country.
There is still one more point of view from which a policy of extended municipal enterprise may be regarded. We have hitherto dealt chiefly with the economical side of the question. Sight must not be lost of the political or social side. Were corporations allowed to become traders on a widely extended scale, huge and ever-increasing numbers of the lower and middle classes would become salaried officials of the local bodies in whose election, as things are at present, they would have a considerable share. This would be desirable neither in their own interests nor in those of the general body of ratepayers. If they were allowed to continue in the enjoyment of the right to vote at municipal elections, they would be unable to resist the temptation of endeavouring to improve their conditions of employment by combined use of the franchise. They would believe themselves in the possession of a powerful lever which they would endeavour to use solely for their own benefit. From this danger the Civil Service of the Crown itself is not entirely free. The danger would be more general, more influential, and more far-reaching in its effects in the case of municipal officers and workmen. Already there has arisen in some quarters a demand for the parliamentary disfranchisement of civil servants. The justice of the demand has not as yet been generally admitted, because civil servants are concerned in the wise government of the country, and ought not to be wholly without influence in the selection of its governors. It would be less easy to insist on the right to the municipal franchise of municipal servants if they could be shown to be habitually using that franchise with sole regard to their attitude towards their employers.
Nor is it for the advantage of the community that there