That upon the merging of certain cities or towns in county areas the inhabitants of any such city or town shall not be liable to pay any county rate or charge for which they were not liable before the passing of this Act."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
complained that these cities or towns were suddenly to be plumped down in the middle of a county council system with which they had never before been in touch, but no provision whatever was made as to the county charge. It seemed to him most unfair that this should be done without any local inquiry. He ventured to say that the Government had not fully considered the matter.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said this was a point which also had to be faced in the English Act. If the towns were merged in the counties they would be liable for their share of the county charges, but it would be open to the county council to declare roads in those towns to be main roads, the towns to be responsible for contribution for the maintenance of the roads.
§ MR. DILLON
said he believed that there was a very strong feeling among such towns as Kilkenny and Drogheda, that they should be made county boroughs, and he could not see what objection the right honorable Gentleman the Chief Secretary could have, when a vast majority of the inhabitants desired to preserve their present rights unless he could clearly show that it would dislocate his system. He thought at least he might give them an opportunity of explaining their reasons. He understood that a very representative deputation was coming over from Ireland to wait on the Chief Secretary in reference to this matter.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
said he thought in these matters sentiment ought to be allowed a certain amount of play with regard to these old towns. They must remember that many of these towns were very ancient towns, many of them having old charters, and having sent Members to the Irish Parliament; and he felt quite certain that these towns would object to their identity being lost through the action of the Bill.
§ MR. KNOX (Londonderry)
I believe there is a strong feeling that there should be an administrative county that is not a separate assize area, and I see no difficulty in meeting such an arrangement. In Yorkshire the assize jurisdiction has been successfully overcome, and there would appear to be no objection to follow the same practice in regard to towns like Kilkenny and Drogheda. Under the present system conflict arises between the counties and the boroughs. I think this is the most unsatisfactory part of the English Local Government Act, and there is no reason to suppose that it will work out satisfactorily in Ireland. The conflict might be still greater where there are at present separate counties which are losing, I will not call them privileges, but distinctions which they possess at the present time; so I venture to think that there is great reason for considering whether there ought not to be a clause dealing with an administrative county which is not a separate assize area, and I 1161 cannot see any difficulty in arranging that in the case of the county of Derry. I have had a great number of communications from my constituents, and I find that it is a matter upon which there is a good deal of difference of opinion, and it is a matter upon which I have not myself a very strong view, but the county grand jury is very strongly of opinion that the change is a mistake, and so are many other people. Therefore, I venture to say that if the Government could consider the matter it would be an advantage, because there is a strong case in favor of making some of these towns which are smaller than Cork into separate administrative counties, without imposing upon them at the same time the obligation of being separate assize areas.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
As regards the suggestion of the honorable Member for East Mayo that these comparatively small places should be made county boroughs that is a proposal which does not commend itself to me. I must remind him that in large boroughs having a population under 50,000, under the English Act it was found necessary, in many instances, to merge them into counties, just in the same way as is proposed in the case of Drogheda and Kilkenny in this Bill. I am bound to say that I do not see how it is possible to carry out a large measure of this kind without offending somebody. Of course the Government are anxious to do that as little as possible, but it is impossible, in carrying out these large reforms, to avoid offending the prejudices or the sentiments of the inhabitants of particular localities. I am bound to say that I see great difficulties in the way of carrying out what has been suggested. I do not say that I should not be prepared to consider the suggestion of the honorable and learned Member for North Louth at the Report stage, but in saying that I do not wish it to be taken as absolutely giving any pledge that I will go further than I have already gone in this Bill.
MR. T. M. HEALY
As far as I can scrutinise the local government terms of taxation, I believe that, while under this clause Galway town will benefit by the Government proposal, Drogheda will lose substantially—at least, that is the conclusion I have come to; but whilst Drogheda will lose substantially by this arrangement, I would ask the Government to go further than that of dealing with the question of main roads. There are a very large number of charges besides the main roads. There are the charges of the county secretary, the county treasurer, and the county surveyor, all of which officers places like Drogheda now possess. They have a town clerk, who corresponds with the county secretary; they have a borough surveyor, who corresponds with the county surveyor; and they have a borough treasurer, and a number of other officers. Of course, I may be told that a portion of the expense of these officials will be thrown upon the county, but on the balance. I think they will rather lose I would ask the right honorable Gentleman to provide in the clause for the general county at large for charges in addition to main roads, and to bring up an arrangement for substantial relief being given to towns like Drogheda, such as they would have got under the provisions of the Public Health Act of 1878. I have heard of no Amendment whatever making towns contribute to boroughs. On the contrary, I would like to see Derry not made a borough at all. With a great deal of respect for their historical claims, I do not think any of them gain in any way in this matter of county boroughs. The sole question involved, to my mind, is one of taxation, and not a question of history or remote antiquity. The Government have given me some satisfaction and I will ask them to go further and if the Government will do this I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ MR. J. DILLON
I only just want to say that the right honorable Gentleman took up an extraordinary position on this question, because the Government 1163 did not contemplate with equanimity the throwing of additional charges on Kilkenny and Drogheda. That cannot be defended on the ground that for a long time past these boroughs have not contributed their fair share to the county at large.
