I move amendment 1:—
In page 4, to delete lines 1 and 2.
There is no necessity for these words "the expression `annual meeting' has the meaning assigned to it by the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898."
I move amendment 1:—
In page 4, to delete lines 1 and 2.
There is no necessity for these words "the expression `annual meeting' has the meaning assigned to it by the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898."
I move amendment 2.
In page 4, to delete lines 3, 4 and 5 and substitute the following words "the expression `rateable value' means the annual rateable value under the Valuation Acts."
I move amendment 3:
In sub-section (1), page 7, line 17, to insert after the word "force" the words "and subject to the provisions of those Acts (except so much of Section 17 of the Superannuation Act, 1859, as enacts that for the purposes of that Act no person hereafter to be appointed shall be deemed to have served in the permanent Civil Service of the State unless such person holds his appointment or has been admitted into the Civil Service in the manner therein mentioned)."
The amendment is to make it clear that the Superannuation Acts apply.
I move amendment 4:—
In page 7, before sub-section (2), to insert the following sub-section:—
"(2) Whenever a person who has been approved by the Minister for Finance under the foregoing sub-section is a transferred officer within the meaning of the Civil Service (Transferred Officers) Compensation Act, 1929 (No. 36 of 1929) and is alive at the time such approval is given the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:—
(a) such approval shall be deemed to be granted subject to a condition (in this sub-section referred to as the first condition) that any benefit accruing to such person under this section shall not be taken into account in determining any question of compensation under the said Act; and
(b) subject to the next following paragraph, such approval shall also be deemed to be granted subject to a condition (in this sub-section referred to as the second condition) that such person shall send to the Minister for Finance within one month after such approval has been notified to him a consent in writing accepting the first condition and in the event of such person failing or neglecting to comply with the second condition such failure or neglect shall operate as a cancellation of such approval;
(c) such approval shall not be deemed to be granted subject to the second condition if—
(i) such person dies before such approval is notified to him, or
(ii) such person dies after such approval is notified to him and within a period of one month from the date of such notification, or
(iii) the Minister for Finance certifies that having regard to bodily or mental infirmity of such person, such approval should not in the case of such person be deemed to be granted subject to the second condition."
[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]
This is a very long amendment and I should like the Minister to give a short explanation of what Section 12 means, as there is a great deal of difficult matter in it.
This section is to put officers of the Department who have been paid out of special funds in exactly the same position as if they were paid out of funds voted by Parliament—in other words, in exactly the same position as the rest of the Departmental officers. The special funds referred to were funds such as the Endowment fund. That fund was to some extent administered by the Board of Agriculture. There was another fund called The Cattle Pleuro Pneumonia Fund, which was established for dealing with pleuropneumonia, and certain veterinary surgeons were employed and paid for very long periods out of that fund, and remained afterwards as permanent officers of the Department. Then there were the funds of the county committees of agriculture. Certain officers in the service of the Department were paid out of county funds. These are the three main funds. Our desire is to put officers who, for a considerable portion of their career, were paid out of these special funds, and who are now regular officers of the Department in the same position as if they were paid the whole time out of moneys voted by the Oireachtas. Under the Superannuation Acts, when taking into account the establishment of an officer and settling the years of service which will entitle him to a pension the Minister for Finance is bound by the period of service which that officer has had, and which he has been paid for out of money voted by the Oireachtas. That, of course, gave rise to great hardships in the case of the Department because there were officers paid out of these special funds at the beginning of their career, sometimes for a very long period, and who were, in every sense of the word, permanent officers of the Department, but who because of a special provision in the Superannuation Acts would be debarred from full pension and establishment rights on account of being paid from these special funds. The purpose of the section is to place all these officers in the same position as other permanent officers, because in fact, they were permanent officers, as if they had always been paid out of moneys voted by the Oireachtas.
Does it refer only to permanent full-time officers?
That is all.
Amendment 4 on the Order Paper in the name of Deputy Anthony is out of order.
Not being able to follow the statement of the Minister, as he spoke so rapidly, I do not know whether I should sympathise more with the Parliamentary Reporters or with those of us who have taken some interest in the Bill, and particularly in regard to those who will be entitled to superannuation.
What is the Deputy speaking on now?
I want to ask the Minister for certain undertakings.
The Deputy can do that on the section. The Deputy's amendment is out of order.
One of the handicaps which ordinary Deputies labour under is that they cannot move an amendment to any Bill which will involve State expenditure. I understand that my amendment has been ruled out of order because of the operations of that rule.
I do not think so.
No reasons have been advanced why my amendment has been ruled out of order.
Does the Deputy want a reason?
I suppose it is because it involves the expenditure of State funds and that a Private Deputy has no right to move it. If the Minister will explain why the amendment has been ruled out perhaps it would enlighten me.
The Deputy's amendment was ruled out because, in the first place, it would impose a charge on public funds and, secondly, because it was outside the scope of the Bill.
The Minister makes provision in the Bill, by amendment, for certain transferred officers, and I had in mind, when submitting this amendment, the case of a certain officer who had been, up to recently, employed as assistant agricultural overseer in the Department of Agriculture. He was then appointed secretary to a county committee of agriculture. If he had remained in his position as assistant agricultural overseer, he would have been a pensionable officer, but having served as an assistant agricultural overseer, and then, being promoted—if you call it promotion for a man to be deprived of certain pensionable service—to the position of secretary to a county committee of agriculture, the years which he had spent as an agricultural instructor have been spent, so far as that office is concerned, in vain, in reference to his pension rights. I ask the Minister to undertake to see that no hardship will be put upon persons of the class I have mentioned, that their services should be counted as continuous services, and that a man transferred from the Minister's own Department will not suffer any hardship.
Assuming the merits of the case were such as the Deputy has stated, this is a Bill dealing with officers of the Department of Agriculture—to see that they get what they are entitled to. The officers the Deputy is concerned with are officers of local authorities, and not officers of the Department of Agriculture. How can I deal in this Bill with officers of local authorities? The purpose of the Bill is to establish officers of the Department of Agriculture. A totally different Bill would be required to deal with the case the Deputy has mentioned, assuming all the merits of the case to be as the Deputy has stated. There is no more reason why you should deal with the officers the Deputy referred to in this Bill than with the officers of technical education committees established by local authorities. It cannot be done. This Bill deals with officers of the Department, a branch of the Civil Service of the State, not with local officers. It only deals with persons who are now officers of the Department of Agriculture. But it is provided that those officers who have had previous service in another capacity will have that fact taken into account. That does not alter the fact that there is no authority in this Bill to deal with persons who are not officers at present of any Department of Government and are officers of local authorities.
Can the Minister say if assistant overseers are brought in?
Yes; but the officer Deputy Anthony mentioned is a secretary to a county committee of agriculture.
Does not the Minister agree that the description "assistant agricultural overseer" connotes that he was in the Department of Agriculture, and that it was from there he took up the position of secretary of an agricultural committee?
Certainly. As agricultural assistant overseer he would be an officer of the Department, but the officer the Deputy referred to is not an assistant agricultural overseer. He was, but he is no longer.
Did not this case occur in the Minister's own constituency?
It did. But the officer is not now an officer of the Department of Agriculture, and, consequently, with the best will in the world we could not deal with him in this Bill. I will say, without arguing the merits of the case, that I would be only too glad to have the matter discussed if it were in order. Obviously it is not in order. You can no more deal with such an officer under this Bill than you can deal with an officer of a local education committee.
But will the Minister consider the case and other cases which may arise?
If you were to consider such a case you would have to take all the circumstances into account and go into the merits. In this particular case the officer got a big increase in salary. He was an overseer at a smaller salary and he got a big increase and a much larger salary. The grievance he is suffering now is that he will not get the years he spent as assistant overseer allowed to him when his pension is being calculated by the local authority, but as against that other consideration would be advanced. I do not want to prejudice the merits of this case, but it can be said that he was promoted from a small position and given a bigger salary, and he will have, even before this Bill is passed, since the date of appointment a permanency and pension rights on a bigger salary. That might be advanced on the other side. But, whatever the merits, you cannot deal with an officer who is not an officer of the State at all in a Bill that deals with the officers of one Department of the State, namely, the Department of Agriculture. That is the whole trouble.
In page 8, to delete all words and figures from and including the word "section," line 45, to the word "members," line 48, and substitute the following words "the provisions of this Act relating to the payment of travelling expenses to members of committees."
Before Section 18 to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, every committee of agriculture shall, as soon as may be after the 30th day of June in each year, pay to every member of such committee such contribution (if any) as is authorised by the rules contained in the Second Schedule to this Act towards the expenses incurred during the preceding twelve months by such member in attending the meetings of such committee.
(2) No contribution shall be payable under this section in respect of any period of twelve months ending on the 30th day of June in any year to a member of a committee of agriculture in respect of his attendance at meetings of such committee held during such period unless he has attended at least half of such meetings.
(3) The following provisions shall have effect in relation to the period commencing on the 1st day of April, 1931, and ending on the 30th day of June, 1931, that is to say:—
(a) the said period shall for the purposes of this section be deemed a period of twelve months; and
(b) the foregoing sub-section shall not apply in respect of the said period.
(4) Any person who knowingly makes or allows to be made a false statement for the purpose of obtaining the payment to himself or another of a sum under or in pursuance of this section, shall be guilty of an offence under this section, and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding one year.
(5) Any person who is convicted of an offence under this section shall thereafter be disqualified from being elected or being a member of any committee of agriculture or of any vocational education committee, or of any council, body, or committee which is a local authority within the meaning of the Act of 1925, and shall also be disqualified from holding any office or employment under any committee of agriculture or any vocational education committee or any such council, body, or committee as aforesaid.
I think the amendment speaks for itself. It is quite plain.
The only thing about it is that it is rather a hardship for members of the local authorities to have to attend for twelve months before they get any expenses. It may be very hard on some of them.
I think that was always the case.
Even if it was, could not something be done now to remedy it?
You could make arrangements if there was any serious hardship.
If the attendance were calculated after six months I think it would be an improvement.
I never thought it was a hardship, and as the point was not raised in any specific way, I do not think it is. If it was even a small hardship I think we would have heard of it before.
It is a hardship, and there have been many complaints.
I will see if there are any administrative difficulties. I do not know of any at the moment, but we can deal with that matter again.
I move amendment 7:—
"To delete sub-section (2).
That is a very complicated sub-section.
If amendment 7 is carried, amendment 8 cannot be moved.
That disposes of amendment 8.
Amendments 9 and 10 are more or less preparing the way for amendment 11, and if amendment 11 is not carried, I do not think that amendments 9 or 10 will be of much advantage. I will now move amendment 11:—
To delete sub-section (5).
Amendments 9 and 10 are as follows:—
9. In sub-section (2), line 10, to delete the words "and appointment."
10. In sub-section (4), line 19, to delete the words "with the approval of the Minister."
I have a great objection to any Bill going through the Dáil that will tend to extend the powers of the Local Appointments Commissioners. I think if we are going to appoint a committee of agriculture in any county we should give that committee as much power as we possibly can. I have other amendments later on which will deal with matters other than appointments. I quite realise there are much more important things to be done by the committees than the mere making of appointments, although an appointment in itself is, of course, important. Representatives on county councils and different committees in the country believe that they are as competent to select an officer for any particular post as the central authority here, whether the central authority make the appointment through a Local Appointments Commissioner or in any other way.
