« ElőzőTovább »
for no statutory qualification has yet been made necessary.1 It is certainly desirable that this omission should be rectified. These important appointments have too often been given as a reward for party services or family connections without much regard to competence.
Finally, by the District Auditors Act of 1879, the conversion of the auditor into an officer of the Central Board was completed, and the whole country divided into auditors' districts. The salaries of auditors were now for the first time charged on the Treasury, but at the same time provision was made for contributions from the local authorities by means of Local Stamp Duties imposed in accordance with a proportionate scale, and levied by a stamp on the auditor's certificate of their
In this way a much improved and, on the whole, highly efficient service was established. Instead of 450 ill-paid and often inefficient and dependent auditors who combined this with other work, some 50 auditors at salaries ranging from £500 to £800 a year make this their exclusive business in life, and are perfectly independent of the local authorities whose accounts they examine. The Central Audit is now the strongest and most penetrating weapon in the armoury of the Local Government Board, for it searches every detail of local expenditure outside the sphere of Municipal Councils.
A local authority or local officer, whose expenses are disallowed or surcharged by the auditor, has two remedies open. One is by appeal by certiorari to the Court of King's Bench, the other by appeal "on the merits" to the Local Government Board itself. The second alternative, which involves no expense, is the one usually adopted, and out of 2033 disallowances and surcharges made by the district auditors in respect of local Poor Law expenditure in the year ending 31st March 1899, no less than 1106 were adjudicated on by the Board. Aggrieved ratepayers have also the valuable though rarely used right to appeal against an allowance as well as against a disallowance.
It is the practice, however, to appoint only barristers, chartered accountants, solicitors, and persons who have had training under district auditors, or have been in the office of the Local Government Board.
2 42 and 43 Vict. c. 6.
3 See Twenty-eighth Report of the Local Government Board, p. xcii.
We have now seen how, step by step, there has been established in England an empirical system of central control over Poor Law administration. Without losing sight of the theoretical element contributed by the Reformers to the original Act of 1834, we may yet assert that every stage in this development has been dictated by practical needs and temporary requirements. The same practical considerations, and not in the slightest degree any theoretical distinction (such as the German school of jurists loves to conjure up) between administrative and civil law, have carried the Quasi-judicial Local Government Board a little way over the powers of the line which separates administration from justice. Some of the quasi-judicial powers of the Board have already been mentioned, and they may now be resolved into three main departments.
1. Its general power of sub-legislation, taken in conjunction with its right to dismiss officials, gives the Local Government Board a certain disciplinary jurisdiction over the Poor Law service.
2. Secondly, as successor of the Poor Law Board, it is often called upon to decide questions arising out of the Law of Settlement.1
The guardians of any two unions or parishes, or the guardians of a union and the guardians of a parish, or the guardians of a union or parish and the overseers of any parish, or the overseers of any two parishes, between whom any question affecting the settlement, removal, or chargeability of any poor person shall arise, may, if they think fit so to do, by agreement in writing, executed in respect of any guardians by sealing with their common seal, and in respect of overseers by the signatures of a majority of them, submit such question to the Poor Law Board for their decision; and the said Board may, if they see fit, entertain such question, and by an order under their seal determine the same; and every such order shall be in all Courts and for all purposes final and conclusive, between the parties submitting such question, as to the question therein determined.2
Thus, by submission to the Local Government Board, the local authorities concerned may in these cases oust the jurisdiction of Quarter Sessions and of the High Court, and make
1 In spite of this great sums are spent by Guardians in litigation on settle
ment questions. See Parliamentary Returns, p. 354 (1897).
2 Poor Law Amendment Act 1851, 14 and 15 Vict. c. 105, sec. 12.
the Local Government Board into a judicial tribunal, from which there is no appeal.
