HC Deb 02 May 1898 vol 57 cc44-64

The House again went into Committee on the Local Government Amendment Bill, and further considered the proposed Amendment on Clause 5, moved by the Attorney General for Ireland, dealing with the rules under which compensation for malicious injuries is to be paid. Mr. T. M. Healy having moved that opposition to claims for compensation should be raised without previous notice,

MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

said: I think, Sir, that the Amendment by the Attorney General is a very dangerous one, and will do a great deal of injury in Ireland. As the law stands, on this particular point at present there is no necessity for people to give notice of opposition to the claims for malicious injury. This Bill introduces an entirely new feature. It insists that notice of opposition, shall be given. That, I think, is a very serious matter—indeed, a much more serious matter than has appeared to the House. Well, Sir, this system of procedure for malicious injuries is one which is peculiar to Ireland. You have nothing like it in England, Scotland, or Wales. I think it is a pity that on a Bill which is in so many respects a liberation Bill a blot of this kind should be put, making the existing law, which is bad enough at present, much worse, especially for the ratepayers. Of course, I know that there is a considerable body of opinion in Ireland which regards all claims for malicious injury as a kind of municipal insurance by the ratepayers. There may be something to be said from that view, but I think we have purchased this insurance at a very high price, if the law is to be applied as amended by the Attorney General for Ireland, because this brings for the first time upon the scene in the history of these malicious injury cases the speculative attorney. Previously, Sir, if a man put into operation the law of malicious injury—and in the course of my experience as a Pressman I have known numerous cases, and I know exactly what happens—no respectable solicitor cared very much to take it up, because, in the first place, there was no provision made for costs, unless, of course, the grand jury gave a very considerable sum as compensation. But under the clause which is now under the consideration of the Committee, it is in the interest of the speculating attorney to bring these cases forward, because he will have a certain opportunity of getting costs. A new factor is now put upon the scene. Instead of making it easier for these bogus claims to be made, I think the law should be left as it is—at least, in this respect—and that people should not be required to give notice of opposition. I know very well the kind of claims which can be levied under the present state of the law. I take one of many cases that happened a few years ago in the county of Sligo. A gentleman had a saw-mill, which he used for the purpose of sawing timber. He was going down in the world, and one night his mill caught fire. The evidence produced showed that his own son was seen leaving the premises twenty minutes before the fire, which burst out in several distinct places. What happened? The grand jury, most of whom were men who were selling this man their timber, in spite of the evidence, which would convince any man that this was a case of arson, granted that man £4,000. But this case of dealing wrongly with the ratepayers' money is only one of hundreds of cases of the kind which could be brought before the House. Now, Sir, I think that we have a case here which the Government should consider, and I venture to hope that they will give way on this small point. As the law at present stands, there is no necessity to give notice of opposition. With the law, as amended, they must give notice of opposition some time before the first hearing takes place. But it is very difficult, when notice is given, for the cesspayers to make up their minds whether they will fight their case or not. In the interval between the first and second hearings facts may come to light which may alter the entire bearing of the question. Is it, therefore, to be argued, because notice of opposition is not given by the ratepayers—the people who will have to pay for the litigation—that they cannot oppose it before the judge of assize? It is not always the land-grabbers or the broken-down landlords who will be applying for compensation for their malicious injuries. Every broken-down bankrupt in the country, with the aid of these speculating attorneys, who send out their own touts, will be induced to make bogus claims by the procedure now adopted, and an entirely new sphere of litigation, and a new tribe of litigants will be raised up. Under this state of things the heavy cesspayers and the heavy ratepayers will suffer more than even the smallest cesspayers. Under these circumstances, therefore, I really press upon the Government to give us this safeguard against fraud on the ratepayers.


I will not discuss the propriety or the impropriety of leaving in the clause. The only remark I would make is that if fraudulent claims have hitherto been put forward and allowed by the grand jury there is less probability that they will be allowed either by the county court or the superior court. I would remind the honourable Member who has just sat down that all the rules contemplated by this section must be laid before Parliament, if, after they have been laid on the Table of the House for the specified number of days, a petition be presented to Her Majesty to withhold her assent, of course they fall to the ground.


And your majority would support the petition, wouldn't they?


Whatever other sins the word "Opposition" may have, it certainly does not carry on its back the speculative attorney. I think the matter has been adequately discussed, and I do not see that any hardship will be inflicted upon anybody. I have already pointed out that the judge has power to dispense in any case the literal and strict observance of any of these rules; I fail, therefore, to see how any person can be prejudiced.

