NOTES ON THE
ENGLAND AND WALES
These notes are taken from
the January 1929 edition of Philips' Handy Administrative Atlas of
Wales. They give, as concisely as possible, the history and current
state of the governance and administration of England and Wales,
including the peculiarities of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
There is also a brief summary of the changes due to be brought about by
the Local Government Act of 1929 and a very short note about reducing
the voting age for women from 30 to 21 in 1928.
Taking up 28 pages of the Atlas they are reproduced here verbatim, but
one page, the original page numbering being retained only for the
of births, deaths and marriages
of Man and the Channel Islands
Government Act 1929
of the People Act 1928
The important changes effected by the Industrial Revolution, which
converted England and Wales from an agricultural to an industrial
country, rendered obsolete the whole system of administration which had
formerly served. Thus the 19th century witnessed a drastic
reorganization, still proceeding, which has very materially benefited
the health, happiness and general social conditions of the whole
community. The Reform Act, 1832, and the Acts of 1867, 1884 and 1918
dealt with parliamentary reform.
The great landmarks of local government are the Municipal Corporations
Acts, 1835, 1882, the Public Health Act, 1848, the Local Government
Board Act, 1871, the Local Government Acts, 1888 1894, the Ministry of
Health Act, 1919, the Poor Law Act, 1834, and the Education Acts, 1870,
1902 and 1918. In addition to these formative acts laying down the
principles upon which the system of local government has been based,
there are a host of others which have widened and extended its field.
The reorganization effected in the country was accomplished in London
by separate treatment beginning with the Metropolis Management Act,
1855, and continued by the Local Government Act, 1888, the London
Government Act, 1899, and others. The special features of the
reconstruction were the preservation of the spirit of local
independence in administering local affairs based upon a broader
democratic franchise and the institution of a central bureaucratic
control which permitted local development and fostered the growth of
civic pride while insisting that certain standards should be general
throughout the country.
The same process of coordinating existing practice and abolishing
anomalies which characterized the sphere of local government during the
19th century operated also in the administration of justice. By a
number of acts such as the Judicature Act, 1875, the Assizes and
Quarter Sessions Act, 1908, and others, the system of judicature was
re-created, new circuits devised, quarter-sessions reorganized and
petty sessions established - all of which, with minor changes,
constitute the judicial system as it exists to-day.
The orders of the ecclesiastical organization have not varied in the
least in the erection of its new administrative system. On the
contrary, the finances of the Church were placed upon a new basis by
the institution of the Ecclesiastical Commission, 1836, and with the
creation of the Church Assembly the laity obtained a larger voice in
ecclesiastical government. A radical change was brought about by the
disestablishment of the Welsh Church. The local administrative powers
formerly resident in ecclesiastical parishes have been completely
abolished. The awakening of the national conscience in the matter of
public health led also to the realization of more accurate and adequate
methods of registering births, deaths and marriages, and to the
transfer of these and other powers from the ecclesiastical to the civil
Evolution of Parliamentary Functions. -
Parliament was first summoned by Simon de Montfort in 1265, and
embodied, though incompletely, the principle of representation which
can be traced in the institutions of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers. It
was given more complete form by Edward I in the parliaments of 1275 and
1295. To these were summoned the earls, barons, bishops and abbots, two
knights from every shire, two burgesses from every borough and
representatives of the lower clergy. The latter never came, preferring
to legislate for themselves in Convocation (see page 20),
and eventually their right of representation became obsolete. The
separation into the two legislative Houses of the Lords and the Commons
took place under Edward III, and has survived until the present day.
The Act of Union, 1707, incorporated the English and Scottish
parliaments. In 1801 a further Act of Union dissolved the Irish
parliament and gave representation to Ireland in a parliament of the
United Kingdom. This was undone by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920,
and the Irish Free State Acts, 1922. By these a separate parliament and
executive were established for Northern Ireland, which still retains
membership of the Imperial Parliament, and Dominion status was given to
the Irish Free State.
The franchise was widened by the various Reform Acts passed during the
19th and 20th centuries. Centuries of struggle were necessary before
the liberties, powers and privileges enjoyed by both Houses to-day were
From the small council constantly surrounding the Norman and Angevin
kings later developed the Privy Council. While possessing some
legislative powers it acted principally in an advisory capacity to the
sovereign, its chief members being the executive instruments of his
policy. Their actions were frequently opposed to the wishes of
parliament, but after the Revolution, 1688, the doctrine of the
responsibility of ministers to parliament was recognized. The growth of
the party system naturally contributed to the development of the
Cabinet during the 18th century. The Cabinet includes the principal
ministers presiding over the various state departments, and is chosen
by the Prime Minister, who usually holds office as First Lord of the
Treasury. Its members are dependent for support upon a majority in the
House of Commons. They are the executive, and give effect to the
legislation passed in Parliament through the statutory powers held by
the Privy Council. This is, in reality themselves, since they
automatically become members of it upon assuming office, though at the
same time a large number of important persons are also Privy
Councillors. The Privy Council working through committees - now largely
state departments - authorizes the issue of Orders in Council which
have the force of law. The Privy Council, mainly through specially
appointed committees of its legal members, also exercises a certain
Parliament is the supreme legislative
authority of the kingdom and sits almost continuously. The Parliament
Act, 1911, fixed its maximum duration at five years. It consists of the
Crown, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The Crown is the legal fount of
parliamentary authority and summons, prorogues and dissolves
parliament. Its assent is necessary to all bills before they become
The House of Lords consists of peers holding their seats
(1) Hereditary right.
(2) Creation of the Sovereign.
(3) Office, viz., spiritual lords, two archbishops
and 24 bishops, and law lords.
(4) Election for the duration of parliament, viz.,
16 Scottish peers.
(5) Election for life, viz., 28 Irish peers.
