Committee on Finance. - Arterial Drainage Bill, 1944 —Committee.

Section 1 agreed to.

I move amendment. No. 1:—

At the end of line 40, page 3, to insert the following words: "No natural watercourse or drain shall be deemed to be part of an embankment."

I cannot for the life of me understand why it is necessary to give the new meaning to the word "embankment" which is set out in the definition section. There the word "embankment" is said to mean "an artificial watercourse, drain, or embankment, or other work constructed for the protection of land from flooding, and includes all sluices, sluice gates, pumps, weirs, watercourses, and other works forming part of or essential to the effective operation of any such embankment or work". Why should a pump be called an embankment? That definition gives a very wide meaning indeed to the word "embankment". I have been prompted to put down the amendment because of the power that is being taken in Section 35 in respect of trust funds, to apportion them between other works and the embankment in the event of the embankment being taken over. If a trust fund has been built up for the maintenance of drains and embankments, it seems to me that the fund will not be apportioned at all because the drainage may be deemed to be part of the embankment, acording to the new meaning given to the word "embankment". I can understand that, where an artificial drain has been made to preserve an embankment, it might reasonably be deemed to be part of the embankment. Where, however, there was a natural watercourse before the embankment was made, and where there was a trust fund provided for its maintenance, I think we ought to attempt to make a distinction between an artificial drain that is part of an embankment and the old water-course.

I am still not clear as to what purpose the Deputy wants to achieve by this amendment. Whether that is due to dullness on my part I do not know, but I am still not clear as to what purpose the Deputy wishes to serve.

I refer the Parliamentary Secretary to paragraph (c) of Section 35, which states that "if such transfer order relates to the whole of such existing embankment and such trust fund relates to such existing embankments and also to other works the said judicial commissioner shall" do so and so. The Parliamentary Secretary is aware of what we are asked to agree to in Section 48, under which you can compel farmers to do certain works. It is quite possible, in the case of a trust fund, that portion of it was for the purpose of maintaining the embankment and another portion to maintain a drain. If that drain, which is a natural watercourse, was not constructed as part of the embankment, then, according to this new definition of the word "embankment" it is deemed to be part of the embankment. In a later section the Parliamentary Secretary may operate Section 48 against an individual occupier, and make him maintain that drain, whereas a trust fund was created for that purpose at the time that the estate was purchased by the Land Commission. It is for the purpose of protecting such an individual that I have put down this amendment. It is really to try to narrow down, if that is possible, the definition of "embankment" that the House is asked to accept. The House is asked to accept the definition that the word "embankment" means an artificial water-course, drain, embankment, or other work constructed for the protection of land from flooding, and includes all sluices, sluice-gates, pumps, weirs, watercourses and other works forming part of or essential to the effective operation of any such embankment or work. Surely under that definition anything can be called an embankment and if there is a trust fund created or if a trust fund exists, which was provided years ago, to maintain an embankment and to maintain other works, other drains, as well——

Would the Deputy allow me to ask him a question?

Yes, certainly.

We would not interfere with the trust fund about which the Deputy is speaking unless we were including the stream, river, or embankment in a new scheme, and once we included it in a new scheme how then could the contention which the Deputy is advancing arise that we could compel the farmer through whose land it was passing, to maintain it, under Section 48?

The embankment, obviously, would be on a main stream. Is not that so? You might have a small stream running into a main stream which might not be part of the embankment or which would have nothing to do with the embankment, but under the definition of "embankment" in the Bill it might be possible to argue that that stream was part of the embankment works, and later on you might operate Section 48 against the individual and make him maintain a stream where a trust fund was provided originally for the maintenance of the stream.

That could not happen.

I hold definitely that it could happen.

The Deputy wants to insert: "No natural watercourse or drain shall be deemed to be part of an embankment."

It is conceivable that a natural watercourse or drain could be so reconstructed as now to be regarded as an embankment and, having regard to the loose manner in which embankments have been referred to in the past by, say, the Land Commission, it is quite conceivable that that particular type of case could arise, but the fears which the Deputy has expressed now that, in a case of this kind where trust funds were in existence, hardship could arise under Section 48 are unfounded. That is a thing that is quite impossible. If there is a trust fund in existence and if, when the Bill becomes an Act, we propose to include the rivers and streams for which that trust fund was created in a drainage scheme, then, of course, the trust fund will be confiscated by the Exchequer, but from that day forward the works will be reconstructed and the owners of the land through which the stream is passing could not under any stretch of the imagination be made responsible under Section 48 in the manner which Deputy Hughes has described.

