§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork City)
I do not know whether the Government have considered the points I raised in moving my Amendment last night. The clause as it stands would interfere very much with the existing state of things. The Government have announced that they do not intend it to put an end to the existing state of things in the corporations and county boroughs. The clause as it stands reads thus: Clause 17, subsection 2—The mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of each county borough acting by the council shall, subject as in this Act mentioned, have the powers and duties of a county council under this Act in so far as they have not the same already, and the provisions of this Act with respect to administrative counties shall, so far as circumstances admit, apply in the case of every such borough.And so on. The previous clause excluded from the ordinary county council the power of appointing a visiting committee to a prison, and I only want to make it plain that, as the power already exists in a corporation, the Government has announced its intention of not wishing to disturb it.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
This Amendment is not necessary. It is quite clear that under this clause of the Act the power of appointing a visiting committee exists, because the words of clause 4 are: "Nothing in this Act shall transfer to a county council, or a member thereof," amongst other things, 964 "any power to appoint a visiting committee for a prison." The earlier portion of the clause refers to the powers which are transferred to a county council. It is quite obvious that if a council independent of this Bill has already these powers, this section does not take them away. They still remain, and, therefore, any county borough that has a power of appointing a committee will still have power.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I quite admit that you can make a subtle argument of that kind, that the powers are not taken away.The provisions of this Act with respect to administrative counties shall, so far as circumstances admit, apply in the case of every borough;and the provisions of the Act in respect to committees are that the county shall not have the power of appointing committees. I quite concede that it is put in the form that the right honourable Gentleman says—that the power is not transferred to the county council. I quite follow, too, the reasons why the Government framed the clause as they did. But there will be tribunals in Ireland which will not construe the words in the way the right honourable Gentleman says they should be construed. Some judges would construe those words as meaning that the county borough is a county council, and is on the same footing as a county council in all respects, and that it possesses no power which a county council has not got, and he would not listen to the interpretation of the clause such as the right honourable Gentleman has made.
§ MR. ATKINSON
I do not think there is any subtlety about it. The section says that the provisions of this Act shall not apply. Then honourable Members should look back to clause 4 and see what the provisions of the Act are. One of the provisions of the Act is that nothing in this Act contained shall transfer from the grand jury to the county council the power of appointing visiting committees. It is perfectly obvious that those words mean what they say. The power already exists in the boroughs, and 965 this Amendment would only throw doubt as to what the section means.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
This Amendment raises a very important point, and I hope that the Government will give it some consideration. I propose to omit the words "Borough Funds (Ireland) Act, 1888," and I do that for the purpose of moving afterwards—No approval of voters shall be necessary to enable the council of a county borough to promite or oppose a Bill in Parliament pursuant to the provisions of the Borough Funds (Ireland) Act, 1888.The Government places the boroughs on the same footing as the county council, or the county, and in doing that they say that certain rights of the county council which exist under the Borough Funds (Ireland) Act, 1888, shall not apply in the case of a county borough, and they do that with the object of leaving the law as it stands at present. But nothing more preposterous than the law as it stands in the Borough Funds (Ireland) Act, 1888, as applied to the boroughs, can be conceived. It was a law originally devised in the year 1858, before the Ballot Act was introduced, and before the franchise was extended. It is an anachronism of a most absurd kind, and leads to the greatest inconvenience. Let me take two cases. Take the case of a county borough wishing to oppose a Bill in Parliament. I do not at all object that before the county borough, or before any local authority, gets power to embark in such expensive litigation as promoting or opposing a Bill in Parliament necessarily involves, there should be some power outside the council itself which should exercise some authority over the local body, and to say whether its action 966 is right or wrong; but anything more absurd than the machinery for that purpose in the County Boroughs Act cannot be conceived. Take the case of cities like Dublin or Cork promoting a Bill seriously affecting the interests of the city. It may be a tramway Bill or a railway Bill, or anything of that kind, and the corporation considers that the interests of the community which they rule require that they shall be represented on the Bill when it comes before this House, either with the object of carrying it altogether or of getting clauses inserted in it. They have in the first place to pass a resolution by a certain majority of the council after elaborate notice, care being taken that no one can be taken by surprise. They have then to insert advertisements stating what they have done. Then they have to pass a second resolution. That is not all. When they have taken these two steps they have to go to the Local Government Board, and the Local Government Board has practically to give its sanction to this proposed action. The Local Government Board has power to hold a local inquiry before it gives its sanction, and on that inquiry all classes of citizens can be heard in support of the local body going to Parliament or against it, and there are further elaborate provisions as to the amount of costs incurred to prevent anything in the shape of excess in the way of payment of costs or expenses. Would not anyone say that those provisions involve sufficient protection for the council? But on the top of all that the council of the county borough is put in this position, that it must practically hold a sort of general election in the constituency, submitting to every voter a voting paper asking him if he is in favour of or against the support or opposition to the Bill. When that system was originally devised it did not involve great inconvenience, and the expenses incurred were necessarily somewhat samll. Take the condition of Dublin; there will be a constituency of 40,000 voters, rather more perhaps. Cork would have 10,000 voters. In matters of this kind the appeal to the voter is really an appeal from knowledge to ignorance. The council of the borough has the administration of the borough in its hands, and has a knowledge of the general public affairs 967 which the individual voter cannot possibly be acquainted with, so that there is this complicated process: First there is the meeting of the council, then from that you go to the whole constituency and issue a voting paper to every voter in the constituency, and that is not voting by ballot, but by open voting—a relic of 1858. I quite concede that the Government are treating Ireland and England on the same lines, but there is a universal outcry against this state of things. I have in my hands a very elaborate report, prepared by English town clerks of the Association of Municipal Corporations, and there is in that a very strong protest against this system as applied to England—a system, as I have stated, originally devised in the year 1858, when the conditions of municipal life were quite different from those which exist now. What I submit to the Government is this: let them be content with the power which the Local Government Board can exercise in these matters. Before a borough council can incur costs in the promotion or opposition of a Bill it has got to get the sanction of the Local Government Board. I think that is a satisfactory state of things, because there is no doubt a tendency on the part of these bodies to embark in expensive litigation of this kind, when perhaps it would be as well if they had not done so. Any tendency of that kind will be amply checked by the Local Government Board, and to compel a corporation, which, after all, whatever its character may be, must know more of municipal affairs and of the management of a borough than the individual voter, to have a sort of referendum is an absurdity. The Government have most properly, in the case of county councils, provided that there should be no referendum of this kind. The county council, under this Act, is to have a power of opposing a Bill in Parliament without going to the individual voter, and, of course, in counties that would be absolutely impossible, and what I want is that in the case of a county borough the game law should prevail, and that the check of the Local Government Board and the necessity for obtaining their consent should be considered sufficient.
§ MR. G. W. WOLFF (Belfast, E.)
I merely rise to say that until I saw the Amendment of the honourable Gentleman opposite I was not aware that it would be necessary for county boroughs, who wished to oppose a Bill, to obtain a vote from every one of their voters. It seems to me to be very absurd. Hitherto in large boroughs we have been able to bring forward a Bill or to oppose a Bill without that cumbersome procedure.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
We do not propose in this Bill to alter the existing law, but simply to leave it as it is. The Committee will remember that this question arose some time ago, and on that occasion we undertook to consult the authorities in England, and to ascertain whether they would be willing to see such changes as proposed by the honourable Member opposite in the English law. I took the precaution of doing the same thing beforehand with regard to this proposal. I must say that the answers I have received are not favourable to the Amendment. Such an Amendment could not, at all events as it stands, in the opinion of the Local Government Board, be applied in the case of England. Under these circumstances I think the Committee will see that it will be impossible for us to take the step of introducing it into this Bill, and I think the honourable Member himself will admit that if you were to do away with the Borough Funds Act, so far as regards the appeal to the ratepayers—the referendum—it will be necessary to substitute some other precaution in its place. I do not think that the mere inquiry of the Local Government Board will be sufficient. All that the Local Government Board has to do is to inquire into the merits of the scheme.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
But the expenditure of money which may be involved in the promotion of the scheme is not a matter in which the Local 969 Government Board can interfere. The provisions of the Borough Fund Act have been applied in Dublin on more than one occasion, and at least once the corporation has been prevented from promoting a Bill.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
It does not seem to me possible, under the circumstances, for the Government to accept the Amendment, and it does not seem to be desirable either.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
I shall be glad if the right honourable Gentleman will kindly explain the meaning of this sub-section (b). The words are—The provisions of this Act relating to main roads, coroners, by-laws, or the Borough Funds (Ireland) Act, 1888, shall not apply.What does "shall not apply" refer to as far as the Borough Funds Act is concerned? It does not seem to me to be quite clear, and I should be glad to have it explained.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I do not think that the question of the honourable Gentleman is at all necessary, because the provisions of this Act, with respect to the Borough Funds Act, are those which are contained in sub-section 15—The council of a county shall have the same powers of opposing Bills in Parliament, and of prosecuting and defending legal proceedings necessary for the promotion or protection of the interests of the inhabitants of the county as are conferred on the governing body in any district by the Borough Funds (Ireland) Act, 1888; and that Act shall extend to a county council as if they were a governing body and the county were their district council, provided that (a) no approval of voters shall be required for any proceedings under this section; and (b) this section shall not empower a county council to promote any Bill in Parliament or to incur or raise any expenses in relation thereto.
