HC Deb 11 May 1898 vol 57 cc1014-33

Amendment proposed— Page 9, line 27, after 'roll,' insert— And the provisions made by or in pursuance of this Act respecting the qualification and mode of election of councillors shall extend as well to the aldermen as to the councillors of the urban district."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)

Agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 9, line 27, after 'roll,' insert— Provided that a person shall not, unless otherwise qualified, be entitled to be a I cal government elector of an urban district if registered in the Parliamentary register of electors for such district in respect of a qualification as a freeman. Provided that a person shall not be entitled to be a local government elector of an urban district if registered in any year in the Parliamentary register of electors in respect of the county or borough occupation franchise within the meaning of the Registration of the People Act, 1884, unless such person shall have resided within, or within seven miles of, the urban district during six months immediately preceding the 20th day of July in such year."—(Mr. M. Healy.)

Agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 9, line 27, after 'by,' insert 'section 2, sub-section 2.'"—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)


said the clause as it stood was wide. Section 2 said that the councillors shall hold office for a term of three years, and shall then retire together, and their places shall be filled by a new election. That was the change which he thought it was intended to effect, and if any other change was intended he thought it ought to be set out on the face of the Bill.


I think the universal opinion was that these councillors were to be elected for three years. I understood the district council was to retain office for three years, and that there was to be no ad interim election.


No, Sir.


My Amendment is intended to effect a change, to have the urban and rural districts to stand on the same basis. I would suggest that there should be a hard and fast rule.


I am unable to understand the proposals of the Chief Secretary in regard to the election of urban district councillors. He has stated that urban district councils will be elected under the new Act as they are elected at the present time, with this difference, that they will be elected under a new franchise. I should like to ask the Chief Secretary what will take place under this Act next year with regard to urban districts?


I think local feeling is agreed that uniformity should be adhered to, and that all the members should retire together at the end of three years. The reason I speak on behalf of that is that you get much greater interest in an election and much greater interest in public affairs when all the members retire at the same time, and if that is the case you afterwards get a period of three years during which business will be done free from the turmoil of election. I don't believe there is any advantage to be gained by an annual election, I hold that the old popular doctrine is the right one, the doctrine under which we ourselves are elected to this House. Then there is also the argument from economy. I hope the Chief Secretary will accept the proposals that have been made for having a uniform period.


My own opinion is in favour of triennial elections. I do not venture to go the same length as regards towns and boroughs as honourable Gentlemen for Ireland have done, but if it appears to be the general opinion, I shall be only too glad to accept the Amendment.


There is no doubt about it.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I hope that in the interval before Re- port stage is reached the right honourable Gentleman will look into the matter a little more deeply. My experience, as chairman of an inquiry held into this subject, is that much diversity of opinion prevails. One set of witnesses, officially representing municipal corporations in England and Wales, were unanimous in the view that it was impossible to conduct elections in a smooth, orderly, and popular manner, except under the system of a third going out every three years. Representatives of the county council were clear that the only way to secure true representation was by the whole body going out every three years. Representatives of the city of London were clearly of the opinion that to get rid of political issues involved in borough elections, the whole of the representatives of a town should be changed annually. I think my right honourable Friend will find that with the varying circumstances and conditions of towns great diversity of opinion will arise.


I think if the right honourable Gentleman had pursued his investigations to harbour boards he would find a general feeling that they should not go out at all. However, he has given a satisfactory assurance, and I am quite sure he will bring good judgment to bear on the question. Therefore, I will withdraw my Amendment.


I am in favour of a third of the county council going out every year. This Bill has been brought forward on the basis of existing arrangements. Local authorities have had no warning that this change should be made, and certainly I would say that if the whole system of election is to be revolutionised it would be only fair to existing bodies to give them an opportunity of expressing their opinions before this great change is made. The system has worked well so far as I know. [Cries of "No."] I am only expressing my own opinion. It has to be said that every local body has considered this Bill. They have gone into it and not one of them has asked that the new system should be substituted for the old. I hope the Government will stick to their proposals.


