I move the first clause, which is merely a definition clause.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL, 1923—COMMITTEE.
Section two puts the County Schemes into operation and validates them; it is, in a sense, a vital clause of the Bill. I beg to move it.
I beg to move the amendment standing in my name:—
To add at the end of sub-section (3):—"Provided same does not conflict with the lawful liberty of the individual or his or her statutory rights."
It is an amendment which has been handed to me by an official of the Union who appears to think that there is something in it affecting the rights of his members. If there is anything in it affecting such people, I would be glad to have the reason from the Minister concerned, or to have an assurance that there is nothing in it affecting the rights of the individual.
My name also stands to this amendment, and I support it with a little more substance than the original mover. I have read all these County Schemes with some care, and it is not easy to say whether they do or do not affect rights that at the present moment exist. In fact, it is not very easy to say what some of these schemes are, even after one has read them on several occasions. Some of the schemes are well considered schemes, whether they are right or wrong I do not say, but several of them seem to be very little more than prize essays, such as might be carried out at school, and it is not easy to say, in regard to some of them, exactly what is meant by them. It is perfectly clear that their tendency might be markedly to upset the legal position of people who now have certain statutory rights, and it is but right, in bringing these schemes into operation, that there should be a provision that those statutory rights be not interfered with.
I do not know whether this amendment will serve any purpose. If it would serve a purpose, and if it were shown to be necessary, I would be quite prepared to consider it. But I do not think it is well to put such a general clause as is proposed without being pretty clear as to what it would entail. If the Deputy or if any person who thinks he may be affected would indicate what things he wanted to be safeguarded against I would be quite willing to consider some section that might prevent legitimate rights being interfered with, as it were inadvertently by this Act. But it seems to me to pass a thing in this form might have the effect of giving ground for a great deal of litigation and might really have results far wider than I presume are those intended by the proposers of the Clause. I think it certainly should be justified on some specific grounds and not merely on general grounds.
If the mover or the movers of this motion will accept me as an interpreter of their minds I think I might be able to enlighten the Minister. They probably have in mind—if they have any mind on the subject—that one of the Schemes, at least, makes a condition that superannuation moneys will be stopped if the recipient resides outside Ireland and the contention is that they have a statutory right to reside anywhere and draw superannuation money, and they do not want that to be taken away from them.
I think that this is probably sufficiently provided for in Clause 10 of the Bill, which says:—
"Every officer of a local authority whose office is abolished under or in pursuance of any County Scheme shall, notwithstanding anything contained in such County Scheme, but subject to the provisions of this section, have the same rights in relation to supperannuation as if he had been removed from his office for a cause other than misconduct or incapacity prior to the passing of this Act, and any provision in any County Scheme purporting to increase or diminish such rights shall be void and of no effect."
It is always very charming to have Deputy Johnson expounding one's mind so clearly and so lucidly. But that particular instance he has mentioned had been put before me. I agree that I think a reading of the Bill will show that that has been sufficiently guarded, and for that reason I did not mention that particular instance. What I did feel is that you have a number of schemes put forward here, and I think the Minister might in a candid moment acknowledge that some of them are not exactly as lucid as they could be, and they might interfere very considerably with statutory rights. If they do interfere there ought to be a general proviso by which those statutory rights are protected.
There are a considerable number of amendments to Section 10, some of which deal with specific matters of this kind.
It was not a specific matter I had in mind at all; it was rather the general matter. If one had to keep track of all the specific matters through all the schemes it would be a very formidable task.
I move Amendment 2. To add at end a new sub-section as follows:—
"The powers of a Board of Guardians under this section to send destitute poor persons to institutions for the deaf and dumb, or blind, shall extend to any case where the local authority administering the scheme considers the persons would be benefited by such institutional treatment, subject to the sanction of the Minister. And such authority shall have the right to determine the amount to be contributed by the person responsible for the maintenance of such persons, and to recover same."
It is practically an extension of the Section to cases dealing with the deaf and dumb or blind.
I think that this section is unnecessary, that the powers exist and will be transferred with the other powers of the Guardians to the County Home Committee. Then there are powers under the Public Health Act of 1878, which reside in the District Council. For instance:—
"Any Sanitary Authority may (with the sanction of the Local Government Board) provide for the use of the inhabitants of its district hospitals or temporary places for the reception of the sick (or convalescent), and for that purpose may itself build such hospitals, or places of reception, or contract for the use of any existing hospital, or part of a hospital, or place for the reception of the sick (or convalescent), or may enter into an agreement with any person, or body of persons, having the management of any hospital for the reception of the sick (or convalescent), inhabitants of the district, on payment of such annual or other sum as may be agreed upon."
The only reason that I do not accept this amendment is that I do not think that it is required.
I have in front of me an amendment almost similar to this that I intended putting down. The reason that I had for this amendment, which is almost the same as the one now being moved, is that a clerk of a County Board of Health quite recently refused to allow that body to send a child to one of the institutions for mutes or blind. The father was a very poor man, and the Board was prepared to give a contribution of £5 a year towards the child's maintenance, but he would not allow the Board to send the blind child into the institution, although they were prepared to subscribe to its upkeep outside. This power was vested in the old Board of Guardians, but the Local Government Department have abrogated it now. The Minister nods dissent. I would be glad if he would say that it is not so. If by nodding dissent he suggests that it is not so, I would be glad if he would say that. I have an official note from a party who is interested.