§ SIR JAMES T. WOODHOUSE (Huddersfield)
This Amendment is one which the right honourable Gentleman has felt to be of importance in Ireland, and it raises a question of importance also to the municipal corporations of England, with which body I have the honour to be connected. That body has repeatedly pressed upon the Government that some Amendment 970 should be made in the Borough Funds Act as applied to England. It is of equal importance that this opportunity ought not to be lost of making some Amendment in the law relating to Ireland as it affects Irish local government. I do not know whether the honourable and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland is aware that this law is extremely difficult to put effectively in operation. After the public meeting is held a plebiscite is taken of the voters, but a Bill that is promoted in Parliament refers very frequently to a large number of objects. Some of these objects the people approve of, and some they disapprove of, but they are compelled to vote on the whole Bill "Aye" or "No." They have no power of saying, "We approve of parts one to three, and we disapprove of parts four to six." Now, I do venture to suggest that the right honourable Gentleman should afford to the Irish people that opportunity which English corporations have over and over again desired to obtain for England, and have brought Bills into this House to amend the existing law. I think some facility ought to be afforded of enabling voters to express—which they cannot do now—what is their real opinion at the poll, so that if a Bill relating to a town or city in Ireland covers a large number of objects embodied in one Bill in order to save expense, and the ratepayers approve of some portions of it and disapprove of others, they may have an opportunity of expressing their real opinions. I think the right honourable Gentleman might very well consider this suggestion with a view to amending the law.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The speech of the honourable Member affords the very strongest possible argument against the Amendment. We do not profess that the Borough Funds Act is perfect, but the speech shows the difficulties which are necessarily involved when this question comes to be considered. It is quite clear, from what the honourable Member has said, that any alteration in the law must necessarily include some device for taking the opinion of the ratepayers as regards particular parts of a Bill; it is, therefore, evidently a matter that cannot be settled by an Amendment. It would require an elaborate clause to provide for 971 it. The Committee will observe that we are simply assimilating the law of Ireland to the law of England. If the subject is to be dealt with, let it be dealt with as a whole.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
The right honourable Gentleman has spoken as if this were solely the case of promoting Bills. Now, I will give him a reason from his own Bill why this Amendment should be accepted. By this Bill the corporations of Cork, Kilkenny, and Waterford are, for the first time, to come under audit. To-day the council of Cork can appear in this House and pass a Bill, and no auditor can check its action; ditto the Corporation of Waterford, and also the Corporation of Kilkenny. By this Bill, the right honourable Gentleman places these three ancient corporations under a totally different system. Why, Sir, to show you the freedom which hitherto existed in these boroughs, the Cork council sent its mayor over to Rome to congratulate his Holiness upon his jubilee! That was not in the least objected to by the local Protestant party, and maybe that was a very proper expenditure of funds, but, at all events, I would say that promoting a Bill in Parliament affecting the interests of a borough was rather a more relevant and proper expenditure of the ratepayers' money. What the right honourable Gentleman proposes to do is this: for the first time these three boroughs are to come under audit, they will no longer have the power of coming to this House and being represented by counsel. What is happening now upstairs? A most tremendous struggle is going on as to whether the Dublin Corporation shall have three members or seven, on the Port and Docks Board. The Corporation is there represented by counsel, and, according to the statement of the right honourable Gentleman, not having had a referendum, they are acting illegally. So that it comes to this: that the Corporation of Dublin, which is incurring great expense in feeing English counsel to look after its interests on the Port and Docks Board, which interests are being seriously threatened from her having failed to submit the question to a referen- 972 dum of the citizens, is acting illegally, and they ought not to be at all represented on this Committee, which is, at this very moment making vital changes with reference to the harbour authority of the port of Dublin. There may be something to be said from the point of view of not allowing the Corporation to promote a Bill without having previously got the direct assent of the ratepayers, but surely it is an entirely different question as to whether a corporation should not be able to oppose a Bill. Two years ago, without any referendum whatever to the taxpayers, the Corporation of Dublin secured the most valuable concession that has ever been made to them from a public company—namely, £10,000 a year for wayleaves paid by the Dublin Tramway Company. That concession was obtained by Dublin merely through opposing the Bill in Parliament. Yet that action of the Corporation was illegal, and every penny expended in this House in looking after the interests of the Dublin Corporation, and of the Dublin citizens, was illegal, because there was no referendum; and now the right honourable Gentleman says: You shan't come to this House. A Bill may be sprung upon you, clauses may be suddenly inserted—as we know franchise clauses have been frequently inserted—but you cannot fee counsel or solicitors to look after your interests, because in the month of November you did not take a referendum. I suggest to the right honourable Gentleman, that it is one thing to provide for the promotion of a Bill; it is a wholly different thing to provide for the opposition to a Bill. As I said, by its vigilance in opposing the Tramways Bill, the Dublin Corporation obtained £10,000 a year, but, according to the right honourable Gentleman, Westminster is not far enough off, and before the Dublin Corporation can come here they must go to the trouble of asking 40,000 taxpayers, at a cost of some hundreds of pounds, in order to get a right to appear before the Committee. I must say that I am rather surprised that this "assimilating the law of Ireland to the law of England" is raised every time any attempt is made to insert some useful Amendment. Either it is, "This is the law of 973 England, and you must have it," or "This is not the law of England, and you shall not have it." Nothing is said as to the merits of the proposal, but it is England, England, England, all over the shop. What do we care about England? The law in England is no more to me than the law of Canada, or Australia, or the Cape of Good Hope. We want the right to come over here to look after and protect our interests. The right honourable Gentleman's auditors are clever enough, in checking the action of the local bodies, which, after all, are a great deal less extravagant than Dublin Castle or the Local Government Board, and no doubt they will see the corporations are not unnecessarily extravagant in opposing Bills. I earnestly commend my proposal to the serious consideration of the right honourable Gentleman.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I admit that there is a difference between opposing a Bill and promoting one, so far as the referendum is concerned, and I am prepared, without pledging myself, to consider the matter, and, if necessary, to bring up an Amendment on the Report.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
The right honourable Gentleman will consider the desirability of amending the law with regard to the case of opposing Bills?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. P. A. M'HUGH (Leitrim, N.)
Do I understand, Mr. Lowther, that you rule my Amendment out of order?
Page 8, line 34, after 'apply,' insert, 'the quorum of a council of a county borough shall be one-sixth of the total number of such council.'"—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I think the Government will consent to this Amendment. It concerns a very apparent 974 grievance in connection with Irish, municipal boroughs. Let me mention a contrast which prevails in Cork City at present. There is a Board of Guardians consisting of over a hundred members, the quorum of which is three members. Three guardians can hold a legal meeting, and pass resolutions binding on the whole boards. In the Municipal Corporation of Cork, which has only 56 members, the quorum is a third of the members; that is to say, there must be at least 19 members of the Town Council to constitute a legal meeting. That is an absurd state of things. Three members can hold a legal meeting of a body consisting of over a hundred, while 19 members are necessary for a legal meeting of a body of 56 members. In this House our quorum is 40, which is, of course, nothing like a third, but if the quorum were to be the same as in the Cork Corporation it would require over 200 Members to make a House. In the Orders of Council issued under this Bill it is proposed to change the quorum in the case of urban sanitary authorities not being county boroughs, which the right honourable Gentleman proposes to make a fourth. Of course, a fourth is better than a third, but I think it is too high for the county councils, as the members may have to come from the ends of the county, and it may not be possible to collect so large a number. The larger you make the body the smaller you must make the quorum. If you have a small body of nine or ten, it is reasonable enough that you should make the quorum a third or a fourth, because it only involves the attendance of three or four members; but in a body of 40 or 50 members you would require a small quorum, because it would mean a comparatively large attendance. I understand that the Royal Commission which reported on local government in Ireland in 1878 recommended that the quorum should be fixed at one-sixth. I think that when three out of a hundred members of a board of guardians can hold a legal meeting a sixth of a town council should have the power also. Of course, every member will have an opportunity of attending. The law, curiously enough, about borough councils is more stringent than about boards of guardians. Every member of a corporation gets notice of a meeting; no member of a board of 975 guardians gets notice except for special business, and every guardian must remember for himself the hour and day of the meeting. And yet, with that state of things, three guardians out of a hundred can hold a legal meeting, whereas 19 out of 56 members of the corporation are required for that purpose. I do not know whether the Government would think it convenient to make this change within the Bill, but either in the Bill or by Order of Council it ought to be dealt with. My present opinion is that a sixth of the members would be a quorum large enough. I beg to move, Sir.
