Votes 10, 11, 69 and 73 are being discussed together.
Committee on Finance. - Vote 10—Office of Public Works (Resumed).
This group of Estimates falls under two heads—the Board of Works and the administration of special works. So far as I am concerned, all I shall have to say about them will be in the form of a series of inquiries which I propose to address to the Parliamentary Secretary. In the Vote for the Board of Works, there are various appropriations for equipment of public buildings. I am not quite sure whether I am correct in directing the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to Post Office facilities in this building. It is sometimes difficult to know whether these questions should be addressed to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs or to the Minister responsible for the maintenance of the amenities of this House.
Or to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
The restaurant accommodation is, certainly, within the province of the Parliamentary Secretary. It would be a great convenience to everybody if the Post Office accommodation here were sufficiently enlarged to enable one to buy stamps from 10 o'clock in the morning until we adjourn. Whether that is part of the job of the Parliamentary Secretary or not, I do not know.
The appropriate person will overhear what the Deputy has to say.
I trust to the Parliamentary Secretary's unfailing courtesy to relay it to the proper quarter. A question which is almost as seasoned and as venerable as that of the Pearse-street Sorting Station is the question of the entrance to Leinster House. This question has been raised for three successive years on the Estimate of the Parliamentary Secretary. The Parliamentary Secretary informed us on each occasion that the matter was engaging his careful attention but that architectural difficulties had obtruded themselves and made the problem extremely difficult to solve. Visitors to this House are obliged to wait in the dog kennel at the gate. The facade of Leinster House is a very handsome one. An increasing number of tourists are coming to the country and an increasing number of persons of distinction pay us the compliment of visiting our legislative Assembly. I think that all Parties deplore that they are received in this extremely depressing and inadequate dog kennel. It is, obviously, a temporary structure. It was, evidently, put there pending the provision of some more suitable place of reception. If the ingenuity of the Board's architects has failed and they are unable to surmount the problem, the time has come, I think, to call in consultant architects in order to deal with the problem. I had hoped that such vigorous precautions as heretofore would not be necessary for the exclusion of casual visitors from the precincts of the House. I had hoped that it would be possible to admit the average caller beyond the gates without questioning him so closely as is at present the custom. That is, of course, a matter in which the Minister for Justice and a number of other Departments will have a say. I feel, however, that the question is one of some urgency and should be dealt with without undue delay.
This is an occasion on which one throws bricks and bouquets impartially and I think it is right to say that one perennial complaint which Deputies have had has been partially abated. The atmosphere of the diningroom is gradually being improved and it is not now quite so intolerable as it was. How the Parliamentary Secretary achieved that, I do not know. Having achieved that, I want to revive the suggestion that the diningroom should be transferred to that part of the House which abuts on Leinster Lawn and that the accommodation already provided there for certain Parties in the House should be transferred to where the diningroom now is. The Parliamentary Secretary has overcome the principal atmospheric difficulties in the diningroom and, with a little further improvement, these rooms should be reasonably habitable for people doing clerical work or such work as members of the House have to do in the rooms allotted to them. It would be a very great addition to the amenities of the House if the diningroom were in the neighbourhood of Leinster Lawn. It would make Leinster Lawn of much greater service to the House than it is at present. I see that certain citizens are making the case that nobody seems to use Leinster Lawn and that it is a great shame to have it enclosed when nobody is using it. I think that there is force in the argument. Unless Deputies are going to use it for the purpose of entertaining their friends or visitors from the country or visitors from abroad, Leinster Lawn should, I think, be thrown open to the citizens. Somebody ought to use it. I feel that Deputies are not unduly exacting as regards their amenities here and I think we might reasonably claim the right to the use of Leinster Lawn for the purpose of regaling ourselves and entertaining our friends when they come up from the country or from abroad. If it is not going to be used for that purpose then steps should be taken to have it thrown open to the citizens. I think Deputies would avail especially during the summer months of the amenities which Leinster Lawn offers.
I notice a sub-head in connection with national schools and in that connection the Department of Education may be overlapping with the functions of the Board of Works. I was going to suggest that adequate accommodation for children in national schools could more properly be furnished if there were fewer national schools. The present situation is that in rural areas you sometimes have a dozen insanitary pill-boxes planted all over the electoral division. All these have to be separately built, separately maintained and separate repairs have to be carried out. None of them has adequate sanitary facilities and none of them has adequate class-room accommodation. I feel that if a decent central school were built and a school bus provided to bring the children into that central school, the Parliamentary Secretary would find himself in the position of having erected an adequate building which would probably accommodate the teaching staff and make it possible to provide proper sanitary accommodation in the school and additional social services in the form of free meals and such other things as the Minister may see fit to provide.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he has any information as to what the policy is in regard to volunteer halls; whether he is going to build volunteer halls or are these halls going to be built in places which already are provided with parochial halls—places where it does not seem a good proposition to erect volunteer halls in opposition to the existing parochial halls? Does the Minister think the building of these volunteer halls is needed in places where you have parochial halls, or is the position that the Minister is going to be told by the Department of Defence that volunteer halls are required in such a place and that he is to build them there without questioning the order?
The question as to whether these volunteer halls would be in opposition to the parochial halls is not a matter for us.
I wonder would it be any part of the function of the Parliamentary Secretary, if he got from the Department of Defence a schedule of 20 volunteer halls to be built, to make a note on the schedule saying "we desire to direct the attention of the Minister for Defence to the fact that there are already adequate parochial halls in three of the 20 towns in which we have been asked to erect volunteer halls"? I put that to the Parliamentary Secretary because otherwise I apprehend there may be serious overlapping if the Parliamentary Secretary is going to erect those volunteer halls in places asked for by the Department of Defence. I take it that the Ministry of Defence views the problem from the point of view of the volunteers in any given area. When the Commissioners of Public Works send their engineers to examine the district these engineers may find that in a particular district there is already a parochial hall, the trustees of which find themselves in a difficulty in providing for its upkeep and maintenance because of the lack of patronage. Would it not be well if the Board of Works first approached the people who were concerned about these parochial halls? These in many cases would be able to tell them that, if a volunteer hall is built, both would go bankrupt because of the halving of the amount of patronage given to either.
If discretion is not given to the Board of Works in this matter the Parliamentary Secretary may find that harm will be done and loss suffered by the State owing to that lack of discretion. I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary direct that a memorandum be sent to the Minister for Finance regularising this matter with a view to avoiding unnecessary expenditure in the providing of volunteer halls where they are not needed. I have raised this point because I have reason to believe that already this difficulty has arisen in more towns than one. It is possible that in this matter representations from persons concerned with parochial halls are likely to be misrepresented to the Department of Defence as representations from persons who are antagonistic to the Volunteer movement, whereas if the matter were surveyed by a body that was manifestly and completely detached from any bias the problem could be examined with more advantage to both Departments. I was in doubt about mentioning Post Office business in connection with this Vote and especially the question of telephones. Surely the Parliamentary Secretary is responsible for the installation of telephones in this House?
No, any increase in amenities of that character would be a matter in which the Board of Works would merely act as agent under directions given through the Committee of Procedure and Privileges. The initiation of that matter does not lie with us. In certain cases where representations are made to us we go a little outside our functions, but we have no function in this matter until representations are made to us.
I hope that the Minister for Finance, by way of representations to the proper authority, will make a suggestion for the installation of a telephone without a bell in the room of the Níl Lobby. I recognise that the installation of a telephone with bell there would disturb the even tenor of our ways in the House, but the installation of a telephone without a bell would make it possible to have it there without the House being disturbed.
The next question that I want to put to the Parliamentary Secretary is this: What is the situation with regard to the River Suck Drainage? The Parliamentary Secretary recently transferred that Suck Drainage Scheme to the local authority. One of the conditions of the transfer was that certain repairs were to be carried out in order that the drainage scheme should be transferred to the local authority in proper condition. It is idle for me to waste time asking a whole lot of detailed questions. I confine myself to asking the Parliamentary Secretary to make a short statement with regard to the Suck Drainage Board versus the Roscommon County Council.
I notice a recommendation in the matter of the letting of sporting rights. I understand that the Board of Works do control certain sporting estates in parts of the country. Is the prospect that the authority in this matter of sporting rights is going to be maintained in the future sufficiently strong to justify the building of any kind of a shooting lodge in the neighbourhood of these sporting rights so as to make them more attractive to prospective tenants? If these sporting rights are merely in the hands of the Board of Works for a couple of years nothing of that kind could be contemplated. But, on the other hand, if they are to remain permanently in their hands, I would put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be possible to attract a prospective tenant who would be prepared to pay a rent for these shooting rights if he were told there was a reasonable sort of bungalow on the property with water accommodation and so on, a sort of building that need not be too elaborate but which would certainly enhance considerably the letting value of the sporting rights.
I notice that sub-head D contains the invariable word "etc.". These include, I take it, the benches on which our citizens rest in public places in the City of Dublin. I saw a number of benches erected in Merrion Square and as the foot of Daniel O'Connell's monument and other places of that kind. It occurred to me that, if that is part of the work of the Board of Works, it is to be highly commended and should be widely extended. I should like to see benches of that kind erected in the neighbourhood of every public garden in the city.
I think the Deputy will have to thank the Corporation for that.
I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary might not take a turn at it, too. If he could, I commend most strongly to him that amenity, because for elderly people living in the city who do not get much chance of getting fresh air, an opportunity of strolling out and sitting for a while in the neighbourhood of a public park or garden is something which is very desirable. I pass from the Board of Works Estimate to the Estimates covering relief works and special works. I have said already that this is an occasion for throwing bricks and bouquets, and I want to pay a very special tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary's Department for a very unusual virtue. The forms which Government Departments require citizens to fill up are usually drafted in such a way as to make them instruments of torture for the parties who have to fill them. Recently the Board of Works issued a form which they asked applicants for special works or relief works to fill up in order to describe the work they wanted taken in hands. It is the first form I have ever seen issued by a Government Department in the filling up of which there is no difficulty and which positively extracts information instead of making it virtually impossible to supply it. I commend the form to the attention of every other Department of State, because if others could do it on the same lines a very great deal of difficulty that arises for ordinary people in trying to fill up forms would disappear.
I mentioned two years in succession a proposal which I think is an extremely good proposal for the expenditure of relief money. I was encouraged to believe that something would be done in regard to it on divers occasions, but, of course, nothing has been done. I take the view that a great deal of relief money is wasted. A great deal of it is spent in scraping the sides of roads and doing perfectly useless works of the old famine type, which are as near to demoralising activities as such works could be. While I admit that the primary purpose is to provide employment, there should be constantly kept before the mind of responsible parties the desirability of getting some value for the money expended. If there, is one thing wanted in this country it is the drainage of small holders' farms. Every uneconomic holding, and every holding under £20 valuation is, to a lesser or greater degree, injured by the presence of flaggers and rushes. The presence of both flaggers and rushes is largely attributable to the water-logged condition of the land. That condition of the land can be most effectively remedied by the construction of flagged drains. I emphasise the words "flagged drains" in opposition to French drains which, in my opinion, are entirely unsuitable to the drainage problem in the congested areas.
