Agriculture (Amendment) Bill, 1943—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. I should like to say that this is a Bill that can more suitably be discussed section by section in Committee rather than in the normal way on Second Reading. The Bill is directed largely towards bringing the provisions dealing with county committees of agriculture into line with what has been enacted in the Local Government Act of 1941 regarding county councils, and in the Vocational Education Act dealing with Vocational Education Committees.

The first point in the Bill deals with the travelling expenses of members of county committees of agriculture. This matter has been dealt with so far under Section 18 of the Agriculture Act of 1931. In that section it is laid down that there will have to be a minimum attendance of at least 50 per cent. for the year in order that a member may be eligible for the payment of travelling expenses. It is also laid down there that the expenses will be 4d. per mile by rail, or 5d. per mile otherwise, one way only. This Bill makes a change there and it lays down that reasonable expenses may be charged, as incurred, and, of course, they can be charged both ways, both to and from the meeting.

This section has been introduced in order to recoup members any out-of-pocket expenses they may incur attending meetings of the county committee, whether they travel by rail or road. It will be necessary to bring in an amendment to this section on the Committee Stage. One matter that was drawn to my attention, and to the attention of the Department, since the Bill was circulated, was the attendance of members at sub-committee meetings. That does not appear to be covered by this section, and I intend to ask the Dáil to agree to an amendment on the Committee Stage which will cover attendances at meetings of sub-committees of the county committees of agriculture.

Section 3 deals with the question of benefits under the schemes that are administered by the county committees of agriculture. At the present time no member of a county committee, or his partner, including his wife, can benefit from any scheme administered by the county committee. No member of the county council can benefit from any such scheme. That is not equitable because, in the first place, a member of the county council has no influence whatever on the procedure of the county committee. If a member of the county council, for instance, has a premium bull there is no reason why he should not be permitted to keep that bull and benefit from the scheme. Members of the county council will no longer be ineligible for any schemes administered by the county committees.

This section goes farther than that, because it gives the Minister for Agriculture power to make certain exceptions either in a general way or in a particular way. I will give the House some examples of what I have in mind. Take for instance the lime scheme. That is a scheme that every farmer ought to derive some benefit from. There is no reason why a member of the county committee should not get lime like everybody else, because there is enough lime for everybody, and the fact that he is a member of the county committee does not entitle him to any special treatment from any scheme of that kind. Therefore, I think that members of the county committee should be exempted from the provision that would prevent them from sharing in the benefits of a scheme of that kind.

Deputies may wonder why we are taking power to make exemptions in particular cases. One case that was put to me concerned a member who had a premium bull. He had this bull for about a year and then became a member of the county committee. If that man accepted a nomination to become a member of the county committee he would have to get rid of the bull. I do not see any reason why a man like that should be compelled to get rid of the bull if he was a desirable person on the county committee. Therefore, I think that an exception should be made in such cases. I do not say that, in general, we would exempt members of the county committees in regard to the benefits of the premium bull scheme. That might be bad for the reason that there is a certain amount of competition amongst farmers to get one of these bulls. Where there is that element of competition I do not think that we could allow members of the county committee to partake in the competition. In the case, however, that I have mentioned, of the man who had already got the beast, he had the choice either of declining membership of the county committee or, if he accepted it, of giving up the bull. Apart from that, I should say that it is intended to continue those restrictions in general as regards premium bulls or other schemes administered by the county committees as well, of course, as in the case of contracts given out by the county committees. It would not be legal to give a member of the county committee any contract that the county committee had the giving of. I think that covers all that I have to say on Section 3.

Section 4 is necessary in order to implement Section 5. Section 5 deals with the dissolution of county committees of agriculture for neglect of duty, etc. The present position is that a committee cannot be dissolved unless the county council is first dissolved. That is not a desirable position. It is a very cumbersome way of dissolving a county committee of agriculture that may be guilty of neglect, of malpractices or anything else. In doing this we are only bringing this Bill into line with two other Acts that have already been passed: the Local Government Act of 1941, and the Vocational Education Act of 1930. This power is already there as far as the county councils and the vocational committees are concerned.

Section 6 regarding returns, information, etc., is similar to Section 84 in the Local Government Act of 1941. Section 7 is somewhat of an innovation. I do not know if there is any similar provision in the Local Government Act, or in the Vocational Education Act. We in the Department of Agriculture find it necessary from time to time to hold conferences with various inspectors. It is sometimes very desirable at these conferences to have the county instructors present so that they can speak for their counties. In addition, they can get, first-hand, the policy of the Department concerning any particular issue, as well as instructions for the carrying out of any schemes that may be considered. On a few occasions in the past—not very often—we found that county committees refused permission to their county instructors to attend these conferences. The object of this section is to impose on the county committees the duty of allowing their officers to attend any conferences of that kind that may be called by the Department.

Section 8 is similar to a provision already laid down in the Local Government Act, 1941, and in the Vocational Education Bill. That is to say—there is an age limit for the retirement of officers. It gives the Minister power to make the necessary regulations for the retirement of officers when they reach a certain age. Section 9 deals with the suspension of officers of county committees of agriculture. That is not very different from the power already given under the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926, except in this way that in addition to suspending an officer we may compel him to hand up any papers or documents that he may have in his possession.

In connection with the provision fixing an age for the retirement of officers, will the Minister say if that means different ages for different officers, or if it means fixing an age in respect of a certain officer only?

I think that different ages can be fixed for different classes of officers, and not, of course, for individual officers. It would be a general rule. There might, say, be a general rule made for county instructors and a general rule for secretaries to the county committees. Section 10 deals with the removal of officers. This is similar to the provision—Section 25 (4) —in the Local Government Act of 1941. That is to say that, where an officer is convicted of an offence, he may be removed from office. Otherwise, he cannot be removed unless the procedure already there is resorted to—the holding of an inquiry and so on. The only other section—Section 11—provides that this Bill is applicable to serving officers. In case there might be any doubt that this Bill would apply only to officers recruited by the county committees after this Bill was passed, this section makes it clear that the provision will apply to officers at present serving.

When the Department of Agriculture was first set up in this country its object was to impart to the agricultural community here technical knowledge, to promote a better and more efficient technique in agricultural methods, to provide and administer schemes financed out of State funds designed to secure better quality, greater numbers and a larger income from our live-stock industry and, in the case of our arable land, to provide better and more prolific varieties in roots, and a better cultivation of grasses. The medium through which those schemes were to be administered and that knowledge imparted was the county committee. It is true that much has been done by the Department and by county committees all over the country in securing substantial improvements in our methods and a better technique in our operations, but, surveying the activities of the Department and the county committees over a great many years, it is significant that our total production has remained static, and in fact in recent years, and even prior to tho emergency, our production has fallen.

It seems a strange anomaly that, during a war period when everything is favourable, we should find ourselves in that situation. Bearing in mind the statements which have been made, the modern scientific knowledge available and the results achieved by other countries, and taking into account our climatic conditions, our soil and our resources, no one can doubt that our potential, if properly, scientifically and efficiently worked, would secure for us better results than we are getting. One of the purposes of these committees, as the Minister pointed out, is to equip farmers with definite knowledge and to administer schemes advantageous to the live-stock industry and to agricultural activity generally. I do not think we are getting results; I do not think we have succeeded, or are succeeding, in getting up-to-date knowledge back to the agricultural community. Knowledge with regard to recent discoveries of agricultural research workers has not been properly disseminated amongst our people.

The Deputy spoke of surveying the whole field of activities of the Department. I would point out that this is an amending Bill and that the main Bill may not be discussed except in so far as it is affected by this Bill. It is not affected as regards scientific training or production. It is affected only in certain definite minor respects.

May I submit that Section 4, which empowers the Minister to hold an inquiry into the work of county committees, widens the scope very considerably? I appreciate that this is an amending Bill.

The fact that the Minister is empowered to inquire into their operations does not justify a discussion of those operations.

I merely wanted to conclude by saying that real success and prosperity can only come when uur farmers, armed with and applying the latest and most advanced scientific information and equipped with the best and most modern equipment, secure that margin——

That is precisely the point on which the Cháir joined issue with the Deputy. It is not relevant.

What is the Ceann Comhairle's interpretation of Section 4?

It is not the duty of the Ceann Comhairle to interpret measures before the House, except for the purpose of order.

I submit that the Minister is taking very wide powers, so far as an examination of the activities of the county committees is concerned, under that section, and that we are entitled to discuss the work of these county committees.

The Chair does not concur. On an amending Bill the operations of any body set up under the main Act are not open for discussion, unless its operations are affected. In this case they are not. This measure regulates three or four matters, such as the expenses of members, the suspension of officers and the attendance of some of these officers at meetings of inspectors.

I take no exception to the provision under which the Minister takes power to hold a sworn inquiry into the work not only of officers of county committees, but the work of the committee as well. I think it is sound and desirable that if a committee is not carrying out its duties properly and efficiently, its activities should be examined by way of sworn inquiry.

I want to draw the attention of the House to sub-section (5) of Section 5, which sets out:—

The Minister may from time to time by Order do all such things and make all such regulations as in his opinion shall be necessary for giving full effect to any Order made by him under this section.

We have similar provisions in other enactments and we have, in fact, such a provision in the measure we were discussing yesterday and the day before, the Children's Allowances Bill, but the scope of it is there limited by a sub-section which says that no Order may be made under the section after the expiration of one year after the date of the passing of the Act. It is not desirable that the House should give the unlimited powers to the Minister which he seeks in this section. Whatever provisions are necessary ought to be agreed on here and enacted, and if a provision of this sort is inserted, it simply means, if the House agrees, that the Minister is given absolute power to do what he likes in relation to the administration of this Bill.

One can appreciate that unforeseen difficulties may arise in the administration of a Bill, and if a provision of this sort is not inserted, a Minister might have to come to the House again to secure the necessary powers, but surely the power should not be an unlimited power. The House should, in my opinion, make the power available for a short period in order to get certain regulations into operation, but once they are under way, the law as set out in the Act should operate, and the Minister should not continue to enjoy unlimited powers over an unlimited period. I, personally, take exception to that sub-section for that reason.

With regard to Section 8, which deals with the retirement of officers, Deputy W.T. Cosgrave has asked whether it is applicable to individual officers, and whether the Minister proposes to set retirement ages for individual officers or for classes of officers. I think it most desirable that we should be informed on that point, and, in my opinion, the retirement ages should be clearly set out in a schedule to the Bill.

On Section 3—I agree with the Minister that it is a hardship on members of county councils and county committees to be excluded from enjoying the benefits of schemes; but, on the other hand, it is a dangerous provision, too. There is a danger that because a man is in a privileged position he may by the exercise of his vote secure preferential treatment, and while it is necessary to eliminate any hardship, when the provision comes into operation it will have to be exercised with great caution and proper supervision. In my opinion, the Minister must ensure where such powers are exercised thas he will exercise control, and in fact decide whether a particular individual is entitled to enjoy any benefits under a scheme. But as the law stands at present a man has often to suffer loss because he is serving on a county council or county committee of agriculture, and that is not desirable. In the case of premium bulls, for instance, you may find a member of a county council, or even a county committee, who is a most desirable person for keeping such an animal, precluded from keeping such an animal. But then, again, he is in a rather invidious position, and public opinion cannot be ignored. While everything might appear to be above board so tar as the allocation of a particular animal, or while the application of a particular scheme to a particular member of a committee might be bona fide, there is a danger that public opinion might think otherwise. I suppose that is the reason why the law as it stands denies the right to a member of such a committee to enjoy the benefits of any scheme administered under the committee of which he is a member.

