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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 6 Apr 1949

Vol. 114 No. 16

Local Authorities (Works) Bill, 1949—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."— (Minister for Local Government.)

The Minister for Local Government, in proposing this Bill to the House, said:—

"It is designed to remove a disability which precluded local authorities from protecting public property in the past."

To the extent that there is any necessity to give powers to local authorities to protect their property, I fully agree with giving to the Minister all proper powers, provided there are all proper safeguards for all individuals concerned. The Minister went on to say at column 2140:—

"But the Bill goes somewhat further and it proposes to provide against or remove the cause of flooding in any lands within the functional area of a local authority which are not owned by them but which it considers necessary to improve in the interest of the landowner concerned or in the public interest generally."

The Minister then envisages that the powers in this Bill, when it becomes law, will be used by local authorities, or by an official nominated by the Minister, to remove a cause of flooding "in any lands within the functional area" of a local authority. The Minister did not, nor did any of his colleagues who spoke, give the Dáil any picture of the powers contained in this measure. He spoke about removing obstructions from the eyes of bridges. I never heard from any contacts that I ever had with county council engineers that they had ever found difficulty in persuading farmers, on whose lands the eyes of bridges were situate, to allow them to remove obstructions.

Did the Deputy never hear that a local authority could not spend one penny on that work?

There have been all sorts of Government grants——

Mr. Murphy

I am asking the Deputy, in order to test his knowledge on this question: has he never heard that a local authority was precluded by law from spending one penny on that work?

I know this——

Mr. Murphy

That is a very simple question.

The Deputy is making his speech.

Mr. Murphy

I know——

Over a number of years a sum of about £1,250,000 has been allocated for works of a minor character. Minor relief works and all sorts of works have been carried out under Minor Relief and Farm Improvement Votes. The local authorities have been acting as agents for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance in charge of the Office of Public Works, and have carried out not hundreds but thousands and tens of thousands of works to improve drainage, improve roads and so forth.

I want to know which leg the Minister is standing on. Is this an important Bill; is it going to do what some of the back-benchers in his Party claim; is it going to relieve all the drainage problems from which this country has suffered in the last couple of thousand years; or is it a minor, simple matter confined to removing obstructions in the eyes of bridges or obstructions which are causing damage to public roads or to public buildings? From my knowledge, it is not necessary to give further powers to county councils for that purpose, but if the Minister makes the case that it is so, then we are quite prepared, wholeheartedly, to give him the necessary powers, provided that he puts in the proper safeguards.

The Minister, towards the end of his speech, got a little bit more enthusiastic about the scope of this measure, and at column 2143 he said that the Bill was going "to provide a very large scheme of employment in the rural areas... work that will result in making the lands that will be dealt with under this Bill more productive." The Minister, speaking later at column 2145, said the Bill would afford the farmers an opportunity "of restoring to fertility lands that periodically and for several months of the year have been water-logged over a number of years".

Now, if it is a fact that this Works Bill is to set aside and override the authority which this Dáil set up to take charge of drainage—the Office of Public Works—it is a matter of very grave concern. Before this drainage business became politics, this matter was discussed here in the Dáil, it was discussed in the newspapers, and it was discussed, in fact, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.

We all know that the Government, in regard to this particular measure, are politicians in a hurry; that this Bill is not the result of the burning of midnight oil over a number of months, but that it suddenly came into their heads as a result of the disemployment caused by their action over the road grants. They had the idea that they could lead the people to believe that all the men disemployed as a result of the withdrawal of the road grants could be put on the work of draining the land. If the road workers who are disemployed, if the large number of people who would normally emigrate and if the large number of men whom the policy of the Minister for Agriculture will throw off the land, are all going to be employed on the drainage to be carried out under this Bill, where will we stand?

Drainage is a matter of great concern to the community. It is of concern, not only to the farmer whose land is waterlogged, but to the farmer through whose land that water has to go before it reaches the main rivers and the sea. I gave an instance yesterday of a political drainage scheme where £5,000 was spent in draining certain swamps in County Monaghanand they are still swamps. The result of the draining was that they flooded portions of County Louth—good land worth at least £50 an acre. The Government had to come to an arrangement with the Louth County Council after long years of trouble; they had to come to the relief of the county council, and the council in turn relieved the farmers from all their drainage rate.

I should like to know how many Glyde schemes there are, how many other districts there are throughout the country that will be flooded by the operation of the powers contained in this measure—the uncontrolled and illconsidered operation of those powers. Drainage was a matter to which the last Government gave quite a lot of attention. They set up a Drainage Commission which reported in 1940. During the war it was impossible to get additions to heavy machinery; not very much could be done during the war period. In 1945 the Drainage Act was passed. That Act was intended to deal comprehensively and in a proper fashion with the drainage problem.

The paper which is principally responsible for getting the present Government into power discussed the question of drainage a couple of months ago, before it became a hot political question in the Dáil. On the 20th January, 1949, the Irish Independent had a leading article which referred to an interview that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance had with representatives of the county councils the day before. I am not going to quote the whole article, but I will read portions of it. Discussing this acute problem of drainage, and dealing with the Parliamentary Secretary's interview, it said:—

"The Drainage Commission reported in 1940 `that the present position of drainage is that construction is practically at a standstill and the system of maintenance has broken down.' "

It went on:—

"Little could be done in the years since then..."

that is, 1940—

"but the Drainage Act of 1945 forms the basis for future action."

I want to know from the Government does the Drainage Act of 1945 form the basis for future action in regard to drainage and, if not, where are we? The Drainage Act of 1945 deals with the matter comprehensively; it deals with the notices that have to be given to farmers, drainage authorities and county councils, and it gives those who might be affected adversely by the operations of drainage the right to have their case heard before the damage is done. The Independent went on to say:—

"Drainage is a matter that must be tackled on a large scale if it is to be done well. Small schemes will be the most expensive in the end. Proper surveys are, therefore, essential, even at the cost of delay, if schemes are to be satisfactory."

That statement in the leading article of the Independent of that date is in keeping with the conclusions of the Drainage Commission which examined this question very thoroughly and reported in 1940. It is also in keeping with the conclusions of every person with modern engineering experience who has had to deal with drainage. The Drainage Commission in its report stated on page 33:—

"The ideal method of dealing with the drainage of any catchment area is to open up the outfall and work upstream in accordance with a carefully planned design calculated to carry off the surplus water from the whole area."

It goes on to say:—

"Before work is undertaken a complete and detailed scheme should be prepared to deal with the entire catchment area and any work done should be part of a general scheme designed to solve the problem of the area as a whole."

They agree with the editorial writer of the Independent. They also agree with the members of the commission and with the report which was recently presented to the House by the Minister for Agriculture, the report of Mr. Holmes. Mr. Holmes said in his report that drainage should be started at the river mouth and worked up. In page 37 the Drainage Commission Report says:—

"Practically all evidence favoured the establishment of a central authority to co-ordinate and supervise all drainage construction operations. In our opinion the Central Drainage Authority should be a separate and self-contained branch of the Office of Public Works."

I should have thought that if the Government had examined this problem in the light of what was best to do, the best method of handling drainage problems, they might have come to the conclusion that they should get some more co-ordination from the various drainage authorities that exist rather than add a further drainage authority, or two further drainage authorities, one, the county councils and, if the county councils do not do the job, some officer nominated by the Minister for Local Government.

The Drainage Commission, Mr. Holmes of New Zealand and the Irish Independent were supported by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. When he met this deputation from the General Council of County Councils on the 19th of January last he told them that to deal with the smaller drainage problems at the present time would be a complete departure from the recommendations of the Drainage Commission and from the fundamental basis of the Drainage Act of 1945. He also told them that it would involve a deferment of the basic work of arterial drainage.

To turn the officials of the Board of Works on to that work.

The point I am making is that we may be doing something here in regard to drainage in which none of us on either side of the House really believes. There is an old saying about "playing with fire"; playing politics with water may be just as dangerous. Everybody who has examined this problem of drainage knows that you must have a comprehensive plan; everybody knows that you must know what you are going to do with the water before you let it go; everybody knows that if you want to relieve a certain area of surplus water you must do something with it other than merely dump it on to another man's land; everybody knows that, in particular, you must be careful not to drain swamps which will always be swamps and dump the water from them on to good land, as happened in the County Louth in 1927. Deputy Coburn is aware of what happened there and he can inform the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government of the great damage that was done in County Louth.

The scheme that has been in course of preparation for a number of years and which, I understand, is now finally reaching completion, was designed in order that the Glyde and the Dee would come second to the Brosna so as to restore land flooded out by the malexpenditure of £5,000 in 1927 or early in 1928. If we do not believe ourselves competent to judge as to how these drainage problems should be tackled, if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and the Drainage Commission and the Irish Independent and myself do not carry weight, we have the concurrence of this expert from New Zealand in our opinion that if drainage is going to be done properly we must begin at the river mouth. This was the expert that the Minister for Agriculture brought over here to advise generally on land improvement problems. I found his report interesting right through, but I think I could probably pick half a dozen men here who are experts in agriculture and who could have drawn up as good a report. However, that is not the point. When I read this part of his report where he said that one should begin drainage from the river mouth, I asked myself “on what are we spending money?” Do we really want somebody to come from New Zealand to tell us that if we are going to drain land we should begin at the river mouth, and that before you let water go upstream you must find out whether it is going to reach the sea or whether it is going to flood out somebody else's land downstream? I quoted the Irish Independent before this drainage problem became politics. Now an effort is being made to misrepresent it here as an acute political issue and as something that we oppose merely because we do not like the Government. I can quote from to-day's Irish Independent, which carries this scare headline: “Lack of Drainage is robbing the farmers, says the Minister for Lands.”

That is perfectly right.

Before this matter became politics here the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance told the county councils that the only proper basis for the drainage of this country was the 1945 Act and that he was not going to be responsible for dumping water from upstream on people downstream until he had prepared the watercourses to receive it and convey it to the sea.

On a point of explanation, my statement was made to the county councils in reference to the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945. It referred to the drainage in catchment areas. It was at the request of the county councils represented by that deputation and on my advice later to the Minister that a Bill was brought in to remove obstructions in order to afford some relief until such time as the 1945 Act would come to their assistance.

I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to develop that a little bit.

Ask Deputy Walsh behind you about it. He was a member of the deputation.

Do not foam at the mouth!

Let us throw water on these troubled waters. Did the Parliamentary Secretary hold that the proper way to tackle drainage was on the basis of the 1945 Act and the report of the Drainage Commission? Did he hold that it should be a comprehensive scheme and that he should not relieve the people upstream at the expense of the people downstream?

That is not going to happen.

The Parliamentary Secretary is on record in more places than the report of that interview. Deputy Gilbride referred yesterday to the letter which the Parliamentary Secretary sent to the people in County Sligo in regard to a proposition to drain a river there.

A minor employment scheme.

Is this a minor employment scheme or is it a major employment scheme?

That is what worries you.

On which leg is the Government standing? Is it major or minor? They do not appear to know.

We know all right. It is only you who do not know. That is why you are worried.

This is a very simple question to answer. Is this a minor drainage scheme or a major drainage scheme?

How many of them?

We shall give you an idea in a few minutes.

Why did you not give us an idea now? Is not that what Deputy MacEntee complained about? He said this Bill was thrown at the Dáil. Do you think we will accept anything from a Government, composed on the basis of the present Government, which is prepared to do anything for the sake of politics? Do you think we will accept having a Bill thrown at us and being told that we should accept it without consideration? Let us get back to the question as to the way in which drainage should be handled. The Parliamentary Secretary would like to slide out of what he said to the county council when he said that the proper way to tackle the drainage problem was on the basis of the 1945 Act and the Drainage Commission Report. That basis was that you should start drainage at the mouth of the river and go up. However, on the 17th January he wrote to the people in Sligo in regard to drainage at Rinn Kilshalvey, saying:—

"We have again considered the matter carefully and regret that we cannot alter our decision not to undertake the work. The stream in question drains a catchment area several square miles in extent, and we are advised that the main channel of the Owenmore River has not sufficient capacity to deal adequately with such floods as normally occur, and that the further opening up of additional side drains and tributaries should not be undertaken."

This is the minor drainage scheme.

According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance that type of work is now going to be undertaken which he would not undertake before, and which he said should not be done. The Drainage Commission said it should not be done; Mr. Holmes said it should not be done but, for purely political considerations and without any safeguards to anybody concerned, they are going to undertake it on a wholesale basis, if we are to believe the Minister for Local Government. The Parliamentary Secretary went further in this letter:—

"We have no means of reconciling the interests of landholders whose lands adjoin a main drainage channel with those of landholders bordering on tributaries. Such problems occur in many parts of the country, and they can be dealt with only by means of the machinery of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945."

Notwithstanding the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary last January agreed with everybody who has ever thought deeply about the drainage question, he is now a member of a Government which is proposing to do wholesale what he refused to do in a particular instance because of the illeffect it was going to have.

I should like to point out that the Irish Independent, before it became political, did not talk about the lack of drainage robbing farmers. They said drainage should be done with all due care and all the people should have an opportunity of having their case heard. Now we are going to have no case heard. One of the great cries of the Coalition for the last 14 months has been that we are all free now. The Minister for Agriculture said: “We keep the inspectors outside the gates. They cannot even take the bar off the gate without the farmer's permission.” Under this Bill, officials of the county council can walk in without “by your leave,” and if they do not do so, the Minister for Local Government can appoint any official to go down and do it. Not only can they go in without the farmer's invitation, but they can go in without informing the farmer at any time that they are going to go in. They can dig anything, throw anything around, destroy the best patch of ground he has and, “we are all free”. My criticism of the Government is that they often attempt to nationalise things at breakneck speed which should be done by individuals at a moderate pace. On the other hand, they throw the responsibility on individuals for things which, if they are going to be done in a proper fashion, should be done on a national basis.

If the Minister for Local Government wants a scheme for the speedy improvement of land he will find one in the files of the Government Departments. It is one, however, that would have to be done on a national basis. We had started off to do it in regard to the liming of land. Everybody who has thought about the problem of land improvement mentioned by the Minister for Local Government on the opening of this debate knows that one of the quickest methods of improving agricultural output is to put lime on land which is badly in need of lime. Such a scheme was proposed.