If amendment 11 is agreed to, there would still remain power to the Minister to lay down the qualifications, the conditions of service, the salary, and so on. If the Minister were to tell the county committee of agriculture to make the appointment, and if he were to point out the necessary qualifications and the regulations applying to salary and pension rights, he could then, I think, safely leave the making of the appointment of any officer to the local county committee. I do not want to go unnecessarily into the question of the Local Appointments Commissioners, but, as I have said, the people in the country believe they have just as good a right to make appointments as any central authority. They say that nobody knows who the Local Appointments Commissioners are. Local authorities have been accused in some cases of being amenable to undue influences; but at least whatever appointment they have made, or have been allowed to make, it has always been made in the open, in the presence of the Press, and, generally speaking, they must give their reasons for appointing a particular person.
On the other hand, as conditions now exist, a person is sent to them by the Local Appointments Commissioners and no reason is given why that person has been selected. The appointments that have been made under existing conditions are made by people—I do not know whether by men or women—who have no knowledge of local requirements. They may have knowledge of the academic qualifications required for the particular post, but they have no knowledge of what the local requirements are. The members of the local authority have much more knowledge on points of that sort. After some of our recent experiences in this country I think we should not grant any extension of the powers of the Local Appointments Commissioners. We had a great deal of trouble during the last few months over some appointments made by the Local Appointments Commissioners. We ought not to extend their powers until we have an opportunity of discussing the matter fully in the Dáil, and deciding whether the legislation under which appointments are now being made could not be amended so as to give local people a little more option. I move amendment 11.
I desire to support Deputy Ryan. My experience of local government, and it goes back to the very initiation of local government in this country, is that the appointments made by local authorities have, as a general rule, turned out most satisfactorily. I have heard cases of corruption in local bodies cited, both in this House and outside. Invariably it happens that the people who start stories about corruption are disappointed candidates. So far as my experience of the Local Appointments Commissioners and their operations goes, I must agree with what Deputy Ryan stated about operations more or less in the dark; the light of the Press is not thrown upon their proceedings. I do not want to say anything against them, but they are not above suspicion, and a great number of people in this country are not satisfied that the Local Appointments Commissioners are all that they are declared to be; the people are not satisfied that the Local Appointments Commissioners are not directly or indirectly amenable to some little gentle pressure in the making of appointments.
For that reason, and especially as we are starting upon something new, I think it would be a very wise thing to leave the making of appointments in the hands of the local bodies, along the lines indicated by Deputy Ryan. As the Deputy pointed out, it can be indicated to those local bodies by the Minister, or whoever is in authority, on what lines the appointments are to be made, what the qualifications and salary are to be, and the particular conditions in the county for which the appointment is being made. I think it would be considered a reflection on the newly appointed committees if the Bill made it definite that they were not to be trusted with the making of appointments in future. For that reason I will support Deputy Ryan.
I would like to know how far this Bill will mean an extension of the powers of the Local Appointments Commissioners, as Deputy Ryan mentioned.
It will mean no extension—none whatever.
That is my impression—that it will mean no extension. I would like to approach the question from this point of view: if this principle of the making of appointments through the Local Appointments Commissioners will continue to apply to practically all local authorities—every local body—in the same manner as it does at the present time, I do not see any reason why these particular agricultural committees should be exempted. I do not think that is the right way. If this system of the Local Appointments Commissioners is wrong I do not think it should be attacked in this fashion. Merely making provision for one small section of the community is not, in my opinion, the proper way to deal with this matter. If the system is to be attacked at all, and if we are to condemn it, we should condemn it as a whole and not attack it in piecemeal fashion. What is proposed here is to attack that system only in so far as it affects a comparatively small section of the community. The county council, the board of health, and other local authorities have to make their appointments through the Local Appointments Commissioners, and I think it will lead to a certain amount of confusion, doubt and surprise if one body will be given power to make its own appointments while superior bodies such as the county council have that power taken from them under our existing legislation. If this matter is to be faced at all it should be taken in its entirely and as a matter applying to all local authorities. There was a Bill introduced some time ago by the Party to which the Deputy belongs. There was afterwards a Commission set up, and the Commission reported. Both in the Bill and in the report of the Commission, of which Deputy Ryan's Party were members, the principle of appointments being made by the Local Appointments Commission was admitted and accepted.
Then I must be entirely wrong in my reading of Deputy de Valera's Bill and the report of the Commission. There was a doubt as to the method. There was a question as to whether three or two should be recommended. But the question of taking the appointments out of the hands of the local body and giving them to some central body was admitted and accepted. Does Deputy Aiken deny that?
Then I would recommend him to read the Bill again. As I understood the Bill—and I will be glad to be corrected if I am wrong— that was the principle of it. Why refer the matter of appointments to the central authority at all? As I remember it, there was a provision for referring the making of the appointments to the central authority in Deputy de Valera's Bill. There were powers given to select one or two or three names, send them down to the local authority, who at a meeting would select one out of the two or three. If Deputy Aiken argues that that was not accepting the principle of the Local Appointments Commission, then that ends it so far as I am concerned. But I argue it does accept that principle. The principle is there, and if we are to take this system at all it ought to be taken as a whole and applied to every authority. While it applies to the county councils and other local authorities, the principle is there, and I cannot see what is to be gained by making an exception in the case of this particular body. I think there ought to be uniformity so far as the county councils and the local authorities are concerned, and I do not see any reason for making a distinction in this case. If the system is wrong, let us attack the system as a whole and get a better system. But let us have the same system applying to all local authorities.
Deputy O'Connell forgets that the Bill introduced by Fianna Fáil was introduced for the purpose of doing away with the major objection we had to the Local Appointments Commissioners. At the present time the procedure is that when a local body wants somebody appointed the Local Appointments Commissioners select one person, and they send that person's name down to the county council or other local body, who must appoint that particular person. We object to that, and, as time goes on, we are strengthened in our objection. A few years ago we introduced a Bill which would have compelled the Civil Service Commissioners to examine the qualifications of the candidates and send down three names to the local body. The local authority then would have the power of selecting a candidate.
From the three?
Yes, from the three.
But they had to select from one of the number sent down.
That was the principle in the Bill.
There was a very big difference in the principle, but the system we are trying to mend was the appointment and the selection being made by some three persons in Dublin. We tried to get that amended, so that the selection would be left with the local authority. They would select one of the three fully-qualified persons ——
Who would be selected by the central authority in Dublin.
Yes, three qualified men or women.
The very same method.
No; the selection was by the council or the local authority— that was the principle in the Bill. Here we are up against a section in the Bill and we are going to stand against that section. We believe that it is the county committees of agriculture who should make the appointments. At the moment the county committees of agriculture are appointing their agricultural instructors and their poultry and dairy instructresses. This section in this Bill is an extension of the principle of appointment by Local Appointments Commissioners. We are going to oppose that. That section is giving the Local Appointments Commissioners more power than they had hitherto. We believe that the people who pay the rates should make the selection. I am sorry Deputy O'Higgins has gone, because he protested the other day that we were standing for taking the power out of the hands of the county council. If he were sincere in that, I would make an appeal to him now to stand with us in securing that under this section some little power would be left in the hands of the county councils or in the hands of the bodies appointed under them.
The people of the country as a whole are fed up with the Appointments Commissioners and the way in which they have been carrying on. If they are going to pay the rates, they naturally want to make the selections. It is a bit too good that a small group in Dublin should throw the nominee of the Minister on the people and compel them to pay him. Regarding these particular appointments, we believe that many people throughout the country, members of county committees of agriculture and others, know more about the requirements of the agricultural community and about agricultural education than the Minister or any three members of the Local Appointments Commission. Grave difference of opinion exists between the agricultural community and the Minister as to what is best to be done. We are not going to stand for the Minister and those closely associated with him in Dublin, dumping agricultural instructors and others on the farmers of the country and making the farmers pay them. I hope that Deputy O'Connell and his colleagues will see that this is an extension of the powers of the Local Appointments Commissioners and that it is going to give them more power than they had hitherto. I am sure that Deputy O'Connell is not satisfied with the work of these Commissioners and I hope that he will stand with us in supporting the amendment.
There seems to be some confusion regarding the Local Appointments Commissioners and the local committees. I do not think that one should be confused with the other. I think that the country will accept the principle that a central Appointments Commission is something that should be supported, but it is different in the case of local committees who make appointments. The only thing I have to say regarding these committees is that they should be taken from local representatives and not from people who represent nobody locally. I am prepared to have local appointment committees selected from the elected representatives of the people, county councillors and others, because in that way you will restore that confidence which appears to have been lost. In many cases I do not know what the qualifications of the people selected for these committees were. When you have local people at all let them be local people who represent the community at large, rather than people who represent nobody
What distinction do you make between them?
The Appointments Commissioners are quite different from the local appointments committees.
I do not understand that.
I would ask the Minister to accept the amendment that appointments under the Bill be left in the hands of local committees. In the light of recent events, particularly in Mayo, this amendment should be treated a a different way from that in which it would probably have been treated a year ago. Appointments have been made for some time by local committees, and the Minister must admit that they have proved very satisfactory. Local committees feel their responsibility in the matter, and the appointments which they have made have turned out to be very good. I am sure that the appointments recently made, and those likely to be made in the future, will give more satisfaction to the people concerned, to the ratepayers, and, in the long run, to the Department than any made by the Appointments Commissioners. This Bill is an extension of the powers of the Appointment Commissioners. It widens the scope of their authority, but the Dáil, in view of recent happenings in County Mayo, should not give them these extended powers. We realise that recently one of the biggest blunders that possibly could be made by any Department or Government was made when a certain appointment in Mayo was insisted on. I am not going to discuss that appointment now, but prominent members of the Government Party themselves admitted that it was a great blunder and a great wrong.
This is the first opportunity since then which we have had of having the matter considered, even in a small way. In order to check, to some extent, the powers of the Appointments Commissioners, we should all agree to accept this amendment, but, if it is not accepted by the Minister, I trust that Deputy Dr. Ryan will put it to a division. In order to enlighten the Government on this point and to make them realise that they have gone a little too far—that is putting it very mildly—on this question of appointments. I would ask members of the Party opposite to vote for the amendment. As I have said, appointments made in the past by county committees of agriculture have been very satisfactory. Seeing that it is the local people who have to provide the rates, the wherewithal to carry out schemes, and that it is the people who have to pay up who are the people most concerned by the appointments made, I maintain that local committees should be given a little authority in the making of appointments. We do not object to some authority, the Minister or some commissioners, call them what you like, deciding as to the qualifications of those who present themselves for appointment.
Deputy O'Connell seems to have misunderstood the Bill introduced here dealing with this matter and the suggestions of the members of our Party who went on the Committee to deal with the question of the Appointments Commissioners. All we were concerned with then was that a certain body, call it what you will, would ensure that none but qualified persons would be appointed, that there would not be a danger of men being appointed who were not fully qualified. Our suggestion was that the names of those who are fully qualified would be sent to the local committees and that the local committees should appoint one of them. In this case, as I have said, we do not object to the Minister laying down what the qualifications should be and, when he lays down that none but qualified men should be appointed. The local committees are not given much power when they are confined to the appointment of qualified men only.
