In Committee on Finance. - Issue out of the Central Fund.

I move:—

"Go ndeontar suim £530,177 as an bPrimh-Chiste chun an soláthar do deonadh i gcóir seirbhís na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1929, do shlanú."

"That towards making good the supply granted for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, the sum of £530,177 be granted out of the Central Fund."

In view of the answers which I got from the Minister for Local Government to questions which I put him with regard to the interpretation of the word "livelihood" in the Dental Act, I am forced to oppose this Vote out of the Central Fund, and I would like the House to understand the position in which I find myself. On page 815 of the Dáil Debates, 18th July last, when the Dental Bill came back from the Seanad for final acceptance in this House, I particularly asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who was responsible for the Bill in both Houses, this question: "Does that mean that it will allow the Dental Board to have a certain discretion and that the 10 years would include the apprenticeship years?"— and the answer I got from the Minister was: "Certainly." I quite understand that the position is that once an Act leaves this House, and is put to a Department, or to different people to work, they must, of necessity, translate or interpret each word according to the exact legal interpretation, but I would point out also, that if any person feels himself aggrieved with regard to the interpretation of such word, and goes to law the Courts will decide the interpretation according to the sense in which that Act was passed—according to the sense in which the word was supposed to be interpreted.

Now, I do not believe that the Minister intended that young men who are excluded from sitting for the examination should have to go through that course, and to put that expense on their shoulders in order to have their positions clarified, and I would ask the Minister to do the easy and the simple thing, and do what I believe was intended by him —to allow such men who could ordinarily prove that they were ten years engaged at dentistry, but of which ten years a certain number of years was at apprenticeship, to sit for the examination. I do not ask nor suggest to the Minister that they should be given the right to be on the dental register. At the time this Bill came back from the other House the Minister was well aware of the position, and there are Senators who also understood the position as I understand it, who were interested in this Bill when it was going through. We all understood that apprenticeship years would count, that if a person could prove that he was engaged at dentistry for ten years he would have a right to sit for the examination, and if the examiners found him competent they would pass him for inclusion on the dental register. Now, the position is that the representative of the Dental Board with whom I have been in touch, with whom Senators have been in touch, states that they cannot possibly interpret this word in any other way than the way it has been interpreted. That may be so, but on the other hand what was the sense of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in giving the answer he gave to the question I put him? I refer the Minister to his answer to my question on page 815 of the Dáil debates of July 18th.

Did you refer the Board to that statement?

I spent a considerable time arguing this matter with the Board. The official that the Board have at their disposal says that he cannot help in this. The Minister might very well suggest to the Board that it should act according to the sense in which the Act was passed and allow such men to sit for an examination. That is all I ask. I do not ask to have these men put on the register. I only ask that they be allowed to sit for an examination if they can prove that they have been ten years engaged in the practice of dentistry. If the Minister does not agree to that, the position will be this: that an amending Bill will have to be brought in to amend the word "livelihood" so as to allow these men to go before the Dental Board for the same examinations that are now being carried on. If the Minister will not now agree to carry out his promise, either this House or the Seanad will be called on to do what is asked for. It is wasting the time of the House on a trivial matter which should be carried out in an ordinary common sense way. I ask the Minister to ask the Dental Board to construe the word "livelihood" in the sense in which it was intended, and in which it was passed by the House, and if he does that, so far as I am concerned, all that is required will have been done for these men, and if they fail to pass the examination nothing more can be done for them.

I think it will be quite evident to the House that the bringing up of this particular point in this way is simply nonsensical and is going to lead nowhere. Sub-section (1) of Section 28 of the Dentists Act indicates the conditions that must apply to persons, other than those that are in the Third Schedule, who want to sit for an examination. It is explicitly set out that, in the first place, "he was a citizen of Saorstát Eireann on the 1st January, 1928"; and in the second place, that "his principal means of livelihood during the whole period of ten years immediately preceding the passing of this Act was the practice of dentistry in Saorstát Eireann"; and thirdly, that "he was not guilty at any time of any crime or conduct which, if he had at that time been a registered dentist, would have caused his removal from the register."

