Are we to understand from the Minister's statement on Deputy Heffernan's amendment that this question of the closing of roads will be the subject of inquiry?
DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL, 1924—COMMITTEE STAGE RESUMED.
Deputy Heffernan has not any amendment down. I think the Deputy is thinking of the abandonment of roads section. This is the closing of roads.
Am I to understand from this section that the intention is the temporary closing of roads in the case of construction?
Section 25 is a transitory section, providing that money borrowed for repairs owing to damage done to roads during the recent disturbances shall not be calculated for the purpose of limiting the borrowing powers of County Councils.
I would like the Minister to give us some information as to the effect of this. I do not want to oppose it because I can see some reason for it, but I am a little dubious as to the effect. There has undoubtedly been good reason for limiting the borrowing powers of local authorities; I take it that that is generally accepted. But by this section that limitation is removed to the extent to which damage may have been done in the particular locality which had to be repaired by the local authority. In some areas the amount of damage may be very small, in some areas very great indeed, and the cost thrown upon the local authority may be extremely heavy. The general effect of this section may well be to increase the borrowing powers of local authorities by an amount so great as to reduce the value of the stock already issued, and where there is a free hand given in this way I think that a certain amount of caution is required, and I would like to have from the Minister a little more information as to what will be the effect of this section. The increasing of the borrowing powers automatically in this way almost nullifies previous limitations that previous administrations had affected. I think it is too general, that its working would be automatic, and that as a result the holders of stock, the lenders of the money, would be prejudiced in an incalculable way. I am merely asking for information on this matter, and I want to find out whether we are not being asked to give a too free and too general authority without sufficient information.
The damage prior to March 20th, 1923, was provided for by the Malicious Injuries Act in respect of the levy of 6d. in the £ for five years, and I fail to see the necessity for a clause of this nature. The income from that levy is in the neighbourhood of £300,000 a year, and that money is there; it has been collected for two years, and will be collected for three years in advance. Therefore, what is the necessity for a clause of this nature?
The powers conferred by this section are only temporary borrowing powers. Without having these powers it would be impossible to make up the damage done to roads during a period of exceptional destruction. It is the intention to recoup the county councils out of the 6d. rate and the Road Fund eventually, but until all the money comes in it is impossible to repay the expenses of each individual council, and it is accordingly necessary to allow them to borrow temporarily to put the roads into good condition. This is the only power given under this section. If this was to operate as a limitation of the borrowing powers of county councils, it would mean that they would not be able to do their ordinary road work at all.
Does the Minister mean that it gives them power to overdraw at the bank? Would he consider that, pending the time that they receive their quota of the 6d. rate, it is intended that they should go into the market and borrow for two years?
In most cases the loan has already been obtained. It is really retrospective.
Yes, that may be the intention, but is it only that power that is given here? It seems to me that under this section a borough council, or a corporation, or a county council may quite legitimately borrow money for the making of a concrete road in place of a macadamised road.
That is not so at all; it is only in respect of damage done.
Damage done, including total destruction. If they want to repair that damage it is within the discretion of the local authorities to repair it in such a way as they think well, and if we give this free hand in respect of borrowing it may be that the intentions of previous limitations would be overridden. I am drawing attention to this, because I think that a rather too generous authority is given here, and while not an expert on this matter I imagine that a little more consideration should be given to the phraseology of the section if it is only intended to do what the Minister now says is intended.
I think the point raised by Deputy Johnson ought possibly to be a little more carefully guarded against. I think what he has in mind is that possibly the special repair and replacement of a road may be done with material of another kind, and that instead of charging maintenance of that character to revenue, unless we are very careful under such a clause as this it will be charged to capital account. That would be wholly undesirable, and I think it might be made a little clearer so as to avoid the trouble that we say might arise.
Of course, I should point out, too, that while the Minister is only thinking of special damage done under special circumstances, there is nothing in this section to indicate that only special damage is referred to. If a road has gone into disrepair of any kind from any cause prior to March, 1923, then any money borrowed to repair that road would not be reckoned as part of the debt of the council for the purpose of limitation of borrowing. I think that it would be well for the Minister to have this matter looked into to see that he is not giving more power than he intends to give.
It seems to me that the section is fairly clear; in fact, I do not think the extension could very well take place under it. I think that, "prior to the 20th day of March, 1923," is really more for cases where bridges were blown up, and we all know that in various parts of the country, even at present, there is a series of temporary bridges which will have to be rebuilt. Obviously that would be very difficult to do out of the revenue of the county for the one year, and I do not see how you could read anything much more than what you call destruction into this clause—"damage (including total destruction) done to any road at any time prior to 20th day of March, 1923."
Damage at any time.
Prior to March, 1923.
From any cause— wear and tear.
I do not think that there is anything in the Deputy's point. Even without this section at all I never sanction a loan for ordinary maintenance except in respect of road destruction, or some special damage. This section only applies to war damage or something corresponding to war damage.
The Minister ought to define "damage." A traction engine going over a roadway might sink through it, and that would come in under "damage" in this section.
There has been a special sixpenny rate struck and the county council will be recouped for that later on out of the fund provided. I have got authority over the county council, and I need not sanction any of these loans if I consider that they are in any way outside the scope or intention of this section. I am very glad to know that Deputy Johnson is so interested in keeping down rates.
The Minister for Local Government need not be surprised. I am always in favour of economical expenditure. I object to wasteful expenditure at any time by any person—even by the Government —and I want in this case to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that in this section he is giving powers which go beyond his intentions. If he thinks the check he holds over county councils is sufficient, then the responsibility upon him is greater, and we are relieved of it. I have done my duty in calling attention to what I think is the loose drafting of the section.
Deputy Johnson's point of view could be pressed somewhat further. I do not think Deputy Johnson or any of us can get rid of our responsibilities in that light-hearted way, by passing them on to the Minister. If the operations of this section are not confined within reasonable limits, there is no use in the Minister saying that he has power of restriction, because we, as a Parliament, are responsible for the passing of the section in this form. That is a point I would like to raise as often as possible in the Dáil. We should not give the Minister powers which we do not sanction. From experience, Deputies will find that Ministers very often take a great deal more power than we might wish them to have. On that point, I would be with Deputy Johnson, and I would say that if there is any ambiguity in the section as it stands, we should not pass it.
The income from the 6d. rate for five years will be in the neighbourhood of £1,400,000. Is the Minister of opinion that that provision will not be sufficient to provide for the repair of the destruction prior to the 20th March, 1923?
I tried to make myself clear before, that this borrowing power is only given for the period during which the 6d. rate would not be available. That rate was not available immediately after the destruction and in many cases it is not available at the moment. Something must be done to make the roads passable in the meantime. If there is any looseness in the section, Deputies had plenty of time to consider it and to put down an amendment. That would have enabled me to see what exactly Deputies had in mind. If there was an amendment down, I could see where it differed from the section and whether it was superfluous. As I read the section, I can see no necessity for an amendment of the kind suggested at all.
Can the Minister form any estimate of the destruction? How much will the borrowing powers, which he is giving under this section, amount to?
It is obviously impossible for me to state the amount for each county without notice. I have the records in my office, and if a Deputy requires information about any particular county I could furnish him with that information on notice.
AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE took the Chair.
I fail to see the defect that Deputies have referred to in this section. The powers to borrow are given for specific purposes and for the reasons given. County councils will strike a certain rate to carry on their roads in the usual manner, and the 6d. rate Deputy Wilson has spoken of not being available in certain cases, the county council has power to borrow. In most cases, I presume that borrowing will be done by way of overdraft in the bank. The overdraft will be paid after the 6d. in the £ rate struck for that purpose will be available. There is no possibility, to my mind, that that money will be used for any purpose except what it is specially appointed for. The section is absolutely clear, and I do not know how any county council could use the money for the ordinary maintenance of the roads or for repairs which are supposed to be done in the usual way. It is not a question of laying down a concrete road. I do not think there is any possibility that this money advanced for this specific purpose will be utilised unwisely by the county councils. Then, there is the safeguard that the Local Government Department will not sanction the expenditure of any money by a county council which goes outside the ordinary lines laid for the county council.
The point is that there is too much ambiguity in the word "damage." The Minister has one idea of "damage" in mind. Other Deputies have other ideas with regard to the word "damage." I have pointed out a case where a traction engine may run over half a mile of road and inflict serious damage on it. That, to my mind, would come under this clause as it stands. That should be covered by ordinary maintenance and not by a charge to capital. If the Minister would look into the point between this and the Report Stage it might be possible to bring in some definition of the word "damage" or to introduce some additional words which would make the meaning clear, so that what is in the mind of the Minister and in the minds of the Dáil will be carried out by the section.
Perhaps it would help the Dáil if the Minister would tell us how the borrowing powers of councils are fixed. Are they fixed by statute?
The borrowing powers are limited by statute to one-tenth of the valuation. The word "damage" is intended to have the same meaning as it has in the Damage to Property Act. It has a specific meaning in that Act. In any case, I think it would be extremely difficult to separate the roads cut up during the pre-truce or post-truce period of conflict in this country. Suppose a road had been partially destroyed by lorries of forces of one kind or other and partly by ordinary traffic, it would be very hard to distinguish the damage that was done by the military forces and say that the county council should get a loan in respect of that damage and should not get a loan in respect of what was done by ordinary traffic. The two things would be hopelessly mixed up, and if you had borrowing powers for one you would want to have borrowing powers for the other.