So far as travelling expenses are concerned, I think it is right and proper that this provision should be made. If men are prepared to give their services in the administration of local affairs and, if you are to encourage the best men to give that service, at least they are entitled to get their travelling and out-of-pocket expenses. I do not think, in fact, there is any provision for out-of-pocket expenses. Will the Minister say whether there is any such provision? In the section relating to travelling expenses the phrase occurs "reasonably incurred". Will the Minister say who is to interpret the meaning of the word "reasonably"? Who is to decide whether the expenses are reasonable or not? With the exception of the points I have raised, I think the Bill will be, to a great extent, a non-contentious measure and that it is desirable that the Minister should get the power that he is seeking in the way of holding inquiries into the working, not only of officers of county committees, but county committees themselves.

Members of this House, including myself, have been at times accused of actions that might bring the democratic institutions of this State into disrepute. I hold that Section 2 of this Bill is calculated to do that. That section deals with the payment of members. There seems to be an idea in this country that the individual who gives his services free to the State in any capacity is to be treated with contempt. From the experience we have had in regard to expenses in connection with county councils and other local authorities, I hold it is rather a joke that the servant is entitled to better treatment than the master; that the representatives of the taxpayers have to travel third class and get third class expenses, while the servant of the taxpayers, a civil servant, gets first class expenses. There are persons attending the county committee of agriculture in Cork, for instance, who, when the committee meets at 12.30 p.m. on Saturday, have to start at 1 o'clock on Friday in order to get to that meeting. They have no way of returning on Saturday night or on Sunday and, therefore, have to go home on Monday. It is rather a joke to see such a person starting off on his trek with third class expenses and to see an official coming in from the same district first class, as well as getting his subsistence allowance for the night in town or his three nights in town, the other poor devil having to pay the price of his bed and meals out of his own pocket.

If there is anything calculated to bring the democratic institutions of this State into disrepute, it is the glorifying of the servant and the lowering of the master, and that is what Section 2 of this Bill does. I would rather not see any expenses paid than see that degrading of the representatives of the ratepayers or the taxpayers in comparison with the paid official of the ratepayers or the taxpayers. I think bureaucracy has gone mad in this country. The ordinary representative of the people, be he a member of this House or a member of any local authority duly elected by the people, is entitled at least to equal treatment in regard to salary, expenses and subsistence with any official or civil servant travelling on business.

Section 2 does not prescribe that members of agricultural committees shall travel third class.

I have made inquiries and I am told by the Minister that this is to be on the same lines as the payment of expenses to members of a county council and other local authorities, and I am judging by the experience gained under the 1941 Act of the expenses paid to county councillors and members of other local bodies. There is no subsistence allowance whatever. As I have said, I know members of our county committee of agriculture, and valuable members of it, who have to travel in that manner. They have to leave overnight and stay the night in the city and attend their meeting on the next day. Under this Act as it stands at present, they cannot get any subsistence allowance while there, although the official attending the same meeting, at the instance of the Department of Agriculture, gets first-class travelling expenses and subsistence allowance at the rate of 17s. 6d. a day.

I think that the individual who gives his services free, gratis and for nothing to a local authority, is entitled to, at least, equal treatment with the paid official of that body or of the State. Then, to add insult to injury, we find in sub-section (5) of Section 2 that if the person happens to miscalculate the mileage that he travels, if he says he travelled 52½ miles instead of 52 miles, he "shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding £50 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year." This is rather a bitter joke. In contrast with that, we find in Section 7 that the committee of agriculture are bound to allow their official to attend functions having a bearing on their work. I have no objection to clauses (a) or (b), in regard to permission to attend conferences with officers of the Department or to attend for interviews at the offices of the Department, but we must permit them to attend at functions which they say have a bearing on their work, and we must pay them first class travelling expenses for going there and we must pay subsistence allowance, if they care to stay all night at the function.

I have seen for the number of years that I have been here, gradually, step by step, the degradation of the representatives of the people, whether they are on local authorities or higher up, and the uplifting of their servants. I have very definite objection to any legislation that tends to develop that position. It was bad enough when the Payment of Members Act was brought in first, and when we got 4d. a mile for coming to the meeting and could walk home if we liked. That was under the good old system that was first framed by the civil servants for the payment of expenses of those who were the representatives of the taxpayers and the ratepayers of this country. In addition, if one did not attend 50 per cent. of the meetings, he got nothing at all. This Bill is an improvement on that. I admit that much, but it is still a very definite step in the degrading of the elected representatives on local authorities of the people of this country. I object to it very definitely.

The Deputy should not repeat himself.

If there are not very definite amendments and very clear amendments in regard to that position by the Minister, it will be my duty to propose amendments in the Bill which, in my opinion, will rectify that condition of affairs, because I think it is a scandal. I think the idea of asking duly elected representatives of the people here to degrade their colleagues who are members of local authorities is worse still.

Who else is doing it?

It is up to the House.

Who else is doing it?

All that the Labour Party, who pretend to be the last word in looking after the democratic rights of the people of this country, are fit for is little nonsensical interruptions. The same provisions were in the Local Government Bill two years ago.

Who put them into it?

And we did not hear one syllable from the Labour Party in objection to it.

The Deputy voted for it.

They have not any backbone. All one gets from them is a little whispering that is worth nothing, and which leaves the Labour Party in their present position.

If the Deputy has nothing further to say on this Bill——

I am very sorry. I had to deal with interruptions.

The Deputy was not obliged to deal with interruptions.

He was interrupted, and surely he was entitled to answer.

Within reason.

I want no advice whatever from Deputy Dillon.

The Deputy does not like an awkward interruption.

Deputy Dillon knows the instructions he got from the people who elected him. He is sailing here under false colours. He should not be here at all.

Although Deputy Corry is a scurrilous man and, in many ways, an ignorant man, on occasions he says what is right and to-day, in his own simple, ignorant way, he has directed attention to a matter which is deserving of the attention of this House and that is the continued effort on the part of the bureaucracy in this country to belittle the elected representatives of the people. It is true that the approach of the bureaucracy to the rights of the elected representatives of the people has tended during the last ten years more and more to suggest that the elected representatives of the people are merely a nuisance and that the people who really matter are the permanent civil servants of the State. You will always find that if inspectors, as are provided under Section 7, are to travel on the business of the committee, every facility is to be provided and everyone expects that they will get first class expenses there and first class expenses back. Nobody is to question that. But, if an elected representative of the people has to travel from his home, 30 or 40 miles, once a month, to a meeting of the committee, he is held up to public odium if he asks for the price of the vehicle which is requisite to carry him to the meeting. That is reproduced, not only in this Bill, but in a variety of other Bills, Acts and Orders for which the Fianna Fáil Government is responsible. Flour millers——

The Deputy must confine his remarks to this Bill.

I do, Sir.

Flour millers are not in this Bill.

Deputy Corry, thick as he is, is quite right in drawing attention to the general principle that is enshrined in the provisions of the Bill in which the elected representatives' allowances are most strictly limited, whereas Section 7 of this Bill tries to leave the widest discretion to inspectors who are permanent civil servants. I suggest we are entitled to look through the general bulk of legislation to question ourselves as to whether that is part of a system of conduct. I say it is.

The Deputy is limited to this amending Bill.

Well, in regard to this Bill, I say this is no accident in this Bill; this is merely part of a studied system whereby the rights of permanent civil servants are held sacrosanct and the claims of elected representatives of the people are regarded as an intrusion, something to be viewed with suspicion and to be held up as an unreasonable demand upon the public. I cordially agree with the simple man who has just gone out that that kind of thing is a real menace to democracy in this country. What can we expect of someone who is of the earth, like the Deputy, but to find the natural reaction of simple democratic people against that kind of thing? It is a healthy manifestation that the most elementary elements of our community should feel this natural indignation at the reflections cast upon the representatives of the people and the way in which they are being habitually compared unfavourably with the civil servants who are, in fact, their employees. There is nothing derogatory in describing a civil servant as an employee of the people: it is an honour to serve the people, either voluntarily or for pay; but this continual urge to treat the civil servants of the State as a privileged class and the elected representatives—who are, after all, the chosen governors of our people—as the persons entitled to very little respect either from the Government or from the community at large is wrong, is injurious and is n tendency that ought to be checked.

I wish to refer, to two parts of this Bill—Section 5 and, particularly, Section 11. Section 5 confers upon the Minister powers of dissolution similar to those enjoyed by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health in regard to public bodies such as county councils, and boards of health when they were in existence. Has not a lot of water flown under the bridge since that principle was first introduced into this House? The present Leader of the Opposition was President of the Executive Council when a measure of that kind was first introduced, for the purpose of ending, the vagaries of a number of Fianna Fáil-controlled county councils who abnegated their duties altogether and gave themselves over exclusively to dervish-dances on political questions. The President of the Executive Council very properly took steps to enable the services to be carried on if the county councils refused to carry out their duties and were prepared instead to dance to the tune piped by Deputy de Valera, as he then was. When that legislation was introduced here, not to dissolve county committees of agriculture, which are comparatively insigni— ficant bodies, the roars of Deputy Ryan, as he then was, Deputy MacEntee and Deputy de Valera, and the lamentations that this represented a complete-sabotage of all democratic institutions in this country, were pathetic to listen to. Now, gradually, each one of these very Ministers, who used to make the welkin ring with protests against this new order, are claiming for themselves the right to do for, public bodies that which they described as an outrage on Christianity when it was suggested by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government some 12 or 15 years ago.

I wonder why the Government of to-day has suddenly discovered that it is necessary to take power to dissolve county committees of agriculture. In all the stormy periods through which we passed—and some of them were very stormy—no other Government sought that power before in regard to the county committees, which were carrying on their work. What is the reason now? Observe the ground upon which the body can be dissolved. Section 5 says that the committee can be dissolved if

"the Minister is satisfied, after the holding of a local inquiry under Section 24 of the Principal Act, as amended by this Act, that the duties of a committee of agriculture for a county are not being duly and effectively discharged by such committee."

What does "duly and effectively discharged" mean? Does it mean that any county committee of agriculture which does not agree with every folly propounded by the present Minister for Agriculture is liable to be dissolved on the grounds that it is not duly and effectively discharging its duty? If the members of an intelligent county committee of agriculture announced that they would take neither hand, act nor part in the Pigs and Bacon Commission four years ago when they started on their operations, which ultimately resulted in the complete destruction of the pigs and bacon industry in this country, they would have been dissolved on the ground that they did not duly and effectively discharge their duties. They would have been perfectly right and the Minister would have been entirely wrong, as the Minister now knows; but it cost about £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 to teach the Minister that he was entirely wrong.

