§ MR. W. J. CORBET
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, If, as Chairman of the Local Government Board, it has come to his knowledge that a large number of voters in the county of Wicklow are deprived of their votes by the process known as "lumping" or "bracketing;" and, whether, if supplied with a list of cases, he will cause an inquiry to be made in regard to the action of the revising valuers and clerks of union in the matter? He wished also to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, If he is aware that in Ireland persons of known National politics who are entitled to be on the Register of Voters have lost their right to vote, either by refusal of the revising valuer to revise the valuation and register their holdings separately or by the reduction of the valuation a few shillings below the qualifying amount; whether he is aware that at the late revision sessions at Rathdrum, Denis Byrne and Joseph Keenan lost their votes by being bracketed in the rate book, the revising valuer when called on to unbracket them saying—He could not effect the object in view without taking his chain out to measure the old bounds;whether the revising barrister is reported to have commented severely on the conduct of the revising valuer, stating that he was paid for performing the duty and should have done it; whether he has seen the following extract from the Report of the proceedings of the Rathdrum Board of Guardians on the 5th December last:—Mr. John Byrne, of Cloneen, submitted the rate book to the Chairman, and said, before the Board adjourned he would wish to point out to him a mistake thereon. Some short time ago he (Mr. Byrne) had occasion to refer to the valuation book of the Union, and, in doing so, he was astounded to find that the name of his brother, Mr. Michael Byrne, P.L.G. Cronawinna (who was now present) had his area bracketed in on the book with two other parties, although his rating was separate. The area of a neighbour, Mr. Just, was similarly bracketed in with other men's holdings. Neither of these men 861 (and several others whose areas were also lumped on the rate hooks) had anything whatsoever to do with anyone else's holding, their farms being clear and distinct, and in no way held jointly with any other person.…Several parties had been disfranchised at the late Revision Sessions by Dr. Darley, on account of their areas being grouped on the books this way. If his brother had been objected to, or Mr. Just, their votes and those of the persons with whom they were bracketed would have been broken; the Chairman said it was manifestly unfair to deprive persons of their votes for such a cause; the Clerk said the only remedy was to see that the revising valuer, when He came round, made the necessary changes;whether he is aware that Mr. Ball Greene, the head of the Valuation Office in Ireland, has stated he had no knowledge of the complaints made against the revising valuers; and, whether, if a list of cases is submitted to him, he will cause an extra departmental inquiry to be made into the allegations?
§ MR. COURTNEY
Sir, my right hon. Friend has asked me to deal with this Question, as I have already been in correspondence with the hon. Member upon it. As regards the alleged "lumping," I have to say that in no case has any alteration of this nature been made in the valuation books for over 30 years; in fact, there is no legal power to do so. The whole difficulty has arisen from a decision of a Revising Barrister, which I have heard of with surprise; and I cannot ascertain how far it has been made the subject of appeal. In each of these three cases referred to in the Question the valuations are now exactly the same as they were 30 years ago. There is no power to revise in such cases except upon the evidence of the Ordnance Maps. But, as it may be possible in some cases to separate the holdings, a special inquiry will be made in the favourable summer weather, with the view of dividing them wherever the maps give sufficient detail. As regards the alleged reduction below the qualifying amount, there is here, again, a misapprehension of the powers and duties of the Valuation Office. No change in a valuation can be made except upon the initiative of the local authorities, and then only where there have been changes in the holding or in the buildings upon it. Only two cases are known to have arisen at the last revision where premises ceased to confer the franchise in this way, and in each of them the occupier had a qualification elsewhere in 862 the county. We are most anxious that everyone really qualified to vote should be able to do so, and if the hon. Member knows of any cases where votes have been lost through difficulties in the valuation, my right hon. Friend and I will give them our best personal consideration; but we must altogether repudiate the suggestion of partizan motives conveyed in the Question.