§ MR. J. DILLON
I think this is a most unhappy opportunity to select to increase the burdens of Drogheda and Kilkenny, because, whilst relief is given to other towns, no relief is given to them A more extraordinary thing could not be imagined. If the right honorable Gentleman would introduce some provision which would give some small measure of relief to the urban ratepayers of Drogheda and Kilkenny it would be much appreciated. I do not want to continue this discussion, because the whole question will come up again on the schedule, but I hold the view that these towns ought to have their share of relief. The matter will be fully discussed later on, so I do not want to waste the time of the Committee.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I wish to point out that, in addition to Carrick-fergus, we have Drogheda and Kilkenny. As regards these I do not quite understand what the honorable Gentleman means when he says that he does not see any relevance in the question of assize in these cases. I understood the right honorable Gentleman to refer to the clause. After all, the Amendment does substantially raise the status of these towns speaking generally, without raising the whole question of what the clause intends It did occur to me in the course of the discussion whether it would be applicable to these particular localities or not. As regards these three towns, which are at present cut off from county jurisdiction, it might be quite reasonable to deprive them of their assize juries and sheriffs at the expense involved in that proposal, and they might certainly have a strong case for being continued in their status of complete fiscal separation from the county of 1164 which they form a part. If the Government do not adopt that view of the matter there is another view which I think they might well adopt, and that is the proposal of private Bills dealing with larger communities in Ireland, as was done in the case of the borough of Belfast, where there were said to be great anomalies and inconveniences, and accordingly Belfast came to Parliament for a private Act, by which it largely cut itself off from county jurisdiction. What was done was this: an inquiry was held at the passing of the Act, firstly, as regards the roads, and, secondly, as to the other county charges. As a matter of fact, commissioners were appointed by the Local Government Board to decide what would be a fair sum to compel the borough of Belfast to contribute to the county at large. Then there was a further provision providing that at any time in the future the charge could be readjusted on a further appeal to the Local Government Board; and those are the terms on which Belfast has ever since continued. It does appear to me that that am a very convenient thing for the borough of Belfast, and a very proper arrangement. I think the same thing has been done in other localities in Ireland, and it does seem to me that there is something to be said for the proposal to do in the case of the towns I have mentioned something of the same character. That is to say, immediately after the passing of the Act, an Inquiry relating to those localities might be held to consider what their contributions should be to the general county charges. In the case of these localities it is really worse than has been stated; but after this takes place Drogheda would still continue to have to pay its officials; that is to say, the corporation would continue to exist, and it would have its town clerk and borough surveyor, and it would go on having to pay them just the same It is all very fine to say that the localities have escaped the incidence of local taxation, but it seems to me that the case will be that these localities will have to pay double taxation, at any rate, as far as officers are concerned, because while having to contribute the expenses of the county offices they will have to pay the borough officers. It is only the 1165 officers of the grand jury that are abolished. I do think that the Government might consider this matter again, and see if they cannot adopt some method that would adjust these matters.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
A place like Kilkenny at present is a city. It has a grand jury and it has a city commission; it has all the staff of an ordinary county. Will it continue to have all the duties attaching to grand juries for criminal purposes? Will it retain its sheriff? Because at present the writs are issued to the sheriff of the city of Kilkenny I think the Committee ought to know what the meaning of this clause is and what the effect of it will be upon the county and city of Kilkenny. In both these cases the commissions are quite distinct. There is the commission issued for the city of Kilkenny from the Clerk of the Hamper, and there is the grand jury summons. All the duties of an ordinary grand jury are discharged by the city of Kilkenny. Is this state of things to be swept away by this section, and, if so, are we to retain the whole paraphernalia of a separate jurisdiction for such places as Kilkenny and Drogheda? Drogheda is in the same position as Kilkenny; in every way it has an altogether distinct venue. [Cries of "Agreed!"] I believe I am quite in order. If I am out of order I will bow to the ruling of the Chair. I want to know for the information of the Committee, and I am not sure that the honorable Member who called out "Agreed!" knows himself, what the result of this section will be on these particular places. I happen to know something of both these localities—experience gained in past times of my professional life—and I am anxious to know how they stand under this Bill. If the grand jury system remains for these counties and cities, and counties and towns, for fiscal purposes, they come within this section. Then, I ask the Chief Secretary, what is the position of 1166 these cities? Will they constitute urban districts in themselves, or will they be attached? The section does not say that. It says—Any county of a city or town which does not become a county borough shall, for the purposes of this Act, be situated and form part of the administrative county.One would say from that that it was at once merged in the whole county of Kilkenny or the county of Louth. I think it is very obscurely worded, and I only ask for information on the subject.