§ Question put.
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I beg to support the proposal of the honourable and learned Member, which is a very reasonable one, and which I hope the Government will accept. The only difference it will be necessary to make is that all members of the county councils shall have notice of the business to be brought forward, in order that if they do not attend the business need not stand still.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The honourable and learned Member for Cork has based his Amendment on the contrast between a legal quorum of three out of a hundred guardians and a legal quorum of 19 out of 56 members of a town council. I quite agree that there is a great contrast, and as to this particular proposal I do not feel very strongly in the matter. I would suggest, however, that as one-fourth is the legal quorum for urban districts it should also apply to county boroughs.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 8, line 34, after 'apply,' insert 'a quorum of a council of a county borough shall be one-fourth of the total number of such council.'
§ Agreed to.
Page 8, line 36, after 'shall,' insert 'not.'"—(Mr. Flynn.)
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
The subsection proposes that the provisions of the Act with regard to criminal injuries shall 976 apply—that is, that the power of dealing with malicious injuries is to be taken away from the corporations in Ireland. In a Bill dealing with local government, I think it is extremely inadvisable to restrict the local government powers already in existence, except in so far as may be necessary and useful. I think this would be a mischievous change. There has been no complaint as to the action taken by the corporations in this matter—certainly very few. The procedure at present in Dublin and Cork, and in the other boroughs, is as follows. The application, when made, comes before the corporation, and they decide it. They can decide as to the amount to be paid, and if they reject the application, the applicant has, I understand, the power of appealing to the Recorder of the borough. Surely that is protection enough, and why this power under a local government Bill should be taken from the boroughs I cannot understand. Unquestionably, the council of any borough is not only the proper but the very best tribunal to adjudicate on claims of this kind. They have local knowledge of the circumstances and the amount of the damage, and I think a restriction of this kind should not be included in the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Question put.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The reason why we propose this addition is that, having, as regards counties, entirely changed the system of procedure as regards malicious injuries, and substituted a judicial procedure for what I think is a judicial matter, it is only reasonable we should make the procedure uniform, and apply it to boroughs as well. I think myself that this change will be a good one. The question of malicious injuries is eminently one for judicial decision.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
If the question of malicious injuries is eminently one for judicial decision, why is it not made so in England? Why is it not sent to a court of law? When this question was raised on clause 5, the answer of the right honourable Gentleman was that in Ireland it is well known and 977 admitted that the outrages are mainly of an agrarian character. That was the only argument he used for altering the procedure in Ireland from that under the English Act. Does he maintain that the outrages in the boroughs are of an agrarian character, and, if not, on what ground does he propose to alter the procedure at present obtaining in the boroughs? Sir, the Amendment of the honourable Member for North Cork is a most reasonable one, and the right honourable Gentleman has not given a single reason why it should not be accepted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I would like to ask whether the law in Belfast remains as it was in 1886, or has it been altered? If it remains the same, this proposal is a trap. The House will recollect the shooting of Head Constable Gardner in Belfast in 1886. It formed the subject of a Royal Commission, and the Commission reported that, as there was no law in Belfast, as in every other corner of Ireland, giving the right of compensation to policemen and others for malicious injury, the law should be altered. It never has been altered. I really cannot understand the position of the Government, which is most indefensible. It may be that some clause did slip into a private Bill. The honourable and learned Member for Londonderry says "not," but if not, the Government must put the Orangemen of Belfast in the same position as the Nationalists throughout Ireland. If you kill a policeman in Belfast you kill him with impunity, but if a policeman in the south or west of Ireland, in stopping a public-house row, gets a black eye, he can get £50 or £60. Constable Leahy, in the county of Cork, for some injuries, from which I am glad to see he is now recovered, levied £1,000 off a single barony. Why should not the district of Sandy Row be subject to the law which prevails in every other part of the country? Belfast is to have none of this jurisdiction, and when you send into Sandy Row, in July, large drafts of police, you are exposing them to an undoubted risk, as they have not the same protection afforded them as in Kerry and Clare. I must ask the right honourable Gentleman to extend this law to Belfast.
§ MR. KNOX (Londonderry)
I may state that when the last Belfast Bill was before the House the police gave very strong evidence as to the desirability for including a provision such as that now proposed by the honourable and learned Member for the City of Cork. Mr. Cameron, a divisional commissioner, gave evidence, showing the necessity for such a provision. On the other hand, I am bound to say that the Town Clerk of Belfast took the general point—which I think to be a reasonable position—that a policeman can insure his life as well as any other man. I think if that be extended to the whole of Ireland it is reasonable enough, though the extra premiums on the policies of policemen in Belfast would be probably high. If you are going to keep this special provision for the security of policemen in other parts of Ireland, it certainly should be applied to Belfast. As a matter of fact, it was by the merest accident that such a clause was omitted from the Bill in 1896. The Committee were anxious to assimilate the law, but they were informed by the authorities of the House that it was beyond the scope of the Bill. It is therefore a matter which ought to be dealt with as soon as it possibly can. I confess, if the two courses were open to us, I would sooner see the law of the rest of Ireland assimilated to the law in Belfast, rather than the law in Belfast assimilated to the law in the rest of the country. It is absurd to give policemen these privileges. It is a case where there ought to be only one law. The present position is ludicrous. By the Bill passed two years ago the area of Belfast was trebled. Previous to that a policeman injured in one of the suburbs could have got full compensation from the county; now the suburbs are included in the city, and a policeman enters them at his own risk. Belfast is still increasing, and extending, and the more it extends the greater will be the risk to the police. I do think that such an existing anomaly as this should be removed.
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON
I have the honour of representing Sandy Row in the House of Commons, and I think the anxiety of honourable Members opposite to bring Belfast within the purview 979 of this Bill is due to the proposed celebrations of '98. I have no objection on the part of Belfast that a provision enabling her to give compensation for injuries should be passed. We only want to be assimilated with the law of the United Kingdom, of which we are proud to remain a part.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I must confess we were not aware that there was any difference between the law in Belfast and in other parts of Ireland. If there be a difference we shall be quite prepared to accept the Amendment which stands in the name of the honourable Member for Cork City, and to assimilate the law in Belfast with that elsewhere.
§ MR. FLYNN
I must urge on the right honourable Gentleman that that does not meet my point at all, which is that you propose to disturb the present procedure in the city of Cork for no reason that I can understand. The Chief Secretary says that the procedure is being changed in the counties, and that in future cases of malicious injuries must go before a judge. That is all very well for the county councils, but that is no argument why the procedure should be disturbed in the boroughs. Up to the present, in the counties malicious injuries come before the grand juries, but they are now to be abolished. The corporations always had the jurisdiction, and always exercised it fairly. Put aside the question of Sandy Row, and the killing of policemen in Belfast, and come to the ordinary cases of malicious injury. They are generally window-breaking in election riots and street disturbances. That is the ordinary class of malicious injury, and surely the corporations might still be empowered to deal with such injuries. The Amendment of my honourable Friend the Member for the City of Cork comes on at the end of the clause.
§ MR. CONDON (Tipperary, E.)
I should like to know from the right honourable Gentleman what has become of his promise that the rights now possessed by the corporations should not be taken from them by this Bill. If he persists in his present proposal he will take away 980 from them the right to adjudicate in cases of malicious injury. I think it is a most extraordinary change, which is proposed without rhyme or reason on the part of the Government. The right honourable Gentleman cannot produce any claim for malicious injury in which justice was not done. If that be so—and it is so—I do not see why a right which the corporations now possess should be taken from them. Are the corporations not competent to examine any claim brought before them, and will they not do justice in the future as they have done in the past? Why should the right be taken away from the elected representatives of the community who understand all the circumstances of the cases brought before them, and transferred to a court that may or may not be influenced, but which cannot be acquainted with the local circumstances. I think the Government ought at least to keep their word with the Irish corporations and not take away from them this right. If my honourable Friend presses his Amendment to a Division I shall certainly support him. I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that if windows were broken in an election riot in Clonmel to-morrow the corporation would be as fair a tribunal to assess the damage for any injury committed as a stranger who knew nothing about the people. It is an unfair and an unnecessary proposal, and I cannot see any reason whatever for it.
