Local Government (County Administration) Bill, 1950—Second Stage (resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As has been pointed out by many speakers, the main difference between this Bill and the County Management Act is the appointment of committees, a general executive committee and a health committee. There are two opinions amongst people with experience of local government as to the effect of the setting up of two such committees. Personally, I think, because of the powers of delegation which the Bill gives, that the committees in course of time will delegate their functions back to the manager under his new guise of county officer. In any event, as I pointed out on the last occasion, if the functions of the committee are important, it seems to me that a better arrangement would be a committee of the whole council. I think that this thing of turning important functions over to a section of the council is unwise. All the members of the council should be given a chance to administer these functions. I think that was the drawback under the arrangement whereby boards of health were given very considerable functions. I know that a committee of the whole council would be calculated to put up the travelling expenses, but I do not think that a consideration of that sort ought to be allowed to operate against the successful function of the committees if they are worth while at all.

The County Management Act, in my opinion, really implemented the desires of those members of county councils who had long experience of the working of local government in pre-managerial days. It is only necessary to refer to the very inadequate control of staff, particularly in regard to the remuneration of the staff. My experience as a member of a county council is that if a clerk got married and wanted to get an increase of pay he had to approach a councillor to put down a notice of motion before he could get it. That was a most unsatisfactory way of regulating the remuneration of the staff. As well as that, the recruitment of the staff was a matter in which the members of the council had a very effective say. I do not think that any member of a council wanted those powers because they were a great embarrassment and put an intolerable burden on an applicant for an increase of remuneration or for an appointment. The system substituted for that has been a very marked improvement.

Another matter that was implemented by the County Management Act was in connection with the signing of large payments weekly by the chairman of the finance committee. Very often these payments amounted to thousands of pounds. The chairman turned up, with any members of the council who chose to attend, put his name on the dotted line, and accepted the county secretary's or accountant's word that the accounts were in order. By his signature he vouched for their accuracy in the name of the council. That procedure was abolished under the County Management Act, and the people who drew up these accounts and produced these figures were made responsible for them. That was a very common-sense change.

One could enumerate a good many changes of that sort which were brought about by the County Management Act, and one can hardly say that they pointed in any way to the setting up of any form of local dictatorship. They really implemented the changes which were found by experience to be desirable and suitable. I referred, I think, to the appointment of temporary officers. I think it is important that these temporary appointments, pending the permanent filling of the vacancies by the Local Appointments Commission, should be in the hands of the elected body, and not in the hands of the County Manager. Also, if it were possible to change the arrangement whereby the Minister will appoint a county officer in a temporary capacity—if that also could be turned over to the council—I think it would be a wise change. However, I think the appointment of executive officers of the council might with advantage be given to the council for the reason that the Manager would see to it that he took the necessary steps to have a permanent appointment filled as soon as possible. The reverse tendency has been in evidence because the temporary appointee is the choice of the manager himself. One can see the obvious objection to that arrangement.

The eventual merging of the two positions of county secretary and county officer should bring about an economy and to that extent it is very welcome. It is to be hoped that the Minister will not unnecessarily exercise his power of appointing assistant county officers to offset the possibility of economy which the Bill contains. On that question I should like to ask the Minister about a matter on which I am not very clear. When the amalgamation of functions takes place, when the county officer becomes county secretary and the new title of county secretary now applies to him although he will still exercise the same functions, can the appointment known as assistant county officer be made for that county under Section 34? You will have abolished the name of county officer when the county officer has become county secretary. Does the power of appointing an assistant county officer disappear when the county officer has changed his status and become county secretary?

On the question of the change of name, a great deal was made of the fact that he will now be known as county officer and that it is a more acceptable designation than county manager. I do not think that one really ought to make a big point of that. It is quite obvious that the county officer will manage a great many functions which have been managed heretofore by the manager. He will manage the tenancy functions; he will manage a number of health functions and he will manage a number of employment functions. It does not matter what title you give him, the powers are still the same. We hope that the system of controlling and administering the executive functions of a county council, as implemented in the County Management Act of 1940, will now be looked on more kindly and that, with the concession which a great many people seem to think they have got in the present Bill, they will now give their hearty co-operation which was lacking on the part of a great many political Parties, in any event, up to the present.

There is a matter which I think might be mentioned on this Bill but which one comes up against in almost every Bill that comes before the House. It is the question of amending other Acts of Parliament. It has often struck me that a change ought to be effected for the sake of convenience. Take, for instance in this particular Act, the amendments of the Local Government Acts of 1925 and of 1946; also an amendment of a certain function of the Local Appointments Commission in relation to this present Act. Would it not be just as convenient, where amendments of this sort are deemed necessary, to carry them out as separate Acts? After all, it is only a case of an extra sheet of paper and these amendments could be grouped in the appropriate places. One would not, then, have to go through such a multiplicity of Acts to get the various amendments which a particular branch of the law has had inflicted on us. It seems to me that if the Acts of 1925 and 1946 were each amended by a separate Act of Parliament—as I have said, it would only be a sheet of paper —you could put your finger immediately on the development of each of these Acts and it would greatly convenience reference. This particular Act does not sin any more than other Acts of Parliament in that respect.

I think the Managerial Act had a very inauspicious start inasmuch as it came into operation at a time of emergency. There was legislation by decree and there was a great deal of delegation of duties in contemplation of war developments. Commissioners of various sorts were appointed—county commissioners and regional commissioners. A system of parish councils was set up for the purpose of becoming miniature governments in case of invasion. You had all that paraphernalia of war organisation being gradually built up in the country in 1940. It was in that atmosphere that this Managerial Act came into operation. In my opinion, this notion of dictatorship, arising out of the war emergency, contaminated the Managerial Act in the eyes of a very large section of the public. I think that if it had got a start in more propitious circumstances and times of peace it would very possibly have got a fairer and more dispassionate judgment. Now, however, the obvious benefits of it have been seen and the errors and flaws in it have not been as plentiful as a great many people in this Party to which I belong thought at the time.

It had a great many critics in this Party, although this was the Party that implemented it for the county councils. All these critics have been reassured on a great many matters about which they had misgivings. We have now practically nation-wide unanimity as to the value of some system of management, some system whereby minor day to day matters will be taken out of the hands of the elected representatives and will be administered under the general supervision of the elected body by people who are on the spot from day to day. That principle is generally accepted and with the co-operation and the support generally that is given by all sides of the House and all Parties in the country it should put local government a step further and make the local government code a much more manageable and understandable system than it has been.

We on this side of the House have no criticisms to offer of this Bill other than whatever criticisms we had of the County Management Act. As I pointed out on the last occasion I was speaking, there is just the one objection that I personally have, that is, the matter of temporary appointments to executive positions. I think the Minister ought to consider that matter and allow that to be in the hands of the county councils until such time as arrangements can be made for permanent appointments. If that is done, the Bill will be as near perfection as I can conceive.

In my opinion the outstanding feature of the debate on this Bill is the lack of enthusiasm that has been shown by members of the Dáil, especially by some of the members opposite. The Minister, when introducing the Bill, did not seem to be quite happy about it, judging by the way in which he skimmed over the various sections. While Deputy Bartley has said that he has no great criticism to offer of this measure, I am not so enamoured of it. It seems to me that it is nothing more than a device to cover up statements that were made throughout the country by some of the Deputies opposite in condemnation of the county management system. They described it as a dictatorial system of local government, and they kept on threatening that as soon as they would get the opportunity they would do away with it. Can anybody say that the county management system is being done away with by this measure? I, for one, do not think so. Titular changes and changes of name in the Bill do not convince me that any radical change is being made in the local government system, but so much has been said about that, that I do not propose to follow the same line.

