§ Mr. SHEEHAN
asked the Chief Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the clause in the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, which compelled occupiers of premises of £4 valuation and under, who were previously exempted from all local taxation, to pay the poor rate; whether he is aware of the effect of this clause upon the poorest class of the working and cottier population and to the addition caused by it to the burdens of the general ratepayers, inasmuch as it has been found in practice an impossibility to collect these rates, with the result that there has been an accumulation of arrears each year which public bodies must provide and estimate for; whether he will consider the desirability, in the public interest, of providing that owners of holdings and houses who were formerly assessed for local rates should have their liability in this respect restored; and is it the intention of the Government to introduce or support legislation with this object?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. Member refers to Section 52 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. Some difficulty has been experienced, especially in urban districts, in collecting the Poor Bate from small occupiers, but it is not correct to state that it has been found an impossibility to do so. The collection of the Poor Kate throughout Ireland has shown a steady improvement since the passing of the Act. I understand that the Local Government Act of 1898 was founded upon the principle that the occupier should be 1234 rated, and the Agricultural Grant was given upon this understanding. In the circumstances I am not prepared to recommend any Amendment of the Act in the direction indicated by the hon. Member.