The construction of flagged drains involves no expenditure on labour and is, therefore, from the Parliamentary Secretary's point of view, ideal relief work. In my submission, the supervision and inspection of relief work of this kind would be peculiarly easy, because all that would be necessary would be, first, for the Minister to satisfy himself that the person applying for assistance to make drains on his lands was a deserving party within whatever category would have been determined by the Minister. I would be inclined to say that anybody up to a millionaire from a cottier with five acres who applied for assistance to make flagged drains should get it. It is all going to be spent on labour and it is ultimately going to improve the land of the country. No matter in whose possession it is, the fertility of the land ultimately redounds to the advantage of the community and the better every man makes his land the more valuable it will be to the community, in the long run.
Having authorised a man to undertake the construction of flagged drains, he should then be told that the drain must be a certain depth over its entire length, that it must be properly constructed, and that it must not be closed until it has been inspected and certified by an officer of the Board of Works. Once you open a flagged drain of that kind there is no immediate urgency to close it. You can leave it open as long as you like within reason. I have constructed hundreds of yards of such drains on my own land. In fact, you may safely say that the necessity for closing them promptly does not exist. You do not want to leave drains open for ever, but there will be no difficulty in leaving them open for a week or ten days or a fortnight after they have been completed. A cursory examination will make it perfectly clear whether the work has been done properly or improperly.
The work can be done by any intelligent countryman. There is no necessity for taking elaborate levels or for any difficult constructional work. It is work which any countryman can do himself or act as ganger over men whom he employs to do it. It can be paid for on the basis of a contribution for every yard of flagged drain made, and it will be of incalculable value to the country as a whole. Such a scheme would induce thousands of persons to undertake the construction of these drains who would otherwise never make them. I believe you will get full value for every penny you spend from the point of view of the community, and you will confer an inestimable boon on a very large number of small farmers who never have sufficient money at hand to employ four or five men at the same time to get the work done expeditiously and within the season which is at their disposal.
Another matter which I have asked the Parliamentary Secretary to consider, and which he has always assured me he would consider sympathetically, is the provision of swimming pools for rural towns. The Parliamentary Secretary's reply to me, whenever I approached him in regard to this matter, is to say: "Put forward any concrete scheme to me and it will be not only considered, but sympathetically considered." The trouble is that you cannot get rural communities to put forward schemes unless you are in a position to say something more than that they will be sympathetically considered. I would like if the Parliamentary Secretary could say something of this kind: "Where I am offered a piece of land and an adequate water supply and where the unemployment situation justifies me in expending money in that area, I will put up a swimming pool," or, he may feel bound to say: "Where I am offered two tons of cement, an adequate water supply and a piece of land I will put up a swimming pool."
With two tons of cement?
I am putting it to the Parliamentary Secretary that if he says: "Where I am supplied with all the cement, a piece of land and an adequate water supply I will put up a swimming pool" he will never put up any swimming pool because no rural community will bear the entire expense. The Parliamentary Secretary is going to expend money in order to provide employment. That is his purpose. What I am trying to secure is that, when he has that money to expend on the employment of labour, he should spend it on something that will remain behind. I quite see that he is reluctant to spend part of the moneys committed to him on the purchase of cement, because he feels that that is so much taken away from his labour fund. I put it to him that we can go too far in that direction. If we constrict ourselves rigidly to spend nothing, or practically nothing, except on labour, the end of it will be that all our labours will be written on the sands of time and will vanish completely. I would like to write something on wet concrete so that when it hardens we shall have in ten or 20 years' time a monument to the zeal of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.
I think that the Parliamentary Secretary might also consider the erection of ball alleys. I mentioned this matter on the Vote for the Gárda Síochána. The Minister for Justice was captivated with the idea and agreed with it in principle. But his difficulty was that he had not the money. The Parliamentary Secretary has got the money from the Minister for Finance for the employment of labour. Would he now feel entitled to say that, if the Minister for Justice gives him the cement, he will build the ball alley?
The Deputy's suggestion is that if one State source will provide the cement, then there is this other State source to provide the labour?
Yes. The Minister for Justice agreed in principle with the suggestion and pointed out that the only obstacle was the Minister for Finance, who was not prepared to provide out of revenue the necessary sum of money for the erection of these ball alleys.
Where will the Minister for Justice get the money to provide the cement?
I want the Minister for Justice to be in a position to go back and say that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance wants to spend money on relief works in a particular area. Now there are two alternatives. He is either going to scrape the side of a road from point A to point B because he must spend the money that he has, the reason being that there is an unemployment problem in that area to be dealt with. He has the money and he has got to spend it. He has either got to spend the money that way or on some other project. The Department of Finance object to the inclusion in the Vote for the Department of Justice of a sum of money for the building of ball alleys, but would they object to a very much smaller sum for the purpose of providing cement to enable the Parliamentary Secretary, who has money to spend in a particular area, utilising it on a project which will have a community value? I submit that the idea is sensible. To the departmental mind it may sound shocking, but does not the Parliamentary Secretary think that there is something in it?
Even though I have not got the departmental mind, it sounds to me something more than shocking. The Deputy has been imagining conversations that would take place. The Minister for Justice would go to the Minister for Finance and say: "Dear Minister for Finance, because of your narrow-minded lack of appreciation of the value of ball alleys, you have declined to provide the whole of the cost of ball alleys. What I want you to do now is this: provide me, the Minister for Justice, with the cement and the material, and provide the Parliamentary Secretary with the labour, and you, the Minister for Finance, who would not provide the material and labour in one lump, will now find no difficulty whatever in providing it in the two." I must say that it beats me.
The Parliamentary Secretary has failed to observe that the Minister for Finance has already supplied the labour. The money is in the hands of the Parliamentary Secretary, and his problem is: "How am I going to use the labour? I have actually donated to me a pool of labour in this area which must be used. Those are my instructions, and my problem is to find a good scheme on which to use it." The Parliamentary Secretary has repeatedly said that one of the nightmares of his existence is to find good schemes on which to use the labour that he has. That is the problem that the Minister for Justice finds the Parliamentary Secretary confronted with. The Minister for Justice says the fact is that the Department of Finance will not allow his Vote to be charged with the entire sum necessary for the erection of ball alleys. Surely the Minister for Justice is entitled to say to the Minister for Finance: "You have already provided all the labour cost of this work. You will not allow my Vote to be charged with the money for the purchase of materials to build ball alleys. The alternative is to supply our Department with the materials, because otherwise the money which has been appropriated for labour in this area is going to be wasted. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot evolve schemes in the area on which the money you have given him can be appropriately expended otherwise. There is nothing to do now except to supply the materials, and surely it is good economy, in face of the situation which exists, to do that. All that is required is a small additional sum to purchase materials, and it is better to do that than waste all the money that the Parliamentary Secretary has to spend on labour in that area. In the end we will have something for the expenditure." All that may sound complex, but if the Parliamentary Secretary examines it closely I think he will find that there is a good deal to be said for the submission that I am making.
I do not know how far the proposal for the reclamation of waste spaces, adjoining towns in rural areas, for sportsfields and parks for the people is practicable because I do not know to what extent such waste spaces exist. There are places to my knowledge where there used to be small woods or quarries which are now unreclaimed and barren. A good deal of work could be provided in removing the roots of trees or in closing up disused quarries or other dangerous places. If the Board of Works had some guarantee that, having carried out work of that kind, these spaces would be permanently and inalienably consecrated to the public use, I think it would be a useful thing to undertake such work. In a great many small towns there are considerable areas of land which have never been appropriated to any purpose, and which, I think, might be made into very nice greens or parks for the use of the people if they were reclaimed.
Has the Deputy any specific case in mind?
I would be glad to have the particulars from him in writing.
In some places the position with regard to these areas of land is made difficult in this way, that individuals are going in and enclosing them. Because of that the responsibility would devolve on the Board of Works to establish a public right there.
A difficult thing to do.
And particularly if the area was enclosed by one of the strongest supporters of the present Government in that particular area. This is something that, I think, a Government Department like the Board of Works might properly look into. These places ought not to be taken from the public by the person who has enclosed them. I realise that it would be a difficult thing for an individual neighbour to go forward and assert a public right in respect to these enclosed places. In doing so he would probably bring down on his shoulders the furious feud which would be almost certain to break out in the neighbourhood in defending that public right, whereas the Board of Works, acting impersonally, might be able to do it without bringing down on their heads an intolerable row.
The next thing to which I wish to refer is a perennial difficulty in rural Ireland, and that is the cul-de-sac road. The cul-de-sac roads had their origin largely in the Land Commission, which built those cul-de-sac roads in the process of land division. Since these roads were built many local authorities have built labourers' cottages upon them; individuals have built houses on these cul-de-sac roads and there is now no authority in the State competent to keep these roads in repair. Again, I forbear to recapitulate all the facts that led up to the situation, because the Parliamentary Secretary is as familiar with them as I am. Either of two things must be done. There could be, for instance, amending legislation to make the local authority liable for these roads, but that may not be advocated at this stage. An alternative scheme would be that the Parliamentary Secretary would review all these roads and make up his mind which of them ought to be allowed to vanish and fall into desuetude and which of them could be considered useful roads. I suggest he should give the useful roads to the local authority and say "I am prepared to give you a capital sum, the annual income of which is to be devoted to the repair and maintenance of such a road." I see no other way out of the difficulty.
This is one of those problems which persons not living in the country find it difficult to understand in all its implications. People living on these roads, however, suffer very great hardships indeed. I have seen people who have had water flowing into their houses through the roads being cut away by streams that ran across them. I have seen other people finding great difficulty getting into and out of their houses, having literally to wade through mud to get there and having no recourse to anybody to get the road put into a proper state of repair. Local county councillors are persecuted by these people. I would ask the Board of Works to remember that it is not easy to explain Lord Chief Baron Palles's decision in regard to roads which are not roads of public convenience to every tenant of every labourer's cottage that has been built on a cul-de-sac road.
I might say that local county councillors' lives are made a misery, because their position in regard to these roads seems to the people to be wholly irrational and indefensible. Something ought to be done about it. At present the Board of Works are the only people who can do anything, because the local authorities could not act without amending legislation. The Parliamentary Secretary ought to undertake to look after these matters, or else take such steps by way of persuasion of the Minister for Local Government as will secure a remedy for an evil that has been endured for too long.
In so far as County Kerry is concerned, the relief works have been carried out by the Board of Works in a very successful manner. In regard to certain congested areas I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary to carry on the good work and to take steps at this period of the year with the object of having certain drainage works completed. I have mentioned that type of work over and over again, both to the officials of the Department and to the Parliamentary Secretary. We would refer to these schemes as borderline schemes, schemes that in the ordinary course should be carried out by the Land Commission. Instead, they are left either to the local authorities or to the Board of Works. In many instances they are very necessary schemes.
In connection with the last schemes for which allocations have been made, we had occasion to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that very small sums expended at a certain period of the year were more effective than three times the amount at a later date. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to encourage the initiation of drainage schemes that could not properly be classified as minor drainage schemes, but that would benefit large numbers of small farms and give very great employment.
