§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."
§ MR. CLANCY () Dublin Co., N.
said, that in moving the re-committal of this Bill and the Instruction, he must repeat what he said yesterday, that he would have preferred the method of procedure which the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. J. O'Connor) proposed to adopt, as he considered it would be a more expeditious way of achieving the object he had in view; but inasmuch as that method of procedure had been ruled out of Order, there was no alternative open to him but to make the Motion which he now made. He might mention that he had made this Instruction mandatory for the purpose of giving time. The present Bill was a Bill to constitute a joint Drainage Board for the purpose of carrying out a considerable scheme of drainage for the two townships of Blackrock and Kingstown. This Drainage Board was to be composed equally of members chosen by the Kingstown Township 1318 Board and the Blackrock Township Board, and he sought to put into the Bill a clause reducing the township franchise in Blackrock to £4. At present the Municipal franchise in Kingstown was £4, in Blackrock it was £8. So that if the Bill passed in its present form they would have one-half of the Drainage Board elected on a £4 franchise, and the other half elected on an £8 franchise. The number of Municipal voters in Blackrock was absurdly small when compared with the population, and when compared with the number of Parliamentary voters. The population of Blackrock was, in round numbers, about 9,000; the Parliamentary electorate was between 1,100 and 1,200, while the Municipal franchise was a little over 500, and he might observe that, owing to the want of a system of revision, the Municipal electorate was yearly decreasing. In 1890 the electorate was 682; in 1891 it was reduced to 605; in 1892 it was reduced to 586, and he was informed that there was every probability that when the lists for this year were made out, it would be found that the number of Municipal electors in Blackrock would not be much more than 500. He asserted that that was a gross anomaly when they considered the population, and also the number of Parliamentary voters. It was often said—and he dared say it would be said there that day—that the ratepayers were more interested than any other class of ratepayers in schemes such as this. But the curious thing was that the biggest ratepayers in the Blackrock township were absolutely not represented at all, and for this simple reason—that there was no provision whatever for joint occupation votes. There were several large establishments in Blackrock township with which he was personally acquainted. They paid the largest amount of rates, and owing to the fact that there was no provision for registering joint, occupiers every single one of these ratepayers was absolutely excluded from the list of voters. He was not in love with big ratepayers as a general rule, but he thought this state of things was a gross anomaly. All this was aggravated by the fact that there was absolutely no provision in the Township Act for the revision of votes. The Secretary of the Township Board was in this matter judge and jury, counsel, public, and all. He discharged 1319 the duty of revising the lists in his own office. Nobody knew how he did it or when he did it. He took the names from some list or other, and put them on or kept them off at his own sweet will and pleasure. He did not know anything about the gentleman himself, and he should be sorry, in the absence of definite information, to say that he misused his position. He did not allege that he did, because he was unable to prove it, and he should be sorry to allege anything he could not prove; but what he did say was this: that no single person ought to be entrusted with a duty of this description, which ought to be performed, as in the case of Parliamentary voters' revision, by a public officer in a public court with an opportunity to the voters of seeing that their rights were pro-served, and that no injury was done to them. In no case ought it to be possible for the revision to be effected as it was at the present moment in Blackrock. An objection was raised to his proposal by gentlemen who said that he proposed to introduce machinery in the Blackrock Township which did not exist in any of the other townships around Dublin except Kingstown. Instead of the fact that in none of the townships around Dublin did machinery exist for the public revision of the voters' lists being a ground for delay, he submitted that it was a ground for beginning the reform at once. Blackrock township had got into the control of a family ring. He made no charge against these gentlemen personally. Personally he knew nothing about them, though he knew most of them as politicians. They belonged to the richer class in Blackrock, and they managed the affairs of the Blackrock township to suit the purposes of the family ring which they constituted. They did not seem to care one farthing about the opinion of the ratepayers. If anything ought to be the property of the public it was the Town Hall, which was built and was maintained at the cost of the ratepayers, rich and poor. Yet, unless it suited the purposes of this family ring, they refused to let the Town Hall to anybody but their own party for public meetings. And he believed the practice was—but on this point he was not quite sure—that when they did meet themselves they met to the exclusion of the ratepayers. They would not allow 1320 the ratepayers to attend their meetings, and they had gone so far as to expel from the Board room the hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin, simply because he made himself