Is it the desire of this House that a body of farmers and local experts in agriculture should be dissolved, simply because they come in conflict with the views held by the Minister for Agriculture of the day? I think it is a very dangerous doctrine and, certainly, a principle to which I will not subscribe. I have had bitter experience in the past ten years of almost every major decision of policy taken by the present Minister for Agriculture; and any committee which had resisted it to the death would have fully and effectively discharged its duties. I have not the slightest doubt that any committee which had done that would have been dissolved under that section, if the Minister had got that power.

Section 11 says:

"The fact that an officer is in office at the date of the passing of this Act shall not be a ground for contending that the three immediately preceding sections of this Act do not apply in relation to such officer."

The three immediately preceding sections are sections enabling the Minister to suspend, to remove or to fix an age limit in respect of officers in the service of a county committee of agriculture. The reason for this section is, evidently, that similar sections to 8, 9 and 10 were inserted in some other code. When it was sought to apply the provisions of those similar sections to an officer whose employment had begun before that Act was passed, that officer went to the High Court and the High Court very properly said: "If, when you were a young man, you were offered conditions of employment, which you accepted and worked on to advanced age, believing you had all the rights and privileges provided for in the original conditions of employment stipulated when you took the job, it is unreasonable that the Minister or anybody else should have the right to break his side of the contract when you, by advancing years, are no longer in a position to take appropriate action by withdrawing from your side of the contract." The High Court very properly added: "Therefore, we rule that, whatever the Minister chooses to do about incoming officers, he will not have the right to alter the conditions of employment which he promised you when you first took on the job."

These are the kind of things that slip through this House without anyone caring very much about them, because no one cares to envisage what they mean. Take a man who to-day is 58 years of age: 37 years ago that fellow could have become a doctcr, a lawyer, an engineer or an agricultural instructor.

Mr. Larkin

Or a politician.

Or, as Deputy Larkin says, a politician; or he could have become anything else. In any case, he elected to spend whatever patrimony he had on qualifying himself to become an agricultural instructor and to take a job under certain conditions, which were stipulated for at that time. He undertook to give of his best in the years that lay ahead, and his prospective employer undertook to pay him the salary agreed upon, to give him certain pension rights, certain fixity of tenure in his job and certain rights of appeal if there were any difference between him and his employer as to the propriety of his conduct during his tenure of office. Now that man is 58, and it is much too late for him to become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, though perhaps not too late to become a politician; but, in any case, he is debarred from making a new start in life. At that stage of the man's life, the Minister says: "I am going to alter all the terms of the contract of employment. You have delivered your side of the contract, you have done your job honestly and well, you have carried out all the undertakings you made when employed 37 years ago; but, now that you are no longer able to take appropriate action against me if I break my side of the contract, I am going to break it; and I am going to force you, by Act of Parliament, to take whatever conditions I prescribe for you. So far as these three sections of the Act are concerned, I will debar you from going to the High Court to get a determination as between the Minister, and the employee, as to whether that is a just course or not, because I am inserting a section which says:

The fact that an officer is in office at the date of the passing of this Act shall not be a ground for contending that the three immediately preceding sections of this Act do not apply in relation to such officer."

I do not suppose many people will suffer from that, but I am one of those who believe, with John Donne, once Dean of St. Paul's, I think, that "where a question of injustice arises, never ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." If one person is made the subject of manifest injustice, although we may not feel it at this moment, every one of us is similarly injured, not only inasmuch as we have spiritual affinity with him, but in a more practical and mundane sphere, because the injustice which we permit the Executive to do that individual may some day be quoted as a precedent to justify a similar injustice in our own case.

The very smallness of the issue makes it difficult to awaken Dáil Eireann to its significance. People are inclined to say this is all fuss and bother over nothing, and perhaps these provisions will never be used. All I know is that, if they are used, it will be an injustice, and it is wrong tor this House to give the Executive statutory power to wreak injustice on the humblest creature in the land. It is wrong tor the House to pass an Act which closes the courts to some humble citizen who may desire to have the arbitration of the independent judiciary on his claims in contract, as opposed to those of the Executive. I strongly oppose Section 11. I do not think it ought to be in the Bill and I hope, before our deliberations are concluded, that we will succeed in getting it deleted.

I want to recall to the House the rough-and-ready words of Deputy Corry. They contain a great deal of sense. Do not judge the book by the cover. Anyone seeing Deputy Corry would be inclined to ignore him. In his own ignorant way he has a good deal of commonsense, and it is wise to listen to him on fundamental matters of this kind. I think in his own barbarous way he has spoken the truth and I commend his simple words to the careful attention of Deputies of this House.

There are one or two objectionable features in the Bill to which I should like to refer. Generally speaking, I think the Bill is intended to place the members of county committees of agriculture largely in the same position as are the employees, the servants, of those committees, subject to the control of the Minister. If that control is properly exercised, I have no objection to the general purpose of the Bill.

There is certainly a most objectionable feature in Section 3—in the powers given to the Minister under that section. Section 3 deals with the disqualification for membership of committees of agriculture. A person shall be disqualified, either to be elected or to sit as a member of a committee of agriculture, if he infringes against certain rules and regulations, one of the rules being, if he is concerned, by himself or his partner in any bargain or contract with such committee, by which he would gain something, by which he would participate in the profit of any such contract or bargain, or any work done under the authority of the committee. It has been recognised, since the introduction of the local government code in this country, that a member of a local authority should not be in such a position. I think the authorities went so far as to decide that a man who owned a premium bull was disqualified from being a member of a committee because he had an interest in connection with the bull in a contract with the local authority.

That prohibition is distinctly recognised in the earlier part of the section. In fact, it is set out in Article 12 of the Schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order. Sub-section (2) of Section 3 expressly disqualifies any person who, by himself or by his partner, is in a position to make a profit out of work done under the authority of the committee, of which he is a member. In sub-section (3) we find that wherever the Minister so likes, he can make it perfectly legal for any member of the committee, by himself or his partner, to enter into a bargain with outside persons. I will read for the Minister the particular clause to which I object:

"Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (2) of this section, a person shall not be disqualified for being elected or chosen or being a member of a committee of agriculture (a) by reason of his having by himself or his partner received or contracted to receive any benefits or advantages offered to the public in pursuance of agricultural schemes administered by such committee if the consent of the Minister to members of committees of agriculture receiving such benefits or advantages has been given...."

I think that is a most extraordinary clause to include in a Bill of this character. I am not suggesting—and I am sure the Minister realises that— that the Minister would exercise such powers unfairly. But we must remember that this is permanent legislation; it is part of our permanent code, and it amounts to this, that if we had a dishonest Minister for Agriculture, he is given express power to permit irregularities which would otherwise deprive a member of the right to sit on the committee and to indulge in these practices with outside persons. You have the principle which has been recognised since 1898, and never objected to in this House before, the principle that a member of a committee should not be in a position to make a bargain, because it might lead to all sorts of abuses. Why the Minister should be given the power to help that sort of thing, I do not know. I certainly would not like to have that included in the Bill.

There is another point I would like to refer to, and I think Deputy Hughes has already referred to it. It concerns the last sub-section of Section 5. I should like to repeat the protest which I have made here on practically every occasion when a Bill is introduced. Just consider the way all these Bills are drafted. I do not know whether it is deliberate or otherwise, but gradually the right of members of the House to participate in the making of legislation is being taken away. At the end of Section 5 it is set out that the Minister may, from time to time, by Order, do all such things and make all such regulations as in his opinion shall be necessary for giving full effect to any Order made by him under this section. The effect of that is that we are giving a blank cheque to the Minister, who will be advised by his officials to do all sorts of things of which the House has no knowledge. That is in every Bill with which we deal. These blank cheques are given, and the development of bureaucracy is the result. I do not think that section should be adopted in that form. The powers given to the Minister should be defined more clearly. For example, under Section 5 the powers given to the Minister refer only to the powers which he has under that particular section. Under sub-section (1) of Section 5 the Minister can transfer ill the powers and duties to any body, person or persons. It is left completely blank. There may be some very good reason for that. If, however, that is read with the greater powers that are given below in sub-section (5), it will be found that this House is surrendering all its rights to legislate, and is handing them over to the Minister and the Department. I object to the framing and to the contents of Section 3.

I agree with Deputy Corry that the unfortunate ratepayer and taxpayer are discriminated against in all circumstances. The officials can travel in state, but hitherto the members of the county committees of agriculture were only allowed a miserable 4d. or 5d. a mile, for travelling expenses. I suppose the reason for the differentiation was that the travelling expenses of the officials were paid out of taxation, while the expenses of members of the county committees of agriculture came out of the rates. It is for the House to consider whether it should not be more generous in the amounts that it is prepared to allow to meet the travelling expenses of members of the local councils. The members of county committees of agriculture discharge onerous and responsible duties, and it is essential, especially during the emergency, that they should be facilitated in attending their meetings regularly and promptly. This Bill presumably, is intended to provide a more generous scale of travelling expenses than that hitherto allowed. The Minister, in the course of his introductory statement, said that the expenses to be allowed would only cover rail and road locomotion. I know perfectly well from experience that, in the past, the expenses of members of the county committees of agriculture were rigorously supervised. I wonder if the Minister, under this Bill, intends to be more generous than he has been in the past. When the Minister mentioned road and rail locomotion, presumably he meant that the members of these bodies are to travel either by bus or by rail, but cases will arise where neither bus nor rail will be available for them. In such cases, is the Minister prepared to sanction the expenses incurred by members in hiring motor cars to enable them to travel to a meeting?

If they are reasonably necessary, yes.

I am glad to see that the Minister's attitude in regard to the payment of expenses is more generous than it has been in the past. With regard to Section 3, it seems to me to be very loosely drafLed because in my view sub-sections (2) and (3) are mutually contradictory. Sub-section (2) provides that:

A person shall be disqualified for being elected or chosen or being a member of a committee of agriculture if he is concerned by himself or his partner in any bargain or contract entered into with such committee or participates by himself or his partner in the profit of any such bargain or contract or of any work done under the authority of such committee.

Paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) says:

by reason of his having by himself or his partner received or contracted to receive any benefits or advantages offered to the public in pursuance of agricultural schemes administered by such committee...

The contracts to which the Minister refers in the previous sub-section arise out of these schemes embarked upon by county committees of agriculture. I am sure the Minister will agree that in these circumstances paragraph (a) needs to be amended in many important respects. The county committees of agriculture can only administer a certain number of schemes, and it is under the terms and conditions laid down for these schemes that the contracts are given either to members of the committee or to people outside. While the Minister in sub-section (2) of Section 3 debars anybody having a contract with a county committee of agriculture from being a member of that committee, he actually contradicts himself, according to the wording of paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) and permits such a person to be a member of the county committee.