MR. KNOX (Londonderry)

said he ventured to think that the Chief Secretary had not considered the actual effect of the words which he had accepted or incorporated in the Amendment. The proceedings before the grand jury so immediately preceded those before the judge of assize, that notice of opposition would obviously be impossible. He thought if instead of notice of opposition the words were "notice of appeal" it would be a fair protection to both parties.


May I point out that the right honourable Gentleman the Attorney General dealt with the matter as if the only interest the county council had were a simple question of fact—of malice or no malice. In the majority of cases—in the multitude of cases—the county council will have an interest in appearing in cases where malice is admitted, because there was, apart from the question of malice, the very important question of damage. In the majority of cases the claim made by the applicant must be an excessive claim. Of course, there is a tendency on the part of all applicants to claim the full extent of the damages they have sustained before it is possible by expert evidence to come to an accurate opinion as to the fair amount. May I make a suggestion? It is that the county court judges, when they go to frame their rules, shall not be compelled to prescribe notice of opposition, whether they think it desirable or not. That is the sole effect of the words proposed by the right honourable Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland in an appeal to the right honourable Gentleman to trust his own county court judges. To insist on the necessity of having notice of opposition is certainly going too far.

MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

said he hoped the Government would give way on this point. There was a belief in the minds of the Irish Members that these rules of court would be stringent and hostile in a certain direction. If they could trust the judges to deal with the rules in a spirit of absolute fair play, there might not be so much objection to them.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

The right, honourable Gentleman has said that one of the reasons why he could not accept the Amendment as it now stands, is that the county court judges would have to act up to the strict letter of the rule. That is an opinion which I venture to say will not be acted upon. The county court judges will construe this Act as it is put before them, without any regard to any opinion expressed in this House. In my opinion the words are wholly unnecessary. I think they afford opportunities to defeat the legitimate reasons which can be given against these malicious claims. They enable people to take advantage of the outside public who do not know much about a particular case, and in that way a great injustice may be done to the ratepayers at large. I understand that under the section proposed in this Bill the county council, as representing the ratepayers, will be the defendants before the county court judge, and they will be placed absolutely at the mercy of those persons who may like to take advantage of this malicious injury section. The words are unnecessary, and after the assistance which the Chief Secretary has received from these Benches up to this point I think it would come with a very bad grace from him if he should stick out now over a mere technicality of this sort.


I am prepared, taking into consideration the suggestion which has just been made, to omit the words, "notice to be given of application of the opposition," reserving to myself the right to raise the question again, if necessary, on the Report stage of the Bill, if it is found on inquiry that the practice and procedure of the county court does include notice of application. On that distinct understanding, I agree to the omission of the words. The section will therefore read, "Rules of court may regulate generally the practice and procedure."

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

That is a very satisfactory statement, and, in return for that, I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. ATKINSON'S Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the following proviso to the Attorney General's Amendment— No court fees shall be payable on or in respect of any proceedings to which this section applies. If these proceedings are to be taken under the county court, rules fees will have to be paid at every stage. This is in marked contrast to the present state of things. If the applicant succeeds the court fees will have to be paid in the end by the county, and the result will be that the county, in addition to having to indemnify the applicant against any injury, will also have to provide the applicant's court fees over the whole series of proceedings from the beginning up to the point at which he establishes his claim.


My attention had not been called to the Amendment until a moment ago, and I should like to make some inquiries into the matter. My sympathies are, to a great extent, with the honourable Member, and if I find on inquiry that no fees are charged now, and that what the honourable Member has asked for can be done without affecting the fees charged in the county court in other proceedings. I will accept the Amendment on the Report stage.


The right honourable Gentleman has made a very reasonable offer, and I accept it.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.


I beg to move as an Amendment— That this section shall remain in force until the 31st of December, 1904, and no longer. My proposal is that this clause shall remain in force for practically five years. I think that is not an unreasonable thing. You are adopting a procedure which is entirely different from the legislation of the last 60 years, and it seemed to me that it would be unfair not to give Ireland an opportunity of overhauling this proposal after five years. I do not think it right that this procedure should be stereotyped for all time. The result will be that the Irish Statutes will be in a more confused condition than the Statutes of any other portion of the United Kingdom. I cannot conceive how the Government, having six months for the preparation of this Bill, were obliged to place this long series of Amendments upon the Paper. This proposal is a novelty; it was not in the original Bill, and I think the reason was that we did not make much row about it.