FUNCTIONS. - Its ancient powers of preventing the passage of any bill
into law without its consent were restricted by the Parliament Act,
1911. Under this all money bills passed by the House of Commons, if not
passed by the House of Lords without amendment, may be presented to the
Sovereign for his assent. Similarly all other bills, after passage in
the House of Commons and rejection by the House of Lords in three
successive sessions respectively, may be presented provided that two
years have elapsed between the date of the first introduction of the
bill in the House of Commons and the date on which it passes the House
of Commons for the third time. All bills coming under this Act must be
sent to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the
session. The judicial powers of the House of Lords comprise -
(1) The trial of peers.
(2) The determination of claims of peerage and
offices of honour.
(3) The trial of controverted elections of
Scottish and Irish peers.
(4) The determination of final appeals.
(5) The trial of impeachments.
The House of Commons consists of members
of either sex, who must not be younger than 21, representing county,
borough and university constituencies.
PERSONS INELIGIBLE FOR ELECTION : -
(1) English and Scottish peers, and Irish
(2) Clergy of the Church of England, Church of
Scotland and Roman Catholic Church.
(3) Government servants and contractors, sheriffs
and returning officers (for the places in which they act).
(4) Infants, lunatics, bankrupts and aliens.
PAYMENT. - All members other than ministers, whose salaries vary with
their office, receive an annual salary of £400.
RESIGNATION. - Members may not resign their seats, but in practice they
secure the same result by applying for the Chiltern Hundreds or some
similar office of profit under the Crown which may not be held without
(1) Bills must be passed by it before being sent to the House
Lords. Under the Parliament Act, 1911, certain bills under specified
conditions are exempted from passage by the House of Lords before
receiving the royal assent (see above).
(2) Taxation is initiated and supplies for the
service of the state granted by it.
(3) Election and sitting of members are governed
by it in a limited degree.
PRIVILEGES. - At the commencement of every parliament the Commons lay
claim "to their ancient and undoubted rights and privileges," including
(1) The right of dealing with breaches of
(2) Freedom of speech.
(3) Freedom from arrest (now limited to civil
ELECTIONS are governed by the Representation of the People Act, 1918,
which also introduced a redistribution of seats. Equal electoral
constituencies were arranged, based approximately on the unit of one
member to every 70,000 of the population. This led to an increase of 31
members in England and 2 in Wales, bringing the totals up to 492 and 36
respectively. The members for the universities complete the total of
528. The inclusion of Scottish and Irish members gives the full
complement of 615ftor the House of Commons.
FRANCHISE. - Apart from certain legal incapacities the franchise may be
exercised by -
(1) Men of 21 years of age possessing a qualification arising
from (a) residence, or (b) the occupation of business premises of an
annual value of not less than £10 in the same parliamentary borough or
county, or one contiguous thereto, for a period of six months ending on
January l5th or July 15th.
(2) Women of 30 years of
age, if entitled to be registered for the local government franchise or
the wives of husbands so entitled.
REGISTERS of electors are prepared twice yearly in the spring and
autumn, and the expenses ensuing are shared equally by the treasury and
the local authorities upon whom the duty devolves.
The whole subject of local government, the relations between the
various local authorities, and especially the extension of existing
county boroughs and the creation of new ones, is now under the
consideration of a Royal Commission appointed in 1923.
The County. - The Local Government Act,
1888, divided England and Wales into 62 administrative counties,
including London, and 61 county boroughs. A few of these counties are
coterminous with the ancient counties, but most of them differ in some
respect. Certain of the ancient counties have administrative counties
within their boundaries, e.g. Yorkshire. Within its area the
administrative county includes all places, with the exception of
certain counties of cities or towns, such as Norwich, Exeter,
Bristol and Berwick, which are entirely independent and possess their
own sheriffs, and county boroughs. Municipal boroughs, urban districts,
rural districts and civil parishes are subject to the authority of the
county council in varying degrees, but enjoy absolute independence in
certain specified spheres.
CONSTITUTION. - Each administrative county possesses an elected county
council consisting of a chairman, aldermen and councillors; the number
of the latter being regulated by the Ministry of Health. Each
councillor is elected for a period of three years to represent the
enrolled electors of one of the divisions into which the county is
divided for this purpose. Aldermen are elected by the councillors
themselves for a period of six years, halt of them retiring
triennially. The chairman is elected at the first quarterly meeting of
the newly elected council and holds office for the ensuing year. By
virtue of his office he is a justice of the peace for the county.
FUNCTIONS - Committees.
The business of the council is chiefly done through committees who
report their proceedings to the council Certain of them are statutory
under various acts of parliament, which clearly reveal the gradual
widening of the province of local government. There are too standing
and standing joint committees, the latter co-operating with other
The committees are as follows : -
Public Health and Housing.
Maternity and Child Welfare.
Local Pensions (2).
Standing Committees :
Main Roads and Bridges.
Weights and Measures.
Standing Joint Committees :
Police (with justices in quarter-sessions).
The Inebriates Act.
Rivers Pollution Prevention.
Others determined by the specific circumstances of particular counties.
Powers. - The
Local Government Act, 1888,
transferred to the county councils the various powers previously
exercised by the justices in quarter-sessions, some of which were
augmented, and also imposed further duties. Since then various acts
have granted additional powers and extended the scope of those already
existing. Among these may be mentioned the following : -
Local Government Act, 1894.
Education Acts, 1902, 1918.
Housing and Town Planning Acts.
Agricultural Rates Act, 1923.
Small Holdings and Allotments Acts.
National Health Insurance Acts, 1911, 1922, 1924.
Roads Act, 1920.
Cinematograph Act, 1909.
The county council makes, assesses and levies rates, which are of two
kinds - the general county rate and the special county rate. The former
is assessed upon all local authorities except county boroughs and is
utilized for general county purposes. The latter is levied for special
purposes only on those areas of the county affected by the same. Thus a
municipal borough possessing and maintaining a separate police force
would not be •liable for the county police rate. The remaining revenue
of a county council is derived from exchequer grants, which must be
sanctioned by the Ministry of Health unless borrowed under the special
provisions of a local act, and income from property, fees, rents and
tolls. The audit of the accounts is carried out by the Ministry of
Health through its district auditors.
Besides its financial powers the county council is responsible for –
(1) The control of the county police jointly with
the justices in quarter-sessions.