I disagree absolutely with what is laid down in paragraph (a) of sub-section (3). I hold, and always have held, that a member of a county committee of agriculture should not be allowed to enjoy any of the benefits arising from the schemes administered by the committees, whether these be for premium bulls or anything else. That was the rule in the past and I think it should be continued. For instance, an individual who is a member of the committee and who might not be a satisfactory man might hold a licence for an animal as prescribed by the regulations laid down by the Department. Another man in the area, who might be more satisfactory, will naturally hesitate to apply for any of the benefits administered by the committee so long as this other man, who may be a neighbour of his, is enjoying that benefit. Therefore, as long as the Minister is prepared to allow members of these committees to benefit by contracts and other facilities given by the committee he is opening the way for all kinds of inefficiency, and perhaps even worse. I think the Minster is making a mistake in abandoning the regulations which have existed hitherto, namely, that no member of a county committee of agriculture should be allowed to enjoy the-benefits of the schemes administered by the committee. In my view, in addition to these two sections being mutually contradictory in their terms, I think that if they are put into operation they will have a retrograde effect. The Minister should revise this section completely and restore the conditions which existed hitherto.

Section 5 outlines the reasons for dissolving a county committee of agriculture. Sub-section (1) provides:

the Minister may by Order dissolve such Committee and, as he may think fit, either order a new appointment to be made by the council of such county ...

Sub-section (2) provides:

whenever the Minister makes an Order under this section dissolving a committee of agriculture, he may appoint such and so many persons as he should think fit to perform the duties of such committee, and may from time to time remove all or any such persons and appoint others in their place...

There, again, I submit these two sections are contradictory. In the first the Minister states that he may order a county council to appoint a new committee, while in sub-section (2) he ignores the county council altogether and takes power to himself to proceed to appoint such a committee. Surely, it is not necessary to have these two sub-sections. The Minister should delete either one or the other. By virtue of the fact that the county council is the only body authorised to appoint such a committee, he should allow sub-section (1) to stand, and delete sub-section (2). I think that if the Minister studies these two subsections carefully he will agree with me that there is a need for clarification. There are other sections of the Bill which, in my opinion, are also loosely drafted, and which will need careful revision in Committee.

Deputy Dillon referred to Section 11, and I agree with every word he said. It is moat unfair that an official who has served a county committee for 20, 30 or perhaps 35 years—I have one particular official in mind—and who expected that, when he retired, he would be entitled to certain benefits conferred on him by the previous Act, should now have to incur the risk of having these benefits altered or amended by this measure. It may not be the intention of the Minister, I admit, to change the conditions of these men's employment in any way, but nevertheless this section gives him power to do so if he so desires, and so long as that section is in the Bill, it will create uneasiness, dissatisfaction and discontent amongst the officials of county committees who regarded themselves as safe and secure under the terms of the original Act. The Minister would be well advised to delete the section. It is unnecessary from his point of view, because the Bill is concerned only with the payment of travelling expenses to members of county committees. It appears to me to be quite unnecessary and irrelevant to embody such a section in the Bill.

I am more than surprised to hear Deputy Roddy suggest that members of county committees should not get at least the same concessions as they, as legislators, so to speak, are responsible for giving to others. It must be remembered that these committees are, or at least should be, mainly made up of farmers, who in many cases make great sacrifices in attending the meetings. They have to leave their businesses or their homes, as it is a 24-hour job, to attend the meetings, which they can ill-afford to do, but, according to Deputy Roddy, members of these committees should not benefit by such schemes as the lime scheme. Take Galway, which is a great county in connection with this lime scheme. If I require lime and if there is a surplus of lime available, am I to be debarred from getting it because I happen to be member of the county committee? I think it is outrageous to make such a suggestion.

I could understand it where members of committees may have a certain pull in relation to such matters as premium bulls and so on, and I suggest to the Minister that in any case where there is competition a member of such a committee should not qualify as an applicant; but in relation to the other schemes, I think it outrageous to suggest that members of these committees should be debarred from participation in these schemes, or should not be allowed to take advantage of the facilities which they make available to the outside public.

In connection with travelling expenses, the Minister speaks about "reasonable travelling expenses." Of course, "reasonable" can mean quite a lot. Am I to understand that it is to be on the same basis as that of the provision in the ease of county councillors and members of other bodies? Will it be something similar to that? If that is the case, as a member of a county council and a county committee, I must voice my feelings in direct, opposition because, on the one hand, it is most extravagant and, on the other, to the honest man it is niggardly. For instance, one is supposed to travel by the cheapest mode of conveyance. A man who is supposed to travel by bus may find the bus filled up or he may be late for the bus. I am not suggesting that county councillors in my county do anything wrong, but if a man has the excuse that the bus was crowded or that he was late for it, he can hire a car, which means 1/6 a mile each way, so that if the arrangement is to be the same as that applying to county councillors, it is most extravagant.

The suggestion by the Galway County Committee, which is the No. 1 committee of Ireland, according to the Minister when he was down there— perhaps he said that because he was amongst us—that there should be a flat rate of 6d. per mile, without reference to the mode of conveyance and that the point about the number of meetings be left out, should, in my view, be accepted by the Minister, because the other arrangement leads to extravagance. The man who is honest and who goes to the meeting on a bicycle qualifies for nothing, but suppose he wants "to work the head on it", so to speak, he can hire a car and get payment at the rate of 1/6 a mile to the meeting and back. It may be said that he pays that out, but I say that very possibly he does not. There is another way of dealing with that matter.

I suggest to the Minister that he should seriously consider the fixing of a flat rate, which is the only way in which the matter can be settled with fairness to the individual concerned and the ratepayer. I ask him, above all, not to consider the suggestion that members of county committees should be debarred from participating in the facilities which they afford to the public by reason of being members of the committees. As I say, the people who attend these meetings are generally farmers, who make great sacrifices in order to do so and it would be too bad if they were to be debarred from taking advantage of these facilities.

I support the plea made by Deputy Donnellan. I recognise that the Minister in introducing this Bill is more or less following the lines of the Local Government Act, and endeavouring to bring agricultural committees into line with other public bodies in each county. I welcome that proposal. It may not be fair to ask him to strike out on his own, but I appeal to him to make an effort to put county committees on some kind of uniform basis in the matter of travelling expenses. Under the appropriate section of the Local Government Act, which ia practically the same as the provision here, the most extraordinary anomalies of every kind arise. I do not think there is a county in Ireland where you will not find a big difference. Deputies who are members of the General Council of County Councils are aware that that body took up this question and circularised every county, and I doubt if there were two counties in which payment was made on the same basis.

Deputy Donnellan is quite right in saying that this system leaves the way open for some extraordinary things. The section in the Local Government Act was inserted with the idea of increasing the amount allowed for travelling. Under the previous Act, we were allowed only 4d. or 5d. per mile one way. The feeling was that that was quite unfair, and that it should be increased, but in many cases it happens—it happened in my own case—that the provision is interpreted in such a way as to give the person concerned less than he got under the other Act. As I say, it happened in my own case, and I think Deputy Larkin knows something about it. I might mention that, living in Wicklow, I live too near the meetings and so get practically nothing. For this particular committee I had to travel to Dublin, and I found that under this Act I got a lot less than under the previous one. When transport became practically impossible, when we could not get on trains or buses, I found that, by taking a car to Bray, and getting a bus there, I could charge the committee what I liked. That shows that the system is all wrong. Whether 3d. or 4d. a mile is given, everybody should get the same thing. The present system is not of benefit to anybody. Probably the Minister thinks he is justified in giving the same privileges or rights as we have in the county council. He ought to give a flat rate, and if he does, I think he will do a good day's work for all public bodies and everybody concerned. It is humiliating to many men on public bodies, who have travelled to these meetings for many years without getting any expenses, that when the Legislature decides they are entitled to some expenses, they should have to be fighting over 1d. or 2d., as they have to do to-day.

With reference to the other sections in the Bill, so far as I am concerned, I have not the slightest objection to them. I have had a lot of experience, as I have been chairman of the county committee of agriculture without a break since 1920, and I think there is nothing in these sections to which any honest man could object. I see no objection to the Minister, after an inquiry has been held, dissolving a committee if that is recommended. I do not think that there is anything in this Bill that will interfere with what any official is doing. I welcome the Bill, and I hope it will become law. I would appeal to the Minister to change the section I have referred to.

Unlike Deputy Byrne, I resent very strongly Section 5 of this Bill. He could see no harm in putting power into the hands of the Minister to dissolve a committee after an inquiry. There are two or three things added at the end which would appear to justify the section, namely, when a committee ignores a decision of a court or refuses to have its accounts audited. I do not think that such a thing would happen on any public body composed of sensible men. We must remember that the committee of agriculture is constituted by the county council who put on it the members they think best qualified to sit on it, with power to add people outside whom they think would be an addition to the committee. In the opinion of the council it is the best committee they could form. I can see no justification for putting into the hands of the Minister the powers proposed here. There is ample room for diversity of opinion as to the best agricultural methods and the best way of doing one thing or another and, if the Minister makes an Order which they find cannot be carried out in their locality, why should-they be suspended or done away with? I am strongly opposed to giving a power of that kind. I feel strongly that local representatives should always be allowed to express themselves on any matter without having the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. I object entirely to that section.

With the other sections of the Bill I am not seriously concerned. Travelling expenses I do not think are seriously considered by the majority of those who attend these committees. I think, however, that nobody is better able to fix the rates than the officials who have ample information as to the travelling expenses, provided a fixed rate per mile is laid down. It has been stated by some Deputies that members of a committee of agriculture cannot avail of some schemes. Possibly there are some schemes that would lend themselves to preferential treatment. But, in connection with utility schemes, such as the lime scheme, I think the fact that a man is a member of a committee should not debar him from taking advantage of these schemes. I think that any man who is a member of a local authority should not be asked to make personal sacrifices, provided it does not compromise principle. I can see no principle involved in a member of a committee availing himself of the lime scheme.

As I say, my principal objection is to Section 5. I do not want the Minister to get mandatory powers such as are proposed. I feel that the two additions to the section, namely, refusing to obey the order of a court or refusing lo have accounts audited, are things that can never arise. No sensible body of men will refuse to have their books audited or be so foolish as to disobey the order of a court. I feel that these things are tacked on in order to justify the placing in the Minister's hands of the power of dissolving a committee. We all know that there may be a difference of view in regard to agriculture between civil servants or the Department and the practical operators down the country. I do not want to subscribe to any section which would limit men who are in actual touch with the difficulties of agriculture on which so much depends. I do not want to see them debarred from expressing freely any opinions they may hold and from acting as independently as they like, irrespective of the Minister or the Department. I object to that section strenuously and I ask the Minihter to reconsider it.

I have a feeling that this Bill is rather futile, inasmuch as we are on the eve of a reform in the matter of representation for agriculture. We have a Vocational Commission considering the question of vocational representation and we hope to have their report shortly and that, as a result, vocational councils will be set up and a new system of representation provided for agriculture. For that reason I feel that it is futile to be passing this kind of amending legislation and tinkering with the existing system. We can never get the best form of local committee of agriculture until we get a committee directly elected by the people engaged in the industry, namely, farmers and farm workers.