Much has been said about the alleged restoration of democracy to local authorities, but everybody can see that as far as the powers, duties and rights of local authorities are concerned no fundamental change is being made by this measure. There is provision in the Bill, as Deputies have pointed out, for the setting up of committees but what has there been to prevent any local authority from setting up those committees? Two committees are mentioned—the general committee and the health committee. I know that several local authorities set up a committee called the general purposes committee, whose business it was to examine all the problems of local administration and in due course to present their views to the general body. That has been the practice in some places. I am not in a position to say whether it has been adopted in many places or not. I am merely pointing out that there was nothing to prevent any local authority from setting up whatever committee or committees they wanted to set up.

I have referred to democratic control by local authorities. While the Minister and some of the few Deputies opposite who have spoken on this measure may pretend that they are giving a new democratic slant to local government by this measure, I shall point out one way in which I think the tendency is in the other direction. If we turn to Section 9 (4) of the Bill, we see that the Minister reserves to himself the power to remove a county officer from office. The county officer would be acting in the same capacity as the county manager has acted hitherto. As many Deputies have pointed out, there is just a change of name. I want to draw the attention of the House to this section where the Minister is giving himself power to remove from office at any time a county officer in any county. Hitherto, in the County Management Act of 1940, that power was vested in the local authority, the county council. They had the power, by a two-third's majority, to remove the county manager from office, but with this great difference, that before they could remove him they would have to debate, in public, the reasons why they were doing so.

Under Section 9 of this Bill the Minister, by means of an order from the Custom House, can remove any county officer without even stating the reason. It is usual that when people are appointed to high posts in the land there are certain safeguards inserted in the conditions of their appointment.

There are safeguards for each officer and, as a rule, nobody can be removed from office unless for misbehaviour, misconduct or some other grave reason. Section 9 (4) reads:—

"The Minister may, by order under this sub-section, remove a person appointed under sub-section (3) of this section and, for the purposes of that sub-section, there shall thereupon be a vacancy in the office of county officer."

So that, after going to the trouble of having this officer appointed by the Appointments Commission in the usual way, the Minister, with one stroke of the pen, can terminate that appointment any time without even stating the reason.

Have you read sub-section (3)?

The section can be adverted to on the Committee Stage. I notice there has not been very enthusiastic support in the House for this measure. The members of the Minister's Party have not shown any great interest in it; in fact I think only one member of that Party spoke in favour of it. The same applies to some of the other Parties in the House. Since it is claimed that this measure has been brought in to remove what has been described by certain political speakers as a dictatorship from local affairs, one would think there would have been a display of enthusiasm here more than would be in evidence in connection with many other measures.

I was listening to Deputy O'Higgins and other Deputies when they were speaking on this Bill. They were trying to convey the impression that people had begun to take less and less interest in local government. While they said that, nobody, so far as I could hear, adduced any evidence to prove it. Before the last local elections the Minister and other spokesmen of the Coalition Government assured the electorate that they would do away with the county management system. One would think then that if they were going to bring about anything like a revolution in local government more people would have gone to the polls than, say, in the local elections in 1945 when there was no talk at all about changing the county management system. In point of fact there was a heavier poll in 1945 in spite of the knowledge that the people had in the last local election that the county management system would be done away with and in spite of the promise that it would be abolished and and that what was described as democratic control would be restored to local councils. The fact of the matter, of course, is that people have been taking as much interest in local government over the past ten years since the County Management Act was passed as they have ever taken.

I am not one of those who would hold that the County Management Act of 1940 should not be amended. There were certain desirable ways in which I thought it was necessary that that Act should be amended, but it is one thing to amend an Act and quite another thing to pretend that you are repealing an Act. I hold that this is only a pretence at repealing the County Management Act. I hold that it is nothing short of a deception and a delusion on the Irish people. Much has been said about the taking away of some of the powers from the county officer. From my reading of the Bill, I am inclined to think that it is largely a change in name and that instead of the "reserved functions" we will now call them the "scheduled functions." Very few of the powers the county manager has at present are being taken away. Even those that will be taken can be given back again by delegation.

There is one power that is being given to the members of the local authority that I consider is very undesirable they should have. It is not that I would be inclined to lean to the view that the members of our local bodies are not worthy of the position they occupy; but knowing human nature as we do, it is very wrong to leave the decision as to who should or who should not get home assistance, to the members of the council. The system hitherto has been to have the matter of home assistance examined by the appropriate officer, the home assistance officer, specially appointed for that job. It is his duty to go round and find out exactly what the necessitous cases are and report accordingly to the county manager and, of course, to the county council. I presume that it must have been largely on the reports submitted to him that decisions were arrived at, as regards the payment of home assistance. I wonder what the position will be now. It has not been explained fully to us. We are told that this question of home assistance will be decided by the members of the local authority. Will they be in a position to ignore the reports of the home assistance officer any time they like?

That would be a very bad position, especially when we look at another section where it is provided that, in the absence of a quorum at a meeting of an executive committee, the chairman or a member of the county council can decide a matter like this on his own, on the grounds of urgency. What could flow from that is that one member could make it his business to be there and adjudicate on cases that may have come in from his own locality. That is a system which, in my opinion, could give rise to terrible abuse. I am not saying that it will, but it could. We should, of course, do our utmost to safeguard the position against any possible contingencies. It is a Bill that can be amended on committee stage, and there are certain sections and subsections to which we will have to put down amendments.

In conclusion, I wish to refer again to the power the Minister has taken to remove a county officer from office. I believe that, instead of being a step towards democracy, that section is a step away from democracy. The county officer is entitled to his rights and safeguards as well as anybody else. Anyone, to be an effective officer, must have some guarantee that his position is unassailable, unless he himself gives cause for the position being otherwise. Here we have a provision whereby the Minister can remove a county officer without even stating a reason.

The one thing I like about this Bill is the manner in which it is being discussed. Practically every Deputy who has spoken has given an honest opinion as to how it will work and what good it will do. Very little political heat has been dragged into it and it is my intention to act in the same way. I will praise the measure where I think it worthy of praise and condemn it where I think it should be condemned.

The managerial system, we all know, was never a desirable one. I think that when it was first introduced, its object was to cut out any possibility of bribery or suchlike taking place with elected county councillors, but in doing this in the name of the Managerial Act we had vested in the county manager too much authority. No matter what anyone else may say, I maintain, as a member of a county council, that the interests of people in going forward to be county councillors was definitely knocked on the head. They realised that the county manager, having practically all the functions of the council under his control, could veto any decision of theirs whenever he liked. For that reason, they did not present themselves for election in the way they should. There may be a certain amount of good in the county managerial system, but it is certain that we cannot have it both ways. We must have either a managerial system claiming wholly and entirely to have the authority vested in one single individual, or we must have a system whereby the elected representatives of the people will have the final determination in the matters that are essential and necessary with regard to county council affairs and the administration of the local council.

In my opinion this Bill does not sufficiently clear up these matters. That is one of the faults I have to find with it. In this measure there are certain functions vested in the county manager and there are certain functions vested in the elected representatives of the people. The existence of these two sets of functions makes local government, in my opinion, more difficult. However, I will say that a certain amount of good will be done as a result of this measure. I think that like the Managerial Act passed some years ago this Bill is in reality an experiment on the part of the Minister and the Government for the purpose of finding out if a more progressive system can be introduced into county councils. It may be an absolute failure because of the possibility of some degree of antagonism as between the powers held by the county manager on the one hand and by the county councils on the other. There may be delays in relation to matters that are both urgent and important. Possibly good progress will be made. Possibly greater progress will be made than would be possible if all the powers were vested in the county council. Possibly, there will be a greater degree of contentment amongst county councillors when they appreciate the fact that they have certain functions which they feel they can competently fulfil.

We must admit that there is not a complete repeal of the county managerial system, and it is no use anyone saying that there is. In the opinion of those of us who are members of local authorities, there are sufficient powers vested in the elected representatives to allow those representatives to carry out their duties successfully and make as rapid progress as possible. We know that on county councils as a whole there are members who regard the county council chamber as some place in which to pass a few hours away. We know there are members who never make any useful or constructive suggestions as to what should be done to alter the situation for the better. We know that there are others who despite their divergent political affiliations, go there determined to work in the interests of the people who sent them there. These members are definitely an asset to any body.