After considerable discussion in the Dáil and in the Seanad the Act was passed through, indicating in the clearest possible words that a person's principal means of livelihood during the whole period of ten years must have been the practice of dentistry. No comment by a Minister or by a Deputy, and no implication in any discussion that took place, could obscure the perfectly clear words that are in the Act. A person might be an apprentice and might not be deriving his means of livelihood from that apprenticeship, or he might be an apprentice deriving his means of livelihood from that apprenticeship. Everything hinges around the fact that the Act requires that his "principal means of livelihood" should have been the practice of dentistry. The Deputy is fully aware that this matter has now passed entirely into the hands of the Dental Board. If he wants to do anything in this matter, there is nothing for him except to introduce an amending Bill changing the law in a way that he can substantiate and support by the bringing forward of definite evidence that there is an injustice contained in it, by requiring a person to have had dentistry as his principal means of livelihood for ten years. The Deputy, I submit, cannot bring forward the case of any man in which dentistry was his principal means of livelihood for ten years who has been turned down by the Dental Board. Therefore, I submit, that raising the matter in this particular way is not a practical way of dealing with any injustices that there may be in the situation. It is simply a kind of beating the drum about it. There is only one way in which the Act can be amended, and that is by the introduction of legislation to do so.

Might I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to explain what he meant in the answer he gave to the question I put to him in July, 1928?

Is the Deputy referring to the question he asked: "Does that mean that it will allow the Dental Board to have a certain discretion and that the ten years will include the apprenticeship years"? I said "certainly," but that had reference to the first part of the question.

Then it is only for us to introduce an amending Bill, for the Minister knew from the discussions in the Seanad and in the Dáil that we were interested in having the apprenticeship period included. If the Minister gave an answer which meant something else then, of course, we will know better the next time, and when we get answers there will be no doubt as to the meaning.

In other words, the Deputy will put a question in the way that it will be properly understandable. The Deputy said it was well known to me that the two Houses were in favour of counting apprenticeship in the period over which the principal means of livelihood was to operate. I have no such memory. In the Seanad I made a compromise that I would lessen the period on condition that the period of apprenticeship was not to count. The Deputy can go back on the Seanad debates and he will get that verified. There was a certain amount of talk here as to the period of apprenticeship, and on the question as to whether the period of apprenticeship should count. I gave instances of people whose period of apprenticeship was given as starting at the age of thirteen. The House laughed at the idea.

The weight of argument in the House was against counting the period of apprenticeship in the period covered by the phrase "principal means of livelihood." I think I said I had introduced the phrase, "the principal means of livelihood," as the phrase suggested to me by the draftsman as one that would not cover the apprenticeship period, for that period would not, according to ordinary understanding, mean that a person was gaining his livelihood during the apprenticeship period. That is not a phrase that would cover ordinarily the apprenticeship period. My recollection definitely is that the House understood full well when passing that phrase that it was a phrase that would afterwards have to be interpreted in one case by the Minister for Local Government and later by the Board. I think it is not fair to take that question out of the columns of the Official Debates and omit the context, and not bear in mind the debate which took place the day before. I think the whole context clearly shows that the Dental Board was going to have a discretion in the matter. It was explained that the interpretation of the phrase would lie with the Dental Board.

I entirely agree with the statement by the Minister.

The Minister is getting near the point I was coming to. He says a certain amount of latitude was allowed in one particular case. I have in mind the case of a young man who was much older than thirteen when he started his apprenticeship, and who received 10/- a week during his apprenticeship. He is debarred by the interpretation now given by the Minister. If I can produce evidence of that to the Minister will he deal with such a case?

Obviously no Minister can interfere now.

I allowed Deputy Briscoe to raise this question. In order that this kind of debate should be relevant, there should be some power residing in the Minister to take action. I am afraid there is not.

There is not.

If there is not the question does not arise at all.

Question put and agreed to.
Resolution ordered to be reported.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Resolution reported and agreed to.