§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
I beg, Sir, to move the Second Reading of this Bill, and in doing so I must claim the indulgence of this House while I strive to explain and justify, if I can, the principles contained in it. It is a complex question and one presenting great and serious difficulties. It is deaigned as an amendment to the Local Government (Ireland) Act that was carried through this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I think, Sir, there is not one of us on these benches who does not regret the cause which has 1467 led to his absence from the House at this juncture. I must say at the outset that that Act was a great and far-reaching measure, and I suppose it was as large a measure of reform as the right hon. Gentleman could expect to carry through under the circumstances. But from our experience of the working of the Act, extending over nearly twelve months, we are convinced that a number of amendments are required to make it a thoroughly practical and workmanlike measure. Sir, in Ireland we have had to labour under circumstances of considerable difficulty in carrying out the work of local government. In England reform in local affairs and in local bodies came by stages—in Ireland it reached the people in a lump. In England you first got municipal reform based on household suffrage; then you got county councils on a democratic basis; and after some years you got parish councils. But the way you managed these things for us in Ireland was different. All our local bodies and institutions were flung into the melting pot together, and we got municipal reform, county councils and district councils at the same time. Considering that the Act started with an almost complete revolution in the administrative local bodies, I think Englishmen will admit that it is so far creditable to Irishmen, after nearly twelve months working, under circumstances of great difficulty, that so few mistakes have been made. For one thing we have not given much work to our friends, the lawyers, in Ireland. The complaint that we come here to-day to make is not one that we would expect to hear from the opposite Benches—that these bodies are extravagant. Our complaint is that it is the central body, whose duty it is to supervise these local bodies, which is extravagant, and which has wasted the money of the taxpayers in Ireland. I will not attempt to conceal that some of the proposals contained in this Bill are drastic proposals, but as far as we can they are an attempt on our part to bring the laws of local government in Ireland into harmony with the wishes of the majority of the people, und as far as is practicable under the different circumstances into harmony with the laws of local government as existing in England and Scotland. In England and Scotland your local government Boards are amenable to the influence exercised by the votes of the people in 1468 the polling booths. You have in England and Scotland no law for the free chartering of armed police on any district of the country at the whim of an irresponsible Executive. You have no law for compensation for malicious injuries—for making the ratepayers a kind of insurance society for the property of people who will not avail themselves of the advantages of insurance. We claim equality and equal laws in these matters. In England your Local Government Board has two members in this House who change as each Government is changed by the votes of the people. In Scotland, the Scotch Local government Board has two members in this House, the Scotch Secretary and the Scotch Solicitor General, who are elected by the votes of the people, and change with each Government. In Ireland we have nothing similar. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Montrose, in his speech on the Second Reading of the Local Government (Ireland) Bill, and who himself, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, was, for a time head of the Irish Local Government Board, drew attention to the unrepresentative nature of that Board, and he emphasised it as a weak point in your measure, that you made no provision for bringing that Board into harmony with the views of the people of Ireland, constitutionally expressed. Well, we are striving in this Bill to bring about that harmony. We propose to set up a Board which will exercise a certain supervision over the acts of the Local Government Board, so far as they come into collision with the wishes of the local bodies. For precedent we have gone to a certain extent to the machinery which is to be found in the Board of Agriculture Act which was passed in this House last year, and which provides for an advisory Board; and you have so far demonstrated the practicability of the principle of popular control that you have provided that eight members of the Board of Agriculture are to be elected by the county councils and other representative people, and four are to be nominated by the Department. In the Board we propose to set up four members are to be elected by the chairmen of the thirty three county councils in Ireland, one by the six county boroughs, and two are to be appointed by the Local Government Board. That is the machinery we propose to apply; and it is simple and inexpensive. Here, in England, the views 1469 of the county councils are to this extent recognised—that you have passed a County Councils Association Act, an Act by which the county councils can pay the expenses of that association out of the rates. We have no such body, recognised by statute, in Ireland. We propose to set up this new Board under the name of the Board of Control, which was the name of a good old fossilised body which existed in Ireland previous to the passing of the Local Government Act, which did away with it. We have, however, no objection to the name, and we would take it again if we got the powers tempered by the restraints exercised by vote by ballot. Well, Sir, the Local Government Board in Ireland is, as I have said, entirely out of touch with the people; and the effect of the Act of 1898 was to widen the gulf that separates the Local Government Board in Ireland from what I might call the ratepaying classes in Ireland. Under the old state of things, before the passing of the Act, the landlords paid half the rates; but under the Act they have been relieved from that responsibility. So long as the landlords paid their share of the rates we had no complaint against the Local Government Board in regard to increasing the rates; but the moment the landlords as landlords ceased to pay rates we find a complete change come over the spirit of the Local Government Board. We find that instead of that body checking waste and extravagance, it is doing everything in its power to encourage wasteful and extravagant expenditure. When we find this going on, we cannot help entertaining the suspicion that perhaps the Local Government Board, in striving to make local self-government expensive, are at the same time striving to make it unpopular. Well, Sir, when the Local Government Act was passed, you proceeded to strengthen that body; and the executive, by way of promoting harmony between them and the people of Ireland, selected a gentleman (Mr. Richard Bagwell) as an additional member of the Local Government Board. He was a gentleman who had spent his time as a Unionist pamphleteer, reviling our people, and actually libelling Irish Members who sat upon these benches. Well, one of the first public acts of Mr. Bagwell was to make a speech denouncing the very Act under which he 1470 held office as a salaried servant of the Crown! Now what is it we find in Ireland since the Local Government Board set to work to increase the cost of administration? We find that no more roads are to be mended; we find that no more paupers are to be supported in the workhouses; and no more lunatics are to be cared for in the asylums. The system of keeping the accounts has been simplified by substituting county rating and union rating for the old system of baronial rating and divisional rating, and although the clerical work has been thus reduced, the Local Government Board has in nearly every county in Ireland doubled the salaries of the officials. That is what we complain of, and the same complaint is made not only in the south and west, but also in the north of Ireland. In the county with which I am acquainted, the secretary was paid a salary of £293 by the Grand Jury—that was all that came out of the ratepayers' pockets—and he also levied fees off the road contractors. Although the county paid for the printing, he charged them fees for tender forms and specifications, and while there was no statute to authorise these charges, these fees were levied off contractors by the Grand Jury officials all over Ireland. We offered our secretary £700 a year on condition that he did all the work, and paid any accountant and clerks he needed. The Local Government Board step in and say that the gentleman who got £293 from the Grand Jury must now get £600 a year, and we must besides pay an accountant and clerks to do all the work, while he need not do anything at all. That is a typical instance of what the Local Government Board are doing all over Ireland. It is true of Kerry in the south, and it is true of Fermanagh in the north, where the Unionist county council adopted even a stronger resolution of protest than we did in Roscommon in the west, and my hon. friend (Mr. Jordan) will bear me out in this matter. What they have done in raising salaries in the case of the county council officials, the Local Government Board have also done in the case of the district council and poor law officials. The other day a member of an English council told me that his experience of officials was that their one aim in life after they are appointed is to study how they will get an increase of salary, and if one of them sees an official in a neigh- 1471 bouring union or council getting more salary than he does, he concentrates all his energies to induce his paymasters to bring him to the same level. What is true of officials in England is true of Ireland, and the Local Government Board, perhaps, in raising salaries wholesale wish to attach to themselves all the devotion and all the support of every official under all the new bodies. They have carried this principle so far that in one case, where an official was found content with his salary, they insisted on his taking £10 more than he asked for. This was in Abbeyleix Union, and the Clerk there has been obliged to accept a higher salary than he thought fair himself. I am glad the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is present, because there is one point to which I wish to direct his attention, namely, as affecting the compensations which have been granted by the Local Government Board. In the union with which I am acquainted, it was part of the clerk's duties to check the rate collectors' accounts once a fortnight. The Local Government Board issue an order that where the clerks of union do this work now, although it was part of their former duties, they must get 5s. per hundred ratings, and in the case to which I refer this came to £45 a year. The clerk claimed that he had lost £10 a year as returning officer and £12 a year under the Cattle Diseases Act, and the Local Government Board sanction his claim for £110 compensation for diminution of income, although he had already got £45 extra as I have described, and then the Local Government Board come in and say he must get £80 a year for his new duties under the district council, although this new work replaces the duties that were transferred from him. Half this compensation for diminution of income is to come out of money controlled by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. In Belmullet Union the same thing was sanctioned by the Local Government Board, but I believe the Imperial Treasury have come in and told the Local Government Board that although they may fire away the money of the Irish ratepayers they are not going to fire away the money of the Imperial Treasury. I am afraid that nearly all these compensations have now been paid, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will make some inquiry into the matter, and he will find 1472 cases just as extraordinary as those I have quoted. The reason I have given these details is in order to make out a case, as it strikes us in Ireland, why we want control or some check on this body of gentlemen in Dublin who are appointed by English parties, who are entirely irresponsible to Irish opinion, and who ignore and flout us. I will deal with a few of the other acts of the Local Government Board since the new bodies have taken office. Of the object of the first matter to which I will refer I do not complain; the object was a worthy one, but I object to the means adopted by the Local Government Board to attain that object. I refer to the Board's action with regard to dispensary doctors. I, for one, think dispensary doctors in Ireland have been ill-paid, badly paid. In some cases their salary has not been more than the wages of an ordinary skilled mechanic. What I complain of is that the Local Government Board issued an ukase under Section 12 of the Act of 1851, breaking, the contracts these doctors had with the new bodies, and ordering that they should have an increase of salary, without any regard to local feeling.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
The hon. Gentleman is under some misapprehension; there is no increase of salary.