§ MR. CREAN (Queen's County, Ossory)
No reason has been assigned by the right honourable Gentleman for pressing this proposal on the corporations. Having acted for many years on one of the corporations in Ireland, where these cases came before us, I say that the change now suggested would not act favourably, either to the claimant who comes forward to get damages, or to the public. There is no single case in which applications for personal injury or injury to property have not been fairly dealt with, and even where appeals have been made to courts of law the awards made by the corporation have invariably been upheld. In fact, the corporation leaves it to the city engineer to assess the damage to the property. A judge sitting on a bench is not an expert in dealing 981 with articles broken or damaged, and the amount of compensation to be given; but we have an expert engineer to value the damage and assess the compensation. No reason has been given for the change, and I think the right honourable Gentleman might leave the law which is now working well in the cities as it is. The change, if carried out, would give great dissatisfaction.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
I hope the Government will adhere to the form of this clause. I should like to inform the Committee what the existing system is which it is sought to remove by this clause, and to try and reconcile the system with the municipalities and the procedure set up by this Bill. I should like to inform the Committee how the system at present in force in Dublin works. Last year, on the occasion of the Jubilee celebration in the city of Dublin, advantage was taken of the occasion by a disloyal and seditious section to raise riots of a very disgraceful character, and as the result of these riots the windows of the respectable and loyal traders and the respectable and loyal citizens in that city were demolished and smashed. Under the existing procedure—and I wish to point out how anomalous and absurd it is—claims for compensation come before a selected number of the corporation, who sit as a jury, for the purpose of deciding the validity of these claims for damage and the amount to be awarded. Now, what was the extraordinary course taken by the Corporation of the city of Dublin in reference to these claims in 1897? Why, actually a month before the time had arrived when it was their duty to sit as an impartial jury to investigate these claims they actually passed a resolution that counsel was to be engaged, and paid for out of the rates, to appear before them to resist these claims. Now, I happened to be professionally engaged in these cases when they came to be heard, and I say that had it not been that the judge who presided over that jury—consisting as it did of certain members of the Corporation—happened to be a man of strong opinions, and had considerable power and 982 influence, I venture to submit that the claimants, some of whom established an overwhelming case for redress, would, in a considerable number of cases, have been refused redress or relief. My reason for saying this is that the system that these gentlemen from the Corporation who are sitting there, supposed to be an impartial jury, adopted was that they had counsel paid for by themselves to urge them to reject these claims. And what were the grounds put forward? Why, that these riots were not caused by the disloyal and seditious element of the city of Dublin, but were actually due to the interference of the police, whose only interference was that they endeavoured to stop processions headed by black flags, and other disloyal and seditious emblems, from marching through the streets of the city of Dublin, demolishing the windows of the loyal and respectable citizens. Now, apart from this case of the city of Dublin, I suggest to honourable Members opposite whether in Belfast, Cork, or Dublin it is not an absurd anomaly, and one which is out of date, that the jury who are to sit and investigate into the truth of these claims and award the amount of damages should be in a position to prejudice the case beforehand by arranging that counsel shall appear before them who are briefed by information supplied by the very jury as to matters which they are called upon to adjudicate?
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
I suppose that what my honourable and learned Friend has indicated in the speech to which we have just listened is intended as compensation to the electors of the St. Stephen's Division for his professional services.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
I rise to order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the honourable Member for North Dublin is in order in making that insinuation as to my honourable and learned Friend?
§ [The CHAIRMAN ignored the interruption.]
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
I am afraid you did not hear the insinuation, Sir. The honourable Member implied that my 983 honourable and learned Friend was carrying out instructions here for payment he had received in Dublin.
§ MR. CLANCY
I never said anything disrespectful of my honourable and learned Friend, who has more common sense in his head than the honourable Member who has just interrupted me. If I had said anything disrespectful, I should willingly withdraw it. I think the speech of my honourable and learned Friend answers itself. I was curious to know what would be the conclusion which he would bring out as the consequences of all these proceedings to which he referred. I thought he would have been able to conclude, if I had not known the facts, with the statement that the Corporation of Dublin, after all, did not do justice in these cases. I intend now to refer to the language of the honourable and learned Gentleman in describing the two different sections of the people of Dublin. Now, what he calls the loyal and respectable people we call by another name, and what he calls the disloyal and seditious class I am sure are not of that character at all. I should be sorry to think that any considerable part of the population of Dublin could be so described, but if that is a correct description of those with whom I am acquainted, I hope they will always continue to be disloyal and seditious in that sense. The honourable and learned Gentleman, as I said before, has supplied the answer to his own speech. The practice, under the circumstances to which he referred, of the Corporation of Dublin employing counsel to defend these actions is not only a common practice in these cases to protect the inhabitants, who have to pay, but in this case it was absolutely justified by the conduct which provoked these riots. I need not enter now into the circumstances of these riots last July—I do not believe they were riots at all—but, as my right honourable Friend has made an assertion on one side, I may be permitted to make the counter assertion that the police in almost every case provoked whatever 984 disturbances occurred and caused whatever damage was perpetrated. I do not like to allude to any particular section of the inhabitants, but as a matter of fact the case on the side of the people was that the conduct of the police deliberately provoked what happened, and that for what ultimately occurred in the shape of damage the police were responsible. Very well, under these circumstances, the Corporation, acting not exceptionally at all, but acting in accordance with the practice on similar occasions, rightly employed counsel as the representative of the ratepayers to argue the case in court. No injustice could possibly be perpetrated under these circumstances, because the other side were represented by counsel. My honourable and learned Friend himself was employed on the other side, and he is one of the most competent members of his profession. Of course, technically, counsel appeared for the Corporation, but as a matter of fact they appeared for the great body of the ratepayers, and nothing could be more just and fair than that the whole question should be thrashed out by counsel on both sides.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL
Will the honourable Gentleman pardon me? I was not objecting to counsel appearing for the ratepayers. What I was objecting to was that counsel should appear and be paid and instructed by the jury which is to decide the matter.
§ MR. CLANCY
The honourable and learned Member has just repeated what he said before. I maintain that the counsel there representing the Corporation represented technically and really the body of the ratepayers, who could not employ counsel themselves; and, moreover, Mr. Lowther, remember this, that the question as to the right of these people to compensation was never questioned. The real question was, what was the amount of compensation to be given? That was the question, and anybody who has had any experience at all in these matters will know that what I say is absolutely true. Well, there was no claim made for compensation in any of these cases which was not extravagant, no matter from what side these claims 985 came. My honourable and learned Friend has appeared in many of these cases, and he has appeared for all parties and all persuasions, and he knows perfectly well that what I am saying is absolutely true, that there is no cause of a claim ever made by any person, no matter to what county he belongs, that is not extravagant, and that the man who makes it does not expect to have his claim cut down. If counsel is not to be employed, who is to make that argument for the ratepayers? What is their object in employing counsel but to see that the ratepayers are represented? And, finally, what happened? As I said before, my honourable and learned Friend would wind up by saying that compensation—that is, adequate compensation—was not given, but the Committee must have been strongly disappointed by him not referring in a single sentence to the result of all these operations. The result was that substantial compensation was given in almost every case, and this is the great case that my honourable and learned Friend brings out, if I may say so, without reference to the result.
