I move: "That the Local Elections Postponement Bill be received for final consideration." I need not, I think, say anything in moving that this Bill be received for final consideration, except to say that after an amendment of which notice has been given by Deputy Milroy, has been considered, I will move a verbal amendment in Section 5 to substitute the word "may" for "shall," and add the words "not otherwise" after the word "vacancy" following the suggestion of Deputy Johnson. In regard to the definition Clause, I find that the actual definition as it stands would include the Dublin Port and Docks Board, but I do not know whether it would meet Deputy O'Brien's point, if I undertook that no order would issue postponing the election, rather than try to discover a new definition.
LOCAL ELECTIONS POSTPONEMENT BILL.
I beg to propose the following amendment:—"To add to Sub-section 5, Clause 4, the following words: `Save that no election for the Lord Mayor, Mayors, Chairmen, or Vice-Chairmen shall be held until after the elections held under this Act.' " I do not think that this amendment will excite any very serious controversy, and I think the object of it is fairly obvious, that is, to avoid further elections to the offices mentioned until after the Franchise Act of 1923 takes effect. The wisdom of deferring these elections until then, I think, is fairly obvious, but this amendment was drafted very hurriedly last evening after the discussion, and since looking over it I see that it is not worded exactly to meet all that is intended. I think the amendment itself will require amendment, because it seems to me that if it were passed as it stands it would preclude an election to one of these positions in case a person at present holding the office resigned or died. I think there will have to be some modification in order to meet that. A further alteration will be required in the amendment to make it read instead of "after an election held under this Act." As far as I know the election will not be held under this Act, but under the Act termed the Franchise Act, 1923. I do not think there is any controversy about that. The amendment is simply moved in order to obviate unnecessary elections pending the operation of the new Franchise Act, but, as I say, it requires some slight alteration in order to meet the exact purpose for which it was intended.
I second the amendment.
I wonder does Deputy Milroy suggest that this should be put forward as an amendment to Clause 4, Sub-section 5, as it seems to me the whole object he has in mind would be attained if he altered Sub-section 4 on the fourth line to read: "may be continued in office." Would not that meet the case, as it leaves a certain option to the local Council as to whether it will have an election or not?
This amendment is one on which I have no particular feeling, and which I would be inclined to leave entirely to the Dáil. As a matter of fact when the first draft of this Bill was made it provided that the election of Mayors and Chairmen should not be held in January, but should be postponed. Then it was thought perhaps that it would be just as well, in case there was any Chairman who was not liked by a Council, that his Council should have an opportunity of getting rid of him in January, and so the Bill was presented in the form in which it is. As I said, it is a matter on which I have no feeling, and would leave absolutely free to the Dáil to decide. In case the Dáil is prepared to adopt the principle of Deputy Milroy's amendment, I got an amendment drafted this morning, after receiving a copy of Deputy Milroy's amendment, which would, perhaps, meet the case better than Deputy Milroy's actual amendment. If the Dáil is inclined to adopt the principle I would suggest wording which would stand the test.
Give us your suggestion.
To substitute for Sub-section 5, Clause 4, which provides that the business of these statutory meetings shall not be abridged, as really the only business they are bound to transact at such meetings is the election of a Chairman, a Vice-Chairman or a Lord Mayor. Now, I propose, if the Dáil were disposed to adopt the principle of the amendment, to substitute words so that Sub-section 4 would read:—"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 at the passing of this Act, or 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 declaration accepting office." That means that Sub-section 4 terminates after the election the term of office of any Chairman, whenever elected, who may happen to hold office when the election takes place. Section 5, which was designed to meet the purposes of Deputy Milroy's amendment, would continue in office any Mayor or Chairman until the prescribed date. One would meet the case of, say, a Mayor who is elected in January next, owing to a casual vacancy, or owing to the resignation of the existing Mayor.
Would not the introduction of the words in Clause 4 after the words "who is in Office""at the passing of this Act or on the prescribed date" meet the case and save another sub-section, because as I understand the Minister, Clause 5 is identical with Clause 4, except for the words "passing of the Act"? And therefore if you introduce in Clause 4 the words I suggest "who is in office at the passing of this Act on the prescribed date" that hits both of them—the man who was coming in and the man who was in office when the prescribed date arrives.