troublesome in exposing their manner of managing the affairs of the Blackrock township. The hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division was absolutely one of the largest ratepayers in the township, and naturally under any fair system of franchise he would himself occupy a seat on the Board. But the result of the state of things which he was attempting to describe to the House was that this gentleman—one of the most intelligent in the whole community, and one of the largest ratepayers—had not only been unable to obtain a seat at this Board, but on one or two occasions when he had attempted to witness with his own eyes the manner in which the Board transacted their business he had been expelled from the room. What was it he (Mr. Clancy) proposed? He had down yesterday, and some days previously, a Motion for the reduction of the franchise in Blackrock to the household level. He put down that Motion to assert a principle which he thought was too often ignored—namely, that the poorest ratepayers in the community had as much right as the richest ratepayers to a voice in the management of their Municipal affairs. They paid quite as much, or more, in proportion to their means than the richer ratepayers. He put down that Motion for household suffrage to assert the principle, and so that hereafter their opponents could not say they had not asserted this principle when they had had the opportunity. If he could he would establish household suffrage both in Kingstown and Blackrock; but he acknowledged that it would be a step in advance if a provision to that effect were inserted at this stage of the Bill, and therefore he had taken the moderate course of proposing to equalise the franchise in the two townships. It might be objected that such a provision should not be introduced at the present stage of the Bill. There were two precedents on this point present to his mind. In 1885, in the case of the Rathmines and Rathgar Township Bill, when the Bill had reached the very same stage which the present Bill occupied the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of 1321 Dean (Sir C. Dilke) proposed and carried the reduction of the franchise in the township of Rathmines and Rathgar from £10 to £4. In 1886 the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) went further, and proposed and carried a provision for the reduction of the franchise in Belfast in connection with the Belfast Main Drainage Scheme to the household level, which was further than the present proposal went. Again, it was said that if this Motion was carried the Bill would be lost. They had heard that argument before. Why should the Bill be thrown out? If the House of Lords threw out the Bill on this ground, they would confess that they would prefer that the people of Blackrock should be slowly poisoned by bad water rather than consent to lower the existing franchise. He would predict that the Bill would not be lost if this Motion was carried. The House of Lords would pass the Bill if the promoters did not object, and he should like the promoters to go back to Blackrock and challenge public opinion upon the proposal he had made. He challenged them to get a verdict in any public meeting in Blackrock against the proposal. Another objection was taken to his proposal by gentlemen who said that though they had no objection to the reduction of the franchise in the ordinary way they objected to it being made in this manner. He (Mr. Clancy) had been in the House for eight or nine years. The Irish Party had every year introduced a Bill to effect the reduction of the Municipal franchise in Ireland, but they had never been able to get such a Bill passed. This reform was urgently needed, and he asked the House to agree to his Motion.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE () Gloucester, Forest of Dean
said, he rose at the request of the hon. Member who had made the Motion to second it. The hon. and learned Member had largely founded his argument on the precedent to which he (Sir C. Dilke) had induced the House to assent in 1885, of dealing with this matter of the franchise in urban districts in their Private Bills as they came before the House. The hon. and learned Member had said that the Municipal franchise in Ireland had been left long unaltered, although from year to year a change had been proposed. He remembered in the first year that the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) came 1322 into the House, and when he was acting as private secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he made a powerful speech in support of a change in the Irish Municipal franchise, and pointed out the terrible evils that existed in Ireland under the present system. And the state of things which existed in Ireland under the Towns Commissioners was even worse than that which existed under the Municipal Corporations. He would remind the House, as the hon. and learned Member had referred to it, that in 1885 and 1886 a proposal precisely similar to that now before the House was carried in the Rathmines Bill, and also in the Belfast Drainage Bill. The grounds on which he brought this matter before the House in 1885, and why he so strongly supported the present proposal, were because the Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes in Ireland, over which he himself had the honour to preside, was almost entirely directed to this one point. The Commissioners pointed out in their Report with absolute unanimity—for the Report was signed by every member of the Commission—that of all the evils which affected the condition of the working classes in the Municipal and urban districts in Ireland, those which were directly due to the present