HL Deb 27 July 1908 vol 193 cc737-9


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend, the Earl of Liverpool, who is detained, I believe, in camp, I have been asked to move the Second Reading of this Bill, the object of which is to confer upon county councils in Ireland the power to alter the polling districts and the method of compiling lists of voters. It is important that it should, if possible, pass through your Lordships' House before Parliament rises for the summer recess, because the Registration Courts in Ireland begin sitting in September I think I may claim that it is a measure of an entirely non-contentious character, and that it has been supported by all parties in the other House. It has been supported by Mr, Walter Long and others, and by the whole of the Nationalist Party, and I understand it is approved by the Irish Local Government Board. For the purposes of local government in Ireland, counties are divided into electoral divisions, and the lists of voters are made up according to these electoral divisions; but for Parliamentary purposes the counties in Ireland are divided differently, and consequently a great deal of trouble and expense is involved in the printing and publishing of the Parliamentary lists of voters. In England the county councils have power to alter the polling districts, but in Ireland I understand that is not the case. Clause 3 provides that any county council in Ireland may, with the sanction of the Local Government Board for Ireland, arrange to have the register of voters, or any part of the register, prepared alphabetically in town-lands or, as regards urban districts, in streets. The Bill is desired by all political parties in Ireland and by all county officials; and it is urgent because as I have explained, it is hoped it will be applied to proceedings in the Registration Courts in September.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Marchamley.)


was putting the Question, when——


said: I assume the Government intend to tell us something about this Bill, which purports to make important and serious changes in polling arrangements in Ireland. I do not wish to offer any objection to the Bill, but I cannot conceive how it will be possible, even if the Bill becomes law this week, for the county councils to prepare the schemes in accordance with the provisions of the Bill and have them ready by September. If there was all this urgency the Bill ought to have been sent up to your Lordships' House earlier. I have, as I have said, no objection to the Second Reading, but I think we are entitled to an expression of opinion from the representative of the Government Department concerned.


My Lords, I was hoping that, after the clear explanation given by the noble Lord behind me, it would have been unnecessary for me to have said anything with regard to this Bill. The Government are satisfied that this is a useful Bill. As my noble friend behind me said, it was backed in the House of Commons by Mr. Walter Long and other Unionists, and I should have thought that, in those circumstances, it would not have been opposed in your Lordships' House.


I am not opposing it. I merely asked for some explanation.


The Bill, as my noble friend has explained, seeks to bring the electoral divisions for county councils and for Parliamentary——


I do not want to appear to be unduly critical of the Bill. If the noble Lord is in a position to tell me that the Local Government Board of Ireland have examined the Bill and think it workable and prudent, I shall be quite satisfied.


I can assure the noble and learned Lord that the Local Government Board do approve of the Bill. The noble and learned Lord will see that it contains a provision that no scheme shall be of any force or validity unless and until it is confirmed by an Order of the Local Government Board.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.