§ MR. TULLY
I will explain it to the right hon. Gentleman; I know all about it. I often hear the sacredness of the right of contract referred to in this House. The contracts which the Irish doctors had with the Irish unions were that they were to give twelve months' work for twelve months' pay. But the Local Government Board come in and say, "No; we will give you thirteen months' pay for eleven months' work, because each doctor acted as locum tenens for his neighbour." That is how it has practically worked out in our union. Under this order of the Board the doctors are given a month's leave of absence, and, whether we like it or not, 1473 we must pay the salaries of the locum tenens for that period. I do not object to the doctors getting a month's holiday; I do not object even to the expense caused by it; but I do object to the means by which the Local Government Board did it. Although the Board had this power from 1851, they did not put it into force until the landlords had been relieved of paying their portion of the poor rate. Another question which has caused a great deal of discussion in Ireland is one the object of which also is philanthropic—the question of trained nurses. I voted with the Government for the clause myself, but I never thought it would be utilised in the manner it has been. There was to be a trained nurse employed in each union, under rules prescribed by the Local Government Board. Influenced by some of those subterranean influences which exist in Dublin, the Board drafted the rules in such a way that they deliberately excluded the very best class of nurses in the Catholic parts of Ireland—they shut out the nuns, and made this sphere of work a close preserve for nurses coming from hospitals in Dublin, one of which is a limited liability company paying regular dividends. As half the salary is not recouped to the unions unless the appointment is made under these prescribed rules, it is almost impossible, unless the guardians incur heavy financial liability, to have sisters of mercy as nursing officers. The effect of the rules is that in order to be a trained nurse in a workhouse a lady must spend three or four years in a city hospital, and we know that when a lady has spent that time in the city she will hardly be content to remain very long in a little country town. The result is that these nurses flit from one union to another, and the Local Government Board sanction it, and permit this kind of thing to go on. In our union we decided to give the salaries on a sliding scale, so that the longer the nurse stopped the bigger salary she would get. We issued our advertisements on that line. The Local Government Board, however, would not agree to these advertisements, but they actually wrote down to say that if we would issue our advertisements in the form they thought right they would send them to the nurses they had on a special list. Although we had been advertising for a number of months without getting 1474 a reply, it was then for the first time that we discovered the existence of this little list and were able to get a reply. We wanted to have Catholic nurses, it being a Catholic district, but the reply we got from the "little list" of the Local Government Board was from a lady in an English rectory, who was asked to come over to a little country town in the west of Ireland and settle down there as a trained nurse. We have also found that the Board have another "little list" in regard to the question of analysts of medicines. One of the provisions of the Act was that the unions would not be recouped half the cost of medicines unless the medicines were analysed by a qualified analyst. We had had a county analyst for years, to whom the county paid £25 a year, a sum which covered all his duties. As soon as the Local Government Act was passed we had a letter from the Local Government Board intimating that we should not be recouped half the cost of medicines unless we appointed a special analyst Some of the unions advertised, and got gentlemen to tender to do the work at very nominal sums, but the Board would, not sanction their appointment. Then to our great surprise we found they had a little list of five or six gentlemen, and unless we accepted the terms of these gentlemen we could not get the appointment sanctioned. In our county, one of those gentlemen, perhaps the most distinguished member of the profession in Ireland, Sir Charles Cameron, had made his bargain with the different unions in the county, and instead of getting £25, for which he had been willing to do the work, under the Grand Jury, he would have made about £300 a year. We, as a county council, were not going to have the ratepayers treated in that way, and we interfered, and decided that unless he would accept £50 and do all the work of the unions, we would remove him as county analyst. He agreed, cancelled his bargain, and took our offer. That was another instance in which the Board had a little list, but how do we know that in other appointments we may have to make they have not other little lists introducing similar conditions? The Government have refused to give us a Catholic University in Ireland, and while we have got a semblance of local government, how do we know but by insisting on certain University tests for candidates, our Catholic fellow-country- 1475 men will be excluded, and we may have to still appoint the same old parties who have monopolised all these things in the past? These are some of the reasons upon which I justify our claim to have a board of control in Ireland elected by representatives of the ratepayers, and if a county council or a district council appeals to this board they will have power to make an order. Clause 5 deals with demands ordered by a judge of assize. There is an obvious misprint here which makes it somewhat obscure. This clause deals with what are known as imperative presentments, but the particular clause to which we take exception is the one dealing with the free quartering of extra police on different districts. There is no such power in England or Scotland, and in those countries the Executive have no power to quarter police on any part of the country they please. This clause is introduced to bring about an equality of the law of Ireland with the law of England and Scotland, and its object is to have some control over the action and whims of an irresponsible Executive, and to prevent the free quartering of any police on particular districts. In this matter we ask for equality between the law of Ireland and England and Scotland. Irishmen get more than a share of their equality when taking the risks of the battlefield. We ask for some equality in the blessings of peace. Clause 6 deals with the question of money and rates. Of course we ask for money in this Bill. There is a saying in Ireland "That every aristocrat's stick has a silver top," and "That every sermon ends in money." We ask that there may be some equality between the treatment given to English occupiers and to Irish occupiers. In England, when you gave the agricultural grant to the English occupiers, they got the full benefit of it. But in Ireland, when you gave the Agricultural Grant, you voted one half of it directly into the pockets of the landlords. All we ask is that Irish occupiers shall get the full benefit of the Agricultural Grant, and the amount we ask for is something slightly in excess of what the landlords are getting under the Agricultural Grant. At the passing of the Act, you promised us three quarters of a million; you have only given us £722,000. In that characteristic manner in which you give doles from your Imperial Treasury you have "docked" us of £25,000 from the 1476 sum you promised at the passing of this Act. In the county where I am on the new bodies the Local Government Board are giving their attention to preparing lists of favourite officials instead of giving us information of finance affecting the rates of the county. As far as I can make out in our county—and I had the assistance of a distinguished financier who examined the figures—I found from our scrutiny that, so far as we could make out the returns, we were about £1,000 short compared with what we should have got under the Agricultural Grant. I find that the Most Rev. Dr. Kelly has gone very carefully into these figures, as they affect the Asylum grants, and he finds that the Imperial Treasury have deprived us of a great deal of money which we were entitled to at the passing of the Local Government Act. He says—In October, 1897, the British Treasury had received £159,000 of Irish money from the Irish publicans. That amount was a payment for twelve months. Out of that payment the British Treasury had defrayed the expenses of Irish Asylums only for three months up to the end of the year 1897, and then shifted the burden to the Irish Taxation Account. What right had the Treasury to receive and retain twelve months' income, while defraying only three months' liabilities?That is the statement of the manner in which we have been treated in regard to the Agricultural Grant to which we were entitled according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman on the opposite bench. As a private Member I could not, of course, introduce any Bill which would mean a draft on the Consolidated Fund, but I have mentioned the Irish Church surplus. In the Queen's Speech you were striving to give that fund to the landlords, most of whom are absentees from Ireland, and are a worthless class who are no use to you now that you are in a difficulty. I contend that it is far better that this money, if it is to be given in relief of rates, should be given in the Irish towns and on farm buildings. I think there is a wide difference to be drawn upon this question of buildings and their rating in Ireland and England. England is a manufacturing country, while Ireland is an agricultural country, and the little towns live on the agricultural industry, and when it is depressed, they are depressed. It is not so in England, where you depend on manufacturing industries. Therefore, buildings in Ireland should not 1477 be treated on the same lines and principles which are applied to them in England and Scotland. If this money is voted, it should be voted in relief of the buildings on farms and in relief of the rates in the towns in Ireland. I am sure you could not give the money from the Imperial Treasury to a better purpose than that of enabling public bodies in Ireland to apply it to matters dealing with the health of the people, sanitation, waterworks, and the building of better houses for the artisans. You could not vote money for a better purpose than that of enabling these public bodies to go on with this work of improving the towns of Ireland. The next clause is one by which we propose that the rates of any hereditament under £4 valuation, if two thirds of the county council or urban council decree it, shall be levied on the landlord, as was the case in the past. There is nothing very novel in this proposal. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Belfast introduced a clause in the Local Government Bill by which he applied this very provision to county boroughs, and it is now the law, and we simply ask that the powers of that clause shall be extended from the boroughs in Ireland to the county councils and urban councils, because most of the poverty exists in the small villages in Ireland. I have seen since the change came into operation that the rating authorities have had to go to the houses of the very poorest people and claim rates which are in many cases equal to the entire earnings of the family for a single week, and many of them have had to go without food on that account. We cannot levy rates on poor washerwomen, and people living in wretched hovels. The result is that such rates have to be levied on the solvent ratepayers. Consequently the owners of this slum property—and there is no property pays so well, for they make more profit out of slum property than decent houses—escaped their rates and put them on to the other ratepayers. This proposal is already the law in some parts of Ireland, and that law should be clearly and equitably extended to the whole country. We put on a check that this power can only be exercised by a two-thirds majority. There is also in the Bill a minor proposal dealing with the urban districts which become urban authorities. If a town in 1478 Ireland proposes to become an urban sanitary authority, only one-fourth of the rates fall on the lands and the other three-fourths fall on the occupier. That is a small question, but it has prevented those people in Ireland becoming urban authorities, and I think it should be the policy to encourage urban authorities that are inclined towards progress and improvement. Then we have another clause, which states that the contributory areas for special sanitary charges shall be determined by the district council. At present these are only fixed with the sanction of the Local Government Board. When special sanitary work was done for a special district, the old rule was that the expense should be charged to the area which derives the benefit of it. The Local Government Board does not care about doubling salaries, but if a parish pump has to be provided that Board steps in and says that in the interests of economy they cannot sanction it—that it would complicate the book-keeping, and cause more expense. The result is that they put an embargo and a block on all sanitary improvement. When the Local Government Board talk of economy it reminds me of Mark Twain's saying, "It would almost make a cast-iron dog laugh." And now as to the exclusion of clergymen from our local boards: the clause proposed in this Bill is copied from the English County Council Act of 1888. We say that the present law excluding the clergy—who, after all, in Ireland are in a great majority priests—is a slur upon them. It is a re-enacting of the old penal laws; it is monstrous, and I shall always protest against it. The next clause deals with the question of the magistrates in Ireland. It is copied nearly word for word from the English Act, and we claim the equality of Ireland with England. We say that the magistrates in Ireland appointed by the votes of the people should be as independent as the magistrates elected by the votes of the people in England. If a magistrate commits himself, or is guilty of some act of indiscretion, we say, let him be tried as a magistrate in England is tried, in open court, but do not let him be tried in secret by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The next question we have to deal with is the use of court-houses, schoolrooms, and other buildings, the expense of which is provided for out of the 1479 rates. This clause is copied from the Scotch Act. In Scotland you can hold meetings in any room built out of the public rates. There is no restriction as to class or political opinion. I have myself addressed an Irish Nationalist meeting in a public building in Scotland, got under this clause by Irish Nationalists residing there, but if I go over to Ireland I am prevented from doing so. Now, I say in a matter like that we should have equality of treatment, and that the Irish should not have this badge of inferiority put on them. The question of the use of court houses in Ireland has become acute during the last few months, and I am aware that a great deal of the trouble about it was stirred up by a secret circular issued to the sheriffs by Dublin Castle. It was all because the green flag had been hoisted above a court- house, and the circular commanded the sheriffs to interfere. In the county I represent I heard the sheriff—who is a gentleman, who has lived