§ (1) Where the right honourable the lord mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of Dublin (in this Act referred to as "the corporation") require to purchase land under the Public Health (Ireland) Acts, 1878 to 1907, for the purpose of widening, opening, enlarging or otherwise improving streets, in the city of Dublin in connection with the reconstruction of areas, streets, houses or buildings destroyed or damaged in the course of the recent disturbances, they may be authorised to purchase the land compulsorily by means of an Order submitted to the Local Government Board and confirmed in accordance with the Schedule to this Act.
§ (2) The powers of the corporation under the Public Health (Ireland) Acts. 1878 to 1907, for the purchase of land by agreement for the purpose aforesaid shall extend to and authorise the purchase by the corporation by agreement of any land which they may think it desirable to purchase in order to provide substituted sites or facilities for any persons whose lands may be required by the corporation for the purpose aforesaid and for any persons whose lands may be required for the purpose of providing any substituted sites or facilities.
§ (3) The procedure under this Section for the compulsory purchase of land shall be substituted for the procedure for the compulsory purchase of land under Section two hundred and three of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878.1245
§ Mr. CLANCY
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2), and to insert instead thereof the following new Sub-sections:
"(2) Any such Order may for the purpose of enabling the corporation to widen an existing street authorise the corporation to compulsorily acquire any lands (hereinafter called the acquired lands') more remote from such street than the premises actually fronting upon the street, and such Order may provide that when the acquisition of the acquired lands is completed the respective interests in the lands (hereinafter called the intervening lands') situate between the street and the acquired lands shall cease to attach to the same and shall instead attach to the lands (including the necessary portions of the acquired lands) exactly corresponding in area, lay out, and situation with relation to the new frontage of the widened street and any street intersecting or intersected by the same. Such last-mentioned lands are hereinafter called the substituted lands.
(3) As from the coming into operation of the said Order with reference to the respective interests in the intervening lands every grant, conveyance, and assurance relating to any portion of the intervening lands and every interest, legal and equitable, in the same shall affect the corresponding portion of the substituted lands as if such portion were the land originally dealt with in such grant, conveyance, or assurance, or affected by such interest. The Order shall be registered in the proper office for the registration of deeds or titles, as the case requires, in such manner as may be prescribed."
This Amendment, as the Chief Secretary knows, is regarded as of the greatest importance by the Dublin Corporation. The first Clause gives powers for the compulsory acquisition of land for certain purposes under the Public Health Acts, including the widening of streets. There is one place in Dublin of which I am aware the Chief Secretary has made a personal inspection; therefore, what I am going to say upon that subject will be subject to his correction, and I am sure he will know whether I am telling the truth or not. A street called North Earl Street is most particularly to be borne in mind. It is a narrow street which used to be congested, and it is now proposed to widen it. It was thought and hoped, and indeed expected by some, that it might be possible to take 1246 powers for the acquisition of land by agreement, and that idea is expressed in the Sub-section which I proposed to omit. I am sorry to say the conclusion has been arrived at that it will be impossible to carry out this improvement unless compulsory powers are given. The idea expressed in this Amendment may present the appearance to some of being somewhat novel, but I think a few words of explanation will make it clear. At present there is power under the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, to put back the front of a house, and take the land on which the house stands for the purpose of widening the street, and to do so compulsorily on the condition that the land taken is paid for. In putting back the front of a house an injustice may be done and no real improvement affected if there is not a further power taken, and what is contemplated here is the purchase of lands behind the houses in North Earl Street, and the putting back of the buildings from the front of that street and Sackville Street. They propose to acquire these pieces of land and at the same time to shift the burdens which lie upon the lands which are being substituted—to put upon the substituted lands the charges which affect the lands which have been shifted. I do not know whether I have made myself plain to everybody, but I am inclined to think that the Chief Secretary knows exactly what I mean. We have discussed it many times, and I think he is satisfied that it can now be carried out by the Sub-section which I move. I would like to say, in addition, that no possible injustice can be done to any woman or man. The procedure which it is proposed to adopt is that taken and adopted in the case of land being acquired under Part III. of the Housing of the Working Classes Act, and the most elaborate precautions and series of precautions are being taken that no injustice whatever should be done to anyone. Let me just mention one or two. The corporation would first have to prepare an Order, setting out the scheme, and explaining it by maps and by a book of reference. This would be lodged with the Local Government Board. Copies of the contents of the Order made by the corporation would then be published by the corporation, by advertising and by putting up posters in the locality affected, and delivering it by post to each of the owners, lessees, occupiers and other persons interested in the land. There would be a month given for service of objections to 1247 the scheme, and if none were received the Local Government Board would then confirm the Order. If, on the other hand, any objection were received, a local inquiry would be held, at which all the persons interested could be represented. If, after the inquiry, the Board decided to confirm the Order, it would publish notice of the confirmation, giving a month for objections against the Order. If objections, signed by six persons interested, were lodged, the Order would be provisional only, and must be confirmed by Parliament before it could take effect. Well, after all these precautions are taken, I cannot imagine that any objection can be made to the Amendment on the score of any impossible injustice being likely to accrue to any owner having any interest in the land. I do not think it is necessary to say any more, and I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Mr. BYRNE
As this Clause affects a number of streets in my own Division, I think I should say a word or two. If this is carried it will be the means of accomplishing one of the most necessary improvements in the City of Dublin to-day. As I have been informed that the right hon. Gentleman has visited the place himself, no doubt he really knows what will meet the City of Dublin in regard to the matter.
