Vocational Education (Amendment) Bill, 1936—Committee.

The amendment on the Order Paper to this Bill is out of order, because, in the first place, it would impose a charge. In the second place, it proposes to amend the Principal Act in a direction not contemplated in the amending Bill as read a Second Time.

I would ask the Minister to look into the matter raised in the amendment. I am sure that he has a big file in his Department dealing with it. A great hardship has been inflicted on the South Tipperary Vocational Education Committee as a result of the transfer to them of legal costs which, by right, should not have been placed on their shoulders. I would be glad if the Minister would look into the matter in view of the ruling of the Chair that it would be out of order to deal with it on the Bill.

Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, would the Minister tell the House how many cases of sales are before the Department or before committees?

Is that the one that was mentioned on the last day?

A number of temporary lettings have been made, but I think only one sale has passed through.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 3.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

May I ask the Minister if I am correct in assuming, from what he said on the last day, that the assessment referred to in the section is to be made in respect of the current year? Let me take an example. The City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee makes a demand for x pounds on the Dublin Corporation. The Corporation calculates how much that will be in the £ on the valuation for the year 1936-37. The old practice, as I understood from what the Minister said on the last day, was that the assessment would be in respect of the valuation for 1937-38. The assessments heretofore were based on the valuations existing in the year in which the assessments were made, and not on the year in which the money was going to be raised.

As I explained on the last day, we have to issue a certificate from the Department of Education on or before the 15th January authorising a local vocational education committee to make its demand on the local rating authority. The figures which it is intended to go on will, in the case the Deputy mentions, be the figures for 1936-37, as the figures for 1937-38 will not be available until six weeks later. It is thought that by the procedure laid down in this amending Bill certain errors will be avoided, and that certain adjustments, which would have to be made otherwise, will become unnecessary.

May I point out to the Minister that an anomaly may arise if the assessment be made for the year 1936-37? Take it that certain property has come in under valuation in the city. Does it follow from this Bill that that property will be exempt from vocational education charges for next year? Let us assume that there is a string of houses that were not on the valuation list for 1936-37 but that will be on the valuation list for 1937-38. I cannot see how they can be assessed in respect of a vocational education charge if the assessment be made on the year previous. Similarly with regard to property that may go out of commission during the year. The valuation list is not static, and some of that property would normally fall to be assessed in order to provide the sum of money required. Therefore, the Vocational Education Committee would be left short that sum, whatever it might be, because I am assuming that the Vocational Education Committee is only entitled to get the proceeds of the rate. If, then, a considerable amount of property went out of commission they would be short that much money; on the other hand, where there is an expanding valuation they are not entitled to get the rate in respect of the property which has been only a year on the books.

This section does not, in fact, fix the rate which the local authority, at the request of the Vocational Education Committee, will levy. The position as regards that rate is that it is limited with regard to its minimum and to its maximum by the Vocational Education Act, 1930, so that within these limits the local authority have a certain discretion. I cannot see why, if the local authority strikes a rate for the year 1937-8 for other purposes upon houses which were not in the valuation list during the preceding year, they cannot do the same thing for vocational education. Our function is very limited in regard to this matter. We simply have to see, as regards the limits laid down by the original Act, that local authorities are carrying out the duties which the Oireachtas cast upon them. They have carried out those duties satisfactorily and we are not interfering with them in any way. As I have said, if the local authority can strike a rate for other purposes upon new buildings and houses which have come in, I cannot see why they cannot do the same thing in connection with vocational education.

As regards the details of the actual rating, I regret that I cannot give the Deputy close and detailed information, as that is really a matter for the Local Government Department. But my information is that, in fact, there is no appreciable change. For some years to come there may be a slight increase in the amount of the State grants but, except for that, we are acting on the figures of the preceding year; in fact there is no considerable change of financial importance, at any rate. I am not versed in the intricacies of rating but I would say from the small knowledge I have that, if new buildings and houses come in for rating for ordinary purposes in a particular financial year, they should come in for rating for vocational education purposes also.

I want to know what is the purpose of the section. The section says that they are to take the valuation of the previous year. If that be taken, surely these houses are excluded. In connection with the rate being struck, I expect that the Minister is anxious that these houses should not escape. I want to know if they are going to escape because, if I interpret the section correctly, it can have no other meaning than to let them out. If the local authority is circumscribed by this section to assessing the rate for vocational education on the valuation for last year does it not follow that new houses will not come in? Perhaps the Minister would give us some other explanation than merely the six weeks from 15th January to 1st March, because the six weeks do not appear to me to be of much moment.