It has been said on many occasions that representatives should be elected on their merits rather than because of their political affiliations. But we know it is quite impossible to achieve that. There are certain political Parties who are strong enough to get any man they want elected to a county council even though he may be no good in the council chamber. That has always happened and it will continue to happen.

I am particularly interested in Sections 16 to 22 of this measure dealing with the formation of executive committees. We know that such committees can do very useful work. I sincerely hope that when these committees come to be formed, no effort will be made by those political Parties which happen to be strong to squeeze out those who belong to Parties which are not quite so strong. I sincerely hope that all sections of political opinion will be represented on these committees in the same way as they are represented on the county councils. Assuming we have an executive committee of one-third of the elected members of the council and a health committee of one-third of the elected members, that will give us two-thirds of all the elected members as members of the committees. I think it is the duty of the members of the council to select those men who will give the best service on these committees. When these members are graded out on each of the committees, there will then be one-third left. As I said earlier, that one-third will consist of those who have very little interest in local affairs and who merely appear at meetings in order to see their names in the papers. Unfortunately, local papers sometimes give splash headlines to these particular members rather than to those who make concrete and constructive proposals at county council meetings.

The success of the managerial system depended to a large extent on close co-operation between the county manager and the county council. So far as my county is concerned, we never had any ground for complaint with regard to our county managers. The first county manager was a native of Mayo. For years he had been secretary of the county council. He was most co-operative and did his utmost to make the work successful, from the point of view of the county as a whole. We have at the present time a county manager who includes even the most trivial items on the agenda so that the county council may have an opportunity of fully debating every matter and he leaves it almost entirely to the county council to decide. Where there was co-operation between the county managers and the county councils the system was not as bad as it has been painted. In those counties where co-operation did not exist, things admittedly did not run so smoothly. I think it is not proper that local administration should hang on such a flimsy thread of democracy that it rests solely on the good will and personality of the county manager to make things pleasant for the county councils. That was perhaps the biggest defect in the managerial system. But in many counties county managers have proved themselves even more careful than was the county council in the matter of expenditure and the curtailing of extravagance. We know that when councillors are elected for the first time they are full of enthusiasm and a whole series of questions appears on the agenda at every meeting. If these demands were to be agreed to it would mean that an impossible burden would be placed on the local ratepayers and, from the financial point of view, the county would be put out of existence. But, as the councillors come to realise that there must be careful and cautious administration that kind of thing eases off. We know that, in many cases, the county managers have advised and helped out local councils by opposing things which councillors themselves had looked for. In other cases, county managers have definitely forced things on the county councils. That is something which the members of local bodies do not want and do not wish to have.

I welcome the move under this Bill for the formation of executive committees which can instruct and cooperate with the county officer. I became a member of the county council five years ago. Even before that, I believed that men elected to local bodies by the votes of the people needed, in the matter of local administration, advice, instruction and help in many ways. I believe they needed to be led gently along the lines which were best for efficiency and progress. I became a member of the county council in 1945 under the managerial system. I found that while it had its good points, the system certainly had its bad points. I felt that the thread which held democracy was certainly too thin to be respected by anybody who had been elected to a local body by the votes of the people. What we are to have now under this Bill is only an experiment. The administration which we are to have in the future may be something which will give very little success. From my knowledge and experience as a county councillor, I am of opinion that the formation of executive committees and health committees will definitely cut out a big amount of the talk that we used to have at every county council meeting. It will enable the agenda to be disposed of in a much shorter space of time. Every county council has certain standing orders. Under our standing orders in Mayo a county councillor has the right to speak for ten minutes on any item on the agenda. If 30 members of a county council decided to exercise their right to speak for ten minutes on every item on the agenda, and, in addition, to speak in between on points of order, one can well realise that it would be impossible to deal with more than three or four items on the agenda. Therefore, I think the formation of these committees is a very good idea.

With regard to the functions which are being given to the county officer, such as the selection of tenants, the making of lettings, the recovery of possession, the making of advances and the recovery of instalments of annuities in the case of mortgage payments, the revision and recovery of rent, the disposal of cottages and other dwellings, there are some of these functions which definitely should be taken out of the hands of county councillors and, if not vested in the county officer, should be vested in the county secretary. I suppose that, in the course of time, the county officer will find himself in the position of county secretary. Some other of these functions, however, should, in my opinion, be given into the hands of the elected representatives or of the executive committees. The selection of tenants is one. That should be a function of the county councillors. I admit that there is a certain amount of right in the system which now prevails whereby the county medical officer of health inspects and makes a report on the conditions under which applicants for county council houses are living. His first recommendation is given to a married man with a family living in a condemned house. Then there is a grading down of the other applicants. Perhaps there is a certain amount of right in giving into the hands of such an officer the power to make recommendations. But there is also a certain amount of wrong in it, because any single individual officer can and will make mistakes. Such officers have been known to do so. From time to time we have seen applicants who were successful in getting cottages although they were in no way entitled to them. The county council could not question that in the past. Seemingly, it cannot question it in the future because the selection of tenants under Section 25, Part IV. of this Bill, is a reserved function of the county officer. I think that is wrong. I think that the local councillors should have some say in that. They know the local conditions; they know all the applicants for houses perhaps even better than the county officer or the county medical officer of health. They should have some say as to who should or should not be the tenant of a cottage, because there are many things to be looked into with regard to the tenancy of houses.

A tenant might be selected because the house he was living in was in a very bad condition, but side by side with him there might be another man who had an equally good claim to a cottage and who did not succeed in getting it. There may be a vast difference in the character of these two people. One may be an individual who will take care of the county council house, who will respect the local authority which built the house for him, who will see that the house is kept clean, neat, tidy and in good repair, and who will make every possible effort to pay his rent and rates at the time demanded. The county councillor for the area will definitely know the best type of tenant for a house. The county officer or the county medical officer of health will not. In the case of two applicants for a house they will take them at their face value. Therefore, I say that the county councillor for the locality will know the best and most suitable individual for a house. For these reasons I think that the selection of tenants for cottages should be given back into the hands of the county councillors. They are the elected representatives of the people, and are at least entitled to that concession, now that the county managerial system is being amended.

I am glad to see Section 42 in the Bill which deals with the financial affairs of the county councils. Before any financial proposal is passed finally, the elected members will have an opportunity of debating the merits or demerits of it. The councillors will have a say in the amount of money that is to be provided. If the county officer presents an estimate which the councillors think is too extravagant or too costly, then both the executive committee and the council as a whole can veto it or turn it down. They can see that a more reasonable estimate will be submitted, one which the county council and the ratepayers as a whole can meet, and so ensure that unreasonable rate demands will not be made on them.

There is one other section which I think requires some tightening up. Sub-section (3) of Section 36 states:—

"Where a draft of an executive order is submitted under sub-section (2) of this section, the executive authority may either—

(a) make the order in the terms of the draft, or

(b) amend the draft and make the order in the terms of the draft as amended, or

(c) reject the draft."

Again I am hoping that there will be co-operation between the county officer and the county councillors who are the executive authority but would it not be much easier, if something could be done to arrive at some sort of understanding between the county officer and the members of the executive authority before the draft was presented? What is the use of wasting days of the time of the county officer and his staff in making a series of orders and presenting them to the executive authority who can either accept the orders, amend them or reject the whole lot, if they might never need to do that? If, perhaps, the chairman or the vice-chairman of the executive authority concerned could be brought along when the orders were being prepared so that he could discuss them with the county officer, it would be much easier to present a suitable set of orders to the executive authority and it might obviate a serious loss of time as there would be no necessity in that case for the executive authority to amend the orders in any way or reject them.