An important point in connection with the carrying out of these works is the need for a sufficient number of engineers to inspect areas and report as soon as possible, so that the work can be undertaken at an early date. I think the Department would be justified in employing additional engineers, so as to expedite the schemes and have them started at suitable periods of the year. I wish to refer to another important matter which concerns certain areas around the South Kerry coast. Allocations have been made on the basis of the number of men in receipt of unemployment assistance in the different districts. It may appear strange to state that in certain of the very congested areas the number of men in receipt of unemployment assistance is not very great, and consequently, the amounts allocated to these districts are not anything like what they should be. Take the district of Glencar, which is one of the poorest in County Kerry. In last year's allocation £55 was distributed over the whole parish, which comprises three large electoral divisions. That certainly is a case in point, and I urge the Parliamentary Secretary, in so far as these areas are concerned, to depart from the usual system of allocation—that is, the more unemployment assistance recipients in an area the more money. Where we can show that the conditions of the people require special consideration, and that the increased amount would be justified even though the number of men in receipt of unemployment assistance is not up to the set standard of allocating this money, I would make a special plea in regard to them. After all, if the Parliamentary Secretary cannot see his way to give consideration to those areas, what other Department will intervene? The county councils, the Land Commission or any other Department of State has not, to my mind in any case, the same facilities for coping with an area like that as the Department controlled by the Parliamentary Secretary. I would urge that he should at least go into the matter and take into consideration areas like Glencar, Sneem, and all those coastal districts where the conditions and the outlook of the people are not very hopeful. I would ask that special consideration should be given to them. even though they cannot fit it in under the system adopted by the Office of Public Works and outlined in the communications which I have had with that Department.
The other matter to which I want to refer is the question of the new scheme mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary in his opening statement, that is that certain schemes will be undertaken other than relief works; in other words, that waterworks schemes, extensive drainage schemes, sewerage schemes, etc., would be carried through under the new system. I do not wish to mention any places in particular, but I would again urge the Parliamentary Secretary to try to make the new system operate in regard to the carrying through of the Kenmare scheme— the Breen Memorial Park, the Maine drainage scheme, and the Killorglin waterworks scheme. I submit that there is a sufficient number of people in receipt of unemployment assistance in those areas to be absorbed in the carrying through of those schemes. I would recommend that those two schemes should be carried through, even by way of experiment, under the new system. I would conclude by saying that the work carried through in Kerry, and particularly in those congested areas, has been a wonderful success. If any Department of State has more than justified its schemes by giving general assistance to people, it is the Department controlled by the Parliamentary Secretary. We only wish it could be extended further, and that the Parliamentary Secretary could see his way to give consideration to the schemes I have mentioned, and which at the moment it is difficult to get the Land Commission or the local authorities to undertake.
I regret, Sir, that I was not present when the Parliamentary Secretary was introducing his Estimate, but I understand that the House has agreed to take Estimates 10, 11, 69 and 73. Perhaps it would convenience the House and the Parliamentary Secretary if I were permitted also to discuss my amendment to sub-head E of Estimate 9.
We would be quite agreeable to that.
I may say that the object of putting down that amendment was to extract certain information with regard to the working of the Inter-Departmental Committee presided over by the Parliamentary Secretary; I do not want to make a second speech on the matter. It is not my intention to refer to any of the details of Votes 10 or 11, although there is a number of them. I want rather to get, if I can, from the Parliamentary Secretary some idea of the line he proposes to take regarding the expenditure of the money provided under this new Estimate, No. 73. I take it that it was largely on the basis of the report supplied to the Executive Council by his Inter-Departmental Committee that this amount was set aside. I should like if the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us whether he is satisfied that the amount so set aside for the employment schemes is sufficient to absorb the number of unemployed we have in the country, or what number of them he hopes to absorb into employment through the working of those particular schemes during the coming year; whether, during the working of the Inter-Departmental Committee, that Committee followed the rise or fall in the numbers of unemployed in the country as it occurred, or whether their report was based upon the numbers of unemployed returned by the employment exchanges during the time that the Employment Period Orders were in operation, or whether they had reference to the numbers of unemployed at the worst period of the year, namely, in the winter time, when the numbers reached, I might say, a record figure.
While I am on that, perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us whether the Inter-Departmental Committee, in examining the whole unemployment position, and in examining the schemes which they hoped would absorb those unemployed, took into consideration the numbers of unemployed who were emigrating to Great Britain and, if so, what allowance they made regarding those numbers; whether the Government took any steps to ascertain the number of unemployed, both men and women, who have gone to Britain within, say, the last 12 months, and whether the Parliamentary Secretary is in a position to give us even an approximate figure in that regard; whether it is the policy of the Government to encourage that emigration; and whether the Government hope that, as a result of the expenditure of this £2,500,000, plus the emigration to Britain, they will be able to make an impression on the unemployment position in this country? In regard to the question as to whether we are to take it that it is the policy of the Government to encourage the unemployed to emigrate to Great Britain, I ask it because of an article which appeared to-day in the organ which is controlled and directed by the President of the Executive Council. In that article the following phrases occur:—
"To our great surprise we have seen Mr. Frank MacDermot joining in the new form of accusation brought by the Fine Gael Party against the Government, namely, that there has been an increase in the number of young people from the Free State who are crossing to England and Scotland in the hope of obtaining work there.... What we would like to know is, what fault Mr. MacDermot has to find with this state of things and what complaint does he bring against the Government in respect of it."
Further on in the same article we are informed that the Government has endeavoured to deal with the situation—that is, the unemployment situation—but that, "in spite of its efforts there were a number of people for whom employment was not available." There were. There were something in the neighbourhood of about 145,000 people for whom employment was not available. The article then goes on to say:
"Now as a result of the rearmament programme which is being carried out in Great Britain and on which upwards of £100,000,000 a year is being spent, there is a great shortage of certain kinds of labour there and employers are only too willing to avail of the service of Irish workmen. To meet this demand young men are proceeding to Great Britain knowing the wages and the conditions which they might expect. Who could blame them for doing so?"
That is a very strange question to ask, in view of certain very recent tragic happenings in this country. The article continues as follows:—
"But that an Imperialist such as Mr. MacDermot—we hope we are doing him no wrong in thus labelling him—should raise his voice to lament that this is taking place really makes it difficult for us to follow the workings of his mind or to understand what he is aiming at."
And I want to direct the Parliamentary Secretary's attention particularly to the last sentence of the article, which reads as follows:—
"Would he have kept the would-be emigrants at home and were they to remain on the dole when the opportunity of finding work had presented itself to them?"
Well, now, there have been many changes of front by the Government and the Party opposite in the last four years, but I am doubtful if that could be bettered. Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether, in response to the appeals made by his Inter-Departmental Committee for schemes to be submitted to him, any scheme was submitted by the headquarters of the Fianna Fáil organisation?
May I ask him if the Fianna Fáil organisation submitted to his Inter-Departmental Committee that famous plan they had worked out four years ago, which was to give employment to, I think, 84,601 persons; and, if it was not submitted to him voluntarily, did he, as Chairman of the Inter-Departmental Committee and as a member of that Party, and as one of the persons who had secured election to this House on that particular plan, ask for it; and, if so, would he say if it is included in the report or series of reports made by his Committee to the Government; and will he say whether, upon examination, the plan was found to be watertight and whether he was satisfied that, having examined it, it was possible to give employment to the number of people that we were told would be given work? My reason for asking that is that it seems now as if the plan was not watertight, because now we are faced with the situation that, not only are we not to be in a position to bring back from America those of our race, who had to emigrate, to fill the positions, as we were told, for which we would not have enough idle hands at home, but that, notwithstanding the plan, plus the two years' labour of the Parliamentary Secretary and his Committee, plus all the promises, plus all the new industries and the tariffs and the duties, and plus all the subsidised crops, we now have the Government organ advising the young men of this country to go to Britain to get employment there, because there are good wages and good conditions there and because £100,000,000 a year are being spent on rearmament alone in that country. I suggest that that is a hopeless and final confession of the deceit that was practised in order to put the Government of this country where they are to-day—a deceit practised particularly on the unemployed of this country.
I do not want to carry that any further at present, but I should like to get something definite from the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to the expenditure of this money. I should like to know how much of the amount set aside does he hope to expend in the current year; how many men, approximately—I know that it would not be possible for him to give a definite figure, and I only want an approximate figure—does he hope to put into employment; and can he give us any idea of the average period— again, I do not suppose that anybody could give more than an average figure—in which there will be employment? Can he tell us when the first works, to be paid for out of these moneys, will be started—whether it will be this month, next month, or in the next three months—and what steps, if any, have been taken with regard to the amount to be provided by local authorities—the £825,000— and then I should like to get some assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary regarding the wages and conditions of the employment that is to be given. What are the hours to be worked? How far will men have to travel to their work and from their work, and, what is much more important, what will the rate of wages be? I am not at all happy in my mind, so far as the rate of wages are concerned, that the Parliamentary Secretary should be in control of the expenditure of this money. I doubt if any member of the Labour Party is happy in his mind that the Parliamentary Secretary should be in control of that expenditure. I doubt if there is a trade union in the country that is satisfied, and I doubt if any unemployed man in the country is very happy in his mind either about this, because we cannot forget that the Parliamentary Secretary is the person who told us in this House that the man who would stand between an unemployed person and a wage of 21/- a week would be torn limb from limb. We are entitled to know if that is still the mentality or the opinion of the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to the wages to be paid to men employed on these schemes. We are entitled to a clear and definite statement on this matter at the beginning of the scheme, and I hope we shall get it, and I hope it will be far removed from that 21/- per week.
Those are just a few of the points, Sir, that I want to make in connection with this matter, and on which I hope we shall get some information from the Parliamentary Secretary when he is replying. I know that, perhaps, it is not easy for the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with some of them, because a great number of points of detail have been raised upon what I might call his own two Estimates— the main Estimates, Nos. 10 and 11— but I do suggest to him that Vote No. 73 is perhaps for this House and the people outside, the most important Vote, and I think he would do a good deal to satisfy the minds of those who are hoping to get employment as a result of this Estimate if he would answer, so far as he can, the points which I have put to him.
I have said that it was not my intention to delay the House or to indulge in any repetition or bring in any points which are, in my opinion, unnecessary, or which might cloud the question at issue. However, there is one matter that I should like to draw attention to in connection with what Deputy John Flynn said when he was urging the claims of Kerry. Of course, it is quite right and proper for Deputy Flynn, as a representative of Kerry, to urge the claims of his own constituency, but he told us that Kerry was in the happy position that there were comparatively few people there drawing unemployment assistance. I am just wondering whether that is the normal position there or whether it obtains only from the 2nd of June last when the Unemployment Period Order came into operation, and whether the Deputy can inform the House what proportion of the 41,000 who were laid off under that Order and who would be deprived of their unemployment assistance, are in Kerry? Can Deputy Flynn or any other Deputy in the House tell us what is the proportion of that 41,000 who have been deprived of unemployment assistance and deemed to be at work? Can any Deputy tell us what proportion of these people will get no unemployment assistance? I am afraid that, so far as the vast majority are concerned, there will be no work for these people between now and the expiration of the Unemployment Period Order in next October. If the position is such as Deputy Flynn would lead the House to believe, that there are comparatively few people in receipt of unemployment assistance, then we can only come to the conclusion that Kerry is well off in that respect. I hope that is so, but I am extremely doubtful. Perhaps the explanation would be, according to what we are told, that out of Kerry have gone to Great Britain in the last 12 months more men than from any other county in the Free State. That statement has been made fairly freely, and many Deputies have heard it. I take it that it is quite possible, if you take the number of people deprived of unemployment assistance, that numbers who despaired of getting work in this country anticipated the Period Order by finding work in the country with which we are supposed to be at war.