§ MR. CLANCY
Well, the honourable Member is more competent to do it than any Member on that side, and I hope he will often take part in these Debates. There is no question about this Amendment. Where is the need for these changes? And then we must remember this is a reform Bill for extending the liberties of the people, and at the very time that you extend those liberties to the greater part of the country you cut down the Members in the country where they have exercised these liberties without injustice to anyone for the last 40 or 50 years. I shall, therefore, vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I must say that I hope the Debate will not be continued on the lines on which it has proceeded, which were calculated to engender heat and friction. The issue is really quite simple. We believe that this procedure which we have substituted will be a great improvement on the old 986 procedure. These are really matters which are already provided for by the procedure as regards counties, which are not county boroughs, and in this clause we merely propose that the same procedure shall stand for boroughs as well. I quite admit that the case in favour of extending it to boroughs is not so strong as originally applied to counties on the grounds stated by the honourable Member for East Mayo that malicious injuries in the counties are for the most part of the character of agrarian outrages, and we all know what peculiarities there are in Ireland with regard to these outrages. At the same time, I think that even in the boroughs the present procedure is antiquated, and undoubtedly it does often result in this, that we have persons as judges who are also to some extent interested parties. I cannot myself believe for a moment that the procedure we are proposing in this Bill creates any injustice, and I should not be at all surprised if the effect were the other way. I think it is quite possible that the corporation may prefer to give compensation for injuries after the judge refuses. I believe our own procedure is in the interests of justice, and very likely in the interests of the ratepayer.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
I had not intended to take part in the discussion on this particular Amendment, but as a citizen of Dublin and an inhabitant of the St. Stephen's Green Division I heard with very great regret the observations of my honourable and learned Friend the new Member for that division. I confess I think that he imputed to the Corporation of Dublin—a most responsible body, and a most representative one of the feelings of the citizens of Dublin—something in the nature of corruption. But what they did was perfectly legitimate, and had they not done so they would have been wanting in their duty. Claims were put forward arising out of those riots—and I am not going into the merits of those riots. The town council, or rather the Corporation, were trustees of the ratepayers of the city of Dublin. Their duty was to see that exaggerated claims were not allowed to pass without question, and it was their province and their right to have those claims fully 987 investigated, and for that purpose they employed counsel to go before the judge of the High Court—who was one of the judges of Her Majesty's Court of Queen's Bench—finally to determine what the damage was. Then why should it be imputed to this body, which is one of the most responsible bodies in the whole Empire—I say that without fear of contradiction—why should it be imputed to them that they were guilty of something like malversation and corruption? Why should this opportunity upon a technical clause be made the ground for imputing to the general body of the inhabitants of Dublin that they were seditious? Such language as that coming from such a weighty authority-as I admit, from his talent and his position, my honourable and learned Friend undoubtedly is—gives the Members of this House who do not know Ireland—that is the English and Scotch Members—the impression that Ireland is something beyond the pale of reason, and almost of civilisation. I do trust, with regard to this section, that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland—whose lecture I do not altogether regret, because I think it my business to say something on behalf of this Corporation, which I hope will have a good deal of force and effect—with regard to this clause will explain why it applies to every municipal borough in Ireland, because the definition of borough is not confined merely to seven or eight cities, or whatever they are, but it applies to every municipal borough, and those boroughs are getting no benefit from this Act. They are not getting any relief from what has been called the bribe or the dole. They are not relieved from any portion of their share of burdens, and they do not participate in this £780,000 a year. Why, then, should you disturb their ancient constitution in this respect? Has any reason been given, and has any advantage been claimed for it? Honourable Members from below the Gangway have remonstrated against this clause, and I do respectfully submit that it will not in any way impair the symmetry of the Bill, or its general object, if the Amendment is accepted, and I do ask the Government to yield to the Amendment of the honourable Member for Cork, and leave out this clause.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The opinion of the Government seems to be this, that nobody can be just or honest in Ireland unless he is in receipt of £3,500 a year. You may be a hanger-on of the Government, or a person using backstairs influence; you may be a person of the most cringing and snivelling description in order to secure office; but the moment you get it the arm of judicial authority is placed upon you, and you become endowed with all the virtues, and we must prostrate ourselves in admiration before you. But the ordinary human man, who does his work for nothing—the citizen of Dublin who goes to trouble and expense in the discharge of civic duties, who looks after the rates, and streets, and lighting, and who does the work at great expense, trouble, and inconvenience to himself—for the first time a brand of contempt and of dishonour, so to speak, and of want of confidence is placed upon him; and his functions, without any necessity whatever, are to be handed over to the officials of Dublin Castle. And this is all to be done in a Local Government Bill. The Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division has told us of the corruption of the jury of the Dublin Corporation, and of the fact that the Dublin Corporation found it necessary to employ counsel to reduce extravagant claims. I remember the notorious case of Sibthorpe's compensation. He was a leading freemason of the city of Dublin, and his claim was resisted by the City Corporation, and the arbitrator gave a few hundred pounds. But he was able, however, backed up by a freemason jury, to get a sum equivalent to three times the value of his property. This was done by the partisans of law, order, and virtue, to show that all the corruption was on one side, and all the decency on the other. And yet an occasion like this, when the Committee was getting on quietly, is used to stir up indignation of this kind when we are debating without any heat or needless partisanship. But when the gardener's widow was shot, she was not able to get a shilling, although Sibthorpe was able to empannel a freemason jury to give him three times the value of his premises. I noticed the words of the Chief Secretary—the very careful words he chose in his speech— 989 pointing to a further enlargement of this section, and a further enlargement of this jurisdiction. I venture to say that anything of the kind will be stoutly resisted by us. The clause as it is is bad enough, but any proposal to widen it in any sense will certainly lead to a great deal of complication. I wish to point out to the Committee that the position of your boroughs is this: you gain nothing whatever from it; you get no agricultural grant, and all their ancient franchise and jurisdictions are taken away. And this extraordinary result will follow by way of illustration, that a man in the St. Stephen's Green Division, when he takes a lease of his house from the landlord, has to pay all the rates. Throughout the boroughs the privileges of the citizens all through this Bill are being violently and openly interfered with, without any cause whatever. The rights of the coroners are given over to the Lord Chancellor, the rights of the subject are given over to the judges, and the whole theory of compensation from our peers for malicious injuries is to be finally taken away. And this is being
§ done in a Local Government Bill. I assert this—and I have had a great deal of experience in these matters—that, in any case of dispute between Protestant and Catholic, there is no justice for the Irish Catholic. After 14 years' experience of cases where Catholics and Protestants have come into collision, or in competition, I say there is no justice for the Catholic. I assert also that it is notorious that the whole manipulation of the judge and jury system in Ireland is under Protestant influence. And now under the pretence of conferring additional local liberty, the people are to be deprived of this last relic of ancient freedom we enjoy. At all events, if we have to give compensation in these cases, then the citizens, who have to pay, should have some voice in the amount which is to be paid. And this is done under the guise of conferring upon the people local government.
§ Amendment put.
§ The Committee divided.—Ayes 89; Noes 126.—(Division List, No. 94.)991
|Allan, Wm. (Gateshead)||Gibney, James||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Gold, Charles||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Gourley, Sir E. Temperley||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. J. B. (Clackm.)||Harwood, George||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbysh.)||Hayden, John Patrick||Perks, Robert William|
|Billson, Alfred||Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Blake, Edward||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Brigg, John||Healy, T. M. (N. Louth)||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Burt, Thomas||Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Caldwell, James||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. C. H.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Cameron, Sir C. Glasgow)||Holburn, J. G.||Richardson, J. (Durham)|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Hutton, A. E. (Morley)||Roche, Hon. Jas. (E. Kerry)|
|Carew, James Laurence||Jordan, Jeremiah||Roche, John (East Galway)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Kilbride, Denis||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Kitson, Sir James||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Knox, Edmund F. Vesey||Sheehy, David|
|Crombie, John William||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Souttar, Robinson|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Lewis, John Herbert||Steadman, William Charles|
|Curran, Thos. (Sligo, S.)||Macaleese, Daniel||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Daly, James||MacNeill, John G. Swift||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Davitt, Michael||M'Ghee, Richard||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Dillon, John||M'Hugh, E. (Armagh, S.)||Tully, Jasper|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Doogan, P. C.||McKenna, Reginald||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts)|
|Doughty, George||McLaren, Charles B.||Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)|
|Duckworth, James||Maden, John Henry||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Woodall, William|
|Ffrench, Peter||Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Murnaghan, George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Mr. Flynn and Mr. Crean.|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Fitz Wygram, Gen. Sir F.||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Flower, Ernest||Myers, William Henry|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Folkestone, Viscount||Newdigate, Francis Alex.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Godson, Augustus Frederick||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo's)||O'Neill, Hon. Robert T.|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. Smith-(Hunts)||Graham, Henry Robert||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C.|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Gretton, John||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Purvis, Robert|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Rankin, James|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Bethell, Commander||Hill, Sir E. S. (Bristol)||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Bigwood, James||Holland, Hon. Lionel R.||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hornby, William Henry||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle||Rutherford, John|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Saunderson, Col. Edw. Jas.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Kenyon, James||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Knowles, Lees||Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Lafone, Alfred||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Smith, A. H. (Christchurch)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Lawson, J. Grant (Yorks.)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Colomb, Sir John Chas. R.||Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Colston, Chas. E. H. Athole||Leigh-Bennett, Hy. Currie||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes S. W.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Tomlinson, Wm. E. Murray|
|Cotton-Jodrell, Col. E. T. D.||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool)||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Cox, Robert||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Waring, Col. Thomas|
|Cross, Herbert S. (Bolton)||Lowe, Francis William||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. L.|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Denny, Colonel||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-und.-L.)|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||McCalmont, Mj Gn. (Ant'm, N.)||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||McCalmont, Col. J. (Ant'm, E.)||Wilson, J. W. (Worc., N.)|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Malcolm, Ian||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Wyndham-Quin, Maj. W. H.|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Milward, Colonel Victor||Younger, William|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Morgan, H. F. (Monm'thsh.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Fisher, W. Hayes||Mount, William George||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Fitzgerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Muntz, Philip A.|
The Resolution was agreed to.
§ Amendment negatived.
Page 8, line 43, at end, add—
And as respects Belfast, the enactments mentioned in Part I. of the First Schedule shall, notwithstanding any Act of Parliament, apply within the county borough in the same manner as in any other part of Ireland.
§ MR. M. HEALY
Now, Mr. Lowther, I understand that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary accepts this Amendment.
