§ (As amended, considered.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
I beg to move the insertion of the following new clause, and that it be read a second time—Page 8, after clause 11, insert the following clause:—
- "(1) The county council, without prejudice to the power under section one hundred and sixty-two of the Grand Juries Act, 1836, or any other enactment, may, for the purpose of the maintenance of the roads in their county, whether main or other roads, acquire, purchase, take on lease, or exchange any land from which materials may be got for the repair of such roads, and may purchase or hire any steam roller, and may place at the disposal of the persons contracting for the repair of the roads, materials from the said land, and the use of the said steam roller, upon such reasonable terms as may be agreed upon.
- "(2) Section one hundred and sixty-two of the Grand Juries Act, 1836 (which relates to the power to obtain gravel, stone, sand, or other materials), shall extend to authorise the digging for, raising, and carrying away of gravel, stone, sand, or other materials, out of any river or brook at a distance of at least a hundred and fifty feet above or below any bridge, dam, or weir, where the same can be taken away without diverting or interrupting the course of the river or brook, or prejudicing or damaging any building, highway, ford, or spawning-bed."
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Amendment standing on the Paper is out of order on the Report stage. It proposes to give power to the county councils to, spend money, and that money will necessarily come out of the rates; therefore, it could not be introduced on the Report stage.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I bow to your ruling, which, I understand, will apply to several other Amendments put down on the Paper in the name of the Government. Perhaps I may be allowed, by the indulgence of the House, to state what course the Government propose to pursue. What we propose, Sir, is this: we shall take the Report stage now, and when we have finished with these clauses 10 and Amendments which are in order we propose to re-commit the Bill as regards those Government clauses which are out of order on the Report stage. There are a certain number of other new clauses in the names of private Members which will also be out of order, I understand, upon this ruling. The case of some of them is somewhat peculiar, because many of them were put down for discussion upon the Committee stage, but were not then pressed, at the request of the Government. The Government at the same time undertook that honourable Members in whose names these clauses were down on the Paper shall not lose their opportunity of discussing them merely because of the fact of the discussion being put off to the Report stage. It will only be right that in respect to any such clauses the Government should consent to allow an opportunity for discussing them, and to consent to the re-committal of the Bill in respect of those clauses. Of course, it must be clearly understood that by taking that course we do not pledge ourselves afterwards to support those Amendments to the clauses in respect of which we re-commit the Bill, and also where an Amendment already placed on the Paper was out of order on the Committee stage it would be out of order for discussion on the Report stage. I hope that this explanation as to the course which the Government intend to adopt will be regarded as satisfactory.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I should like to say a word or two with regard to the small clauses placed on the Paper since the Committee stage. One clause I put down the other day, I am afraid, will be out of order on this ruling, but I do hope the Government will be able to accept a clause giving the same powers contained in my clause to the county councils to pay the expenses of delegates to any association of county councils which may be formed for the purpose of consultation as to their common interests. It is drafted in the same words as the Act of 1890. It is only a one-clause Act, and it is a question which can be raised again when the Government move to re-commit the Bill.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman at what stage he proposes to move to re-commit the Bill. Will it be after the consideration of these clauses? I would suggest that the better course would be to take the Government's new clauses, together with the other new clauses, after the whole of the Bill has been disposed of, and then move to re-commit the Bill. We have also been told that the Orders in Council have had to be amended, but we have not yet seen the amended proposals of Her Majesty's Government, and it is a little inconvenient, with regard to an important Bill of this character, that we have not these amended proposals in our hands. Will it not be convenient at some stage, either in this House or in the House or Lords, to add the Orders in Council to the Bill? I am sure it would be a great convenience to all those who have to use this measure if those Orders in Council were made to form a portion of the Act of Parliament itself.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)
I understand that six Parliamentary days is the time fixed. In view of the change in the arrangements for getting the Bill through I should like to know if that will be adhered to.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Yes, I should think six Parliamentary days will be found sufficient. In reply to the honourable Member for East Mayo, I should not like to pledge myself with regard to the new clauses which he has put down since the Committee stage. I do not say that I shall not bring it forward, but I cannot give a distinct pledge. With regard to the Orders in Council I should like to say, in reply to the honourable and learned Member for Louth, that I think the suggestion that some means should be taken by which the Orders in Council shall be attached so as to form part of the Bill is one well worthy of consideration, and if it can be conveniently arranged for before the Bill leaves this House for the House of Lords I shall be glad to see the suggestion adopted. There are two other points which the honourable and learned 12 Member for Louth raised, one with regard to the Orders in Council not being in the hands of Members. We have not been able to redraft those Orders in Council with the Amendments which it is proposed to make, but I have, in response to the suggestion made by the honourable Member for Cork, drawn up a list shortly describing the changes which we propose to make in the Orders in Council, and that will be in the hands of honourable Members to-morrow. As to the other point raised by the honourable and learned Member for Louth, in which he suggests that the new Clauses and also the Amendments ruled out of order should be considered after we pass to the final stage, I certainly think it is desirable that we should complete the work on those Amendments that are in order before proceeding to re-commit those clauses and Amendments which are not in order.
§ MR. PLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
Can you indicate to us now, Mr. Speaker, which of our clauses are out of order, or will you only let us know when they are reached? It would make some difference to our convenience if we could know now.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think it will be better not to give such an intimation now; I think I must rule them out of order as they come on. Some honourable Members might have something to say upon them which would alter my decision.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think it would be most convenient that there should be some check on the by-laws made by the Public Department.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I beg leave to move that the following clause be inserted and read a second time—Page 19, after clause 32, insert the following clause:—So much of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act, 1840, as requires the approval of the Honourable Society of the Governor and Assistants of London of the new plantation in Ulster within the realm of Ireland to any bylaw made by the council of the boroughs of Coleraine and Londonderry shall be repealed.
§ MR. BUTCHER (York)
The Corporation of Derry has a Charter by James I. and Charles II. By that Charter the Irish Society was incorporated and entrusted with very large powers and duties. By that same Charter the Corporation of Derry was entrusted with very large duties in connection with the government of the city. But, Sir, there was a provision in this Charter that any regulations or by-laws made by the corporation should be certified by the Irish Society, and should not be valid until they received the approval of the Irish Society. There was a Report of a Royal Commission, issued in 1889, and in this it is stated that the city of Derry has received very important advantages from its connection with the Irish Society. Among other advantages they receive a grant of £1,200 per annum out of the funds of the Irish Society, which is available to reduce their expenditure. The Irish Society have, in connection with the London companies, expended very large sums of money indeed. Therefore, Sir, the relations between the Corporation of Derry and the Irish Society have been of the closest character. Now, Sir, this Irish Society Charter has received the sanction of Parliament. I find that the Irish Municipal Corporations Act of 1840, section 155, gives power to the Council of Derry to make such by-laws as they think proper for the good government of the borough; but there is a special proviso that such by-laws should be approved by the Irish Society. Now, Sir, the proposal of the Government, as I understand it, is to repeal that proviso in section 155 of the Corporations Act of 1840. I for one should like to know from the Government whether the object of this Bill is to repeal entirely that provision of the Charter which provides that the by-laws of Derry have to be submitted to, and approved by, the Irish Society. I should like to have the opinion of the law officers of Ireland upon it, for it does seem to me that there will be grave doubts whether, after that section is repealed, that provision of the Charter will be in operation; and I want to know whether it is really worth while to do 14 so, for no friction, as far as I know, has ever arisen, and no complaint is made by the members of the Corporation of Derry in connection with this question. I do not see the Member for Derry in his place at the present moment. Possibly the result of this repeal may be to deprive the city of Londonderry of the financial assistance which it at present gets from the Irish Society. In saying this I have no knowledge whatever what the Irish Society may do, and I have no authority to speak on their behalf; but possibly the result of this present proposition may be that the Irish Society may say, "Why should we go on any longer subscribing this £1,200 a year?" The result may be that in removing this anomaly, which is a perfectly harmless anomaly, much damage may be done to Derry. If the Government are satisfied that the anomaly is a serious one, and that it is producing disadvantageous results to the city of Derry, I certainly should not oppose the proposal embodied in this clause. If, on the other hand, up to the present time a substantial advantage has resulted to Derry, then I see no reason whatever for opening up this question, which may possibly result to the city's disadvantage.
§ SIR T. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
Perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words upon this matter. The Irish Society have been compelled to admit they are trustees of public money, and it is not possible for them to take away these grants which they make at the present time. I do not think that in the city of Derry there is a very large amount of gratitude to the society for what they have done. No doubt they act as trustees to the best of their ability; as trustees, they do, to a certain extent, help the prosperity of the city of Derry, but that money is Irish money, to be used for the advantage of the city of Derry and of the surrounding districts, and it would be a gross breach of trust if they were to deprive the city of Derry of these grants, or any portion of them, which they give to the Corporation of Derry, and which were intended for the benefit of the city of Derry.
§ MR. BUTCHER
I merely, Sir, wish to make my meaning clear; I only put that possibility forward as a possible 15 result which may occur if these rules are altered in the manner proposed.
§ SIR T. LEA
This is an anomaly which ought to be abolished. The corporation have expressed their wish that it should be abolished, and under such circumstances I think the House ought to accept the Amendment of the Chief Secretary and take action in the matter.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
I quite agree with my honourable and learned Friend that, so far as the matter raised is concerned, there is no question about the good work of the Irish Society. The principal reason for proposing this new clause is that for the last 50 years the Irish Society have done nothing whatever with regard to by-laws. They have never attempted to interfere with the by-laws of Coleraine, and have never exercised their power with regard to Derry. These by-laws are, most of them, for the prevention of nuisances such as are not punishable by law, and whatever right the Charter of the Irish Society gives them is in no way interfered with by this Bill. It is not to be supposed that a great body like the Irish Society would, if they had the power, withhold any grants simply because their power to interfere with the by-law was repealed. This clause merely seeks to repeal that portion of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act, 1840, requiring the approval of the honourable Society of the Governor and Assistants of London of the new plantation in Ulster, within the realm of Ireland, to any by-law made by the council of the boroughs of Coleraine and Londonderry. I do not know whether the power was ever exercised, and if so that is an anomaly in itself. My honourable Friend can hardly be serious in suggesting, as I said before, that a body—a great and important body like the Irish Society—even if they had the power—which I for my part entirely deny—would take away from the city of Derry any grant that they may have been giving, simply because they have no longer the power which they had under their Charters, that power being taken away by an Act of Parliament. There is no reason for supposing that they ever 16 exercised those powers, and as they were more or less anomalous in themselves we, by this clause, do away with them. It did not seem to us to be right to have a great corporation like the Irish Society interfering with the by-laws of a popularly elected body like the Corporation of Derry in such matters as the regulation of traffic and the prevention of nuisances.
That the clause be read a second time.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ MR. M. HEALY
Then, in order to raise the question, and to get an answer from the Government, I move to omit the words "the boroughs of."
§ MR. ATKINSON
Coleraine ceased to be a borough long ago, and is now under the Town Commissioners Act of 1884. If the honourable Member will look at the clause he will see that what we propose to do is to repeal the particular clause of the Act of 1840, in which Coleraine is dealt with. All that the Amendment says is that—So much of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act, 1840, as requires the approval of the honourable Society of the Governor and Assistants of London of the new plantation in Ulster within the realm of Ireland to any by-law made by the council of the boroughs of Coleraine and Londonderry shall be repealed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I do not think that the course taken by the honourable Gentleman is at all an unreasonable course. May I suggest, with reference to this clause, that it would be a very good thing to substitute the words "Local Government Board" altogether for the words "Lord Lieutenant." I once had occasion to go over the by-laws of the Dublin Corporation, when they were being revised 17 —that was something like 10 or 12 years ago. I do not know whether an actual revision ever did take place, but it was absurd to observe the number of questions to be left for the consideration of the Lord Lieutenant. What I would suggest to the Government would be that they should repeal altogether the power in the Lord Lieutenant to revise by-laws, and that the Local Government Board should be substituted for his Excellency. With a view to that I will move, at the end of the clause, after the word "repealed," to add these words—And no consent of the Lord Lieutenant shall be required to revise by-laws made by any corporation, but that for such consent the Local Government Board shall be substituted.I trust that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment, which is simply substituting for the consent of the Lord Lieutenant the consent of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. ATKINSON
I do not think that we can accept this Amendment, which would be quite contrary to the provisions of section 125 of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1840.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The next clause—Adjustment of financial relations between county at large and merged county of city or town,is not in order upon the Report stage, because its effect would be to alter the incidence of taxation. The next clause—Periodical revision of financial relations between county and urban districts, or between two county districts,is also out of order, on the same ground.