I shall endeavour to ascertain the feelings of the towns in Ireland on this clause.

MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)

said with regard to these annual elections, so far as he was concerned he would be very sorry to see them take place. He believed that annual elections would cause a great deal of ill-feeling in certain constituencies from time to time, and the fewer elections in these constituencies the better. If the right honourable Gentleman were to take a vote he would find that the people would not be anxious to have an election every year. It would cost considerable expense for printing and a lot of trouble, and he thoroughly agreed with the opinion of the noble Lord who had spoken that it would be better to give the new council at least three years' trial. He hoped the right honourable Gentleman would take steps to ascertain the views of the electors of urban districts, and if that were done he thought he would find that the majority would be in favour of having the elections every three years. It seemed to him strange that a guardian or a councillor for a rural district should be elected every three years, and that a guardian for an urban district had to stand for election every year; and the urban district councillor had to perform precisely the same duties as the rural councillor. He thought the right honourable Gentleman would see that this was rather contradictory, and he hoped he would yield to the majority of the Members for Ireland and say that the urban elections should take place only every three years, as in rural districts.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed— Page 9, line 29, insert at end— Provided that where one-third of the councillors of any such district are elected annually, the Local Government Board, on request made by a resolution of the council passed by two-thirds of the members voting on such resolution, may, by order, apply to the district the provisions of this Act with respect to the duration of office of county councillors, and make such incidental provisions as appear to the board necessary or expedient for bringing such application into full effect, and, in particular, in the case of a borough, for making the triennial election of councillors coincide with the triennial election of aldermen."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)


I desire to point out to the right honourable Gentleman that by adopting this Amendment he would prejudge the very question they were discussing. He thought it would be well that they should postpone the consideration of this clause to the Report stage.


said he hoped that the Chief Secretary would postpone this clause, inasmuch as it was impossible for the Committee to know what would be the law in relation to this matter. The whole section was in a most nebulous state, and unless the whole matter was postponed until the Report stage the Committee would be groping in darkness.


suggested that this Amendment should be passed, because it would correspond to the Amendment already passed in respect to county boroughs. The matter could be reopened at a later stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 9, line 29, after 'council' insert— And the chairman of any such urban council while in office shall be a Justice of the Peace for the urban district, in the manner provided by Section 3, Sub-section 2, in relation to chairmen of county councils."—(Mr. Macaleese.)

MR. MACALEESE (Monaghan, N.)

said the Bill simply provided that during their year of office the chairmen of urban councils should be ex-officio justices of the peace, like the chairmen of county councils, and he ventured to express the hope that the Chief Secretary would accept the Amendment.


said he desired to join with his honourable Friend in expressing the hope that the right honourable Gentleman in charge of this Bill would consent to this Amendment. As he was aware, this Bill conferred little or no benefit upon the urban districts in Ireland, and he would therefore venture to hope that he would take this particular opportunity of granting this small privilege to the urban councils. He had reason to know that the urban councils in Ireland would view this concession with satisfaction, and he therefore sincerely hoped that the right honourable Gentleman would give this concession to the urban district councils.


said a number of towns which had mayors in Ireland would to some extent be wiped out under this Bill.


said that when the mayor of a town was an ex-officio justice of the peace he would still continue to be a magistrate after the passing of this Bill. Perhaps he should not be out of order in referring to a clause later down in the Bill, making chairmen of district councils justices of the peace. The conclusion arrived at by the Government was that some of the councils would be so small that it would be undesirable. He would suggest to the Committee, that where an urban or rural district consisted of more than a certain population, say 5,000 at the last census, its chairman should be an ex-officio justice of the county.


