Local Government Bill, 1945—Second Stage (Resumed).

I want to say at the outset that I agree with most of the Deputies who spoke on this Bill in expressing, first of all, the difficulty which they had in tracing the implications of the Bill. The Bill itself is an omnibus measure in which we jump from one variety of things to another. It strikes me that the main purpose of the Bill is contained in Part II—Section 7 and subsequent sections—and that the rest of the provisions are really a number of snags which the Minister saw fit to dispose of under this Bill. Now, we have had from time to time, I understand, promises from the Minister and his predecessors that a serious effort and an early effort would be made to codify the laws relating to local government. It is admitted on all sides of the House that it is impossible for any official or any Deputy, or, I venture to say, for the Minister himself to know the law of local government— not only to know the law of local government but even to know where to find it. I spent a considerable time on this Bill and found that my legal library could not possibly extend to even tracing the repeals included in this particular Bill; and how any ordinary Deputy could attempt to read the Bill and its implications, I fail to see. I do realise that the job of codifying the laws relating to local government is a very big job.

I took the trouble to look up the staffs attached to the Local Government Department in the year 1931-32 and the present year, 1945-46, and I found that, in 1931-32, the total personnel attached to the Department of Local Government numbered 254, and the total cost of that personnel was £98,657, that is, including travelling expenses. In that year you had one Minister with a private secretary attached to him, and one secretary with a private secretary. In 1945-46 I find that we have progressed to the position that we have one Minister with one private secretary, two Parliamentary Secretaries with two private secretaries, one secretary with one private secretary, and two assistant secretaries, while the total personnel has increased to 467, and the total cost to £186,204, almost 100 per cent. I find that, in addition, the audit staff has increased from 16 to 23 for the same years, and the inspectorial staff from 27 to 57.

I mention these figures because, with the increased staff, and particularly with the supervision there is at the top, it should be possible for the Department of Local Government to find time in its various sections to begin the serious problem of codifying local government law. Everybody knows that it is virtually a legal wilderness at present, and that it is almost impossible to trace the law on any point at any given time. I suggest that, without any increase in the present personnel, the Minister has sufficient staff at his disposal to begin this job at once. While you have that progressive growth of staff, you have, at the same time, a progressive centralisation of all functions of local government in the Custom House and, as far as I can see, the tendency and the effect of that legislation is to paralyse local effort completely. More and more power is daily being given to bureaucracy, and the growth of that power, translated into terms of personnel and cash, means more money for bureaucracy, and more jobs for bureaucracy while, at the same time, you have a deterioration in the representation in local authorities. We are reaching a position in local government where very few businessmen, very few serious-minded men, very few men who have a real interest in the country, think it worth their while to go forward for election on local bodies, because they feel they have no powers there, no function to perform there, that the most they can do is to say ditto to the ukases of the particular manager in the locality.

I agree that there was some need for some system of tightening up control of local authorities. I agree there was need for improving the system of supervision of audit and inspection, but I do not at all agree that it was necessary to divest local authorities of most of their powers, and to give these powers into the charge of managers.

Will the Deputy say how that is related to this Bill?

Because the Minister seeks in this Bill, in certain of its provisions, to increase managerial control over local authorities.

In Section 47.

I am afraid the Deputy misunderstands the purpose of that section.

I do not.

I do not see how the manager comes in under Section 47 at all.

Section 47 is amending Section 44 (1) (a) of the Act of 1941, and gives the Minister power to hold an inquiry into the administration of a local authority.

What has that to do with the manager?

It has this to do, that the Minister may abolish a local authority.

I may also abolish the manager. That has happened.

Managers are also mentioned elsewhere in the Bill. They are treated as accounting officers for the purpose of audit. I forget the section.

I do not think that gives any more power.

Not necessarily, but entitles him to refer to the power given by the County Management Act to local authorities. If I am wrong I can be put right, but I think I am entitled to mention the matter.

I do not see how the manager is affected.

In a Local Government Bill we are entitled to discuss it.

All local government?

Not necessarily, but all local government matters vitally affected at the moment.

There is a provision in the Bill directing the manager to appear by independent representation before a sworn inquiry.

How does that increase the powers of the manager?

It is a very formidable power.

To permit him to do so?

On the question of inspection and audit, I think the Minister had a better way of dealing with that, that he should have increased his powers of audit, have a closer system of audit, a more frequent system of audit, and a constant system of supervision by inspectors, rather than taking entire powers from local representatives and vesting them in a manager. I want to get at the powers of the manager in Section 7. I believe that is one of the most vital sections of the whole Bill. It repeals Section 47 of the Local Government Act, 1898. Under that provision, a local authority was bound to observe certain restrictions and regulations in regard to the payment of public moneys. For example, a sum voted for a particular purpose under a particular Act could not be expended for purposes other than that for which it was raised. A sum earmarked for roads could not be diverted to social services. It was impossible under the provision of Section 47 to starve one service and feed another. I know that, from the accounting point of view, it might be very desirable to have one accounting fund and perhaps one county account.

What I want to get from the Minister is this: Is it intended under this provision to wipe out all the safeguards we had under the old section as to separate accounting for moneys raised in the separate heads of the rate? If that is the intention, I feel that this is a further effort to rob local representatives of even the little power they have still left, because, in effect, it will mean that a manager and staff can juggle about as they please with the various accounts within, of course, the annual estimate, and the local representatives will not be in a position, until the annual estimates are again presented, to know where they stand in the matter of particular services. They cannot know from time to time, from meeting to meeting, unless they are in a position to sit down and read all the managerial orders from month to month, how the moneys are expended by the manager, and a council may find itself, at the end of the year, in the position that a particular service for which they voted money has been starved, and another service has been bolstered up, or unduly fed from that particular fund. I think that is a great departure from the old system, and I strongly urge on the Minister to give careful consideration to the effect that a change of that kind would have on a local system.

There is an old saying that he who pays the piper should call the tune. Whatever may be said of local authorities in the past, they did, as a rule, make a serious effort to check public expenditure. It may be that they were not sufficiently competent to put their fingers upon the wasteful part of the administration. It may be that they were not sufficiently competent to get beyond criticising officials' salaries and that kind of thing, but in this new departure I can see a position where local representatives will be completely powerless if managers so choose to deny them information that they may require from time to time on particular matters. I question the wisdom of a departure of this kind. I think that it is the real purpose behind this Bill and that it may have grave local consequences. I suggest to the Minister that he should give the matter consideration before the Committee Stage.

Under Section 16 (4) the limit of time within which a local authority may pay its debt is being removed. I do not know if the intention is that there should be no limit in future. Under the old provisions, now being removed by this sub-section, a local authority had to pay its debts within a half year, or three months thereafter, or within 12 months with the sanction of the Minister. Is it proposed to extend this period indefinitely and will no limit as to payment be imposed upon a local authority in future? If that be the position—I do not say it is— it would require investigation. Some limit of time should be imposed.

Under Section 16 (3) the District Court is empowered, on the application of a person by whom proceedings are brought for, say, the recovery of rates, to appoint him as executioner of the decree. That is an extraordinary departure and one about which I do not feel too happy. A rate collector or an auditor might go before the court, get a decree and be appointed, if the district justice thought fit, to execute the decree. I can foresee considerable difficulty in this regard. Serious situations may arise in rural areas and the old procedure whereby the court messenger or a member of the Gárda executed the decree should be preserved.

On Section 18, I want to raise a point which has not a direct bearing on the section. The time is opportune for the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister for Justice, to survey the problem of ground rents and see whether it would not be possible to have some apportionment of the valuation for rating purposes, as between the owner-occupier and the ground-rent landlord. A number of people have a distinct grievance that they must raise money to buy a house, pay back that money, bear the burden of increasing rates on the house and pay income-tax on five-fourths of the valuation, while the ground-landlord is required to contribute no part of these increasing payments. A number of people have spoken to me on the subject, but I have not gone fully into its implication. I merely put forward the suggestion that it might be opportune to investigate this problem and see if it would not be equitable to impose some burden on the recipient of ground rents.

Under Section 19, a number of persons are brought in, for the first time, and given rate relief. I should like to know if the Minister has any figures which would guide the House in assessing the effect of this provision. The section refers to arable land, pasture land, meadow land, woodland, market gardens and nursery grounds in urban areas. It also refers to canals and railways.

They have always been included, in greater or lesser degree.

Not in the urban areas.

And in the boroughs?

Yes. The principle of differential rating has always been applied to them.

But they did not get relief to this extent. They are getting relief now the effect of which on the Borough of Dun Laoghaire or Dublin——

The Borough of Dun Laoghaire will not be affected.

They had to meet an increase already in respect of the railways. To what extent will this relief mean an increased demand on the ratepayers of Dublin or any other urban area? My understanding of the situation was that these people were not within this relief position in urban areas previously and that they were now being brought in.

As regards the provision in Section 20 respecting rates on vacant premises, it struck me that it might be necessary to indemnify the householder who pays rates to the rate collector, under sub-section (2) (c), against any subsequent claim which the landlord might make upon him for rent. It may be necessary to clarify the position. The section states that the collector has the exclusive right to recover arrears due by previous occupiers from the present occupant and to give a good discharge for all rent required by the notice to be paid. I am not clear whether or not this will give the occupier a full indemnity as against the landlord. The matter may require clarification on the Committee Stage.

Section 23 is another very unsatisfactory feature of this Bill. It provides for a second Budget within a financial year. I can see considerable difficulty and confusion arising if a second rate be struck. Fresh demand notes will have to be prepared and a ratepayer will not be pleased if, having paid his rates, he is called upon to make a second payment for the same year. The provision leaves the door open to loose estimating. In addition, it provides the Minister with extraordinary power. If any difficulty arises in relation to the making, levying, collecting or recovering of this second rate, he may, by order, do anything he feels like doing. That is an extraordinary power. I cannot see why, in normal times, a power of that kind is required by the Minister, particularly when, under Section 47, he seeks power to remove the members of a local authority for not performing a statutory duty. There is a statutory duty imposed upon the local authority to strike a rate and surely under the present system of control and management, it is impossible to visualise a position where a gross underestimate would be made? I can see a case where the local authority might refuse to strike a rate and in that event the Minister has the power to abolish that local authority. He did exercise that power in the case of the Roscommon County Council when they refused to strike a rate for the roads a couple of years ago.

Only after a sworn inquiry.

Only after a sworn inquiry but now you are taking an extra power. If any difficulty arises, if the Roscommon County Council says: "This is far too large a sum to demand from the ratepayers of Roscommon for the maintenance of roads, many of which are trunk roads, the maintenance of which should be undertaken by the State" although their demand may be a reasonable one, and although they may have a very good case for not levying the amount put forward by the county surveyor, the Minister has power to remove them and, in addition, he now wants the extra power not only to remove them but also to strike the rate. I know that the Minister has that power under the Emergency Powers Act but I think such a power should be exercised only in an emergency and a very grave emergency. If there was an under-estimate for a particular year, any liability that might accrue as a result of that under-estimate, could be properly carried over to the following year without necessarily upsetting the local administration of a particular county. I believe that the Minister's proposal opens the way for loose estimation and that officials can take advantage of this, as Deputy Allen pointed out last evening, to walk local authorities into a very false position.

I understood the Minister to say last evening that Section 27 was designed to meet the case of the occupant of a particular office who might be ill for a prolonged period, but, as the section is framed, it would seem to me to have a different meaning. It says:—

"Where the appropriate Minister is of opinion that, on account of special circumstances, the duties of a particular office should not be performed during a particular period by the holder of the office in person, the appropriate Minister may, by Order, authorise the holder to perform the duties of the office by deputy during that period."

That does not seem to meet a case of mere incapacity or a period of absence through illness. It seems to be designed to provide for an entirely different set of circumstances. I should certainly like to have further elucidation of that section. It seems to me that the Minister, under that section, could tell a particular manager or senior officer to lie low for a particular period, if it were obnoxious to have him discharge these duties for a particular period, and that X could perform the duties during his absence.

The Minister also told us on Section 28 that it was not intended to apply the provisions of this section to present office holders. Was I correct in making that assumption because reading this section with Section 19 (1) of the Act of 1941, it was clear to my mind that in law the Minister may apply the provisions of this section to existing officers? Section 19 (1) of the 1941 Act applies to existing officers and Section 28 is merely an addition to the powers which the Minister has under Section 19 (1). If it is the intention that that provision should apply only to future officers, I think that should be made clear on the Committee Stage. Under Section 19 (1) of the 1941 Act the Minister has power to fix the pay, travelling expenses, the hours of officers, the records of their attendance, to make regulations regarding their sick leave or their ordinary leave, to lay down provisions for the security of appointment, the procedure for appointment, their continuance in office under certain conditions, when they may cease to hold office, and there is even a provision for deputies to act in the absence of existing officers. Then we get this extraordinary provision added under this section requiring the holders to devote the whole of their time to the duties of their office. It seems to me that the Minister in law will have power to apply that provision to all officers. He said the purpose was to enable him to discriminate between part-time and whole-time officers but, reading the two sections together he can say that a rate collector is a whole-time officer, that a rent collector is a whole-time officer, that a dispensary medical officer is a whole-time officer, and that he must not perform any other duties.