The rate is not struck in the normal course, I think, until after the 1st April—that is the usual period. The estimates are considered prior to that. The valuation lists are then examined to see how each sum of money required for a particular service for which a special rate must be struck will fall to be assessed in respect of the valuation on which that particular rate is to be charged. If taking the valuation of the previous year is included in the section, I cannot see the purpose of it except to exclude from assessment buildings or property which are not included in that valuation. Perhaps if the Minister is not in a position to give us information now about it he will look into the point and see whether or not that was intended. If that were not intended, and if it should be in the section, will steps be taken to ensure that property which is on the valuation list will be assessable when it arises in the new year, and was not on the old list?

I will look into the point before the next stage.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 4.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

Perhaps the Minister would give me some information on this section; first, as to the exact scope of it. Will it apply to those who are at present members of vocational education committees? There used to be a provision in the Local Government Acts when disqualification was introduced that it would not apply to existing members. Would the Minister be able to tell me now whether this will apply to existing members who have served usefully for a number of years and gained a great deal of experience or will it only apply to the nomination of future members?

I think it applies under the section as laid down here to present members as well as future members.

There were, of course, a certain number of reasons indicated by the Minister on the last day as to why he should introduce this section. He mentioned the type of person who might be disqualified. He said: "These disqualifications, as Deputies know, refer to infancy, alienage, receipt of union relief, conviction for crime, contractual relationship, and bankruptcy." So far as most of these are concerned, I can understand that on a body like a vocational education committee they might not be suitable persons, but as regards those who are in contractual relationship with, say, the parent body, if I might use that phrase, the council or corporation, is there really any adequate reason why people of that kind, whose services may be very useful, should be debarred from serving on these particular committees? Why should men of that particular class, whose business or office experience might be very useful, be kept off a committee of this kind? They themselves may be in contractual relation, not with the committee, but with the corporation or council. Am I right in assuming that contractual relationship with the council or the corporation, as the case may be, will henceforth act as a bar to people of that kind serving on these committees? Personally I doubt whether it is worth while introducing a section of that kind unless the Minister, from his experience, can say that he is convinced that it is necessary. I put it to him that, merely for the sake of uniformity, it would be a mistake to follow what is done in other circumstances.

That is one point, but the more important matter I should like to stress is the case of those who are existing members of a committee.

A number of people have been serving on committees of this kind and they have a great deal of experience of the working of these committees. Why should it not be possible for the Minister to make an exception at least in favour of those who have experience of this kind and whose experience would be useful to the committee? If he is determined on pressing this bar to contractual relations with the parent body, he should, at least, favourably consider the making of an exception in favour of those members of these committees who have been doing useful public work without criticism and without giving rise to any scandal or hint of scandal. It would be a gracious and a useful act if the Minister would make an exception in favour of those members of existing committees who have been giving a great deal of their time to this sort of work.

Unless my memory serves me badly, an instruction was issued some years ago by the Department of Education to local authorities that, when appointing vocational education committees, they should consider the claims of experienced tradesmen, people with industrial connections and members of the professions. We were advised in setting up committees to include people of that kind because of the peculiar nature of the work of the committees. As Deputy O'Sullivan has pointed out, you may have on these committees people who have had contractual relations with the county councils or with the committees. These people are likely to be the most useful members of the committees because of the nature of vocational education. The Minister, in passing a Bill of this kind, should be careful that he does not cut out the very best members of vocational education committees. I do not know whether the Minister has given much consideration to this section or not, but that danger is present. If it was wise to include in the membership of these committees, when first established, engineers, builders, manufacturers and tradesmen, we should be careful that we do not cut them out now, because they may have established contractual relations with the bodies concerned, and so injure what was the main purpose of vocational education.