said he was very glad that the Chief Secretary had made up his mind to make some sort of concession on the point. But he put it to him, was it worth while to make this reservation for the sake of a few small councils? No such limitations were to be found in the English Act, every chairman of a rural district council being an ex-officio county magistrate. He did not know what he had based his calculations upon, but he thought it was hardly worth while for the sake of a very few men, to make an invidious distinction of that kind.


said he hoped the right honourable Gentleman, in bringing forward this Amendment, would also provide for the precedence which the chairmen of urban councils are to hold. At present there was a very burning question in Ireland as between the lieutenant of the county and the mayor of the borough of Wexford as to who should take the chair at the petty sessions. Some of the highest legal authorities in Ireland had given diametrically opposite opinions as to which had the right. It was impossible to balance or weigh one of those opinions against the other, because both came from such very high authority that it would be presumption for anyone to try and determine which was right. Now, as they were legislating on this subject it was very desirable that this knotty question should be decided once and for all, and that they should not have a recurrence of the rather unbecoming scenes which had taken place in the petty sessions court at Wexford.


said the offer of his right honourable Friend was much larger than what was asked for by the mover of the Amendment. That offer was that the chairman of every urban district containing a population within a certain limit should be a justice of the peace for the county. The question of precedence could not arise. There was no intention to create a number of Wexfords by this procedure. He thought it was hardly wise in towns containing a population of 1,500 or less than 2,000 inhabitants to appoint the chairman of town commissioners.


said he only wanted to say one word. If the Government adhered to the population limit, 5,000 would be too high. They must remember what the character of Irish towns was. A town with a population of 3,000 was a very important town in Ireland, and very often, a very ancient town.


said he agreed that there were a great many towns which would be affected by the proposed limitation. He believed the 5,000 limit would shut out nine-tenths of the rural centres from the privilege which the right honourable Gentleman proposed to confer upon them. He hoped, if the right honourable Gentleman adhered to his limit at all—which, he thought, was rather a doubtful matter—he would certainly make it much lower. There was also the question of the appointment of magistrates. The law as it stood was in a most objectionable condition. In his judgment it would be much better to have no power of appointing magistrates at all than to have the existing law, throwing the invidious procedure of election on the Lord Chancellor. They all knew what a Lord Chancellor usually did. He wrote making inquiries as to the politics of the town commissioners, and, having obtained those particulars, made his appointment accordingly. That was most objectionable. It would be much better, in his judgment, that no town commissioner should be a magistrate than that there should be that offensive process of selection, the result of which had been that there had been constant conflicts between the towns and the executive government over this absurd arrangement. If the Government do not make all these urban chairmen county magistrates, they should certainly amend the clause of the Act of 1854, so as to provide that the chairmen should, at any rate, be urban magistrates.

MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

said the refusal of the Government to accept the Amendment would hit the small towns very hard. The question of town courts was an important one. He happened to live in a town where the Lord Chancellor refused to act under the rights conferred by the Act of 1854, and appoint a town magistrate. The Act of 1854 dealt with a number of offences, such as obstructions, and disturbances in the streets, and a number of other petty offences, and the result of the Lord Chancellor's attitude was that no town court could be held. He thought that if the Government refused this small concession they would be practically wiping out the rights of small towns in regard to town courts. As to the population limit, he certainly thought 5,000 was too high. In the county of Leitrim, which he represented, there was not a single town with a population of 5,000, and in the adjoining county of Roscommon, and also in a neighbouring county, it was the same. He thought that if the Chief Secretary looked into this small point—it was not a very big concession that they were asking for—he would see his way at least to provide that they should have town magistrates and town courts, as they had had in the past.

MR. SMITH BARRY (Huntingdon, S.)

said he sincerely hoped his right honourable Friend would very carefully consider the matter before he increased the number of magistrates in Ireland at all. In his opinion it was high time that the unpaid magistrates should be swept away altogether, and that they should have nothing but paid magistrates. He did not care whether the unpaid magistrates were of the landlord class, or of those who had been appointed for political reasons; but from top to bottom they had ceased to be able to exercise that control, and to command that respect and influence, which magistrates should enjoy. I sincerely hope that, instead of increasing the number, he will do all he can to restrict, rather than increase, the number of that body.

