When that amendment was before the House on Thursday evening last it was agreed that amendments Nos. 23a and 36 might be discussed with it.
Supplementary Estimates, 1949-50. - Local Authorities (Works) Bill, 1949—Committee (Resumed).
The Parliamentary Secretary gave no assurance that he would meet Deputy MacEntee's amendment to this section in anything like the generous fashion in which we wanted it to be met. It is absolutely essential that more notice or a longer period should be given for the putting in of claims than is in the Parliamentary Secretary's amendment to the Bill. A period of 18 months after the commencement of the work is much too short. A number of Deputies have pointed out that the work might not be completed within the 18 months after its commencement. Deputy Mac-Entee wants six years. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to indicate how far he would go to meet Deputy MacEntee's view and also the views of a number of Deputies from his own side of the House who urged that he should amend this particular amendment. Take the case of a drainage work which is started in 1950, say, and is not completed until the summer of 1951. The winter of 1951-2 might be a dry one and so also might be the winter of 1952-3. You may have a succession of dry winters and no damage resulting from drainage that has been carried out a couple of years beforehand. It is necessary at least to give a few winters to see whether people downstream are going to be affected by drainage works carried out. If that notice is not given, lands may be flooded to a great extent and extensive damage may be caused to individuals. Actually, small farmers may have their lands completely flooded and rendered useless, and there would be no legal method open to them to obtain compensation.
On the other hand, if we regard the drainage as on the upstream farms, it may very well be that for a couple of years following the carrying out of the drainage work you may have a succession of wet summers, and farmers will not notice during a very wet summer the lowering of the water-table. The wells may still be filled and the water holes may be there for the cattle. But if you have a few dry summers and the existing water-table lowered in a district, the result may be the drying up of wells and water holes and the farmers will be put to grave inconvenience and grave loss in carrying water over long distances both for human consumption and for watering their stock. It is absolutely essential, therefore, that there should be a reasonable time in which it is open to the farmer to claim compensation for damage under this Bill. We must remember that no particular care is taken before the work is embarked upon. We did succeed in getting the Parliamentary Secretary to bring in a few amendments which would give some sort of notice to the farmers about the matter. But if we are to judge by another Bill which has been circulated, the Government have not yet learned a lesson. Under his Land Reclamation Bill, which he has circulated, the Minister for Agriculture is going to walk in without giving notice to anybody——
That is not true.
The Land Reclamation Bill does not arise now.
I say to Deputy Timoney that it is absolutely true.
At the request of the owner.
Not at all.
That discussion is definitely ended.
I grant that it is not in order to discuss that Bill, but we have to take cognisance of the Government's approach to this whole business of drainage. When this Bill is going through the Dáil we have to do our utmost to have inserted such amendments as will give some protection to people whose property is damaged by works carried out under this Bill. There is the other case, the most important case, where works are carried out by a Minister's nominee. The Parliamentary Secretary steadfastly refused to accept any amendment which would make the Government responsible for the damage done by work carried out by a Minister's nominee. Particularly in that case where the work may be carried out against the better judgment of the members of the county council and of the local engineering staff, I think that we should give some reasonable time within which it would be open to the person whose property is damaged to claim compensation. I, therefore, urge the Parliamentary Secretary either to accept Deputy MacEntee's amendment in full or give some indication that he will meet it generously on the Report Stage.
I do not intend to say anything more about this than I said last Thursday night. I think the Deputy can be assured—I am sure he must have known it before he spoke— that I would be prepared to meet this, but possibly not to go as far as Deputy MacEntee asks in his amendment.
To what extent?
I will consider what was said in the House last Thursday and the Deputy can be assured that the claimant will be met very fairly.
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to keep in mind when bringing in this amendment that there may be certain types of work carried out under the Bill which may take three or four years to complete.
For the Deputy's information, I should like him to know that I will consider whether that should date from the commencement or the completion.
That is an important matter. Then there is another matter. Damage to land is the only thing mentioned in the section. There are, however, certain other kinds of damage which could be done by carrying out works. However, we can discuss that on the section.
"Land" is defined very fully.
It does not cover everything on which work might be done.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be as generous as possible with regard to the period of limitation, because it is fairly well known that some local authorities facing a claim as to which they could claim protection under the Public Authorities (Protection) Act sometimes keep on writing to the claimant that the matter is being looked into, that the matter is receiving attention. It has happened that the man is put off with an acknowledgment of that kind and he then finds when the six months are up that he does not get any answer to his letters or he gets an answer telling him that he has no claim because the Public Authorities (Protection) Act applies. The time limit under that Act is very short. From the point of view of the citizen and in his interest, I think he ought to be given very great latitude so far as the period of limitation is concerned. Therefore, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be as generous as possible in the matter.
Work carried out under Section 2 (3) may fall for compensation. In regard to other work, where the local authority protect their own property, that should not fall for compensation at all, in my opinion. Of course, it is a matter for consideration. But it is not that type of work for which compensation falls to be paid or will need to be paid. It is the type of work which you have to enter on private property to carry out. That is where compensation may fall to be paid. That is an important matter to keep in mind.
It is absolutely ridiculous that the Parliamentary Secretary should not be able to give some indication as to how far he will go to meet Deputy MacEntee's amendment, even as to whether the time within which compensation can be claimed is to date from the commencement of the work or the completion of the work. This Bill has been under consideration in one form or another by the Government, or should have been, since 23rd February and the Parliamentary Secretary should be able to give a clear indication of Government policy on this relatively small matter.
I take it the Parliamentary Secretary is proceeding with his amendment and will bring in an amendment to it on the Report Stage. Is amendment No. 23 agreed to?
What will happen to Deputy MacEntee's amendment if this is agreed to?
You can table an amendment for the next stage.
I am not satisfied with the Parliamentary Secretary's attitude and his lack of information, and I propose to press Deputy MacEntee's amendment.
Are you dividing on the Government amendment? You must get rid of it.
We shall accept the Government amendment some time.
Amendment No. 23 governs Deputy MacEntee's amendment.
Can we not have a separate vote on Deputy MacEntee's amendment and then accept the Government amendment?
You have already accepted the principle of amendment No. 23. Clearly, if amendment No. 23 is carried it governs amendments Nos 23 (a) and 36.
Would it satisfy Deputy Aiken if I tell him that the period will date from the completion of the works?
I want some indication as to the length of the period.
I am not prepared to say that.
Does Deputy Aiken want a division on the Government amendment?
