§ Where by the operation of this Act the secretary of any county council, or any other local officer in Ireland, who has hitherto discharged the duties of preparing the Parliamentary and Local Government Register will, in the opinion of the Local Government Board for Ireland, suffer undue loss of income that Board may, if they think fit, direct the payment from the funds of the local authority concerned of such sum by way of conpensation for temporary loss of emoluments as they may deem fair and equitable, having regard to all the circumstances of each case. The decision of the Local Government Board in any such case shall be binding on the local authority concerned and shall be final and conclusive for all purposes.
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
I beg to move, "That the Clause be now read a second time," and I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I make a short explanation of it. It is proposed because of the difference in the method of remunerating those who prepared the registration lists in this country and those who prepare them in Ireland. In this country the remuneration is a fixed quantity, but in Ireland the salaries paid to officials of local governing bodies who prepare these lists are regulated in a double manner. Their salaries for ordinary purposes in connection with the local governing bodies are fixed by the local authorities, whereas for preparing the registration lists they are paid by fees under statutory rules that 94 are made under the Parliamentary Registration Expenses (Ireland) Act, 1890. When fixing the salaries for ordinary purposes the local authorities take into account the amount of the fees received for preparing the registration lists, and it is obvious, if there were any suspension of remuneration on account of the preparation of those lists, it would become an intolerable position for these men.
I will give a case in point. The salary of the secretary to the West Meath County Council for ordinary purposes is £90 per year, whereas his fees under the Registration Act, paid by the same body supervised by the Local Government Board, are £320. If that £320 were denied to that official this year he would have to live on the small sum of £90 per year, and that, I submit, would be an intolerable position. This is one case: the list might be extended to any length. The Amendment which I propose will empower the Local Government Board for Ireland to direct payment from the funds of the local authority concerned of such sums, by way of compensation for the temporary loss of emoluments, as they may deem fair and equitable, having regard to the circumstances of the case. This power is already recognised in an Act which was passed in July last. In connection with that there was the postponement of the Parliamentary and local government register, and Sub-section (2) of Section 3 provides that if any question arises as to any such payment with regard to any contract made—and there is a contract made between the local governing authorities and their servants—that question shall be referred to the Local Government Board. Therefore the payment I propose will be under the supervision of the Local Government Board. No one will lose by the acceptance of this Amendment. The authority which pays the fees under the supervision of the Local Government Board will be the authority that this Amendment will enable to pay for this temporary suspension. The few words I have uttered will, I think, show the necessity for this new Clause, and I believe there will be no opposition to it on the part of those who are responsible for this Bill.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
I wish to point out that the Clause will affect other officials besides secretaries of county councils. It will affect secretaries of district councils, clerks of urban councils, and secretaries of town commissioners. These gentlemen draw a considerable salary for work in 95 connection with registration, and I want to be perfectly certain that this Clause will cover their case, and that no official connected with registration will find his position worsened by this Bill. Everybody in Ireland agrees with this proposal, which puts no real charge on the ratepayers or Treasury, and I trust, therefore, the House will agree to it.
§ Mr. J. O'CONNOR
The hon. Baronet cannot have read the Clause or he would have known that it is intended to apply not only to secretaries of county councils, but to "any other local officers in Ireland" dealing with Parliamentary matters.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
The Irish Government have had a full opportunity of considering the substance of this proposed new Clause, and I have been in personal communication with persons affected. I am quite satisfied that unless some Clause of this sort is inserted very material injustice may be done to these officials. As my hon. and learned Friend has pointed out, their salaries are not inclusive, as in England, and. county councils, although they make these payments, do for some reasons allot a small portion of the salary for the ordinary work of the secretary of the county council, and allow considerably larger fees than would otherwise be granted for what they do in looking after the franchise. If these officials during the operation of this Bill get no fees for registration work they will be on starvation salaries. Their case has excited a good deal of interest, and I am quite satisfied that this new Clause will fairly meet it. I therefore, on behalf of the Government, accept the Clause.
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered to-morrow (Tuesday) and to be printed. [Bill 173.]