§ MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board if his attention has been called to a correspondence between five churchwardens and overseers of the parish of Gateshead and the Local Government Board as to certain acts, among others, of the minority of three— namely, altering the banking account of the churchwardens and overseers; removing rate books from the assistant overseer's office; also the refusal of the collectors to perform the duties laid 589 down in the Local Government Board orders; and, if so, what action, if any, he proposes to take in the matter, the parish business being now practically at a dead lock?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
I am aware of the correspondence to which the question refers. I regret the differences which have arisen between the persons holding office as churchwardens and overseers of the parish of Gates-head. An Inspector of the Local Government Board has had an interview with them with the view of assisting in bringing about harmonious working, but apparently the interview has had no satisfactory result. One question at issue is whether the churchwardens are legally entitled to act as overseers of the parish, and the Board have stated that this is a question which they have no jurisdiction to determine. They have at the same time impressed upon the parochial officers the personal responsibility which attaches to them with regard to the making and collection of the rates which are required for the purposes of the parish.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Has not the Department the power of suspending the Local Authority in a case of this kind?
§ MR. RITCHIE
The Government have power to dissolve the Local Authority if it does not perform its duty, but I imagine that in this case there is a question of law, and there would be some difficulty in taking that course.