§ MR. ATKINSON
If the honorable and learned Gentleman is not satisfied with the wording of the clause I would ask him to refer to the earlier part of the Bill. He will find that those towns which do not become boroughs are merged in the administrative county, and he will find further that every urban sanitary authority becomes an urban district. These are all urban sanitary authorities; therefore, they become urban districts. They are merged in the county, and, therefore, they cease to be a separate county.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
My right honorable and learned Friend has not stated whether the grand jury system will continue and the various officers connected with these counties of cities and counties of towns. It becomes all the more necessary to ask that question because, in a subsequent section, the sheriffs of these places will be abolished. I am at a loss to know who will execute the writs that are issued in cases of judgments, because there is a distinct venue. The city of Cork is a distinct venue from the county of Cork, and the town of Drogheda is a distinct venue from the county of Louth, and if the sheriffs of these various bailiwicks are to be abolished it will be a very good thing for the inhabitants, because I should like to know who will execute the writs.
§ MR. ATKINSON
I will relieve my honorable Friend from any apprehension on that score. The county 1167 of a city and the county of a town is to form part of the administrative county which it adjoins. Of course its separate maintenance as a county would cease, and with it the sheriff.
MR. T. M. HEALY
I would like to make a suggestion. Under the 3rd and 4th Vic, when the Corporation of Wexford was abolished, and there was no sheriff in the town, the mayor had the issue of the writ, and also he served the writ for Parliament for an election. That is now abolished, but Kilkenny is not abolished as a borough, nor is Galway. The writ goes now from this House to the Sheriff of Kilkenny because it is a county of a town, and I would suggest, by way of keeping up its dignity, that the writ should go to the mayor. That is with regard to Kilkenny. With regard to Galway, that town was very badly treated by the 3rd and 4th Vic.; the treatment it received under that Act was really shocking. The ancient Statutes regarding it were abolished without any necessity whatever, but from the pure malice of the times. It will only be a reasonable compensation for that treatment for the writ to go to the Mayor of Galway, who is one of the most ancient functionaries of the kingdom. I commend the suggestion to the consideration of the right honorable Gentleman, as I feel sure it will tend to maintain the dignity of the towns, which I think we ought to do something to promote.
§ MR. ATKINSON
With regard to the honorable Member's suggestion as to the Mayor of Kilkenny being the returning officer for Parliamentary purposes, I think that it is a reasonable suggestion. With regard to the town of Galway, he must remember that the town of Galway and the county of the town of Galway are absorbed in the county of Galway, leaving nothing of the town of Galway as an administrative area; and, really, it is so small that there would 1168 hardly be room for a mayor and corporation.
MR. T. M. HEALY
I do not agree with what the right honorable Gentleman says about Galway. But there is a difficulty which I quite recognize between the Parliamentary and the urban boundaries. As regards Kilkenny, the right honorable Gentleman will hold himself to his pledge to give the mayor the writ.
§ The Amendment was, by leave, withdrawn.
That Clause 27 stand part of the Bill.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I want to ask the right honorable Gentleman a question on a point that arises on this clause. This clause will merge three counties of cities into the adjoining counties. This clause does it for administrative purposes, and clause 45 does the same thing for judicial purposes—justices of the peace, and so on But these areas have at present local justices. These justices are not justices of the counties to which these areas will be annexed, and this Bill does not make them justices of these counties. I want to know what will be the status of these justices of the peace when this Bill passes. The judicial area for which they are constituted justices will be merged into the counties by this Bill, and they will not be justices of the wider area from which the old area is drawn. It seems to me that we should have either in this clause, or clause 45, an enactment providing that the justices of the peace for these small areas will become justices of the peace for the wider areas.
§ Clause agreed to.