I agree that you can have a natural stream that may be so reconstructed as to be regarded as part of an embankment. I agree that that is so. The Parliamentary Secretary can appreciate that you may have an embankment on a main stream and you may have a minor stream flowing fairly close to the embankment. It could be argued that that stream was part of the embankment. I want an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that once the trust fund is appropriated, that stream henceforth will be deemed to be part of the embankment works for all time and that there will be no possibility of Section 48 being operated against an individual. The Parliamentary Secretary can understand why I was trying to differentiate between an artificial drain that may be constructed as part of embankment works and a natural stream that was there all the time prior to the embankment being constructed.

It is hardly possible, though, that a stream, flowing into one of those natural channels which as a result of reconstruction could now be regarded as an embankment, would not be included in the drainage district. In fact, I do not think it is possible that the stream to which the Deputy refers would be excluded by the engineer in the preparation of the scheme of drainage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:—

After line 14, page 4, to add the following words:—

"The expression ‘Arterial Drainage Works' means any drainage works the benefits of which are enjoyed by two or more rated occupiers of lands."

Section 2 contains a number of definitions but I think it is a strange omission that there is no definition of "arterial drainage". In Section 4 it is stated:—

"Whenever the Commissioners are of opinion that the execution of arterial drainage works is expedient in respect of any catchment area for the purpose of preventing or substantially reducing the periodical flooding of lands in that area or of improving by drainage lands in the said area, it shall be lawful for the Commissioners to prepare a scheme..."

The purpose of this amendment is to define exactly what the expression "arterial drainage" means. This amendment sets out to define arterial drainage works as meaning any drainage works the benefits of which are enjoyed by two or more rated occupiers of lands. Naturally, it would not be the function of any public Department to deal with the drainage of lands occupied by one individual only. Where you have a number of holdings affected by a particular waterworks, it does become the function of a public Department to enter into the work of construction thereon. For that reason, I think, it is desirable that there should be a definition of "arterial drainage" because we might have the position in which a certain work might require to be done; the owners of the land might feel that the work required to be done; but the Minister or the Office of Public Works might hold that the work was of minor importance, that it was not arterial drainage work and that, therefore, it was not their function to initiate a scheme in regard to it. That is why I have put down this amendment.

I admit the difficulty of defining "arterial drainage". This amendment would exclude the possibility of draining a single holding. A situation might arise where it would be essential to have power to drain one holding. I do not see why such a holding should be excluded. There might be a stream running for some miles and not passing through any holding except at the upper reaches of one farm. If the amendment were agreed to that particular farm could not be drained. As that would not be desirable I suggest that the Deputy might withdraw the amendment.

I could not accept the amendment for the reason that every effort has been made to define "arterial drainage". There is a passage in the report of the Drainage Commission dealing with the matter. As Deputy Cogan and other Deputies are aware there were on that commission engineers and people with a considerable knowledge of this question. Here is what they say:

"We considered the advisability of defining a ‘main drain' which should be included in the arterial works. A satisfactory definition is not easy to settle and we have come to the conclusion that on the whole it would be unwise to lay down a rigid formula. Discretion will have to be left with the designers of schemes...."

Anybody who has given thought to it will agree with the wisdom of that conclusion on the part of the Drainage Commission. I understand Deputy Cogan's object in putting down the amendment. All of us would be glad if the commission or any other authority was able to define what is an arterial drain. Apparently their efforts have not been successful so far. We are not likely to be successful here and, for that reason, the wisest course would be to leave the matter to the discretion of those who will be in charge of the designs of schemes.

May I take it from the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that the extent of a scheme is not in question? While a scheme may be of minor importance, and may, as Deputy Hughes pointed out, affect one individual, that will not weigh with the Department when considering whether it is an arterial drain or not. Am I to take it that any scheme whether large or small will not be excluded on the ground that it is not an arterial drain?