The powers of the Boards of Guardians in this respect will be vested in the County Boards.
Can the Board send the child into an institution and contribute towards its upkeep if the child is a blind child of very poor parents? That is practically the gist of the whole amendment. The old Board of Guardians had that power, and I am informed that under this Bill they have not that power. That point has not been made clear to us, and I think it should be made clear.
They have the power.
The new Boards?
Then there is no necessity for the amendment.
That knocks out the amendment if that is made perfectly clear, but several people who represent local bodies, and have examined this Bill, are of opinion that the new bodies have no such authority. There is conflict of authority as regards that. If the Minister says they have that power, and we have an assurance on that point, there is no necessity to press the amendment.
Is it not quite obvious that these Boards have the right to send people to outside institutions to get special treatment——
I mentioned deaf and dumb institutions.
I say "outside institutions," and if they have that power, I do not see the purpose of this amendment at all.
I suppose we may take it that the new County Boards will have all the powers of the old Boards except a change is introduced in this Bill?
I move Amendment 3—to add a new sub-section:
"Any person who receives treatment in any hospital established under a scheme, or the persons bound in law to maintain such person, shall be liable to pay the governing body for such treatment any reasonable sum, not exceeding the full average cost of maintenance and clothing, and establishment charges, and the actual cost of extra medical or surgical assistance which the governing body may think fit, and said sum shall be recoverable as a debt due to that body."
I take it again that this amendment is unnecessary. The ground covered by this amendment has already been covered.
The Minister states that the powers which this amendment purports to give already exist.
My comment upon that is exactly the same as in the previous case. This is exactly a question of conflict of authority. Both these amendments are being moved on behalf of certain persons who have met and considered this matter, and who after consideration of the Bill thought these matters were not met adequately, and judged they should be met adequately by being met specifically. If the Minister says, in his judgment, that is not the case I am satisfied.
I think the amendment is unnecessary.
Section 3 gives power to the counties which have not already schemes prepared to make schemes and to come into line with the other counties. The second part of the section enables the Council of any County Borough and the Council of an adjoining county, instead of preparing separate schemes, to prepare a joint scheme which shall be the County Scheme. That arises in several cases— in Waterford, Dublin and Cork, for instance. Dublin and Cork are very special cases, indeed, and a special type of scheme will be certainly required for them.
I move the deletion of the section. At the previous Reading some of us stated that we thought it would not be right or proper that the new scheme should be adopted or approved under the present circumstances. We had no objection to those provisions of the Bill which would legalise and regularise schemes that had already been in operation but we have objections at this stage to new schemes. We do not think this is a suitable or proper time for adoption of new schemes. Unless a good deal of our information is incorrect, some of the schemes already in operation were rather reluctantly accepted by the people in the counties in which they are in operation—they were more or less imposed upon the people, and there does not seem, at least there is little evidence of it, any particular desire in these counties in which schemes have not been in operation to have the schemes put into operation now. The intention of the amendment is to have no new scheme now. If there is to be reform it should be reform of the whole system, and that is what we would desire. No doubt there are one or two schemes under way. The Minister on a previous occasion said that it was not the intention to oblige the counties that had not got schemes to adopt schemes, but that there were some under way, and that if we were able, he thought it would be possible to approve of them, and to let them come into effect. We think that that should not be provided for in the Bill, and that it should not be allowed until the whole system has been thoroughly examined, and all the schemes and portions of the schemes even adopted by the present Boards are not the best for the operation of the new schemes, and that applies much more now than when the schemes already in operation were put into operation, because there is such division of opinion on the matter not properly affecting the administration of the Poor Law system. Such differences are very acute now, and later on probably different boards and different kinds of public representatives will be elected to the various bodies in the counties, and we would rather there were some delay. The delay would not be great, only a few months, and we do not see any necessity to rush through now. It will only be a matter of three months before the local Government elections come on, and only four or five months between this and the General Election.
The clause as it stands in the Bill is not mandatory. It is permissive. If the local authorities cannot agree upon a scheme or are unwilling to make schemes, no scheme will be made. On the other hand, if the local authorities who have been dealing with these matters for some time, and who are fairly conversant with them, make up their minds and agree to go ahead, I think it is undesirable that they should be prevented from coming into line with other parts of the country. In some cases the savings have been very big indeed, in other cases not so big, but in Kerry and Galway and Roscommon you have £40,000 and £60,000 of saving effected by closing the numerous workhouses where very often there were more of a staff than inmates. In these cases there were, as I have said, very large savings. If other counties who have not yet, through various local difficulties, succeeded in arriving at an arrangement, and showing a desire to do so. I think they should not be prevented and that the movement which has been going on with regard to this matter should be allowed to continue, and if the local bodies, because of other disagreements cannot arrive at any sort of settlement of their disputes, then nothing will be done under the section, but the dispute that existed will interfere merely with the formation of a proper scheme. As a matter of fact the difficulties in the way of the formation of schemes are very localised, very often the interests of a parish almost, and if one were to wait until after the Election to get a scheme by agreement the new bodies will have to arrive and the ground will have to be gone over time and time again and there might be further delay. Whatever form of organisation we have in the future is bound to be based upon the type of organisation the schemes have brought about. The Poor Law in the state in which the scheme is brought out is bound to be the basis on which we start in future, and it would be really easier to put the whole system into a proper order if we could start off from something like the same point in every district rather than come in with legislation in which some districts would have all their amalgamation schemes carried out and others would have nothing done, so that if districts can be persuaded to make schemes they should be permitted to do so.