I think we are getting more involved because the Minister is dealing with damage arising from ordinary traffic and not with special damage arising in the period when the military were using the roadways pretty largely. That is what I am afraid may arise under this section. I think it is necessary, in view of what the Minister has said, that some definition should be put in of the word "damage," so that if a saw-mill is set up in any particular area and a traction engine causes damage for half a mile on either side of that saw-mill— as very often happens—the repair of that roadway should not be charged to capital, as it might be. That is ordinary maintenance, and we would want to guard against such an eventuality.
I am willing to look into the matter between now and the Report Stage, but I think that there is a difficulty in the matter that would be impossible to get over. In some cases county councils gave up maintaining roads when they found that the roads were destroyed as often as they repaired them. In other cases there was the ordinary destruction on roads which in normal times would have been repaired in the ordinary way, but owing to the fact that the destruction was continued, it was not repaired. You have got what I may call negative war damage and positive destruction, and it would be very hard to separate the two, and to say that in one case you could borrow to the extent of two-thirds of the damage. Let us say that damage to the extent of two-thirds was caused by exceptional circumstances, and that one-third was due to ordinary wear and tear, the councils not being allowed to borrow in respect of that one-third. It would be almost impossible to draw a line between the two kinds of destruction. However, between now and the Report Stage I will look into the matter and see if we can do anything to make the section more clear.
I move amendment 31:
After the words "county surveyor of a county" in sub-section (1), line 53, page 12, to insert the words "the borough surveyor of a county borough and the engineer of an urban district."
The section gives special facilities to county councils to obtain materials and this amendment is designed to give county borough councils and urban district councils the same facilities. It would merely place all the councils in the same position. The section allows county councils to go outside their own area to obtain materials, while a borough council or an urban district council has no power to obtain materials even in its own area.
I think this is a good amendment, and I am willing to accept it in principle. There is one change that I think should be made in the amendment—to substitute for "engineer of an urban district" the words "urban district council." With that change, I would be willing to accept the amendment.
I accept the change suggested. I would be willing to withdraw the amendment, or if the Minister desires, I would be prepared to have the amendment passed as it is and amended subsequently.
Would the Minister accept the amendment with the alteration he suggests now?
It may have to be amended on the Report Stage. Some changes in drafting might be necessary.
Would not the Minister accept the amendment now, and send forward another amendment later himself? We are anxious to get this amendment through.
I am willing to give everything you look for in the amendment, but the amendment may have to be re-drafted to make it fit in with the rest of the Bill.
If I amend the amendment to "and urban district council" instead of "engineer of an urban district," will the Minister accept it now?
There are four consequential amendments on this amendment. I am willing to accept everything the Deputy requires in the amendment, but there will have to be some changes made consequential on this amendment in the section, and, therefore, I would ask the Deputy to withdraw the amendment and I will substitute one on Report Stage which will cover everything.
Am I to understand that the Minister accepts these four amendments in principle?
On behalf of Deputy Heffernan, I move amendment 35:—
To add at the end of sub-section (1) (a) the following words: "provided that such stone is not of such quality or type as renders it of value for ornamental, or monumental purposes, or of special value for building purposes in work where stone of a special or rare type is used."
I think there is necessity for such a definition as that in the sub-section. There is hardly any necessity to put forward arguments in favour of it. I think the Minister should agree that where such stone is valuable it would not be right that authority should be given to enter lands and quarry it.
I support the first part of the amendment, and I think it is necessary to draw the Minister's attention to it. There are certain quarries where you have stone suitable for ornamental and monumental purposes, and it would be undesirable that the right should be given to enter those quarries. The latter part of the amendment I am afraid will not work out in practice. You have a great many quarries in the areas controlled by county and urban councils in which all the stone is of value for building purposes. In such circumstances, you may have a quarry by the roadside, the owner of which will tell you that the stone is valuable for building purposes. This provision would give him an excuse for refusing to allow quarrying for road purposes, and the authority concerned may have to go to a quarry two or three miles away, in a very inaccessible place, perhaps, from which a horse would not be able to pull more than 10 cwt. The first portion of the amendment is all right and I would ask the Minister to accept it. The second part might put a county council to very great expense in drawing stones from a distance, while they had suitable stone at hand.
I would like to point out to Deputy D'Alton that the amendment specifically states that this stone must be of a special and rare type for the building of houses. That is a distinction that Deputy D'Alton ought to take cognisance of. This amendment does not apply to every quarry, but only to quarries in which the stone would be of special value for building purposes, and in work for which a rare type of stone is required.
The difficulty is how is that going to be defined. I know of a certain bunch of quarries within a particular area from each of which the stone to be obtained could be described as a good building stone. If there is no definition as to the stone that may be quarried, the owner may say to the roadmaker: "I am not going to let you in because I have got a special exemption under the Local Government Department." What I want to know is how is the difference between one building stone and another going to be defined. It will be a very difficult thing to do. I am afraid you cannot tie up the hands of the county surveyor in cases where you have a number of persons holding quarries in all of which there is a building stone of good quality.
I agree with the views expressed by Deputy D'Alton. I agree with the former part of the amendment. It would be apparent to anybody if there was stone in a quarry of special value for ornamental work. If the amendment is accepted in its present form it will make things infinitely worse than they were in the past. Councils have experienced enormous difficulty in trying to get into quarries in the Free State, and if this amendment is passed it will provide a medium for people who own the quarries to prevent the councils from entering these quarries; it will entail more delay, and it will make the construction of the roads dearer than at present.
I think Deputy Heffernan ought to withdraw the latter portion of his amendment. It would be very hard to interpret what it means, because anybody who does not desire the council to enter on his land has only to put forward the argument that there are stones there of a particular type that would be good for building purposes, to prevent the council entering in order to quarry.
I think possibly the difficulty might be met in another way. It appears to me now that we are giving a much wider operation to this particular right than it had previously. It is now extended to borough engineers and to urban engineers, to enter any property, and formerly it was only the right of the county council to do so. We will want to take some steps on the other side to see that these rights are not abused. We can quite understand a case occurring if there is to be no enquiry where the surveyor may, for some purpose or another, go in on the land and strip off a considerable amount of material from the land. He may spoil the land, and he may spoil possibly one of the features of the neighbourhood. It seems to me we want to use some caution to see that this right is wisely used. I have in my mind at the moment a case where such a right has not been wisely used by the county council in the past. One of our most beautiful spots in the County Wicklow has been absolutely ruined at the moment because the surveyor of the county council in his wisdom has selected that particular spot as the proper place to quarry stones. Any Deputy, and particularly those from Wicklow, will know the Glen of the Downs. As you enter it now it is like one huge quarry, and that was one of our most beautiful spots in the County Wicklow. We should take some means of preventing damage of that character being done. I suggest that these powers should be limited in some way, whereby permission shall be obtained from the Ministry, and whereby the Ministry will not give that permission until they have held some inquiry to see if real damage is going to be done. I think I have said sufficient to show that that is essential.
I really do not think there is any necessity for this amendment. Under modern conditions it is necessary to have a good quality of stones employed in the construction of roads. You cannot use bad stones, useless for every other purpose. Since you make use of good stone at all, it is open to the owner to say whether the stone is good for this purpose or for that purpose. The section would be useless without that. This particular new section confers no new powers upon local authorities at all with regard to safeguarding the rights of owners.
The Minister says it does not confer new powers upon the authorities. Under the old Act was it not necessary for the council to apply to the petty sessions court in order to get permission before entering a quarry?
I am dealing now with the sub-section to which Deputy Heffernan has moved an amendment. I think the sub-section (2) gives every safeguard required, and I think if the Deputies read it, it will satisfy them, because it says: "It shall not be lawful for any county surveyor or contractor to enter on or pass over any land for the purpose of exercising their powers under this section, against the will of the occupier thereof, without the previous order of a justice of the district court, which order any justice of the district court is hereby authorised and required to grant on being satisfied that the exercise of the powers proposed is reasonable, having regard to the convenience and the cost of any alternative..."
I think that would meet Deputy Good's point as to the destruction of beauty spots and such matters. It is all a question of reasonableness. What was reasonable in one case would not be reasonable in another. If you had a valuable quarry with stone capable of being used for monumental purposes and on the opposite side a quarry with stones equally good for the roads, it would be undesirable to use the monumental stone for road-making, but if you could not get stone for the road nearer than 50 or 100 miles, and you had the stone of monumental kind in the district not being used for that purpose, there would be no objection to using that stone on the road. It is all a question to be decided by lawyers, having regard to each particular case. You cannot legislate for every specific difficulty of that kind that may crop up.
I am not satisfied that the guarantees contained in the Bill are sufficient to protect the owners of quarries in which there are valuable stones of this kind. There are other interests in this country besides the interests of the road-makers.