in England a considerable time, and for that reason has, perhaps, more common-sense—say:You may hang the green flag from every pane of glass in the building so far as I am concerned, but I have been directed by Dublin Castle, and I must obey my instructions, to prevent you decorating the court-house, if you call it a decoration, with the green flag.If I ask for the use of a court-house for the purpose of political meetings it is looked upon as a blasphemy, whereas in Scotland you are allowed to hold such meetings in court-houses, schoolrooms, or any public building erected out of the rates. When you draw this hard and fast line how does it work out in Ireland? In the principal cities and large towns, where politics are supposed to be worked up to fever heat, you have town-halls, built out of the public rates, where meetings can be held, either national or Tory, and all kinds of politics talked; but in the little country towns, where the court-house is the only building large enough for any public meeting, and where life is sad and dull enough, Dublin Castle steps in, prevents a meeting being held, and the court-house remains empty as if it were sacrosanct. I say that it is a monstrous thing. I know that a creamery society, promoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the new Board of Agriculture in Ireland, was actually put out of a court-house. In my own union we have allowed the meet- 1480 ings of his creamery society in our Board room, and I suppose the Local Government Board will come down upon us and turn them out. We are compelled under the law passed in 1898 to hold quarterly meetings of the district council, at which the public have a right by statute to admission. At these meetings the road contractors are appointed, and hundreds have to attend with their sureties. When in Strokestown, in my county, the district council went to discharge this public duty, they found the door of the court house barred and bolted against them, and all because they did not issue a placard summoning the meeting, stating that it was held by permission of the sheriff. The district councils replace the old presentment sessions, which always held their meetings in the court house, but because the councils are elected by the votes of the people, and because their members are drawn from a different class to the old presentment sessions, they cannot hold their meetings unless they put on their placards the badge of inferiority, "We meet by permission of the sheriff." We find that rooms in these court-houses are used, and have been used for years, for the meetings of the local Freemason lodges and as rent offices, and recently the Sligo court-house was used for the sheriff's family ball. I shall very briefly refer to the remaining proposals of the Bill. One of them deals with the question of the width of roads. In the old days the grand juries made all the roads for the convenience of the districts in which they themselves lived, and the more populous districts—the mountains, bogs and swamps into which the poor were driven—were left without sufficient road accommodation. The people were compelled to pay for the beautiful roads leading to the deserted houses of landlords, while they themselves had no roads leading to their villages. The greatest amount of inconvenience is caused by this want of roads. Corpses have to be carried over ditches and fields, and clergymen and doctors have to travel through fields to many houses. According to the Act new roads must be sixteen feet wide, and we ask power to make roads in the poorer districts twelve feet wide. It is in the interests of economy, as four feet makes a great difference in the amount of land required. In 1481 Devonshire and also in France there are narrow lanes, and all we ask is that instead of an arbitrary rule being fixed it should be left to the discretion of the county councils to make roads of any any width not less than twelve feet. Of course in such roads stopping places can I be provided, as in Devonshire, to allow carts to pass, and no objection to the proposal can be taken on that ground, Another proposal in the Bill provides for direct labour. In some counties this proposal has not been served by the indiscreet advocacy of some new found friends I of labour drawn from the camp of hon. Gentlemen opposite. We think that it is an important question if we are to have good roads in Ireland. In England and Scotland the local bodies can employ labour direct to make or repair roads, and we claim the same right in Ireland. The grand juries were tied up by the contract system. It was probably one of the necessities of the case, because they only met twice a year. But the new bodies meet more often—the district councils meet nearly every week—and there would be perfect supervision and no abuse if labour were directly employed, When the now bodies were elected the contractors, who had systematically neglected the roads under the grand juries, imagined they had nothing more to do except to incur the inconvenience of coming to the meetings of the councils for their cheques. We could not find our way to agree to that arrangement, and we were not going to put up with high rates and bad roads. We put down our foot, and the contractors howled when we insisted that there should be good roads. Under one of the provisions of the Act I was, fortunately, able to secure five miles of road for direct labour. The ratepayers thought we were going to rob them, but the result was that we had better roads than we ever had before. The contractors became frightened, they believed the labourers would compete against them for the roads, and contractors who had never swept the roads before are now buying brushes. I think, therefore, that the new bodies in Ireland ought to have the power to employ direct labour. Another clause in the Bill deals with provisional orders. It may seem a contradiction that the first part of the Bill provides that the powers of the Local Government Board should be curtailed, 1482 whereas the last clause proposes that provisional orders made by them should not require the sanction of Parliament. It is, however, a very real hardship, and we ask that when a Provisional Order is made by the Local Government Board it ought to be accepted. In one town I know we are promoting a scheme for the better housing of artisans. In that town a penny in the £ produces only £18, and because of some difficulties in Chancery, although there is no opposition we must get compulsory powers and come to Parliament to have the Provisional Order of the Local Government Board confirmed. I say we should get some modification of the law in that respect. Another provision in the Bill proposes the total abolition of claims for malicious injuries. Such claims have always been a fraud and a sham, and no similar power exists in England or Scotland. We claim equality in the matter. Why cannot property be insured, as in this country, against injuries which are only too often inflicted in the interests of the owners? I must apologise for having taken up so much of the time of the House. As I said at the beginning, this is a very complex question, and one full of grave and serious difficulties, especially when we are compelled to bring it forward by way of Bill. But owing to the new rules of Supply we have been deprived of the opportunity of debating the action of the Local Government Board in connection with the administration of the new Act, and accordingly the Board has escaped the criticism it should receive from the representatives of the people in Parliament. I do not know whether I can appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to give this Bill favourable consideration. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman, whose absence we all deplore, had been present and had been able to listen to the case we submit he would consider it, and perhaps embody some of the reforms we ask for in the law of the land. Notice of opposition to the Second Reading has been put down by an hon. Gentleman opposite, who, as far as I know, has never been in Ireland in his life. Because we ask for equality in the law as between England and Ireland the hon. Gentleman, who knows little or nothing about Irish affairs, blocks our Bill, and I suppose the big battalions of the Government will fling it out later on. I heard one of the military Members oppo- 1483 site say, yesterday, what he would not give for 100,000 Irishmen in the present crisis of English affairs. To begin with, will he give us this Bill, which hurts no Imperial interest, and is a mere fragment of the rights we are entitled to? Very probably that hon. and gallant Gentleman will be found in the lobby against us this evening, and as long as our reasonable demands are treated in this way you need not expect us to take that sympathetic interest in your troubles that you now appear to require from us.
§ MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)
My task in seconding the motion will be very easy, considering the brilliant manner in which my hon. friend has treated this question and the number of details into which he has gone. I think the experience of every Irish Member in this House is that very seldom does a measure affecting Ireland pass into law which is perfect, and it is for the purpose of endeavouring to repair some of the cracks and flaws, and to supply omissions in the Local Government Act of 1898 that my hon. friend has drafted the little Bill, the First Reading of which he has just moved. After twelve months' working of this Act we have discovered in it defects which it is necessary to remedy, and, in view of the admirable manner in which the county and districts councils have discharged their duties under it, I do hope we shall obtain from the Attorney General for Ireland some assurance that the Government are prepared to give favourable consideration to our proposals. It must be admitted that, after all, when the Bill passed into law it was not much more than a mere skeleton. It took the Local Government Board a long time to fill up the crevices and to put some clothing upon it. That clothing is still ill-fitting. To show how little regard was paid to the Bill when it was passing through this House I may point out that one of its provisions was that the urban council elections should take place on Sunday, the 15th January, and this, not unnaturally, caused a great deal of uneasiness among the people of Ireland, who were shocked at the idea that the sanctity of the Sabbath was thus to be desecrated. I admit that the error was remedied, and that the elections were held on a Monday. But that does not do away with the fact that there were a great many heart-burnings on the point among the Irish 1484 people. Seeing that this Act embodies the Grand Jury, the Poor Law Relief, and many other Acts, it is not to be wondered at that there are defects to be found in it, and I believe that if the Government were to accept the measure of my hon. friend it would rectify many of those defects, and ensure much more smooth working in the future. I think the suggestion of my hon. friend the Member for South Leitrim, to establish a Board of Control, is a very happy one. At the present moment there is no such board. The whole of the work falls on the Local Government Board, and, from my experience of more than twenty years in connection with boards of guardians and other local bodies, I must say that the Local Government Board is unsympathetic and unrepresentative of the feelings of the Irish people. It is for the purpose of endeavouring to secure some representation of the people that this provision has been introduced into the Bill. I do not see how a Board of Control could do the least harm. It would be representative of the four great provinces of Ireland, as well as of the cities and boroughs, and inasmuch as the Local Government Board would have two members upon it, I cannot see where any injury is to come in from the acceptance of the provision. I believe, on the contrary, it would give the Irish people confidence in the working of the Act, and at the same time it would relieve the Chief Secretary for Ireland of some of his too numerous duties. We all regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not here to-day; we regret, too, the cause of his absence. We all hope that he will be back before long. But we cannot be surprised at his being laid up, considering the arduous work he is called upon to perform. He is suffering from what we may call a sweating system. He has to appear in so many different capacities that it is surprising he should ever be able to fulfil all his duties. Whether rightly or wrongly, the idea has grown up in the minds of the Irish people that the Local Government Act is being worked in such a way as to discredit them. There is no hanger-on of the Local Government Board who is not flouting the voices of the representatives of the people. They dictate terms to those representatives, and, in fact, so great has been the increase in salaries through the intervention of the Local Government Board that the Act will be of 1485 very little use to the people for a great many years to come. My hon. friend has cited a number of instances in which the Local Government Board have interfered and increased salaries, and have flouted the views of the representatives of the people on the local boards of Ireland. It is unnecessary for me, therefore, to bring forward any further cases to prove the unrebutable case which my hon. friend has placed before you. I will, however, refer to one. The Castleblaney Board of Guardians quite recently was called upon to appoint a clerk to the union, and they fixed a salary which they deemed adequate for the performance of the duties. But the Local Government Board for three months refused to sanction that salary, although during the whole of the interval the guardians were plagued with applicants for the post at the salary they had fixed. Why should guardians, who know the wants of a district, and exactly what the duties of an officer are, be thus interfered with by the Local Government Board? Then there is the case of the dispensary doctors' holidays. An order—I say nothing as to whether it is right or wrong—has been issued by the Local Government Board upon this subject, and I would ask why should boards of guardians be coerced in this matter? Our workhouses have been built for at least fifty years, and it is an extraordinary thing that it is only when the landlords are relieved of the duty of paying half the poor rates that the Local Government Board come forward and compel boards of guardians to give holidays to the doctors. I put a question to the Chief Secretary on this subject the other day, and asked whether the board of guardians had been consulted in the matter. The answer was in the negative. When later on I asked if it were not a fact that the giving of these holidays involved an expenditure of from £15,000 to £20,000, the right hon. Gentleman did not deny it, but he pointed out that it only represented about half a farthing in the pound of the ratepayers' money. But surely the fact of the cost being so small does not justify the refusal to recoup boards of guardians for an outlay as to the necessity for which they were never consulted. If a doctor falls sick he is entitled to have a substitute appointed in addition.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The hon. Member is speaking in ignorance of the facts. For years before I occupied a seat on this front bench I brought in a Bill for the better treatment of dispensary doctors in Ireland, and it would have been passed but for the opposition of a few of the hon. Members opposite.