I think to some extent the Minister has himself assented to the criticisms which have been made. It is admitted by him that the schemes that have been adopted were very considerable and he proposes to take powers under this to modify, to amend and to alter these schemes and to arrive now at some kind of a rough standard to which they shall all more or less conform, and he hopes, no doubt, that that standard which he has extracted by these amendments and these alterations will be the basis of any new Poor Law System. But he admitted that the schemes are all experiments, and the Dáil has no indication of what is to be the line adopted, of what is the test of the good or the bad of these schemes. We were told on the Second Reading that the main purpose of this Bill was to be to confirm and make legal schemes that had been put into operation and acts that had been committed—to legalise illegalities. But I think it will be admitted that the impulse to promote schemes has come from the centre and certainly did come from the centre 2 or 3 years ago. There are 6 or 7 counties that have not yet presented schemes or have not had schemes adopted. The object of the amendment is to fulfill the main purpose of the Bill, to legalise the existing schemes but to prevent the formulation and approval of any new schemes until we have had a chance of discussing the principle on which poor law reform shall be enacted. Therefore we say it is not right to enact a new scheme or to approve a new scheme until these principles have been generally agreed upon by the Oireachtas, or particularly until we have some indication from the Minister of what is going to be his test of good and bad.
It is quite evident that the bodies that have not yet submitted schemes have not been very eager to do so. They have not, however, agreed to do so yet; they have been acting on the original impulse, and they have been slow to move. Certain elements have been pressing for the adoption of these schemes for the purposes of economy, while others oppose, and there is disagreement because of inability to agree upon details, but we have not even in the Bill itself, or in any extension of the Bill any hint as to what are the good parts of the existing scheme, and what are the bad parts. We think it ought not to be enacted that Boards of Guardians or County Councils or the Ministry, or any two combined, should have the power to practically make individual enactments of the Poor Law without having the matter thoroughly discussed. We, as I said, are prepared to assist in making regular the irregularities, and to sanction by act of the Oireachtas the schemes that have been passed and adopted under the old Board, but we think it is inadvisable to proceed in that direction until there is more thorough discussion of the principles that are to determine the course of Poor Law reform. Therefore, we would urge that anything in the Bill that is understood to go beyond the legalisation of the existing schemes should not be proceeded with, and if that view is accepted then the amendment to delete Section (3) should be adopted. I ask the Minister to take that view of this and the succeeding amendment for the same purpose.
I quite accept the statement—and, in fact, I have made it myself—that the essential purpose of the Bill is the legalisation of what has been already done, but, of course, it is not possible to just leave it there. It is necessary that there should be further provision, and, I think, it will be admitted that even provision that may not be absolutely necessary may be very expedient. Now, a great deal of work has been done in certain other counties. As a matter of fact, in one of them a scheme was submitted in its final form by the County Council at the time that this Bill went to the printers, and it was actually approved, and could, by way of amendment be included in the Bill. There is no reason for drawing a line sharply because a Council has not arrived at that exact stage. A great deal of the work is done, and several schemes under consideration are now at a scale almost as advanced as those in the Bill, and it does seem quite unnecessary to exclude them. Nothing at all would be gained from any point of view of facilitating the adoption of any future policy by refusing to allow these counties to fall into line with the others, or by bringing down the guillotine at the present moment. I think it would be highly undesirable and unjustifiable to cut off a county where a great deal of the work is done, and where a great deal of attention has been given to the matter, simply because it was a few weeks or a month or so later than several other counties. As I say, no possible harm could occur from that point of view from the making of schemes in the counties that have not already made them, and a great deal of harm may be done by refusing these counties permission to complete the work that they have brought practically to the point of completion.
Perhaps it would be as well to point out that the Act is only to continue in force till the 31st day of March, 1924, and that it shall then expire, so that if a scheme is authorised now, it has to be put into operation and then it may be scrapped entirely within a year.
I do not see what harm this provision of the Bill can do since it is not obligatory on any County Council to adopt this scheme. I know myself there are places where the scheme has been considered and laid aside and people are now looking to resurrect these schemes again and are trying to bring themselves into conformity with the views of some other people who were against them at the time. I do not see for the life of me why they should not be allowed to do that especially as they are not being forced to do it. I remember a scheme that was being considered for one particular area, and if the County Council desire now to go ahead with that scheme why should they not be allowed to do so?
Perhaps the scheme that Deputy Hughes has referred to is one for an area that is best suited to these schemes. Louth is the smallest county in Ireland; some of the other counties are the biggest and the objections to the schemes in some counties no doubt is the size of the areas to be covered.
I think the Minister might dwell upon the point raised by Deputy Johnson. Some of the schemes in practice at the present moment to my mind are not satisfactory. What harm could be done if this clause were deleted. The Act itself will expire 1924, and certainly no great harm could be done in seeing how the schemes in operation will eventuate.
I would like to know what harm can be done by leaving it as it is, seeing that the County Councils are not forced to adopt it.