That would meet it. In Sub-section 5, you would have to cut out that Clause?
On the first occasion we debated this the Minister pointed out to me that the cases which we wanted to provide for were provided for in Sub-section 5. Certain County Councils are obliged to elect representatives of the Governing Body of the three University Colleges constituting the National University of Ireland, and if 5 was left out a difficulty would be created.
That is not one of the statutory acts that they must do at the statutory meetings.
But there is no other provision, you see.
I am in a little bit of a fog about this whole business. I think it was understood that before there are any further elections for these positions this new Franchise Act was to operate. Would it not clarify the matter if this was added also in addition to what Deputy Fitzgibbon has suggested, after the words "Statutory Declaration,""Statutory Elections under the Franchise Act of 1923"? I am not clear that it is fully defined that the operation of this is contingent upon the operation of the Franchise.
The whole purpose of this Act is to postpone elections until the Franchise Act is ready. This then postpones the elections of Chairmen and Mayors until the elections to the Councils have taken place.
That is understood then, that it means after the new Franchise Act. In view of that I withdraw my amendment if the suggested alterations are carried into effect.
Is the Minister's amendment accepted?
If this amendment is accepted I would like to ask is there anything in the Act which would give a Council power to appoint a new Mayor or Chairman in the event of a casual vacancy occurring after the New Year. I think there might easily be an omission there.
This deals only with the term of office and I do not think it would affect the power. You see, a casual vacancy could be filled at any time.
Could it be filled any time during office?
Any time, yes.
I would like to ask one question on this matter as to the effect of the change. Would it be to make the retention of such office optional or would it be to make it obligatory? I interpret it to make it obligatory.
It would be to make it obligatory. I will move to insert in line 38, after the word "office,""At the passing of this Act or," and to delete Section 5.
I think this ought to be taken separately, because I am not at all sure about the deletion of Clause 5. You see Clause 5 refers to an annual meeting or a quarterly meeting, and it seems to me quite possible that the second quarterly meeting might fall due before the statutory election would take place. The annual meeting takes place in January, but the quarterly meetings would come in the ordinary course in March. I am not sufficiently familiar with the Local Government Acts to say what it might be necessary for them to do at the quarterly meetings, and Clause 5 preserves the right to hold quarterly meetings when they fall due.
I think it might be well to clear the point raised by Deputy Figgis about the obligatory effect of this amendment. As I understand it—I would like to be corrected if I am wrong—there is no obligation upon the holder of the office to retain that office. He may resign without penalty. The obligation is on the Council to retain him if he does not resign that position?
The amendment proposed is to amend Clause 4, Sub-section 4, in this way. It is proposed by the Minister for Local Government, and seconded by Mr. Fitzgibbon.
I move to delete Sub-section 5. This Sub-section was put in for the purpose of making it quite clear that the elections of Lord Mayors, Mayors, Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen would take place in January as usual and would not be postponed, as it is not intended that the election should take place. The clause has no longer any purpose in remaining in the Bill.
I would like to ask the Minister will that amendment affect the other duties usually performed at these statutory meetings, such as the election of committees?
No. There are practically no other statutory duties. There is the nomination for High Sheriffs, but that will not affect this. Then there is only the elections of committees, and so on.
It will not affect this?
The previous one you have passed refers to Lord Mayors, Mayors and Vice-Chairmen, but all the other work of the Council can be done at the quarterly meeting.
I move that in Section 5, Sub-section 1, in line 5, to substitute "may" for "shall." The amendment suggested is to substitute "may" for "shall," and make it read:—"May be filled by means of the choice of such Council or Commissioners of a person to fill the vacancy, but not otherwise."
Therefore there are two amendments. In line 5 to substitute "may" for "shall," and in line 7 to add at the end of the line, "but not otherwise."
I move a similar amendment to Sub-section 2, "may" for "shall," and "but not otherwise."
In line 14 to substitute "may" for "shall," and in line 16, after the word "vacancies,""but not otherwise." That is consequential on the other.
Now, we could take the motion that the Bill be received for final consideration.
I move that the Bill be now passed.
I second the motion.
The Bill is now ordered to be sent to the Seanad.