The Amendment of the honourable Member is applicable to the whole clause.


I only moved that the section remain in force until 31st December.


That applies to the whole clause.


I cannot altogether agree with the honourable Member for North Louth that this section should only apply for a limited period. If at the end of that period—five years, as the honourable Member suggests—the section ceases to be operative, the result will be a return to the existing procedure in which any actions of this kind will come before the grand jury. I cannot imagine that, having once changed the entire procedure, we should ever return to it. If I thought that possible I might favourably consider the Amendment of the honourable Member; but I think that is quite out of the question, and I think the honourable Member will see that this is hardly an Amendment which the Government will entertain.

MR. PATRICK J. POWER (Waterford, E.)

Taking everything into consideration, it is doubtful whether this clause will improve the position of the ratepayers; indeed, I think it will have a contrary effect. There are some safeguards in connection with claims for malicious injuries that will be swept away by the proposed legislation. I have never been able to understand the system upon which associated ratepayers in Ireland have been selected, and in my own constituency I have known large ratepayers left out because they happened not to be on the grand jury. On the grand jury the majority were county ratepayers, and they had something to say in the districts where the levies were to be made. But these duties are to be put upon the county court judges. In theory that may be all very well, but in practice it works out very wrongly, and localities will be penalised in large sums for the doings of people who have no connection with these particular localities. I believe that the proposed legislation will lead to abuse and throw a stigma upon Ireland which she does not deserve.


I am willing to allow the Amendment to be negatived.


I have not the confidence in the grand jury system which those learned in the law have, and by listening to this Debate, I have only had confirmed more strongly than ever my opinion of the anomaly of the law. No doubt the majority on these benches are specially opposed to the administration of this abominable system of law by grand jury. But, logically speaking, administration by grand jury is more offensive than the system proposed by the Government. In Ireland the grand jury, or a meeting of the associated cessspayers, levied this contribution for compensation for malicious injuries, and confined the incidence of the rate to some small district. Their powers in that direction were outrageous, and in some instances the rate amounted to six, seven, or eight shillings in the pound. So that it really came to be a system of the grossest possible oppression. Now the Government proposes to transfer grand jury business respecting compensation for criminal injuries to the county court, and I regard that, bad as it is, as an improvement on the present system. But it has this logical difficulty, that it produces a thoroughly indefensible principle in the administration of the law in Ireland—namely, that a stranger is entitled to levy an oppressive fine on some limited area for the purpose of the political punishment of people with whose actions and opinions he does not agree. It is a system by which you penalise and oppress innocent people. Supposing there are moonlighting outrages. It very often happens that the moonlighters come from a distance, and that nine-tenths of the people in the district where the outrage is committed are unacquainted with the perpetrators, and are in no way responsible for the crime. You cannot levy moonlighters, or the persons who commit the crime, but you levy people who are innocent of it. The whole system is absolutely and utterly wrong and indefensible, and, bad as the Government proposal is, it is not so bad as the present state of affairs.


One's impressions of grand juries are derived from the district one comes from, and the grand juries I have been acquainted with are not so bad as those described by the honourable Member for East Mayo. I would rather trust a grand jury than a county court judge, but I am willing to take a Division on the Amendment.

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

The Amendment is not an improvement on the clause as originally proposed. I regard the clause as preferable to the existing law, and I support the Amendment as a protest against the law as it at present stands. The ground upon which the law is based is the assumption that there is a general feeling in the community against the person outraged, and general sympathy with the person perpetrating the outrage. The most remarkable case in illustration of this fact occurred a few years ago in Dublin, where, in connection with a case of horse poisoning, the ratepayers of the county of Dublin had to pay £3,000, although they could not be supposed to have any sympathy with the perpetrators of the outrage. That case, even if it stood alone, ought to be enough to make the Government reconsider the whole question. But it does not stand alone. In the county of Dublin, two or three years ago, serious affairs took place. Some property belonging to the Christian Brethren was destroyed; and although not the slightest pretence was made that the community had anything to do with the case, compensation was assessed, and the whole community was punished to the tune of thousands of pounds for the offence of two or three blackguards. That is the law the Government wishes to perpetuate. I hope the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary will reconsider the question.