I think these are very sweeping and drastic provisions and we shall have a good deal to say to them on the Committee Stage. I should like to know particularly to what class of officer the Minister intends to apply these provisions, and to what class he means to apply that particular provision that they be whole-time and not part-time. I should like to see a definition in the Bill of what is a part-time officer. This problem of what is a part-time officer and what is a whole-time officer has given the courts considerable difficulty in construction and in interpretation of Acts. I am not at all satisfied with the explanation which the Minister gave and, if what Deputy Allen said last evening is the correct explanation, I should like to hear him further on the subject.

I have nothing to say to Part IV except to recommend to the Minister that he should do with the rest of the local government law what he has done with Part IV. Part IV is an exemplary piece of draftsmanship. It simplifies the whole procedure in relation to bridges and to a great extent codifies the law in relation to particular matters and makes it very simple for the average officer or the average Deputy to see its implications. If what has happened in Part IV could be done with the rest of the local government code we would be getting somewhere.

Why not apply that to Part II?

I do not apply it to Part II because of the implications I see in Section 7. As regards Section 47, which we have already mentioned, I think the Minister has sufficient powers already under the 1941 Act. He may hold an inquiry and if as a result of that inquiry he is satisfied that the public authority is not duly and effectually performing its duties he may abolish it. Surely that is sufficient power and control without seeking the extra power that where a local authority fails to perform a specific statutory duty he can abolish it without inquiry. I mention the matter again because it is possible that a council and a manager may seriously disagree in the matter, say, of a road estimate. It is possible that a crisis may arise between that particular council and manager. You may have animpasse and the members of the council may refuse to strike a rate. I say, in all seriousness, that the council may have a very good case as opposed to that of the manager. I do not think that in circumstances of that kind a power of this description should be given the Minister but if the giving of such a power is to be considered at all, it should be made clear that it should be exercised only after a public inquiry has been held and, may I add, that the report of that inquiry should be made public as is the report of every tribunal and every court in the land. Certain new bodies are now, for the first time, being brought within the ambit of the audit system of local government.

Do not make Deputy Mulcahy's mistake about that.

I am not making any mistake about it. We on this side of the House want to know—I am merely looking for information—why it has been found necessary to bring these particular bodies within the scheme of public audits, because my information at the moment is that these particular bodies have their accounts audited annually, whereas, if they come under the Local Government Department, it may happen that their accounts will not be audited, perhaps, for intervals of three and four years. While the law prescribes that audits shall be held annually by the auditors of the Local Government Department, every Deputy who is a member of a local authority knows full well that no local authority is audited annually. Every Deputy who is a member of a local authority knows that the audits are often two or three years behind time.

That will not happen in future.

I am glad to hear that because I think it is a very bad system under which the accounts of a particular local body are allowed to carry over for intervals of two and three years without audit. It has a bad effect on a local authority and on all concerned and I am glad to hear that it will not happen in future. It is because it has happened in the past that I would prefer to see these subsidiary bodies left as they are for the present until such time as the Minister has a more perfect audit machine at his disposal. In addition, I feel this is the thin edge of the wedge to get the commissioner into certain of these subsidiary bodies. If a local authority which elects members on any of these subsidiary bodies finds itself in conflict with the Minister and, as a result of that conflict, is dissolved, then of course the members of a local authority, by virtue of this Bill and previous Acts, disappear from the subsidiary body and the door is opened immediately for the commissioner to walk in. Rumour has it that the Minister contemplates bringing all classes of institutions and boards and bodies of a charitable and public nature within the scope of local government in the near future. I believe that will kill local initiative, private enterprise and efficiency.

Under Section 51 the Minister is making certain provision for traffic signs on roads. I note that at the moment he does not propose to bring Section 118 (b) of Section 148 of the Road Traffic Act into operation. That is treated as an "excepted enactment." Under that section there were certain provisions in respect of traffic signs, bus stops and all that kind of thing. I do not know if it is the Minister's intention to abandon Section 118 of the Road Traffic Act entirely or whether he intends to impose the duty and responsibility for erecting traffic signs for large public service vehicles upon Córas Iompair Eireann. I want to direct attention to this matter because in many towns and cities there is a persistent demand for the erection of these signs. Owing to the difficulties arising from the emergency it has not been possible to erect these signs and if we abandon Section 118 now, what are we going to put in its place? Is it proposed to take statutory powers elsewhere to ensure the early provision of these signs? I think the erection of these signs is essential, particularly for the resumption of normal traffic which must take place in the near future. People have become accustomed to an orderly method of waiting at bus stops, queuing up, and that kind of thing. Apart from that, these methods have a safety value in themselves. I am raising the point so as to ensure that early provision will be made for the erection of the bus stops, signs, etc., connected with large public service vehicles, so that there will be nohiatus.

Exception has been taken to the Commissioner of the Gárda directing a local authority to provide signs. All I should like to say on that is that, from my experience, the old machinery was too slow, it was impossible to make progress and if that machinery is restored it will be years before any progress is made in this matter. As the Commissioner is the responsible traffic authority, as he is the responsible law-enforcing authority and as it is his officers, in co-operation with the various omnibus companies and road users of all kinds, who know best what is required in road traffic, I think it will make for despatch in this matter if this power is vested in the Commissioner. I cannot see that the Commissioner, in directing a local authority to erect traffic signs, will in any way abuse his authority or worry the local authorities unnecessarily. In practice, it is a matter that will be arranged between the Commissioner's officers and the managers and their officers. In my opinion, it is a vast improvement on the old procedure and I disagree with Deputy Allen and other Deputies who questioned the wisdom of this proposal. We have been for years trying to get this thing done with despatch. There have been too many cooks spoiling the broth and the less intervening authorities there are in matters of this kind the better.

In regard to the changing of street names, I think the new provision is a considerable improvement on the old one and, as far as I have any experience of these matters, I would strongly advise the Minister to ignore the suggestions put forward by Deputy Allen, of his own Party, in this matter. We all know that there has been a ramp in this matter of the changing of street names. We all know that some years ago illegal organisations were engaged in this ramp and tried to force the hands of local authorities. If the Minister were to go further in the direction in which Deputy Allen wants him to go, he might find himself in the position where illegal organisations would endeavour, by force, to influence the members of local authorities to take particular steps in this matter. For business reasons alone, it is essential that the residents of a particular street should have the right to say whether or not the name of that street should be changed. Trade interests demand as a matter of right that there should be some preservation of majority rule in this matter. Old-established firms will not like to have street names changed. Apart from trade interests, there is the other matter of this public ramp which, I think, is to be deprecated rather than encouraged.

There is one small point in Section 57 which I should like to mention and that is where land has been taken over by a local authority and dedicated to the public and subsequently the place is abandoned, whether it is a public place, a street or a highway. There is no provision in the existing law whereby the local authority can dispose of it if they do not require it for public purposes. I think it is essential that a power of this kind should be given to local authorities. I know a case myself where the local authorities are quite willing to dispose of public property of that kind but, under the existing law, they cannot do so, and I would suggest some provision of that kind for the Committee Stage.

I am not clear as to the provision in Section 58:—

"A sum borrowed by the council of a county as a public assistance authority shall not be reckoned as part of the debt of the county for the purposes of Article 22 of the Schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898".

Under that enactment the limit of borrowing was, I think, one-tenth. You are now raising it to one-fourth. I think it was under the Public Assistance Act, 1939, that it was raised to one-fourth of the valuation. The old provision was one-tenth. These are statutory demands made under the particular Act on a local authority and, so far as the local authority of which I am a member is concerned, we have never had to borrow for the particular purpose. I am wondering what is the significance of it.

Does it not mean that, if you borrow for the purpose of the board of health, it would not be deemed to be a county debt?

I think it is quite clear on the face of it. (Section read.) It is not part of the debt of the county if borrowed for public assistance purposes and does not encroach, therefore, on the borrowing powers of the council.

I see now. I come now to this crucial problem of inquiries. I am glad that the Minister is giving the right to the manager to appear at a public inquiry——

I have not given the right.

"The manager for the local authority may appear at the inquiry personally or by counsel or solicitor." I think that is a wise provision, because the manager's interests are entirely wrapped up in the executive functions which he has to perform. The council's interests—

The section does not give the manager any such right.

If the manager were to ask for it, it would not be refused. You may take that for granted.

The section says:—

"The Minister may, if he so thinks fit, order that the manager for the local authority may appear separately at the inquiry".

I mention the point because exception has been taken to it by some previous speakers. My experience of one local inquiry was that it was quite essential that the manager should have been separately represented there because charges had been preferred against the manager in his capacity as manager and a separate set of charges had been preferred against the council in their capacity as councillors and the interests are not always identical. It is essential that the right should be there.

The right is not in the section.

If the Minister approves.

If representations were made to me by a manager as to his desire to be separately represented, I think I would have very little difficulty in giving the direction, unless I thought the request was vexatious.

I shall have to reserve some power in that matter.

Under Section 61 the Minister may certify for the costs of persons who are compelled to appear at a public inquiry. That is a wise and proper provision, because very often officers of local authorities are pilloried by mischievous people who make false, ridiculous and groundless charges and put to the expense of defending themselves at a public inquiry and I think it is only right and proper that they, too, should have the right to be recouped the expense of defending themselves. I think it is right and proper that it should be given to them. It has been, I believe, given to some officers in the past under a restricted provision, but this provision makes it clear that the Minister can certify for costs and I think that that is a welcome provision.

As regards inquiries, I have referred to the fact that the Minister's inspectorial staff has increased from 27 in 1931-32 to 57 in the current year. You would think that, with such a small army of inspectors, he had sufficient qualified men on the inspectorial staff to hold any class of inquiry without having to seek power to appoint specially qualified or technically qualified persons to hold an inquiry. I think that, on the figures, there is no case for going outside the present personnel and, if technical assistance is needed, it should be provided for the inspector by way of assessors who would assist him in difficult technical matters. There has been considerable controversy on this point. I think that the report of an inspector should be made public. I would go further and say that, as the inquiry is a public inquiry, the proceedings of the inquiry should be treated as the proceedings of an ordinary court of law are treated and that there should be nothing hidden or secret about the report.

The Deputy is getting into very deep water.

I may be getting into very deep water. It is a matter of public controversy at the moment but, if the inquiry is to satisfy the parties, is to satisfy the public mind, then, in heaven's name, why not have it published?

The inquiry is primarily to satisfy the mind of the Minister. The Deputy forgets that.

But the Minister is only there representing the public.

The Minister is not there to satisfy himself except in his capacity as a representative of the people.

No. If he were merely a representative of the people, he would not be on these benches.

The people have no rights.

They have, but the Deputy had better make certain where he is going.

I am certain there is a lot of trouble about this in this country and in other countries, and I know this matter of law is not definitely settled.

The law is very definitely settled here.

The Minister is settling it here now.

No, this has nothing to do with the fundamental law in the matter. It has been settled for years.

That the report of an inspector is never to be published?

Not never to be published, but should not, in general, be published.

But has it not been the practice to publish the reports?

It should be.

No, it should not be.

Will the Minister say in what circumstances it is desirable to publish a report, and in what circumstances it is not?

When it is contrary to the public interest to publish it, it should not be published; and, in general, it is contrary to the public interest to publish any confidential communication to a Minister.

If that is the position, I cannot see any redress, other than that the Minister should rid himself of the right to hold public inquiries and should transfer them to properly constituted judicial tribunals, whose proceedings will be public.

No; the Deputy is confusing different matters.

Two different matters?

Yes, two fundamentally different processes.

I am not. I understand that a public inquiry is an investigation held by an officer of the Minister's Department.

It is not a judicial process.

It is subject to the law of the rules of evidence.

It is not a judicial process.

It is not a judicial inquiry.

Nor is it subject to the rules of evidence.

Not necessarily, but they are followed.

That may be done as a matter of convenience, but it is not subject to them.

Well, the sooner it is subject to them, the better.

If you have all kinds of extraneous matters introduced in the inquiry, which do not in any way comply with the rules of evidence, an inspector who does not know the rules of evidence may very often furnish a report which would be areductio ad absurdum. However, I have raised the point, as I feel that an inquiry of this kind should be a public inquiry, in the nature of a public tribunal, and that the rules of evidence should apply that neither hearsay nor whisperings should count with the person holding the inquiry, and that only things which are evidence would be accepted by him, either orally or documentarily.

In regard to Section 66, where there is an amendment of sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Local Government (Collection of Rates) Act, 1924, under the old provision the rate collector had the right to recover rates which were collectable by him and which he himself had paid. The provision referred to rates which he had collected or were collectable "pursuant to his bond". The Minister is now knocking out the words "pursuant to his bond". I would like to know the significance of the deletion of those words.

My submission is that Deputies do not understand this Bill at all. If anyone wanted to understand it, he would need to have on his desk 34 volumes of Statutes. That is a fact —he would need 34 volumes of Statutes. Look at Section 62:—

For every application of Article 32 (repealed by the Act of 1941) of the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898, by an enactment in force at the commencement of Section 83 of the Act of 1941 to any inquiries to be ordered or caused to be held by the Minister, there shall be substituted an application of the said Section 83 to such inquiries.

Now, what on earth does that mean? Is there anybody in Dáil Eireann at the present moment who knows what Section 62 of this Bill means? Not one man or woman. Certainly, the Minister does not know. Some of the advisers in the Civil Service may know, and may have prepared a brief to remind him, and if he is challenged he may turn up the appropriate page of the brief and trot that out.