However, since this Bill has been introduced, I should like to say that the most important and perhaps the most undesirable section of the Bill is that which gives the bureaucrats of the Department of Agriculture power to dissolve, at will, locally appointed committees. I say locally appointed committees advisedly, because, although they are not directly elected, they are appointed by the county councils. Even at present, they are very close to local opinion, inasmuch as they are appointed by the locally elected representatives on each council. It is a wholly undesirable thing that these locally appointed committees should not be free and independent of bureaucratic control. It is undesirable that they should have over their heads the big stick of officialism which has the power to come down on them at any moment and wipe them out of existence if they express their opinions too freely on any subject or show they have some little initiative of their own or some will-power to assert their own views and carry out their own lines of policy in agricultural matters.

It must be clearly recognised that agriculture is not an industry and it is not a science. It has been described as a way of life. The bureaucrats, plutocrats and politicians have made it a way of death in this country. Everything connected with agriculture has to do with life or death. It is not something which can be worked out and designed to the last detail on paper by officials hitting in offices in Dublin. It is, I think, something about which people in direct contact with the soil and deriving their living directly from the agricultural industry can always have views which are worth considering and ideas which are capable of being put into operation and giving good results, even though they do not always tally with the ideas of the officials in the Department of Agriculture. It is for that reason that, I submit, the greatest possible measure of freedom should be given to these local bodies. That freedom is sought to be destroyed by this section of this Bill.

There is also the position under sub-seotion (2) of Section 5:—

Whenever the Minister makes an Order under this section dissolving a committee of agriculture, he may appoint such and so many persons as he shall think fit to perform the duties of such committee, and may from time to time remove all or any such persons and appoint others in their place, and may fix the tenure of office, duties and remuneration (if any) of all such persons.

These are very wide powers. The county councils at present appoint the committees of agriculture. If the committees of agriculture are unsatisfactory, I think the body that appoints should be the body to dissolve them and appoint a new committee, that is, if we are to have any logic or reason in local affairs. Here we have the Minister taking power to appoint officials, who are paid out of money provided by the local ratepayers, to appoint them for any particular term of office, to pay them any particular remuneration and to put them in a position in which they can discharge all the duties of these local committees. I think that is going altogether too far. It makes this Bill something more than a mere amending Bill. It introduces a new feature into this particular branch of local administration, which is wholly undesirable.

It is bad enough to have officials running the county councils but I think it is worse still that they should replace a committee such as this which, even at the moment, is largely advisory in its capacity, inasmuch as it is mainly designed to bring to the aid of officialdom the views of the local people engaged in the agricultural industry. There does not seem to be any reason why permanently appointed officials should replace such bodies. They could not discharge the functions performed by such committees inasmuch as they would not be engaged in the industry. Even if they were engaged in the industry, even if the Minister were to appoint farmers, the mere fact that he did appoint them and has power to give them remuneration—which is not specified—makes them officials and, therefore, undesirable, from the point of view of representing to the Department the views of the people engaged in the agricultural industry. That, I think, is a very objectionable section of the Bill.

I agree with Deputy Donnellan that, as far as benefits of a general nature are concerned, such as lime schemes, and others which are applicable to all people engaged in agriculture, in connection with which privilege of favouritism cannot be exercised, it is only right and proper that members of these committees should continue to receive them and that there should not be any restriction placed upon them. On the other hand, any privilege or any contract in which favouritism might be exercised should be placed far beyond the reach of any member of a committee of agriculture.

As far as travelling expenses are concerned, I think there should not be any discrimination between the travelling expenses allowed to officials of the Department of Agriculture and to members of the committees. It is altogether wrong that members of the committees should be placed in an inferior position. In this matter we should direct our attention very earnestly towards securing the maximum economy. Officials and members of the committees of agriculture should be encouraged to travel by the cheapest possible means. It has been pointed out that under the provisions of this Bill and under the provisions of other legislation in regard to county councils, there is an inducement to members to avail of expensive modes of transport. Of course, they must provide some plausible excuse for so doing but I do not think it is desirable that encouragement should be given to people to travel by the more expensive means. I think it would be more equitable to provide a reasonable flat rate per mile for all members of these committees. If a member is frugal and thrifty and, by cycling a long distance; is able to attend a committee meeting more cheaply than is provided for in the flat rate, I do not think he should be discouraged from doing so. It is wrong to encourage extravagance in the matter of travelling and in the matter of expenses generally. That principle should apply rigidly, not only to members of the committees and other local bodies, but also to officials.

The Minister, in speaking to the Second Reading of this Bill, stated—if I took him up correctly—that there is no principle involved. On the contrary, as an examination of the Bill would show, in relation to the latter part of it, there is a negation of a very important principle dealing with the rights of existing officers. This invasion, as one might call it, of the democratic rights of the committees, which has keen dealt with by many speakers here in regard to the first part of the Bill, is extended by a further attack on the rights of the officers under the committees. The sections that deal with this matter would require careful attention, and I do not think they should pass without challenge by the House. Section 8 provides that:

The Minister may declare any specified age to be the age limit for all offices or for such offices as belong to a specified class, description or grade, or for one or more specified offices.

It is obvious from that that the Minister may, if he so wills, decide not only the upper age limit—which is the point to which most people direct their attention—but also the lower age limit for any office. While the Minister's reply to Deputy Cosgrave was not very clear, I think it is clear in sub-section (1) that he may declare an age for one specified officer; not only for a class and not only for a grade, but, if he wishes, the limits for a specified officer. In other words, if the Minister specifies that the secretary of a county council must be not less than 35, for instance, and not more than 65 years of age, then, on the making of an Order by the Minister, such secretary, if he is not within those limits, must forthwith vacate the office. This gives the Minister extremely wide powers, wider, I think, than has ever been envisaged by a Bill before.

I may recall that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health tried to obtain such powers in a previous Bill in regard to dispensary doctors, when he tried to make 65 the age limit for retiring. Everyone recalls that, on that occasion, there was such a volume of protest, and the resistance of the medical profession was so overwhelming that the Minister was compelled to abandon his attempt to fix or regulate the age limit for those officers of the medical profession. We find now that the Minister for Agriculture is seeking the same powers. No doubt, the House will agree that there should be some regulation in regard to the retiring age; but it should not be put in such a broad fashion as in Section 8 (1).

The Minister should be called upon to specify the age. He might make it, for instance, not less than 65. Then, if there are cases of hardship arising out of his fixing that age, when the determination of a pension would come up for consideration, the Minister should have power under this section to give added years to the officer so affected, in order to give him conditions which would enable him to enjoy the maximum pension under this Bill.

In the following section there is a further enlargement of the Minister's powers, greater than those which have been held hitherto. They are on the same pattern as we find in the Vocational Education (Amendment) Bill, to which the Minister himself referred. Here we have the right of the Minister to suspend any officer if, in his opinion, there is reason to believe that the holder has failed to perform the duties required or certain other conditions. I submit that the wording of this, too, is extremely vague. Anyone can believe anything; the Minister can believe, if he so likes, that the earth is flat and there is no one to stop him, though it may be contrary to fact, to science, and to proved truth. He can say that he has reason to believe it, but in regard to the rights of an officer there should be some more definite restriction on his opinions and his beliefs, when they can have such a detrimental effect on the life of an officer who has taken up this service. Not only is that so, but once armed with that opinion and that belief, the Minister may suspend and then he may terminate the suspension whenever he so pleases. There is no time limit there for suspension; evidently, it may carry on indefinitely, at the sweet will of the Minister, and thus impose great hardship on the officer so affected.

Let us look at the further portion of that section which relates to the remuneration of the man who is suspended. The man may not be put on trial but, as long as his suspension continues under sub-section (4), his remuneration is forthwith suspended. At the end of the suspension, it may be wholly or partly forfeited or it may be paid to him or otherwise disposed of as the Minister shall direct. I submit that there is no natural justice there. There should be powers in this Bill to recompense the officer for any injustice that has been caused to him by that suspension. Even though he has borne the ignominy of being suspended, even though he has gone through a trial at his own expense in defending himself, it may be that he is declared innocent, completely innocent, of all the charges that were brought against him. Even though those charges were brought in good faith or even though they were trumped up—it is immaterial —he has had the ignominy of being suspended and has had the material loss of his remuneration during that time. He finds then that, under this Bill, the Minister will see that his remuneration is remitted to borne charity or given back to him in part or disposed of in any fashion the Minister so directs.

There should be, in this or some following section, a safeguard for the officer—that, where he is declared innocent of any charge which has caused his suspension he will, as a right, without any direction whatever from the Minister, be recouped for the loss of his remuneration during that period. Furthermore, I think the House would agree generally that as he may be put to a good deal of expense in arranging his defence, there should be some provision here for recouping him the cost of his trial or the part cost of the inquiry which has been held to examine the charges brought against him.

The final point which deals with this matter has been dealt with already— very eloquently, I think—by Deputy Dillon, and very little remains to be said upon it. The fact that the existing officers are brought, willy nilly, under this Bill is not by any stretch of the imagination an act of natural justice. It is a breach of contract and a breach of faith on the part of this Legislature to do any such thing. I have not heard any argument, and I do not think any argument can be put up, as to why the existing officers in this service should not be exempt from the provisions which are now brought in, which are so detrimental to the officers. It is obvious to everyone that officers who have been a considerable time in the service of the committee have always considered that they had some fixity of tenure and that their conditions of appointment were fixed when they signed them on one side and the other party to the contract, the committee, signed them on the other side. They believed this was a contract between them and that it would be upheld in any court of law. The effect of Section 11, however, is to override that contract and break it, leaving the officer completely at the mercy of the Minister and his Department, through the exercise of the rights conferred on him under this Bill in the preceding sections. That portion of the Bill should receive very strict examination and scrutiny from the House, and the Minister, I am sure, if he understands the full implication of it, will exercise his discretion and drop this portion of the Bill. I am sure the effect of it will be to cause a great deal of dissatisfaction among the existing officials. They may say that it is quite correct for new officers coming into the service who understand these onerous conditions in regard to suspension and the fixing of the age limit. "If they enter the service with their eyes open, then it is quite correct that these sections should apply to them, but" existing officials may say: "We who came into the service long before this was even foreshadowed, and who had no knowledge that it was coming on, should be exempt from these provisions." I think the Minister would do well, and would receive the plaudits of the House, if he erases Section 11 and allows more harmonious co-operation in the future between the officers and the committees.

My view on this Bill is that the Minister should give the same privileges to members of county committees of agriculture as are given to county councillors. I believe no member of a county committee should be a contractor, or have any privileges other than those allowed to a county councillor, except with respect to one item, and that is lime. This may not affect other counties as much as it does County Mayo. There you have areas where it is almost impossible to get lime. The regulations with regard to supplying lime are different from those affecting other articles that would come under the heading of a contract. I believe lime is one of the things that should be allowed. I feel that this will be more or less a temporary thing— lime is only a temporary substitute for artificial manure, and it is the only substitute that can be procured at the moment. For that reason I think lime should be allowed as a privilege in the case of members of county committees.

As regards travelling expenses, they are allowed to every county councillor, and it is the county council that selects county committees. When they are forming those county committees, they generally select farmers. Some of these farmers have to travel long distances to meetings and it would not be fair to expect them to travel at their own expense. They should be allowed full travelling expenses, in view of the important work they have to discharge. Car expenses are usually allowed on the basis of whatever is the local charge by the supplier of the car. He has to furnish a receipt and the secretary of the county council, in the ordinary way, refunds the amount to the person who pays in the first instance. I think that system should be observed in the case of county committees.