(2) The regulation of the fees charged by its officials
the clerk of the peace and the clerks of the justices.
(3) The appointment, removal and determination of the
its officials including coroners, other than those above mentioned.
(4) The management of county buildings.
(5) The licensing under general acts of places for
music and dancing, theatres, cinemas and racecourses.
(6) The provision and maintenance of main roads
and county bridges.
(7) The regulation of locomotives on highways.
(8) The division of the county into polling districts and the
selection of polling places for parliamentary elections.
(9) The execution of acts relating to contagious diseases of
animals, destructive insects, fish conservancy, the protection of wild
birds the destruction of rats and mice, weights and measures, and gas
(10) The regulation of hours of labour in shops.
(11) The making of bye-laws for good government, the
of nuisances and the enforcement of the Rivers Pollution Prevention
(12) The appointment of a medical officer of
health and the establishment of isolation hospitals.
(13) Public education excepting elementary education in
boroughs and urban districts with populations exceeding 10,000 and
(14) Promoting or opposing
bills in parliament relevant to the protection of the interests of the
Some of the multitudinous duties imposed upon county councils may be
delegated by them to local authorities within their jurisdiction.
- Reference has already been made (see page 1)
to the principal acts formulating the government of London in its
present shape. Within London are represented county, city and borough
government, the chief authorities being the county council, the city
council, 28 borough councils and 29 boards of guardians. Each of these
bodies is elected by the local government electors registered under the
Representation of the People Act, 1918. In addition there are bodies
possessing special jurisdiction regarding certain aspects of
administration. These include –
Metropolitan Asylums Board appointed by the Ministry of Health and the
Boards of Guardians to provide asylums for imbeciles, hospitals and
(2) The Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police
appointed by the Home Office.
(3) The Thames Conservancy and Lee Conservancy Boards whose
jurisdiction however extends beyond the confines of London.
(4) The Metropolitan Water Board whose statutory area covers
administrative county of London and parts of Essex, Hertfordshire,
Middlesex, Surrey and Kent.
(5) The Port of London Authority consisting of a
chairman, vice-chairman, 18 elected and 10 appointed members.
(6) An Advisory Committee to improve the
regulation of traffic in and near London.
The administrative areas of these authorities differ widely in extent.
The London County Council
was created by
the Local Government Act, 1888, and was granted extensive powers of
town management transferred from the abolished Metropolitan Board of
The CONSTITUTION of the council is similar to that of other county
councils (see page 6).
FUNCTIONS. - Special causes have given rise to considerable variations
between the powers and duties of the London County Council and
Metropolitan Borough Councils and those of other county and borough
councils. They are chiefly due to legislation, such as the London
Public Health Act, 1891, and several Building Acts, and an assessment
system peculiar to London (see page 11).
Broadly speaking the county council is vested with such powers and
duties as require uniformity of action throughout the whole of London
Regarding finance it maintains an equalization fund raised from a rate
levied upon each borough and the city and then disbursed among them
according to their respective night populations. This is authorized by
the London Equalization of Rates Act, 1894, on the principle that money
spent on public health, the sewering, maintenance and construction of
streets is for the general good and should not therefore be a local
charge. The county council sanctions loans promoted by the boroughs but
the latter have the right of an appeal to the Ministry of Health which
itself sanctions loans promoted by the larger body.
The London County Council is the sole administrative authority for -
(1) The licensing of music halls, cinemas and
theatres, apart from those under the Lord Chamberlain.
(3) The execution of acts relating to contagious
diseases of animals.
(4) The provision of hospitals for consumptives.
(5) Education and technical instruction.
(6) Reformatory and industrial schools.
(7) Administering the town planning provisions of
the Housing and Town Planning Acts, 1909, 1919.
(8) Registering and inspecting common
(9) Main drainage and sewerage.
(10) The fire brigade.
(11) The maintenance of public parks and open
spaces excepting royal parks (under the Office of Works).
Outside the area of the city, which in these respects is administered
by the city council itself, it is the sole administrative authority for
(1) The maintenance of bridges
(2) Making bye-laws concerned with the regulation
of traffic, such as- the registration of motor cars.
(3) The execution of acts relating to weights and
(4) The execution of the Gas Regulation Act, 1920.
(5) The execution of the Shops Acts, a duty which
may be delegated to the borough councils.
(6) The regulation of offensive businesses.
(7) The provision of lunatic asylums.
(8) Administering the Building Acts.
(9) Ensuring the provision of a constant water
In conjunction with the borough councils, whose powers and duties are
confined practically to matters of local concern only, it shares the
responsibility for –
(1) Street maintenance and lighting.
(2) Electric lighting.
(3) The making of bye-laws for good government.
(4) The regulation of various matters affecting
public health, such as -
(a) The removal of refuse.
(b) Infectious diseases.
(c) The clearance of
(f) The sanitation of
factories and workshops.
(5) The execution of the housing provisions under
the Housing and Town Planning Acts, 1919, 1923, 1924.
In addition to those enumerated above, both the county council and the
borough councils possess many other duties under various acts.
The City of London Corporation
singular historical interest and unusual powers under its present
constitution. It is more than a deliberative assembly since it can
legislate and remodel its constitution. It has always been a county in
itself and though for some purposes it now comes under the authority of
the county council (see page 9)
possesses in many matters a distinct jurisdiction. Legally it is
entitled "The Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London."
CONSTITUTION. - The Common Council consists of the lord mayor, 25
aldermen elected for life, and 206 common councilmen.
The lord mayor is nominated by the livery voters of the city guilds and
elected by the court of aldermen. The ratepayers elect the common
councilmen annually. The lord mayor and aldermen possess judicial
authority. The lord mayor has certain unique privileges of great
antiquity, which may be briefly stated as follows -
(1) The closing of Temple Bar to the Sovereign.
(2) His position in the city where he is second
only to the King.
(3) His summons to the Privy Council on the
accession of a new Sovereign.
FUNCTIONS. - The city corporation does much of its business through
committees which always consist of 6 aldermen and 29 common councilmen,
and serve for four years subject to the annual re-election of the
latter. The chief are the City Lands Committee, the Bridge House
Estates Committee and the Coal, Corn and Finance Committee.