I want to say a few words on this question of the contractual relations existing between a member of a body of this character and his continued membership of the body. I do not know if the Minister is aware of all the implications of applying the Local Government Order, 1898, to these vocational education committees. So far as I am aware, the position is extremely obscure and, perhaps, the Minister would take this opportunity of authoritatively elucidating it. Suppose a man is a member of a subsidiary committee of a county council and is, at the same time, a director of a limited liability company and that that limited liability company has established contractual relations with the county council, out of which it derives a fluctuating profit. Suppose, at the same time, the remuneration of the director of the limited liability company does not fluctuate with the profits of the company. Does this order operate to disqualify that director? The present situation is that there is no authoritative decision. The matter was once tried but, in that case, it was established that the remuneration of the official of the company in question fluctuated with the profits made upon the contract. It appeared from the decision that the court took the view that that was the vital element, and, accordingly, found that the officer was not eligible for continued membership of the public body. Although not expressly stated, it could be implied from the terms of the judgment that if the officer of the company had been able to satisfy the court that his remuneration was not affected adversely or otherwise by the existence of the contract, he would not be debarred from being a member of the public body.

Deputies will remember that the penalties for transgressing this order are substantial. Quite apart from the substantial nature of the penalties, it is not surprising that men in responsible positions in the mercantile life of the country do not wish to be publicly convicted of having broken the law, even in so technical a particular as this is. The duty devolves upon the Minister if he proposes to extend the application of the existing law, to tell us exactly what position he proposes to create. Can a director of a limited liability company become and remain a member of a vocational education committee if his company is in contractual relationship with the county council or the committee? If he can, will the fact that that director's fee fluctuates with the profits from the contract operate to disqualify him from continued membership? These are two categorical questions, and I cannot imagine the Minister proceeding with the Bill unless and until he can fully explain to us what the results will be in the contingency I have outlined.

The Deputy should have put down an amendment on that point. He has spoken of a particular case which has been before the courts. This section merely applies to vocational education committees what is already the law in regard to public bodies generally and I do not think the Deputy is acting reasonably in asking me to interpret the law for him. If he is really interested in the point, he should raise the whole question. In that event, we should have an opportunity of learning all the circumstances of the case he has in mind and we should probably be able to learn from those in a position to advise us what the legal implications were. As I said on Second Reading, this section has become necessary because of an oversight in the original Bill. It was clearly intended that the disqualifications referred to in the schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898, should apply to the Vocational Education Act, 1930. With the experience we have had in the Department of Education since that Act was passed, we are satisfied that, for purely administrative reasons and to help towards the smooth working of the system of vocational education, the amendments contained in this Bill should be made.

I have come across cases in which a question of contractual relationship between a member of the committee and the committee itself has arisen. It was then we discovered that we were not on a par with local authorities generally and it was considered necessary to introduce the present amendment. I presume that when, if this Bill becomes law, the vocational education committees are put on the same footing as local authorities generally, that members of committees who are disqualified and who may feel aggrieved will have the remedy of the courts open to them and they can argue their cases there. I presume, in view of the fact that the Order has been in operation with regard to local authorities generally for nearly 40 years, that there must be a well-recognised procedure and well-recognised lines of policy with regard to it. I could not possibly at this stage, even if I disappoint the Deputy, answer the question. Even if I had the legal advisers of the Department to advise me, they can only give an opinion on a matter which obviously must be finally decided in the courts. If it is then found that there is a weakness in the schedule in regard to this matter of qualifications, presumably it can be amended. I can quite see that a very large number of cases might come up for argument in the courts as to whether a contractual relationship existed, or whether the amount of profit the individual received was sufficient, and so on; whether, in fact, there was any contractual relationship. I suggest that these matters can all be decided in the same way as they have been decided since 1898 in regard to local authorities generally.

I would ask the Minister to reconsider this case, not from the point of view of the courts, but from the point of view of the legislature. What we have to consider here is the law that we are to put before the courts. I agree that it is then for the courts to decide what the law means—I am well aware of that—but is it advisable to pass this particular law? I asked the Minister whether he was going on principle of uniformity, because this had been done in connection with other bodies—I will not say similar bodies, because I am not aware there are similar bodies. The principal reason on which the Minister relied is that there is a lacuna, as he said, in the original Act. Is that any reason for not letting the original Act, if it has worked satisfactorily, to continue working satisfactorily? He said, as a kind of buttressing-up of that argument, that the experience of the Department was in favour of this and he gave as an instance a case that came under his notice. He instanced where there was a contractual relationship between a committee and a member of that committee. The Minister will remember that the particular case within the general case was a different one, namely, where there is a contractual relationship between a man and a council, a county council or a corporation.