Another clause brought up—
Page 36, after clause 58, insert the following clause—
A district or county council, or any committee thereof, shall not hold a meeting on any licensed premises, nor shall such premises be used as an office of the council, or for any
purpose of or incidental to the business of the council, or of any officer of the council, and the expression 'licensed premises' in this section means premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor, and includes any club at which such liquor is sold."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)
I do not like this clause at all. I really cannot understand upon what principles of reasoning my friends have come to the conclusion that the county councils, or any committee of a county council, have no places for meeting, excepting public-houses, in Ireland. My view is that it is an insult to the county council to suggest that their proceedings will take place in any such premises. For my part I most strongly resent the insinuation conveyed by the new clause. I am very sorry that the right honourable Gentleman has seen his way to accept it. I believe it is simply put forward by a number of temperance faddists, for the purpose of exploiting their own particular views on this question, and I do not see any reason whatever for its acceptance or incorporation in the Act. I therefore move to omit the words "district and county council."
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I also protest against this clause. I think it is an insult to the people. I think it is entirely unnecessary and by no means required in a Bill of this sort. For instance, if a committee of the county council should meet in some small town to make a report on some question, and have had to meet in an hotel in order to draw up a report, is that report to become illegal? This is an attempt to try an experiment in Ireland, and it is an experiment that I wish to protest against, and I do protest against it. If this goes to a Division I shall certainly vote against it.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I should like to ask the Attorney General a question in regard to the effect of this clause. 19 Are we to understand that if this clause is passed it will be impossible for a committee of a county council, or the district council itself, ever to meet in any room belonging to an hotel? For instance, a case has just been put. Supposing that no convenient room could be found in a town excepting some room in an hotel, are the councils to be debarred from hiring this room even for temporary purposes?
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
Before the right honourable Gentleman answers that question, is there a similar provision of this kind in the English Bill? If there is I do not mind supporting this; otherwise I should very much object to it.
§ MR. PINKERTON (Galway)
While I do not hold myself responsible for this Amendment, I am quite in sympathy with it. So far as regarding it as an insult to Ireland is concerned. I do not think that that is so; on the contrary, I think it is quite the opposite. There is no necessity for ever holding committee meetings in public-houses, and there is no necessity for the people to go out of their way to do so. There is no need to go out of the way to manufacture Irish grievances. There are enough already.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that, as there appeared to be a general feeling upon the part of the honourable Members for Irish constituencies against the rigours of the clause, he should have no objection to modifying them. He would, as there was a general consensus upon the point, have no objection to introducing some qualifying words.
§ MR. DILLON
did not object to the Second Reading of the clause. He did not think it would be at all desirable that public-houses should be selected for purposes of meetings. He thought the lines of the English law ought to be followed. It struck him, when he read the clause, that it was too cast-iron. Honourable Gentlemen might not be aware that circumstances in Ireland might be different to those of England. In some districts in the country side no suitable room could be found but that of the local hotel, and in many cases the rooms at the local hotels have been built with the object and for the purpose of holding meetings. He thought the clause, when it came into operation, 20 might result in a hardship which the Government never contemplated.
At the beginning of the clause to insert these words—
Except in cases where no other suitable room is available, either free of charge or at a reasonable cost.
§ Amendment agreed to, and clause added to the Bill.
Upon the new clause—
A trackway on the bank of any navigable river within the meaning of the Grand Jury (Ireland) Act, 1873, shall be a public highway, and shall continue to be maintainable as provided by that Act."—(Mr. G. Balfour.)
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the object of this clause was to ensure the navigation trackways should be kept up in the same way as the roads. The clause had been introduced by the Government upon the suggestion of the honourable Member for West Waterford. He thought the honourable Gentleman's suggestion was a reasonable one, and therefore the clause was proposed to carry it out.
The clause was read a second time and added to the Bill.
Page 43, after clause 67, insert the following clause:—
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The object of this clause is to amend the law in Ireland, and in two important matters assimilate it with the law of England. In the first place it gives a power of appeal. At present no such thing exists in Ireland. The second part of the clause is to confer upon the Local Government Board the power of dealing with and deciding the merits of the case. There are one or two minor points which are amended by this clause.
§ MR. M. HEALY
said he only rose to ask the Government if it was plain that this clause as it stood would apply to county offices? The first objection, of course, only applied to the auditing of the accounts of boards of guardians, but the second clause went a little further.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he would suggest that the House should now repeal a schedule dealing with excrescences in the Act of 1871, which ought to be swept away.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said that, as to the question of whether this system ought to be applied to other bodies than the county councils and boards of guardians, the honourable Member for North Louth would see that a Local Government Bill dealing with county councils, district councils, and boards of guardians could not put in clauses dealing with other bodies.
§ MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
said that, representing the board of guardians in his county, he thanked the Attorney General and the Chief Secretary for the clause. They in that board of guardians had felt it a great hardship in having no appeal from the decision of the auditor, which was not in harmony with ordinary common sense. Therefore he looked upon the clause as a great boon to boards of guardians to 22 have this enactment. The Local Government Board would decide these cases upon their merits, and not simply upon technicalities. The main thing was that they had power to appeal to the Local Government Board, and that cases would be decided upon their merits.
§ Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.
A chairman of any county or district council, or of any commissioners, who is, by virtue of this Act, a justice of the peace, and has been re-elected to the said office of chairman on the expiration or other determination of a previous term of office, may continue to act as a justice of the peace without again taking the oaths required by law to be taken by a justice of the peace."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)
§ Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.
Page 49, after clause 72, insert the following clause:—
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the clause had been introduced in pursuance of an undertaking given to the honourable Member for North Louth as to whether it would not be desirable to submit decisions affecting county boundaries to a Commission of Appeal. He suggested that the Commission should consist of the Vice-President of the Local Government Board, and ex officio a Member of it, and other four Commissioners, of whom two at least should be Members of the Houses of Parliament, appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. The honourable Member for North Louth, he observed, proposed as an Amendment that the two Members of Parliament should be Members of the House of Commons. He had no objection to accept that.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR moved the clause, with the Amendment, and it was read a second time.24
§ On the question that the clause be added to the Bill,
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he should like to have an assurance from the Government that, in any appointments the Lord Lieutenant would not have regard to any partisan considerations. It was quite true that, with regard to the Members of Parliament, the House would have some control; but with regard to the other two Members it would be most unfair if this Commission were to consist of persons pitted against each other, and if there were to be any conflict. He hoped that the Government would give him an assurance of that kind. Most bitter memories still existed with regard to the jerrymandering in 1884–85. They were entitled to have the boundary question carried out upon fairer terms.
§ MR. PINKERTON (Galway)
said that it would be very unfair to select from counties men immediately concerned in the question to be considered.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he had not received any instruction about that. Of course, the intention of the Government was to act as impartially as possible. He entirely agreed with what had been said, that a Commission of that sort ought to be absolutely free from partisan bias. He was quite certain that the Lord Lieutenant would do his utmost to secure the services of gentlemen who would command the general respect of all parties.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
suggested that the House ought to do what had been done before—name in the clause the four Commissioners; or, at all events, if not the names of the two members of Parliament, the names of the other two members of the Commission.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
Page 58, after clause 82, insert the following clause:—
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the clause had been brought forward in consequence of numerous representations made that the additional work thrown on the authorities to prepare the list of voters rendered it impossible to get the work done within the legal time. He observed that the honourable Member for North Louth had an Amendment on the Paper, the effect of which would be to make the clause not transitory, but permanent. He did not think that it would be desirable for the Local Government Board to alter the registration law in that respect, and he was not quite sure that the suggested permanency of the dates in the Amendment was not a proposal outside the scope of the Bill.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he would like to point out that the Government were themselves altering by this Bill other Acts outside its scope. That was to say, the 20th July was the last qualifying day. In England it was the 1st July. They altered it from the 1st to the 20th in 1885, and the Government proposed by this clause to make it a little later. With that he was quite in agreement. The Government proposed to make it the 27th July. When they wanted to make an alteration of that sort it was very desirable to make it a permanent one. Nothing was worse, from the point of view of organisation, whether Conservative or Nationalist, than this system of in and out running as to dates. Once they made this vast change for the entire country people would regard it as being done for all time, and not as transitory at all. They must not get the wrong date in the heads of the people. Once it was rooted there it was difficult after- 26 wards to get it out. It was just as unfair from the point of view of the Conservative, as from the point of view of the Nationalist.
§ MR. M. HEALY
said he was anxious to hear from the Government some reason for the clause, which was only justifiable when the necessity for the change was shown. He did not see himself very well the object of the clause in altering the date for a week, and he should like to know whether the change was to be permanent or temporary. All the dates in the Registration Acts were fixed at the time those Acts came into force; and they were a month too early.
§ MR. TULLY
said the clause appeared to him to be a very reasonable one. It was absolutely necessary, if the printing of the lists was to be done within the time. He would press upon the Government that they should make at least sub-section 1 a permanent clause. The printing of these lists was very expensive to the ratepayers. The ordinary supplementary lists were sent to the printer on the 9th July, and they were supposed to be finished on the 20th July—that was eleven days. Two of those days were necessarily Sundays, and two Sundays taken out of 11 days left only nine working days for the printing of those lists. Then there were only three days for the printing of the list of objections. They commenced on the Saturday and ended on the Monday. Saturday was only a half-day, and on Sunday they could not work, except at a high rate of wages. The result was that there was only a day and a half for the printing of the list of objections, which were very often thousands in number. He thought that if the time were extended it would work for the good of the ratepayers. If they gave more time to the printers there would be less chance of error and mistakes. He thought on the whole that this was a very useful clause, and that if the Government made sub-section 1 a permanent clause it would be welcomed in Ireland. He knew how the matter pressed, upon the printing trade in Ireland, and he thought that by extending the time seven days, something of practical benefit would be done.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL
thought there was another reason, in addition to that given by the honourable Gentleman who spoke last; it afforded greater opportunities for proposing a larger number of names on the register. He thought that in this case there was a large and important change in the law being made. The officials had been called upon to prepare lists extremely difficult to get ready in the time. An Amendment of the sort proposed was most desirable, and he earnestly appealed to the right honourable Gentleman to consider the appeal made to him by the honourable Member for North Louth and make the clause permanent.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said there were technical reasons which rendered it expedient to extend in this particular year the limits of time prescribed by the Registration Acts.
§ Clause read a second time.
To insert in Mr. Gerald Balfour's new clause as to registration in 1898, in line 1, after 'ninety-eight,' 'and thereafter.'"—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I presume the Royal Assent cannot be given to this Measure at least before the 6th of August, and I cannot see the good, therefore, of making a provision which will be absolutely useless so far as the year 1898 is concerned. But there is another objection to this Amendment, of a constitutional type. It is ex post facto legislation, and there is the strongest objection in the minds of everybody to anything in the nature of ex post facto legislation. In other words, this is a suggestion to registration agents all over the country, to clerks of the peace, and to persons collecting rates to break the law with impunity. Let us suppose that the right honourable Gentleman the Attorney General was in a court arguing this point in connection with a registration appeal, and that in a particular case the claimant had not been in occupation on the last day of the qualifying period 28 allowed by law, and you produced the Local Government Act to show, forsooth, that you had an extension of seven days upon the Act coming into force in the month of August, how would any court treat a provision of this kind? It would be ridiculous unless there were some express provision inserted that this was ex post facto legislation, or some rigmarole construction of that kind which had never yet found its place in any Act. This may seem a very small affair, but in my judgment it involves an important principle, and to suggest, as you are doing by this clause, that registration agents should be able to break the existing law is, to say the least, very undesirable. Upon that ground alone I move the Amendment. But there is an additional reason. I think it is very inexpedient, having regard to the existing law, that the clause should be inserted. I move the Amendment, therefore, to make the law certain, and because I think it is most desirable that the change should operate permanently, and not be limited to the present year.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the honourable Member seemed to object to the clause on the ground that it was clearly retrospective legislation. By making the change permanent, however, as he suggested, they would be altering the law of registration in a very important particular. He submitted that such a serious reform of the law could not be considered with advantage upon the Report stage of the Bill before the House.