While I am not absolutely tied down to the wording of this amendment, if I get an assurance that some kind of a court of appeal or referees will be set up with power to define whether a stone is of special value for building purposes, I will be satisfied. It seems a pity that the county surveyor should have the right to enter a quarry where there is valuable granite or marble of a special type of which there may not be a great lot in the country, and go into the middle of that quarry and deface valuable stone. It may not be required at the moment, but we hope there will be developments, and with such developments that stone may become of great value in the course of time for building purposes. I may point out that there are in England and other places, granite quarries that have become very valuable properties to the owners. I am not prepared to withdraw my amendment on the assurance given by the Minister. I am prepared to stand by the first paragraph and withdraw the latter portion if I can get any assurance that some other tribunal will be established besides the local district justice. I am not satisfied that the local district justice is a man competent to define the matter of suitable stone. I want people who are experts, and before whom the owner can state his case, to decide on the matter.
I thought sub-section (2) amply covered the point made by Deputy Heffernan. He talks of a county surveyor going in and playing havoc with a marble quarry or a quarry containing valuable stone. I think he must have a very poor opinion of the ordinary district justices of the country if he thinks they are going to permit a man to go into a quarry to do all this damage. He has all the available powers of the law and he has the whole legal code to help him to come to a decision, and I think he is much the best man to arbitrate and to decide a case of this kind. If I were to accept an amendment of this kind, it would greatly curtail the powers the road-makers already have, and the object of this section of the Bill is rather to increase than to weaken these powers. There is great difficulty, as Deputy Corish pointed out, in many cases in getting stone for the making of roads, and I think with this safeguard of the district justice, Deputy Heffernan should have no objection to the regulation made.
The Minister does not see eye to eye with me. This matter does not always rest with the county surveyor. He could always be appealed to. The local foreman or ganger gives notice that he is going to break into a quarry, and unless some objection is taken his men can go in and we find these men going into a quarry and quarrying for the purposes of roads, but with no idea of the value of the stones. Their idea is to get stones as quickly as they can. They run over the quarry and take the easy parts. The Minister is aware these stones should be quarried very carefully, having regard to the construction of the rock and things of that kind. I am not prepared to withdraw my amendment, and I am sorry the Minister does not advance a little in my direction.
I am rather surprised at the attitude adopted by Deputy Heffernan. He asserts that an ordinary foreman or ganger can go into a quarry. Surely the section is perfectly clear so far as that is concerned. The Deputy seems to doubt the ability of the county surveyor to decide what is road material and what is not——
On a point of explanation may I say that I have not said that at all. What I said was that the local ganger does go in.
I do not think it can be proved that a local ganger ever went in without the consent of the local council or the county surveyor; it is ridiculous to suggest it. But in order to have further protection in quarries where Deputy Heffernan says there is material that ought to be protected, I think it might be an advisable thing for the Minister to substitute the county council or the municipal council for the borough surveyor, because you would have on the council every interest in the community represented, and surely the matter would be debated from every point of view, and perhaps Deputy Heffernan would accept it in that way if he substitutes the county council, the borough council, or the municipal council, as the case may be. I think every element in the community ought to be safeguarded and that other material or expensive material over and above that of ordinary macadam should be protected. Deputy Heffernan spoke of marble, but I cannot conceive of a marble road at all.
On the point touched by Deputy Corish I agree. There is no possibility of a ganger entering a quarry without authority. The county surveyor cannot go into a new quarry without getting an order from the court. Supposing a quarry is a certain distance away and he finds it would be a loss to the ratepayers to use it, or that he found it very difficult to get stone out of it, or it may be, only inferior stone which is swept off the road in a few weeks after it is laid on, if he wants to go into a new quarry he cannot do so without an order from the court.
Without the consent of the owner.
If the owner objects he cannot go into that quarry without an order from the court. That was the system in the old days. It was a question of going to the courts and in that way, in some cases, the owners appealed against the local magistrate's decision, and at times the matter went before the higher court, and it was proved that that was the only suitable quarry where stone could be got unless inferior stuff was put upon the roads. There is no way by which these people can go into the quarries without an order which the county surveyor or his representatives must get from the courts.
I would like to see the thing tied up a little more tightly. I think we ought to see that further inquiry is made before we hand over this power. It has been said that this power existed in the past, but I would like to see it more carefully safeguarded in the future. I only mentioned the instance I gave to show what damage has been done even with the consent of the county surveyor, so that it is not safe to leave the matter in his hands.
May I again intervene in this matter—especially after the remarks of Deputy Good. Perhaps the Wicklow County Council did not consider it advisable to quarry in that particular place at all. Perhaps it was the county surveyor's officers that went in. It is hard to think that the County Council of Wicklow, in view of the renown of the Glen of the Downs, would not hesitate before they proceeded to quarry in a case like that.
If these matters are left entirely in the hands of the county surveyor or the borough surveyor they may do some things to prejudice the council before the council realise what has been done. Another thing, to my mind, that would happen is this. It might not happen in many cases, but the danger is there certainly. If a matter of this kind is left entirely in the hands of the borough surveyor or the county surveyor, it might easily lead to corruption. You might get a county surveyor or a borough surveyor sufficiently weak to allow himself to be bribed to enter a quarry where there is bad material, apart from the other side of the case put forward by Deputy Heffernan. I know the Minister is going to prescribe certain materials for certain roads, but the Minister would want inspectors every hour of the day before he could guard against that to the extent he thinks. I think it is in the interest of everybody that the county council should be substituted for borough surveyor or county surveyor, as the case may be. Every interest would then be represented, or ought to be, and there will be special consideration given to the question mentioned in Deputy Heffernan's amendment, because, after all, if there was special stone in any particular area, I am sure that the representatives of every class would feel it their duty to preserve it for certain kinds of work.
I support that.
I find it difficult to agree, strange as it may seem, with Deputy Corish's suggestion. Let us take it that it is the county council, or the borough council, that has the right to determine in every case the quarry that may be entered upon. I am afraid even that would make difficulties.
I did not mean finally. I meant the council ought to bring the case before the district justice. I do not mean that their decision should be final.
The difficulty in that is, that when it comes to a question as to the quarry, that a county council may enter upon, there may be a quarry in a certain district convenient to a certain county councillor and another further away, and the owner of one quarry may be able to exercise influence on the county councillor. In that respect you will be putting responsibilities on county councillors which would be hardly fair. It is doubtful whether you will get an impartial opinion, because the council might be influenced by a particular individual in a particular district, and he, again, might be influenced by a particular owner. I doubt very much if the county council would be as satisfactory as it is thought. I still hold with Deputy Heffernan, that some safeguards, particularly in the matter which Deputy Good has advanced, are required. The difficulty is as to whom the powers should be given. There is no doubt that a district justice may be perfectly capable of coming to a decision on points of law, but would it not be unfair to ask him to come to a decision as to whether material in a certain quarry is value for ornamental or other purposes? Would there not be a necessity for some technical advice on such a point as that?
The great danger I see in this matter is, not so much from the county surveyor as from the contractor. Once a resolution is passed by the council, he has the power to get the material anywhere he likes. The Minister ought to take that into consideration. I have known a case in the County Dublin where a contractor entered on a man's field and destroyed two or three acres of the finest land in the county in order to get limestone, while there was a limestone quarry a few miles away, just because he happened to be making a road in that area.
I am quite satisfied with the section as it stands. The amendment seeks to prevent county councils from getting a certain class of stone, if the owner thinks it is useful for other purposes. Cases have occurred where owners of quarries refused to allow the county council to take stones unless the owners themselves were allowed to do the carting. In that way carters were deprived of a means of livelihood, because the county councils did not apply to the court for an order to enter the land. The section I think is too binding on the county councils. A resolution from the county council should be sufficient to allow the county surveyor to enter upon any land, without applying to the courts. If that were done a great deal of money would be saved. Where a contractor refuses to allow a pit on his lands to be opened, because he will not get the carting of the material, the county council should have power, by resolution, to enter on that land to take stones, provided they pay whatever the price usually is.
Three pence per yard.
That is enough. It is not even worth that. The county surveyor will not apply to the court without the sanction of the council. I have some experience of county council work, and I have never known a county surveyor compel a landowner to allow his men in for the purpose of getting stones without the sanction of the council. I know of a quarry on the edge of a road from which stones could be drawn and spread for 2/- per yard, and where the total cost, including steam-rolling, would not exceed 9/- per yard. Because the owner of that pit refused to give the material, it had to be got from a quarry two miles away, so that the work cost about 14/- per yard. I think the amendment is not necessary, and that there is sufficient safeguard in the section for what Deputy Heffernan has in mind.
I also am in favour of the section as it stands, provided the Minister safeguards marble quarries, of which there is one in my district. Some Deputies speak as if any class of stone should do for the roads. That is a great mistake from the ratepayers' point of view. You might as well be scattering mud on a road as stones from a bad quarry. After paying for quarrying, breaking and carting, bad soft stone will not remain a week on the road without going into dust. Where the money of the ratepayers is being spent the Councils should have access to the best quarries. There are portions of every quarry which may be used for building purposes. The building stone is generally put aside by the owner and he can sell the other stone to the council. It is unfair that the ratepayers' money should be spent in quarrying stones from a bad quarry and making roads with them. Only the best quarries should be entered upon for the making of roads. Yesterday we had a lot of talk about road-making. At present it would appear to be the only industry in the country—if we can call it an industry. It is, however, a necessity, and I hold that only the best materials should be put into the roads.