I understand that the formula for allocating this relief scheme is based more or less on the number drawing unemployment assistance in the different areas. About two years ago the basis of allocation was on the valuation per head of the population. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that while the number drawing unemployment assistance would be a good guide it should not be a hard and fast rule. I mention that particularly, because I am afraid the working of the Unemployment Assistance Act is not very satisfactory in some districts. The reason for this is that the officials responsible for calculating the income derived from small farms in congested districts and mountainy districts put it at too high a figure, with the result that in many districts very few are drawing this money. I admit that a large number are on the border line, and that if their income was a little less they would be entitled to unemployment assistance. If you adopt the method of basing the calculation on the number drawing "the dole" you are presupposing that the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Act is perfect. It turns out that the Act is not working in that way, and particular areas will be penalised by not getting a share of the £2,500,000. I strongly appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to strike the happy medium by adopting the formula of valuation per head of the population plus the number drawing unemployment assistance. If he decides on the number of registered unemployed in a district without taking cognisance of the valuation per head of the population, let the rule be elastic when considering the allocation of money to congested districts, mountainy areas and along the seaboard. I also ask the Parliamentary Secretary to take particular note of schemes put up by county councils, because I am satisfied that county councils know the different works that could be carried out. In order to strengthen my point I may mention that the Department of Local Government has already recognised that the income derived by farmers living in these areas was calculated on too high a basis, and that Department is now more sympathetic where people are applying for old age pensions. If one Department does that I am quite sure the Parliamentary Secretary will, when allocating the Relief Fund, deal generously and sympathetically with the people living where the valuations are low.
In connection with minor relief schemes, Deputies apply to have schemes carried out, and get in touch with the Board of Works in order to interest them in relief work to be done in different areas, but I consider it rather an anomaly that when the Department in its wisdom determines what work is the most suitable, having regard to the means available in a particular year, people outside are put in possession of information before Deputies as to what work has been sanctioned or has been put on the long finger. In due course, if a scheme is sanctioned the county surveyors are notified, but whatever the reason, the Board of Works still consider it wise, even at that juncture, to withhold the information from Deputies. That causes serious inconvenience to Deputies, and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that if there is not a very good reason for withholding information about schemes that have been determined on, he might reconsider his attitude. It causes serious inconvenience to Deputies when they are unable to tell their constituents whether a particular scheme that was advocated has been sanctioned or not. I do not see why Deputies should be put in an inferior position to that of county surveyors or other people who eventually carry out the work. I do not see what difficulty could arise if all the necessary information was made available to Deputies, as to what works were determined on and when they were going to be put into operation. I desire also to call attention to an item in connection with the Department of Industry and Commerce regarding the reconstruction of the premises of the Employment Exchange at Limerick. Premises were taken over for the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Act and Unemployment Insurance. The officials were transferred from the old headquarters because of the expiration of the lease or some other reason. I notice that the amount of money voted for the completion of the premises has not been exhausted, and that the old portion is in the same state it was in when a brewery firm evacuated it. Seeing the money was available I am at a loss to understand why it was not possible to have the necessary work carried out, and to have the offices put into a habitable condition for the staff and for the public. The offices now occupied by the staff are absolutely unsuitable for work in any branch of the Civil Service or for the public who have recourse to them. Both internally and externally the premises badly need painting. They were reconstructed but the staff had to go into them after the builders, and I am amazed that the money to complete them was not exhausted. I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will take the necessary steps to see that the staff is put into decent offices and that they are made suitable for those who have recourse to them.
I do not think that Deputy Morrissey correctly interpreted the remarks of Deputy John Flynn in the matter to which he referred. At least, my interpretation of Deputy Flynn's remarks was that he was supporting to a certain extent the remarks I made on the Vote previously when I drew the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the fact that a too rigid application of these regulations or standing too pat to the fact that the unemployment assistance system is working 100 per cent. correctly, is bound to lead to hardships in the case of people who are not fortunate enough to secure the highest standard of unemployment assistance or the standard that would qualify them for work under the new scheme. I agree with Deputy Flynn that various hardships are being caused by a too rigid application of that rule. As I stated previously the line has to be drawn somewhere by the Minister, but a good deal of elasticity should be allowed for so that hardship will not be inflicted on persons who would not be qualified for work under the new scheme if it were too rigidly enforced. I think Deputy Morrissey did not correctly interpret the remarks of Deputy Flynn in that regard. His plea, and mine, is that there should be more elasticity in the matter of these relief works. I think it would be advisable if the Parliamentary Secretary could see his way to fix a lower standard than 6/- so as to make it possible for men who are receiving a lesser stipend from unemployment assistance to avail of work available in their locality. The Parliamentary Secretary should consider this as a question of human beings who are unemployed rather than as a question of how much he is going to save by enforcing these regulations. That would be a much more humane method of dealing with the problem and would lead to much more harmonious administration of these schemes throughout the country. I do not desire to detain the House further, but I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give sympathetic consideration to the points I have raised.
On this Estimate for Minor Relief Schemes, I desire to say that very sympathetic consideration has been given by the Board of Works to the proposals put up by me and by the County Council. I am aware of the conditions governing the issue of grants for minor relief schemes. I know that the existence of poverty is the principal factor taken into consideration in determining the amount of the grant to be given to any particular area. Many proposals that have been submitted from County Meath have not been selected by the Board of Works for schemes. Although they may have been pigeon-holed, perhaps a very good reason exists for so doing. Schemes may have been started in other districts in which work was more urgently required. I hold that there is no need at the present time for the introduction of any novel schemes in the county I represent. The schemes that have been carried out during the last couple of years have given general satisfaction. One of these schemes was a minor drainage scheme in an area where the small farmers had their lands flooded. In ordinary circumstances that drainage scheme would be considered uneconomic. The Parliamentary Secretary devoted some of the minor relief money to the drainage of these lands, and as a result wonderful relief has been given to the ratepayers, without any corresponding contribution from the people who benefited. I think such schemes are 100 per cent. productive from the point of view of relief of unemployment. The labour content is very high indeed Money was also allocated for schemes such as the repair of accommodation roads and laneways leading to ratepayers' houses. These roads were made passable and conferred very considerable advantage on a large section of the community. I merely mention these facts in passing and so as to appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary for a continuation of these schemes. I believe these schemes are very desirable and extremely useful from every aspect. They are carried out at a period of the year when agricultural and other work is fairly slack, namely, in the winter time.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer—the question of accommodation for motor traffic at the Hill of Tara. Tourist traffic was mentioned last evening in the discussion on this Vote. Tourists are now being induced to visit places of interest and national monuments in this country. It is found that many tourists coming to this country desire to visit the Hill of Tara because of its historical associations—its associations with our pagan history and the history of the early. Christian period, and perhaps also because it contains the bones of the pikemen who were slaughtered there in 1798. Because of its historical associations in many ways, tourists are coming there in increasing numbers. The transport companies are including a visit to Tara in their itinerary, with the result that at certain periods of the year and on Sundays and holidays there is a huge congestion of traffic there. Oftentimes the roads are blocked with cars so that people cannot pass along these roads. I do not suggest for a moment that any of the ancient landmarks should be defaced or that any act of vandalism should be carried out in order to relieve this congestion. I do not even suggest that any of the roads leading to Tara, which are very narrow, should be widened if they have any historic interest. The Board of Works has erected sign-posts on the Hill of Tara pointing out the various places of interest for the convenience of tourists, but I notice they have not marked out the point where the five roads converge on the hill. I suggest that, without in any way interfering with the ancient landmarks, some provision should be made in the vicinity of the cross-roads at the existing village, for a general parking place for buses and other vehicles. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to have an inspection carried out so that he might be furnished with a report as to the arrangement that would be most advisable. I know the Parliamentary Secretary, in his usually generous spirit, will consider the matter. Tara is, after all, a national monument. I believe all Deputies would be interested in providing facilities for visitors to the Royal Hill.
I should like to avail of this particular opportunity to obtain from the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government some statement as to their intentions regarding the serious problem of unemployment. Grants that have been made annually, up to the present, have been confined to the relief of persons in receipt of a certain amount of unemployment assistance. Grants, in many cases, have been given on the understanding that the local authorities, by way of loan, or whatever means they can possibly devise, raise about 50 per cent. of the cost of the scheme. We have had experience of relief schemes where the material and carters wages had to be provided out of local finances, because the grants made from central funds only reached the pockets of unemployed persons who were in receipt of not less than 9/6 per week. Not only did that deprive able-bodied single young men, who have in many cases large numbers of dependents, of any benefit, but it also deprived many men with young families from benefit simply because they were not in receipt of more than 9/6 per week. I think that is grossly unfair.
I remember some statements made by the Government Party to the effect that there should be no distinction made in the allocation of work to unemployed people. There was great exception taken to the action of the late Government when it laid down certain preferential conditions for ex-National Army men. That has been done away with, we are glad to know. But we would like to know why other conditions have been substituted. Why should there be any distinction established? There are masses of able-bodied people only too anxious to get work but they are denied it. Many of these, in receipt of less than 9/6 have been suspended from unemployment assistance benefit on the ground that they were not genuinely seeking work. They are put off unemployment assistance on the ground that they are not seeking work, and when work is provided, they are not allowed to enter into employment.
We have, unfortunately, reached the alarming total of six figures showing the number of people unemployed. If all those people denied the right to register were added, the figures would alarm us still further. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make some statement on this matter that will meet with general approval and will bring some help to the people I have referred to. The Unemployment Period Orders have deprived many people of assistance.
Many people in rural districts have no knowledge of agricultural work even if it was available for them. I was speaking to a tradesman who cannot get work at his trade and has been denied unemployment assistance because he is living in a rural area. He knows no more about agricultural work than about watchmaking. There are many useful branches of work, in which employment might be given, that ought to be considered by the Parliamentary Secretary. I think a lot of time is wasted in deciding whether a scheme is suitable or not. I think any work that could be found in these rural districts, so long as it will give any return and enables people to be put to work, is good. In passing, may I express the hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will indicate his intention of increasing the rate of wages paid in the past on minor relief schemes, and will raise them, at least, to the level of the ordinary road workers. The rate at present paid to road workers, considering the present cost of living, is inadequate. I think people who have to come under the relief schemes should receive the same as people engaged on road work by the county council.
I referred last year to some matters in connection with my native city. We have there the old city wall and some monuments. The Parliamentary Secretary did not indicate that he would bring these under the care of his Department. I ask him, on this occasion, to reconsider the matter. The Corporation of Kilkenny had out-stepped their borrowing powers in respect to schemes, prior to the present Government coming into office. Our commitments now are such that we find it impossible to touch any of these works. The old city wall is regarded by the Antiquarian Society, and people who take an interest in these things, as a very interesting national monument, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider having some attention paid by his Department to that old monument. In conclusion, I would again refer to the question of wages paid on these relief schemes, and express the hope that people willing to work on these schemes should get their share of employment under them.
I want to put a few points very briefly. I think it is well understood in the House that all of us are most anxious, in our capacity as business men, to do everything possible to help the unemployed people in our area. For that reason it is rather humiliating, whether through want of time or pressure of business, that we are not able to tell the unemployed people about certain grants and other matters appertaining to their needs when they come to interview us. I would make a suggestion—I do not know whether it would cause a lot of unnecessary work but I think it would be useful if adopted—that the Parliamentary Secretary should devise some scheme by which Deputies, at all events, would receive a comprehensive list of the grants for their counties, or some other information, setting out the amount of the grant and the particular type of work to which the grant is allocated. I can never myself get a grasp at all properly of these grants. I learn something about them in one place but I cannot get any information in another. Some of us may not have very much time to go from Department to Department.