The only further comment which I have to make on this Bill is that it definitely does not provide for the complete abolition of the county managerial system. We are all old enough to realise that the Bill presented to us is just an amending piece of legislation. I suppose had I not been a member of a county council for some years, and had I not some experience of the delay in disposing of a county council agenda, even when a meeting lasts throughout the whole day, I might be inclined to say that the county managerial system, and everything pertaining to it, should be rooted out lock, stock and barrel and that every function of local government should be entrusted to the county councils—employment, the selection of tenants, and every duty that would normally come within the scope of a local authority. In all fairness, it must be realised by all those who have had any experience as members of a local authority that if these matters were again all thrown on the county councils agendas, you would have overloaded agendas and the county council business would fall into such arrears that it would take practically three days out of every week to conclude the business. It may be argued that from 1898 onwards, until we got the County Management Act in 1943, it was easy to dispose of this business within a reasonable time, but whether it is because of the growing interest in politics, or that there are more social services to be administered or perhaps because of the fact that a much greater amount of money is now being spent by county councils than in former years, the agendas are now so overloaded that it takes councils a long time to get through them.

While I would say that, to my mind, this Bill is just an experiment, I shall not say that it is the best piece of legislation or even the worst piece of legislation that could be introduced into this House. At most, it will provide us with trial of the new system or the amended system. It is up to the county councils to try to make it a success by electing to the executive committees the cream of the county councillors so that there will be a businesslike consideration of the more important business and an avoidance of obstructive tactics. If the county officer will cooperate with intelligent county councillors, I have no doubt that we shall have efficient local administration which, in many cases, is just as important as the administration that is directed from this House. If that co-operation is not forthcoming and if intelligence rather than mere talk and noise is not the guiding principle in discussions, you will have all kinds of delays. You will have men arguing the whole day with regard to the name, perhaps, of a certain line of cottages or houses, or as to whether a £10 note should be spent on a certain waterworks or sewerage scheme while, at the same time they forget that it costs perhaps £100 to summon a meeting of the council. If, however, common sense prevails and it is recognised that this is a go-between Bill, which may satisfy the wishes not alone of the county council officials but of the county councillors, if it is worked satisfactorily, I think that if we do not have quite perfect administration, we shall at least have satisfactory administration. At least the Bill is worth a trial until we see if anything better can be done in the years to come.

Mr. Brennan

When I read this Bill in the first instance I was more than surprised at its contents, particularly in view of the attitude taken up by certain members of the Opposition, not alone in the general election of 1948, but for years as members of county councils since the County Management Act first came into operation. I never had the privilege of being a member of a public body prior to the introduction of the managerial system.

At the time I became a member of a public body the managerial system had been in operation for some years and because of that I think I could see in better perspective the value of that system than the members who had been members of former boards of health or boards of guardians for 20 or 25 years previously. Since I became a member I invariably found that any and every opportunity was taken by certain representatives to belittle the system and speak sarcastically of it. I do not believe for a moment that they expressed themselves so because of the effect the system had on local administration. I believe that they were influenced solely by the fact that since the system came into operation they were shorn of certain responsibilities and shorn of a certain halo which surrounded them in the area they represented for 25 or 30 years previously. I am always prepared to make allowance for the fact that they were not really honest when they made adverse comments on the County Management Act and that they were simply suffering from the loss of that halo which had surrounded them for so many years.

I believe that the managerial system is a very good system. In my experience there has always been co-operation from the county manager. The last speaker referred to the outstanding co-operation which obtains in his own county between the county manager and the members of the county council and I can say the same for the county in which I am a member of a local authority. If there is non-co-operation in any shape or form—and I do not suggest that there is—it certainly does not come from the county manager. In fact, the individual concerned is inclined, in my opinion, to go a little too far to shed himself of certain responsibilities which he should shoulder and to leave it to the members of the council to decide matters which are his functions. Because of an overanxiety to meet the wishes of the council he is prepared to do those things. I do not agree with that shedding of his functions and I have told him that. However, I only mention that matter to show that there is co-operation there.

With regard to the proposed change of the name of the manager to county officer or eventually to county secretary surely the Minister does not expect that the people will take that seriously or think that it will make any financial or material difference in the work or responsibility of that individual. I think it was the Parliamentary Secretary who said that the word "manager" smacked of dictatorship. I do not think that is correct. The word is in the English dictionary for as long as I can read or write and is used in businesses and industries of every type and I think that that argument will not affect the public. However, something had to be done. Some change had to be made to justify the attitude taken up by certain members of boards of health, particularly by members of the Labour Party, the Minister's own Party.

I am not quite clear about the amalgamation of the two positions of county officer and county secretary presuming that position becomes vacant although I tried to read the Bill as best I could. One point struck me: at the moment the county manager holds a certain responsibility. It is a one-man job and a job which entails quite a large amount of that man's time. It is a job which varies in different counties. In my own county he has to deal with three urban councils while in some adjoining county he may have to deal with as many and at the same time deal with a mental hospital. That is enough responsibility for any individual to have on his shoulders but now it is proposed that when the county secretaryship becomes vacant he will take over the position either as county officer or county secretary—the change cannot take place without his permission. There we have a man being saddled with two very responsible positions and how in the name of God is it expected that that man will carry out the work which two men did heretofore? I agree that the Bill states that he may appoint an assistant county secretary or some such officer but what will be the difference financially so far as the ratepayers are concerned between having a county officer and a county secretary and having a county officer responsible for the work in connection with those jobs who must employ an assistant? Surely there is nothing to be gained in that from the point of view of the ratepaying community. The only thing I see in it is that added responsibility will be placed on the shoulders of the county officer or county secretary whichever he may be.

It is proposed also to appoint an executive committee and a health committee from the members of the county council, both of which committees will have certain functions. So far as the proposed executive committee is concerned, it will deal with certain matters appertaining to council affairs, but some of the matters with which it might deal are matters which are not going to make any material difference. So far as the health committee is concerned, the matter of home assistance will naturally arise in that connection. It is at present in the hands of the county manager, but, in our council, the members of a particular electoral area are occasionally called together to meet the county assistance officers, the local home assistance officer and, at times, the county manager, and at these meetings the list of people in receipt of home assistance is gone through, so that each councillor, if representations have been made to him, can make his case for a particular individual. The manager or county assistance officer may or may not agree, but the very fact that these members are called together is proof that the manager is interested in giving a certain power to the members of the council representing that electoral area to express their views on the question of who should get so much and who should not.

That brings me to the provision with regard to transferring powers from the county manager to the members of the council. I think that is wrong. As I have explained, in my county, we are occasionally called together and every opportunity is given to the members from a particular electoral area to make a case for or against an individual application for an increase. In some cases, I can say that the revision which has taken place has been in the form of a decrease, due perhaps to representations made by the local assistance officer. It is altogether wrong to give that power to the council. The manager should have the last say in that matter, because the average councillor is inclined to be tenderhearted and anxious to make as good a case as he can for the particular applicant. The manager, on the other hand, has so much money at his disposal to meet the council commitments for the year and he must ensure that nothing over and above what would be fair will be granted to any particular individual.

I think these powers should not be given to the council, but that the present position—I am speaking for County Wicklow—whereby home assistance is revised from time to time at meetings of the councillors for the particular area with the county manager and county assistance officer should be allowed to remain. It will certainly tend towards a better understanding and will also prevent anything in the nature of abuse taking place, as will be possible if the provisions of the Bill are implemented.

I want to refer briefly again to the two committees. I believe these committees are a mistake and my first reason for saying that is that the system of election on which these committees will be elected is the system of proportional representation. It is quite possible that the same seven members could be elected—there is nothing in the Bill to say that they could not—to the executive committee and the health committee. I will go further and say that, even if a council decided to elect 14 of its members— seven on each committee—it would be wrong. What are we to do with the other seven members? Are they to be looked upon as seven individuals who are unworthy of election to a committee to help to administer the affairs of the county, a function for which a section of the electors elected them? That is all wrong, and, if we are to have two committees, some system should be devised whereby every member of a council would be a member of one or other committee. Even if things were done in an equitable way and if 14 members of the council are appointed to the two committees, it would be a grievous mistake to defranchise not alone the remaining seven members personally but the electors who sent them there to represent them.

