§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Denis Henry)
I beg to moveThat the Bill be now read a second time.This Bill seeks to amend the Dogs Regulation Act of 1865. That Act imposed, in the case of Ireland, a tax on dogs of 2s. The proceeds of the tax are not paid into the Imperial Exchequer as in England, but are ear-marked to provide salaries for Petty Sessions clerks, whose duties correspond to the duties of justices' clerks in England. The first charge upon the amount recovered under the tax is to provide those salaries, and the balance is paid to the local authorities in ease of the rates. These Petty Sessions clerks have very small salaries in most cases, and, owing to the pressure of the War, it will be necessary to raise their salaries to enable them to live. When I tell the House that some of them receive salaries as low as £20 or £25 a year, it will be realised—
§ Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present,
We propose to take powers to increase the tax, by Regulations to be made by the Lord Lieutenant, to a sum not exceeding 6s. We do not anticipate that it will be necessary to impose as much as 6s. but we propose to take powers. As he tax in England is 7s. 6d., I do not think the sum I have mentioned will be regarded as unreasonable.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH:
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether justices' clerks in England are paid from the proceeds of the Dog Tax?
§ Mr. HENRY
They are not paid from the Dog Tax. If this Bill is passed, the local authorities will not suffer, because the additional money will be raised by the tax, and there will be the same amount applicable for rates as now. In some counties it amounts to £1,200 or £l,300. The Council of Agriculture, which is a representative body, has passed a resolution calling for legislation of this kind, and a number of county councils, boards of guardians, and other people, have passed similar resolutions. It is important, moreover, that the tax should be raised with a view of keeping down the number of dogs, for they do very great damage. There are 525,000 of them, and a very considerable margin can be spared. I therefore ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
May I ask why this Will was not originated in Committee? It is a proposal to increase the dog licence. If you increase the duty it is a charge on the public. There may be some explanation, but I do not understand what it is.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I had proposed to raise that point as a point of Order, and to urge that the Bill ought to have been preceded or accompanied by a Money Resolution, as it involves a charge on the taxpayer. I congratulate the Government on having at last found a subject on which it has made up its mind, if it is only a proposal that the salaries of the clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland should be raised by an increased tax upon dogs. I do not think I ever heard, in support of a Bill, such a lame argument as that put forward by the Attorney-General. He says he wants to have the Petty Sessions clerk in Ireland put on the same footing as clerks to the justices in England, but in answer to a question ho admits that he is going to do nothing of the kind. Clerks in England are paid out of public funds. If you want to increase the salary of a justice's clerk in England you do not increase the tax on a dog, but you take the money out of public funds. I am at a loss to know why we should fall back on a dog tax for such a purpose. I am surprised at the Attorney-General introducing such a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has some 1895 common sense; he is rather unique in that respect on the bench he sits upon. When he gets the Bill in the Committee upstairs I can promise that he will find many Amendments proposed. I have heard no reason advanced for increasing these salaries. I do not know much about the subject, but, as far as I know, these clerks are fairly paid all over the country. There has been no great demand for the increase of their salaries; no one has threatened to start a civil war if the salaries are not increased. I really think this matter might be left over until there is a more urgent demand or a more necessary case. I do not suppose there is much use in dividing the House on a proposal of this kind, but we shall have sufficient opportunity of dividing the Committee. I would suggest to the Attorney-General to drop the Bill, which in any event is likely to fail on the point of Order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that matters. The same thing applies to all licences. There are licences for motors and licences for servants and other licences, the proceeds of which do not go to the Exchequer but to local funds.
§ Question put, and agreed to.