If the full power of appointment were in the hands of local committees to-morrow, they would, as a general rule, lay it down that the best qualified man should be appointed. The great mistake has been that local conditions are scarcely ever taken into account when local appointments are being made. If these conditions were taken more into account than they are there would not be so much objection raised to the Appointments Commissioners. Now that we have a chance of leaving a little power of appointment in the hands of local committees, I ask the Minister not to deprive them of that power, and I ask members of the Party opposite, as well as Deputy O'Connell, to reconsider their attitude on this subject. This amendment is not asking too much and it is not going to re-open the road which would lead back to the old system under which, somebody said, there was corruption. There is a clause which says that the Minister must see that qualified men only are appointed. This amendment, to me, as a representative of County Mayo, appears to be very important. Deputy Gorey and others may think that it is not very important, but in my view it has to do with a very important question, as we in Mayo unfortunately realised quite recently. For that reason, I am confident that Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies from Mayo, including the ex-Chairman of the County Council, especially in the light of his recent action in Mayo, will vote against the Government on this amendment. They cannot consistently take up any other attitude. If the Minister will not accept the amendment, we will force it to a division, and if that happens, Independent Deputies and, I am sure, Labour Deputies, as well as some members of Cumann na nGaedheal who have spoken very loudly in protest against the abolition of the Mayo County Council, will be forced into the Division Lobby in favour of the amendment.
I think the House is entitled to know, in view of the speeches which have been made, what exactly is the policy of the Party opposite with regard to the whole question of the Local Appointments Commission.
Not on this amendment.
I think this question is involved, with all respect.
Have they not made their policy plain?
They have not made it plain to me. My criticism of this amendment is that it attempts to deal with what is, after all, a question of general policy in a very small and piecemeal way. Am I to understand— if I know or was clear on what their position is it might help me to make up my mind on this particular amendment—that so far as local committees are concerned, they want the system of making appointments by a Local Appointments Commission abolished? Are we to take it that that is their position?
Then their position has been changed completely since the time Deputy de Valera introduced his Bill and since the time Fianna Fáil Deputies sat on the Committee which dealt with this question. Are we to take it that that is so? It would be well if we had a declaration on that point. Let us see whether we are arguing this small application of the measure to one particular kind of committee, or whether we are actually attacking the whole system of appointments by Appointments Commissioners. In regard to the statement of Deputy Clery about appointing a qualified man, I always understood that it was not a question of selecting a qualified man, but of selecting the best qualified. You will get a man qualified for a position easily enough, but the Local Appointments Act was an attempt to set up machinery to get the best qualified person out of the number of qualified people who would be applying for the position. If, as Deputy Dr. Ryan states, it is now definitely their intention to have the whole system of appointments to local authorities by the Local Appointments Commission abolished, we know where we are.
I want again to impress on Deputy O'Connell that this section is an extension of the present system, and that we have gone all out against the present system. We brought in an amending Bill to the present system——
On the method, not on the principle.
If we were bringing in an amending Bill now I am sure a number of members of Fianna Fáil would bring in a more drastic one. We may have to do it before long. Here is an occasion on which it is proposed to extend the present system beyond its scope at the moment. At the present time appointments of agricultural instructors, poultry instructors, etc., are made by the local people.
They are not.
Are they done by the Appointments Commissioners?
They are done by the Appointments Commissioners. However, I will explain that.
Up to the present, as far as we know, they have been appointed by the local committees. If what the Minister has said is correct, what is the necessity for the clause in this Bill?
It is to set up new committees. We are appointing nothing but committees of agriculture. We are abolishing the old committees and setting up new ones.
You are attempting to extend a scheme of which we do not approve, against which we did our best in the past, and which we will try to amend at the first opportunity.
It is quite obvious that Deputies opposite do not believe in the amendment, because they have tried to defend it by advancing reasons which they must know to be quite unsound. They think they are taking an opportunity of preventing the extension of the Local Appointments Commission system. That is not so. There is no extension of the method of appointment by the Local Appointments Commission, direct or indirect, in this Bill. The section reads as follows:
Every committee of agriculture shall be deemed to be a local body within the meaning of Part IV of the Act of 1925.
That is the Act that set up the Local Appointments Commission. This section says that the committee of agriculture, so far as these appointments are concerned, shall come within the terms of the Act. Is it suggested here that the local committees of agriculture did not specifically accept appointments made under the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926? That is what is suggested. We passed this Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act of 1926, and under that Act a certain procedure was established. That procedure was to make appointments to local authorities by selection boards. What is suggested here now is that there was some section in that Act which expressly omitted committees of agriculture. That is nonsense and, while I do not give credit to certain Deputies for much intelligence, I find it difficult to believe that they are as ignorant as they pretend to be. All appointments were made by this Act. system and made under this Act. Now we are setting up a new system. We are re-organising new county committees, re-establishing a new kind of county committee of agriculture and we are specifying, as we should specify, that the new committee, just as the old committee, shall come under the Act for the purposes of local appointments.
We are not extending the system of local appointments by the Appointments Commission in any way. If that is clear, I have nothing to add to what Deputy O'Connell has stated. The system of making appointments, both centrally and locally, not by the Executive Council in the case of central appointments and not by the local authorities in the case of local appointments, but by selection boards —the Civil Service Commission in one case and the Local Appointments Commission in the other—whatever may be said of it set up a system that was a very revolutionary change from the old system. That system was a system of patronage. People talk of power and say "what power have we now?" I believe there are Deputies who think that power consists of patronage in the making of appointments. That is the only deduction you can draw from their language. The old system gave them that patronage. It gave the politician who chanced to be a Minister a very extensive power of patronage. The new system does not. It takes away all patronage and it transfers the power of making appointments to independent bodies. That may be right or wrong, but this can be agreed upon by everybody —that it was a revolutionary change. Now it is suggested, as Deputy O'Connell put it, that on an Agricultural Bill, in respect of one small authority with, in fact, very few appointments we should change the whole system. If this system is changed, it should be changed not casually but deliberately.
It should be changed after a complete examination, and after a very careful analysis of what has occurred since those Acts were passed. It should be changed after due deliberation, after taking care to make adequate arrangements for the making of appointments in the future. It should not be changed casually in this fashion, and, above all, for reasons which are entirely unsound. It should not be changed on the plea that this is an extension of the system. It is not that in any sense. It is merely applying the system to a body which we are setting up as a substitute for the old county committees of agriculture. So far as the system itself is concerned, Deputy Clery need not worry about Deputies in this Party. We are quite clear on the matter and so is the country. This system of appointment, not by local authorities, not by the Executive Council when it comes to the Civil Service, but by an independent body is, I hold, a sound system on the whole. I say that the great body of opinion of all kinds in the country is behind that system. It is realised by business people and by every person of good will that this system has brought about more and more efficiency. Of course, there are interests in the country who would like to see it modified in some details, but that is a minor matter. The system, on the whole, as established by us, and with the experience that we have had of it, makes us feel more in favour of it. We are satisfied that the good sense of the country as a whole is behind it, and we intend to stand by it in all appointments.
I wish Deputies would give up the habit of talking about corruption. The commonest way of attacking this system of the making of appointments by selection boards rather than by local patronage is to say: "Do you suggest that the county councils are corrupt?" We do not suggest that. You might as well say: Do you suggest that a Minister, we will say a Fianna Fáil Minister, could be corrupt? For the purposes of the argument, "No." Everybody who knows anything knows that if public appointments are to be made locally you will have an impossible position brought about. Influence is brought to bear on every side on behalf of candidates, and it is often very difficult to do the right thing. That is totally different, however, from corruption. Say that the Executive Council had to make all the appointments in the Department of Agriculture—and the Executive Council is as representative as a county council— look at the position that the Executive Council would be in. It would be an impossible position for any Executive, though each member of it was above reproach. Say that a girl was going for the position of poultry instructress in a county, under the agricultural committee, a neighbour's daughter whose people were of good standing, while another candidate, a stranger, might be considerably better qualified, the position would be difficult.
People should not be put into such a difficult position. It is not a question of corruption, and we are not now taking up the position that the necessity for the Local Appointments Commission or the Civil Service Commission is due to corruption either locally or centrally. As far as we are concerned, we believe that the best man or woman should win. We believe that this is the best method, and we stand by it. I put it to the Dáil that Deputies would be absolutely stultifying themselves if they abolished that system casually, rather than considering it deliberately. Do not abolish it in reference to one local body in a casual way for entirely local reasons that no one believes in.
The Minister wants to pretend that the Appointments Commissioners will always select the best candidate.
I said nothing of the kind.
We have it on definite authority that the Appointments Commissioners have not appointed the best qualified candidates. It is for that reason that we ask the House not to give them the powers that it is now proposed to give them. We want to force the amendment as strongly as we can, not because there is corruption in local bodies, but because there is evidence of something wrong at headquarters.
I am very glad the Minister expressed the opinion that the necessity for the Local Appointments Commissioners was not due to the corruption of local bodies, because when the matter was discussed in the House before we did not get that opinion from every member of the Party opposite. Some of the members on the opposite side, when a Bill was introduced here, talked about corruption in the local bodies.
I never said there was not. There is corruption everywhere at times.
Except in the Executive Council.
Except in the Executive Council.
The Executive brought in a Bill to establish the Civil Service Commission and the Local Appointments Commission only when the biggest jobs in the Civil Service were filled. However, it is well to have a Civil Service Commission at all, even after the good jobs were all gone. Even if this is not an extension of the powers—and I may have used the word loosely—it is, at least, a continuation of the powers——
The Deputy is changing his ground completely.
I am not.
A Bill was introduced a couple of years ago, as Deputy Aiken explained, so that the Civil Service Commissioners would send down the names of three candidates to the local authorities, who would then make the appointment. Deputy O'Connell said that was not a change of principle. We are now going a little further and are asking the Civil Service Commission to send down the names of all qualified people. That is not a change of principle either.
Undoubtedly, it is.
If you change from one to three you are not changing the principle, but Deputy O'Connell says if you send from three to ten you are changing.
It is a question of picking the best qualified and making a selection.
According to Deputy O'Connell, we are not changing our principle by going from one to three, but we are by going from three to ten.
If you send them all it is a change of principle undoubtedly.
If that is a change of principle——
There is no such thing as principle.
That is another way of putting it. Whether there is such a thing as principle or not, I believe that many of the members of this Party agree with me that in the light of recent experience——
Appointments by the Appointments Commissioners.
Mayo. We would be prepared to see the Local Appointments Commissioners scrapped once and for all. We are not prepared to agree to a section in the Bill which continues the power given to the Local Appointments Commissioners, and we are not going to withdraw the amendment.
I would not agree, even in the light of some unpleasant experiences, and even in the light of certain exceptions, that may have arisen in the working out of the system—and everyone knows that no system will be perfect—to the scrapping of the Local Appointments Commissioners completely. It is surprising to me that this policy has been announced on the part of Fianna Fáil.
I did not say that.
I said I was speaking for myself, and that I thought I could speak for many members of Fianna Fáil.
I took it that it was a definite announcement of policy. Looking over the matter for a great many years, I am perfectly convinced that the person who has gained by the present system, as opposed to the old system, is the poor man's son. He never got a chance under the old system, because it was the big faction in the county, the people with influence and pull, who got all the appointments, while the poor man's son, no matter how well qualified or educated, was shoved out because he was not in a position to exercise influence and power. The county families, as we know them, got all the good jobs in the old times.
You could hardly blame them.
Perhaps we could not. Whatever chance the son of the poor man, who has brains and ability, has of getting an appointment to-day, he has a much better chance if the appointments are carried out under the present system than by votes of people who might be in a representative capacity.
May I ask Deputy O'Connell if that principle has been brought in in Mayo?
