- (a) capable of being given so as to indicate the voter's preference for the candidates in order; and
- (b) capable of being transferred to the next choice when the vote is not required to give a prior choice the necessary quota of votes, or when, owing to the deficiency in the number of the votes given for a prior choice that choice is eliminated from the list of candidates.
§ The expression "members of a local authority" includes aldermen, councillors, guardians, and town commissioners.
Amendment made: At end of Clause insert the words
the expression 'population' means population according to the last published census for the time being." — [Mr. Samuels.]
|Session and Chapter.||Title or Short Title.||Extent of Repeal.|
|3 & 4 Viet. c. 108||The Municipal Corporations (Ire-land) Act, 1840||Sections sixty-one and sixty-two.|
|17 & 18 Viet. c. 103||The Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act, 1854||Section twenty-three; Section twenty-four, so far as respects the rotation of the Commissioners.|
|61 & 62 Viet. c. 37||The Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898||In Sub-section (3) of Section two the words from "Provided that" to the end of the Sub-section; in Sub-section (4) of Section two the words from "may give" to "that division and"; in paragraph (a) of Subsection (2) of Section twenty-one the words from "Provided that" to the end of the paragraph; in Sub-section (1) of Section twenty-three the words from "Provided that" to the end of the Sub-section; in Subsection (3) of Section twenty-three paragraph (b) down to "division and," the words from "may give" to "division and" in paragraph (c), and in Section twenty-four, paragraphs (c) and (d).|
The proposed Amendments to the Schedule are, I think, outside the scope of the Bill.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
May I inquire why, in the case of my particular Amendment, this Bill is to give proportional representation to the whole country? In the course of that operation it is found necessary to repeal certain Clauses of Acts of Parliament passed in a previous Session. The repeal of these is necessary to make this a working Act. The effect of the ex officio system of members of the county council may be— and really is in some parts—to make the minority into the majority. This nullifies the whole object of proportional representation and dissipates the whole effect of the Bill. In order to withdraw that fatal 1090 defect we desire to move to omit certain Sub-sections from previous Acts. By doing so we make a complete proportional representation scheme. If we are not allowed so to do we are prevented from making the Bill one in which there is real proportional representation. Under these circumstances I submit that we are in order in this matter, and the discovery of the Attorney-General on this point that it is not in order is a very sudden discovery, because the matter was discussed for three hours in Committee upstairs.
The matter has nothing at all to do with the Attorney-General; it is for the Speaker of the House to say whether or not this is an Amendment of the law permissible in the
§ Schedule. As I understand the hon. Gentleman, he regards this as a consequential Amendment to what is contained in Clause 1.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I beg to move, after the word "and" ["that division and"], in paragraph (a), insert the words, "Section 3, Sub-section (1)."
1091 I had intended to move to omit Subsections (2) and (3), but I think my Amendment, as I have moved it, will meet the case. The Amendment refers to Section 3, Sub-section (1) of the Local Government Act of 1898. The Act reads:3— (1) The chairman of every rural district council (established under this Act) within the county shall, by virtue of his office, be an additional member of the county council, but if such chairman is otherwise a member, or is disqualified for election at a member, of the county council, the district council may assign one of their number who is not so disqualified to take during the term of office of that chairman the place of the chairman as additional member of the county council.What is the effect of that? The Attorney-General's point is that it is a great public convenience that the chairman of the district council should be an ex-officio member of the county council. In the Section I have quoted it states that if the chairman is already a member that some other member of the district council may be elected a member in his place. This, I think, is carrying the ex-officio principle to a very considerable extent; because if it is carried out and every district council chairman is a member of the county council directly for his district, the district is certainly fully represented on the county council! I do not want to occupy the time of the House explaining this, for I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the careful consideration you have given to the point I raised, and the proper decision you gave. The position is this: In the county of Tyrone, to which my hon. Friend has already referred, you have had for years a system under which the minority of the population had the majority on the county council. In order not to rouse the feelings of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir E. Carson) I will not say how they used that power, but most people know all the circumstances. What I do complain of is that the minority of the population and the minority of the electors should have the majority on the county councils. How did they get it? The district councils are so divided in that county; as I understand it, so gerrymandered, that in a large majority of the district councils the Unionists hold the chairmanship. The chairman is ex officio a member of the county council, and that is just sufficient to turn the scale in the county council. As a matter of fact by one vote in the county of Tyrone you make certain minorities the majorities. The 1092 majority so constituted co-opts two further members, each of the same political opinion. If you, therefore, allow this to go on you cannot have proportional representation. There is nobody who knows that better than the Attorney-General, or than the Vice-President of the Local Government Board of Ireland, and all the local departmental officials. The retention of this Clause will make a mockery of the whole principle of proportional representation. Therefore, I move my Amendment with the object of simplifying the situation.
