Public Assistance Bill, 1939—From the Seanad. - In Committee.

There are seven Seanad amendments to the Public Assistance Bill, all of which I am asking the Dáil to accept. I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:—

New section. Before Section 9 a new section inserted as follows:—

(1) The following provisions shall apply and have effect in relation to every public assistance authority whose public assistance district is in the Dublin area, that is to say:—

(a) notwithstanding anything contained in the Local Government (Dublin) (Amendment) Act, 1931 (No. 25 of 1931), such authority shall consist of such number of persons as the Minister shall from time to time appoint and, in the case of the Dublin Board of Assistance, such persons shall be elected by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of Dublin and the council of the county of Dublin in such proportions as the Minister shall similarly appoint and, in every other case, such person shall be elected by the council of the said county;

(b) those members (if any) of such authority who are elected by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of Dublin shall be members of the City Council for Dublin;

(c) those members of such authority who are elected by the council of the county of Dublin shall be members of such council;

(d) the rules set forth in the Second Schedule to this Act shall apply and have effect in relation to such authority but with the modification that, for the purposes of rule 2 of the said rules, those members of such authority who are to be elected by the council of the county of Dublin shall be elected in the same manner as if they were all additional members within the meaning of that rule, and that the references in rules 11 and 12 to the first meeting shall be construed as referring to the first meeting of such authority after the commencement of this Act;

(e) subject and without prejudice to the rules set forth in the Second Schedule to this Act as applied by the next preceding paragraph of this sub-section, the Minister may by order make regulations in relation to the conduct of the business and the order of proceedings at meetings of such authority, and every such regulation shall have effect according to the tenor thereof;

(f) whenever any difficulty arises in regard to an election of members of such authority or the first meeting of such authority after an election (other than an election to fill a casual vacancy) of all or any of the members of such authority, or by reason of a defect in the constitution of such authority arising in consequence of an election of all or some of the members of such authority not being held or being defective or in consequence of any other matter or thing, the Minister may by order do any thing which appears to him to be necessary or proper to meet or remove such difficulty and in particular, may by such order, if he thinks proper, provide for the holding of an election of all or some of the members of such authority or for the holding of a meeting of such authority.

(2) So much of the Local Government (Dublin) (Amendment) Act, 1931 (No. 25 of 1931), as is inconsistent with the foregoing sub-section of this section and, in particular, so much of that Act as provides for co-opted members of the Dublin Board of Assistance shall cease to have effect.

Amendment No. 1 is intended to bring the constitution, election and procedure of the three boards of health in the Dublin area into line with the other boards provided for in the Bill.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary give us any indication as to why this pretty far-reaching amendment was not included in the original draft of the Bill or before the Bill reached the Seanad from the Dáil —why was not this amendment included at some stage of the procedure before the Bill reached the Seanad?

When extending the provisions of the Bill to the Dublin area it was at first decided to rely on the provisions of the Local Government (Dublin) (Amendment) Act, 1931 as regards the three Dublin boards. One provision of that Act, however, presented a difficulty. Section 13 (1) of the Act provided that:—

"The law relating to the quorum, meetings, proceedings and disqualifications of members of boards of guardians shall apply to the quorum, meetings, proceedings and disqualifications of members of boards of assistance in like manner as it applies to the quorum, meetings, proceedings and disqualifications of members of boards of guardians."

The law relating to the matters referred to in this paragraph was contained either in the Poor Relief Acts, which it was proposed to repeal by this Bill, or in regulations the authority for which was contained in the Poor Relief Acts. It might be held that though the Poor Relief Acts were being repealed, the application of provisions of those Acts by Section 13 of the Act of 1931, above referred to, had the effect of continuing those provisions in force so long as Section 13 remained in force. The contrary might also be held and the amendment is intended to remove any doubts that might arise.

This applies to the Dublin area only?

It relates to the Dublin area only.

Is Cork covered by the Bill?

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 2:—

In Section 15, sub-section (1), page 10, line 3, at the end of the sub-section the words "and a bank or banking company to be the treasurer of such authority" added.

The proposed amendment is intended to provide that each of the three boards in the Dublin area shall appoint a bank or banking company as treasurer. This is a usual provision in relation to such authorities and it was overlooked when the Bill was before the House. It is only a formal matter.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 3:—

Section 16. In sub-section (4), page 10, lines 31 and 32, the words "Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925 (No. 20 of 1925)" deleted and the words "Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1939 (No. 14 of 1939)" substituted therefor.

This amendment is consequential on the passing of the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1939.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 4:—

Section 29. At the end of the section, on page 16, a new sub-section added as follows:—

(3) In the foregoing sub-sections of this section, the word "money" includes money deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank or any other bank and the expression "security for money" includes a deposit book issued by the Post Office Savings Bank to a depositor and also includes a Savings Certificate, and the powers conferred by those sub-sections respectively on a public assistance authority shall include:—

(a) in the case of money in the Post Office Savings Bank, power, on obtaining possession of the deposit book issued in respect thereof by that bank, to withdraw such money or a sufficient portion thereof in accordance with regulations in that behalf made by the Minister for Finance, and

(b) in the case of money in any other bank, power to apply to the District Court for and, if that court so thinks proper, to obtain an order directing such bank to pay such money or a sufficient portion thereof to such public assistance authority, and

(c) in the case of a Savings Certificate, power, on obtaining possession of such certificate, to realise such certificate in accordance with rules in that behalf made by the Minister for Finance.

This amendment is intended to give more effective powers to public assistance authorities to recover debts due by persons with moneys in banks or invested in Savings Certificates.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 5:—

Section 53. In sub-section (1), page 26, in lines 17 and 18 the words "the council of such county acting as" deleted; in line 19 the word "such" deleted and the word "the" substituted therefor; and in line 19 after the word "council" the words "of such county" inserted.

This is a drafting amendment and is consequential on the application of the Bill to the Dublin area.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 6:—

Second Schedule. In rule 4, paragraph (2), page 40, line 32, before the word "assistance" the word "public" inserted.

This is also a drafting amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 7:—

Third Schedule. The reference to the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925 (No. 20 of 1925) deleted and a reference at the end of the Schedule to the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act 1939 (No. 14 of 1939) inserted in lieu thereof.

This amendment is consequential on the passing of the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1939.

Before the Bill leaves the House, one matter requires to be cleared up. Some misunderstanding was created in the public mind by the way in which this Bill was handled in the Dáil and it was suggested that a Bill of this size and substance might have been properly discussed at greater length here. The fact is that, as far as we are aware, this Bill is a codifying Bill, changing very little but putting in shape the whole code of public assistance and it has to be read in conjunction with two other Bills which the Parliamentary Secretary has announced his intention of introducing. The principal criticism made upon the Bill when it was before the House was that it could have been very much more effectively disposed of had it been brought before the House in conjunction with the other two Bills, and we asked the Parliamentary Secretary to hold it over until the two Bills were available. The Bill has since gone to the Seanad where we knew it would receive the attention it was entitled to and the amendment of which it stood in need. It has now come back to this House with seven amendments, none of which is of substance.

The Deputy may not pursue that line as the only matter before the House is amendment No. 7.

Amendment No. 7 is of the same character as the other amendments which have been inserted in the Bill in that it effects no change of substance. In the absence of the other two measures, to attack this Bill without knowing what its ultimate effect is going to be would have been extremely difficult. An opportunity will arise for further discussion on that aspect of the matter on the other two Bills which will affect the corpus of this Bill, retrospectively, and bring the whole scheme into what the House considers the proper arrangement of the administration of poor law in this country.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreement with Seanad amendments reported. Message to be sent to the Seanad accordingly.