LOCAL GOVERNMENT (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL.

I beg to move for leave of the Dáil to introduce the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1923. The object of this measure is to regularise the position temporarily of the various county schemes which are in operation at present. Members of the Dáil will be aware that the question of the reform of the Poor Law in Ireland has been under discussion for a couple of generations at any rate. The workhouse system was set up originally against the advice of Irish experts, against Irish public opinion and in imitation of the British system. It was continually condemned, and its abolition and substitution by a better system were continually being advised. Nothing, however, was done until a year or two ago, when the Local Government Department of Dáil Eireann took the matter up. In the ordinary way the changes would have been made by legislation, and a new and comprehensive law would have been introduced, and when the Bill had been considered and passed, the changes would have been made by virtue of law. In fact, however, the changes were made without any legal sanction. The workhouses were abolished, the Boards of Guardians ceased to function. In most counties, County Homes were substituted for workhouses. —homes that would accommodate the aged and infirm—and a system of home help was set up, which, because of the abolition of the workhouses, differed considerably from outdoor relief, because the administration of outdoor relief as it stood took the alternative of the workhouse. These schemes have been put into operation in all but three counties, and they vary considerably. They will have to be standardized later on, and the whole matter will have to be regularised by permanent legislation. The whole position is this, the existing Poor Law has been blown sky high; new bodies have been set up which are extra legal bodies at the moment. To prevent endless litigation and the greatest confusion it is necessary that the Oireachtas should pass legislation of a temporary character regularising the position of the various bodies set up, and to which, without legal sanction, functions have been transferred. Later on, and as soon as possible, permanent legislation will be put before the Dáil, but I think it will be appreciated that it is necessary at the moment that these bodies that have been set up and these institutions that have been brought into being should be given a temporary legal sanction to enable them to carry on their work. In actual practice the reforms have been well received in the country, and they have achieved very good results. No doubt there are faults in most, or in all of the schemes that require to be remedied, but it can hardly be disputed that a great step forward has been taken, and that a better system has been brought into being, and very considerable economies have been effected for the ratepayers in spite of the high superannuation charges which the changes necessitated. I need not, I think, describe the proposed measure at greater detail at this stage. If the Dáil agrees to give leave to introduce the Bill it will be printed, and Deputies can see for themselves the scope of it.

Might I ask the Minister if he would consider the advisability of circularising Deputies with the official instructions issued by the late Ministry to the various County Councils or other bodies, so that we would know what steps have been taken?

I will circulate a set of county schemes and as many of the other documents as I think would be useful to the Dáil.

Question put "That the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1923, be read a first time."
Agreed.