Reference has already been made to some of the powers and duties of the
city council (see page 10).
In addition to these it is the responsible authority for -
(1) Public health generally within its area.
(2) Port sanitation in the Port of London.
(3) Markets for the whole of London.
(4) Police within its area.
(5) The maintenance of certain parks and open
spaces outside London owned by it.
One of its ancient privileges is the holding of fire inquests for
outbreaks of fire within the city.
The Metropolitan Borough Councils were
created by the London Government Act, 1899, and assumed the powers and
duties previously exercised by vestries and district boards.
The CONSTITUTION of the councils is similar to that of other borough
councils (see page 12).
FUNCTIONS. - The London Government Act, 1899, made each borough council
the overseers of every parish within its area. The rates previously
levied were consolidated into a single rate known as the "general rate"
which is made, assessed and levied as the poor rate. The "general rate"
meets the expenses incurred by the borough itself and also the precepts
of other governing bodies in London such as the London County Council.
These are sent direct to the borough councils with the exception of
precepts relating to poor law administration, such as those made by the
Ministry of Health for the upkeep of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund,
which are first sent to the boards of guardians.
The borough councils possess absolute authority over -
(1) Public Libraries.
(2) Baths and wash-houses.
(4) Maternity and child welfare
Other powers and duties have been treated separately (see page 10).
Municipal Corporations. - Apart from the
division into county and municipal boroughs distinctions may be drawn
between all municipal corporations in other ways. Many of them
particularly the larger boroughs possess a separate court of Quarter
sessions while others have a separate commission of the peace in which
however justices of the county have a concurrent jurisdiction. Certain
small and usually ancient boroughs of a population of less than 10,000
at the Census, 1881, were permitted the option of adhering to their
courts of quarter-sessions and commissions of the peace, but were
obliged to maintain the officials connected with them from their
borough fund as well as contributing towards the cost of county
sessions. They were not allowed a separate police force - a privilege
possessed by many of the larger boroughs. A few boroughs have by
prescription borough courts of civil jurisdiction such as the Mayor's
London, the Court of Passage at Liverpool, the Court of Record at
Salford and the Tolzey Court at Bristol.
County Borough. - The Local Government
Act, 1888 created 61 county boroughs, whose number has now been
increased to 83. Their councils enjoy the powers of county councils
(see pages 6-8) If however
they are not
themselves assize towns they make a small contribution to the county
assize. In addition to the above their constitution and further powers
are governed by being municipal corporations (see under).
Municipal Boroughs were originally
governed by the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835, but now derive their
powers entirely from the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882, and a number
of other special acts.
CONSTITUTION. - The councils of municipal corporations are popularly
elected and have the same composition and serve for the same periods as
county councils. The mayor presides and by virtue of his office acts as
a justice of the peace in the borough.
FUNCTIONS. - Much of the council business is done through committees
whose resolutions must be approved by the whole council. An exception
to this rule is found in the Watch Committee of a borough possessing a
separate police force, but in this case too financial resolutions are
subject to approval by the whole council.
The finance and powers of municipal corporations may be broadly treated
under two heads, namely as -
(1) An urban sanitary district under the Public Health Act,
and earlier and subsequent acts (see under Urban District Councils,
page 14) and
(2) A borough under the Municipal Corporations
Act, 1882, Education Acts, 1902 - 1921, and general or local acts.
Its revenue under this latter heading is paid into a borough fund and
is derived from the property of the corporation and the borough rate
which is assessed upon property on the basis of the poor rate valuation
and is collected by the overseers of the poor. It is utilized for –
(1) The maintenance of borough buildings.
(2) The payment of salaries of borough officials.
(3) The expenses of borough police where they
(4) Education costs, together with grants received
from the Board of Education.
(5) Various other statutory purposes.
It is empowered to borrow money subject to the approval of the Ministry
Among the general powers of borough councils are the following -
(1) The appointment of a town clerk, treasurer and
other necessary officials.
(2) The acquisition of land for the erection of
(3) The repair of bridges not repairable by the county for
repair the inhabitants are liable by immemorial usage or custom.
(4) The making of bye-laws for good government and
the prevention and suppression of nuisances.
(5) (a) The provision of
public elementary education where the population is over 10,000.
The provision of higher education concurrently within the county.
(6) Promoting or opposing bills in parliament.
(7) Promoting trading enterprises relating to water, gas,
electricity, tramways, light railways, ferries and markets.
Borough councils possess certain miscellaneous powers some of which are
compulsory under various acts, such as -
Housing and Town Planning Acts.
National Health Insurance Acts.
Notification of Births Act.
Adoptive Acts relating to libraries, baths and
wash houses, and burial grounds.
Urban District Councils
came into being under the Local Government Act, 1894.
CONSTITUTION. - The council consists of councillors popularly elected
for a period of three years, one-third of whom usually retire annually.
It is presided over by a chairman annually elected by the councillors.
FUNCTIONS. - The principal powers of an urban district council are
derived through its being an urban sanitary authority. Such district
councils including borough councils (see page 13)
make, assess and levy a general district rate on property assessable to
the poor rate excepting certain kinds of property including rail-ways,
canals and tithes This rate is paid into a general district fund to
which are credited also the proceeds from rents, fines for breach of
bye-laws, and treasury grants. From the fund are defrayed all expenses
incurred as sanitary authorities. As such they are required -
(1) To appoint a medical officer of health and
(2) To provide sewers for the effectual drainage of the
and to enforce the provision of proper sanitary accommodation for all
dwelling-houses and factories.
(3) To deal with
cellar-dwellings, common lodging-houses and houses let in lodgings,
nuisances, unsound meat, infectious diseases, epidemics, mortuaries,
cemeteries, public parks, and slaughter-houses.
(4) To provide hospital accommodation for the
reception of the sick.
Also they may undertake the removal of house refuse and provide for the
proper cleansing and watering of the streets.
Besides its powers as a sanitary authority an urban district council
exercises certain other powers which are –
(1) Borrowing subject to the Ministry of Health's
(2) The appointment of a clerk and other officers
for the execution of its business.
