Committee on Finance. - Local Government Bill, 1940—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The explanatory memorandum which was circulated to Deputies last June summarised the main provisions of the Bill. I shall only refer now to its more important features. The changes in the extent and nature of the duties of local bodies since 1923 have been very marked and, as events have turned out, it is perhaps as well legislation of a permanent nature was not adopted before the system of local government had taken definite shape. When the County Management Act of this year is brought into operation the administration of the towns and counties, as well as the four larger cities, will then be organised on the same model—the council-manager plan—and it is appropriate when the managerial system is being given effect throughout the country that as many as possible of the old laws should be replaced by new enactments.

The extension of the work of local authorities was accompanied by a large increase in the number of persons engaged in the administration of local services, and one of the main features of this Bill is the provision contained in Part II relating to offices and employments under local bodies. The system of employment of staff which was followed when the duties were of a limited range is not calculated to achieve the best results in prevailing conditions. The Bill contemplates the placing of the conditions of service of local officers on a uniform basis, and the gradual devolution of control of staff to local bodies within the conditions so laid down.

Up to the present there has been no age limit for local officers and it is rare for a local officer to retire until he is well advanced in years or permanently incapacitated. Local bodies have not felt certain of their powers to require an officer who has passed sixty-five years to relinquish office when his capacity for work has seriously diminished. For fifty years compulsory retirement at a fixed age has been the rule in the Civil Service and it is generally felt that a similar condition should apply to the local service. Some men possess full energy of body and mind beyond 65 years and, no doubt, if retirement is enforced at that age, many such exceptions will be pressed. We cannot found a rule on exceptions. Experience has shown that in most cases there is a marked deterioration in efficiency with advancing years. In some employments, owing to the physical nature of the duties, retirement should be earlier than in others. It is not, however, proposed to fix an age for retirement in the Bill, but to let the appropriate Minister fix the limits by classes, grades or descriptions.

The Bill makes provision for the fixing of an inclusive salary for an officer holding one office only and also for an officer who holds two or more offices as, for example, in an urban district, the position of town clerk, executive sanitary officer and clerk of the burial board. Effect will be given to the system of inclusive salaries as the circumstances permit. The Bill provides reasonable safeguards against any tendency to arbitrary and unjust action against local officers. Formerly many offices were held at the pleasure of the local authority, but that position was modified and the consent of the central authority has been required to the removal of almost every officer.

With regard to the exercise of the power of removal, a matter which was discussed on the County Management Bill, I would like to make it clear that no local officer is removable without being given an opportunity to answer any charges against him. The holding of local inquiries for that purpose is not necessary, and in fact in some cases it would be undesirable to do so. A local officer may be permanently incapacitated by illness medically certified, and unable to tender his resignation. A case may arise where an officer may have been tried and convicted of an offence, such as misappropriation of public funds, and be held in custody. In any such cases a formal local inquiry as to fitness to retain office would be quite unnecessary. The Bill provides all reasonable safeguards against arbitrary action against officers. Section 10 gives a right of appeal to officers who are aggrieved by decisions in relation to their remuneration, duties or conditions of service.

Under the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926, the prescribing of qualifications for specified offices rested with the Local Appointments Commission with the concurrence of the Minister. The appropriate Minister will in future prescribe qualifications after consultation with the commissioners. The only section of the Act of 1926 which it is proposed to repeal is Section 11, relating to the suspension of officers and servants. Section 27 of the present Bill has been substituted for it.

Part III. of the Bill deals with the constitution of local authorities. In 1925, on the abolition of the rural district councils and the establishment of boards of health, the membership of the county councils was increased. With the transfer of executive functions to a county manager it is proposed to effect some reduction in present membership. It is not practicable to fix a general formula for determining the number of members of a county council. Any such formula would give strange results, if applied to Carlow and Cork counties equally. It is desirable that a county council, no matter how small the county and the number of its inhabitants, should consist of a minimum of 20 members. It will be possible, within the limit of the reduction of the total membership proposed in the Bill to keep a fairly standard ratio between population and membership, and at the same time preserve the representative character of the council, since it will be elected by county electoral areas. Within a county the ratio between population of each county electoral area and the number of members to be returned therefor will be as far as practicable the same.

From an examination of the last Census figures it is unlikely that any general alteration of the existing county electoral areas as fixed in 1925 will be found necessary. Where the population of any particular electoral area has fallen substantially since 1926 the number of members may be reduced by more than one for that area, but generally the reduction may be taken as one member for each county electoral area. There will be not less than three members for any electoral area. Provision is made in Section 34 for the making of a fresh division of the county into county electoral areas. Any general alteration of existing county electoral areas is not contemplated, and only such changes will be made as are essential to keep the representation of the areas equal within the county. In urban districts the numbers of members of the several councils will be reduced by approximately one-half, but not so as to cause the number to be less than nine. The provisions of the Bill in regard to a reduction in membership do not extend to any of the four county boroughs, or to the boroughs of Dun Laoghaire or Galway.

The provisions of Section 41 regulating the procedure at the election of lord mayor, mayor, or chairman of a local body are designed to overcome deadlocks such as have occurred on a few occasions at annual meetings. Part IV. is in substitution for the present law enabling local authorities to be dissolved. Under the new provisions only the members are removed while the legal continuity of the corporate body is preserved. No other important change is made. The purpose of Section 56 in Part V. is to disqualify rate defaulters for membership of local authorities. The provisions of Section 60 with regard to the rating of divided hereditaments are intended to meet the case of divided holdings which do not appear as divided on the valuation list.

The provisions of Part VI. confer borrowing powers upon the public assistance authorities similar to those exercised by boards of guardians under the Local Government Act, 1898. Part VII. deals with the audit of the accounts of local authorities, the fixing of fees for such audits, and clarifies the law with respect to the recovery of surcharges. It is proposed to introduce a yearly period of account and audit as the normal period, while leaving it open to the Minister in special cases to provide for a half-yearly period. This change is made on the ground of administrative convenience.

Since this Bill was introduced at the end of last May there has been a notable development of voluntary local councils, or parish councils, as they are called. In July it was considered advisable, in view of the emergency, to invite the people in every parish to set up a body to deal with problems that might arise in the parish and to make the necessary preparations. The response to the invitation was immediate and widespread and in every county parish councils were set up. Other bodies had come into being, and in August, in order to clarify the position of these councils in relation to the Red Cross, the Local Security Force and A.R.P. Services, a circular letter was addressed to the secretaries of county councils indicating the activities which were appropriate to each of these bodies during the emergency period.

These local councils have no formal connection with existing statutory bodies, but that does not mean that they cannot help statutory bodies in carrying out their functions. When the Public Assistance Act of last year was under discussion in this House it was pointed out that the public assistance authority could, in the administration of public assistance, set up committees to perform duties in connection with their functions in any locality. It will be a great advantage to the statutory body to have at hand councils that can be consulted and whose local knowledge will be of advantage in dealing with local questions. But this, of course, is merely one field in which parish councils will probably fulfil a useful function in future. If there is a genuine desire of the people in a parish to get together in promoting their social betterment I think a parish council cannot fail to be of great advantage to a locality, particularly in rural areas. They will accustom people to acting in co-operation in what concerns the community as a whole, and if they are active they will find that there is much pioneer work to be done which voluntary bodies can more appropriately undertake than statutory bodies.

The last part of the Bill has been fully covered by explanatory memorandum. As stated in that memorandum, it is intended to bring the Bill, when it becomes law, into operation at the same time as the Public Assistance Act, 1939, and the County Management Act, 1940.

Mr. Brennan

This is a very important measure, involving the repeal of five whole Acts and the repeal of parts of thirteen, and it seems to me a great pity that such an important measure as this should be brought before the Assembly under the existing circumstances. After all, I think the Minister gave us to understand at one time that he could not foresee the advisability of having an election during the war, and if that is true I do not see how he is going to put any of these Acts into operation without an election.

I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy, but I understand that there was a consultation with the members of the Opposition and that they agreed that this measure should be taken.

Mr. Brennan

I am not objecting to the Bill, but in my opinion it is very inadvisable. Like every other person who is interested in local government, I think we should not now have our minds distracted by such proposals. At a time when institutions are crashing all around us, it is very hard to sit down to try to figure out the type of permanent machine that we want for local government. Emergencies of various sorts arise from day to day, of the nature of which the Minister is perfectly well aware, and orders have to be made that would not be made in ordinary times. I repeat that no matter how well-intentioned we are we cannot have that detachment from existing circumstances that a Bill of this kind requires. Consequently, I am afraid there will be shortcomings, and that in a permanent measure of this sort, designed for normal times, we will find many drawbacks when we endeavour to put it into operation. I read the Bill some time ago, and I must say that I forgot what was in it, but after studying it last night, I am inclined to feel that the spirit behind it is not the spirit that I should like to see in it. We passed the County Management Act, and I supported it because I felt it was better to have local government managed by trained and efficient people, who had no other work to do. I thought they would do it more effectively than ordinary members of a county council or other local authorities.

I am afraid this new Bill really takes away from local authorities whatever little power we left them in the Managerial Act. My feeling about that Act was that a manager would be of great assistance to local authorities and that these bodies would be of great assistance by giving him the local knowledge and colour necessary for the administration of their districts. It is not very easy to follow a Bill of this kind which repeals five other Acts. Nevertheless, it appears to me that anything that was forgotten in the Managerial Act and that was not extended to the manager has been taken on in this Bill by the Local Government Department, and that there will be very little, if any, local colour or knowledge. One might reasonably come to the conclusion that an efficient headquarters machine would get better work done through the managerial system. As a matter of fact, many people think that the Local Government Department is not at all that efficient machine that it should be. For the delays that have occurred in carrying out various schemes that were necessary through the country, nine times out of ten the fault lay with the Department and not with the local authorities.

In this Bill we are taking over details of local administration and handing them to the Minister for Local Government. In fact, we are taking over small details and taking what ought to be the local atmosphere and putting it on to the machine at headquarters. As it is a very sluggish machine, we are consequently further impeding that machine in the giving of decisions. There was a feeling amongst certain people that it was necessary to take the administration of local affairs from local authorities. Although I supported the managerial system that was never my view. What I felt we were going to do in the managerial system was to manage the machine more effectively and more efficiently than had been the case previously, because it had become hopelessly overloaded, particularly with regard to county boards of health. We are now changing the machine. It will not be the same machine at all. Anybody who thought that sluggishness in administration was due to the action of local authorities, more than to the Department, the sooner they disabuse their minds in that respect the better. Such is not the case. Any Deputy who has any connection with local government knows as well as the Department the delays that are occasioned by not having sanction sent down for the carrying out of various activities by local bodies. It was always a puzzle to me why some more efficient method could not be adopted by the Department for dealing with such matters.

For instance, if a county council had an efficient engineer he should be able to lay out plans for a row of labourers' cottages and for the laying down of sewerage and water. The reputation of such a man is at stake in seeing that the work is properly done. Notwithstanding that, I know an instance where the building of cottages that were absolutely necessary was held up for over 12 months because some engineering inspector, whose qualifications I do not know, came to the conclusion that the cottages instead of being south south-west should be east south-east. Local engineers should know their job better than Dublin men for such work. It is not a question between two engineers, but waiting for a decision that makes the difference. There is no use in thinking that this Bill plus the Managerial Act, plus the Public Assistance Act, is going to give us efficient local government unless the headquarters machine is put on a better basis.