If I am in order, I desire to say that I am in favour of the principle of the clause, and I should be sorry to see anything done that would endanger that principle. But, as the clause is framed, I apprehend very great difficulty will arise upon it hereafter. If I am right, the result, if this Bill becomes law, will be that the party who complains of injury will be under no necessity to post a notice within three days, and it will be competent for them months afterwards to institute a claim before the county court judge. Before deciding how I should vote on this Amendment, I should like to have some assurance from the Chief Secretary that the clause will be amended so as to enable the Lord Lieutenant in Council to re-enact the provisions of the Grand Jury Act as to preliminary notices of procedure.


I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that it is our intention to introduce words something like these: "including all preliminary notices," which will give the Lord Lieutenant in Council ample powers to frame the rules. A preliminary notice must be given a certain time after the injury has been committed.


I was not in the House when that was stated, or I should not have raised it now.


I see that in the Act dealing with the matter the Government propose to leave the following words standing: "The said grand jury shall, during the time appointed, transact," etc. As I understand it, the Lord Lieutenant, by an Order in Council, makes the county court judge and the judge of assize to be constituted and to include any grand jury, and I want to know why are these words allowed to stand. Why are they not repealed?


They will be; repealed.


There is no lega] difference, so to speak.

Committee divided:—Ayes 140; Noes 203.—(Division List No. 82.)


I should be pleased to go on with these Amendments. They were put down in the interests of the larger cesspayers, and I am really surprised at the action of the Government in refusing to accept them.


I move to add at the end of Clause 5: "Section 106 of the Grand Juries (Ireland) Act, 1836, is hereby repealed."


It would be more convenient to move that as an Amendment to the schedule of Acts repealed.


I submit, Sir, that if I bring it on on the schedule it will not effect the object I have in view. What this clause does is to transfer certain business from the grand juries to the county courts—namely, the business relating to malicious injuries; and if I move to omit the section from the schedule, all I can do is to leave the business in the hands of the grand juries.


What I suggest is that, as the Amendment is really to repeal a certain section, the proper place to ask the assent of the Committee is when the Repeal Schedule is under consideration. There is a schedule mentioned in Clause 68 which proposes to repeal Acts and portions of Acts of Parliament in connection with this Bill. That is the proper place to raise the question of the honourable Member's Amendment.


You have, Mr. Lowther, yourself given a reason why the Amendment should be now considered. The repeals in the schedule are repeals consequent on the passage of the Bill. The repeal which I propose is not a repeal consequent on the passage of the Bill, but it is a substantive Amendment of the law quite relevant to the subject under discussion. I submit it is the constant practice to have at the end of a Bill a schedule of repeals consequent on the passage of the Bill, but, in addition, there is a repeal which involves a change in the law, and that class of repeal is always embodied in the Bill itself.


I think it would be very inconvenient to have repeals of some Acts in the Bill itself and of some in the schedule of the Bill.


It has been done.


It is a very inconvenient practice.


I do not wish to press the matter, but I submit, Sir, you are laying down an important Parliamentary precedent in now deciding that all repeals must be in the schedule. I submit it is a departure from previous procedure, and it lays down a new Parliamentary doctrine for the first time.


If it is a new one I am quite prepared to take the responsibility.

The question "That Clause 5 as amended stand part of the Bill" put and agreed to.

Question put "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."

MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)

With reference to the Amendment of the honourable Member for North Belfast, I wish to know whether it will be necessary to move it now or to defer it until another part of the Bill dealing with the special circumstances of the city of Belfast is reached? If the right honourable Gentleman will assure me that it will be competent for my honourable Friend to move the Amendment at a later stage, in connection with the consolidation of rates in the city of Belfast, I will defer it; otherwise, I beg to move the Amendment now.


I will certainly give my honourable Friend the assurance he asks for. The question can be raised later.


I do not think there is any reason why there should be in a county borough rather than anywhere else two rate-collecting authorities. I do not know what the opinion of Belfast may be on the point, but I do know that a great many people in Belfast complain greatly of the fact that there are three rate-collecting authorities in the city. There is the water rate levied by the Water Commissioners, a number of rates collected by the borough, and the poor rate. They think that is a great nuisance, and it is certainly very desirable that all rates should be collected in one rate, and by one authority.


I am quite content with the assurance of the right honourable Gentleman that the matter can be discussed at a later stage.


