The English of that seems to require amendment. Line 14 reads:—"Every Council, Commissioners, and other local body." That ought to be "Body of Commissioners." That ought to read, "Every Council, Body of Commissioners or other local body."
PROVISIONS CONSEQUENTIAL TO THE POSTPONEMENT OF ELECTIONS.
In moving Sub-section 2, Clause 4, I would accept the amendment of Deputy Fitzgibbon and apply it to this clause so as to make it read:—
"Every Council, body of Commissioners or other local body the statutory elections to which are postponed by or under this Act, shall hold its first meeting after such election on the date prescribed for that purpose by the Minister under this section and shall transact at such meeting all the business which such Council, body of Commissioners, or other local body is by any statute order or regulation required to transact at an annual meeting or a quarterly meeting (as the case may be) held next after a statutory election."
A Borough Council at the first meeting, which is the quarterly meeting after the statutory election, elects its Lord Mayor and others. Other bodies at the annual meeting, which is the meeting held after the statutory election, carry out an election of Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and so forth.
How does that square with Clause 5?
It squares with it completely; it deals with different times.
Is the effect of this Section that the first meeting after the postponed date is to be deemed to be the annual or the quarterly meeting for the purposes of such statutory business?
I beg to move Clause 4, Sub-section 3, as follows:—
"Such of the existing members of any board, committee, joint board or joint committee as are nominated or elected by any Council, Body of Commissioners or other local body the statutory elections to which are postponed by or under this Act shall continue in office as such members until the day after the date on which the first meeting of such Council, Commissioners or other local body after the statutory election thereto is held pursuant to this section.
"In this sub-section `existing' means holding office on the prescribed date."
Suppose a number of the Commissioners or the body of Commissioners were to die so as to reduce it below the number prescribed for a quorum, is there any provision in this section to enable them to fill up the vacancy?
Vacancies can be filled by co-option. That is provided in another Section.
In Section 5, Sub-section 2, that is provided for.
I move Clause 4, Sub-section 4:—"Every Lord Mayor, Mayor, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of or appointed by any Council, Body of Commissioners or other Local Body the statutory elections to which are postponed by or under this Act who is in office on the prescribed date shall continue in office until, but not after his successor shall have been duly elected at the first meeting of such Council, Body of Commissioners or other Local Body after the statutory elections thereto and shall have made the deduction accepting office." That means that if a Mayor is elected in January next, the elections to the Council being postponed until June, that that Mayor who may be elected next January will hold office only until June unless re-elected in June.
I move Clause 4, Sub-section 5:—"Nothing contained in this Act or any order made under this Act shall be deemed to postpone or otherwise affect the holding of an annual meeting or a quarterly meeting (as the case may be) of any Council, Body of Commissioners, or other local body, the statutory elections to which are postponed by or under this Act or to abridge or otherwise affect the business required by any statute, order or regulation to be transacted at such annual meeting or quarterly meeting (as the case may be)." The effect of that Section, as I have already stated, is to enable a corporation to proceed as if this Act had not been passed with the election of a Mayor, or in the case of an Urban Council, with the election of a Chairman next January.
I move Sub-section 6, Clause 4: "In this section the expressions `annual meeting' and `quarterly meeting' respectively mean any annual meeting or quarterly meeting (as the case may be) the date of which is prescribed by or under the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898."
The two phrases occur because in the case of a Borough Council in which these elections take place it is at a quarterly meeting, and in the case of the other Councils it is the annual meeting.
I move Clause 5, Sub-section 1:—
"Every casual vacancy which shall occur among the members of any borough council or urban district council or among the commissioners of any town after the passing of this Act and before the prescribed date and which but for this section ought to be filled by election shall be filled by means of the choice by such council or commissioners of a person to fill the vacancy, and any councillor or commissioner so chosen shall hold office in all respects as if he had been elected to fill the vacancy."
That is for the purpose of preventing bodies being unduly depleted during the six months.
There is just a point in this. The word "shall" suggests that it is imperative upon the remaining members of the Council to fill those vacancies by co-option. If that law is going to be enforced I think you will find that in fact many of the new Councils will be new Councils to the extent of three-quarters of their membership for the ensuing six months. We know as a matter of fact that large numbers of the present existing Councils are disqualified by virtue of non-attendance, and if any individual takes the initiative in the matter there is compulsion under this Clause to fill those vacancies by co-option. I do not know whether that is the intention, but I suggest it is worth while for the Ministers to think over the effect of it before the final stages.
I will think over that. The use of the word "shall" was intended to preclude the holding of elections to fill vacancies, but there might be danger that it would have the effect that Deputy Johnson suggests.
Seeing that Proportional Representation obtains in the country, when these vacancies occur I think it is right that the same class of people who were represented before should be represented by people of the same way of thinking again. For instance, if there were three Councillors who were anti-Treaty and two who were pro-Treaty, and if one of the three died, it would not be fair that the seat should be handed to a person from the opposite side. That would not be carrying out the principles of Proportional Representation. Where vacancies occur, say, in the case where a man dies or is disqualified, the people should be represented by the new man being selected from the side represented by his predecessor.