Why should that act as a bar to that man being a member of such a body, which is technically only a sub-committee, and perhaps not even a sub-committee of that county council or corporation? The members of the vocational committee are not by any means restricted to members of the county council or a corporation. It is not a sub-committee of the county council or the corporation in that sense. What danger is there, or what harm can there be to public policy, to public decency, in a man, a member of the vocational committee, having contractual relations with an entirely different body, only some of whose members coincide? The Minister ought to consider that point seriously. What I fear is that he is throwing away a certain amount of experience unnecessarily; he is putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of getting a certain type of person whom the local people may consider to be satisfactory.

I think that when he thinks over it the Minister will agree that what he suggests as a remedy is not really a remedy, namely, that we should legislate and, if a person has a grievance, he should go to the courts to find out what we mean. I put it to the Minister, in his capacity as Minister for Education, that it would be better to disqualify from membership as few people as possible, especially as they may have contractual relations, not with the committee, but with the parent body, the county council or the corporation. In any case, I do not see why the Minister would not favourably consider the introduction of an amendment to meet that case, or at least to meet the case of a person who is already a member of a committee, and has been a member for a number of years, and is now struck off, not because he entered into contractual relations with the committee, but because he is in some kind of contractual relationship with the parent body, which is an entirely different body.

I am surprised the Minister does not meet a mild suggestion of that kind in a reasonable manner. The demand is not great. It is in the interests of the committee and the smooth working of the committee that he should accede to a demand of that kind. There is one point upon which I should like information. Can scholarships be given by the committee to those who attend the instruction given by the committee?

Does the Minister realise what he is doing? Under the last two lines of the section he is allowing a person who gets a money benefit from the committee to be a member of that committee and a member of it for a sometimes very controversial purpose, the granting of scholarships, while he will exclude from the membership a man whose contractual relations have nothing to do with the committee. I suggest that between now and the Report Stage the Minister should give favourable consideration to the argument I have put forward and consider the introduction of an amendment along the general or even the restricted lines I have suggested. It does not seem to me to be consistent, to put it no higher, to allow a man to be a member of a committee that may give him a scholarship, but debar a man from being a member who has no relations contractually with the committee. If the Minister wants uniformity, I suggest he is looking for it in the wrong direction. It would not be fair to him to say that he has attempted to put forward a case for this disqualification, apart from the case he referred to, which is not quite germane to the case I am making, namely, a contractual relationship between a member of the committee and the committee.

What is the experience of the Department that convinces him that it is necessary to do this, beyond the fact that some other committees, which I suggest are differently situated from vocational education committees, are subject to similar disqualifications?

I cannot see how the Deputy can argue that there is something special in the case of vocational education committees which distinguishes their case from agricultural committees, let us say. Obviously, in connection with agricultural committees, farmers who may be members are liable to have contractual relationships of the kind the Deputy has referred to—bonuses, premiums and all that kind of thing from the local committee.

The local county council, is it?

The vocational education committee members will not be in any better or worse position if this becomes law than members of other committees of the county council. If it is the position under the law as it stands that the members of committees who have contractual relationships with the primary bodies should be excluded from membership, then I think either the existing law should be changed or we should make this uniform to that extent. No case has really been made by Deputies to show that the existing law should be changed.

The Minister is changing the existing law.

The existing law in general, as applying to local authorities. I explained that I am changing it in connection with the vocational education committees, but we are changing it to make it uniform. That is Deputy O'Sullivan's objection—he dislikes uniformity.

Unless there is a reason for it.

May I remind the Deputy that the only kind of contractual relationship that, generally speaking, will arise is the question of the building of schools. That is the type of case that has come under my notice, and in that case it seems to me that, whether the contractor be a member of the committee or a member of the county council, it is better that he should not be a contractor as well as being a member of either body. If he is to be a building contractor, I do not think he should be a member of either of those bodies. It really only applies to the case of building contractors. I do not know that any other kind of contractual relationship might exist and it is in that connection it came under my notice. If the Deputies think that the law in general in this matter should be amended or changed they should raise the question generally, I suggest, with the Minister for Local Government.

I do not think I have anything further to add except to say that, as the Deputies themselves possibly know, the section will apply to only a very small number of members. In any case, we want to have our position straightened out. We want to know where we stand. It would apply only to a very small number of members, if any, and there is no proof whatever that there is any foundation for the suggestion that excellent members of the vocational education committees who happen to be business men will be excluded from giving their services on these committees. They will simply have to bear the same disabilities as they would if they were members of other committees or local authorities.