(3) The acquisition of land for public purposes.
(4) The maintenance of highways outside the
jurisdiction of county councils.
(5) (a) The provision of public
where the population is over 20,000, the expenses being defrayed from
the poor rate.
provision of higher education concurrently with the county, the
expenses being defrayed as above.
(6) Promoting or opposing bills in parliament
subject to several important restrictions by the Ministry of Health.
(7) Promoting trading enterprises relating to
water, gas, electricity, and tramways.
In some instances it enjoys powers under the following acts-
Housing and Town Planning Acts.
National Health Insurance Acts.
Gas Regulation Act, 1920.
Adoptive Acts relating to libraries, baths and
wash-houses, and burial grounds.
Rural District Councils were created by
the Local Government Act, 1894, by which the councillors became
ex-officio poor law guardians. Rural sanitary districts were
established under the Public Health Act, 1872, and comprised those
areas out-side the urban sanitary districts. In the main their
boundaries are coterminous with the poor law unions except where the
latter form part of a borough or urban district.
CONSTITUTION. - The council is similarly constituted to an urban
district council. The number of councillors in each ward is determined
by the county council.
FUNCTIONS. - There are wide divergences in the powers exercised by
rural district councils which depend to a certain degree upon the
public spirit of the various bodies and to a greater degree upon
differences in area and population. Their expenses are of two kinds -
General expenses are chargeable to the district at large and cover the
expenses of establishment, disinfection and highways, and various
others. These are payable out of a common fund raised out of the poor
rate of the several parishes in the district according to the rateable
value of each. It is levied by means of a precept on the overseers of
the poor and not by the council itself.
Special expenses include those in connection with sewerage water
supply, and all others incurred or payable in respect of a parish or
contributory place within the district, determined by the Ministry of
Health to be special. Accounts are audited by district auditors
appointed by the Ministry of Health.
As a sanitary authority a rural district council enjoys most of the
powers exercised by urban district councils (see page 14).
To a certain degree its sanitary functions may be supplemented,
regulated and even assumed by the county council if unsatisfactorily
performed. Further it is the highway authority in its district outside
the county council sphere but unlike an urban district council
possesses no powers respecting streets unless specially conferred by
the Ministry of Health. Certain other powers expressly confined to
urban district councils may also be exercised under a like condition.
Subject to the assent of the Ministry of Health a rural district may be
converted into an urban district by the county council.
Parish Councils. - Within the rural
district and marking it off distinctly from the urban district is the
area known as the civil parish, which has been defined by act of
parliament as "a place for which a separate poor rate is or can be made
or for which a separate overseer is or can be appointed." Under the
Local Government Act, 1894, in every parish which has a population
exceeding 300 there must be elected a parish council and also in every
parish which has a population between 100 and 300 if the parish meeting
so resolves. The parish meeting is an assembly decreed by the above act
consisting of the parochial electors of the parish. Where there is no
parish council there must be at least an annual parish meeting.
CONSTITUTION. - The parish council is elected in the manner provided by
the rules of the Ministry of Health, the number of councillors being
decided by the county council.
FUNCTIONS. - The parish council appoints the overseers and the
assistant overseer, who generally acts as clerk and rate collector and
unites in himself many other responsible duties. The chief officers of
civil parishes are the overseers of the poor, whose main duty is to
make and levy the poor rate and others according to the precepts of the
authorities so empowered. Among the responsibilities of parish councils
are the following -
(1) The provision of offices and fire engines and
the maintenance of parish property.
(2) The care of wells for the water supply, the
removal of nuisances and acquisition of rights of way.
(3) The administration of certain adoptive acts
when adopted, including -
(a) The Lighting and Watching Act.
(b) The Public Libraries Acts.
(c) The Baths and Wash-houses Acts.
(d) The Burial Acts.
(e) The Public Improvement Act.
(4) The maintenance of village greens and open
N.B. - For notes on the Assessment Areas see page 24.
In English usage "poor law" denotes the legislation embodying the
measures taken by the state for the relief of the poor and its
administration. For this purpose the whole of England and Wales is
divided into more than 600 poor law unions.
Boards of Guardians. –
CONSTITUTION. - For every union there is a board of guardians popularly
elected by persons enrolled under the Representation of the People Act,
1918. Each board is presided over by a chairman. In the conduct of its
business the precise method of voting on any matter on which a
difference of opinion exists is carefully regulated.
FUNCTIONS. - The fundamental principle upon which the poor law rests is
that the condition of a pauper should be less eligible than that of an
independent labourer. Yet in the execution of their duties considerable
differences and wide discrepancies exist among the various boards of
guardians, owing chiefly to the number of sources from which they
derive their authority and powers. These include numerous acts of
parliament and countless orders and circulars issued by the old Local
Government Board and the Ministry of Health. The latter possesses a
more complete jurisdiction over poor law authorities than over any
other local government bodies. It sanctions loans, prescribes the form
of accounts, and audits them through its district auditors. It has the
power of dismissing poor law officers whose qualifications for their
duties do not reach the standard required. This entails obedience on
the part of poor law officers to regulations issued by the central
authority even where they are contrary to the policy of the individual
boards of guardians employing them. Lastly the guardians themselves
have a wide latitude and discretion in the interpretation of both acts
and circulars in many instances in addition to the particular form
given to their administration by their own conception of public policy.
Their principal officers are the overseers of the poor who make and
levy the poor rate on all assessable property. This is apportioned
among the various parishes. The guardians are responsible for the
administration of relief and the erection and management of workhouses.
Further they have certain other powers relating to -
(1) Indoor relief to the able-bodied.
(2) Outdoor relief to the aged and infirm.
(3) The boarding out of orphan children.
(4) Medical relief to the sick.
(5) Casual wayfarers.
The object in administering unemployment relief is not to attach the
"stigma of pauperism" to temporarily unemployed able bodied persons. At
the present a decision has been reached to transfer the functions of
boards of guardians to other local authorities and a bill to accomplish
this purpose will shortly be introduced into parliament.