§ MR. M. HEALY
The right honourable Gentleman seems to think that the clause as it stands will meet the object that the Government have in view. I venture to say, Sir, that the clause as it stands does not extend the period by one day.
Line 1, after 'ninety-eight,' insert 'and thereafter.'
Another Amendment proposed—
Line 6, after 'election,' insert 'under this Act.'"—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said the object of the Amendment was that it should be applicable only to elections under this Act. The Government had repudiated Amendments continually on the ground that they had been attempting to alter the law generally, outside Government matters. He agreed that it was most desirable to alter the law as it stood. What he wanted was to pin the Government to a line of consistency and compel them to state whether they were going to alter the law for general Parliamentary purposes or not. If they were going to alter it for general Parliamentary purposes let them reject his Amendment. If not, let them accept it.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said the clause had been copied from the Act of 1884, and was necessarily designed to affect all elections. If it were not so it would leave the list of Parliamentary voters entirely ineffectual, and possibly illegal, in many respects.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he was satisfied with that explanation, and begged leave to withdraw his Amendment. When various proposals had been made from the Irish Benches, they had been resisted on the ground that they would alter the general law, which they were told it was not intended to do by the Bill; but after the statement of the Attorney General that this clause did not alter the general law as to elections that excuse could no longer be put forward.
§ The Amendment was then, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said he did not himself care whether the clause was introduced or not, but he thought it would be a great convenience to those having to do with the registration if they knew that the qualifying period was extended from the 20th to the 27th July. He had no objection to such extension.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said the Registration Acts fixed the qualifying period. However, he would look carefully into the matter and see what could be done.
§ The clause was then added to the Bill.
Where it appears, upon inquiry made by the Local Government Board, that a board of guardians in any county has refused to consider representations under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1882 to 1896, or has failed to carry out a scheme under the provisions of these Acts, the Local Government Board may by sealed order constitute the county council the local authority for carrying out the provisions of said Acts. Provided that no such order shall be made without one month's notice in writing to the guardians of the intention to make such order; and if, upon such notice being served, the guardians then undertake to carry out the provisions of the Labourers Acts aforesaid, no such order hall be made."—(Mr. J. P. Farrell.)
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he could not accept the clause. Even if it were carried, it would be of no benefit to the labourers. At present, if the guardians did not carry out their duties under the Labourers Act, the Local Government Board, through their inspector, did so. If, however, this clause were passed, the Local Government Board would immediately cast off their responsibility for this duty and put it on the county council. It was not at all likely that the county council would be as ready to carry out the Acts as were the Local Government Board, but quite the reverse. He hoped, therefore, the honourable Member would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
also opposed the Amendment. He said if the honourable Member the mover of the Amendment desired to prevent the erection of labourers' cottages, he could not more effectually achieve his object than by transferring the responsibility from the Local Government Board to the county council. For his own part, he would much rattier trust to the tender mercies of the Local Government 31 Board than to the parsimonious disposition of many of the county councillors in Ireland.
§ MR. FARRELL
said that, as the impression seemed general on his side of the House that the Amendment should not be persisted in, he asked leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
A loan raised after the passing of this Act, under the Poor Belief (Ireland) Act, 1838, and any acts amending that Act, shall be repaid within such period, not exceeding sixty years, as the guardians, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, may determine, either by equal yearly or half-yearly instalments of principal or principal and interest, or by means of a sinking fund."—(Sir Thos. Lea.)
§ SIR T. LEA
In this case, I believe, Members do not know how much worse off Ireland is than England in regard to borrowing powers. We can hardly believe that at the present moment we cannot borrow money for a longer period than 20 years, whereas in England you can borrow for a period of 60 years. In England you can borrow from the public authorities at the lowest rate of interest, whereas in Ireland we are practically forbidden to borrow from any public authorities whatever. The result is that we have to pay a higher rate of interest than English boards of guardians. Under the Public Works Act of last year English boards of guardians can borrow from the Public Works Loan Department at 2¾ per cent. for repayment in less than 20 years; at the rate of 3 per cent. for repayment in not exceeding 40 years; and at 3¼ per cent for loans for not exceeding 60 years. I contend, Sir, that what was done for England under the Act of last year ought to be done for Ireland under the Act this year. It stands to reason and common sense that if boards of guardians have to build and enlarge public works by borrowing at the rate of 4 or 5 per cent., whereas in England they can borrow at 2¾ per cent. to 3¼ per cent. interest, Irish boards of guardians must stand at an enormous 32 disadvantage; and no wonder that workhouses in Ireland are insanitary and suffer by comparison with what English boards of guardians can effect in the same direction. I cannot but believe that the Government, actuated by a spirit of fairness, will accept the Amendments which stand in my name, and which I now beg to move.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the Government would raise no objection to the clause. The conditions under which the boards of guardians in Ireland were enabled to borrow money were undoubtedly unsatisfactory, and the alterations suggested by the honourable baronet were most desirable.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
In the Poor Belief (Ireland) Act, 1838, and any other enactment relating to borrowing by boards of guardians, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland shall, as respects any borrowing after the passing of this Act, be substituted for the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and the loan may be made for the period above mentioned."—(Sir Thos. Lea.)
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
Guardians may borrow money under the Poor Belief (Ireland) Act, 1838, and any Acts amending that Act, for the purpose of repaying any outstanding part of any loan raised by them under those Acts which they have power to repay."—(Sir Thos. Lea.)
§ Amendment agreed to, and clause added to the Bill.33
Any money so borrowed shall be repaid in the manner directed by this section, and within the same period as that originally sanctioned for the repayment of the loan, unless the Local Government Board consent to the period for repayment being enlarged, but that period shall in no case exceed sixty years from the date of the original borrowing."—(Sir Thos. Lea.)
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
§ On the return of the SPEAKER after the usual interval,
Another new clause—
The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland may, on the application of any guardians, and on the recommendation of the Local Government Board, make any loan to such guardians, in pursuance of the powers of borrowing conferred by the Poor Belief (Ireland) Act, 1838, and any Acts amending that Act, on the security of any fund or rate applicable to any of the purposes of the said Poor Belief (Ireland) Act, 1838, and without requiring any further or other security, such loans to be repaid within a period not exceeding sixty years, and to bear interest at such rates, not less than two and three-quarters per cent. per annum, as in the opinion of the Treasury are sufficient to enable such loans to be made without loss to the Exchequer."—(Sir Thos. Lea.)
§ SIR T. LEA
said he would not move the addition of this new clause, as the point raised had been already met.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL
Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to call your attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.
§ After a Count, 40 Members being present, the Debate was resumed.
Page 32, after clause 51, insert the following clause:—
The term within which a loan borrowed by the county council is to be repaid shall be such period, not exceeding sixty years, as the council, with the consent of the Local Government Board, determine in each case, having regard to the duration of the work or object for which the loan is borrowed.—(Mr. G. Balfour.)
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I beg to move the Second Reading of this clause, which has been put down in pursuance of an understanding arrived at in Committee. It extends the period in which 34 loans borrowed by the county council are to be repaid in from 30 to 60 years. I undertook to ascertain what was the view of the English Local Government Board on the subject. They thought the change one which was desirable to adopt in England, and I agreed that it should be put down on the Report stage of this Bill. I now move it.
That this clause be now read a second time.
§ Motion agreed to.
That this clause be added to the Bill.
§ Motion agreed to.
The audit of any accounts under this Act shall be made under the prescribed rules by auditors selected from a list, to be settled by the Local Government Board, of chartered or other professional accountants for the time being in practice in Ireland, and who shall be appointed by the county, borough, or district councils, or local bodies, subject to the approval of the Local Government Board, or may in the absence of such appointment be appointed by the Local Government Board."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
At the present time the Government have the right of appointing auditors for the audit of the accounts of local bodies, but this Bill gives very largely-extended powers to auditors, and I think it is only fair that chartered or other professional account-ante should have a right to be included in the list of official auditors who may be called upon to do duty under this Act. Sir, in the case of Scotland there is no such thing, I am informed, as an official auditor, and the Scotch authorities may call in any proper person belonging to the group of chartered accountants to do their work. It therefore occurs to me that we are in this Bill giving an enormous extension to Government patronage, while at the same time we are excluding from the work and from employment a number of gentlemen who are fairly entitled to be called in to do this class of work. Sir, the chartered accountants of 35 Ireland are not Nationalists. The majority of them, I fancy, would rather incline to the Conservative side, and therefore it cannot be said that there is anything of a partisan or party character in the Amendment which I have moved. But, Sir, there is another reaison—a very important reason—for this Amendment. According to the law the Government are entitled to exact from the counties a quarter per cent. for the cost of auditing—that is to say, 5s. for every £100. Take the county of Cork. A quarter per cent. of the valuation of the county of Cork would amount to hundreds and hundreds of pounds. I believe recently the Government have agreed to reduce the cost of audit from 5s. to 3s. 6d. in the £100, but even that is monstrous imposition and a shocking extravagance. Why should the county of Cork pay the Government 3s. 6d. in the £100 for an audit which it could itself get effectively carried out for 6d. in the £100? It therefore occurs to me this matter must be looked at not only from the point of view of the chartered accountants themselves, who as a body are entitled to some consideration, but it must also be regarded as an economic question to be considered in the interests of the taxpayers. There is a third consideration. I do not desire to find fault with the gentlemen who do the work of auditing in Ireland. They have a very difficult duty to discharge, and they do it under considerable pressure, and I am not at all inclined to say, if they make occasional slips, that, taken on the whole, they do not do their work with fairness and without needless irritation; but in some cases, undoubtedly, you do meet with what I might call "pernickity" auditors who give needless trouble. And, Sir, it occurs to me that we ought to have some protection from half-pay captains, who have no more training in arithmetic than myself, and I find it very difficult to add up two and two without previous notice. We want some protection from the class of persons who are pitchforked into the position of auditors by the Government. I may be told that if the Amendment is adopted the Government will have no protection, and that these accountants might lean towards favouritism in some local bodies and permit extravagance. Does that happen 36 in Scotland? Is the Scotsman so virtuous an individual, taking him on the whole, that he should be more favoured in this respect? The baubee is not a bit more sacred in Scotland than the halfpenny or the farthing is in Ireland, and I venture to think that if there was anything like malfeasance, misconduct, or corruption in the discharge of the duties, the Government would very soon hear about it, and the auditor would not be again employed. The auditors are to be selected from a list, and if the Local Government Board consider that a complaint against a particular auditor in a given year was well founded, they need not renew his name in the list. It appears to me, therefore, that on every ground we are entitled to have some protection from the class of persons who are appointed by the Irish Government. Sir, the auditors appointed now need not even pass a Civil Service examination.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Yes; but we all know what a qualifying examination is. It is a dodge invented by the Irish Government to give to a favourite the first rung of the ladder. If he passes his A B C, his rule of three, and other branches of profound learning, he is then to be put in command of the Channel Fleet, if necessary, so far as Dublin Castle is concerned. I do think that the Government should throw open the position of auditor to competitive examination instead of qualifying examination, so that there should be some method by which the general body of auditors in the country might be called upon and requisitioned by the local authority. If they refuse us that, the time will come when we shall have to move that the monstrous percentage which is now charged for the purpose of auditing should be cut down to a fixed sum, say, to not more than a London chartered accountant would charge if he were winding up a big company or auditing the accounts of a single company in a given year. At all events, we should have some rate fixed in proportion to the duties these men discharge. I have come to the conclusion that for every 6d. the auditors save to 37 the people, in the act of saving them that 6d. they cost them 7½d. That is my summary of the entire system of audits, assessments, and all those things which go to make up that fiscal entity—the political government of Ireland.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I have often noticed that the speeches of the honourable and learned Member for Louth are fanciful and imaginative in proportion as he had a weak case, and I do not think the speech he has just delivered is any exception to that rule. The honourable and learned Member himself, I think, must admit that the honourable Member moved this Amendment, at all events, in the interests of the chartered accountants. But we have not only the interests of the chartered accountants to consider, but also the interests of good local government in Ireland, and in the interests of good local government I feel bound to offer a strenuous opposition to this clause. It is necessary, and there must be an absolutely efficient and independent audit of the accounts, and you ought not to place the choice of auditors under the control of the very persons whose financial conduct is to be the subject of investigation. That would be the effect of this clause if adopted by the House. The honourable and learned Member suggests that this change should be made subject to the sanction of the Local Government Board, but that is practically so now. I do not think, however, that the councils should have power to sit in judgment upon their own financial proceedings, and that is not a principle which the Government could accept. It knows that unfortunately it is the system which exists at the present time in English boroughs, but I cannot help saying that it is my conviction that it is a great misfortune that such a system does exist in English boroughs, and I think it ought to be changed, and would be changed with great advantage. I do not think the honourable Member is quite right in saying that the county councils have the choice of an auditor in Scotland from the list of chartered accountants only. The Local Government (Scotland) Act, of 1889, section 68, provides that the accounts shall be 38 audited as the Secretary for Scotland may from time to time prescribe. Therefore I think the honourable Member opposite has been misled in supposing that county councils in Scotland have the power to choose their own auditor. But, again, I say that even if they had that power in Scotland, it is certainly not a power which should be extended to the county councils in Ireland. I think the interests of good local government in Ireland absolutely demand that the auditor appointed should be an independent person, and I should not have to fear the consequences of any surcharge that he might make upon the county council, because that auditor, having surcharged them, if employed by the council direct, might be less likely to be employed again by them in the future. That is the reason why I cannot accept this proposal.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL (Dublin, St, Stephen's Green)
I rise to support the Amendment of the honourable and learned Member for Louth. As I understand, the objection of the Government is to be found in the portion of the Amendment that leaves the appointment of the auditor in the hands of the county council or the district council. Now, I would suggest, in order to meet the objection, that the honourable and learned Member for Louth should omit from his clause the words in the centre of it—and who shall be appointed by the county, borough, or district councils, or local bodies.If I am in order I will propose that as an Amendment to this clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The honourable Member will be in order in moving that after the Second Reading of the clause.