Is the lime scheme in this Bill?

No. I am not going to discuss it beyond one sentence to the effect that the Government are attempting to nationalise this thing and to do it with too great a rapidity. The matter should be taken slowly after careful consideration and careful safeguards. If they want a scheme of putting out on a national basis a couple of million tons of lime a year such a scheme is available to them. We are not charging them anything for the idea. The scheme is there and a start was made on it before we left office. However, the present Minister for Agriculture is depending on individuals for the production of lime.

The Deputy said that he was not going to discuss lime and he proceeds to do so.

I did not intend to do it. The Minister for Agriculture told the world when he was in America that the proper thing to do was to shift water from places where there was a surplus to dry regions. I heard that he had in mind to shift the water from County Monaghan into the Sahara Desert. I wish he would do so. We get plenty of water in County Louth without getting the surplus water in a flood from County Monaghan. One of the difficulties about this drainage problem is that there are certain people who regard water as their enemy and want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. The facts of the case are that we have, even in this country, too much water at times and too little at other times. Instead of being in a hurry to get the water to the sea or to get the water from County Monaghan to County Louth we should keep the surplus in County Monaghan. We should use the swamps by making them into reservoirs. We could then make good use of surplus water by storing it up and treating it as our friend. Everybody would like to see, and hopes to see as time goes on and as we get ourselves equipped and developed, a proper system of water supply throughout the country. I think the Minister would be better engaged in raising the swamp level a couple of feet in certain cases and making it into a reservoir than in letting the water from the swamps down on to good land. There are places where it is all right to give the county council the right to release water suddenly from flooded land. However, whereever there are two county councils adjoining, the inland county council should not be allowed to release all the water of that county suddenly upon its neighbour which is between it and the sea. There should be some consultation.

Mr. Murphy

How many times has the Deputy repeated that statement since last night?

I do not think I have made that statement before.

Mr. Murphy

It must be about a dozen times, Sir, and I am amazed. Sir, that you have not noticed it.

The Minister is often amazed at the Chair.

Is it a crime to say twice or even three times, if I want to——

Yes, it might be repetition.

—— that the county councils that are going to flood adjacent counties should consult the councils of the counties which are going to be adversely affected by that flooding before the flooding takes place? Not only, I think, should the county councils consult their neighbours, but they should get a clearance from the Office of Public Works. Is the local county council engineer in Sligo to let go that river which the Parliamentary Secretary said was going to cause damage? Can I get an authoritative statement from some Minister here before the debate concludes as to whether the drainage at Rinn Kilshalvey is going to go ahead so as to flood the Owenmore river valley? The Parliamentary Secretary refuses to do the work because of the ill-effects that would follow, but there is nothing in this Bill to stop the Minister for Local Government or the appointee of the Minister from going in and doing it. While the Minister for Local Government has undertaken to give 100 per cent of the money for draining Rinn Kilshalvey into the Owenmore, before the Owenmore is prepared for it, he has not said yet that he is going to pay the compensation bill. The Sligo County Council will have to pay the compensation.

Deputy Smith referred to the liability of drainage districts handed over under the 1945 Act to the county councils. They are charged with maintaining the drainage at the 1945 level or at the level obtaining on the date at which they were handed over. If they allow the water to rise above that level, the farmers affected have a right of action against them. That pertains in County Louth in the Glyde valley. If, in the course of these operations the level of the water is going to be raised two feet before the main drainage is cleaned, who is going to pay compensation for the damage? Is it the Minister for Local Government or the State? The farmers need not bear it because they can get some compensation, at any rate, from the county council.

There is another point to which Deputy MacEntee did not refer and with which I should like to deal. Supposing we are going to turn county council engineers into drainage engineers or give them powers to drain land, without their possessing any special drainage qualifications, and that we are going to employ them to any great extent on that work, what is going to happen the ordinary county council engineering work? During the war we had unfortunately to take a number of county council engineers from the roads and put them on turf production. Once the war was over, the Government was urged by Deputy MacEntee that the production of hand-won turf should be taken from the county council engineers and given over to some other authority, so as to let the county council engineers get on with the work of building houses, planning sewerage and water schemes and carrying out road improvements. The Government decided that the demand was justified and as quickly as we could organise Bord na Móna to take over turf production, it was handed over to them. Are the county councils going to have the whole drainage of the country imposed on them at a time when we want more houses built quickly, when we want more sewerage and waterworks, and when we want better roads now that we can get materials to improve them?

This Bill has all the evidence of being prepared quickly and without any thought, prepared as an afterthought when the Government got into some political trouble down the country with their supporters after the cutting of the road grants.

I have heard that before from the Deputy.

I would ask the Minister for Local Government, when he is replying, to give the House an undertaking that between now and the Committee Stage he will introduce into this measure the safeguards that should have been in it if any reasonable time or thought had been given to its drafting. A Bill which is liable to infringe the rights of individuals to the extent that this one does, would, certainly in the years during which I was Minister, have taken a long time to prepare and great thought and care would have been given to it. Even in spite of the thought and care that the draftsmen. the Departments concerned and the Government gave to Bills at that time, at certain times the courts found we were infringing the rights of the individual and they nullified these Bills. I would ask the Minister to do a job of work on this Bill that the Opposition cannot do. That is to prepare and to write into it on the Committee Stage certain safeguards. One safeguard is to give notice to the individual that the county council officials or the officials nominated by the Minister for Local Government are going to enter on his land, to give him reasonable time to state his objections. It may not be an unreasonable time. If he takes up an unreasonable attitude, where flooding is affecting public property, everybody will stand behind the Minister in enforcing the powers in the Bill against him.

The second promise I would like from the Minister is that he would make certain, beyond any possibility of doubt, that the person who is damaged by operations under this Bill will be entitled to claim full compensation and not be in any way limited to £10, that if the damage caused is £100 he will get £100.

Thirdly, I would like him to introduce a clause which would compel the engineers of one county to notify the engineers of another county who may be adversely affected by the water they are going to let down on them and that the matter should be cleared with the Office of Public Works. We should not have the county council engineers or the Minister's nominee carrying out work that the Parliamentary Secretary said would be damaging. If there is a dispute between the county councils, the Office of Public Works Drainage Section should be appointed as the arbiter as to whether the work should be carried out or not.

I also want the Minister to introduce a clause—and this is a thing which only a member of the Government can do, under the Standing Orders—that where a county council is under legal compulsion to keep drainage at the level at which it was handed over in 1945, and has to pay compensation because drainage is not kept at that level and there are floods, the compensation they have to pay because of the operations of other county councils under this Bill will be paid by the State.

Finally, I would ask the Minister to assure the House that all compensation claimed under the operation of this Bill will be paid by the State. It is not fair to the county councils that the Minister's nominee should carry out work and then leave the county council to hold the baby. Another point is, who is going to pay the engineers who will be employed under this Bill? Or is this whole Bill, as I have heard it alleged by some people, simply a scheme, that looks a small scheme, which is going to throw the whole onus of drainage in this country—arterial, sub-arterial and otherwise—on to the backs of the county councils?

The Government have an obligation to answer the questions that I have put to the Minister, and I would urge the Minister to bring in amendments, and to promise here and now that he will bring them in, to meet the five or six special points I have raised.

My difficulty in speaking on this Bill is that it is such a simple Bill and so easily understood that I cannot understand why so much time has been spent in discussing it. In my innocence, I thought it would pass through this House in the space of half an hour, but I have found that it has gone on for a few days. Deputy Aiken must not have read it, as he devoted most of his speech to this Bill as if it were a Drainage Bill. It is termed a "Local Authorities (Works) Bill," and it is not a Drainage Bill at all in the strict sense of the term. It brings in the word "watercourse" and, of course, that brings in rivers and streams and a multiplicity of other works. The sections are very simple and I would emphasise here and now that it is not the Minister who is going to operate this Bill at all, it is the local bodies, the representatives of the people.

What about Section 3?

It is true to say that, in the most unlikely event of a particular county council or urban council refusing to carry out certain works, the Minister can nominate a person to carry them out. Surely, however, in this age of democracy and in view of the fact that the people who at present constitute the various local councils are being elected by the people, common-sense should tell us that they are not going to do anything inimical to the best interests of the people whom they represent. Most of the speeches remind me of the truth of the old saying: "Never bid the devil goodmorrow till you meet him". It strikes me that the Deputies on the benches opposite see Old Nick bobbing up in every line of this Bill. I cannot see him. This simply gives certain powers to local authorities, which they had not before, to carry out certain works. The Bill says "may", and not "shall". In addition, the councils can—if they so desire again—carry out works that are not under their jurisdiction. To my mind, that is a most necessary and useful section. Deputy Aiken must know that there are certain lands, even within the urban area of Dundalk, which have been flooded and have been subject to flooding for the last six or seven years.

Would they get more floods?

Neither the Land Commission nor the public bodies, with the law as it exists at the moment, have any power to carry out these most necessary repairs or works to the river responsible for that flooding of the land. Instead of farmers taking umbrage and objecting to the Dundalk Council men going in on land, I think that, in the case of farmers whose lands adjoin the Castletown River and which, owing to certain breaches in the existing embankment, have been flooded for the last few years, instead of feeling any cause of resentment against the Minister or public bodies, they will hire a few brass bands to welcome the workmen, if and when they arrive to carry out these most essential and most necessary works.

Again, this Bill gives the Minister certain powers, but in the ultimate it is the public bodies who will carry out these works. The Bill will be most useful for the reason that every year members of public bodies, especially county councils, always have for the consideration of the council various works of utility that would be very useful if they were carried out, but which, because of the fact that the county council cannot put up the rates too much, they must postpone in great part year after year. Under the terms of this Bill, I can visualise many of those useful schemes being carried out, for the simple reason that the cost will be borne by the State.

As regards the damage that may be done in deepening and widening rivers and streams, I cannot see damage being occasioned at all. Common-sense tells me that county surveyors all over the country, and the assistant county surveyors and other officials, must know a little bit about drainage.

Does the Deputy know what happened in the Glyde in 1927?

I understand that and will explain it. There is no need for Deputy Aiken and me to fall out as regards the drainage scheme. Those knowing anything about levels know you must start from the lowest point and take the levels from the outfalls and work up. For some reason that was not done on that occasion, but the Parliamentary Secretary hopes under the present scheme to make a good job of these works carried out under the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945. I cannot understand why Deputies should get into a heat as regards this Bill, or fear that the Minister may force public bodies to carry out works which would approach at all in extent the works being carried out, or which will be carried out, under the Arterial Drainage Act.

Look at the long faces round you now.

Surely Deputy Aiken does not think for one moment that under this Bill works of the type that have been carried out on the Brosna, and will be carried out in the near future on the Glyde, can be carried out under this Act?

They will be works like those on the Glyde in 1927 when all the Monaghan water was flooded into County Louth.

It is a very bad thing to have a suspicious mind. I am one of those who are prepared to take risks and to trust people, and I have the utmost confidence in the Minister and in the members of public bodies, just as I would have the utmost confidence in Deputy MacEntee, if he were here.

You admit that the Glyde was a bad job?

I am not admitting anything at all. Possibly, that job was not finished. So far as I understand, it was a most successful job so far as the taking away of the waters upstream was concerned, but then the waters came to a bottleneck in one part of County Louth and that was what caused the whole damage. The deepening of rivers is work of a very intricate type, and sometimes nature upsets the best-laid plans the human mind can devise. A cloudburst can come overnight and destroy the work of years. I cannot visualise the terrible things happening which Deputies opposite say will happen in relation to the carrying out of the provisions of the Bill. Neither can I visualise the Minister tearing through the country in a chariot with a fiery sword in his hand to lop off the head of every recalcitrant farmer who objects to the carrying out of this scheme. Deputy Aiken himself said— and I was glad to hear him say it— that so far as the Minister's taking powers to go in on the land of any farmer who refuses to listen to common-sense is concerned, he would be behind him 100 per cent.

Provided the farmer gets proper safeguards and can claim compensation.

The terms of this Bill are simple—they will enable public bodies to carry out works of a useful type which they could not carry out before this and the cost of which will be borne 100 per cent. by the State. I propose to await developments in that respect, and again I suggest that we must have patience. I want to issue this warning personally: I do not expect the Minister and public bodies to start work forthwith and to finish these works overnight. The longer we discuss this Bill, however, the longer will men who at the moment are unemployed remain unemployed. I want Deputies to recognise that fact, particularly in view of the fact that they have said that it is not their intention to oppose the Bill.

Why all the worry about what is going to happen if and when this Bill is put into operation? I think the time has come when we should all work together, and if legislation is introduced here which has for its object the conferring of benefits and advantages on the people in general, we should all co-operate, and, while Deputies opposite are entitled to put certain questions to the Minister and to ask for certain safeguards in case something might arise which would be detrimental to the interests of the people, I think they should co-operate in having these works carried out. Notwithstanding what these Deputies have said, I believe that, when they go down to their constituencies, like the wise men they are politically, they will summon meetings of their friends, irrespective of the political opinions they hold, and point out to them the advantages to be gained from this measure, and that the farmer, being quick to perceive what is to his advantage, will respond. With Deputies, farmers and all Parties working together, I think this measure will confer great advantages upon the country.

There is nothing, or very little, left which can usefully be said on this Bill. I rise because I am chairman of my county council and I should like to be assured in relation to a few things. In the first place, I will not for a second deny that, under this Bill, a great deal of useful work may be done—in fact, a great deal of necessary work may, and should, be done. There are in every county, certainly in the west, quite a number of small drainage schemes which would be of distinct advantage and undoubtedly, over the years, many of these works have become more and more necessary, because the rivers have become more and more choked up and at the moment there is, as Deputy Coburn says, a great need for the relief of unemployment. So far as I, personally, am concerned, I have no inclination whatever to hinder the passage of the Bill, but, as I say, I want to be assured with regard to some things connected with it.