There may be exceptions. I am not arguing about Mayo. Deputy Clery and Deputy Ryan would not take up the position that this House ought to make the appointments to the Civil Service. That would be the complete analogy. If a county council is going to claim all these powers, the complete analogy would be for this House to make appointments to the Civil Service. No one would claim that the House is qualified to do that. I am quite prepared to admit that there might be exceptions, and I am quite prepared to say that sufficient importance is not attached, as Deputy Gorey said, to the local point of view. That is a matter of detail. If we are going to depart from the general principle, the person who is going to suffer most is the person who has ability but who is without any influence and without money.
This argument about the poor man's son without any county pull not getting a fair chance is the sheerest bunkum. Under the old county councils when applicants came up they were known and could be judged on their merits. If a family was known to be honest and efficient they had that much influence in the making of the appointment. At the present time, a man must belong to a national family, to one of Deputy Thrift's organisations, in order to get a pull over the Appointments Commissioners. The members of the Executive Council who appoint the Commissioners are not angels. They are not exempt from original sin any more than members of county councils. There is always influence of one sort or another being used when appointments are being made. At the moment, influence is being worked through national organisations, such as Deputy Thrift's, in order to influence the Appointments Commissioners secretly. We would prefer to see this influence threshed out in the open by the people who know the local circumstances and who have to pay the piper.
Deputy Aiken has stated that the members of the Appointments Commission are not always angels. That would be one of my reasons for opposing the system of Appointments Commissioners. The Minister for Agriculture stated that the system of Appointments Commissioners was introduced in order to relieve the members of local bodies of the responsibility of making appointments —because of the fact that in certain cases they knew the applicants for certain positions, they knew them to be farmers' sons or poor men's sons. I want to remind the Minister and this House that under the old system all these appointments were made in the open by people who were elected to positions on local bodies. These public men were elected to these positions because the people had confidence in them. They had confidence in them to make these appointments in the same way, I suppose, that they had confidence in us when they elected us to be members of this House.
I and some others had a certain amount of sympathy with the Government when they set up the Appointments Commissioners, but I must confess that my views have completely and absolutely changed in regard to that institution. With Deputy Ryan and other who have spoken, I am prepared to go all out to-day for its abolition. I feel that the argument advanced by Deputy O'Connell with reference to the poor man's son is tantamount to saying that there is corruption in local bodies—that even though the poor man's son was fully qualified he could not get an appointment from these local bodies. That certainly is tantamount to saying there is corruption in these local bodies. I have had some experience of the people who serve on local bodies, and I believe they are just as honest as any people the Minister could find to make appointments.
We do not make any appointments.
The Government has the selection of the people who act as Appointments Commissioners.
Neither those who make applications before this body nor the public know the pros and cons of what takes place behind the scenes. If we have local bodies, then we should not be a bit afraid to allow them to make appointments. They are elected by the people to serve on those bodies, and I say they are as capable of making appointments as any appointments commission that may be set up. For that reason, I intend to oppose the present system.
Deputy O'Connell spoke of the analogy of this House taking upon itself the duty of making appointments in the Civil Service. As far as I know, every appointment in the Civil Service is made through an entrance examination.
Well, since all the good jobs were filled by the Executive Council?
There are technical officers, for instance. They are appointed by a Selection Board.
I was going to say that the great majority of positions in the Civil Service are filled by means of entrance examinations. As regards positions under local authorities, I certainly would approve of having them filled by competitive examination as far as that could possibly be done.
Might I point out that the analogy attempted to be drawn between the Dáil and local councils is altogether wrong. The Minister for Agriculture denies that there is any question of general principle involved. In practice, the analogy is altogether wrong, because a local council has only two or three appointments to make, and a great deal of care can be exercised by the members in making their selection. But if we here were to be asked to make the appointments necessary to the whole service we would be in quite a different position. I hold that, in practice, there is a difference between the Dáil making the appointment and the local bodies making the appointment. Now, as to getting the best qualified person, there is no way by which the best qualified person for any position can be chosen—none. We might all make up our minds to that.
For certain. It is all a question of opinion. Very often we go upon academic or other qualifications. Very frequently, in practice, these work out the wrong way. Men who, by accident or otherwise, are thrown into positions that would ordinarily be filled by people with certain academic qualifications have turned out, in practice, very much better than the people selected on academic qualifications. I do not say that is always so, or that, as a general rule, these qualifications do not denote ability. We have accepted such tests as the best we can get. I believe, myself, if you make regulations of as searching a character as you can to provide that those who are selected will be of a class that will have the necessary technical or other qualifications of that particular type, then a body of people locally who know intimately the candidates are more likely to make a good selection than are others, provided that unqualified persons cannot go up, so that undue influence or other pressure cannot be used, and that such cannot have an effect. In other words, if you rule out those obviously unqualified, then a body of local people, a committee sitting in judgment upon these, knowing them intimately——
Supposing no local candidate applies?
I presume, in that case, there are some qualifications. I cannot imagine any local body deciding a position where technical qualifications are involved without having some evidence as to the qualifications. We brought in a Bill which was really only a step on the road as far as the greater part of our Party is concerned. We felt, whatever chance there was of getting that particular Bill through here, that there would be no chance of going further. Some of our Party were satisfied with that as a first step, but it did not represent by any means the ultimate views held by a large section of our Party. If you can provide by your regulations that only such as are qualified in this manner—I am trying to get a term, academic or technical qualifications, educational or other qualifications—can be considered for an appointment, then the ultimate judgment can be very well left to the local bodies, the reason being that they are much more interested in getting a good appointment than people sitting in Dublin who, no matter what sort of candidate they select, will not have to live, so to speak, with that candidate for the rest of the time. The local body, if it appoints a bad official, has to suffer from the incapacity of that particular official during the whole period of his office. The selection committees are sheltered from the consequences.
Therefore, it seems to me the two things you want to provide are, firstly, that only people fit for the position can possibly be considered as candidates, and, secondly, that those who are most intimately affected will have the ultimate choice. I think that in the long run this is far the best way. We have heard about influences that are brought to bear in these cases. These work in different directions. What I mean is: they more or less balance one another. If there are two or three candidates, a person being approached from one side or the other has finally to make up his mind to vote for the person he thinks best in all the circumstances.
I do not think this local pressure, as it is called, really matters so very much. I believe that the members of the local councils very quickly, when they realise what is involved, learn to stand up against forces of that kind, and there is the great safeguard of publicity. If there is a local medical appointment, and if the person chosen is obviously not the best qualified person, if in practice, for instance, there is chosen some one who does not attend to his duties, who, for instance, is guilty of a number of things medical men, I am told, are sometimes guilty of, who is going to suffer? The local people suffer. They know about it, and when a council is going to make a new appointment, if it knows the history of the person at all and knows his character, it is not going to vote for somebody who is obviously, from his character, not fit for the position. That is so in the case of medical appointments, and largely it is so in the case of other appointments. I was one of those who more or less advocated the Bill that was brought in here. It represented, to a large extent, my views, but, as time goes on and I see no way of getting publicity for the methods of selection by these selection boards, I, like Deputy Smith, am going more and more every day to the position I have indicated here now. I believe that in the long run you have got to trust somebody, and it is better to trust those people who will have most to suffer if things go wrong than to trust people who are sheltered from criticism. Nobody can know what are the principles upon which selection boards act, and, as far as I know, there is a great deal of criticism of appointments that have already been made as being un suitable. I am not able to give any specific examples, but I believe there is no smoke without some sort of fire. I believe there is ground for some of these complaints, at any rate, and, in connection with this particular amendment here, our attitude is that we want to protest against the continuance of that system and we are using this particular case as an opportunity to indicate that we are not at all satisfied with the existing system and that if we had our way it would be changed.
I am rather sorry that the whole question of the Local Appointments Commission has been raised in the manner in which it has been raised. I can quite understand the views put forward by Deputy de Valera. His Party are pressing that something should be done in connection with it, and I must say I have a certain amount of sympathy with the views put forward by Deputy Dr. Ryan and Deputy Aiken. Knowing, as I do, the operations of the Local Appointments Commission, I certainly know of appointments that have been made by the Local Appointments Commission that were not very desirable. I feel absolutely certain, from our experience of public bodies, that the best qualified men have not been appointed.
Speaking for myself on this matter, I believe that a qualifying examination should be sufficient so far as local bodies are concerned. If you have a Commission who are prepared to examine candidates for a certain position and this Commission finds that people are qualified for the positions for which they are applying, surely that ought to be sufficient. What is happening at the present moment so far as local bodies are concerned? I have in my mind the question of borough surveyors under urban councils. I know of cases where men applied for positions in certain areas and they just used these positions as a medium to procure higher positions, leaving the local authorities there after a few years. It certainly does not tend to greater efficiency if local authorities are to have new surveyors every three or four years. I believe that if there is a local applicant for the position, and if the man is sufficiently qualified to take up the position, and if there is unanimity so far as the local council is concerned as regards his appointment, that man should get the appointment even though there are others who are more highly qualified so far as academic qualifications are concerned.
I certainly think the whole system requires examination in that connection. With the principle of the Appointments Commission I agree. I have already voted for that. I do not think that this is a proper time to raise the matter. I am of opinion that the section should not have been put in this Bill at all, and that it is a pity to have the matter raised now. I believe the time is ripe to raise the whole question of the Appointments Commission.
I move amendment 12:—
To insert at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Before removing under this section from his office or employment an officer or servant of a committee of agriculture, the Minister shall give to such committee and also to such officer or servant at least one fortnight's notice in writing of his intention to so remove such officer or servant, and if such committee or such officer or servant before the expiration of such notice request in writing the Minister to hold a local inquiry under this Act in relation to the performance by such officer or servant of his duties as such officer or servant, the Minister shall not so remove such officer or servant unless and until he has caused such local inquiry to be held and considered the report of the person who held such local inquiry.
(3) A notice of the Minister's intention to remove from his office or employment an officer or servant of a committee of agriculture under this section may be served on such committee by sending it by post to the chief executive officer of such committee and on such officer or servant by delivering it to him, or by sending it by post to him at his last known place of abode.
The point is that before an officer is dismissed he should get notice. It seems to be reasonable.
I move amendment 16:—
In sub-section (2), line 22, to delete the word "shall" and substitute the word "may."
I do not know if I understand the section rightly, but the Minister can correct me if what I say is wrong. It would appear to me that under this section if a county committee of agriculture were to submit a scheme, and if the Minister were to reject half of the scheme, he could compel the committee to proceed with the remainder of it. I think it is hardly fair to a committee to make them proceed with part of a scheme which they had drawn up after the Minister had knocked out 25 or 50 per cent. of it. The Minister could conceivably change their whole intention by so doing.
Of course, the Minister must approve of the scheme. That is all that is wanted. The Minister has no power then to refuse approval.
The point is this. The Minister could approve of 25 or 50 per cent. of the scheme—pick out a bit of the scheme that the committee would not have on any account if it were to be on its own. In that way I think it would be going against the spirit of the Bill by having the Minister's will cut across the committee in such a way.
I see the point. The Minister must approve of the scheme. Supposing a scheme is put up and the Minister approves of portion of it and the committee is unwilling to go on with the rest, there is nothing, as far as I know, to coerce the committee into going on with the rest of the scheme. Of course, they cannot drop all their schemes. That is all it comes to.
Perhaps the Minister will accept the amendment, because it says "may be given effect to and carried into execution" instead of "shall."
Then the committee could drop all their schemes.