§ Agreed to.992
Page 8, line 43, at end, add—
(d) The council of each county borough shall elect the harbour board or port authority now exercising jurisdiction within any portion of such borough; (e) the council of each county borough shall be entitled to elect the same number of Commissioners to the Irish Lights Board as the Corporation of Dublin."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. The Government have all along been engaged in restricting the powers of the Irish corporations. Let us see now whether, in the Local Government Bill, they will do anything to extend it. My proposal is that the port authority shall be elected by the corporation much in the same way as was the case at Cork 993 If that is too strong, I am willing to accept the proposal that half the port authority should be elected by the corporation, if the Government cannot see their way to widen the scope of the Bill to the extent I desire. My Amendment has one great advantage, and that is that every existing local authority is opposed to it. That is the greatest compliment that could be paid to my Amendment. The ridiculous franchise which exists all over the country is left, and not one of these boards wants to be responsible to public opinion. They are engaged upstairs in a long argument over a Bill not promoted by the Nationalists, because we have several times endeavoured to bring about some reform of the port authority of the Port of Dublin. But this Bill is promoted by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, which is a reading-room in the city of Dublin and nothing more, and it is felt to be a great scandal that this readings room, on its own motion, has brought in a Bill to reform the port authority. I understand that the course taken by the Port and Docks Board is this—and it is rather comical: first of all, they give the Dublin Corporation seven members, then they give them three—whereas they have already five—and now, in fear of their opposition, they are going to give them more. They are going to play this trick upon this House, as to which I now warn the Government, that we will give them days over this Port and Docks Bill, because the position they are adopting is that they will accept the Amendments moved in this House, but when the Bill gets into the House of Lords, they are going to strike out the Amendments, so that this House will only afterwards have the question before it of agreeing with the Lords' Amendments. I have the strongest distrust of the Port and Docks Board. Originally, under the hand and seal of the Irish Parliament—the authority to which we owe anything that is good and democratic in Ireland—the control of the port authority was vested in the Dublin Corporation, but in the bad days, by a private Act, this board was filched from the corporation, stolen 994 away, and the corporation lost its ancient jurisdiction and influence, and it was given to the port and docks authority, and a nice muddle they made of it. At this moment the port authority is practically bankrupt, and has no real means of carrying on the business of the port, and in the face of that they claimed last year power to put an additional tax upon commodities, and an additional tax upon vessels. They seem to have an idea that the taxes upon commerce are paid by the shippers, but I say that the taxes upon commerce are not paid by the shippers, but by the general body of the community. And so absurd are the port dues of Dublin that you can bring in ready-made window frames without a tax, but if you bring in the materials for making them there is a tax upon those materials. So that actually there is a premium offered to these foreign window frame makers, whereby the native manufacturers, who are working up the raw material for the window frames, are put to a great disadvantage. So much for the port authority of Dublin. What is the state of things in Belfast? The Corporation of Belfast have twice appeared at the Bar of the House of Lords, in order to oppose the Belfast Harbour Bill, and the House of Lords said that the Corporation of Belfast had no locus standi. That is to say, that the great Corporation of Belfast, the mayor of which was made Lord Mayor not long ago by Her Majesty, has no locus standi in connection with its harbour, according to the decision of the House of Lords, and by the high franchise, which excludes the general body of the people from any control over it, they keep up this miserable clique. The case of Cork is a reasonable one, and it is in order to approximate the case of Cork to that of the other ports of Ireland that I bring forward this Amendment. If you go to Limerick or Waterford you have the most unreasonable state of things. You have a franchise which admits nobody except a very select few, with the result that there have been injunctions granted by various Masters of the Rolls in regard to the port authority. 995 The latest Act on this question is a private Act of 1863, relating to Dungarvan. By that Act the Dungarvan Corporation have been given the sole control of the port and are the port authority, but if you go to the older Act you will find a franchise of the most extraordinary description. Now, I certainly say that the time has come, if you will steal from us our ancient rights and franchises, to give us some enjoyment of our privileges. If you take away our ancient rights, our compensation for malicious injuries, our right to the removal of coroners, what substitute do you give us? Why is my lease to be broken in regard to the payment of rates? By this Bill, in respect of a lease, under which the landlord should pay all my rates, he can say, "No, I shall not," although I made my contract in the open market, with that provision. You are taking away from us rights which we have had, rights as to which there was no complaint, and under these circumstances it is only fair that these absurd anachronisms should be reconstituted, and that some popularly-elected authority should be appointed. If the Government will give me some assurance that they will consider the matter, I shall not press my Amendment.
§ MR. WOLFF
This is one of the most extraordinary proposals I ever heard made before the House. This is a proposal to alter the franchise of the Harbour Board, and a proposal to set up the corporation or the town council as the harbour authority, or, I should say, to enable the corporation or the town council to elect the harbour authority. I can quite understand that the honourable Gentleman opposite is not satisfied with the franchise which elects the Harbour Board, and that he should, like my honourable Friend the Member for Londonderry, bring in a proposal that the franchise should be altered altogether. But to throw the whole election, or half of the election, into the hands of the borough council or the corporation, seems to me to be a most extraordinary proceeding, and one which, I trust, will not commend itself to the Government. The honourable Member has made some strong 996 observations about the Harbour Board of Dublin. There is no doubt that the board was in a very bad condition, but from the fact that there is a Bill before the House of Commons it is evident that the condition of things may be altered with the consent of this House. In the course of the Debate the honourable Member said that the Bill to which I have alluded had been promoted by the Chamber of Commerce of Dublin, which he calls a reading-room. As a matter of fact it is representative of all the largest traders and merchants and shippers in Dublin, who know far more about the working of a harbour than a county council or town council is likely to do; and I may add that this Bill is not only being promoted by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, but it is being promoted with the consent of the Corporation of Dublin, which corporation, I fancy, has many gentlemen on it whose political opinions are the same as those of the honourable Member. In regard to Belfast, I can only say that they certainly have done the very best work that I know of being done by any harbour board. I do not know of one which would have done better. But if again that is wrong, if again the constitution of the board or the constitution of the electorate does not please my honourable Friend, there is a remedy before the House; and it seems to me that the thing to do would be to alter the method of election, but not to make a sweeping alteration like this, giving the election of the Harbour Board to the town council altogether. All through Ireland there is no uniform system as regards harbour boards at all. Every harbour board has its own law, and every one of them works in a different way, and such a proposal as the honourable Member now makes is entirely different to anything that was proposed in the English Local Government Bill. It is an entirely new departure, and one which, if adopted, would be likely to give very much worse boards than we have at present. I feel that if the election of the Harbour Commissioners were to rest in the hands of any body like the town council or the borough council, it would be a serious incentive to jobbery. I doubt very much whether a town council would elect members of the harbour boards themselves, who would form a body capable of doing the work as well as 997 it is done now. I am most strongly opposed to this Amendment.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
I have listened with some amusement to the speech of the honourable Member for Belfast. I should like to know whether he is pleading for the city of Belfast or on behalf of the Harbour Board, because the opinion of the city of Belfast is, on this question, I venture to think, beyond doubt; and I agree that on an occasion so important as this to the chief commercial city of Ireland the other Members of the city of Belfast should be here to give some information as to the feelings of their constituents. But, at any rate, one of these gentlemen is a regular attendant, and we shall hear from him probably before the Debate is concluded. The people of Belfast do desire that the Harbour Board shall be in some way made responsible directly to the electors. I believe that it is true that they would prefer that the Harbour Board should be directly elected by the local government electors rather than that they should be indirectly elected, as proposed by my honourable and learned Friend. But that is a question of very small importance, whether the system of the community electing the board is adopted or not, or whether the board is indirectly elected by the council which the community elects. There is no doubt that, though my honourable and learned Friend prefers not to have a separate election on this occasion by the popular electors, still the members of the corporation who are elected by the local government electors would doubtless choose very much the same people as the electors themselves would choose if they had an opportunity of doing so. I am sure my honourable and learned Friend would give the honourable Member for Belfast his support for the direct election of the Harbour Board, and if the Government is ready to accept an Amendment for a direct election of the board by the local government electors, I feel sure that my honourable and learned Friend would be just as willing to accept that as the proposal which he now advocates. The main object is to get the Harbour Board responsible to the people and the machinery for carrying out that object is a matter of 998 comparatively small importance. I think the question raised by this Amendment is a matter of the very greatest importance. The constitution of the Harbour Board is a matter not only for the shippers and the large traders, because we have the theory advanced that it is a matter for the people of the town. That is a question of principle. Now the Belfast Corporation has taken that side of the question, and has declared that the constitution of the Harbour Board is a matter for the consideration of the whole town. The Member for East Belfast says it is a question for the big shippers, and he went so far as to suggest that men elected by the people would be guilty of jobbery. Of course, it would be treason to suggest that there would be jobbery amongst big shippers, or that they would or could, for instance, build a graving dock in a position where it would be an enormous advantage to a particular firm.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
