Chun aon Acht do chur in éifeacht a rithfar sa tSiosón so chun a chur ar chumas Comhairlí Contae scéimeanna Dréineála Airtéirighe laistigh de chostas áirithe do cheapa agus do chur i ngníomh go bhfuil sé oiriúnach a údarú go n-íocfar amach as airgead a sholáthróidh an tOireachtas i dtaobh aon scéime dréineála den tsórt san pé suim na raghaidh thar pé méid acu so a leanas is lú:—
(a) an ceathrú cuid de chostas iomlán na scéime dréineála san do chur i ngníomh, no
(b) suim dhá chéad agus caoga punt.
That for the purpose of carrying into effect any Act of the present Session making provision for the formulating and carrying out by County Councils of schemes of Arterial Drainage on a limited scale, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas in respect of any such drainage scheme of such sum as shall not exceed whichever of the following amounts shall be the lesser:—
(a) one-fourth of the total cost of carrying out such drainage scheme, or
(b) the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds.
Deputies will remember when this Bill was first introduced there was no provision in it for any grant out of public funds for the execution of minor drainage schemes. The Bill was then withdrawn, and it was re-introduced with the provision giving grants of 20 per cent. In the House, a number of Deputies from all parties suggested that the grant should be increased. What I propose in this resolution makes it possible to amend the Bill so as to increase the grant from 20 to 25 per cent. When the Bill was first being drafted it was thought that no provision for State grants should be made. I believe that the attitude then taken up was quite justifiable, because these minor drainage schemes might be compared to the main drainage schemes just as works on some boreens would be compared to works on trunk roads. Such schemes have no effect on public health, or the amenities of residence in any district. They are of benefit only to the occupiers of the land that will be improved. They will cost a limit of £1,000; the average cost will not probably be much more than £500, because the schemes that will be carried out under this Bill will generally cost only £100 or £200. As I say, the average may be about £600. The work will probably be carried out by and the wages paid to the owners, or their sons, of lands which will be benefited. Having regard to the fact that nobody will get benefit out of the schemes except those whose lands will be drained, we should expect that in addition to the paid labour some of them should give a little unpaid labour if it is necessary to carry out schemes without the necessity of grants from either the State or local funds. I would like to point out that smaller schemes are much cheaper per acre improved than large schemes. Under the old Act a great number of schemes were carried out.
I will give some figures in connection with it. The Act is Vic. 5 and 6, Chapter 89. There were five cases in which the expenditure was over £70,000 and in those cases the cost per acre improved was £8 7s. 10d. There were 20 cases in which the expenditure was between £20,000 and £70,000, and the cost per acre improved was £7 16s. 9d. There were 31 cases in which the expenditure was over £5,000 and under £20,000 and the cost per acre improved was £5 4s. 8d. There were 63 cases in which the expenditure was under £5,000, including 25 under £1,000. In those 63 cases the cost per acre improved was £3 18s. 5d. As the schemes decreased in size, they became progressively cheaper per acre improved. The biggest cost was £8 7s. 10d. per acre improved. The next was £7 16s. 9d.; the next £5 4s. 8d. and the lowest was £3 18s. 5d. We and the Board of Works, who have experience of it, believe that a great number of these small cases will, even if there is no unpaid labour, be economic without a grant at all but we felt that we had to simplify the procedure under this Act. We decided to dispense with the sending of plans to the Board of Works and a scrutiny by the Board of Works. We decided to dispense with any inspection by the Board of Works engineers and we came to the conclusion that when a grant was necessary, as it appeared to be necessary to make the County Councils take action, and to induce people to go ahead with schemes, we would simply have to give a small flat grant. We suggested 20 per cent. In some cases 20 per cent. would not be quite enough unless there was some unpaid labour, which there should be, but in a great many cases the 20 per cent. would be entirely unnecessary.
In view of the fact, however, that under the 1924-5 Act and of the Drainage Maintenance Act of 1924, State grants are being given, we felt that people would not proceed under the Act if no grants were given. Consequently we felt that some grant must be given or else the whole Act would be inoperative. On the other hand we do feel that this 25 per cent. which is now suggested in the resolution is the very maximum which we would be justified in giving. If the Dáil were not satisfied with the 25 per cent. I think we would have no alternative to withdrawing the Bill and to reconsidering the whole matter, because as I say, even with the 20 or 25 per cent, we will be giving money to people who do not need it. We will be draining their land and the improved value of the land will completely pay them for the cost of the work and no other grants will be necessary. Some other cases may not be as favourable as that. In any case it is desirable that we should do the economic, or the nearly economic, schemes first and that we should not undertake schemes that do not promise to be economic in any great number at the present time. I believe that when we have some experience of this Act it will be found that those are the schemes that will, as it were, best repay doing.
In regard to the bigger schemes the position is somewhat different. The best of the schemes running up to £5,000 have been done under other Acts long ago, and what remains to be done are schemes doubtfully economic or altogether uneconomic. There has been no simple machinery like this for doing the small schemes in the past, but I believe that it will be possible to do a great many of the small schemes under this Bill. As a matter of fact, there are schemes which should be done under this Bill which could be done without any legal machinery at all if the people would co-operate, set to, and do the work themselves. Deputies will realise, however, that in any country district where portion of a river requires to be drained, and where ten or fifteen people are likely to benefit, there will always be three or four who will decline to do anything. Their neighbours will refuse to go on with the work which would benefit these parties. What is required is a simple and expeditious method of doing work of that kind, and I think a great deal of it will be done under this Bill. A great deal of consideration has been given to this, and I think Deputies ought not to press for a bigger grant.
If we are going to be asked to give bigger sums we will have to reconsider the matter, and even although it will entail delay and increased overhead charges, we will have to see that the schemes will be scrutinised in some way on behalf of the State, which will be contributing a large part of the expenditure. I suggest that Deputies should agree to the amount now suggested, and that the Act should be given a trial so that the works which can be done under it may be done. If a residue remains we can consider the problem of that residue of small works as a somewhat different problem, and we can consider whether, as measures of relief, further provision should not be made. This Bill will cover the best schemes, the schemes that will pay, and I think more should not be pressed for.