Orders of the Day — Local Goveknment (Ireland) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 27th May 1919.
(3) The number of members to be elected for each local electoral area shall be such as may be assigned thereto by Order of the Local Government Board, and in constituting the local electoral areas and assigning members thereto the Board shall, as far as practicable, secure—
Provided that if the council of any borough within the prescribed time submit to the Local Government Hoard a scheme for the division of the borough into borough electoral areas, and the assignment of members thereto, the Board shall adopt the scheme except where and so far as they see good reason to the contrary.
I beg to move, to leave out the words
Provided that if the council of any borough within the prescribed time submit to the Local Government Board a scheme for the division of the borough into borough electoral areas, and the assignment of members thereto, the Board shall adopt the scheme except where and so far as they see good reason to the contrary.
My objection to this proviso is, in the first place, that it was not in the Bill as originally drafted by the Government, but was subsequently inserted under political pressure from some of the Ulster Unionists, and inserted wilfully, as a political job. It amounts to this, that, although this is a Bill to establish Proportional Representa-
tion in the election of local authorities in Ireland, the Bill will, if this proviso be agreed to, practically be set at naught, or certainly to this extent—that the authority which this Bill says stands in need of reformation is to be asked to carry out its own reformation. That seems a most inconsistent attitude for the Attorney-General to adopt. I know of no reason why the Corporation of Belfast or Derry should be trusted to map out its own electoral area. I object to these two corporations being entrusted with the carving out of the electoral area. They have proved themselves great adepts of gerrymandering in years past; they have succeeded in excluding the minority of those two cities from their fair share of representation. The Attorney-General's proposal is that they should be empowered to carry out further gerrymandering operations. I object to this process, because it was not in the Bill originally and because it is introduced in the interests of political jobbery. I beg to move that the proviso be omitted.
I cannot accept this Amendment. The matter was very fully discussed in Committee, and the Amendment which I undertook to bring in was, I think, arrived at as a compromise by the Committee. The hon. Member's account of its genesis is rather imaginative. The real reason is this. In all previous Local Government Acts the Local Government Board never interfered with the arrangements of wards in the boroughs. Representations were made to us from different quarters and, among others, from Cork City, protesting against anything being done to interfere with their ancient chartered right to deal with their own borough wards as they thought proper. Accordingly it was thought right to still leave to the boroughs the right to map out their own wards, and lest there might be anything to excite jealousy, it was suggested that the Local Government Board should adopt the scheme except they saw good reason to the contrary. That gives the Local Government Board an ultimate control. The Amendment would certainly excite opposition in the City of Belfast, which seems to be the storm centre in the imagination of the hon. Member. It would cause a good deal of trouble, and I am afraid we should get into greater difficulties than we are in at present.
I am glad that this Amendment has given the hon. Gentleman opposite an opportunity of firing off a few more squibs against the Corporation of Belfast. I do not think he would be able to contain himself if he had not a weekly opportunity of letting himself go on that important Imperial topic. But I put it to him, is it really worth while bothering about? As far as I understand the matter, the provision was put in partly at the request of the Cork Corporation, and it was put in in such a way that the last part of the Section nullifies the first part, or, at all events, gives the Local Government Board the opportunity of nullifying it. I really regard the whole of this Bill with the greatest contempt. It is the most wretched, miserable Bill, and nobody wants it. That is the reason probably why we get it, but why we should trouble now to prolong this discussion for this production I do not really know. If the Local Government Board are pressed to act they probably will. If they are not pressed to act I suppose it is because the particular borough will put no further pressure on them. So, either way, I imagine the council of the borough would get very much what they want. The hon. Member instanced two corporations. I say let the poor Protestants alone for a few hours and direct your attention to Cork; direct your policy a little on Cork. Forget for a moment dealing with the North of Ireland.
There is no one in this House who sits and listens with such delight to the right hon. Gentleman than I do when he is in his present mood. He has denounced this Bill as a contemptible and hopeless manifestation of Government incapacity, and he says, and he is quite right, that we only get it because it is contemptible. I agree. I think the present Government is incapable of anything that is not contemptible.