On amendment No. 23 (a).
I cannot give you that.
The Parliamentary Secretary's amendment is quite clear. It gives 18 months from the date of commencement of the works. Deputy MacEntee wants to have it six years after the completion of the works.
Is the Committee prepared to accept Deputy Aiken as moving to delete "eighteen months" from the Government amendment No. 23 and substituting therefor "six years"?
I move to delete the words "eighteen months after the commencement" and substitute the words "six years after the completion".
I am putting the question : "That the words proposed to be deleted, stand."
- Belton, John.
- Blowick, Joseph.
- Browne, Noel C.
- Browne, Patrick.
- Byrne, Alfred.
- Coburn, James.
- Cogan, Patrick.
- Collins, Seán.
- Commons, Bernard.
- Corish, Brendan.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Costello, John A.
- Cowan, Peadar.
- Crotty, Patrick J.
- Davin, William.
- Dillon, James M.
- Dockrell, Maurice E.
- Donnellan, Michael.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Esmonde, Sir John L.
- Everett, James.
- Fagan, Charles.
- Fitzpatrick, Michael.
- Giles, Patrick.
- Halliden, Patrick J.
- Hickey, James.
- Hogan, Patrick.
- Hughes, Joseph.
- Keyes, Michael.
- Kyne, Thomas A.
- Lehane, Con.
- MacBride, Seán.
- MacEoin, Seán.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- McQuillan, John.
- Madden, David J.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Norton, William.
- O'Gorman, Patrick J.
- O'Higgins, Michael J.
- O'Higgins, Thomas F.
- O'Higgins, Thomas F. (Jun.)
- O'Sullivan, Martin.
- Palmer, Patrick W.
- Pattison, James P.
- Reidy, James.
- Reynolds, Mary.
- Roddy, Joseph.
- Rooney, Eamonn.
- Sheehan, Michael.
- Sweetman, Gerard.
- Timoney, John J.
- Tully, John.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Denis.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Blaney, Neal T.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Bourke, Dan.
- Brady, Brian.
- Brady, Seán.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Buckley, Seán.
- Burke, Patrick.
- Butler, Bernard.
- Childers, Erskine H.
- Colley, Harry.
- Crowley, Honor Mary.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Gilbride, Eugene.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Hilliard. Michael.
- Kennedy, Michael J.
- Kilroy, James.
- Kissane, Eamon.
- Lahiffe, Robert.
- Little, Patrick J.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Rourke, Daniel.
- Rice, Bridget M.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Mary B.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Walsh, Richard.
I move amendment No. 25:—
To delete sub-section (2), lines 47 to 49, and substitute the following new sub-section:—
(3) In default of agreement, the amount of any compensation payable by a local authority under this section shall, if the amount claimed in respect thereof does not exceed twenty pounds, be determined by the District Court or, in any other case, be determined by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 (as amended by subsequent enactments) as if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired and the court or the arbitrator, as the case may be, shall have jurisdiction to determine whether compensation is, in the circumstances, payable at all.
This amendment proposes to delete sub-section (2) of the Bill and to insert a new sub-section which will give power to the District Court to hear claims up to £20. It further provides that any claim over £20 will be settled by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment Compensation) Act.
This amendment is not a new one. There is a similar provision in the Water Supplies Act of 1942, in the Local Government Act of 1946 and in the Arterial Drainage Act. The amendment also proposes to give power to the arbitrator to determine whether compensation is payable or not. He will be empowered, therefore, to dismiss frivolous claims, and to determine whether or not a claim was made in a specified period. As I have said, a provision similar to this is to be found in previous legislation, so that its insertion in this Bill does not establish a precedent.
I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary has taken some cognisance of the criticisms that were made to this Bill on the Second Reading, and that under this amendment he is going so far to meet the criticism regarding the paltry sum which could be claimed by a person who was adversely affected by the execution of works under the Bill. I am not familiar with the sections in the Acts to which he has made reference as to this proposed new section not establishing a precedent. I shall be glad to hear a little bit more from the Parliamentary Secretary regarding those Acts to show how the sections in them are suited to this particular Bill.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the Water Supplies Act. I take it that the question there was one of collecting water and of putting up reservoirs so that, in the normal way, only very small claims could be made for compensation. Again, under the Arterial Drainage Act, great care is taken before work is commenced. Every interest affected under that Act has power to object to the arterial drainage, so that what might be suitable arbitration under that particular Act would not be suitable at all under this works Bill. Therefore, in my opinion the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation for the introduction of this amendment is not completely satisfactory. I am glad that he is definitely limiting the power of the District Court to hear claims up to £20. I should like to hear him further justify the taking into this Bill of the machinery which was held to be suitable in previous Acts for the assessment of damage.
I should like to know if amendment No. 25a is being moved.
Then, I suppose, we had better discuss the two amendments together.
Amendment No. 25a will not be moved on this stage. We shall put it down for Report.
That is all right.
I desire to call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the fact that it is only land that the arbitrator can consider under this amendment. In the definition section of the Bill there are many things mentioned as well as land and I think this is the time to direct attention to that fact. You can do damage to a watercourse that is taking water to or from a mill, you can damage fisheries, you can damage footways or pavements or buildings.
Is there any provision in this section under which the arbitrator or the court may consider claims arising out of damage to buildings, apart from land? No matter how wide the section is in relation to land, I do not think it includes buildings. Land is not defined. The Parliamentary Secretary's amendment may not be wide enough to do justice or to allow claims to be made for damage in all respects. It is the usual function of an arbitrator to determine whether and for what reason compensation is payable. He is now asked to determine whether there is any damage done. Has it been the function of an arbitrator to determine whether there is any damage done? Is this the first time he is so asked?
Read amendment No. 21.
That does not cover it. There is nothing there about watercourses or anything else of that sort.
The Parliamentary Secretary is proposing to let them arbitrate or bring before the district justice matters concerning land, but whether that covers all types of building is a matter for the legal people to decide.
There does not appear to be any analogy between the Acts which the Parliamentary Secretary has mentioned and what is proposed in the amendment. If land is taken it is taken for a definite public purpose and after full inquiry. The general complaint about this Bill is that a local authority may do anything without inquiry, without giving people even time to make objections. The effect of the amendment, and particularly of everything that follows after the word "enactments", will be to deprive an aggrieved person of his full right to compensation, where his land is damaged by reason of the neglect or incompetence of the local authority.