I do not think there is any necessity for the amendment. It seems to assume that the county surveyor in the first instance will have no regard as to whether the stones are valuable for building purposes or not. It also assumes that the county council will have no regard for that. There is the third safeguard that the owner, if he likes, can apply to the District Justice. I can foresee what will happen if the amendment is carried. When a county surveyor tries to go into a quarry to get stones for the road you will have the owner, in nine cases out of ten, appealing to the county council, and if he was unsuccesful there, to the District Justice. In the meantime, the county surveyor's work will be held up for want of stones.
I have some experience under the old system, of the powers of a justice of the peace, and I observe one gap in the Deputy's argument, about notice to enter lands to take stones for the repair of roads. There is nothing in the section compelling notice to be given. A man might apply to the district justice without any notice being given to the owner of the quarry or of the land it is proposed to enter, in order that he may have an opportunity of appearing before the district justice and making a case. That seems to me to be a serious gap. If I am right in that, I hope the Minister will consider putting in something on the Report Stage, so that due notice should be given to the owner of the land. Subject to that, I agree with Deputy Morrissey that there are sufficient and reasonable safeguards. I think Deputy Heffernan's amendment is not far-reaching enough. I know that in County Sligo an application was made to enter a certain quarry which was used, not merely for building purposes, but for crushing to produce calcium carbide to make light. I remember, acting as a magistrate, I rejected the application. Deputy Heffernan's amendment refers to monumental stone and stone of value for building purposes. There are other purposes for which stone may be used, like producing calcium carbide. I think the position would be met, so far as Deputy Heffernan's amendment is concerned, if notice had to be given to the owner of the land before proceeding to bring a case before a district court. Otherwise, a wider amendment than Deputy Heffernan's will be needed on the Report Stage.
I agree with Deputy Cooper, that my amendment is not wide enough as far as protecting the owners of valuable quarries is concerned. I thought afterwards that I should have made it wider to protect the owners of quarries from which stone is taken for chemical and other purposes. The arguments of the other Deputies, instead of convincing me that I am wrong, have convinced me that I am right. Apparently the idea of Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Daly is that the only real interest in this matter is that of road making. I do not know that the Deputies on the Labour Benches have shown that they have any great confidence in the ability of officials to do the work they are expected to do. I also think that there is a great tendency in Government Departments to say "We will have educated commonsense officials, and we can depend on them."
I quite agree that the majority of county surveyors are well qualified men. We might have an exception and have a man who would not be such a good official, who would not have artistic tastes, and have no real idea of the advantages of valuable stone. Although there is a safeguard of a kind, there is a possibility, from the point of view of conserving the natural resources of the country, that a quarry might be in existence which the owner did not realise was of considerable value from the monumental point of view, or perhaps contained some valuable chemical property and the owner might not object. In such a case I think the county surveyor would take it upon himself to refuse contractors access to the quarry. I maintain there are other interests besides road-making. Road-making is very prominent now. I think it gets more attention than it will get in the future. I would ask the Minister if he could suggest any safeguard and any method by which the appeal would be to a qualified person, rather than to an unqualified man like a district justice.
With regard to Deputy Daly's reference to marble quarries, I think he need have no fear about that, as no surveyor in his senses would think of using marble to maintain a road. He might as well use chalk. I cannot see any point in Deputy Heffernan's insistence on the amendment. The district justice is a man qualified to weigh evidence, and presumably, if the owner feels he is aggrieved in any way, he will get experts to advise him on the value of his property. Those experts will be in a position to submit evidence in the court to the district justice. He will act on that evidence and will be in a position to weigh it at its true value, not like the ordinary arbitrator, who would have no idea of summing up evidence at all. I think the district justice is the best possible man for this position.
With regard to Deputy Cooper's point, I think there is a point there. As the sub-section reads, it would be possible for the surveyor or contractor to go in on the owner's land unless the owner objects. It is possible that the owner may not be living there, but a hundred miles away, and meanwhile, perhaps, a lot of damage would be done without anyone being aware of the fact, or being there to raise an objection. I think that if the section was changed to read "except with the consent of the occupier," it would meet the objection, because there would be no chance of stones being removed without notice and without enabling the owner to appeal to the district justice. I will be prepared to insert an amendment to that effect on the Report Stage.
Perhaps the Minister might give consideration to one point. That point has reference to the difference between the county surveyor and the contractor. The county surveyor may be said to be working in the public interest, while the contractor is inevitably bound to be working for his personal interest to a very great extent. Would the Minister limit the powers of the contractor to enter upon lands for the purpose of quarrying until he has had the permission of the county surveyor? I think some limitation should be put upon the contractor, or at least the assent of the county surveyor should be obtained in the matter. There is the possibility that the contractor, if contracting as a result of tenders, may not be in an equal position regarding knowledge of where stone may be obtained. I think the consent of the surveyor acting for the county should be obtained by the contractor before he has the right that is given in this section.
I desire to supplement that point. It might obviate the danger that I pointed out before. Any contractor can come in and if, as Deputy Johnson suggests, he had to get the consent of the county surveyor, some remedy would thereby be found for a dangerous position.
Deputy Wilson moved an amendment to another section of the Bill, and he was very anxious that I should set up a road board to maintain the roads on a national basis. I pointed out that at present I have a certain amount of power in that respect. If the Deputy insists on the suggestion that he and Deputy Johnson are responsible for putting forward now, it will considerably curtail that power. If I find it expedient to give out a contract to a road contractor, as I have power to do under a previous section, to maintain a stretch of road, say about fifty or a hundred miles, it is quite likely that might not fall in with the wishes of the county surveyor of some county, and he would be in a position to upset the whole thing if the contractor did not have his consent.
Of course, that point is not in mind. It would meet all my intentions in this matter if the contractor would obtain the consent of the Minister; but I just feel that it would be giving the contractor rather too much power unless he obtained the consent of somebody acting on behalf of the Minister or the county authority.
I will agree to that all right.
Will the Minister alter the phraseology so as to embody that intention?
I will have that done for the Report Stage.
Amendment put and negatived.
I beg to move amendment 36:—To delete paragraph (d). I put this amendment down in order to get some explanation or information from the Minister. Under the Bill the county surveyor or contractor has power to use the land for the purpose of breaking up stones and for screening and mixing or otherwise dealing with materials. My knowledge in regard to this matter is that the amount of compensation allowed for damage done is not adequate. As far as I am aware the compensation is simply for surface damage and it does happen that a good deal of damage is done to a man's land. The place is occupied for a considerable time and the machinery is for a long time working on it. What is given for surface damage is very inadequate. It may happen, too, that where a quarry is near a man's house or near a town, the value of the land is considerably deteriorated by the fact that unsightly material, such as usually attaches to a quarry, is very visible, and machines are working there. I would be willing to withdraw the amendment if the Minister would insert something to the effect that those powers would only be used where no other land on the side of the road would be available.
I would ask the Minister not to agree to this amendment. As Deputy Heffernan or any other Deputy probably knows, there are some quarries situated in such a way that the screening and crushing of stones, and the piling of them before and after crushing, must be all carried out on the land because the roads are too narrow at that point. If the councils were compelled to carry stones to the roadside, bring their machinery there, crush the stones on the spot, and then leave them there until they are spread on the roads, it would practically block up the whole roadway and make the place dangerous for traffic. I was glad to hear Deputy Heffernan saying that he put the amendment down more or less to get information. I do not think that he would be wise in pressing this amendment.
This is a new sub-section which is not in the existing code dealing with roads, and I think that Deputies with any imagination will realise that modern conditions make it necessary. In the old days when you were breaking stones by hand, when you had very little traffic on the roads, and only required to throw a shovelful of metal here and there, it was not necessary to take power to pile materials on land, or to take power for screening, mixing, concreting, using those big scarifiers, and all the other paraphernalia of modern road-making. If roads are to be maintained according to modern standards, it is necessary that we should have power to place all this machinery in a position where the stones are being quarried. It is also necessary to be able to pile up stones in convenient stacks near the roads. At present, with the tremendous amount of material spread on the roads every year, the difficulty of finding a place for those stones near the roadside is becoming very great, and in some cases it constitutes a serious danger. Along the roads that are being maintained under our million grant at the present moment, you have got practically regular stone walls rising to a great height—in some cases they are eight or ten feet high—and they leave a very narrow margin for traffic to pass through. These piles of stones constitute a menace to traffic, and some method will have to be found for relieving the congestion caused by those huge piles. Accordingly we have made provision for that under the Bill. There is no danger of rights being interfered with in any way. The owner will be compensated for any damage done to his ground, and under sub-section (5) provision is made against any danger of interfering with the amenities of pleasure grounds or gardens, or houses whose value would be interfered with if an objectionable pile of stones, or machinery, was brought too near the view of the residents. Sub-section (5), I think, covers Deputy Heffernan's point amply.
Will the Minister tell me on what basis will the compensation given for such trespass be calculated?
It will be calculated on the present basis where compensation is paid in regard to land entered upon for road-making. Any ground used for the piling of stones or the erection of machinery will be taken into consideration and calculated when estimating the amount of damage.
Would not that be simply for surface damage? Would not the Minister take into account that the land where that machinery had been in operation would be afterwards rendered useless through this damage? The small stones would be crushed into the land, and rubbish of all kinds would be lying around there.
That would be a question for decision in each particular case. The district justice has ample powers to take that into consideration. That is provided for in sub-section (4).