§ MR. DALY
It is extraordinary how the opposition of Members on this side of the House prevailed when the landlords were in power. The moment they got out of power our opposition becomes of no effect. The hon. Member talks about my ignorance of the facts, but it seems to me that he thought it a good thing to go before the country and say, "I am in favour of holidays for the doctors, and I will bring in a Bill to secure them, knowing as I do that so long as the landlords are in power it can be brushed aside by the opposition of a few Nationalist Members, but the moment the Local Government Act is passed the Irish Members need not be consulted, and the thing can be done." Why, I again ask, did not the hon. Gentleman do it before the landlords were relieved of the payment of half the poor rates? I believe that if he had been as zealous in pushing this matter forward before the Local Government Act was passed as he now is, the result would have been that we should have got a much larger grant from the Government.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
All the Bills I introduced were before the Local Government Act was passed, when the landlords paid half the poor rate, and I repeat, though the majority of the Irish Members were in favour of them, a few Members opposite successfully opposed them.
§ MR. DALY
I hope the hon. Gentleman has improved his opinion by the explanation. At the same time I am un- 1487 convinced. I accept the explanation for what it is worth, and put the cloak of sincerity over it in charity. He did his best under the circumstances. Since the passage of the Local Government Act the Local Government Board have issued orders for making workhouses into a sort of high-class hotel. This has only been done since the rates fell upon tenants and occupiers, and the landlords consequently escape. The Local Government Board know so little about the country districts that they tar them all with the same brush. They do not know which treat the poor well and which do not, so they issue the same hard and fast rule to the whole of the boards of guardians. I say the board of guardians of which I am a member has not been well treated, and that the benefits received from the Agricultural Grant will be scarcely noticed in that district. The average cost on the rates is 1s. 1d. in the £, and after receiving the Agricultural Grant the increases we had to make one way and the other very nearly absorbed it. Then as to the clerks of the unions in Ireland who had to keep the union rating, all that has now been transferred to the county council, but the Local Government Board says the salaries of those gentlemen are not to be less than before, though they perform less duties. In some instances there have been increases of salary. The hon. Gentleman need not shake his head.
§ MR. ATKINSON
I do not question the hon. Gentleman's statement, but I deny that any salary has been increased whilst the duty has been decreased.
§ MR. DALY
I will now pass on to a grievance much felt in Ireland, namely, clergymen not being allowed to be members of boards of guardians. In a great many districts they are the largest ratepayers, and it is shocking that the largest ratepayer and generally the best educated man in the district should be said to be not qualified to act on the board of guardians or the district council, when those who cannot write their own names are qualified. I would rather have a clergyman on the council than his nominee, for there may be some reason in arguing with him, but if any man is brought in as his nominee he will not budge a sixteenth of an inch, whatever reason you bring to bear. This is my opinion after twelve months experi- 1488 ence of the work of the Local Government Act. There is one other matter I would like to refer to, and that is that the ratepayers of Ireland who pay the salary cannot appoint the court-house porter. Is it any wonder that we are not satisfied, and have grave suspicion of the laws which are made for us in this House? This Bill may amend some of the errors of the Local Government Act; it is a very useful Bill, and it would smooth away many difficulties in the working of the Local Government Act.
§ Motion made and Question proposed—"That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Tully.)
§ MR. ARCHDALE (Fermanagh, N.)
said he did not propose to offer many remarks upon the proposed Bill. When the Local Government Bill was brought in last year, against the wishes of the majority of the Unionist Members, they determined to give it the most loyal support, and since it had passed into law they had done their utmost to facilitate the working of the Act in every possible way. While there were some clauses of the new Bill which were most useful, he could not disguise his opposition to the principle of the measure, more particularly to the suggested Board of Control. The Board of Control would do away with the Local Government Board, and while he admitted that the latter body was not under sufficient control, he could see no advantage in having a Local Government Board in Ireland if there was to be a Board of Control to override its decisions. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill the hon. Member asserted that the Bill introduced the same system of control as the Agricultural Act passed last session. It was not the same system. The Agricultural Board was an advisory Board; the Board of Control under the Bill would be a supreme Board. He thought it was a great pity that politics were so largely introduced in the county councils, and that there seemed to be no prospect of meeting in a central association of the county councils in Dublin to assist the Local Government Board without the political element presenting itself. He thought the Local Government Board interfered to a considerable extent more than they should, but in a great many cases with a good deal of reason. One of the cases mentioned 1489 was that of the Sisters of Mercy in the unions. Nobody appreciated the good qualities of the Sisters of Mercy and nuns more than he did, but he believed that the nuns acting as nurses in the different unions were not allowed, according to the rules of the order, to act at night. At that time, therefore, paupers were left to the mercy of some idiotic old pauper who knew nothing about nursing, and that, be it noted, at the very time they most required attention. He did not think that was the proper state of affairs. Nurses should be available both night and day, to do all the good they could for the poor of their respective neighbourhoods, receiving fair pay and fair treatment. He could not help thinking that dispensary doctors in Ireland got the very worst of treatment. He believed that his Unionist colleagues were most anxious to give them good treatment and good pay. He knew that many hon. Members on the other side were also most anxious to see them fairly treated, but unfortunately many of the district councillors did not seem to have the knowledge and understanding of the subject of the old guardians, and in their endeavours to save the rates treated the doctors as if they were not worth their proper pay. As to the proposed repeal of the fifth section of the Local Government Act, he thought that to put England on a par with Ireland in the matter of malicious injuries was to lead the House to a false impression as to what would happen in the country. It was no good to put England on a parallel with Ireland, for everybody knew that the same things did not happen there. Many of them followed the meetings of the United Irish League in the same way that they used to follow the meetings of the Irish National League. He had not so much objection to the rating of the owner instead of the occupier in the case of small tenements under £4. Many of these men were very poor, and the collection gave the rate collector an immense amount of trouble. As to Clause 10, he had not the least objection to a clergyman or priest, or minister of any denomination, being a councillor, but he must say that he did not think it was proper work for them. He thought a minister of religion had much better attend to his own work, and from what he knew of clergymen, he did not 1490 think they were particularly anxious to do the work. He saw no objection to Clause 12, entitling the county councils to the use of the court house. As to the direct labour clause (Clause 15), his experience was that labour for the councils was entirely contrary to cheapness and also to good roads. As a county councillor and district councillor he did not think the proposed Board of Control would add to economy, to good work, or to anything conducive to the good of Ireland, and for that reason he was totally opposed to the Amendment Act which the hon. Member had brought forward.
§ MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
I rise to support this Bill. The arbitrary action of that irresponsible Board in Dublin, the Local Government Board, compels us to seek redress in this House. The Local Government Board in Dublin is an aggregation of fortuitous atoms responsible to no one. It acts on its own initiative; it rules at its own sweet will; it has no responsibility; it is accountable to no one; it is perfectly absolute and despotic in Ireland; whereas in England the Local Government is a State department, and is managed and represented in this House by a Cabinet Minister and an Under Secretary of State, whose sole business is to attend to that department, and who are accountable to this House for its right administration. But with us, local government is not a department of State, and we have no Parliamentary representative responsible. For although the Chief Secretary for Ireland is said to be the head of the Irish Local Government Board, he does not stand in the same relation to us as the right hon. the President and the Member for South Tyrone stand to the English Local Government Board. The Chief Secretary has too much to do, he is President of too many Boards in Ireland, and it is impossible that he in Ireland could attend, as your Minister in England does, to any one department, and it would be unfair to ask him. We are thus left at the mercy of a coterie of officials in the Custom House, and at the whim of every secretary and clerk in the offices of the Local Government Board to interpret Acts as he thinks fit and to issue mandates to local bodies, irrespective of their applicability, convenience, or expense. To such an extent have the Local Government Board per- 1491 sisted and insisted on their commands being obeyed by urban, district, and county councils and board of guardians, that it has become a public scandal; and there is little but friction and irritation between them and public boards. I have no doubt their orders are often illegal, but they know it is hard for small boards to fight a public department. And then if they have not law they make it in a handy manner by an order in council or a rule. And the most extraordinary part of the case is that all their instructions are in the direction of additional labour to local officials and additional expense, and that to such an extent that I consider the whole of the Agricultural Grant will soon be absorbed in salaries of new men, in additional salaries to old hands, in pensions and expenses of printing, and of various other kinds, until the farmers won't derive a pennyworth of benefit from the grant. They won't assist local authorities to reduce expenditure or even to conduct business at moderate expenditure. Everything is made as expensive as possible. You cannot resist the impression that the Local Government Board intends to penalise Irish ratepayers, that the Local Government Act may become so distasteful to them that they will seek to get back to the old grand jury system to rid themselves of this expensive luxury—more particularly since the landlord goes scot free. If this be true—and it is true—is it any wonder we claim some court of appeal, some responsible tribunal, against the arbitrary decisions of the Local Government Board? Having so arraigned this Board, I think it is only just to prove my case. I shall not deal in generalities, I will cite their action in the county of Fermanagh—the county I represent, both here and on the local boards. I will first state the action of the Local Government Board in regard to the Fermanagh County Council, and in reference to the salary and emoluments of the secretary of the council. An off-scion of one of the respectable houses of the county was appointed some years ago to be secretary of the grand jury at a net salary of £306 a year. The place was a sinecure: a clerk ran the concern for fees while the secretary walked about smoking cigars — he smokes cigarettes now. The council did not wish to dismiss him. They knew he would do little. They appointed three clerks to do the work; 1492 they took him at the estimate of the grand jury, who were his friends, and knew his worth. We took him on at their estimate and a little more, for the finance committee fixed his salary at £310 a year. This recommendation came before the county council, and they unanimously adopted the committee's report. He appealed to the Local Government Board, and what was the result? The Local Government Board, without consulting us, without asking our reasons for our decision, without any consideration whatever, in the most arbitrary and despotic manner wrote us that they—they, mark you—had fixed his salary at £500 a year, or £190 of an advance. The announcement fell on the council like a lyddite shell, and several Tory members said, "There is no use in us sitting here as registering machines of the Local Government Board in Dublin. We had better retire and let them do the business themselves." I say it was an insult to override our decision in such a way, and no man will sit on county councils and be dealt with in such a drastic and despotic manner as that. Again, we had voted him £60 as expenses for bringing the Act into operation, and on his appeal, without any reference to us whatever, the Local Government Board in the same arbitrary manner wrote to say they had fixed the sum at £100, or £40 more for this small transaction. We knew the merits of the case; they knew nothing about them, only on the ex parte statement of the secretary. The next thing we hear is that Inspector Saunderson came down to see a certain number of books which have to be inspected every week. When we appointed the three clerks these books were brought to the table, and we were told that the three clerks were necessary to check these books weekly. When the inspector came down to make his inspection the secretary told him—privately, of course—that he could not do all this work weekly, and it was too much for him and the three clerks, and they could not do it. After that we had a recommendation from the Local Government Board, through the inspector, that we should appoint another clerk in addition to the other three, to assist the secretary to do the work, for which we had already appointed three clerks. I think it is perfectly preposterous that we should be treated in 1493 this manner by the Local Government Board. I must say that the county council of Fermanagh are most anxious to administer the affairs of the county honestly, fairly, and justly to all parties concerned. It is a Unionist council, and not one of those tag-rag-and-bobtail Nationalist councils. The Earl of Erne is the chairman, and he is a most respectable chairman. And yet this is the way the Local Government Board treats the Unionist