I do not want to repeat what I said on another occasion about what I regard as a shocking scandal, and that is the hospitalisation scheme, the manner in which the Department has dealt with it, with the plans that were sent in and the delays that occurred from time to time.

My only point in putting this matter at the moment is not to pillory local government but simply to tell the House that this Bill, plus the Managerial Bill, plus the Public Assistance Bill, is not going to give you an efficient machine unless we get it right at the top. Further, I do not know exactly whether it was present in the Minister's mind or whether it was present in the minds of the people who drafted this Bill, that they wanted, to some extent, to pillory local authorities by bringing in these Bills in the manner in which they brought them in, to try to show that the backwardness of local administration in the country was due to the failure of the local authorities.

I may mention one matter which is here in the Bill—the section relating to members of public bodies who have not paid their rates—Section 56. I have no sympathy whatever with those people; they ought not be representatives of the people if they have not paid their rates. I do not know to what extent that has happened, but it appears to me that we are rather attaching undue importance to it when we devote two or three sections of that Bill to the disqualification, as members of local authorities, of people who have not paid their rates. One would imagine from that, that that is rampant all over the country, and that members of local authorities generally were taking advantage of their position and not paying their rates. I would like the Minister to be able to tell the House to what extent that exists at all—if at all. Under the new Managerial Bill, the members of local authorities have been shorn of any possibility of being corrupt, if they were inclined to be so. Probably there will be no desire on the part of any person to continue as a member of a local authority, whether he is liable to disqualification as a person who has not paid his rates, or otherwise. What we need to be careful about—and what I am afraid has been lost sight of by the Department of Local Government—is that we must leave some initiative to the people down the country.

You voted against that the last time.

Mr. Brennan

That is a different matter. I voted for the Managerial Bill, and I would do the same tomorrow.

It kills all that initiative.

Mr. Brennan

I voted for the Managerial Bill to work a machine; now we are altering the machine altogether— that is the difference. Under this Bill I cannot see any initiative left to any local authority at all. Whatever there was, and whatever remained after we had passed the Managerial Bill, has been taken on by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. As I said a while ago, that Department has already been overloaded, at least as far as dealing with urgent matters is concerned; we have had delays and, if they have got to deal with the details of the various matters that arise under this Bill, I am afraid we will be much worse off. The Minister said that, while this Bill did in certain circumstances interfere with the tenure of office of officials, at the same time it gave more security in certain ways, that very often officers down the country held their office at the pleasure of the local authority. I wonder if the Minister, having made that statement, would now throw his mind back and try if he can find any occasion on which a local authority treated its official as badly as his predecessor in office treated his official. Personally, I would much prefer to be in the hands of the local authority, from the experience we had here some time ago, than under the Minister, or under any Minister.

The tenure of office and the security which an official had under local government were, to my mind, very secure, as the local authority could not deprive him of his office without the consent of the Minister. Now we have here a section whereby the Minister himself can do that and, as far as the Bill is concerned, he need not state any reason for it. Under Sections 24 and 25, he can deprive an officer of his office or compel him to resign. The Minister said that an official always will get an opportunity to defend himself, but it is not set out here that he is going to get that opportunity. Section 24 gives a Minister power where, on account of any alteration, whether it has already occurred, or is in contemplation, in the conditions of service, he could ask the holder to resign from office. Further, Section 25 empowers the Minister, where he deems the holder of an office to be unfit for or incompetent to discharge the duties of such office, to remove such person from that office.

There is no security there either. If the officials of local authorities were here this evening and heard the Minister say, rather pityingly, that they were at one time holding office at the pleasure of the local authorities, I wonder how they would take it Probably, they would all vote for being left under the local authorities rather than be put under the Minister.

In one section of the Bill, the Minister proposes to reduce the number of members of a local authority, but he has not given any good reason for that. Personally, I am glad that he has not—as was threatened at one time—used the axe more violently and reduced the councils further, but I do not see any point in reducing them at all. We are going to have a county manager, supposed to be an efficient person who will sit down from Monday morning to Saturday night doing the business, and who is expected to know the business from A to Z. Is it in order to prevent him from being embarrassed that we say: "Instead of your having 30 members, we will give you 20; there will be less embarrassment to you in carrying out the managerial business"? It must be remembered that every member at the present time is doing something for his own locality. He has the local colour and the local knowledge and he knows the people in that locality. Would it be any disadvantage, either to local government or to the manager or to administration, that you should still continue the number of members of the local authority as at the present time? I cannot see that it would.

It does not matter as they will have no say.

Mr. Brennan

They are, as I have said, feeling the need in their own districts. It is very hard to discuss this Bill, the managerial measure and the public assistance measure, because they are interlocked, and to bring your mind to bear on the three of them. My recollection of the Public Assistance Act is that it made provision for quite a large number of subcommittees to do public assistance work. That, I think, was a very good idea, because you ought not to remove the human element, particularly where you are dealing with public assistance of any kind, whether it be charitable or otherwise. If we are going to have a large number of public assistance committees, would it not be more useful to continue the existing number of county councils and let them, since they had been elected, form part at least of the membership of those public assistance committees? I do not see any point in reducing the number of county councils, and I do not know why it is being done. If there was not a county manager, the argument might reasonably be put up that the county council was so unwieldy that it was very hard to get business done with, say, 40 members instead of 25. But that has disappeared. Why we should now want to reduce the number of members, instead of leaving them there and utilising them in other respects where we want to have representative people, I do not know. I cannot understand why the Minister has suggested that. He has also suggested that the electoral areas may be changed. That may be necessary to a certain extent. If it is necessary it is to be welcomed.

There were many things which needed to be done, and I am glad they have been included in this Bill. The Minister referred to some of them. There was the question of the election of a mayor in connection with which the members of some bodies drove themselves into a kind of cul-de-sac. They put themselves into a position which they could not get out of. I am glad the Minister has dealt with that, so that we cannot have anything of that kind happening again. But I do not know why the Minister should go out of his way to do other things, such, for instance, as to reduce the number of members. To my mind that is not a sensible thing to do.

There are other features of the Bill which have worried me to some extent. For instance, under Section 57, and under some other sections, the Minister is putting himself outside the law. I think that is a very bad precedent to establish. If I owe money to some one on some account, and if that person owes me money on some other account, I am not entitled to hold his money against the sum that he owes me. I must recover the money he owes me, if I can do it. That is the existing law, but in this Bill the Minister is putting himself completely outside that. He has suggested that if some money is owing to a local authority by a particular person, and if the local authority owes money to that person on some account or other, the local authority can withhold the amount that person owes it and apply it to their own purposes. That is putting the Minister and the local authority outside the law, and is, I think, establishing a very bad precedent.

In Section 58, and in some other sections, there are some matters which to my mind are a completely new departure in local government. Perhaps I am reading something into the section that is not in it. Sub-section (2) of Section 58 says that: "Where the person liable to pay a sum for rates for which demand has been duly made does not pay such sum within six days after the making of such demand" the rate collector can distrain under his warrant. The procedure, as I remember it, was that a demand was made for rates in the ordinary way and that there was then what was known as a six days' notice served. After the serving of that six days' notice, the rate collector was entitled to go in and distrain. The wording in this sub-section is: "Where the person liable to pay a sum for rates for which demand has been made"—it does not say "demand by a six days' notice". The custom in our county at least is that, after the rate is made on the 31st March for the following year, and as soon as the warrants are ready and signed on behalf of the county council, the warrants are handed over to the rate collectors with the rate books. The rate demand notes are prepared at the same time and sent out to the ratepayers. Am I to assume that if I get a demand note in the month of August, the rate collector, without giving me any further indication, can come in and seize stock behind my back? That appears to me to be the interpretation that one must put upon it, because the sub-section does not say that the demand is to be made by a six-days' notice or by any special notice. I say it is manifestly unfair if that is to be the procedure under the Bill. The Minister is ensuring that between himself and the manager and the local authorities they are going to do just what they like with the ratepayers. Perhaps I am wrong about that six days' notice.

Further, in connection with this section, not alone can the rate collector seize my goods without giving me any special notice, but they can be sold by public auction in any place whatsoever which the rate collector concerned thinks proper. They may be removed to such place for the purpose of such sale, and it need not be a pound. I think that is a completely new departure. That has not been the practice.

The Minister seemed to indicate in his introductory speech that this was an innocuous measure: that its purpose was to co-ordinate a number of other measures, but since we are putting into it such things as I have called attention to, I think it is very unfair. Under sub-section (8) of Section 58 it is provided: "Nothing done under and in accordance with this section shall be questioned on the ground that it is not done under or in accordance with any other enactment." Therefore I submit to the House that this section, as drafted, is clearly outside the existing law, and that we are going to have a new law with regard to distress and distraint. I think it necessary that some arrangement should be made whereby local authorities might be put in a position, as the Minister pointed out, to deal with ratings that had been divided. The Bill sets out:

"(a) such local authority shall apportion, in such manner as they consider reasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case, under the Valuation Acts..."

And then further down in the section:

"Whenever a local authority apportion a valuation under this section, they shall give notice of the apportionment..."

Is the Minister satisfied that local authorities have any persons qualified to make an apportionment of rates? Apportionment of ratings is made generally by the Valuation Office and I think the apportionment of Land Commission inspectors is accepted, but I do not know that county councils have any qualified people to make an apportionment of rates.

With regard to borrowing powers, I think it was the Unemployment Bill which was before the House some time ago which set out that any moneys borrowed for the purpose of relieving unemployment were not to be regarded as moneys borrowed by the local authority. That was in relation to the computing of local indebtedness and we have that coming up here again in Section 62, which says:

"(b) there shall not be reckoned any sum borrowed by such local authority for the purpose of defraying the expenses of any work in respect of which the Minister has, on the application of such local authority, certified that it is primarily work for the relief of unemployment."

My objection in this regard is not to work for the relief of unemployment but to presenting a picture to the public which is not a true picture. If a local authority has debts, they ought to be shown on the face of the document relating to public authorities' debts, and they ought to be shown truly. This idea of saying that anything they borrow for the purpose of the relief of unemployment is not to appear as a public debt is not fair. If assets of a certain type were being created which would probably be remunerative at some future date, or which were the ordinary assets of housing, I could understand such a provision, but here the proposal is that any sum borrowed for this purpose—it does not say any particular kind of work—for the relief of unemployment is not to be entered as a debt of a local authority. I do not think that is fair.

There are a number of sections, from 69 to 72, dealing with the establishment of approved local councils. To my mind, these sections and this part of the Bill are so loosely put together that you could get any kind of council, board or authority—let it be a political club—accepted and acknowledged as an approved local council. Perhaps the Minister intends to set out by regulation how an approved local council would be elected and what would be the boundaries of an approved local council, whether it would be a parish council, whether it would be elected, and whether it would be nominated. If it is to be elected, is it a desirable thing to have councils of that type elected, because there are countries— Russia, for instance—which have had recourse to that kind of thing, and the results have not been good at all? They have, in fact, been otherwise. You would have there an elected cell or unit which claimed authority and which might possibly become a thorn. However, the Minister is probably going to set out by regulation how these councils are to be formed.

I would very much appreciate the assistance of local advice in matters relating to local government and local work generally. What I very often feel is not so much that we ought to be advised on what is to be done in a particular place as that people ought to be advised and ought to know exactly what is going on in the local council, because, very often, they have the foggiest of foggy ideas and think that things can and ought to be done in respect of which they would be enlightened if any of them were in a position to get information or would take information. Consequently there would be a help in both ways—the council would be able to help them and they could help the council.