MR. D. KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)

I understood from the Attorney General that when this Bill was introduced it was intended to be a popular Measure. Now, the right honourable Gentleman the Attorney General is aware of the fact that some years ago a late Member of this House, and a man who was looked upon in this House as a Member of exceptional ability, was the chairman of the town commissioners in his native town in the west of Ireland. He will remember that the Lord Chancellor refused to appoint him as a magistrate under the Town Improvements Act, and the result was that this body of town commissioners had no magistrate at all, because their chairman, who was the most capable man in that body, was refused appointment by the Lord Chancellor. Consequently, the town commissioners refused to send the name of any other gentleman. I want to know from the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he wants to put an end to such anomalies as that, and prevent their existence in the future, and whether he wishes this Bill, when it comes into operation in Ireland, to run smoothly, and to be a really popular Measure, or does he not wish this? There is nothing to my mind more likely to create friction between the urban authority and Dublin Castle officials than the fact that the chairmen of these bodies will has appointed by the Lord Chancellor, who has the option of refusing to appoint the chairman of town commissioners because of his religious views or his political opinions. As the honourable Member for Cork said, the fact that he is made chairman by the town commissioners is proof positive that in the opinion of that body he is a fit and proper person, and the ablest man for that position. I would, therefore, strongly urge upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland, if he has the intention of making this Bill run smoothly in Ireland, to adopt the suggestion made by the mover of this Amendment.

SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

I only wish to echo the sentiments which have fallen from my right honourable Friend the Member for South Hunts, that we should be extremely cautious in what we do to prop up a system which has long ago ceased to be the best for Ireland. The views put forward by my right honourable Friend are correct, and it will be far wiser to prepare the way in Ireland by abolishing local magistrates altogether as early as possible. We have come to this point: that men are chosen, not because they are known to be independent men, but because they are pliable, and because they are popularity hunters. I think that of all the disastrous things that can happen to Ireland, or to any country, the most disastrous is that your magistracy, which has to administer the laws of the country, shall be popularity hunters. I doubt whether the fact of adding new duties to the office of chairman is a wise step at all, for I think it will throw into contempt both the county council and the district council, and will be an additional inducement to tamper with justice. If a man whose election is coming has a seat on the bench, that is a state of things likely to tamper with justice. I entirely share the opinion of my right honourable Friend, and I hope the Government will be exceedingly cautious in what they do. I should like to ask what is the need of this Amendment? I fail to follow exactly what the suggestion of my right honourable Friend the Chief Secretary is. Does his suggestion go any further than urban councils? Is his proposal something of this kind: that every person who is made a chairman of an urban district council will be a county magistrate if the population is not less than 5,000? Is that the proposition? I merely put the point because in some cases you will have too many magistrates. I quite admit that in a district where the number of magistrates is really insufficient for the duties of the bench, then. I think, that the elected chairman might be a fit and proper person to be made a magistrate for the think, that the elected chairman might be a fit and proper person every man who has been elected to the position of chairman is a very great mistake.


We have just listened to two very remarkable speeches, and their remarkableness consists in this: that two honourable Baronets have suggested the abolition of the Irish magistrates, and they do so for the first time upon a Bill that abolishes the functions of magistrates as ex-officio guardians.


I have advocated it for 20 years.


