HL Deb 04 August 1896 vol 43 cc1421-7

(1.) Where a complaint is made to the Local Government Board by any person resident in a sanitary district that the sanitary authority of the district have, in contravention of Section thirteeen of the Labourers' (Ireland) Act, 1883, made any letting under the principal Acts to a person other than an agricultural labourer, or permitted any tenement or part thereof acquired under the said Acts to be held by any person other than an agricultural labourer, as occupier thereof, the Local Government Board may, if they think fit, direct a local inquiry to be held, and a report made to them with respect to the grounds of complaint.

(2.) If it appears upon the report of the inspector that the complaint is well founded, the Local Government Board may direct the sanitary authority to take steps within a time to be named by the Board for determining any letting made or removing from any such tenement or part thereof any person permitted to hold the same in contravention of the said Section thirteen.

(3.) If the Sanitary Authority do not within the time so limited take such steps as may be directed in that behalf, the Local Government Board may make an Order giving any of their inspectors authority to take such steps as aforesaid, and to exercise all the powers and to perform all the duties of the sanitary authority for the purpose of making lettings under the principal Acts.

The noble Lord said a clause to the same effect was in the original Bill brought into the House of Commons by Mr. Gerald Balfour, but was eliminated in Committee on the representations of Mr. Dillon and Mr. J. E. Redmond, on the ground that it affected the evicted tenants. As there were only 27 evicted tenants who had been put into labourers' cottages, he did not think that could be the chief object of the clause. There had been very improper lettings, and it was to guard against these that the clause was introduced. Mr. Gerald Balfour, in withdrawing the clause, suggested that next year a separate Bill might be passed containing it. But it had since been decided that instead of introducing it in a fresh Bill it would be better to reinstate the clause in the Bill now before the House.


said he hoped the Government would see their way to accept the clause. It was only where the law had been contravened that the Local Government Board would hold an inquiry, and when the Inspector reported to that effect an Order would be made on the sanitary authority. He had examined the Act of 1883, and it did not contain any specific power to the Local Government Board to enforce it. There was no justification for the elimination of the clause in the House of Commons.


said he could not see what objection there could be to the insertion of the clause. If, on inquiry, the complaint that persons were living in the labourers' cottages for whom they were not intended was not just, the Local Government Board would dismiss the Inquiry and there would be an end of the matter.


said he had had a large experience of the working of the Labourers' Acts in Ireland. Several improper persons had, to his knowledge, been admitted to labourers' cottages. An evicted tenant occupied one of the cottages. He was not only placed in the cottage but appointed collector of rents, and the result was he pocketed the money he received and let in his securities for the amount. No Act has been more abused than the Labourers Act. He supposed it was the intention of the Legislature to provide means for the erection of labourers' cottages at a reasonable rate of interest, but he doubted whether it was ever intended that the local authority should have the power of fixing rents on such cottages which did not represent half the cost, for which the unfortunate ratepayers had to provide. He employed between 40 and 50 labourers himself, and he had four or five cottages erected on his estate, not one of which, however, was occupied by his labourers. Indeed, in several cases they were occupied by men who were not agricultural labourers at all. He knew of a cottage where, the tenant having failed to pay his rent, the board of guardians had been obliged to turn him out. The result was that nobody would take the cottage, and people amused themselves by smashing every window in it.


said the Government were unable to accept this clause. The Bill was passed through the other House as a non-contentious Measure, this clause having been eliminated by the Chief Secretary, as various boards of guardians objected most strongly to it. It was only by eliminating the clause that the Bill could be passed through as a non-contentious Measure. He would point out that Sub-sections 1 and 2 of the clause already existed in the law as it now stood, that the cases the clause was desired to rectify were extremely few, and that the Chief Secretary in withdrawing the clause left to himself the power to bring in at a future Session a short Bill to put further power in the hands of the Board of Works or other authority to carry out the very views submitted by the noble Lords. ["Hear, hear!"] He would also point out that no remonstrance had been addressed to the Government on behalf of the labourers, who were by no means behindhand in making complaints when they considered that improper lettings had taken place, and into which the Local Government Board made full inquiry. In these circumstances he trusted the noble Lord would not press the clause, the effect of which, if carried, might be to prevent the passage of the Measure.


