One of the arguments advanced against this amendment by the Minister, when we were last discussing this Bill, was that in the event of a situation arising such as I describe, a Deputy of this House would be available to the person who was dissatisfied with the work done on his holding. I do not think that anybody could seriously regard that as a legitimate argument against this amendment. Most of us know very well what will happen should a farmer apply under this measure to have three, four, five, six or any number of acres on his holding reclaimed. The procedure will be that the application will reach the Department of Agriculture; the Department will forward it to the local inspector; the local inspector will prepare an estimate in consultation with the farmer; the farmer will express a desire that the work, because of his inability to undertake it himself, should be carried out by the Department; the Department will, when it finds it possible, carry out the work and when the work is completed the officer to the Department will certify that the work has been completed and all is at an end except that, as the Minister has stated, the owner or the occupier of the land, as the case may be, can go to the local Deputy and the Deputy can raise the matter here in the House.
Of course, we know the procedure that will follow his raising that matter. The Minister will call for a report from the officer immediately concerned with the matter. A Parliamentary question will appear and, after obtaining a report from the local officer, the Minister will come in here armed to the teeth with all the official reasons to show that the work has been satisfactorily done. An opportunity may then be provided between 10 and 10.30 to have the matter thrashed out, giving ten or 15 minutes to the Deputy who raised it and the remainder of the time to the Minister. We shall hear the case from the farmer's side, as stated by the Deputy, and from the official's side as stated by the Minister. There is no kind of examination of the complaint in that procedure that would satisfy an aggrieved person.
There is this possibility, too. We all know that works, whether carried out by local bodies or by a Department of State, are undertaken under a system —we may call it direct labour or whatever term you like to give it—under which much dissatisfaction can result because of the amount of work done with the money expended or because of the manner in which the work has been done.
I know there is no limit fixed in this Bill nor is there any limit in the scheme announced, on the amount that may be expended on the reclamation of an acre of land. But I take it that in the Department, and in the Minister's mind, there must be some rough idea of the amount that would be expended on the reclamation of an acre —say £20, £25 or £30. It is reasonable to assume that there is in the minds of the officials some particular sum to which they will adhere as near as possible. I think there should be, and, because of that, I say that if an estimate is prepared, and if the work is undertaken in the manner I have described and if as a result, perhaps, of bad supervision or poor output on the part of those employed, the amount expended is close to the amount that is regarded as the maximum that should be expended on reclamation of one acre, then the official immediately in charge would naturally proceed to cover up. Not only that, but the official who will be reporting on the work executed will naturally cover up, as I think is the case in most of these matters, the man who was immediately in charge of the work.
I want to say again that I think it is unreasonable that in this matter the Department should have the responsibility for the preparation of the estimate, the responsibility at the request of the occupier of the land for the execution of the work, and the responsibility for deciding that the work is completed according to the estimate. The only redress the applicant appears to have is that he can go to the Circuit Court if he thinks his grievance is sufficient to warrant that course or he can come to the House here.
The Minister, in the course of the discussion, said that any man who would have six or seven acres of land to be reclaimed, could be regarded as a man of considerable substance, in so far as the six or seven acres might represent only a small proporation of the land held by him. But if we take the man who has a small holding, who has only one or two acres to be reclaimed, if the work is unsatisfactorily carried out, it is not fair, I suggest, to compel him to go to the Circuit Court because the amount involved will be far less than the cost of taking such a step. Therefore, I am proposing this amendment because I believe that owing to the peculiar circumstances I have described, an individual, if he is dissatisfied, should have recourse to some simple machinery or some simple authority which would be created. There should be some inexpensive means by which a person could go before that authority and produce technical evidence. Make him responsible for the production of that evidence and, in the event of his failing to sustain his case, he will have to meet whatever costs are incurred. I am, as I say, pressing this amendment because the arguments that have been advanced against it and the reasons given by the Minister for its rejection do not appear to be convincing.