That is a very different position from the position which the Parliamentary Secretary has set before the House. A local authority cannot enter on land for the purpose of providing a water supply until the whole matter has had a strict engineering investigation and inquiry. All the plans have to be submitted to the Department of Local Government. In this case a local authority quite arbitrarily can decide to carry out certain works which appear to it to be necessary in order to prevent certain things happening. It can do that without even allowing the person whose property is likely to be affected an opportunity to lodge an objection. Things may be done which quite clearly ought not to be done. Damage may be almost wilfully done, to put it that way; certainly damage can be done neglectfully and the amendment will deprive a person of compensation whose property has been damaged by reason of the negligence or incompetence or wilful default of a local authority.
He can have an ordinary common law action for compensation.
That is the lawyer's answer to the point I have made. Quite obviously one of the purposes of the Bill is to provide plenty of work for the lawyers. That is why we have a lawyers' Government introducing it and supporting it. It is our purpose as a legislature to try to settle these things here by law so that there will not be any resort to common law actions and so that a person will know where he stands and if his property is damaged by negligence or default he will get the full compensation to which he is entitled.
Speaking as a legislator and not as a lawyer, I might suggest that perhaps the point has been missed by Deputy MacEntee. I respectfully submit that land does not require any definition for the purpose of what is sought to be effected in this section. Amendment No. 21 gives the right to a person who has suffered damage to apply for compensation, and it sets out the type of damage that person is liable to suffer. When you come to amendment No. 25 you find the manner in which that compensation is to be assessed. The point not to overlook here is the distinction between this Bill and other similar legislation. All the local authority seeks is a right or a licence to enter on the land for the purpose of doing certain works. What Deputy MacEntee has in mind is the class of statutes which give the right to local authorities and other bodies compulsorily to acquire. There is no such purpose in this particular section.
Deputy Aiken asked me to quote from the other Acts which I mentioned and in which I said a similar provision was made. I will refer him to Section 15 of the Water Supplies Act of 1942. That section is practically identical with the section which we propose to have inserted in this Bill. The Local Government Act of 1946, Section 54 (7), says:—
"In default of agreement, the amount of any compensation payable by a road authority under this section shall, if the amount claimed in respect thereof does not exceed £20, be determined by the District Court or, in any other case, be determined by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 (as amended by subsequent enactments) as if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired."
Will the Parliamentary Secretary read the full section and tell us what it relates to?
It deals with land and the assessment of compensation—entry on land where bridges are being built.
Entry on land, but not damage to land.
In this Bill it is entry on land: there is no suggestion of acquiring land. Section 54 (7) is identical with the amendment which is proposed here. Deputy MacEntee talks about plenty of pickings for the lawyers. I cannot understand his line of argument. He has reams of amendments which, in my opinion, will provide pickings for the lawyers for many years to come. In certain amendments he provides even for the colour of the paper to be used when an objection is sent in. If we accepted even a quarter of Deputy MacEntee's amendments there would be work for the lawyers for the next 50 years.
Deputy MacEntee goes on the assumption that amendment No. 21 has not been passed. Land has been defined pretty clearly and adequately in the Interpretation Act of 1937. Amendment No. 21 was passed, and it embraces practically everything so far as any claimant may be concerned. In the matter of watercourses, which Deputy Allen raised, the claimant is also adequately covered. A watercourse is a right, and if there is any damage done to that right the person so damaged is entitled to claim.
What about buildings?
Buildings are covered.
Buildings are covered. This amendment does not define land, nor does it propose to define land.
But it does refer to land.
This does not seek to define land.
"As if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired." Let me quote the amendment:
"In default of agreement, the amount of any compensation payable by a local authority in respect of the damage suffered by a person by reason of any interference caused by the execution of the works pursuant to this Act shall, if the amount claimed in respect thereof does not exceed £20, be determined by the District Court or, in any other case, be determined by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919 (as amended by subsequent enactments) as if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired."
The Parliamentary Secretary, if I may say so, is very slick. He referred to Section 7 of the Act of 1946. To what did that relate? It related to entry upon land. Am I right in that? That is what it does relate to; and the other section—Section 15 of the Water Supplies Act, 1941—relates also to entry upon land. Section 5 here, as amended by amendment No. 21, does relate to entry upon land, but it relates to a great many other things as well. Am I not right in that? Is that not the fact? Why should the Parliamentary Secretary try to mislead the House? He carefully refrained from reading Section 7 of the Act of 1946.
I did read it.
You read a sub-section of the section. That sub-section states that where land is entered upon the amount of compensation shall be assessed as if the compensation was the price of land compulsorily acquired.
That relates only to entry upon land.
It relates to damage done to land by reason of entry upon that land. Does it relate to damage done to buildings? Does it relate to damage done to watercourses? Does it relate to damage done to fisheries? Does it relate to damage done by interference?
As Section 5, as amended by you, now relates to it?
Does it relate to obstruction?
Does it? Of course it does not. This amendment, in fact, reduces the entire compensation section to an absurdity. How is anybody going to assess damage to a building or damage by reason of interference with a right-of-way of access to a building by flooding the area surrounding the building? How is anybody going to assess the damage done to that building through denial of access as if it were land compulsorily acquired? Is that not a fact? Is that not the position that the Parliamentary Secretary is trying to create by this hurried amendment which bears the hallmark of the same undue haste as the Bill itself bears? If there is going to be any relief given to an aggrieved person surely it can only be given if all the words after "enactment" in this amendment are omitted. However, that will be another day's discussion. The real fact of the matter is that the section in the Act of 1946 to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred and upon which he relies relates to entry upon land.
I do not want to read the whole section for the House, but I would refer Deputy MacEntee to sub-section (2) which says "a person entering on land under this section may do thereon all things reasonably necessary." There is no definition of "reasonably necessary." He can do whatever he likes if he thinks it is reasonably necessary. But the section goes further and says:—
"all things reasonably necessary for the purpose for which the entry is made and, in particular, may survey, make plans, take levels, set up gauges to record the flow of water, make excavations and examine the depth and nature of the subsoil."
May he demolish a building?
Surely that is damage to land.
May he demolish a building?
If it is reasonably necessary.
The building may be undermined and, if it is undermined, damage is to be assessed as if the compensation were the price of land compulsorily acquired. The thing is nonsensical.
There are other Acts of Parliament for the protection of such constructions as houses.