said that, as far as he understood the matter, if this clause were left out the Government admitted that improper persons could be allowed into these cottages. He should like to have that definitely stated, because it would be something for them to go upon. The noble Marquess stated in his Second Beading Speech that improper persons had already slipped into these cottages.


observed that the question was largely one of convenience and prudence. Everybody who read the clause would find a great deal of good sense in it, and it would be worthwhile considering and applying if there was a chance of passing it into law in the present Session. ["Hear, hear!"] The matter was discussed in the House of Commons, and it was found that this was a clause which would be keenly contested, which would lead to debate and difference of opinion, and if it should now by any accident be inserted it would mean that it would kill the Bill. The Bill was a convenient Bill, which would simplify, shorten and cheapen procedure, and it would be inexpedient and imprudent when the Bill had reached their Lordships' House at this stage, in order to insert a clause which commended itself to many of their Lordships, practically to kill the Bill. The Chief Secretary had not taken up a non possumus attitude with reference to it, and had suggested that on a future occasion, when the opportunity presented itself, the matter might be enabled to take its place on the Statute-book. The effect of pressing it on now was not to improve but practically to kill the Bill, and he would suggest that the noble Lord, having presented the clause, would be acting wisely and prudently if he allowed it to be negatived. ["Hear, hear!"]


presumed that the Government when they introduced the clause in the Bill considered that there was some necessity for it and that the matter was not provided for by existing Acts and should, therefore, be inserted. He would like to point out that even if this Bill fell through (his year there was nothing to prevent boards of guardians acquiring land for labourers' dwellings under the existing Acts. ["Hear, hear!"]

The House divided on the Question, "That the clause be inserted in the Bill."

Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.) Cheylesmore, L.
Clarina, L.
Durtrey, E. Clinton, L.
de Montalt, E. Clonbrock, L.
Mayo, E. [TELLER.] de Vesci, L. (V. de Vesci.)
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)
Inchiquin, L.
Verulam, E. Langford, L.
Templetown, V. Massy, L.
Ardilaun, L. Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)
Boyle, L (E. Cork and Orrery.) Rathmore, L.
Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Castletown, L. [TELLER.] Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Ventry, L
Halsbury, L. (L. Chancellor.) Balfour, L.
Belper, L.
Devonshire, D. (L. President) Churchill, L. [TELLER.]
Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.) Coleridge, L.
Glenesk, L.
Lansdowne, M. James, L.
Dudley, E. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Morley, E.
Waldegrave, E. [TELLER.] Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Oxenbridge, V. Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)
Salisbury, L. Bp.
Ashbourne, L.

Clause agreed to.

VISCOUNT DE VESCI moved the following new clause:— A rural sanitary authority may, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, sell any cottage or cottages with the land attached subject to the following conditions:

  1. (1.) The purchaser shall be liable for the repayment of all charges or proportion of charges attached to such cottage or cottages and the land attached as may be specified in Sections twelve and eighteen of the Labourers' (Ireland) Act of 1883, and subject also to the conditions of letting as specified in Section thirteen of the said Act of 1883.
  2. (2.) Such cottage or cottages and land shall be offered for sale at a reserve price, being not less than the charges or proportion of charges already incurred and paid by the rural sanitary authority.
  3. (3.) Such cottage or cottages and land shall be offered for sale at the said reserve price first to the owner or representative of the owner from whom the land for said cottage or cottages was originally purchased or taken on lease.
  4. (4.) If such owner or representative shall decline to purchase, or shall have neglected to do so within a reasonable time to he specified in the notice to him that such cottage or cottages and the land are for sale, then they shall be offered for sale at the paid reserve price to the actual occupier of the holding from which the land was taken.
  5. (5.) If such occupier shall decline to purchase, or shall have neglected to do so within a reasonable time to be specified in the notice to him that such cottage or cottages and land are for sale, they shall be offered for sale by public auction or tender after specified advertisements in the newspapers circulating in the district, at a price nut less than the said reserve price.


said the Government would agree to the Amendment with the addition of the following words after the word "attached" in the first paragraph, "which have ceased to be required for the accommodation of the labourers within the district."


assented to the insertion of the words mentioned by the Earl of Ranfurly.

Clause, as thus amended, agreed to.

Standing Committee negatived; the Report of Amendments to be received on Monday next; and Standing Order No. XXXIX. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with; and Bill to be printed as amended.—[No. 236.]