I am astonished that the Government have an open mind on the question, because, when asked by my honourable Friend the Member for Waterford a short time ago if they proposed it with reference to Dublin, the Chief Secretary stated they did not.


No; I stated that I would express no opinion.


That is exactly what I complain of. The right honourable Gentleman did express an opinion in answer to the question to which I refer.


I did not desire to discuss the subject then.


I do not propose the omission of sub-section (b) to cut down in any way the powers of the county councils, but it does occur to me that some of the powers covered by the two Acts mentioned in it should be discharged, not by the county councils, but by the district councils. With regard to the second Act, I need not say anything. It is an Act for the destruction of the Colorado beetle, passed at a time of considerable panic. The insects were destroying the potato crop in Canada, and it was feared that they might be introduced into Ireland and commit similar ravages there. The Bill was passed through Parliament in a great hurry, and, so far as I am aware, it has never had any operation in England. But the first Act—the Diseases of Animals Act, 1894—is very important. It is at present administered by the boards of guardians in their character as the local sanitary authority, and the proposal now is that the powers conferred by the Act should be transferred from the local sanitary authorities to the county councils. Take the county of Cork. There are at present, I think, in the county 19 boards of guardians, and, however they may be reduced, you will not get them down below 16 Unions. This gives within the county of Cork 16 sanitary authorities all working locally; and it appears to me to be a more effective method of carrying out the very important duties under the Act than to have one central body in each county, and to transfer to it these duties. Now, each of these local bodies have, I understand, a sanitary inspector and, apparently, one of the results of passing this sub-section will be that in the county of Cork there will be 16 sanitary inspectors deprived of employment, and all empowered to come down on the county for compensation. But apart from any mere temporary matters of this kind, it does appear to me that the proper authority to administer the Cattle Diseases Act is the local sanitary authority and not the county council. Under the Act it is provided that the local sanitary authority may exercise its powers by committee, and a committee of that kind should be, in fact, sitting in permanence. Now, in the case of the local authority, there is sometimes a weekly meeting, otherwise a fortnightly meeting; whereas the county councils may meet only once a quarter. Therefore, it appears to me that it is unwise to substitute for a local committee a central body of a somewhat necessarily unwieldy character, which will not act locally and often, and, therefore, will not always be in a position to deal with matters of urgency as they arise. I am aware that the more important powers under the Act are not exercised locally, but by the Lord Lieutenant in Council; but there are important duties which have to be discharged locally, and the proper body to carry out these duties is the local body, and not the county council.


The expert advice which I have been able to obtain with regard to this Bill points to the conclusion that large areas are better and more convenient than small ones for the administration of this Bill. It would be perfectly competent for the county council to appoint a leading professor; therefore the objection raised by the honourable Member opposite is not likely to be a serious one. Now that county councils are to be set up in Ireland it is very desirable that they should be entrusted with the powers to which the honourable Member has referred. As regards the veterinary surgeons, of course it will be open for the county councils to demand the appointment of a better staff, and it will be per- fectly competent for them to appoint special committees to perform the duties now discharged by the guardians under the Diseases of Animals Act.


I would ask the honourable Member not to press his Amendment, because I am sure that all agriculturists, whether occupiers or experts, will confirm the view which has fallen from the Chief Secretary, that the larger area is the best to cope with the stamping out of disease. Some years ago I was appointed to act as Chairman of the Departmental Committee of the Board of Agriculture on swine fever, and the Legislature subsequently adopted the recommendations of that Committee. We had unanimous evidence from experts that the larger area was the better one. Of course I am quite willing to grant that that inquiry was specially directed to having a larger area than even the county, so as to hand over these Acts in certain cases from the county authority to the larger administration of the Board of Agriculture in England, and to the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland. Now that has been done, and has become general by Acts passed in regard to swine fever. But even with this larger area—as I have experienced in my own county—under the English administration the upper hand has not yet been got of this terrible disease from which the farmer is suffering more at present than from any other disease. There is one point which the honourable Member raised which is a very interesting point, and ought not to be lost sight of by the Committee, and that is with regard to compensation. I cannot help thinking that it would be a mistake to fill up this Bill with clauses and claims tending necessarily to loss of office and compensation, for probably in most cases the county council would be able to offer the work connected with the stamping out of these diseases to these same gentlemen who at present hold the appointments, and then they would work as subordinates under the county council. In that manner they would be debarred from making any claims for compensation.