With regard to amendment No. 25 (a), we are not moving that now; it will be moved on the Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 will be in the same position since the section has been changed. They fall for the present at least. I wonder how far amendment No. 28 meets amendment No. 32.
The question is as to which is the wider. Amendment No. 28 seems to be more restrictive.
I move amendment No. 28:—
Before sub-section (4) to insert the following new sub-section:—
( ) A justice of the District Court when making an order under this section may at his discretion order the costs, to an amount not exceeding three guineas, incurred in relation to the proceedings by any party thereto to be paid by any other party thereto.
This provision is similar to that contained in kindred Acts and I refer to the Local Government Act, 1946, in that connection.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary, for the guidance of the House, be good enough to mention the particular section in the Local Government Act?
Section 54, sub-section (8).
To what does Section 54 relate?
Is there any provision for an arbitrator?
If I had known the Deputy wanted that I would have come prepared. It deals with entry on the land and the doing of certain work thereon.
I do not want to give more money to the lawyers who may have to appear in court in order to get compensation for damage done under this particular Bill. If a farmer suffers damage he should at least get from the court sufficient to pay his lawyers so that he will not have to pay them subsequently out of his own pocket. There might be a very big case in court and the plaintiff might have to engage engineers and other witnesses, quite apart altogether from lawyers. I think it is simply ridiculous to say that the cost to be awarded may be £3, leaving the farmer to bear all the other costs himself.
Three guineas. The compensation the farmer gets from the court may go in the payment of expenses and I think we should ensure that he should get such compensation as the court thinks reasonably necessary to defray the costs of the action.
I think I am correct in saying that this sum of three guineas is in respect of costs which may be awarded by the District Court. I think we have already dealt with an amendment which authorises that court to deal with cases where the claims are not in excess of £20. If I am correct in that I do not understand what tremendous costs Deputy Aiken has in mind.
Take, for example, a case where on the completion of a drainage work upstream the water comes pouring down upon a farmer miles away from the scene of the original work. He may not only have to go into court and prove that his lands were flooded on a certain date but also to prove that his land was flooded as a result of the work carried out under this Bill. In order to prove that, it will be necessary for him to have witnesses not only from his own district but also to have an engineer's report on the works carried out very much higher upstream. He will have to bring in neighbours to prove that the land prior to the carrying out of the drainage work was not flooded and that now it is.
Similarly, if you take a man upstream, when the water-table has been lowered and he finds one day that a well which had been there for generations is there no longer and that he is compelled to go five miles for water for human consumption or for his cattle, he will have to bring evidence to the court that it was the lowering of the water-table that dried the well or that the particular ponds in which his cattle used to drink are no longer in existence. Deputy Collins, of course. is interrupting as usual. He may find when he takes a little bit of interest in West Cork that damage has been done
Wait until you see the hammering you will get.
We shall wait and see. At any rate, we wakened Deputy Collins up to the fact that there has been emigration from West Cork. That is one good result and there will be others.
The Deputy does not learn how to use English.
I am not going to school to Deputy Collins for that.
He might learn some grammar some day.
The Deputy might learn some manners even at this late hour in his life.
You would be a very poor teacher.
The Deputy must now cease interrupting.
I want to say incidentally that Deputy Collins will not allow anybody to speak in this House without interruption. I would not mind if his interruptions were reasonable or had any reference to the subject under discussion but they are always irrelevant interruptions.
"Irrelevant" sounds a lot better.
On this matter my concern is not with the fees the lawyers may get but with a desire to see that the farmer who is affected adversely by works carried out under this Bill will be able to get reasonable costs from the court. I think these costs should not be limited to three guineas in cases where the costs may be 20 or 30 guineas. I should be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary would indicate that he is prepared to amend this amendment and to give people affected by this Bill reasonable costs.
All I have to say is that the costs fixed in this amendment are roughly the costs—in fact they are a little more—usually paid in a claim of this nature. We have got to be a bit reasonable about this matter. Cases of this kind coming before the district justice will be the sort of case where the district justice will go and have a look at the damage. I hope it will be dealt with in that way. Claims coming before the District Court may take a whole day to hear and the maximum costs charged are roughly three guineas. I think it would be very unwise to allow a discretion whereby sums in excess of three guineas might be paid in claims such as this. I think it is better to have a fixed fee and then everybody knows where he stands. There is some little difficulty about expenses but we have got to look at this from the broad general point of view. There is no necessity to encourage people to bring along engineers or experts for the purpose of establishing a case in the District Court; it should be dealt with in the way in which cases are generally dealt with in that court and an allowance of three guineas for costs is related to the practice in regard to similar claims in the District Court at the moment. If I were looking at it purely from the personal or professional point of view, I suppose I would be looking for increased costs for lawyers but looking at it from the point of view of the public interest, I think the figure that is there at the moment is a reasonable figure and it is better that people should know where they stand. In regard to the question of expenses, I do not know whether that is provided for or not. It is pro vided for in the arbitration section. It is covered very effectively there but in regard to the District Court I think it is just as well to have a fixed fee so that everybody will know where he stands.
I do not know what Deputy Cowan has in mind when he suggests that the procedure which is likely to be followed and which, in fact, he recommends, is that the district justice would go out to the scene of the damage. If a district justice were to follow that advice, I doubt whether that would be a very wise course to adopt. You may rest assured the damage in respect of which a man will claim will have disappeared by the time the District Court comes to dispose of the claim. If a man has land situated convenient to work that is carried out and if he suffers damage for a week or a fortnight or some such period, I do not know that the court will sit just to convenience him or to enable the district justice to see that damage.
I am only suggesting that in many cases a sensible district justice will go out and have a look at the damage. I am not saying that that should be done.
The flooding may have all disappeared by that time.
In that case the damage cannot be too great.
That is not so. Flooding is a recurring thing. Some district justices, if the damage were very great, might be prepared to go out and examine it but you cannot expect them all to do that. In the main I think a district justice would insist on the person who is making the claim producing evidence in court to satisfy him from a technical point of view as to how the damage arose and what the nature of the works were. I am very much afraid that district justices will insist—and rightly—upon the advocate building a case by the production of a reasonable amount of technical evidence.