We are anxious to do our part honestly and sincerely. I do not know whether, in connection with this new scheme, the question of old burial grounds has been considered. I think that a certain allowance might be made from the Unemployment Vote for this purpose. Every one of our citizens desires that the old burial grounds should be attended to. In every county in which one travels, one sees old and historic burial grounds in a shocking state. To see our burial grounds in this state makes us feel ashamed of the manner in which we treat our dead. Some of these burial grounds have gone far beyond the stage at which sufficient local money could be found to bring them into a desirable state. I suggest that, as the result of inspection or report, a contribution might be made from the Unemployment Vote for this purpose. I dislike making any remarks on the question of unemployment lest it should be regarded as for purely selfish purposes or other rotten reasons.
I desire to say a few words as to the allocation of grants for relief schemes. I believe that the allocation last year was not entirely fair to the poorer districts or the mountain areas. While the people in these areas are supposed to have farms on which a valuation is placed, they are in reality in very poor circumstances. The possession of land in some cases prevents them from qualifying for unemployment assistance. That was very much against them last year as regards relief schemes. I believe that no man in this House or in the country is more sympathetic to the people living in those areas than the Parliamentary Secretary. Even if £50 or £100 were spent in those areas, it would be a great God-send to the people. The spending of a little more money would be a great help to them. They are in the position that their families, in most cases, are fairly large, and they find it hard to get work for their sons and daughters. Unlike Deputy Morrissey, I can say that there are not so many emigrating from Cork County. From a few areas there may be, but the people, on the whole, are trying to live and struggle on. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to spend a little more money on these districts this year, so as to improve the conditions of the people.
As regards drainage schemes, a number of these schemes could, in my opinion, be worked more economically if the work were done in the summer and autumn, or even in the spring, rather than in the winter time. This would be more comfortable for the people working on these schemes and they could give a better return for the money expended. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will see that the amount spent in the mountain districts will be increased this year.
It will, I think, be admitted by everybody that the task set the Parliamentary Secretary is a very difficult one. Nobody envies him his position. Some of the problems confronting him as regards unemployment seem to be insurmountable. For that reason he can, I think, be assured of the co-operation of all the public bodies. When he is replying, I hope he will give some indication of the schemes which local authorities might be expected to send up in connection with this £2,500,000 grant. When the Committee of which the Parliamentary Secretary is Chairman was set up a couple of years ago, public bodies and individual citizens were asked to suggest schemes which had not hitherto been undertaken by local authorities. Local authorities are wondering if that is still the policy of the Government. Various public bodies with which I am in touch are considering certain schemes to be sent to the Government in an effort to co-operate with them in dealing with this unemployment problem. In view of the fact that that circular was sent out some time ago, they are rather in a quandary as to what schemes would be entertained by the Government. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would also indicate the proportion of the cost of each scheme which a public body will be expected to find. In an effort to help the Government and to help their own districts, local bodies raised in recent years a good deal of money and spent a good deal of money out of their current finances. This has resulted in a narrowing of the borrowing powers of these local bodies. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, for that reason, he should be as liberal as possible in connection with the schemes he has in mind. A great many of the schemes undertaken by local authorities could have been delayed for a longer period. I refer to the laying of water pipes and sewers. That work could have been deferred, but, owing to the fact that local authorities wanted to co-operate with the Government and help the unemployed in their areas, these schemes were undertaken. The result is that local authorities have now very limited borrowing powers. The Minister for Finance in his Budget statement gave us the impression from the figures he quoted that local authorities would be expected to find a maximum of one-third of the cost. One hopes that the proportion will not go beyond one-third.
As regards relief schemes in rural areas, there are great complaints as to people being asked to travel too far to certain jobs. I have had my attention drawn within the last few days to men who are asked to travel distances of from seven to ten miles to take part in relief schemes. I have known these men to have been hard working men in the past, men who were always anxious to work and I think it is too much to insist on a man of that kind being asked to walk seven to ten miles to his work under the threat that he would lose unemployment benefit. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to try to arrive at some maximum distance over which a man should not be asked to travel.
Deputy Pattison referred to people who will not come within the scope of being given any work that is being carried out through the relief grant. He referred of course to men who have been put off the benefit list of the Labour Exchange, men who are described as not genuinely seeking employment. Whilst I am in agreement with the Ministry that the man who is not inclined to work should not be given the dole, that the man who is an idler should not be given benefit, I do suggest that an unfair advantage has been taken, perhaps unconsciously, by some Labour Exchanges in dealing with cases of this kind. It is virtually impossible for a good number of men to obtain work in various districts in the country at the present moment owing to various reasons. On many occasions a decent man who had always worked hard may be brought before the Court of Referees in connection with his application for unemployment benefit. That man may become very embarrassed, so much so as perhaps to prejudice his position in the eyes of the Court of Referees. I suggest that is the position and it is only right that a great many of these people should have their cases reviewed. As the position stands at the moment when a grant is given to a district the first men taken off are those in receipt of the highest amount of benefit. I understand that when that grade is exhausted if the job is a long one a start is made at the higher point of the list again, which means that in the case of people who have been put off the Exchange as designated not genuinely seeking work, their turn will never come so far as employment or a grant is concerned. I suggest that a great many of these people have been put off the Exchange. I am not saying that the Government has done that deliberately. But I say that their cases should be reviewed. When these people are put off the list they are prevented from signing up. The result is that they cannot make any claim which will entitle them to benefit or to work when a grant is available. I want to refer again to the proportion of money which public bodies are expected to put up for new schemes. I submit to the Parliamentary Secretary that the public bodies have put up a greater proportion of the money, in proportion to their means, than have the Government in recent years. I suggest that under these new schemes the public bodies should get off lighter.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question about an item which appears here, that is the provision of a new Gárda barracks at Wexford town. For the past two or three years I have been raising this matter here. On this occasion I notice here a sum of £4,000 which is supposed to be spent this year on this work. The total estimate for the completion of the barracks is £8,250. As I pointed out last year and the year before the conditions under which the Gárda are living in Wexford town are certainly appalling and not at all what one would expect a Gárda barracks to be. Certainly, the environment under which the Gárda are living in Wexford town is something not calculated to give people any confidence in the work of the Gárda. There should be some advertence to the environment. These barracks have been repeatedly condemned by people from the Gárda headquarters and by people from the Board of Works who have agreed that they are not anything at all like what they should be. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he would tell me what is being done this year and whether he is making a serious effort to start this work. I understand that a site has been secured. I hope that something will be done with it immediately.
Another matter which affects my constituency is the question of dredging at Courtown Harbour. A certain amount of dredging has been done in Courtown Harbour within the last 18 months. But there is the danger that what has been done will prove to be abortive unless help is forthcoming from the Government. I do not mean financial help, because they have already agreed to contribute their proportion towards the work to be done. But requests have been sent from the County Council asking that a dredger should be sent there. Complaints have been made by various local bodies in the matter, but up to the moment nothing has been done. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary is very much interested in harbour works, and I ask him to see that the dredger is sent there, because, if not, much of the money spent will be wasted. I would like to have some definite answers about the points I have raised.
My contribution will not be long. I rise to renew my application to the Parliamentary Secretary for work of a useful character in Ballyrichard Road, in the Carrick-on-Suir urban area. Deputy Dillon, on this Vote this evening, talked about cul-de-sacs, but the work which I am putting forward is not a cul-de-sac but a very important work. I put this already before the Parliamentary Secretary and before the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I then said that the condition of that road was a perfect disgrace, and I repeat that statement now. If the Parliamentary Secretary looks at the files he will find that the problem of unemployment is very acute in the area about which I am speaking. At the moment I have a letter in my pocket from a man who was taken off the unemployment assistance, but perhaps it would not be relevant to refer to it here. I only rise to renew my application in connection with this Vote for the work to which I am referring. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would give me some assurance that something will be done. He will find, if he consults the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, that there are items on the files in connection with it. I certainly think the Parliamentary Secretary should give this matter his immediate attention so that it would be done immediately.
I would like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the necessity for some more consideration for marine works in Galway. During the past three or four years I have submitted a number of these works to the Parliamentary Secretary. At the present moment I think it is the intention of the Government to give a little more care to this type of work than in the past. At least I hope so. I do not think it is quite satisfactory that the suitability of these proposals should be decided on the report from the Department of Fisheries. In a number of cases these piers and harbours to which I am referring are used largely for the turf trade, especially in Connemara, and it is obvious that a report from the Department of Fisheries as to the suitability of work in reference to a matter of that kind would not be favourable. There are also little coves and inlets around the coast in which there are neither piers nor harbours. In these cases something is needed for the men who are engaged in the lobster fisheries. Very often at the entrance to these coves there are submerged or semi-submerged rocks. I do not know of any type of marine work so necessary or one that can be done so cheaply as the blasting of these rocks. You will find problems of that kind practically every few miles along the coast.
There again I think the report from the Department of Fisheries is not quite satisfactory, because I do not think it takes into account fishing operations carried out at such places. There is a very general desire for blasting work of that kind. I have submitted several proposals of the kind, but, unfortunately, in one or two cases on the day on which the inspector paid his visit the weather happened to be very bad and he seemed to think the job was too difficult. I would impress strongly on the Parliamentary Secretary the importance of repairing old piers and extending them and making slipways, particularly where they are used for the purpose of the turf trade. I know one or two areas in which a considerable turf trade could be built up if these facilities were available. I should also like to know what has become of the proposals sent in to the Inter-Departmental Committee on Public Works. Personally, I sent in a good many, but I have not heard anything more about them.
Like Deputy Corish, I am very anxious to know in what way this contribution from local authorities will be demanded. Is the Board of Works going to put up schemes and ask the local authorities to make certain contributions to them, or are the local authorities to be asked to put up schemes themselves? Will the contributions be mandatory; will there be some regulation made by the Local Government Department by which the local authorities will have to do that? Personally, I know that local authorities are very intrigued as to the position. Their rates are pretty high at present, and they are finding it hard to collect them. They do not care to face a situation which would involve a very definite and huge increase in the rates if they are to make a contribution of £825,000. I believe, of course, that the Parliamentary Secretary or somebody, when the announcement was first made, had at the back of his head some kind of scheme whereby he would either compel or induce local authorities to make a contribution to that extent. That has not been disclosed as far as I know. We are anxious to know what the scheme is, and what local authorities are expected to do; whether it is going to be voluntary or mandatory. It is time that local authorities were made wise about the matter.
Another matter I want to refer to comes under the heading of national monuments. There is an old building in Roscommon, called Roscommon Abbey, which the county council, the board of health, and everybody who has any authority over the building, for quite a number of years past has been asking the Board of Works to take over as a national monument. In the Abbey rest the remains of King Phelim O'Conor, in a famous tomb with some very fine stonework, which was, I think, portrayed in our schoolbooks. At present the place is very much neglected and is, in fact, an eyesore. I do not know whether there is any legal enactment which prevents the Board of Works taking it over. Somebody did whisper at one time that there was something like that. I do not know whether there is or not, but whatever it is, it could be made right, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into the matter.