That is because the right hon. Gentleman, although very fair and outspoken when he has anything to discuss, is more moderate in his language than I am. But I am really saying what the right hon. Gentleman thinks, that the only sort of a Bill that this Government would introduce into this Parliament and the only Bill that they would carry into operation is a Bill that is contemptible. I think that that is a magnificent statement of the Irish case. We have now been meeting in this House for the past four months. We have, I think, had several measures introduced touching many branches of life and administration, and the only Bill that has materialised this Session is this contemptible little thing that we are now discussing. There is the whole Irish question in a nutshell. I do not want to attack the Protestants of Belfast any more than I want to defend the rich capitalists of Cork. That is a matter that does not concern me; I do not care whether it is the Protestants of Belfast or the Catholics of Cork. What does concern me is that a Proportional Representation Bill has been introduced in order to reform the electoral system and the method of voting in the country, and if you proceed by inserting this Clause you allow the culprits to determine what sentence will be passed on the person in the dock. That is precisely what it means. You allow the local corporation so to arrange these wards and so to gerrymander the districts as practically to defeat the object that this Bill has in view. [An HON. MEMEBER: "Self-determination!"] Are you in favour of self-determination? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] Very well, we are getting very near it now. If my hon. Friend accepts that principle for Ireland, I will accept it for the purposes of the other districts. But it will be seen that if the schemes that have been drafted by Belfast, or Derry, or Cork, or any other local authority, are not satisfactory, then the Local Government Board still has the right to interfere. That is where the rub comes in. You in Belfast can draft any scheme you like, and the Local Government Board will sanction it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because you are masters of the situation; you boss the Government. [Cries of "No!"] Yes, you do; you are their masters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why do we not get them to withdraw this Bill, then?"] Because it is a contemptible and dirty Bill. Hon. Members must have this Bill, if they should die in the attempt; they must show how paternally and kindly and profoundly interested they are in the affairs of Ireland; they must have something to show for their existence when the Session comes to an end. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, as representing Belfast, have drafted a very well concocted and gerrymandered scheme to suit their own ends. I am not blaming them for that. They will send it up to the Local Government Board, and, of course. the Local Government Board will sanction it. If the Local Government Board say, "Oh, we will not sanction it," then the hon. Gentlemen will say, "Here we are, twenty-five of us; we threaten the Government. We will give them trouble, and we will start another rebellion." Then you would have two conflicting revolutionary forces in Ireland. [An HON. MEMBERS: "Three!"] Who are the others? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yours!"] Not at all; we are Constitutionalists; we are the only Constitutionalists in this House. The greatest rebels in Europe are on that Bench, when they are there, but they are not there now. The Government would say to the Local Government Board, "For Heaven's sake, give them their scheme. Let them gerrymander as they choose. Let them draft the wards as they like, and do not have a national crisis or another hour of Imperial emergency and difficulty for a matter of this sort." Then you will get your scheme. But let Dublin, or Cork, or Waterford draft a scheme, and let the Local Government Board then come forward and sanction or refuse to sanction the scheme.
There is another reason for opposition to this Amendment. When the Franchise Act was passed the Local Government Board, in the determination of the various electoral areas, came down to Belfast and the cities and held inquiries and took evidence. Upon that evidence the Local Government Board inspectors formed their judgment, But there is not any of that in this case. The Belfast or the Dublin Corporation may draft its scheme, send it to the Local Government Board, and nobody may know anything about it; and so the scheme may pass through. I say that if this was a good thing it should have been put into the Bill at the beginning.
Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS:
I think the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment very much exaggerated the importance of this proviso. It is quite true that when originally the Attorney-General brought it forward in Committee in the interests of what he considered would be harmony and concord, some of us objected to it because it gave too wide powers to the local authorities, who might not be experienced in Proportional Representation, to set up suitable areas. The Attorney-General consented, after a very long wrangle in the Committee, to limit the powers of the local authorities to electoral areas returning not less than six members in the case of urban constituencies, and as the Clause now stands it is merely a harmless little sop to the vanity of local authorities. At the same time, the speeches which we have heard from the opposite side of the House are very interesting evidence of their appreciation of the respective merits of government by this House and by Irish local authorities, and it is very remarkable that they should exhibit this great confidence in the Irish Local Government Board in preference to giving these powers to the great Irish boroughs. I hope they will continue to exercise this trust in the Imperial Parliament, and that in any future Amendment they will show the same spirit.
