§ Mr. SHEEHAN
asked the Chief Secretary whether he is aware that Section 29 of the Labourers Act of 1906, Sub-section 3, in regard to the rents to be fixed for the letting of cottages, has led to friction between the Local Government Board and certain district councils in the South of Ireland, owing to the former body seeking to compel the latter to fix rents on a higher scale than the circumstances of the localities or the means of the labourers warranted; whether he is aware that in the case of Newcastle West District Council the Local Government 1873W Board insisted that the minimum rent for cottages with half-acre allotments should be 1s. per week, and for cottages with acre allotments 1s. 3d.; whether he is aware that the average in Munster for the former lettings is about 9d. per week, and for the latter 1s.; why therefore should the Local Government Board single out Newcastle West District Council for exceptional treatment and threaten them with legal proceedings unless they complied with the section of the Labourers' Act referred to; and can he hold out any hope for the amendment of the law in this respect, so that councils may be free to fix such rents as in their opinion may be in harmony with local needs and requirements?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
It is the duty of each rural district council, under the section quoted, to fix rents in the schedule to their regulations so as to secure a reasonable return, having regard to the circumstances of the locality affected on the expenditure of the council under the Labourers Acts. If the Local Government Board are satisfied that a council has not fulfilled this requirement, they have no option but to return the regulations for amendment, and they have had to do this in several instances in Munster. It is not the fact that the Newcastle West Rural District Council has been exceptionally treated, or that the Board have insisted that the minimum rents should be as stated by the hon. Member. The Board suggested one shilling per week as the minimum rent for cottages with acre plots and a proportionate charge for cottages with smaller plots, and the council ultimately decided to fix one shilling for cottages with half-acre plots. Regulations providing for these rents being charged were duly confirmed on 31st January. The average weekly rents in Munster under the regulations made by the district councils and confirmed by the Board are about one shilling and a penny, and eleven pence respectively. No amendment of the law in the direction indicated in the question is desirable.
§ Mr. FETHERSTONHAUGH
asked whether the attention of the Local Government Board has been drawn to the fact that, although the sites for labourers' cottages in Lisbellow district of Enniskillen union were acquired and paid for many months ago, and contractors for building on them obtained, the sites have not yet in many instances been laid out, and the work is not being proceeded with; 1874W and will the Local Government Board urge on the council the importance of proceeding at once to utilise the sites?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to a question asked on the 20th instant by the hon. Member for South Fermanagh. The Local Government Board understand that the contractor has now promised to assist the engineer in laying out the remaining plots in connection with his contract.