I do not understand what the Deputy is driving at. I am sure he has read the report of the Drainage Commission, and knows the plan behind the proposals in the Bill, that drainage is to be undertaken on a catchment area basis. That being so, every drain, every river and every stream of any importance would be considered and be examined in the course of the preparation of a scheme for the catchment area. A good deal of dissatisfaction arose in the past because of the financial structure of the law under which technical people were operating. Their style was more or less cramped by the fact that they had to have regard to considerations which will not operate under this Bill. I believe that under this Bill they will have greater freedom, and that the economics of every act, and every stream that they include, will not weigh so heavily for or against as in the past. Deputies can feel assured that they will be safe in leaving decisions to technical people now that they will have freedom to proceed on a different basis from that contained in the 1925 Act.

I do not propose to press the amendment. If I am right in my interpretation of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement, the failure to define "arterial drainage" gives greater freedom to consider any schemes, large or small. There is no definition of catchment area in the Bill. I take it that a scheme large or small will be considered on its merits.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 4, at the end of the section, to add the following:—

"a reference to a private bridge does not include a reference to any kesh, footstick or other similar structure."

The idea behind the amendment is that after the making of a survey, and before a scheme is prepared, farmers or owners of land adjoining rivers and streams in an area might erect bridges which would not be shown in the schemes afterwards.

Would it not be possible to get a definition of "bridge".

If a bridge was erected after the engineer had made the survey it would not be included. If a farmer erected a bridge before a scheme was carried out the bridge would not be shown in the scheme.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 2 as amended agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:—

In line 17, page 4, to delete the word "shall" and substitute the word "may".

This is a drafting amendment.

What other source of finance do you anticipate?

The word "may" has been used in the expenses section in all other Bills and it was by an oversight that "shall" was inserted here.

It would seem as if money from other sources could be used.

I do not think we could get it from any source but this one.

We are following usual formula so.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:—

In line 24 to delete the word "catchment".

I was wondering if use of the word "catchment" might operate against draining a stream that had no catchment area. It is hard to visualise a stream without a catchment area, but there might be a stream, a drain or lake in a catchment area. As it is a technical question I put down the amendment to have it clarified. I do not think it is necessary to have the word "catchment" used there, and it might be wiser to exclude it.

I do not think there is anything in the point or that the use of the word "catchment" in any way cramps the position.

Is it necessary? It might happen that there would be a difficulty in getting over it.

I do not think so. There is a number of main catchment areas and inside any of these areas you have a large number of smaller catchments. As the Deputy rightly said every little river could be regarded in itself as a catchment for a certain area. The word "catchment" has been used quite a lot in relation to drainage. It was used largely by the Drainage Commission in their report, which recommended that work should in future be done on the basis of main catchments. I do not think it could possibly have any ill-effects.

I was thinking of a situation in which a lake might be fed from a catchment area already drained and it was necessary to proceed further down. I want to find out whether such a situation would be covered by this. The original catchment area has already been drained into a lake, which is drained out to the sea by a stream or river. That river would have the original catchment area, and I do not think the word "catchment" is necessary.

The one thing of which you may be sure is that drainage will proceed from the sea inland. That is the intention, and, on the basis of the recommendations of the Drainage Commission, the country will be treated in catchment areas. It does not follow that we could not have a number of small schemes inside a catchment area, but if the technical people follow, as they must, the recommendations there for them, I cannot see that the difficulty which the Deputy seems to visualise can arise.

I am merely drawing the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to it. It might be inconvenient at some time or other.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In sub-section (1) to delete the words "lawful for" in line 27 and substitute the words "the duty of".

The House will understand that, in this piece of legislation, we are doing away completely with the power of any individual, individuals or local authorities to initiate schemes. We are handing over that power to initiate and provide arterial drainage schemes absolutely and completely to the Board of Works. In other words, I submit that we are instituting bureaucratic and autocratic control, and the people, except by way of Parliamentary Question through their representatives here, have no power to interfere in any way with the operation of arterial drainage by the Board of Works.

No machinery is provided for calling, by way of initiation or otherwise, the attention of the Board of Works or the responsible Minister to the desirability of carrying out a drainage scheme. As the section stands, there is no duty or responsibility placed on the commissioners. It merely says that the commisioners can do it if they like. Whenever they feel like doing it, they can do it, and if they do not feel like doing it, they need not. If we are to give this power to the commissioners, I want to make it their duty to carry out the work and not merely leave it permissive. I think that is absolutely essential, because this is the enabling section of the Bill, and I think the House should agree that it is not merely desirable but essential to place full responsibility on the commissioners to carry out drainage. The words "lawful for" appear to me to be insufficient in the circumstances. The commissioners may or may not carry out the work. They may postpone it as long as they like, or attack it vigorously, and in any case they have no responsibility. They are merely permitted to do it.