Look at Section 64:—

Paragraph A of Section 77 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 (No. 10 of 1924), as amended by Section 52 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936 (No. 48 of 1936), is hereby further amended by the insertion at the end of the said paragraph of a new clause as follows, that is to say:—

"(vi) jurisdiction, without any limit as to the amount of the claim, in proceedings at the suit of an auditor or other person under sub-section (3) of Section 71 of the Local Government Act, 1941 (No. 23 of 1941)."

Does any man on God's earth know what that means? It is bad enough to be repealing and amending approximately 30 Local Government Acts, without bringing in the Courts of Justice Act. It does seem hard that a man whose primary duties lie in the administration of the Courts of Justice Acts, in order to inform himself fully on all the provisions of that Act, must turn to the Local Government Act of 1945.

I am always amused at the Fianna Fáil Government. The Taoiseach comes in here and folds his hands and assumes a most sanctimonious expression and says that as Head of the Government he desires it to be known that he deprecates most strongly this confusing practice of bringing in miscellaneous provisions Bills, and that he has given strict instructions to all his Ministers to adopt the method of codifying legislation on every possible occasion, since to follow the law with these miscellaneous provisions Bills has become virtually impossible for law-abiding men and even for professional lawyers. Then theIrish Press goes into ecstasies of admiration at this fully-fledged Solon who understands the difficulties of all men and paints a beautiful, paternal picture of him in the bow-tie, like the father of all men. But a Minister, on the following morning, can produce a ragbag like this. It is bewildering and confusing, not only for every officer of a local authority but for every unfortunate wight who wants to obey the law but cannot find out what the law is.

I was amused at Deputy Allen waxing eloquent about the difficulties in the matter of appeal, but the Deputy will trot like any Wexford sheep through the lobbies whenever divisions are called, in defiance of everything he has talked about. I am going to challenge a division on every one, so that I will get his speech in the official records and also a record of his going to the division lobby.

He will not be here.

As his colleague from Wexford suggests, probably he will not be here.

That is very close to deliberate obstruction.

Is it? To be displaying Deputy Allen going through the lobby. Why, it is as good as a week at the sea.

To challenge a division, even if you agree with the proposal.

It is as well to make the Fianna Fáil Deputies do something for their £480 a year, even if it is only trotting through the lobby. This Bill, amongst other things, provides for making bridge orders and I would like to know if the Minister intends to take powers to resolve the age-old dispute which has gone on between local authorities and railway companies— now Córas Iompair Éireann—as to the liability for the repair of the road where it passes over railway bridges.

Part IV of the Bill relates only to the construction and reconstruction of roads.

I am suggesting now that the Minister should extend his powers there to resolve that dispute and either let the railway company pay the local authority——

And make the Bill more miscellaneous still?

It could not be worse than it is.

But the Deputy suggests I might make it so.

If we are going to have a patchwork quilt, let us at least have one that covers the bed and not one that covers you up to the knees and leaves the rest of you stone cold. Here is one part of the legislative carcase not covered by this quilt.

The first time I find the Deputy sleeping on a bridge in that condition, I will find something with which to cover him.

I am suggesting to the Minister that this occasion ought to be availed of to resolve that difficulty. I do not know why anybody should run away from it. There must be some old statutory obligation placed on the railway company to repair a road where it passes over a bridge. If there is, and, on foot of that, the local authorities claim they have some right to an indemnity against Córas Iompair Éireann, if they are to take over from Córas Iompair Éireann this liability, then let an arbitration be established, just as there was in connection with the way leaves of the City of Dublin, and let Córas Iompair Éireann pay to the local authorities some capital sum, whereafter the local authorities will undertake to maintain the services of the road over the bridge; or, vice versa, let the railway company pay the local authority some annual sum or retain their obligation to repair the bridge, but give the local authority the right, if Córas Iompair Éireann fails to keep the bridge over the road in proper repair, to repair it and recover the cost of repair. If I do not maintain my connection with the public sewerage system, the local authority notifies me and, if I do not fall in with the notice, they will do the necessary connecting work, serve the bill on me, and recover the cost.

Let there be something like that done in connection with the bridges, because they are a real menace. There is one such bridge outside Longford on the Dublin-Sligo road and up to three weeks ago, until somebody repaired it, one could easily break one's neck over it. It was like a camel's hump to begin with, but when you went down on the Strokestown side of that bridge, if you did not break your neck you would certainly, if you were not careful, break a spring in your car. I will now pass on to a bridge that crosses the Shannon or some river. Travelling over that bridge would give anyone driving a car concussion of the spine. I suggest to the Minister that that is a matter he ought to take power to resolve and it is one which this patchwork Bill which we are considering might be properly extended to cover.

Now, Deputy Allen is rarely right, but he is right about the hedge trimming business. Speaking on Section 67, he commented on the limited authority of the county surveyors to cut trees. He suggested that that authority should be extended so as to entitle the county surveyors to maintain hedges all along the public roads. That is perfectly right. It is a ridiculous proviso that any individual must be allowed to maintain a public nuisance in the form of a hedge that has never been trimmed, to the great peril of people passing and repassing on the public road. A very useful educational service could be established if the duty as well as the right of maintaining these hedges was put on the local authorities.

It is common knowledge that in most parts of the English countryside hedging is an exact science and it is done by highly skilled men, as a result of whose activities the hedges become a most valuable and durable fence. In this country a hedger is as rare now as a thatcher and I suggest to the Minister that if he would give local authorities the right to control all the hedges adjoining public highways, some far-sighted ones might authorise county surveyors to employ skilled hedgers who will use the hedges adjoining public roads as demonstration hedges, showing how hedges ought to be cut and maintained, to the great benefit not only of those passing and repassing on the highway, but of all those within that area of jurisdiction.

Another patch?

As regards Section 51, I differ entirely from Deputy Coogan. I do not think it is a good plan to give the Commissioner of the Gárda the right to issue orders to the local authority. Nothing is more vital in this country, in my opinion, than to maintain and develop the realisation that has been so very slow to grow, that the Guards or the police are the friends and natural allies of the community. The less we place upon the Commissioner or his officers the duty to issue mandatory orders to public representatives or anybody else, the better it will be for everybody. I am perfectly sure the Commissioner has no desire to be drawn into affairs of this character. The Commissioner is not an officer of the Constitution; he is not a Minister of State and it is a thoroughly unsatisfactory arrangement to authorise him or require him to issue mandatory orders to any body constituted of popularly elected representatives of the people. It is not that I would not commit to the hands of the present Commissioner the discretion to do that kind of thing. I am perfectly certain it would be done with prudence and propriety, but as a general principle it is not, in my opinion, a desirable course.

If there was laches in the past and delay in the past, that was because the Minister at the time, whoever he may have been, was a highly incompetent person. It ought to be sufficient for the Commissioner, if he desires any signs to be erected on any part of a public road, to send a note to the Minister, say on a Monday, specifying what he wants to have done, and if the Minister countersigns an Order it could be forwarded to the local authority on Tuesday. There is no reason, if we are to give the Commissioner, under this Bill, the right to send his order direct to the local authorities, why we cannot provide that if it is sent to the Custom House on Monday it will go forward from the Minister for Local Government on Tuesday, unless we are so strangled with red tape that it is unthinkable that anything should be done in the Department of Local Government and Public Health within 12 hours. It ought to be possible and it is the right way to do it and, these two things being true, it ought to be done.

Now, sub-section (6) of Section 51 reads:—

A person other than a local authority shall not provide a traffic sign visible from a road without the consent of the Commissioner.

That is clearly bad drafting. There should not be any reason why I may not put, on my avenue, inside my gates, a notice to this effect: "Please drive slowly, children play here", without asking the leave of the local authority and doubtless what is intended here is that people will not put up notices on their property which project over the public road, purporting to supersede the danger notices put up under the direction of the commissioner. But it is silly to say that I cannot put up a notice on my own avenue simply because it is visible to those passing on the road. May I suggest that that ought to be amended; otherwise you will have respectable old ladies in the country, with Pekinese dogs, desiring to have reckless owners of dairy carts deterred from moving them down? Then you will have cantankerous county councillors who want to show their authority and their desire to trample on the remnants of the ascendancy and eliminate John Bull from the highways of Ireland. There will be some ignorant thug in the country who wants to insult some respectable old lady who will move a resolution asking the county council to prosecute her under this section, and the thug will be swaggering about amongst the ignorant hoboes who put him on the county council posturing as a great patriot; and some respectable old lady will be put to the annoyance of appearing in the district court to be insulted by this hoodlum to whom we have given an opportunity of insulting her by the negligent drafting of a Bill of this character.

I see that the Minister has expressed a desire to substitute for the inspectors of his own Department persons with technical knowledge when public inquiries are to be held. Of course, the Minister is as tender as a chicken on this whole subject of public inquiries because his sleep is haunted by the wraith of Cork Street, and the very mention of a public inquiry makes him shake; but this fact remains, that although the Minister may draw all sorts of fine distinctions as to what the purposes of a sworn inquiry are and may find Constitutional distinctions which separate it from a judicial process, the net result to the persons concerned appearing before that tribunal, whatever its nature, is that their honour is involved. There are people left in this country to whom personal honour means more than freedom or reward. There are still people left in this country who would go cheerfully to prison, who would cheerfully forego their pensions or their salaries, rather than compromise their personal honour. If such persons find themselves arraigned through an indictment of their acts at a sworn inquiry of this character, it is not right that they should be obliged to have the most vital treasure they possess, their personal honour, disposed of by an architect or a sanitary engineer. They are entitled to say: "If matters so precious to us are put in issue, we claim the right which any other person who stands in similar peril has before the law, that is, there should be a judicial person trained in the hearing and weighing of evidence to hear all sides and to see the witnesses before a finding is made which may result——

This does not arise.

Is the Minister raising a point of order? Well, raise it, and do not be grunting.

Perhaps I shall. Section 59 of this Bill proposes to provide that where the Minister proposes to cause a local inquiry to be held and is of opinion that the inspector to be appointed to hold the inquiry should possess special professional or technical qualifications, he may appoint a person possessing such qualifications to be an inspector. I do not think that the whole question of the duties and functions of an inspector under the Department can arise on this matter and that is what the Deputy is raising now. The only question which can arise is whether it may be necessary to appoint a person with special professional qualifications to hold an inquiry.

What type of special technical person should be appointed?

As you now observe, Sir, the Minister's submission is fantastic.

He is taking under Section 59 power to appoint anybody.

Under Section 59, the Minister could go out and stop the first person on the street and say: "What are you?" and if the man replied: "I am a typographical operator", the Minister could certify to the Minister for Finance that the person required to conduct the inquiry must have a special knowledge of typography, and, having so made the certificate, he could appoint him an inspector, pay him the fee under sub-section (2) which the Minister for Finance would sanction and that typographical operator would conduct the inquiry and determine the issues involved.

I submit that the only question the Deputy can discuss is whether I should be permitted these powers to do that or should be permitted to appoint a temporary inspector at all. He is not entitled to go into the whole question of the functions of an inspector at an inquiry, or the purpose or nature of the investigation which is called a public inquiry.

No provision is being made here for inquiries but for the employment of certain special people at such inquiries.

I am pointing out that if the Minister chooses to go beyond the inspectorial staff of the Department, who are men of standing in the public service and who are generally deemed to be of quasi-judicial training, inasmuch as part of their ordinary duties as inspectors of the Department is to conduct inquiries, he should go not into the market-place but into the ranks of those who have judicial experience. I do not think any member of the House would object if the Minister said: "Such grave matters are raised in the particular incident in respect of which I propose to hold a sworn inquiry that I should like to have a judge of the High Court presiding over the inquiry, and, accordingly, I propose to ask the President of the High Court to name a High Court judge; and so that the inquiry may be more efficiently conducted, I propose to provide the High Court judge with assessors, just as at present obtains in the Admiralty Court, where an Admiralty judge always sits with assessors."

It is perfectly true that if you wanted to have an inquiry into whether two ships had collided and who was responsible for the accident, three old shell-backed sea captains would be much the best tribunal, because they would understand what happened. In fact, you get a seasick old judge who never set foot on a ship in his life and who could not be persuaded to do so, but who has judicial experience, and you place him on the bench to preside, with the two old shell-backs, one at each side of him, and when reference is made to the keel, and his lordship inquires what is a keel, one of the old shell-backs leans over and tells him, and so they get on with reasonable expedition. But note that the person who conducts the proceedings is not either of the two sea captains but the judge, and he insists that, when the mate is being examined on oath, the mate will tell what he saw and will not tell on oath what the cook said he saw. If the court is to hear what the cook saw, the cook must be produced and put on oath. The mate will not be allowed to recite on oath what the cook said when the cook was not on oath, because it may be notorious that the cook on oath is a very different cup of tea from the cook on the shaughraun. As quoted by the mate on oath, the observations of the cook on the shaughraun occupy a much more impressive status than they would if the cook were appearing before the court.

I want to submit to the Minister that if he proposes to go outside the existing procedure and outside the ranks of the inspectors accustomed to conduct these inquiries, it is a monstrous thing not to provide that the person presiding over the inquiry shall be a person with judicial experience—a district justice, a Circuit Court judge or a High Court judge— with, if you like, any special assessors he wants to give him. Remember that the Minister chooses to lay down very dogmatically the high principle that the reports of inspectors, or of persons acting for inspectors to Ministers must not be published on grounds of public policy. He qualifies that by saying "except in exceptional cases", until we are eventually driven back to this position, that they must be published only when it suits the Minister's convenience and not published when it does not suit his convenience. Is that the Minister's position? Are these the grounds upon which he advocates this new departure?