There is, of course, another danger— the danger of parochialism. Parish councils have been established in this country, and I am not now referring to councils established as an emergency measure. They can do quite a lot as emergency bodies and if the occasion arises—I hope it will not—I am sure that they, or some of them, will give a very good account of themselves. Other parish councils, however, were established before these, and I think that so far as they have gone they are not in favour of councils of the type for which I think we are making provision here. I know that some people are very chary about having a parish council at all. They think that it will lead to what is commonly called the parochial pump view of things. We had district councils and boards of guardians and we got rid of them. We are now going back again and it is probably a good move. I am certainly not against it, but one thing upon which I should certainly insist is that a local authority should not be empowered to delegate to such a council such matters as the institution of legal proceedings, in respect of which the Minister here gives them authority. I think it would be an appalling mistake to give them authority in respect of the institution of legal proceedings for which the county council, and not the parish council, would pay. I think this has been drafted very loosely, but perhaps the Minister intends to follow it up with regulations. If he does, we shall see where we are.

There is another matter relating to joint medical hospitals. Section 75 sets out:

"The powers, functions and duties in relation to the hospital of the local authorities concerned shall be exercised and performed by such local authorities through a joint committee of such local authorities."

I remember battling with the Minister here for quite a long time with regard to committees of mental hospitals in the Managerial Bill. They were reduced in the Managerial Bill to a visiting committee and they still remain a visiting committee. They have certain powers of entry into a mental hospital and they can interview patients.

I do not think that that is the position in the case of joint committees.

Mr. Brennan

It is. I read it up to-day to refresh my memory. They have other powers but, generally, they have the right to report back to the people who appointed them on what repairs are needed in the place and what way patients are treated. But they cannot report anything that relates to the officials, because they have no authority to do so. I do not think it is fair, therefore, to say here that the duties, in relation to the hospital, of the local authorities concerned, shall be exercised and performed by such local authorities through a joint committee. That will not be so. The powers, functions and duties are to be put in the hands of the manager.

Nobody else will have those powers and there is no use in pretending that we are handing back something we took away from the local authorities. We are not. A joint mental hospital committee has very little powers. It would be better for us to say that and have no pretence about it. The Minister says that such committees will be appointed each year. I do not know whether that has been the practice or not. I thought that, after their election, county councillors appointed their committees for the life of the council. If that was so, I do not think there is any good reason for departing from it.

As the Minister said to-day, this is really a Bill for Committee Stage. When I read it first, I thought that it was a machinery Bill and that there was not much more in it. The more I read it—I may have been getting more muddled or I may have been getting clearer about it—the less I liked it. There are quite a lot of innovations in it. The Minister went out of his way to make certain that he was taking to himself powers which he already had, so that the local authority would be under no misapprehension that they could exercise these powers. The Minister said that, in respect of qualifications for certain offices, he would consult with the Local Appointments Commission. I wonder if that is wise. I could understand the Minister consulting with the Local Appointments Commission as to the qualifications of a candidate, but the question of the qualifications necessary for a position is quite a different matter. I think that the local council or the manager would know the local circumstances better than the Local Appointments Commission. After all, the Local Appointments Commissioners live in Dublin and, possibly, know little about circumstances in the country. We appear to be passing over the elected representatives completely. We have already shorn them of most of their authority. I was agreeable to doing that because I thought the work was becoming too much for them, that it was not fair to ask members of a board of health to come into town every second Saturday and endeavour to solve 60 or 70 problems. They could not do it. Now, we are altering the whole machine. If we are altering it for the better, well and good, but I am not satisfied that we are.

I am afraid that running through the Bill is the idea that the Local Government Department, plus the managers, are to run the country and that the Minister wants to put himself and the local authority, who is the manager, outside the law in certain matters. I do not think that that is good enough, but the present time is a bad time for considering a Bill of this sort. I should rather have it considered in a different atmosphere, because what degree of permanency there is for the Bill or for this House is very problematical. We do not know where we are, having regard to world conditions, and it is very hard to visualise the things which it is necessary to put into a permanent measure of this kind.

Parts of this Bill are definitely good and parts are definitely bad. Anybody connected with the administration of local government or with the interpretation of local government law realises that it is high time there was a certain measure of codification of local government law. To the extent that this Bill is an attempt to codify the law, it is welcome. A number of parts of it, however, introduce new features which will be more properly discussable on the Committee Stage. I intend to refer only to one matter in the Bill which, I think, should be referred to at the earliest stage. Deputy Brennan has referred to portion of the section in question. It is the section which deals with the principles under which a rate collector is entitled to recover rates. When I read that section I wondered if the Minister realised the full implications of it, and the extreme power that is given to the rate collector. In my own mind I have dubbed that section "the battering ram section", because that is in effect what it is. Deputy Brennan referred to the sub-section of Section 58 under which, at the expiration of six days, the rate collector is entitled to seize the property of the defaulting ratepayer, without the service of any preliminary notice or other safeguards which exist at the present time. But there is a further sub-section, and I wonder is the Minister serious, or does he appreciate the effect of that sub-section. I refer to sub-section (3). The only reason I mention it at this stage and not on the Committee Stage is that I think the House should be in a position to appreciate the seriousness of it. By sub-section (3) of Section 58 the rate collector is entitled, after the lapse of six days, to come along in the daytime and break into the house of the ratepayer. That is my interpretation of the effect of that sub-section. Not only is he entitled to do that, but he is entitled to go to the Civic Guards and order them to come out and assist him in doing so. I wonder does the Minister appreciate the seriousness of giving to a rate collector the right to march down to the Civic Guard barrack and order them to assist him in breaking into the house of a ratepayer if he finds that house closed. I will read for the Minister the particular sub-section in question, and I think he will appreciate my point: "For the purposes of a levy by distress under this section, a rate collector may break open in the daytime any house or premises to which he has been refused admission or to which he is unable to gain admission by any other lawful means." My interpretation of that is that the rate collector would be entitled to say: "Six days have elapsed; the rates have not been paid; there is nobody at home, so I can break my way in and there will be no action for trespass or unlawful entry as there would be under any other circumstances."

Under the next sub-section the rate collector can arrogate to himself the functions of the head of the Civic Guards or of the Minister for Justice. It says: "A rate collector may require a member of the Gárda Síochána to assist him in the exercise of his powers under this section and such member shall comply with such requirements." I do not think that in any country in the world living under a democratic system such powers would be given to any individual without any safeguards of any kind. It is doubly serious by reason of the fact that the safeguards which did exist previously with regard to the things that had to be done before the rates could be levied by distress are done away with under this Bill. I think possibly the Minister did not realise the serious powers he was giving to the rate collector under this particular section. The words of the section are so explicit that it is clearly not intended to get away from the position at all, because in the sub-section in question, under which the Guards can be ordered to come in to assist the rate collector, the words are used: "To assist him in the exercise of his powers under this section". It amounts to this, that if the ratepayer has not paid his rates within six days after the demand is made, and if he goes out and leaves his house empty, the rate collector is entitled to commandeer the Civic Guards to assist him in battering his way into that house. I do not think the Minister intends that to be the law in future under this Bill. I mention it at this stage because I think it is a serious matter which the House ought to consider.

If it would help, I might mention—if it is not clear from the section—that notice has to be served. That can be made clear on the Committee Stage. There is no intention whatever of distraining without proper notice being served on the person either by registered post or by personal service. I will provide for that on the Committee Stage.

That does not get rid of what I think is a reasonable objection—an objection to giving to the rate collector the power to go into a man's house, and the power to commandeer the services of the Civic Guards to assist him in using that power. That objection has not been got rid of. It may be that the Minister had in mind only cases where admission was refused, but there are two cases envisaged here; first of all, where admission is refused, and secondly, where he is unable to gain admission by any other lawful means. The Minister appreciates what I mean?

He can force his way in either because the occupant of the house refuses admission or because the occupant is not at home. If the Minister intends that to be part of the law of the land, I think it is a terrific infringement on the rights of the subject, and, in so far as that section of the Bill is concerned, I think it is something to which this House should not consent.

I will look into that matter before the Committee Stage. I have no desire to do what the Deputy has in mind.

I agree with Deputy Brennan that this is a rather inopportune time to consider a far-reaching measure of this kind. This is not a time when people in general can lay down their minds to the consideration of permanent machinery for local government. However, as the Bill is before the House, a responsibility rests upon every member of the House to give it serious consideration. To my mind it is an objectionable Bill, inasmuch as, taken in conjunction with the other legislation which has been passed, it tends more and more to restrict the powers of the locally elected representatives of the people, and the net result of that restriction in the powers of the local representatives of the people is to deprive the people of all interest in the election of local representatives, and in the administration of local affairs generally. If we were certain that it was possible or probable under this Bill that we would secure more efficient local government, there might be something to be said in favour of the measure, but as far as our experience of the central authority goes—and that will be the authority administering local affairs under this legislation—we have no evidence that local affairs will be administered efficiently.

We have, on the other hand, a tendency on the part of the Local Government Department to impede and obstruct progressive local effort. I might mention an incident which will illustrate this point. Recently an order was made that certain officials should be sent up to Dublin for instruction in fire-training. The Department's regulation, I think, was that those sent up should be officials of the local department. However, it was found in one particular county that there was a member of the local fire brigade who had 30 years' experience of fire work, who was thoroughly efficient, and who would, if given instructions, be in a better position to instruct the other people in the county. However, when the local authority on their own initiative appointed that man the appointment was turned down. When they asked the Department, in view of the circumstances, to reconsider their decision, there was a flat refusal to do so.

That is the attitude which has been repeatedly taken up by the Department of Local Government towards local councils, and it is an attitude which has killed all spirit of initiative on the part of local bodies. The result is that county members of the local authorities are beginning to take less and less interest in their work, and to leave that work more and more to their local officials, because they find that when they make any attempt to do anything on their own initiative, something which they consider to be wise and prudent, the Department of Local Government is always ready to impede them.

From the ordinary citizen's point of view, the most important consideration in relation to this Bill is that it deprives the ordinary citizen of effective control over local administration, and thereby deprives him of effective control over local expenditure. The people of this country have always demanded that there should be no taxation without representation. In this legislation direct taxation will be continued on the local ratepayers, but effective control by the people's representatives is being abolished. I believe that the citizens of this country would be prepared to accept this measure if it was embodied in this legislation that the financing of all local government should be in the hands of the central authority since the central authority has taken such complete control over administration. Such provision, however, is not contained either in this Bill or in the other legislation which it is implementing.

I do not know whether it would be possible to amend this Bill even to such an extent as to place some statutory limit on the amount of expenditure which a local authority or rather, the local manager acting for the local authority, might incur. The most alarming feature in connection with local government has been the progressive rise in local rates. I asked a question here in this House some time ago regarding the rates in one particular county, and the Minister, with a discourtesy which is not characteristic of the Minister or his colleagues, declined to give the information, but suggested I should consult a number of official reports, which I declined to do, but I applied to the secretary of the local authority who very courteously supplied the information. The information shows that since 1931 rates have progressively increased in County Wicklow from 7s. 11d. in 1931 to 12s. 5d. in 1940.

There you have a position in which rates steadily and progressively increased and, as far as the ratepayers are concerned and as far as the local people in each county are concerned, they have no control whatever over that expenditure. It is now placed in the hands of a manager. The local representatives are allowed to co-operate with him if they wish and if they do not they can be dispensed with. That is the position to which local government has come.