Judicial Circuits. - A circuit was (and
still is) the term applied to the periodical progress made by judges
throughout the several counties of England and Wales to hold courts and
administer justice, where recourse could not be had to the king's court
at Westminster. The Judicature Act, 1875, conferred upon the Crown the
power of issuing regulations respecting circuits by Order in Council
(see page 3). England and
Wales are now divided
into eight circuits, in which assizes are held three times a year in
winter, summer and autumn. Both civil and criminal business are
disposed of except during the autumn assize in Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
Northumberland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Glamorgan, Bristol, Devon,
Sussex and Suffolk which is for criminal business only. Lancashire and
Yorkshire have an additional assize held in May. In certain counties
there are alternative assize towns.
Quarter Sessions originated in the
provision made by statutes of 1326, 1344 and 1360, for justices and a
commission of the peace. The name is derived from a statute of 1388
which directs that the "justices shall keep their sessions in every
quarter of the year at the least."
To-day quarter-sessions is the name of a court held by justices of the
peace in general or quarter-sessions assembled in any administrative
county and county of a city or town, and is also applied to the court
of a recorder in county and municipal boroughs possessing
quarter-sessions. It is a local court of record having a limited
criminal jurisdiction and to a certain extent civil jurisdiction,
original and appellate in both instances. The court in counties is
composed of two or more justices in the commission of the peace. A
chairman and vice-chairman are elected but need not necessarily be
lawyers except in the county of London where they must be barristers of
ten years' standing and are appointed by the Crown. The court of
sessions of the city of London arises from powers granted by the city
charters and is held before the lord mayor and aldermen with the
recorder. In this court all indictments are now tried in the Central
Criminal Court. The court of quarter-sessions in county and municipal
boroughs depends upon a grant by the Crown in Council under the
Municipal Corporations Acts, 1835 and 1882, upon the petition of the
borough council. The recorder is the sole judge of the court, is
appointed by the Crown and must be a barrister of five years' standing.
Petty Sessions are courts held for
purposes of summary jurisdiction in all places in which a commission of
the peace exists. Their powers are held chiefly under the Summary
Jurisdiction Acts and take cognizance of a large number of minor
Brewster Sessions are special sessions of local justices
held annually for the issue of licences for the retail of intoxicating
The Church of England is the established Church of the State. By the
Act of Supremacy, 1534, the Sovereign became the Supreme Head of the
Church and has the power of appointing archbishops and bishops to
vacant sees. It is now exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister
after consultation by the latter with the two archbishops.
The Church of England Assembly
came into being under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act,
CONSTITUTION. - It consists of -
(1) The House of Bishops, comprising the two upper
Houses of Convocation.
(2) The House of Clergy, comprising the two lower
Houses of Convocation.
(3) The House of Laity, comprising a number of lay
men and women
elected from each diocese proportionate to its size.
These Houses may sit together or separately.
FUNCTIONS. - The Assembly is a legislative body and its enactments are
known as measures. These after passage are forwarded to an
ecclesiastical committee consisting of 15 members from the House of
Lords appointed by the Lord Chancellor and 15 members from the House of
Commons appointed by the Speaker. The committee reports upon the
measure, and if its decision is favourable the measure receives the
royal assent upon a resolution being carried in parliament by both
Diocesan Conferences elect the lay
members of the Church Assembly in each diocese. They are also mainly
responsible for transacting the financial business of dioceses.
Ruridecanal Conferences elect the representatives of the
diocesan conferences in rural deaneries.
Parochial Church Councils were established under the
Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure, 1921.
CONSTITUTION. - They consist of members elected by the registered
parishioners of each ecclesiastical parish, who must be of 18 years of
age and baptized.
FUNCTIONS. - Among their powers the following are the chief -
(1) To exercise the powers concerning parish buildings and
parochial matters formerly enjoyed by the church-wardens.
(2) To raise and spend money for parochial
(3) To co-operate with the incumbent.
(4) To elect representatives for ruridecanal
Convocation is an
assembly of the
spirituality summoned in each province by the Archbishops of Canterbury
and York respectively and usually meets three times a year.
CONSTITUTION. - Under the powers of the Enabling Act, 1919, Convocation
drew up a new constitution to replace that which had previously existed
since 1283. For each province it consists of -
(1) The Upper House comprising all the diocesan
(2) The Lower House comprising all the deans, the
two senior archdeacons of each
diocese and a proctor for every 100 electors. The electors are clergy
qualified in any one of the following ways, either -
(a) beneficed, or
(b) holding the bishop's
(c) holding an office in a
cathedral or collegiate church.
The Church in Wales was disestablished
and disendowed by the Established Church (Wales) Act, 1914, and the
Welsh Church (Temporalities) Act, 1919. In 1920 Wales and the county of
Monmouth were created into a separate province and the number of Welsh
bishoprics has since been increased to six.
THE GOVERNING BODY consists of -
(1) The bishops, deans and archdeacons.
(2) 25 elected clergy and 25 elected laity from
(3) 12 co-opted women.
(1) It maintains the forms and doctrines of the
(2) It makes canons.
(3) It controls the Representative Body.
THE REPRESENTATIVE BODY consists of -
(1) The diocesan bishops.
(2) 4 clergy and 8 laymen from each diocese.
(3) 12 co-opted members.
(4) 8 members nominated by the bishops.
FUNCTIONS. - It acts as trustee of the Church's property. Bishops are
elected by a board of electors and in the event of failure to obtain
the necessary two thirds majority are appointed by the Archbishop of
Ecclesiastical Areas. - For the purposes
of ecclesiastical organization England and Wales are divided into the
provinces of Canterbury, York and Wales each under archiepiscopal
Diocese. - The diocese is the largest
territorial area within a province and is under the pastoral care of a
bishop. The latter takes his title from his see, the place in which his
cathedral is located.
Archdeaconry. - An archdeaconry is the
largest territorial area within a diocese within which certain powers
are exercised by an archdeacon. This official was formerly extremely
important but his powers are now restricted to -
(1) Presenting candidates for ordination to the
(2) Inducting the clergy into their temporalities after they
been instituted by the bishop into their spiritualities.
