HC Deb 29 March 1898 vol 55 cc1218-20

On the order for the Second Reading of this Bill—

MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin, N.)

I do not propose to object, to the Second Reading of this Bill, or to make many observations at this stage, because I think it is one which ought to go before a Select Committee, and have its merits discussed there. There is no doubt whatever, with regard to this proposal, that some Measure is required in the interests of all classes of Dublin for the reform of the Port and Docks Board of Dublin City. The Board is an antiquated institution, elected on an antiquated franchise, and, to my certain knowledge, the citizens of Dublin have for many years past anxiously desired some reform in the constitution of that body, and some alteration in the franchise upon which, it is elected. We have over and over again appealed to the Government of the day to make this reform, but no matter what the Government of the day was, whether Liberal or Conservative, we have always been put off by one excuse or another. Recently, the Chamber of Commerce of Dublin, or some gentleman connected with that body, took in hand this question of reforming the Port and Docks Board of Dublin, and they have produced the Bill which is now before the House for Second Reading, and I frankly admit that the Bill does constitute an improvement in the direction which I desire, it reduces the franchise, and increases the electorate from 200 to some thousands of votes. That, of course, is a great improvement, and I should hesitate to stop a Bill which would bring about a reform of that kind. My object in rising was to enter my protest against any attempt, any half-hearted attempt, being made to reform the Dublin Port and Docks Board, because, in my opinion, any reform of that body should be a reform root and branch. The franchise proposed by this Bill is a £25 rating franchise, but it is not really a simple £25 rating franchise, because the multiple vote is also allowed, and, therefore, persons of the wealthy class, even under the £25 rating franchise, Would exercise a preponderating influence in the election of this Board. Now, Sir, it has been said that, only persons connected with the business of shipping, and the port and harbour of Dublin, ought really to have a vote for the election of members of the Port and Docks Board, but I contend that every citizen of Dublin has an equal interest, proportionately to his position, in this Board, and in every matter of this kind. Every citizen of Dublin, one way or another, contributes to the revenue of the port and harbour of Dublin. He may not pay rates directly, he may not be a shipper, or a wholesale merchant, but he supports the shipper and the wholesale merchant, and, therefore, he indirectly contributes as much as any of the other classes to the revenues of the port and harbour of Dublin. I say, then, that the reform, which was wanted in the Port and Dock Board of Dublin is one which would place the management of the business of the port and harbour of Dublin in the hands of the whole body of citizens of that city. My own plan would be to take advantage of the present Local Government Bill, and transfer the business of the Port and Dock Board to the Corporation, which might manage it by means of a separate Committee. I do not know whether that idea would find favour with the Government in the Committee stage of the Bill, but, at all events, I myself, if nobody else does, will recommend that course to be taken. Meanwhile, I have only to say that I do not oppose the Bill at the present stage for the reason I have already stated, although I consider that it ought to be fought out upon its merits upstairs, and I therefore content myself with recording my opinion that no such arrangement as proposed by this Bill will be satisfactory, and that in the end, or in a few years hence, a settlement will be arrived at in the interests of the general body of citizens of Dublin of the question of the control of the harbour authority of Dublin. It is a matter which, in my opinion, should be placed in the hands of the whole body of citizens.

Bill read a second time, and committed.