If the counties desire a certain thing to be put in force why prevent them. Whether the area is a large or a small area it is left to the County Council to decide for themselves. The big counties can form a scheme to suit themselves. I have considerable experience in Kilkenny of a scheme, and a very successful scheme, which has been the means of saving a good deal of money to the ratepayers. We had a lot of small unions, some 6 or 8 of them, in the county, whereas now we are working with one and the thing is very satisfactory and has been the means of saving several thousands a year, while at the same time the people concerned are much better served.
The Minister mentioned that in some counties schemes are prepared and are only waiting to be sanctioned. In the county that I represent the majority of the people do not want these amalgamation schemes brought into operation at all, believing that the time is not ripe for them. The scheme, as it has been presented, even now, after three years, does not meet with the approval of the majority of the people in the constituency, but the Co. Council and the different boards were rushed into this scheme by the Department. I remember being at a meeting of the Co. Council in Tipperary twelve months ago, to which two inspectors came down and said it was not a question of what the Co. Council wanted, but a question of what the Department would make them do; that it was not a question of having the County Home or the County Hospital in a town in the county that the Co. Council wanted, but that they would have to have the County Home and the County Hospital where the Department selected.
There is no use saying people should put through schemes when they will not be let put them through.
On a point of personal explanation, wherever there is a Board of Guardians they will try to keep the County Home there as it is one of the local industries.
My experience is quite the reverse of Deputy Morrissey's. We have got a scheme in existence in our county for some time, and though it is not altogether satisfactory, I believe myself that it is a great improvement, and the residents believe it is a great improvement on the old system. Of course, you will always meet with opposition from some people, no matter what scheme is put forward, but in this case I think the clause should stand in the Bill. As Deputy Hughes remarked it is not mandatory. It is open to the Council to reject this scheme if they do not want it, so that I do not see why the clause should not be let stand. Moreover, many counties may be forward in those schemes, and to stop them now, after formulating them, would be hard lines on such counties.
The speakers who supported this clause rather suggested that their ideal in this matter is that each county would have a Poor Law of its own. That may be very good, or very bad.
Well, it is not very bad, according to Deputy Hughes, but apparently it is according to Deputy Gorey's suggestion.
I did not suggest anything of the kind.
Order. Deputy Gorey can make another speech in accordance with the rules, but he must not interrupt.
Excuse me, I did not know that.
The argument is, that if a county can agree to a scheme, then why should anyone prevent them. But we have interfered with that right by setting up the Local Government Department. It is the intention of the Local Government Minister to prevent counties formulating schemes as they desire. He brings his influence to bear to bring them into conformity with some ideal, as nearly as possible to conform with his own, but he has not told us what is his ideal, and the Dáil, which is responsible for the formulation of the Poor Law, ought at least to know what is the intention behind the Ministry in approving or disapproving of particular suggestions in any county scheme. Things were done up to date and schemes were approved of, and it is obvious that the Poor Law authorities to whom the counties responded were not acting upon a general plan, because if we read these schemes we know they vary very considerably indeed. We argue that there ought to be a plan in the mind of the legislature, and that the Minister ought to be modifying schemes, and using his influence with counties in such a way as to interpret the mind of the legislature in regard to Poor Law. The legislature has not yet given any indication of what its mind is in this matter. The Minister may know his own mind, but he has not told the Dáil. We do not know what his mind is or what his ideal may be with regard to Poor Law reform. He may say that the County Kilkenny scheme is a perfect scheme, and he may agree with Deputy Gorey, and it may be all serene if all counties follow the example of County Kilkenny. Then you might have a perfect Poor Law, but fortunately or unfortunately 20 other counties have different views from County Kilkenny. There are 7 other schemes, possibly, to be brought forward. What we would like to know before passing the clause is, are they all going to conform to the County Kilkenny scheme or how are they going to diverge from the County Kilkenny scheme? It is all in the air. It is a matter entirely for the Minister and the County Councils and we are to be left without any determining voice until the scheme has been decided upon and put upon the Table. We contend, inasmuch as these counties have proceeded up to date, during the period of revolution without a scheme, they can now, in view of the establishment of a formal regular legislature, delay the revision of their Poor Law arrangements, until the legislature has decided what form the future Poor Law shall take.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Riobárd Ó Deaghaidh.
- Tomás MacEoin.
- Liam Ó Briain.
- Tomás Ó Conaill.
- Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
- Séamus Eabhróid.
- Risteárd Mac Liam.
- Seán Ó Laidhin.
- Cathal Ó Seanáin.
- Seán Buitléir.
- Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
- Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
- Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
- Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
- Donchadh Ó Guaire.
- Uáitéar Mac Cumhaill.
- Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
- Seán Ó Duinnín.
- Micheál Ó hAonghusa.
- Séamus Breathnach.
- Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
- Peadar Mac a' Bháird.
- Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
- Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
- Ailfrid Ó Broin.
- Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
- Earnán Altún.
- Sir Séamus Craig, Ridire, M.D.
- Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
- Séamus Ó Cruadhlaoich.
- Criostóir Ó Broin.
- Caoimhghin Ó hUigín.
- Próinsias Bulfin.
- Aindriú Ó Láimhín.
- Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
- Peadar Ó hAodha.
- Séamus Ó Murchadha.
- Seosamh Mac Giolla Bhrighde.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Tomás Ó Domhnaill.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Uinseann de Faoite.
- Domhnall Ó Broin.
- Mícheál Ó Dubhghaill.
