Page 27, line 32, after 'entitled,' insert—
To vote at the election of commissioners under the Lighting of Towns (Ireland) Act, 1828, or the Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act, 1854, or under any local Act or."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ MR. M. HEALY
In moving the Amendment which stands in my name, I do not think the right honourable Gentleman can have intended the-clause to stand as it is at present, because it would affect the franchise for all purposes in every town in Ireland.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The honourable and learned Member must not imagine that this affects the franchise at all so far as the poor rate and so far as the sanitary matters are concerned.
§ MR. M. HEALY
The Towns Improvement Act of 1888 is one of the Acts capable of being adopted under this clause, and, as I understand, the people to decide whether that Act shall be adopted are to be the Parliamentary electors, but when they have adopted it, the people will be the town commissioners. It does seem to me that the people who are to decide whether the Act is to be adopted should, be Parliamentary electors. At present you have the same franchise to decide whether the Act shall be adopted which will destroy the franchise. I challenge the right honourable Gentleman to explain the difference between the two franchises. Now, what I point out to the right honourable Gentleman is that he has altered the law already in the towns. When we were dealing with an earlier clause in this Bill, namely, clause 39, that clause only dealt with urban district councils. It was a clause changing the incidence of the rates, and providing that, whereas at present the rates under £4 are paid by the landlords, they shall in future be paid by the occupier. In that clause the right honourable Gentleman deliberately altered the law, and the clause will in future apply to these towns having town commissioners, although they are not sanitary authorities. Now, as I understand it, he has altered the franchise, and he has altered incidence of the rates within urban areas, because he conceives that that ought to follow from the extension of the franchise. But he does not apparently think it at all necessary that a change in the franchise should follow from, the alteration of the incidence of the rates. I ask 233 the right honourable Gentleman, first of all, whether that is his intention; and, secondly, if he did not intend to make any change in the franchise in these towns, why did he make any change in the incidence of the rates?
§ MR. TULLY
I think we are entitled to some better explanation of this clause. I think the right honourable Gentleman should explain more clearly what is intended by the clause. At present, under the Towns Improvement Act, people rated under £4 have a vote, and a number of people who live within five miles of the town and have a certain valuation in the town, have also a vote. That has operated very oppressively, because it enables people who have no connection with the towns to put themselves forward as candidates. In the previous clause the right honourable Gentleman made it imperative that the person elected for a town should be resident in the town. I would like to know whether by this clause the right honourable Gentleman intends that people who live five miles away from the town, who are entitled under the Towns Improvement Act, 1854, to vote and be elected, will be eligible for election as town commissioners under this clause. Then I would like to know whether he intends that these town commissioners who are elected on a £4 franchise should still be so elected. Why should the people who are rated under £4 be deprived of votes? Why is the franchise to be limited to people rated at £4? I think the right honourable Gentleman ought to make it clear to the House whether the franchise, as it will be conferred by this clause, will be limited to people rated at £4, or whether it will be given to every Parliamentary elector.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The town commissioners of these towns are really outside this Bill altogether. There is no change of the franchise made by the Bill. But I admit that in this clause there ought to be inserted the words, and I will move an Amendment presently to insert the words after the word "Petition" in the second line, "For a provisional order or."
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
No; but as regards sanitary powers, those sanitary powers are not exercised by the town commissioners. We are practically dealing in this case with the power of the Local Government electors to secure the adoption of Acts of that description.
MR. T. M. HEALY
Let the House imagine what the position is going to be. In all towns in Ireland, as I understand it, which do not become urban sanitary authorities, the proposed extension of the franchise will not apply. This is the Bill which we were told was going to give to Ireland substantially the same measure of liberty which is given in England and Scotland. In England you have parish councils, the members of which are elected on the Parliamentary franchise; but in Ireland, while refusing those parish councils altogether, you absolutely refuse to give the franchise to all towns that do not adopt the Act. We consider that that is falsifying the pledge given by the First Lord of the Treasury, that substantially the same liberty would be given to Ireland as is enjoyed by England and Scotland. Let the House remember this: that the House of Commons in 1895 unanimously passed the Bill which I introduced, extending the franchise for all purposes and for all Irish towns, and it was only because the House of Lords rejected it—on the plea of want of time, forsooth—that that is not now the law of the land. The argument of the right honourable Gentleman is founded upon—what? He says we do not touch these towns by this Bill. But does it touch 235 the townships of Dublin; does it touch the Corporation of Dublin; does it touch the corporation of any of these places, which, nevertheless, are places where the franchise will be extended under this Bill? And, moreover, although over the extended area you have granted an extended franchise, yet in these towns which do not become urban sanitary authorities you leave the £4 franchise. Now where is the logic of that? And, furthermore, as I understand it, to make the matter more iniquitous, the body which may adopt this Towns Commissioners Act may be the Parliamentary electors themselves; but once the Parliamentary electors have performed the function of adopting the Act and creating the town commissioners, the town commissioners alone are to have the power. Where is the sense of it? And these little bodies are not to have the benefit of the preparation of the Parliamentary Register. They must go to the expense, forsooth, in addition to preparing the Parliamentary Register and the Local Government Register, of preparing a Ballyhooley Register—a register for these little towns themselves. On a £4 suffrage there must be a special register. And again, as to peers and women. Peers, I suppose, are excluded, but women are certainly excluded under the Act of 1854. Now where are all the champions of women's rights—where is the Member for Liskeard, who once went to the length of moving a suspension of the Twelve o'clock Rule in order to contend for the rights of women and peers? Women and peers are to have the right to come in, all the peers in the country can flock into these towns, and all the women on the Local Government Register can come in and force this register on the towns, but after that their rights disappear, and it is only the sacred persons who enjoy that franchise who can become town councillors of Ballyhooley. Anything more absurd cannot be conceived. I say if the Bill is to be left with this section in it, it entirely falsifies the pledges given by the right honourable Gentleman as to equality between England and Ireland. What makes the matter worse is this: the right honourable Gentleman, while refusing these people the franchise, has changed the incidence of the rates. Why is the system of rating to be 236 wholly changed? Why is the payment in respect of rates to be made different by this Bill? I say this Bill does affect them, because it alters the incidence of the rates in their locality, and while it affects them injuriously for rating purposes, it affects them for other purposes-too. As this is, after all, not a very large matter, I should hope the Government will be better advised even at the eleventh hour, and that they will accept the Amendment.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
As the honourable and learned Member says, this is not, after all, a very large matter, and although I still think my view of the effect of the clause is right, I do not object to the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ A further Amendment made.
§ Clause 49 as amended agreed to.