They could drop half of their scheme.
I think the section only applies to each particular scheme—it does not apply to all the schemes together. It says: "Every agricultural scheme shall be subject to the approval of the Minister..."
If you insert the word "may" they can put the scheme through without the approval of the Minister, and that is not what the Deputy wants.
I do not think the Minister is reading the amendment correctly. "Every agricultural scheme shall be subject to the approval of the Minister"—that would still stand—"and if and so far as so approved of, may be given effect to and carried into execution by the committee." That is how the section would read.
Perhaps the Deputy will bring the matter up on the Report Stage.
I think amendments 17, 18 and 19 deal with the same matter.
Amendments 17 and 18 were meant to be one amendment as a matter of fact, but amendment 19 is different. It is more or less the same idea going a little further. They refer to a scheme being put up by a committee of agriculture with regard to existing woods. I have an amendment down to a later section, but in case that amendment is defeated I thought that if the county committee were to raise the money in the county for the preservation of existing woods, if the ratepayers were to be responsible for the expenses incurred, and the ratepayers elected the members of the committee, either directly or indirectly, that the committee should have absolute power to look after the preservation of these woods. That is what the amendments would amount to.
These three amendments taken together would have the effect of removing the control of the Minister over the county schemes generally. The Deputy's point is that the county is paying for them. That is not so. They are being paid for out of a joint fund which is fed as to two-thirds of its total out of taxation and as to only about one-third out of rates.
That is at present.
At present and in future, so far as we can calculate. The present position is that at least two-thirds of the funds required for the service of these schemes is found by taxation and only about one-third by rates, so that the main argument of the Deputy, that the ratepayers are paying for these schemes and should have complete control of them, goes. The taxpayer is paying in the main for these schemes and should have some control over them. There is no doubt that it would be entirely wrong administration to give very large sums of money to the counties for specific purposes out of taxation and at the same time to retain no control over the expenditure of that money. That is what we would be doing if we withdrew the Minister's control over the county schemes. But there are even more important considerations. This amendment cuts to the root of the whole system of agricultural administration. The county committees have been in existence for a great many years. Their schemes have all been thought out with considerable care and have been amended and modified with experience. At the present moment you have been biggest and moment you have the biggest part of their schemes, which are general schemes, adopted and agreed to in every county; they have the approval of every county in Ireland, and are regarded as fundamental to our agricultural economy. The scheme would be accepted by nine farmers out of every ten as being vital for the country.
Take the question of live stock. You would no doubt get an odd farmer to say we should get rid of shorthorns and get Friesian cows. Five or six years ago you would get a good many farmers to say that, but now you do not, because they have learned a lesson in the meantime. In a county you would find people occasionally who would for a short time allow themselves to be rushed off their feet by something new—by some new stunt— accepting and adopting it. That would be all right if the harm done by adopting some entirely unsound scheme were confined to the particular county in question, but that is not so. It is generally agreed that the large white pig is ideal for this country; that is accepted and agreed by everybody, except certain districts in counties in the North, who say "No," but they are a small minority. If there is anything that we can say that is absolutely certain, it is that the large white York pig is ideal for this country as a whole. Now, suppose some southern county comes forward with a scheme, without much consideration, and because of some local grievance offers premiums to Ulster boars—suppose the Department had no power to prevent that, what would the effect be? It is agreed by all sane agricultural opinion that that would be disastrous, yet nothing could be done to stop it, and the effect would not be confined to the particular county that brought forward the scheme, but would affect numerous counties. The progeny of these boars would spread and would injure not only the particular county, but all the neighbouring counties, not only for a short time, but for a long time. In this way, unless there was some central control exercised over the schemes of the county committees of agriculture, which, taking them on the whole, embody the main phases of agricultural policy, you would have very great lack of uniformity. You would have counties now and again going off at the deep end and doing things without very much deliberation that they would very much regret afterwards. I give that one example.
[An Ceann Comhairle resumed the Chair.]
On the other hand, you may have counties adopting schemes and the Department entirely agreeing, but finding out that while the schemes were quite sound the administration was going to lead to a great many abuses. We have had schemes for the distribution of seed of one kind or another, and while agreeing with the object of these schemes and the distribution, it was found that there was no provision at all made to see that the seed was used as seed and not as food for animals. We often had that case, and we often had to insist that while entirely agreeing with the schemes there must be arrangements made to see that they are carried out as intended by the county committee of agriculture.
You have these two different examples: One class of scheme put up casually by one county which might be urged by a few breeders, at some suitable period when they were easily persuaded, and which would do permanent harm to the livestock not only of the county, but of the neighbouring counties, and it is necessary that somebody would be in a position to prevent that. You have the other sort of case I mentioned where schemes are agreed upon both by the county committees and the Department and where it is found necessary to amend them in detail. In a case like that the Department comes in and sees that amendments are carried and sees there is uniformity. In agricultural policy, whether it is right or wrong, everybody knows you cannot get results for a great many years. If you are looking for quick results it shows that you know nothing about the business. A policy may be right or wrong but it cannot give good or bad results unless you keep it in operation for a number of years. You must have continuity of experments carried out in a uniform may for a long time and over the greater part of the country. For all these reasons it is necessary, in the first instance, to give the Department of Agriculture control over the county schemes. That control has now been in operation for the past thirty years since the Department was established. Here we have an amendment which in fact means the taking away of that control. Is there any demand for that?
It is only with regard to the forestry schemes.
We are taking the amendments as they stand here and dealing with them along the lines they follow. Is there any demand for these amendments? I put it to the House there is no demand for them. There have been some small disputes on details between the Department of Agriculture and the county committees of agriculture. There are bound to be small disputes as to details for a short time, but taking the long period the Department has been administering schemes in co-operation with the county committees there has been no real dispute as to any big issue that lasted for any length of time. If this matter was put to the vote of the county committees of agriculture as a whole you would carry the proposal to leave the control to the Minister by a big majority. You have here the control which I say is necessary, and which, in the abstract, is absolutely essential for the reasons I have given. In addition to that, I advance what I regard as a very strong argument that you have this control being exercised for the last twenty years without any real friction, and I would say that there is no sign at this stage of a demand from any of the committees for a removal of the control.
Perhaps it is just as well that the Minister made a general statement covering these amendments, because we can deal with them altogether. I think there are sufficient safeguards without interference by the Minister. We have safeguards under such Acts as the Live Stock Breeding Act. With regard to the cases mentioned about the distribution of seeds, there must be safeguards under the common law to deal with it. Surely there must be safeguards under the ordinary law to deal with such matters. I have heard over and over again from various counties complaints as to the policy of the Department and as to interference in certain things. I heard from Deputy Aiken of a case of interference in the County Louth where the local county committee wanted to carry out extensive experiments in the sowing of wheat, and where they were not allowed by the Department to proceed as they say they could. Again, I knew of complaints from my own County of Wexford in the matter of the type of stallions they were allowed to keep there. Then you have complaints from Kerry as to the too rigid control in certain areas in the matter of the kind of cattle allowed in. In some areas they are confined altogether to the Kerry cattle. In other areas we find complaints as to the general policy of the Department of Agriculture. It was more or less with a view to giving certain Deputies an opportunity of mentioning their grievances that I put down some of these amendments, but I know that there is no use in pressing the matter further than that.
That means that amendment 17 is withdrawn and amendment 18 not moved?
Amendment 19 is somewhat the same?
Yes. Amendment 19 is not moved.
I move amendment 20, which reads:
In sub-section (1), line 54, to delete the word "shall" and substitute the word "may."
This is quite a different amendment from the others. This section makes it mandatory on the county council to strike a rate. I think, in the present circumstances, the House ought not to agree to a principle like this. We had a considerable amount of talk in the last twelve months about de-rating. I believe that the agricultural community had their hopes raised that de-rating was very near at hand. For instance, before Christmas it was announced that the Government were to bring in some scheme of de-rating. They were going to bring in a scheme to relieve agriculture of a million pounds. Some months later the Government came to a different frame of mind and we had the announcement that there was to be no de-rating this year. In the meantime, while this discussion was going on in the Press, we have had the rates increased on the agricultural community. While this discussion about de-rating was going on we had a Bill, the Vocational Education Bill, brought in which put on additional rates on the farmers. Under the Vocational Education Act it is possible to do many of the things which were sought to be done under this Bill. I was not present on the Second Reading, but I afterwards read the discussion in which Deputies Good, Fahy and T.J. O'Connell asked the Minister for his opinion on the matter. The Minister agreed that something should be done for agricultural education under that Act.
In addition to the Vocational Education Act we had a Bill passed through the House here a few days ago—that was the Local Government (Special Expenses) Bill. Under that Bill the local authorities will, in many cases, put up an additional rate of 3d. in the £ on the agricultural community. Then we had a Bill introduced a few days ago, and if it is adopted by some of the local authorities it will put on an extra penny on the rates—that is the Tourist Bill. In addition to that, we know that many of the counties, in the last year or two, were compelled to adopt certain public health schemes. They were compelled to appoint a medical officer of health. In that way the rate was increased in many counties. From what I can learn from the Press, there is hardly a county in the twenty-six that is not increasing its rates in the coming year, and any increase in rates is not very welcome to the agricultural community at present. If the Government are not in a position to bring in de-rating in the next year they should not pass any Act in the Oireachtas in this session that would make it mandatory on the county councils to strike an additional rate. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider this matter and allow the county councils the option they have at present, by substituting the word "may" for "shall," as this amendment proposes.
I fancy that this proposal in the Bill is unnecessary. Surely in the present state of affairs it should be left to the good sense of the county council to say whether they were of opinion that their ratepayers would be in a position to stand another 2d. in the £ under the Bill. That is a matter that surely ought to be left to their own good sense. During the past two months we have heard cries all over the country about the relief that was going to be given to the farmers. We had the President last November telling us that he was going to give immediate relief to the farmers. Is this increase of 2d. in the £ portion of the immediate relief that the farmers are getting? It is time we knew where we stood. During the last week I saw the effect of the Public Expenses Bill down the country. We have also seen the effect of the £300,000 relief grant down the country. The effect of these was that schemes that were hung up on the shelf for the last five years, because of the fact that the people were not able to pay for them, were brought up now on the 25 per cent. grant from the Minister, and as a result we have these works being put through, for which the local rates will have to provide 75 per cent. We have seen some of the blessings bestowed on the agricultural community. We have seen the result of these things on the local bodies, and we can see how they are working out at the moment. Surely the Executive Council should consider these things for themselves, and they ought to see that it should be left to the good sense of the local bodies whether they consider that the ratepayers are able to bear an extra burden of 2d. in the £ or not. In fact, it may be more than 2d.; 2d. is compulsory, and another 1d. may be added if they consider they are able to pay it.
In connection with vocational education, we had some kind of assurance that agricultural education was going to be catered for. Apparently that has gone with all the other things. By degrees the rates on the unfortunate farmers will be shoved up to 6d. It is bad enough to have Ministers making promises about de-rating and then forgetting all about them when they find it convenient to do so. It is bad enough to see the local bodies writing to the Minister for Local Government looking for sanction for an overdraft of £120,000, as was the case recently in Cork, when the people could not pay their rates. The interest on that sum will have to be paid, and yet we have the Minister suggesting an additional 2d. on the rates here to-night. We had 4d. put on the rates last week, and 2d. the week before. The Government Party must imagine that the farmers and other people in the country have an unlimited supply of money, that there is no bottom to their pockets. I think that Deputy Ryan's amendment is a perfectly sensible one, and the Minister ought to accept it.