I beg to move Section 4. This section gives power to confirm a scheme and also to reject a scheme as well as power to make certain modifications. As the whole object has been agreement with the Local Authorities, schemes would not be modified, except in very minor details, or for the purpose of removing accidental inconsistencies or something of that nature. Modifications would not be of a very serious character, but would rather be for the purpose of expedition, other than affecting any great change in what is proposed. The power given in (b) is rather for the purpose of expedition and convenience rather than of shifting the authority and giving any power to over-ride the Local Authorities.
I desire to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.
I beg to move Amendment 6.—To delete from the beginning of the section down to the word "confirmed," line 17, and to substitute the following:—
"(1) The Minister may by Order confirm a scheme submitted to him under this Act, and a scheme so confirmed shall come into operation on the day prescribed in the Order confirming it;"
and to add the following new sub-section:
"(2) (i.) Before the Minister makes any Order under this section, he shall publish in such manner as he may think best adapted for informing persons affected, notice of the proposal to make the Order, and of the place where copies of the draft Order may be obtained, and of the time (which shall not be less than twenty-one days) within which any objection made with repect to the draft Order, by or on behalf of persons affected, must be sent to the Minister.
"(ii) Every objection must be in writing, and state:
(a) the draft Order or portions of the draft Order objected to;
(b) the specific grounds of objection; and
(c) the omissions, additions, or modifications asked for.
"(iii) The Minister shall consider any objection made by or on behalf of any persons appearing to him to be affected which is sent to him within the required time, and he may, if he think fit, amend the draft Order, and shall then cause the amended draft to be dealt with in like manner as an original draft.
"(iv.) Where the Minister does not amend or withdraw any draft Order, the draft Order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, and unless within the next twenty-one days upon which each House of the Oireachtas has sat, a resolution is passed by either House annulling or amending the Order, the Minister may then make the Order."
The chief object is to ensure that the scheme that is to be proposed to the Minister or confirmed by the Minister, with or without alteration, shall be laid before the Oireachtas before finally becoming operative, and the form of the amendment is taken out of existing Acts —the Factory and Workshops Act and the National Insurance Act—in so far as they relate to procedure dealing with provisional Orders. The object, of course, of the amendment is to ensure that such schemes are brought before the Oireachtas, and confirmed, either tacitly or positively by the Oireachtas—that we shall obviate the purely bureaucratic method of legislation on matters affecting a particular county without relation to the legislature. I think it ought to appeal to the Dáil that in a matter of such moment they ought to be consulted. At least they ought to have an opportunity of rejecting any specific scheme. The Minister has told us that the object of paragraph (b) of the first sub-section is only to modify schemes that have been agreed—presumably agreed by the county, which means by the majority of the Co. Council. We hear of schemes which have been passed by the county which will mean, for instance, the travelling of a hundred miles of road for patients to get from one part of the county to the County Hospital. Whether that is one of the schemes which have been approved of by the Minister we do not know, and we shall not know unless this amendment, or some other amendment of the same kind is passed. I submit that it is part of our duty, at any rate, to protect citizens from the possible disaster of being under a hard-hearted over-economical Co. Council, whose object mainly is to save rates, even at the cost of the patient's health. Therefore, I beg to move the amendment with the purpose I have indicated of ensuring that any new schemes shall be laid upon the table of the Oireachtas before they become operative.
At this stage Mr. George Nicholls took the Chair.
A Chinn Chomhairle, I cannot, I think, accept Deputy Johnson's amendment in the form in which it is put forward, but I do agree that future schemes, before coming into operation, ought to be laid before the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas is legalising the existing schemes. And in the case of a number of them, at least, their being in operation makes it difficult for the Oireachtas to amend them. Still they should be laid before the Oireachtas before they are given legality. I agree that the same thing should apply to future schemes, that a scheme should not be made merely between the local authorities and the Minister, and if the effect is that it would alter existing statutes without coming before the Oireachtas, I will be prepared at a later stage to introduce an amendment that any scheme confirmed by the Minister should be laid on the table of the Dáil, and that, at least, the order of the Minister confirming may be annulled. I am not prepared to indicate the exact form in which I will bring forward the clause, but I certainly think it would be proper to have such a provision in the Bill. I may say, of course, that new schemes would not have in them any features not in some existing scheme, but, nevertheless, I believe that the Dáil should have an opportunity of preventing the scheme from being carried out.
I am sorry I missed the form in which this amendment is proposed. I had in mind that it was in two parts, and I only dealt with Part 1. Part 2 of the amendment deals with the necessity for publishing and giving an opportunity for objections to be raised against the order or the scheme. We know, for instance, that schemes have been discussed in certain counties almost behind closed doors, and we know that the County Councils recently have really not been representative of the people living in the counties to-day, that they have been denuded of members, that members have not been able to attend, or have not been willing to attend, and that, as a matter of fact, local opinion has not been brought to bear upon these schemes. The amendments propose that opportunities should be given by the publication of such a scheme to local people who are interested to put forward their objections to any such scheme. That, I think, is obviously the need of the day—that if, say, the Cork County Council is proposing a scheme, or the South Tipperary Council is proposing a scheme, to close a particular hospital, or to amend the present regulations, that the people in the different areas should have an opportunity to express their opinion upon the proposal. As I say, County Councils have, in fact, not been really representative of the people during, say, the last year, and it is not right that such a County Council should be empowered to draw up a scheme only awaiting the approval of a Minister, without the interests concerned having a right to make their objections known, and to influence the final approval by the Oireachtas of any such scheme.