Deputy Commons referred to the powers still retained by the county officer with reference to the allocation of cottages. I do not agree with Deputy Commons's view at all. I believe that the present system obtaining in some counties should still obtain. In my county, when a cottage becomes vacant or new cottages have to be allocated, even though a certain individual may have made an application to have a cottage built and have got a site voluntarily from a farmer because he was a decent sort of individual who would not abuse the privilege of having a site on the land or interfere with the farmer's land or fences, when the cottages are advertised the represenatives of the electoral area are called together to meet the chief officer in charge of housing. We go into the different applications. We have a list showing the county medical officer's views from the point of view of priority and we support the views of the county medical officer except when some councillor may have some information that may not have been brought to the notice of the county medical officer when he made his survey. Except when such a point can be raised by such a councillor, we invariably support the county medical officer so far as the tenancy of the house is concerned. We make a recommendation in the matter and I can say that the county manager, so far as I know, has never yet turned down a single recommendation in regard to the allocation of cottages made by the councillors concerned.

Deputy Commons said that councillors would know more about the position of the applicants than the county medical officer or any other officer. The county medical officer is supposed to examine the living and other conditions of the applicants. I am sure that not alone does he examine the living conditions of the applicants but that he also makes inquiries into the health of the family, if there is a family. When it comes to a question of who should know whether a particular individual is entitled to a cottage or to be placed No. 1 on the list, I am sure the county medical officer is the best judge.

As to the question of the striking of the rate under this Bill, the county officer, having prepared his estimate, will place it before the executive committee and the health committee. It is quite possible that the executive committee may revise the estimate so far as it applies to their functions. It may happen also that the health committee may revise it in connection with the functions they have to deal with. I can visualise that estimate being brought before both committees and before the council seven or eight times before the council finally are in a position to strike the rate. If I am correct in visualising such a position, surely that will not make for efficiency and quick arrival at the actual figure necessary to carry out the local services in the county.

In my opinion, there is very little of a controversial nature in the estimates. There are salaries and wages, the repayment of loans, and other things that are a fixture for which money must be produced. The area within which a discussion can take place with regard to the cutting down of the estimate or otherwise is very limited. Nevertheless, it can take quite a long time, and there is a possibility that under this arrangement it may take seven or eight meetings before the council are finally called upon to determine the rate. In County Wicklow we have an estimates meeting and the council generally appoints a sub-committee to go into the details of the estimate to see whether or not it can be reduced. The sub-committee make their recommendations to the council and, as a rule, it only takes one meeting to arrive at a decision whereby the rate can be struck, or three meetings in all.

In conclusion, I say that this Bill makes no great change. The change of name means nothing, and certainly the public are not going to be affected by it. I do not believe that the proposed amalgamation of offices, when such an amalgamation can take place, will be effective in making any financial saving for the ratepayers. Surely, coming from a Labour Minister—particularly as the Labour Party were the greatest offenders so far as the county managerial system is concerned—they have nothing to boast of in the few changes they have made in this Bill. I think that the general public, when they come to understand the changes that have been made, will place a true value on the condemnation, sarcasm, and other methods adopted by critics of the managerial system, and particularly by the Labour Party.

As a member not long in public life, but as one who has had experience in the county council of the working of the County Management Act—of course, I have had no experience of the system which was in operation previous to that Act—I am willing to face this problem to-night in a realistic and open-minded manner. Apparently those members of this House who are now in Opposition fail to realise that the action taken by the Labour Party is one which we believe will help to bring about a more satisfactory method of Government, local and national, in this country. I believe that, after roughly eight years' experience of the working of the County Management Act, the action of the Labour Party and the statements made by the members of the Labour Party on the introduction of that Act, and since then, have been fully justified. Those of us in the Party of which I am a member did not say that the old system was a thoroughly satisfactory system, but that did not mean that we should agree whole-heartedly with another system, a system which we believed contained many flaws. In as brief a way as possible I propose to show Deputy Brennan and other Deputies in this House points which have justified the condemnation of at least part of the system of county management.

To commence with, I should like to say that I abhor some of the statements made by a county Cork man, Deputy Corry. He spoke about the disappointment which some of the new members elected to the county councils will experience when they find out that they are not going to get their share of the thousands of pounds—as mentioned by him—that doctors and others will be giving for local appointments and such various appointments. It ill-becomes any member—I do not wish to speak in the Deputy's absence—to talk about something which I believe to be false in its entirety. Thanks be to God we have not come to the Tammany Hall stage in this country. We can be honest with ourselves. We admit that in the past there may have been transgressors. There may have been people who acted contrary to the standards of the majority, but who can say that that has not applied in all the countries of the world? Who can say that anyone in this country, even the worst, is or ever was as corrupt as some of the worst in other countries? Therefore, our approach to this Bill must be open. We must speak openly of the things which we believe require to be remedied, and at the same time ensure that any provisions which in the past have proved themselves to be successful will be embodied in this measure.

The ex-Minister for Local Government, Deputy MacEntee, dealt with the original Act and it is only natural that he should do so. I do not know whether he would now, if he were in a position to do so—having realised some of the shortcomings of the Act which he introduced in this House—agree to have it amended in certain respects. Perhaps he would, but there is no point in our dealing with that matter now. I believe we can prove without any hesitation that the improvements in some sections of this present Bill are such that they are well worth considering and supporting to the full.

I took a note of some of the statements the Minister made when he moved the Second Reading. He said, among other things, that it was considered that the present system needed to be abolished and replaced by a new system of administration, and he used the words: "to restore democratic control and at the same time maintain efficiency." When the Minister mentioned the abolition of the present system and its replacement by a new system, that did not mean that we were to scrap in its entirety the old system. Surely, if we believe in progress we must admit that many of the various measures in the past have in themselves justified our inclusion of them in any Bill brought before us.

One point stands out above all others in connection with the County Management Act. That Act might have been a better Act if the managers had been appointed as managers to the council instead of being made managers of the council. That in itself makes an extraordinary difference. It gave the managers in the various county councils a different outlook on their duties and responsibilities both towards local administration and towards the Minister of State who put them in their positions. Like many other Deputies, I am glad to be able to say that in County Cork the man who was appointed county manager proved to be excellent in his position because he had vast experience of local Government work, which is so essential to the good running of local institutions and local county councils. However, we can realise the great difficulty in which a county manager must, at times, find himself. If a local county council unanimously recommend a certain course to a manager that manager may be willing to adopt their recommendation and it may be his firm conviction that the course recommended is wise. Yet we must be very frank and admit that that county manager has as his boss a Minister who is in charge of a Government Department. Human nature being what it is, we must admit that if we ourselves were in the position of the county manager we would have to face the problem whether it would be easier for us or safer for us, as human beings, to offend the local councillors or to offend our boss in Dublin. That is one of the fundamental points governing the introduction of the position of county manager. Some of the Opposition Deputies may say that there is no difference whether he is called a county manager or a county officer. There is the old saying, what is in a name? I believe it is immaterial by what name he is called. It is not in the individual or the name, but it is in the system under which he is operating that we must be interested. It is ridiculous to waste time arguing as to the name by which this official should be called.

I can recall an occasion when the Cork county manager, at the express wish of the county council, sent a recommendation to the Minister for Local Government in connection with the permanent appointment of an official who had given the best years of his life in a certain position in the county council since 1917. There was never anything held against that man. The county manager was at all times particular to see that any recommendation sent up would be a genuine one. What happened? I do not wish to be sarcastic or vindictive because that does not get us very far. The plain truth is that, because the man who was recommended did not suit the Minister in charge or the views he held, he was refused permanancy. I am proud to say that one of the first actions taken by the late Minister for Local Government, Mr. T. J. Murphy, was to make sure that he would carry out the express wishes of the members of the Cork County Council and the county manager by appointing that man to the permanent position to which he was entitled. Deputies may ask why I lay such stress on this matter. It is because I want Deputies clearly to understand the false position a manager could be in at times simply because he was appointed manager of the council instead of manager to the council.