We are asked for co-operation; I am asking for co-operation from the Ministerial side, because it is most important. The very simplicity of this Bill is, I think, its chief danger. It is a very simple thing to say that you can walk in on a person's land compulsorily and give him practically no guarantee of compensation. While I see great possibilities of benefit in the Bill, I see also great possibilities of damage, and that is what I am concerned with. So far as I am concerned, and, I think, so far as our county council is concerned, we would and will be prepared to co-operate, but we do not expect to have to contribute very largely towards the implementation of these schemes. We are in the position at the moment of having a rate of 22/8 in the £ and I think the ratepayers in our county and in all counties throughout the country will resent any further imposition on the rates. That is our great bother.

In years gone by, under the 1924 Act, which was more or less a major drainage scheme, and, under the minor drainage scheme of 1928, we contributed and did all that was asked of us, but it is a strange thing that, while that Act did a good deal of useful work, it was not continued. In our county, many more schemes could have been carried out under it, which shows that it was not quite so popular as one would expect. The main reason, I think, was that there was not sufficient outfall for the water and the schemes could not therefore be successful.

I should like to be assured that, when the Minister speaks of paying 100 per cent. of the cost, he means to pay 100 per cent. of any damages which may rightfully be claimed by those whose property is damaged. That is a very important point for every local body and now is the time to settle it and not when the Bill becomes an Act when it will be too late. It is quite possible that many of the minor drainage schemes may cost £100, £150 or £200 and it is also quite possible that, in respect of flooding caused in the lower reaches of a river or stream, the compensation might be higher than the amount spent on the work, and unless the Minister clarifies the position and assures us that the 100 per cent. cost which he proposes to pay includes compensation for damaged property, I think we are treading on dangerous ground. I am sure the Minister will make it clear and I would like that this position should be clarified.

Deputy Aiken has referred to the burden imposed on county councils in having to lend engineers and staffs. County Roscommon did perhaps more of that for the size of the county than any other county. We have been doing that for years. Minor employment schemes, bog development schemes and turf production during the emergency were undertaken by the county council staffs. In connection with schemes carried out by the Board of Works a small percentage was paid to the engineers for their work but nothing was paid to the county council. The county council paid the salaries of engineers and clerks in full but got no compensation. That is only one side of the picture. The other side is the neglect that must follow by taking engineers from their work. I have heard members of this Party say that the engineers are not busily engaged now. I entirely deny that. The engineers are very busily engaged at the moment. They have been called on to prepare schemes now—I do not object to it; I think it is a useful thing—but they have been diverted from their own work. I think that position should not obtain for an indefinite period. Before the turf production period came to an end, on the representations of various county managers and county councils, it was decided to take this burden off the engineers in most counties. That was a necessary and wise decision. Unless guarantees are forthcoming that all the cost will be borne by the State and that the entire burden will not be placed on our engineers, we will be in a very wrong position.

I would like to ask the Minister as to the duration of this Bill. Is it meant to be a permanent measure or will it be operated only for a period? The Minister in office at the moment can make provision only for this year. In fact, as far as the Bill is concerned, no provision at all is made. I am not very good at analysing legislation, but it strikes me as being very peculiar that, while the Minister states that the cost is to be borne 100 per cent. by the State, there is no reference in the Bill to that. In all fair play, it should be definitely mentioned in the Bill and, if necessary, a new section should be introduced definitely stating that the cost of this measure is to be borne entirely by the State.

I do not think it would be wise that this measure should remain in force in perpetuity. It may be that the Minister has the idea of renewing it annually for a period, but as far as local bodies are concerned, I do not think it would be wise from their point of view that it should be renewed perpetually. I would not suggest that the present Minister for Local Government will do anything that could be described as sharp practice in the matter, but some Minister in the future could come along and say that the local bodies would have to bear all the cost.

There is very little that can be said that has not been said already. I trust that when the Minister is replying he will elucidate the points that have been put up. I have listened to some of the speeches from this side and I admit that they were slightly exaggerated but, on the other hand, the Minister should meet us and, if he does, he will find a good spirit of co-operation. He need not fear otherwise. He will find a spirit of co-operation on this side. When we criticise, it is because we want to see that matters are right. There is no use in having an Act passed and then finding that it is creating any amount of trouble. I trust the Minister will meet us as we hope to meet him.

Since the advent of the present Government, this Bill is really the first and most important piece of legislation that has come before this House. Since the introduction of the Bill was first mooted by the Minister for Local Government on the occasion of the discussion of a motion in connection with the allocation of road grants, people everywhere who are suffering from floodings, which will be dealt with in this Bill, have been anxiously looking forward to seeing it put into operation. We have heard Fianna Fáil Deputies oppose and criticise the Bill, especially Section 4, which empowers local authorities to send their officials, servants, or agents into lands where works are being executed, and Section 5 which deals with compensation where claimed. They can be perfectly assured that in their opposition to the Bill they are not expressing the views of their constituents or, at least, the majority of their constituents, who care only very little as regards the powers that will be conferred on local bodies or other persons or as regards the compensation, if claimed, that is to be allocated in connection with any damage that may be done to certain properties. So far as can be ascertained, the only anxiety in the minds of people whose lands, houses or roads are being inundated with an overflow of water from local rivers or streams is that, perhaps, because of some flaw in the framing of the Bill, the local bodies and the Minister himself may not have sufficient powers to ensure that the necessary works can be carried out.

I feel, and I do not think it requires a psychologist to feel, that the Fianna Fáil opposition to the passage of this Bill arises principally from the fact that they know its enactment will further enhance the prestige and popularity of the inter-Party Government to the utter confusion and further deterioration of the Fianna Fáil organisation. The Opposition Deputies and their followers must now feel aggrieved that during their period of office and when their one-time Minister for Local Government, Deputy MacEntee, was in power, they had not sufficient interest or sufficient intelligence to introduce legislation such as this Local Authorities (Works) Bill, a Bill which brings easement to thousands of landowners and householders throughout the country who have suffered for many years past from serious and destructive floods, a Bill which will bring instant and much-deserved relief to the unemployed about whom members of the Opposition shed so many and such frequent crocodile tears. We will have this Bill working in conjunction with the Arterial Drainage Act, which is now making speedy headway under the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, together with the proposed Drainage and Land Reclamation Bill soon to be introduced by the Minister for Agriculture, and I feel sure that the combination of all these will not only nourish the soil and bring about vastly increased production on the land, but will also be instrumental in giving full time and remunerative employment to all those who are able and anxious to work. When I recall the vast tracts of land in my own constituency which have been waterlogged and converted into marsh by long and continued flooding and when I bring to mind too the destruction wrought by serious flooding to cattle, crops, houses, roads, I rejoice that for those patient and harassed landowners and householders a brighter dawn is coming and relief is at hand. With the coming into operation of this Bill the Minister for Local Government and the present administration in general deserve, and will I am sure receive, the congratulations and the gratitude of a much neglected and long-suffering people.

I do not intend to delay the House very long. A good deal of what I have to say has already been said, but I think a good thing cannot be said too often. With the principle of the Bill I am in agreement, because it is of great concern to the county I come from, but I am greatly afraid that a great number of people who were very hopeful will, as a result of a remark or interjection by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government, be very sadly disappointed and disillusioned. In my opinion, in submitting this Bill to the House, and in the way it has been spoken to by members on the Government benches, a very wrong attitude has been taken up, and if the Minister had been more explanatory in his opening statement it is quite possible, I think, that he would have got the Second Reading long before now. We were told by certain members of the Government that it was a simple Bill, and the more simple, of course, the more easy to explain. We were told by another Government member that it was a naked Bill brought in here without any dressings whatsoever. That might be a good thing in itself, but if it is true that it is a naked Bill, that nothing is hidden in it, that it is just a mere skeleton, then I think the Government would be very wise in giving the fullest discussion to a measure of this kind to enable it to be dressed in the proper attire. I welcome the Bill, but it needs clarification on many points. Such clarification would not be needed were it not for a kind of confusion in people's minds that a number of schemes can be carried out under it which had been scheduled under the Arterial Drainage Act. If, as well as the explanatory memorandum, we had got a memorandum with the Bill setting out the rivers in each county which have been certified as major arterial rivers, it would have set our minds very easy. It has not been done, however, and consequently there is no harm—and I think I am quite justified—in asking the Minister in his concluding statement to say what is the real scope of the Bill.

Will local authorities be empowered to deal with medium sized rivers? I know very well that a certain amount of flooding can be relieved, and has been relieved, by minor schemes under the minor relief scheme, and even under the rural improvement scheme, but I have in mind a place with which I am familiar, a place I can almost see from my own doorstep and with which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is also familiar. A considerable amount of land in the area is flooded and waterlogged, and I would speak of three rivers, in particular of two that lead to the sea. One is known as the DerrymanaghRaford, which leads into the sea at Kilcolgan. That river flows in a serpentine way and is 50 miles in length. It is, if you like, a basin or bowl. The other is a river that flows through Gurteen and on through Monivea and into the Corrib somewhere around Claregalway. The land is in a very flooded state and very waterlogged, but unless the county council has permission to undertake the clearing of the main channel outfall, then I am afraid that in the case of the two rivers I mentioned, any relief given outside the rim of the bowl will create greater flooding and inflict a greater hardship on the people concerned than work which might be done under any minor scheme.

Mind you, this Bill leads people to think that very large rivers can be done because, in Section 1, the interpreting section, the words "watercourse" and "canals" are used. That conveys to the minds of the people down the country that nearly any size of river can be drained. I have no objection to doing that, even by the county council, provided the State will do what has already been stated by the Minister, namely, pay the full cost and also pay whatever compensation might have to be paid as a result of carrying out those schemes. But, unless rivers of the type I have in mind are included in the scope of this Bill and the local authority has permission to go on with them, the amount of relief that will be given to flooded lands will, I fear, be very small indeed. The major arteries in County Galway are, I think, the Shannon, the Suck and the Corrib. The others I regard as medium-sized rivers. Perhaps it might not be too safe to tackle the rivers flowing into the Shannon and the Suck and the Corrib but I believe the rivers that have a clean sweep to the sea will have to be tackled if we are going to give relief. We have done something in County Galway that would show we are very interested in drainage—something, I think, that has not been done in any other county. We have asked for sanction for a loan of £5,500 for the purchase of a dredger.

Hear, hear!

I hope the Minister will sanction that proposal without any further delay.

Hear, hear!

I want the Minister to give us an idea of the type of schemes we can undertake. In common with other Deputies, I want him to state, not merely whether the cost of the work will come out of Central Funds but also compensation, if it has to be paid. I want him to state, furthermore, that, if it should be necessary for us to increase our engineering staff on the Galway County Council, we will get all, or at least a large proportion, of what will be paid to that extra staff.

As I have already said, I am afraid that the people will be disillusioned by a remark which was passed, and perhaps that will be clarified by the Minister in his concluding statement.

If the Government think we are obstructing in this instance for the sake of obstructing I can assure them that they are quite wrong in thinking so. After all, we had the 1924 Act and the 1925 Act and people believed that when they were passed they were going to do great things. Undoubtedly, the 1925 Act was all right. Under it all the kinds of work I have mentioned here could have been done were it not for the fact that its financial provisions were wrong from the ratepayers' point of view. A number of people, who jumped at it in the first instance, made application under the Act. The work was carried out but I know what we were up against in County Galway when the payment was apportioned. They refused to pay the rate struck for the particular drainage work. If we had insisted on carrying out the law as it then applied we would have put a number of families on the road. Instead of that, we did what, I suppose, was more or less illegal. We paid the Board of Works the contribution they claimed and that was spread over the whole rate-paying community of the county and people who did not benefit at all had to pay.

I should like to refer to another aspect of this Bill which was one of the first aspects of it to be dealt with and which is important. I refer to the question of road flooding. Floods have been taken off the roads in the past. The local authorities and the county surveyors have, on occasion, taken the law into their own hands; they have come along and bored a hole in a fence and allowed that flood in off the road. I suppose the people concerned thought they were all-powerful in the matter, and they did not take any action as far as seeking compensation is concerned. I think it was most unfair to do that type of thing and that it should not be done again. That is why I see the point raised by Deputy Aiken and by other Deputies in this House—that notice should be given—and I suggest that the Minister should take heed of that point. After all, if notice is not given of intention to do this or that and if these people come along and do the work in an arbitrary fashion, well, compensation cannot then be properly assessed because the person concerned gets no notification whatever and it will take him some time to get a competent valuer to assess the damage from his point of view.

Mention has been made of another point in this Bill whereby the Minister is given power, in the event of the local authority refusing or failing to carry out a particular work, to nominate a particular person to do it. I know quite well that the present Minister would act with great restraint and caution in that respect and that he would be one of the last men in this House or in the country to override the decision of a local authority. However, men come and men go and it is the same, too, with Ministerial office. We all have our little weaknesses, and all the rest of it, in politics. When a general election comes along and a local authority turns down some scheme, perhaps a big one, for very good and valid reasons, we know the pressure that would be brought to bear on people to see that that work would be carried out. If the same people got back, or even if others got back, it would not matter. A promise was made and the scheme would be gone on with even though, possibly, it should never have been gone on with. I know the Minister will use caution but at the same time I feel that that point should be deleted from the Bill.

I would say, with regard to the statement that there is great haste with this measure, that I know very well that the faster it can be got through the better. I would ask that, when the principle of it is accepted and the Second Reading given, there should be no undue haste in bringing on the Committee Stage. There should be plenty of time available to have the Bill further considered with a view to the insertion of amendments. The time that would thus be given would give further time to the surveyors down the country and their staffs to make out a proper survey of the work to be done. Incidentally, in making out that survey, I expect that they would also draw up a priority list. I think it would be very useful and very helpful, in framing a scheme of works of this kind, that a priority list should be drawn up. In that way, when people would come along and press their side of the case, and so forth, it could very easily be explained to them that the county engineer had made out his priority list and that they would have to bide their time.