The Minister says that the only matter that has come before him as likely to be affected in this way is the question of building. He must be very blind both to the extent of the industrial development which his Government is boasting of as going on in the country, on the one hand, and to the type of technical education we really want to get in the country. I want to ask the Minister if, say, a director of the Westport Thread Factory would be entitled to sit on the Vocational Education Committee in County Mayo, because I take it that, as well as other committees in the country, the Vocational Education Committee in County Mayo gives some instruction in dressmaking and others of these arts to the girls of County Mayo, and will no doubt use the Westport thread. I think I have seen some discussion going on in connection with a mill in Donegal, where application has been made to have certain technical classes for the instruction of mill workers in connection with the development to take place in connection with that mill. If one of the directors or proprietors of that mill is a member of the Donegal Vocational Education Committee, will the flour milled in that mill be excluded entirely from any chance of being used in the cookery classes in the County Donegal?

I think the Minister ought to get clear on some of these questions before he insists in putting this suggestion through. The Minister seems to see no difference between vocational education committee and other local government bodies on the administrative side. I think it has been brought to his notice already that when these vocational education committees were set up, the representatives of local authorities were urged to scour their districts to get the most representative industrialists and commercial people to sit on them and to give the benefit of their practical experience in the manufacturing business and in commerce to the committees directing vocational education there. I think we ought to hear from the Minister whether any facts have been brought to his notice that would dictate that this restriction should be imposed on persons engaged in commerce and industry. If the Minister were able to say that any irregularities of any kind or that any dangers by allowing people to sit on vocational education committees who might have contractual obligations with the committees had been brought to his notice, there might be some case for asking this House to agree to exclude definitely from being in a position to give any advice with regard to vocational education people in commerce and manufacturing who might in any way have contractual obligations with the committee.

It seems strange, too, that the Minister should insist so much on pressing this matter, a matter that not only has been never pressed before, but was deliberately left unattended to, I suggest, at a time when the Local Government Department is slackening on the question of disqualification generally. Deputies have got into their hands in the past few days the Local Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1936, in which provision is expressly made by Section 4 that if a person is elected a member of a local authority and if no proceedings, by way of election petition or in the nature or in lieu of quo warranto, are raised to question the validity of such a person, within one year after the date on which he has been declared elected, the disqualification of such person, if such exists, shall be completely void. So that here we have the Local Government Department contemplating the existence of persons on local authorities at present who may not be qualified, for one reason or another, to sit on such bodies, and making provision, which is proposed to be retrospective in its action as well as affecting future cases, that where 12 months pass and no objection is raised to a person who sits, though unqualified, on a local authority, he shall be regarded as qualified. If the Minister were able to show that there was any danger with regard to the future by having persons connected with vocational education committees likely to have contractual obligations with their committee, we would expect him to give as much consideration to persons who are sitting on vocational education committees at the moment, and who had given, with a perfect statutory right to do so, good service to these committees in advising them with regard to vocational education in the past. We would expect that consideration would be given to these members and that they would be treated with as much consideration as the Minister for Local Government and Public Health now proposes to treat people who are not qualified or who may not be qualified in the strict letter of the law to sit on local bodies of which they are members at the present moment, so as to allow them to continue to sit as members of such bodies simply because twelve months have passed without anybody having raised an objection.

The whole attitude of the Minister seems to be very illogical. There seems to be a blind groping for uniformity in a matter in which I suggest there is no uniformity. If vocational education is going to be directed on lines which are closer to real, necessary industrial work, then we cannot afford to exclude anybody who is likely to be selected by a local authority as a person best suited to advise them in the conduct of vocational education. After all, the Minister has the safeguard that nobody will be selected to sit on these committees unless he is approved by persons in a very representative position in the country.

It is strange how rapidly Ministers, when they come up from the country, forget the surroundings in which they lived before they left the country. The Minister for Education is familiar with rural Ireland, but he says that in extending this Order to apply to vocational education committees it will not apply to anybody but building contractors. Suppose a vocational education committee builds a school, say, in Abbeyleix, and there is in Abbeyleix a shop which is in the possession of a limited liability company, and the chairman of that company is a member of the county council. Is it the Minister's intention that the chairman of that company should be disqualified from sitting on the county council, if the vocational education teacher turns into that shop on her way to school in the morning and buys a handful of pencils, because if this Bill passes that will be the law? Is it his intention that, even if the purchase is made without the knowledge of the chairman of the board of directors and without any ulterior motive on anybody's part, the purchase of six pencils in that shop, on behalf of the vocational education committee—that is, if the teacher makes the purchase on behalf of the committee and the committee pays the bill—should disqualify the chairman of that board of directors from sitting, not only on the committee itself, but on the county council as well? Of course, when Deputies hear that, they can scarcely believe their ears, and the Minister's contribution to their enlightenment is to say: "I do not know what the effect of it will be."

