§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
asked the Chief Secretary whether he is aware that cases have occurred in Ireland, at elections of county and district councils under the Local Government Acts, in which the returning officers, while holding prominent positions in local political organisations, have acted in elections in which near relatives have been candidates; and whether, seeing that the returning officers, as custodians of all the blocks of ballot papers used by the voters, are in a position to identify the persons who voted for particular candidates, the Local Government Board in Ireland will take steps to ensure that returning officers at these elections in Ireland will be entirely free from political or personal bias, so that public confidence in the secrecy of the ballot may be maintained?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Occasionally complaints have been made by defeated candidates at local government elections attributing their defeat to the action of the election officers, but as the Local Government Board have no power to investigate or question the conduct of the elections they are unable to vouch for the accuracy of the statements made by the complainants. The returning officers are appointed by the county councils, and their actions can only be questioned by election petition.