I have listened to the long list of Bills that Deputy Ryan mentioned as passed here that will place a burden upon the ratepayers. I am surprised that he has introduced an amendment to this measure which has for its purpose the killing of agricultural education in the country. If there is one burden the farmer does not want to be relieved of it is the money spent for the benefit of the farming community generally. If this had been introduced in relation to other measures there might be some other reason for it, but I do not think, no matter what our views may be on de-rating, that any of us interested in agriculture would like to see any prohibition placed upon the levying of a rate for agricultural purposes.
I find myself in agreement with the amendment moved by Deputy Ryan. I think this is not the time when it should be made compulsory on county councils to strike a rate for agricultural purposes such as are set out in this Bill. Deputy O'Hanlon has referred to this amendment as a step towards killing agricultural education.
I did not say that.
I understood the Deputy to say that if this amendment were carried it would mean the killing of agricultural education in different counties. Each council is composed, to a large extent, of members of the farming community, people who are elected by the farmers and people who are looking every day at the results derived from the schemes of county committees. If the power to strike a rate of 1d. or 2d. is left in their hands, it seems to me they will strike a rate in proportion to the benefits that they see accuring from those schemes in their different counties. I have noticed Deputy O'Hanlon's attitude on other legislation that imposed further burdens by way of increased rates upon the farmers. I have noticed the attitude of some Deputies towards questions of this kind, and I have also observed their attitude upon such questions when in the country. I cannot understand where the consistency comes in when a Deputy advocates de-rating for the farming community and at the same time votes here for a Technical Education Bill which imposes a sixpenny rate, and a Public Health (Special Expenses) Bill which imposes an additional rate upon the farming community. I cannot understand the attitude of a Deputy who advocates de-rating down the country and declares that the farmers are entitled to it and must get it, while here he votes for legislation of the kind I have mentioned. That is not the sort of consistency I understand. We have the Minister for Local Government refusing to permit local bodies to strike a rate for the improvement of a cul-de-sac, or boreens and lanes, and, on the other hand, we have the Minister for Agriculture suggesting that it should be made compulsory on local bodies to strike a rate for the purposes of the Bill we are now considering. I cannot understand these varying attitudes, and I am not prepared to stand for any inconsistency. In my opinion this is a matter that can safely be left in the hands of county councils, the members of which know the benefits derived from various schemes, and they will be prepared to advocate a rate accordingly.
I quite agree with Deputy O'Hanlon that it would be very bad to deprive the farmers or any section of the community of education, and in that connection I advise him to read Sections 3 and 4 of the Vocational Education Act and also study the reply given by the Minister for Agriculture on 18th February in connection with the Second Stage of this Bill. Some doubts were expressed on that occasion by Deputy O'Connell, Deputy Good, and others regarding the classes to be conducted by instructors under the Department. The Minister said there was a possibility under the Vocational Education Act of getting agricultural classes. Taking Section 3 of that Act, we find that the expression "continuation education" means education to continue and supplement education provided in elementary schools, and includes general and practical training in preparation for employment in trades, manufactures, agriculture, commerce, etc. Sub-section (3) of Section 4 sets out that the Minister may from time to time, after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, by order declare that the expression "technical education" shall for the purposes of the Act also include instruction in such subjects bearing on or relating to agriculture as may be specified in such order, and wherever any such order is made the meaning of such expression shall, for the purposes of the Act, be extended in conformity with the provisions of such order.
There are complaints through the country that vocational education, continuation education and technical education will largely benefit the towns, but will be of little benefit to the rural districts. There was a possibility of getting in agricultural classes, but we find the Minister for Agriculture stating here—and it is in consultation with him that agricultural instruction must be set up under that Act—"But so far as I know there is no agricultural teaching in any of the schools schemes dealt with under the Vocational Education Act." Therefore, he has not yet been consulted.
I suggest that if the Minister went into consultation with the Minister for Education a good deal of the instructional side of the work of these officers could be brought under the scheme of vocational education. Apart from that, laudable efforts have been made to co-ordinate education, which was a very disjointed thing some years ago, and these efforts have been attended with a considerable amount of success, but there is a danger here of severance again. I think that the Minister should get into touch with the Minister for Education, co-ordinate these classes and get the agricultural classes going for those in the rural areas who benefit little by the Technical Education Act. In that way Deputy O'Hanlon's objections to the amendment would be met and agricultural instruction could be provided.
I have nothing to add to what Deputy O'Hanlon has said except to prove that he is right when he says that there is no demand from the farmers for a reduction in the rate they are paying. While they may be suffering under high rates of taxation they do not begrudge the amount of the rate for the purpose for which it is made. We recently circularised every county council and we told them of our intentions in full. We told them that it was intended to make it mandatory to strike a rate of 2d. in the £ for agricultural schemes. We did that by a circular letter which was sent out on 31st January, and that letter reached every county council in the Saorstát. It was before them all and there was not one single dissentient. The county councils discussed it, and there was no objection of any kind to this particular proposal. There was one doubt expressed by the Leitrim County Council as to the legality of the steps which we were taking to effect our intention but there was no objection to it.
Farmers feel the burden of all overhead expenses, and are as concerned about them as any Deputies here, and they realise the advantage it would be to them to reduce the rate. Deputies can take it that farmers have a very keen appreciation of that fact, but not one suggestion came from any county council that we should lower the rate. That must be accepted as a complete proof that in the opinion of the farmers and county councils this is justified. Deputy Good shakes his head. As a rule members of county councils are quite vocal and when they have any grievances, real or imaginary, they are not slow in airing them. In spite of the fact that they are inclined to be critical on local bodies, not one voice was raised against this proposal. I do not say that some members of county councils might not have overlooked the matter or might not have seen its significance or the chance of making a protest. There may have been a few exceptions like that to explain the silence and the lack of opposition, but it must be taken as almost certain that the letter which set out the scheme fully reached every county council, that they all accepted it, and that it did not pass through all the county councils by default without the members realising its meaning. I think we must accept it as a fact that the county councils, as a whole, were convinced that this was a good proposal. How many proposals would have stood that test, even proposals that got the blessing of every Party here?
You did not test some of the other ones.
That is the very point I am making. We are on this proposal now and not on the others. How many proposals coming from this House got such a test as this one, which was before the county councils for two months? I would like Deputies to consider how many proposals affecting the rates of the farmers themselves would have been received so silently as this. They must have seen the reasonableness of the proposals, as otherwise there would have been opposition. There is a rate of 2d. under the old Technical Education Act, and more than three-halfpence of that is spent on agriculture in every county. What we are asking is a little more than a farthing in the £ in addition for agricultural schemes. I should say that that is fairly well realised by the county councils and that that is one of the reasons why there have not been objections to this particular scheme. I suppose that they realise that we have not made our demands as high as have been made in other branches of education. There is a demand, for instance, under the vocational training scheme of 2d., 4d. and, in some cases, 6d. in the £, and I understand, though I was not in the House at the time, that Deputy Good and others were 100 per cent. in favour of it, yet when I looked for an increase of a little more than a ¼d. in the £ for agricultural schemes there is all this ado. There is another point which justifies the proposal. No matter what Deputies opposite may say, our agricultural schemes are regarded by the country as sound, and they will not be changed by local farmers, no matter what politics they profess, because they know very well that they are sound. These schemes cost about £131,000, and we find, of that sum, £83,000 out of taxation and all that the local bodies have to find is £48,000.
How much at present?
I am giving the present figures. The present position is that there is more than 1½d. on an average levied for agriculture. Obviously the increase in that £48,000 will be very little, because the increase in the rate would be round about ¼d., in some cases perhaps a little more. £48,000 represents a rate of about 1½d. Even a slight increase in that amount would not alter the disproportion that exists between the amount found by rates and that found by taxation.
This question has nothing to do with de-rating. De-rating is another question entirely. If total de-rating is to come, then there would be the problem of finding this money in another way. The real question is whether at present these schemes are sound, and whether circumstances justify an increase of one farthing in the rate for the purposes of these schemes. I have no doubt the Dáil by a majority will decide whether this increase is justified. Whatever doubt there may be about it, there can be no doubt about this, that the majority of the county councils of the country, who are composed to a great extent of parties differing in political views, but who are closer to the soil than we are, and who have to administer these schemes, definitely agree with the Department of Agriculture. They have considered this fully, because it has been before them and explained in full to them for at least two months. There has been no opposition whatever from any quarter to this scheme.
Have these county councils struck the rate the Minister asked for?
Some of them have, so far as I know. I have heard no case where they have not.
When they come to strike a rate you will have a different tune.
The Deputy can advance that when he is speaking. I have received no intimation from any of the county councils that they are not likely to strike a rate. Of course, when you have a debate like this in the Dáil, when it becomes a question of politics, and when, in addition, everybody knows that these councils are going to strike the rate, Deputies think that there is no harm in letting themselves go.
It is not a matter of politics at all with most of us. We are not disputing the question as to whether a rate of 2d. in the £ is justifiable or not, or whether we would get a return.
For my part, I protest against the proposal in this Bill making it compulsory—compulsion all the time, compulsion in the Department of Agriculture, compulsion in the Department of Local Government, compulsion in everything, driving it down the necks of the local authorities. When the local authorities want to do something for the people whose affairs they are administering, when they want to do something for which there is a crying demand, the Minister for Local Government or the Minister for Agriculture says: "You cannot do this. You cannot strike a rate." It is the compulsion behind this that I, for one, will protest against.
The Minister says that the whole scheme of agricultural education is sound. There is a very grave doubt in the minds of a number of the most advanced farmers in the country as to whether the whole system of agricultural education is sound. Very grave doubts have been raised by a number of progressive farmers as to whether we are getting a good return for the money we are spending on agricultural education. I think everybody must admit that most of the money goes to paying teachers and very little gets down to the farmers. Some people hold that if, instead of spending £1,000 in a county to keep several instructors going round, we divided that up and gave 20 scholarships of £50 each to provide a few years' agricultural education for farmers' sons in an agricultural college, the money would be much better spent. The difficulty most farmers have is in the matter of their ability to read technical books. We spend a lot of money in making experiments around the country, but these experiments could be carried on at much less cost in some central place. If a sufficient leavening of the farmers were in a position to read technical books and to take all the meat out of them, we would get ahead much more speedily.
In regard to the particular schemes that have been approved and disapproved by the Department of Agriculture, there is a number of agricultural committees throughout the country who think that schemes which have been turned down by the Department should have been approved. I shall give one instance. In Co. Louth a year ago, a scheme was adopted to give free seed wheat to small farmers. Even the Minister for Agriculture himself has said that it would be a good thing if the small farmers grew sufficient wheat for their own needs. The County Louth Committee of Agriculture had a scheme whereby they were going to give free seed wheat to farmers with a small valuation. The Department turned that down and said that they should only spend £10 on that scheme—£10 on a scheme which the Minister will admit was a good and a sound scheme. They refused to allow them to go on with the scheme and yet they allowed £15 for a ploughing match in the same week. I think the farmers of the country, particularly in counties like Louth, where the farmers till from 20 to 50 per cent. of their land, are fairly well educated in ploughing their land, and that the £15 spent on the ploughing match would have been much better spent in giving free seed wheat to small farmers to make them self-supporting and to guard against the necessity of buying flour and baker's bread.
