§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether, in rearranging polling districts for the purpose of the new Parliamentary franchise, the Government intend seeing that the local government district electoral division is the unit for Parliamentary purposes, to propose any reform in the direction of redistributing district electoral divisions in rural districts and reducing the present over plus of rural councillors arid guardians; whether he is aware of the smallness of the electorate in most district electoral divisions; that, according to the Return of the 15th February, 1901, in the Thurles rural district there are only five electors in one electoral division, six in another, seven in another, eight in another, nine in another, while in three electoral divisions there are only ten electors each; that each of these divisions returns two district councillors, the council consisting of forty-five councillors returned by 425 electors; that in other parts of Ireland there are dozens of district electoral divisions where the electorate ranges from thirteen to forty; that throughout the whole country the number of district councillors and guardians is out of proportion to the number of electors and much in excess of the numbers required for efficient administration, and that the expense of polling voters in small areas costs the ratepayers nearly 5s. a head; whether it has been brought to his notice that there is also inequality of representation, so that in some rural districts, such as Cork, ore electoral division has 1,203 electors, while another with only seventy-two electors returns the same number of councillors (two); and whether the Local Government Board favours a reduction of the number of rural councillors and guardians, or does it consider that rural district councils and boards, for the most part consisting of 1570W from eighty-five to fifty district councillors, with a still larger number of guardians, are now constituted on the most efficient basis for local administration?
§ Mr. DUKE
The rearrangement and alteration of polling districts in a Parliamentary constituency is dealt with by Sections 30 and 43 (9) of the Representation of the People Bill as amended. From a return to an Order of the House of Commons of the 15th January, 1901, it would appear that the facts are as stated in the second part of the question. In many district electoral divisions in Ireland the number of electors is very small, but I have no information as to the expense to the ratepayers of polling votes in small areas. The return referred to shows that there is considerable inequality in the number of electors in the several electoral divisions. For instance, in Cork rural district the Blackrock electoral division contains 1,203 electors, the Glenville electoral division only 72. In some rural districts the number of councillors is very large. In Mullingar rural district I am told it is over 100. But in view of the fact that a large number of voters will be added to the existing lists under the Franchise Bill, I am advised that it is not certain that any change is desirable the present time.