The unfortunate thing about these schemes is that the opposition undoubtedly is very frequently in the nature of venial opposition. The carrying out of these schemes engenders a tremendous amount of heat. People frequently do regard the local Workhouse as the last remaining industry of their town, as Deputy Gorey has said, and they take good care to see that their opposition is heard. There is no objection at all to publication; in fact, there is every reason why the full details of any scheme should be published, and I have not known of any case in which they were not known to people who took any interest at all in the matter. Of course, people who do not interest themselves may not have been aware of the details but in general they have been very fully thrashed out, and any schemes which may be made in future will certainly have to be very fully thrashed out. I would not like to adopt a procedure that would be cumbersome and cause a great deal of delay, but I would consider for a future stage what we can do in the way of making sure that full publicity had been given to every scheme and I would agree that schemes should be laid before the Oireachtas along with the order confirming them, so that the Oireachtas might have an opportunity of vetoing those schemes. As I said, they will be in line and in accord with the schemes already existing.
I will say to this extent, that they will be built up from the expedients devised for existing schemes; that is, they will not contain revolutionary provisions or provisions that have not already been embodied in schemes. As it is a matter of the will of the locality, I could not say which particular existing scheme, any future scheme may resemble or follow, but certainly it will be along the lines of some one or more existing schemes. They will be to that extent in line with the general principle of the existing schemes and it will not be necessary that the Dáil should consider them in the same way as if they were to contain provisions that have not already been put into operation elsewhere. At the same time I do not think we should actually invite the not very sound or not very public-spirited local opposition which always exists. I do not think that we should invite such opposition to transfer its operations here or that we should invite all the people who want to maintain the Workhouse as their last remaining industry in their town to come along and bombard the Dáil and generally to make use of this Assembly for the purpose of supporting or trying to have preserved certain almost corrupt vested interests.
A Chinn Chomhairle, there is always a certain measure of venial opposition to amalgamation schemes. No doubt as the Minister says there are interests, whether interests of officials or local interests in certain small areas—Union areas—which have shown opposition to anything in the way of an amalgamation scheme, which would take a certain amount of money or some equivalent from them. We, who are opposing, or have been opposing some of the other measures, and want this amendment carried, are not thinking of those people. We are thinking rather of the general body of people, and amongst the general people served by the system there is very often real, sound, genuine opposition. We have instances of it particularly where the question of hospital accommodation and provision is concerned. We would desire the greatest publicity that could be given not for the encouragement of venial opposition or interested opposition of a venial kind but in order that the people who will either benefit or suffer by the operation of these schemes should have an early opportunity of seeing what they contain. Now, in Ireland there has not been either in National Government or Local Government that general interest which all of us would like, because of the circumstances of the past. It should be, we consider, the duty of the new Legislature to do everything to encourage a real, active and sound interest in local administration as as well as in the National Administration. We want the people of districts which may be far removed from a proposed new County Home or a proposed new County Hospital to get an opportunity of expressing their opinions and their objections—if they have objections—to such institutions. There are cases, for instance, of people who will have to go a very long distance indeed—sick people, infirm people, medical or surgical cases of one kind or another—and a good deal of genuine opposition to certain schemes has been based on that. That is a genuine objection because the scheme may remove people very long distances —in some cases it is said as far as 50 to 100 miles from their people or people who would be interested in them; it cuts them off altogether so to speak from their old associations and the outside world. Now, it is in order to give the general body of the people, and not a venially-interested opposition, an opportunity of considering the schemes in detail that this amendment is moved. What has happened in the past has been that all the schemes—or at least most of them—because of the circumstances and of the manner in which they were put through and the lack of publicity, formed the subject of discussion only between the officials and representatives of the Boards concerned. And that gave room for a good deal of what has been properly described as opposition. We would want to extend the area of discussion and examination so that opposition, suggestion, improvement or amendment might come from quarters which would be seriously affected by the operation of this scheme.
In connection with the scheme that I am acquainted with, the complaint was that there was not sufficient publicity. The matter was discussed for several days, and finally it was left to the representatives of the Local Government Department.
We got very little notice of the scheme coming in, and it was passed through very hurriedly, and, in fact, the scheme is practically unworkable as it stands in its present state. Just fancy a scheme which provides one hospital for the County of Cork. Under that scheme you would have to bring patients from Bantry Bay to Cork City. Imagine bringing a fever patient 100 miles in a motor car. What chance is there for the recovery of that patient? If the patient dies in Cork Hospital the relatives will have to go 100 miles to bring the body back again. Again, the County Home is situated where the Midieton workhouse was, about 13 miles from the city, and then the old and infirm are removed to Midleton, 13 or 14 miles from Cork, and any of their relatives who want to see them have to bear the expenses of coming there. There are many provisions like that, and I am sure that the people of the county in which those schemes and other schemes are to be formulated should get an opportunity of putting their views before the Ministry and the Dáil. Some means should be provided to make the schemes acceptable for the people of the county in which they will be put forward.