There is nothing in the section about publication.

The Minister himself was talking about it a moment ago. Does he deny that he intervened to raise the matter of publication?

No, I did not intervene to raise the matter.

Well, between hopping and trotting, you raised it, in any case.

No, I did not raise it. It was raised by Deputy Coogan.

Between hopping and trotting, you raised it, anyhow.

No, I did not. It was raised by Deputy Coogan.

At any rate, the Minister certainly raised the question of the merits of the publication of an inspector's report. I was present here when he did so. Does the Minister stand on the ground that it is in the public interest to publish an inspector's report when the Minister wants it to be published, and that it is not in the public interest to publish an inspector's report when the Minister does not want to publish it, although everybody else concerned in the inquiry does want it to be published? Is it because of that that he now expects this House to give him authority to call in any Tom, Dick or Harry and, for the purpose of one particular inquiry, constitute that particular individual an inspector, thus imposing upon that individual no obligations at all in respect of evidence or in respect of procedure, but clothing him with all the rights of an experienced public servant who has spent his life in the very hard school of the Civil Service, which has its own special code and its own special methods of insisting that those who claim the honourable title of civil servants shall live up to that code? Does he realise what that means to the average individual on the board of a public body? You go on a public body to do your duty as best you can, but suddenly two or three stooges are trust on it beside you, and they deliberately asperse your honour, and after that, are you to be arraigned before a tribunal presided over by another stooge?

Surely, Sir, the Deputy is going far outside this section.

I have not. The Minister wants to appoint, under Section 59, anybody he likes to preside over the inquiry.

This is the Second Reading of the Bill.

Certainly. Three stooges are put on for the purpose of impugning the personal honour of public-spirited people who have been working conscientiously on a board for years. These three stooges successfully bespatter honourable men and women with mud, and then, when these honourable men and women come to defend themselves, you have another stooge coming along——

On a point of order, Sir, it seems to me that the Deputy is going far beyond the bounds of order in a matter of this sort. He is now alleging that three persons—and, apparently, he has some particular three persons in mind——

I have not, but the Minister seems to have.

——three persons whom he described as stooges and charges them with bespattering honourable citizens, while, in fact, he himself in this House, under the privileges of this House, is traducing and bespattering the reputation of men who are, I presume, as honourable citizens as Deputy Dillon.

What men?

The Deputy referred to three individuals as stooges.

I have nobody in mind— it was a purely hypothetical case—but the Minister seems to have someone in mind.

The Deputy is making these charges in connection with a section——

A purely hypothetical case.

——in which the only issue is whether in certain circumstances the Minister can appoint a person outside his inspectorial staff to hold an inquiry. This is an amending Bill, and it seems to me that the Deputy is not in order in going outside the section with which we are dealing.

This is a Second Reading of a Bill and on the Second Reading of a Bill a Deputy is not confined to the merits or demerits of a particular section. A Second Reading is very large and I think that a Deputy, so long as he acts within the laws of procedure, should be given wide scope.

A number of enactments in the Statute Book are being repealed in this Bill, and I submit that, under Standing Orders, the debate must be strictly confined to the proposed amendments in the Bill.

We are not dealing with amendments in the Bill. It is an amending Bill, if you like, but a democratic House is at liberty to roam over all of the previous Acts that are affected.

I hope that that will appear in the Official Report because I propose to raise it afterwards——

I hope you do.

——before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Section 61 of the Bill says that where a local inquiry has been held, and the Minister considers it reasonable that a contribution shall be made towards the costs and expenses reasonably incurred by any person, other than a local authority or other body, the Minister may certify that the contribution shall be made and specify the amount of the contribution. Surely, it is within the competence of the House to say that if a local authority is to be held responsible for the expenses of an inquiry, held by a nominee of the Minister, the local authority is entitled to say: "Let us have a look at the report, for the compilation of which we may have to pay, on the say of the Minister"?

I am now going to make a definite ruling. Deputy Dillon is in order.

I am now stating a hypothetical case that may arise if this becomes law. On a body of honourable men in a local authority three stooges are put, with instructions to this effect: "Blacken those people's characters and spatter them with mud." That being done, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health will then order the holding of a sworn inquiry, and will then go out and pick another stooge, draw him in and say: "Now, listen. Three of my stooges are successfully throwing mud, and I want you to hold an inquiry and establish that that mud was properly thrown." He then sets up the inquiry, and when the honourable men come before it to prove conclusively that they acted in good faith and did their duty conscientiously, they find themselves confronted, not with a judicial person, not with a man drawn from our own Civil Service, with a long tradition of rectitude and integrity, but with some trapester up out of the street whom they know to have a commission from the Minister to inquire into the allegations of the three stooges that were put there in the first instance, to do his dirty work for him.

I think that the Deputy might not be in order in using such words as "stooges" and so on.

When I spoke of three stooges first, the Minister sprang to his feet and said that he knew at once whom I had in mind.

I did not.

I had no one in mind, and I had no intention of mentioning any person. The Minister describes them as honourable men. Well, I have no honourable friends to whom that description would aptly refer. I gave a hypothetical case of three stooges being put on to do his dirty work.

The Deputy used the words "dirty work." Perhaps, the Deputy ought not to engage in dirty work himself.

Of course, every day Fianna Fáil engages in dirty work-we know that—but I was not referring to them at all. I was referring to the three stooges only. The honourable men find themselves confronted, after the dirty work has been done by the stooges, with this robin-round-the ditch. The Minister appoints for the purpose of holding the inquiry a person with particular qualities—perhaps he is a stooge among stooges—who understands the ways of stooges and understands the particular job that the Minister wants him to do. Then this astonishing position arises: if this stooge be smitten by some stroke of conscience and says: "Look here. This is too thick. I could not condemn these honourable men. I could not sustain the three stooges that you put on the local authority as their conduct was too raw even for me to stand over," the Minister can refuse to publish his report and say: "I will not publish that report, and nobody will hear what is in it, but, acting on the report, I will do so-and-so." Of course, if the stooge of stooges who is chosen for this position of deputy inspector reports in the interests of the Minister, then it is in the public interest to publish it at once, and the report of this specially chosen inspector, with special qualifications, will be plastered all over the newspapers, and from it there is no appeal. It is the last word. You cannot go beyond it. You cannot sue him for slander. You cannot sue him for libel. You cannot bring him into any court in the country to prove him to be the liar and the fraud which his conduct proves him to be. If he acts honestly, not a word of his report will ever appear. If he acts as he is expected to act, he is immune from the consequences of his unjust conduct. Does Dáil Eireann wish, in Section 59, to give official sanction to that procedure? Do we here in this House, many of us belonging to public bodies, look forward with anticipation to a situation developing wherein we are liable to be dragged before a public inquiry for the purpose of being defamed, for the purpose of being unjustly condemned, that inquiry to be presided over by some picked servant of the Minister, because the Minister cannot find in the whole Civil Service any inspector so devoid of a sense of duty as to report in the sense in which the Minister wants him to report? Does the House want that? If certain Deputies in this House stand for that now because they hope by that instrument to blacken the characters of certain of those whose characters they would like to blacken, let them think well, for a day may yet dawn on which that instrument will be used against themselves.

It is always sweet to belabour the other fellow, but those who cut sticks for that purpose should bear in mind that such sticks sometimes grow thorns, and that when the thorns are well developed they sometimes fall on the backs of those who originally cut the sticks. I suggest that if any power analogous to that sought by the Minister under Section 59 is to be given, it should be expressed as a power to choose a judicial person, a district justice, a Circuit Court judge or a High Court judge, who shall have at his disposal such assessors as he may certify will be necessary to enable him effectively to carry out the inquiry with which he is charged. I suggest to the Minister that he should consult the Attorney-General with a view to determining whether it is not a breach of the Constitution to take unto himself power to choose any person upon whom his fancy happens to alight to conduct an inquiry of this kind. He may take the view that this is not judicial procedure. The Attorney-General may take a very different view, and it is not always possible for individual citizens of the State to vindicate their Constitutional rights, because the procedure for so doing is cumbrous and expensive. It is not expedient that Bills should be continually referred to the Council of State by this House for review as to whether they should be considered by the Supreme Court or not. The opinion of the Attorney-General ought to be a sufficiently clear guide. This seems to me to be a case where his view should be taken. If it is not taken, then I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that his duty to consider the propriety of requiring the Government to refer this Bill to the Council of State with a view to advising the President whether he should refer it to the Supreme Court for a decision as to whether or not it conflicts with the Constitution, is a matter to which he should give careful attention.

The few observations which I have to offer on this Bill will be reasonably short. The very excellent speeches which preceded the statement I am about to make were fairly long, but I hope to cover the few points to which I want to refer as quickly as possible. I want to express my entire agreement with what has been said about this Bill in fact defeating the purpose for which presumably it was drafted. Presumably it was drafted to clear up certain matters in connection with local government, but it leaves the position very much more involved than it was. I think some other method altogether should be adopted to make the position clear, and to give members of this House an opportunity of understanding exactly what is being done in their name under this Bill. One approaches a discussion of this question of local government with a certain amount of despair, because in fact the whole position has changed, and any active interest in local government in the country and even in this House has very materially deteriorated. The reasons for that are quite obvious, and I think it is a very menacing and disappointing symptom, and one to which the Minister must in a reasonably short time give attention in some other way.

Might I suggest to the Minister that he should—Section 52 affords an opportunity—consider making provision for the payment of wages to members of the local authorities who lose their wages by reason of their presence at meetings of local authorities? I can speak about this matter quite freely because I am not concerned, and I could speak of another aspect of this whole question very freely if I were not to some small extent concerned, so I shall not mention it. This is clearly a matter that ought to be rectified. If members of local authorities lose their wages by reason of their attendance at meetings of those local authorities, they ought to be paid. That is a reasonable and fair claim. It certainly is an unfair imposition to place on members of local authorities that they should forfeit their wages because of their attendance at meetings of such bodies.

Might I ask also, arising out of Section 29, whether the Minister will now take some steps to rectify the injustice which he perpetrated on the employees of local bodies some years ago, when, arising out of emergency legislation, he prescribed that employees of local authorities had no right to have their wages adjusted except as a result of direct sanction from him. He deprived them of the right to go to the tribunal set up under emergency legislation to have their wages adjusted. I do not want to discuss this matter at very great length, but the Minister's claim has been that the wages of employees of local authorities should be related to the agricultural wage. There is a very great difference, because in many counties—and in at least one county that I know well—the employees of local authorities are not regularly employed, and the wages that are associated with their employment at the present time never reach them. The figure is very much less than the maximum wage provided, because their employment is not continuous; in very many cases it is casual. I suggest that that matter should have the attention of the Minister and the House if it is possible to have it attended to before the Bill passes.

I want to tell the Minister something that, as a member of a local authority, I have observed in recent months, and that is the almost complete lack of interest in the business of local authorities on the part of a large number of local representatives. That, I think, is an extremely bad sign. It would seem to me to confirm the view held by a large number of people that, so far as the members of local authorities are concerned, they have no longer any useful function to perform. It is true, of course, that the Minister issues circulars and makes statements in this House in an effort to try to convince members of local authorities that they still have very useful functions to perform and very many powers reserved to them. The fact, however, is that members of local authorities who reluctantly offer themselves for election are, more and more, becoming convinced that they can have no active interest in the work of the local authority. In my opinion that is a very bad sign. You have there a situation for which the Minister cannot escape responsibility. I think that the sooner he ascertains from his county managers, from the inspectors of his Department, or otherwise, what the actual position in this respect is, the sooner there will be some reality in the matter of local government in this country.

Section 20 deals with the question of rating on vacant houses. I ask the indulgence of the Chair to refer to one aspect of this matter to which sufficient attention has not been given in any legislation up to the present, and that is the question of vacant or derelict houses that have become eyesores in many of our villages and towns. I know, of course, that power has been taken to deal with derelict sites in another Act, but the procedure laid down under it is entirely too cumbersome to get speedy and effective action taken. The result is that, following surveys and examinations, the reports and orders that have been served in connection with derelict sites are leading to no practical results. Now that the emergency is at an end, and with the prospect of a general advance being made towards an improvement in the amenities of our towns and villages, I suggest that direct action ought to be taken in this matter. Every person of goodwill in the country would, I think, heartily co-operate with the Minister or with a local authority, in having this matter attended to.

There is another matter that, while it may not come strictly within the terms of this Bill, I should like to refer to in a very limited and passing way. I am not quite clear as to what the powers of local authorities or of county managers are in this matter that I propose to refer to, but if the power is not there, I think the Minister should encourage them to get it. I refer to the acquisition of land for the construction of pleasure gardens and small parks in the vicinity of many of our towns and villages. In a short time it is almost certain that the volume of traffic on our main roads will be enormously increased. Very ambitious road schemes are being contemplated, and following on their execution it is not unreasonable to expect that a situation of very grave danger may be created so far as many of our citizens, who cannot afford to travel in a very rapid way, are concerned. From the point of view of children and others I want to suggest to the Minister that the provision of such amenities as I refer to would not only afford protection and safety for the people generally, but would be an attraction and an improvement in the case of the towns and villages concerned.