SIR T. G. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)

I do not think the question of compensa- tion arises in this matter, because in the case of swine fever the inspectors are employed by the boards of guardians. I think on the whole that the Amendment of my honourable Friend is a good one. In order to cope effectively with the disease, rapidity of action is the essence of the cure; therefore I think the local district councils would be the best authority to deal with it. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary for Ireland intends our county councils to meet quarterly, or not, because that raises another consideration, and I should like to know in what part of the Bill that question will arise.

MR. J. LLOYD WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)

I think the Committee of the county council could be very well left to deal with this question. They could be summoned as often as required, and might be entrusted with greater powers, and that system would be far more popular, and I think the work would be done in a more satisfactory way.


I think it is a matter we may fairly leave to the responsibilities of the Government. There is a little matter I wish to allude to. We are now in the month of May, and this new body will not be elected for a year, and the question is whether they should be transferred from the appointed day.


I do not think that the Amendment proposed by the honourable Member for Cork will work in the direction of economy. He has given us the case of Cork, with its 16 veterinary surgeons. My experience of other parts of Ireland is that the unions, instead of each having a veterinary surgeon, try to group themselves together and appoint one veterinary surgeon. But that system has resulted in a good deal of friction between the unions, and does not work harmoniously. I think it will be best, after all, to trust to the county councils in this matter. They will be elected by the ratepayers and the householders of the county, and I think we can trust that in a matter like this they will select, instead of the 16 or 17 required in Cork, four or five competent veterinary surgeons to do the work of the whole county. We shall also get rid of the expense which is at present incurred for doing the work under the Cattle Diseases Act. The boards of guardians are supposed to be the authority, but they really have very little to do, for the county council usurp the whole power themselves. At present four or five clerks are required to transact any nominal business where one would do. The county council could pay a higher salary, and would get a better man for the work.


After the opinions which have been expressed, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.


I am sorry the honourable Member is going to withdraw his Amendment with regard to veterinary inspectors. You will have to compensate the clerks to the boards of guardians, who will lose a certain amount of their income under this Act. Not only this, but you will have to pay additional sums, and it seems to me that as regards the question of expense it is a very serious matter. One honourable Member said he was afraid that a uniform system could not be adopted. This is one of those matters which the Government at Dublin Castle have taken right good care to keep to themselves. Not only does this ridiculous arrangement exist at present, but the guardians can also appoint one set of inspectors, and then another inspector may be appointed to look after them, and to do the very same work. I know one case where the same man was appointed for both positions. There is no fear whatever, as long as the Castle at Dublin has the appointing of these inspectors, that a uniform system will ever be adopted. I think you will have to compensate veterinary inspectors also for loss of income. An officer who holds office under the Council is "a person appointed on the 21st March." Therefore you will have to compensate the veterinary inspectors, and you will have to also compensate the clerks of the boards of guardians, and finally you will have to pay an additional sum to the clerks of the county councils.

MR. A. F. JEFFREYS (Hants, North)

I am surprised that honourable Gentlemen opposite, instead of demanding compensation for the veterinary surgeons, are not asking for compensation for the poor farmers, for they are the people who suffer the most from swine fever. As to the veterinary surgeons, I never heard of giving them compensation, for generally they have no fixed salary, but are paid according to the amount of work they do. What we really want is—and it will be very much better—to entrust the power under the Act to the larger authority rather than to a smaller one, and I would remind honourable Gentlemen of this, that the county council often delegate their powers to smaller bodies appointed by the local authorities who have some cognisance of the disease, and who report to the central authority, and take steps to stamp out the disease. I am sure that they will prefer the larger authority, and by this arrangement you will have a very much better chance of stamping out the disease.

MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)

I quite agree with the right "honourable Gentleman in the way he is dealing with this portion of the Act, but I am not quite certain that the question of compensation will not arise. In some cases the veterinary surgeon is appointed by the board of guardians at a salary. In other cases he is paid by the amount of work he does, and the number of cases he has to deal with. I think it is very questionable whether if a veterinary surgeon is appointed by salary it is not a case for compensation. But I think that can be met, because this Bill does not propose to increase the number of veterinary officers, and the county councils have the power of appointing those officers to whom they would have to pay compensation. I do not agree with the Member for North Dublin that the clerks of the boards of guardians will be entitled to compensation. They are appointed at a salary, and, in addition to that salary, they get an allowance for the discharging of certain duties under this Act. The Government at no time can take away these duties, and there is no clerk of any union who can allege a right to compensation. The duties they are called upon to discharge are in addition to their duties as clerks of unions, and the moment that is taken away they have no duties to discharge; therefore they have no claim, in my mind, to compensation.