Has the Deputy thought of the effect of acceptance of his amendment?

The Parliamentary Secretary can tell me the effect of it.

If we were to agree to his amendment, we would have a situation in which it would be the duty of the drainage authority to dash around the country preparing schemes for every district, and surely there would be no discretion left with them. The Deputy has complained of the possibility of county influence intervening as a result of the passage of this measure, but if his amendment were accepted, we would have the position that it would be the duty of the commissioners immediately to proceed to prepare a drainage scheme for the whole country.

I do not think that would be feasible. I do not think it would be at all possible and it certainly would not be wise to make the attempt. The Deputy has complained, too, that we are handing over to this authority the power to initiate at will, to do nothing if it likes and to do something if it is in the humour to do it. We have had experience of the powers which the Deputy apparently would like to retain here. Under the 1925 Act, it was the responsibility of a number of occupiers of land to petition the local authority, and it was then the responsibility of the local authority to send these petitions to the Board of Works. That procedure was not satisfactory, and it is because it was found unsatisfactory that this provision is included in this Bill. I think it is a very useful and a very wise provision as it stands, and I should not be prepared to accept any amendment along the lines suggested.

The Parliamentary Secretary is looking at it purely from the Departmental point of view. He is, if I may say so with respect, taking the Civil Service view of it. I want him to look at it from the people's point of view. We are here providing a national scheme of drainage and we are dealing with the operative section. It is merely a permissive section, permitting the Board of Works to do certain works which, from the people's point of view, may mean that they will be carried out next year or in ten or 20 years' time.

That is so.

There is no guarantee that they will be done at all. Side by side with that, we are taking away the power which existed in the old Acts of the initiation of schemes by local authorities and of drawing the attention of the drainage authority to the desirability and necessity of carrying out certain works. That is all done away with, and surely when all power to carry out arterial drainage is handed over to a central authority like the commissioners, a permissive section is scarcely enough. We want to fix greater responsibility. I admit that my amendment possibly goes a little too far and that it might lead to a position in which individuals could sue the Board of Works for failure to carry out their duty. I can see the force of that, but if I have erred on one side in being rather too extreme, I think the Bill errs in the other way in being far too mild about it. Once you hand over to a bureaucratic institution the power that we are asked to hand over in this Bill, I submit that we should put greater responsibility on the Board of Works to do their job— that the words used are too mild in the circumstances.

What the Deputy says is largely correct. But everything depends on the sort of public opinion you have behind this whole matter of drainage. The position now, of course, is that, no matter what sort of public opinion you have, we could not implement in the way in which we would like the proposals that are contained here. I would not like to be the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Board of Works, coming in here year after year in normal times and not having included in my Estimate reasonable provision to give effect to these proposals which we are now discussing. I feel that in a matter of this kind, where we clear the ground so as to enable some authority to tackle this problem, it will then largely depend on the sort of public opinion you will get behind this whole matter. If there is, as I am sure there will be, sufficient agitation both inside and outside this House, I have no doubt that, whether or not the commissioners or the drainage authority wish to, they will be driven by that public opinion — I hope they will be driven if driving is necessary — to tackle this problem energetically. I do not think there is any half-way house as between the words here and the substitute words recommended to us by Deputy Hughes. I think we will have to leave it in the position that we are setting up an authority to carry out certain work. There is a great urge for it in the country. That urge, in my opinion, will grow and, as long as that urge is there, the authority will not be able to resist the demands which will be advanced.

I think the Minister is treading on rather dangerous ground when he suggests that the Commissioners of Public Works would be influenced by public opinion. It could happen that public opinion would be much more vocal in one part of the country than in another and that, in the particular county or counties where public opinion was very vocal, the need for drainage was not as great as in some other district where the people were more patient and meek and inclined to lie down under the difficulties. I think the Commissioners of Public Works, instead of being influenced by public opinion, should be influenced by the case made for each district. I think that should be the deciding factor.

I am talking about drainage in a national way. I am not talking about a particular area.