There is one other matter that I want to refer to, and that is the question of the holding of inquiries. I entirely endorse the demand that has been made in this House for the production of the report of the inspector who holds a local inquiry. If it is not possible to have that done under the present procedure, then a change ought to be made. I read with very considerable interest recently the Minister's apologia for the present position in this regard which, unquestionably, is quite unsatisfactory. The Minister quoted the opinions of Lord Simon, Lord Haldane and of various other honoured occupants of the Woolsack in the House of Lords in support of his action in this matter, but from the point of view of local authorities and of practical commonsense, a great deal of distrust is growing up as to the Minister'sbona fides in regard to many of his actions. I think there can be no answer to the demand made for the publication of the reports of persons holding these inquiries, in view of the fact that the people of the country have to pay every 1d. of the expenses incurred in connection with the holding of these inquiries. In connection with the case in Cork which we discussed some time ago, I want to say that I do not withdraw one single word of what I said on that occasion. The present procedure affords an opportunity for ramps, political and others equally unworthy. It affords an opportunity for the purpose of taking away the reputation of people in a very unworthy way. Surely, such people are entitled to some protection. I repeat that there ought to be at the disposal of the public generally, and of the local authority concerned, the decision of the person who hears the witnesses.

That person has no power to decide anything.

His expenses, and all other expenses in connection with the inquiry, including the expenses of the stenographer who notes down the evidence, have to be met by the local authority. I say that the Minister is on very bad and unsure ground in endeavouring to defend procedure of the present kind which is causing distrust and suspicion throughout the country. I sincerely hope that this Bill will afford an opportunity for remedying that position. If it does, then I think it is a step in the right direction.

This Bill, I think, will rank with the Minister's famous or infamous Valuation Bill as one of the many obnoxious measures which the Minister has tried to foist upon this House. This Bill has many objectionable features. First of all, it is objectionable because it adds to the chaos which at present exists in regard to local government legislation. It seeks to amend and alter a large number of existing Statutes. It is impossible for any ordinary person, for any member of a local authority or even for the well-qualified officials of the local authorities to understand exactly how and what is the law in regard to local administration. But here, again, in this Bill we have enshrined a power which the Minister has coveted for a long time, and which he succeeded in obtaining under cover of the Emergency Powers Act: that is, the power to abolish a local authority without any justifiable reason, and without being called upon to justify that abolition to anybody.

We hear a lot about the loss of interest in local affairs. We hear a lot said about the fact that able businessmen, able and experienced farmers, and able and responsible citizens in every walk of life are not desirous at the present time of becoming members of local authorities. How could any man of honour or self-respect feel happy in presenting himself to the electorate, as a candidate for a local body, when he knew at the same time that a Minister, a Party politician, could deprive him of membership, and that he had no means of redress? It was rather astonishing to hear Deputy Allen, a member of the Government Party, exploding an atomic bomb under the Minister in regard to this question. Deputy Allen pointed out, as one of the reasons why county councils had been abolished from time to time, that the managers failed to co-operate with the elected bodies. We have now, from a member of the Government Party, the reason why local authorities were abolished by the Minister. It was because of the failure of the officials to co-operate with them. That is a position which may continue in the future, and there is no protection for local elected members.

Heretofore, the Minister had not the power, which he is now given in Section 47 of the Bill, to abolish county councils without holding an inquiry. The position is likely to become more serious in the future. At present we have in most counties county managers who have been for a long time officials of local authorities, where they acquired experience, but we have a new situation developing, inasmuch as these old and experienced officials will be retiring from year to year and, in the main, their successors may be men without administrative experience, men who may be pitch-forked into positions because of particular services to the Fianna Fáil Party. These men, because of failure to co-operate with local authorities, may create a situation, whereby the Minister may secure an excuse to abolish local bodies and there will be no redress, as no sworn inquiry will be held. The Minister is not bound to hold an inquiry. The manager can manoeuvre the elected representatives into a false position which would enable the Minister to abolish them. In face of that, how could we expect independent, honourable citizens to go forward for election on local bodies?

In this Bill power is taken to enable councils to strike a supplementary rate any time they think fit to do so. One big safeguard in the past, in regard to local administration, was the fact that there was an annual estimate of expenditure. That was a safeguard to the ratepayers and to the general public, but it is now being swept away, and county councils, having struck a rate, can meet in a month or three months after doing so for the purpose of striking an additional rate. Ordinary ratepayers having paid their rates in full may in the future find themselves presented with an additional demand for rates before a year is out. Surely nobody could justify the giving of such power? I do not think this House would be justified in allowing this slovenly Bill to go through. We would be slowing up administration if the Bill is passed, as there will be no longer any necessity for a county council to prepare a provisional estimate for the entire year.

How does the Deputy think a county council will get away with any slovenliness?

I cannot see any reason why the Minister should encourage slovenliness by having a provision of this kind in the Bill. Surely within the year it should be possible to estimate in advance, with some reasonable degree of accuracy, a year's requirements. On these grounds I think the House would be justified in rejecting this Bill. For the protection of the local bodies and for the protection of elected representatives and the ratepayers, it is essential that from time to time public inquiries should be held into the manner in which local administration is being carried on, and when a tribunal is set up to do so, it is absolutely essential that it will be a fair judicial tribunal, presided over either by a person with judicial experience, or by a responsible official of the Department of Local Government, who will have full regard for the rights of ordinary citizens.

Another matter in this Bill is in regard to the power of an outgoing chairman to vote. The proper course to adopt regarding the carrying on of business of an annually elected body like a county council is that until a chairman is elected the meeting should be presided over by the county secretary. That is the procedure adopted in this House where an official of the House acts as chairman until a chairman is elected. That is the proper procedure to adopt. I do not know why the Minister did not think it to be his duty to put a provision of that kind into the Bill. Then, again, there is a proviso whereby members of a subsidiary body appointed by a county council cease to hold office when the county council ceases. I do not know how such procedure could be justified. It seems as if the Minister was endeavouring to remove, by every possible means, those elected by the local electors, as well as other people appointed by these representatives. He is seeking to place all the power not only in regard to county council affairs but also in regard to subsidiary bodies in the hands of State officials. That is the one thing that is wrong with this piece of legislation and with practically every other piece of legislation which the Minister has sponsored during the long, disastrous period of his administration as head of the Local Government Department. He is seeking, and has sought, by every possible means, to exclude the independent representatives of the people just as he expelled Most Rev. Dr. Dignan from quite an important position because he had the independence to differ from him.

That is not quite in order.

I am merely giving it as an example. The same thing is happening in regard to local administration. The independent man, the man who is prepared to express views which are not first submitted to the Minister and his Department for approval, is to be removed by every possible means. The Minister is killing local government administration. We are ceasing to have any form of local government. The term "local government" is deceptive. We have central government—Custom House government, pure and simple, administration by one political Party for that political Party alone. We should seek to encourage people of independent views and independent approach to administrative affairs to take not only an interest but an active part in local administration. We should not seize on a pretext, such as that in Section 48, to exclude such persons. I believe that we shall, eventually, have to scrap this Bill, if it be enacted, and, with it, practically all the legislation the Minister has sponsored during his period of office. I ask the House not to accept the Bill.

Having attempted to read all the Acts either affected or repealed by this measure, I do not exaggerate when I say that this is one of the most extraordinary Bills which ever came before a Parliament. It deals, to greater or lesser extent, with 34 different statutes. While many of the reforms mentioned might be desirable in a proper scheme of codification, the Minister must feel some qualms when he attempts to justify the introduction of a Bill such as this. The Long Title of the Bill states that it is designed

"To make further and better provision in relation to local government and to make certain amendments in the law relating to local government".

The Bill reminds me of a joke attributed to an American soldier who came over here to meet his uncle. When asked what he thought of him, he replied: "I never thought that the seat of a man's pants could hold so many patches". I never imagined that a piece of legislation could bear so many patches as will be effected if this Bill goes through. The only part of the Bill which can be really regarded as desirable is Part IV, which deals with bridges. If anybody is asked where the law on bridges can be found, the reply will be that it is contained in the Local Government Act, 1945. But this part of the Bill does not deal specifically with bridges. They are merely incidental to the matters dealt with. I do not understand why a rather important question such as that is introduced in this way, except that it is better to have the amendment made in this way than not at all.

Any lawyer on the Government Benches will agree that local government law, as it stands, is the most complicated and extensive code in the whole of statue law. If a case is presented regarding the housing of the Working Classes Act and one is asked to advise upon it, the usual procedure is to look up the Act and anything written about it. Under this Bill, Section 85 of that Act is repealed. That adds seriously to the burden of anybody who has the task of ascertaining what the law is at a particular time. While the codification of local government law, or any other branch of law, is a very arduous and protracted task, I think that the labour which must necessarily have been expended on this measure might reasonably have been extended so as to provide us with a codified system. While this Bill will effect certain improvements, it will, in the words of Deputy Allen, make confusion worse confounded. It is largely a Committee Stage Bill, but there are a few sections to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention.

Under Section 10, 7½ per cent. is mentioned as the amount by which the expenses charged on the area of a town may be increased. I do not know how the figure was arrived at or whether it relates to any other known figure. As it appears here, it seems to be a rather arbitrary selection. Section 13 deals with the municipal fund, but it effects merely a change in the name. Whether there is any advantage to be derived from the change or not, I do not know. However, these points can be elucidated on Committee Stage. Section 28 says that

"sub-section (1) of Section 19 of the Act of 1941 is hereby amended by the addition at the end of the sub-section of the following paragraph:—

(k) requiring holders to devote the whole of their time to the duty of their offices".

I do not know whether it is intended that that be taken literally. An official of a local authority might be required to devote 24 hours of the day to his task. The courts have, from time to time, difficulty in interpreting such phrases. Irrespective of that point, nearly all local authorities employ engineers and doctors in a consultative capacity. This provision might mean that a person employed in such a capacity would have to devote the whole of his time to the work of the local authority. It might be necessary for such persons to relinquish their private practice. Alternatively, they might engage solely in private practice. This provision might prevent them from accepting in a consultative capacity work which county councils might require them to do.

Another section to which I should like to refer is Section 55 which deals with changing the names of streets. Deputy Allen, last night, said that he thought the majority of a council should have the right to change the name of a street at any time. While, no doubt, it is desirable that a majority of ratepayers or citizens residing in a street should, if they desire to change the name of the street, be allowed to do so, I think that this practice of changing the names of thoroughfares can lead to a very ridiculous position. In Russia, for instance, the changing of names of towns has been a striking feature of the Soviet administration. When an individual happens to be prominent or in power in the country or in a position in which he can change the name of a town, he very often gives it his own name. Then, when he is superseded by somebody else there is another change, the result being that even those who were the most honoured individuals in that country find that the names which they had given to certain places are abolished to give place to those of their successors. I think it would be a ridiculous situation if one day a place might be known as Dublin and the next have its name changed to Kerry. Recently, I read of an incident in which a number of members of a certain council decided to change the name of certain streets, and the county manager had to get up in the night to put back the original names.

While, no doubt, it may be a form of patriotism to change the name of certain places, I think it is a doubtful form of patriotism, because in ten or fifteen years' time, as happened in Russia, some other parties may come along and suggest names for these places which, they believe, are more entitled to be honoured. We find, too, that people who rendered very distinguished service to the country have had their names attached to poor, unimportant thoroughfares. Most of the slum areas in Dublin have the names of very honoured persons attached to them. I do not know whether it ever strikes the people who are anxious to have these changes carried out that honoured names should be attached only to important thoroughfares. There will, of course, be the difficulty that if this desire for change is not limited in some way, we may reach the stage when a person will not know whether he is living in Pat Murphy's Street or Pat McGrath's Street. As a form of patriotism, it is a thing which can be carried to exaggerated lengths and as a form of paying tribute to those who have rendered service to the nation it can assume ridiculous proportions.

The only other section to which I desire to refer is Section 51, which deals with traffic regulations. Some time ago a question arose here concerning the new traffic regulations which may be expected. I think anyone who does much travelling on the roads at the present time must be shocked by the prospect of an increase in traffic. Owing to the reduced number of cars in use because of the lack of petrol for the last five or six years, people generally have become very careless. A number of young people have grown up in that time who have no idea of the dangers attaching to heavy traffic because they have been reared, or have been born in many cases, since cars went off the roads. I wonder if the Minister could give any indication as to when a more comprehensive code of traffic regulations may be expected. While it is eminently desirable that a better code should be introduced at any time, the most advantageous time to introduce it is when traffic is at a minimum or less extensive than formerly. The regulations can be brought into force while traffic is still light. People will then become accustomed to them and become more easily attuned to whatever dangers are involved in working or driving on the roads during periods of heavy traffic.

Like many Deputies, I have been bewildered by this Bill. I made some attempt to get the numerous statutes which it repealed and I found that they embraced a list of volumes that would extend from my bench to that of the Minister—34 different books. I should also have to refer to a number of other statutes not included in these 34 if I were to deal with the Bill fully. I think that with a little effort we might make it a better Bill, one that would in some way lead to codification of the existing law.

I think it is a mistake that the Minister did not circulate an explanatory memorandum with this Bill. I imagine if he had done so it would have shortened the discussion considerably and would have enabled Deputies to form a more intelligent conception of what the Bill really means. After all, a Bill like this consisting of 69 sections and three schedules, repealing 34 different enactments and amending, I suppose, 34 or 40 more, must be very confusing to the ordinary Deputy. Even those who have been accustomed to local government legislation are completely confused. We find it difficult to interpret the exact meaning of any one single section in it. I think it was due to members of the House that the Minister should have adopted the method adopted by other Ministers in introducing similar legislation and have issued an explanatory memorandum to Deputies. I shall not mention sections which, I am sure, no Deputy is able to interpret but there are many others which are equally confusing and equally difficult to interpret.