As to sub-head E (1)—Land Improvements Acts—I see the sum provided this year is reduced from £581 to £86. I want to know if land improvement is not going ahead. Is there no borrowing from the Board of Works for that purpose, or is it all carried out by the Agricultural Credit Corporation? Is it a question of substitution or a question of people not doing any work in the way of improvements?
As Deputy Corish said, I do not think any Deputy envies the Parliamentary Secretary the job he has in providing for the unemployed. I certainly do not want any words of mine to cause him any embarrassment. A suggested work, however, has been referred to the Board of Works recently from North Roscommon which would, I think, absorb an enormous amount of manual labour, and that is the taking up of rock out of the bed of the Tinacarra river. The case which is being put up to the Parliamentary Secretary is that this is in connection with the Lough Gara drainage scheme, which I am afraid, from the reply I got to-day on the matter, is not very hopeful of early execution. Neither will the scheme be economic as it stands, if the sinking of the Tinacarra river was done, apart from the drainage scheme, it would have the effect of absorbing quite a large amount of manual labour, because the rock is of the type which will have to be taken out by hand. In addition, the Lough Gara drainage scheme would be, if not made economic, at least put in such a position that it would be approved of by the people. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give the matter sympathetic consideration, and I hope he will also give some information as to the position of the local authorities, and in what way they are supposed to make the contribution of £825,000.
Various Deputies have asked what the arrangement is by which this money will be distributed. That is a very pertinent and proper question with which we could not deal until the Vote is through. There are a whole lot of things we could not do until then. We cannot even make preparation in relation to a great many of these schemes until the Vote is through, and the sooner we get it through the better. Broadly speaking, the arrangement is that the local authorities will be met through the Local Government Department as previously. As everybody is aware, it has been in the past a matter of negotiation between the local authorities and the Local Government Department as to how the money shall be contributed and how much. The Local Government Department in arranging the contribution from the different local authorities will do it, I need hardly say, in full knowledge of the actual position of these authorities. There have been public health schemes in which the whole cost has been met from central sources. There have been cases in which the contribution has only been 25 per cent. It depends entirely on the condition of different local authorities and in some cases on the urgency of the work. That principle will still remain. As far as public health works are concerned, they will come up in the ordinary way to the Local Government Department.
As we propose to do this year, if we are fortunate, probably three times as much public health work as has been done in any year previously, there is going to be a considerable opportunity for the clearing off of arrears of public health work. You very often come across the case—I personally come across it very often— of Deputies in different parts of the House urging a particular public health scheme. When I go back on the lists I find that the particular county council has already 30 or 40 works ahead of it in order of preference. Now, under this scheme there will be an opportunity to clear away a good deal of that. That will be a matter for negotiation with the Department of Local Government. We have already received from the Department of Local Government, for the purposes of sanction under this scheme, proposals up to a very considerable amount.
It is probable that something in the neighbourhood of £400,000 is going to be spent on urban roads. All these figures, I may say, are tentative. I do not want anybody to think—and from my experience on this Vote I have no reason to anticipate it—that we are giving them cast-iron figures. We are not. We are giving just the best estimate that we can. It will depend on whether works which are desirable in the order of their desirability will fall into areas in which there is a necessity factor. As I have said, we intend to spend something in the neighbourhood of £400,000 on urban roads. That is largely because the urban districts are districts in which it is very difficult indeed to find suitable works. Where we can substitute a public health work for an urban road, we like to do it, because we can always do the urban road afterwards. In connection with these works we think that we ought to be able to get a contribution on a 50-50 basis from the local authorities.
We hope to spend £200,000 all over the country in clearing sites in advance for housing. That work will all be for the benefit of the local authority. It will mean relieving it of its ordinary obligations in relation to that class of work, and there, again, we will require a very definite contribution which will be negotiated by the Department of Local Government, having regard both to the necessities of the district for housing and to the capacity of the district to bear its share in meeting it. Last year I think we had about £120,000 worth of minor relief schemes. We hope to do two or three times that amount this year, if we can. That is going to represent a very considerable difficulty in the sense that, to some extent, in certain districts we have already saturated our local authorities—that is to say, the local surveyors and so on—with work. In all probability it will mean, if this large scheme is to be carried out, that the local authorities which will be asked to undertake it as our agents will have to strengthen their own resources for the purpose. There is not the faintest use in anyone thinking that we can get two quarts out of a pint pot. If this scheme is to be carried out it means that there is going to be considerably more staff required both at headquarters and in the districts in which the work is actually being carried out.
The amount of expenditure which will take place under this Vote, and the efficiency of the expenditure under it, will depend very largely upon the quality and the adequacy of the staff which is made available for the purpose. All that I can say is that we will do all it is humanly possible to do in the matter. Mentally, we are allocating £100,000 for a peat development scheme. Unfortunately, peat development schemes are nearly as bad as public health schemes in this respect: that they do not always fall in the districts in which you want to do them for public relief purposes. I have heard complaints in the House to-day from Deputies representing different constituencies in relation to peat schemes which certainly would never have gone into their constituencies on a merely employment basis. There, again, as in relation to public health schemes, we have to take the middle way. We cannot rigidly enforce the unemployment factor. We do it as far as it is humanly possible. I can say quite deliberately that all the efforts of the Department will be directed to see that as large a proportion as possible of this total sum is expended in the most efficient way to deal with actual distress and unemployment where they exist and at the time they exist. While we will take into account the other factor— the desirability of public works and the rest—we do intend to try as far as possible to railroad it to the poor where they need it.
Last year we spent about £26,000 under the general heading of the Department of Agriculture. That included land reclamation, the expenditure on which was roughly £10,000 or £12,000. That was the sum spent over the whole of the Saorstát for land reclamation. This year we hope to spend at least that amount in the Gaeltacht districts alone, and that is not proposed to be the end of the expenditure. To the extent to which adequate and efficient machinery can be set up to deal with it, we hope to extend the ambit of land reclamation. Deputy Dillon raised the question of farm improvements. I remember he raised this question a couple of years ago when I told him it was already before the inter-departmental committee. It has been dealt with in a very careful manner indeed. The recommendations in relation to it from that committee are favourable. It is a question for experience and practice to know how far that can be extended. At any rate it is going to be tried.
Am I to take it from what the Parliamentary Secretary has said that this is the kind of scheme that a Deputy might submit to the Department?
No. At the present moment Deputies would be wiser not to submit their schemes. The Deputy can see the difficulty that the Central Authority will have in selecting particular schemes to be done. He can see the practical impossibility of any individual Deputy putting forward a scheme of that kind without running up against difficulties. I think it would be much better to allow the scheme to develop from experience until we are in a position to say that the co-operation and advice of Deputies in that matter will be asked for, as it is in other matters. As the Minister for Finance reminds me, this is the purely experimental phase. We think that the only method of approach to this is not to lay down anything definite, but to approach it tentatively, to try to discover by experiment what are the actual difficulties that are there, and the best method for their economic solution. The inspection of very considerable public schemes of this kind can involve a good deal of trouble. It will be necessary to evolve an administrative system which will enable that work to be done economically and efficiently. Every possible thought is being given to that, but it is recognised, in fact, to be a difficult problem.
As the Minister for Finance indicated in his Budget speech a sum of about £200,000 made up of £100,000 from the Road Fund and £100,000 to be raised by way of local contributions, will be used specifically for the purpose of developing roads in the western and tourist districts There again it is a question for the Local Government Department, in co-operation with the different county councils, to work out and put up to us a, scheme for the spending of that money. When all these different schemes of one kind or another are put forward and are co-ordinated, then we will be in a position, in so far as one can be in this matter, to attempt to see that there is as fair a distribution as possible, having regard to the variety of factors connected with the work.
One very serious matter which we are running up against every day is that where what you might call really desirable public works turn up, they seem invariably to turn up in areas in which there is no real demand, no relatively just demand, on the Central Fund for unemployment expenditure. My experience of that has been almost tragic. I have almost begun to believe that big schemes, high labour factor schemes, seem to have an automatic abhorrence of the places where we want them. If Deputies will look at the map which we have put up outside, which is based upon the unemployment assistance register, and if they will keep in mind a previous map which showed the valuation per head of the agricultural population in each of the electoral areas, they will find as nearly as possible the distribution that there ought to be of money if it was upon the basis of need, if the money which the Dáil has put in our hands was to be expended specifically for the purpose of efficiently reducing distress where it existed. If they will then mentally compare that map with what they know of available public schemes of a large character, they will see how real the difficulty is. All I can say is, and I believe I say it to a House which is entirely sympathetic, that we propose to meet those difficulties as we find them and solve them to the best of our abilities.
I will deal briefly with some of the points which have been raised, and in many cases I need hardly say that some of the points have arisen two or three times, being put forward by different Deputies. When I deal with the subject matter in the one instance I hope Deputies will take it to cover all the cases referred to. Deputy Keyes, in common with a good many other people, objected to the exclusion of men from the relief schemes under a certain unemployment assistance valuation. That has occurred in the rotational experimental schemes simply and solely because under the actual provisions of the existing law, unless we gave a man a certain number of days' work, he would be still entitled to draw both his wages and the unemployment assistance money. For that reason in every case you have had to have a particular rate. Take two extreme cases. In Limerick the rate in one instance was 6/-. In the City of Dublin I think it was 11/6. It depends entirely on the rate of wages in the district. We know that a very considerable number of men upon a lower rate than the rate we are able to include under the existing law are anxious to work. Efforts are being made to see to what extent that desire can be met. Deputy Keyes suggested that we should confine works to smaller areas and give more work to each man who was employed. There again the difficulty is, as the House has to recognise, that our job here is efficiently to distribute a definite sum of money. It is quite easy to expend the whole of it in one place, quite easy to keep in permanent employment at any rate of wages you like a certain limited number of people. If you are going to meet distress out of a limited fund, then it means that there has to be a fair and equal distribution and that cannot be done by segregating works into small areas, giving a large amount of work to one man while you leave another man without any work at all. I think if there is one thing on which the House is in agreement it is that, to the extent to which it can be done, there should be the fairest distribution of this money that it is possible to have.
Deputy Keyes raised the question of the wages paid on the Kilfinane public health scheme. It is curious that I have been in very close contact with that scheme and with all those concerned in it, and this is the first time I have heard any complaint upon that subject. At present the wages paid are the wages of the ordinary county council worker, 5/- a day or 30/- a week. I find that in the last two years there were four works done in the district, Kilmallock, Askeaton, Cahirconlish and Glin. In two cases 35/- were paid, and in the other two 30/- were paid. There does not seem to be any accepted or accredited public health rate. At the moment, so far as rotational schemes of employment are concerned, the formula has been to pay a man on whatever work he was doing the ordinary rate of wages of the district.
Deputy Dockrell raised the question of St. Andrew Street Post Office. He wanted us to push back the building line for certain public planning purposes. That matter, I may tell him, has been actually gone into with the desire to do it. It has been found in practice to be impracticable. It will not be possible, so far as we can see, to push back that frontage line. The frontage line has been already pushed back in relation to other houses which have set a new frontage line, and it is not possible for us to push back further than that. He also raised the question of a swimming pool at the Curragh. We will keep that in mind. In relation to the Cork swimming pool, we had the assistance and co-operation of Deputy Dockrell and his expert advice was very valuable from the point of view of the work done there.