As I have stated, the people have grave doubts in regard to a number of schemes approved of by the Department, and by the Department I mean the Minister. Certainly they have grave doubts as to the system of agricultural education. Practically nothing, as the Minister admitted here the other night, has been done except to force the local people to keep up an agricultural instructor. He is going to force them to do it and to strike a rate. These officials will be looked upon in future as the Minister's officials and the people will not have the same interest in them in future as they have had up to the present. The Minister has been in power eight years, and nothing has been done to start agricultural education in the primary schools. No scheme has been outlined by him for agricultural instruction in continuation or vocational schools. The whole thing has been allowed to go by the board. If we are going to do anything in this country to put it on its feet, and if we are going to make the farmers efficient, we will have to start in the primary schools and in the vocational schools. On some other occasion we can debate that matter more fully. We do not approve of this section in the Bill. We think that whatever hope there is of the agricultural instructors getting sympathetic consideration from the ratepayers, if they are forced down their throats the ratepayers of the country will look upon them with disfavour.
In sub-section (1), line 56, to delete the words and brackets "excluding any urban districts comprised therein."
Under this section a mandatory rate of 2d. in the £ will be struck in rural areas, while the urban areas will be excluded. I believe that under the Vocational Education Act urban areas get much more benefit than the rural areas, although the rural areas are contributing towards education in the towns. The towns, I think, should contribute towards the agricultural scheme. There should be a flat rate.
Is the Deputy aware that under the Vocational Education Act urban areas are burdened with a much heavier rate than that borne by the county councils? If the Deputy turns to the Schedule of the Vocational Education Act, Part I., he will see that county boroughs and urban districts start with a compulsory rate of 3d. in the £, while in Part II. the county councils start with a compulsory rate of 1¾d., with the exception of County Cork, where the amount is 2d. in the £. He will also see that urban authorities can go to a maximum of 6d., while the county councils only proceed to a maximum of 4d., so that the urban authorities are bearing their share of the educational rate.
There is only a difference of 1¼d. in the rates for the urban and the rural areas. This section is going to make a difference of 2d.
The maximum rate in the urban areas is 6d., and in the county areas 4d., showing a difference of 2d.
As the representative of an urban district, I object to this amendment, because if the working of an urban authority is mixed up with that of a county council the whole system of local government will be upset owing to overlapping of Departments. In the urban district a separate rate is struck for vocational training, and a portion of the rate is contributed to the county council. I think it is unfair to have any urban district brought into this Bill without consultation.
I fear that Deputy Carey is anticipating legislation when he says that he represents an urban district. In view of the fact that the rural areas are at present contributing towards vocational education, which, after all, is of far more benefit to the urban districts than it is to the rural districts, I think that the same rule should obtain here. If we were to trace back the different Bills brought into this House from time to time, we would find that practically every one of them is in favour of the cities and the towns, while the rural areas have to contribute to the cost of them. When the Housing Bill was brought in a short time ago, it was definitely stated by the Minister for Local Government that it was intended to benefit the boroughs and the urban districts.
What about the Relief Bill?
That was brought in for the relief of the city of Dublin. It was made a central charge. I do not want to be led on to that line again. If I were, I would congratulate Deputy Good on his victory.
It is an awkward question.
An awkward question for you. At present this kind of legislation is unfair and unjust. Since the rural areas have to contribute for the benefit of the towns, why should not the towns contribute for the benefit of the rural areas? This clause is unjust. Up to the present, I have not seen any attempt in this House to differentiate between urban and rural areas. If the Minister insists on this, he is going to create a very bad precedent for legislation which may come before the House later.
I am totally opposed to this amendment. Certain urban areas have been declared vocational education areas, and they have had their own committees set up. They are not receiving any aid from the county rates, and this amendment would operate very unfairly against them. There are areas described as "urban areas" in which no vocational education committees have been set up. They may derive certain advantages from the rural rate, but I do not think that these advantages are sufficiently great to justify the application of this rate to their centres. I think that Deputy Ryan should withdraw the amendment. I do not think that it would be well received in the urban centres.
In all the circumstances, I think it would not be fair to ask the urban areas to pay this rate.
Having heard the arguments, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment. As regards Deputy Good's figures, I should like to point out that the country is at a slight disadvantage. The towns are only contributing about 1¾d. towards vocational education. Here, you have the country paying 2d. in the £. If you take the two charges together—the agricultural charge and the vocational education charge—the rural districts will be contributing more than the urban districts.
I move amendment 22:
In sub-section (1), line 58, to delete the word "two" and substitute the word "one."
I have a considerable amount of sympathy with the Deputies from the rural areas who have complained of the heavy burden of taxation. I was not at all satisfied with the answer that the Minister gave—that he had written to the different county councils and that he had not received any objection from any of them to the imposition of a rate of 2d. I am afraid that at the speed at which we are passing legislation here even the county councils cannot keep pace with us. Under the old régime, the county councils, as the Minister has pointed out, levied a rate of 2d. in the £ for agricultural purposes and for education. That was handed over to agricultural committees. The agricultural committees, like all other committees, held on to the product of 1½d. and handed over only the product of ½d. for education. In fact, the Minister said that they did not hand over as much as ½d. for education. So naturally the Deputies have complained rightly that very little has been done for education in these areas, but on the other hand very little money has been provided from these areas for the purposes of education. We hope all that has been set right under the Vocational Bill. Under the Vocational Bill as passed here in the agricultural areas each county council sets up a county vocational committee. Similar committees are set up in the urban areas and similar committees in the county boroughs. That vocational education committee in the rural areas will have charge of vocational education in that particular area. It will in addition have the administration of a considerable sum of money, for we find that under Section 2 of the Vocational Bill in the first year, that is the year commencing the 1st April, 1931, the levy in the County Cork, in which Deputy Corry is interested, though he is not here, is 2d. in the £ to start with.
In all the other county areas the compulsory rate from the 1st April next will be 1¾d. in the £ each year following the present year. That rate would be increased by ¼d. in the £. It is a mandatory rate until it reaches a maximum of 4d. in the £ in 1940. That rate will be administered through the county vocational committee, so that consequently the amount of educational activity—those committees, I might point out, work under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Education— under the jurisdiction of the county council would be very considerable in the future. It has been, I admit, very small in the past. When that Bill is passed that rate comes into operation. I am afraid that when these county councils with which the Minister communicated had before them this question of the imposition of a 2d. rate they were not at all clear whether that was for vocational education or for agricultural purposes.
Why do you think that?
I have some little difficulty in keeping up with these Acts, although I am a member of the Dáil. We pass Acts so quickly that really we get out of touch with them very quickly. We must not be too burdensome on the county councils, and my proposal is to give the Minister from the county councils practically what he has at the moment. Under this Bill he proposes that there shall be a mandatory rate under clause 32 of 2d. in the £. As I pointed out, the Minister only gets at the moment a maximum, that is, the agricultural committees get a maximum, of 2d. from the county councils, and they hand over ½d. for the purposes of education which, of course, is not administered by the Depart ment of Agriculture. I propose that that 2d. should be reduced to 1d. This clause further provides that any county council which is disposed to give additional moneys for the purposes of agriculture can do so up to a further penny in the £, so that 1d. would be mandatory, and county councils who are anxious to give more can give a further penny if they so desire. In addition to that, under sub-section (2) you have a further ½d. where the Minister has made a forestry scheme order in respect of the county.
That is not mandatory.
"The council of such county shall in every local financial year."
That is not mandatory.
Then the wording seems very strange. "Where the Minister has made a forestry scheme order in respect of a county the council of such county shall in every local financial year after the date of such order raise equally over the whole of their county (excluding any urban districts comprised therein) by means of the poor rate a sum ... equal to not more than a rate of ½d. in the £ on the rateable value of such county at the beginning of such year." I am glad to hear from the Minister that that is not mandatory, because as I read the clause it is.
There is a provision to the effect that the scheme can only be made on the suggestion of the county council. There must be agreement between the Minister and the county council.
If the scheme is put into operation the rate becomes mandatory.
If they agree to make the scheme, then the rate is mandatory.
In the opening of the clause you have "Where the Minister has made a forestry scheme order in respect of a county." Then follows: "The council of such county shall." However, we will leave that out of the question for the moment. Apart from that, each county must give to the Minister for the purpose of the agricultural rate 1d. in the £ under this amendment of mine. The clause is mandatory for 2d. I say if the Minister gets from that 1d. he practically gets as much as he gets at the moment, and gets sufficient for the purpose. I am satisfied when it comes to the knowledge of these local authorities that they have to strike 1d. in the coming year for the purpose of agriculture and that they have to strike, in addition, in the coming year 1¾d. for the purpose of vocational education, all the county councils in Ireland will become vocal and will satisfy the Minister on that point.
I do not think the Deputy is right when he says the county councils did not know what they were on. A letter was written to them, not talking of any Acts of Parliament, but, stating that the legislation under which they struck their rate was repealed and that it was intended to introduce legislation making it mandatory to strike a 2d. rate, a simple letter of that kind which could be understood by any county council. They could not be under any delusion as to what it meant. So far as this forestry rate is concerned I do not want to get involved in a quarrel about words. That rate is not mandatory in the real sense. It is provided "Where the Minister on the joint representation of the council of a county and the committee of agriculture for such county considers it desirable that steps should be taken to preserve existing woods and so on." So no forestry scheme can come into operation unless the suggestion comes from the county itself. I am afraid the position has been prejudiced by reason of the fact that a certain rate must be struck for vocational education. I do not think that is the right way to approach this question. I take it the Dáil discussed the question of what rate should be struck for vocational education on its merits when the Bill was before them, and I suggest we should consider what rate should be struck for agriculture on its merits also, and on the history of the case there is a very strong justification for a rate of 2d.
I think this objection to a mandatory rate of 2d. is not justified. It is not sound enough. I think this suggestion of a compulsory penny and a discretionary penny to follow is a sort of a suggestion to county councils that they should strike a penny and no more. The Deputy may say that is not so. I venture to say that I know the psychology of county councils just as well as he does, and that if you insert any provision to that effect, that they have to strike 1d. and no more, we may assume they will strike no more. At present they are striking 2d.
There is a point that I would like to bring the attention of Deputies to. Practically all the counties but three are striking the full 2d. rate for a very long time. They are giving 1½d. to agriculture, and they are doing all that voluntarily. They could not strike a higher rate than 2d. under these Acts, and I think it is reasonable to suggest that if they had power to strike more than 2d. they would have done it. They did it voluntarily for a great number of years. They gave more than 1½d. to agriculture, and at the moment you have the position that most of them are giving 2d. voluntarily.
They are giving 2d. Under my proposal 1d. would be mandatory, and they would have the option of adding another 1d.
I would prefer to have the whole lot voluntary than that—I am giving my own personal view—for the reason I have given, that I would be afraid it would be giving a lead to the county councils in the direction of striking a penny only. To have a penny compulsory and another discretionary, I am afraid, would tend in time to fixing a penny as the contribution from the rates. It would be a better position to have the 2d. discretionary, because at the moment, where there is a discretionary 2d. for agriculture and technical instruction, all counties except three are raising, and, on the average, they are paying 1½d. for agriculture. For that reason I do not like the Deputy's proposal.
May I point out that these county councils are contributing 2d. at the moment for the purposes of agricultural education, and they will be contributing from the 1st April next 2¾.?
That is vocational education.