§ MR. J. H. M. CAMPBELL
I think this change can be easily made by this Amendment. As to the principle of the clause I am entirely in favour of it, and so long as you have a system of chartered accountants, if it is worth while distinguishing that profession by a charter, it seems to me that it is also worth while to provide that the chartered profession should enjoy those benefits, and that it 39 should be confined to their ranks. The only difficulty seams to be in handing over the appointments to those local bodies, and I would suggest that the power of appointment should be placed in the hands of the Local Government Board.
MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
I desire to supplement to some extent the remarks of the honourable and learned Member for Dublin. I believe this Amendment will be useful, and I am certain if the Government come to consider this point, that chartered accountants belong to a profession which is guided under certain rules laid down in the charter as to their efficiency, they must conclude that they are the proper gentlemen to audit public accounts. The Amendment, I understand, moved by the honourable and learned Member opposite meets some of the objections of the Government. I entirely agree with the honourable and learned Member for Louth and the honourable and learned Member opposite upon this question. The chartered accountants are the gentlemen who are skilled and experts in these matters, and they should have the auditing of these public accounts.
§ SIR J. LENG (Dundee)
Reference has been made to the practice in vogue in Scotland. Now, I simply wish to state what has recently come under my own observation. It is a fact that the Secretary for Scotland has the appointment of auditors under the control of the Local Government Board, but I know of no case in which half-pay officers, or other persons who are not professionally trained and competent, have ever been appointed by the Secretary for Scotland or the Local Government Board. An appointment was only made the other day in a district in Fife with which I am connected, and a chartered accountant of great ability and well-known position was selected by the Secretary for Scotland for the appointment. The principle that the auditor appointed should be an independent person is an important principle, but it is also important that he should be professionally qualified for the appointment he seeks. I trust that in 40 some form or other this principle will be recognised in all these appointments for Ireland. If we are to legislate satisfactorily, we should apply the same principle to both countries, I have not heard of a single complaint in Scotland, and I cannot therefore see on what grounds objection can be taken to the Amendment proposed by the honourable and learned Member, because what works well in Scotland should also work well in Ireland.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I wish to allude to the two classes of officials in Ireland whose conduct is under the notice of the Parliamentary Sub-Commissioners and resident magistrates. Now, we have obtained from the Government from time to time Returns showing what their qualifications should be, and that their past history is useful and relevant to the question of their appointment. The time has now arrived for the issuing of such a Return.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I have not examined that Return, and therefore I will not speak of its contents. I think I may fairly assume, in respect of the qualifications in these Returns, that not in the case of one single individual has it been laid down that he was ever a professional accountant. I believe that in Ireland it is absolutely unknown, Mr. Speaker, that the Government, in selecting a person for appointment as an official auditor, has ever appointed a man to the position who was a professional accountant. There may have been some officials transferred from one position to another, but certainly, so far as the ordinary character of the action of the Local Government Board in appointing these gentlemen is concerned, the last thing they ever dreamt of doing is to select a person who has been a professional accountant. I should have thought that if you wanted an effective audit the way to get it was to secure for the doing of the work a man who has had a professional training, which gives him a special fitness for the office; but nothing of the kind has occurred in the case of the 41 Government appointments. They have been described as half-pay captains, but, at all events, they are certainly persons of no sort of training in the special business of accountants; and, of course, this class of work requires not merely a special knowledge of accounts, but it also requires some knowledge of the Act of Parliament under which these various Departments are worked, and that class of knowledge, so far as I am aware, has been absent in previous appointments. I do not know whether it would reconcile the Government if my honourable and learned Friend the Member for Louth were to accept the suggestion of the honourable and learned Member opposite, which would enable the Local Government Board to make the selection instead of the county council. That, I think, would be the only objection to the clause, and it would secure the point of the right honourable Gentleman. I think the Chief Secretary himself will recognise the force of that objection for the extension of the official class in Ireland. But, Sir, the other ground on which this Amendment has been urged is the ground of economy, which was not noticed by the Chief Secretary. Will the Chief Secretary allow me to tell him what the position of affairs in the county of Cork is? The existing law is that the Government may tax the county to the extent of 5s. per cent., and year after year in the county of Cork the Government enforced and compelled the payment of this percentage; but in consequence of the protest of the Cork grand jury the amount has been reduced to 3s. 6d. The charge for auditing the accounts of Cork County come to something like £300 a year. Now, I say that any auditor, either at Cork or Dublin, who would be likely to be appointed to this position either by the Local Government Board or by the county council would be very glad to do the work for £100 a year, which would be a very large charge. Still, I put it on a liberal scale, and I do says that the accounts of the county of Cork could be effectively audited for £100, instead of which they have been costing, year after year, £300. I am aware that the Government propose to repeal the clause charging the county 5s. per cent., but we have had no state- 42 ment as to the scale of charges which they intend to substitute for it, and the effect of that repeal is this, that it gives no power of introducing a charge for effecting an audit which they have not already, but it does give them a power to increase the charge for effecting it, and, so far as I know, when this clause passes into law, it will be competent for the Government to charge the counties anything they please for the audit. We have had no statement from the Government as to the scale of expenses they intend to place upon the counties for auditing. We have no assurance that the charges will be reduced, we have no assurance that they will not be increased; and if the Government are not prepared to make us some reasonable assurance in reference to the appointment of auditors I cannot quite see how matters will be improved.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I now beg to propose, in lieu of the Amendment which I have just withdrawn by leave, the following—The audit of any accounts under this Act shall be made under the prescribed rules by auditors selected from the list to be supplied by the Local Government Board, which shall include chartered or other professional accountants for the time being in practice in Ireland, and which shall be appointed by the Local Government Board.The Government, with that Amendment, may take the chartered accountant, and may include him in their list. It gives these professional gentlemen a chance of being employed, and I hope that the Government will not object to that.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE (Wilts, Cricklade)
I hope that the right honourable Gentleman will be able to see his way to accepting the new Amendment, because it lays down a perfectly fair principle. I think everybody concerned with local government will endorse what the Chief Secretary said when he laid it down as an unanswerable proposition that an auditor ought to be an 43 independent man. But I may point out that in regard to the English boroughs, which he quoted as full of rather lamentable instances to the contrary in regard to the audit, the principal evils which arise in those boroughs arise from the fact that there is no statutory direction to the English boroughs as to whom they shall appoint—in fact, they have the right of appointing their own auditors. They are not bound to employ chartered accountants—they may appoint anybody, and in some of the minor boroughs they practically appoint members of their own body, and evils arise in consequence. My honourable Friend, whom I see opposite, the Secretary to the Local Government Board, will bear me out in what I am saying. There is no statutory direction in England that boroughs shall appoint chartered accountants. I quite agree that the best plan of all is to have the auditor appointed by an independent authority, and therefore, if my honourable Friend had moved his Amendment as originally drafted I should have myself made the suggestion which he has accepted from the honourable Member, because it is one that commends itself to me. All we urge is that there shall be some security that these appointments shall not be used for the purpose of party patronage, but that the persons appointed shall be fit persons. I can hardly imagine a better security than to say that they shall be chosen from an important body like the chartered accountants, a profession which is increasing in importance every day. I cannot agree with what the Chief Secretary said, that if a chartered accountant is called in he might have to audit the accounts of a gentleman who might possibly have been himself a chartered accountant, and that he would perhaps be a little inclined to remember that they both belong to the same profession. That I do not think is a fair or a reasonable deduction.
§ MR. PINKERTON
I rather object to this Amendment, as it is permissive in its character, giving the Government power to revert to the old system, and only putting the chartered accountant on the list; by this Amendment you give 44 the Government the power to put on the list broken-down military men to be auditors who could not give you change for a shilling. I think that the Amendment should make it compulsory on the part of the Government to put upon their list properly qualified men, but that the Government should have power to select the accountants and not the county council. I think the Government should be authorised to select properly qualified men to deal with the accounts of each county council. I know men employed as public auditors who simply employ a set of under-paid clerks to do the work for them. The auditors earn their money by the simple process of signing their names. I think this Amendment should be drafted in such a way as to prevent the Government reverting to the old and objectionable form.
§ MR. JORDAN
I cannot say that I am at all in favour of doing away with the auditors appointed by the Local Government Board and substituting for them chartered accountants. I have no such faith in the bonâ fides of the chartered accountant as some of my friends seem to have. In fact, there is scarcely a bogus company, or one that has gone to the wall, that cannot get a chartered accountant to vouch for their accounts. It has been found so in many instances, and, while they are probably a very respectable body of men and a respectable profession, yet I think they might be scarcely independent enough to be put into that position in which some of my friends wish to place them. There may be a considerable amount of competition between them, and button-holing and other matters of that sort, in order that they might get appointments. The chief objection, in my opinion, is the cost of the audit. I cannot myself see on what principle or on what scale the charges for audit are made against these public bodies. The honourable Member for Cork has said there is no scale and no principle as to what charges are to be made. I do not think the charges ought to be so great as has been stated. I want to know from the Chief Secretary, is the assessment for 45 auditing accounts more than the ordinary expenses and salary during the time in which the auditor is engaged, or does the Government make any profit out of the transaction? I think there ought to be an inclusive charge for the auditing of public accounts, which should include a man's reasonable salary during the time he is occupied, and his travelling expenses. If that is so, I think the man ought to be appointed altogether independent of these chartered accountants, and I think then we shall have the work done as well and as efficiently and as independently by this class of men as by any chartered accountant.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL
My sympathies are with the right honourable Gentleman in the difficulties which he must have in coming to a conclusion, on this subject. The honourable Member for North Louth proposes one Amendment; that was taken objection to. Then he proposed to water down his original proposition with a view to getting the thin edge of the wedge in; that is objected to by the honourable Member for Galway; and then the honourable Member for Fermanagh gets up and objects to the whole proceeding; and I say, therefore, that we are in a dreadful difficulty. I would like to know whether the honourable Member for Fermanagh approves of the present system. He has made a very serious attack on the profession of the chartered accountant. He has given them a very bad character, and I would like to know, is he prepared to give, consequently, a correspondingly good character to half-pay officers with whom we are at present acquainted? Surely there is something in the nature of the democratic proposal contained in the Amendment of the honourable Member for North Louth which ought to commend itself to the honourable Member. At present we do not know anything about the influences which are at work relating to the appointment of auditors. The honourable Member for Fermanagh referred to button-holing on the part of those gentlemen who will be seeking the new appointments. Is there 46 not button-holing at present—backstairs work, in which the voice of the representatives of the people is not heard at all? I am surprised and amazed that a Member representing a Nationalist constituency should seek to defend in the smallest way the present system of appointments.