condition of the franchise were by far the greatest, and that almost all those evils were traceable to the condition of the franchise in those towns. The Commissioners pointed out not only the curious nature of these franchises, but also the extraordinary thing on the part of the Municipal and Urban Authorities that they did not even observe the provisions of the law such as they were. He believed that in England they could hardly realise what the state of things in Ireland was. The only Electoral Body in England that in the least resembled the Urban non-Municipal Bodies in Ireland was the Thames Conservancy in so far as regarded the Upper Thames. That Body acted under an Act of 1795, and the gentleman who was responsible for the Register seriously maintained that he had no right to remove the names of persons who were dead, and as the Register was first made up in 1795 some of the original voters were still retained on it. The Report of the Royal Commission to which he had referred used the very strongest language on this question, and said it 1323 was useless to talk about any reforms of detail concerned with the condition of the working classes in Ireland until the question of the franchise had first been dealt with. The Commissioners stated—The existing evils of administration are not due to defects in, but to the failure of the existing authorities in acting upon, legislation which has invested them with ample powers. … It is not in the amendment of details of existing Statutes that the chief remedy lies for the deplorable condition of the dwellings of the working classes in the towns of Ireland. The legislation in existence has not been tried. There are provisions in Acts of Parliament which have been drawn expressly to meet the evils described to Your Majesty's Commissioners; but they are allowed to remain a dead letter. It will be well to again consider who are the authorities, who, while invested with considerable powers, have neglected to use them in face of a state of things which calls for the most energetic action.The Report of the Commissioners went on to show that—The majority of the people who are rated for the expenses of Local Government have no voice in the election of the Corporate Body who spend the rates.It was a rather curious fact that while the death rate of Ireland, as a whole, was lower than the death rate in England, the death rate in the Irish towns was far higher than in English towns, and this was traceable to the condition in which the working classes existed. The evidence taken by the Commissioners showed most plainly that the miserable condition of things which existed in the urban districts was owing to the defects of Local Government in Ireland. The only recommendation the Commissioners made with regard to Ireland was that urgency should be given to the question of Local Government in Ireland. It was that strong Report, based on evidence which had been laid before the House, that induced him to take the action he did in 1885. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, he had heard, was likely to oppose this proposal of the hon. Member for North Dublin. He would remind the Chief Secretary that those who sat beside him on the Treasury Bench opposed in 1886 a Motion similar to that now before the House, but that they afterwards saw cause to repent of the course they then took, and to support a Motion which they had previously opposed. His right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary was a good Radical on 1324 most occasions, but he did not trust him altogether on this question of popular franchises in local Governing Bodies. The Chief Secretary was asked some little time ago if he would do away with qualifications which existed with regard to certain Sanitary Authorities in Ireland, and he replied that so soon as he received representations from any of those Bodies in favour of doing away with qualifications he would be glad to consider it. If he trusted to those Bodies to do away with their own qualifications, or to change their own system, it would never be done. He believed there was a great majority on both sides of the House who thought it wise to popularise these franchises for local Governing Bodies, and he believed it should be done in the present case.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "Bill," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "be re-committed to the former Committee."—(Mr. Clancy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Mr. MELLOR,) York, W.R., Sowerby
I am not going to say anything to the House upon the merits of this proposal, because, so far as the merits are concerned, it is no part of my duty, and not my business, to deal with them. I have really to lay before the House the observations that occur to me in my capacity as guardian of the Private Bill Legislation; and, having done that, it will be entirely for the House to say whether they will accept the view put forward by the hon. Member for North Dublin, or whether, on the other hand, they will accept the view which I am going to suggest on the other side, not with the object of opposing the Motion, but simply of doing what I conceive to be my duty, and laying before the House those matters which I think ought to be called attention to upon the practice of the Private Bill Committee. The hon. and learned Member for North Dublin has laid an extremely forcible and clear statement on the matter before the House; but I think even he will admit that what he is asking the House of Commons to 1325 do is a strong order. His answer to that will be that, no doubt, this is a strong order, but, at the same time, the circumstances are such as to justify him in making it.