The Minister in his introductory statement anticipated apparently that reference would be made by a number of Deputies to the paramount necessity of codifying local government legislation. The Minister said—at least I understood him to say—that that work would not be undertaken until he introduced the Valuation Bill followed by a Rating Bill.

I can only assume——

Put it this way—that it would not be possible to introduce a comprehensive rating law.

Then I assume the codification of local government legislation will have to await the introduction and passage into law of a rating Bill. In any event, I think Deputies have stressed already the vital importance of providing some ready means of reference to local government legislation. After all, it is impossible for an official charged with the actual administration of local government legislation —and certainly it is quite impossible for the ordinary person in the country who may happen to be interested in it —to find the Acts relating to different matters which affect them very intimately in their daily lives. I sincerely hope that this is one stage in the direction of codifying local government law and that the Minister will very soon go a further stage in the same direction.

There has been a good deal of discussion already on Part II of this Bill which, I would say, is the kernel of the Bill. I must confess that I am rather confused myself as to what these particular sections really mean.

Obviously, it is the desire of the Minister to simplify the system of accountancy in vogue in local government offices throughout the country at the present time but, in doing so, I sincerely hope he is not taking away from the members of local bodies the right they enjoy at the present time of examining and criticising the expenditure of local bodies. As the Minister is aware, there is a statutory form which is used by county managers at the present time for the purpose of preparing the accounts of expenditure for the previous year and estimating the expenditure for the following year. I have always felt that that form was designed for the purpose of hiding information which really should be at the disposal of members of local bodies. The form does, undoubtedly, show the expenditure under the various heads of local administration, roads, public health services, and so on, but the accounts are presented in such a way that it is very difficult for members of local bodies to understand exactly what amount is spent under each head and what amount it is estimated will be spent under each head in the following year. But I have no great objection to Part II of this Bill if the Minister gives me an assurance that these sections do not take away from the members of local bodies the right which they enjoy at the present time of examining minutely and criticising, forcibly, if necessary, the accounts of expenditure and the estimates of expenditure presented by the county managers at the end of each financial year.

I want to ensure also that these accounts will be presented in the same form, or even in a better form than they are presented at the present time and that each member of a public body will be in a position to see at a glance what amount is expended in a particular year under the various heads of local administration. If the Minister can assure me that the right to carry out that examination and to indulge in that criticism, if necessary, is maintained under the sections in this Bill, then I have no great fault to find with this particular part of the Bill.

There is just one aspect of the matter which I should like to mention. I take it that under this new system of account-keeping the county manager will be able to transfer sums from one head to another. For instance, if there is a surplus, or if there is a saving on one particular head, say, on roads, that he can transfer that saving, let us say, to the public health services, or vice versa and that he can spend the money in the county fund on any local service he likes. As the Minister is aware, at the present time the estimates are prepared under the various heads.

So far as the manager is concerned, there is no change in the present position. This is merely to bring all the moneys into one fund.

Then, am I to assume that the accounts will be presented in exactly the same way as in the past?

I think the best analogy I can give the Deputy is that it is to establish a central fund for every county council in the same way as we have a central fund in the State into which all moneys go, but they can only be used for the purposes for which they have been appropriated.

And only to the amounts specified in the annual estimates?

Precisely the same as here.

That is all right. Section 20 deals with rates on vacant premises. Presumably this is legislation which has already been incorporated in the Dublin City Management Act and it is the Minister's intention now to apply the same legislation to all the areas throughout the country. But, does not Section 20 make additional work for the local bodies? The rates on vacant buildings or vacant premises are not collected at the present time. Under Section 20 as it is in this Bill such rates will have to be collected in future and then the county manager or county treasurer, as the case may be, will have to refund that amount if he is satisfied that the premises are vacant and that it is not possible for the owner to find a tenant for them. It appears to me that that is going to make additional work for the local accountant and, in my opinion, it is an unnecessary piece of legislation.

That is only in an urban area.

Yes, I know that. There has to be a certificate, I admit, that the premises are vacant and cannot be let, but surely that certificate could be obtained without going through the formalities prescribed in this particular section and without putting the local accountant through all the unnecessary trouble involved in this piece of legislation. It appears to me that the Minister would be well advised to allow the present system to continue. It will save the officials' time and it will save money.

In regard to Section 27, I think it would have saved a great deal of criticism if the Minister had defined the reasons for the appointment of a deputy. He did indicate in his opening statement that a deputy could be appointed when the county manager was ill but, after all, the section as it is phrased enables the Minister to go much further than that—at least, that is the implication of the phraseology in the section—and the Minister can appoint a deputy for 101 other purposes. For the sake of avoiding criticism and for the sake of having a clear understanding of the Minister's intention, I would suggest to him that on Committee Stage he should amend that section by stating specifically that a deputy can be appointed only in the case of illness or for some such reason as that—reasons, of course, which have operated in the past, which are still operating and which will continue to operate as long as officials exist. We know very well that they get ill occasionally and that there are other occasions when they might not be able to carry on the duties and it is necessary that somebody else should be in a position to undertake and carry on these duties.

With regard to the election of chairmen of local committees, the Bill prescribes that the election shall be determined by lot. I always felt it was rather a farcical way of electing a chairman of a local body and I am wondering if it is not possible for the officials and the Minister to devise some better way of electing a chairman. I would be inclined to give a casting vote to the chairman of the meeting for the purpose of securing an election without going through the farcical procedure which has been gone through by different boards and especially by local councils—putting the names in a hat and pulling them out, and so on. It seems to me that it is a rather rough-and-tumble method. It happens in connection with the election of mayors in certain provincial towns and in connection with the election of chairmen of local bodies, but it is a system which I personally dislike and I do think that we should be able to provide some more appropriate and more fitting system than that proposed in the Bill.

There has been a good deal of discussion in connection with the erection of traffic signs. We all recognise the vital necessity of having suitable traffic signs, and now that the emergency is at an end we should restore the traffic signs which are of paramount necessity if there is to be a proper system of traffic control. I notice, in sub-section (5) of Section 51, that the Minister is taking a rather extraordinary power:—

"Where the provision by a road authority of a traffic sign on land visible from but not forming part of a road is reasonably necessary, the road authority may provide the traffic sign on such land subject to the prescribed conditions but without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land."

Surely it should be recognised as a matter of courtesy that the officials of a local authority should ask the consent of the owner of the land to erect a sign.

I think the drafting could be improved.

It should be the primary duty of a local authority to recognise the rights of private property. Surely a local authority should not set a bad example to the rest of the community by taking forcible possession of land without any particular purpose in view and without its being actually provided by legislation that they have the right to do so. It is a vicious principle, in my opinion, to have legislation of that type and it certainly is, as I say, a very bad example for the rest of the community. In 99 out of 100 cases, if an official has the courtesy to ask the owner of the land if he can erect a road sign on portion of his property, he will get that consent readily and willingly.

I admit everything the Deputy has said. There is only one thing I would plead in exculpation and that is that the sub-section has been taken exactly out of the 1925 Act.

The Minister did not mention that hitherto.

We will amend that.

I hope the Minister made up his mind before I called attention to it or before his attention was called to it by his official.

We will change that.

Section 57 gives a local authority the right to acquire land even though the local authority has no immediate use for the land or no particular purpose in mind for the utilisation of the land. The Minister is taking authority for that purpose, as the section says:—

"notwithstanding that they (the local authority) have not determined the manner in which or the purpose for which they will use the land".

Again, as I say, this is one of those sections which gives the Minister too much power. If local authorities have the right to acquire land, the purpose for which such land can be acquired, should be stated specifically in legislation of this character. According to the wording of the section, a local authority can "acquire by agreement, whether by way of purchase, lease or exchange", any land for any purpose at all. The county manager may take it into his head that some time, perhaps 50 years hence, he may want a certain farm of land for a town planning scheme. That land may be of very great value to the owner and, if not valuable to the owner, could be utilised to much better advantage by some other person but, during the intervening years, the manager is given the right to let the land and to derive benefit from the letting of the land. That is certainly a section that needs considerable amendment, because, in my opinion, the reasons should be clearly specified for the acquisition of land by local authorities and they certainly should not be given this very wide discretion they are given in this section.

This Bill is primarily a committee Bill and I certainly hope that the Minister will take time and will have patience to explain away the difficulties which are confusing the minds of Deputies. I do not believe there is a Deputy who is clear about the meaning of one single section of this Bill. I really think the Minister is to blame very seriously for not circulating some explanatory memorandum which would help Deputies to discuss this Bill intelligibly and such a discussion would have been exceedingly helpful to the Minister himself. There are many other sections which could very well be discussed, but I prefer to leave them over to the Committee Stage.

I do not intend to express any opinion as to whether or not this Bill creates more confusion than already exists as regards local government legislation. As one who has been engaged in local government administration for 23 years, on the old district council and board of guardians, on town commissioners, the county council, the board of health and hospitals boards, etc., I should like to express some opinions with regard to certain sections and also to make a few suggestions to the Minister as to some sections which I think should have been inserted in this Bill. As regards Section 22, which deals with town commissioners, as a member of one of those 16 town commissioners which the Minister says exist at present, I notice that the town commissioners have the power to prepare the annual estimate and strike the rate but that it will be collected by the county council. That may lead to more efficiency and economy, but I may say that under the town commissioners with which I am associated about 95 per cent. of the rates have been collected for a large number of years. I should like to know what is to happen to the rate collectors under these town commissioners. Will they be taken over by the county councils as officials? I am sure the Minister will consider that matter, but I thought it just as well to mention it so that some provision will be made with regard to the rate collector where he is suitable and young enough to carry on some other duties under the county council.

The Minister mentioned roads and bridges, etc., and the apportionment of the cost of them, but there is not a word in the Bill about culs-de-sac. Under the present Local Government Acts, if a number of ratepayers make a complaint about a road, the law agent or the county surveyor will say: "You can do nothing, because it is a cul-de-sac". In other cases you are told that you can do nothing because the road does not join up with another road. This Bill provides an opportunity for the Minister to insert a section giving a county council permission where a number of ratepayers live on a road and children have to attend school, where vans have to come up with groceries and mills to do threshing, to take over a road whether it is a cul-de-sac or not.

There is one item in the Bill which, to my mind, is objectionable. It is Section 45, dealing with the election of chairmen and mayors. I do not approve of this business of taking the chairman out of the hat. Deputy Roddy said he would like the Minister to consider some way of electing the chairman or mayor whenever there is a tie. I have a suggestion to make on that point, to cover the election of the chairman of any public board or the election of a lord mayor. It two men tie, let the man getting the higher number of first preference votes be elected. I think that is a decent and honourable solution.

Supposing both tied in the election?

That has not occurred very often. I never knew it to occur.

It might, though.

Well, then it could be whoever was elected first. Even if they both got the same first preferences, one would be elected before the other, on transfers. Wherever there was a tie, it could be the person elected first on the list.

If the two tied, there could not be one elected first.

I am only trying to put in a few words to the Minister, and not to Deputy Anthony.

I am only trying to help the Deputy.

On Section 51, which deals with traffic signs, I can see a very serious state of affairs existing in the near future, should private cars come back on the road. Even at the present time, the Commissioner of the Gárda should be given more authority. There should be some provision on the roads for slow traffic—pedestrians, cyclists, horses and carts—as distinct from fast traffic. Going through the City of Dublin, even at present, after heavy rain, when you are driving along, a cyclist suddenly puts his hand out, without the slightest consideration: you slap on your brakes and the car skids all over the road, endangering the lives of many people. I would like the Minister to consider, between now and the Committee Stage, giving some extra power to the Commissioner to deal with that. There could be something like the row of studs you see at crossings in continental cities. You are not allowed to cross the road elsewhere and, if you try to do so, one of the gendarmes runs you back with a baton.

There is one item which has been troubling county councils for a long time and which I do not see included in this Bill. The councils now have absorbed all the powers of boards of assistance, boards of health and almost every other board that existed in local administration, except in County Dublin. There is no provision there whereby the county council can compel the Irish Land Commission, when dividing up a farm and putting a road through it, to put in a proper road, so that the local authority may take it over. Time and time again, the unfortunate people living in these Land Commission houses, where the roads leading to them are in bad condition, have applied to the county council, stating they were paying rates and wanted a proper road put in. The county council refuse to do anything, saying that it is a Land Commission road and that it is the Commission's duty to put it into proper condition. The Land Commission will not do anything and say it is the tenants' duty. Then, after years of wrangling, one party pays a couple of hundred pounds; but, in the meantime, the poor people have to send their children through pools to school during the winter and to Mass on Sundays. Even the vanmen and postmen will not go up those roads, nor will the maternity nurses or the doctors. This is an opportune time, now that we have a Local Government Bill, to insert a clause to deal with that matter.

This Bill deals with urban councils and town councils, but there is one power those councils have with which it does not deal, that is, the provision of free meals in rural areas. There is an opportunity now, when we are considering this Bill, to give the county councils in poor areas in the country power to provide free meals, in the same way as the town councils and urban councils.