I think, as far as compensation is concerned, Deputy Heffernan is endeavouring by his amendment to provide so that a man whose land has been injured should be reasonably compensated for the damage done. I would like to support the Minister and to direct his attention to the using of this power rather more than it is being used at present. They probably have not got it at present. At all events, we know that all through the country there has been a tremendous lot of work on roads, and in very many cases I have come across roads originally quite wide enough for traffic, but now occupied, to a large extent, with enormous piles of stones, and not temporarily occupied either, because they are collected on the side of the road, and really make half the road of no use at all for traffic but a danger to the public. That is a thing, I think, that should be avoided as much as possible. It is bad for the road as well as being bad for the people, and it certainly is most dangerous. I could give the Dáil instances of roads that I have been over that were rendered almost impassable by that operation of piling up stones along the side of the road, taking half the road and leaving a narrow passage for traffic to pass on and which was hardly sufficient. That reminds me that more use should be made of the land adjoining the quarry for the storing of the stones. It would be better if more use were made of that ground so that the stones could be carted out when needed, and not piled up on the side of the road as at present.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
I beg to propose amendment 37, standing in my name:—
To add at the end of paragraph (f) the words: "provided that such land, river or brook is situated at a distance not greater than 100 yards from the public road."
The idea contained in this amendment is that power should not be granted to any surveyor or contractor to enter into any quarry which is farther away from the road than 100 yards. The reasons are obvious. First, carts would have to go through the land and do a great deal of surface damage. To my mind it is not advisable that the surveyor or contractor should have power to exceed this distance, and I must say that the distance I put down is rather arbitrary. I thought, first to make it 50 yards but on consideration I extended it to 100 yards, so as to cover any reasonable possibility of acquiring a quarry at a convenient distance from the roads.
I would certainly oppose this amendment, because the county council and county surveyors have been, up to now, experiencing difficulty in getting any stones at all. If you put this new obstacle in their way their difficulties will be all the greater. I do not think the Minister should agree with that amendment at all. I do think that Deputy Heffernan's point might be met if there is really a great amount of traffic expected in order to get access to a quarry, or if a man's land were to be damaged to any great extent, by representations being made before the district justice and evidence given when application is being made for access to a quarry in a particular district. I dare say he will find that the district justice will be reasonable on that point.
That is provided for in sub-section (2).
I think he will have sufficient safeguards there.
I also would like to ask Deputy Heffernan to withdraw that amendment. As Deputy Daly has said the urgent need for the roads today is that the best stones that can possibly be got should be put on them. There is no doubt about it that the better the stone, and the harder the stone is, the cheaper it will be to the ratepayers. We have had considerable expenditure on the roads because of the softness of the stone used. Where there is the initial cost incurred of putting a hard stone on the road you will find that that road will bear a lot of wear and tear.
There is no doubt that a lot of stones are put on the road simply because they are handy. That is bad economics, for if the stone is not up to the mark in quality it will not give the wear. Deputy Heffernan's point is, I think, that going over 100 yards from the road to a quarry is costly on account of the trouble of carting the stone that distance on to the road. I say if the stone quarry be more than 100 yards from the road, if it is better than a stone that is nearer to the road. It will be money well spent, because of the better quality of the stone at the extra cost. Cases will be very few in which such an operation will take place at all. In this particular case the farmer, or whoever suffers, ought to be reasonably indemnified for any loss incurred.
I fear that I cannot agree with that amendment, for the very same reason that I objected to the second part of the other amendment of Deputy Heffernan. I will just give one instance. I know of a stone that is being taken from a certain quarry, and I am aware that that stone is absolutely a loss to the ratepayers. I spoke to the councillors concerned. It was not the county council, it was the borough council. I considered that it was an absolute disgrace that they should use that particular stone because of the fact that it was convenient. It was simply a question of putting it out on the road, remaining there, or, I should say, lasting, for only two or three weeks, and then employing men to sweep it off the roads again. All the time the rates were going up proportionately on the people. I do not think the county surveyor is going to enter 100 yards on a man's land provided he gets a quarry on the roadside or near it that will suit his purpose. That is in places where the stones can be got with the least cost to the ratepayers. But a bad soft stone is a loss, and, on the other hand, a long cartage on stones is a loss, and these are matters that the county surveyor will have to weigh up himself. I do not think there is any possibility or likelihood that the county surveyor will enter into a quarry where he has to go a long distance into the quarry off the road if he can find a suitable quarry nearer. I agree with the amendment to this extent, that no county surveyor should be allowed to enter a distance of more than 50 or 100 yards on a man's land to a quarry, provided he has a suitable quarry available where no damage will be done to the land, or where the damage will be considerably less, and where there is an equally good stone.
If you deprive the council of the right of entering a quarry because it is a certain distance from the road, where the best road material is to be got, and force them to go into a quarry where they will get bad material, it will be a dead loss. I would ask Deputy Heffernan, therefore, not to press this amendment.
I would be willing to accept Deputy D'Alton's suggestion if the Minister inserts a provision in the Bill that there should not be any right on the part of the council to enter a quarry at a greater distance than a hundred yards from the public road, if suitable stone is available in some other quarry at a more convenient distance. I would ask the Minister if he would accept that suggestion.
I think it would be really ridiculous to insert a proviso of that kind in the Bill. After all, you must trust to the commonsense of the county surveyor and the county council. In the ordinary course of events, the county surveyor will not draw stones from a quarry 300 or 400 yards from the public road if he can get equally suitable stones within 20 or 50 yards of the road, but it would be impossible for me to accept any hard and fast line, that he can only enter a quarry 100 yards, or 150 yards from the road. It may be a case of so near and yet so far. It may be impossible to maintain a road at all if you put down a general proviso of this kind. In some cases you may not be able to get a quarry within 400 yards of the road. Naturally, the county surveyor will not travel any further than he has to. If he can get stone 50 yards from the road he will take it, unless the stone is of very bad quality. I really think this is a question of trusting to the commonsense of the county surveyor and the county council.
I do not think the Minister has quite realised Deputy D'Alton's point. I think there is a great deal in it really. It might happen that a good quarry might be situated, say, 150 yards from the road, and in order to save himself the trouble of going two miles to another quarry which is situated along the roadside, the county surveyor would go into this quarry 150 yards from the road, do a considerable amount of surplus damage to the land and cause a considerable amount of annoyance to the farmer. I think if Deputy D'Alton's idea is adopted, there will be no difficulty. That is, he can go into this quarry 150 yards away if there is no other stone available at a convenient place and distance. I think the Minister did not quite get that point.
I have got that point now, and it is amply provided for in sub-section (2). The words of this sub-section are: "on being satisfied that the exercise of the powers proposed is reasonable, having regard to the convenience and cost of any alternative method." That is the direction to the district justice, to carry out the intention that Deputy D'Alton and Deputy Heffernan have expressed.
I will withdraw my amendment then.
I beg to move:
In sub-section (3), line 35, after the word "existence," to delete the words "and being bona fide worked at the time of the exercise of such powers.”
As the sub-section stands at present, the compensation granted for a quarry which has not been bona fide used at the time, is only surface damage and compensation for the loss of use of the land for that time, but the words “bona fide used at the time” are rather narrow. It seems quite possible that a quarry might be of considerable advantage to the owner, but it might not actually be in use at the time required by the county surveyor. For that reason I put down the amendment. My idea is that the owner of the quarry should be compensated for the actual value of the stone in addition to the surface damage done and the losses owing to being deprived of the use of his land.
I cannot agree to this amendment. This sub-section adds nothing to the powers that the county council already has in this respect. It gives power to compensate for material drawn from a quarry that is being bona fide used and a quarry that has not been used cannot be considered a quarry at all. If I were to give effect to Deputy Heffernan's amendment it would be very difficult to get stone or maintain a road at all. The expenditure would be too high. In many cases there is valuable stone, from the road-making point of view, under several farmers' places. Farms that run together along a stretch of country may have suitable stone running under them for 8 or 10 miles at a stretch, and the stone under any of these farms would be useful for making roads, but before a quarry is opened up the stone has absolutely no commercial value. It will not have any value until it is taken out and used for some particular purpose. I think it would be unfair to create a value in the stone in one particular farmer's place and call upon his neighbouring farmers to pay for that stone as ratepayers when it would be put on the road. If the owner is amply compensated for the surface damage, I think he has nothing to complain of. That is the procedure at present, and I see no reason to change it.
I think that Deputy Heffernan's amendment is too wide, that it would undoubtedly cover the case of making a value under which very considerable claims could be put up that could hardly be substantiated. But there is a case of the quarry that has been worked and has ceased working. I know cases in North County Dublin where a man owns two or three quarries, and he found it more economical and easier of working to concentrate his labour on one particular quarry and not work the other quarries for the time being, intending to go back to these other quarries when the first quarry was worked out. I think that case could be met possibly by an amendment on the Report Stage, either a quarry that bona fide is being worked, or has been worked, because otherwise there will be a certain amount of sense of grievance and hardship, if a quarry that a man has been saving in anticipation of a demand is taken. For instance, I know that some people in North County Dublin anticipate a considerable demand for stone when O'Connell Street is being rebuilt. I am not quite sure that their hopes will be justified, but they are keeping back some quarries in order to supply the demand, and it would be a considerable hardship if stones were to be drawn from these quarries and they were to receive no payment at all.