§ MR. J. H. CAMPBELL
I hope that the Government will accept the very moderate proposal, as I understand it, of the honourable Member for North Louth. In the first place, he has got rid of the objection raised by the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, because he not only leaves the final selection in the hands of the Local Government Board, but his Amendment does not even confine the choice of the Local Government Board to chartered or professional accountants. It only asks that the chartered or professional accountant should have a chance in the competition between themselves and outsiders for these valuable appointments, and, therefore, I think that the present Amendment is one that ought to be accepted. It has this very great advantage, that it would be a very great saving to the country, because in the case of new and temporary appointments any superannuation allowance would be entirely out of the question. But I would press upon the Government the injustice of having a profession enjoying a charter and the members not being allowed to compete for these appointments. All that is asked is that the Local Government Board shall put them upon the list. They are not asked to appoint them, but merely to give them the chance of entering into competition with outsiders.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the honourable Gentleman who had just spoken was under a misapprehension. There was nothing whatever to exclude a chartered accountant from competing with outsiders, but if the Amendment were accepted in its present form it would cause a complete revolution. The auditors were at present permanent officials; the effect of this Amendment, if adopted, would be that in place of 47 permanent officials there would be a list of chartered accountants.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said: There were a certain number of gentlemen occupying permanent positions. The House must not for a moment imagine that the duties of these gentlemen were such as required all the skill of treament and investigation of an accountant. It was a comparatively simple matter to audit those accounts, but he was very glad that the examination which these gentlemen would go through was sufficient to insure that they were capable men. No one would seriously represent in the Debate that the Local Government Board would appoint any persons who were not competent to fulfil the technical duties which had to be discharged. There was, in his opinion, no reason for upsetting the system of auditing by permanent officials and substituting men who were employed temporarily. He believed the functions of auditing the accounts of the Local Government Boards were more likely to be adequately discharged by persons who were in the position of being permanent officials than by people selected simply for the purpose from a list. He would not dwell upon the initial difficulties which would certainly arise from the change from one system to another. He was by no means sure that it would be necessary to add to the number of official auditors of the Local Government Board; but if it were necessary so to do the number would not be large. In one argument it was said the permanent officials would be dispensed with if chartered accountants were employed, whose services would be obtained for a much smaller sum. It had been argued that the system was enormously expensive. If it were the fact that the sum paid by the Local Government Board in connection with the audits was excessive, it ought to be cut down. He granted that it was not desirable that a profit should be made out of the auditors, or that a charge should be made that was not reasonable or just, and any representa- 48 tion made to him upon that score would receive his most careful consideration. He was unable to accept the Amendment in its present form, though it was perfectly clear it was intended, when originally put down, that the county councils should have the power to choose the auditors. And he was certainly not prepared to change in a moment the whole system as it now existed, and raise up difficulties which inevitably would occur. He could not agree with the suggestion of the honourable gentleman and introduce a system which might not work well in place of one which had worked well.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
said that before the resolution was passed very careful consideration ought to be given to the present condition of things. As he understood, there were at the present moment nine auditors who were permanent officials, who were in receipt of a very substantial income. The question was, what was to be done with those nine officials, because if power was given to the county councils to appoint a large number of chartered accountants in addition to those nine gentlemen, those appointments would naturally diminish the emoluments of those existing auditors? It did not, appear that any complaints had been made of the manner in which those gentlemen had discharged their functions, and to his knowledge some of them, at all events, were educated men, two of them being members of his own profession. What occurred to him, and he thought the House was agreed upon that, was that nothing was more important than that these accounts, especially under the new system which was coming into existence, should be audited in the very best manner possible. Everything should be done to insure two objects—efficiency of audit and economy in payment for same. What he would suggest to the House was that a clause should be framed in such a manner that all auditors, after the present holders of the office, should be selected from chartered accountants. The acceptance of that proposition would 49 meet many of the objections which were at present raised, and which were worthy of consideration, and would give security to the existing auditors, and get rid of what many of them felt to be a very great grievance—the possibility that they might be displaced from their positions. It was not the rule for men in their position to be dismissed except upon very strong grounds. He asked when new appointments were made that candidates should be selected from the chartered accountants. If that suggestion were adopted he would support it.
§ MR. M. HEALY
said he thought the right honourable Gentleman had overlooked the expense of the present system. The present system involved very great expense, because the salaries, paid to these gentlemen were £400 a year, rising to £700, and their services were only required at certain times of the year for a short period. For at least six months they had little or nothing to do. He did not think that the Government ought to maintain these gentlemen in the manner they did, and he thought that a scale of charges ought to be fixed for this work.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said that under the present system the fees of the auditor were paid to him as an official of the Local Government Board. He was originally appointed as a Poor Law official to audit the accounts of the board of guardians. His honourable Friend complained that a salary of from £400 to £700 a year was paid to the auditors. Now he (the Attorney General) did not think, having regard to the importance of the duties they had to perform, that that was an extravagant sum. It might be that the skill of a chartered accountant was required to audit the accounts of banks and limited liability companies, and bring put satisfactory balance sheets. But that was not the position of an auditor under the Local Government Board. His was a much more responsible and difficult duty. He it was who had to decide whether certain payments were legal, and to charge the 50 members of public bodies with any sums that might be omitted, and he might take proceedings against such members to recover the sums from them. It was necessary, above all things, that these men should be independent and fearless in the discharge of their duties, and that could best be secured by having permanent officials paid by salary and absolutely independent of the body whose accounts they were auditing. He did not know that the proceedings of the courts in Dublin offered any evidence that they had not discharged their duties to the entire satisfaction of those who looked forward to them. He did not know why the auditors of the Local Government Board should be restricted to chartered accountants. It would be very unfair if chartered accountants were excluded. It was perfectly competent for the Local Government Board to select chartered accountants, but the Local Government Board auditors must have all the qualities to enable them to perform other duties than those usually performed by chartered accountants.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN (Tyrone, Mid)
said they had no complaint whatever as to the competence of those who conducted the audits; there was no claim as to their inefficiency. The question of economy was one which went closely to his mind. Ireland was already overburdened with officialdom, and he did not want to see any new officials coming in and looking for superannuation, which came surely, as soon as one got grafted on the public service.
said the honourable Member for Mid Tyrone knew very little about the present system. There would be no question of superannuation at all. The fact was that at present auditors were appointed by the Government on political grounds and not for their competency.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 211.—(Division List No. 187.)53
|Allan, Wm. (Gateshead)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Allen, W. (Newc.-under-L.)||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Pinkerton, John|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Healy, T. J. (Wexford)||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Billson, Alfred||Hogan, James Francis||Priestley, Briggs (Yorks)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Holburn, J. G.||Randell, David|
|Brunner, Sir John T.||Holden, Sir Angus||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Horniman, Frederick John||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Caldwell, James||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Cameron, Sir C. (Glasgow)||Joicey, Sir James||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Roche, Hon. J. (Kerry, E.)|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Kitson, Sir James||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Carew, James Laurence||Langley, Batty||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Smith Samuel (Flint)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Clough,, Walter Owen||Leng, Sir John||Souttar, Robinson|
|Colville, John||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Steadman, William Charles|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lewis, John Herbert||Strachey, Edward|
|Crean, Eugene||Logan, John William||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Crombie, John William||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Tennant, Harold John|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Macaleese, Daniel||Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||McKenna, Reginald||Tuite, James|
|Daly, James||McLaren, Charles Benjamin||Tully, Jasper|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Mandeville, J. Francis||Ure, Alexander|
|Doogan, P. C.||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen)||Warner, Thomas C. T.|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Morris, Samuel||Wayman, Thomas|
|Farrell, J. P. (Cavan, W.)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts)|
|Farrell, T. J. (Kerry, S.)||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Palmer, Sir Charles M.|
|Hammond, John (Carlow)||Parnell, John Howard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. T. M. Healy and Mr. Field.|
|Harwood, George||Pease, Alf. E. (Cleveland)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Pease, J. A. (Northumb.)|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Bonsor, Henry C. O.||Cripps, Charles Alfred|
|Aird, John||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)|
|Allhusen, Augustus H. E.||Brookfield, A. Montagu||Cruddas, Wm. Donaldson|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Cubitt, Hon. Henry|
|Arnold, Alfred||Carlile, William Walter||Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cavendish, R. F. (Lancs, N.)||Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh|
|Arrol, Sir William||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Dalrymple, Sir Charles|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Dickson-Poynder, Sir J. P.|
|Baird, John George Alex.||Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)||Digby, J. K. D. Wingfield-|
|Balcarres, Lord||Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Doughty, George|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch.)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Doxford, William Theodore|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Channing, Francis Allston||Drucker, A.|
|Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. Smith-(Hunts)||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.|
|Barry, Francis T. (Windsor)||Chelsea, Viscount||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Fardell, Sir T. George|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir. J. (Manc'r)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Colomb, Sir John Charles R.||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Colston, Chas. E. H. Athole||Firbank, Thomas Joseph|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Cornwallis, Fiennes S. W.||FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Courtney, Rt. Hon. L. H.||Flannery, Fortescue|
|Bill, Charles||Cox, Robert||Flower, Ernest|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cranborne, Viscount||Folkestone, Viscount|
|Fry, Lewis||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Rutherford, John|
|Garfit, William||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||McArthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||McCalmont, Mj-Gn. (Ant'm, N.)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||McCalmont, Col. J. (Ant'm, E.)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renf.)|
|Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. G'rg's)||McKillop, James||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir H. E.||Sidebottom, W. (Derbyshire)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs)||Milward, Colonel Victor||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarksh.)|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||Monk, Charles James||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)|
|Gunter, Colonel||More, Robert Jasper||Stanley, E. J. (Somerset)|
|Hamond, Sir C. (Newcastle)||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)||Stanley, H. M. (Lambeth)|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Morrell, George Herbert||Stock, James Henry|
|Heath, James||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Helder, Augustus||Murnaghan, George||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Uny)|
|Hill, Sir Edward S. (Bristol)||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hobhouse, Henry||Myers, William Henry||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Houston, R. P.||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Usborne, Thomas|
|Howard, Joseph||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.|
|Howell, William Tudor||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.||Ward, Hon. R. A. (Crewe)|
|Hozier, Hon. James H. C.||O'Neill, Hon. Robert T.||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. Grice-||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Warkworth, Lord|