During the debate on this Bill, Deputies referred to some of the matters that are embodied in the County Management Act. Deputy MacEntee said that circulars were sent out in his time as Minister to members of local authorities dealing with their particular duties and the importance of their discharging them. That sounds well. I give him credit for sending them out although, for the last year or so, some members have been objecting to all the circulars that were sent out.

Deputy MacEntee's references to circulars recalled to my mind a certain circular that was sent out to county managers by their boss in the Custom House which had to be transmitted to every servant of the local authority, even to caretakers of local graveyards who, in some cases were in receipt of £4 a year for carrying out that work. The circular was to the effect that they were forbidden, by the express order of the Minister, under the County Management Act, to approach a local councillor in connection with their work or remuneration. That was bringing the local authority, through the county manager, into the network of espionage, more or less, so far as the work of local authorities is concerned, namely, the Custom House. Surely Deputy MacEntee should never have agreed to such a circular being sent out. He should realise that the men elected to the county council should be in a position to deal with men employed locally in very small jobs. Deputy Brennan and others may disagree with me but I believe that that is one point in connection with which the County Management Act must be condemned.

Deputy MacEntee mentioned another matter which Deputy Corry answered in his own way. Deputy Corry said that the Cork County Council were fairly well advanced. We do not always get credit for that. He said that we had not waited for the introduction of this Bill to appoint sub-committees in Cork. It is quite true for Deputy Corry to say that under the County Management Act we had sub-committees in Cork. Unfortunately, when Deputy Corry painted the rosy picture, showing how we were able to surmount such difficulties, he forgot to mention one fact. It is well for members who seem to rejoice in speaking in derogatory tones about the Labour Minister who is introducing this Bill and the members of the Labour Party to remember that it was Labour members, and Labour members only, who, in the Cork County Council, proved completely and conclusively that they had the right to form sub-committees. That is going on the record of the House and can be proved at any time. It took a while before the county manager—a man who was anxious to co-operate with them—was able to find out definitely that his boss in the Custom House could give him that power.

Deputy MacEntee said, in the course of this debate, that if county councils did not elect sub-committees, it was their own fault. Deputy MacEntee may never have been a member of a local authority, but some of us who are members of local authorities must admit that, as laymen, we cannot peruse every Bill that comes before us and scan every point in it. It takes a certain period of training to enable a person to interpret legislation. If Deputy MacEntee was anxious to ensure that county councils would form sub-committees, he would have acted as the present Minister is acting; he would have instructed them and told them of their obligation to form these executive committees. Deputy Brennan, on the one hand, tells us that it is waste of time to have executive committees. He says there is a danger of meetings being held one after the other without any conclusion being arrived at. On the other hand, Deputy Corry admits that in Cork County Council we proved our right to form executive committees, and he indicated the advantage of them. There must have been an advantage because, after the last local election, sub-committees were again appointed.

If Deputies are sincere in their approach to this Bill, their criticism should be constructive. We all know that this will not be the end of local government legislation. This in itself may be just a sort of passing measure and in years to come whoever may be then in power may see certain advantages in picking from this legislation certain sections and including them in whatever proposals they may see fit to present in their time.

Deputy MacEntee mentioned the failure of certain county councils to appoint committees. Perhaps it is too late in the day to deal with that now, but when the County Management Act was introduced he could have sent circulars—and he sent enough of them to members in his time— to the managers that he employed in connection with the various councils pointing out to them that such committees should be formed.

Deputy Brennan and other Deputies spoke in a tone which in itself was good. They were able to point out the advantages that could be derived under their own managers, but it is not for us to say that because there is a good manager in one county we should condemn the councils in another county who might not have quite as good managers.

The question of home assistance was referred to by Deputy Brennan. I do not wish to dwell too much on the new powers that are proposed. There is no need for me to do so, because so many Deputies have already discussed that point. I will say to Deputy Brennan that if his manager did discuss home assistance with some members of the council, that sort of thing did not apply in all the Twenty-Six Counties. If he and the members of his council had that advantage, is there any reason why they should oppose a system whereby the members of every council in the Twenty-Six Counties would have the same right? That is, again, one of the points that, if we are honest in our contribution towards this measure, we will have to admit; we must admit that the present system does need remedying, and very much so.

Again, as regards the powers of members of county councils and the functions reserved to the county manager, while I am at all times anxious to leave out personalities I will have to speak honestly and I will rely on my own experience. Deputies here have told us of the ideal system whereby cottages were let. We have heard Deputies telling us of the terrible corruption in the past in regard to the letting of cottages. I know men who were members of county councils in the past. I have heard Deputies tell of the huge fortunes that were supposed to have been made in the past. I cannot make out why some of these men, after giving the best years of their lives serving on local councils, are not a hell of a lot better off to-day. The majority of these men are entitled to this much credit, that they gave their time honestly and conscientiously and they acted in a decent manner.

As regards the letting of cottages, I can recall at least three cases where, to be quite honest, the system of giving a certain applicant the right of tenancy to a cottage was, to speak easily about it, at least shady. We know that these things happened in the past. We know that the county medical officer of health, while meaning to do his best and trying to do his best, was deluded in certain cases and certain information was given by applicants which was false. On one occasion I gave definite proof in that respect to our assistant manager. In Cork, as well as a manager we have assistant managers. I remember putting my proof on the table before the assistant manager at one meeting and I showed that the information given to the county medical officer of health was not correct.

I asked for one thing, and that was that the doctor should be given the power to go out again and check up on the information that was given by me. What happened? The truth is that because the assistant manager had made his decision, had signed his name to an order—an order which he had full right to make—the majority of the members agreed with him. They were afraid to oppose the action of the assistant manager, just as he would be afraid to offend his boss in Dublin. The majority of the members at the meeting found it suitable to keep in with the assistant manager and they supported the false claims of applicants for cottages.

It is true that there have been different cases of corruption under the old system and I say there were also cases of grave mistakes in relation to the letting of cottages. I believe those things in themselves should be sufficient to make Deputies think deeply when they are dealing with the County Management Act.

An important point in connection with this Bill is whether the members will or will not have the right to see the doctor's report at an ordinary meeting of the board of health before the manager lets a cottage. I believe the system whereby a doctor makes a report and the manager makes the orders is a good one, but there is this point to be considered, that at the present time the manager, after getting the doctor's report, can make his order and sign, seal and deliver the cottage to a certain applicant. I do not altogether agree with that procedure. I believe the proper system would be that the doctor's report should be placed before the members at the board of health meeting and, if there are any members who can show reason to doubt the accuracy of the report, then that report should be sent back to the doctor by the manager so that the circumstances can again be investigated. If that type of system were to prevail, it would be a definite improvement, and on that point alone there would be justification for repealing the County Management Act.

On the question of county officers, Deputy Allen seemed somewhat worried. I am sorry that he allowed himself to worry so much about it. In his view this Bill is likely to interfere with the status of county managers. There is one point I see in the present Bill, that financially it does not interfere with the county managers. If we are honest in our expression of views, we must admit that the salary of the county manager is not interfered with.

There are faults in the Act and also, perhaps, in this Bill before the House, but the county officers should realise—and they can only realise it by the Minister letting them understand clearly—the necessity for full co-operation in bringing at all times to a final conclusion matters of local administration in their own areas, without having to send to Dublin to have every tittle-tattle sanctioned by a Minister. Naturally, matters of policy and appointments to posts which come under the Commission must go up, and that is clearly understood. I am anxious that the Minister give us a clear indication now, or on the Committee Stage, that the time has come to finish with a lot of red tape in sending up to Dublin for permission for every little thing that comes before the council.