§ Mr. HARBISON
I beg to second the Amendment, and in doing so, I use much the same arguments as before. I know a good deal about the district councils of Tyrone, the composition of the register, and how the electorate are divided into districts. I would like to explain to the House how it is that although the Nationalists have some of the majorities in some of these rural district council areas it is quite easy to group the constituencies together so as to prevent the majority of the population having the majority of the representation. Perhaps the House is not very conversant with Irish history. We are suffering from the results of past misdeeds in Ireland. Some two or three hundred years ago the ancestors of the present Nationalist population were driven out of the fertile lands in the valleys. They took refuge in the mountains and the bogs. They crowded together in compounds and their descendants are still there—thousands and thousands of them. It is very easy to group these congested districts into one or two groups; put the great bulk of Nationalists into each district council area, and group the county council so as to sub serve the objects suggested. There is no county or district in the United Kingdom where gerrymandering is so easy. We have had displayed the ability of our Unionist Friends assisted by the friends in Dublin in this gerrymandering. That is why, if the figures I quote are looked up, you will find in one of the rural districts of Omagh there is greater Nationalist strength than in some three of the other districts, and the Unionists are more in one of the districts than in three unions. It shows that the county can be divided so as to dissipate the Nationalist strength and leave a Unionist majority, notwithstanding the majority is the other way. For this reason I second the Amendment 1093 to the effect that this ex officio principle should be abolished; otherwise the principle and object of the Bill will be lost.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
; I cannot accept this Amendment, which really centres round this: Under the Local Government Act of 1898 it is a fundamental principle of the constitution of the county councils that the chairmen of the district councils should also be members of the county councils. That, I think, is the same thing that prevails in England. This is a proposal that for the future county councils are to be deprived of the advantage of the presence of the chairmen of district councils as members of their larger body. These councils, we must recollect, are going to foe elected by proportional representation, just as hither-to they have been elected by direct vote. It certainly would be a great constitutional change, and one, as I said in Committee, which would cause consternation in Ireland if it was found that the chairmen of these district councils, whose principal duty it is on the county council to present actively the needs of the district which they represent and of which they are chairmen, were prevented from being so appointed. If they, I say, were swept away from the county councils, the result would be that the county councils would be deprived of the services of the district council's chairmen merely because the present method may in some way affect this particular district in the county of Tyrone. What may be the effect of proportional representation on the county of Tyrone or upon the county council they elect nobody in the world can tell.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
This is a very violent change indeed. It is proposed, not as a substantive Amendment to the Bill, but brought forward as an Amendment to the Schedule. The Committee upstairs fully discussed the proposal and rejected it. I would ask the House also to reject it.
§ Captain REDMOND
This was supposed to be a Bill for the establishment of Proportional Representation in Ireland. Of course, we know now, from the introduction of this, that its title is only a mockery and a sham. Proportional Representation is supposed to give—I am not vouching for its sponsors—but supposed to give representation to majorities and minorities. Fair representation indeed! What 1094 takes place under this Bill? If it goes forward in its present form it will not only not do away with the existing anomalies which my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone is so anxious to get rid of, but it will perpetuate it for all time. We have heard sufficient of existing anomalies. There is no one in this House, Members from Unionist Ulster included, who will deny that the minority of the population in the county should not have the majority upon the county council. Such is the case to-day, uncontroverted as the statement is, in county Tyrone. How does that situation come about? Simply and solely owing to the existence of ex-officio members on the county councils and the principle of co-option. In the first place, I would like to say that I am opposed to the principle of ex-officio members and co-option on the county council root and branch, because it is, in the first place, undemocratic in the extreme, and, in the second place, if there is anything in Proportional Representation this proposal does away with it for ever. Under this Bill the ex-officio officers and co-opted officers remain, with the result that we know this anomaly of the minority possessing a majority of the county council will be perpetuated. These seven rural district councils in the county Tyrone will continue to have their chairmen as ex-officio members of the county council. Will they be elected upon the principle of Proportional Representation? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes,"] Nothing of the kind. They will not be elected even for the county councils, whether by Proportional Representation or in any other way. They are elected, not to the county councils, but to a district council, and it is only by the fact of being chairman of a district council that they become members of the county council at all.
