§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ * LORD KENSINGTON
, in moving the Second Reading, said, the Bill was very humble and unpretending, seeking only to remedy a defect in the existing law which he would shortly explain. When the Act of 1890 was passed, the powers conferred by the Labouring Classes Lodging Houses and Dwellings Act (Ireland), 1866, were then consolidated and incorporated in the Act of 1890, and the Act of 1866 repealed; but although the power of adoption was complete in that Act its application was not. It consequently failed, and there were certain districts in Ireland having Town Commissioners which, in consequence of that defect, were left out in the cold, and were unable to take advantage of the Act of 1890. This Bill sought to give no fresh powers of any sort or shape, but simply to place those districts in the same position as they wore in under the Act of 1866, but which they had lost by the repeal of that Act and by the passing of the Act of 1890. As an example, he might state that he received a letter showing the position of one of those districts. Previously to the-passing of the Act of 1890, the Town Commissioners of Mullingar applied to the Irish Board of Works for the loan of £600 for the cost of four houses to be built in that town under the Labouring Classes Dwellings Act. That loan was-actually sanctioned before the passing of the Act of 1890; but in consequence of 613 the letter informing the Town Commissioners of the sanction not having been sent off promptly, the Act of 1870 having passed in the meantime, it was found that the power under which the money was to be lent had been accidentally taken away. That, of course, was a great hardship on the Mullingar Town Commissioners, who, through no fault of their own, found that their scheme was rendered nugatory by the passing of that Act. That letter had been continued by telegram. This Act was merely to remedy defects which had been discovered, and was almost retrogressive, for it sought to place districts under Town Commissioners in the position they were in before the passing of the Act of 1890. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Kensington.)
§ The MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said he did so in order to obtain some discussion upon it, as it had been passed through the House of Commons after 12 o'clock at night almost without discussion. He thought that the measure had been introduced with the sole object of whitewashing the Corporation of Mullingar, who had exceeded their powers.
THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERKY
said, the Bill proposed to place all Town Commissioners on the same footing, and that whenever the places were large or small they were equally to have the power of throwing on the ratepayers whatever charge they pleased for the erection of houses for the artisan class. That was not a, fair proposal. In the first place, it was unfair to the ratepayers: and, secondly, it was hard on the Town Commissioners themselves in subjecting them to pressure from their constituents. He thought that the powers proposed to be given should not be conferred upon the Corporations of towns having under 6,000 inhabitants. He objected to the powers in question being conferred upon Urban Authorities as defined by the Public Health Act, 1878. He would be content if Her Majesty's Government would insert an Amendment carrying 614 out the provisions of that Act. What he objected to was the vague phrase "any Local Authority." He would he guided by their answer as to whether he would divide the House or not.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said, nothing could be clearer, fairer, or more reasonable than the explanation given by the noble Lord in charge of the Hill. Their Lordships quite realised how the Bill came to be presented to the House, and also the grounds on which Her Majesty's Government expected that the substance of the proposal would receive consideration at their hands. This was the first syllable of explanation which had been made on the subject, for the Bill went through the other House without any discussion after 12 o'clock at night. He had some knowledge of the subject, because he was in charge of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, when he considered the whole question. Until he heard his noble Friend's lucid explanation he was at a loss to know what he was at in the Bill: but it was now plain that the intention was to cure an unfortunate disaster which had occurred without any shortcoming on their own part to the Town Commissioners of Mullingar. He was sure their Lordships would say at once that every fair consideration should be given to remedy a state of facts which appeared to press very hardly on Irish Town Commissioners without any blame on their part: but, as the noble Marquess had pointed out, the House should proceed with caution in the matter. Such a hardship as the Bill sought to remedy could not have been contemplated under the Act of 1890, but it certainly was framed rather curiously. It was certainly not what it purported to be, a declaratory measure, for that was the case only where there were differences of opinion, and the state of the law was declared. The Government could not have been advised in this case that this had always been the law. There could not be a shadow of doubt with regard to the application of these particular sections that they had not always applied. He would not oppose the Second Reading: but when the Bill arrived at another stage its 615 phraseology, drift, and intention would have to be stated with greater clearness. He quite concurred as to the danger of leaving in the general expression "any Local Authority in Ireland." That was dangerously general. He was not disposed to question the reasonableness of attempting to amend legislation per in-curiam. The whole purport of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, was that the powers of Urban Sanitary Authorities should be limited, as the noble Marquess had stated, to towns of 6,000 inhabitants, and if the status of an Urban Sanitary Authority was given to other towns they should be specially dealt with. This Bill would per saltum give those powers to any Local Authority of any kind in Ireland the moment after it was passed. He thought it right to make those observations, as it seemed obvious that at another stage of the Bill considerable attention would have to be paid to its framing.
§ * LORD KENSINGTON
wished to make it perfectly clear that the provisions of the Bill would not be limited to Mullingar, the ease he quoted as an example, but that its object was to place all Town Commissioners, whether of towns below or above 6,000 population, on the same footing as they were prior to the Act of 1890.
THE EARL OF RANFITRLY
hoped that the Bill would not be allowed to pass in its present form. Apparently the noble Lord did not understand that in Ireland there were Town Commissioners who wore not the Sanitary Authority, and that the sanitary powers were exorcised by the Hoards of Guardians. He believed the Town Commissioners objected to having those powers handed over to them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HERSCHELL)
I think some of the objections raised by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Ashbourne) are really met by the fact that the "Local Authority" is defined by the Act of 1890, and that this Bill is to be road as one with it, so that it would be controlled by the definition in that Act.
§ * Lord PLAYFAIR
said, that the Boards of Guardians in Ireland did not come under Part III. of the Act of 1890. The chief powers contained in the Bill wore those in the Act of 1866, and these were simply revived without change. 616 The Act of 1890 gave the Town Commissioners and Sanitary Authorities the power of borrowing. The definition of Sanitary Authorities was not the same in Ireland as in England, and, therefore, the Town Commissioners, who wore not always Sanitary Authorities in Ireland, became excluded. That was the reason why the Bill had a technical clause, to bring them within the operation of the Act of 1890. As his noble Friend had said, the Bill was simply to give them the power which they had under the Act of 1866, which was repealed by the Act of 1890.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said, nothing could be clearer than the noble Lord's explanation: but he must reserve the opportunity of referring him to the details of the Act at a later stage.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
§ Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.