§ MR. MELLOR
I am coming to that. I think I ought to assume, after what has taken place, that the hon. and learned Gentleman has a strong case in this matter. But I want to point out that, while he has a strong case, I think be is asking for a very strong order. He says that this has been done before, and I agree. I do not attach so much importance to the first precedent as he does, because in the Bill of 1885 there was an original voting clause, and what was done upon its consideration was to deal with that subject, and to alter it; and, therefore, that precedent, I do not think, ought to have as much weight as the hon. Member seems to place upon it. I would ask the House whether it will follow the precedent of the Belfast Drainage Bill or revert to what I conceive to be the old practice of the House of Commons, and say that under the circumstances it is not disposed to adopt the hon. Member's proposal? That is a question for the House to determine and not for me, and before I go any further in that matter I desire to draw attention to two points: In the first place, the Bill has passed both Houses of Parliament. It has been examined by two Select Committees of both Houses of Parliament, and no suggestion of the question which has now been raised was made. There may be good reason for raising that question. The hon. and learned Gentleman may ask how I would have acted. Well, I should either have appeared before the Committees or employed counsel to do so for me. That is the system adopted by Parliament. It may be a good system or a bad one. This is a serious matter to hon. Members from Ireland, and I ask them to pause in any decision they may arrive at, and from which they may expect to reap an advantage, by following the precedent of the Belfast Drainage Bill. Such a precedent, though advantageous for the moment, may turn out to be disadvantageous to them hereafter. They had an experience of that when the Belfast Drainage Bill was quoted against hon. Members, and 1326 that precedent was made as if for the purpose of defeating a measure they were interested in. I think I may appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cork, who has a considerable acquaintance with Private Bill Business in this House and who has for some time given valuable service to the Referees Committee. I am sure he will appreciate the force of what I am saying. You may say—"The case is so important that it should over-ride these considerations"; but it should be borne in mind that the Private Bill practice of Parliament has not been as strict as the Public Bill practice, and it may consequently be argued that it will be to the advantage of the House and the country to assimilate the Private Bill practice as far as we can to the Public Bill practice. But this would scarcely do, because in the case of a Gas or Water Bill which has been passed through Select Committees, and comes back to the House, an attempt might be made to engraft upon its provisions some totally different subject when no opportunity has been afforded for the Committee to hear witnesses, and to consider the evidence as it affects the provisions of the Bill. I hope hon. Members will not misunderstand what I say. I am pointing out the extreme importance of preserving the ordinary practice of the House. I think we ought never to resort to special remedies at all unless there is an enormous grievance, and I submit that it is far more important to the Irish Members and to everybody that the principles of this Private Bill Legislation should be preserved than that the object of the hon. Member opposite should be attained. If this Motion is adopted it will form a strong precedent—it will be a guide to me as to the attitude I am expected to take. I hope, therefore, the House will pause before adopting the Motion. Hon. Members may think that they have a strong grievance, but I submit that that is not the question. The question is, are you going to set aside the plan of allowing Select Committees to take evidence and to carefully consider the questions that come before them? If you are going deliberately and with your eyes open to set aside the system which in the past has worked well, consider what a precedent you are setting, and what difficulties you 1327 may be creating for yourselves. I cannot help thinking that before you by a very ingenious movement put aside the ordinary practice of Private Bill Legislation, and adopt this strong and special remedy over-riding the Standing Order and inserting a clause in the Bill which the Committee cannot consider, and on which they can call no evidence, you should have an overwhelming case.
§ MR. MACARTNEY () Antrim, S.