In order, perhaps, to lull the people into some sense of security, we are offered something vague and uncertain in the line of local councils or parish councils. I do not believe that the section of this Bill which purports to recognise local parish councils is desirable or should be approved by this House. If we are to have parish councils they ought to be councils elected by the people under some definite system of election, that is to say, if we are to have councils with definite legal powers. The idea of giving official recognition and delegating official powers to a voluntary body is altogether undesirable. I am a member of a local council which steadfastly refused to make any contribution towards the Tourist Association, not because they considered that the Tourist Association was not deserving of support, but on the principle that they considered that it was not right that a county council should subscribe the people's money to a voluntary association. The members of that particular local body felt that if any member of the county council wished to make a subscription to a voluntary association he was at liberty to do so, but he had no right to subscribe the ordinary ratepayers' money. I think the same applies to a voluntary parish association. The representatives of the ratepayers have no right to make a subscription to such a voluntary local body. In addition, it is undesirable that definite legal functions should be delegated to such a body because we have no means of discovering how that body will be elected or whether it will be representative at all or not. At the present time it might be possible to get very representative local bodies set up in a voluntary manner, but we have to look to the future and I do not think it is a good principle to embody in legislation that such bodies should have definite legal functions.

I believe that it is desirable that you should have in each district a local organisation which would encourage an interest in civic affairs and encourage co-operation by the citizens of the State with the various Departments of the State, but such an organisation should be purely voluntary and should not be financed by or bound up in any way with the machinery of the State. Therefore, I think the provisions in this Bill for the delegation of local government powers to parish councils or local councils, as they are called, is altogether undesirable.

We have in this Bill a small economy, or alleged economy, in the reduction of the number of county councillors. I cannot for the life of me see any reason whatever for the reduction in the number of county councillors. I agree that county councillors have very little power at the present time, but unless you propose to abolish county councils altogether it is better to leave them at least as representative as they are because at the present time you have practically every district in each county represented on the county councils and a reduction in the number of county councillors would only tend to leave certain districts without the representation which they have at the present time, which would be most undesirable and would tend even more, in addition to all the other provisions in this Bill and in the other Bills accompanying it, to kill interest in local affairs on the part of the citizens of the State.

There is just one other matter, and that is in connection with the powers of seizure for local rates which are included in this Bill. I have never been able to understand how any Government or Parliament could justify the seizure of one citizen's property for the debt of another citizen. Under the provisions of this Bill a rate collector can enter upon any farmer's land and seize stock thereon, although he knows the stock is the property of some other person. Such a procedure is altogether immoral and unjust and such provisions should not under any circumstances be included in our legislation.

Would he seize the sheriff's cattle if they were grazing on other people's lands?

It is possible that the sheriff's property could be so seized, but under no circumstances would I be a party to the seizure of his or any other citizen's stock other than animals belonging to the person against whom a decree is issued in respect of a debt. I think we should be guided by Christian principles in legislating for a Christian country, and it is not in accordance with Christian principles to seize one person's property in respect of another person's debt. I think that should be clear to every member of this House.

Lastly, it is seriously felt that the ever-increasing burden of local rates is killing initiative in this country. Therefore, since we are passing legislation in respect of local government, we should definitely include in it a fixed maximum rate which could not be exceeded. By so doing we would give some safeguard to the ratepayers that the machine which is being set up under this and other Bills, the official machine, will not crush them completely out of existence. We know the tendency of the central Government at the present time to transfer financial burdens to the local rates. It is a popular thing to do; at least, it deprives the central Government of the unpopularity which they would incur in having to raise the money and it places that unpopularity on the shoulders of the local authority. Probably in the near future we will have each local authority called upon to contribute a substantial amount towards national defence and other matters of that kind.

This Bill should not go through. There should be a careful discussion between all Parties in order to devise some machinery of local government in which the people might be expected to take an active interest, in which the plain people would be prepared to cooperate actively. At the present time the tendency of the general public is to withdraw their sympathy and active support from all democratically elected institutions in this country. That is an undesirable tendency and it should be the duty of this House, as a democratic Parliament, to endeavour to check it. There is a growing campaign for the abolition of democratically elected bodies. This Bill will help that campaign inasmuch as it will expose the democratically elected bodies to ridicule and contempt.

I have noticed in a newspaper which circulates widely in rural Ireland, and which is regarded by many people as the official organ of the Catholic Church in this country, a persistent campaign in favour of something in the nature of a dictatorship, or at least in favour of the abolition of democratic institutions. In view of the fact that such a campaign is being carried on, and in view of the state of feeling in the country generally, I do not think that we should do anything to weaken the democratically elected bodies and lower their prestige, and I submit that we will do that by this legislation.

I have been given to understand that the Minister stated in the course of his introductory remarks that he understood accommodation had been found in connection with a certain portion of this measure, and that strong feeling on the subject or opposition to it had been withdrawn. I understand that statement was made after an undertaking had been given by some member of the Ministry, or somebody speaking for the Ministry. This Bill, it was indicated, included at least one section which it was not intended to include in it—that it slipped in, as it were, and that it was the purpose of the Minister to remove that section. I cannot find in the Minister's statement any corroboration of that. It was indicated to the Minister by the Whip of this Party that very strong objection had been taken to a certain section, or certain sections, of this Bill which might interfere with vocational officers throughout the country. I understood that was to be modified, and that a statement to that effect was to be made by the Minister.

I do not know about that arrangement, but it has come to my notice that the matter to which the Deputy has referred was raised. I understood it was raised between certain Departments. The attitude my Department takes up is that we will take it out. That is the way we feel about it. We do not want to have it in at all.

What section?

Part of Section 6, relating to vocational education committees and committees of agriculture.

Generally speaking, the measure is one which has no principle, unless one were to concede the principle that has been referred to by previous speakers, that this is a further concentration of authority in a central department. It may be that the intention is to get more efficient government. So far as the question of cost is concerned, I might point out that the cost of local government has increased enormously in recent years. It has certainly expanded far beyond what it was ten years ago. If value were given for that extra public expenditure on the part of the central authority, no one on these benches would raise any objection; but the general disposition of the Government during the last few years has been to increase the number of persons, if I might so put it, on point-duty at a time when the traffic is decreasing. It seems to be very efficient, but it does not work out in that fashion.

If one were satisfied that the change in the system of local government in this country were an improvement on what was there before, there would be very little objection to it, but there is a feeling that that is not so, and that feeling is enhanced by the fact that the more one experiences the Civil Service the more one is up against the desire to take every possible precaution that there will be no mistake and the consequence is that delays occur, dissatisfaction arises, and you have councils and bodies throughout the country one and all criticising the central authority. Until we get rid of that mentality in this country—and that can only be achieved, in my view, by a more accommodating spirit on the part of the central authority and a little more broadmindedness on the part of local authorities—the common people of the country are likely to suffer.

There is in this measure an example of the official mind which has been referred to already by Deputy Esmonde. I refer to Section 58. That section was probably drawn with the view that the "sum for rates", was to mean only what is suggested in the last sentence of the first paragraph of the section—"or which would be so due but for having been discharged by a rate collector". It means more than that. It means the rates due at any moment once they are assessed. Once the rates are struck, they are due. The Minister can understand the apprehension which people feel in connection with a section drawn in that way. The rates are struck at periods varying from April up to June. In normal times they should be struck towards the end of April or before the middle of May. In any properly administered county they should be struck in that period. As this section stands, the rate collector can serve a six days' notice on anybody he chooses, and he can go in on such persons premises at once. As the section is drawn, if a doctor is called in to see a patient in the house—it may not be the owner of the house or the wife of the owner; it may be a servant in the house—the doctor's car can be seized in respect of rates unpaid. Obviously that is not the intention.

While one has considerable sympathy with the point of view put forward by Deputy Cogan, it must be remembered that every defaulter in a county increases the rates for those who have to struggle just as hard as the defaulter to pay their way. The efforts of everybody in public life should be directed towards impressing upon people the desirability and the necessity of paying their rates promptly. It is quite possible that the means selected to collect rates under this section may be the most expensive both for the rate collector and the defaulting ratepayer. Would it not be possible for the rate collector, in a case of the sort referred to by Deputy Cogan, to get authority to serve notice on the auctioneer or the owner of the cattle, so that before he paid over any sum of money to the person who owned the land, a deduction would be made and paid over to the rate collector in cases where the rate collector had himself paid the defaulter's rates? It is inconceivable that the Minister would ever have in mind any but the least costly and the most expeditious manner of collecting the rates. Many years ago, at a time when local government in this country was particularly difficult, namely, in the early part of 1921, the then Local Government Department went to a man who subsequently occupied the highest position in the judiciary in this country and asked him for a decree or a power which it was proposed to put to Dáil Eireann, much in the same form as that which is now sought by the Minister and he point blank refused. He said it was against natural justice. Surely there has been no alteration in natural justice from 1921 to 1940? I think the Minister ought to consider that particular aspect of the matter. While we all agree that the rates are the responsibility of every ratepayer, and that the difficulties of those who pay their rates are increased in proportion to the number of defaulters, nevertheless we cannot, in the exercise of our jurisdiction, exceed the limits of natural justice.

Other parts of this Bill would lend themselves more to Committee treatment than to discussion at this stage. The principle which has been most marked, almost from the inception of this State, of more and more control by the central authority, has one inherent weakness in it, that it leads towards a general dependence of the people upon the Government. It saps any initiative the people may have, undermines their independence, and reduces any incentive or self-reliance they may possess. That, in my view, is one of the real danger points in connection with the trend of events in this country. What it will mean eventually is that we shall revive souperism in this country, changing its application from religion to politics. Everybody will become a political souper of one kind or another. That is unfortunate and regrettable.

It should be remembered that perhaps the greatest incentive that influenced the history of this country was felt from the time of the passing of the Local Government Act in 1898, an Act which extended the franchise under which local authorities were set up and which gave an interest to the electors and their representatives in public matters. That re-awakening of interest in turn inspired the struggle which culminated in the setting up of this State. It would be regrettable if, as a result of the new powers or liberties we have got, our first act should be to destroy that incentive or that interest in public affairs, to lessen the responsibility of local people for their own needs and requirements and leave them all looking towards the central authority. I have the very gravest doubts that that is the Minister's real mind, whatever may be that of his Ministry. I do hope that, in the administration of this Bill, that is not the policy that will be observed. A system of county managers represents a change which we would accept much more graciously if we were satisfied that there was not a disposition on the part of the central authority to work it in such a way as to foster that dependence on the central Government which seems to have been the principal characteristic of the present Administration.

This Bill is obviously an implementation of the County Management Bill, which was passed in this House some months ago, and which was opposed very strenuously by this Party. It is a pity that, as other speakers have said, the measure is introduced in such an atmosphere as prevails to-day. On the last occasion on which this Bill was under consideration, I think everybody in the House inferred at least that the Bill was to be postponed indefinitely. It was only yesterday that one saw in the newspapers that the Bill was to come up for consideration again to-day. At the time the Bill was introduced, everybody interested in it read the Bill at length, but owing to the fact that its consideration was postponed, many of its details have passed from the memories of Deputies. I think that we should at least have got a week's notice before the Bill came to be considered on Second Reading. I agree with Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Brennan that this Bill goes a little further in some of its sections than the County Management Act. As Deputy Cosgrave says, it takes away from the incentive to the people down the country; it creates a lack of confidence in themselves, and it prevents them from taking an interest in public affairs. As I said, I think, on the Second Reading of the County Management Bill, there are certain people in the country who for some time have been calling for a managerial system of local government. On examination, I think it will be found that these are persons who have been rejected by the people repeatedly when they endeavoured to secure seats on local councils, or persons who have been on public boards for a time and who are getting tired. When they are losing their grasp on public boards they suggest that there should be a managerial system.