|Jackson, Rt. Hon. W. L.||Parkes, Ebenezer||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Pease, Arthur (Darlington)||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pender, Sir James||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Phillpotts, Capt. Arthur||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-L.)|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||Pierpoint, Robert||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Kemp, George||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C.||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Kenyon, James||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)|
|Kimber, Henry||Pretyman, Ernest George||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Priestley, Sir W. O. (Edin.)||Wilson, J. W. (Worc, N.)|
|Knowles, Lees||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. E.||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks)|
|Lafone, Alfred||Rankin, Sir James||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Laurie, Lieut.-General||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Richards, Henry Charles||Wylie, Alexander|
|Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Rickett, J. Compton||Wyndham-Quin, Maj. W. H.|
|Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.||Young, Comm. (Berks, E.)|
|Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Robertson, H. (Hackney)||Young, S. (Cavan, E.)|
|Leighton, Stanley||Rothschild, Baron F. J. de|
|Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset)||Round, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Loder, Gerald Walter E.||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Chelt'm)|
|Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
§ SIR JOHN WILLOX (Liverpool, Everton)
I beg to move, after clause 76, to insert the following clause—At all meetings, other than committee meetings, of county or district councils accredited representatives of the newspaper press shall be permitted to attend, and shall receive reasonable facilities for obtaining for the purposes of newspaper publication reports of the proceedings of such meetings.Mr. Speaker, it is not necessary for me to make a long statement with reference to this proposed clause, which is so clear and simple. The object of it is to make the Bill more effective and more useful to the public. The Bill sets up a large and important organisation elected by popular vote, and it is therefore desirable 54 that the public should have a knowledge of what their representatives on the boards are doing. That can only be attained by securing facilities for the publication of fair and authentic reports. The theory of the law, I believe, is that the public have a right to admission to the public proceedings of a public body, but in practice that is physically impossible, for the rooms in which the meetings are held are not spacious enough to allow of the public attending in any large numbers. It is, therefore, necessary that there should be a record of the proceedings made through the accustomed channels of public information, and that can only be done by means of the newspapers, and newspapers only obtain their reports by means of 55 reporters. The reporter cannot do his work unless reasonable facilities are provided by which he can perform his duties and functions fairly and conveniently. I may say, Mr. Speaker, that most boards, and in fact all large boards, already provide fair and reasonable facilities for the newspapers reporting their proceedings. But there are exceptions, especially among some of the smaller boards, which not only exercise their powers of exclusion, but do so capriciously. Some of these smaller boards exclude the Press entirely when it pleases them to do so; while others, in a spirit of antagonism to some particular newspaper, at the comments of which some of the members may have taken umbrage, exclude the representatives of that newspaper from the proceedings of the board. That is not only very unfair, but it is undesirable in the public interest, and the evil we desire to guard against is, in some few cases—very few, I am bound to say—where there is complete exclusion, and in other cases where there is capricious exclusion. Perhaps it may be suggested that the moving the insertion of this clause in the Irish Local Government Bill when no such clause exists in the English Bill may be regarded as invidious and unreasonable. But I should like to explain that the knowledge of the necessity for this clause has been gathered from the experience of England rather than from the experience of Ireland. An honourable Member asks why we did not move it in the English Bill. We did not do so, because at that time we had no knowledge of its necessity, for we had not experienced the way in which the powers of the boards have been exercised in England. If we had, I can assure honourable Members that the clause would have been moved at that time in the English Bill. At any rate, let me disabuse the minds of honourable Members opposite of the idea that this proposal is prompted in any way by a spirit of hostility or partisanship. On the contrary, I move it at the request of the representatives of the whole of the journalists of Ireland. It is at their suggestion that it is proposed, and their recommendation has been endorsed by 56 the representative body of journalists in this country—the Institute of Journalists. There has been another suggestion made, that the clause, if passed, would impose upon the local authorities considerable expense in providing accommodation for a number of reporters. I do not think in practice that difficulty is likely to arise, because in any cases where the accommodation of the local board is small the requirements of the representatives of the Press likely to attend its proceedings will also be small. But, in any case, there is no desire to impose upon the local authorities new obligations with regard to structural alterations or the addition of further accommodation. All we ask is that within the limits of their present resources the boards should provide reasonable facilities for the reporting of their proceedings. Another objection which has been hinted is that there are parts of the proceedings of all bodies performing representative duties and discharging administrative functions which ought to be reserved from the public knowledge, and that newspaper representatives ought not to be present at every part of every meeting. That objection is anticipated, I think, by the form of the clause. It provides that if the board resolves itself into committee, then no newspaper representatives would have any right to be present. So that, upon all grounds, it seems to me very desirable that these facilities should be provided, not as a matter of grace or caprice on the part of the boards, but that this clause should be put upon the Statute Book as recognising the right of the public to hear or read what their representatives are doing in their public meetings. And it is in that desire—that the reporter should be permitted to discharge his duty fairly and conveniently—that this clause has been proposed. It did not originate on this side of the House; it originated from the whole body of working journalists, and it is placed in my hands simply because I have had some official connection with the Press. I hope it will not be thought that this Amendment is directed, in any sense 57 whatever, as an unfair reproach upon the Irish local boards, or as suggesting that there is any special need in Ireland for having these safeguards. On the contrary, I could give a considerable number of cases, if it were necessary—but I think it is not—in which the exercise of the power of exclusion has been practised much more considerably in England than in Ireland, and, as I have already said, it is the experience we have gained in England which suggests the necessity and the wisdom of this Amendment in Ireland. I can assure honourable Members opposite who may take the same view that, whenever the opportunities occur of inserting a similar Amendment in any Bill affecting local government in England, that there will be no hesitation whatever in making an attempt to pass it.
§ MR. FLYNN
I hope, Sir, the House will refuse to accept this Amendment. I cannot understand why an Irish Member has not been entrusted with the duty of proposing this clause. I do not complain of the honourable Member's remarks in moving the clause, but I do say that a clause of this kind would come with more propriety from a Member representing an Irish constituency. I object to the clause because it institutes, in the first place, an invidious comparison between English and Irish institutions, and, in the second place, it implies that these bodies are going to conduct their business in such a hole-and-corner fashion that they are likely to resort to dark and devious ways, whereas they are only too anxious to have reporters present at their proceedings. I have never heard of a single case in all my experience in which a town council has objected to the presence of newspaper representatives. I think it is rather the other way, Mr. Speaker. The ordinary complaint in Ireland is not that reporting is objected to, but that the speaker does not get his speeches reported at sufficient length. To my mind, there is something preposterous in the suggestion that any public body in Ireland under the new Act is likely to object to the presence of an accredited newspaper 58 representative. But it is conceivable that there may be occasions when the exclusion of newspaper reporters is to the advantage of the public, to the advantage of the board, and to the advantage of the constituents. There may be an occasion when a board may be engaged in litigation, and it would be obviously to the advantage of the constituency that the board's opponents should not know what transpired at the board. It is within my knowledge that reporters have been asked to withdraw at a meeting of a harbour board, when we have been about to discuss matters which we were advised ought not to be made public property. On these grounds, therefore, I object to this clause, and I hope the honourable Member will not proceed with it.
§ MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I have great pleasure in supporting the clause moved by my honourable Friend. The complaint made by the honourable Member who has just sat down, that Irish journalists have not entrusted the clause to an Irish Member, is easily explained by the fact that the honourable Member for Liverpool [Sir John Willox] was last year President of the Institute of Journalists, end that Irishmen had the pleasure of meeting them at Belfast, when they had a cordial reception, such as, I hope, they will always receive. It seems to me, in the words of the honourable Member for North Louth, that we are engaged in an "old, antique, and technical discussion."
§ MR. JOHNSTON
We are engaged in the same sort of discussion that was indulged in when the subject of newspaper reporting of House of Commons proceedings was first brought before it. It cannot be claimed that county or district councils take a higher place than the House of Commons, and I hope the House will adopt the clause.
§ MR. M. HEALY
The honourable Member who has just sat down has 59 referred to the practice of the House of Commons in regard to the public reporting of its proceedings. It was, I believe, resolved many years ago that the proceedings of this House should be private, and that no person should have the privilege of reporting them. That privilege this House has at the present moment, and the only change has been made is simply because the House, exercising its rights and powers, has ordered its proceedings to be reported. But tomorrow Parliament could exclude reporters, and decide that the proceedings should be taken in private. There is no sort of legal obligation on the House that its proceedings should still be public, and, therefore, the argument of the honourable Member for Belfast as to the practice of the House of Commons falls to the ground. Well, Sir, I am convinced that the Amendment, if carried, will be exceedingly dangerous. Let us see how far the existing system contrasts with that now proposed. It is quite true that presentment sessions and grand juries, which have been abolished by this Act, were bound by Statute to conduct their proceedings as a public court, and that that obligation was enforced most properly. But, so far as that obligation existed on presentment sessions it will exist on the new bodies. One of the Orders in Council expressly provides that certain functions of public bodies shall be exercised in public, so that anybody shall have the right of reporting the proceedings; and that, I submit, is all that is necessary. Speaking generally, it is most proper that the proceedings of local bodies should be public, but to enact that they shall always be public, with no regard whatever to the nature of the business, is most dangerous. Let me state a case connected with a local body of which I am a member. Some time ago we had to consider a delicate question of finance, and if our deliberations on the value of stock had been reported, it would have had serious consequences when it came before the public. Take another body, in the city of Cork—the Cork Corporation. 60 Would the honourable Member's clause provide that every letter of advice written to the Cork Corporation—letters of advice by counsel, for instances—should be open to the public? It would be absolutely impossible for any public, body to take a successful part in litigation under such conditions. It is perfectly plain, as regards a considerable class of matters with which these local bodies have to deal, that it may be desirable in some cases that the proceedings should be private, and it must, in the last resort, be left to the body itself to say whether or not a particular meeting should be public or private. I should imagine that these public bodies in Ireland would be the last in the world to desire that the Press should be excluded from their proceedings. As a matter of fact, they exhibit the strongest desire for the presence of reporters. But, to say that it should not be in the discretion of public bodies to provide that in a particular matter there should be privacy is, I think, to constitute a bad precedent.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I think the honourable Member for Liverpool will see that the clause goes beyond anything to which I can assent. As far as publicity is in the public interest, I think it has been secured by the clause which the honourable Member for Cork [Mr. Maurice Healy] has already quoted, but there can be no doubt whatever that there may be occasions when it would be extremely undesirable that the Press should be admitted to the deliberations of the council. The honourable Member for Cork quoted several instances. It would, therefore, be unwise to lay down a hard-and-fast rule that the proceedings of the council should invariably take place with the Press in attendance to report what occurs. I entirely agree with the honourable Member who said that there is not the slightest fear that any public body in Ireland will be reluctant to have its proceedings reported consistently with the interests of the body as a whole. I think there is a danger in the other direction, and that you are 61 likely to admit the Press when it is desirable that the Press should be absent. I have a further objection to the clause which my honourable Friend has on the Paper. If it is embodied in the Bill, the result will be to give the reporters of certain newspapers certain rights which would absolutely, in some cases, necessitate the enlargement of the buildings in which the meetings take place, because the existing building may not be sufficiently large to accommodate the number of newspaper representatives, all of whom may have the right to claim to be present. But I think the considerations laid before the House by the honourable Member for Cork are sufficient to show that this clause is not one which it is desirable to adopt.