The honourable Member seems to think that we are concerned chiefly in getting compensation for these veterinary surgeons, and that we are not concerned at all about the farmers. But I think we are concerned in exactly the opposite way, for we are concerned about the farmers. I quite agree with what was said by the noble Lord, that it would be better to have the larger area and not the smaller one. I think the argument used by my honourable and learned Friend in moving this Amendment was hardly applicable. The board of guardians meets very frequently, and it does not always happen that there will be a meeting of the council when there is a meeting of the guardians. But apart from that, looking at it on the broad grounds, I think it would be better to have the wider area. I think, however, that we should secure, before passing this Bill, that the change from the smaller to the wider area shall not constitute a legal claim for compensation. As I read the Bill as it now stands there would be a good claim in law, but not in any other way, for compensation. The Chief Secretary for Ireland seemed to think that this was not so, but if he looks to the definition clause at the word "office," he will find it has a very broad one. It is on page 39, and it reads— The expression 'office' includes any office, situation, or employment, and the expression 'officer' shall be construed accordingly. It is clear that even if it is not an office in the ordinary sense of the word, it is an employment, and therefore I think the veterinary inspector is clearly an existing officer, and, I believe, would be entitled in law to compensation. Section 72 reads— Where business of any authority is transferred by, or in pursuance of, this Act to any county or district council, the existing officers of that authority employed in that business, and not in any other business of that authority, shall become the officers of the council of that county or district. That would mean a veterinary inspector employed in any part of the county by a board of guardians, who would become an officer for that county. I think, therefore, that it is quite clear that this does require some further consideration. I think it would be easy to secure that these men should have, after an appointment by the council, the same sphere of duties as they have at present. It seems to me that the clause as it stands would create a deal of confusion, and would be almost certain to cause claims to be made for compensation. That being so, I hope, if my honourable Friend withdraws the Amendment now, that this matter will be considered before we come to Section 72 of the Act, and that the Chief Secretary will see that the Bill does not give compensation in these cases, if there is a general opinion in the House that there ought not to be any compensation.


It is rather regrettable that we should have to discuss the question of compensation here at this stage, because we are likely to hear so much more of it hereafter. I do not think the Bill will give compensation to those officers who have been alluded to in the course of the Debate.


In the English Act they have the power of delegating their authority to any other smaller authority. They have that power under Section 31. As the English county councils have been given this power, I certainly think that the Irish county councils ought to have the same power.

Amendment withdrawn.

MR. P. FFRENCH (Wexford, S.)

I beg leave to move the following Amendment— Clause 6, page 3, line 31, at end, add—'County councils shall have the same power of administering the Explosives Act, as that possessed by the English councils.' Clause 6, page 3, line 31, at end, add—'(c) the business of the justices in petty sessions under the Explosives Act, 1875.' I trust the right honourable Gentleman who has charge of this Bill will see the necessity of accepting my Amendment. The magistrates are the local authorities for the administration of the Explosives Act. They appoint the inspectors under the Act, but they do not pay them. The board of guardians are compelled to pay them at whatever salaries the magistrates choose to fix, and this is an anomaly of which boards of guardians loudly complain. Now, I think the business of the justices under the Explosives Act should be delegated to the county councils.


With regard to these officers who are paid by the guardians, honourable Members opposite are aware that the Government have declared themselves against this practice, and we intend, at a later stage of the Bill, to introduce a clause with the object of putting an end to the system. Seeing that these duties will be carried out by the Government, free of charge to the local authority, I do not myself think there is any necessity under the circumstances that any such Amendment should be adopted. I would suggest that, unless the power to appoint the officer ceases, it is obvious that this Amendment should be withdrawn. If it is desired, I will accept the Amendment, if the following words be added— Except the power to appoint any officer, which power shall cease.

SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

I hope the right honourable Gentleman will not accept this Amendment, but let the clause stand as it is.

Amendment, with additional words added, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

  1. CLAUSE 7. 1,244 words
  2. cc68-124
  3. CLAUSE 8. 10,168 words
    1. cc95-124
    2. CLAUSE 9. 9,614 words
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