§ Mr. DUKE
This is, perhaps, a Clause of an unprecedented kind, but there are proposals in the Bill dealing with circumstances which are also unprecedented, and which we hope will never recur. The proposal practically is to set back certain blocks of frontage premises by acquiring land at the back of them, in order to admit that the second back on the whole block of premises. The result, in a practical sense, is that a considerable public improvement will be effected in Dublin at a minimum of expense. I doubt very much whether in the present state of circumstances the improvement which is here desired could be effected if the Corporation were to buy out the frontages in order to create a new set of frontages. But, by this expedient of setting back the whole block of frontages, and by acquiring the back land, with 1248 the approval of the Local Government Board, the public improvement may be secured, and secured at a very moderate price. Therefore I am ready to accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move in Sub-section (2) to leave out the words "and no advance shall be made unless such compensation has been granted."
The object of this Clause is this: It prevents the corporation from making any advance to any individual or persons who have been implicated in the rebellion. That may work partially, in some cases at all events. Sir William Goulding's Committee intimated that an award was being made. This, I understand, was sent to the Irish Office, and the Irish Office made an ex gratia Grant without holding any inquiry whatever into the action of the parties to whom they were making it. According to Sir William Goulding's Committee, anyone having complicity in the rebellion is not entitled to a Grant. I quite admit that that is reasonable, but during the recent rebellion many innocent people have suffered, and many Civil servants have been deprived of positions unjustly, and it is very unfair to ask us, at this hour of the day, to trust absolutely to proceedings held in camera, where people had no opportunity of stating their case. Under these circumstances, I move that these words be omitted, and that the corporation have power to exercise their own judgment. Their judgment ought not to be overborne through the action of private proceedings at Dublin Castle, in which, at the present time, no Irishman has anything like absolute confidence.
§ Mr. DUKE
If the hon. Member will refer back to the earlier words of the Subsection, I think he will see that the proposal that he has made here will be totally ineffective. The basis of the advance under this Sub-section is the difference between the amount that the Local Government Board certify to be the total cost of rebuilding and the amount of compensation granted out of public money. As the possibility of a Grant depends on the existence of these two factors, it seems to me of very little value to omit the words. That objection arises from the form of the Bill. As to the other objection to which 1249 the hon. Member referred, that no payment out of the ex-gratia Grant will be made to any man who was an accomplice in the rebellion, and so was one of the causes of the destruction of the premises; the existence of that rule with regard to the ex-gratia Grants is a very good reason for not providing by Act of Parliament for advances which are to be made upon public credit to persons who are in that difficulty. But I tell hon. Members this, that if a question arises where it becomes material to consider whether a person, who is charged with complicity in the rebellion, has or has not been an accomplice in the rebellion, I will endeavour to find some means by which that question shall be determined, not upon the ipse dixit of any officer of the Government, but by some more conclusive process, which will be satisfactory to the person involved. But, having regard to the fact that the Clause is one entire Clause, and that it is founded upon the existence of the two facts to which I have referred, I cannot see that any practical purpose is served by the discussion of this Amendment on one little fragment.