3. Lastly, as has already appeared, the Local Government Board has concurrent powers with the King's Bench Division as a tribunal of appeal for parties aggrieved by the disallowances or surcharges by the district auditors. The appeal by certiorari to the High Court took the place of the appeal to Quarter Sessions when the auditing powers of Justices were abolished in 1844. But practically the Local Government Board receives all the appeals, and deals with them according to its discretion by orders under seal. The popularity of the Board as a Court of Appeal in these cases is caused not only by the absence of expense, but also by the equitable power given it of "deciding according to the merits of the
If they shall find that any disallowance or surcharge shall have been or shall be lawfully made, but that the subject-matter thereof was incurred under such circumstances as make it fair and equitable that the disallowance or surcharge should be remitted, they may. direct that the same should be remitted, upon payment of the costs, if any, which may have been incurred by the auditor or other competent authority in the enforcing of such disallowance or surcharge.1
The mode of appeal in these cases has been prescribed by the Local Government Board in some instructions issued to members of local authorities. The powers of the Board are increased by a provision in a later Act, which prohibits auditors from disallowing, or surcharging as illegal, expenses incurred by local authorities which have received the sanction of the Local Government Board.2
Such are the judicial, or quasi-judicial, powers of the Local Government Board as Poor Law authority. They are not in the least analogous to those exercised by a Court of Administrative Law on the Continent. The judicial functions
1 Poor Law Audit Act 1848, 11 and 12 Vict. c. 91, sec. 4.
2 Local Authorities Expenses Act 1887 (50 and 51 Vict. c. 72). In the year ending 31st March 1899 the Poor Law authorities made 1130 applications to the Board to sanction expenditure, and were successful in all but 29. See further upon this, Twenty-eighth Annual Report of the Local Government Board, pp. xxxvii, xlv, xcii, and cxxxi. This power of sanctioning expenditure otherwise illegal gives a certain amount of much needed elasticity to Poor Law administration.
which attach to the Board were conferred upon it to save time and money in the interests of the local authorities and the ratepayers. From the standpoint of a jurist these quasijudicial functions are merely a convenient extension of the principle of arbitration to disputes and differences between public corporations. There has been no theoretical limitation in the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts. Their competence
has suffered no shrinkage, and no attempt has been made or even contemplated to slip into the constitution a system of administrative law and administrative procedure. There is but one system of constitutional law in England, and in that system the central Poor Law authority is firmly imbedded. The Local Government Board has the same legal rights, and is subject to the same legal obligations, as the citizens or their local elective organs. It may be compelled by them just as they may be compelled by it to perform a ministerial duty by an action for mandamus in the ordinary Courts. Its administrative functions and its sub-legislative powers are in nowise excluded (until a stated period after the publication of an order has elapsed) from review by the Courts. In short, if the acts or orders of the Board are illegal, they can be quashed. An action will lie in the ordinary Courts against the Board for every wrong it may do to an individual or to a local authority, and the Courts will decide in accordance with the same principles upon which similar action against an individual or a local authority would be decided.
THE POWERS OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD AS THE CENTRAL AUTHORITY FOR PURPOSES OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT GENERALLY
WE have now to describe the present functions of the Local Government Board in the remaining provinces of its work, and principally as superintendent of public health and as general supervisor of all the local authorities. It has already been explained in the historical chapters of the first volume how the modern conception of public health branched out into a labyrinth of statutory provisions, and how along with these statutory provisions, and, as it were, out of them there grew up a local administrative machinery; while the local organisation itself, with all its diverse functions and distinct forms, has been explained in the second part. Accordingly, it only remains to depict the central superstructure from which, as from a watch-tower, the whole local organisation is surveyed and superintended. It will be well, however, first to remind ourselves that the whole of the new organisation as regards its local as well as its central formation was an extension of the principles of the new Poor Law to an evergrowing province of internal administration. The word "extension" is here used advisedly, because it would be scarcely true to speak of an inward development or evolution of the principles of Poor Law government. The process which has been going on for the last half-century may be summarised in a statement that the ideas carried out in Poor Law organisation have been criticised and tested by experience. Those which have been found of most practical value and most suitable for translation into the province of sanitary and