I think that Deputy Cooper is quite right in his contention, and I would ask the Minister to define a quarry that has been worked as an actual thing in being. For instance, say that a quarry had been worked and is in a condition to be worked; if the county council goes in there it has an asset that it would not have had if the stones had to be dug out of the land—in other words, if they had to go in on the land and take the surface off to get at the stone. I think he might reasonably admit the claims of a quarry that has been developed, because the county council will be getting the benefit of the work that has already been performed in the quarry, and I think it would be a very unfair thing and a hardship, if a man had a quarry which was a real asset to him and possession of it was taken.
I certainly think that there is a great deal in Deputy Heffernan's amendment, to the extent that there should be some period. I think that the Minister ought to bring in something on the Report Stage and mention the case of a quarry that was worked at a certain period, say a given number of years. For instance, there may be a quarry at the moment not being worked, in which there is a really good stone, but perhaps the contractor who was working it went to a softer quarry because the supervision was not the same as it will be under this Bill when the Minister proposes to specify the material, and I think, in fairness to everybody, that a certain amount should be paid per cubic yard to every person who has a bona fide quarry, because there are factors in various areas that, I think, should be considered by the Minister. If he does not accept the amendment in its present form, he ought to go into it between now and the Report Stage with a view to considering the factors that have been mentioned.
In consideration of that point, one important point that comes to my mind is the difference between the two sets of quarries. In one case the county or borough surveyor will enter on a certain quarry. It is a hardship on the owner of that quarry, if he retains it, to enter on a certain date. In most instances when surveyors have gone into a quarry and have found that the stone is of an inferior quality, or that it will filter away and peter out into nothingness, they simply surrender the quarry. You have to differentiate between the two, the quarry that is retained by the county surveyor and the quarry that he surrenders because it is too hard to work or because the quality of the stone is not good. I would ask the Minister to consider that, and that he should differentiate between these two quarries in the interest of the owners.
In practice there is very great difficulty in trying to define these distinctions legally, but I will look into it, and I may be able to bring forward something that will satisfy Deputies on this point.
The points I wanted to bring out have been brought out by other Deputies, and I am willing to withdraw, provided the Minister gives an undertaking that he will endeavour to define this paragraph more clearly to cover the types of quarries that have been mentioned.
On behalf of Deputy Cole, I beg to move to insert in the last sub-section, after the word "garden," the word "orchard," so that it shall read: "all land except land bona fide used as a garden, orchard, or pleasure-ground, or for the amenity or convenience of a dwelling-house.” It is a very small amendment. An orchard cannot strictly be said to be used for an amenity, though an orchard in the time of blossom is a very beautiful thing. I do not know that it can be said to be used for convenience. However, it makes the definition a little stronger. The main point is that it is desirable to encourage people to plant fruit trees; it helps to establish new industries; it leads to a greater variety of diet, and it has been done not only in Northern Ireland, though it has been done mainly in County Armagh, but, on the Border counties, and to a certain extent, in County Roscommon. I think it would be unfair that where a man has established an orchard and has sunk his capital—because when money is sunk in an orchard, neither the money nor the orchard bears fruit for a considerable number of years—that it should be entered into, taken up, and used as a quarry.
I do not think that it should require very much persuasion to get the Minister to put in the word "orchard," but it would never have occurred to me to ask that it should be put in, because I think it is covered, first of all by the term "garden," secondly by "pleasure-ground," thirdly by "amenity," and fourthly by "convenience," so that while I support the inclusion of the word "orchard," I think that it has been well covered already.
I am inclined to agree with Deputy Hewat, but I am willing to include the word "orchard" although I think it is included in "garden."
It may save litigation.
I would like to say a word on one part, paragraph (c)—"to make and repair drains in or through any land to which this section applies in order to carry off water which might injure any road." I really do not know whether I am in order or not in the matter I want to mention. I would like to know the Minister's mind on the question of privately owned drains or sewers. I think that the Minister is aware, or he ought to be aware, that under the law at present if two or more private sewers are connected together they immediately become a public sewer. I do not know whether there is anything in the Bill to deal with that. If there is not I am out of order, but I would like to know the mind of the Minister on that. I think I could bring myself into order if it was a case of two drains. But really it is a great nuisance to public boards at present, because the occupants or owners can construct sewers at the rear of their premises; it does not matter how they are constructed, but immediately two or more are connected they become the responsibility of the public bodies to maintain. I think something ought to be done. This thing is becoming too prevalent; a good deal of harm is done before public authorities are aware of it, and they become liable for a sewer that may be connected by bad workmanship. Consequently the ratepayers are suffering to a large extent because these things are being done without obtaining the consent of the sanitary authorities, who know nothing about it and after a while they have to take all the liability. I would advise the Minister to look into this very seriously with a view to passing some legislation to get us away from this state of affairs.
The Deputy was not in order in dealing with this subject. It would come in better under Public Health matters. This section is concerned only with drains on roads.
There is enough in this Act without bringing in sanitary matters.
The board has power to make drains in or through land. Is it possible to make drains into land and cause those drains to deposit stuff on the land of the owner?
It does not give power to do that.
I am satisfied if it does not.
Does it give the Minister power to prevent a landowner from draining his land on to a public road without sending it into some other drain? There is a terrible amount of harm done at the moment by drains coming from land cutting right across the road.
Is the Minister right in saying that it does not give power to drain in on land?
It does not give that power.
It may not give the power, but I think it is done by gravitation more than by anything else.
This is a new section. I think anyone who is in the habit of travelling through the country in any kind of vehicle will understand the necessity for it. There is a great increase in accidents as a result of motorists not seeing vehicles coming at cross roads and for reasons of that kind. In the old days it was the habit to build corner houses at cross roads and also to build high walls along the borders of roads on which we have very heavy traffic to-day. Anyone in the habit of motoring along the Stillorgan Road will see a good example of that. This constitutes a serious danger to people living under modern conditions. It is necessary to make some provision to safeguard the public and accordingly this section provides that a person cannot build a house within 30 yards of a road without giving notice to the County Council. In some cases it gives power to take down a house or other structure, built within 30 yards of the road, where such structure constitutes a danger to the public. If, after the passing of this Bill, a person constructs a house within 30 yards of the road, without giving due notice, he will not get compensation, if it is found necessary to demolish the structure. The interests of owners are protected, as a month's notice of the intention to demolish a building is to be given. The section speaks for itself.
This section I think in some ways is one of the most valuable and necessary sections in the Bill.
Obviously, it is necessary that some control should be kept over dangerous corners. I would like to refer Deputy Corish in this particular matter to a road which he knows and which has been made impassable. Even a short time ago a house was built right at the corner of a dangerous turning coming down from Rosslare Station. Coming down from the station, there is a road which takes a certain sharp turn up towards the village and a house has been built right at the corner. On the other hand, thirty yards from the centre of a road seems to be rather a long way. Perhaps it is necessary, but thirty yards means a fairly long drive up to a country house. I do not know whether thirty yards is unnecessarily far, but it certainly is a long way. On the other hand, the section affords very valuable security that buildings will not be put up without the control of somebody in places where they are going to affect the traffic of the roads.
I would like to ask the Minister whether it was thirty feet or thirty yards he meant, because thirty feet used to be and still is the regulation distance. Thirty yards from the centre of a public road would mean a night's walk up to the house. What would be the width of a street if you have the houses thirty yards away from the centre of it? It would be sixty yards wide. You could have a hurling match on that street. Thirty feet is long enough, if not too long.
I would ask the Minister to leave it at thirty feet or to reduce it to 20 feet. In a case where there is an old house standing, the new house should be allowed to be built on the foundations of the old house. I know houses that had to be taken down, because they were built too near the road. It was a great hardship to the people living in them. Thirty yards is too far.
I agree with Deputy Daly that 30 yards is excessive. Take the case of a labourer's cottage. I ask you how would you get an avenue of 30 yards in one of those plots which contains only half a statute acre? It would be quite impossible. A distance of 30 feet would be, I think, quite sufficient, and a house built at that distance from the road could not obstruct the view of the road.
Might I point to the earlier covenants in this clause. They will show, I think, the reasonableness of the provision mentioned: "Where the Minister, on the application of the council charged with the maintenance of any road, is satisfied that the erection of a proposed building or other structure would obstruct the view of persons using such road, so as to render such road dangerous to such persons, he may by order prohibit the erection of any portion of such building or structure within 30 yards of such road."
It is obvious from the opening portion of this clause that it only applies in cases where it would be a positive danger to the road users to have the building within thirty yards of the road. I think under such circumstances Deputies will agree that this is a reasonable provision. After all, 30 yards is not so very far. If we laid Deputy Daly out on the floor, it would take only fifteen Deputy Dalys to make 30 yards.
