Local Government (Dublin) (Amendment) Bill, 1931—Committee Stage.

The Dáil went into Committee.
Sections 1 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed: "That Section 6 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 6, I would like to know whether there is any use in appealing to the Minister to reconsider his attitude in regard to the number of members to constitute the Dublin Board of Assistance. The Minister has stated that nine persons shall constitute the Board. I understand that he has had representations made to him since the last day to the effect that a larger number would be desirable. While I had my mind on 25 I have since come to the conclusion that 15 would be a suitable number— ten from the Corporation and five from the County Council—thus maintaining in proportion the present representation, with an increased number. Would the Minister be prepared to reconsider his attitude on that question and meet the wishes of some representatives of the Corporation and also of the County Council who feel that, owing to the tremendous amount of responsibility thrown on their shoulders to follow up every aspect of the lives of people who seek assistance, as well as to protect the ratepayers, the Minister should agree to change the number, if not to fifteen, then to some number above nine?

I am not prepared to recommend a greater number than that provided in the Bill, namely, nine members from the city and county, with two co-opted members. The committee of nine would have power to co-opt two members. The matter was fully discussed between the Dublin Committee, the officials of my Department and myself, and, after every consideration and a full review of the particulars, the Committee made a recommendation to me to the effect that the number, nine, might be put into operation, but that from their point of view it was the minimum that they required. From my point of view I consider that even eleven is unnecessarily high, but, as they suggested nine as a minimum, I am strongly of opinion that we should not have a committee greater than nine members, who may co-opt two.

The Minister admits that the Union Committee stated that as a minimum nine would be acceptable. Would he say whether they were agreeable to a slightly higher figure? My information is that a slightly higher figure would facilitate the work of the Committee and would prevent it falling on a few shoulders. With regard to the representation from the Council area, apart from that covered by the Balrothery Board of Assistance, the Minister probably knows that the members who represent that area have a considerable district to cover, not only in population, but in size, and find it difficult to keep in touch with individuals applying for assistance. If they are to carry out their work in a desirable way it is advisable that they should not have an area beyond their reasonable control.

If further representations are made to the Minister will he reconsider the question of increasing the number? With regard to co-option, I think that that principle is a bad one. It is going to lead back to a revival of the old system of ex-officio guardians who, as the Minister knows, did not fill the position properly. I think that if you have a properly selected body of representatives from the Corporation and County Council, without co-opted members it would meet the case far better. Will the Minister agree to reconsider his attitude between this and the Report Stage if representations are made from quarters acceptable to himself to have the number increased from 11 to 15?

No. At a time when the Deputy took upon himself to run along thinking of numbers, of 25, 15 and other numbers, at a time when he took upon himself to introduce legislation without consulting the Union Committee and over the heads of the Minister and the Department responsible, at a time when he must have known that we were in communication with the Committee about the matter, at a time when the Deputy thought about doing all these matters, he thought very little of what was thought by the Committee dealing with the work or what was thought by the Department who were fully co-operating with the Committee about the matter. The Committee has fully discussed the matter with the Department. They have recommended after carefully considering the question that a Committee consisting of eleven members, six from the City and three from the County with two co-opted members, would be acceptable. The Committee consider eleven the minimum required. I presented my judgment on that minimum and I am certainly not prepared to go further than that. I suggest too that the Deputy is simply tossing about in a wild way about numbers without knowing what they are required for and he has not thought fit to put down an amendment.

I am approaching the matter in a non-contentious way. The Minister is making a misstatement when he says that I took upon myself, over the heads of members of the Committee, to introduce legislation in this House, whereas, as a matter of fact, I consulted the Chairman of the Committee about this particular question. I further ask the Minister to read the debates of the House and find out if he himself in reply to a question of mine stated that he would refuse to increase the numbers. Then, I introduced this private Bill, for the purpose of trying to get done earlier something which the Minister is now trying to do in a manner which will have to be again amended at a later stage. The Minister says that I do not know what I am talking about, that I am floundering about without any knowledge of what I am talking about.

I wonder does the Minister deny that the County Councils themselves have discussed this question of whether the number of representatives given to them was sufficient? Has it not come to his knowledge that the County Council was desirous of increasing the number from the number selected by the Minister himself? The Minister stated that I did not put down an amendment to this section. I could have put it down, but it would have met with the same results as my appeal to him now. I have to oppose the passing of this section because the Minister is sticking to his own number, and secondly, I want to place on record my opposition to the idea of co-opted members as against public representatives.

May I ask the Deputy does he expect me to take it that at a time when the Chairman and Union Committee were in discussion with me with a view to settling this matter, they advised him to proceed with the Bill?

The Minister knows the composition of that Committee and is approaching this matter in a political spirit rather than in the spirit of getting the work done from the point of view of proper administration in the interests of the citizens irrespective of political outlook. I do not know what transpired between the Union Committee and the Minister. I am not a member of the Committee, but a member of the Corporation, and I heard that representations were made that the number was not sufficient, and on that basis I acted in the matter. I did discuss the matter with the lady who is chairman of the Committee who came on a deputation to ask the Minister for an increased membership.