This is obviously a Bill which could be considered better in Committee than on Second Reading because, to a great extent, it is a repetition of what is contained in the County Management Act. There are some sections, however, to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. For instance, Section 56 deals with the nonpayment of rates by members of local authorities. I am wondering how this will operate. I can visualise a position where a man living in a house might pay his rent regularly and his rates would be included in the rent paid to the landlord. The landlord for some reason—we know that this often happens—might not pay the rates to the local authority on behalf of that man whose rates were included in the rent. I should like to know from the Minister what is the position of that man; if, although he had paid his rates in the rent, he would be disqualified if the landlord neglected to pay the rates. Something should be inserted in the section to ensure that there would be no victimisation of such a man.

Then, anybody who reads Section 10 would think that more authority was to be given to local authorities than they have had for some time past. It states that every local authority may appoint such officers and employ such servants as are necessary for the performance of the functions for the time being of such local authority. Everybody knows that a local authority will have no such power, because it is the manager in this particular instance who will, I take it, appoint all these officers. A local authority up till now had certain powers and could employ certain people. But when the managerial system of government comes into operation we know quite well that any privileges they had—if they could be called privileges; they are doubtful privileges sometimes — to employ any person will disappear. Therefore, as far as that section is concerned, it does not mean what it says. I am going to vote against this Bill because it is implementing the County Management Act, which I have been always against and always will be against. As I said at the beginning, I believe in a certain type of management. I believe that the person appointed should be the manager for the council and not of the council. In the meantime I should like the Minister to let us know what is the position of the man to whom I referred who might be disqualified under Section 56.

It is for him to deduct it from the landlord.

Under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, I think the landlord must collect the rates through the medium of the rent.

The occupier is made liable for the rates. If he pays them to the landlord he should be entitled to deduct from the rent if the rates are not paid to the local authority.

Under a certain valuation it is the landlord who collects the rates through the medium of the rent. I should like the Minister to look into that between this and the Committee Stage, because it is rather an important point.

I believe, as many people believe, that this Bill, once the County Management Act was passed, is something of a necessity in the Minister's mind. It dots the i's and crosses the t's and punctuates generally the County Management Act. So far as local authorities are concerned, I think that once the County Management Act was passed, it matters very little to whatever body will be elected in future what sort of legislation is passed to administer the County Management Act. Most of the powers of the elected representatives ceased when that Bill became an Act. The real question at issue is whether it is more desirable that local government should be administered by an elected local body functioning in the manner desired by the people who elected it, or whether local government should be centred in the managerial body in Dublin and, in effect, be administered by civil servants, because that is the real trend and effect of the Act which has been passed and the Bill we are now discussing. I believe that civil servants are a highly efficient and able body, but I do not believe that local government should be entirely administered by them. We have always had a large amount of control by the Local Government Department over the operations of the local bodies. Perhaps at times some of us thought it had rather too much control. I think, as I thought when we were discussing the County Management Bill, that we have gone too far in that direction.

This Bill, as many Deputies have said, is really a Committee Bill. Nearly every part of it can be discussed in Committee. So far as I am concerned, I really think that it would be almost as well to let it pass, because, in effect, it is what the officials in the Local Government Department, who are going to administer local government, think is desirable in the circumstances. Drastic and all as it is, and there are many sections in it with which some of us would disagree, if, when it is put into operation, it proves to be ineffective from their point of view, I have no doubt that other measures will be introduced giving them whatever powers they deem necessary in the future to carry out the centralisation scheme which is put into their hands. My objection to centralisation is that I never believed and do not believe now that it will lead to more effective and, particularly, more economic administration in local affairs. I believe it is going to have the contrary effect, particularly as regards economic administration. I believe that the more central administration you have the more expensive it will become.

While we must recognise the fact that the Managerial Bill is now an Act and will be administered, and that it is probable that the facilities required by the Minister will be given to him in this Bill, with certain modifications in Committee, my own belief is that events will prove that we have taken a wrong course and that eventually there will be, on behalf of the general body of electors in this country, an agitation to get back to something of the methods under the old system of local government as brought about by another Government, an alien Government, in this country some 40 years ago.

Deputy Cosgrave referred to the effects of the old system and pointed out that it had led to many improvements in connection with many things in this country and eventually to the right to govern all our affairs in this country ourselves, as, luckily, we have been able to do. There has been perhaps in recent years some falling off in the administration of that particular law. I previously said in this House that the fault lay, not particularly in the Act but, in certain respects, in the people who administered it. It was largely due to ourselves and to the system of politics we carry on. We turned the local bodies into political camps, largely elected on a political basis, and thereby we created, in some cases at least—I do not say in all cases —inefficient, incompetent bodies to carry on local government. The original system of local government functioned in this country for 20 odd years, with very little real criticism from the people of this country. It carried on, as far as any legislation that I know of has carried on, with the good wishes of the majority of the people of this country, effectively and economically— more efficiently and more economically than, to my mind, local government has been carried on since we ourselves came into control of affairs.

We have exercised more central authority over local government matters than was exercised in the 20 previous years, and with very ill results as far as I am concerned. As I have said, I believe that some time in the future there will be an agitation against the centralisation of local government in this country, particularly if I am right in the prophecy that I make, that it is going to lend itself to increased expenses on the local people, as I believe it will.

If this change in the local administration of this country were accompanied by something akin to a de-rating Bill or something of that kind I personally would not have any objection to it. I have always said that if the Government chooses to make changes in affairs where they are paying out the taxpayers' money, perhaps they have the right to do that; that those of us who pay the piper have some right to call the tune; but while matters remain as they are in regard to that, while the local people provide the taxes, and the taxes are administered by a central body, there will always be a tendency towards expensive administration, and I believe that is what we are tending to. It really matters little to me that certain sections of the Bill lay down the areas that local bodies will control, or the size of the areas they will control. Their powers will be very little, and it will matter very little to any future body which is elected what powers of administration are given to the civil servants, who will be the real operators in the time to come.

I was rather interested to hear the statements made by some of the Deputies on the Fine Gael benches, because it seems to me that they are now discussing the County Management Bill rather than the Local Government Bill, and their regrets are in connection with the county managerial system. My views have not changed about the system of county management or city management. We are always agreeable to have the managerial system, but we believe that the manager should be manager for the council rather than manager of the council. I believe that if you have a manager subject to the authority of the local body, once he puts up a practical and sensible proposition he will always get a majority of the council to give him that practical proposition. We have a sample of that in Cork in the Harbour Commissioners, where the manager is given certain executive authority—he has power to suspend his staff, and do everything that is reasonable for a manager to do—but in major problems, after doing that, he has to submit his whole action to the board, and we have found there—in my experience, at any rate, of the board for some years—that once the proposition the manager puts up is a practical one, there are always sufficient sound, practical and sensible men to back him up on it. Of course, we might have people deciding contrary to him for very obvious reasons, but our experience is that the decision of the manager is always carried out.

I happen to be a member of another public board in the City of Cork, and I should like to see the executive officer there having more authority than he has. I am also satisfied that if he were given more executive authority than he has, it would be a better system than that of putting full executive authority in the hands of any one man. From our experience in Cork City, it is not working satisfactorily, due to the fact that there is too much executive authority centred in one man.

I think I heard Deputy Cosgrave say that this was going to take the control of all functions of the councils out of the hands of the elected bodies. By having that system of a city manager, every function of the Corporation in the City of Cork is centred in that man's position, as we have had experience. I am often wondering whether the Minister himself is satisfied that it is the best method, because in speaking to his supporters and those who are members of his Party, and who voted for him at the polls, I have never heard anything from them approving of the centring of so much authority in one individual. I think there are many things in this Bill that are necessary to have passed, and that it is necessary to bring the old Acts up to date, but I should like to call attention to Section 10, which says that every local authority may appoint such officers and employ such servants as are necessary for the performance of the functions for the time being of such local authority. I take it that, although it is worded like that, it is the county manager who will have the employing or dismissing. Is that so?

Yes, that is so, except that there are certain things reserved to the local body, such as rate collecting, and so on.

Oh, of course, that is all right. It is an easy matter to give him that, but the only thing I say is that I am very anxious to see the Minister modifying the powers or authority of the county manager over the affairs of the county. We have also here the question of parish councils. How are these parish councils to function? I see that in the Act it is left to the county manager to decide what their functions shall be. The only thing I want to say is that it is rather strange that we should be going in for central authority when another Government, our next-door Government, one might call it, have declared that they are going away from central government to regional government, and I read where a responsible Minister said that they are doing that there in order to show that the brains of Whitehall are no better than the brains of the different localities throughout England. I agree with what Deputy Brennan said a while ago about the Department of Local Government, but I am not going to blame the civil servants for all the things that are happening there. I think it is due to the system under which the whole thing is being done. For instance, we may ask for sanction for some things in Cork and find that a particular officer in the Custom House has to deal with affairs in Roscommon as well as the affairs of Donegal and Cork, and the whole thing amounts to over-burdening the different departments. If there is to be a general overhaul, I think there is a great case for an overhaul in regard to the Custom House. I am not saying that they are inefficient, but I do say that the whole question of administration is over-burdened and that the work cannot be done efficiently under the present system.

I have had as much experience as anybody, I think, of hospitalisation, and I think that the people of Cork have more complaints in that regard than anybody else, more even than Deputy Brennan has in regard to his area.

As one of the Minister's supporters, Deputy Corry, is in the House, I want to tell the Minister of our experience in connection with the advancement of hospitalisation in a certain part of Cork city, where we claim without any exaggeration that things could have been done more efficiently by the public boards functioning through their executive officer than through the City Management Act or the Department. We have had a hospitalisation scheme under way since 1930, and we had engineers' and architects' fees paid on the double, but we are as near having the hospital built to-day as in 1932. I want to say that we are not opposed to the management question but we think that a real change is wanted in local government administration. We have always supported the question of management, but we are opposed definitely to giving executive authority to any man over the affairs of a city or town.

This Bill is complementary to two previous Acts and when it becomes law will complete the series that provides for a new departure in local government administration. Its aim, to a great degree, is to deny the people the right to administer their own affairs and it contemplates placing in the hands of one man very great administrative powers. That is a reflection on the ability of local authorities to manage their own affairs efficiently. In effect it simply implies that they are not capable of managing their affairs efficiently. From my experience of civil servants in control, I am not prepared to risk any diminution in the powers of local authorities, and for that reason I do not intend to support this Bill. Deputy Brennan pointed out that he felt the Bill was taking away whatever powers were left to local authorities under the County Management Act. I had no illusions regarding that Act, believing that the intention of these three measures was to destroy the power of local authorities, leaving them only the most distasteful part of the work, the striking and collection of rates. I could understand how a manager could be useful in the way of speeding up local administration, as from experience we know that a great deal of routine work has to be done with which local authorities should not be burdened, such as sending patients to extern hospitals. A manager would be useful for such work, but he should be directed by the local authority, and should act on their behalf instead of being their complete boss, as these Acts intend him to be. From my experience of bureaucratic government, to which we are tending more and more, I am not satisfied that we should take away the power of local authorities. Some Deputies referred to the fact that the Minister should put his own house in order first. If local authorities are what we are told, there might be some overhauling at the Custom House, too.