In our county we try to group members for a particular car. A car might be going in a certain direction and the driver could collect three members and bring them to the meeting. Members of county committees are trying to arrange that in different counties. I know it is done in my county. The result is that the expenses reach, roughly, only 6d. per mile. The members of those committees should be allowed full expenses and they may be able to arrange a reduction of expenses by means of the grouping system under which, in some cases, four members could use the one car.

Mr. O'Reilly

I am not so sure that Deputies are correct in stating that members of county committees of agriculture are not entitled to avail of the lime scheme. I imagine that they are, and I think the Minister will bear me out. Deputy Roddy seemed to he under the impression that this measure would be detrimental to the interests of the ratepayers. I am sure, when the Minister introduced this measure, it was his intention to assist the ratepayers; that is the object of the Bill. This question, of course, is not a new one. In the days of the Cumann na nGaedheal Administration they were forced to take steps to get a better service for the community, and this measure is more or less a development of that.

I do not think there is anything in this measure to which the members of county committees will object. I think it will be a consolation to them and that it will also be a great consolation to meritorious officials. I have some experience of the operations of county committees, and of their difficulties in trying to control their officials. From time to time, if officials do anything wrong, or get into trouble, they are inclined to get support from amongst the members of the committee, and very often it is difficult for the committee to get a majority in order to check the official, chastise him, or even to have him suspended. Consequently, there are really good committees in the country suffering from that great disability, and all that is happening here is that the Minister will back up the committees in order to get better services for the community. It is not true to say that the intention is to do something detrimental to the ratepayers. From time to time such measures as this will have to be introduced. There is no intention, I am sure, on the part of the Minister or the Government Party, to become dictatorial or to take any privileges or rights from the members of these bodies. The real intention is to help them to give a better service to the community.

So far as the age limit is concerned, we have had experience of other measures, and there should be some discretion as to the age limit. As regards committees of agriculture, I believe this step is essential for the good conduct of those bodies. Section 5 has been complained of. I wonder is there anything in that section to which any of us, if we had responsibility, would take objection? I think every one of us would, in such circumstances, do what is set out under the section. I believe it would be obligatory on us to do it and, consequently, I can see nothing wrong in the section. It is good for the officials to know that that power is there and that it can be exercised.

And good for the committee.

Mr. O'Reilly

I take it that it is good for all to know it. The committee know exactly where they stand and what they can do. These county committees of agriculture are very important bodies and are carrying out very important duties at the present time. It is only right that the Minister should support them in any disciplinary measures that they take. That really is what this amending Bill means. It is certainly giving more power to the Minister, but no one believes that he is going to abuse those powers. As far as the affairs of the committees are concerned, this means centralisation from the educational point of view.

Speaking generally, I think that, to some extent, we are suffering from centralisation, certainly as far as the educational side is concerned. From that point of view there might be something in this that might be detrimental. The officials in the Department of Agriculture, living perhaps for some years under rather comfortable conditions, are inclined to get out of touch with the realities of life in the rural areas. In that way they might be inclined to examine the default of a local official from the wrong angle. They might perhaps have something of the penny tram atmosphere about them, and to that extent centralisation of this side of the Department's activities might not be a good thing. It might possibly be a good thing if, occasionally, there was a transfer of some of those unruly officials to the Department of Agriculture, and of some of the officials in the Department down to the rural areas in order that they might gain a little local experience.

I do not see anything in this amending Bill to object to. We have long passed the time when the payment of expenses to the members of these committees should have been rectified. I am not in a position to say what would be the most suitable sum to fix. We have not had what could bo called an adequate discussion of this, but if 6d. a mile, for a bicycle, each way were allowed, it might be regarded as being more or less satisfactory in present conditions.

There is only one point that I propose to raise. It may be regarded as a committee point, and perhaps the Minister would look into it between now and the Committee Stage. The point arises on Section 9. It seems to me that in this section the Minister is, for the first time, taking wider powers than he has at present. In so far as the Minister is taking power to deal with difficult, irresponsible or indisciplinary officials, or with a person guilty of misdemeanour, nobody would quarrel. I certainly do not want to justify an unsatisfactory official, or conduct which could not be justified either in the public or municipal services. Section 9 provides that a person may be suspended for failure, misconduct or unfitness to perform his duties. Provision is also made for the holding of an inquiry into the alleged offence. Power is given to remove the suspension of the official concerned. Under sub-section (4) of the section, it is provided that where the suspension has been terminated the official's salary may be wholly or partly forfeited, or it may be paid to him or otherwise disposed of as the Minister shall direct. It may well happen that a person's conduct is such as not to justify the payment of his salary for the whole period of his suspension. It may be that his conduct is such that, in all reason, he ought to be compelled to make some sacrifice for his misdemeanour, but I suggest to the Minister that it is indefensible to withhold the salary of a person who has been vindicated as a result of an inquiry. While the Minister is taking power to withhold the official's salary wholly or partly, he is not nearly so specific in his desire that the man should be paid if he has been vindicated by the inquiry. I can hardly imagine that the Minister would desire to withhold salary in the case of a person who has been vindicated as a result of an inquiry.

I think that this section is rather tightly drawn. Perhaps between now and the Committee Stage the Minister would consider the introduction of an amendment which would make it perfectly clear that, where a person has been vindicated as a result of an inquiry, he ought to get his salary for the period of his suspension. That is natural justice, and natural justice should not be overridden by the powers given to the Minister in this section. If the Minister should find any difficulty in getting a formula to do what I suggest, I hope that he will take steps to indicate, by means of a statement in the Dáil which will be recorded in the Official Debates, that it is the intention of the Minister and of the Department to pay the salary of an official where he has been vindicated as a result of an inquiry.

With regard to the amount of expenses to be paid to the members of these committees who travel to the meetings by rail or road, I do not think it would be unreasonable to allow whatever may be the prevailing rates. In my County of Mayo, they are 1/6 per mile each way. I think that, no matter what distance a member has to travel, he should be reimbursed for his vouched travelling expenses. There is a radius of five miles laid down in the Bill, so that if a member does not travel that distance he cannot claim any expenses. In the County Mayo, the chairman of the committee lives nearly four miles from Castlebar, where the committee meetings are held. He is an old man, partially disabled, and in order to attend a meeting he has to engage a car. Therefore, I think that this five miles limit should be abolished by the Minister, and that provision should be made to pay vouched travelling expenses, irrespective of the distance travelled. If that limit is not abolished, it will create hardship in a great many cases, and I have mentioned one. It is essential for that man to engage a car to take him to Castlebar. I hope the Minister will see that that is done.

I do not agree with the provision in Section 3 as regards contracts held by members of the committee. All contracts are subject to the sanction of a Minister. If the lowest tender in some particular case is not accepted, the Minister and his Department will be very keen to investigate the reasons for that, and see that individuals who should not get contracts will not get them.

Over a number of years, I have seen a number of people who were members of public bodies in County Mayo severely restricted in that, being members of subsidiary bodies of the county council, they were precluded from tendering for various contracts. I think that was unfair, because a large number of those who go to the public bodies do so chiefly because of success in their own callings.

I have in mind a number of successful contractors who were on public bodies in County Mayo, and also the late editor of the Connacht Telegraph, a newspaper circulating in County Mayo, as well as other people, who were precluded from legitimately tendering for business that might be available. That was unfair, and in view of the fact that these contracts see subject to Departmental approval, I do not think there is any danger. The provisions of former legislation were designed for an old era, in which there was not that tightening up or control by the central authority which we now have. I do not think there is any reason for the safeguards contained in Section 3 and, as a matter of fact, I think they are a genuine hindrance on business people and others who may go into public life.

Under Section 10, the Minister takes power to remove from office any official on conviction of an offence which, in the opinion of the Minister, renders him unfit for office. I think the particular offences could, and should, be denned in the Bill. I do not for a moment suggest that the Minister may exercise the power conferred on him by that section in a harsh or unfair way, but we may not always have the present Minister for Agriculture with us, and I think the particular offences in respect of which a conviction would render an official unfit to hold office should be set out. I think it is unwise to allow legislation to pass through the House in such a vague form. The House should know and should have a say in regard to the offences in respect of which an official might be removed and it should not be left to the discretion of any Minister.

I think the Minister should agree to the suggestion made by Deputy Moran regarding the five miles' limit for travelling expenses and should amend the Bill in that respect. I agree that people who live within five miles of the place where the meetings are held should be, in the ordinary course, entitled to travelling expenses, the same as the man who may live 10 or 30 miles away, because, as Deputy Moran pointed out, he may have to hire a car and be under very heavy expense in getting to some of the meetings, especially at present when travel is so difficult. I suggest that the Minister should amend the section in that respect.

So far as I can read Section 2, it is similar to the section in the Local Government Act, 1939, which allows more or less a discretion to county councils in the matter of the fixing of reasonable travelling expenses. I believe that in most counties the arrangement is working satisfactorily. It is a matter for the council, with the sanction of the Minister, to fix what are considered reasonable travelling expenses, and I think most councils have done so, and have had no trouble whatever in the matter. Objection has been taken by a number of Deputies to Section 5. I can see nothing in that section to which any member of a committee of agriculture who undertakes the responsibility of that post could object. There is nothing in the section which is not in the Local Government Act, 1939, and there is not one sub-section of it which could be objected to in any way. No person who undertakes the responsibility of the office of member of a committee of agriculture could have any possible objection to it. If he is not prepared to carry out the duties of his office in a responsible way, he should either resign or be removed by the Minister.

Deputy Connolly raised a great objection with regard to the age limit and the right of the Minister to retire officials at a certain age. It is a new line for Deputy Connolly and his Party to object to men being retired at a certain age.

But he wanted a full pension for the man, if he were retired prematurely.

I am not objecting to the payment of a pension at all, but, under the law as it stands, if an official is able to sit in his post until the age of 100, he can do so. I believe that some of them would like to remain there until they reach that age.

That was not Deputy Connolly's point. His point was that if a man is retired before he can get the full pension an injustice may be done. His point was: add some years to his service and let him get the full pension.

His point went much further. It was that the Minister should have no power at any stage to retire a man because he came in under certain conditions and could retire when he pleased. I do not think Deputy Norton will subscribe to that principle.

No, and I do not think Deputy Connolly was arguing for that principle either.

That was the principle which he wanted the House to agree to in his objection to the provisions of this section. The general provisions of this Bill will be welcomed by committees of agriculture, and I do not think that anyone who has any experience of working as a member of such a committee will have any objection to a single section. Many of its provisions are long overdue, and they merely bring these committees and their officials into line with local government officials, members of county councils and urban councils. I see no hardship in them and I know of no grievance which any member of a local authority has had up to now, provided he was carrying out his duties in a reasonable and responsible manner. I hope the House will pass the Bill without any objection.