council for Fermanagh. I think the least the Local Government Board might have done was to consult us before deciding to make these increases. So indignant was the county council that they at once passed the following resolution, which I will read to the House. His Lordship was in the chair, and the resolution is as follows—We hereby protest in the strongest possible manner against what this council considers the most high-handed action of the Local Government Board in fixing the salary of tbe secretary of the council at £500—i e., £190 over what this council, after due deliberation, thought was quite sufficient, and at granting him £40 over our decision for bringing the Local Government Act into operation, and that we hereby refuse to accept their decision on the matter, and resolve by every means at our disposal to resist it.What must have been the indignation of that Unionist council, with Lord Erne in the chair, when they passed such a resolution unanimously, without a dissenting voice? I say that when such a resolution can be passed unanimously by the county council of Fermanagh the action of the Local Government Board stands condemned. I see the Under Secretary for the English Local Government Board in his place, and I ask him what would he have done under such circumstances? My opinion is that the President and the Under Secretary himself would have written to the local authority asking them their reasons for their action, and they would probably have sent an inspector down to investigate the matter. All we want is that, if there should happen to be a difference of opinion between us and the officers of the Local Government Board, we should be heard on the other side. If we are heard fairly on the other side then we might arrive at a conclusion by compromise satisfactory to all parties. But for the Local Government Board in Dublin to sit upon us in this way is more than honourable and respectable men can bear, and we won't bear it. 1494 The Fermanagh County Council will carry out that resolution, and they will refuse to pay these sums when the bill is sent in. We had a case not long ago in connection with the poor law guardians. Dr. Clark, one of the dispensers, had charge of six divisions, and his salary was £120 a year. In re-arranging the districts one of these divisions was taken away from him, and the Local Government Board wrote down to the board of guardians, asking them to consider this question, and a full board met to discuss the matter. After due deliberation the board decided to reduce Dr. Clark's salary by one-sixth, leaving the other five divisions at £20 each. It was also decided at the same meeting to give him five years' compensation for the loss of the sixth division, and that was in accordance with the Board's view of the Act. They decided to pay him £100 compensation, but the Local Government Board in a few days changed their mind, and after asking us to consider the question, which we did to the best of our ability and favourably to the doctor, the Local Government Board changed their mind, and said, "This won't do at all, and you have not got the right theory." They then increased the salary to £108, and I consider that such action is only mocking us, and is not fair. Then there was the case of the clerk to the union. The Attorney General has stated that there was no case in which an increase of salary had been made to the clerk of the union where the work was reduced. But the clerk to our board has had his work reduced, and yet we pay him the same salary. The other day £60 a year was fixed as his salary as secretary to the rural district council. That is the way the money is voted. Our clerk is a most efficient clerk, and we had got a set of very expensive books sent down, and we asked the Local Government Board to allow us to work our books as before. But, regardless altogether of expense, the Local Government Board said we must throw our books away and have a new set, in order to facilitate the work of the auditor, and they compelled us to get a new set of books. The result was that to keep this difficult set of books we were compelled to add £75 a year to the clerk's salary. That is the way the money is going in the county of Fermanagh, where we seem to have no control whatever over the expenditure. 1495 We are told that this is popular local county government, but it is anything but popular. We are elected, but we are made simply the machines to carry out the whims and fads of the Local Government Board. You talk about a despotic oligarchy in the Transvaal. That may be so, but there is no more despotic oligarchy on the face of the earth to-day, than the half-dozen irresponsible gentlemen on this committee called the Local Government Board, and are we to get no redress? Are we to be always the football of the Local Government Board? Are we to have no control and no court of appeal? I greatly regret that the Chief Secretary for Ireland is not in his place, and I am always suspicious when I see the Attorney General here. I have a most profound respect for him as a lawyer, but he is icy, and if you want anything of the warmth of reform you will not get it from him. He can point out to you the difference between tweedledee and tweedledum splendidly, but you get nothing from him, and I say this with the most profound respect. We might get something from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, because he once said himself that he would like to be in power to see how this scheme would work in Ireland, and I have no doubt that he desires to see the Act work well. If the Chief Secretary were here now and had those things pointed out to him, he might as a statesmen—not as a lawyer—give some consideration to what we are saying, because we are pointing out facts and not mere theory. In conclusion I say that we ought to have some elected body, some board of control by which we should have an appeal against the decisions of the Local Government Board, so that the side of the county councils and district councils should be heard, and in order that we should get some consideration.
MR. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, W.R., Thirsk)
My hon. friend, in his eloquent speech, has found fault with my moving the rejection of this Bill, because I am not the representative of an Irish constituency. It is rather a novel argument to urge that English Members are not to take an interest in Irish Bills. I think it would be well if not only Unionist Members from England, but also the Liberal Members from England, were present upon the occasion of the dis- 1496 cussion of such Bills as this. I desire that Ireland should be governed, as far as possible, in accordance with Irish ideas, but this measure goes considerably beyond that limit. It is necessary to make a careful study of all the proposals made by Irish Members, and these Bills are valuable because they throw a curious light upon the sort of legislation which Irish Members would be likely to put forward if they had an Irish Parliament. They also have some interest of a literary character, and I will give presently some illustrations. Irish measures have all one great fault in practical legislation, and that is that they attempt to do too much. The ardent spirits and eloquent minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite often exceed the limits of possible legislation allowed by the rules of this House to private Members. This Bill bristles with principles every one of which is suitable for a full-dress Second Reading debate. If I may say so, the main principle of the Bill is the establishment of a Board of Control. But there are in this Bill other principles as loosely strung together as are the beads on a necklace of sham pearls. The principle of this measure is that this House was altogether wrong in the year 1898, when it passed the Irish Local Government Act. That is the second principle underlying this Bill. But I will explain to the House what happened in that year. A great many of the clauses contained in this Bill were proposed as amendments to the Local Government Act. A considerable discussion took place on the subject raised by Clause 8. Clause 10 deals with the question whether clergymen in holy orders should be eligible as members of councils and poor law boards. But this question has also been debated, not long ago, in this House, and defeated by 127 votes to 88. I am not speaking now of the merits of these proposals. Now, it took almost all the power of the Chief Secretary and nearly all the time of the whole session to pass that measure through Parliament two years ago, and the hon. Member opposite now picks out all the controversial points raised in the discussion of that Act, and puts them all into a private Member's Bill, which he asks us to pass in the time—or his share of the time—at the disposal of private Members. I will come back to the fundamental principle of this Bill, and that is the Board of Control. This Board of Control is a very interest- 1497 ing body, formed for the purpose of assisting the Local Government Board in carrying out the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. The House is well aware of the terrible confusion caused in the East India Company by the Board of Control, and I should have thought that the words "Board of Control" would have been avoided in this Bill. Clause 2 says that—The Board of Control shall consist of the following members—(a) Four persons to be appointed by the chairmen of the thirty-three councils in the prescribed manner; (b) one person to be appointed by the mayors of the six county boroughs; (c) two members of the Local Government Board.That is to say, this body is to form machinery for forming itself—an uncreated body is to create machinery for its own creation. What is this body to do? Clause 3 says—The Board of Control shall meet at least four times a year for the purpose of discussing matters of public interest in connection with any purposes of this Act or the principal Act.Well, if the power of this Board is limited to debating, that is a wide subject for a limited debating society. Its real object is to weaken the Local Government Board, because only two members of that Board are to be allowed to be upon it, and five out of the seven controllers are to be appointed by the bodies to be controlled. But to get at the real power to be conferred on this Board of Control we must go to Clause 4—When, after the passing of this Act, any orders are made by the Local Government Board affecting any county or district council, or poor law board, any such council or board may, within the prescribed time, and in the prescribed manner, appeal therefrom to the Board of Control; and the Board of Control shall at the hearing of such appeal have power, after hearing the parties, in such manner as they think fit, to confirm, annul, or vary any such order.That is to say, this Board of Control shall have power to review the decisions of the Local Government Board. We have heard much of the conduct of the Irish Local Government Board in connection with certain local government bodies in Ireland. I cannot go into these domestic squabbles; but nearly all the things complained of in this debate, nearly all the powers exercised by the Local Government Board in Ireland can, under the law of England, 1498 be exercised by the English Local Government Board with regard to local authorities here. We know that the English Local Government Board has produced uniformity and efficiency in local government. The yoke which the greatest and oldest municipalities in England bear willingly and contentedly the new-born Irish authorities call out against as the gravest tyranny. Would a change be for the better? The Irish Local Government Board have accumulated great experience, and have a staff of inspectors who are paid. The members of the Board of Control are not to be paid, and there is no provision in the Act for paying them. And how are these gentlemen to obtain a knowledge of every single part of Ireland, seeing that they would start with no experience, and would have no inspectors? But not only is this Board of Control to hawk at the Local Government Board, but to put themselves above and come down upon Her Majesty's judges; for in Clause 5 it is said that—Where the demand of a sum by any county or district council, or by the treasurer of such council, or other officer of the county, in behalf of the council, is ordered by a judge of assizes, under the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, or any other Act, the county or district council concerned may appeal for such order to the Board of Control, and the Board of Control shall have power, after hearing the parties, if they think fit, to confirm, annul, or vary such order.That is to say, Her Majesty's judges of assize should bow before the Board of Control, and may be over-ruled by it.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman draws his clause very much too wide, for it includes any payment ordered by a judge of assize. I do not suppose that ever in modern history was such an attempt to interfere with the bench, except when President Kruger wanted the judges of the High Court of the Transvaal to make their judgments conformable to the wishes of the Raad. Why all this unnecessary phraseology? Why not abolish the Local Government Board altogether? Why not relieve the judges of this part of their duty? Why not relieve the county councils of the payment of their debts? That would be economy, and reduce the 1499 sum chargeable against Ireland in the balance sheet. I pass over a good many clauses in the Bill—although some may regard them with suspicion and as capable of being turned into weapons of oppression in capable hands—and come to Clause 11, which deals with making the chairmen of the county councils ex officio justices of the peace. The second sub-section of that clause is really legislation by reference. We have heard of removable magistrates in Ireland, but these magistrates are by this clause to be made irremovable, even for bad conduct, which I should think is a monstrous proposal. One other point I should like to refer to, namely, the question of roads. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading spoke of the narrow roads in Devonshire. I know something about these roads, and how it is impossible for two carriages going in the opposite directions to pass. In a very interesting work on China, Mrs. Bishop mentions that the roads there are so narrow that two coolies cannot pass one another. The Chinese are a peaceful and deferential race, and when one coolie carrying a weight meets another, if the other believes him to be superior, he steps into the mud to let the superior pass. What are you to do in the case of a twelve-foot road, which Clause 14 provides for? An Irish car averages in width of frame from six to eight feet from board to board, so that two cars meeting on these narrow roads could not pass. I maintain that a twelve-foot road is too narrow. Again, the principal Act says that there shall be an unimpeded footway, but this Bill provides that they shall be no longer so unimpeded. Section 19 says that—No Provisional Order made by the Local Government Board after 1st January, 1901, shall require to be confirmed by Parliament.That is an attempt to avoid the control of Parliament over local authorities in Ireland, and to pass a Home Rule Bill in half a sitting. I hope that other speakers may expose some other of its absurdities, and it remains for me to propose that it be read this day six months.