I think 30 yards is rather too great a distance from the centre of the road. I can understand that on bends there may be some reason for keeping back a house 30 yards, but on a straight line of road. I think the old 30-feet limit is sufficient. I think more power should be left in the hands of the county council than they have at present with regard to regulating the building of houses. In the village of Prosperous the young men of the village extended their ball-alley out towards the road. The road in question passes through the village in a straight line, having a width of something like 30 feet between the channels on each side. Between the channel and the end of the ball alley there is a space of about 7 feet. They are threatened by the county surveyor that this extension of theirs is illegal and will be knocked down. I would ask the Minister to consider cases like that. It is a great hardship on those young men, who have built the ball-alley with their own pocket-money. It does not cause any obstruction as far as traffic is concerned along a wide road which has a side margin of 8 or 10 feet. I think the Minister should make this section elastic enough to suit the needs of all cases. In some cases 30 yards is not too much —for example where you have an ugly bend.
I would like to emphasise the point that Deputy Good made that this provision does not apply except the Minister is satisfied that the proposed building or structure will obstruct the view of persons using the road and be a danger to the public. I think there is no power in this section to insist that a house built, say, on the side of a straight road, would have to be thirty yards from the side of the road. I cannot find that provided in this section. This provision is an eminently wise and necessary one. In those matters the protection of the public should be the first interest of the Minister and I think nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of affording such protection as is necessary in those days of fast mechanical traffic.
I would like to be assured that the word "council" here does not mean simply a county council. Does it equally apply to a borough council?
It applies to a council charged with the maintenance of any road.
Yes; but "county council" is very prominent all over this Bill.
It is made clear here.
To my mind, this section has been drafted without due consideration to all the facts. I do think it would be well for the Minister to go into the whole question again. As other speakers have said, it may be easy to keep a house thirty yards from the centre of the road in some places but in other places it would not. I do not think the Minister has gone far enough. As far as some parts are concerned, I believe the council ought to get powers not alone to deal with buildings about to be erected but with buildings already there——
They have that power.
In the next paragraph.
There is an aspect of this section that has not yet been mentioned. Sub-section (3) of this section says:—
"Where the Minister makes an order under this section for the removal of a building or other structure or any portion thereof, the council on whose application the order was made shall pay to every person having an interest in the land upon which such building or structure is situate, by way of compensation..."
I would like to see inserted a subsection—it is a fault of mine not to have seen this need before—that not only shall compensation be paid to those having an interest in the land, but that in cases where cottages and houses are removed by the power given under this section, the persons who have been de-housed shall be provided with habitations. It seems to me quite clear that if in the interest of road-hogs or others who use the roads, we are going to give power to remove buildings which obstruct the view of such road-users, the housing of the people who may be dispossessed should be looked after and be an immediate charge on the council responsible. I hope the Minister will agree to the insertion of some such provision and that he will indicate his willingness to do so at once.
If we are discussing the whole of the sub-sections there is a point I would like to raise on sub-section (4). Sub-section (4) reads:—
No compensation shall be payable under this section by a council in respect of a building or structure, the erection of which was begun after the passing of this Act unless not less than one month's notice in writing of the intention to erect such building or structure was given to such council before such erection was begun.
That is a sort of negative safeguard which, I think, might be usefully amended. In both the borough and urban districts it is necessary before any such building can be commenced to have the approval of the public authority. It gives the authority then an opportunity of objecting to any particular features. Apparently, under the county authorities it is unnecessary to get such approval, and the way the Minister proposes to get over the difficulty is that if there is any doubt in the building owner's mind that his buildings may infringe this particular section, he has to notify the authorities one month before such erection is begun. That casts an obligation on a building owner which, I think, is very undesirable. Very few, I think, except this matter is published very widely, would know of such a provision. Possibly, under existing condition, they might put up a building in ignorance, and then find that the local authority would compel them to remove a considerable portion of that structure. The way I suggest that the difficulty be overcome is to make a provision whereby it would be incumbent— if it is not already incumbent—on building owners to submit plans and specifications for the approval of a county authority, same as is being done now in urban areas. If the county authority has any objection to that building, as coming within this sub-section, then it has an opportunity of expressing that disapproval before the work is entered on. That would be a more satisfactory way of dealing with the matter.
I think this would be resented all over the country. The people are not used to that sort of control. They have got into the way of travelling along at their own sweet will and, as far as counties are concerned, there would be widespread difficulty in getting the provision adopted at all in that form.
It would not confer any additional obligation on the building owner because the local authorities would only have to give general approval, and I think that is very necessary in connection with building. In country districts, I think, it would be a good thing if we had a little more of this kind of restriction, because it would be to the advantage both of the building owner and of the people in the district concerned. In many country districts, at present, there is too much carelessness with regard to the placing of buildings. It would not cost any more money if these things were put right in the first instance, and if the plans had to be submitted to the local authority.
Deputy Good is visualising a stage of development in building in country districts that has not yet been reached. The usual practice, with the farmer who proposes to extend his premises, is that he has the plan of the proposed extension in his own mind. In such a case, how could he be required to submit his plans for the approval of the local authority? The only time that the farmer submits his plans is in a case where he is getting a grant of money under an Act of Parliament.
It is because he has not done that in the past that we have to pass special legislation now on the matter.
Deputy Good appears to be in favour of putting restrictions on people who want to build. I do not agree with that, and my suggestion is that the people should be left alone.
I think that, in practice, it would be very hard to give effect to Deputy Good's suggestion. I am afraid that ignorantia juris non excusat applies to this Bill as well as to other Bills. I have no doubt that the ordinary builders will become familiar with this section after it has caused a good deal of discussion.
There are no builders in the country. They are all farmers.
The building owner, under the Bill, must give a month's notice if he is building within 30 yards of the road. That is quite plain, and I think you will find that the public will get to know about this very quickly, that is, any one who has an intention of building, whether he be a farmer or an expert builder.
In urban areas, at present, is it not compulsory on builders to submit their plans to the local council?
It is, of course. Deputy Johnson has raised a point here and has endeavoured to throw on me the onus of formulating an amendment.
If the Minister will accept the principle, I will formulate the amendment.
The Deputy has pleaded guilty to an omission, and I will leave it to him to make up for that omission on the Report Stage. Let him submit an amendment and I will consider it. I am afraid that some Deputies have taken this section rather too seriously as if this proviso were to apply to every house constructed within thirty yards of the road. I might say that it is only to very few houses that this proviso would apply at all. It will apply principally in cases where it is proposed to build at corners or at cross roads which connect up main roads and on which there is a lot of traffic. I do not anticipate that there will be very much use made of this section, but occasionally, of course, it will be necessary to make use of it.
I hope the Minister will give favourable consideration to the case that I put before him about the ball-alley in the district that I referred to. The boys in the locality went to a lot of trouble in putting up that alley, and it will be very hard on these young fellows if the structure has to be taken down. It causes no obstruction whatever on the road, and I hope the Minister will not refuse his sanction if the County Council of Kildare approve of the proposal to leave that particular ball-alley standing.
If the County Council give their approval I will have nothing to say to it. I would suggest, however, to Deputy Colohan that he should do his part in getting the national game of hurling cultivated in that district. If he succeeds in doing that, then there will be no need at all for this ball-alley.
Handball is a good national game and deserves to be encouraged.
I would ask the Minister to leave the matter a line ball.
This section deals with a somewhat similar situation to that dealt with in the previous section. It proposes to extend the provisions of Section 9 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Act of 1881. It deals with overgrown hedges and trees. Trees affect a road, and may constitute a menace to the users of a road in three ways. First of all, overgrown hedges and trees affect the surface of the road. They shade the light and air away from it, and they make it more difficult and more costly to maintain; secondly, trees and bushes often times overhang a road, and make it dangerous for passers by. Hedges, when not properly clipped, are likely to injure a person's eyesight, especially when traveling along a road at night time. Thirdly, high hedges at the corners of roads prevent a person seeing traffic coming in the opposite direction, and in that way accidents are likely to occur. Accordingly it is necessary to give power to local authorities to insist on having these obstructions removed. This section gives that power, and rather amplifies the powers they had under Section 9 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act. The owner of hedges or trees can be compensated if the removal of the hedge in any way constitutes damage to the property from which it is removed. They can be compensated for the cost of putting up another fence instead of the one in respect of which an order for removal has been made. I do not think there is anything further I need say on the general principle of the section.
I suggest to the Minister that in sub-section (2) it would be advisable to include borough surveyor, that is, to give to a borough surveyor the power that it is proposed to give to a county surveyor and an urban council.
A borough surveyor is scarcely a sufficiently responsible officer to invest with this power.
It is considered that the term "urban district" would cover a county borough in cases where you have a corporation. I would like to know if the term in the Bill is the legal title. I would ask the Minister to consider this matter in conjunction with the amendments put forward in principle by Deputy Nagle.
As a matter of fact, I objected to the words "borough surveyor" in Deputy Nagle's amendment. It was in order to amend that, that I asked to have it held over.
I am sorry I did not understand the Minister at the time or I would have tried to keep Deputy Nagle to his amendment.
The distinction is clear in Section 2. In the case of a county it is the county surveyor who is to decide, and in the case of an urban district it is the council that is to decide. It is the official in one case and the council in the other. I wonder whether that is the intention.
It is. The county surveyor is a much more authoritative individual than an ordinary surveyor.
In the case of a borough like Waterford, would urban district council be the proper legal title to use?