Oh, yes; we know all about it. There is a Bill being fought upstairs this year, and we have seen the clauses of the Bill. I will not go so far as to say that there would be corruption among the big shippers for this purpose. On the contrary, the building of this graving dock may be a defensible proposition, but it is absurd to say that the Corporation of Belfast, because it is popularly elected, is likely to be corrupt, and that the Harbour Board, because it is not popularly elected, is a body not liable to corruption, I do not think we need have this argument of corruption used in this Debate at all, because every public body may become corrupt, but I do not think there is any more probability of a popularly-elected body becoming corrupt than there is of a body elected on a limited franchise becoming corrupt. Let us look at it in the broader light as to what these bodies are supposed to do, and then you will find that there is a strong case for allowing the people themselves to have a voice in the election of these boards. There is hardly a port in Ireland in 999 which one of the obstacles to progress has not been that there are a few shippers in the town who have had some peculiar advantages, and have done their best to prevent England or Scotland coming into that port and competing. There is hardly a port in Ireland of which this remark is not true. Now, the interests of the whole people of the whole town are to bring to the port every shipper that they possibly can from all parts of the world, whilst the interests of the shippers of the port are to keep things in a narrow ring for themselves. I am bound to say that the Harbour Board of Belfast have been better than most others in this respect—I certainly think it is, even with the £20 franchise. The Harbour Board there has been much more nearly popularly elected than the Harbour Boards of some other towns. I will say that with the £20 franchise they have a much nearer approach to popular representation than Dublin has. Dublin has been stagnant for years, and that is due mainly to the policy that the Harbour Board has pursued, and the present condition of the port of Derry is due to the same cause. But a committee of that board has passed a resolution in favour of the popularisation of the board. There is a difference between a popularly-elected body and a body representing only the shippers. A proposal was made that there should be certain sheds erected for the convenience of Atlantic steamers—especially the tramp steamers, which come from time to time from America, and which could not, of course, have any opportunity of putting up sheds of their own; and the idea was that harbour sheds should be put up which would attract this class of steamers. But, because there was a majority of men who had their own sheds, and who would not allow any shed to be put up by the Harbour Board, because it might give an advantage to competitors in the trade, that idea was not carried out. It is an example of the sort of thing that is happening at most of the ports of Ireland. Belfast is, in this respect, an exception. The Harbour Board there have gone in for an enlightened policy, and have erected a large number of sheds, which are to be open to all these 1000 steamers, and it is because of their enlightened policy that they have attracted all classes of traders to Belfast. This is the question which is essential to the progress of the Irish ports. The question is whether the Harbour Boards are to be left in the hands of small, local shippers, who destroy competition by refusing to allow the outside shipper to come in and compete, or whether they shall be in the hands of the people of the towns who are interested in attracting shippers from all parts. That is a very important and very essential question, and I do not consider that anything more important can possibly be raised during our discussions on this Bill. Then there are other questions. The Harbour Boards are large employers of labour. The House has adopted the principle of the fair wages Resolution. In regard to the Harbour Board of Belfast I do not make this proposal in any way as a reflection on the way it has performed its duties, but on general grounds.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
could not go into the merits of the existing Harbour Boards in the west of Ireland, but the Government could not accept the Amendment on broad, general grounds. It must be obvious to the Committee that in the case of other harbour boards there were a number of conflicting interests involved, and the results had been seen not only in Ireland but in England, where boards had been made up of members representing different interests. To decide the exact constitution of a harbour board was a difficult, complicated, and debatable matter. Each case required separate consideration, and it seemed to him it was not fair to impose the same constitution on all the boards. The question was too difficult and thorny to be dealt with in the present Bill.
§ MR. M. HEALY
asked the President of the Board of Trade, whom he saw in his place, why the Department over which he presided had done nothing to introduce order and method into the numerous Port and Harbour Acts. They had been passed for many years, and amended again and again, but there was 1001 no law laying down the lines on which those harbour authorities should be constituted, and the effect of that was that it was practically left for private initiative, in the case of every harbour, to formulate schemes and put them before the Board of Trade. The English Harbour Board, which looked after the commercial interests of England, had left an important question of this kind in the discreditable state in which it now remained. On every occasion it was Ireland that chiefly suffered. In England they were dealing with rich and valuable interests in localities that could spend large sums of money, but in the case of Irish local authorities they were dealing with places where £50 a year was the revenue. The result, in the case of Irish ports, was that nothing was done from one year's end to another to have some form of government which could look after the port and serve its interests. He agreed with what the Chief Secretary had said, that in this matter of port legislation there were many interests to consider. There were large towns situated 20 miles up a navigable river, and others situated on the sea, and there were two instances in which the local circumstances made it desirable that in any legislation there should be a good deal of elasticity in establishing port authorities. He thought the system in some cases should be improved, and the harbour authorities should be directly elected by the ratepayers. The ratepayers might well be represented in this question of Harbour Board by the local authority. It might be left to the local authority, general instructions being given to make selections from shippers and merchants. He quite recognised that the interests of the shippers should be represented; he would give them a large and substantial, though not a preponderating, representation. He believed that the traders ought to be specially represented. A proposal might very well be devised by virtue of which a corporation might be committed to elect the harbour authorities, making a special direction in each case that each separate interest concerned should get separate representations of the board when the corporation proceeded to elect its body. The local body might well be trusted to elect the shipowners and mer- 1002 chants, such as would fairly represent the shipping interests of the port and the trading interests of the Harbour Board. If the Government saw their way to yield to representations on that point, the Bill would be much more satisfactory. They certainly ought to have some satisfaction from the Government. The Board of Trade ought to take the matter into their consideration, the desirability of looking into these Harbour Acts, and by consolidating them introduce some sort of harmony with the requirements of the Board of Trade.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE,) Croydon
said that, as the honourable Gentleman had made an appeal to him, he felt bound to reply. The Board of Trade had not taken a general survey under the Acts affecting harbour trustees with a view of having them consolidated. There were dissimilarities that required special arrangements, and they must have proportionately a considerable number bearing on the circumstances of the harbour authorities. He did not see how the honourable Gentleman could get over the difficulties he himself acknowledged did exist in regard to each separate case.
§ MR. M. HEALY
said his observations in connection with the Board of Trade related to their failure to consolidate all the public Acts affecting Harbour Boards.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
replied that, if they attempted to consolidate these Acts, there would require to be somewhat similar treatment of all the various boards.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
What the honourable Gentleman confined his remarks to was, that there were general Acts of Parliament dealing with harbours and their management passed from time to time, and there was some difficulty when one desired to know what the law of Great Britain and Ireland was. He would be glad, however, to consider the question of how it could be done in the way the honourable Member suggested, by consolidation. He had no doubt there were 1003 a large number of other questions affecting that of whether consolidation might properly be undertaken. If the honourable Gentleman asked him to look into the matter in order to see whether anything could be done, he would be glad to do it.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval,
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON
Mr. Lowther, I should not have intervened in this discussion, after the statements which have been made by the Chief Secretary, if the honourable Member for Cork City had not risen to continue the Debate. But in consequence of his speech I think I may ask the indulgence of the Committee while I say a few words on behalf of the Belfast Harbour Board, with which it is proposed to interfere by the Amendment of the honourable and learned Member for Louth. I hold in my hand a statement issued by the Belfast Harbour Board, from which I may be permitted to make a few quotations. This statement declares that the proposals of the honourable and learned Member for Louth are altogether outside anything either in the English or Scottish Local Government Acts, for the English and Scottish Acts did not in any way affect the English and Scottish Harbour Trusts, whose constitutions remain unaltered. There does not seem to be any reason why this experiment should be made upon Belfast, and although Belfast was not specially named in the Amendment, yet he thought that both Belfast and Derry were present to the minds of the honourable and learned Members opposite when they proposed these alterations.