I cannot claim any knowledge on the subject of the gerrymandering referred to, but I am surprised to find an hon. Member opposite calling upon the Local Government Board, "that organised tyranny," as he used to call it, to decide this question rather than the local authorities themselves. He is a great advocate of self-determination in this House. Why should ho not allow the local authorities to determine their own wards rather than some official down from Dublin, who would not know one ward or district from another. I think it is much more suitable that these wards should he allocated by the boroughs themselves. A great many of these, boroughs have very old charters. They have been fixing their wards, I suppose, from the time that local government came into operation. I think it would be a great mistake to take that power away from them, because my hon. Friend opposite is afraid that there will be what is called gerrymandering. If there was a prospect of gerrymandering in Belfast—a thing we do not know anything about—for every chance we would have there, my hon. Friend would have at least ten chances elsewhere. Therefore I strongly oppose the Amendment.
Before we depart from this Amendment I would like to correct an impression that may have been created in the minds of a few of the non-Irish Members who are in the House. We on these Benches never demanded that the Local Government Board in Ireland should have the final sanction and power which this paragraph as it stands seems to confer upon them. Neither did we object to the local authorities having the power to determine for themselves the various wards that should return members under this scheme. What we said was this: We said that if this Bill is to go through, let it go through automatically; let there be no interference from local bodies on the one side or the Local Government Board on the other. I think that was a very fair, equitable and reasonable attitude to adopt. The reason why we support this Amendment now is the same as the reason which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn advanced when he declared this paragraph to be practically valueless, because the final line of the paragraph practically cancels the opening portion of it, and certainly cancels it as far as those boroughs outside the north of Ireland are concerned. I do not really know what is meant by "except and so far as they see good to the contrary." What exactly is the meaning of that phrase? What is meant by the Local Government Board seeing "good reason to the contrary"? Would the Attorney-General kindly give an example to the House? Is it because the Local Government Board does not favour a certain political party in a certain portion of Ireland that therefore they should come along and say, "We will not allow the wards to be portioned out in this way," or can he give any explanation whatsoever of this extraordinarily loose and wide terminology? I am not now saying that the Local Government Board will go one way or the other. I am almost inclined from past experience to adhere to and endorse the statement of my colleague that the Local Government Board will go in one direction. But whether that may be so or not, why should we leave it in the hands of the Local Government Board to have such a wide and open discretion as that paragraph will give them? I presume it is intended to divide on this question. Before we divide, I would ask the Attorney-General if he would kindly explain to the House what he moans and what the Government mean by the phrase I have quoted?
I should like, as an Englishman, to ask the Attorney-General to stick by this particular Section of the Bill. I do not think it is very clear, or particularly good sense as far as the wording goes. Indeed, the whole Bill, as far as I can see, is rather a mild form of mental lunacy which the Attorney-General is throwing at the Irish people. I do not know what they have done, but I suppose he knows something about it. I should like to ask him to stick to this Clause as it stands, simply because it does make them do something for themselves, and I think that in that particular way we may be able to shift a little of the onus of the badness of the Bill on to their shoulders.
