HC Deb 23 May 1898 vol 58 cc509-11

Amendment proposed— Page 34, line 5, leave out sub-section (1)."—(Mr. Dillon.)


I have no objection to the latter part of that section whatever, but I want to know what the right honourable Gentleman had in his mind when he put in the words— Nothing in this Act shall affect any powers of the Local Government Board with respect to the guardians or the officers of guardians," etc.


These words were inserted merely on the ground that the Act should not in any way vary or alter the powers which the Local Government Board at present possess over these people.


All the inquiry referred to in this clause is the inquiry as to elections, and I understand it is proposed to alter the present system of inquiry into election. At present all you can do is to go to the Local Government Board and ask them to send down an inspector, who solemnly proceeds to write down the evidence without knowing anything about it. One of the things which have surprised me is that this Bill makes no sort of reference to any mode of questioning elections under this Bill. I do not know whether that is intentional, but it is quite certain that you must have some questions in county council and district council elections. Of course, at present, we question an election through the Queen's Bench Division, but, so far as I was able to see the Order in Council which the right honourable Gentleman proposes to adopt, I cannot see that he has in any way applied the method of petitioning contained in the Act of 1871 to the elections under this Bill. I want to know what the Government propose in this matter. I decline to believe, until the right honourable Gentleman assures me, that he means to preserve to the Local Government Board the power of ordering an inquiry with regard to elections, that that is to be done, because it is the most inadequate method of procedure that you can possibly conceive.


I cannot see that there is any necessity for preserving this provision at all. I had a vague hope that the power of the Local Government Board to supersede a board of guardians might by a special enactment have been made to lapse. It is a most oppressive power, and I cannot see any reason for this provision at all.


There is another provision later on in the Bill.

MR. SHEEHY (Galway, S.)

I have had experience in connection with county elections. These Local Government Board inspectors come down to these inquiries in absolute ignorance of the matter, and very often in these inquiries nice points of law have to be determined, and the Local Government Board inspector, who has no knowledge of the law, simply takes down in his own private note book anything which he considers advisable, and very often the points which he takes a note of have no bearing whatever on the matter in question. I therefore think that a very inadequate and peculiar method, and I hope that the right honourable Gentleman will consider the matter before the Report stage.


I understand the right honourable Gentleman to say that he will make some alteration in the Order in Council as to the questioning of an election. The right honourable Gentleman will not pledge himself as to the probable change he will make. It may, however, interest the right honourable Gentleman to know that so long back as 1884 there was a Bill all of the provisions of which were an elaborate system of questioning local board elections. The Commons refused to agree to the Lords' Amendment which was to abolish the method of questioning elections existing in the Act of 1871, which enabled elections to the corporation to be questioned by petition. I think the right honourable Gentleman will be well advised if he simply adapts that Act to the ordinary elections which take place under this Bill. But as the Bill stands, the Order in Council makes no provision for questioning the county council or district council elections.


I think it does.


SO far as I have examined it, I cannot see that it is so.


I hope it will not be made necessary for us to come to Parliament for the confirmation of a Provisional Order, because that is really a most expensive proceeding. There is the expense of the Parliamentary Agent, and so on; and sometimes, in order to get a miserable Committee Provisional Order confirmed, there is an expense of £40 or £50 incurred.


I think that the Provisional Order Rules in Ireland are the same as those of England.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 61 added to the Bill.

Clauses 62 and 63 added to the Bill.

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