When we were discussing this particular point a few moments ago, we agreed to insert the word "council," because it gives the aggrieved individual a sort of tribunal to refer to. I think that possibly under this section we may have similar grievances to deal with. It might be advisable in both cases to follow the principle that we have already adopted and to make it mandatory that it shall be done on the order of the council. It seems to me to be rather a fine distinction to say that a county surveyor may give an order in the county while you refuse to allow the urban surveyor to give a similar order in the urban district. It is very inadvisable to be making distinctions as between individuals. County surveyors have a great many duties to perform, and they may not give particular attention to a matter that deserves special attention before they issue an order. That order may cause a considerable amount of annoyance to the particular owner concerned, and it is very hard to get the county surveyor, once he has given an order of that kind, to reconsider it, whereas if the order were to be made by the local authority it would have to appear on the agenda, and the members of that body would have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on it before a decision was come to, as to whether or not it should be issued. I would suggest, as the Minister has left this to the urban council for its approval, that he should do the same in the case of a county council, and that it is the county council that should issue the order and not the county surveyor.
I would like the Minister to give his reasons for extending the time in this section. Under the section, as it appears, twenty-one days' notice will have to be given by the county council. The old procedure only required ten days' notice, and as far as I understand no proceedings could be taken against the owner unless he had been given ten days' notice. Then the owner could serve a month's notice of his intention to dispute the matter. It is only in a certain period of the year that this section can be enforced. The work under it can only be done during the winter months. The section, as framed, if passed, will enable a person to practically evade the law altogether, because with the twenty-one days' notice, the ten days' notice and another month, the full period during which the work may be done will be exhausted before the order can be served on the owner. There is another change under this new section which I do not consider an advisable one. It is that the owner as well as the occupier of the land has to be taken into consideration. I would like to hear the Minister put forward some arguments in justification for extending the time from ten days to twenty-one. As a matter of fact, most county surveyors consider that ten days' notice is too much and that it should not have been necessary at all, but rather that there should have been a statutory obligation on people to keep their hedges properly clipped.
I think that in certain cases it would be advisable that the county council, when considering the cutting down of trees, should take into consideration the disfigurement which their removal would cause in certain parts of the country. I know several roads in my district that are simply lovely in the summer months. The trees along them form a regular arch and, in fact, these are beauty spots in the district. Of course, it must be admitted that trees which overhang do not improve a road. At the same time it should be remembered that the cutting down of these trees, many of which are hundreds of years old, would involve frightful expense on the owner, and I think that is a matter that ought not to be left to the judgment of one man. It ought to be considered well by the council from every point of view before a decision is come to, because once the trees are cut down the appearance of a whole district may be spoiled. I think it would be a pity if such a thing as that were done. It might be also well to consider whether a longer interval than twenty-one days' notice should not be given.
I hope the Minister will not be influenced by the hostile class attitude of Deputy Morrissey. This section in the Bill is one that needs to be enforced. All over the country, especially since the introduction of modern motor traffic, accidents have been occurring continually at cross-roads, that is to say, roads which give a connection between main and bye-roads. High hedges, too, are responsible for a great many accidents, because people driving along the roads cannot see traffic coming from the opposite direction. In order that accidents may be prevented it is absolutely essential that these trees and hedges, which obstruct the view on our roads, should be removed. It is only a few weeks since, at a cross-roads near where I live myself, a man who was cycling home was killed. At another place, five or six people had a very narrow escape from being killed at a cross-roads. This is one of the most necessary things that one could imagine. In my opinion the Bill would be a welcome one if it were only for this particular section. The number of lives lost in the country recently is quite alarming. Most of them were due to the fact that traffic coming from an opposite direction could not be seen.
Surely we ought to expect that the Minister would give an explanation when asked with regard to why there should be a change from ten to twenty-one days, because what Deputy Gorey has stated has strengthened the case which I put. There should be nothing in the way of cutting trees which obscure the view of people using the roads. If it is necessary to have an obligation on farmers to clear their lands of thistles surely it is more important that trees which obstruct the road should be cut.
There are more weeds on the land than thistles.
I think that Deputy Morrissey has missed one point in regard to the time allowed to the cutting of trees and branches. There was a provision for ten days' notice being given, but I think the county surveyors very wisely passed over that because at that particular time of the year, when farmers were busy with the harvest—specially in a year like this— they naturally used discretion and gave a certain amount of time. I think if it is fixed now at 21 days it will simply mean that county surveyors have to take immediate steps when the 21 days expire.
I mean to take necessary steps. Then the farmers will clearly understand what is before them. I hope under these circumstances that the law will take its course, because, as Deputy Gorey has pointed out, there have been many serious accidents owing to overhanging branches. Deputy Wolfe dealt with the danger to beauty spots, but I have never heard of a county surveyor ordering the cutting down of trees in a beauty spot or elsewhere unless they were more than half way over the side of the road, even those planted by urban authorities. Moreover, it is the branches which are cut and not the trees. It would be a pity to have a beauty spot spoiled, but I do not believe that any county surveyor could give an order to cut down trees to spoil any beauty spot, and if he gave such order he should not be in his position. I have known instances where great damage has been done owing to these overhanging branches, especially late at night. I think there is no county surveyor who is unable to distinguish between the cutting of a tree and the lopping of a branch which is an obstacle to the road and dangerous to people using it.
As regards Deputy Good's point in reference to borough surveyors it is necessary to make use of the county surveyor instead of the county council, because the county council is a body which meets very seldom. The urban council is a body which meets frequently. If we were to have the county council to enforce regulations it would probably mean that they could not be enforced at all, particularly as these regulations can only be enforced at certain periods. During the growing period it would not be possible to cut hedges because, if you did so, most of them would not grow again. A borough council is regarded as an urban council for the purposes of this section. That will satisfy Deputy Corish. Deputy Morrissey asks for some information as to why we have twenty-one instead of ten days. Under the old Act this power was scarcely ever used. You had to apply to three different courts, and in practice it was almost impossible to put it into operation. Deputy Wolfe has referred to the possible danger of this section destroying beauty spots, but I think his objection is fully covered in sub-section (4) paragraph (b), which says: "On any such application as aforesaid the Justice of the District Court may, if he is satisfied that the request is unreasonable or that compliance with it is unnecessarily or unduly prejudicial to the applicant, either annul altogether or amend in such a way as he thinks proper the request."
Is it the intention of the Bill to exclude from its operations the city boroughs?
The term "urban council" includes county borough.
Would that include the city?
I would like to ask the Minister whether in any of these sections he is to obtain, or has already obtained, power to deal with walls with dangerous corners or turnings.
Section 27 deals with that.
Does the Minister tell me that he has power in the Bill?
The fact of including the city borough with urban authorities creates a further strong objection to the wording of this clause, because apparently before action can be taken, it will be necessary to get the consent of the city authorities as a council. It means that the borough engineer would not be allowed to act, while the county engineer could act under his own responsibility; you refuse to allow either the urban engineer or the borough engineer to act. I do not think that the point is satisfactorily met by the Minister when he mentions that his reason for giving this wide authority to the county surveyor is that the county council meets so seldom.
I think in future we ought to try and encourage the county councils to meet more frequently. They will have additional burdens cast upon them, which, I think, will require more frequent attendances than in the past. Furthermore, I want to press the point that if this authority is vested in the local body it will get attention and consideration which it will not receive from the individual official. I have mentioned already that the Glen of the Downs is an object lesson. I am quite satisfied if that particular case had received the consideration of the local authorities, we would not have the complaint to make we have to-day. Therefore, I would urge that in each case the order should be made by the local authority, and no discrimination made between the authorities.
I think I gave way too quickly. I rose to put a definite question to the Minister as to whether the phrase "building or structure" includes a wall beside a road.
I do not think Deputy Thrift is in order, but he might ask whether walls are included in hedges.
A wall is a fence.
"Other structures," Section 27.
Apparently, according to sub-section (1), walls are included in roads, and, therefore, you might have a hedge shading a wall to such an extent that the maintenance of the wall might be unduly expensive.
This is another loose section. Petrol pumps have now become a very common feature of the landscape, and it is necessary to make some provision for them. At present they are being run up haphazard in all parts of the country, even in unsuitable places. This section makes it necessary before constructing such a pump to get a licence from the local authority which can give such licences, and charge a fee for same. If it is found necessary afterwards to remove the pump owing to the necessity for widening the streets, or because it has become an obstruction, or for any other reason, the pump will have to be removed at the owner's own expense. Any person who erects a pump without getting a licence from the local authority will be liable to a fine of £10.
There is a question as to whether the Minister is wise in restricting this section to petrol pumps. Within the experience of most of us there has been a great development in mechanical science and facilities for supplying commodities by mechanical means of one kind or another. It would be well, perhaps, if the Minister would collaborate with the Minister for Justice and bear in mind that the supply of other commodities than petrol might be desired by the public from the public roadway. Deputy Daly, I have no doubt, would be able to suggest a way by which the public requirements of common consumption might easily be supplied by means of this kind. There would be considerable demand for it. Then Deputy Gorey, Deputy Wilson, and perhaps the Minister for Lands and Agriculture might also suggest that milk requirements could be supplied in this way. It is really quite a serious matter when the Minister for Justice has abolished the opportunities for crowds congregating in licensed places, and I am sure the demand for the supply of stout, for instance, through a stout pump at the roadside, is likely to arise. Perhaps the Minister would agree that any pump of any kind should be brought under this section.
The Minister refuses to be pumped on this matter. It is rather one for the Minister for Justice.
I move to report progress.