§ MR. HERBERT ROBERTSON (Hackney, S.)
I find no fault myself with many of the provisions of the Bill, and I think that, to a certain extent, a Wednesday afternoon could not be better employed than in hearing hon. Members for 1500 Ireland stating their objections to the working of the new system of local government in Ireland. I take it that the main principle of the Bill is the creation of the Board of Control, which, it is said, is for the purpose of assisting the Local Government Board in carrying out the provisions of the Local Government (Ireland) Act of 1898. I think there is a certain amount of humour in proposing to appoint a Board of Control to assist the Local Government Board, which the Bill practically proposes to abolish. [HON. MEMBERS: No, no!] Whatever may be the wording of the Bill, that is the clear meaning and intention of every section of it. The chief complaint against the Local Government Board is that it has increased expenditure. My personal interest is exactly the same as that of hon. Gentlemen opposite; I want the rates to be lowered. The grounds on which it is stated that the Local Government Board have increased expenses are only two. One is printing. That is a small matter, and is almost necessary. But the one real substantial objection made was on the question of salaries. I think it must be within the recollection of everyone that when the Bill was before the House we all specially desired that the existing officials should be treated fairly and liberally. One instance was given in which a salary had been increased from £293 per annum with certain fees to £600. Well, I presume that the fees brought the original salary up to the £600, so that the expenditure was about the same as before. [HON. MEMBERS: No!] It must have been brought to something near it before that salary was sanctioned by the Local Government Board. The whole of the increase of salary will not fall on the county council, because presumably they will get better terms from the persons with whom they deal if these fees are not paid, or if the fees are paid into the funds of the county council.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
The great bulk of these fees were illegal, and that is what we complained of.
§ MR. HERBERT ROBERTSON
I hold that where the Local Government Board has increased the salary of any particular official there is some rather good reason for it. Then it has been said that the doctors' salaries had also been in- 1501 creased—that a doctor now got thirteen months pay for twelve months work. I would put it that the doctor gets twelve months pay for eleven months work, and I do not really think that any hon. Gentleman will object to his having a month's holiday, which he never had before. The chief charge against the Local Government Board in substance is, that they have taken this particular opportunity, when the landlords' interest in the rates is considerably less than it was before, to make these various changes. I think that is a little unfair to the Local Government Board. Some of the changes—as, for instance, that about the doctors' salaries—should have been made before. After all, it was natural that, when the Local Government Act of 1898 was passed, a certain number of changes would be made, and I cannot help thinking that most people will acquit the Local Government Board of a sinister intention of making local representative government unpopular by increasing expenses. Now there is Clause 6, the object of which is to make the assessment of agricultural land like that in England. I am not sure that that would put a good deal of money into the landlords' pockets. As regards the rating of small occupiers, when this question was before the House, I pointed out that there would be some difficulty in realising the amount, and I should not be displeased if something had been put into the Bill to alter that particular rating. But strong reasons have been given from Ireland by the larger farmers—that is, those who pay over £4 rent—that if the small occupiers had no interest whatever in the amount paid for rates, they would be exceedingly likely to elect representatives on the boards whose action would contribute to the rates going up. I do not think gentlemen who pay rates in Ireland, or the ordinary farmers, would approve of that section. As to Section 10, allowing persons in holy orders to be elected on the boards, I pointed out, when the principal Act was under discussion, that opinion on the opposite side of the House was by no means unanimous on the question, and that there were many Nationalist Members strongly opposed to persons in holy orders entering these boards. Clause 11 is intended to make every justice of the peace appointed under the Act irremovable. I should like to see the Irish Act on that point as it now exists 1502 applied to England. As I understand these justices in England are not removable. I should like to see them removable. Another objection is, that the chairman is only a justice of the peace for the particular district in which he resides. But there was a reason for that. I do not care about the proposals for the use of the court-houses. The hon. Member for Thirsk objected to the new roads being less than sixteen feet wide, but there are many old roads that are not more than twelve feet wide, and I cannot see that any serious difficulty arises therefrom Jaunting cars do not go down these roads.
§ MR. HERBERT ROBERTSON
Oh, yes, quite easily. There is seldom a footpath on these roads, but where there is, I admit that bicyclists generally ride on the foot-path. By Clause 17, foot-paths may be blocked altogether. That reminds me that at the time of my first connection with Ireland, twenty years ago, I saw a triumphal arch put up. I naturally inquired by whose authority the arch had been erected; and the answer was, "Oh, we have no authority in Ireland: every man, as in Israel of old, does that which he thinks right in his eyes." I always found that very much the rule, and that it made Ireland a very pleasant place to live in. One of the most important sections is Clause 16, repealing the Acts granting compensation for criminal injury. Now the persons who suffer from criminal injury are small farmers, who would be ruined if these Acts were repealed. They are very old Acts, and only bring in an old Irish law custom at the time when property was tribal, and when any damage was done, the whole tribe paid. I strongly object to the repeal of these Acts. There are some points in the Bill which I would wish embodied in the law, and when they are brought under the consideration of the Chief Secretary they may be embodied. But on the whole I believe the Bill as it stands is a most pernicious measure, and I hope the House will reject it.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Grant Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. ATKINSON
I rise comparatively early in this discussion for the purpose of endeavouring to remove some of the misapprehensions which apparently exist among hon. Members opposite both as to the law and the facts. Before I approach that, however, I must thank the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill for the kindly expressions he indulged in with reference to my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary. I regret as much as any hon. Gentleman from Ireland that my right hon. friend is not here to support, as I am perfectly certain he would support, the motion, "That this Bill be read a second time this day six months." I had the honour of being associated with him in the carriage through the House of Commons of the Local Government Act, 1898. I know what his opinions on the different sections of that statute are. I know his anxiety that that Act should be a success, and I am perfectly certain that he would look with horror and dismay on a Bill of this kind, which, if carried, would mean the uprooting and destruction of that system on the establishment of which so much labour was expended, and to the result of which he looked with bright prospects. The Act of 1898 took a considerable time in passing through this House. It took, I think, twenty-two days in Committee and several days on Report, and its different clauses were discussed with considerable acumen and ability and at considerable length by many Members from Ireland. Most of its important clauses came into operation on the 1st of April last year, and some of its clauses only came into operation about six weeks ago. Owing to a doctrine which was preached in Ireland, and to which, I think, several hon. Members were opposed—particularly the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, the hon. and learned Member for North Louth, and the hon. and learned Member for Cork—a doctrine which was summed up as "the humbug of toleration," no representatives of the grand juries were elected on the new Boards, with the result that the elected members are absolutely without experience.
§ MR. ATKINSON
I wish the hon. Gentleman would only interrupt me when he understands. I said that the elected members are entirely without experience in county administrative affairs, and the proposition is now—after six or nine months trial, before these county councils have struck more than one rate, before their accounts have been audited for the first year—to abolish the control without the constant exercise and operation of which the whole system of local government in Ireland would, as I shall prove by examples, have been reduced to absolute chaos. The Local Government Board have interfered in three capacities in discharge of their statutory duties: first as arbitrators between the county councils and the district councils, and again as the statutory authority to whom individuals who were aggrieved by the actions of the county councils appealed. But they have interfered much more than that; they have interfered when appealed to in thousands of instances by the county councils themselves, who from day to day were begging advice direction, and control upon the thousands of cases that came up before them; and the rule has been this: that in proportion as the councils have asked for advice and have taken advice their proceedings have been satisfactory and their business has been well conducted; and in proportion as they have neglected to ask for advice or have refused to take advice their business has been unsatisfactorily conducted. Now I shall give two instances. I shall give the county of Meath—the best managed county in Ireland. I am not now referring to questions in which the Local Government Board have a right to interfere, but to questions of voluntary interference. The county council of Meath asked for advice on fifteen different matters. They were of this character: as to the attendance of county officers at meetings of the county councils; as to the period which should elapse between the meetings of committees and the meetings of the council; as to the method of communication between the county council and the district councils; as to the mode in which certain damage was to be dealt with; as to how they were to prepare their agenda paper; as to the powers of the county councils regarding direct labour, and other matters of that character, fifteen in number. They 1505 appealed to the Local Government Board for advice; that advice was given and taken, and the business of the council was conducted properly. That is absolute and conclusive proof that the action of the Local Government Board has not been oppressive, unjust, offensive, or tyrannical, because they had been treated as guide, philosopher, and friend by several councils. With regard to the county council of Roscommon, in which the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill is interested—
§ MR. ATKINSON
I am very sorry to hear it, because the hon. Gentleman showed a great knowledge of the working of county affairs in his speech. The county of Roscommon would not act in the way suggested by the Local Government Board. They were told they ought to get a competent staff, but they would not, with the result that everything got into confusion, and then they had to get fifty clerks to do work which could have been done better by thirty clerks if they had taken the advice of the Local Government Board when it was given. Now I will state another illustration. I turn to Mayo. Mayo may be described as the Mecca of Nationalism. It had the advantage of being represented in this House by an hon. Member who is described as the "Father of the Land League." It has now the advantage of having as one of its inhabitants the "Father of the United Irish League," who no doubt exercises a governing influence and control over the deliberations of the county council. It has the further advantage of being represented in this House by an hon. Member who was for some time recognised as, if not the actual, at least the titular leader of the Irish race at home and abroad. One would have thought that the successful management of local affairs would be conspicuously displayed in Mayo. Mayo asked for advice, but Mayo did not take it, and the consequence was that when its affairs were investigated it was found in November, 1899, after the council had been in existence from the 1st of April, that one collector had not completed his bonds and that another collector had not collected anything at all for the half year, and that 1506 the financial statement had not been kept up. The hon. Member for Fermanagh advocated extreme parsimony in connection with the staffs of the county councils.