§ MR. TULLY
I hope the honourable Member who moved this clause will press it to a Division. I may point out that I had put down a clause similar to that of the honourable Member for Liverpool, but of a much wider scope than that on the Paper, which has taken precedence of mine. The objections that have been made to this clause are those that are always made to any extension of the rights and privileges of the Press. Some members of local bodies will always object to the presence of reporters, because they think their speeches are not fully reported. Objection also was frequently taken to the attendance of reporters, because members wanted to increase the salaries of certain officials, and did not want the fact known to their constituents. The only protection against jobbery is the publicity which the Press will give by a fair report of the proceedings. We are told that by admitting the Press we are giving a licence to the publication of libels that may be uttered at these meetings; but that is not the case, and one of the reasons why I support this clause is that it will not give more freedom in the publication of libels uttered at these board meetings. As a Pressman I know that when a lawyer comes to the board meeting about a law case his first request is to have the reporters removed. As a rule, the reporters leave or do not report 62 these proceedings when asked by the members. As a matter of fact, these bodies have a simple remedy; they have only to turn their meeting into a committee meeting, and immediately it becomes private. The honourable Member who has moved this clause has provided for that in proposing that only at meetings other than committee meetings shall the Press be present. I hope the honourable Member will press this clause to a Division. If we are beaten we will have it on record who are the men who object to these privileges of the Press.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL
I desire to associate myself with the remarks of the last speaker. My view of the matter is that, as a whole, the Irish Pressmen are treated fairly at the local boards, but cases arise in which influential members of particular boards, who have been affronted by reports or criticisms, object to the presence of reporters. One of the most important channels of public information is the Press, and if the reporters have not proper facilities given to them, it is impossible on every occasion that they can supply the public with true reports. One honourable Member told this House that the Press were here on sufferance, and that, if any honourable Member objected to the presence of strangers, the reporters would be prevented reporting the proceedings of the House. I should like to see the honourable Member on either side of the House who would make that proposal—it would bring something about his ears which he would have cause to remember. When we are dealing with public matters, with matters affecting the interests of the public at large, every facility should be given to the Press to report those proceedings. I should like to add that, in every case within my experience, when the representatives of the Press have been asked to suppress matters which would be of danger to the public interest, they have loyally done so. I believe that in the whole range of journalism there is no body of men more loyal or more desirous of doing what is fair and just to the public than the Irish Pressmen.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
Mr. Speaker, on this important question I would urge the mover to go to a Division. I speak here as an Irish journalist and as Chairman of the Irish Association District of the Institute of Journalists in Ireland. It was that district of the Institute which first requested the honourable Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool to move this clause, and I think that in placing the matter in the hands of one of the most respected presidents that the Institute of Journalists has had, the Irish Pressmen acted very wisely, because, by being in the hands of the honourable Member for the Everton Division, the question is raised out of the region of Party politics. If the new clause had been moved and supported by one set of Members, it might be supposed that it was a Party move, and, therefore, in placing it in the hands of a man who is respected by all sections of journalists and politicians, they acted wisely and well. The honourable Member representing one of the Divisions of Cork, who spoke just now, may be satisfied that the placing of the matter in the hands of the honourable Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool was no slur upon the Irish representation. With regard to one of the objections of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, I think anyone acquainted with the local boards in Ireland, either as a member or as a Pressman attending them, can fairly assert that there is no danger of the public rights or the rights of members of those boards being in any way interfered with if this clause is adopted. I have a fairly good experience of a large district in Ireland, having attended the meetings of the local bodies in my capacity as a Pressman, and I know that practically all the local boards—all the boards of guardians, for instance, and these will be in the future the district councils—and the grand juries, who will now make room for the county councils, have large and commodious board rooms in which to transact their business. These board rooms amply fulfil all the present requirements. The boards of 64 guardians at present consist of a certain number of elected and ex-officio members. In future they will consist of merely the number of elected guardians who now attend these boards, and will not at all consist of the ex-officio guardians. Thus the membership of the boards will be decreased one-half. There is no ground, therefore, for supposing that the presence of Pressmen at the meetings of the newly-constituted authorities will ever be likely to cause practical inconvenience. Everyone acquainted with the local circumstances in Ireland will recognise that there is nothing in the objection of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Then, with regard to the exclusion of reporters in general, I do not think that there is really anything to fear on that ground even without the addition of this new clause; but there is one thing to fear, and that is the danger of capricious, exclusion of reporters of certain papers whose opinions may be objectionable to the temporary ruling clique on the particular board. One honourable Gentleman who spoke from these benches said he did not know of a case of the kind. Well, the honourable Member who proposed the addition of this new clause stated that he could give several cases that had occurred in England. It is notorious to everyone that there have been gross cases of exclusion of reporters by the county councils and parish councils in England; and it is also notorious that the Press have been excluded in many cases in Ireland. I can give an experience of my own. In the town where I live, and where I keep a paper, a representative of my paper is not admitted to a local body—namely, the town commissioners—not because of any misreporting or misconduct, but because of the opinions that I put forward in my paper. I think that that one instance alone ought to be sufficient to show that there is a danger of this capricious exclusion, and that that exclusion is meant to intimidate papers into expressing opinions favourable to those who may temporarily rule in these boards. I think considerations such as these, and such as have been put forward 65 by honourable Members who have preceded me, ought to induce the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary to reconsider his decision. There is absolutely no danger with regard to the matter of law proceedings, and so forth. I have been reporting in boards where law cases have come up for consideration, and the usual practice has been to request the reporters to wisely exercise their discretion with regard to the matters which they published, and I have never heard of a single complaint from any member of a board that this discretion was not wisely and well exercised. Latterly there has been growing the practice and the habit of requesting reporters to retire, and this is done in other than questions of law proceedings. Reporters have been asked to retire during discussions as to the purchase of land for asylums and so forth, and the result has been to encourage jobbery in these boards; and, instead of keeping down expenditure, prices in these cases have gone up. Therefore, I would urge the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary to endeavour to meet the wishes—the unanimous wishes, I think—of the journalists of both Great Britain and Ireland in this matter, and allow this new clause to be added to the Bill. In fact, whether it be passed or not, the journalists mean to take advantage of every opportunity, both in England and in Ireland, to put upon the Statute Book compulsory powers of admission to all these boards, and compulsory powers to enable them to obtain reasonable facilities for carrying on their work.
§ MR. MURNAGHAN
Mr. Speaker, while not opposed to the admission of the Press, I am opposed to placing members of the Press upon a footing with the elected representatives of the people, by giving them the right of occupation which they claim under this new clause. I do not like this clause because it has about it the element of compulsion, to which I am always opposed. This clause takes away from the local bodies the power of deciding as to what outsider shall be present at their 66 meetings; and this, in my opinion, would be a very improper proceeding. Moreover, it has not been the custom of public bodies in Ireland to refuse to admit the representatives of the Press. On the other hand, they desire publicity. One board of guardians only recently, because one of the Londonderry newspapers would not report their proceedings, took away their advertisements from that paper. That proved that there was no desire on the part of the guardians to keep their proceedings private. While I am most desirous that reports should be published of the proceedings of public bodies, I certainly am not desirous that an outside body such as the Press should enter into a room owned or occupied by a public board, and stand there on the same footing as the members of that public board. I think it would be an improper proceeding, and it would be placing these men on a higher level than they are entitled to claim. I do not at all fear the threats that come from honourable Members sitting behind me as to what the Press can do. I know that the Press is a powerful organisation, and that its interests are important, but the interests of the general ratepayers are in my mind so far above the interests of the Press that I have no hesitation whatever in placing my vote on the side of the Government, and in saying that this clause would work evil, and that it would do injury to the public interests.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I think this clause is framed in the interests of the public. I think it is to the advantage of the ratepayers in Ireland that the proceedings of these new bodies should be made perfectly well-known to everybody concerned. Objecttions have been raised against the adoption of this new clause, but the only real objection appears to me to be that on some occasions secrecy may be desired by public boards. The proposed clause of my honourable Friend meets this objection. As has been explained by some of my honourable Friends, it is perfectly possible for a district council to ensure that its proceedings shall be private by 67 going into committee. My experience of local boards in Ireland is that the Press have been always welcome, have always attended, and have always reported what has taken place there. I must say that in all my experience I have never known a case in which the privilege of reporting the proceedings of public bodies in Ireland has been abused. Whenever we have requested newspaper reporters not to report certain matters they have honourably obeyed our request. I hope the House will agree to the clause. The honourable Baronet will have my vote if he goes to a Division.
§ MR. DALY
I am not a member of the Press, Mr. Speaker, but I have at heart the interests of the ratepayers of my district quite as much as the honourable Member for Mid-Tyrone, and, as far as I am concerned, I think I shall be studying the interests of the ratepayers by having publicity given to the proceedings of our public bodies. No public body which transacts its business in a proper and correct manner need have any fear of publicity, and I think the presence of Pressmen at the meetings would prevent a great deal of jobbery and a great many mistakes being committed. I cannot see, Mr. Speaker, that there can be the slightest objection to admitting members of the Press to all meetings of public bodies in Ireland where the business is carried on in a proper and correct manner. For my own part, I should be sorry to see the Press excluded. I hope that, if the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary wishes to have the business of public bodies in Ireland carried on in a proper and above-board manner in the future, he will agree to the addition of the new clause which has been proposed. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to kindly consider this matter. I believe that if he agrees to accept this new clause every ratepayer in Ireland who is anxious to see jobbery prevented, and business carried on in a proper manner, will thank him for accepting it.
§ MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford)
Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to enter into the arguments in this matter at all. I have risen to appeal to the Chief Secre- 68 tary whether, in view of what has taken place, and what has been said this after noon, he could not go the length of allowing the House to come to its own conclusion in this matter. What I mean by that is, that he would not make this a Government question by having the Government Whips standing at the Division Lobby. I think it is fair to ask that he will allow honourable Members to vote as their inclinations prompt, without regard to party allegiance. If the right honourable Gentleman agrees to this, I think it will be a concession we should be grateful for. It must be perfectly evident to the Chief Secretary that there are two opinions on his own side of the House on this question, and that the question is not one of vital importance to the Government. Under these circumstances I will ask him, at any rate, to give that undertaking.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I was anxious to hear from some gentleman connected with Ireland what were the grounds for this Amendment—on what single pretence it could be alleged that the Press had ever been excluded from any meeting in Ireland. We have had one case trotted out as the ground for this clause: the Rathmine Commissioners used to exclude reporters from their meetings. The Dublin Port and Docks Board used to do the same, but they dropped it. What is the ground for pressing this Amendment? One instance has been given to this House, the instance given by the Member for South-West Roscommon, who states that his reporter was excluded from the meetings of the Mullingar Town Commissioners. My recollection is that he sued the Town Commissioners of Mullingar for penalties on various occasions—penalties of £50 for voting on different occasions, merely for discharging the duties of collecting the rates, sweeping the streets, and providing the citizens of Mullingar with water. He brought actions against the Town Commissioners, and, instead of securing £50 damages, I rather think he came off second best.
§ MR. HAYDEN
I beg the honourable and learned Gentleman's pardon. I have never taken action against the Mullingar Town Commissioners. I did take action 69 on one occasion against one alleged member of the Town Board.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I am dealing with the question of fact that one case out of the whole of, Ireland has been given as a reason for this Amendment, when everybody knows that the one anxiety of Poor Law guardians, town councils, and all public bodies is that they should be reported at the greatest possible length. I am sure that if the Town Commissioners of Mullingar have a grudge against the honourable Gentleman, the honourable Gentleman has a grudge against the Town Commissioners. I do not see, for the life of me, why this House is called upon to enact legislation in a particular manner, which was never attempted for England, Scotland, or Wales, the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands. This is the first time that any attempt has been made to differentiate between the Press and the public. I am a Pressman, and I repudiate the distinction. If you take the Petty Sessions Act the provision is that the public shall be admitted to the courts. If you take the clause of the right honourable Gentleman—a very proper, just, and necessary clause, modelled upon the Grand Jury Acts—the provision is that during certain times when money is under consideration, or when there is any fear of jobbery, the public shall be admitted; but now a new status is to be invented, and the Press—so called—is to be admitted. I venture to think that the clause is so drafted that it will have no effect whatever in the direction intended, because in the very class of cases in which it is suggested it will be a protection to the public, all the public bodies will have to do will be to resolve themselves into committee, and out will go the honourable Gentleman for South Roscommon and his reporters. Therefore it appears to me that the Government have made adequate protection in this matter. There was one great case in which the House was strongly pressed to give the protection of the presence of the Press. That was on the occasion of the abolition of public executions; and when, Sir, this House declined, in a case where a man is strangled in private, when this House declined to give the Press, so called, admission upon an occasion of this kind, I certainly think that, in regard to all 70 the important matters that have to be decided by these bodies, the Government have provided for sufficient publicity, and that we may well leave them some discretion, when they come to questions of their debts, loans, and litigation, as to how and when that publicity must be exercised.