This Bill appears to me to be divided into two compartments: one in which the Minister proposes to pay certain travelling expenses to members of committees of agriculture and provides for the disqualification or qualification, as the case may be, of members, and the other in which he takes power to hold an inquiry into the conduct of committees of agriculture and to impose penalties if satisfied, as a result of that inquiry, or for some other reasons which are set out, penalties should be imposed. In my opinion, we have gone beyond the stage at which that is the method of dealing with recalcitrant local authorities. So long as that power is there, it appears to me that there is likely to be a local objection to the exercise of authority by the central executive, and if, by reason of the experience which the Minister has gained with regard to committees of agriculture and other bodies over which he exercises any supervision, or local authorities generally, he decides that their exercise of their functions does not give satisfaction, a better system would be to get some other method of electing them. But spread out the responsibility locally as far as possible. I would experiment from month to month and from year to year in order to ensure that the burden of responsibility in connection with the administration of local affairs or State affairs should rest on the shoulders of a larger number of people through the country.

The proposal to take power to hold an inquiry into the administration of a county committee of agriculture is a new step. The Minister is taking power to do that and, if he is satisfied that the result of the inquiry justifies it, he may dissolve the committee. He goes further than that. He specifies a number of things which will justify the committee being dissolved by Order, and they are: wilfully neglecting to comply with a lawful Order, direction, or regulation of the Minister; failing to comply with any judgment, order or decree of a court; refusing to allow its accounts to be audited. Now the courts are functioning and there is no earthly reason, if a committee of agriculture will not comply with the law, why the Minister, or an official of his Department, should not bring them into court and get them dealt with there and let them make their case there.

We have the other question of the holding of an inquiry. That system had to be introduced at a certain period when there were the embers of a rebellion in the country. That matter had to be dealt with and it was dealt with. But that period is gone by. Now the idea ought to be to seek co-operation and not use the strong hand. Is it likely that a committee of agriculture will disobey an order of a court? I hardly think that is likely. Even if members of a committee of agriculture disobey an order of a court, are they not in contempt and is there not a penalty? It may be that a chance majority of members, of a committee of agriculture may precipitate a situation such as that. They should not, by reason of that chance majority, be responsible for having that committee of agriculture put out of action.

Apart from these considerations altogether, the Minister proposes, in the event of the dissolution of a committee of agriculture, to appoint other persons at a certain remuneration, if necessary. To my mind, that is undesirable and reactionary. If the Minister abolishes a committee of agriculture, why not appoint the county manager to do the work? Do not add to the expense. Do not leave it open to members of that committee to be able to say: "We accepted no remuneration for our services. Now somebody has been appointed at a salary to do the work which we did for nothing". I disagree altogether with that method of dealing with local authorities that are in conflict either with a Department or a Minister in present circumstances. There is no evidence that there is a rebellion. There is no evidence that there is sabotage. It may be that very strong-minded members of a committee may hold very strong views regarding certain matters. I would not blame them for that, having regard to the events of the last ten or 11 years in connection with agriculture generally. I think the use of the power suggested is unwise at the present time. Whether we like it or not, there is a long history in this country of objection to central government, whatever sort it may be, and the sooner our energies are directed towards ensuring respect and consideration for central government the better it will be.

As regards travelling expenses, I think it would be better to have a flat rate rather than having different scales. I would not be disposed to say that, if a man misses his bus he should be entitled to hire a car. That would be very expensive and these are days in which we must limit the expenditure, not only of persons in authority, but of those who are not in authority, if we are to survive.

The third part of this Bill deals with officials. The Minister said that the powers he is seeking are similar to those in the Local Government Act and in the Vocational Education Act. They are not contained in the Vocational Education Act. The Minister for Education is seeking them, and seeking them in much the same form as the Minister for Agriculture is seeking them. There was a contract made with the officials of committees of agriculture many years ago, when the Act first came into operation. It does not appear to me to be just that one party to that contract should seek to break it without the consent of the other party. I concede that any person beyond the age at which he can give useful service should not be retained in the service. But it does not follow that he should be thrown on the scrap heap. He should be compensated in the form that is usual in these cases where, say, a local authority is abolished or an office is abolished.

In the case of new appointments, the Minister should make such a provision that one can foresee what is likely to occur in the future. If one of these officials reaches the age of 65, say, it was not the rule up to this that he should retire. Many persons at that age are capable of giving many years of useful service to a local authority or the State, as the case may be. In some cases they are not. In some cases they do not retain at 65, or even some years prior to that, the full power of their faculties. The State and local authorities are entitled to get the best service. We are conceding to the Minister the right to fix an age, but not without advertence to the fact that a person in employment entered the service without any provision being made as to retirement at a certain age. Consequently, if he has to retire at a certain age, some special provision should be made for him.

I think the officials would he reasonable with regard to that. I do not think that they would go so far as to claim a pension of two-thirds of their salary. So far as I have been able to discover, they would be prepared to accept an individual year for every five years of service. It is conceded that the Minister should fix an age, but not from day to day. It should be fixed in respect of certain officers of a certain age and there should be a flat rate applicable to each office or grade. There is a proposal now, which was not there before, giving the Minister authority to inquire into the conduct, efficiency and some other qualification, of an official. The Minister had not got that power up to this. It is quite true that the Minister for Local Government had it in connection with a local authority, but it was not provided under the Vocational Acts. It is being sought under a Bill we have before us this evening. What would be regarded, perhaps, as a necessary and essential qualification to-day might not have been so regarded, say, a decade or two ago or three decades ago. Therefore, again, if the Minister or the committee of agriculture find that the qualifications of a particular official are not up to the standard now required, it does not follow that they are justified in throwing out of office a person who had sufficient qualifications at the time of his appointment and was exercising them to the best of his ability over his period of office.

Section 9 of this Bill is practically on all terms with Section 11 of the Local Officers and Employees Act, 1926, but, remember, that even that at its time was an imposition, a slight change from what had previously been in operation.

As regards Section 10, it sometimes happens that on appeal a convicted person is found not guilty and discharged. I think, as the section is drawn, the first conviction would disqualify. The Minister could not reinstate under this Bill as it stands. I do not think that was his intention. If that is not the intention, it would require to be somewhat differently phrased. There have been cases—they are not many—in which, on appeal, convictions have not been upheld and the person has been discharged without a stain on his character. I think I read in the papers yesterday morning of such a case. I am quite sure that it is not the intention to discharge from the service a person who is subsequently found not guilty of an offence with which he bad been charged.

Generally, I would say with regard to this measure that, as regards the first part of it, which provides for the holding of an inquiry and dissolving a committee, it is out of date, that we should depart from that as soon as possible, that, if the method of getting committees of agriculture has been found to be unsatisfactory, some other system ought to be adopted to ensure that the county committee of agriculture in each county would be so selected that it would do its work in the interests of the agricultural industry; that, in the second place, an alteration of the terms of appointment of officers, if that should result, should be done with justice to the present holders. The fact that it is necessary to do justice to them should not prevent the Minister, in those cases where more efficient or better qualified persons are required for the public service, from having such better qualified and more efficient persons appointed.

This Bill, as I said in the beginning, is largely an amending Bill and therefore, although there are several different matters of detail, there is no big principle, as it were, running through the Bill. I am afraid I will have to deal with it in that way again in regard to the points that have been raised. First of all, with regard to the payment of members, the wording there i "reasonable expenses". That will be interpreted in the first place by the chief executive officer who is the clerk to the committee. He will, I hope, get some direction of general principle laid down by the Department for his guidance, but, largely speaking, the chief executive officer will see that only reasonable expenses are put up. Deputy Donnellan and some other Deputies mentioned a flat rate, but I do not think it would be fair. If you have a member of a committee living beside a railway station and if there is a suitable train to a meeting and a suitable train home, he has to pay, even travelling first class, something like twopence a mile. For the person living in an out of the way place, where there is neither bus nor train, and who, perhaps, has to hire a motor car for at least part of the journey, the expenses will be very different. On the whole, I think "reasonable expenses" is the better system. I know personally of county committees, where, as Deputy Browne pointed out, three or four members try to join in the hire of a motor car. I think that on the whole, members of county committees of agriculture are anxious to keep expenses as reasonable as possible. I think, therefore, the wording of the Bill should be allowed to stand, until we see how it will work out. The system is operated more or less on the same lines for county councillors and it is better to let it stand for these bodies too.

Another point raised was that we should not have this five-mile limit. That also is in the Local Government Act. In these matters of expenses and so on, I have followed the wording of the Local Government Act because I took it that it was the major legislation on this particular point and that the Dáil had fully discussed the principles that were laid down in that Act and that, therefore, if we followed a similar arrangement here, it would meet with the approval of the Dáil, which had already approved the other arrangement. I do not think it would be wise to depart from this five-mile limit because I think any person living within five miles of a principal town in a county would have some means of locomotion of his own for getting into that town and it is hardly right that we should allow expenses to be charged.

It is entirely wrong to give the impression, as some Deputies did, that officers of the local authority or any other officials of my Department are getting preferential treatment in the matter of travelling expenses. It is the other way round, as a matter of fact, because, whereas we lay it down here that reasonable expenses will be allowed to members of the local committee, and that will be determined largely, at any rate—unless my Department comes to the conclusion that something very monstrous is being done—by the officer of the committee, we lay it down that the travelling expenses of the officials will still be controlled by the Minister direct and under regulations laid down by the Minister, the object of that being, of course, that we do not want the chief executive officer to be making regulations for his own travelling expenses. It is all right for him to look after the members and to see that reasonable expenses are charged, and so on, but it is not fair to that officer, if he is an honest man, to have him looking after or making regulations for his own travelling expenses. If he is a dishonest man, of course, it cannot be allowed. On that account, the Minister makes regulations covering the travelling expenses of the officers. There is no use in making the point that these Bills are the result of bureaucracy, in laying down better conditions for the officials than for the members of the local authorities.

In the section with regard to the disqualification of a person from being a member of a committee, I do not know if the point has been fully understood, or if I was misunderstood. What I said in introducing the Bill was that we were sticking to the old arrangement to a great extent but departing from the old arrangement to some extent. As the law stands, no member of a county committee can benefit from any scheme of that committee. Where the committee laid down a scheme for premium bulls or poultry stations, or even for lime, members of the county committee could not benefit. As pointed out by some members here, the section, as drafted, appears to be rather contradictory, but that is not so. Sub-section (2) still lays down that members will be disqualified if they partake of any of these schemes, but sub-section (3) gives the Minister power to make exceptions—that is what it amounts to.

In introducing this Bill, I mentioned that I had in mind the lime scheme. I am not sure if I would go as far as suggested by one Deputy and exempt contractors for lime; but what I had in mind were the recipients of the lime, that farmers who are members of the county committee should not be disqualified from membership of the committee by reason of their getting lime under the scheme. I pointed out the difference, which was stressed by many speakers—that is, where there was enough, for everybody and no preference could be given, there could be no objection to allowing any member of the committee to benefit. In regard to lime, for instance, there is lime for every farmer who applies. I do not know whether I can say that absolutely or not, but that is our aim, at any rate, under this scheme. That is very different from the example of the premium bulls. If there is a premium bull to be placed in a certain area, several farmers in the area may like to get him and it would not be wise to allow a member of the committee to have the bull as, even though he might be the best man or the best applicant, it would be very hard to get the farmers who were turned down to believe that the bull was given to him on that account and not because he was a member of the committee. Generally speaking, I think the distinction could be that, where there is no competition for a certain benefit under the committee, we would exempt the members from disqualification if they partook of the benefit, but where there is competition no exemption, as a general rule, would be made.