If we are to have ex-officio members, then the only fair and proper basis upon which you can have them is that the district council should be as equal or as approximate as possible in area and in population. What is the case? You have the chairman of the district council in one part of the county representing only 10,000, and you have a chairman of another district council in another part of the county representing, say, 40,000 people. The Attorney-General comes forward with his splendid military maxim, "As you were," because the Local Government Act said it was proper that there should be ex-officio members, therefore it would be a most unholy thing for 1095 us to disturb that grand sacrosanct system of local government which we are proposing to undermine by the very Bill he is fostering in the House of Commons now. Because it was a fundamental principle in the Local Government Act of 1898, I cannot see why that is any reason that it should be a fundamental principal in a proportional representation Bill of 1918. We are told that this would be an anomaly. On the contrary, the anomaly will be carried on if this system of ex-officio membership and co-option is not swept away altogether. Take the case of county Armagh which is only next door to county Tyrone. County Armagh has a minority of Nationalists, strange as it may appear to some English members, which is larger than the Unionist minority in county Tyrone.
§ Captain REDMOND
I will concede that to the hon. Member. That being so, what are the facts with regard to the county council? In county Armagh the majority very properly of the people have a majority of the representatives on the county council, and they will have under proportional representation ex-officio or no ex-officio. [An HON. MEMBER: "So will you in turn."] In county Tyrone the minority of the population have now a majority on the county council owing to this system of ex-officio members and co-option, and under this Bill they will continue to have a majority when under the principle of the Bill they are only entitled to a minority. Is that right or acting in accordance with the principle which this Bill is supposed to carry out? The Attorney-General has not denied it. and he cannot deny that under this system the minority in county Tyrone may still have and probably will have a majority of the representation upon the county council. If there is any doubt in his mind whatsoever then he is not an honest sponsor of proportional representation if he does not wipe away these ex-officio members of county councils, or if he does not carve out the district council approximate in size and population, and thereby enable proper representation upon the county councils of equal or nearly equal numbers of people in the various districts.
§ Mr. W. COOTE
One would imagine from what hon. Members opposite 1096 had been saying that a special system had been set up for Tyrone different to the rest of the country. We are not dealing with Tyrone now, but with the whole country. I can quite believe that the Nationalists in Ireland will not be grateful to their representatives opposite for this attempt to destroy local administration in Ireland. If I desired to persist in trying to render this Bill unworkable I should support my hon. Friends opposite in the line they are taking up. If you bring what they are suggesting into practice you are going to destroy the whole work of local administration in each county in Ireland. Some of my hon. Friends opposite may not understand, and I cannot understand, how the hon. Member for North-East Tyrone can suggest that you cannot have effective administration in county and district council work in Ireland if you eliminate the district chairmen from the county council. I want the House to understand that the county council strike the whole of the local rate. The district council has nothing to do with it, but they have the control of the expenditure, or at any rate, a setting on foot the machinery for the expenditure, which has to be confirmed by the county council, and so the chairman of each rural district council receives and carries out the presentment in their district for the construction and maintenance of roads. The chairman must be before a county council to see that his district is properly represented, and if there is any trouble between the officials of the county and the county inspector, and his officials and contractors and the ratepayers concerned, the only one that can explain the situation is the chairman of the district council.
When provision was made in the original Act it was the necessary provision that the chairman of the district council should be ex officio a member of the county council. It has been suggested that the average county councillor can represent the needs of the district council, but he knows nothing about them, and he may not even be a member of the district council. It is the chairman of the district council who is responsible for seeing that the interests of his district are properly brought before the county council. I could hardly conceive that any practical Member of this House, merely for political purposes, could launch out on a line of argument which would destroy the effective working of county administration in Ireland. There is nothing in the idea that the chairmen 1097 of the district councils in Tyrone may be Unionist. If they are Unionist to-day proportional representation will make such a tremendous change, that being predominantly Nationalist, if their party sticks to it they will become Nationalist, and the chairmen they send will be of the same colour in politics. It works out automatically, and there is nothing in the argument, but it is a most pernicious suggestion that you should eliminate the right of the chairmen of the district councils to sit on the county council.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I have not spoken before in this discussion, but I should like to point out that the effect of introducing ex-officio members into a body elected under proportional representation will be to vitiate the true proportion of the elements that are in that council. It is quite certain that some of the rural district councils are smaller than others, but the small ones will be able to send their chairmen just as much as the large ones, and that is the first vitiation of proportional representation. The result may very well be to change a majority representing the majority of the electors into a minority in the greater body. If all the district councils were of equal size you would still have a very great risk of vitiating proportional representation, because the different interests are not spread equally over the whole of a county. You have one party concentrated in a given district, and perhaps the other party divided more or less equally over all the county. The result is that the one party concentrated in a given district only gets one out of five co-opted members, although it may be a majority in the county as a whole. The result of introducing ex-officio members into the county council of Tyrone—and I went into the figures the other day—may very likely be that you will have a majority of elected members of one party, and then by the introduction of ex-officio members from the districts you may convert that majority into a minority. You may give a majority to the other people who only represent a minority of the votes.