I think the Parliamentary Secretary is right in his outlook on the matter. I am surprised that Deputy Hughes made such a stand for the rights of the people on this Bill because, when we gave him an opportunity recently in connection with the County Management Act to stand for the people's rights——

The Deputy thinks there is no democrat in this country except himself.

That is not the point. I will make the point clear. Deputy Hughes wants to give the people back their democratic control under Section 4 of this Bill. We want to give the people back the full democratic control taken away from them by the County Management Act. Deputy Hughes in Carlow and Kildare denounces that Act, but when he gets an opportunity to vote against it here, he will not vote against it to give them back that democratic control.

A vote was taken to decide it.

My contention is that the Deputy would not vote then. He wants to vote now. He says he wants to give the local authorities back their democratic rights under Section 4. I think we have to look at the Bill as a national drainage Bill. In this Bill there is a proposal to set up a national drainage authority. If you have a national drainage authority, you must give that authority power to survey the country, to ascertain what areas require to be drained, and give that authority full power, as, for instance, we give the Electricity Supply Board or other national undertakings, to carry out in a comprehensive way the various tasks assigned to them. The big defect in all previous drainage schemes was that they operated locally; that they depended on the amount of local incentive necessary to implement them. Very frequently, as anybody with any association with local authorities knows, complaints were made that drainage schemes were too costly. In one county you might have a progressive county council saying: "No matter what the cost is, we must go ahead with the drainage." In another area you might have a wail over the amount to be put on the rates if the land were drained. This Bill is designed to deal with the matter comprehensively, to charge the commissioners with the responsibility for draining the land of the country that requires drainage.

I think that giving the commissioners that type of power to get the job done is the most efficient way of dealing with the matter. You will still have all the Parliamentary control that is necessary when you have a Minister in charge of the commissioners. At any time, by means of a motion here or on the annual debate on the Estimate for the Department, one can get an opportunity of putting the point of view of the citizens who desire the activities of the commissioners to be accelerated in any particular way. To suggest giving power back to the local authorities to look at drainage in a local way is, I think, the surest way of creating impediments to an accelerated plan of drainage. It is better to arm the Drainage Commissioners with this power and tell them that we expect them to do the job and, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, bring all the pressure possible on the commissioners, through agitation inside and outside this House, to get the drainage of undrained lands put under way in the most expeditious manner possible. As I said, to revert to the preparation and initiation of local schemes would be a fatal flaw and would give us the same unsatisfactory results as we have had up to the present by reliance on purely local schemes initiated by local authorities in a piecemeal way and not as part of any co-ordinated national plan.

Deputy Norton has twitted me about my failure to vote with him on a certain motion that was put down here with reference to the County Management Act. I should like to remind Deputy Norton that I voted consistently against that measure when it was passing through the House. I hope I am at least sufficiently democratic to accept a decision of the House and, once the County Management Act was passed, I think it should get a fair time for trial. That is my attitude to it. Let us see what the defects are and, if it is necessary to amend it, let it be amended. There is no use in passing legislation and, a year or so afterwards, trying to patch it up. Let us try out the working of the measure over a period and see what defects are in it. That is my answer to Deputy Norton. Having said that, Deputy Norton is now prepared to swallow wholly and completely this measure by which the power and authority of the people are filched from them and handed over to a bureaucratic institution like the Board of Works.

Your own Party voted for the Second Reading.

We voted for the Second Reading on certain conditions. Possibly we want national drainage more than Deputy Norton because we are more concerned with the people who are suffering from inundation than Deputy Norton is. I suppose Deputy Norton is not worrying about the people who would put their names to any scheme where provision is made for the initiation of a scheme of arterial drainage, and he is not worried in this case about taking the power from the people. But he is worried possibly because he thinks he might get votes from some of the people concerned with the operation of the Managerial Act. Fundamentally it is all the same.

Here we are handing over to a bureaucratic institution absolute power and control of national drainage and we are taking from the people themselves any control or authority in the matter or any power to initiate schemes. That is the objection I have to this particular section. I think it is undesirable to create that bureaucratic control. Unfortunately, the whole trend in recent legislation is in that direction. That trend has been pointed out by the Vocational Organisation Commission and very severely criticised. Here it is cropping up again. Are we to take cognisance of what has been severely commented upon by a very competent commission, set up to examine into fundamental matters in relation to our organisation of government? I think it is unwise to have this form of control — handing over power completely to a bureaucratic body. The Parliamentary Secretary has admitted that that is quite right — that we are handing over absolute control and taking the authority that rightly rests in the people from the people.

