HL Deb 19 May 1920 vol 40 cc424-5

LORD ARMAGHDALE rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the refusal of Irish local authorities to levy rates to meet awards of compensation for malicious injuries, the amount of such awards will be deducted from the sums payable from the Imperial Exchequer in relief of local taxation.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have put down this Question because it has been openly stated that the Government have no legal power to make the deductions to which reference is made. I think it would be advisable to have the question settled at once, and, if the Government find that they have not the power, they should obtain it without further delay. The point has arisen owing to the refusal of some local authorities in Ireland to levy rates to meet the awards which have been made by County Courts. The matter is one of great importance and urgency owing to the large number of claims pending as the result of the wave of mad criminality now passing over the Southern parts of Ireland. The failure of the Government to protect life and property imposes upon them, I submit, the responsibility of seeing that the victims shall receive such compensation as the law awards.

If the local authorities try to nullify the decision of the County Courts by refusing to find the money to pay the awards, it is only just that the grants in aid of local taxation payable to those authorities should be withheld. I believe it is a fact that there is a precedent; that the Government have, indeed, adopted this procedure in order to compel the Dublin Corporation to meet their share of the cost of the Police. I submit that it is obviously a simple and effective remedy against a defaulting local authority, and I trust that we shall be informed that it will be put into operation against those authorities who refuse to fulfil their obligations in the matter to which I have referred.


My Lords, the compensation for criminal injuries which may have been recovered by a private individual against a local authority cannot be deducted from the sums payable to the local authority out of the Local Taxation (Ireland) Account under the existing law. This right of deduction only arises in cases where the local authority is indebted to the Crown or a Government Department. An equally effective remedy exists, however, for the recovery of such compensation awarded to a private individual in respect of personal injuries or murder, and directions have been given by the. Irish Law Officers for its enforcement by serving a demand on the treasurer of the local authority, who is thereupon bound under Statute to pay the amount out of the first moneys coming into his hand. Should these proceedings prove ineffective, the question of legislation on the lines suggested by my noble friend will receive the most careful consideration.


The noble Lord has stated that the Government are prepared to consider the question in cases of personal assault or murder; but what about the destruction of private property, which is the point in my question?


I discussed this question with the authorities of the Irish Government yesterday. I do not know whether it is a verbal disparity between the Question and my answer, or whether my noble friend's precise point was overlooked; but my impression is that the compensation awarded to private individuals is in respect of any injuries done to them or to their property.