The Minister stated that the Committee indicated eleven members as the minimum number required.

Would he say if they suggested that a greater number would be desirable?

I do not know if they suggested a specific number. They came to discuss with me and the officials of the Department the advisability of increasing the number. Arising out of these discussions they sent me this communication of which I spoke. I would say that the Committee themselves do not know whether the work will be discharged more satisfactorily with eleven than it is being carried out by five, or that it would be carried out with nine, and I do not think they will undertake to say at this particular stage that the work would be better done with fifteen than with eleven.

Mr. Murphy

The use of the word "minimum" would indicate that they thought more desirable.

In fairness to Deputy Murphy, I think the Minister should be a little more frank. The question does not arise as to whether they are doing their work well or not. The question is whether the work placed on their shoulders is too great. It is in order to facilitate the work and to have these people feel that they will not be allowed to become tired by being over-burdened with work that the increase in numbers is sought. I would like to point out that these people give their services voluntarily. The present Union Committee sat for a whole day every week, but they were only able to deal with the routine office work. They had no time to visit the Union itself for the purpose of inspecting it or doing any outside work in connection with applications for outdoor relief. It is in order that they might be able to split up the work that they desire to increase the numbers. The Minister did not dispute the fact that they said that eleven was the minimum number. I am asking him that if representations come to him, from quarters acceptable to himself, will he be prepared to increase the number to fifteen? In the absence of a satisfactory answer I shall have to oppose the section.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 25.

  • Aird, William P.
  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Bourke, Séamus A.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Byrne, John Joseph.
  • Carey, Edmund.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
  • Conlon, Martin.
  • Connolly, Michael P.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Daly, John.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • Doherty, Eugene.
  • Doyle, Peadar Seán.
  • Duggan, Edmund John.
  • Dwyer, James.
  • Egan, Barry M.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James E.
  • Murphy, Joseph Xavier.
  • Myles, James Sproule.
  • Nolan, John Thomas.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Reilly, John J.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
  • Finlay, Thomas A.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Haslett, Alexander.
  • Hassett, John J.
  • Heffernan, Michael R.
  • Hennessy, Thomas.
  • Hennigan, John.
  • Henry, Mark.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Jordan, Michael.
  • Keogh, Myles.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
  • McDonogh, Martin.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Reynolds, Patrick.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
  • Thrift, William Edward.
  • Tierney, Michael.
  • White, John.
  • White, Vincent Joseph.
  • Wolfe, George.
  • Wolfe, Jasper Travers.

Níl

  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Clancy, Patrick.
  • Colbert, James.
  • Davin, William.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Fahy, Frank.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Kent, William R.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Mullins, Thomas.
  • O'Connell, Thomas J.
  • O'Kelly, Seán T.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Sexton, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
  • Tubridy, John.
  • Ward, Francis C.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Duggan and P.S. Doyle; Níl, Deputies Briscoe and Tubridy.
Question declared carried.
Section 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 7.
Question proposed: "That Section 7 stand part of the Bill."

I should like to ask the Minister if he took into consideration the proportion of population when he was fixing the representation—the population that the County Council will have to cater for with regard to relief and the population that will have to be catered for by the Corporation, and will he explain why he has fixed the numbers in this way?

It is not a question of population but of administration.

So that the Minister feels that the question of population does not arise in the case of representation. An area with less population can, in his view, have greater representation on a body administering relief than in another area with perhaps ten times as many people to deal with.

Are we now coming back again to the Dublin Union Committee and the numbers representing the city and the county?

Yes, on Section 7.

All that I can say with regard to that is that the numbers there have been arrived at by a committee consisting of representatives of the county and of the city, and containing as representative of the county the Chairman of the Dublin County Council.

What I want to make clear is this: The Union Committee at present consists of five members, four of whom represent the City of Dublin and one the County Council, in the person of the Chairman of the County Council. The Minister stated on a previous section that they agreed to a certain number as a minimum. I want to ask the Minister if he took into consideration when fixing the number for the county and the city the population that had to be served by this Committee, and whether he gave any consideration to representation on the basis of population?

That is all I want to know.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 8.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."

I am not going to call a division on this but I want again to express opposition to the principle of co-option here. Under this Bill the Committee will consist of nine persons, which I consider is out of all proportion from the point of view of representation. These persons are to have power to co-opt two other members. As I pointed out before, the old system of ex-officio guardian is revived. I want to ask the Minister if he would reconsider his attitude with regard to the co-opted members and allow elected representatives to form the eleven members of the Committee rather than nine and two co-opted, or if he can give any reason why he wants co-opted members?

I have no special reason for requiring co-opted members except that in the discussion that took place between myself and the Committee a desire on the part of the Committee to have power to co-opt members disclosed itself and I had no serious objection to it. That is all I think need be said about it.