A question was mentioned by Deputy Corry about the various functions. Whether it was convenient or not for the Opposition I do not know, but they did wish to gloss over any advantages that may be handed back to the council. I see one function under the executive functions which is an advantage, the question of cottage repairs. This is important to members who may not be members of local authorities. Under the County Management Act, what happened over cottage repairs? We just saw the manager's order signed, giving the contract for certain repairs to a certain contractor. I remember on occasions inquiring about it and was told that this to some degree was a reserved function. While he was carrying it out, we spent money very often in a bad and inefficient manner. Contractors who got work on repairs of various cottages undercut others, capable men, and actually the final position was that these houses were never repaired properly. The money was squandered in inefficient and incomplete repairs, and then the county manager was able to leave on the shoulders of the members of the local authority the responsibility which he was able to avoid. When we went around the country, we had to face the complaints, the fully justified complaints, of cottiers—who often brought us to their homes and pointed out the necessity of repairs and often showed us truly the incompleted repairs and places where houses which had been repaired were actually as bad as if they had never been repaired. We members of the local authority had then to accept defeat, as it were, under that old system.

Surely, members of the Opposition, intelligent men, are honest in their outlook from the local authority viewpoint. After all, down the country, though we may differ politically on various questions—and we are entitled to take our own political Party line— at least the majority arrive at a conclusion which is an honest, fair and genuine judgment on what is needed. Here in this House, however, those opposite are adopting a system that reminds me of that great ventriloquist, with that great little dummy of his, Charlie McCarthy in America. Deputy MacEntee is the man who introduced this important County Management Act of theirs, and as he sits in their midst, and because their leader calls the tune and says: "Boys, we must stand by our system," they are put unfortunately in the false position of having to belie much of what they say down the country. They are put in the false position of having to say here very often in connection with the County Management Act the reverse of what they have said down the country. That is a difficulty we are in in our approach to this Bill. It would certainly be worth while for members in opposition here as well as those in favour to realise that it is only by getting the genuinely concentrated views of all members that we can approach a proper system of local government. However, as long as this miserable Party outlook continues in dealing with local administration and the everyday life of people down the country, so long will people be false to the genuine ideals of suitable local administration for this country.

I might mention, as regards advantages in executive functions, the number of houses to be erected and, finally, the approval for sanitary services, water supply schemes, sewerage schemes, etc. First, regarding the number of houses to be erected, what is the position under the County Management Act? I know it, as Deputy Corry knows it full well, perhaps better than I do, and as every member of a local authority knows it. For the last couple of years we have been trotting around the county down in Cork trying to build new houses and new cottages for our people. Though we at times can prove the genuine number of applicants for houses, we are tied to a written report by a local dispensary doctor or county medical officer, who may state that the number requiring houses is much less than we say. Local members have local knowledge, as has been admitted here.

We had an extraordinary instance in recent years, where our late Minister gave us the right to build for newlyweds and enabled us to extend our activities as regards the number of houses to be built. But the County Management Act provided that the doctor's report came in before him and it was given very often more consideration than the views of local members. Most of the county officers and dispensary doctors have done their duty, but I know a case where a local dispensary doctor did not even call to inspect a supposedly condemned house. Therefore, the provision which gives to the members the right to decide the number of houses to be erected, under the executive functions, is an advantage. Is that not at least one step forward in amending the County Management Act? Deputy Corry, being chairman of a local board of health, was always anxious as I was, to see the full number of houses allocated and built, but we were very often tied up by an unsatisfactory report from a local doctor.

Finally, there is the question of approval of sanitary services, water supply schemes, sewerage schemes, etc. I have an idea that Deputy Corry may say: "Ah, we are doing that at present; are we not doing it in Cork?" It is true that we are. Month after month we have motions down asking or improved water supplies and additional sanitary, sewerage and other services. These motions are nothing more than a recommendation to our assistant county manager asking him if he will agree to the provision of these supplies. The members of the local authority, who are there at the express wish of the people, must go cap in hand to this paid official and ask him: "Sir, dear Sir, will you please give us a water supply."

It is at least satisfactory to know that once this Bill becomes law members of local authorities will be in a stronger position to implement the expressed wishes and desires of those who put them on that council in a more genuinely democratic manner than has been the fashion in the past. There are shortcomings in every Act of Parliament. This Bill is in itself an advance on the County Management Act. Certain Deputies have spoken very glibly about a Labour Party Minister introducing this Bill and they have spoken very glibly about the failure of the Labour Party to face up to its responsibilities. If those Deputies would approach these matters in the conscientious way that the members of the Labour Party approach them, they would have no need to worry about their political future. They would never again have to swallow their pride and their words, as one of their Party had to do on one occasion when, having expressly supported a certain motion and made it quite clear that he intended to do so and that his vote would be cast on this side of the House subsequently, when his leader came in, cast his vote on that side of the House.

It is my duty as a representative of the people in my constituency to point out the advantages which will result from this measure. Under this measure local representatives will have a final say. Deputy Smith stated that he had never heard any complaints about the County Management Act. I do not intend to damn any political party; nor shall I say that it was because of the failure of the County Management Act that the last Government suffered defeat. The time will always come when every government must suffer its first, and perhaps its last, defeat. It is the people who decide. When the people decided against the County Management Act it was then the responsibility of both the Government and the Opposition to face up to the position and to introduce legislation to bring about any improvements the people thought desirable or necessary.

I am somewhat worried about Section 22 where it is stated—

"a decision which relates to home assistance in a particular case forms all or part of the business to be transacted at the meeting ... the chairman of the authority, if he is present, shall by himself alone, constitute a quorum,"

or, if he is not there, the county officer may act. I believe that that section will require some amendment between this and the Committee Stage. I do not think any chairman of a subcommittee or any county officer should be entitled to the powers which may be conferred on him under that section. It might be that the majority of the council members might be engaged on public business elsewhere, and the chairman could arrange to have a meeting during their absence. If the section dealt only with home assistance the position might be safeguarded, but it specifically says:

"a decision which relates to home assistance in a particular case forms all or part of the business."

I am sure the Minister will look into that matter between this and the Report Stage.

I am sorry I have taken up so much time, but I have tried to place constructive views before the House without any political rancour. I think that we should give the Minister the fullest co-operation we can on this measure.

I have listened to a great number of speeches on the Second Reading of this measure. Luckily that sense of humour with which Deputy MacEntee credited me in the early stages of the debate prepared me for the charges which were hurled at me by the Opposition— nepotism, bluff, chicanery and graft. All the adjectives in the dictionary were exhausted in accusing both myself and the Government of the frauds we are alleged to be inflicting upon the House in asking it to pass this measure. Right through the debate there was very little constructive criticism. There was, on the other hand, a constant spate of accusation that the Bill was unworthy of being introduced; that it was not what it was cracked up to be; that it was introduced under false pretences, and that it neither removed nor repealed the County Management Act. It was said that the Bill should have amended the County Management Act but that it did not in fact do so. Again, it was said that it went too far. There has thus been a series of contradictory criticisms. The bulk of the contributions to the debate gave tangible evidence of the fact that those who spoke had not even read the Bill.

As the previous speaker had said, this is a measure of prime importance to the life of the country. In my opinion it is one of the most important that could be introduced dealing with local administration, and it is certainly worthy of very serious consideration by every Deputy, and every Deputy should approach it in a reasonable and calm fashion.

If my proposals do not meet with the approval of members of the House they are entitled to criticise them, but I suggest they should criticise them constructively. While I have taken part in many discussions in this House, I have never indulged in political barrage and so I think I have reason to object to the titles that have been applied to me and to my Government of corruption, graft, chicanery and deceit. For the number of years I have been in public life, for a period of more than a quarter of a century, I have myself taken an active interest in local government. I have been a member of the oldest Corporation in the country and was mayor of the city before we had any managerial system. One of the things which, I think, we can pride ourselves on is the wonderful advance that has been made by the Irish people in self-government. In view of the fact that for a period of nearly a century and a quarter we were deprived of the right of native government, we can, I think, pride ourselves on the wonderful and successful approach which has been made to national government by our own people. I consider that, linked with successful national government, is local government which so intimately affects the everyday life of the people.