This is the first time I have heard any gentleman belonging to the landed class advocate the abolition of rural magistrates, and I have been in this House for the last 15 years. But the moment a Bill is brought in which does away with the power of jobbery by the abolition of ex-officio guardians, at that moment the honourable Baronet comes forward and suggests that they should be abolished; and I will only say that the honourable Baronet himself and the right honourable Gentleman the Member for South Hunts may at least take some comfort in the fact that "in death they are not divided." I should like to give the House one or two illustrations of the right honourable Baronet's and the right honourable Gentleman's consistency. They are now anxious to keep in with the people and do their share of the county work by coming forward on these county councils. Now, I should like to see them take their share in the work of these bodies, but do they suppose that they are promoting their popularity by these suggestions? The moment you propose a Bill to abolish ex-officio powers, then the right honourable Gentleman and the honourable Baronet say that these magistrates are no longer necessary. If they had said that some time ago I could have agreed with them, but now they have become more or less harmless, and they will have to seek election at the hands of the people for public office. I am not at all sure that these gentlemen will find this Bill a great sweetener to their dispositions.


I respectfully beg to dissociate myself from the opinions expressed by my honourable Friends. I am an Irishman, representing an Irish constituency—not an Irishman representing an English constituency. Now I do not desire to see any curtailment of the honours bestowed on my countrymen, and I certainly do not wish to see them deprived of the commission of the peace which so many of them have exercised conscientiously and with great ability. Now, I speak more freely on this point because I am not a magistrate myself, but I do speak definitely upon this particular Amendment before the Committee. The Chief Secretary will, no doubt, give it the consideration which the whole subject deserves.

MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)

My general experience in the county of Kerry of magistrates as ex-officio members of boards of guardians is that they are prepared at all times to do any sort of a "job" on behalf of their friends. My principal object, however, in rising is to ask the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in what position will townships be placed with a smaller population than 5,000? In the county of Kerry, for example, we should only be entitled to one magistrate under the clause as it stands. Under the arrangement as proposed by the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in Kerry, we are entitled to one magistrate, and for these reasons I would ask the Chief Secretary to take into consideration the condition especially of those counties which have only one town—and possibly in many cases not more than two towns—having a population of over 5,000. In my county we have not a township that reaches 5,000 people. In Listowel we have not even a magistrate on the town commissioners. We have not a single magistrate appointed under the Town Commissioners' Jurisdiction Act, and therefore I would press on the Chief Secretary the necessity of taking into consideration the question of reducing the limit, which he has set at 5,000, to, at all events, 2,000 or 2,500.

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)

The honourable Member for Yarmouth appears to have a fear of popular magistrates; it seems to me that he prefers very much to have unpopular magistrates. Now that is just the class of magistrate that we have in Ireland, and have had for a long time, and that is one of the reasons why the people have no confidence in them. The honourable Member who has just spoken objects that the men who want these positions, and would strain every nerve to attain them, would be popularity hunters for political purposes, but apparently he has no objection to there being hunters in Dublin Castle, and creepers up the back stairs of that somewhat too famous institution. I think that the men who would, under this proposal, be elected would hold a position which would entitle them to accept and fulfil the position of magistrates, and that they would be worthy of the position and dignity conferred upon them. I do not think that the Irish electors would put into that position men who were unworthy to hold the office, however much they aspired to the position, and whatever steps they took to attain it. Why should the people do otherwise than elect upright and impartial men to the magistracy? To say that because of his political opinions they would elect a man unfitted for the position is absurd. That argument is not tenable. I support this proposition. I think it is in the interest of this Measure, in the interest of good government, and in the interest of the country, not to be alarmed or apprehensive with regard to a little reform of this character, but to show some degree of trust in the people, and to show that you believe that in their own sense of the fitness of things, they will be able to look after and take care of their own interests.

