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STANDING JOINT COMMITTEES. As is well known, the Local Government Act provided for the appointment of a Standing Joint Committee, a body that was to consist of equal numbers of justices and of County Councillors, and was to be wholly independent of the County Council, as its proceedings were not to be submitted to the approval of that body. To this body were transferred the control of the police and the management of various matters in which the Council and the justices were jointly inter- ested, including the control of shire halls, county halls, assize courts, police-stations, and lock-ups. As might be expected, questions as to the power and duties of the Standing Joint Committee were not long in arising; and as to some, the Queen's Bench Division has just settled the law. Among other provisions of the Local Government Act, there is one providing that questions may he submitted to the Court to be determined in a summary way, and a difference having arisen between the County Council and the Standing Joint Committee for Somersetshire, the questions were submitted to the High Court for its determination. These questions raise and, it is to be hoped, settle several important matters of principle as to the Standing Joint Committees. The Shire Hall at Taunton is a freehold formerly belonging to the county, but trans- fered to the County Council. It contains the assize courts, petty sessions court, and judges' lodgings, which are furnished out of the county rates; there are also a number cf pictures, busts, etc., that have been presented from time to time to the county. The first question asked was whether the power of managing and maintaining the buildings, subject to providing accomodation for the police, justices, and clerks iji and out of sessions, belonged to the County Council or the Joint Committee, and, if to the latter, subject to any, and if so, what control by the County Council! To which body is transferred the duty of deciding on the necessity for additional buildings1 Can the Standing Joint Committee spend what they think right on the buildings without applying to the County Council, or only if the County Council make default in providing proper acommo- dationl Is the County Council or the Standing Joint Committee entitled to make rules and regulations for the management and control of the buildings 1 It will be seen that the points raised are of very general importance, and go to this- is the Standing Joint Committee independent of the County Council or not ? It was urged that if the matters were decided in favour of the Committee, then the Council was to carry out the Committee's orders, and that the committee was really the more powerful body of the two. W A pointed out in these columns, in the notes we published when the Local Government Act was passed, that the Standing Joint Committee would be the most powerful body in the County, and that all that the County Council would have to do would be to pay for what the Committee ordered, and that without any contest over it. This view is now declared to be law, as the judges, in deciding the Somersetshire case, clearly laid it down that the Joint Committee are to determine what expenditure is required, and the County Council are to find the money for it. They accordingly an- swered all the questions in favour of the Committee but the last, as to which they held each body could make standing orders, so far as their powers went; any questions as to whether either body had exceeded their power will have to come before the Court of determination. Mr Justice Cave states the law emphatically to be, that matters as to the accommodation or expenditure required for it are solely for the Standing Joint Com- mittee. All the Council have to do is to provide the money; they have nothing to do with the accommodation required by the Justi- ces or the police but to pay for it. It follows that this decision very materially curtails the power of County Councils in all the matters that come under the Standing Joint Com- mittee. The only duty of the Council is to pro- vide the money to carry out the Committee's decision, and this they must do whether they like it or not. It is easy to see how, if there, is any friction between the two bodies, this may give rise to some soreness, and it may be asked, how, then, are the Council to have any control over the Committee ? The answer is, they have no control. The Act intended the Com- mittee to be independent, and it is declared by the Court to be so. It the Council do not like it they can change their members, but they can do nothing else but obey. The difficulty has arisen from the confusion of terms in the Act. The Local Government Act talks of Joint Committees, and persons who are not conversant with the Act think that the Standing Joint Committee is only one of the series of joint committees named in the Act, and that the rules in the Act as to joint com- mittees apply to it. This is clearly not the case. The Standing Joint Committee is a creature of statute, and all its powers, duties, and authorities are derived from statute. The Council can neither add to them nor take them away. It is very doubtful indeed if the Chair- man of the Standing Joint Committee has a casting vote. It has been urged that as the Local Government Act expressly gives the Chairman of Joint Committees a casting vote, this gives it to the Chairman of the Standing Joint Committee; but that is a mistaken view, based upon a confusion between the term "Joint Committee" and Standing Joint Committee." The matter is of more import- ance than may at first appear, as in the Welsh County Councils the justices vote one way, the County Councillors the other, and the numbers being equal, the case of the Chair- numbers being equal, the case of the Chair- man's casting vote may, and will, arise. So far, we believe, the Chairman has given such a vote, but we doubt if any order that depended on such a vote would be valid; and probably one of the next questions that will arise will be this one-whether the Chairman of the Standing Joint Committee has a casting vote in the case of equality, or does the House of Lords' rule that in the case of equality it is resolved in the negative prevail I We are great believers in the American saying, Never prophesy unless you know," but we venture to think that the House of Lords' rule will be the one that will be decided to be law. If it is, the law will have to be altered, as the affairs of the Welsh Standing Joint Committees will before long reach a dead- lock. We are glad that the High Court has laid down the rule defining the position of Standing Joint Committee and the County Council. We desire to point out that the Standing Joint Committee will do well to con- sider the responsibility this decision casts on them. The Local Government Act provides, if the police force of a county are not kept in a state of efficiency the Government monies will be withheld, and a heavier burden will have to be borne by the ratepapers. The accomodation of the force is one of the matters taken into consideration in certifying as to I the efficiency of the force, and the default of providing efficient accommodation by the p i-ovi ing Standing Joint Committee may leave the County Council in considerable pecuniary difficulty. It will be all very well for noisy spouters at the County Council to say they object to pay the monies the Standing Joint Committee may spend on the police in order to obtain popularity, but when the ratepayers realise that the result of these exhibitions really raises their rates 2d., 3d., or 4d. in the £ a year, it is doubtful if they will regard the speaker with favour, even in the most Radical county of Radical Wales.-Land and Water.





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