The right hon. Gentleman has made a most valuable suggestion, and I think my hon. Friend will do well to withdraw his Amendment and accept the suggestion. Undoubtedly there is a sense of bitterness at the present time in many minds at the action of the Government and at the suspicion which is being acted upon simply upon the ipsi dixit of a policeman which blasts the career, character and substance of the person against whom it is aimed. There is not the smallest doubt that a number of Civil servants have been dismissed from the Post Office, the Land Commission and the Customs, who are as innocent of rebellion as the right hon. Gentleman himself, and, to my mind, it is incredible how any Government can, stand up for the abominable injustices which exist in these cases. The object of my hon. Friend is in some way to avoid these things. It is perfectly true that persons who are the architects of their own misfortune ought not to benefit by any State grant; but, on the other hand, it is a terrible thing that upon the word of a policeman ruin may be brought upon persons absolutely innocent. There are men to-day in penal servitude on the jerk of a policeman's thumb, who had no more to do with the rebellion than I had, but the policemen ordered them to go into a given compound, the men had to go, and, as a 1250 matter of course, got ten years' penal servitude, while another individual favoured by the same policeman and sent to another compound, got nothing. In the same way suspicions have been generated against persons because they have happened to be Nationalists. I believe the conclusion to which the right hon. Gentleman has come will give profound satisfaction to innocent people, and certainly will not benefit anybody who is not properly and rightly entitled under this measure. In these circumstances, and accepting the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman that he will provide some means which I hope may be of a public sort, for the prevention of injustices of this kind, I would urge my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment.
I was quite pleased to hear the statement made by the Chief Secretary, and I hope it will be followed up by inquiry into the circumstances which have led to so much bitterness. As the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) has stated, there are many men in various Government offices who have been dismissed their positions, some because of questions asked in this House. These men were in their offices attending to their business at the time of the trouble, yet this opportunity and this means was taken to replace them by others. The object of the Amendment is to ensure that innocent men shall not be deprived of their opportunity of getting some loan from the corporation under this measure. As has been pointed out, there is no possibility of any loan being granted under the Bill unless an ex gratia Grant has already been agreed to. I am sure the House will be pleased, and Members from Ireland particularly will be pleased, to hear the statement of the Chief Secretary to-night, and we hope he will take an opportunity of personally investigating the cases of persons who have genuine grievances because of a miscarriage of justice which has been the result of an organised conspiracy.
I shall be glad to withdraw my proposal on the undertaking given by the Chief Secretary that he himself will accept responsibility for inquiring into these cases.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. CLANCY
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3), to add the words "Provided also, that the whole or any portion of any balance of any such advance outstanding at any time may be 1251 repaid by the borrower on giving six months' notice in writing to the corporation."
This is an important Amendment, and I believe the Chief Secretary is inclined to accept it. Clause 3 enables the corporation to make advances to people whose houses have been destroyed. This Subsection gives power to the borrowers to redeem. It is intimately connected with a similar provision in the shape of an Amendment to Clause 6 standing in my name. I will give a concrete example of what I mean. Suppose a man borrows £10,000 from the corporation and that after a year or two or three years he finds he can borrow the balance outstanding at a cheaper rate of interest from some other source, this Amendment would enable him to redeem the outstanding balance and seek for the money elsewhere at a cheaper rate of interest. I do not think there could be any objection to that. But I am bound to say that, if that stood by itself, and that if it were not accompanied by the subsequent Amendment placing the corporation, which is borrowing from the Government, in a similar position, the interests of the corporation and therefore of the ratepayers would be gravely affected. It would surely be unjust if a single borrower from the corporation were enabled to redeem his outstanding balance and have the money at the cheaper rate of interest and, at the same time, the corporation were bound to pay to the Government, for the whole period of the repayment of the loan, the old rate of interest, which might then become extortionate. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take these two Amendments together. I need not say anything further, because this does not prejudice any particular interest. It does not prejudice the Treasury, and it would certainly benefit the borrowers from the corporation. If the Amendment were accepted in the interests of the corporation everybody would be benefited and nobody would be injured.
§ Mr. DUKE
The scope of the Amendment is so great that it would be possible, if it were adopted, that the corporation should be troubled with keeping perpetual accounts with respect to these advances for the purpose of facilitating the payment of them upon the instalment plan, and, in like manner, the Public Works Loans 1252 Commissioners, from whom the corporation has borrowed, would have to keep account of them. I do not think that that is the intention of the Amendment, but it would certainly be an inconvenient thing. I am willing to go to this length. I am ready to accept the Amendment omitting the words "the whole or any portion of" and leave the borrower who is in a position when times have mended to pay off the balance of his advance upon six months and to make one transaction of it. In the same way with the corporation, if the state of affairs has changed and money is capable of being borrowed on the market on cheaper terms the loan can be repaid. Subject to that variation, I am ready to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Further Amendment made.: At the end of the Sub-section, add the words "Provided also that any balance of any such advance outstanding at any time may be repaid by the borrower on giving six months' notice in writing to the corporation."—[Mr. Clancy.]