DR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)

I do not think that it is worth while or that very much will be gained by continuing the discussion in regard to this matter any longer. I have long been of opinion that the appointment of the magistrates should be largely in the hands of the county councils. At the present time the magistrates are appointed by the Lord Chancellor upon the recommendation of the lord lieutenant and the vice lieutenants of the county divisions, and the reason why the Lord Chancellor acts upon the advice of those gentlemen is that he being in Dublin three-fourths of his time does not know anything as to the qualifications of the nominee for the position. While the grand jury was in vogue there was no one who was more likely to know the qualifications of the gentleman nominated for the office than the lieutenants and vice lieutenants of the counties, but now under this Bill the whole condition of things will be changed. It will be the county councils who will practically know the qualifications and the fitness of the various men in the various districts, and they should, in my opinion, nominate. It is in the power of the Lord Chancellor to appoint a man to the magistracy on the nomination of anybody, and, for the matter of that, upon no nomination at all; but he is in the habit of waiting for the nomina- tion of the lieutenants and vice lieutenants of the counties. I believe under this Bill the county councils will have the power—and exercise it—of sending up from time to time to the Lord Chancellor the names of fit and proper persons to serve upon the magistracy, and that, if those names are so sent up, the Lord Chancellor will accept them, and appoint.


Not at all. Not necessarily.


This Amendment is not of much consequence, because the appointment of the magistrates will not be confined merely to the chairmen of the district councils or county councils, and if they send up the name of a proper man he will be appointed.


What do you mean by "proper"? There is not any such provision in the Bill.


I know there is not, but neither is there any provision that the county councils shall not send up names. The Lord Chancellor may, of his own motion, appoint anybody without any nomination whatever, and it seems to me a very strange thing if the county councils send up the name of a proper person where there is need of a magistrate in the district, that the Lord Chancellor should pass him over.


I think that the honourable Gentleman is under some misapprehension. I have already said what we had in contemplation in regard to the magistracy and the chairmen of district councils. I think this is a very inconvenient way of discussing this question, and we might be able to discuss it much better upon Clause 20. The Amendment which the honourable Gentleman has put upon the Paper would not confer any further powers upon the members of the urban and district councils than they possess at present. But, apart from that, I have already promised to consider the question, and at the present time I trust the Amendment will be withdrawn.


I trust the right honourable Gentleman will give some further consideration to this matter.

Amendment withdrawn.


I think I have an Amendment, not upon the Paper, to leave out line 32 and line 33. It is virtually the same Amendment which was brought up in connection with the parish councils. We had a discussion upon the same matter the other day with regard to the election of parish councils, and the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary said he would consider the matter before it came to the Report stage. I bring up the Amendment upon the district councils, because, whatever may be said of it with regard to parish councils, there is a very much stronger case with regard to the district councils. Now, on the board of guardians there are so many ex-officio members in each electoral division, an elected member, and an ex-officio member. In many cases there are two members sitting for each division. With regard to county councils there are new constituencies altogether, with regard to parish unions there are not. As regards the electoral divisions, I think the old poor law guardian would be elected by the new electors. He would have a prior claim upon the electors, and the electors might be very sorry and extremely loath to get rid of a man who had actually been serving them for so many years. I do not wish to make a long speech upon the subject; it is a very simple Amendment, but is specially worthy of the consideration of the right honourable Gentleman, who is going to consider the case with regard to the county councils, and I do ask, and press him to consider it in this also.


The argument of the right honourable Gentleman, who has just sat down is not convincing. He has given us to understand that the work of the board of guardians in Ireland has been done in the past by a numerous body, consisting of elected and ex-officio guardians. Now, everybody in Ireland knows that nine-tenths of the work has been done by the elected guardians. He further says that the present guardians would, in every case be re-elected. I do not think that this is so at all. There is no provision in the Bill for this purpose. There is a provision for district councils, who will act as guardians, and in view of the great changes made in the elections, and the methods of carrying them out, the right honourable Gentleman is not entitled to express any opinion as to the probable result of them. They will be on entirely different lines, the whole system will be altered, and every precaution is taken by the Bill that the will of the people shall be fairly and fully expressed by the people of the districts. I think the same argument was used against the proposal to have two members for each county council district. Is it to be supposed that the electors of a division, who hold certain views, will deliberately take care to elect one man to express those views, and another man to oppose them? If his idea is simply to double the number of guardians, that can be done by altering the districts, but this is a grotesque idea which he has that he is going to balance the opinion of the majority with the opinions of the minority.