§ MR. DILLON
Sir, there is a very great difference of opinion on this side of the House. I had not the least intention of intervening in the Debate, but I do not think it would be just to those of us who hold strong opinions on the matter that because most of the speaking came from these benches in support of the Amendment it should be thought opinion was unanimous or anything like unanimous in favour of the proposal. I share entirely in the views which have just been expressed by the honourable Member for North Louth. I think that the Amendment is a totally novel departure. I never heard of such a thing. When in the past it was decided that any meeting should be open to the Press the expression was used, the honourable Member for North Louth says, and as I have always understood to be the case, as meaning that it should be open to the public. Now, for the first time, it is proposed that we should set up a new clause. The only argument I have heard in favour of this proposal is that it would be a check upon jobbery. Well, Sir, if it could be shown that it would be a check upon jobbery, although I do not like the framework of the proposal at all, I should admit that it was a strong argument in favour of supporting it. But can there be anything more absurd, when you examine the proposal, than such a suggestion? All that is necessary when a board wants to do a job is to resolve itself into a committee, and they get rid of the reporter. As I read the clause it would be perfectly competent to the local body to resolve themselves into a committee, get rid of the whole of the Press, and re-admit the whole of the public. They could resolve themselves into committee, order all the Press out, and then, practically, admit all those reporters to whose presence they have no objection. Therefore, I think the clause as drawn would fail to achieve any one of those objects which the Press of the country have in view. 71 I protest against the attempt that has been made to say we are going to vote against this Motion as desiring that Irish bodies should be helped to conduct their proceedings in private. There is no desire in Ireland to do anything of the sort, and there is no foundation for the charge that Irish bodies have ever shown a desire to conduct their proceedings in private. The reason we are opposed—at least, why I am personally opposed—to this clause is, first of all, because I think it is futile, and, secondly, because it attempts to set up an entirely new class, who are to be at liberty to sit on public bodies and have certain undefined rights; and, as I have already stated, I believe after you have passed the clause, while it would set up an extremely inconvenient arrangement, it would utterly fail to deal with any of the evils that have been spoken of.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I cannot give a silent vote on the question which has been raised by my honourable Friend. Let me say, however, before making any other observation, that I entirely dissent from the Member for North Cork in objecting to entrusting this Motion to my honourable Friend opposite. It was entrusted to the President of the Institute of Journalists, and I think the House will agree with me that the Motion could not have got into better hands. As a matter of fact, I think some of the Irish Members have been communicated with in the ordinary way, and if my honourable Friend did not receive the circular it was, I am sure, by an oversight. That, however, is a mere personal point, upon which I do not wish to dwell. Now I have arrived at the same conclusion, though I do not agree at all that no case has been made out. I think the single case given by the honourable Gentleman the Member for South Roscommon is a case entitled to be considered by this House. In some parts, even in some parts of England—probably more in England than Ireland—the members of local bodies are unable to make out the distinction between the independence of the editorial columns and the right of a newspaper to report. They are inclined to say that because a paper does not happen to approve of their particular views, that paper should 72 be deprived of the right of reporting the speeches at these meetings. That, of course, is a most intolerable, most tyrannical interference with the liberty of the Press. Although only one case might be given, I would say that was strong enough. I quite agree with the honourable and learned Gentleman the Member for North Louth, though I am a journalist, too, that it is not in the interests of the public or the journalist that a distinction should be made between them. I am in favour of the rights of the Press being maintained, but their rights are subject to the rights of the public, and they have no right to set up as a special class of the community any more than any other class. What am I asked to do by the Motion of my honourable Friend opposite? In the first place no such law prevails in England. I am asked, therefore, to put my own country and the boards of my own country in an inferior position to the boards in this country. I believe that if a Motion were proposed in this House, making it compulsory on the local bodies in this country to admit the Press, whether they liked it or not—I believe that the common sense of this assembly would reject such a proposal, and say that that was a matter that could be legitimately left to the free decision of the local body itself? Therefore, I say, I am asked to apply to the local bodies of my own country—I do not care whether it is in favour of my own profession or not—I am asked to compel the bodies of my own country—to put a law of compulsion on the local bodies of my own country, which, deliberately or not, this Parliament did not impose on the public bodies of England and Scotland. My second reason is this. I feel as strongly, I resent as strongly as the honourable Member for Roscommon this interference with the liberty of the subject. It is a law of ignorance and intolerance, which all bodies in all countries have to go through. But, Sir, the public opinion of Ireland is the remedy for all this. To that opinion I am willing to leave the matter to be finally decided, and therefore, in spite of my own professional instincts, I shall be bound to vote against the Motion.
§ MR. CLANCY
It seems to me to be a 73 most intolerable thing that public proceedings involving the expenditure of money, every part of which ought to be known to the public, that it should be in regard to such proceedings in the power of anybody to prevent the public and constituents knowing what they are doing. It has been said that it is high time that the right of the public to be admitted even to the House of Commons was conceded. I think the time is coming when public opinion in England will insist that the representatives of the people in this House of Commons shall not conduct their proceedings here, except in the presence of the Press admitted here as a matter of right. It is said that this is a novel proposal, and that is the argument of the honourable Member for East Mayo. Well, every proposal is novel that is introduced for the first time, [Laughter.] Honourable Members may laugh, but are we to prevent anything from being discussed here which is a novel proposal? The honourable and learned Member for North Louth stated that there were only a few instances given of the exclusion of representatives of the Press from meetings of public boards. Well, I may inform the honourable and learned Member who has just spoken, and who sits close beside me, that within the last three months—certainly within the last two years—in the town of Longford and in Enniskillen there have been cases of the exclusion of the Press.
§ MR. CLANCY
Well, if I omit Enniskillen from my illustration, my case will remain just as strong. The honourable Member for North Louth mentioned two or three oases. There was a public body in Ireland—and honourable Members will remember the circumstances very well—which carried on a large amount of public business, and that body actually has decided for years to resist a motion for the admission of the Press to its proceedings, and it actually carried out a large scheme for waterworks without once admitting the Press to report its proceedings. And further, the chief city in Ireland actually kept from the knowledge of the citizens of Dublin an accu- 74 rate report of what took place at its proceedings up to only a couple of months ago, but this body has now opened its proceedings to the public. Now, what guarantee have we that other boards in Ireland will not do the same thing?
§ AN HONOURABLE MEMBER: Why, the extension of the franchise.
§ MR. CLANCY
Yes, but even the democracy does not always do right. That is proved by the fact that one General Election generally reverses the verdict of the former General Election. The democracy of this country changes its mind every General Election, and I do not claim for the democracy of Ireland any superior virtue in that respect, but on the whole I would rather trust to the people than place restrictions upon them, because I believe that the whole of the people voting together will never do much wrong. I see no word of insult to my countrymen in this proposal, and if I did I should resent it, but I feel confident that this House will, in fact, itself adopt a similar provision in the near future. The honourable and learned Member for Louth referred to the question of the exclusion of Press men from public executions. Why, Sir, that is an instance in which they ought to be admitted by right, and that is a case which actually tells in favour of this Motion. Sir, I will repeat my appeal to the Chief Secretary to reconsider this proposal, because he spoke rather early in the Debate, and before he had heard the specific instances given of the exclusion of particular newspapers from meetings of public boards. Therefore he has a right to reconsider his position, or, at all events, to leave the House, which is now very full, free to come to a decision on the question without the influence of the Government whips. Let the Members decide this for themselves, unless he permits, through the Attorney General—or through some other medium—an answer to be given to the specific cases given of the exclusion within a recent period, not of the whole of the Press, but of certain newspapers.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Having myself a very strong belief on this point, I cannot take the course suggested by the honourable Member for Waterford. 75 The argument now appears to be that this new clause ought to be adopted because there have been certain instances when particular representatives of the Press have been excluded. Now, Sir, the argument appears no longer to be based on general considerations of public interest, but rather on considerations connected with certain cases in which, apparently unwisely, particular papers have been excluded and other journalists have been admitted. Therefore we are asked to adopt this absolutely new proposal to deprive a public body of its right to hold its sittings in private. This would be constituting Pressmen a distinctly privileged class. We have in our Orders in Council provided that when certain financial matters are under discussion the proceedings shall be open to the public. I am not aware that in any legislation up to the present time any provision has gone beyond that.
AN HONOURABLE MEMBER
Will the right honourable Gentleman extend this provision to boards of guardians?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
That is a totally different matter. The Press has secured to it under this Act certain definite and special rights, and it is very undesirable to interfere with those rights, because in certain districts certain journalists and newspapers have been excluded. I therefore do not see my way to accept the suggestion of the honourable Member for Waterford not to take up a strict line on this question on the part of the Government.
That the clause be read a second time.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 288.—(Division List No. 188.)79
|Allan, Wm. (Gateshead)||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. H. H.||Harwood, George||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Pinkerton, John|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Price, Robert John|
|Billson, Alfred||Holden, Sir Angus||Priestley, Briggs (Yorks)|
|Birrell, Augustine||Horniman, Frederick John||Randell, David|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Brunner, Sir John T.||Joicey, Sir James||Reid, Sir Robert T.|
|Burt, Thomas||Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Caldwell, James||Kearley, Hudson E.||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Cameron, Sir C. (Glasgow)||Kitson, Sir James||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Carew, James Laurence||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Steadman, William Charles|
|Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton||Leng, Sir John||Strachey, Edward|
|Cawley, Frederick||Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Logan, John William||Thomas, D. A. (Merthyr)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Macaleese, Daniel||Tully, Jasper|
|Crilly, Daniel||MacNeill, John G. Swift||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||McLaren, Chas. Benjamin||Warner, Thomas C. T.|
|Daly, James||Mandeville, J. Francis||Wayman, Thomas|
|Doogan, P. C.||Monk, Charles James||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen)||Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk)|
|Farrell, J. P. (Cavan, W.)||Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Field, William (Dublin)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir John Willox and Mr. Hayden.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Parnell, John Howard|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Barry, Francis T. (Windsor)|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Bailey, James (Walworth)||Barton, Dunbar Plunket|
|Aird, John||Baird, John George Alex.||Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.|
|Allhusen, Augustus H. E.||Balcarres, Lord||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Beckett, Ernest William|
|Arnold, Alfred||Banbury, Frederick George||Bentinck, Lord Henry C.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Banes, Major George Edward||Beresford, Lord Charles|
|Arrol, Sir William||Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Bill, Charles|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. Smith-(Hunts)||Blundell, Colonel Henry|
|Bolitho, Thomas Bedford||Flynn, James Christopher||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Folkestone, Viscount||Melville, Beresford Valentine|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand|
|Bryce, RT. Hon. James||Fry, Lewis||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Garfit, William||Milner, Sir Frederick George|
|Butcher, John George||Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Milward, Colonel Victor|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Molloy, Bernard Charles|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Gilhooly, James||Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants)|
|Carlile, William Walter||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel)|
|Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson-||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||More, Robert Jasper|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs)||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo's)||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh-)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Morris, Samuel|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)||Morrison, Walter|
|Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)||Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs)||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Gull, Sir Cameron||Murnaghan, George|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Gunter, Colonel||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Hall, Sir Charles||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Myers, William Henry|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hammond, John (Carlow)||Newdigate, Francis Alex.|
|Chelsea, Viscount||Hamond, Sir C. (Newcastle)||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. S.|
|Clarke, Sir E. (Plymouth)||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Hardy, Laurence||O'Brien, Jas. F. X. (Cork)|
|Coddington, Sir William||Haslett, Sir James Horner||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Hatch, Ernest Frederick G.||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles R.||Healy, T. M. (Louth, N.)||O'Neill, Hon. Robert T.|
|Colston, Chas. E. H. Athole||Heath, James||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Colville, John||Helder, Augustus||Palmer, Sir Charles M.|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Hill, Rt. Hon. A. S. (Staffs)||Penn, John|
|Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)||Hill, Sir Edward S. (Bristol)||Phillpotts, Capt. Arthur|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes S. W.||Hobhouse, Henry||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Courtney, Rt. Hon. L. H.||Hogan, James Francis||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Cox, Robert||Holburn, J. G.||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C.|
|Cozens-Hardy, Herbert H.||Hornby, William Henry||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Crean, Eugene||Houston, R. P.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Howard, Joseph||Priestley, Sir W. O. (Edin.)|
|Crombie, John William||Howell, William Tudor||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. E.|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Hozier, Hon. James H. C.||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Cross, Herbert S. (Bolton)||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Rankin, Sir James|
|Cruddas, Wm. Donaldson||Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. Grice-||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lancs, S. W.)||Jordan, Jeremiah||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Kemp, George||Robertson, H. (Hackney)|
|Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh||Kimber, Henry||Robinson, Brooke|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Denny, Colonel||Knowles, Lees||Roche, Hon. J. (Kerry, E.)|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir J. P.||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Rothschild, Baron F. J. de|
|Digby, J. K. D. Wingfield-||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Round, James|
|Dillon, John||Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. D.||Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Chelt'm)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Donkin, Richard Sim||Legh, Hon. Thos. W. (Lancs)||Rutherford, John|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Doughty, George||Leighton, Stanley||Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset)||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Doxford, William Theodore||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Drage, Geoffrey||Loder, Gerald Walter E.||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Drucker, A.||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renf.)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sidebottom, W. (Derbyshire)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarksh.)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc.)||McArthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|McCalmont, Mj-Gn. (Ant'm, N.)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||McCalmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Souttar, Robinson|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||McEwan, William||Spencer, Ernest|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||McKillop, James||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)|
|Fisher, William Haves||McLeod, John||Stanley, E. J. (Somerset)|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Stanley, H. M. (Lambeth)|
|Flower, Ernest||Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir H. E.||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'T.|
|Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks)|
|Stock, James Henry||Ward, Hon. R. A. (Crewe)||Wodehouse, E. R. (Bath)|
|Stone, Sir Benjamin||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-|
|Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Warkworth, Lord||Wylie, Alexander|
|Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)||Warr, Augustus Frederick||Wyndham-Quin, Maj. W. H.|
|Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Sutherland, Sir Thomas||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Uny)||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-L.)||Young, Comm. (Berks, E.)|
|Tennant, Harold John||Whitmore, Charles Algernon||Young, Samuel (Cavan, E.)|
|Thornton, Percy M.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Tomlinson, W. E. Murray||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Tritton, Charles Ernest||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Tuite, James||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Ure, Alexander||Wilson, J. W. (Worc., N.)|
§ It being half-past Five of the clock, by the Rules of the House further proceedings stood adjourned.