§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Shortt)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This Bill seeks to extend the borrowing powers possessed by the district and county borough councils in Ireland. The borough councils and the district councils are empowered to borrow for electricity, gas, water, and other concerns of that description, and their powers are very carefully safeguarded and are subject to inquiry by the Local Government Board. It was found at one time that the powers which they possess under Section 238 of the Irish Public Health Act enabled them to borrow not merely for the construction of permanent works, but also for working capital. Of course, as the House knows, if you construct your electricity works and you have to get the money necessary to construct permanent works, there will be six or nine months at least before there is any return, and in the meantime you have to provide working capital to carry on the concerns until the returns come in. It was thought at one time in Ireland that Section 238 included power to borrow not only for permanent works but also for the necessary working capital, but that was tested in the Law Courts last year, and it was held that Section 238, while it gave power to these councils to borrow for permanent works, gave them no power to borrow for working capital. The councils have been put into a very considerable difficulty, and they hare been able to borrow from the banks by overdrawing without paying any interest. The banks, of course, will not do that for ever, and therefore these powers are sought for the purpose of enabling these councils, who have constructed their electricity, or water, or gas works, to borrow, in addition to what is necessary for the construction of the permanent works, what is necessary to carry on the works during the period until the returns come in. It is not without precedent, because two councils at least in Ireland were advised directly as to what the state of the law was, and in 1909 the Lisburn Urban District Council obtained special statutory powers by a special Act to enable them to borrow the necessary working capital, and the Lurgan Urban District Council in 1915 obtained statutory powers to do 575 the same thing, and all that this Bill seeks to do is to put each of these councils in the same position as those two are in, namely, to enable them to borrow money, with the consent of the Local Government Board, and after proper inquiry, to construct works and to keep the works going, and to pay their working expenses until the returns come in. I understand that there is no opposition to this Bill. I do not anticipate that there will be, and therefore I ask the House to allow me, as it is very important and very urgent, to get this Bill through all its stages tonight. Indeed, it is so urgent that one or two councils in Ireland, and certainly one very important council, may be in very extreme difficulties unless they are able to exercise the powers which this Bill seeks to give them. Therefore, I ask the House to let me have this Bill to-night in all its stages.
§ Mr. BRADY
I hope the expectations of the right hon. Gentleman will be realised, and that there will be no opposition to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has stated the purpose of this measure, and I think there can be no controversy as to its urgency. He was good enough to refer to one very important council. It is in a very serious position, and that is the Corporation of Dublin, and I have here a letter from the solicitor to that corporation, who says it would be a very 576 disastrous thing indeed if this Bill were not passed before the House rises. The right hon. Gentleman indicated the leniency with which some of the Irish banks have dealt with this matter, and I am sure the House will enable him to get the remaining stages of the Bill to-night.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time.
§ Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[Mr. James Hope.]
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 13th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Ten minutes after Eleven o'clock.