I am not going to say anything about the administrative side of the question. I only wished to speak on the particular aspect of it to which I have given some attention. I do feel the greatest regret that the Attorney-General, in bringing in a Bill which is so well designed otherwise to give fair and equitable representation to all 1098 classes of opinion in Ireland on their local governing bodies, should adhere to a proposal, the effect of which must be in many cases to vitiate that equality of representation, and to give minorities a predominant voice which they do not rightfully enjoy—I care not to what party they belong.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member who has been good enough to come in at this late hour to address us. I know he is a great authority on proportional representation. I have often thought he is the only man in this House who understood the question, and one of the reasons why I opposed this Bill on the Second Reading was that I do not know anybody from Ireland who does understand it.
§ Sir E. CARSON
It is quite plain, accepting the hon. Member's own statement, that this Bill is utterly worthless, and I put it to my right hon. Friend whether even now, at the eleventh or twelvth hour, he will not withdraw it. The hon. Member says, that so far from it doing what is righteous and just it will perpetuate something most unrighteous and unjust. Is that the object of my right hon. Friend in going on with this Bill? The truth of the matter is the further we go, and the more we get to know of this Bill, the clearer it becomes that you cannot tamper with local government in this piecemeal sort of way, trying your schemes on one part of the United Kingdom alone. The whole reason of having the chairman of the district council as a member of the county council, as I always understood it. was to create a link between the two. I cannot see how the county council can possibly carry out its business satisfactorily unless you have that link.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Not satisfactorily. At any rate I accept from the hon. Member his point of view that proportional representation cannot be had under this Bill.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman really misrepresents me. I did not say you could not have it. I said there was a danger of the proportionality being vitiated.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Is that not the same thing? But I will take the hon. Member on his own footing. You can only have vitiated proportional representation.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I did not say that. I said it involves danger. Three times out of four it might not vitiate the proportionality, but in the fourth it might be so.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Well, this Bill to his mind vitiates proportional representation, and yet the hon. Member is supporting it in the interests of proportional representation—in order, I suppose, that it may break down. Every argument used in the course of this Debate shows that this Bill is no good. Nobody wants it. Who is the author of it I have yet to discover. If we are to have a reconsideration of local government in Ireland, we ought to have it as a whole. We should take it as far as possible as a whole for the United Kingdom, but to try in this way to carry out the experiment on the vile body of Ireland is a thing to which I greatly object.
I am not altogether surprised at my right hon. Friend who last spoke, being mystified by the misleading speeches made in support of this Amendment. The hon. Member for Walthamstow spoke of the introduction of the co-optive and ex-officio Members in Irish local government. But that is not an old principle. There is no new co-optive or ex-officio element introduced by this Bill. It only professes to apply proportional representation in the place of the block vote. But it is not efficient proportional representation if you have this element brought in. I am certain that when the original Irish local government system was first formed, there was no question of the electoral system being vitiated by these other elements. It would be extremely inconvenient to sweep away these forms of representation in Irish local government. In the case of ex-officio members it is only a form of second election. These members have been chosen for the smaller local bodies, and they will have been chosen by proportional representation, and if you are going arbitrarily to vary that by suddenly striking out the number who now sit on the local bodies I am quite certain, from the small experience I have had on British local bodies, you would have very great difficulty in finding sufficient suit- 1100 able men to man your committees and to carry on your business. It may not be democratic in the strictest definition of the term to have co-opted members at all, but it is most convenient. You sometimes find in local elections that on these very small bodies you have only a majority of one or two, and, unless you can give a bigger momentum to that party which by the accident of election has only got a small majority you waste an enormous amount of time from week to week reversing the decisions arrived at at previous meetings. Therefore, whether you have the block vote or proportional representation, I am certain that in the interest of efficient and expeditious government you must have ex-officio and co-opted members in addition to direct representatives.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
It really seems to me we have here a further splendid manifestation how English Members will confuse Irish questions. We have had two speeches delivered, one from each side of the House, by representatives of British constituencies upon a matter which is purely Irish. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson), who has been most constant in his attendance during this Debate, is, we all know, extraordinarily receptive of the information, and yet he is as ignorant as ever he was in regard to proportional representation. Although I am not so receptive as the right hon. Gentleman, I am in precisely the same position, and the reason that proportional representation is not understandable is that our educators, or our masters, are British. If I could get an Irishman with an Irish intellect and an Irishman's power of expression, to give me the principles and show me the value of proportional representation, I would become almost as learned as he himself in this matter. But I object to English Members bringing us here against our will to discuss Irish problems. I hope they will be good enough not to confuse our minds with this muddy English intellectualism of which we have had manifestations this afternoon.