said, that in the absence, through illness, of his hon. Friend the Member for South Dublin (Mr. H. Plunkett), in whose constituency the townships lay, he opposed the Amendment on the general ground that the House was being asked to follow a course which had never, with the exception of two cases, by no means on all-fours with the present, been pursued by them before. Not a word had been said against the merits of the Bill. The case of Rathmines, to which allusion had been made, differed essentially from the measure before the House, since in it there was originally a Franchise Clause. In the Bill the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir C. Dilke) found something to hang his arguments for the reduction of the franchise. To-day the right hon. Gentleman had culled from the Reports of the Commission over which he had presided a number of facts connected with the local sanitary administration of the Irish boroughs. Well, he (Mr. Macartney) did not deny that these were facts which were of most serious importance and deserved the attention of the House. He did not concur with the Report of the Commission when it said that the existing mischiefs were entirely due to the franchise. There were other causes. Did the right hon. Baronet mean to charge against the Commissioners of Blackrock and Kingstown the charges formulated against the general body of Municipal Bodies in Ireland in the Report of the Commission? He might say that in some degree he agreed with the Seconder of the Amendment with respect to the recommendations of the Committee on the Housing of the Poor, though not entirely; but, at the same time, he did not think the right hon. Baronet ought to have made on a small Private Bill the use he had made of the Report. If these great mischiefs had existed in these two townships—if the Commissioners were men who had an interest in insanitary buildings, 1328 and derived profit from them, and neglected all the duties imposed on them by law in virtue of the office they enjoyed, surely there was ample opportunity for some of the ratepayers to go before the Committees in Parliament and make out the case which the right hon. Baronet had attempted to make by implication. The hon. Gentleman had said that the ratepayers of Blackrock were excluded—
§ MR. MACARTNEY
Yes; some of them were excluded from occupying their proper position, either as electors or as representatives of electors. Surely the Bill had been duly formulated, and proper notice had been given to the ratepayers and inhabitants of Blackrock, so that if they had any grievances against the Town Commissioners they could have brought them before Parliament. He was not aware that any agitation had been got up against the Bill, which was absolutely necessary for the health and welfare of the inhabitants of the two townships, and the hon. and learned Member had not attempted to show that the Commissioners would act otherwise than for the advantage of those townships. Surely it was not quite fitting that the ratepayers of Blackrock should come before the House of Commons now to ask to have done for them what they ought to have done for themselves? With regard to the Belfast Drainage Bill, he would remind the House that that also was far from being on all-fours with the present Bill, and the contention of the hon. Member for North Kerry on that occasion was that the promoters of the Belfast Bill were trying to carry a measure which would be for the benefit of some portion of the inhabitants of Belfast, and it was upon the accusations he made against the Corporation of Belfast that he founded his demand for the reduction of the franchise in that city.
§ MR. SEXTON
My case was that the Corporation of Belfast did not represent the ratepayers, and that it ought to do so, bringing forward a large and expensive scheme such as that the House was then considering.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that argument was undoubtedly used, but that alone it would not have convinced the House. The hon. Gentleman pushed his 1329 contention further, and based his claim for the reduction of the franchise on the fact that there was a large and poor proportion of the ratepayers of Belfast, which was inimical to a certain proportion of the scheme, yet which was not adequately represented on the Town Council. No allegation of that nature was made by the hon. Gentleman the proposer of the Amendment now before the House. Moreover, he would point out that the Drainage Board to be constituted under the Bill would not be elected under a £4 or an £8 franchise, but that it would be appointed by the representative Bodies of Kingstown and Blackrock. Upon that Board the Irish Local Government Board would have an ex officio member, who would be a sufficient guardian of the public purse, and would prevent these gentlemen from acting against the interests of the townships.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that he was not responsible for the anomalies of the franchise in the County of Dublin. As there was no general rule for the election of Town Commissioners all over Ireland, the proposal of the hon. and learned Member would only add one more anomaly to those which already existed. The Town Commissioners of Kingstown had promoted this Bill jointly with the Blackrock Commissioners, and he had received a letter from the Town Clerk of Kingstown declaring in effect that the Commissioners of that township had taken no action, directly or indirectly, for the insertion of such new clauses as the hon. and learned Member now desired. If the Amendment were agreed to the result would be that the Bill, which was of the highest possible importance to the inhabitants of Blackrock and Kingstown, and had received the unanimous support of the Boards of both townships, and which, moreover, had not been opposed before the Committees, would be indefinitely hung up. He said this, not because the Commissioners of Blackrock had an objection to the general law dealing with the reduction of the franchise, but because the Blackrock Commissioners had no power under their Act to accept the proposal, which ought properly to be contained in a general and not in a Private Act of 1330 Parliament. They had to give a certain notice for every specific proposition they desired to carry out in relation to their duty. That notice went before the ratepayers, and the work to be done had to be approved of, not only by the Board itself, but by the ratepayers who elected the Board. The commission they received from the ratepayers was only a commission in respect of the specific objects contained in the Bill; therefore, if the House yielded to the arguments of the hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment—and he hoped it would not—the Bill against which no public meeting had been held in either township, and which was not opposed before the Committee, would be postponed indefinitely, not because the Commissioners themselves had a fundamental objection to it, but because they had no power to carry out the proposal.