I rise to second this. I think it is necessary. A complaint has been made to me by the Athy Urban District Council. I shall read their suggested amendment. "In 1850 the people of Athy subscribed a sum wherewith to build a fever hospital, and did so, and handed same to the Athy Town Commissioners in 1854, to work it in the interests of the health of the town. The Commissioners managed this hospital until 1874, when they gave it to the Athy Poor Law Guardians, on condition that it be used as a fever hospital for the town. The Guardians maintained the hospital until March, 1922, when owing to the amalgamation scheme for Co. Kildare they transferred it to the Athy Urban Council from whom they received it, stipulating that the Urban Council should receive into the hospital for treatment all infectious and contagious cases from Athy (No. 1) and Athy (No. 2) Rural Districts. The hospital was transferred according to law, and is now the lawful property of the Athy Urban Council who hold it in trust for the people who built it. The Council have let the hospital to the former matron of the hospital to be used as an hospital for infectious cases, and this lady is now the lawful tenant of the place.
"Under the provisions of the above Bill the Local Government Department seek by means of an ex post facto law to deprive the people of Athy of their own property, and have it transferred to the Kildare Co. Council, Clause 7, (2) (a).
"The Amalgamation Scheme did not come into operation until May 1st, 1922, but the Bill enacts that the scheme for this County shall be deemed to have come into operation on February 14th, 1922. In other words, the Bill ante dates the time by over two months when the scheme came into operation, in order to transfer the Fever Hospital to the County Council and render nugatory the action of the Poor Law Guardians.
"The Athy-Urban Council beg to point out that the Amalgamation Scheme closed the Workhouse Hospital, where Athy cases were always treated, that the population of Athy is over 3,500, and that Athy cases have now to be sent 21 miles to Naas; that, in consequence of the long journey, the people have now to be, with a few exceptions, treated in their own homes, and that if an epidemic of infectious cases break out, the result will be disastrous for the town if the Fever Hospital is interfered with."
I think the Minister should take into consideration the particular circumstances of the Athy district, and see that that hospital is maintained for the people of the district. We have another case, where Celbridge Hospital has been closed and where there has been great dissatisfaction among people who are catered for in this hospital. It is necessary, therefore, that when any scheme is formulated, time should be given for all interests to put forward their objections. I do not think the Poor Law system should be devised by County Councils, people who have very little interest in the poor. I think it should be devised in the interests of the poor and the sick.
As regards the Athy Hospital, I thought this matter would be more definitely dealt with when the scheme for Kildare would be under consideration, and therefore I think it would be the proper time then to bring forward the point made by Deputy Houlihan. Fancy a town of 3,500 people being compelled to send sick people 21 miles to the town of Naas. Is that a scheme this Dáil should sanction. It shows that this amendment is one that should be accepted by the Ministry in justice.
With reference to the question of the Athy Fever Hospital, this, of course, does not arise on the particular amendment which deals with future schemes. With regard to Cork, Deputy Day omitted to say that in addition to the County Hospital there were to be 6 District Hospitals besides the County Homes, and other institutions.
These would be Cottage Hospitals.
My objection to the amendment is one I will have to stand by. I believe the amendment would make it very difficult to get the scheme through. The opposition that is genuine is opposition that will be heeded and will be given every attention. The only effect of this clause would be to allow the interested opposition to make itself heard, to give an opportunity to make a big row in the hope that the schemes might not be put through at all.
I have indicated that I would be quite willing to accept amendments in this clause giving the Oireachtas an opportunity which is not given by the clause in the Bill as it stands but which I agree ought to be given—an opportunity of vetoing the schemes in the same way as it would have an opportunity of vetoing the schedules in the scheme, but I would not agree to a procedure which would tend to evoke interested and cumbersome opposition and which would really be of no benefit to the people who feared they would have some real grievance under the scheme because those people will certainly be listened to. Everything that can possibly be done will be done to meet them but these schemes involving as they do the changing and closing of institutions and the altering of old established things provoke a great deal of opposition, opposition which though not interested is often merely thoughtless and sentimental. Any scheme that will be adopted in the future is bound to be criticised from every possible angle. I think it could not happen in future that any scheme could go through without ample publicity. I do not think in addition to that we should have machinery adopted which would enable people interested to prevent it from coming into operation, which would invite them to carry the warfare out of their own locality into the Dáil. They would simply be enabled to obstruct the working of the Bill.
I regret that the Minister has not been able to accept the amendment, but in view of his promise to ensure local publicity and an opportunity for the Oireachtas to speak its views upon any order I will, with permission, withdraw the amendment.
I beg to move Section 5.
I will ask the permission of the Dáil to withdraw amendment No. 7, because it was consequential on the one defeated.
I beg to move Section 6.
I beg to move Section 7. It specifies what County schemes may do. It is in the nature of a limiting section. It lays down the lines on which the County Scheme can proceed, and indicates the general power conferred in the making of County Schemes.
I would like to move as an amendment:—In Sub-section (1), line 52, to add after the word "county" the words "provided that where the functional area of any such board, committee, or other body extended outside the county to which the County Scheme relates, such board, committee, or other body shall only be abolished under this section in so far as it exercised functions within that county."
I do not think there will be any need for controversy in this matter. In several counties heretofore, and certainly in my own the area is extended. This amendment proposes to abolish the functions of that body so far as it may exercise its functions within the county.
I would accept this. There is a question however of wording that I am not so sure of. That is the use of the word abolish. I do not know whether a body can be abolished to a limited extent. It must either be abolished or not abolished. But subject to the rewording necessary at a later stage, I would accept the amendment.