Let me start off by praising this Bill. I know it is a national need and one which will have the blessing of the vast majority of our people. It is a Bill such as we would expect from the present Minister, who is a man who has given lifelong service to the nation. He is a realist and a man of the people, and one who, when in power, would not be held back by red tape. That is the type of man we want—a bold, brave man who would do a big thing in a big way. This measure is something that is both big and bold. This Bill is needed to open up the way for arterial drainage. I do not expect that, under this Bill, we shall have very big schemes. There are many small schemes which can be carried out, such as opening up streams to let off certain water and preparing the way for the arterial drainage scheme.

I am satisfied that the opposition to this Bill was completely artificial. If the former Minister for Local Government had not started off on the wrong foot this Bill would have had a happy passage. I am glad, however, that the tone of the debate yesterday and to-day was more satisfactory. I think Deputy MacEntee is very sorry for himself to-day. He is a lone bird sitting by himself; even the birds who flocked around him for years have gone away from him and he is left where he should be—high and dry by himself.

I am very much surprised at Deputy Smith. He used to be a bold, vigorous man who was always bold in going ahead with his job. Since the time he became Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Board of Works I find he is a conservative, cautious man, and I am very glad that he has been removed from that position. If he had been left there much longer nothing would have been done. He is now a real conservative man instead of a bold young man who should be lashing out and cutting at red tape all round him. Now he is wound up in red tape and foresees nothing but trouble. He thinks that if we take a boulder out of a stream some farmer lower down will be flooded. For the one farmer that may be flooded out there will be 200 relieved. It was about time he was removed from the position he was in. For years after the Arterial Drainage Act was passed nothing was done. I am satisfied that big work could have been done years ago under that Act and that the Bill which the present Minister has brought in could have been brought in by the last Government. They were, however, too long in office, too conservative, and thought too much about themselves.

I am very glad that this Bill has been brought in by a new Government with a new look and with drive behind it. So far as my county is concerned, the Bill has been welcomed on all sides. At the county council meeting on Monday one member was trying to get up before another to praise the Bill and ask if many schemes were ready. County Westmeath and other counties are in the same position. It is a question of who will get the schemes in first, and that is a good way to have them. Our county engineer told us on Monday that he had £50,000 worth of schemes ready and that before eight days he expected to have £50,000 worth more. That is good work, and under this Bill real service will be given to the people. The farmers are crying out for it, the unemployed are crying out for work and they are going to get it. I therefore give my blessing to the Bill and say that the sooner it comes into operation the better.

First of all, I welcome the principle of the Bill because it enables local authorities to carry out very much needed work in the different counties. After what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance said, I feel like clapping myself on the back, because it is as a result of a deputation which I went on to him some time ago that this Bill has been introduced. In my opinion, however, the Bill requires a little clarification. I should like to know if the River Nore comes under this Bill. Is the River Nore a matter for the arterial drainage scheme or is it a scheme that we can go ahead with under this Bill? I should like the Minister to tell me if we can interfere with the River Nore. One of the schemes we put up to the Parliamentary Secretary when on that deputation was for the clearing of obstructions on the River Nore, such as trunks of trees, islands, silting, etc., in order to relieve the flooding in Kilkenny City.

Up to the present nobody on the Government side has told the House whether rivers such as the Nore and the Barrow can be dealt with under this Bill. If we cannot carry out such schemes as these, then I cannot see that this Bill will be of any benefit to my constituency. I take it that the Minister will deal with that matter when he is replying. In the River Nore we have old weirs, silting and other forms of obstruction. If this scheme is put into operation on the River Dinan and we clear the obstructions out of that river, that will mean that we will have no city at Kilkenny, no town of Thomastown, no town of Inistioge, because the waters which will be released on the upper reaches of the Dinan and other small rivers in the northern part of the county will flood out these places. Therefore, I would not advise the Kilkenny County Council to put forward any scheme under this Bill if we cannot touch these large rivers and take the obstructions out of them. Otherwise, as far as I can see, this scheme will be of no use to my county. So far as I can understand from Deputy Aiken, the same thing applies so far as County Louth is concerned. We shall have County Monaghan flooding the County Louth and possibly Dundalk will be swept away unless the larger rivers can be dealt with. The same thing applies to every county.

Even the raising of road levels and throwing water back on the land, the cleaning of drains, which are running parallel to the roads in many cases, and allowing the water to flow away more quickly will cause a quickening of the rivers running into the Nore and raise the level of the Nore with the consequent flooding out of the City of Kilkenny. In March, 1947, we had the experience in Kilkenny that the water level rose by 12 feet and houses were almost swept away. We do not want that to occur again. If this scheme is carried out in the higher regions, we shall have a position like that arising. All the Kilkenny County Council wants is permission to remove obstructions in the River Nore. On three or four occasions we asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and the former Parliamentary Secretary to receive a deputation in connection with the clearing of these obstructions and we got no assurance from either of them. Now we have this Bill. I was very glad when the Parliamentary Secretary stated that it was as a result of the deputation to him that the Bill is introduced.

Is not this the Bill you asked for? All you asked for was a 90 per cent. grant and you stated that the local rates would contribute a percentage of the cost.

We want it for the River Nore. I want an answer to the question I asked. As I say, I welcome the principle of the Bill but, if the River Nore is not included, then it will be of no earthly use to us. There is another matter which I do not think was touched upon very much to-day. The Bill provides for the diversion of water into watercourses, which means that a new watercourse can be made. If a new watercourse can be made for a small stream and the water is diverted, it is possible that the engineer may divert the water without having regard to a farmer's right to that water. We may find that a stream is diverted off a man's farm. Farmers on the opposite benches know the value of water to a farmer. I place the value of running water at 20 per cent. of the total value of a farm. Section 4 (2) provides for the diversion of water into watercourses, which means that a new watercourse can be made and the water diverted into that. I hope the Minister does not intend to carry out that portion of the Bill.

There is also the question of compensation which may arise where a stream up-hill may be stopped with rocks. These rocks may be removed, and as a result of that piecemeal operation the people living downstream may be flooded. The position in a case like that will not be as Deputy Giles has suggested. He said that six people may benefit and that one person may be flooded. I suggest that the contrary may be the result—that one or two people may benefit while a dozen may suffer as a result of carrying out such an operation. The people who will be asked to pay compensation in that case will be those who are suffering the damage. They will have to pay if the county council is going to be made responsible for the payment of the damage done because, I take it, it is out of the rates the compensation will be paid. Therefore, those people will have to pay for damage done on themselves.

This is largely a Government scheme, and hence I submit the Government should be responsible for at least 50 per cent. of the damage, if any damage takes place, or if damage is done by the engineers in charge of work of this nature.

Supposing the Government pay 100 per cent.?

I would not ask them to pay 100 per cent.

Have you got any indication that they are not going to do that?

It is in the Bill that the local councils will be responsible for any damage that is done. I am only asking them to pay 50 per cent. It will, therefore, be the responsibility of the council's engineers and of the council itself to see that no damage will be done.

Are you not groping in the dark?

We are not groping in the dark. If the Government are responsible for the scheme, let them pay for half the damage they cause. That is a fair proposition. Under Section 3, the Minister is taking power to nominate a person to execute works which he wishes to have carried out, and which a council may refuse to carry out. It may well happen that a small minority on a council, living in a particular district, will want a scheme carried out which may be of no benefit whatever to the greater number, and that, in fact, may result in damage to the greater number. But, because of representations made to the Minister by a small number of members on a council, he may nominate some person to go ahead with that work. I suggest to him that he should introduce an amendment in Committee making it compulsory on a council to go ahead with a scheme only if a two-thirds majority on a council decide to do so. Otherwise, the council should not be asked to undertake it. The council itself should be the best judge of the schemes that should be undertaken. I think, in regard to that, complete power should be taken out of the hands of the Minister. After all, the council is composed of the representatives of the people and, naturally, they, possibly, will be more inclined to carry out a scheme calculated to benefit themselves and their county than people here in Dublin. They should be left the discretion which I suggest. That is only democracy. They should not be compelled by someone in Dublin to undertake works. The members of the Kilkenny County Council should be the best judges of the drainage schemes to be carried out by the council. There should be no difficulty in introducing an amendment to that section on the lines that I have indicated.

As regards the purchase of machinery, will that be covered by the 100 per cent. grant to be made available by the Government, or will the councils, in order to carry out these schemes, have to borrow money from their treasurers—the banks—at probably 4½ per cent. to buy machinery? If that were to happen in the County Kilkenny or County Carlow it would probably mean an additional burden on the ratepayers next year of 3d. or 4d. in the £ in the rates.

For good work done.

We always did good work in Kilkenny and we are still doing it. There is no need to tell me that this is good work.

Do you object to the Bill?

I have already told you that I agree with the principle of the Bill, provided that we can do good work and not be tinkering at work. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government stated that this Bill was only for minor schemes. If that is so, then, as I said earlier, the River Nore will not come under it, because the Nore has been scheduled as a major scheme under the Arterial Drainage Act. In that event this Bill will be of very little use to us in Kilkenny, and that is my answer to Deputy McQuillan. As I have said, this may not be a drainage Bill; it may be a flood Bill.

Is that wishful thinking?

It certainly is not. I can tell the Deputy that on four or five occasions prior to the introduction of this Bill we asked the Parliamentary Secretary to meet a deputation in connection with the River Nore. We have been asking for years to have a Bill such as this introduced. Now that it has been introduced, we were hoping that it would be all that we had been looking for, and that we could go ahead with work that we wanted to go ahead with years ago.

Why did you not do it during all those years?

You did not give it to us.

We are here only 12 months. What about the 16 years before?

We asked you last November to meet a deputation and you would not. You met us in January.

My predecessor absolutely refused to meet you.

You would not give it to us last November.

Your own man would not listen to you at all.

It does not matter who would listen to us, you refused us.

Refused what?

This Bill that you have introduced now.

Refused it to whom?

To a deputation from the General Council of County Councils.

I met you in January, and still the ex-Taoiseach says that we are rushing this.

You are not rushing it.

Deputy Walsh on the Bill.

In connection with the Nore——

The Nore is certainly one of the most important items for us.

No particular scheme, or river, can be discussed in detail on the Second Reading.

I think that I am entitled to discuss any scheme that affects my constituency or the Kilkenny County Council.

Not in detail, as you are endeavouring to do. I have already given the Deputy a good deal of latitude.

It was not for the purpose of making criticism that I stood up, but to get some of the matters that I have mentioned clarified. I want in particular to get the position, as far as the Nore is concerned, clarified. I have already said that I agree with the principle of the Bill because it is the very thing we have been looking for for a very long time. I hope that the Minister, when he is replying, will be able to give an assurance not merely to myself but to all the representatives of the constituency in regard to the Nore because we are all, irrespective of Party, looking for the same thing as far as the Nore is concerned.

Will it not be a matter for your council to decide what are the works of greatest urgency that should be undertaken in your county? If the Nore is the greatest, what is to stop you so far as that is concerned?

I am afraid Deputy Madden does not know the mind of the Minister for Local Government. I have been trying to get an answer to that question. I have asked it several times and I cannot get an answer.

Have you not read the Bill?

If the Minister gives the answer that the Nore comes under this, I am perfectly satisfied. That is all I want.

I do not intend to delay the House very long in discussing this Bill. I am prompted to speak by the foolish tactics adopted by the Opposition. They are weeping crocodile tears because this Bill has been introduced and they have been working in circles, going round and round and coming back to the original starting point.

I listened carefully to Deputy Smith, from whom I expected a rather decent contribution. He also went round in circles. He spoke for quite a long time, but actually said nothing really effective about the Bill. I was hoping that he would express himself honestly. It seemed to me that on a couple of occasions he was on the verge of saying it was a bad Bill. If he believed that, he should have said it quite openly, but he kept evading that issue. He did not say it was either a good or a bad Bill.

I am glad that there is a change of attitude on the part of the Opposition. Perhaps the week-end down the country has had a desirable effect. I think this Bill is welcomed by all and sundry through the country. I must congratulate the Minister on the Bill, and I am quite honest in doing so. This measure, in my opinion, is one of the most practical, courageous and sensible that has been introduced in the House since I became a member of it.

It has been said that this is hasty legislation. When I was a member of the House and was sitting on the opposite benches, drainage was one of our pet subjects. Day after day and week after week we touched on something relating to the drainage problem. The fact is that drainage has been well considered by most of us. I presume that the members of the Government have had it under consideration for years, even before we came over to this side of the House, so the idea of hasty legislation may be dispelled from the minds of the Opposition, because it is not hasty in any sense.

This type of drainage has been a cancer, an open sore, for generations. It has been carefully considered for years, yet not one Minister either in the past or a previous Government had the courage properly to tackle it. It was left for this Minister to tackle, and he has done so very ably. He has been prompted to bring in this measure because he is a practical man and comes from an area where drainage is necessary. He has a rural outlook, he knows where the shoe pinches, and where drainage is essential.

The objects of this Bill are three-fold. It is introduced to prevent the flooding of roads, the flooding of land and to give employment. Three more laudable objects could not be found. Every minute this Bill is held up in this House means a waste of valuable time. Deputies opposite would all be better employed finding useful work for their constituents under this Bill than spending three or four days in foolish discussions. It is a very important Bill and should be treated more seriously by the Opposition.

I am a little bit at sea with regard to certain matters. I have in mind certain schemes, and perhaps there are other Deputies who have submitted similar schemes to the Employment Schemes Office at 51 St. Stephen's Green. Some months ago I submitted one scheme, a rural improvements scheme concerned with the cleaning of a drain. In order to qualify the local people who are interested had to contribute 25 per cent. of the estimated cost and their contributions came to something over £90. That scheme has not yet been started. No work was done, although the money was deposited with the Board of Works. I felt perhaps that under this Bill the scheme I was instrumental in submitting might be undertaken. I should like to know from the Minister if I could advise my constituents to ask for a refund of their money from the Board of Works. There has been no pressure brought to bear on me. My people are very honourable. They have made no special request to have the money refunded, but it will make the matter clear, not alone for myself but for other Deputies who may have similar schemes held up in the Board of Works.