The Bill, to my mind, is an honest effort to simplify the legislation that governs local government administration. Anyway, whether it simplifies it or not, from my experience, even in recent years, I know that all these local authorities have law agents; and whenever there is an argument at a county council meeting about something difficult, where one fellow wants something done and the other fellow raises a snag about it, someone gets a brain wave and suggests referring it to the law agent. That means that they put it on the long finger until the next meeting. Let the law agents keep the local authorities informed regarding their powers under this Bill and its effect on such legislation in the past.

In conclusion, I would like to make a suggestion that, for the future, in connection with building schemes, where the county council has control as the town planning authority, they should see that, when rows of houses are being built, proper roads, with water, sewerage and electric light, are provided.

On the question of traffic on the roads, you find occasionally when you are going along a rural road in a motor, there is a creel, a pony and trap or a cart 100 yards in front. You are travelling very quickly and they pull in to the left, but you are in doubt as to whether they see you or not. I have seen cases where they pulled up without giving any sign and that is a cause of accidents. During the drill instruction in the schools, when the children come in from play, the master or mistress should instruct them how to use the signs so as to let people behind know what is happening. The school is the proper place to tackle that. The question of bicycle traffic should be dealt with also.

In regard to the point Deputy Fogarty raised, we in South Tipperary suffer a good deal on the sub-main roads from the accumulation of mud at the sides. There are banks of it four feet high, in some cases as high as the ditches. I cannot understand why that mud is allowed to accumulate. It has been collected off the road and fired into these dykes, but the motor cars and hooves of cattle press it out again. I suggest some of that mud has been put in and out some 40 times. It will have to be shifted some time.

Would that not be county council work?

It might be, but the Minister is the guiding spirit and should act wherever there is neglect. The accumulations of mud are very heavy and will have to be shifted some time. I think it was in the Parliamentary Secretary's constituency that there was quite a dispute some years ago over the manurial value of that material. I think there was considerable trouble over there and a very grievous assault took place. I understand from people in South Tipperary that some 50 years ago road stuff was considered to have a manurial value. Maybe it was because of the limestone we used there. Of late years, however, opinions are very divided. I read a good many agricultural papers and leaflets, but the manurial value of road stuff is a matter of much doubt among the Tipperary farmers. It would be a good idea to get some expert to pronounce an opinion on it. If there is anything wrong with it, perhaps the addition of chemicals might be of advantage. An expert could give us some advice. That would be a matter for the Department of Agriculture. If there is any value in the material, farmers might consider using it and would shift it for themselves.

Reference has been made to the byroads. When you go to the left you are right, but when you go to the right you are wrong—that is the rule of the road here and in neighbouring countries, but when you go to the Continent conditions are different. On the sub-main roads I think the slow traffic should get pride of place as against motor vehicles. A lot of these roads are steam-rolled, but not to the same extent as the main roads, and the result is that they are very difficult for horses and other animals. If half the roads were surfaced to suit horse traffic, it would be a good idea; the other half could be left to the motorists. How to adjust the rule of the road to deal with that situation would require thinking out; I could not make any suggestion.

It is definitely more than an adventure to go out on the roads with animals, and I have ample experience in that regard. I live on a sub-main road, half a mile down. It is a regular glacier, a death trap. It is highly dangerous to use horses on most of these roads, either carting manure or drawing in the crops. I am aware that eight horse-drawn vehicles have had to have the shafts replaced or repaired at least ten times, following their use on these glassy roads. You would need a reindeer if you want to travel over some of them.

Recently the South Tipperary County Council asked the Minister to meet a deputation on the subject of road workers' wages. It was the opinion of the council that the wages should be increased. The Minister did not see his way to meet the deputation, and we were peeved over it. After all, when the county council appoints a deputation to wait on the Minister, he should, as an act of grace, meet them in order to find out what they have to say. What the Minister suggested was that we should put in writing all that was needed. Writing is very unsatisfactory. I am not suggesting that we would get the Minister on the wrong step, or get him to make a hasty decision. He is not built that way. When you write to a man, that is not so satisfactory as if you speak to him. I think the Minister should have met that deputation as an act of grace. The members of the county council were entitled to be received by him. The road workers in my county, as in other counties, give very valuable help in harvest time, and I think something might be done with the object of establishing a standard wage.

I think the Deputy is moving away from the Bill; he is rambling down the roads a long way——

Down the old boreens. I am right about the glassy roads. I have anything but a happy memory of the rocky roads and the glassy roads. I think the Minister could arrange to leave a space on the sides of the main roads for horse traffic and make a change on the sub-main roads, leaving half of them for the quadrupeds and the remainder for the motorists. I am not an anti-motorists in any sense of the word. The motor car has come to stay and so has the lorry.

Deputy Beegan rose.

If the House desires to give the Second Reading of this measure to-night, the Minister must be allowed some time to reply.

I was called upon by the Chair to reply, but I gave way to the last Deputy.

The Minister was called upon to reply, but Deputy O'Donnell was allowed to intervene.

I should like to speak on this Bill, too.

I have only one question to put to the Minister. Will he explain the meaning of the Second Schedule and tell us to what it applies? Does it meet the point that was raised here on a number of occasions under the Local Government Vote—that was, to give to the farmers in the urban areas the benefit of the agricultural relief in rates to an extent comparable with what is given in the rural areas? I suppose the Minister understands what I mean?

This matter was raised by Deputy Brodrick and myself on a few occasions. The farmers in the urban areas hold that they have a very big grievance in that way. They believe, now that transport is coming back to normal, that the farmers living ten miles from a town can avail of existing facilities just as well as the people living in close proximity to the town.

I should like to say a few words and I will not curtail the Minister's time very much.

I wish to speak, too.

But the Minister was called upon to conclude.

When the Deputy was not in the House.

The Minister was called on by the Chair.

The Minister said that I was not in the House.

I was not referring to Deputy Blowick.

Very good. I will be as brief as possible. Local Government Bills are introduced here from time to time, and we view with suspicion the introduction of such Bills. Each time a Bill is introduced the tendency is to burden the ratepayers more and more. The rates at the present time are going completely out of bounds; so much so, that something definite will have to be done in the very near future about the whole thing. There is very little in this Bill with which I agree. I will survey briefly the more obnoxious portions of it. The section that I find most fault with is the section that seeks to give power to local authorities to levy different rates at different periods of the year. For as long as we remember the rule was to strike a rate at the beginning of the year and finish at that. Now we face a situation where a rate may be struck every month if the local authority so wishes. That is a very different outlook from what we were accustomed to, and the ratepayers are hoping that some check will be put to the tendency to strike rates so often.

The Minister also seeks power to abolish county councils. He has that power already. Under Section 47 a very funny situation will arise. If a council refuses to strike a rate or do any other thing it can be abolished, and in that connection may I point out that it would be quite possible for an official or group of officials to encompass the abolition of a county council by bringing about an impossible state of affairs in the council by suggesting that a rate should be struck which would be intolerable. The chairman of an outgoing county council has liberty, I believe—it is not introduced for the first time in this Bill —to preside at the first meeting of the new council until the chairman is elected. Here in this Assembly we have a precedent in that respect, in that the Clerk of Dáil Eireann presides until the Ceann Comhairle is elected after a general election. We have a secretary in every county council who is quite capable of acting as chairman until the new chairman has been elected, which usually does not take longer than 10 or 15 minutes.

We are in total disagreement with the greater portion of this Bill. The Bill has been criticised from every side much more ably than I could do it, both by members on the Government and Opposition sides, and there are very many sections, into which I unfortunately have not got time to go, which are very obnoxious. Some method of derating on a sliding scale or on some other basis will have to be devised in the very near future in order to keep the rates within bounds. Otherwise, we shall have a situation in which the rural areas will be still more depopulated and this Bill certainly tends towards that depopulation.

Mr. Hughes rose.

Deputy Hughes says that he will be very brief.

I have to deal with this Bill and I think it rather encroaches on the consideration I gave to a Deputy who was in the House when you, Sir, called on me to conclude.

I admit that the Minister was called on to conclude and I, consequently, suggest that Deputy Hughes be very brief.

I appreciate the Minister's giving way. I do not want to be unreasonable, but, on a Bill of this sort, if I do delay the Minister for a few moments, I hope he will bear with me. I do not think there is anything urgent about the Bill.

It is not the urgency which worries the Chair, but the fact that the Minister was in possession.

The Chair has very graciously given me permission to speak.

On the understanding that the Deputy will be brief.

I do not propose to go into great detail, although this is a very difficult and very complex measure which requires a tremendous amount of research if one is to understand it thoroughly. It seems extraordinary that we got explanatory notes in connection with Bills which were quite simple, but that we got no note whatever in connection with this Bill, which, from my experience of legislation here, is the most difficult Bill we have ever had to consider since I came into the House.

It is evident that the whole trend towards bureaucratic control is continuing, and, whether it is desirable or not from the Minister's point of view, it is certainly not desirable from our point of view. The local officer is to a great extent gradually disappearing and becoming a civil servant. The Minister may ask how I can argue that. My answer is that executive control, we are told, is vested in the manager, but the manager is the creature of the Minister's Department who carries out whatever the Custom House feels ought to be done. The power of the people who look for local services, for social services and for efficiency and whose responsibility under a democratic system it ought to be to return men at local elections capable of controlling and directing local affairs, by the process adopted by the Minister, is gradually disappearing.

As Deputy Coogan stated, a situation is gradually developing in which decent, capable men, men qualified to look after local affairs, men with knowledge of business who have proved their ability to man local bodies, are no longer interested in local affairs and local bodies to-day have become bodies which are not concerned so much with local affairs as with discussing resolutions which appear on the agenda. Most of their time is spent discussing these resolutions and the actual work connected with administration, expenditure and everything else is handed over to the manager. That is to continue.

Part II is the most important part of this Bill. I suppose the Minister could argue that the natural corollary of the amalgamation which has taken place under recent legislation and under the Managerial Act was to have established a county fund and a municipal fund, but, in doing that, the Minister proposes to repeal Section 47 of the Local Government Act, 1898, which secured that accounts should be kept and accounted for under very definite headings. I should like a definite assurance from the Minister that funds from one account cannot be appropriated for another purpose, because I see a grave danger of that. If that is so it means that we are giving a blank cheque to the manager, that we are giving him power to spend local moneys in whatever way he likes, and strengthening and fortifying his executive position.

I think that is not desirable. It will make for a further deterioration in the situation in which people are not taking the interest which ought to be taken in local affairs. This is a preposterous piece of legislation to introduce when so much lip-service has been paid to the necessity for a codification of the various laws, such as land laws and local government laws, which are a very complex set of laws. As a matter of fact, the local position to-day is that very few local executive officers— I suppose not even the Minister understands it—understand local government law as it exists in its complicated form, and this adds to the complication.

An amendment of the Fishery Acts is thrown into the middle of a Local Government Bill and one cannot understand the justification for such a mixed grill. It simply means the piling on of further expense, so far as the interpretation of the law is concerned, because no local officer will take on himself the responsibility of saying to a local authority that the law is such and such as laid down by any section of any particular Act. There is such a mass of legislation that he cannot be precise or definite about it.

Under Section 10, the county council is being made responsible for levying the rate for town commission purposes. The Minister has not given the House any reason for that change. Possibly he may tell us that it will mean a saving in expenditure as the county councils have the machinery for doing that class of work. I think that the county councils have quite enough to do without dabbling in purely town affairs. I do not think that the levying of the rate and the collecting of it in the past by town commissioners has been a very big problem. They were able to do the work without very much expense. I suggest to the Minister that the House is entitled to have from him an explanation for a departure of this sort, and why he thinks it is desirable to put such a provision in the Bill.

Deputies from all sides of the House have expressed objection to Section 23, which, I agree, will afford an opportunity for slipshod and indifferent estimating. I suppose the reason for it is that the Minister himself has got so used to it in his own Department. Year after year we have Supplementary Estimates presented to us, while the Minister for Finance, in his Budget speeches, assures the House that he is not going to stand for over-estimating any longer, indicating that he has impressed on every Department the necessity for more accurate estimating. In this section, without a demand for it from any local body, we are proposing to give to local bodies the opportunity of doing their business in a completely slipshod way. They can now say at the annual estimate meeting that it does not matter what amount of rate they strike since they will be able to revise the estimate any time they wish during the year. That will be their attitude. The Minister ought to know well that this section will make for that sort of a situation. Ratepayers will not know at the beginning of the financial year what further demands may be made on them later in the year. Surely, that is not fair to them or to their executive officer of the local body. This section, in my opinion, is not a desirable one. It will lead to a slip-shod, careless and an indifferent method of estimating, and is going to make for a deterioration in the local services. It certainly will not make for efficiency. I put it to the Minister that, above all things, he should insist on efficiency, and on close estimation so far as the services of the local authorities are concerned. I think that if the members of a local authority are worth their salt they should not avail of a provision of this kind, but should stand or fall by the estimate they make at the beginning of a financial year.

Section 27 provides that an official may appoint a deputy. I cannot understand that. I could understand power being given to an official to nominate a deputy, the appointment to be made by the local authority, subject to the sanction of the Minister. Why the holder of an office should be given power to appoint a deputy, and to leave the local authority completely out of it. I cannot understand. I wonder if that is the intention of the Minister or if this is an error in the Bill. Perhaps the Minister would tell the House when replying.