I beg to move as an amendment:—To add at the end of Sub-section (1) the words: "and for the transfer to the Council of the County to which the scheme relates, or to a committee to be established by that Council, either alone or jointly with the Councils of the Rural and Urban Districts comprised within the county, of all the powers and duties in relation to the relief of the poor of the body or bodies abolished by the scheme."
As the Minister has said the section states what can be done, but he does not exactly state what body is to undertake the powers and duties of the old bodies. It says a County Scheme may provide for the abolition of any Board of Guardians, County Hospital Committee, and so forth. Now, the intention of the amendment is to give a more precise definition of the new body. The Bill does not indicate the new authority, and I want to indicate that authority. I think the authority should be indicated definitely in the Bill. The amendment suggests the work should be done either by the Co. Council itself, or by a Committee set up by the Co. Council, or by a joint committee of the County, Rural or Urban Districts, or whatever body we determine. It does not require much arguing to see that the thing should be defined precisely in the Bill.
I accept the amendment.
As a matter of drafting, I think this last amendment should go in in front of the one proposed by Deputy O'Brien and accepted, because it is a proviso on the whole section, and Deputy O'Shannon's has been added as a part of the section itself. The last amendment will not fit in after the one accepted before it. If the last one is put in in front of Deputy O'Brien's they will read correctly.
It is a matter of drafting.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
"In Sub-section (2), line 14, to add after the word ‘passed,' the words: ‘Provided that where the functional area of any such Board, Committee, or other body extended outside the County to which the County Scheme relates, so much only as the Minister shall appoint of the property, debts, and liabilities of such Board, Committee or other body shall pass to or be defrayed by the Council of that County under this Sub-section.'" The purpose of the amendment is that a County Council may be able to recover from an adjoining County Council any debt that that Council would be liable for.
I accept the amendment.
I move Section 8:—"The Minister may sell, lease or otherwise alienate all or any lands or buildings which are or shall at any time be vested in him in trust for any body abolished by any County Scheme, and the proceeds of every such sale, lease or alienation shall be held by the Minister in trust for any purpose for which such land or buildings could have been used or applied by law under the said County Scheme or otherwise." At present the workhouses are vested in the Minister. It appears they were originally built out of loans which were to be repaid by the different Unions. After a very small number of instalments had been paid, the loans were remitted, or at any rate the payment of instalments ceased, but the workhouses were vested in the Commissioners of Poor Law, or whatever body existed at that time rather than the local authorities. At present they are vested in the Minister, but the Guardians of the area have the right to use them for the purposes of Poor Law. This is simply to enable the Ministers to dispose of them, and, as a matter of fact, like some of the other main provisions of this Bill, it is necessary, not only because it is a good thing, but because, in connection with these schemes, it has already, to some extent, been acted upon.
I wish to move the amendment standing in my name:—"To add after line 31:—‘Provided that in a case in which a workhouse is not sold or otherwise disposed of, the existing offices and boardroom in said buildings shall be the offices of the Rural District Council for the area, as at present.'"
Is this not a matter for the County Council and are not these buildings the property of the Council? There seems to be no necessity for inserting this in the Bill.
I had not an opportunity of looking at this amendment before. I do not think it is necessary, and if it were we could deal with it at a later stage.
These buildings are the property of the respective District Councils, and the Local Government Department has nothing to do with them. They belong to the ratepayers of the district.
Unfortunately Deputy Gorey is making a mistake in that respect. As I explained the workhouses were built out of loans, and these loans were not repaid. After a few instalments the payments ceased and the buildings remained vested in the Local Government Department, with the right of use by the Guardians and the Rural Council.
My idea is where a workhouse is being made an office or boardroom of the County Home, that it should not be sold or disposed of. I accept the Minister's statement and withdraw the amendment.
I want some information on this. Am I to understand that the vacant workhouses in the country are the property of the Local Government Department?
You can keep them in repair so. We have been foolish enough in Kilkenny to do so up to this.
I think it is on this section the question raised by Deputy Colohan should be dealt with. I would direct attention to the case put forward. If this particular hospital was handed over to the Poor Law Guardians I presume it is one of the buildings vested in the Minister.
In that case it does not apply to this particular clause.
I move Section 9:—"When the Board of Guardians of any Union is abolished by any County Scheme the powers and duties of such Board of Guardians under the Vaccination (Ireland) Acts in any Rural District forming part of such Union shall be transferred to the Council of such Rural District." It simply provides that the powers of the Guardians for enforcing the vaccination law shall be transferred to the Rural District Council. As the law stands at present the Guardians have to move first by getting a vaccination order. If that is not complied with the Rural District Council can prosecute under the Public Health Acts. I have no opinion myself in particular on the matter of the vaccination law. It might be well that it should be altered to come into conformity with the law in Great Britain. There is a good deal of demand for it, but however I think that should be dealt with later. It is a very controversial matter and this is simply to provide that the machinery necessary for the enforcement of the law shall be replaced.
Before Section 10 is taken, there are many other amendments and, as I understand, there is a private Bill on the Order Paper for to-day, I have been asked to postpone the further consideration of this Bill, with the object of allowing the other one to be taken.
Consideration of the Committee Stage of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Bill adjourned.
The chair was re-taken by the Ceann Comhairle at this stage.