§ MR. SEXTON () Kerry, N.
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had drawn attention to the fact that the Kingstown Commissioners did not oppose the Bill. But Kingstown already had a £4 franchise, which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clancy) asked for Blackrock; and Kingstown, therefore, being already in possession of what was asked for in favour of Blackrock, of course the former township had no particular reason to intervene against the Bill. He thought the hon. Member (Mr. Macartney) was in error as to his (Mr. Sexton's) attitude on the Belfast Bill. In all matters of substance there was a close and perfect parity between the present case and the case of Belfast. In the latter case an expenditure of £300,000 was proposed; and his contention was that, as the main body of the persons who contributed the rates in Belfast were excluded from the franchise, it was not expedient that the expenditure of such a large sum should be entrusted to such a Body, but to a more representative Body. That principle was accepted by the House and was carried into effect, and it was precisely the same principle which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clancy) advanced to-day. The Blackrock Commissioners wanted to borrow £50,000, and, seeing that the township included some 9,000 inhabitants, he thought that the House would agree with him that the sum was relative to a greater sum than was asked for in the 1331 case of Belfast, and that the persons who contributed to the rates in Blackrock had a right to be admitted to the franchise, so as to be enabled to control the Local Body, and a moiety of the representation on the Drainage Board, by whom this money would be expended. With regard to the observations of the Chairman of Committees, he would point out that the House did not always accept his ruling where matters of public money arose, and such a case arose in 1886. He would further wish to point out that in the case of the Local Government (Ireland) Bill of 1881, which was promoted by the Tory Party, the main principle was that every person entitled to be a Parliamentary elector, who paid local rates, was entitled to exercise the franchise. Further, he might mention there was a Select Committee of the House, the Police and Sanitary Regulations Committee, which sat from year to year, which had power and instructions from the House to sanction provisions in Bills in excess of the general law, and, if the House of Commons gave such powers to a Committee, he did not see why the House itself should not do what it had instructed a Committee to do. He thought that the speech of the Chairman of Committees was a dry effort, not worthy, in his judgment, of any serious attention, to overpower the merit and substance of the case by resorting to technicality. His hon. Friend did not propose to insert in a Bill any clause which had reference to the nature of the duties of the Committee. It was not a matter in regard to which evidence need be required. If the speech of the Chairman of Committees were to be received as the foundation and basis of Private Bill Legislation in that House, he would venture to say that it would introduce an extremely vicious principle. It meant that the House was to diverge to a principle of renunciation in regard to Private Bills, that no matter how pressing the public interests might be that the House was to declare in advance that it would not consider such a matter. A more vicious principle, and one more contrary to the practice of the House of Commons in police and sanitary matters, he could not imagine. Here was a Board in a community of 9,000 persons representing some 300 persons out of an electorate of 500. The Parliamentary 1332 electors of the district numbered l,200r and the local electors would number 1,200 if Blackrock were situated in any part of the United Kingdom but Ireland. The Board sat in camera. It spent the funds of the community in private, and it expelled from the Town Hall the leading ratepayer of the district. Finally, the skeleton list of 500 was revised by a gentleman who was Judge, jury, and executioner all in one, and who left a name or cut out a name as he pleased. The thing was fantastic and absurd. He could not defer even to the opinion of the Chairman of Committees when that right hon. Gentleman told him that, because of certain Rules, the House was not to interfere when it found that so fantastic a system of government was carried on. The Bill proposed to put a burden of £5,000 on the two communities, and he was there to say that he would take not only that, but every other, opportunity of affording the ratepayers a means of supervising the expenditure of their money. He could not admit that any Ride of the House should debar him from giving those who in any local community contributed to the local purse the power of electing the Body which expended the local rates.