I agree that that is what should be done, but I do not think that we could deal with it by any legal prescription. It must depend upon mutual feeling, or some special code of honour or friendship between the different parties on the Council.
Might I suggest to the Minister that the conflicting demands of the two ideals of Deputy Johnson and myself could easily be met in this clause. It is necessary that by no device—I was going to say trickery —should a body of Commissioners be frustrated from carrying out their functions by being allowed to have so few members as to be incapable of having a quorum. It is also desirable that the idea presented by Deputy Johnson should be taken account of. It would be easy to use a formula to provide that the filling up of the vacancy is imperative—I mean that the vacancy should be filled up so that it shall not involve lapse of functioning. It could be allowed to be optional in all other cases. It is only in such cases as the non-filling of the vacancies would create the effect of the Council or body not functioning that it should be mandatory.
Perhaps in such a case the use of a centralised power might be advisable and perhaps the Minister should have authority over the Local Authority in such a case. I take it he is made aware if there is any inability to form a quorum on any particular council. In such a case possibly a reservation in this temporary Act, so as to enable the Minister to give a direction, would be advisable.
That might meet the case.
I move Clause 5, Sub-section 2:—
"Every casual vacancy among the members of any council or other local body the statutory elections to which are postponed by the Minister under this Act which shall occur after the date of an order postponing the statutory elections to such council or local body and before the prescribed date and which but for this section ought to be filled by election shall be filled by means of the choice by such council or other local body of a person to fill the vacancy, and any councillor or member so chosen shall hold office in all respects as if he had been elected to fill the vacancy."
That is merely a parallel Sub-section. The first sub-section deals with the urban bodies; this sub-section deals with other bodies and the same argument would apply.
I move Clause 6, Sub-section 1:—
"No councillor of any borough or councillor of an urban district or commissioner of a town who shall resign his office as such councillor or commissioner at any time after the passing of this Act and before the prescribed date shall be liable to any fine or other penalty for or on account of his so resigning his office."
As the Deputies are aware, at present various penalties exist—two guineas in certain cases, and other sums in connection with other bodies—if a man desires to resign before his term of office is completed. As the term of office is extended beyond what a member of a Council originally bargained for it is only right that the penalty should be dropped.
I move Clause 6, Sub-section 2:—
"No councillor of a county or rural district council or member of any other local body the statutory elections to which are postponed by the Minister under this Act who shall resign his office as such councillor or member after the date of an order postponing the statutory elections to such council or body and before the prescribed date shall be liable to any fine or other penalty for or on account of his so resigning his office."
This Sub-section is parallel with Sub-section 1. It deals with rural bodies, elections to which may or may not be postponed.
Does not that seem a more satisfactory form than the form applied in the preceding Sub-section? It is to this, in my opinion, the explanation given by the Minister more appropriately applies. Suppose A. B. would incur a penalty if he resigned before the expiration of the term for which he had been elected; he is now made aware of the postponement of the new elections and he declines to hold office for a prolonged period. Of course it is only reasonable in that case that he should be permitted to resign without penalty; but to permit him to resign before the expiration of his first period would really be to repeal the enactment that prescribed the penalty. I think the second section is better than the first.
In the case of Sub-section 1, I do not know whether a member would have any time, because he will only have a week or two in which to do it, as this Act will not be passed very long before his term will come to an end.
There is a difference of time?
Yes, January 15th in one case and June in another case.
I move Clause 7:—"Every period of office or other period of time which is by any statute, order or regulation to be computed from the date of a statutory election other than periods relating to the first meeting after a statutory election shall in the case of every Council, Body of Commissioners or other local body of the statutory elections to which are postponed by or under this Act be computed from the date on which such statutory elections would have been held if this Act had not been passed and not from the date on which such statutory elections are actually held." The meaning of that is that you have, say, the Chairman of an Urban Council who may be elected next June, and because of the postponement of the elections under this Act he shall hold office as if he had been elected in January. He simply will have a half year of office unless he is re-elected on the following January.
May I take it that this Clause will be sufficient to deal with the elections of Mayors and Lord Mayors, where it is prescribed by statute that they would be elected for one whole year? Will this Act have sufficient power to deal with a case of that kind?
I am informed it would. It was especially introduced for that purpose.
I move Clause 8, Sub-section 1:—
"Every provision of every statute, order and regulation relating to any statutory election which is postponed by or under this Act or to any councillor, commissioner or member of a local body whose term of office is extended by or under this Act shall be construed as if the same had been modified to the extent (if any) and in the manner necessary to give effect to the provisions of this Act." That is a clause which requires no explanation.
I move Clause 8, Sub-section 2:—
"If any doubt, dispute or question shall arise or in the opinion of the Minister be likely to arise as to the modification which is to be made under this section in the construction of any statute, order or regulation the Minister may by order specify the modification which is to be made therein." That section is meant to meet unforeseen difficulties and prevent litigation and disputes.
I beg to move Clause 9:—