The Minister is charged with the welfare of children and, doubtless, in the course of his duty he has reviewed suitable pastimes for the infant standards. He might also in his own infancy have gone to a Christmas party and seen the hostess there draw a donkey on a blackboard. The children would then be presented with pins and pieces of paper in the shape of a tail. Each guest would be blindfolded and invited to put the tail on the donkey, as nearly as he could. When the tail had been put on, he could take the cloth off his eyes and see how near he came to putting it on the right place. This House is now asked to engage in a legislative game of putting the tail on the donkey, blindfolded. We do not know what the effect of this section is. The Minister does not know and yet we are asked to apply it to vocational education committees at the present time. The Minister speaks as if this question were sprung upon him. Doubtless he has consulted the Department of Local Government and Public Health before bringing in this Bill. The Department of Local Government and Public Health are fully informed of this dilemma. The Department of Local Government and Public Health are familiar with the test case to which I have referred and with the uncertainty of the decision that came from the bench on that occasion. Surely it is rational to ask the Minister, if he proposes to extend this regulation to these committees, to tell the House what it means.

The Deputy should confine himself to the matter before the House, which is the extension, to vocational education committees, of a clause in an Act of 1898 referring to local bodies. The general interpretation of that or any other Act is not a matter for the Minister, nor does the question arise that there may be flaws in such Acts. That can be decided elsewhere. If its amendment is sought, it can be sought on the appropriate occasion from the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. The question now is whether or not it is advisable to apply this section to certain local bodies. To that, if I may say so, Deputy O'Sullivan spoke and put up points which were quite in order. But the amendment of the clause of the 1898 Act or its interpretation, upon which there seems to be a doubt in the courts, cannot be solved here now by the Minister for Education. It is not in order to ask him to solve these doubts or interpret the Act except in so far as it applies to the Vocational Education Bill before us.

That is all I have done. All I have done is to inquire from the Minister if we are applying——

The Chair begs to differ very decidedly from the Deputy in his statement that he did not ask the Minister to interpret our Act.

I now repeat the question and I submit to you, Sir, that it is a perfectly orderly query. I now require the Minister to tell the House, in the event of our applying Article 12 of the Schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898, to vocational education committees, what effect that will have. I think the House is entitled to ask that question before they proceed to enact that section of this Bill. If the Minister is not in a position to tell us what effect it will have, I want to know why. I submit, with great respect, that that inquiry is a relevant inquiry on the Committee Stage of this Bill. I object most strenuously to the Minister strolling in here and asking the House to enact legislation the meaning of which he protests he does not know. I submit respectfully that before he asks this House to legislate by reference, he should either be in a position to give us a very clear and explicit definition of what that legislation by reference is going to mean, or else he ought to come in to legislate de novo and set out in extenso his intentions in regard to vocational education committees. It is none of my choosing that the Minister should legislate by reference. It is quite open to the Minister to legislate de novo in regard to the contractual relationships of members of vocational education committees. He does not do that. He elects to harp back to previous Acts and he does not know what the effect will be on committees in this country. I put it to the Minister that he should not ask us to legislate blindfold. I think the Minister should tell us whether he does not agree with Deputy O'Sullivan that there is a fundamental difference between vocational education committees operating in this country and such bodies as boards of health whose relations are admittedly very much closer to the parent body, the county council.

To my mind, while the primary issue raised by Deputy O'Sullivan is of paramount importance, there is a secondary issue which I now raise. In the event of the Minister disregarding Deputy O'Sullivan's representation, and determining to bring the position of the vocational education committee into line with that of the board of health, surely the duty devolves on him to tell us what effect that is going to have on the committees. He says now he is not in a position to tell us; he does not know. I say he has no right to come before this House and ask us to legislate, when he himself does not know the meaning of the legislation which he is sponsoring.

