§ Order for the Second Reading read.
§ THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR IRELAND (Mr. T. W. RUSSELL,) Tyrone, S.
said that this Bill sought to amend the Grand Jury (Ireland) Act of 1856. Under that Act Grand Juries were entitled to spend £300 upon piers and harbours, and that was the limit. Of course, at that time the value of money was quite different from what it was now, and this Bill sought to extend that limit and make the maximum allowed to be spent £1,500 instead of £300. This demand had been made by almost every county council on the seaboard of Ireland, and in the past it had often been a very great hardship that many small works could not be undertaken because the county councils had no power to provide more than £300. The Bill would enable the county councils, if they desired, to spend up to £1,500, and besides this the Agricultural Department could co-operate with a, great many county councils to carry out public works which would be of great benefit to the inhabitants living on the sea-coast. He begged to move the Second Reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG (Down, E.)
said that, on the face of it, it was a misnomer to call this measure the Grand July (Ireland) Act (1836) Amendment Bill. To look at the title no one would think it had anything to do with piers and harbours. The Grand Jury Act of 1836 had 186 clauses and referred to a great many other matters besides piers and harbours. It had nineteen schedules attached to it, and under those circumstances he thought they might find a more appropriate name for the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the only people who would be benefited by the Bill were those in North Antrim and the South and West of Ireland. [Cries of "No, no."] Well, he would like to know what other parts of Ireland were going to benefit by the Bill. What about County Down and other 1860 parts of Ireland which had not been mentioned? The sum of £500 looked very well in Clause 1, but what about Clause 2 which appeared to be a contradiction of Clause 1? Clause 2 provided that where the Department proposed to contribute to the expenses of any work undertaken by a county council under the Bill the Department might for the purposes of this Act enter into an agreement with the county council to contribute the sums mentioned in the agreement. He would like to know if under that provision it would be possible for the Department to grant the whole of the money. Clause 67 of the original Act limited the amount of money to be contributed to one-third, and Clause 1 of this Bill provided that the one-third limit which used to be £300 was to be extended to £1,500. This was a legal point, and he regretted that no Law Officer of the Crown was present to answer it. Perhaps the Chief Secretary for Ireland would be able to tell them whether or not Clause 2 was a contradiction of Clause 1. He would like to know what the real meaning of this provision was. There was something behind the Bill, and he would like to ask the Chief Secretary whether the proposals it contained had his consent and whether it was not a fact that Clause 2 was a contradiction of Clause 1.
§ MR. CARLILE (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
asked whether the £1,500, which was a large increase on the amount in the principal Act, was a charge which would recur, and, if so, how often. Had it reference to one set of work in one county?
§ MR. CARLILE
said the right hon. Gentleman indicated that that was the case, and, therefore, the amount involved in one county would only extend to £1,500 at one time.
§ MR. CARLILE
said he understood that the Department could involve the county council in the expense of separate pieces of work by making a contribution of one-third of the amount required. The county council would in that way be involved in two-thirds of the cost.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that was not so. The Department did not involve the county council in any sum of money until it was asked by the county council to contribute.
§ MR. CARLILE
said that that was a satisfactory explanation. A county council might be involved in considerable expenditure, but only on its own motion, and not at the instance of the Department. That was a point about which he wished to be quite clear. He thought the local authority should be trusted with the responsibility of carrying out the work. They would have every inducement to see that it was properly done seeing that they had to meet the major portion of the outlay.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow.—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)