§ MR. ATKINSON
We will see about that. The staff of the county council of Mayo consisted of two clerks, and the result was—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! That may be a very proper observation to make during a speech, but not as an interruption.
§ MR. ATKINSON
The result was that the affairs of the county of Mayo, with all the advantages I have mentioned, were reduced to such a state of utter and absolute chaos that in their confusion and distress the county council possessing all these qualities for self-government passed a resolution on the 30th January requesting the Local Government Board to send down a qualified accountant forthwith to take over the accounts of the county, and authorising the accountant to appoint a sufficient staff, and also authorising the necessary payments. The council for over eight months had not made out a rate-book; every part of the county business was in a state of absolute chaos, and in their distress they passed a resolution begging the much-decried Local Government Board—who want to bring discredit on county government in Ireland—to send down some officer to relieve them from the misery and confusion into which their own neglect to take advice had brought them. We have Meath at one end, which asked advice and took advice, and Mayo at the other end, which either did not ask for advice or when it got it did not take it. What is the proposal in this Bill? It is absolutely necessary, by the common experience of England, Ireland and Scotland, that there should be some controlling body to exercise control over and direct the operations of local 1507 government. The Poor Law Acts of Ireland have been in existence since 1838; under these Acts the Local Government Board have exercised a minute, searching, and continuous control. Of course, in endeavouring to bring this Act into operation they had a stupendous duty to discharge. They had thousands of elections to conduct; they had 550 local bodies to regulate, and I think they regulated them without complaint; and as I shall presently show, the Local Government Board have every reason to be most satisfied with this debate, because, while there was a strong disposition to attack them, and violently attack them, all that has been brought home to them in this debate is that they interfered in four matters with regard to the salaries of wretched, under-paid, over-driven, and harassed medical doctors, who in many cases scarcely received the remuneration of a decent artisan, and who, by the connivance of farmers and others, from whom better might be expected, were obliged to discharge duties never expected of them. Considering all the duties they have had to perform the Local Government Board have every reason to be proud of the result of this debate, which has brought the charge against them to an issue.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I quite understand the generosity of the hon. Gentleman; he would be willing to give medical doctors vacations at their own expense.
§ MR. ATKINSON
In bringing the Act into operation the Local Government Board not only conducted these elections, but they wrote 72,000 letters of advice and direction. Their advice was given daily and their interference was also daily. They can only act by sealed order, and these orders are made daily. What is the proposition put forward in this Bill? It is that these orders should be reviewed by an authority meeting four times a year I will give a few illustrations of how that would work. 1508 The Local Government Board dismiss an officer by sealed order for drunkenness. What is to become of him during the three months that the appeal is pending? They superannuate an officer by sealed order; what is to become of him pending the appeal, because the tribunal only meets every three months? The Board may make an order about assisted emigration. What is to become of the emigrant until the tribunal meets?
§ MR. ATKINSON
When public graveyards are closed by order of the Local Government Board they occasionally admit by sealed order isolated interments by people having burial rights. What is to become of the remains pending an appeal? I could give dozens of similar illustrations, and I was astonished that the hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill, and who seems to have an acquaintance with poor law administration, could ever have entertained the idea that it was possible to construct a tribunal meeting only once in three months to review orders made daily. If that were to be done the dead would remain unburied and the living would starve. Let me say a word about the character of this tribunal. As my hon. friend has already pointed out, it has an advantage over all created things, namely, that before its birth it should regulate the conditions under which it was to come into the world. It is to be elected according to rules which it can only make itself after it is elected. It cannot be elected until it makes the rules, and it cannot make the rules until it is elected.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Giving the hon. Gentleman every credit I am unable to see the relevance of that remark.
§ MR. ATKINSON
I do not think anything ever existed before under the same conditions as this proposed tribunal. I heard from a friend who had travelled a good deal in the East that he once attended a Passion Play, and when he arrived he found Adam on the stage waiting to be 1509 created. What would this tribunal be? There is no place mentioned where the election is to be held, no time for the election is mentioned, and if it were to be carried out all the county councils of Ireland would be found in procession in Dublin or elsewhere awaiting its creation. That is not the only peculiarity about it. What next? It is admitted that control over the local authorities is absolutely necessary. What is the suggestion? That a new body should be created by nomination by the county councils, the chairmen representing the councils, and with the mayors representing the county boroughs largely predominating over the official element. That is, that there should be a committee of control to control the controllers. It is somewhat as if boys in school formed a committee to decide whether the masters were right or wrong. I do not think that such ideas will gain general acceptance. Could there be anything more topsy-turvy—more upside down—than this board legislating for itself: making rules for itself before it is born, and controlling it own controllers? It will have no staff and no place of meeting; it is, according to the Bill, to sit once only in three months, but it will have so many orders to deal with that—to use an Irish bull—it can only cope with them by sitting continuously twenty-four hours out of every twelve. Again, where is this body to sit? It has no local habitation; is it to meet in Dublin or is it to be ambulatory?
§ MR. ATKINSON
It has no staff, and the Bill makes no suggestion as to where it is to get money to carry on its business. [An HON. MEMBER: The Government is to provide that.] The Bill not only creates a topsy-turvy, upside down arrangement, but it proposes to repeal all the provisions in the Local Government Act of 1898, over which there was the greatest dispute in this House—I regret that I shall have to deal with them seriatim presently—and what is the justification the hon. Member brings forward for reversing everything done under the Act of 1898? As I shall be able to show, he wants laws in Ireland similar to the law of England when it suits his purpose; but when that does not 1510 suit his purpose he wants the Irish law dissimilar from the English laws.
§ MR. ATKINSON
It seems to me it is the old game of "heads I win; tails you lose." What is his justification? It is just that the Local Government Board have been too liberal in the sums they have awarded to different offices; then that they have given a month's vacation to the doctors without consulting the local authorities. Further, that they have insisted on the employment of trained nurses, and finally that they have ignored local opinion. I do not think there is any need for me to refute the imputation that the Local Government Board are anxious to increase the expenses of local government in order to discredit the working of the county councils. A more unfair or a more unfounded charge—if it were made seriously—has never been uttered.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Let us see what the Local Government Board has done. I think if the hon. Member for South Fermanagh had taken the trouble to look at the Act he would have been more correct in his observations. Any person listening to the debate and unacquainted with the provisions of the Act would have come to the conclusion that the Local Government Board fix and regulate the salaries of the county officials. As a matter of fact the Board have no power to deal with any but the existing or grand jury officers—the county surveyor, the county secretary, and the clerk of the district council; and with regard to these the only duty of the Board is to see that their salaries are fixed by the county councils and boards of guardians in accordance with the fees and emoluments they previously received under the grand juries.
§ MR. FLAVIN
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the Local Government Board do not fix the salary of any officer who is not an existing officer?
§ MR. ATKINSON
They only have to deal with the transferred officers whom I have already mentioned, and to see that their remuneration is fixed under the 115th section, subsection 18, on the principle set forth in the English Act of 1888 which directs that they shall take into consideration all the emoluments these particular officials have enjoyed. They have done nothing but that, and I invite hon. Members to name any case in which they have acted otherwise. After all, the power is only a temporary one; it ceases immediately the officer dies or resigns. The hon. Member complained that the Board had not taken into consideration the remonstrances of the local bodies, and had not given the county councils an opportunity to condemn the system.
§ MR. JORDAN
I did not say "condemn the system"; I said they had not given us an opportunity of stating our case.
§ MR. ATKINSON
The hon. Member also said that the fact that they had not had an opportunity of stating their case was enough to condemn the system.
§ MR. ATKINSON
And what are the facts? The Local Government Board sent to every one of these bodies a circular setting forth the provisions of the section and asking their opinions. Before acting they waited until the month of January in this year. The opinions of these bodies were carefully considered, and all the Local Government Board did was to fix the salaries, with the sole view, not of treating these officials generously, but of securing them fair remuneration. The hon. Member for South Monaghan complained that the fees of many of the officials were increased. He apparently begrudges the £7 10s. which was added to a certain clerk's salary.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The right hon. Gentleman must be allowed to continue his speech without interruption.
§ MR. ATKINSON
The local bodies were consulted because it was most desirable that their views should be before the Board, and to have a tribunal of appeal merely for the purpose of registering the decrees of the tribunal appealed from seems to be perfectly useless. What are the other causes of complaint which have been advanced? One is in connection with the dispensary doctors, and I may at once say that the Local Government Board had power to exercise authority in the case of this class of wretchedly paid and hard-worked officials, and will certainly continue to interfere where they have reason to believe that a policy dictated by parsimony and a heartless want of consideration is being pursued. The next reason given for superseding the Local Government Board was that they will not treat nuns as trained nurses. The Board has only power to give remuneration to trained nurses, and though I have great respect and admiration for nuns of all descriptions, I must point out that they have not the skill of trained and certificated nurses. In "Felix Holt, the Radical," Mrs. Holt says "Bad medicine is as good as good medicine with a blessing," and hon. Members opposite appear to think that the piety of these nuns takes the place of skill.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Then if the nuns obtain certificates the Local Government Board will not refuse to pay them.
