HC Deb 04 December 1884 vol 294 cc636-7

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, What steps the Irish Executive are taking to levy the extra police tax from the Limerick Corporation; what is the cause of the delay; whether any proposal has boon made by the Corporation to arrange the matter; and, whether the Government made any recent offer or suggestion of compromise?


On the application of the Irish Government a mandamus was issued by the Court of Queen's Bench directing the Corporation of Limerick to levy the extra police tax, which it is their statutable duty to collect under the Constabulary Act of 1836, as amended in 1851 and 1866, and finally in 1874. The Corporation have, however, refused to obey the order of the Court. The Government have, therefore, been obliged to consider whether they should apply to have the members of the Corporation who took part in this proceeding committed for contempt. I need not say that it had not been con- templated that a responsible public body such as the Limerick Town Council would thus deliberately refuse to obey the law. No such case has, I believe, ever before occurred. However much they may reprehend the conduct of the Town Council, the Government are unwilling to take the extreme step of applying for an order to imprison those members of the Corporation who are responsible for the disobedience, which is the only procedure provided by the law for enforcing obedience to the order of the Court. They are influenced by the consideration that such a step would not necessarily secure the main object— namely, the recovery of the money legally due. What they intend to do is to apply to Parliament for power —in cases of default on the part of the local rating authority—to collect by direct means a tax such as this, which Parliament has already by Statute made it the duty of the Irish Executive in certain cases to impose. There have been no communications such as are alluded to in the last two paragraphs of the noble viscount's Question.


Will the powers to be obtained be retrospective?


Yes, Sir.


Does the Answer mean that there is no legal power to enforce payment, and that the Government are obliged to apply for fresh powers? Did not the Corporation request the Lord Lieutenant to send down a Commissioner to investigate the merits of the case, and did he not refuse to do so?


I have already answered several Questions on the latter point. It would be quite impossible to accede to the proposal referred to. I did not say that the Government have no legal power; but that there is no means open to them expect those which they are very reluctant to take.


Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that at the recent elections of Town Councillors not a single member who voted for the payment of the tax has been returned?

[No reply.]


Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly state what return has been made to the writ?

[No reply.]