Section 28 deals with whole-time officers. The Minister is asking for power to ensure that whole-time officers shall devote their whole time to their office. I am sure that no one would criticise the Minister for taking power to see that whole-time officers give whole-time service. I believe that certain exceptions are made in the case of existing whole-time officers to enable them to become, for example, members of this House, or to act on committees. This is a very wide section and gives the Minister very full powers. I would like to know if he is going to be very drastic in the exercise of them. Is it intended to apply to existing officers or merely to future appointments? If it is intended to apply to existing officers, is it the Minister's intention to deny them the right they have enjoyed under existing legislation? In the case of whole-time officers appointed in the future, let us suppose that some of them are elected to represent the people in Parliament, or to serve on local committees, is it the Minister's intention to deny them the opportunity of doing so? This is a very important matter, and the Minister should deal fully with it.

I am 100 per cent. with those Deputies who expressed apprehension and disapproval of the further powers which the Minister is asking for the removal of members of local authorities and of subsidiary bodies without a sworn inquiry. After all, this is not, I hope, a Fascist Administration. It has still some of the characteristics of a democracy, and we do not want to make the Minister an absolute autocrat. The Minister is the servant of the people, and has to satisfy them, when he removes anyone from office, that he was justified in doing so. If aprima facie case is made for an investigation a sworn inquiry ought to be held in every case so that the public may know the evidence. The evidence at those inquiries used to be published in the Press. In all those cases the Minister ought to satisfy public opinion that his decision is justified. That can only be done by publishing the report of the inspector. The Minister may make all the reference he likes to precedents.

Sometimes we in this country are the slaves of precedent. There is no reason why we should be governed by precedent, and especially when we think of what the future may be when ideas in the world at the present time on social, economic and other questions are being revolutionised and when our outlook is changing. It is no defence for the Minister to say that he has the precedents established by the British Parliament and by British Ministers. What I suggest to the Minister is, that it is his responsibility to satisfy the public that any action he takes in this way is justified. So far as the reports of inspectors who hold inquiries are concerned, I think that in every case where the affairs of a local authority are in question the findings should be published. In some cases it may be undesirable to do that, particularly if they refer to an individual, because publication might react detrimentally on that individual's future employment. No one could object to the Minister exercising a discretion there. But, as regards an inquiry into the affairs of a local authority, I think that, without exception, the report of the inspector should be published.

Section 57 deals with the purchase of land by a local body inside or outside its functional area. I do not agree, except the local authority has a specific reason for purchasing, that they should be permitted to gamble in that way, but I think there should be provision, where the local authority is purchasing land for specific purpose, whereby they would have power to dispose of portion of the land. Sub-section (3) provides:

"A local authority may let land acquired by them under sub-section (1) of this section pending its being required for use by them, and, if they become of opinion that they will not require the land, they may sell it with the consent of the Minister."

My experience is that sometimes a local authority may acquire land, say, for building purposes. They want five acres of land, but they find that they cannot purchase by agreement five acres of land; they have to purchase seven or eight acres. It is more convenient to purchase by agreement, and the owner is reasonable about the price. I think we should facilitate the local authority there by empowering them to purchase the eight acres, and to dispose of the two or three acres they do not require. I think that is the real problem, and not the one covered in the proposal in this particular section. I think the Minister certainly should empower a local authority to dispose of part of a parcel of land that they have acquired if they do not want to use the whole parcel.

There are many other points which have already been covered a number of times by other speakers, and, as the Minister has shown a certain amount of impatience with me, I do not want to trespass too much on his patience. He has been generous in giving way to me, and I promised not to be long. I merely want to say again that the Minister should make it very clear to the House that even the repeal of Section 47 of the Act of 1898 does not affect the accounting for expenditure in any way; that the accounts under the various headings will be segregated, and that the manager has no right whatever to appropriate a sum of money from one account to the other. I think it is very important and very essential that proper accounting should be preserved, and that no power should rest with the manager to appropriate any sum of money from one account to the other. I cannot compliment the Minister on the sort of Bill that he has presented to the House, because it is a horrible medley. In those days, with the resources that the Minister has, one would have expected him to produce a better Bill than this.

I do not think there would be any great value in trying to traverse the whole ground that has been covered in this debate, because it is obvious that we will have to discuss most of these things again at length, and perhaps at greater length on the Committee Stage of the Bill, when we shall, I hope, have the issues more closely knit than they have been in this rather rambling discussion, if one may so describe it——.

On a rambling Bill.

——on the Second Stage of this Bill. The most remarkable thing is the inconsistency—I think, perhaps, deepened by a certain mental obfuscation on the part of Deputies—which has pervaded the whole of the Opposition speeches in this debate. The ground upon which the Leader of the Opposition attacked the Bill was that we were doing nothing to codify the present local government law. Having said that, he then proceeded to tell us solemnly that on referring to the Second Schedule to the Bill he found that we were amending or repealing no less than 36 enactments. I wonder if any of the Deputies who talked so much about codification ever devoted any thought at all to what would be perhaps one of the most striking features of any codifying Bill which we would bring in. Among other things, would it not be, perhaps, the schedule of enactments which were amended or repealed? If Deputies had given any real consideration to my opening statement on this Second Reading, when I emphasised that Parts II, III and IV were in fact proposals for the codification of existing law, they would have realised why it was that the First Schedule to the Bill was so extensive, and why it dealt with so many and varied measures. Here in this comparatively short Bill we have managed to bring in proposals which will, as I pointed out, codify and unify—I was going to say "almost innumerable", but perhaps that would be an exaggeration—a very great number of statutes of one kind or another which at the present moment govern the imposition and levying of rates in urban areas. If those gentlemen of the law who talked so learnedly about codification had really grasped—and they ought to have been able to grasp —the significance of Parts II, III and IV of the Bill, they would have made speeches which would have been less self-stultifying than those to which we have listened in the course of this debate.

What is all the bother about in relation to Part II? The first thing is that we propose to assimilate the procedure for the custody and accountancy of the local funds to that which obtains in regard to the national fund. We propose to institute a county fund, into which all moneys receivable by the county will be paid, just as we have in relation to the finances of the State set up a Central Fund into which all moneys eventually find their way, and out of which all moneys come for the purposes determined by law.

Deputy Hughes, Deputy Roddy and other people who, one would have thought, had some knowledge of public and local finance, asked me what was going to happen when Section 47 (2) of the Local Government Act, 1898, was repealed. Section 7 of this Bill deals with the setting up of a county fund. Section 9 deals with the payments to be made from the county fund, and if those Deputies had read sub-section (2) of Section 9 of the Bill they would have seen a proposal there to bring the practice governing disbursements from the county fund into conformity with Section 21 (1) of the County Management Act, 1940, which says:

"The County Manager for a county may, by order signed by him and countersigned by the nominated officer or, where there is more than one such officer, the appropriate nominated officer for such county, authorise the making of any payment out of the funds of the council of such county in respect of any expense or on account of any liability incurred by such council or by such county manager for such council in the exercise or performance by such council or such county manager, as the case may be, of any of the powers, functions or duties of such council which are exercisable or performable by them or him, as the case may be, under this Act."

That is to say, they must be paid out for purposes which have been provided for by the county council.

But that does not prevent him from exceeding the estimate?

It does, of course; because these payments will have to be made in accordance with the order authorising such payments for expenses or liabilities incurred for purposes of the county council.

So that he cannot use a power of virement to devote money, appropriated for one purpose, to another purpose?

No. The next red herring in this debate was produced by my friend Deputy Allen. Now, I do not mind Deputy Mulcahy, or Deputy Hughes, or Deputy Dillon betraying a certain dullness of comprehension in relation to matters of this sort, but I am surprised at Deputy Allen, who was the first person to suggest that under Sections 23 and 10 we were proposing to make the expenses of a town administered by town commissioners a county-at-large charge, because if he had read or if any of the Deputies who followed him in chasing that particular hare——

I have heard of a red herring, but not of a red hare.

Nobody from this side followed him on that.

Oh, yes. There were Deputies on the opposite side who followed him, and if any of these Deputies had read sub-section (4) of Section 10 they would have seen there that in so far as a rate to meet the demand of the town commissioners was to be levied, it was to be a charge on the town and was to be known as a town charge.

Deputy Beegan, I think, was the only one who followed him.

Deputy Allen said a lot more than that in criticism of the Bill.

Deputy Allen on this occasion had the misfortune to abandon his accustomed loyalty and to follow the leader of the Opposition.

He did not follow the leader of the Opposition.

The leader of the Opposition was the first to suggest that this Bill was not a measure to codify certain matters in connection with local government law, and, like sheep after a bell wether, certain Deputies have followed the leader of the opposition in repeating that.

No, they have not—not on this particular section, with which we are now dealing.

The Minister is dealing with the Croppy Boy from Wexford.

As I have said, Sir, I do not intend to go into details on this stage of the Bill, because, as I mentioned, there is no use in trying to settle here, on this stage of the Bill, matters which will be debated and, perhaps, re-debated, on the Committee Stage. I merely want to point out that so far as there have been criticisms of this Bill on the ground that it makes confusion worse confounded—as, I think, Deputy Allen said—there is no validity in those criticisms because this Bill brings together in one statute a number of provisions which will be found scattered, as Deputy Dillon mentioned, in 36 other statutes, many of which are being repealedin toto, and in regard to others of which those provisions of them which are being made redundant by this measure are being repealed. Of course, we know that there may be Deputies on the other side who, with that lack of clear thinking in such matters which generally distinguishes them, would like us to allow many of these to remain unrepealed in the original Acts.

I do not propose to discuss at any length, or to discuss at all, the questions raised by Deputy Dillon in relation to the proposals which I make for empowering the Minister to appoint persons with special qualifications to hold inquiries in particular circumstances. No doubt, on the Committee Stage, he will make the same speech and I will then have a comprehensive answer both to him and to Deputy Coogan, and I hope to show that the position which they take up is quite untenable and that their arguments and their demands, if conceded, would be quite inconsistent with the preservation of the present system of Parliamentary government and of Ministerial responsibility. The Minister cannot, in any circumstances, allow himself to be made a rubber stamp for any one of his officials, and I think that is the conclusive answer to everything that has been argued to the contrary in this House.

He will not be a stooge.

That is what Deputy Dillon would want the Minister to become. Since the Minister has the final responsibility, he must have the final power to decide, and there is no precedent for the report of any local government inspector being regarded as a decision in legal form. The inspector makes, and can make, no decisions. All he has to do is to elicit the evidence for his Minister and, if requested to do so, to accompany that with his own observations, but they have never been anything more than observations or memoranda for the assistance and guidance of the Minister, and so long as I am Minister they will be no more than that. They will never become a judicial decision or anything of that kind because, if that should happen, we would then have in this country a bureaucracy of the kind we hear so much about from the other side. I, or whoever is the Minister, am the person who makes the decisions and carries responsibility for them. So long as the Minister carries that responsibility, he will make the decisions, and so long as the public interest requires that departmental files and communications should be confidential, then the inspector's report will not be published and should not be published, and so far as there has been any other practice to the contrary I think it has been a wrong practice and a mistaken one.

In that regard, I am glad to see my opinions reinforced by the considered opinions of other people who have given a great deal of consideration to this.

The inspector's views of the veracity of a witness would be considered?

Certainly, if he expressed them.

Exactly.

But am I bound to disclose confidential communications, from an inspector or anybody else, reflecting or commenting in any way upon the character or veracity of any person appearing before him? Is that what the Deputy wants?

Or the reverse.

I should like to know what sort of reports a Minister would get from an officer who thought his reports were going to be published if they were to contain comments upon persons, adverse comments or otherwise, who might at some time or other be in a position to call him to account for what he did.

You could take steps to prevent that contingency arising.

It would be creating another situation. I am here to administer the existing law, and in this regard it has operated satisfactorily for over a hundred years. I am not going, as far as I am concerned, and in view of the public interest, to be a party to make any change.

During all these years, did you ever hear the result of an inquiry without a report?

I do not think there is any need to traverse all the points made during the debate. They will all arise again on the Committee Stage of the Bill, when I will deal with them as best I can.

And the suggestions made will be examined?

Would the Minister give a little further information as regards Section 27, Part III, of the Bill?

You will get that on the Committee Stage.

You will not give it now?

Not more than I mentioned in my opening statement.

Is it that the Minister will not give it, because it is to qualify a certain person's application for a position in County Clare?

That does not arise.

Will the Minister examine the expediency of dealing with bridges which I mentioned?

Certainly.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 54; Níl, 39.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Daly, Francis J.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Furlong, Walter.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Healy, John B.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Kilroy, James.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lydon, Michael F.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCann, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Skinner, Leo B.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.

Níl

  • Anthony, Richard S.
  • Beirne, John.
  • Bennett, George C.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Coogan, Eamonn.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Davin, William.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finucane, Patrick.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Halliden, Patrick J.
  • Hughes, James.
  • McAuliffe, Patrick.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donnell, William F.
  • O'Driscoll, Patrick F.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • O'Reilly, Thomas.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick J.
  • Sheldon, William A. W.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies O Ciosáin and O Cinnéide: Níl: Deputies Bennett and Cogan.
Resolution declared carried.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

Perhaps the House would fix it for the 7th November. If there is any strong objection to taking it then, I shall not press the matter.

When will the Minister circulate his own amendments?

What amendments?

Does the Minister not propose to move amendments to meet some of the points raised?

I may do so, but I cannot say when I shall circulate them. If they are not circulated in ample time, I shall not take the Committee Stage on the date fixed.

Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, November 7.