Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 14 Nov 1934

Vol. 54 No. 1

Supplementary Estimate. - Local Government (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The object of this Bill is to enable two or more county health districts to be established in a county and to make provision for the consequences arising from the division of an existing rural sanitary area. A similar power was granted by Section 9 (2) of the Local Government Act, 1925, but the power lapsed on the day appointed for the operation of that Act. While this Bill is general in its application the urgent need for it arises out of the condition of things existing in County Cork. I am surprised that we have not all the Cork Deputies here. I thought that they would be of great assistance to us in the discussion of this Bill, but possibly they may not have known that the Bill would reach us so soon. I suppose Deputy O'Neill will be able to answer for the rest. The Cork Deputies usually agree when it is a matter of Cork. The proposed revival and exercise of the power granted under Section 9 (2) of the Local Government Act of 1925 is now complicated by the existence of county health districts and of boards of health established in pursuance of the Local Government Act, 1925. Provision must, therefore, be made in the present legislation for dealing with the assets, liabilities, choses in action, officers, etc., of any board of health administering a county health district which it is desired to divide.

The immediate demand for this legislation arises from the request of the Cork County Council and the Cork County Board of Public Health for the division into three parts of the Cork county health district as at present constituted, and for the setting up of a board of health for each such part in lieu of the existing county board of public health. This division has become necessary owing to the inability of one board of public health to deal with the numerous matters arising in the domain of public health in so large a county health district as Cork.

Part I of the Bill deals with the Title and necessary definitions and the payment of expenses incurred by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health in the execution of its provisions. Part II of the Bill authorises the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, on the request of the council of a county, to make a dividing order constituting two or more rural sanitary districts in the county, defining their boundaries and fixing an appointed day for the operation of such order. The Minister may also, on the request of the council, make an order before the appointed day altering the number of members of the council. Subsequent to the making of a dividing order, if circumstances so require, he shall make a new division of the county into county electoral areas so as to ensure that every county electoral area shall be wholly within one or other of the new rural sanitary districts and he shall fix the number of members of the county council to be elected for each electoral area.

Provision is made for the carrying into effect of a dividing order in relation to the abolition of the existing rural sanitary district and board of health, the constitution and naming of the new county health districts, the establishment of a sanitary authority for each such district and the application to the new districts of the provisions of the Local Government Acts. It is also prescribed that as from the first annual meeting of the county council held after the next triennial election of the county council subsequent to the making of the dividing order, the board of health for each new district shall consist of the members of the county council elected for the county electoral areas comprised in that district. Prior to the annual meeting of the county council referred to, the constitution of each board of health shall be fixed by the county council.

Part III of the Bill contains consequential provisions in connection with the dissolution of the existing board of health of the county health district intended to be divided. It first sets forth definitions of certain terms used in this portion of the Bill. It prescribes the transfer to the county councils on the appointed day of all property, rights, powers and privileges of the existing board of health, and any such property, right, power or privilege may then be conveyed by the council to the board of health of a new district. The debts and liabilities of the existing board of health shall at the same time be transferred to the county council by whom they are to be paid or discharged.

Separate provisions are laid down in regard to the chargeability of expenditure incurred under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts as before the 1st April, 1933, and subsequent to that date, and arrangements are made for continuing the chargeability of other liabilities of the existing board of health on the same areas on which they were charged immediately before the appointed day. Arrangements are made for the discharge of paying orders issued by the existing board of health and not paid before the appointed day. It is enacted that any right, power, privilege or authority vested in the existing board of health under any contract, agreement or licence so far as it is exerciseable in or in relation to a new district or the relevant joint districts as defined in the Local Government Act, 1927, shall be vested in the board of health of such new district. Provision is made for the preservation of continuing contracts and of by-laws, rules, regulations, resolutions, orders and notices of the existing board of health which are applicable to a new district or relevant joint district. The continuance of legal proceedings pending in connection with the existing board of health is arranged for as well as the admissibility as evidence of books and documents of the existing board of health. Directions are given for an audit of the accounts of the existing board of health up to the appointed day.