I had experience of a housing scheme in County Carlow that was initiated by the local authority for the town of Tullow, where they wanted the layout to take a particular shape, as they were in a position to appreciate the type of people who were going to occupy the houses. There was no industrial activity whatever in that rural town. It has an agricultural population, and most of the workers get work in the vicinity of the town. Those of us who are agriculturists appreciate the necessity of people, who are rearing a family on the wages that are at present fixed, 30/- a week, being able to supplement their incomes. It was felt that the housing scheme should provide for the keeping of pigs and poultry, and the engineer was directed to plan accordingly. However, a visiting inspector from the Department of Local Government would not approve of the scheme. The wrangle went on for two years, and finally a scheme was foisted on the local authority providing for the building of 68 houses on six acres of land, or 11 houses to the acre.

Mr. Brennan

Creating a new slum.

Yes. The county medical officer of health would not permit the occupants of the houses to keep pigs or poultry on the ground that such conditions would be insanitary. Slum conditions were being created there, and the people were actually denied the possibility of availing of a means of providing a livelihood for themselves. Those people work in the ordinary way at agricultural work, and supplement that by their thrift and industry at home. We find a civil servant coming down with a city mentality and forcing a particular scheme on the local authority. That is the type of thing we will get from a manager, who is simply and solely concerned with satisfying his bosses up in the city, and he will not care a particular damn how he serves the local people. He will give us more slums and more housing schemes which are not at all suitable to the needs of our people. Is it not possible for us to get a set of men to deal honestly, efficiently and effectively with local affairs? Is it possible that we are not prepared to trust their ability and sincerity in carrying out the work in the interests of the community as a whole? In my experience of local administration extending over some years, I have listened to a lot of talk about corruption, but I have never come up against it. Speaking to people in every walk of life, represented on local bodies, my experience is that they all, in their own particular way, are honestly and sincerely trying to do their best, in the interests of the people whom they were sent there to represent. It is a sad state of affairs to have the Parliament of the people, through a Bill here, casting such a reflection on these people. That is what this Bill means. It is a very serious and grave reflection on the ability of our people to do their job at all. We must stick up another civil servant to carry this idea of bureaucratic government further and further.

I am alarmed about it, in view of what has happened in the world to-day and in view of what has happened to democracy in Europe. The democratic institutions of Europe have crumbled and are trampled in the dust by dictators. We who dream about freedom and talk so much about the freedom of the citizen and the freedom of the individual and of the attempts we have made in our Constitution to preserve his rights and privileges—we are going to deny the individual the right to manage his own affairs. We are telling him through this Bill that he is incapable of managing them and that we will have to send a civil servant to do it for him.

Instead of setting up a form of bureaucratic government, our policy should be to throw back more and more responsibility on our people, to make them appreciate the fact that it is their job to shape and mould the destinies of this country, and that the Government cannot make a future if the people are not willing to undertake the responsibility. They will not appreciate that if the power or the medium through which they can exercise that responsibility is limited, and that is what we are doing here. In other words, we do not believe in our own people, we do not believe in their ability to mould the future course of this country, but have to set up a horde of officials to do it.

I should like to refer to the question of distraint. I agree with Deputy Brennan that there is no provision for notice at all. The moment the rate is struck, without any six days' notice, the rate collectors can walk in and distrain. I also agree with previous speakers that it is about time that one should take out that very obnoxious and unjust power that is there at present, by which you can seize anything that is on the holding—seize another person's property for a debt that is not his at all. We have all had experience of that already. It is a very sad state of affairs. A man takes a few fields by the 11-months' system, in good faith, in his efforts to try to raise his family and make a few pounds; yet his stock is seized overnight without notification, simply because the vendor has not paid his rates. He is purely a victim of circumstances over which he has no control. He is hard-put enough to pay his own rates, annuities and debts without paying those of his neighbour as well. I am sure the Minister will try to do something about that, and I appeal to him to do so, as it is grossly unjust. I know of a case where a man was such an unfortunate victim recently. He was making a tremendous effort in a small way to raise his family in decency, and took some three or four fields by the 11-months' system and put some stock on them, and they were swept away from him. It is rather an anomaly to find three or four sections in this Bill setting up parish councils, as its very essence is to limit the power of the people in the matter of local administration. This is a sop thrown into the Bill, setting up parish councils for the purpose of reference. I doubt if the manager is going to refer very much to them at all. Again, it is extraordinary to find that any type of body can represent itself as a parish council, irrespective of how it is constituted.

No provision is made in the Bill for the constitution of a parish council, and so any type of body can make application to the local authorities to provide a hall, furniture, etc. If we are going to give these parish councils statutory recognition we should provide a means of constituting them on proper lines. Any political organisation could come along and represent itself as a parish council and get recognition as such and obtain the advantages set out here. I object to that very strongly. I agree that during this emergency period, when central administration may break down and if we were invaded a certain part of the country might be isolated, the parish councils might step in and assume control. However, in the normal life of the country this may possibly be a very dangerous institution. It could cut both ways. The members are placed in a rather ambiguous position at times. Take the case of a person whose application for home assistance has been referred to the parish council for an expression of opinion as to its merits. That puts the local man in an invidious position. It may be that the applicant does not deserve home assistance and may be making no effort to live other than on public charity. His neighbours probably are not prepared to fall foul of him and the tendency will be to recommend his application. We know that the home assistance officer will deal out the same measure of justice to every applicant and will try and hold the balance fairly in all cases and that he is the best man to decide the case on its merits.

I recognise that parish councils may be useful for dealing with certain measures, and that if particular cases were referred to them they could give useful advice, but to leave the question open and say that practically all matters should be referred to them would, I think, prove very dangerous. I should prefer to see the parish councils remain voluntary organisations. There would be nothing to prevent a local authority referring a matter to a parish council even though the latter had not statutory recognition. As a voluntary organisation the parish council could give good advice. I think it would be much safer to leave the position that way. In face of what is happening at the present time here in this country, I am not all satisfied that we are doing the right thing in limiting the powers of our people in respect of local administration.

I do not know what complaint Deputies can have in this matter. I cannot see that anything is being taken from any local body under the Bill: anything that has not been taken from local bodies long ago. This measure is just calling a spade a spade. I remember, when Deputy Mulcahy was Minister for Local Government, that he was able to send down an Order that only the ex-members of a particular army should get employment, even on the roads breaking stones. The local body had no power to appoint men to break stones on the roads. In order to get employment at that time a man had to be an ex-member of the National Army.

Mr. Brennan

It is a pity the Deputy was not in the House at Question Time to-day.

There is no use in Deputies kicking up a row over this Bill when we remember what happened during the period when Fine Gael, or Cumann na nGaedheal, as they were then called, were in office. They started the ball rolling by wiping out local bodies all over the country and appointing commissioners. What is the good of growling now? The county manager system is a child of theirs, so what have they to growl about? I have only two objections to this Bill. The first is to this thing about parish councils. Parish councils to control what, or to refer to about what? When the local body itself has no power, what power is the parish council going to have? The thing is a joke, pure and simple. The second objection I have to the Bill is that while the appointment of almost everything is left in the hands of the manager the local authority is to have the appointment of the persons who are to collect the dough for the execution of his schemes, that is, if you can get men foolish enough to act on those bodies. I do not see why those unfortunate fellows should have the appointment of rate collectors whose job will be to collect the money required to carry out the manager's schemes. I honestly cannot see what complaint Deputies have to make about this Bill. We all know how things have been going on for a number of years under the managerial system. Things have been managed between the secretary of the local body, the county surveyor and the engineers and the people in the Local Government Department in Dublin. The county councils, or the boards of health or boards of assistance, have no more to do with them than if they never existed, not a bit.

It is no harm to have them there, all the same.

What use are they? The Deputy knows very well that the engineer in our department of public assistance succeeded in collecting £16,000 or £17,000 for hospital schemes which were sanctioned by the Department of Local Government over the heads of the board. The board got no recognition. That was done in connection with hospital schemes that were never seen. A stone was never put upon a stone. The Deputy knows that as well as I do, so where is the good of all this bluff. Deputy Hickey knows well that the engineers can come up here to the Department of Local Government and get all the cash they can for themselves, and that the local body has no more to say to that than the man in the moon.

The Deputy is bearing out what I have already said.

I am making a straight statement, and the Deputy knows it.

You are bearing me out in what I have said.

This is non-co-operation.

It is very clever co-operation.

I said non-co-operation.

I suggest to the Minister that the first thing he should do is to clean up his own house, not alone the Department of Local Government, but every other Department under him. Deputy Hickey knows as well as I do that there is not a bit of heed paid to a member of a board of assistance, or to a board of assistance itself.

Will the county manager solve that?

Well, it is just as well to call the secretary the county manager as to have the kind of management we have at the present time. Things are being done in the name of the people, but the people have no voice at all in them.

That is dictatorship.

It would be just as well to let the fellow come out openly and be a bit of a little Hitler himself instead of being a Hitler behind the scenes. I can see no difference. He is there anyway, and it is being done. Deputy Hickey knows it.

Not in the way that the Deputy is putting it.

Exactly in the same way. Take a scheme for labourers' cottages or a municipal housing scheme. Who draws out of these? You have an engineer paid by the board who is supposed to carry out this work. What happens? He gets a load of fees, £3,000 or £4,000. He gets so much per cent. on the job. The secretary and the staff come along and they get another load of fees out of the scheme. Then we wonder why the unfortunate devil who goes into one of these houses has to pay more rent than he can afford. Deputies know that that is going on. I am aware that the secretary to a board of health came up to the Department of Local Government two years ago and made the statement there that he wanted none of these fees. Despite that, the fees were sent down, and all the cooks below had a row about the division of them. Two special meetings of the board of health had to be called to divide the loot that was forced on them by the Department of Local Government.

Does the Deputy know that there is an Emergency Powers Act in operation?

I do not care about the Emergency Powers Act. My job here is to tell the truth.

The Minister will put you in under it.

I do not care what any Minister does. My job is to state the position of affairs as I know it. It is a position of affairs that cannot be denied. I challenge anyone here to deny that that position of affairs exists. People wonder why, when housing schemes are finished, the rents are piled up. You have an engineer who is paid fees, who comes along as an architect also and collects another lot of fees and, with that, he has also a permanent salary. That represents three salaries out of the one job. It comes along then from the secretary down to the office boy in the board of health offices, each of whom collects fees again out of the same houses for over-work.

This is a Local Government Bill, not an Estimate for the Department of Local Government.

And what I am explaining, Sir, is the present position of local government in this country.

That is only in Cork.

Perhaps if we stirred up the waters of a few more counties, we would get it dirtier. I cannot see what objection Deputies have to this Bill, because it only means coming out into the open, so that the people will know that it is the little tin gods down the country who must take the responsibility, and so that they will not be coming to Deputy Hickey and asking him: "Why did you do this?" Deputy Hickey was attacked all over Cork for spending £1,300 on a caretaker's residence in Youghal, when, in reality, he had no responsibility at all for it. Is it not well to saddle the right horse and let him bear the burden?

The Deputy is bearing out all I said to-night.