I should also like to know if, where there is a considerable bed of rock in a drain, it can be removed under this Bill. I have in mind one river where, if 500 or 600 yards of rock could be removed, it would sweep the water from 30 or 40 square miles of country. That rock is holding up the flow of the water and if this Bill allows for the removal of such rock from the river bed it will, indeed, be of great benefit to a large area of country. I am referring now to the Mantua and Lough Gara drainage scheme. Work has been done superficially there over a period of years, but it has not been effective because of the bed of rock.

Quite a number of Deputies, particularly the last speaker, emphasised flooding down stream. I wonder if they imagine that the Minister, the engineers and the county councils are all foolish people? They seem to think that this Bill is introduced to do some individual harm, to relieve two or three people and flood out nine or ten others. It would not be a tribute to our engineering department or the Minister if that were to occur. We must assume that this is a well-thought-out measure, that there will be no such thing as deliberate flooding, that this Bill is designed to relieve flooding and that it is not the intention of the Minister to cause flooding on any individual's land. When schemes are placed in the hands of our county councils we must have sufficient confidence in their engineers to believe that they will avoid flooding any man's land.

I welcome this Bill and I believe it is the honest intention of the Minister to relieve flooding. This will give employment and it will bring land back into production. In many other respects I think the Bill deserves support and admiration from every member of the House, and particularly from rural Deputies.

I think it is pretty obvious from listening to the debate that the general principle of the Bill has been approved by all sides and, because of that conviction in my mind, I fail to understand how some Deputies on the Government Benches have actually charged Fianna Fáil speakers with opposition to the Bill. I take it those who so expressed themselves were nettled by the speech of Deputy MacEntee replying to the Minister's Second Reading speech. I do not see how any exception could be taken to the Deputy's speech or to the manner in which he approached the Bill. He took it section by section, and those sections that in his opinion were interfering with the rights of the individual as guaranteed under the Constitution he criticised, and suggested that certain steps should be taken in order not to infringe on such rights.

I think that the Minister should have told us, particularly for the benefit of those Deputies who are members of local authorities, what the real responsibility of those authorities will be in this matter. We know that he is vesting them with powers to carry out these schemes. We know that he is conferring on them the power to enter on a man's land without, as Deputy Aiken pointed out, a "by-your-leave." We know that he is conferring on them power in the execution of that work, the cleaning of rivers and streams, to dump the material taken out of the rivers and streams on that man's land. I would like to have heard from the Minister what the financial responsibility of the public authorities concerned in this matter will be. He has told us that 100 per cent. of the money involved in the carrying out of these works will be provided by the Central Fund, but it is stated clearly in the Bill in Section 5, sub-section (1):—

"Where any land sustains damage by reason of the execution of works pursuant to this Act or an Order thereunder, the local authority concerned shall pay compensation in respect of the damage to the persons having estates or interest in the land."

I think the Minister should have given more information to the House on that point. Had he done so, it would probably have relieved the minds of quite a number of Deputies, particularly those who are members of local authorities, as to the financial responsibility in connection with that particular section. So far he has given no indication of any kind in that matter.

Power is given to the local authority under this Bill to enter any man's land without prior notification. Under the Electricity Supply Board Acts and the Sanitary Services Acts certain regulations are laid down under which the responsible authorities are compelled to notify before they enter on a man's land. I do not profess to know a lot about drainage. But I have a little knowledge and experience of certain types of public works. In order to carry out a sewerage scheme or a water scheme the responsible local authority must first notify the landowner concerned before any workman may enter upon the land. Why should not the same procedure be adopted in the present instance? Would it not be a simple matter to include a small section in the Bill laying it down specifically that the landowner or individual concerned with whom interference may be necessary and who might be damaged to some extent as a result of the execution of this work making it compulsory on the local authority to give due notification in the matter?

With regard to that sub-section (5) of Section 2 governing the cleaning of a watercourse, it is stated that the local authority may deposit any substance removed on the land adjacent to such watercourse. Any type of material that may be removed from the watercourse can be dumped on the land adjacent thereto. We all know that there is a certain type of silt taken from the bed of a river which the farmer might be very glad to have dumped on his land. But there is also the type of material mentioned by Deputy MacEntee—old bicycles, tin cans, dead dogs and dead cats—which can also be removed from a river and which no farmer would like to have dumped on his land. I do not think it is fair that matter of that kind should be dumped on any unfortunate farmer. I think the Minister should take steps to ensure that the local authority which undertakes this work will be bound to remove material of that kind off a man's land and leave the land in the state it had been prior to the commencement of the works. On that question, also, I should like to say that, in my opinion, it should be compulsory for the local authority, during the excavation of such material, to be confined to a certain space from the edge of the river bank in dumping that material.

As I said a few moments ago, those responsible for carrying out works in connection with sewerage or water mains are confined to a certain space from the centre of the excavated trench on either side in order to dump temporarily the excavated material which will go back into the trench and also to give the particular contractor the necessary working ground to have a site for his working material. He is, however, definitely confined to a certain space and if the individual owner of the land wishes to exercise his rights he can compel him to keep within those limits. I suggest that the same thing should apply in this case where material has been taken out of the river and dumped on a man's land. Those responsible for carrying out the work should be confined to a certain space from the river bank.

An all important matter, to my mind, in connection with this whole scheme is the question of compensation. The Minister has not yet informed the House, although the question has been put to him by several speakers, whether compensation for damage done in the execution of this scheme will be forthcoming out of the 100 per cent. that he referred to in his speech on the Second Reading. When this scheme was first mooted and a memorandum was sent down to the different engineers and county managers, councils in general welcomed it. If I remember correctly, however, there was no reference in that memorandum to compensation for damage done in the carrying out of this work. If compensation for damage, which is bound to arise in connection with a scheme such as this, has to be paid by the local authorities I am afraid that they will not welcome this scheme as they have already welcomed it to the extent that they are playing their part in helping the engineering staffs of the counties by attending meetings called for the purpose of preparing these schemes. If they find that the compensation will have to be paid by the ratepayers I am afraid that the co-operation asked for by the Minister in his speech on the Second Reading will not be forthcoming. However, we have to wait yet for the Minister's reply. He has been asked by several Deputies to state definitely what the financial position of the local authorities will be in so far as it will affect this question of compensation.

I would say to the Minister I have no doubt that on the Committee Stage of this Bill certain amendments to certain sections of this Bill will be put forward by our Party. These amendments will be of a constructive nature, safeguarding the rights of the individual. They will be amendments in connection with the scheme in general and otherwise. I hope the Minister will be prepared to give due consideration to and acceptance of those amendments in order to ensure that he will get that 100 per cent. co-operation from the different local bodies whose responsibility it will be to work those schemes.

I should like to advert to a few matters under this Bill before it reaches the final stage of discussion. The Bill, as I see it, is in two parts. One is that it provides a means whereby local authorities, if necessary, may take steps to protect their own property, their own land or buildings. That is a necessary power which I always understood local authorities had. I never found that local authorities lacked that power in any respect. I understand that it is so in other counties where local authorities found themselves up against it and were not able to carry out the necessary works to protect their own property.

Mr. Murphy

Did the Wexford County Council ever try to do work of this kind?

The Wexford County Council, as far as I know, never found themselves in a position where they were prevented from taking action to protect their own properties.

Mr. Murphy

What does the Deputy say?

I understood that local authorities had this power. I never found a local authority was prevented from doing any works which they needed to carry out for the lack of this Bill.

Mr. Murphy

The Deputy understood what had no foundation whatever in fact.

If a local authority wanted to build a bridge, for instance. I understood that they had full power to do so.

Mr. Murphy


There may be areas where other problems have arisen in the past that have not arisen in the local authority of which I have some knowledge. I grant that to the Minister. There may be sections of roads flooded —I have seen some of them in the Midlands and the West of Ireland—which may require the local authority to clean up a river for seven or eight miles and they might not have the power to do so. That is quite a possibility. All I say about the provision in this Bill is that it is in no way objectionable. It is a necessary provision for the protection of the local authority's property. whether it be the flooding of roads or the maintenance of buildings.

It is a different matter when we come to sub-section (3) of Section 2. In proposing to give that power to local authorities, the Minister is going a step further. To my mind he is seeking to put across the local authorities of this country something that authorities, if they have not done so in the past, should take full responsibility for. There are, at the moment, in existence here a number of State Departments carrying out drainage. We have the Board of Works which, from the time it was first set up, has been carrying out drainage. There is only one Act of the Oireachtas under which it can carry out drainage and that is the 1945 Drainage Act. At the passing of the 1945 Drainage Act, we understood that the Board of Works had full power and authority to carry out drainage in respect of every single stream in the country. There is the question, of course, of when they will be able to reach all the work that requires to be done under the 1945 Drainage Act.

This is an effort to put on local authorities something that they are ill-equipped in many respects to do, and I say that deliberately. It is not a question of any lack of goodwill. I believe that when this Bill passes there will be a full amount of goodwill behind it as far as the local authorities are concerned. It is not a question of goodwill, but they are ill-equipped to do the work. At the moment the local authority of which I have some knowledge, the Wexford County Council, are engaged in very many works of public importance. They have 4,000 workmen's houses to maintain throughout the county. They are engaged in a scheme that will involve the building of another 1,000 houses, at least, in rural areas. They have 2,000 miles of roads to maintain and they have to look after hospitals in which there are from 1,200 to 1,400 people to be maintained every day. They have a large number of dispensary residences as well as a number of piers and harbours also to maintain. Between all the jobs they have in hands, the county council find themselves up against many difficulties. They have complaints from the staff on the engineering side that sufficient engineers are not available and that the present staff has more work to attend to than they can possibly cope with. Added to all that work, they are now supposed to take on the schemes which will be operated under this Bill.

The Minister is aware that in the past some county engineers refused to operate schemes or to have schemes carried out under the rural improvement schemes. He is aware that at the moment many good rural improvement schemes are held up in different parts of the country because of the fact that the engineers will not carry them out.

Mr. Murphy

I am not.

That is not so.

That is so, and I am aware myself that there are many schemes held up. That fact was adverted to by a Deputy from Roscommon who told us that there were schemes held up there.

One. I said quite recently.

I am aware of other cases where the local authority's engineers refused to carry out these schemes. I want to ask the Minister has he power under any enactment to compel local authority engineers to carry out the works that will be necessary under this Bill. I want to put him that question before he enacts this Bill without amendment. This Bill will throw considerable additional work on the engineers of local authorities and I want to ask the Minister is he proposing to provide any portion of the salaries of these engineers or to reimburse local rates for the salaries of the extra engineers who will have to be employed to carry out schemes under this Bill? Is he going to provide under the 100 per cent. grant any portion of the salaries of the clerical staffs who will be engaged in connection with schemes operated under this Bill? Is he going to provide any of the cost of machinery and plant that may be necessary in many respects to have work done under this drainage Bill? It is a drainage Bill. It is called a minor works Bill, but it is purely and simply a minor drainage Bill and there are a number of major schemes waiting to be carried out under this Bill.

I want further to ask the Minister what plans he has for financing local authorities in the carrying out of these schemes. Will he authorise, as I suppose is usual, the creation of an overdraft in the first instance? This is a most important matter for the local authorities' finances. Will the Minister make the grant immediately available to a local authority before a scheme commences or will he order the local authority to go in and raise an overdraft? That is an all-important matter. I know that for the past year local authorities were in great difficulty in the matter of overdrafts at certain periods because of the delay in the payment of grants from State Departments. I know the Wexford County Council in the last year had double the amount to pay in overdrafts that they ever had to pay before, so much so that the secretary came to a committee of the council on Monday last and asked them to authorise double the amount provided in the previous financial year for overdraft accommodation. Unless county councils are in a position to finance the work immediately it is put before them, it will be very difficult for them from a financial point of view.

I want to ask the Minister further to give us some information as to whether work under this Bill is to be a reserved function, as it is now under the County Management Act. There is no mention of that in the Bill. I take it that, as far as this Bill is concerned, local authorities have no say in the matter, that it is the manager who purely and simply will have the determination as to whether a scheme is to be carried out or not, and that the local authority will have no right to upset his decision. There is no provision in the Bill regarding that and, therefore, it is a reserved function under the Management Act. It is the manager, and the manager only, who will have power under this Bill and the local authorities will have no say in the matter.

Mr. Murphy

I seem to remember the Deputy being friendly to the Management Act on various occasions.

I do not know that I was too friendly to it. I hope the Minister will read what I did say.

Mr. Murphy

If I did, I think I could quote the Deputy with devastating effect to his present arguments.

I am asking for information as to whether this is a reserved function or not or whether the local authorities will have any say in the matter at all. That is information that would be useful and now is the time to inform the House. The House is at least entitled to that much and we are not to be treated in any minor fashion when we ask for that information. There is another matter: will each individual scheme be subject to the Minister's sanction and who will determine the allocation for each individual scheme? Will there be any priority list prepared, will the work be spread out over the whole county or in what manner will works be started? That is all-important. The Minister knows quite well that you cannot have all these schemes started at the one time in the functional area of a council. Is it a matter for the county council, for the manager or for the Minister to determine the order of priority of these schemes? Will the Minister's sanction be necessary in every instance before a scheme is undertaken? It is important that we should know that also.

Another matter which is not mentioned in the Bill at all is maintenance. In the past, under minor relief schemes and several other types of schemes, a good deal of public money was spent on drainage, but there was no provision at all for maintenance, and there is no provision in this Bill for maintenance of the work which may be carried out. In a year, two years or five years, the same flooding and obstruction will be found in these rivers unless provision is now made for the maintenance of work done under the Bill.

There is one other matter on which I want some information from the Minister. It is all-important and is the key as to whether this Bill will be of much advantage or not. Can local authorities under this Bill enter on drainage areas which were scheduled under Acts previous to the 1945 Act for the purpose of carrying out drainage work? So far as I understand, local authorities will be precluded from going into any area which was scheduled under a drainage Act previous to the 1945 Act. It is important that councils should have information on that point. In Wexford, there are three or four areas so scheduled which need drainage work very badly. As a matter of fact, they are the only areas in the county which need to have anything done with them in the matter of flooding, and unless the local authority is empowered to enter these areas and carry out work there, so far as County Wexford is concerned in the matter of relieving flooding this Bill is not worth a snap of the fingers. If they have such power under the Bill, and if the full cost will be provided, an amount of reasonable work can be done in that county.