(3) Making visitations of the clergy.
(4) Inspecting the fabrics of churches.
Parish. - The parish is an area assigned to the
ministrations of a priest, the incumbent.
Registration Districts. - Under the
Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1836, a general register office was
created in London presided over by the Registrar-General. England and
Wales were divided into registration districts under a superintendent
registrar. This system was consolidated by the Births and Deaths Act,
1874. To day the districts mainly but not invariably correspond in area
with the poor law unions. They are divided into sub-districts in which
the registrar acts as the chief official for registering births and
deaths. A number of districts are united into so-called registration
counties and the latter into 11 registration divisions. Certain
statutory regulations bind the persons interested to certify births and
deaths in a proper form to the registrar within a stipulated time.
Registrars also possess the power of marrying persons under various
THE ISLE OF MAN.
The Isle of Man is administered in accordance with its own laws, acts
of the imperial parliament only taking effect when specifically applied
to it. All legislation must receive the assent of the Sovereign in
The Lieutenant-Governor, appointed by the
Crown, shares with the Tynwald Court legislative and administrative
functions. Among his powers and duties are the following -
(1) Acting as chancellor of the exchequer and
initiating all matters respecting public funds.
(2) Exercising a veto upon the disposal of surplus
revenue or proposals for harbour development.
(3) Assenting to all bills.
The Council is the upper branch of the legislature and consists of -
(1) The lieutenant-governor and two members
appointed by him.
(2) The Bishop of Sodor and Man, two deemsters and
(3) Four members elected by the House of Keys.
The House of Keys is the lower branch of the legislature
and consists of 24 elected members representing the sheadings and
The Tynwald Court consists of the Council
and the House of Keys sitting as separate bodies but exercising joint
powers in administration and legislation.
(1) It appoints boards to manage local government,
harbours, highways, education, lunatic and poor asylums.
(2) In conjunction with the lieutenant-governor it shares the
responsibility for the disposal of surplus revenue after meeting the
charges for government and the contribution towards the imperial
(3) It may "impose, abolish or vary" the
rates of customs duties which are fixed by the imperial parliament
provided that the latter subsequently accepts the
THE CHANNEL ISLANDS.
The Channel Islands are administered in accordance with their own laws,
acts of the imperial parliament only taking effect when specifically
applied to them. They are divided for purposes of government into -
(2) The bailiwick of Guernsey, including Alderney,
Sark, Herm and Jethou.
Alderney has a separate legal existence, but Sark is a dependency of
JERSEY. - The Lieutenant-Governor,
appointed by the Crown, is a member of the Deliberative States but
while lacking a vote may exercise a veto upon projected legislation.
The Deliberative States is a legislative
body consisting of 12 jurats, 12 parish rectors, 12 parish constables
(mayors'), 17 deputies, the vicomte (sheriff) and the judicial
officers. The bailiff may dissent from any measure in which case it is
referred to the Privy Council. The judicial officers may all speak but
The Royal Court administers justice and
consists of the bailiff, 12 jurats elected for life, the rectors of
parishes, the elected parish councils and certain other officials.
GUERNSEY. - The Lieutenant-Governor, appointed by the
Crown, is always invited to attend the Deliberative States and may
speak if he wishes.
The Deliberative States is a legislative
body consisting of 12 jurats, 8 parish rectors, the deputies, the
bailiff and the procureur (attorney-general).
The Royal Court administers justice and
may also legislate for temporary measures. It consists of the bailiff,
12 jurats elected for life, the prev6t (sheriff) popularly elected, the
rectors of parishes, the elected parish councils and certain other
In both governments the bailiff and other judicial officers are
appointed by the Crown. The former presides over the Royal Court which
possesses original and appellate jurisdiction, and may advance
legislative projects for the approval of the Deliberative States. These
bodies conduct their administrative business chiefly through
The Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, introduces a new system of rating
and valuation intended to remove the anomalies and complexities of the
present system (see pages 6-18).
It is applicable to the whole country except London.
RATING. - The parish as the rating unit disappears, being displaced by
urban (boroughs and urban districts) and rural (rural districts) rating
areas Within the county different kinds of authorities are grouped
together to form assessment areas. Local authorities will undertake the
making, levying and collecting of rates, and will be responsible for
meeting the demands of precept-making authorities (see pages 6-18).
The general district and poor rates will be consolidated into a general
rate. Special expenses incurred by the several rating authorities for
particular services will be additional, but applicable only to their
respective areas. Precept-making authorities are compelled to precept
at so much in the pound instead of asking for a lump sum.
VALUATION. - To secure uniformity of principle and practice in
valuation throughout the country is the main purpose of the newly
established system. The chief co-ordinating agency, also directly
advising the Ministry of Health, will be the central valuation
committee. It will be constituted from the members of county valuation
committees, assessment committees, rating authorities and some
independent persons. County valuation committees will consist of
members of assessment committees and nominated county councillors.
Assessment committees will comprise nominated members of the county
council, urban and rural rating authorities, and boards of guardians.
They are responsible for revising and approving the valuation lists
prepared by the various rating authorities.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT, 1929.
This supplement briefly describes the profound changes in the system of
local government following upon the passing of the Local Government
Act, 1929. The act is a constructive attempt to harmonize institutions,
originally established in the last century, with the conditions of
modern life. Their development has not fully kept pace with the changes
of modern requirements. To-day there is an increasing demand for a more
rapid expansion of the various social services, particularly those
relating to health and education, and also a greatly augmented mobility
in the population due to the revolution in modern transport.
The chief principles underlying the changes in the structure and
function of local government introduced by the act are the widening of
the area over which numerous services will be administered, and the
consequent spreading of the necessary charges over a wider population.
The end in view has been to secure a fuller provision of services for
each inhabitant of the larger area, a more rational organization of the
work entailed, and a more equitable distribution of the costs as
between the inhabitants of the various districts of each area.
The main changes introduced relate to
Poor Law, Registration, Highways, Town Planning, Rating, and Exchequer
Poor Law (see page 17).