So that the Minister himself has no view on the matter pro or con and is not prepared to consider the view of the elected representatives who originally set up that Committee. He talks about the Dublin Union Committee itself and forgets that that Committee was appointed by the Dublin Corporation on the one part and the County Council on the other, and should cease to exist from the 22nd of this month and is only carrying on until there is a further election. Does the Minister not consider that the representatives who selected these people are entitled to some say in the matter? If they express a desire to have no co-opted members will their views be considered?

I have not suggested in any way that the Dublin City Council has not a right, if it wishes or desires, to express its opinion on this subject. But I have yet to learn that the City Council has neglected to express its opinions on anything that it desires to express an opinion. I have yet also to learn, considering the time that this has been under discussion, and the publicity given to it, that the Dublin City Council was not aware that the present proposal was on foot. In view of these circumstances, and in view of the fact that I have received no representation from the Dublin City Council on the matter, I think it is too late now. In the first place I believe the necessity must not have arisen, or else I would have heard from them. It is too late now to hear from them, so I do not think that any expression of opinion from the City Council on the matter would be of any use at the present time.

Is the attitude of the Minister this: that if the City Council, even now, made representations to abolish the idea of co-opting members, he would refuse, because they had not done so earlier?

Is the Minister not aware that there are members of the City Council in this House, some on his side and some on this side, and is he not prepared to take from them, forming as they do part of the Council, their views on the matter, and, after hearing their views, is he not prepared to accept any suggestion? Will he suggest that if the Council as a whole feel that it has taken the wrong line on this, will he still stand pat, and say to them: "You did not appeal soon enough. I am going to have this, though I have no reason for it, and know nothing about population or anything else."

There is an orderly way of doing business, and I have endeavoured, as far as I am concerned, to proceed in the orderly way of doing business, which is to discuss the matter with the Committee.

Did the Department communicate with the Council?

Why should they?

Is not the Committee a subsidiary body to the Council, and could the Minister not communicate with the Council?

The Deputy may have his own opinion as to how work in general should be done, and how in particular I should do my work.

It seems a very curious thing that on the principle of co-option on an elected body the Minister should not be able to make any positive statement as to his reason for introducing that element into the Bill. The Bill proposes to replace a nominated body for an elected body. The Minister modified that principle, yet he cannot say why he proposes to modify it. Surely there must be some reason in his mind when he brought in the idea of having something less 25 per cent. of the members co-opted.

Apparently the Deputy was not here and did not hear me read out the recommendations of the Committee.

Would the Minister read the letter to the Committee to which that is an answer?

There was no letter on my part to the Committee.

Would the Minister say definitely whether the idea of co-option came from him or came from the Union Committee first?

I could not say. If the Deputy expects me to recall a discussion which had been going for two and a half hours, and say who said this first, I must say I am not prepared to do so. On the matter of co-option, I just stand on the Committee's letter to me.

It is a case of more doubt.

Question put and declared carried.
Sections 8 to 14, inclusive, added to the Bill.
SECTION 15.
Question proposed: "That Section 15 stand part of the Bill."

May I ask before we come to the title of the Bill, would it be permissible in view of the discussion here to-day on Committee Stage, to introduce an amendment on the Report Stage dealing with numbers, representations and co-option?

I would like to see the amendment. I think the Deputy may take it that it would not be permissible to introduce an amendment of substance on the Report Stage. The Deputy and the House are aware that amendments introduced on Report Stage are usually introduced to meet something in a Bill arising out of the Committee Stage, and I think the Deputy may take it that an amendment such as he suggests could not be accepted on Report Stage.

Does the Leas-Cheann Comhairle rule that the alteration of a number from eleven to fifteen would be an amendment of substance?

I prefer to see the amendment, but the Deputy may take the general rule as I have stated it.

Would an amendment dealing with the question of occupation arise on the Report Stage? I gather that such an amendment, introduced on the Report Stage, need not necessarily arise from an amendment on the Committee Stage. It can arise out of a discussion on the Committee Stage. In this case the discussion on the Committee Stage has revealed that the Minister has, purely as a freak, introduced "occupation" into this Bill.

Is the Deputy making a point of order?

No. It is purely on the question of an amendment which might be permissible on the Report Stage. I have nothing in my head at all ——

Certainly not. The Deputy is apparently giving his interpretation of my remarks, not my remarks.

The Deputy was referring to the emptiness of the Minister, not himself.

The Minister was challenged to say what was the idea of introducing occupation into the Bill. He said he had no reason.

Section 15, the Schedule and the Title agreed to.
Fifth Stage ordered for Friday, 26th June.

I do not want to hold up this Bill because I happen to know that the matter of the increase in numbers is very urgent. I want to notify the Minister that it will not be possible to have any representations made to him from the council between now and Friday, therefore I will endeavour to hand in amendments.