Is it not just as well to bring it out into the open and to let the little Hitler, when he makes a mess, bear responsibility for it? What is the good of complaining? The board of assistance passed £350 for this house and, between the engineer and the Local Government Department, they put up the cost to £1,300 for a three-roomed house for the caretaker of a local hospital. Is it not as well to have it in the open and to let these engineers and secretaries of boards of health bear the responsibility? When this Bill is completed, everybody will know that whenever puppets go into a board of health or county council, they have no voice at all there, and nobody will be able to blame them when a mess is made. So far as local government in this country is concerned, it is at present in the hands of officialdom, pure and simple.

Only in Cork.

Everywhere.

Neither pure nor simple.

And if I got a week in Leix, I would find out a lot more about it and probably find a dirtier mess than we have in Cork, because when something happens in Cork, we can expose it.

When you get the county manager, you will not be able to, because you will not know about it.

Let Deputy Hickey watch the next Bill. I give him a warning that in that Bill, the City Management (Amending) Bill, the only chance he had of knowing anything, even when he was Lord Mayor, will be taken from him.

That is rather hopeful.

I am giving him a warning in time and I suggest that he should keep his eyes open, because I had a look behind the scenes and I know what is going on.

You drafted it, I suppose?

You will find that the city manager in future is going to be town clerk as well. That is the position and what is the good of burking or denying it? Members of local bodies have no more voice in local administration at present than if they never went into meetings. The game was started by the people over there and was finished by the people here. As it went on from 1921 onwards, every bit of power was grabbed by the civil servants and held by them, and it will take more than this Dáil to remove it from their paws. There is no good in people coming here and growling about this Bill taking away power. It does not take away any power, because it could not take what you had not got. When you get an order from the Local Government Department in 1924 or 1925 that the fellow whom you put to work breaking stones should have served in a special army——

The Deputy really should not repeat himself more than twice.

I do not want to go any further than that into it, but I could give a lot of other reasons, if I wanted to. What is the good of Deputies raising a howl about power, which they have not got, being filched from them? There is power to kick up a row, but that is the only power they have at the moment and it will not get them very far. I am glad that those who have the power at present will have to bear the responsibility for any actions of theirs in future.

It is rather a pity that Deputy Corry did not intervene earlier in the discussion on this Bill. I think he has made the whole position as clear as mud, and nobody can say that he does not understand it. He complains, perhaps rightly, of the country being overstocked with officials and, according to his experience, they seem to be cluttered up with them in Cork. He proposes to remedy that by putting up another, a manager, who is going to run the whole shooting box. He says that the men elected on the votes of the people have, up to now, had only the right to howl—and he has nothing to learn in that respect from any public representative in Ireland—about grievances, that we will not even be told what is happening, and that we will be told even less when the manager is appointed. He also said that the work so ably begun by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government was now being finished in proper Fianna Fáil fashion, and that when the Bill is implemented, nothing will be left for the people of the Dáil but to go no for the dictator which we on these benches visualised earlier on.

That is definitely where the legislation is tending. Deputy Corry seems to have seen the Bill—somebody said that he was drafting it—but he has, at any rate, seen where it is leading when he says that people in the country have no right to elect representatives with any shadow of power, that they can elect ciphers but that the whole position will be controlled by the dictator, the manager. Then we have it that, by a kind of pious aspiration, county councils, with truncated powers, are going to be vested with the right of delegating some power they have not got themselves to parish councils to be created in any sort of fashion but a democratic fashion. A county council can, if it likes, approve certain parish councils and need not approve other parish councils. Already parish councils of a very suitable character have been growing up in the country, elected on a proper democratic basis and trying to make a background for harmonious working among different types in country districts, and that growth is being wilfully and deliberately, as I see it, choked by throwing weeds in the shape of the parish councils suggested in the Bill into the field. We have emergency councils, parish councils, approved and existing Muintir na Tíre parish councils and, in a desire to help on that grand movement, we are throwing one across the other, and the chaos that is going to result can have no other effect than that of obliterating the good that was going to spring from the ordered measure of Muintir na Tíre councils already in the country.

Deputy Corry has told us correctly that there is no power in the people who are handing on power to the parish councils and, eventually, they will only take the shape, to my mind, if they run true to form, of political clubs. They cannot be expected to perform any of the functions that could usefully be performed by properly constituted voluntary parish councils, working on the basis of a system that was getting on very nicely in the country up to now. It would be humorous if it were not so tragic to find a Bill being brought in to deal with councils drawn from all parts of the country, elected on a franchise not less representative than that on which members of the Dáil are elected, and to prevent them legislating in their own parish-pump way, although these bodies are the training grounds from which legislators might be expected to spring. The manager will do the job, and self-respecting citizens, when they realise how small are their powers, will be slow to become ciphers in the hands of the manager. Perhaps things will work smoothly for a while, when you have managers of the type which we now have—men who have got a democratic training in connection with public boards and who understand that there is something due to democratically-elected representatives—but I am thinking of the time when the new school and the new brood of managers will come out of the universities. A new class will have to be set up to grind out managers when the present stock is exhausted. I can see a young man walking out of the university with his degrees, and, with a copy of these Acts in his hand, wiping his boots on those who have the temerity to go forward for election on a popular franchise. That young man, coming out of a university, will use his powers as he is entitled to use them.

The present managers are wise enough to consult the elective representatives. Sometimes, they are so diplomatic as to induce some of these representatives to believe that they have some power. On one day out of 365, the people's representatives have power to strike a rate but that power is very carefully guarded by the Department. If the public representatives declined to strike the rate recommended by the manager, it would only be a short time until a writ of mandamus would issue against them. Even on that one day there is only very shadowy power in the people's hands. When this Bill is implemented by the Managerial Bill, you will have 26 managers in the county areas. With the municipal areas, there will, possibly, be 30 of these managers. I suggest that, as a direct consequence of that, this Dáil should set about and get one dictator to run the show. I believe that that is the object and that the parish councils proposal is only so much dust thrown in the eyes of the people to conceal the real object of the Bill.

Section 11 gives power to the Minister to fix the number and kind of officers to be appointed by local authorities. That power should be exercised in consultation with the local authority. As the Bill stands, the provision is dictatorial. The local authority should, at least, be consulted. There is a tendency, and has been for some time, in the Local Government Department to fix higher remuneration for the officials of local authorities than the local authorities themselves are inclined to fix. In the future, I think these bodies will not have power to fix the remuneration of junior officers. The manager will do that but the local authority will have some influence on the manager in that respect. There is no reason why the Minister for Local Government should have dictatorial powers in fixing remuneration. These bodies have to pay their way and any remuneration fixed should be fixed in consultation with them. This is only fair because they will have to pay the piper. Most local authorities are just to their officials and pay them fair remuneration. The Minister should not, therefore, take this power to himself.

The membership of county councils will in future be about two-thirds of what it is at present. While a case might be made for reducing council membership in urban areas, which are very limited in extent, there is no justification in most counties for reducing the numbers. From one point to another in County Wexford is about 60 miles. If you have only 20 people representing that area, it is clear that a number of people will have no means of getting in touch with their county councillors. People call on me from seven or ten miles away, using a donkey and cart or a bicycle to cover the distance. It would be most unfair if they had to come a longer distance. The membership of county councils is, for the most part, from 27 to 30 at the present time. That is not an unwieldy number and two-thirds of the members regularly attend the meetings. Any lesser number would be unfair to the people. There may be a couple of counties with large councils, but they could be dealt with otherwise. In large areas, where people would, under this Bill when it becomes an Act, be 20 miles away from their nearest county councillor, I suggest that the present number is fairer than that proposed.

I wish to refer to the powers to be given to the proposed parish councils. This Bill was circulated long before the present emergency really arose and before the parish committees came into existence. I suggest that the Minister should withdraw all the sections dealing with parish councils from the Bill and give an opportunity to the organisation now in existence to develop itself. In two or three years, the Government would have a better idea of what a parish council would be able to do, and what powers should be given to it. Everything is now in a state of flux, and people's minds are not clear as to what the duties or functions of the proposed parish council should be. If the councils are left as they are, there will, probably, be an indication within the next few years of what useful functions they might perform in the future local government of the country. As these sections stand, it is optional with the county councils—I suggest that that will mean the county managers—to give them any powers desired.

I cannot imagine at the moment the powers these parish councils could discharge. There are only one or two powers that I could think of. Instead of calling them parish committees, if they were called electoral-area committees, they could be given power to administer home assistance and unemployment assistance, but I would insist that they strike a rate for that in their own area. That is the only useful function I can think of which they could perform at the present time. Instead of giving them the limited powers provided here, I suggest that the parish councils should be left as they are and that, at some future date, the Government would be in a better position to decide whether they should give them statutory powers or not.

With regard to Section 58, dealing with the collection of rates, I am not a bit satisfied with the powers given. They differ little from the existing powers of rate collectors, and I do not think they will give you any more efficient collection of rates than you have at present. I do not believe that the existing machinery is the best possible machinery you could have in rural areas for the collection of rates. My view on that matter is known. You are setting up, or seeking to set up, a dangerous system. You are giving certain powers to rate collectors; you are encouraging the rate collectors—and I suppose the manager will also use his powers in that way—to act very quickly on the powers given to them here. Six days after the rate demand notice has been served on a ratepayer, the collector is entitled to go in and levy by distraint. They have that power at the present time. They can collect on their own warrant immediately after they serve a demand note, but they are very reluctant to do that; it is very difficult to get rate collectors to levy on their own warrant. I believe that a much better system would be to have the rate collection in the hands of the county manager or the county secretary or the county solicitor. He should have authority to use the courts, or to insist on a collector using his own warrant; when it comes to a question of law he should have the decision as to what means should be adopted to collect the rates.

At the present time you have all the collectors in the county, perhaps 20 or 30 of them, having their own solicitor, and I think that is all wrong. I have told previous Ministers for Local Government that I believed it was wrong; that the county solicitor should be the solicitor acting in all those cases, and not outside solicitors who have no interest whatever in the collection of rates. Under the present system any rate collector can employ any solicitor he likes to collect the rates. The county solicitor should be responsible for the collection of rates, and either the county manager or the county secretary should have full authority in this matter. I would not give the powers set out here to each individual collector. Many of them will use them in the proper way, but others may not. You have all kinds of human interests entering into this thing—we know what human nature is—and those powers may not be used as they should be used, with justice to the people. I believe a much better system could be evolved than the system set out here for the collection of rates. Under the system here, they will not be collected one bit better than at the present time, because no rate collector can go out every day of the week and use that system of collecting rates. I hope the Minister will consider those few points and amend the Bill in those respects on the Committee Stage.

Most of the time during this debate I thought I was away back listening to the discussion we had here on the County Management Bill. Certainly, most of what I have listened to in criticism of this Bill is applicable only to the County Management Bill. This Bill before the House, instead of taking away powers from the local authority, gives them power. Anybody who reads Part II of the Bill can see that. Of course, in most of those cases in so far as staff is concerned the local authority means the city or county manager. So far as the central authority is concerned, much more power to deal with staffs is handed over to the local authority.

Through the city manager?

Yes. The position that we have had to deal with in this Bill is where you find numerous classes of officials of local bodies spread throughout the country, and nothing sufficiently uniform to bring them into any particular class. Deputies will notice in the Bill a reference to what are called major offices. In the beginning a large number will be major offices as the position at present stands, but we hope under this Bill to get the position where major offices will be confined to the heads of the various sections, for example the county manager, the county secretary, the county surveyor, and perhaps the county medical officer of health. To those heads—I have just mentioned them roughly—the major office will really apply. In the ordinary way, they will be appointed by the Local Appointments Commission.