- The boards of guardians are superseded, and their functions
transferred to the county and county borough councils, since the areas
served by these have now become the new unit for poor law
administration. The council is required to set up a public assistance
committee to exercise all the transferred functions, except the raising
of a rate or the borrowing of money. This committee consists of
nominated county councillors and a minority of appointed or co-opted
members including women. The council exercises entire control over the
provision of institutions.
In the various districts of the county, such as the municipal borough,
the urban and rural districts, a sub-committee of the public assistance
committee known as the guardians committee functions. It consists of 12
- 24 members, who may be -
(1) Councillors of county districts nominated by
the district council.
(2) Locally elected members of the county council.
(3) Members appointed by the county council,
exceeding one-third of the whole committee.
The duties of the guardians committee may be described as -
(1) The consideration of applications for relief.
(2) The determination of the nature and amount of
the relief granted.
(3) The determination of the proportion of such relief
recoverable from the recipient or those liable for his maintenance.
(4) The inspection and management of poor law institutions
desired to do so by the public assistance committee.
The county borough similarly exercises its new duties through the
establishment of a public assistance committee and sub-committees of
the same. Accounts for poor law expenditure are still to be submitted
to the district auditor for audit, as hitherto, by county councils and
county borough councils.
Special arrangements, subject to approval by the Ministry of Health,
are to be made by the London County Council for the administration of
poor law relief. It is also to absorb the Metropolitan Asylums Board,
while the city corporation and the metropolitan borough councils are to
be responsible for registration and vaccination.
Registration (see page 22).
- The functions previously exercised under the various Registration
Acts by the boards of guardians are to be transferred to the councils
of counties and county boroughs. They are required to prepare schemes
for the re-organization of registration districts and sub-districts for
the approval of the Minister of Health by the 1st April, 1932. To
preserve continuity and uniformity of practice throughout the country,
the performance of duties is to remain under the complete control of
the Registrar General.
Highways (see pages 7,
15 and 16). - To county councils are
(1) All the highway powers of rural district
(2) All classified roads in municipal boroughs and
At its discretion the county council may delegate the maintenance and
repair of classified roads known as county roads to local authorities,
who would act merely as agents, but must itself assume all financial
liability and approve works executed.
Authorities for urban districts and municipal boroughs with a
population greater than 20,000 may claim to maintain and repair any
county road within their areas, or to relinquish such duties with the
consent of the county council and with a right of appeal to the
Minister of Transport. A district council may also apply to the county
council to delegate to it the maintenance and repair of all
unclassified roads in its area, to which the latter must accede unless
no economy or increased efficiency would result thereby, when it may
refuse. In the case of refusal the district council may renew the
application at the end of a quinquennial period or at any other time
with the consent of the Minister of Transport.
Town Planning. - County councils are
empowered by agreement to act jointly with other local authorities in
preparing and adopting town planning schemes.
Revision of Areas. - County councils are
required to review the areas of all urban and rural districts within
the county, and where necessary to submit proposals for the
re-adjustment of the areas of these authorities and for the alteration
of their status by 1st April, 1932 and thereafter decennially.
Provision is also made for the agreed alteration of the boundaries of
counties and county boroughs.
Health. - Additional powers are also
given to the county councils for securing a wider distribution and a
co-ordination of the various health services, such as maternity and
child welfare, the provision of hospitals for infectious diseases, and
the appointment of whole-time medical officers of health to serve all
urban and rural districts.
Rating. - Agricultural land and buildings
are to be wholly exempt from rates. Industrial and freight-transport
properties are to be assessed on 25 per cent of what would otherwise
have been their rateable value. Provision for the proper classification
of these hereditaments entitled to this relief was made by the Rating
and Valuation (Apportionment) Act, 1928.
Exchequer Grants. - The act makes
provision for a new grant, called the "general exchequer contribution,"
to make good the losses entailed (1) by the remission of rates referred
to above, known popularly as "derating", and (2) by the discontinuance
of former payments covering -
(a) Various local taxation grants,
(b) Grants in aid of various health services, and
(c) Grants towards certain roads.
These losses have been calculated on a standard year (1928-29), and
have been determined at £24,000,000 for estimated losses of rates and
at £16,000,000 for estimated losses on account of discontinued grants.
These amounts are fixed for all time, but the general exchequer
contribution includes in addition to them a further amount which is to
be reviewed quinquennially.
The allocation of the general exchequer contribution between counties
and county boroughs will be determined solely by the needs of each area
and its ability to meet them. To satisfy this requirement a formula of
weighted population has been calculated which will result in affording
greater assistance to necessitous areas than to prosperous ones. The
factors upon which this formula for increasing population is based are
(1) The proportion of children under five years of
age to the population,
(2) The rateable value per head,
(3) The proportion of unemployed insured men to
the population (operating only where unemployment is abnormal), and
(4) The population per mile of public roads
(applying only to counties other than London).
So as not to disturb too severely the existing revenues of counties and
county boroughs the scheme for the allocation of the general exchequer
contribution will be gradually introduced, only coming finally into
full effect in 1947. Distribution in the intervening years is arranged
on a statutory basis. The allocation for each county and county borough
during the first two periods of three years and four years respectively
will be 75 per cent, during the third and fourth periods of five years
each 50 per cent and 25 per cent respectively of the estimated loss of
rates and grants for the standard year. The balance of the general
exchequer contribution still remaining for each period will then be
shared between them in accordance with the formula. Special provisions
are made for mitigating changes in rate poundage over a period of
REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE
(EQUAL FRANCHISE) ACT, 1928.
This is an act "to assimilate the franchise for men and women in
respect of parliamentary and local government elections" (see page 5).
To qualify for the franchise for counties and boroughs both men and
women require three months' residence in premises, and for business
three months' occupation of premises worth not less than £10 annual
value. A woman at the age of twenty-one years is qualified to be
registered by fulfilment of either or both of the above conditions. The
right in respect of the occupation of business premises is reciprocal
as regards both husband and wife where either one or the other occupies
such premises. A voter may only vote in one constituency at a general
election by virtue of a residence qualification, and for one other
constituency only by virtue of any other qualification.