Deputy Everett desired that some portion of the mineral grant should be used in Avoca. I would be very glad to do that, but no proposal has been put forward in relation to Avoca which seems to be practicable. Most of the mineral excavations that we know can be made there have been made. While there are certain minerals that are available at the moment, we have before us no proposition in regard to a mineral which we could extract at a price which would pay the cost of the extraction. Deputy Everett also raised the question of direct labour. Two or three other Deputies of his Party also advocated that in the strongest possible manner, and I am asked to come into the fight upon their side. As far as the Board of Works is concerned, their business is so to administer public funds as to obtain for the State the highest possible return for those funds under proper conditions. Normally and broadly, the contract system undoubtedly will be the best for the Board of Works. The idea that the Board of Works, for instance, should go down to Mayo or Donegal, or Cork or Clare, or places of that kind and set up an organisation to do their own direct building would, in my opinion, be absurd. Against that, there is no prejudice, as far as our relief scheme organisation or anything of that kind is concerned, in relation to direct labour. In regard to the Kilfinane public health scheme, I am perfectly satisfied that but for the fact that we had an opportunity to do that by direct labour, and prove that it could be done under those conditions, it would not have been done. To that extent I certainly am prepared to say that direct labour has delivered the goods. It may be that in relation to its application to this particular scheme of public health works, due to the uncertainty and to the contractors' natural suspicion of a new method, we may find that we are getting quotations which are higher than they ought to be. In that particular case it may be necessary to prove, by further example of direct work under proper supervision, that those works can be done under that system as cheaply and efficiently as under any other system.
Deputy Everett also asked that a good deal of money should be spent on coast erosion. I know the particular problem he has in Wicklow—a problem which, from an engineering point of view, has been very soundly tackled. I think the coast erosion fortress which they have set up there is a highly creditable piece of pioneer engineering. I think it is a great credit to Wicklow, but it is a very costly job. There is certainly nothing in the unemployment position in Wicklow which would justify the carrying out of the mile or so of protection work which they want done, at the cost which would be involved. I quite agree with him that the next portion of the work will be protecting private property, and I certainly think that the local council ought to be met much more generously in the matter of contribution by the owners of that private property towards the protection of their own property. Deputy Davin raised a curious question in regard to piece-work, and then wandered along to tell us that the Land Commission had been doing it and that it had been done under the peat works scheme. So far as I know, no piece-work has been done under this Vote in any way except in relation to a certain small amount on stone breaking. To the extent to which piece-work is the custom of the particular district I see no objection to it in principle, but in practice our work has been carried out, and will continue to be carried out, as day work. Frankly, I do not in principle see any objection to piece-work if it is properly allocated and properly supervised. The suggestion that particular gangers were in a position to decide whether or not a particular job would be done by piece-work certainly is not true in relation to any scheme we are carrying out.
Many Deputies have raised the question of what distance men are expected to travel for the purpose of relief work. We do not decide that; that is decided under the Unemployment Assistance Act. Machinery has been set up—with which we have nothing whatever to do, and with which the Minister for Industry and Commerce has nothing whatever to do —to decide in relation to every particular man and in relation to every particular circumstance whether or not the conditions are such that the man ought or ought not be expected to do the work. Suppose a job is going to cost £200 or £300 in a certain electoral area. We know roughly the number of men required for it, and what we do is we schedule the number of electoral areas which would provide those men. We generally schedule areas up to about four miles. If men did not turn up for their work within a distance which seemed to be reasonable, then it is a matter for the Department of Industry and Commerce to decide whether or not those men will remain on the register. If the Department of Industry and Commerce decides in one particular way, then the men themselves have a right of appeal to a court of referees and an umpire to decide whether or not in practice that is so. Broadly speaking, our feeling is that men may reasonably be expected to come four miles. We do know that in practice a great many men are willing to come a good deal more than four miles, but that is not for us to decide. What we would do is certify that a man did not turn up. If necessary we would certify the distance which to our knowledge he would have had to travel, and then it is a question for the court to decide.
Deputy Davin also referred to the fact that work had been shut down recently on the Goul drainage scheme; that men had been disemployed, and that a resolution had been sent up saying that this was an entirely wrong and improper proceeding without any relation whatever to justice or the facts. The actual facts are that the men having been employed for specific work, and that work having come to an end, their employment terminated. At the present moment there is no other work to be done in that district, except the clearing up of small drains, which cannot be done now unless we are prepared to do it all over again when we are handing over the scheme. It is further alleged that they could work on the bog bridge. That bog bridge, for certain reasons connected with the county council, is not available for the work to be done on it now, but we hope that work will be available on it within, say, a month.
I was asked how gangers were appointed, and who was the ultimate authority. The county surveyors are our agents in carrying out relief schemes, and they are held responsible for the efficiency of the work. They are the ultimate people who will be held responsible for the whole thing. Therefore, they must have the power to appoint their own gangers, and they do. I was asked by, I think, Deputy Dillon to tell him the present position of the Suck scheme. The present position is that we agreed to spend the sum of £7,000 out of the Unemployment Relief Vote for the purpose of sweetening that particular bargain. An attempt was made to employ U.A. men on the carrying out of that job over a very considerable number of miles of river and tributaries. In practice, it proved to he impossible, although from the length of the river and tributaries which had to be dealt with, and from the area of land, it looked one of the obvious things that could be done by U.A. labour, having regard to the very large number which was supposed to be on the register. U.A. labour was not available within the area. I will just put the figures on record for the information of the House. The number of men who were notified for work was 226; the number of men who were ill, or for other reasons were not suitable for labouring work, was ten; the number who recorded themselves as having obtained other employment when they were notified, 29; the men who declined work without a valid reason, 61; the men who lived more than four miles from the place of work, who had not bicycles, or who, having bicycles, lived seven miles away, 63; the men who went off the register and who were not known to be working elsewhere, 10. The number of men who accepted work on the scheme was 53 out of 226, and of that 53, 17 men defaulted later on. Now, that is a picture which I want the House to co-relate with the map that is outside in the Lobby. I want them to look up those particular districts and the colour with which those districts are marked on the map. Broadly speaking, it amounts to this——
I suggest that that is a reflection on the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
No, it is not. I think this is one of the soundest analyses of the position that have been made or could be made. It is the soundest analysis that I know of, and one which I should like to see examined even much more carefully than we have examined it. The inference which I draw from this particular thing is that in the areas on that map which are marked orange or yellow—and that covers a very considerable section of the map—any considerable public work, even of such an order as that of £7,000 carried on over a six months' period, will exhaust the actual register that is available. In other words, it is bringing the problem of unemployment, as far as it is indicated by the unemployment assistance register, down to bedrock. We are now carrying out that scheme with whatever labour we can get. It is not possible to carry it out with the labour on the unemployment assistance register, having regard to the fact that out of 226 notified for the job, only 53 accepted employment and 17 of these did not actually take up work. Of course, I think it is only right to say that most of these people are engaged in their own work. As everybody knows, it is not a district in which there is any very considerable amount of what one might call ordinarily paid employment. What disturbs me in the matter is that I see no reason to believe that there is anything individual in relation to that district and that, if large schemes of public works are artificially to be done in the yellow and orange areas, it means that we are going to spend the money without dealing with the visible problem as marked on the unemployment register.
Might I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, since he has gone into this matter in some detail, did he inquire, in making that very careful analysis, as to what proportion of the persons on the unemployment assistance register, who did not turn up for work, had, in fact, gone to England as migratory labourers?
Yes, I did make that inquiry and it does not alter what I have said.
Well, very large numbers did go to England.
Yes, I heard that rumour, and the people whom I sent down heard the rumour also. They made investigations and reported that it had not affected this particular analysis. However, I am glad the Deputy raised the matter, and I should be very happy to allow the Deputy to see the inquiries which have been made into these matters, so that he might know what has gone on.
I happen to live in the middle of the district to which the Parliamentary Secretary has referred. and I know that very large numbers of men left Ballaghaderreen and Castlerea as migratory labourers for England.
Granted. That is quite so, but I am sure the Deputy is aware that that is occurring regularly.
Yes, it is occurring regularly.
But it has not affected this particular matter. I want to put it to the House that you could spend all this money over the country and yet not affect your unemployment register unless the money is directed definitely into the area in which we know that actual distress exists. Somebody has raised the question of minor relief procedure and how proposals should be put forward and so on. I thought that the procedure was well known. However, as a matter of fact, a certain form of procedure has been evolved—it is the form that has been in use—which is at the disposal of any Deputy in the House and which, if availed of, will enable any Deputy to put forward his scheme in a manner that would not alone facilitate him, but that would be immensely helpful to us. What I mean by that is that it is better to have information on a particular point put forward in a concise way than to have to extract it from a series of personal letters in relation to all sorts of matters. The proposal was made very strongly by two or three people that we should disregard the distress situation to a considerable extent in these, works and concentrate upon the urgency of the demand for them. Well, frankly, I cannot see that at all.
This money is given, specifically, for the purpose of dealing with distress, and for that purpose it will be used.
Objection was taken to work being done by instalments. Again, I think that the House and the majority of the people outside would be of a different opinion. What happens in this case is that you have a particular area and three or four schemes are put up. It may happen that the best scheme is a more expensive scheme than the district would be entitled to have done in that particular area. Are we then to choose an inferior scheme just because it is cheaper or to choose a scheme that will be of sound and permanent benefit in the future? Our tendency, normally, is to choose the scheme that, obviously, will be more beneficial, even though it takes two or three years to carry it out. For instance, there were two or three schemes with which I was familiar myself and which had stopped at a certain period, and I think that any ordinary person would say that these schemes should have been carried on beyond the point at which they stopped. I have seen examples of many of these schemes where, as a result of further work on them, they became of lasting benefit, and I have seen many cases where I was satisfied that the initial work, the planning, was sound, and where, although at the beginning it did not seem to have immediate benefit, it would be of sound and permanent benefit later on.
Deputy Davin asked to be given information with regard to the Douglas scheme. I think he is aware of the causes which prevent us from moving more rapidly in that matter. All I can say is that it is a year nearer completion than it was when Deputy Davin raised the question on this Vote last year. Deputy Davin also raised the question of a place called Clonaslee, where the suggestion was that the contractors were not paying the wages they should have paid. That was really a difficult case. It was reported to us and examined by us with the intention of getting to the bottom of it. What happened there was that builders' labourers were receiving, apparently, the full recognised rate, but that there were other unskilled labourers paid in accordance with the local rate, and at the same time there were labourers employed by the Board of Health on local housing schemes. These, however, were doing work of a different character—slating work and so on. It was one of those border line cases where it was quite impossible to say with absolute decision, but I understand that it has been got over now and arrangements made to give satisfactory wages. In all these cases we do the very best to get to the bottom of things, but sometimes there is no such thing as a recognised local rate, and a decision in relation to what is the local rate is a very controversial decision. The intention of the Board of Works in relation to this matter is to enforce the fair wages clause, and as long as that is the intention I think the House may safely leave the practice of it in our hands.