|Division No. 36.]||AYES.||[4.32 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Univ.)||Knights, Capt. H.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Ainsworth, Capt. C.||Craig, Captain Charles C. (Antrim)||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Craik, Right Hon. Sir Henry||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Curzon, Commander Viscount||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)|
|Armitage, Robert||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Ashley, Col. Wilfred W.||Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)|
|Austin, Sir H.||Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington)||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Donald, T.||Locker-Lampson G. (Wood Green)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Duncannon, Viscount||Lorden, John William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Du Pre, Colonel W. B.||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Lowe, Sir F. W.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Eyres-Monsell, Com.||Lyle, C. E. Leonard (Stratford)|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Falcon, Captain M.||Lynn, R. J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lyon, L.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Farquharson, Major A. C.||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)|
|Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||M'Donald, D. H. (Bothwell, Lanark)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||FitzRoy, Capt. Hon. Edward A.||M'Guffin, Samuel|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich)||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescus||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Bennett, T. J.||Foreman, H.||Macleod, John Mackintosh|
|Bentinck, Lt.-Col. Lord H. Cavendish-||Forestier-Walker, L.||Macmaster, Donald|
|Betterton, H. B.||Foxcroft, Capt. Charles Talbot||McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Bigland, Alfred||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Galbraith, Samuel||McNeill, Ronald (Canterbury)|
|Bird, Alfred||Gange, E. S.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Blades, Sir George R.||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Gardiner, J. (Perth)||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. D. F.||Gardner, E. (Berks., Windsor)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Malone, Major P. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Boscawen. Sir Arthur Griffith||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Marriott, John Arthur R.|
|Bowles, Col. H. F.||Glyn, Major R.||Mason, Robert|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. W. E.||Gould, J. C.||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Grant, James Augustos||Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||Gray, Major E.||Moles, Thomas|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Greene, Lt.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Morrison, K. (Salisbury)|
|Briggs, Harold||Greig, Col. James William||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C|
|Brittain, Sir Harry E.||Gretton, Col. John||Mount, William Arthur|
|Britton, G. B.||Griggs, Sir Peter||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (Leic, Loughbore')||Murchison, C. K.|
|Brown, Captain D. C, (Hexham)||Guinness, Capt, Hon. R. (Southend)||Murray, Hon. G. (St. Rollox)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W.E. (B. St. E.)||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Hacking, Captain D. H.||Neal, Arthur|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Nelson, R F. W. R.|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Hanson, Sir Charles||Newman, Major J. (Finchley, Mddx.)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)||Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Henderson, Major V. L.||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Campion, Col. W. R.||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Nicholl, Com. Sir Edward|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Hilder, Lieutenant-Colonel F.||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)|
|Casey, T. W.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G.||Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hood, Joseph||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hope, John Deans (Berwick)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Palmer, Major G. M. (Jarrow)|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Horne, Edgar (Guildford)||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westbury)|
|Child, Brig.-Gen. Sir Hill||Hudson, R. M.||Parker, James|
|Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Parry, Major Thomas Henry|
|Clough, R.||Hume-Williams, Sir Wm. Ellis||Pearce, Sir William|
|Clyde, James Avon||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Hurd, P. A.||Perring, William George|
|Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Inskip, T. W. H.||Philipps, Sir O. C. (Chester)|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Jameson, Major J. G.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Collins, Col. Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Jephcott, A. R.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles|
|Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Joynson-Hicks, William||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Assheton|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, S.)||Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Kidd, James||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Cory, J. H. (Cardiff)||King, Com. Douglas||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Purchase, H. G.||Smith, Capt. A, (Nelson and colne)||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Raeburn, Sir William||Sprot, Cot. Sir Alexander||Wedgwood, Col. Josiah C.|
|Randles, Sir John Scurrab||Stanley, Colonel Hon. G. F. (Prated)||Weigall, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Raper, A. Baldwin||Stanton, Charles Butt||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Steel, Major S. Strang||Whitla, Sir William|
|Raw, Lt.-Col. Dr. N.||Stephenson, Col. H. K.||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Reid, D. D.||Stevens, Marshall||Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)|
|Remnant, Col. Sir J. Farquharson||Stewart, Gershom||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Randall, Athelstan||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Sturrock, J. Leng-||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Rodger, A. K.||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.||Wilton, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.||Sutherland, Sir William||Wilson, col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Rowlands, James||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Knutsford)||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Samuel, A. M. (Farnham, Surrey)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Samuels, Rt. Hon. A. W. (Dublin Univ.)||Terrell, G. (Chippenham, Wilts.)||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||Woods, Sir Robert|
|Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)||Tryon, Major George Clement||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Stager, Sir William||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Younger, Sir George|
|Seely, Maj.-Gen. Right Hon. John||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.— Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Pratt.|
|Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E.||Wardle, George J.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Arnold, Sydney||Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Shaw, Tom (Preston)|
|Bell, James (Ormskirk)||Grundy, T. W.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Harbison, T. J. S.||Sitch, C. H.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, V.||Smith, W. (Wellingborough)|
|Briant, F.||Hirst, G. H.||Spoor, B. G.|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Swan, J. E. C,|
|Cairns, John||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Taylor, J. W. (Chester-le-Street)|
|Capt, Tom||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander||Thorns, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Lunn, William||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||M'Lean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Newbould, A. E.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||O'Grady, James||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Dawes, J. A||Onions, Alfred||Wignall, James|
|Donnelly, P.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Redmond, Captain William A.||Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Richardson, R. (Houghton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Devlin and Mr. MacVeagh.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Rose, Frank H.|
Question put, and agreed to.