I cannot make the same forecast as to the procedure district justices will follow as Deputy Cowan, but I am no more anxious than he that we should have a situation where the lawyers would benefit. I am with Deputy Aiken that we should ensure that a man who suffers damage as a result of works carried out under the Bill will not be frightened from insisting on his rights by the fear that building up a case in the manner I have described will cost far more than the amount permitted. In the discussion on the last amendment on which there was a division there was a tendency on the part of the Parliamentary Secretary, on the part, I am sure, of his advisers and on the part of the Minister and those responsible for the Bill to single out the individual while nobody protects the individual's rights against the larger body. As I said on the Second Stage, I was never in favour of a position where the State or a local authority could not interfere with a man's property if necessary, but my claim is that you are interfering with the rights of persons who have not the power, financial or otherwise, to protect themselves. While you should insist on taking the power necessary to enter and carry out work, you should ensure that the person concerned would have a way of seeking redress. That is my interest in this matter as in the previous issue on which we had a division.
I think I am not disrespectful to Deputy Aiken when I regard him as a typical idealist. An idealist is generally a bit of a pessimist. Deputy Aiken in previous discussions on this Bill endeavoured to persuade the House and the Parliamentary Secretary to force the Government, through the Central Fund, to bear the total cost, not alone of carrying out useful works, but of any damage which might be involved. He failed to persuade the Parliamentary Secretary or a majority of the members of this House to carry the cost of damage, alleged or real. He knows perfectly well, however, that we have now arrived at a stage in the discussion where the cost of any damage will have to be borne by the local authority, in other words, by the ratepayers. He is now, therefore. endeavouring to persuade the Parliamentary Secretary to increase the cost which is to be borne by the local authority and the ratepayers. I would appeal to Deputy Aiken, when he is dreaming about the contents of this Bill—he is only dreaming because he has not been thinking about the benefits of the Bill—to realise that the works which are to be carried out will confer real and lasting benefits upon the community and that any damage, plus the legal costs referred to in this particular amendment, are only infinitesimal.
Should they not be paid for?
I would appeal to him not to insist any further in a ridiculous way on adding to the legal costs and the costs of the damage which must be borne by the local authorities and the ratepayers.
Deputy Davin is a very simple man. He also must think that the people have very short memories. He has delivered a homily on our duty to the ratepayers and has pointed out that the ratepayers are going to be responsible for any damage, but who is responsible for that fact except Deputy Davin and the people who voted with him?
I am not denying it.
He is responsible for the fact that the ratepayers will have to bear the larger part of the burden and now he is full of concern for them. This democrat who always stands for the protection of the rights of the individual has no concern for the man who is aggrieved by something the mighty, the omnipotent, local authority does under this Bill. His heart bleeds for the local authority with a revenue of £500,000 in some cases but he does not give a tuppenny tram ticket — a Parliamentary expression— for the man who has to go to the District Court and prove his claim there. Deputy Davin's argument is directed to one fact. If a man is aggrieved, if his property is damaged, even if it costs him up to £20 to prove his title to compensation, he is only awarded £3.
No lawyer would charge more than £3 3s.
Ah now, there is a very modest lawyer over there. In any event, it may cost a great deal more than £3 3s. We know that the members of the legal profession think that nobody has any right to be paid except themselves, but, as Deputy Smith pointed out, there may be witnesses' expenses, expert witnesses. such as engineers or architects. All these people have to attend in court in order to help a man prove that damage has occurred, perhaps even to prove a map of the land.
The district justice has authority to allow expenses.
Not in excess of £3 3s. There is nothing here about the District Court Rules; the District Court Rules are completely ousted by the Bill. Is it not a law unto itself? Am I to understand that the lawyers who support the Government are now endeavouring to protect the ordinary private individual against the other members of the confraternity?
Three guineas is the normal fee in the District Courts — in fact, it is the maximum fee.
Perhaps the district justice may be entitled to award expenses——
The District Court Rules permit it.
Deputy Cowan had better have a look at the section again. There is nothing here about District Court Rules. All that is here is:—
"Compensation under this section shall, in default of agreement, be determined by the District Court on the application of the claimant."
The District Court may award costs but there is not a word about its awarding expenses. If it is to be governed by the District Court Rules, why is it necessary—I am a layman— to put in this limitation?
The district justice might grant more than £3 3s.
What I think would be right and proper is that if you are going to allow a district justice to come into the matter at all and deal with claims not exceeding £20, if you have enough confidence in him to allow him to determine that issue, surely you should have enough confidence in him to allow him to award whatever would be reasonable.
Were it not a fair figure.
Remember, there is something else behind this. They will not be costs as between solicitor and employer. The solicitor may charge even more than £3 3s.
You know they will.
Of course, the Deputy does. Why not make it, then, that the district justice will be entitled to award the amount which he thinks is reasonable to cover the costs and expenses incurred by the successful claimant in prosecuting his claim? Would that not be right and proper from the point of view of doing justice to the individual? Surely you are not going to allow the district justice to award, say, up to £20 compensation and have the greater part of that £20 eaten away by additional costs or other expenses? Is not that the position? I cannot see any justification for imposing this limitation of £3 3s. at all, except that the Party of democrats opposite, led by that sterling democrat, Deputy Davin, want to provide that the poor private individual should suffer and that the great corporation should get scot-free.
It is quite obvious that this amendment is brought in as a deterrent, to prevent the private individual who may have a grievance, from going into court and properly making his claim there. This House should not make so little of itself. We claim to be a democratic Assembly and the rights of private property and the rights of the individual should be our first consideration. The House has already decided—wrongly, many of us believe—with the help of Deputy Davin, Deputy Cowan and some others, to saddle local authorities with damage that may arise from the operation of this Bill.
Would it not be fairer to allow a person who may have a grievance and who believes damage has been done to him, to make his case properly in court, bringing the engineers and other witnesses he may require? There is nothing in this section to prevent the local authority from bringing their engineers and witnesses there.
Is there anything in any section to prevent witnesses being brought in in any case?
What about the costs?
If the private individual brings in an engineer, someone must pay the cost. The local authorities have engineers on their staffs and it will not cost them anything to bring one or two to court. A private individual without an engineer to give his view of it will have very little chance against the engineers of the local authorities. He will have no chance whatever.
Why would he not have a chance?
I think the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister can see the injustice they are setting out to do here against the private individual who is the owner of private property. I hope the House will never accept the view of Deputy Davin, that a private individual should have no rights against the public authority. I wonder what Deputy Davin would say if the local authority in Dublin decided that it was in the best interests of town planning to demolish his private residence and that he was not allowed to bring to court professional witnesses to defend him against that local authority. I wonder what Deputy Davin would say.
I would say the Deputy has an elastic imagination.