In what people?

And Deputy Norton, as a tin god democrat, is standing over that.

It is better than being a brass-headed democrat.

The Deputy is not concerned whether the people have any control.

I do not know what people Deputy Hughes has in mind. I do not know what he means when he talks about this democratic control. Surely he is conscious of the fact that the procedure that was previously followed has been departed from because it was found unsatisfactory. Under the 1925 Act the power to initiate rested with the people concerned and it was mainly because, in the opinion of the Drainage Commission, this power rested with the people concerned that we had this piecemeal, scrappy approach to what is a big problem. I should like to know from Deputy Hughes, if we were to restore this procedure, who would be the local people to make an approach to the drainage authority, whether through the county council or any other local authority? Who would be the local people who would petition for the execution of the outfall works, works that would be very expensive, but neverthless very essential? Those outfall works might not immediately affect any landowner.

I think, if Deputy Hughes will apply his mind to this matter, he will see immediately that I am quite justified in saying that I do not understand his reference to bureaucratic control. He invites me not to look at this matter from the point of view of the civil servant. I am looking, and have been looking at it from a commonsense point of view and am having regard to the practice originally followed and the failure that resulted from following such a practice. I am looking at it, not as a civil servant, but as a commonsense person who knows something about this matter. I say that what is proposed here is absolutely indefensible and we could not hope to make any real progress with the drainage problem unless we gave to the authority in question the powers conferred upon it here.

I do not want to suggest that we should preserve the old type of machinery. I am not defending that old type of machinery. But once we get away from the position where the people had the power of initiating schemes we are, I suggest, on dangerous ground. We ought not to hand power over to a bureaucratic body; we ought to have the authority of the people preserved. By all means have a central body controlling national drainage, but why should it not be controlled by the people themselves and let that body be serviced by experts and engineers? Why is it considered necessary to hand over to a Civil Service Department the control in this matter?

Why have we not a representative body, taken from the people themselves, exercising control? If we had, it would be more democratic. Why have we not attempted to establish a body taken from the people who are interested in national drainage, and why have we not provided them with the power that is set out in this measure? As I pointed out to the Parliamentary Secretary, the report of the Vocational Organisation Commission, recently published, has vigorously condemned this trend in our legislation —handing over unlimited control to the Civil Service. I have no objection to the machinery set up here, beyond that provision relating to the establishment of bureaucratic control. I think we should provide machinery that will preserve the authority of the people.

I am at a loss to know what the Deputy means by the phrase "have a body drawn from the people." I resent the suggestion that we are handing over control to this drainage authority. If I am the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Board of Works, I will be answerable to this House. Whoever is in this office will be answerable to the House for the activities of this body. What could be more democratic than that? What sort of control would you have unless control along those lines? I would be inclined to be sympathetic if I thought there was anything in the Deputy's statement, but I honestly cannot see what other type of organisation you could provide beyond what is provided here, or that would give the freedom that is here.

It is not correct to say that we are handing over control to that body. We are handing control over to that body, subject to the authority of this House. My contention is that any individual charged with the responsibility of coming here and, in normal times, defending the activities of that body, will not like to come and will not be anxious to come and have all kinds of charges hurled against the drainage authority, against his own Department and against the Government. Naturally, he will try to get that authority moving as quickly as possible and he will be anxious that the most substantial provision will be made in order to enable that authority to continue. I think that is the essence of democratic control and it does not merit the description given it by Deputy Hughes.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say how many schemes were initiated under the 1925 Arterial Drainage Act within the last ten years?

There were no schemes initiated within the last ten years. I have been trying to recollect the number initiated under the 1925 Act. I had the number, but for the moment it has slipped my mind.

Does not that constitute the clearest possible evidence that if you leave the initiation of local schemes to the county councils you will get no schemes? The big difficulty about the Arterial Drainage Act, 1925, was that schemes required local initiation and agreement, and because you tried to get local initiation and agreement you got no schemes. Instead, a situation was created in which the drainage problem was intensified instead of remedied. This Bill proposes to look on drainage as a national question, to set up a national board and give them the job of getting on with the drainage of the country, and charges the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for the activities of that body. That seems to me a sensible method, but to goback to the machinery of the 1925 Arterial Drainage Act is simply to fool oneself into the belief that we are going to get an effective scheme of drainage carried out in this country. You have to get a national body, give them wide powers and tell them to go on with the job of drainage, and you have to be prepared even for their making mistakes, but at all events you will get the drainage done that way.