I rose to speak in favour of the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I believe that co-option or ex-officio representation is absolutely hostile to the spirit of proportional representation. You cannot have proportional representation if you have an electorate determined to give precisely that representation to which each element is entitled, and then, after having got the 1101 judgment of the electors on the spirit of proportionalism, you proceed to bring outsiders in, to place them on these public bodies, and to give them just as much say on the ultimate determination of municipal and local questions as the elected representatives. Another point is that I think the most contemptible person on any public body is the ex-officio member. He represents the man who is incapable of being elected by the voice of the people. He is only put on the board by the intrigue of a political party. He is a perfectly irresponsible person. I am not referring to any particular party, but I know very often a partisan is put up as a political candidate, and when he is defeated one of the first things his party proceeds to do—if it is victorious—is to make him an ex-officio member, either in order to satiate his vanity or to secure his partisanship to assist in their deliberations. We are making a new departure, but it is not at our request. We did not ask for this Bill. The foster-father of this Bill was the illuminating hon. Member who addressed the House a moment ago. We did not ask for it. People who, like myself, are in favour of proportional representation were satisfied with it because under it the minority gets that adequate representation to which its numbers and character entitle it. But that will not be the effect of this Bill. This measure will simply vitiate the principle of proportional representation. So far as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn is concerned, I will conclude as he concluded, when he said that this is the sole contribution of this mighty Coalition Government to the solution of the Irish problem. They have sat here for four months, while Ireland has been writhing in the agony of a great national conflict of suffering and persecution. The solitary presentment they bring to the reservoir of wisdom which is to bring happiness to the people is this Bill for which no one in this House has a good word to say. Every speech delivered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman convinces me more and more there is only one course for Irishmen to adopt, and that is to get out of this House as soon as possible and apply ourselves to the business of our own country in our own land.
§ Mr. MOLES
The hon. Member who last spoke concluded his speech as he frequently does, with a reductio ad absurdum. But I did not rise for the purpose of deal- 1102 ing with his remarks. I intruded in this Debate in order to reply to a speech made by an hon. Member opposite earlier in the Debate, a speech which in my opinion was based on a complete misapprehension. The hon. Member assumed that there were various kinds of areas in the county of Tyrone, in several of which it is possible that the minority might somehow defeat the majority, despite proportional representation. I notice that the hon. Member demurs to that. May I in passing join my hon. Friend in the expression of the view that really it would be desirable if hon. Members who propose to enlighten the House on Irish questions—some of whom have never been in Ireland—would consult somebody who does know the facts? There is not a single division in the entire rural and town areas in the county of Tyrone in which the Nationalists are not in a majority. And yet the hon. Member says there is a danger in such circumstances of the principle of proportional representation being vitiated. To return to the other side, the attempt to get rid of a number of very useful public servants amounts to an attempt to disfranchise the direct representation of rural councils. I have had as much experience of their working in twenty-five years as most hon. Members, and I have frequently seen a rural council in direct conflict with a county council upon a matter vital to the rural council, and the sole spokesman on the rural council has been its chairman or elected representative. In the event of misunderstanding or conflict of that kind, the suggestion is that the rural council should be entirely disfranchised, though it is the body best informed as to the point at issue. Local knowledge is vital to the whole question, and the county council, if misinformed, with the best intentions in the world, may do the wrong thing. They frequently look to the chairman of the rural council to keep them right respecting the facts, and thus prevent public injustice. I frequently find that hon. Members argue sometimes that black is black, and when it suits their purpose better, that black is white. We have had an illustration to-day. The hon. Member (Mr. Harbison) began by arguing that you ought to have set up equal areas and have equal populations, or as nearly so as possible, and he proceeded to ask the House to endorse a proposal which would confer upon 3,000 electors precisely the same right to send a representative to the 1103 county council as 30,000 neighbouring constituents. I call that arguing that black is white.
§ Mr. MOLES
I am not a very good authority on black and white in any sense of the word. Either proportional representation does what is claimed for it by those who have supported the Bill, but joined in the denunciation of it, or it does not. If it does what they say it does, it means that in the case of every one of these rural councils the majority will be Nationalist, and it will elect a Nationalist chairman, and the whole of the case to the contrary is so much humbug.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. SAMUELS
I beg to move,That the Bill be re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House in respect of Clause 8.
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]