I hope that, before this discussion ends, the Parliamentary Secretary will see the wisdom of withdrawing this amendment, which is meant to penalise the owners of private property, whether it is against the State or against the local authority; and it was for no other reason it was inserted there.
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, first of all, if he considers that, under the amendment as it stands, the expenses can be allowed, as apart from costs.
I must confess that would not be my reading of the section as it stands.
They are treated separately in the rules—costs and expenses are under separate headings.
What is the need to bring this in at all then?
A district justice might award more than £3 3/-?
Why should his costs be made not more than £3 3/-?
Leave it to someone who knows something about it.
The Deputy was very far out in his Second Reading speech when he talked of district courts making mistakes.
It seems to me that £3 3/- would be small and that the effect of the amendment would be to penalise the claimant coming in to the extent that he would not be allowed his witnesses' expenses. Anyone who has had experience of cases before any of the courts dealing with land knows that. It may astonish Deputy MacEntee to hear that the engineers' bills are greater than the lawyers'.
That is so.
It is seldom they get a chance.
That is why they are greater, when they get a chance.
I know of cases where the engineer took more out of the case than the lawyer. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to be very sure that witnesses' expenses of that kind will be chargeable against the party who is ordered to pay the cost, before he puts that amendment as it stands into the Bill. If he has the District Court Rules now, we may get the benefit of hearing them.
Surely there is so much talk about lawyers and what they get, that there can be no objection by the Opposition to restricting their remuneration to £3 3s., as is the case here?
We believe that the labourer is worthy of his hire and if the lawyer is insufficiently paid his client will be incompetently advised.
Is it not within the jurisdiction of the district justice to award such witnesses' expenses as he thinks reasonable under the circumstances? I am quite sure that the fees of the engineers and other experts will be a great deal more than what the lawyer will get, so I cannot see the objection to this, which is to restrict the remuneration.
Why not restrict the other expenses, if it were likely that the district justice would award too much?
One must assume that the district justice will be reasonable.
Would he not act reasonably towards lawyers as well as towards engineers?
I was wondering if, for the purpose of meeting what might be described as the spurious lamentations by the Opposition, the Parliamentary Secretary might consider, on the next stage of the Bill, easing their conscience and allowing Deputy Smith to play with his engineers, by amending the section so that it would specifically cover the fact that the district justice would have—apart from the inherent right he has in the rules— power to award a maximum of £3 3s. costs with expenses.
The only point I want to make is that an application like this coming before the District Court in respect of a sum not exceeding £20 is very like the type of case heard every day of the week, where there is a claim for damages or even a case in relation to contract up to £25, in which there may be quite a number of witnesses and which may be very difficult and involved. There are cases which come before the District Court in regard to maintenance which are rather involved, intricate and difficult, and which may occupy the whole day. There is a scale of costs laid down in both contract and tort and they do not exceed the £3 3s. permitted here. That limitation is set out in the District Court Rules, and, so far as my recollection goes, in respect of costs, it does not exceed £3 3s. That is why I said that, once it comes into the District Court at all, three guineas is a little more generous.
This type of case where it arises, if it arises at all, will, I hope, be dealt with by the local solicitors, who generally have more than one case in the day. If a solicitor has three or four of these minor cases for damage, what generally happens is that the solicitor representing the local authority has a talk with him and says: "We are prepared to pay £5 in John Brown's case and £7 10s. in somebody else's case, plus your costs", and the matter then is put to the district justice and agreed to by both sides. From that point of view, it is perfectly reasonable. In regard to witness's expenses, it is provided in the District Court Rules that a district justice may award expenses to witnesses appearing before him and I hope that, when he comes to award expenses, he will award them on a reasonable basis, and that the headline which we set for him here of £3 3s. for the legal costs will be a headline in regard to the expenses he should allow.
Nobody wants to encourage litigation. I do not think anyone even on the opposite side wants to do that and if £3 3s. is considered a reasonable figure for the costs of the application, if the District Court has jurisdiction, as it has, to allow expenses, I do not think anyone would raise any objection. If this clause were not inserted—it is restrictive I admit — in regard to the £3 3s., the district justice would be entitled to award costs at his discretion. I think it is better from everybody's point of view that there should be a restriction in respect of costs and that the district justice should use his discretion in regard to expenses.
Deputy Cowan has made an excellent case against this amendment. He has told us that, under the existing District Court Rules, the maximum amount which might be awarded by way of costs would, in general, be less than £3 3s., even in the most complicated case. I do not think I am misrepresenting the Deputy when I say that. Not only do the District Court Rules provide for the payment of legal costs in accordance with the scale in force at the time, but they also make provision for the payment of expenses, expenses reasonably incurred by the plaintiff or claimant in prosecuting his claim. Why does the Parliamentary Secretary not withdraw his amendment and bring in an amendment giving the district justice power to award costs and expenses in accordance with the District Court Rules? Would that not be a reasonable and proper thing to do?
The District Court scale of costs is prescribed in regard to tort, contract and ejectments. This is a scale being laid down for costs in regard to applications for compensation under this Act.
Why not select one or other of the three scales? Why not take the scale relating to tort, because this is a tort?
It will reduce it from £3 3s. to £2 15s.
Why not insert that here, instead of this restrictive and limiting amendment? I want to call Deputy Cowan's attention to another aspect. Why is this amendment brought in at all?
To restrict costs.
If you look at this very curious section, you will see that, whereas the District Court has power indirectly to award costs against the claimant in certain circumstances, by reducing the amount of compensation payable to him by the amount of costs incurred by the local authority in resisting his claim, there is no provision whatever, and there was no provision in the section as originally drafted, for the award of costs to the claimant.
Is this amendment No. 28?
I am discussing amendment No. 28, but sub-section (4) of Section 5 provides:—
"Where, in the case of an application to determine the compensation to be paid under this section by a local authority, the compensation determined by the court does not exceed that offered unconditionally by the local authority before the application was made, the court may order that the costs and expenses of the local authority shall be deducted from the compensation determined by the court."
In fact, in that sub-section, there was made provision for the recoupment to the local authority out of compensation awarded in certain circumstances of the costs incurred by it, but there was no corresponding provision made in relation to the costs of the claimant. That makes me believe—I am a layman and I do not know how the courts would construe it—that, if this amendment is inserted in the section in the form in which it has been introduced it will completely oust the jurisdiction of the District Court to award expenses at all. It makes me believe that the courts would construe this amendment very narrowly and say that the only thing a district justice is entitled to do under this section is to award costs and that he has no jurisdiction to award expenses. I am only a layman, as I say, but one can appreciate——
There is that danger certainly.