§ MR. ATKINSON
The hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that, but I repeat that the nuns are not entitled by reason merely of their piety to take positions 1513 involving the exercise of medical skill. The last charge was a small point about county analysts, and as to that I may point out that these officials are appointed under the Food and Drugs Act. With that the Local Government Board have no more to do than to see that the local authority appoints a fit and proper person. I am anxious to defend a tribunal which has been so much assailed, which has had such vast duties thrown upon it, and which has discharged those duties as the friends of local government in Ireland wish them to be discharged—a tribunal which has done its best to set the machine going upon fair lines, and whose efforts, I am happy to say, have been appreciated. I find in the Nation, a periodical which some of the hon. Members opposite will respect, these words—We have never been slow to criticise the policy or methods of the Local Government Board and its principal measures, but we think we shall only be expressing the feeling of the majority of those who have watched its proceedings since the passing into law of a great measure of popular rule when we say that its course in the main has been characterised by courtesy, fair play, and a just sense of responsibility, and that it has discharged the duties entrusted to it both well and wisely.On the part of the Government I wish to entirely associate myself with that expression of opinion. I now pass on to the different clauses of the Bill. By its provisions the numerous duties which the Local Government Board has to discharge would be submitted to the review of this extraordinary tribunal, and in truth there is no principle in the Bill except the principle of overturning everything that exists. Clause 5 deals with the question of appeal, and would give this composite tribunal of county councillors the power of reviewing a decision even upon a question of law. Clause 6 is a gem. It proposes that half the rates on all houses in Ireland shall be paid out of the Church surplus. It would require £450,000 per annum to pay half the rates on all the houses in Ireland, and, even if there were no objection in principle, how is the hon. Member to extract £450,000 a year out of the Church surplus, considering that the Church endowment, before anything was deducted from it, did not amount to that? The hon. Member is arguing that the part is greater than the whole. In England, owing to the distressed condition of agriculture, half the rates were paid, and it was con- 1514 tended that as Irish agriculture was still more depressed, there was an even stronger claim for relief. But the hon. Member goes further and suggests that because of the distressed condition of agriculture every one who lives in a house should have half his rates paid. Surely that is a total misapplication of the principle on which relief is granted. The Bill requires under Sub-section 2 that it shall be paid out of the local taxation account. The objection to that is that it is not in the local taxation account, because the Church surplus was never put there. Sub-section 3 provides that certain modifications of Sections 49 and 50 of the Act shall apply. The objection to that is that they apply already. Clause 7 is directed to the relief of occupiers from the payment of rates. The hon. Member in that seems to forget the great broad principle on which the Act of 1898 is founded—namely, that the rate should be thrown on the occupier, in order that he who has the power shall bear the burden. By that means we were able to get rid of those embarrassing checks which were introduced into earlier Bills dealing with local government. We said that if the landlords were to be relieved financially they should also be deprived of power to interfere, and we provided that those who had the power should also bear the burden of any extravagance in which they might indulge. The suggestion of the next clause is to make a special rate to pay for a special purpose. What it really does is to enable the county council to erect works and charge them on a particular district. If they were so disposed they could make water works for a particular town, and make a charge, not against the people residing in that county, but against the population in a fixed area. Now with respect to the clergy and the district councils. I quite admit that on that point there were differences of opinion, and that there is a good deal to be said on both sides, but I do insist on the fact that there was no intention to offer insult or inflict any stigma on the clergy of any denomination. Experience showed that it was desirable that they should be excluded from such local bodies. The next clause gives power to the Lord Chancellor to remove lunatics. That was a thing which was deliberately introduced, because it was considered most unwise to put these ex-officio magistrates in a position occupied by no other judge in the land. 1515 Even a county court judge may be removed by a superior court, and a judge of the Supreme Court may be removed by a Vote of both Houses.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Of half a dozen reasons I will cite one. Different county councils in Ireland not merely express sympathy with the Boers, but also a fervent hope that the massacre of Majuba may be repeated. The question of the court-house is, I know, a vexed question. Built primarily for the administration of justice, they are put in charge of an officer of the Crown, who is bound to look after the Crown property and to issue Crown writs, etc. He seems to me to be the proper custodian, inasmuch as his duty is to make arrangements for the administration of justice. Subject to that the Act, which did not wish to put the councils to the expense of building halls to transact their business in, contained a subsidiary clause by which they were entitled to use the court-house subject to the discretion of the sheriff. The district council had no right to use it.
§ MR. ATKINSON
And the sheriff refused to allow the green flag to float over the court house. The reason why we say the green flag should not be allowed to fly there is because in one district the green flag might fly, while in the next the Orange flag might be used, and in the border counties both might be seen, with most probably a riot on the roof. On behalf of the Government, and with the full conscience that I express the opinion of my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary, I appeal to the House to reject this Bill, on the ground that it is premature, crude, ill-advised, and mischievous.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
said the Attorney General had just given a non possumus, to which Irish Members were 1516 accustomed on the introduction of a private Bill, but they looked forward to the day in the case of this Bill, as had happened with dozens of other private Bills, when the Government of some years hence would gladly accept the proposals of this Bill. This Bill contained two proposals of a somewhat large character, and a number of points of detail, in reference to which one would have thought the Attorney General himself would be glad to see some amendment. The history of English legislation always was that in a measure like the Local Government Act of England or Scotland, Bills correcting defects of detail disclosed in the working of the measures would be always welcome. That, unfortunately, was not their experience in the case of Irish measures. Last year the Attorney General himself told the House that the Government were considering the matter of introducing a measure to modify the Grand Juries Acts, so as to provide for the proper working of the Local Government Act. That pledge was never redeemed. To-day an opportunity had been given him of, at any rate, giving a similar undertaking. Still he had not held out any hope that the Government intended introducing any measure, even to amend the various defects which the experience of eighteen months had disclosed in the working of the Local Government Act. No, Irish Members had to be content because once in the course of ten years, by agitation amounting in the end to a revolution, a large amending Act was passed, such as the Local Government Act, and now they were to wait for another ten or twenty years until sufficient popular force was developed to compel the Government of the day to again take up Irish legislation, and to again determine what reforms were called for in the Irish law. He would mention just one instance of gross injustice under the Local Government Act. Hitherto the roads in small Irish urban centres had been attended to by the grand juries, and the cost of making and repairing those roads came out of the county cess, which was levied equally on all classes of hereditaments. The effect of the passing of the Local Government Act, which had been to transfer the duty of the making and repairing of those roads to small Irish bodies, was to completely change the incidence of taxation, for while before the cost was thrown equally upon all 1517 classes of hereditaments, now those smaller bodies had only power to tax lands at one-fourth of their valuation, with the result that, besides the injustice that had arisen owing to the changed state of the law with regard to taxes on land and buildings, an additional injustice was set up, for in the small towns nearly the whole charge of making and maintaining the roads had been thrown upon buildings alone. Yet the Attorney General said he did not understand what the clause that sought
§ to remedy this very great grievance meant. He treated this Bill as if it were an attack upon the Local Government Board, while it was really an attempt to amend the law relating to local government in Ireland. He regretted that time did not permit him to say more on the present occasion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 126; Noes, 216. (Division List No. 12.)1519
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Fox, Dr. Joseph Francis||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Allison, Robert Andrew||Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Gurdon, Sir Wm. Brampton||O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Hammond, John (Carlow)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hayden, John Patrick||O Malley, William|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-||Parnell, John Howard|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Pease, Joseph A. (Northum.)|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Hedderwick, Thos. Charles H.||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Billson, Alfred||Hogan, James Francis||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Birrell, Augustine||Holland, William Henry||Price, Robert John|
|Blake, Edward||Horniman, Frederick John||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Joicey, Sir James||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Burt, Thomas||Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Reid, Sir Robert Threshie|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Caldwell, James||Jordan, Jeremiah||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Cameron, Sir Chas. (Glasgow)||Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt Hn Sir U||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Kearley, Hudson E.||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson||Kilbride, Denis||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton||Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Steadman, William Charles|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Langley, Batty||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Colville, John||Leng, Sir John||Tennant, Harold John|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lewis, John Herbert||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Crean, Eugene||Lough, Thomas||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Crilly, Daniel||Lyell, Sir Leonard||Tully, Jasper|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn's C)||Wallace, Robert|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Daly, James||M'Cartan, Michael||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Dalziel, James Henry||M'Crae, George||Weir, James Galloway|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Dermott, Patrick||Williams, John Carvell Notts.)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||M'Ewan, William||Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)|
|Dunn, Sir William||M'Ghee, Richard||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Emmott, Alfred||Maddison, Fred.||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Engledew, Charles John||Mandeville, J. Francis||Wilson, Josh. H. (Middlesboro')|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (H'fi'd.)|
|Farrell, James P. (Cavan, W.)||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Woods, Samuel|
|Farrell, Thomas J. (Kerry, S.)||Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Moore, Arthur (Londonderry)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Sir Thomas Esmonde and Captain Donelan.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morgan J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Murnaghan, George|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Baldwin, Alfred||Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A.J. (Manch'r||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.|
|Arnold, Alfred||Banbury, Frederick George||Biddulph, Michael|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Barnes, Frederick Gorell||Bill, Charles|
|Arrol, Sir William||Barry, Rt Hn AH Smith- (Hunts||Blakiston-Houston, John|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Blundell, Colonel Henry|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Bartley, George C. T.||Bowles, Capt. H.F. (Middlesex.)|
|Baird, John George Alex.||Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Beckett, Ernest William||Brassey, Albert|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert W.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Plunkett, Rt. Hn. H. Curzon|
|Butcher, John George||Hardy, Laurence||Pollock, Harry Frederick|
|Carlile, William Walter||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward||Heaton, John Henniker||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Helder, Augustus||Purvis, Robert|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshre||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Pym, C. Guy|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Houston, R. P.||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartle'pl)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Howard, Joseph||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir Matthew W.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Howell, William Tudor||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles R.||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd)||Hozier, Hon. James Henry C.||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Round, James|
|Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Ed. T. D.||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Courtney, Rt. Hon. Leonard H.||Jessel, Captain Herbert M.||Russell, Gen. F.S. (Cheltenham|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Rutherford, John|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Kenyon, James||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Curzon, Viscount||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Keswick, William||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Davies, Sir Hor. D. (Chatham||Knowles, Lees||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Ed. J.|
|Denny, Colonel||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning- (Corn||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||Lea, Sir Thomas (Londonderry)||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Lecky, Rt. Hn. Wm. Edw. H.||Shaw-Stewart, M.H. (Renfrew)|
|Doughty, George||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn- (Swans'a||Sidebottom, William (Derbys.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Doxford, Sir William T.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Lowe, Francis William||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Elliot, Hn. A. Ralph Douglas||Lucas-Shadwell, William||Spencer, Ernest|
|Faber, George Denison||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)|
|Fellowes, Hn. Ailwyn Edward||Macdona, John Cumming||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Maclure, Sir John William||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Finch, George H.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Sutherland, Sir Thomas|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||M'Killop, James||Talbot, Rt Hn J.G. (Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Marks, Henry Hananel||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W. F.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Melville, Beresford V.||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Flower, Ernest||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Tomlinson, Wm. E. Murray|
|Forster, Henry William||Milward, Colonel Victor||Usborne, Thomas|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Monk, Charles James||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Fry, Lewis||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Galloway, W. Johnson||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Garfit, William||Morrell, George Herbert||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Gedge, Sydney||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Mount, William George||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Gibbs, Hn. A.G.H. (C. of Lond.)||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Gibbs, Hn. Vicary (St. Albans)||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fred.||Myers, Wm. Henry||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Parkes, Ebenezer||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E.R. (Bath|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Pease, Herb. Pike (Darlington)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Gretton, John||Penn, John||Wylie, Alexander|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Wyndham, George|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Pierpoint, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Pilkington, R. (Lancs, Newton)|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Pilkington, Sir G. A. (Lancs S. W.|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.1520
§ Second Reading put off for six months.
§ Adjourned at twenty minutes before Six of the Clock.