§ MR. JOHNSTON
thought that if the Belfast Board was the best in Ireland that was a sufficient reason why it should be left alone. They object to the proposed Amendment on the ground that the—Trust managed by the Harbour Commissioners is not one which is worked for the benefit of 1004 Belfast alone, but for the greater part of the towns and country districts situate in the North of Ireland, for which Belfast is the port for export and import alike.Belfast is very much interested, of course, as a city, in the management of the Harbour Trust, but the towns and country districts of Ulster are also interested, and therefore there is no-special reason why the Harbour Trust should be managed entirely by the Belfast Corporation. The Commissioners urge that to do what is proposed would be to go back to ancient history, for Belfast Harbour was at one time under the management of the Belfast City Corporation; but, by a subsequent enactment, the Corporation was relieved from the management, and the harbour was placed under a distinct and separate Trust called the Ballast Corporation. As this statement of the Harbour Board goes on to say—The history of Belfast in this respect is identical with that of Liverpool, where a similar condition of things arose, which ultimately necessitated a separate and distinct Trust Corporation being provided for the management of the Mersey Harbour and Docks.The history of the progress of Belfast has frequently been referred to in the House of Commons, and perhaps the Committee will allow me again to remind them that in 1786, the year after the Ballast Corporation was constituted, the total tonnage of vessels entering Belfast Harbour was only 34,287 tons. Fifty years afterwards, in 1836, the trade of the port had increased to 309,256 tons; and last year the figures had increased to 2,298,868 tons. As an indication of the position and importance of the Belfast Harbour Trust as compared with the Belfast City Corporation, I may mention that the total authorised borrowing powers of the Harbour Commissioners amount to £1,773,320, and the total amount actually borrowed is £1,213,866. The authorised borrowing powers of the Corporation amounted on the 31st of December, 1896, to about £2,300,000, and the total amount actually borrowed was about £1,386,500. The total expenditure by the Harbour Commissioners is about £2,250,000, the balance over borrowed capital having been provided out of revenue. These figures, considered as an evidence of the works that 1005 the two bodies have respectively carried out, show that the Harbour Trust is, as regards Belfast alone, an equally important Trust with the City Corporation. It claims, therefore, that as its management has been good in the past, and as it is still largely interested in the development of the shipping trade in Belfast, in connection with other portions of Ulster, it would be unfair and unjust to place the Harbour Trust under the management of the Belfast Corporation alone. The revenue of the City Corporation is derived generally from rates assessed upon the inhabitants of the city, while the revenue of the Harbour Trust is derived generally from rates on goods and rates on vessels, paid in the first instance by traders and shipowners, and eventually paid by the consumers of the goods imported or exported through the harbour, such customers being scattered all over the north of Ireland. From these facts it evidently would not be right that the Belfast Corporation should manage and control these affairs when it has nothing whatever to do with the rates by which the Harbour Trust is maintained. I will not, Sir, prolong this discussion any further; and, indeed, it is almost unnecessary that I should have risen at all, but my silence, after the speech made by the honourable Member for Cork, might have been misconstrued. I desire most emphatically to support the view taken by the Chief Secretary for Ireland on this occasion, and to beg most earnestly that Her Majesty's Government will not disturb this excellent Trust which has managed the affairs committed to it in a manner calculated to develop the shipping trade of Belfast and the north of Ireland, and the welfare of that portion of Her Majesty's United Kingdom.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I do not wish to continue this Debate, and I have always acknowledged that the Belfast Harbour Board is one of the best and most useful of these bodies. But I do think that when the Government on the one hand say they will not give us English powers, and then at other times say we must have them because they are in certain English Bills, they must show some consistency. What we object to is this in-and-out running. The effect is that we get at one time a number of vicious provisions which are not to be found in any Bill 1006 at all, and which have no counterpart in any legislation whatever, and then on the other hand, when we make a proposal to give corporations powers such as they have had before, the Government say, "It is not in any English Bill and we cannot assent to it." Now, the right honourable Gentleman rather implied that these were matters which should be dealt with in individual private Bills; but, Mr. Lowther, nobody knows better than yourself that when we attempt to deal with them in a private Bill, the House of Lords throws it out and says it is not covered by the Notices. Then this House says it is not germane to the Bill, and must be done by a public Act, and when we try to do it by a public Act, they say they have no time to devote to the passing of that Act. It is never àpropos to propose reform for Ireland. You could keep this House sitting for hours, and all night, if you were proposing coercion or something in the interests of the landlords, but when you propose anything for the benefit of Ireland, the great Constitutional Party can hardly keep its members together.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Look on the Front Opposition Bench. There is only one right honourable Gentleman there.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is, nevertheless, very well represented. The honourable Member for Belfast has preferred to take up the line adopted by the Harbour Board, rather than the line adopted by the Corporation. Which body does he think represents more fairly the views of the people of Belfast—the Corporation, which is elected by the citizens as a whole, and which has passed a resolution demanding this reform, or the Harbour Board, which is elected on a very limited franchise? We have all admitted that the Belfast Harbour Board is one of the best and most useful bodies; but I would point out that these harbour authorities have functions of enormous importance, and on their action the advancement and prosperity of the country depend. I will give an instance of the hardship of the present Bill. In Kerry an enormous levy is annually made for the upkeep of that pier, and yet the Harbour Board is absolutely non-representative. The county of Kerry has not a single representative on that body. I would ask the Chief 1007 Secretary to undertake to look into the question of harbour development, with a view to legislating upon it, and not deal with it in this piecemeal and fragmentary way. My contention is that while a full measure of representation should be given to the shipping industry, it should not be solely represented, and that the people at large, through their corporations, should be adequately represented.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I think there would be considerable difficulty in dealing in a uniform manner with all these cases. However, I am quite willing to look into the question with my right honourable Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 8, line 43, at end, add—
The council of each county borough shall be entitled to elect the same number of Commissioners to the Irish Lights Board as the Corporation of Dublin."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he thought he should have the support of the honourable Member for Belfast in this matter.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I was doubtful as to whether this Amendment was in order. I have had some difficulty in discovering how the Irish Lights Board is constituted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
You are in exactly the same difficulty, Mr. Lowther, that we are all in, and a difficulty which has, I believe, been shared by the President of the Board of Trade on more than one occasion. Admittedly the Dublin Corporation have the right to elect three Members to the Irish Lights Board. The Dublin Corporation was originally the lighting authority, and therefore has the right to elect three members. In that way I suggest that this comes fairly within the limits of a Local Government Bill. I admit, Mr. Lowther, that the question is one of difficulty for yourself, and whichever way you decide I shall be satisfied.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
As far as I have been able to ascertain, the Irish Lights Board was constituted by an Act of Parliament passed by the Irish Parliament in 1786, and it is only incidentally that the Dublin Corporation are brought in, and are given the power of nomination. That being so, I think it hardly comes within the scope of an Irish Local Government Bill to give powers to county boroughs to elect Commissioners to the Irish Lights Board. I think it would require a new Act to deal with this matter.
Page 8, line 43, at end, add—
Where the whole or any portion exceeding one-half of the salary of any person is paid by the council of a county borough, such council shall on the next vacancy and thereafter nominate and appoint the successor of such person to any office."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
In moving the next Amendment that stands in my name, my object is to provide that those officials who are largely paid out of the local rates should be responsible to the local authorities. I do not wish to press the matter unduly, as I have already taken up some time to-day on this clause, but there are a number of these officials, and I think it is rather hard that the Government should retain the nomination of these officials, while the councils have to pay the piper. It appears to me that some reform is needed in the matter. Either let the Corporations be no longer responsible for the pay of these officials, or let the Government hand over the nomination of them to the Corporations.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1009
Page 8, line 43, at end, add—
(d) Provided that the approval or consent of the Local Government Board or of the Lord Lieutenant shall not be necessary in any case where such consent or approval was not necessary before the passing of this Act."—(Mr. Clancy.)
§ MR. CLANCY
I really do not see the necessity for making a speech in support of this Amendment. I fancy it will commend itself to the Government. The Corporation of Dublin, a body with the proceedings of which I am most acquainted, have exercised their powers without being called into question in any matter. No charge of misconduct of any kind has been brought against that body, and I think it would be intolerable for the Government to take advantage of the present Bill to put additional fetters upon the powers now exercised by the Corporation of Dublin. The same thing might be said of other Corporations, and I hope the Government will accept my Amendment.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
It will be impossible for the Government to accept an Amendment of this kind. I do not see how it will come in at the end of this clause.
§ MR. CLANCY
All through this Bill, in regard to these new councils, it is provided, in almost every case, that before anything can be done the Lord Lieutenant or the Local Government Board must give consent or approval. In respect of most of these matters, so far as I can find out, in which the Local Government Board and the Lord Lieutenant will be brought in to interfere with the working of the ordinary county councils, the corporations are at present absolutely free. I do not think the Local Government Board effectively interferes with the Corporation of Dublin at present, except in the matter of auditing their accounts. My object in moving my Amendment is to secure for corporations in the future the freedom from executive control which they have enjoyed up to the present, and enjoyed, I maintain, without any disadvantage to the public and with great advantage to the working of their own concerns. This freedom 1010 should be conserved to them, and not taken away by a side wind. Perhaps my Amendment is not in the proper place, but if the right honourable Gentleman admits the principle of it, then I shall be prepared to move it as a new clause later on.
§ MR. BALFOUR
said he could not ask the Government to accept this general Amendment. He suggested that the honourable and learned Member should move, in each case where he thought the approval or the consent of the Local Government Board or the Lord Lieutenant should not be necessary, an Amendment to the effect that this provision should not apply to that borough.
§ MR. CLANCY
The right honourable Gentleman has suggested a course which will prove injurious to this Bill, as it will involve the dotting all over the Bill of fresh Amendments.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
It is impossible for the Government to do other than judge each case by itself.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn, and clause 17 agreed to.