§ MR. PLUNKET () Dublin University
said, his principal reason for interposing in the Debate was that his hon. Friend who sat for the Division of Dublin County, in which Blackrock was situated, was not able to be present. He entirely agreed with the argument the Chairman of Committees had put forward, and would only submit to the House one consideration in support of what the right hon. Gentleman had said. If the precedent of the Belfast Bill was to be sustained and probably pressed further on other occasions, might not some objector to a Bill who had brought forward all the objections he could before the Private Bill Committee carry out his purpose, in defiance of the will of the locality and in the teeth of the Report of the Committee, by getting some friend in the House to introduce into the discussion of the Bill some matter of public policy by which he could snatch a Party Division? This was not only a possibility, but a strong probability, and it would be a total contravention of the whole principle on which Private Business was conducted in the House of Commons. The 1333 present proposal would carry further than it had over before been attempted to carry the principle which was unfortunately established in the Belfast case. The hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) said that Kingstown, which was to take a share in carrying out the drainage system, had one franchise, while Blackrock had another. It had already been pointed out that the real Governing Body was not to be elected by the ratepayers under the provisions of this Bill. However this might be, the Kingstown township, which for a long time opposed this scheme, were so convinced by the discussion the Bill received before the Lords that they had joined the Blackrock Commissioners in urging its speedy passage. The question of franchise was not raised in any way whatever in the Bill before the House. There was no complaint whatever about the management of the township as regarded sanitation or anything else of the kind except with respect to the outfall of the drainage into the sea, and that defect this Bill sought to remedy. He hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would advise the House not to stop the further progress of the Bill, because it was absolutely certain that the Commissioners who were promoting the measure had no authority to give assent, and would give no assent, to the proposal which had been made, so that the result of carrying the Instruction would be the loss of a Bill which had involved great expense and trouble to those who had put it forward.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
My hon. and learned Friend who moved this Instruction must be aware that with every word he said on the merits of his proposal I am in full and entire accord. If his account of the franchise of Blackrock is true, I am sorry to say it is true also of too many other places in Ireland. The facts have long been well known to me, and I am entirely in agreement with my hon. and learned Friend in desiring to see a more rational system adopted in reference to these local franchises. The anomalies he pointed out are, as he said, gross, and call for remedy, but, at the same time, I must repeat now what I said some time ago in reference to the Rathmines and Rathgar Bill. Is it worth while, in trying to effect a reform, great as it 1334 would be, for the sake, I would say, of making a demonstration—because it would not come to much more than that—in favour of a reformed franchise in Blackrock, to run the risk or almost to face the certainty of losing this Bill which my hon. and learned Friend himself agrees, upon the merits, is a Bill that is required by the condition of the township? It would be impossible for anyone who knows anything about this neighbourhood not to be aware that the demand for the creation of a drainage system there is an urgent demand, and one which every citizen of the County of Dublin, and especially of the City of Dublin, has a direct interest in. My hon. Friend the Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton), who made an ingenious speech in defence of the Amendment, referred to the position of the House in reference to the Police and Sanitary Committee, and he found it convenient to suppose that there was some analogy between the course recommended now by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) and the practice of the House in referring certain matters to that Committee. But my hon. Friend forgets that the Police and Sanitary Committee was instituted not so much for doing things as for preventing things being done.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I agree; but the object of the House was to take can that certain things should not be done without having a special Report and calling the special attention of the House to the matter. I think that disposes of that part of the question. Much has been made of the precedent of Belfast. There is, however, this great difference between the Belfast case and the present case: that this is a mandatory Instruction to the Committee. In the Belfast case the Instruction was not mandatory.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE
In the case of the Belfast Bill the House itself put the clauses in on Report. There is now a Standing Order that prevents that being done.