If you are to rely on schemes initiated by local authorities, you will get the same befuddled mentality as you got under the 1925 Act, which was the biggest fraud passed through this House.

Having examined the differences between bureaucracy and democracy, Deputies might come to amendment No. 6. Does Deputy Hughes press the amendment?

Amendment No. 6, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 7:—

In sub-section (2), to insert the word "navigation-rights", in line 55, page 4, and in line 7, page 5, before the words "and other".

This is really of no great importance. There was some doubt expressed as to whether those people interested in navigation were covered by this particular section. We felt that they were, but they were apparently not satisfied, and we made this concession to them.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I never suggested at any time that we should preserve the machinery of the 1925 Act; that we should have the drainage schemes initiated by the local authorities. I never for one moment suggested that. But when you take away that power of initiation, and create a central authority to control and administer national drainage, that power should not be handed over to a bureaucratic body. We ought to create a board of individuals drawn from the people who are interested in national drainage, and who have some knowledge of it. The Parliamentary Secretary suggested that, because he is there in the Board of Works, Parliamentary control will be preserved.

I am not conscious of having made such a suggestion.

You did.

Not in that form. I should not like my suggestion to be interpreted in that way.

I am not casting any reflection on the Parliamentary Secretary.

I should not like to be taken as making that claim for myself. What I wanted to convey was that some individual in my position would be answerable to this House.

Let us discuss it in an abstract way. Some individual from this House will be in charge of the Office of Public Works and responsible to this Parliament, but in my opinion that does not leave the people with sufficient authority. Quite a lot of matters may arise down the country, possibly technical matters, matters of detail, with which the Parliamentary Secretary in the future may not be conversant. For that reason, I feel that a democratic body drawn from the people who are interested in drainage in this country ought to control national drainage, and not a body of civil servants. That is the point I make, and that is the one big exception I am taking to the sort of machinery which we are providing in this Bill.

I want to mention a minor detail. Under sub-section (2) of the section,

"every drainage scheme prepared by the commissioners in pursuance of this section shall show, either in the body of the scheme or by means of appropriate maps, drawings, plans, sections, and schedules annexed thereto, the following matters".

"Appropriate maps" seems a rather vague way of describing the sort of maps that are necessary.

Appropriate to the area.

Section 4, as amended, put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:—

Before Section 5 to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) Whenever a county council is of opinion that the execution of arterial drainage works is expedient in respect of any area within the county it shall be the duty of the said county council to request the commissioners to prepare a scheme for the execution of the said works.

(2) The commissioners shall examine the proposals contained in such request and if they think proper prepare a scheme in accordance with Section 4 of this Act or reject the proposals and inform the county council of their reasons for such rejection.

(3) An appeal shall lie by any council subject to the provisions of this section from the decision of the commissioners to the appeal board provided for in Section 19 of this Act.

I am not so sure as to whether the wording of this amendment is correct. The purpose of the last clause is to ensure that an appeal shall lie to an appeal board, but the purpose of the amendment as a whole is to secure that there shall be some power of initiation with the county councils. We have just been discussing the question of the power of initiation of works being taken completely from the local authorities or from the people directly concerned. It was suggested that although the power of initiation of works belonged to the people directly concerned in the past under the 1925 Act, and belonged to the county councils also, very little use was made of that power, but I think that was not due to any laxity on the part of the people who wanted their land drained or on the part of the county councils. It was due to the burdensome method of financing the schemes under that particular Act — the burdens placed upon the people who would be initiating the work. While not interfering with the discretion of the commissioners to initiate any work which they may think fit, it is sought here that, in addition to anything which the commissioners themselves may undertake, the county councils should also initiate work by submitting a scheme to the commissioners and having it considered. If the commissioners turn it down, there will be an appeal provided for under the section which it is proposed to include in the Bill later. The whole question which arises in regard to the operation of this Bill is the question of priority, the question of whether the drainage of one particular area might be left in abeyance while another area was being favoured. The county council under this section which we propose to insert here would have power to draw attention to their particular area, and to have the question considered by an impartial appeal board if necessary. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.