Deputy Murphy raised again a question about direct labour. In common with others he suggested the desirability of doing small drainage work during the summer. When we were working purely and simply on the unemployment register the tendency was to do all work that it was possible to do over the winter months. Now, to some extent, that we are being influenced by the unemployment assistance register, which continues during the summer, we are desirous, as far as possible, to get such work done during the summer as can be better done in summer than in winter. We recognise that certain small drainage works can be done then. In districts in which a large number of people remain on the unemployment assistance register a considerable amount of work like small drainage work will be done. It may be taken that that policy has been adopted. Deputy Mulcahy asked about the number of volunteer halls that had been built, and the places in which they were built. I do not think it necessary to put the list on the records, but I will send it to the Deputy. He also asked whether there had been any change in the outlook regarding the Viceregal Lodge and the museum proposal. The actual position is that detailed estimates and plans have been prepared for a museum, and there is no change in the intention so to use it.
Deputy Hogan (Clare) recalled to me almost a holy memory of a speech in which he accused me of wiping away my crocodile tears with bank drafts. To say that I have indulged in an orgy of slap-dash schemes without imagination or organisation shows a considerable falling off in that high respect. The Deputy suggested that instead of putting down a series of works such as we do, we should set out for ourselves a particular standard in housing, in roads and in sanitation—a minimum standard—and that all the money required should be provided by the State for that purpose, and equally for the relief of unemployment. I would like a minimum standard in housing, a minimum standard in roads, and a minimum standard in sanitation, but then I should certainly require minimum standards of criticism of Budget provisions to meet these standards.
You cannot get anything for nothing in this world. The State is providing under the Budget £2,500,000 for the purpose of dealing with unemployment. How far that sum will go towards dealing with the problem none of us can tell until we have tried. That is the simple issue. The House cannot have forgotten the criticisms offered against the Budget that provides this money. I want Deputies, and especially Deputy Hogan, to strain their imagination to see what kind of language he and his colleagues would have used if the Minister for Finance had introduced a Budget providing for all the houses, all the roads and all the sanitation required in this country this year, and of the standard that Deputy Hogan wants. Let us be reasonable in the matter. Everything that is done in the way of social services, in the way of relieving unemployment, will have to be paid for, and it can only be paid for by people who have money to pay for it. No one in his senses believes that the position he envisaged could be met otherwise. It will have to be paid for out of the resources of everybody. While I am very anxious indeed to see that everything humanly possible is done to relieve distress, I am not prepared to go to the Minister for Finance and say: "Here is a standard road up to which every road has to be brought; here is a standard of sanitation up to which every place has to be brought immediately" unless the House is prepared to say that they will cheerfully and willingly meet the bill.
Deputy Dillon objected to the dog-kennel outside. Again I can tell him that we are very anxious to find a solution of the position, but it is not easy of solution. He suggested moving the dining room to Leinster Lawn. If he went into the matter he would find that there are architectural difficulties. On the last occasion that the matter was discussed I suggested that the over-heated dining room should be made the headquarters of the Opposition, and under these conditions we might be able, so to speak, to make a bargain. The Deputy's suggestion now is that the over-heated diningroom should be made the headquarters of the Government.
The diningroom is very much better now. You have done something with it.
All I can tell the Deputy is that the question has been examined architecturally and that it is not an easy one to solve. There are certain indefinitenesses in the arrangement which still necessitate accommodation within this building, a solution of which may eventually provide what the Deputy has in mind. The Deputy wants us to shut up about two-thirds, three-fourths or five-sixths of all the tin-pot little schools we have and to let the children go to central schools. In my opinion the children have far enough to walk at present. The Deputy suggested that we should provide buses for them. I sincerely hope that when the Minister for Finance makes any such provision in his Budget, we will have the Deputy and his comrades on the opposite benches going into a Lobby different from the one they now go into, when asked to increase taxation. The Deputy also raised a question about sporting rights. I think these are confined to the National Park at Muckross. We may take it that all these facilities which he considered desirable do exist. As to swimming pools, he knows from experience that we have tried very hard to meet particular situations as they have arisen. Cul-de-sac roads are being treated and to a very considerable extent are being dealt with under minor relief schemes. They cannot be treated by county councils at all. It is only in cases where we connect up a cul-de-sac road from the other end of it to the main road that it is possible for the local authority to take cognisance of the road when it is finished or to attempt to maintain it.
Deputy Flynn raised the question of summer drainage, and as I told him we are trying to do what we can in he matter. In common with quite a few other Deputies, he raised the question of whether or not the distribution of the Relief Fund on the basis of the U.A. register was a correct and sound method. I want to be perfectly frank in saying that I have a great deal of sympathy with the objection which he has taken in that matter. Previously, we distributed money on the basis of what you might call the rural poverty factor. We took the agricultural valuation of every electoral area in the Saorstát, divided it by its agricultural population, gave it from that a poverty factor and from that calculated its share of the total allocations. When the U.A. register was adopted, and the State took upon itself the responsibility of paying during weeks of unemployment to particular people certain sums of money, it then became very difficult to justify the employment of people except upon that statutory qualification and for a year or so we have been distributing, as far as we can, on the basis of the U.A. register. I am not satisfied that the distribution strictly on the U.A. register has, in fact, produced a fairer distribution than the previous one. What we tend to do now is that we distribute a considerable proportion of the total amount of the fund on the basis of the U.A. register and then try to correct what seem to us to be discrepancies in the fairness of that by consulting the poverty factor matter. That system, however, has the defect that money which is spent, to the extent to which it is spent in that way, does not reduce the U.A. or the unemployment register in the degree in which the House would think it should be reduced. However, I have considerable sympathy with that view and I think it is very widely and very soundly held.
Deputy Morrissey referred—and in so doing anticipated what he was going to say in relation to No. 9; there is a motion to refer back No. 9 —to the work of the inter-Departmental Committee. The inter-Departmental Committee has examined every possible scheme that has been put forward and it has graded these schemes from the point of view of the labour content and from the point of view of what you might call their intrinsic merit. Four valuable reports have been presented to the Executive Council, and the result of their labours is expressed to some extent in, and has certainly influenced considerably, the allocation which has been made this year. In regard to that particular committee—I am speaking now impersonally—I have watched their labours and the energy which they put into their work and I am satisfied they have done all that a committee could do in that matter. They are dealing with an indeterminate problem. It is not possible for them or anyone else to say that if certain moneys are spent in a certain way, their expenditure would be desirable or that if spent in another way, they would absorb more labour. Until you have tried out in practice the degree in which desirable public works with a high labour content will fall into areas in which there is a big demand for distress relief, neither they nor anybody else can give you a sound and watertight estimation of the results. To the political matter which was introduced by the Deputy, I have nothing to say. I have rigorously confined myself in these discussions to matters relevant to this Vote, that is to the proper, more honest and more useful distribution of funds. I do not propose to follow Deputies into sidetracks of that kind.
Deputy Keyes raised again the question of the Labour Exchange in Limerick. That exchange, I understand, is completed and he alleges that it is now in an unsatisfactory condition. We have no reason to believe that it is in an unsatisfactory condition. We do know that it is a thousand times better than it was before we changed over but if it is defective we shall have the matter examined. Deputy Keyes and Deputy Minch, and I think some other Deputy, raised the question of the degree in which it would be desirable to inform Deputies of the details of relief schemes. I should like to do that but it is not by any means an easy matter. At an early stage when we did distribute information, great difficulties arose as a result of it. A great number of Deputies did decide to advertise themselves at the expense of the relief schemes.
There is no question of that. We had: "Here is the scheme I put forward and here is the scheme you put forward," and statements of that kind. In addition to that, a considerable amount of local influence was brought to bear on the county surveyors in relation to the appointment of gangers. Certainly we had very serious difficulties on that account but to a considerable extent we got over them.
Even in County Kildare.
There was no question about where they occurred. Things of that kind occurred in a great many places and they did not help to produce that atmosphere in relation to the administration of the Relief Fund which, I am glad to say, now exists. When we did to some extent do that, and when we started issuing lists of grants, we found we were up against this difficulty. It was not possible for us to issue information to Deputies in relation to the whole of the scheme to be carried out at any particular time. Those have to be issued in batches. When we made out one and people round the country found that their particular scheme was not on the first allocation, we were absolutely deluged with complaints and objections and difficulties of one kind or another. What we have done, in recent years, is to give to Deputies, at the end of the year, an absolutely clear picture of the distribution and of every penny of it in every district in the place. While I would like to find some machinery by which Deputies would get the information they are now asking, I am leaving it to the House to consider whether or not it would not be a much better idea to put up with the difficulties they know, than to get back to the difficulties from which they escaped.
A question has been raised by Deputy P.J. Kelly in relation to Tara Hill. I shall look into that. Deputy Pattison raised the question of local contributions which was dealt with in the general matter. He also mentioned the old city walls of Kilkenny. They have been examined by us, and I do not think that they were regarded as suitable to take over and maintain as a national monument. Deputy Minch raised the question of old burial grounds. We have, on occasions, put roads to those burial grounds and, on occasions, in the islands off Donegal, and so on, we have extended or repaired them. But anything in the nature of cleaning them would raise serious difficulties. We would like to do it; but again it is a question whether it would not be wiser to leave them alone.
Deputy Corkery raised the question of the method of district distribution of relief and U.A. forms, and whether or not they were producing satisfactory results. We will look into that matter and will try to correct the U.A. formula by our actual experience of those places. I do not know whether Deputy Corish was present when I was dealing with the question as to how the local authorities should be informed.
I was here all the time.
That is all right. I will look into the question of works on barracks for which the provision is now definitely made. I was under the impression that all arrangements were made in connection with Courtown Harbour, but I shall look into that. Deputy Bartley raised the question of marine works and their difficulties. I think every one of the marine works schemes have gone, personally, through my hands. I do not know any marine works that ought to be done that were turned down. I think we have been more than liberal. Deputy Bartley indicated that there was some such work almost every two miles around the coast. We have avoided that. There are three engineers actually working on marine works, and this matter is receiving very careful attention. All our sympathies are with the people on the western fringe, facing up to the wild waters of the Atlantic, with which I am well acquainted, and all our sympathies are in the direction of making life there, hard and insecure as it is, better and more secure. The people may be sure that any marine works directed to the benefit of the people on the wild west coast would not be turned down except for the very best of reasons. But we cannot put a pier and harbour at every couple of miles of the coast.
Deputy Brennan raised a question of a national monument in Roscommon Abbey. We will look into that. He raised the question of the Tinnecarra river and asked whether we would blow out a piece of rock, at considerable expense, which would render the scheme economic. That brings us back to the whole question—and it is a very difficult one—as to whether ordinary drainage works for which there is machinery provided under various Acts should be undertaken out of relief work grants. I think the House will agree that if we began to do out of relief money drainage work of that character we would soon be rid of the hope of any further provision by local authorities and local people for their own drainage. These are real difficulties. We would very often like to do it but unless it is decided that drainage shall be a State charge as distinct from a charge distributed between the State, the local authority and the beneficiaries, it is altogether undesirable that we should queer the pitch by putting money into this drainage. There is at present a commission being set up to inquire into the whole drainage position. I think that and analogous questions will be bound to be dealt with by them as a matter of general principle rather than as a particular class.
That is all I think I have to say in relation to this Vote. I can only say that I have received in the past the co-operation of members on all sides of the House in this matter. I value that co-operation, and I think that co-operation is very valuable to the State. Any criticism of our procedure which any Deputy either now, or afterwards, may choose to make will be welcomed by us. Any knowledge any persons may have that will enable a more efficient use to be made of our procedure will be welcomed as constructive criticism and as a constructive and valuable contribution by them to our office.