Section 5 was next dealt with—the dissolution of a county committee. There are varying views on that. Deputy Cosgrave says he thinks the time is gone when that is the best way to deal with these committees which are not doing their duty in the proper way. I do not know; perhaps the Deputy is right. I do not think anybody in this House looks on the dissolution of a public body as a thing to be desired, but it has been brought into legislation here as the only way out of a difficulty that may arise if the committee is not, doing its duty or if, as laid down here, they have disobeyed the court or refuse to have their accounts audited. There were objections to this clause from what I may call a theoretical point of view. Members who are imbued with the idea of liberalism are objecting to this particular type of legislation. That is all right, but I do not think any Deputy here really believes that any Minister for Agriculture will start off dissolving committees for no very good reason. Every Deputy knows very well that is not true. Some Deputies paid me the compliment of saying I would not, if I were here, as I was a reasonable man. I do not think this Dáil will choose an unreasonable person—so unreasonable as to dissolve county committees through a mere whim. That is not going to happen. Deputies know very well, even though they may talk to the contrary, tnat a committee which expresses its disagreement with the policy of a particular Minister will not be dissolved because of that. What is laid down here is that the committee must be failing to carry out the duties properly; and that offence would have to be rather grave before any Minister Would think of dissolving it. I do not think that the anxiety expressed by some Deputies was really as genuine as they led us to believe.

After that, the main matter raised was regarding the officers of the committees. I think we are all agreed— Deputy Norton, Deputy Cosgrave, and others who spoke—on one point, that the first thing we must keep in mind is to have our committees administered in a competent way. Nothing must stand between us and that object. If a man is too old to carry out his duties properly, we must get rid of him; if a man has been convicted by a court of a serious offence, we should get rid of him. If a report comes to the committee, and they think therte is something in it, and if it is a serious charge, they may suspend a man pending an investigation; or if a report comes to the Minister that there is serious charge against the man, the Minister may suspend him pending an investigation.

If, after the case has been investigated, the man is found innocent, there is no doubt whatever that he will be fully reinstated and receive whatever salary might have been due to him it he had not been suspended at all. I agree with Deputy Norton: I do not think there is any amendment necessary. It is better not to be tied by too close a definition in things like that. The clause says that the Minister may restore in full what a man would have earned if he had not been suspended or he may deduct part or the whole of the salary that would be payable to him in that time. I think every Deputy will agree that, if our committees are to carry on in a proper way and with efficiency, somebody should have the power to deal with those officials who are not doing their work properly.

There may be something in the point raised by some Deputies, that a man comes into the service on a certain understanding. Strictly speaking, however, the understanding he comes in on is that he must carry out his duties efficiently or, otherwise, he may be dismissed. To that extent we are not making any difference whatever as regards any understanding he may have had when he came into the service of the local authority. He must have known, when he entered the service, that he would not be allowed to stay there when he was a very old man, not fit to carry on his duties; that he would not be allowed to stay if there was a serious charge preferred against him, or if he was convicted of a serious charge in the courts. I do not think any official could claim that he was badly treated if these sections were brought into operation.

If the Minister will look at the sub-section he will see that among the reasons that may be assigned for getting rid of an official are, that he has failed satisfactorily to perform his duties, that he has misconducted himself, or is otherwise unfit to hold his office. Suppose you make it a condition of his service that the official must transact all his business through the medium of Irish, at a time when he has reached 55 years of age, do you think it legitimate that you should get rid of him, seeing that that was not made a condition of his service when he was entering?

The employee has, at the back of his mind, that unless he carries out his duties efficiently, he must go.

But, if you put in a new condition, such as having to transact the business through the medium of Irish, when he is, let us say, 55 years of age, do you think it would be legitimate to dispense with his services if he is unable to transact his business in Irish? It is perfectly fair to do that in respect of incoming officers, but if you take a man of middle age, and impose a condition about transacting business in Irish, when there was no question of it when he was appointed 30 years ago, would it be fair to apply that to him, and eliminate him on that point?

The Deputy knows that for 20 years this question of Irish has been coming up with regard to officials, and he knows the general trend of our regulations. The test of Irish has not been so rigorously applied to officials, either locally or centrally. As the Deputy knows, many men were appointed by local authorities on the condition that they would learn Irish within two years, and that was not enforced. If there is any fault to be found as regards local officials and Irish, the leniency has been on the side of the employers.

Does the Minister realise the unfairness of imposing new conditions in the middle of a contract?

I think Deputies are unduly anxious on this point. No matter what Act of Parliament is brought in, a Deputy can say "Under this section you could do so-and-so", but it is most unreasonable to assume that it would be done. I think Deputies should rather assume that there will be reason in all these things and that nothing will be done that might be regarded as unfair in any way to the officials. As regards the enforcement of any of these things, the only one that may be considered is the age limit. The other points about suspension and dismissal for misconduct do not arise. If the enforcement of the age limit appeared to be unfair, I think the matter could be considered. In the case of a person who is 64 years now, and who may not have made any provision for the future, thinking perhaps that he might be in office for a number of years, if we did make a sudden provision for retirement, in all probability the person so near the age limit would get a year or two to look around before he would be asked to leave the service. Suppose it were brought up in that way, there should be some consideration given to the pension that that person would go out on; he should get a more generous pension than he otherwise would.

If the Minister concedes that, all objection is removed. The main point is that he is entitled to compensation for the years he has served.

In an extreme case like that, where a man is up against the age limit, it would be very hard to make provision in this Bill.

The Minister could, by amending Section 11.

I do not think it could be done, even in that section.

I could not propose an amendment to that section because it would impose a charge on the Exchequer.

However, all these things can be considered on the Committee Stage. I have appealed to Deputies on many occasions that it is sometimes better not to be too particular about the wording of these things; it is better to leave it to the Minister and officials to use their common sense, and very seldom can it be claimed, either by a civil servant or a local official, that he has been harshly treated as a result of legislation. The officials have got off fairly well. One of the most difficult things in the world is to dismiss a civil servant, you have to go through so many formalities.

You succeeded once or twice.

Considering the number, there are very few dismissed. Reference was made by Deputy Hughes to Section 5. I think if Deputy Hughes reads that section carefully he will see there is not very much out of the way because an Order will be made under the section. The Minister will simply have power to make necessary arrangements to implement any Order he may issue under that section.

Any Order that may be necessary.

But the Order must be under this section. I think it was Deputy Cosgrave who raised the point, in laying down these age limits, to deal, where it is possible, with individuals. I think it is plain that what is mentioned in the section is offices, not officers. That makes it quite obvious that if the Minister makes a regulation, it deals with an office, the office of the agricultural instructor, the office of the horticultural instructor, or the office of the poultry instructress, and not any particular individual. It is not contemplated that we will say the secretary of a particular county must retire at a certain age; it must be a general matter.

Why should we not have that in the schedule?

Is it not quite plain that it is not officers who are mentioned?

Why should we not have the age in the schedule—should not the House lay down the age?

In these sections I have followed exactly what was done in the Local Government Act.

There is no reason why you should be wedded to that Act.

No, but the Local Government Act dealt with committees as well as county councils. It was thought that the Minister for Agriculture should deal with county committees, and the Minister for Education with vocational education committees. We were a long time coming along with our Bills. If we had all come at the same time, possibly there would not be this trouble, and the same thing would be done in all the Acts.

Deputy Corry complained about Section 2 (5). He said that if a member says he travels so many miles he will probably be put in jail. Probably he will not, but if we find a member of a county committee is making false returns with respect to his travelling expenses, then I think he deserves to be dealt with. If he deliberately makes false returns in order to get money, I do not think anyone could object if he were dealt with. As I said before, this is more a Bill for the Committee Stage. I believe it can be dealt with more satisfactorily in Committee.

The Minister seems to have an understanding of the fundamental objection I have to Section II. I cannot put down an amendment suggesting that those people should get compensation. Will the Minister consider, between now and the Committee Stage, redrafting that section so that it will mean that, if an officer who is already in the service is prejudiced in his tenure of office by some new condition made under Sections 8, 9 or 10, he will be allowed to retire with full pension or with something of that kind, which would give him some monetary compensation for any disadvantage which the new regulations would make in his position, and which he could not conceivably have anticipated at the time that he first entered into his contract of service with the public authority?

I agree with the Deputy in principle, but I do not know that I could go as far as he suggests. There is a difficulty. There is certainly some defect in the pension position of officers under the county committees of agriculture. I am not sure whether it applies—I presume it does—to officers under the county councils and under the vocational education committees. We are having the matter looked into, and I ask the Deputy not to raise it at the moment. I could explain it more fully to him if I met him privately, but there is a rather awkward case that we have in mind. I do not know if we would be in a position to deal with it in this Bill.

The Minister is sympathetic to the principle that I have advocated?

With regard to the question of locomotive expenses, I want to ask the Minister a question. Some of the members of our committee of agriculture have to travel over-night in order to attend the meetings. They are giving their services free, and they are surely entitled——

The Deputy, having asked a question, is making a speech.

I want to ask the Minister will he consider giving a subsistence allowance to such members.

I have already explained, in answer to two or three Deputies, on this question of expenses, that in this Bill I was bringing the position of members of county committees of agriculture into conformity with that of members of caunty councils. I have inquired about this matter that the Deputy has raised, and have had the debates that took place on the Local Government Act looked up. When that Act was going through the Dáil, this question of a subsistence allowance was not raised at all. I do not know whether the Dáil would wish to have it brought in now. I would prefer to wait until it had first been decided in connection with the county councils.

At the time that the Local Government Act was going through, there was no difficulty as regards travelling, and members of these bodies were able to reach home on the night of the meeting.

If a man has to remain out over-night it is a different matter, but if what Deputy Corry asks is to be done, then it should be done for all local authorities at the same time.

Question put and agreed to

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage of the Bill?

As regards that, I would like, if possible, to have the co-operation of the House. We have already authorised the county committees to put in for the new charges. They have not yet got the money, but the new scale will apply as from the end of June last. In order to be able to carry that out, we would need to get the Bill through both Houses before the end of the year. In view of that, I would like to be able to get the remaining stages of this Bill next week.

Has the Minister anything in mind for January?

No appeal to the country or anything like that? Is the old war-horse beginning to paw the ground again?

If this Bill is not passed by both Houses before the end of the year, another half-year will have gone and the county committees will have to carry on on the old charges. That is the only reason why I would like to have all stages of the Bill next week.

The Minister's colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, was desperately anxious yesterday to get all stages of the Children's Allowances Bill through, while the Minister for Local Government and Public Health wants to get his Housing Bill through before Christmas. The old war-horse, if we may so describe him, was in a very bland mood yesterday smiling at everybody, and that usually presages a general election.

Surely the Deputy is not nervous about that.

No, but I would like to know where I am. Do not worry about me, there is no safer seat.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 1st December, 1943.