§ (3) Any of the duties and powers of the registration officer may be performed and exercised by any deputy for the time being approved by the Local Government, Board, and the provisions of this Act shall apply to any such deputy so far as respects any duties or powers to be performed or exercised by him as it applies to the registration officer.1287
§ Sir NORVAL HELME
I beg to move, at the end of sub-section (3), to insert the words,Provided that in every municipal borough the town clerk, unless he is the registration officer, shall, if he is willing to act and subject to his being approved as aforesaid, be the deputy registration officer in regard to the area of that borough.In asking the House to accept this Amendment I should like to say that the general arrangements that have been made by the Government are satisfactory, but in respect to the smaller boroughs our object is to secure such a system as will guarantee that skilled and trained men, generally solicitors occupying the position of town clerks, should be entrusted with the work which is left to be done by deputies appointed by the registration officer, subject to the approval of the Local Government Board. It is well known that regard to the lists prepared by the overseers for local elections in the past the town clerks have already acquired a considerable amount of experience in dealing with these matters, and under the new arrangement, seeing that two registers will have to be dealt with during the year, it seems to be advantageous that where the selection of a deputy registration officer has to be made that the town clerk in the small municipalities should be entrusted with this work, which is to be done under the Bill in the larger boroughs by the town clerks. Sub-section (3) is highly satisfactory otherwise, and it is merely in the matter of detail that we propose our Amendment on the ground that the town clerks, having had experience, are the most likely men to prove efficient officers, and to perform the work successfully. The Courts where the revising barrister sat to deal with the preparation of the county or borough lists will be done away with, hence it is that we claim that, as the town clerks in the larger boroughs are to do the work, the men occupying a similar office in the smaller boroughs, with their experience in dealing with local affairs, should be entrusted with this work, and that it should be given to such men as are willing to act, subject to their appointment being approved by the Local Government Board. Under these circumstances, I hope the Government will be able to accept the Amendment.
§ Sir C. SEELY
I beg to second the Amendment, and to press it strongly upon 1288 the Government. I think the town clerks of the smaller boroughs feel it to be a little of an imputation upon them that while the town clerks of the larger boroughs are to continue as registration officers they are not to be put in the same position in their borough. I think the Government will find that there will be no difficulty in carrying out the Amendment, and if it is carried it will be very much appreciated by these men, who would be very grateful.
Nobody has a higher opinion of the efficiency and capacity of town clerks than I have. At the present time and ever since the War began there is no body of public men who have been doing better service to the State and service which has compelled them often to work long hours beyond the time on which they are employed on their usual work. There is no body of men on whom not only the Local Government Board but other Government Departments are depending more at the present time than the town clerks. I believe that in almost all cases town clerks will be appointed and that they will be the most efficient deputies that could be appointed. I am very glad to be able to say that, but at the same time I think the choice must be left with the registration officer as to who he will employ as his deputy. If this Amendment is accepted it will give a statutory right to the town clerk to be appointed, and although, as I say, the main body of town clerks are gentlemen of great efficiency and great capacity, yet here and there you might find someone singularly unfitted to be appointed. If we accept the Amendment it will give a statutory right to town clerks to be appointed in every case whether they are fit for the position or not, and it would not give freedom of choice to the registration officer. While I have indicated that the town clerk will in all probability be the person to be appointed as deputy, I cannot accept the Amendment because it is of too positive a nature.
§ Amendment negatived.