The Minister, I think, would be well advised, before he passes this particular section, to inquire into its effect. It has been the practice of his Department for almost a quarter of a century to be anxious that builders should act on those vocational committees. The reason why he and his Department were so anxious to get builders to act on vocational education committees in all areas was because the builders employed a large number of the juveniles attending the different classes in building instruction, and it was to the interest of the builders to attend and see that the education was properly carried on. I might say, on the other hand, that the trades have always taken an active interest in it. Both sides, therefore, see that the boys are properly educated. If, say, a builder who is on the sub-committee happens to be, as is commonly the case, a director of a brick company, and if that brick company happens to be supplying bricks to the local authorities, does that disqualify this man who is taking an active interest in technical education? As the Minister knows, builders and their society take a special interest in those classes, and in many cases give prizes to the pupils. I am afraid that in this amending Bill, instead of doing his Department any good or doing educational work any good, the Minister is putting them at a serious disadvantage. I am aware that he does not desire that educational work should suffer in any way through this Act, and I would urge on him that before he takes any step to press this amending legislation he should inquire into its reactions in that direction.

It seems to me to be an extraordinary thing that the Minister cannot make any distinction between vocational education committees and local authorities, such as boards of health, agricultural committees, and so on. After all, boards of health and those other local authorities are simply administering certain Acts as laid down. Vocational education committees are on quite a different plane altogether. They have a very varied and progressive programme. They are advised, of course, that they can go in certain directions; in fact, in any direction as far as education is concerned. To that end they were advised in the beginning, as I pointed out a while ago, to ensure that outside members elected to vocational education committees were people belonging to trades or professions, or generally connected with industrial activities, so that they would be useful in helping to direct vocational education along proper lines. It is an extraordinary thing that the Minister cannot see the difference. He says that in that respect there is no difference between the members of the vocational education committee and the members of an agricultural committee. As far as the members of an agricultural committee are concerned, they are very rarely contracting parties at all. In the case of the vocational education committees the Minister says it could only affect, say, the building of schools. That is not so; that is only just number one. There is the furnishing of schools; there is the supplying of school requisites, heating, lighting, and so on.

The Minister apparently does not at all realise the far-reaching effect that this is going to have upon certain members of vocational education committees. For instance, according to a case decided and on record, this is what would happen, say, in Roscommon. We have a certain industrialist in Roscommon who has started the manufacture of, amongst other things, rainwater goods. We thought he was a most desirable member of the vocational education committee because he gave employment and because he wanted people trained in a particular way. If a contractor for a school buys rainwater goods from this man, this man goes off the committee straight away or he will be penalised according to the law; he cannot supply a contractor.

If the Minister thinks it is advisable to have that state of affairs with regard to vocational education, I suppose we cannot help it, but we are endeavouring to point out to the Minister that there is a distinct difference between vocational education committees and other committees. We want to have on those committees people who have experience in industry, but who will from time to time possibly become contracting parties either to the county council or some other local authorities. As Deputy Good has pointed out, I think the Minister ought to consider very seriously the far-reaching effects of the application of that clause in that uniform way. There is no comparison between the committees which he tries to show the House are analogous. The vocational education committee is different. The Minister ought, first and foremost, to realise that, and to realise that the people who are the most useful members are people who are in the ordinary way having contractual relations with local authorities of various kinds.

There are a few remarks in the last statement made by the Minister which rather alarm me in regard to whether or not full consideration has been given to this matter. Was I right in understanding the Minister to say that very few, if any, cases might arise under this?

Surely the Minister, on consideration, cannot stand over that statement. Mention has been made here by Deputy Good, Deputy Brennan and others about the position of builders. Let me point out that it is not if a builder enters into a contract with the committee that he is disqualified, but he is disqualified if he enters into a contract with the local body. Is there at the moment any builder of importance, when building is one of the principal industries of the State, who has not in some way or other contractual relations with a local body? Take the building of houses under local supervision; take the building of cottages. All those builders are disqualified right through the country, not because they are contractors to the committee but because they are contractors to the parent body. Any person who is in any kind of employee relationship to the county council or the corporation is disqualified. It is not merely the case raised by Deputy Brennan as regards the manufacturer of rainproof goods; no matter what the goods are, if those people supply not the committee but the local body—the county council or the corporation—they are disqualified. At the present time how many industrialists of standing are there in the country, whether they are builders or anybody else, who are not in contractual relationship with the parent body—the corporation or county council? Why, for the sake of mere uniformity—because that is really the only argument brought forward and now appears to be the only leg on which the Minister is standing—you are going to disqualify people, and the most useful people, wholesale, is a thing that passes my comprehension. If there had been a provision in the original Act disqualifying them, I could understand the Minister bringing in an amending provision wiping out the disqualification in his anxiety to allow them to be on the committees; but when the original Act was fortunate enough to have this oversight, why he, as Minister for Education, in order apparently to satisfy some hankering for uniformity on the part of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, should disqualify these people, is, I candidly confess, beyond my comprehension.