§ MR. CLANCY
I explained that the reason why I did not adopt the course of moving a new clause was that it would be out of Order.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
But, as my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) points out, the Standing Order was passed after the Belfast precedent was established. Why was it passed? It was in order to prevent anyone taking the course which my hon. and learned Friend now seeks to take. Therefore, I think that the more the Belfast precedent is examined the less will be thought of it as a precedent for a case of this kind. The present proposal does what the Belfast proposal did not do. It introduces an entirely new element into the Bill. It is proposed to insert in the Bill an entirely new idea, and, if I may say so, a heterogeneous matter. I do not agree with the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for North Kerry in reference to the argument of the Chairman of Committees. I think my right hon. Friend's speech was a very valuable reminder to the House of the conditions that would be introduced into Private Bill practice if this Instruction were assented to by the House. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Mellor) said that the Committee would not have power to hear counsel or to take evidence.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Well, I was rather alarmed at the argument of my hon. and learned Friend when he said time would be lost and endless discussion would take place. I quite agree that there are occasions when you may have discussions too indefinitely prolonged. I am not at all averse to brief discussions, but still I was alarmed at the rather supercilious treatment of the value of discussion by my hon. and learned Friend. I think that, as my right hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees said, it would be a rather strong order if the House were to accept a change in a local measure without resorting in any way to the method by which we obtain local opinions on the subject. I take the point I put earlier in the Session—namely, that it is not worth while, for the sake of making a demonstration against gross and intolerable anomalies, to lose a solid and practical advantage. I am sorry to say that I cannot support the Instruction.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR () Wicklow, W.
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary seemed to imagine that both Blackrock and Kingstown needed this Bill, and were in urgent need of it. Did the right hon. Gentleman know that the Kingstown Commissioners passed a unanimous resolution to oppose the measure? The Kingstown Commissioners had been dragged into this drainage scheme by Blackrock, and had been obliged to submit to it. The Kingstown people had a good system of drainage, which cost them £15,000, and they required a different system altogether from that which had been forced upon them by the Blackrock Commissioners. The Chairman of Committees had said that this was a very serious case. It was a very serious case for the people of Blackrock, who were involved in a very heavy expenditure without having had a voice in the decision of the ease. The majority of the people of Blackrock had no voice in the transaction of the business of their township. Some six years ago there was a proposal to establish a free library in the township, and because it would add 1d. in the £1 to the taxation, a majority of 300 out of 500 electors refused to apply the Libraries Act to the township of Blackrock. The roads which ran by the terraces in Blackrock were well attended to, but the dwellings of the poor were in the most unsanitary condition, and there were slums and back lanes in Blackrock which were a perfect disgrace to civilisation. In the first place, then, they had it that the Kingstown Town Commissioners had opposed this Bill; and, in the second place, they had no reason to believe that the people, if they had a voice in electing their Commissioners, would have supported a drainage scheme which involved them in a considerable amount of expense while the township was already heavily laden with debt. He hoped the House would vote for his hon. Friend's Motion, and enable the people of Blackrock to decide whether or not this drainage scheme should be carried without their consent if the franchise was reduced from £8 to £4.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. Gladstone,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
appealed to the House to allow the discussion to close. In order to comply with the law, it was necessary 1337 to take the Report of the Vote on Account at that Sitting.
§ Mr. Bodkin rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I trust that the hon. Member for Fermanagh will bear in mind what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister.
§ MR. Crilly rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. DANE
said, the question was whether this peremptory Instruction should be sent to the Committee, the result of which would be to prevent the Bill becoming law this Session. The measure would get rid of a long-standing grievance. [Cries of "Divide!"] The hon. Member for Wicklow had said that the Kingstown Commissioners had passed a resolution in opposition to the Bill. That was quite true up to a certain point; but the hon. Member had forgotten to mention to the House that, although the Kingstown Commissioners had passed that resolution, and although they had lodged a Petition against it, they subsequently withdrew that Petition. It remained for the House to say whether it would prevent the 27,000 inhabitants of these townships from getting rid of their sewage, which, at the present time, was a source of great danger to the public health.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 98; Noes 107.—(Division List, No. 255.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.1338
§ Bill re-committed to the former Committee.
§ Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they do insert new Clauses providing for the assimilation of the rated occupation franchise for township elections in Black-rock township to that now existing in Kingstown township, including the provisions for joint occupation votes, and for an annual revision of the list of township voters in the said township.—(Mr. Clancy.)