It would also include the town clerk?

I suppose so. You will have the position that the Department will specify the classes that may be employed, and that are necessary to employ in those sub-departments, or may be employed in other branches of the local authority's office. The function which the Department proposes to take is that it will set out the qualifications necessary for those classes; that it will set out their duties, the age limits and so on. After that, the local authority can proceed to appoint the people who conform to those regulations. From what I have heard in this House people seem to be anxious that the central authority should be relieved of what some people would call interference and what other people would call necessary surveillance. At any rate, this will take a good deal away from the Local Government Department.

Will not the manager represent the central authority?

I do not see how he can.

Does he not represent the public body?

That may be the Deputy's view. I have heard people say in this House that certain city managers represent the views of the corporation, and so on.

I believe it is the Minister's view also.

Does the Deputy mean that I agree with the Deputies in this House who expressed that view? I suppose I do, from perhaps some experience. Mention has been made of the removal of officials from office, and that is supposed to be going something further than what is set out in the Management Act. So far as suspension or removal from office is concerned, the Minister comes in between the city or county manager and the official. If the county manager removes or suspends an official who is under his control, that official can appeal to the Minister. The Minister has to decide, on the representations made on both sides—if they come from both sides—whether or not that suspension or removal was justified. When Deputies make complaints in that regard I feel they do not appreciate the position. The position is that the Minister comes in to interfere between the manager and the official for the protection of the official, if he is deserving of protection.

A good deal of criticism has been levelled at the sections that deal with the parish councils. I am sorry to hear criticism levelled at those sections or at the parish council idea. I know people who are very enthusiastic about that idea. A Deputy referred to Muintir na Tire here. I know people who are very enthusiastic about the Muintir na Tire idea and a representative of that organisation came to me and said that what was set out in the Bill was all they wanted to enable them to develop voluntarily and that they did not want any statutory authority or statutory recognition. It has been said the Bill was loosely drafted. I know an authority outside this House who has written an article recently. He is very interested in parish councils and he said it was a model of drafting. I think he is a Cork man too.

You should not have added that if you want us to have any respect for it.

I have every respect for it.

Mr. Morrissey

We would probably have more respect for his opinion if you had not added that.

I think it is unfortunate that there should be any criticism of the idea of parish councils or that the suggestion should be made in the very early stages that they are going to be used or liable to be used for purposes that certainly would not be in the interest of the parish council idea. We have seen in this emergency how parish councils have developed, and we have seen what part they would play in the affairs of this country. It is not true to say that they have been superimposed on by emergency councils and so on. I saw the secretaries of the various county councils at the time when emergency councils were to be set up, and their instructions at that time were that if there were Muintir na Tire or other parish councils in their area they would try to work with them and perhaps they could supply the need that was there for a parish council for emergency purposes. The parish council idea is developing. I believe it will play a very important part if not in local government at least in other matters that affect the social and general welfare of the people, and I do regret that there is anybody who is trying to discourage that idea, in its early stages at any rate, because I believe when it is sufficiently grown it will withstand all the discouragement and all the criticism that might now be levelled upon it. When people have not been in a position to see its development or to appreciate what it is possible to achieve under that system, I think it is too soon to discourage the idea but rather that we should give it every encouragement possible and perhaps help it along as far as possible, but always in the voluntary idea and without any attempt to try to give it statutory authority or to make it a statutory body.

Deputy Allen spoke about giving them power to strike rates to pay for the relief in their areas. I had an argument like that in the Seanad. If that position was going to be applied it would mean the poorest area that could not pay the rates would be the hardest hit. That is the reason for having the bigger areas. I think parish councils will work much better and achieve much more if they are allowed to develop voluntarily with the least possible interference from either central or local authority.

A number of smaller matters was raised on this Bill. There was a complaint made by Deputy Brennan and I think also by Deputy Allen about the reduction of membership. The reason for the reduction of membership of county councils or urban councils, county councils particularly, is connected with the impending abolition of the boards of health. In 1925 there were boards of health being put into existence, and the old rural councils were abolished. The functions of a board of health, as everybody knows, were very wide and varied, and it was necessary to have a larger number of members of county councils at that time so that you could select from various areas representatives on the board of health. Under the County Management Act the boards of health will be abolished and the need for the same number of members does not exist and will not exist under the managerial system. Even in Cork again I think, a few years ago, they asked to have their membership reduced and I think they succeeded in reducing it from 69 to 43.

It has not been reduced yet. It is still 68.

Is it still 68? I know the county council made representation to the Department to reduce it to 42 or 43. Generally it is more or less accepted that councils at the moment are a bit unwieldy and could do with less membership and yet be equally efficient. The proposed reduction is not in any way drastic. It is on the basis that there shall not be less than 20 members on any council and, generally, that two-thirds of the present number of members will constitute the new body. The idea is to try to get three members to each electoral area. It may be necessary, perhaps, in some instances to alter some of the electoral areas, but I do not foresee that that will have to be done in many cases.

Complaint has been made as to depriving members who are defaulters in paying their rates of membership of a public body. Deputy Brennan asked what is the need for such a provision, if such a need existed. The need does exist. Perhaps exceptions do not prove very much but the need has existed as has been shown to the Department and to me in certainly a few instances within the last few months. It is a very unsatisfactory position and in fact a position that should not be allowed to exist, where you have members of a public body who are themselves defaulters and are adjudicating on other people who are to pay rates. It has happened that certain members succeeded in postponing for several months the closing of a rate collection. I do not think there is any hardship on anybody who is a member of a public body to pay the rates and to set the example to the other people. In regard to the question raised by Deputy Corish about the rates on small dwellings, I understand that the occupier of these dwellings pays an inclusive sum as rent.

I would like the Minister to look into it.

I will look into it. It is regarded as rent in that case and there would be no danger of it being a disqualification. Another point that was raised by Deputy Brennan was the question of set-off. Set-off obtains in ordinary civil debts. If one person sues another for some debt that is due to him, if he has any set-off he can set it off against it and it is a defence so far as that amount is concerned. Criticism has also been levelled at the clause about distraining for rates. So far as making sure that sufficient notice is given I can assure the House that that will be remedied between now and the Committee Stage if it is not clear in the Bill that such notice should be given. Powers that go almost as far already exist. There are powers under the Income Tax Acts exactly the same as those. That may not be the most happy example to choose but it is there in any case and I have not heard it suggested that it is a hardship. Most people criticise payments of income-tax and they are always very hard on the people who have to collect it but at the same time I do not think it has created much hardship that that power was there.

But it is a more speedy method and a more satisfactory method for the local authorities if they cannot get in the rates. Sometimes a threat of taking definite action is often a help in getting in the rates. You have the present system of bringing people to court and under that system the costs come to much more than under the system proposed here. The costs will have to be paid by the defaulters.

Deputy Allen's point was that the county manager can collect the rates.

That the county solicitor should?

I know a few counties in which I do not think it would be possible for any solicitor to do it. So far as that is concerned, I do not think that is possible. Deputy Cosgrave raised a question about the reference to Section 46 in the Second Schedule, which if repealed would have the effect of depriving officers of the cost-of-living bonus on pension. It was not intended to repeal that.

That is the one you are deleting?

We are deleting it. Deputy Brennan raised a question in relation to the apportionment of rates. The difficulty that arises there is that when the valuation is made from August to October there may be some change in the period between the making of the valuation and the collection of the rates. It is quite easy for the county manager or the county council to arrange that somebody will apportion these rates and, if there is any mistake on either side, it can be adjusted. It is only in very rare cases that that would arise, but sometimes it might mean that there is a lapse of six months and you cannot recover the rates. It is really to put the thing in order that the proposal is made.

Generally, the Bill, as Deputies who want to approach the matter fairly will realise, is an effort to bring the law up to date. The position of the law has been most unsatisfactory. Various enactments have been transferred into this measure, with certain modifications, and an effort is being made to bring the law up to date. It is really a codification of the law which exists, with amendments and additions in the light of the experience gained over the years. There is nothing more in the Bill than that. Some Deputies go off at a tangent about powers being filched from the local authorities. What they really have in mind is legislation that was passed into law some months ago and remarks of the type that we have heard are not relevant to this measure. Let us at least be clear about that. If Deputies want to attack this Bill, let them attack it on such points as were referred to by Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Esmonde. This is a Bill that, on the Committee Stage, can be amended, altered and adjusted in order to overcome any of the hardships that may appear to some Deputies to be imposed.

Everyone seems to be anxious to say something about the Local Government Department. That Department has numerous duties and wide functions. When an isolated case is mentioned, I am not in a position to stand up at once and answer it. For instance, Deputy Hughes referred to the position of housing in Carlow. I do not know all the facts in that respect, and while I am not prepared to contradict the Deputy, I am not at the same time prepared to accept the view as presented by him. The various inspectors and officials connected with the Department have difficult and multifarious duties and in the carrying out of those duties they have to keep in mind what they consider is in the best interests of the Department and the local authorities concerned, together with the social benefits that may be derived. Some people are inclined to think that their own local officials are the best. I do not blame anybody for holding that view, but we must recognise that the officials and inspectors of the Local Government Department have a wider experience in dealing with the various schemes that may arise.

But are they not too detached from the particular local areas?

These officials and inspectors are constantly in touch with the officers of local authorities and with people throughout the country. Reference has been made to delays, and some people think that things should be carried out more expeditiously. On occasions I have come across complaints about delays, and I think that those delays were in the interests of the ratepayers in the long run, although it might have taken some time to get matters adjusted. Numerous inquiries have to be made and various details have to be examined. Sometimes local authorities, in the belief that they are right, often take up a definite attitude and persist in getting a thing done in accordance with their views. The Department may consider that it is not the proper way to do things and in that fashion delays occur.

Finally, in regard to the administration of this Bill and the Managerial Bill which, I suggest, was irrelevantly brought into the discussion, and the whole system of county management, a great deal depends on the type of county manager you get. If you can get the type of county manager who adopts the attitude that while he is there and possesses certain powers he will consult with the local body and avail of their advice and give every assistance in order to try to carry their advice into effect, then in the course of a few years I feel we will not have so many questions about the county managers.

That is a situation we would be prepared to accept—consultation with the local authorities.

I believe you will get the type of county manager who will do his work efficiently and avail of the co-operation of the local authority.

When the Minister referred to Section 46, was he speaking of No. 6 in the First Schedule?

I was referring to Section 46 of the Local Government Act of 1925 mentioned in the Second Schedule.

Question put.
The Dáil divided:—Tá, 61; Níl, 29.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Friel, John.
  • Fuller, Stephen.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Rice, Brigid M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Daniel.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Keane, John J.
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Francis.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCann, John.
  • McDevitt, Henry A.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Mullen, Thomas.
  • Munnelly, John.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.

Níl

  • Benson, Ernest E.
  • Broderick, William J.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Davin, William.
  • Everett, James.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Hannigan, Joseph.
  • Hickey, James.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Hurley, Jeremiah.
  • Keating, John.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy J.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
  • Reynolds, Mary.
  • Rogers, Patrick J.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Smith and S. Brady; Níl: Deputies Everett and Keyes.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

It may be put down for the 11th December, but it will not be taken until after Christmas.

Mr. Brennan

What is the point of putting it down for the 11th December, if it is not to be taken until after Christmas?

We do not know as yet the date on which the Dáil will meet after Christmas.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 11th December.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until Thursday, 28th November, at 3 p.m.