I mention the Cahore drainage area and there is the Barrow drainage area, in the matter of embankments, and my colleague, Deputy Esmonde, spoke of the Kilmallock drainage area. These three areas are scheduled drainage areas under previous Drainage Acts. Will the county council be empowered to enter into these areas and do the work? If they are they will not be minor schemes—they will be schemes running to £10,000, £30,000 or £50,000. A considerable sum of money will be necessary on each of these three scheduled drainage areas. Unless the Minister can tell us that the council will be empowered to carry out work in these areas, nothing will be done under this Bill to relieve the flooding and the problem that exists in that county. It is true that a number of small jobs in relation to roads can be done, but they are very small and of no significance or advantage whatever. These other jobs, however, will not be minor jobs but major jobs. The Parliamentary Secretary, in answer to a question I put to him yesterday with regard to the Cahore drainage, said it would be many years before it was possible to reach that work. A very serious problem exists there, and, if it can be done under this Bill, the local authority will be asked to undertake a drainage job of major importance.

With regard to the Barrow, a big drainage work was carried out by a previous Government on the upper reaches of that river. The result was that in the lower reaches, the tidal portion in County Wexford, the water was pushed down, bursting the embankments, and there was a serious problem of flooding there for many years. The previous Government, thanks to Deputy Moylan, then Minister for Lands, undertook to rebuild these embankments along portion of the river. The Board of Works refused to do it, saying that it was not their function, but the then Minister for Lands undertook to rebuild some of them. Outside New Ross, there was a malarial swamp for years, with no hope of having the position relieved. No Government Department had any responsibility for it, or would accept any responsibility for it. Under this Bill, as I see it, the local authority will be forced to take responsibility for the building of these embankments along the River Barrow.

The building of these embankments is a very serious matter and it was because the tidal portion of that river was not drained before the upper reaches were drained that these embankments burst, and, instead of the expenditure of a few hundred pounds on keeping these embankments there the work will involve thousands of pounds. Some work is going on at present under the Land Commission in building these embankments, but I understand that it is not proposed to finish them, and there is a danger of some 500 or 600 acres on the Great Island below Campile being cut off because of the bursting of these embankments. I hope that all this work will not be thrown over on the local authority. The local authority is incapable of doing it, as it has not the machinery, the staff or anything else, and this Bill is not in any way sufficient to enable them to do such works.

The question of compensation has already been adverted to by other Deputies. The Minister, I think, will admit, the Bill having been discussed, that he would be wise to withdraw Section 3 altogether and to prepare a proper minor drainage Bill with proper safeguards for every section that may be concerned. Section 2 can get a speedy passage through the House, but Section 3 will be a difficult matter. Section 3 will be difficult and Deputies must try to safeguard the people's interests that will be affected under Section 3. I am sure the Minister has read up all the old Drainage Acts, where he will find that in every single one of them the people's interests have been safeguarded. If works of a major nature are carried out under this Bill, there is no safeguard whatever, either for the landowners or the local authority. Flooding may be caused on other people's land, land may be damaged, councils may be brought to court and mulcted for very serious damages. Who is going to pay for that damage?

Dame Rumour has it that it is the intention of the Minister that the local authorities should stand the full cost of that damage. I hope that that is not true. There is no financial provision in this Bill, but we have the Minister's word that he is going to give 100 per cent. of the cost. I hope that as in respect of the damage that may be done under it, all the cost of plant and machinery and of staffs and engineers of the local authority will be paid 100 per cent. Otherwise, the Minister is putting something across on the House that will deceive the people in the future. All we ask is that the Minister be frank and open and tell the local authorities absolutely whether they will be liable for any portion of the cost in future or not. It is much better to tell them now than have them finding it out afterwards— and they will find it out very quickly if it is so.

If this were a Bill to enable the Minister to spend the additional sum that was spent on roads last year, or a somewhat similar sum, he did not need a Bill at all, as he could have spent it under minor relief works or rural improvements—and the roads could do with the whole £2,250,000. There was no urgency about the Bill for the purpose of spending public moneys or giving employment.

Good; that is a change.

There was no urgency about a Bill for the purpose of spending money or giving employment. I repeat that.

Productive employment?

Yes, the best of productive employment could be done without the aid of this Bill. The making of roads where they are necessary is also productive employment. It can be related to productive employment where those roads are necessary.

Main roads?

Any type of road necessary for commerce and the use of the people. It does not matter a straw. If they do not need repairs they should not spend the money on them. No local authority, even if it has millions to spare, should spend money on any roads that do not need it for proper maintenance and upkeep. There was plenty of productive employment on the roads and will be for the next 100 years for any amount of people.

There is a lot more work on the land.

I hope that when the Minister is replying he will advert to the points I have raised, if he thinks them of importance. I have said that an amount of useful work can be done under this Bill if there are proper safeguards, but those safeguards do not exist in it. If the Minister is wise he will withdraw Section 3 and have a proper Drainage Act drafted, with proper safeguards for introduction instead. Under Section 2, minor works could be done to prevent flooding and road deterioration. There is no urgency about the other portion of the Bill. The Minister will have a month or two to draft another Bill, bringing in proper provisions to safeguard local authorities, private owners of land and every other interest concerned.

I do not want to go over the ground already travelled, but I would like to see whether it is possible for the Minister to elucidate for us some of the co-ordination complications likely to arise in connection with the operation of the new scheme. We have already a number of drainage schemes operated under different authorities. There is the land reclamation scheme carried out through inspectors of the Department of Agriculture, by money voted from the Employment Schemes Vote. In some places one-third, and even up to half or three-quarters of the Vote is expended in an area upon dyke and shore drainage, or on the drainage of rivers which abutted on two farms. There have been areas in North-West Longford where the drainage part of the land reclamation has been stopped by order of the Minister for Agriculture, because it had the effect of flooding the Camlin. The question is as to what co-ordination there is between the Department of Agriculture, the old reclamation scheme, the new reclamation scheme and the local authority, in order to decide whether it is desirable to carry out any of these works in an area where drainage has been already stopped so far as the simple operation of dyke and shore drainage is concerned. We have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance that he is not likely to get around to drain the Camlin, or even survey it, for a number of years. There arises the question of co-ordination. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister what is to be the future relation between the rural improvement scheme and this new scheme. Is the work to be of such a minor character that people will stop using the rural improvement scheme grants, where they have to contribute some 25 per cent. of the cost, if they believe that, at some unstated time in the future, the local authority will get around to cleaning their river? I am speaking of small brooks and wide streams draining a number of farms. That seems to be a perfectly reasonable question and I am not trying to make difficulties for the Minister. What will be the co-ordination between the rural improvement scheme, the land reclamation scheme and this new drainage scheme?

The same thing applies to bog development schemes. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and, I am sure, the Minister for Local Government, are aware that one of the results of the turf campaign during the war has been the flooding of minor tributaries, through the rapid draining of bogs which were the subject of grants from the Bog Development Schemes Vote. What is to be the co-ordination in future between the officials who deal with bog development schemes and those dealing with this new local authorities' scheme?

In regard to compensation, I would like to ask the Minister whether he has in mind any yardstick by which local authorities can measure the desirability of a scheme. Has he in mind, for example, that where the compensation is likely to be more than a certain percentage of the total cost of the scheme, he is going to say that it is not a suitable scheme for this purpose? Has he worked out any figure in his mind, or consulted any local authorities in regard to the matter? What is going to be the Minister's yardstick in regard to the percentage of compensation in relation to the total cost of the scheme?

Another matter which is of very great importance in certain areas is that landowners, tenants of the Land Commission and others, may not be able to assess the cost of the damage to their lands arising from operations under this scheme, if there is an abnormal period of dry weather. We have had very abnormal weather in the last seven years. Extreme flooding has made farmers used to what might be described as a certain standard of flooding occurring on their lands, in connection with choked-up streams, in the winter months and again during the months when the hay is moved. The rains begin, as everyone knows, in the West at the end of July or the beginning of August. There are two periods of flooding in the year. More important is the one when the hay is moved, as it causes great damage and great inconvenience to farmers throughout the country. It is very hard for them to have a standard as to what constitutes flooding on their land. If, after such a scheme starts, we should happen to have a dry year and then a period of rainfall, up to what time can the landowner ask for compensation as a result of local authorities having carried out these works? Is there any limitation and will there be various difficulties of this kind not covered by the Bill? That is a serious question. I am not a great expert on drainage law, but together with Deputy Allen, I very much doubt that this section in the Bill dealing with compensation is at all sufficient, and that it would be very ard for the district justices to interpret the section in the Bill particularly regard to demands for delayed compensation.

What we are really asking for in effect is a more detailed description of what kind of works are going to be done, whether they are in fact very minor schemes carefully selected and not likely to cause much trouble to anyone and not likely to demand very much compensation either to be paid for by the State or the local authority —we have not been told which—or whether the Minister envisages a considerable amount of compensation, a considerable amount of disturbance to people and schemes of a widespread nature.

As I have been saying, I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance would bear me out in this, that although the scheme may work very well in whole regions, there are certain places where the arterial drainage authority will say: "Absolutely no more drainage must go on in this area than has been going on up to now because the position has become extremely serious and until the arterial drainage is carried out it will simply result in wholesale flooding of lands that are not marginal lands but good lands and that are at present just out of the range of existing flooding." I am quite sure the Parliamentary Secretary knows there are areas where his Department will say: "Nothing can be done here of any kind," and where, as I have said already, even minor reclamation schemes have been stopped at their suggestion because of the effect of flooding on a fairly big river or tributary. We had a number of complaints from people in north-west Longford over that very matter. In that particular area drainage was not included in the present farm improvements scheme. We have also been told of the Minister for Agriculture's new land reclamation scheme which is going to release a new, increased volume of water if the scheme works successfully.

I do not think there is any need for me to say any more because the ground has been gone over a number of times. We are asking for a very interesting question to be answered. We are ask ing for the Government's view on the co-ordination of all drainage schemes, present and future; the arrangements for the co-ordination, the consultation that is going to take place; how the plan is going to work successfully with the greatest possible economy and the greatest possible value to the community. I should say, in conclusion, that I think the suggestion made by a certain number of the supporters of the Government that we have some sort of petty jealousy towards this scheme is absolutely ludicrous. I counted the other day the number of plans in operation, being speeded up, about to start and almost about to start which the former Government left the present Government and which originated from the end of the second world war, 1945 By a curious coincidence, the number amounted to exactly 76 and, by an equally curious coincidence, it amounted to the number of Fianna Fáil Deputies in the outgoing Government.

That is amazing.

It would be a very poor thing if we were to grudge the present Government the ability to produce one or two entirely new plans that have nothing to do with the previous work of Fianna Fáil. Therefore, I think the suggestion is ludicrous. I myself welcome any extension of drainage for the soaking wet county of Longford and the soaking wet county of Westmeath. As I have said, all we ask is that there be proper co-ordination. I hope and feel sure the Minister will give us the answers to many of these rather complex questions in the course of his reply.

This debate has occupied over 12 hours of Parliamentary time. I have listened to practically the whole of the debate. My absence from the Chamber during the whole of that period of 12 hours was very short. Sometimes in the course of the debate I had to try to find some reassurance as to whether I was engaged in some nefarious conspiracy to injure the interests of many responsible and respectable sections of the people of this country or otherwise. In order to gain that reassurance I had occasionally to read the title of this Bill which, judging by a number of the statements we have heard, was calculated to wreak havoc on the interests and property of many people. What in fact is the title of this Bill? It is:—

"An Act to enable certain local authorities to execute works affording relief or protection from flooding."

Having the reassurance of that title, I felt that I could go ahead with the work which this Bill proposes safe in the knowledge that, far from doing anything to injure the interests of large sections of the people of the country, I was endeavouring to make what appeared to me to be a long delayed contribution to improving their position and assisting their needs.

Perhaps the best tribute, and the one that I valued most, that has been paid to this Bill is the tribute that it is a simple Bill, simple in its drafting, simple in its every section and simple and direct in its purpose. I value very much the tribute in that direction paid to this Bill by Deputy Cowan. He and I have not always seen eye to eye in this House. I value that tribute, therefore, as one not offered in any spirit of desire to please the Minister but because he—and he has some legal knowledge and some practical experience—regarded the measure as a sensible one, a proper one and one that was needed.

The Bill is in accordance with my personal wishes. I want to acknowledge the services of the officials of the Department who assisted in the drafting of the Bill. I want to acknowledge also the services of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and I think I would be acting ungracefully if I did not acknowledge very fully the helpful suggestions that have been made towards the purposes of this Bill by my various colleagues in the Government. Of course, it would be too much to hope that a Bill of this kind, or, indeed, any Bill moved from this side of the House, would escape the fulminations of Deputy MacEntee. It would be entirely too much to hope that we could be spared the ranting that has come to be regarded by him as a contribution to debate in this House. Consequently, this Bill—it was inevitable I suppose—was described by him as another step in the Communist conspiracy in this country. I say this in no spirit of personal disrespect to Deputy MacEntee. I have been in this House for 26 years; Deputy MacEntee has been in this House as an attending member since 1927; I have been trying during the time I listened to him in this debate to recall one instance during that period when I heard him make a constructive speech and I must say I cannot recall a single instance when I heard a constructive speech coming from Deputy MacEntee. The speeches he made were of two kinds; one, speeches of bitter vindictive personal sonal attack on somebody, or two, a series of statements so exaggerated, so preposterous and so nonsensical that they have made his place in this House, not the place of honour it should be, but a place occupied by somebody who spends his time and the time of this House in making utterly irresponsible statements. It is, of course, regrettable that a Deputy of this House who for some years occupied the position of Minister for Local Government never had any knowledge of local affairs, never had the least, even the most remote, connection with local bodies, never served one hour on a local authority in this country and consequently who has not the slightest——

If I may correct the Minister——

Mr. Murphy

——knowledge of the truth about a discussion on matters of this kind. Members of local authorities in this country might just be tyrannical persons in their own areas that could never be trusted to behave with reason —indeed that is entirely consistent with Deputy MacEntee's policy and very notably consistent with his policy when he was Minister for Local Government, because his attitude towards local bodies was one of hostility, one of consistent opposition to their legitimate views in many cases and always backed up by the threat of obstruction and suppression that he carried out so very often during his period as Minister to the extent that when the change of Government came the whole position of local government in this country was chaotic. It was chaotic because of the manner he abused and mismanaged his position as Minister. I de not complain of the personal attack he made on myself or of the fact that he distorted the proposals of this Bill by suggesting that they were part of a scheme to employ secretaries of the Labour Party and Labour Party representatives throughout the country or to put them into certain positions. I do not even complain of his personal reflections on myself as a Deputy of this House. All I can say is that the people of the constituency I represent have returned me to represent them over a number of years and that I feel that there is nothing dishonourable, nothing that need be hidden in the relations over those years between the people of the constituency and myself as their representative. Of course, because the Bill emanated from this side of the House the MacEntee mountain went into labour again and again produced the mouse, a very small mouse on this occasion and a very distorted mouse, so distorted that Deputy MacEntee's colleagues became ashamed and ran away from him, as evidenced in the speech we had last night from Deputy Corry, a speech echoed by Deputy Ó Briain, and the sentiments of that same speech were repeated here to-day by various other colleagues of the ex-Minister. Deputy MacEntee, therefore, is the Casabianca of the whole business, the boy who stood on the burning deck whence all but he had fled, because all his colleagues, obviously, honestly and openly fled from the point of view he expressed in connection with this Bill which had neither relation to the terms of the Bill nor the most remote connection with the facts.

