§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (Earl CADOGAN)
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was a Bill for authorizing the expenditure of local rates in Ireland in promoting or opposing Bills in Parliament, and in defraying the cost of the necessary legal proceedings incidental thereto. Their Lordships were, perhaps, aware that, unlike the circumstances under which municipalities in England existed, municipalities in Ireland had no power to expend rates, or money derived from rates, either in the promotion or the proposition of Bills in Parliament. The matter was brought before Her Majesty's Government recently in an application that was made by a deputation of the Lord Mayor and Municipality of Dublin to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the loan of £500,000, three-fourths of which was to be applied to the reduction of their debt, and one- 1631 fourth in the promotion of public works in Dublin. The Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out that he was unable to lend public money for this purpose, and suggested that the Corporation should promote a Bill to attain their object. It was found, however, that it was beyond the power of the Corporation to do so, and that there were no means whereby they could apply the rates for such purposes. Subsequently, upon a consultation between Her Majesty's Government and the representatives of the municipal authorities in Ireland, it was decided that the better plan would be, in order to assimilate the Irish with the English practice in this matter, to apply to Ireland the provisions of the English Borough Funds Act, 1872. This would be carried out by the Bill which he now asked their Lordships to read a second time. Whilst the provisions of this Bill were in the main similar to those of the English Act of 1872, there were two exceptions which, perhaps, he ought to mention. In the first place under the English Act no expenditure of the rates for such purposes could be incurred unless it was approved by a resolution of the owners and ratepayers of the district, whereas under this present Bill they proposed that the vote of approving or disapproving of this expenditure of the local rates should be taken by the resolution of a general meeting of all persons qualified to take part in the election of members of the governing body of the district; and, secondly, there was another point of difference between this Bill and the English Act in this respect, that whereas in the English Act the proposed expenditure was forbidden unless it had the approval of the Local Government Board or the Secretary of State, in the Bill, the second reading of which he now moved, it was proposed that the expenditure should not be incurred if disapproved of by the Local Government Board of Ireland or the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. These were the points upon which the two measures differed. This Bill would carry out an object to which he believed the consent of the two former Governments had been given. At all events, he had been so informed. It was brought into the other House of Parliament by the Secretary to the Treasury, and also by the Chancellor of 1632 the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and it passed through the other House with perfect unanimity, and he hoped it would also meet with their Lordships' approval.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Privy Seal.)
§ LORD FITZGERALD
said, he did not wish to interfere with the second reading of this Bill. He thought it ought to be read a second time, because its principle was good, and it would be a useful piece of legislation. The noble Earl was a little in error in stating the disabilities of corporate bodies in Ireland. Corporations in Ireland had certain powers for the construction of works and for sanitary purposes. The object of the present Bill was to enable them to promote or oppose Bills, or to prosecute or defend certain legal proceedings and defray the expenses out of the rates. No doubt English Corporations had that power; and, as the English Corporations were trusted with it, he would not oppose extending the same privilege to corporate bodies in Ireland. Yet they must be very cautious in this matter. They must see that the Bill proposed by the noble Earl was essentially the same as the Act of 1872, and furthermore, that there were those safeguards provided which were essentially necessary to prevent abuse. The safeguard under the English Act of 1872 was that, in the first instance, the proper officer on his responsibility should approve of the step proposed to be taken, while the provisions of this Bill did not place on the Local Government Board or the Chief Secretary the responsibility of examining into the thing and approving of it. The provision was that the proposed expenditure should not be incurred if, after the lapse of a stated time, they had not expressed disapproval of it. He also thought that there should be some safeguard provided against the temptations to litigation which such a measure as this might hold out to small and irresponsible communities, as many of the Irish townships undoubtedly were.
THE EARL OF MEATH
said, he was afraid that if the Bill passed as it stood at present they would have a great deal of litigation in the case of small boroughs, and he did hope that the re- 1633 commendations of the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down would be very seriously considered by Her Majesty's Government. If it were possible, he would like to see the operation of this Bill limited to townships of not less than 10,000 inhabitants. With that limitation he thought they might safely pass this Bill, and he very earnestly hoped that Her Majesty's Government would take into consideration the possible risk of promoting litigation with the view of preventing small boroughs from being ruined.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next; and Standing Order No. XXXV. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with.