The honourable Gentleman has just alluded to this as a grotesque idea, and so it is. We have had the same discussion before on the county councils, and the matter has been thoroughly thrashed out, and, in my opinion, there was no argument deduced in favour of two men being elected for one constituency. I think nothing more idle ever entered into the minds of men than to think that men will deliberately elect a second candidate to disfranchise themselves. That is what this will come to when we have two men representing one constituency, and two men going into opposite lobbies upon all great questions. We had a similar thing happen on the London County Council, and it came at last to a general pair, the two members stayed away because it was too farcical to see them come time after time, and vote against each other in almost every case. There is another objection to this system of joint candidates, and that is that you are always responsible for the failings of the other man. That is to say, the two joint candidates shall be of the same opinion. Supposing one of the candidates is a foolish man and breaks the law in some way, his companion is held to be liable for his debts, and, therefore, the man who has tried to conduct his own election in the most careful manner finds his election upset simply through the folly of the man who happens to be associated with him. I know one case myself where a very foolish thing was done; a candidate employed a cabman to take some people to the poll for hire, and if there had not been a great deal of manipulation by which the matter was covered up, the other man would now be defending an election petition, although one of the candidates had conducted his election with as much care as possible, and to put thousands of people into the difficulty of being responsible for the policy of another man, would, to my mind, be putting a very great burden upon the men who are standing for election. Before we are to consider this, I should ask that we should have some solid argument in its favour. In point of fact, I know that new and fresh men will have a far better chance of election than the sitting members. In my opinion, this proposal of the right honourable Gentleman is simply ridiculous and unworkable.


If the right honourable Gentleman attaches so much importance to this Amendment, why did he not put it upon the Paper? Is it fair to the Committee at this time of day to spring an Amendment like this upon it? And the honourable Gentleman is a Privy Councillor, too! I challenge any Member to get up and say he understands the proposal which has been made. My views are not perhaps original, but my views as to this Bill are that we should let the whole thing go to the House of Lords as it is, and when it comes back to us again we shall be able to consider the proposal as a whole, and we shall know what the landlords want, and when we know that we shall be able to discuss it. I think it would be most inconvenient, when the main ques- tion has gone, to report that a subsidiary question should be put forward and our opinion asked upon it. I really think, as the Government has resisted every subsidiary Amendment that has been made, we really ought to find out first what the Conservative Party proposes to do. Does the right honourable Gentleman speak for the Conservative Party? I am rather inclined to think that he does not. My own tendency would be to make some provision for the territorial classes in Ireland, and I should like to do so.

MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)

Give them more money?


I am quite prepared and quite willing to give these men upon this Bill any money which they will get under this Bill, and they can have it with my cordial approval. I am in favour of their having some representation on these bodies, but I do not think we ought to be asked to at once decide the extent of that representation. When this Bill comes down from the House of Lords I think it will be proved that these gentlemen are perfectly competent, and know exceedingly well how to take care of themselves.


I wish to make another remark upon this matter. Some time ago I piloted a Bill through the House to enable women to sit as poor law guardians in Ireland, and that privilege has been very largely taken advantage of by them. They now consider and fear that if this arrangement is made, and every district only elects one guardian, they would in all probability be precluded from sitting as guardians at all; but if, on the other hand, two persons were elected for each district, one might, not unnaturally, be a man, and the other a woman. I put it to the Committee and to the Chief Secretary, who, we know, is favourable to giving women their proper rights, that some consideration should be given to this matter, and that we should see that nothing shall be done by this Bill to disfranchise the women who now sit and work so well upon these boards.


There is just one thing I should like to call attention to, and that is the language and altered tone of the Chief Secretary with regard to these Amendments. With regard to the scheme of representation on the district councils and county councils, the best common sense of Ireland is just as much against any fanciful scheme of territorial representation as are the English people.

It benig Half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report progress; to sit again To-morrow.

House resumed.