The Minister referred to the experience of his Department in this matter and he quoted one case—I think the only case—of a person building a school for a vocational committee. In his next speech, however, he practically indicated that he thought that this would have no effect in practice. It is obvious that it will have a tremendous effect in practice and that it will have an evil effect on the working of the vocational education committees. In view of what has been said both from these benches and from the Independent Benches, I think the Minister ought to consider this whole matter between now and the Report Stage. It is of much wider scope than the Minister or the Department has thought up to the present, judging by the case made by the Minister. This means that you are going to disqualify any industrialist from being a member of a vocational education committee. It is not merely builders who will be disqualified, but any industrialist, although, at the moment, when the Government boasts of so many people being taken into employment, that employment is in the building trade chiefly, and this means that you are going to disqualify all of these people because, with modern building, I doubt if there is any builder of any prominence, or even any small builder, who is not in some contractual relations with local bodies. With the assistance that is given to building by local bodies and with the way in which local bodies themselves take on building, how will you find in any district builders who are not in contractual relations with the councils? I do not think you can, and, after all, builders are given only as an example. What applies to builders will apply all round: and why should you dispense with the people who are already on? There is the general case that I have already stated, and there is the narrow case within that very general case, and I would ask the Minister, purely in the interests of the vocational education committees, to undertake to reconsider this whole matter between now and Report Stage.

I do not think we are getting any wiser as the discussion proceeds, Sir. The position is that under this section we are applying to vocational education committees what is the law with regard to local authorities in general; that is to say, that a person shall be disqualified from being a member of a vocational education committee if

"he is concerned by himself or his partner in any bargain or contract entered into with the council, board or commissioners, or participates by himself or his partner in the profit of any such bargain or contract or of any work done under the authority of the council, or board, or commissioners, and for the purpose of this provision, any bargain or contract with a county council in respect of any public work in a district shall be deemed to be also a bargain or contract with the council of that district."

Now, I am not in a position, Sir, to interpret the law, and I am not going to try to interpret it. The position which Deputies have sought to argue may arise with regard to vocational education committees' members may arise and possibly has arisen in connection with members of other local authorities. If Deputy Good, who has an amount of experience of vocational education committees and who has been himself a very active and energetic member, thinks that there is any point really in this thing, I would suggest to him to put down an amendment for the Report Stage.

The Minister, I think, Sir, ought to finish his sentence. He says that we are doing this and that and leaving out so-and-so. I say that he ought to complete that sentence, and I say that we are doing it completely contrary to what was the attitude and the recommendation in the formation of vocational education committees in the past, and we are doing it without any examination as to what effect this may have on the vocational committees that already exist.

The Minister says that we are not getting any wiser. How can we? The Minister has not given the slightest assistance to the House. I am sorry to have to say that. I never asked the Minister to interpret an Act of Parliament. I asked him to consider the legislation that is going through the Committee Stage here to-day and to consider the effect that that legislation will have on these committees. That is all I asked the Minister to do. It is no good to point out what the effects are—that a man, because he enters into contractual obligations with a council, is disqualified. The Minister proves that by reading out something; but that is my contention. All I ask is that the Minister should consider that this is going to have the effect of disqualifying a large number of people who are at present qualified to sit on these bodies, and I hold that they are a class of people that we certainly should have every desire to see on these committees. I remember when the Bill was going through, the desire was expressed that businessmen, industrialists, builders and various people of that kind should be on committees of this kind. Now, we are going to disqualify them and, possibly, to disqualify them wholesale. The Minister's answer to that is that that is precisely what the Bill means. Well, it is precisely because the Bill means that that we object to it. As I say, I am sorry about the attitude the Minister has taken. It seems to be most unreasonable, and I say that this will damage the committees. Apparently, however, uniformity means more than that.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 56; Níl, 32.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corbet, Edmond.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Donnelly, Eamonn.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • Neilan, Martin.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.

Níl

  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Dolan, James Nicholas.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Reidy, James.
Tellers:—Tá, Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.
Sections 5 and 6 and the Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Report Stage fixed for Wednesday, 25th November, 1936.