§ MR. KENNEDY (Kildare, N.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been drawn to the Report of the Local Government Board for Ireland just issued, from which it appears that out of 25,975 cottages included in schemes which they have been petitioned to confirm, from the inception of the Labourers Acts up to 31st March, 1893, they have already rejected 11,376; whether the rejection of schemes depends on the individual discretion of the Inspector who holds the local inquiry; whether the great majority of applications are dismissed owing to informalities in the representation forms, caused by their being filled by the labourers themselves, many of whom have very slight education; whether the preliminary expenses up to the close of the local inquiry into the then rejected representations cost on an average £3 per head; and whether, in view of this loss to the Unions, he will direct Boards of Guardians to instruct their solicitors or clerks on application by the labourer to fill his representation form for him, and give him instructions as to the necessary signatures he will require to obtain for it?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
The numbers given in the first paragraph are correct. The rejection or approval of schemes does not depend upon the individual discretion of the Inspector, but upon consideration of the evidence taken at the inquiry and the recommendations made by their Inspector. So far as the Board are aware, only a very small proportion of the houses have been rejected for the reason assigned in the third paragraph. A certain number have been thrown out consequent on informalities in representations, schemes, notices, &c.; but the great majority of cottages rejected have been thrown out on the merits. The Board have not sufficient data to say whether the fact is as stated in the fourth paragraph. In some Unions the preliminary expenses in legal, engineering, advertising, have been somewhat heavy; but where the Clerk of a Union has advertised the scheme, served the notices, and prepared 956 the petitions, the cost would not be as high as £3 per cottage. The Local Government Board think it would be objectionable that Clerks of Unions or other officers should be instructed to fill up the representation forms for labourers. The Board consider that representations should emanate from the ratepayers themselves, without the intervention of the Guardians or Union officials, before whom the representations would afterwards come for consideration.
§ MR. KENNEDY
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that after the Act was passed representations were made by agricultural labourers themselves to the affect that they did not understand how to fill in the forms, and could not afford to pay a solicitor to do it?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I have looked at the forms. They seem to be simple enough, and I see no difficulty in filling them in.