I was surprised to see Deputy de Valera take a somewhat similar line. Whatever one's views are about Deputy MacEntee's actions in this House—and I do not think there will be much contention about them—one would at least expect to hear from the Leader of the Opposition and the exLeader of the House a sensible approach to a Bill of this kind. My statement that the Bill was a simple one and that certain proposals in it were innocent was received with incredulous and even derisive laughter from Deputy de Valera and his colleagues. Yet the purpose of the Bill is to implement proposals that local authorities through the General Council of County Councils and various bodies throughout the country have sought for a number of years because they knew something that apparently never percolated to the mind of Deputy MacEntee that one penny could not be spent on work of this kind without liability for surcharge and without being concerned in an act that was entirely illegal. I was glad therefore to hear at a later stage in the debate a more sensible approach to the proposals in this Bill. This Bill contains practically only one section, one section the proposals of which will operate, and to think that it should need a long explanation and that it should occupy over 12 hours of Parliamentary time. It is easy, of course, to find a reason for that and the reason is that this Bill has been consistently obstructed from the moment of its introduction from the original fulminations of Deputy MacEntee to the flounderings of Deputy Aiken that began here last night and ended after occupying over an hour of Parliamentary time to-day. The Bill is being obstructed because the Bill is recognised as a very potent agency for good in this country, because it is good politics for the opponents of this Government to try to show that no good can come from the legislative actions proposed by the Government and because it is good business for them to have some excuse for the statements that appear in their kept organ that unemployment is increasing and that this Government is heedless of it. When this Government, however, brings forward proposals aimed at putting local authorities in the position of being able to offer substantial employment and to couple with that offer of substantial employment substantial opportunities for good for large sections of the people of this country, the well marked attitude is displayed from certain quarters in the course of the discussion on the Bill of being willing to wound but afraid to strike. I challenge Deputies on the other side of the House to vote against this Bill and to go down the country and justify that action to their constituents—no matter how much their constituents may differ from us politically or hold views other than ours on other questions.

This Bill is recognised almost universally as being a good and useful Bill. Indeed, the grudging admissions we have had in the latter course of the debate recognised it, almost universally, as a good and useful Bill. The fact that proposals have already come in from various counties shows that it will have considerable value, tremendous value in some counties, from the point of view of employment. I am going to prove that statement. I do not hold that this Bill is going to do all the things that some people may think it will do. I do not hold, for instance, for a minute that it is going to supersede or interfere with the Arterial Drainage Act. I do not hold that it can embrace all the schemes in this country that require to be done in one way or another. But I do claim for this Bill here and now what I claimed for it in the beginning, namely, that it is going to make a substantial contribution to removing flooding; that it is going to assist the local authorities to protect public property by the elimination of and relief from flooding and that it is going to enable local authorities to carry out certain other works for the purpose of restoring to a productive state land that had lost its fertility by reason of periodic and recurrent flooding. I think that is something worth attaining under this Bill and, if it can be attained, I think it will be remembered not alone in the annals of this country but in the minds of the people of this country as a useful piece of legislation.

Deputy MacEntee will be quite surprised to learn, because I do not think he was present at the time, that some of his colleagues believe that this Bill does not go far enough. Last night Deputy Killilea, to my surprise, told us that the Bill does not go far enough. He was joined, in a subsequent statement, by Deputy P.J. Burke, whose contribution on matters of this kind, and indeed on all matters, shows a degree of intellectual knowledge and ability that is, of course, very appropriate in any Parliament. Deputy Burke made the astonishing discovery last night, and he gave the House the benefit of his knowledge, that all the rivers in County Dublin flow into the sea. In any case, it is sufficient for me to say that Deputy Burke had wandered so far away from the path of rectitude that Deputy MacEntee had set that he thought this Bill did not go far enough. "The outrageous proposals of this Bill," said Deputy MacEntee—outrageous to offer to the local authorities 100 per cent. of the money they require to do this work; outrageous to offer to the farmers the relief they had been clamouring for in vain for years; outrageous to offer to the rural labourers the employment I would prefer to see them get rather than condemn them indefinitely to hanging around the doors of the Labour Exchange as paupers and mendicants in their own country.

That is what Deputy MacEntee would like them to do.

Mr. Murphy

I want, before I proceed further, to quote some of the statements of Deputy MacEntee. He described this Bill as "...a simple enactment affecting the property of a great many individuals in this country, and they cannot allow themselves to forget that an important element in the Coalition which is sponsoring this Bill is a group which believes that, in order to open the way towards the establishment of an Elysian Paradise in this land, all rights in property should be expropriated." That quotation will be found in column 2148 of the Official Report of the 31st March, 1949. Deputy MacEntee is, of course, completely divorced from the views and the needs of rural Ireland. I would have hoped that consultation in the last day or two with his colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party who represent rural constituencies would have shown him the utter folly of the line he took in connection with this Bill. My hopes were vain because yesterday morning, in a characteristic spirit, he rushed into print in one of the Dublin morning papers. I quote from the Irish Times of the 5th April, 1949. Deputy MacEntee wound up a long letter, almost a column in length, as follows:—

"Why is the way being opened by the precedent created in this Bill for the virtually unrestricted interference by the State and the local authorities with the landholder's right to protect his property against trespass? Are we paving the way for the time when those important elements in the Coalition whose declared objective is the expropriation of all ownership in land are ready to take over centrally and locally?"

I observe that Deputy MacEntee issued that letter not from the Custom House on this occasion but from 28 Merrion Square, Dublin, where I am told he functions as an industrial adviser.

What has this got to do with it?

Mr. Murphy

I can only say, in regard to the advice which he gives in that capacity——

The Minister is referring to the Deputy's personal avocation.

Mr. Murphy

I listen to very vicious attacks on myself in this House——

As a Minister, but not in a private capacity.

Mr. Murphy

My private reputation as an individual and member of this House. There were suggestions of corruption in connection with my relations with the people of my constituency. If I am not entitled to say a word in defence of that, then I can only conclude that the Chair did not hear those very offensive personal remarks. There were references last night to the Minister for Local Government being a "Red". I heard no reproof from the Chair to these remarks. I submit I am entitled to say a word in my own defence and, if I have to say that word, I do not do so in any spirit of pleasure, but because I think it is necessary to show the House, and ultimately the country, what an irresponsible person speaks when Deputy MacEntee speaks, and what irresponsible effusions emanate from his pen.

That has nothing to do with his personal affairs and whatever profession he may follow.

Mr. Murphy

I can only say that his clients in his other capacity have my sincere sympathy.

He did not write that letter to the Irish Press.

Mr. Murphy

It may be, although I am quite sure that it is the case even with some of his own colleagues—and the attitude towards this Bill is ample evidence of it—that they do not take much notice of him. It may be, however, that there are still a dwindling few in the country who do, and in order that they may have their minds set at rest on that question I must, although I feel it is straining the patience of the House unduly, dispose of some of his statements in connection with this Bill.

What about disposing of the ones you have just read out?

Mr. Murphy

The statements have no foundation in fact. That is usual. But because these statements have been made in connection with the Bill I think it might be well to refer to some of them. The Deputy complained that this Bill was rushed, and that Members of the House had no opportunity of studying it. He said that it was flung at them. Yet Deputy MacEntee spent considerably over an hour discussing this Bill. He purported to analyse it section by section. He clearly showed, in any case, that he had ample time to go over this Bill and if he distorted the provisions of this Bill he did that because it suited him to do it. In any case, he did not show by his statement that he was taken in any way short for time in discussing the proposals contained in this Bill. "Where," he asked, "are the vast interests that are at the present moment being endangered by reason of the fact that this Bill is not law?" I have heard of hundreds of acres of land flooded in various parts of the country because of the fact that certain obstructions could not be removed, due to the fact that any proposals to remove those obstructions conflicted with the law. I hope to give the House before I conclude particulars and details of a number of these schemes already brought to the notice of the Department by the engineers dealing with these schemes in a preliminary way up to the present. Of course he dismissed the possibility of employment contained in Section 2.

On a point of order. May I call your attention. Sir, to the fact that, while purporting to quote me. he has misquoted me?

Mr. Murphy

I quote from column 2147 of the Official Reports:—"Where are the vast public interests that are at the present moment being endangered by reason of the fact..."

May I call your attention, Sir, to the fact that he omitted the very important qualifying word "public"?

Mr. Murphy

I want seriously to bring to your notice the fact that Deputy MacEntee spoke for nearly an hour and a half and that I was compelled to listen to him. It was not a pleasant task because, no matter how one differs from another person in this House, one can always listen to a sensible speech. But I had to listen to the kind of arrant nonsense that masqueraded as a contribution to this debate and I submit I am entitled to make my case now without the same kind of stupid interruption. He dismissed the possibility of employment contained in Section 2 of the Bill by saying that if every eye of every bridge in this country which is at the moment unduly obstructed by an accumulation of stones and earth or gravel were to be cleared, it would not give employment to 1,000 men for one week. When dealing with Section 2 he said: "So far as the amount of employment that it is likely to give, it can quite readily be equated with the work which will be done in clearing the eyes of bridges."

On a point of order. May I call attention to the fact that, while the Minister is purporting to quote from my speech, he has not cited the relevant columns?

Mr. Murphy

I shall get them later.

I submit to you. Sir, that when a Minister purports to quote the ipsissima verba of a Deputy he is bound to give the reference.

If the Minister purports to quote he should give the exact words. Of course, he is entitled to paraphrase.

Mr. Murphy

That is what I am doing.

Mr. Murphy

He suggested that the employment to be afforded under the Bill would prove to be virtually negligible. Another "white elephant," of course. I want to reassure him on that point. I wonder will he be pleased if I tell him that already we have indications that there will be a very substantial amount of employment made available under the proposals in this Bill. I have before me particulars of estimates that have been received from five counties. In the first it is estimated that proposals can be executed in the county amounting to £50,000; in the second county, £75,000; in the third county, from £40,000 to £50,000; in the fourth county, £80,000; and in the fifth county, £60,000. All this work in my judgment and in the judgment of various engineers can be undertaken without any serious risk and without involving the local authority or anybody else in the spate of litigation that has been prophesied as one of the immediate results of the operation of this Bill.

I think it well to quote a short extract from the report of a county engineer in one county. He refers to one proposal he is bringing forward under the Bill and states:—

"I am bringing forward an application for the substantial repair and building of banks along a canal which was constructed in connection with an old drainage work and the responsibility for the maintenance of which up to a few years ago was a purely local charge. Naturally, since the responsibility for maintenance was a purely local charge the embankments had been allowed to go into a state of disrepair and a few years ago we had a breach of these embankments which flooded two or three townlands and serious damage to crops and, particularly, to potatoes in the ground was caused. The scheme I have in mind is the reconstruction and strengthening and extensive repair of these canal banks to obviate such damage by flooding as a result of a sudden collapse in the future."

Another county engineer indicated in a fairly long memorandum a proposal which he intends to submit and he anticipates that the estimates for the preliminary proposals will in all probability exceed £75,000.

Now, I want to come to what has been described as the absence of safeguards; safeguards for private property, safeguards for various interests concerned in the operation of the Bill. We were told by Deputy MacEntee that the House was being asked to abrogate one of its major functions, because we were surrendering to the local authority the custody of the public interest, a right that we should have retained for ourselves; that it was unfair that there should be terms like "reasonable" in this Bill, or that anything should be decided in accordance with what appeared to the local authority to be the public interest. I am amazed at Deputy MacEntee's belated conversion to that point of view. He was not always of that opinion. Certain legislation already enacted in this House, which in fact was introduced by him, contained the very same terms. Let me give a few examples to show what I am attempting to prove. Section 24 of the Local Government Act, 1941, provides that where the Minister is satisfied that it is in the public interest that the holder of an office should resign because of any alteration in the conditions of service or the extent of the duties attaching to his office the Minister may require him to resign.

There is no safeguard whatever for that particular person. There is no appeal to the courts, just a requirement that the Minister has to be satisfied that it is necessary that that man should go in the public interest, and go he must without any appeal or without any question whatever. It is hard to recognise the same Deputy MacEntee who put forward and carried through a proposal of that kind as the Deputy who spent such a long time in this House in the discussion of this Bill as the self-constituted champion of the term "public interest" and as the only person in the House who seemed able to defend it.

Let me give the House some further examples. The use of the word "reasonable" has been attacked on the ground that it is liable to abuse. Section 49 of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1948—again the child of Deputy MacEntee when he was Minister for Local Government— allows the sanitary authority "to take such steps as are reasonably necessary to prevent injury being caused to public health or the amenities of any locality" by certain things.