I beg to move, in Subsection. (3), after the word "Board'' ["the Board shall adopt the- scheme"], to insert the words
on being satisfied that the scheme has been published by the local authority in the prescribed manner.
This Amendment was suggested by my hon. Friends upstairs.
I do not think this Amendment, which has been moved by the Attorney-General, exactly meets the point, nor does it exactly fulfil the promise which he gave to us in Committee. He promised that the advertisement in the local newspaper should be done in such a way as to secure that the cost would be borne by the Local Government Board. I should prefer the Amendment to be made in the form I have put down, which would place the responsibility for the advertising upon the Local Government Board, and leave them to pay the cost. Moreover, I do not see any wording in the Amendment of the Attorney-General with reference to the local inquiry. I think that if, in consequence of representations made by any local authority, any particular combination of wards is effected, it is extremely reasonable that any political party which desires to make representations against that scheme should have an opportunity of doing so, and I think it would not be reasonable to require them to travel to Dublin to do so, but that facilities ought to be given for the holding of the inquiry on the spot, as has always been done in the case of redistribution arrangements under previous schemes. I am very much afraid that the scheme put forward by the Attorney-General now will lead to hole-and-corner inquiries and to things being done behind backs which ought to be above-board. It is entirely in the interests of publicity that I have put down the Amendment which stands in my name, and, therefore, I am not satisfied with that of the Attorney-General. I know that the Government in office to-day is not very fond of publicity. It has never shown any overweening anxiety to take the public into its confidence. But I think that in this particular case the Attorney-General might strain a point and give as much publicity as possible to any schemes put forward, and that he might be generous enough to let the Local Government Board pay the cost, instead of adroitly putting it on to the shoulders of the local authority.
As I understand this Amendment it means that the Local Government Board must be satisfied that there has been publication of the scheme, and thereupon they adopt the scheme except where they think there is good. reason to the contrary. Where they do see good reason to the contrary have they any local inquiry, or is that merely a matter for the Local Government Board?
These words as to advertising follow the usual practice, and such advertisements are always paid for by the local authorities. Any person who wishes to make representations can do so, and then the Local Government Board consider the matter and give a decision. It has not been the habit to send down inspectors and have local public inquiries and have all the paraphernalia of a trial. That has never been done under the Local Government Acts in dealing with such schemes.
In the early stages of this Bill in Committee I moved an Amendment to some part of Clause 1, the object of which was to provide for local inquiries in all the different local government areas before the Local Government Board started on constituencies. And there was also a provision in that Amendment for an appeal to the Lord Lieutenant-in-Council. We considered that that was a reasonable Amendment. What happened? When that suggestion was put forward my right hon. Friend poured scorn upon it and was seconded in the most emphatic and able manner by the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) who, with his accustomed eloquence, said that never before had a scheme of such an absurd nature been presented. I did not agree with him. But now on another matter, when it suits hon. Gentlemen opposite to have a local inquiry, they come forward and ask the House to support a principle which in the earlier stages they most emphatically objected to.
I want to know when the scheme is published what opportunity will be given for objections to the scheme being lodged, and will the award of the Local Government Board also be published?
When this publication is made, will the good reason to the contrary be given or will it not?
Does the right hon. Gentleman adhere to the proposal that the cost of the advertising must be borne by the local authorities?
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he is imposing a charge upon the local authority which is being coerced to adopt this scheme.
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), to leave out the word "shall" ['"the Board shall"], and to insert instead thereof the word "may."
I think it was the Attorney-General who told us in Committee that "may" always means "shall." I do not know whether that is so or not, but I would rather in this case leave out "shall" and leave some exercise of discretion to the Local Government Board.
I beg to second the Amendment. I do so on the ground that "may" and "shall" are not the same.
If this Amendment were adopted the provision would read
"the Board may adopt the scheme except where and so far as they see good reason to the contrary.