That is why I suggest it would be much more reasonable to take the line which, I think, has been opened to us by the argument of Deputy Cowan, and to say that a district justice will be entitled to award costs and expenses in accordance with the current District Court scale in cases of tort.
There is a certain amount of unreality to this discussion and a lot of time is being wasted over a very simple amendment. I suppose there is no point in my again quoting sub-section (8) of Section 54 of the Local Government Act, 1946. That amendment was introduced, if my memory serves me right, by a Fianna Fáil Deputy and was accepted in relation to a Bill which provided for doing works which are very similar to the works to be undertaken under this particular Bill. I am not a lawyer any more than Deputy MacEntee is, but I have consulted some of my few legal friends on the fixing of £3 3s. as costs and I think in relation to a sum of £20 it is fair. On the other hand, if a farmer or land-owner wants to incur large expenses, wants to make a big claim, he need not go to the District Court, he can go to the arbitrator. If he wants to make a claim over £20, even £21, he can go to the arbitrator and the arbitrator can fix costs. I have been informed that even with this particular provision in this Bill whereby the costs are set at £3 3s. the district justice still has power to award witnesses' expenses, but in relation to this particular Bill I do not think too much time should be wasted on this question of claim for compensation because we visualise that there will be very few claims for compensation and, as far as the District Court is concerned, many of these claims will be settled, not with the expert advice or evidence of engineers or architects but purely on technical questions and the evidence will be purely verbal. Every solicitor and lawyer in this House knows that. The District Court is a place of summary jurisdiction and there is no point in talking about having three or four architects or engineers.
If people want to incur large costs they can claim £30, £40 or £50 and can have their claims heard by the arbitrator and he can fix costs for them. On the other hand, if there is damage in a particular district and three or four farmers are involved, one of them can make the claim and the decision can apply to the others who are alleged to have been damaged.
Deputy Aiken and other Deputies quoted complex cases which I agree might involve bringing forward an engineer or architect or some other technician but these would not be cases which would be ordinarily heard in the District Court and could well be heard by the arbitrator. There is a way out. I think everybody, even the lawyers in this House, will agree that £3 3s. is a fair sum in relation to the amount which they may claim in the District Court, that is, £20.
I would not mind if in no case the lawyer would charge a farmer claimant more than £3 3s.
He should not do it.
The thing is that we have no means of compelling the lawyer not to charge any more.
The farmer has a good choice.
If there is a complicated case and we take it that the technical expenses and the witnesses' expenses are paid outside this £3 3s. the lawyer may say: "I will not take on your case unless I am allowed £10 10s. or £15 15s."
Not in the District Court.
Deputy Cowan has the wrong idea about the effect of this Bill altogether or the claims that may come under it. He spoke about local solicitors getting in touch with the local council's solicitor and fixing the thing up. That may happen in cases where damage is done within a certain county and the cost of the damage arises within that county but if you cross county borders and if the cause is 20, 30 or 40 miles from the scene of the damage, no such local consultation can take place. In certain of these complicated cases there may not only be big witnesses expenses for engineers and ordinary farmer witnesses, but there may be considerable legal complications and lawyers' costs. In that event, I want to see that the farmer gets from the court the amount that he must pay his lawyer. Otherwise, he is restricted to £3 3s. to pay his lawyer and his lawyer may charge five, ten or 15 guineas, or more. He may charge him all he gets by way of compensation. Deputy Davin is very optimistic about all the good that will come out of this Bill and can see no other side of the case.
You are very pessimistic.
I am not a bit pessimistic but we all know the origin of this Bill.
The origin of the Bill does not arise on this amendment.
Deputy Davin went into it to a certain extent.
Deputy Davin is not the judge of order.
The thing is that there were a few votes secured for the Government on a certain occasion. They were more interested in them than the draining of water, I am thinking. Deputy Davin can see no damage at all occurring under this Bill. If so, why was he so keen in persuading the Dáil to vote that the local authority should bear the claims for damage rather than the Central Fund? He was very keen on getting the local authority to bear that.
If it is imaginary damage why could not the State or the Government that was particularly interested in getting this thing going agree to bear the cost? I object to all this playing politics with water that has gone on in coalition circles. If they want to play politics with water, let them pay the damage and, if the farmer has to pay a lawyer to get damages for him, let them pay the lawyer rather than have the farmer pay him.
Amendment No. 28 (a) on the Order Paper meets amendments Nos. 29 and 30.
I move amendment No. 28 (a):—
To delete sub-section (5) and substitute:—
( ) The jurisdiction conferred by this section on the District Court shall be exercised, at the election of the claimant, by the justice within whose district the works or any part thereof were executed or by the justice within whose district the interference or any part thereof occurred.
It is proposed here to delete sub-section (5). Sub-section (5) provided that a claim would be heard within the district where the particular works were executed. It is now proposed that the claims shall be heard in either of two places, the district where the work was done or the district where the interference was caused. The claimant may elect to have his claim heard in either of these two places. I think this particular amendment should meet the requirements of the proposer of amendments Nos. 29 and 30.
There is a point that the damage may arise in the areas of two district justices.
There are two separate actions.
Is that covered in that amendment?
Yes; it may be heard in either of two places.
It should be provided that one district justice should hear the full claim whether it arises in his area or outside it. For instance, a watercourse or river might run through two district justices' areas. If that happened this amendment does not cover it.
No, there is a right of election. It seems to me that you can only have alternatives. I think Deputy Allen has made a point that appears to be sound. The amendment reads:—
To delete sub-section (5) and substitute:—
( ) The jurisdiction conferred by this section on the District Court shall be exercised, at the election of the claimant, by the justice within whose district the works or any part thereof were executed or by the justice within whose district the interference or any part thereof occurred.
It seems to me that, as the amendment stands, the claimant must elect that his claim shall be determined either by one district justice or by another. That is the point.
He has two separate claims in respect of two separate pieces of land.
He may reside in one and the damage may be done in another.
I move amendment No. 31, which stands in the name of Deputy Moran:—
To add a new sub-section as follows:—
( ) An appeal shall lie to the Circuit Court against any order or award by a district justice made under this Act.
I am not certain whether, in view of amendment No. 28 which the House has already accepted, it is of such great importance as when it was originally put down.
It is hardly necessary. He may still appeal to the Circuit Court from a District Court.
