HC Deb 18 May 1893 vol 12 cc1277-9

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether the Dunshaughlin Board of Guardians reported to the Local Government Board that Mr. George F. Murphy, J. P. and Mr. John Wilkinson, J. P. (both of Dunsany), voted as ex-officio Guardians in favour of giving the meat contract for the Dunshaughlin Union to the Dunsany Cooperative Store Company, a concern in which they are shareholders; and, if so, whether the Local Government Board intend to prosecute Messrs. Murphy and Wilkinson for corrupt and illegal voting: whether the Local Government Board are aware that Lord Dunsany, principal of the Dunsany Co-operative Store firm, Messrs. George F. Murphy, J.P., John Wilkinson, J.P., and other shareholders in that concern, by whose votes and influence on the Dunshaughlin Board of Guardians the meat contract was secured for the Dunsany Co-operative Store Company, are in the habit of selling fat cattle to their Co-operative Store, which, trading as butchers, sell their meat to the Board of Guardians, of which they are members, and, finally, voting themselves (indirectly) payment out of the funds of the ratepayers, thus having a double financial gain for their votes; whether the Local Government Board have sanctioned such a system of contracting, and consider it advantageous to the ratepayers and the poor; and whether the Local Government Board will take any, and, if so, what action in the matter?


I wish on this to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question of which I have given him private notice —i.e., Whether he is aware that on the occasion referred to 13 Guardians voted for and six against accepting the lowest tender—namely, that of the Dunsany Co-operative Store Company, Limited, an association for the benefit of the poor of the district, consisting of 200 shareholders, 85 of whom are labourers, and which has now been successfully established for 16 years?


I rise to Order. Is it the practice in this House, when a person closely connected with a Member of this House has his public conduct attacked, for his relative to come to his aid with a long question?


I saw nothing in the supplementary question calling for my interference.

MR. H. PLUNKETT (continuing his question)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that none of the Guardians who voted were shareholders except the two named who had shares value £5 and 10s. respectively, and that, therefore, their financial interest in the contract was nominal; that Mr. Wilkinson has never sold any cattle at all to the Stores, while Lord Dunsany and Mr. Murphy only sell occasionally for the accommodation of the stores at Liverpool prices, less freight and expenses, and without benefit to themselves; and whether the Local Government Board inquiry has shown that there, is the slightest foundation for all the suggestions of jobbery on the part of the men named in the question of the hon. Member for East Clare?


I am unable to certify as to the accuracy of the facts quoted by the hon. Gentleman. They may be substantially true, but I have had no time to test them. On the 20th April I stated, in reply to a question addressed to me on this subject by the hon. Member, that the Local Government Board had drawn the attention of the Guardians to the statutory penalties to which members concerned in Union contracts are liable. I now learn that on the 2nd instant the Board of Guardians, at a special meeting convened to consider the matter, unanimously passed a resolution to the effect that two of the Guardians, who are interested as shareholders in the concern to the extent of— in one case of £5 and in the other of 10s. —had voted in favour of the acceptance of the tender of the Co-operative Stores, and that in doing so they acted solely ill the interest of the poor and of the ratepayers. With the view of eliciting all the facts, the Local Government Board have instructed one of their Inspectors to make inquiry into the matter; and, upon the receipt of his Report, the Board will decide whether the case is one in which they should proceed for the recovery of the statutory penalties.


I will put another question after the Recess.