For the purposes of education and for the purposes of agriculture. Then from 1st April next, even making a penny mandatory, they will be contributing 2¾d., because there will be 1¾d. mandatory for vocational education and 1d. for the purpose of agriculture under this Bill. In addition, any of the county councils that so wish can give more for the purpose of agriculture up to a penny.
I would like to be clear on a matter that was raised by Deputy Good on the last occasion on which we were dealing with this Bill. How far are the vocational education committees permitted to have in their schemes a scheme for agricultural education? I have been told that a certain local committee sent up a scheme dealing with agricultural education and that it was turned down by the Minister.
Sent up to the Department?
Not that I know of.
That is what I have been told. I suppose it would be to the Education Department.
I can make inquiries on that point before the Report Stage, but I do not know that.
From what the Minister said on the last occasion here, I take it that the agricultural education in which he is interested is of an exceptional and practical type.
Instructors would give to adults, who would be for the most part actually engaged in farming themselves, a type of practical education that is not the same as was mainly contemplated under the Vocational Act.
That is the position.
Then is it not quite clear that there ought to be considerable opportunity given to the vocational education committees to have in their programme a scheme of agricultural education? Will the Minister not admit that there is room in it for that in addition to any education that may be given by his Department?
Is there anything to prevent it?
My information at present is that there seems to be some idea in the mind of the Department, whether the Education Department or the Department of Agriculture I do not know, that agricultural education should be confined to the type of education that is provided for in the Agriculture Bill.
It would be entirely contrary to the spirit of vocational education.
So I believe. That is why I raised it. It seems to me that the education provided for under this Bill is quite different from the type contemplated in the Vocational Education Act, and that any educational facilities provided under this Bill should be over and above those which were contemplated in the Vocational Education Act, and that if there is provision being made it ought not to be so as to prevent the local committees from having agricultural schemes embodied in their programmes.
In the first place, definitely, the Vocational Education Act includes agriculture. In the next place "the Minister may from time to time, after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, by order declare that the expression technical education shall for the purposes of this Act also include instruction in such subjects bearing on or relating to agriculture as may be specified in such order." So that the Vocational Education Act definitely includes agriculture.
I submit that that more or less strengthens my suspicions, because it seems to indicate that before agriculture will be considered as a technical subject, coming under the Vocational Education Act, there must be consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, and that he must agree. In other words that it is not automatic.
It is not automatic.
Therefore, there is a specific reservation made in the case of agriculture. What I want to be clear on is that the provision in regard to agricultural education should not operate in any sense to exclude vocational committees from having agriculture in their own programmes.
The more vocational education committees take advantage of the Vocational Education Act to provide agricultural education from their funds the better I am pleased. That is our point of view, any extra agricultural education that is given so much the better. I take it what Deputy de Valera wants to know is, is there any objection on principle or whether there is to be any education given except the education we give. Certainly. If there was agricultural education given in any other way and paid for under other Acts we would be only delighted, with this condition; if, for instance, there was consultation between the Minister for Education and the Minister for Agriculture in regard to a vocational education scheme for agricultural education of course the Minister for Agriculture would have certain views on any specific scheme as to whether it were sound or not, but in general the more agricultural education that is given the better.
I am very glad to hear that. I was surprised when this matter was brought to my attention. A member of a local education committee told me that a scheme had been submitted which involved for the most part a scheme for agricultural education and that it was turned down. The assumption was that it was turned down not on the merits of the scheme as an agricultural scheme but because it was agricultural, not because the Minister for Agriculture was not satisfied with the particular way in which the scheme for agricultural education was to be carried out, but because it had reference to agriculture. I thought it very strange, if it were true, that the Minister meant to confine agricultural education solely to the type provided in this Bill.
That is not so.
I am glad to hear it.
It is quite apparent from the Minister's reply to questions on the Second Stage of the Bill and to-day that he has formulated no definite scheme of agricultural education other than that carried out by the Department's instructors.
Is a debate on agricultural education in order on an amendment of this kind? We debate that on the Estimates every year at great length. I want to make the point that it is quite impossible to have an adequate debate on agricultural education generally on the Committee Stage of a Bill like this.
We are not going to have a debate on it. This is a question which arises out of this amendment. We who are interested in agriculture would like to get some scheme outlined by the Minister, that he should declare his own mind anyway as to what he intends agricultural education to be in future.
The question before us is whether the rate should be 1d. or 2d.
Yes, for specific schemes that the Dáil is aware of.
These schemes for the most part are optical demonstrations to farmers that things can be grown.
That may be.
The Deputy must not discuss the merits of the scheme on this amendment.
I can discuss the merits of striking a rate.
The Deputy can discuss whether the rate should be 1d. or 2d.
If there was a system of agricultural education whereby young farmers were taught to digest the ordinary technical books on farming and the leaflets issued by the Department there would be no necessity for a large proportion of this rate. If a young farmer could take up books and by studying them find out how certain things could be done in the line of agriculture, that certain things could be grown under certain conditions with certain manures, etc., there would be no necessity for striking a 2d. rate and having agricultural instructors going round simply giving demonstrations to farmers of things that are contained in these books. Our whole system of agricultural education is wrong.
The Deputy is going into the administration of the Department rather than discussing the amendment.
This is going to give the Department power to strike a 2d. rate when they like. I do not think we should be cribbed in that way in discussing a matter like this.
I am not curtailing the Committee unduly. I am giving the Deputy full liberty on the amendment, but I cannot allow him to go into the question of the administration of the Department on an amendment such as this.
There is every justification that only a penny rate should obtain, and that there should not be a mandatory 2d. rate, because every farmer in the country is convinced that the value he is getting for this is absolutely nil, and that from the point of view of improving agriculture and the working of it the instructors might as well be in Hong Kong. They are no use in the counties at all.
Yet all these fools are up at the Show buying premium bulls out of this fund to-day; they are so convinced it is all nonsense.
In sub-section (2), page 13, line 9. to insert before the word "raise" the words "if so required by the Minister during the preceding local financial year, but not otherwise."
With regard to amend ment 25—"In sub-section (2), line 10, to delete the words and brackets `excluding an urban district comprised therein' "—I suppose I have to withdraw this amendment, but there is more reason for the urban district contributing to the preservation of the woods, because they get more value out of them from picnics and so on than the country people.
In page 13, to add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"(3) All acts and things done before the commencement of this Act by the council of a county in relation to the making of a poor rate for the local financial year commencing on the 1st day of April, 1931, shall (where the amount to be raised by means of such poor rate includes the amount of the agricultural rate) be as valid and effectual as if sub-section (1) of this section were in force at the time such acts or things were done."
In sub-section (1), before paragraph (d), to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
"(d) to defray any payments required to be made by such committee under the provisions of this Act relating to the payment of travelling expenses to members of committees."
In sub-section (1), to insert before paragraph (d) a new paragraph as follows:—
"(d) to defray any debt due by such committee to the Minister in relation to the holding of a local inquiry by the Minister."
I move: "To delete sub-section (3)."
I move amendment 35:
Before Section 43 to insert a new section as follows:—
"Every regulation made by the Minister under this Act shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if either such House shall, within twenty-one days on which such House has sat after such regulation is laid before it, pass a resolution annulling such regulation, such regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder."
I beg to move amendment 36:
Before the Second Schedule to insert a new schedule as follows:—
Rules for payment of Travelling Expenses.
1. In these rules:—
the word "committee" means a committee of agriculture;
the word "contribution" means a contribution payable under this Act to a member of a committee towards the expenses incurred by him in attending the meeting of such committee.
2. Every member of a committee shall, at the commencement of his term of office as such member, communicate in writing to the chief executive officer of such committee the address at which he ordinarily resides, which address is referred to in these rules as the official residence of such member.
3. The contribution to be paid to a member of a committee in respect of his attendance at any meeting shall be calculated on the length of the journery from the official residence of such member to the place of meeting of the committee and the mode of transport used for such journey.
4. Where the journey from the official residence of a member to the place of meeting of the committee could be made by more than one route or by different modes of transport, the journey shall, for the purposes of these rules, be deemed to have been made by the route and the mode of transport in respect of which the payment under these rules would be the least.
5. There shall be paid to every member to whom a contribution is payable under this Act, a sum calculated in the manner prescribed in the next rule in respect of each meeting of the committee attended by him, subject to the limitation that no contribution shall be paid to any such member in respect of a meeting held at a place situate less than five miles by any route from his official residence.
6. The sum payable under the preceding rule in respect of each meeting shall be calculated as follows, that is to say, four pence for each mile of the journey from the member's official residence to the place of meeting travelled by railway, and five pence for each mile of such journey travelled otherwise than by railway."
This is purely for the purposes of definition and it prescribes the organisation and routine of the Committee.
I move amendment 37:
To delete paragraph 3 and substitute the following paragraph:—
"3. The following provisions shall have effect in relation to the consitution of every committee of agriculture for a county, that is to say:—
(a) the number of members of such committee to be appointed in an election year at the annual meeting of the council held in that year shall not be less than three times nor more than four times the number of county electoral areas in the county at the date of such annual meeting;
(b) subject to the provisions of the foregoing sub-paragraph, the number of members of such committee to be appointed in an election year at the annual meeting of the council held in that year shall be such number as the council think fit, and such committee shall, notwithstanding any change in the number of electoral areas in such county in the meantime, until the annual meeting of the council held in the next following election year, consist of such last mentioned number of members."
If this amendment is carried, amendment 38 cannot be moved in its present form; it could by agreement be moved as an amendment to No. 37.
There are certain county committees—at least one—that consider the number is small. They would like to have the option of electing five for each electoral district. I do not know whether the Minister has any objection to that. My amendment reads: "In rule 3, line 24, to delete the word `four' and substitute the word `five.' "
It is felt that five would be too much, but I will consider the matter between this and the Report Stage. I would want to apply that to the number of electoral areas in the various counties so as to see how it works out.
Wexford has only four electoral areas.
I move amendment 39:—
In rule 4, line 27, to delete the words "one person who is" and substitute the words "three persons who are."
I thought there should be at least three instead of one person from each area so as to have the members better distributed. Under the Bill there must be one person from each area.
At present you do not have one person from each area and we are making it mandatory to have one. If there is one representative from each area you are doing fairly well.
I am not very keen on pressing the amendment.
It might keep outstanding men away in some counties.
I move amendment 40:—
In rule 5, line 31, to delete the words "or has an estate or interest in some agricultural land in the county."
I cannot see the necessity for this qualification. The rule sets out that this person must have a practical, commercial or technical knowledge of land or have an estate or interest in some agricultural land in the county or have special local knowledge of agricultural matters. The person who has an estate or an interest in some agricultural land in the county but who might not have a practical commercial or technical knowledge of land—surely he should not be on the committee?
It is only to make assurance doubly sure. I do not believe there is much value in the rule; it is a pious aspiration. I do not think the rule will make any very great difference.
I would like the Minister to look into rule 10; it is possible it may conflict with rule 2. If a minimum number of councillors were on the county committee and one of the minimum were to resign, he would not be eligible for re-election. Rule 2 points out that every committee shall be composed either wholly of persons who are members of the council or partly of persons who are and partly of persons who are not members of the council. Suppose the absolute minimum of one were on the county committee. If he were to resign he would not be eligible for re-election.
The Deputy's point apparently is that if there was only one member of the county council a member of the committee and he resigned, he would not be eligible for re-election. Then you would find nobody at all from the county council on the committee. That did not occur to me. It is not likely to occur, but it might be provided against. I will look into that matter.
Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Third Schedule and Title agreed to.