Would the Minister mind telling the House what the certain things are?

Mr. Murphy

"Obstructions in any river or watercourse." Again, I ask, and I do not want to labour the matter unduly, why this change of attitude? What reason has anybody in this House to think that the local authorities will not act reasonably? The local authorities are not dominated by any particular Party in this country. They consist of farmers, shopkeepers and labourers and of members of various political Parties. Quite a number of them are associated with no political Party in particular. They have to face the people at certain periods to secure re-election. Their business is discussed in the presence of the Press and of the general public. What reason has anyone to think that they are not quite capable of judging what the public interest is in this matter, just as they are able to judge whether it is in the public interest to go into a certain quarry for the purpose of getting road material out of it, or as they were able to judge which particular piece of turbary was best suited to the operations of the county engineers when they had to select certain pieces of turbary for the purpose of cutting turf? Are they not the custodians of the public interest when they decide to make a particular road in a certain place or from one point to another, or when they ask quite a number of people living along that road to consent to the taking away of a small portion of their land for the purpose of making that road a useful and a safe one?

Again, I want to remind Deputies— I am sure many will not need to be reminded—that there is no provision in this Bill for any compulsory powers to take one perch of land in any part of this country. I am quite satisfied that the local authorities will act reasonably in this matter. I am quite satisfied that there will be no long spate of litigation, and I am quite satisfied that there will be, substantially, no acrimony between the local farmers and the local authority. I know the policy of local authorities sufficiently well to know that the county engineers and the county councils will operate this measure with the consent, I hope entirely, of the people concerned, and that they will be thanked generally by the people concerned for the services that this Bill will confer on them.

We have been told that this Bill does not contain certain safeguards that are to be found in Acts passed for the purpose of providing machinery to operate the electricity supply services. Again, there is a very wide difference between the Electricity Supply Board and a local authority. The local authority is responsive to local opinion; the local authority, and the members of the local authority, have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion locally, and they are going to move, as they have always moved, in accordance with local opinion, and without any desire whatever to take any steps that may be injurious to the people whose land can be served rather than injured by this Bill, and whose interests can be helped rather than hindered by its operation. It is a purely fantastic suggestion to say that the county engineer and a number of men will sally forth and go into some man's land and proceed to do work against his will and without his permission. That certain members of this House should seriously make that suggestion, especially those who were or are members of local authorities, is certainly something that I find it very difficult to understand. The basis on which this Bill is founded is one on which it is hoped to get, to maintain and to carry through the provisions of the Bill with the fullest co-operation of all the people concerned, in the certain hope that they will regard the local authority as a benefactor of their interests in this particular matter.

We were told that a tremendous lot of difficulties would arise because of the absence of a provision showing how material taken from the bed of a river or stream is to be disposed of. The local authorities are free to decide, presumably, again, in consultation with the local landowner and the county engineer, how this material is to be disposed of. I have no reason to think that they would come to any foolish decision in the matter, or do anything that would be injurious to the people concerned. Again, this proposal is not a new one, because in the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act of 1948 a similar proposal is contained. It provides:—

"A sanitary authority may take such steps are are reasonably necessary to prevent injury being caused to public health or the amenities of any locality by reason of obstructions in any river or watercourse."

That section, of course, was intended to deal with nuisances, and it is quite safe to assume that material taken from the bed of a stream under the operations of that Act was disposed of without any serious difficulty or hardship being caused, and that the same position will arise in connection with this Bill.

That is a most ingenious fallacy.

Mr. Murphy

The Arterial Drainage Act of 1945 has been referred to very often in the course of this debate. Nobody seemed to remember that the Act gave power to the Commissioners cf Public Works, when carrying out a drainage scheme, to deposit on any land all spoil or other material produced in the carrying out of the drainage scheme, or to use such spoil or other material in carrying out the drainage scheme if they so required. This section of the Arterial Drainage Act gives exactly the same power to the Commissioners of Public Works as Section 2 of this Bill gives for the disposal of the material that will be taken out of the beds of rivers or streams under the operation of this Bill when it becomes an Act.

Well-simulated indignation was displayed at the dangers to the rights of the individual by interference with the agents of the local authority, and by the provision in the Bill that any obstruction to the agents or accredited representatives of the local authorities was an offence liable to be punished on summary conviction, and to entail a penalty not exceeding £10. There is an exactly similar provision in the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945, with this difference, that the penalty in that Act is £50, so that it is five times more expensive to obstruct the representatives of the Office of Public Works in the matter of the operation of that Act than it will be, in this particular case, to obstruct the representatives or agents of the local authority to do this work. There is an additional penalty under the Drainage Act of 1945, which provides for a fine of £5 for every day on which the offence is committed, apart from the original penalty of £50 —five times as great as the provision made under this Bill. And yet we have hours spent in this House in entirely artificial, entirely simulated indignation at a proposal of this kind, as if it were the first time it was ever heard of in legislation.

I will repeat what I said, and what I hoped would be accepted, in this House, generally, when I introduced the Bill. This Bill follows the pattern, generally speaking, of legislation that has been already introduced; in the matter of safeguards, in the matter of the various provisions, the Bill is exactly in line with the well-defined and accepted pattern of legislation which has not alone been the case in the past few years, but for a long number of years, and in many cases since this House was founded and dealt with its first piece of legislation.

I will now refer for a short time to the alleged origin of this Bill, because I think I can give the House some valuable information on that point. When I took part in a debate here some weeks ago on the question of the road grants, I indicated, for the first time, that permission had been obtained from the Government to introduce this Bill. I indicated that the Bill would remove one of the disabilities under which local authorities had long laboured. Deputy MacEntee interrupted me to say that the law which contained that disability had been changed. I asserted what, in fact, I knew to be true, that that was not so. He then mended his hand and said the draft of the proposed change was in the archives of the Local Government Department. I denied that statement then; I deny it now. I have the file with me in connection with that matter and the file—and I challenge contradiction of the fact—confirms entirely what I am saying.

Deputy MacEntee, again mending his hand when he spoke on this matter for one and a half hours last week, said that there was a draft of the amendment necessary to remove this disability. That statement was entirely devoid of truth. He went further, and said it was intended to insert a proposal to remove these disabilities of local bodies in an Act which was passed into law in 1946. This matter was not brought to Deputy MacEntee's notice until 1947 by the Cork County Council, so it was quite impossible to provide for it in an Act which was passed into law 12 months before the difficulty originated in County Cork. It is on the records in this file.

And he refused to receive their deputation.

Mr. Murphy

The Cork County Council requested that a deputation be received in connection with this matter. There is on the file a letter from Deputy Corry indicating the difficulties that this disability caused. It was indicated to the then Minister that legal opinion had been obtained from senior counsel to the effect that this disability was a serious hindrance to the execution of certain urgent public works in the county. The Secretary of the Department who retired a few months ago then wrote to the county council asking that a copy of the legal opinion should be sent up. It was sent up and from that day to this the records of the Department are silent about the matter. Nothing whatever was done in connection with it and nothing would have been done were it not for the fact that this Government decided to change the law.

The question of compensation has been raised on this Bill. I have already indicated that the Government will make available to the local authorities 100 per cent. of the cost of these schemes. It is not intended to exceed that amount by any sums to cover the cost of compensation. I am quite satisfied with regard to the cost of compensation, because I feel and I know that this Bill will be sensibly operated and that the cost of compensation will be very small. I know the local authorities are possessed of common sense. The last 12 months proved conclusively to me, if I did not know it before, that they will approach the consideration of this matter with common sense and with full local knowledge; they will not embark on any wild-cat schemes that will result in compensation claims and I believe there will be no justification for the dismal prophecies made here this evening, and previously when this Bill was under consideration, from a quarter that has been singularly unhappy in the results that have accrued to confound the dismal prophecies they made so often in the past 12 months.

Deputy Walsh asked whether the drainage of the River Nore could be dealt with under this Bill. Obviously, I am not in a position to say whether it will or not. In the Local Government Department we will be guided largely by the views of the county engineers. We will expect the county engineers to bring us the best proposals from the point of view of relieving flooding, protecting public property and promoting employment. I believe we will get that from the county engineers. I do not think the county engineers will refuse to operate this scheme fully and in a spirit of wholehearted co-operation. I have already met the county engineers and I have had an opportunity of submitting in a preliminary way to them the proposals that are contained in this Bill. I am glad to be able to say that I got—as I think every Minister for Local Government in the past got and as every Minister for Local Government in the future will get—their co-operation in seeing what useful work, the need for which they are very often in a special position to judge, could be carried out under a measure of this kind and would be carried out ultimately through their agency. I do not think they will complain unduly about the responsibilities that are being thrust upon them under this Bill to do this work, to do it well, to do it very thoroughly, and to do it for the benefit of the people in general and to the advantage of the local authority in the particular area that they represent.

I was glad to hear the rural Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party take such a broad, sensible line in regard to this measure. It was true that they did not go to the full extent of giving the Bill their blessing. One can understand that for particular reasons they might not consider that politic. But they recognised and they admitted, one after the other, that this Bill can do a good deal of useful work. It was a pleasure to hear a speech like that made, this afternoon, by Deputy Beegan who, no matter how he differs from me and from the Government, has always made sensible contributions to the deliberations of this House on the question of local administration and the work of local authorities generally. I was glad to hear a speech such as that which came from Deputy McQuillan, a young member of the House. I do not know whether he is a member of a local authority, but he certainly has a keen knowledge of local problems and a ready and direct approach to such problems. He brings to bear on a subject of this kind a fresh mind which can be an asset to the House and a useful asset in the public life of this country in the future. I regret that some of the other contributions were couched in terms of rather wild exaggeration.

As a justification for attacking this Bill, Deputy Davern of Tipperary introduced the question of employment in Tipperary and suggested that employment on the roads—I realise that I should not discuss this matter at length and I merely introduce it by way of passing reference—had now dwindled to 200 persons. He was only 500 out in giving that figure. He will be comforted to know that the figures of employment in South Tipperary now compare favourably with the same period in 1946 and 1947. Actually there are 700 people employed at the present time in South Tipperary and we are now at the beginning of a financial year during which that employment is likely to increase substantially. Exaggeration of that kind does no good to any cause. Certainly it renders no service to the discussion of a Bill of this kind. Such a discussion should follow on broad, sensible lines.

I am anxious that the House should pass this Bill at the earliest possible moment. May I recall for a moment what I said when I introduced this Bill: "The urgency of proposals of this kind is the necessity for getting on with useful work." The necessity for doing useful work has been felt on all sides of the House, not alone for the past 12 months but for many years. Again, I assert that this Bill has as its basis the hope—a hope which I believe will be realised in a very short time—of co-operation between the local landowners and the members of the local authority, between the local workers who will be employed on schemes of this kind and the local farmers who will benefit by such schemes. Altogether I believe that this Bill is going to have a considerable effect in improving the productivity of the land in many parts of the country and in giving employment to a very considerable number of people on a very useful work.

Deputy Allen raised a number of questions. I cannot, and I say this with all respect to him, answer off-hand as to whether this Bill will deal with a number of schemes in County Wexford. I will be prepared to examine the proposals of the local authority, of which I understand Deputy Allen is the chairman, on this matter. I feel that they will sift the proposals and put forward schemes that will be both sensible and reasonably suitable for execution. I am surprised that he fell into the error of suggesting that local authorities were embarrassed financially last year by any policy of the Department in regard to the withholding of grants.

Not your Department—I did not say any particular Department.

Mr. Murphy

The position last year was, in fact, that the larger instalment of the agricultural grant was paid at an earlier date than it had been paid for a considerable number of years before. To those Deputies who asked where the money was going to come from to operate this Bill, may I say that we want to get the Bill passed into law as quickly as possible; that the money will be forthcoming; I have the authority of the Government for saying that money will be made available to operate this Bill by means of 100 per cent. grants to the local authorities—even more than the grants that were asked for when the deputation from the General Council of County Councils approached my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, some time ago?

There has been a good deal of acrimonious discussion in connection with this Bill. Certain dangers have been suggested and fears have been expressed. I believe that nobody really credits those suggestions. It is the old game of starting hares. Generally, criticism of that kind in this House emanates from the same quarter. I hope the members will forgive me if I betray in the course of this statement any impatience with the criticisms that were offered. I freely acknowledge that it is the right of the Opposition to criticise. But may I ask for some degree of responsibility from some members of the Opposition in the type of criticism that they offer? May I ask for some—even some remote—connection with common sense in the statements that are made? No member of this House believes that I shall carry out any special mission from Moscow in proposing a Bill of this kind. Deputy MacEntee does not believe it. I believe in his more human moments he would be willing to apologise for statements of that kind because on many occasions here he has at least displayed his desire to be penitent for some of the extraordinary outbursts for which he has been responsible over a number of years. I believe that he would acquit me of any association with the Kremlin in a Bill of this kind.

Over a period of 12 hours I have had to listen to certain irresponsible statements. But I heard some very good contributions, too, and they did not all come from this side of the House. I acknowledge them and I thank those members who made them. There were times during this debate when I was depressed because I felt that, instead of being able to get on quickly with this very urgent and essential work, we would have endless and fruitless discussion on this Bill. At that depressing point I comforted myself with the words of a great Irishman on a very famous occasion when he said that victory came ultimately to those who endured most rather than to those who inflicted most. I certainly can claim, I hope, that I have done some little thing to earn the ultimate victory that I believe will come to the people I speak for in recommending this Bill to the House.

May I ask the Minister if he said in the course of his reply whether this will be a reserved function or not?

He did not. He does not know.

Mr. Murphy

I could not say definitely at the moment. I do say, however, that I am anxious to have in the fullest possible way the views of the local authorities and the co-operation of every member of the local authorities.

The Minister does not know whether it is going to be a reserved function or not.

I should like to put a further question to the Minister. He adverted to the matter of finance but he did not tell us whether the grants would be advanced to the council before the work was carried out or not.

A Deputy


Mr. Murphy

Give us the Bill and we will talk about that very readily.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered provisionally for Wednesday, 20th April, 1949.