I am not so certain about that. In Section 5, as originally drafted, it seems to me that there was no right of appeal; that the section was an ad hoc section designed to deal simply with cases arising out of this Bill and that it was a special function entrusted to the district jus-tice—a function which was outside, we might say, his normal functions.
Unless an appeal is cut out by the Act.
The Courts of Justice Act gives jurisdiction against every order.
On that. On the Second Reading of this Bill a number of gentlemen, who claimed to speak with legal experience, told us that the district justice could deal with damage of any amount, because it was simply said in the introduction on the Second Reading, that there was to be no limitation on the amount of the claim he could hear. We were solemnly assured of that by a lot of gentlemen on the Government Benches.
Not on the Government Benches.
On the Government Benches. We were assured that, because there was to be no limitation on the size of the claim, a district justice could hear, he was not limited to the usual £10 and that he could go to any extent.
We have increased it to £20 now.
And you have also put in additional machinery in cases above £20. But it was argued here that there was no necessity to have any other court or authority to hear bigger claims than the district justice — that he should deal with them all. Here we are solemnly assured to-day by some of the same gentlemen who gave that assurance on the Second Reading——
I certainly did not say that, and I do not think Deputy Cowan did either.
Other people who are here to-day gave that assurance. If an appeal does lie to the higher court from the District Court why should we not confirm it in this particular Bill?
It is not necessary.
We were told before——
Who told you before?
We were told here the last day that the District Court could hear claims to any extent.
So they could, if we gave them the power.
We had not given them the power specifically. It was claimed we did it inferentially and that it was sufficient for a person to take a claim for £1,000 to a District Court and for the district justice to adjudicate upon it. If it is true, as the Parliamentary Secretary says, that this particular amendment is not necessary, that in fact an appeal does lie to the Circuit Court, what is the objection to putting it in specifically?
I move amendment No. 33:—
Before Section 6 to insert the following new section:—
(1) It shall not be obligatory on a local authority or on a person nominated by the Minister under Section 3 of this Act, when executing works under this Act, to comply with the Fisheries Act, 1842 to 1944.
(2) Notwithstanding the exemption conferred by sub-section (1) of this section, a local authority or a person nominated by the Minister under Section 3 of this Act, shall, when executing works under this Act, take such precautions and make such provisions for the protection of fisheries as the Minister for Agriculture either generally or in particular cases may advise.
I am advised that this amendment is necessary. There is a similar provision in the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945. The particular section which is referred to in the Fisheries Act—I have not the actual section—provides that no person may:
"(1) Obstruct or impede the passage of salmon or trout during the weekly close time (6 a.m. Saturday— 6 a.m. Monday);
(2) disturb spawning beds or injure or disturb spawn or fry thereon during the close season (i.e., 13th October to opening of next season);
(3) Allow any deleterious matter to flow into any river or lake."
In this respect I should like to say that the Department of Agriculture are preparing certain instructions and a list of regulations and precautions in connection with a particular work which may be undertaken in rivers and streams. As I said, there is a similar precautionary section in the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945.
I should certainly like Deputy Davin, having said that no damage might be caused, to read this particular amendment which is introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary which gives the local authority or the person nominated by the Minister the right to proceed, notwithstanding the fact that he may cause grave damage to fisheries. If there was no danger of damage to a fishery right it would not be necessary to have this amendment. As the Government proceeds with this particular Bill they see that it is more far-reaching than they stated when they introduced it in this House and that we have got to be very careful to ensure that, as far as we can, it will be amended so as to give reasonable protection to the rights of individuals. Personally, I have no objection to including this particular amendment. If it is decided that a drainage scheme is a right and proper thing, then there should be some means of going ahead with it rather than that the local authority should have to comply with every one of the sections of the Fisheries Acts from 1842 to 1944 which would tie them up for years, let alone weeks.
While, like Deputy Aiken, I welcome this amendment, I am surprised that the Minister for Local Government or the Parliamentary Secretary has contented himself with this amendment only. After all, as we have pointed out, grave damage may be done not merely to fisheries but to turbary and to drainage schemes in general by works which are carried out under this Bill. Yet the Government very strongly resisted an amendment which would ensure that the Commissioners of Public Works — who are the legally constituted drainage authority in the law of this land—would be informed regarding schemes which the local authority proposed to carry out and which might affect the drainage works under the control of the Commissioners of Public Works. Apparently, of course, the Minister for Agriculture is a much more influential man in the councils of the Government and carries greater weight than the Minister for Local Government with the Minister for Finance or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance who is in charge of the office of Public Works. The Minister for Agriculture gets his way and an amendment goes down which will enable him to compel the person or local authority carrying out works under this Bill to take such precautions and make such provisions for the protection of fisheries as the Minister for Agriculture, either generally or in particular cases, may advise. The Commissioners of Public Works are not put in the same position. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance cannot insist that a local authority will take similar precautions and make similar provisions where works which are the particular responsibility of the Commissioners of Public Works are likely to be affected.
The introduction of this amendment justifies the action which the Opposition has taken in relation to the Bill. It is an admission of danger. Simply because we did not put down an amendment of this sort, the Parliamentary Secretary puts it down. If we put down that amendment, Deputy Davin and the rest of them would try to bulldoze the people into the belief that it is a harmless little Bill by voting against it. This amendment is an admission of guilt. We welcome it. Let me emphasise and stress, however, that it is an admission of incompetence. It is a sure indication that this Bill was not drafted as it ought to have been drafted, after full consideration of the consequences of it. Surely to goodness other interests than fishery interests are likely to be affected by the Bill. You can divert watercourses; you can carry out work under this Bill which will make the arterial drainage problem in several drainage districts much more difficult. Yet you have completely ousted the Commissioners of Public Works from their legitimate responsibilities and from the exercise of their proper functions in a matter of this sort. I welcome this amendment, but there it is—evidence to convict the Government of gross incompetence in drafting the Bill.
It is good to see that Deputy MacEntee welcomes the amendment. It is a reasonable and sensible precaution which is being taken.
Of course it is.
The Commissioners of Public Works will be taken into consultation and the Minister for Agriculture will be consulted and everybody ought to be happy. I am glad to know that Deputy MacEntee is happy and welcomes the amendment in his own peculiar fashion.
When will the next Stage be taken?
This day week.
We should like to study the effect of some of the amendments the Parliamentary Secretary is to put down and I therefore suggest this day fortnight.
This day week.