In connection with the transfer of officers of the existing board of health, a scheme is to be prepared by that board not later than two months before the appointed day and submitted to the Minister, every such officer being notified of the proposal relating to him contained in the scheme. This scheme shall provide in respect of every officer either (a) for his continuance by the board of health of a new district in the same office which he holds, or in an analogous office, or (b) for his appointment with his consent to another office, or (c) for his removal from office.

Where an officer is to be continued in the same office, or appointed to a new office in the service of the board of health of a new district, and his whole-time is not occupied by the duties of his office, he may be continued in or appointed to another office or other offices in the service of one or more of the boards of health of the new districts. It is open to any officer of the existing board of health to object to the proposals relating to him contained in the scheme. The Minister shall, before the appointed day, confirm the scheme with such alterations as he may think fit. Superannuation rights are reserved for officers removed from office under the scheme.

Powers are taken authorising the Minister, by order, to make certain consequential adjustments which may be necessary in regard to the joint use of property by two or more boards of health of new districts, the performance by a board of health of a new district of functions in relation to another district, payments by the board of health of one new district to the board of health of another new district, the performance by the county council of any functions of the existing board of health, representation of the board of health of a new district on public bodies in which the existing board of health were represented and in regard to such other matters as he may consider necessary.

It is not anticipated that, apart from the question of the establishment of three county health districts in Cork County, the Minister will be called on to exercise the powers contained in this Bill; but it is necessary that the contingency of such an application should be provided for. The provisions are practically of a non-contentious character and as it is desirable that the powers in regard to the county should be exercised at an early date, it is hoped that this legislation will be passed without undue delay.

This Bill represents the Ministry's answer to the demand that has been sent up on more than one occasion by the county council and the county board of health. I welcome the measure because I think it will help to enable the local authorities in Cork to embark on a good deal of useful work that has been held up pending the introduction of this Bill. A great many of us in touch with the local authorities there feel that the contribution of the county board of health to the matter of housing rural labourers falls very far short of what it ought to be and that the scheme for the erection of many more labourers' cottages has indirectly been held up pending legislation to divide the county into three parts for the purpose of the Labourers Acts. Bound up with this Bill also is the question of housing schemes for a number of the smaller towns in County Cork that have not urban powers. The position of a good many towns without urban powers and without power to initiate housing schemes except through the agency of one board of health is not a happy one. One board of health representing the whole county has unfortunately taken the view that there should be some sort of a local charge area in connection with housing schemes. Consequently, a good many housing schemes for North and West Cork have been held up. I believe one of the fruits of this Bill will be the tackling of such schemes immediately. I think that the Bill will help to do very valuable work in that connection.

I am glad also that the Parliamentary Secretary is considering the question of the membership of the board of health. We are not in a very happy position at the present time in regard to the board of health in County Cork. Following the recent elections large sections of the public representatives of Cork have been expelled from membership of the board of health. That appears to be in pursuance of a set policy. We have a purely partisan body and the most rigid tests are applied even in regard to applications for labourers' cottages. This Bill will help to ease that position and, ultimately, to end it. If it does no good otherwise, it will have done very well. However, I think that the most valuable results that will accrue from the passing of the Bill will be the speeding up of housing schemes in the county—both in the small towns and in the rural areas. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, the Bill is non-contentious inasmuch as it has been sought by all sections of public representatives in the county. The need for the Bill is even more apparent now than when the measure was originally demanded. I welcome the Bill, which will be a very valuable piece of legislation. It will end overlapping, bring about some sort of unified control and result in substantial progress in respect of housing in the rural areas and public works generally in the county.

Am I to understand that this Bill will not come into effect until after another election. One of the fundamental changes effected by the Bill is the reduction of the number of representatives on the Cork County Council and the alteration of the electoral areas. Are we to understand that the Bill will not become operative until after the next election?

I suppose we could dissolve the county council and hold a special election, but I do not know whether that is intended or not. I am only concerned with the passing of this legislation. The next election would probably have arrived before you would have agreed as to the constitution of the new board of health and the number of the new council.

I thought that that was agreed upon.

Not completely.

I thought that an order dividing the county and reconstituting the board of health could be put into force before that time—say, within the next three or four months.

The appointed day will be fixed shortly after the legislation is passed, but I am not clear as to whether or not it will be necessary to have a new county council election before the Bill comes into operation.

It would be well to have a new county council election. It is badly wanted.

We need not quarrel about that at this stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 28th November.