I participated in local government before the Management Act was passed and also under the managerial system, and neither in this House nor outside of it, have I ever made a personal attack upon any manager. I have never said a word against the individuals who took office as managers under the system, but I did object to the principle of that Act. I think that these gentlemen have given very good service and are capable of giving very good service under the new conditions. But, because I have introduced a Bill which is not in accordance with the expectations of the Opposition, it is denounced as being a deceitful and fraudulent Bill. Some Deputies would seem to expect that in order to effect a successful repeal of the management system you must extirpate, liquidate or bump off the managers. I have no intention of introducing anything of such a revolutionary highly colourful nature. My intention is simply to try and improve local government legislation, as I know it, and to make it an effective and efficient machine, while at the same time ensuring that there will be a certain amount of democratic control exercised by the elected representatives of the people. I do not want to do anything of a spectacular nature, and I am not repealing this Act in any spirit of vindictiveness.

Charges have been made that this Bill does not warrant or justify the title of repeal, and by putting side by side with it utterances made by myself and members of the Government prior to its introduction, it has been said that it is a falsification of our previous statements. I say that is absolutely untrue. The Bill that is before the House was published on the 27th June of this year with an explanatory memorandum. The elections were held on the 20th September. Deputy Corry congratulated me upon my duplicity, so to speak, in hiding the Bill until the elections were over, and in his most eloquent parliamentary language said that all those who went forward at the elections did so because of the graft and corruption they were going to get out of it. He did not refer, of course, to the old brigade. When he said that he was referring to the new men who went forward at the elections and, of course, he was not referring to the seagreen incorruptibles of his own Party. But the charge he made against the new candidates who went forward at the elections was that their one purpose was the graft and the corruption that they were going to get out of the Bill. The Bill was in the hands of the people on the 27th June so that if Deputy Corry's charge was true, not alone were those people corrupt but they must have been stupid as well. Deputy Cowan drew attention to the fact that it was deplorable that such charges should be made against the people and citizens of this country. Deputy Corry is incorrigible. The misinterpretations of the Bill that ran right through the debate from the opposite side were not confined to Deputy Corry. I would not be inclined to worry so much about his lurid language in dealing with the various sections of the Bill, but we had even the ex-Minister for Local Government, Deputy MacEntee, wilfully or otherwise, misinterpreting sections of the Bill time after time.

We claim that we are repealing the County Management Act in this Bill. The Opposition say that there is no change except in name, changing the label on the bottle. May I remind the House that when moving the Second Reading of the Bill, I made a very long statement setting out the new powers that are being vested in the county councils as distinct from the powers which they have held up to now. In view of all the attempts that have been made by the Deputies on the Opposition Benches to contravert what I said then, I find myself compelled to read again for the House a list of the powers that are being transferred from the county manager to the elected representatives under this Bill. They are:—

Approval of loans under the Seeds and Fertilisers Supply Acts. Approval of regulations and issue of licences under the Milk and Dairies Act, 1935, and the institution of proceedings for breaches thereof.

Issue of licences under the Slaughter of Animals Act and the institution of proceedings thereunder.

Purchase of office equipment and furniture and repair and maintenance of office buildings.

Selection and purchase of library books and equipment.

Letting of rooms in town halls and branch libraries for social purposes.

Naming of new streets.

Selection and submission of schemes to qualify for grants under the Local Authorities (Works) Act, 1949.

Allowances under the Blind Welfare Scheme.

Contracts arising out of School Meals Schemes.

The consideration, approval and general supervision of the annual Roads Maintenance and Improvement programme.

Approval of plans for road works and bridges.

Acceptance of tenders and making of contracts for road works, bridges, and purchase of road equipment and materials.

The making of applications to the Minister for orders closing roads.

The making of an application to the Minister for an Order under section 33 of the Local Government Act, 1925, prohibiting the erection of or directing the removal of buildings obstructing the view on roads.

Acquisition of land for road works.

Consideration of annual sanitary service programmes and determination of the works to be carried out.

Approval of plans for water supply schemes, sewerage schemes, sanitary conveniences, burial grounds, public baths and public lighting.

Acceptance of tenders for sanitary service schemes and for equipment needed therefor.

Institution of prosecutions for breaches of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Acts.

Acquisition of land for burial grounds and sanitary service schemes.

Decision on the grant of home and medical assistance.

Planning of and acceptance of tenders for public assistance hospitals, county homes, etc.

Decisions to provide hospitals or clinics, and approval of plans and acceptance of tenders for such institutions. Adoption of health schemes including arrangements with extern institutions, establishment of clinics, adoption of new immunisation schemes, etc.

Contracts for supplies of all requirements for health services, e.g., food, hospital equipment, spectacles, clothing, beds and bedding. Institution of proceeding for offences under the Health Acts, 1947 and the regulations made thereunder.

Planning and execution of housing schemes including acquisition of land, the acceptance of contracts.

Supervision of general finances of each scheme including schemes of rents, whether fixed, graded, or differential.

Demolition and repair of unfit houses.

Maintenance and repair of local authority houses.

Provision of sites for private builders.

Granting or refusal of permissions for development proposals under the Town and Regional Planning Acts, e.g. whether particular private building may or may not proceed, where factories and similar concerns are to be located, the lines of new roads, etc.

That is a fairly exhaustive list of the powers that are being transferred from the control of the county managers, as they exist to-day, to the elected representatives. These functions which, up to now, have been exercised by the county managers are being transferred to the county councils to be delegated to the new executive committees. Some Deputies have made the objection that, by delegating these powers to the committees, we will not get efficiency.

I suggest that if the county council were to be compelled to carry out all the functions now to be vested in them as a council, it would take a practically whole-time council to do that work. For the sake of efficiency, we suggest that two executive committees be appointed and these executive committees are to be drawn from the elected representatives themselves. I have suggested in the Bill that 33 per cent. of the council should be appointed to each of these committees. Somebody said that every member of the council should be on the committees but I think that anybody who desires the council to do any useful work at all, will agree than an arrangement whereby one-third of the membership of the council acts on the health committees and another third on the general purposes committees is a useful workable suggestion. They will be elected every year and they will be elected by proportional representation. Deputy Brennan thinks that there should be a committee of the whole 21 members of the council. I trust that is not an indication of the standard of intelligence to be found amongst the councils generally which have been elected. I think it would be an impossible arrangement and that to appoint one-third of the council on each of the two committees to carry out the functions that I have read out is a very reasonable and workable proposition. They will have to report back to the general council on everything they do and the final word rests with the council. Certain work is to be delegated to them for the sake of efficiency and speed. There still remains one-third of the members of the council who will not be on either of these committees.

Several Deputies asked what they will be doing. They will have plenty to occupy their time in the general work of the council, and they may become members of the various other committees which have to be appointed by the council. These include the mental hospital committees, library committees, agricultural committees and vocational educational committees. There can be a useful division of work between all the members appointed to these committees so as not to overload unduly any section of the council. I suggest that anybody who approaches this question seriously must agree that if we are going to take all these powers from the managers and give them back to the elected representatives, it is a sensible arrangement to delegate certain work to the two committees who will have special functions to carry out.

We had some complaints about the preparation of the estimate. Under the existing system, it was alleged that the elected representatives were in the saddle for one day only out of the 365. I would put it beyond mere allegation. It was said that they controlled the finances only on the day the rate was struck. The manager prepared the estimate and the council could challenge it when it was presented, but not for a period of more than six or seven days. It was prepared by the manager and submitted to the council, and where the council did attempt to assert themselves we know what happened. The estimate eventually came to the Custom House, and then somebody went down. It was not the manager went down; it was the council went down.

We are proposing now that the estimate will be prepared and passed with the consent and good-will of the people concerned. The manager prepares his estimate after consultation with both the executive committees with whom he has been working—the health executive committee and the general purposes executive committee who have a full knowledge of the financial requirements of the county for the ensuing year. The estimate is prepared in conjunction and in consultation with these committees. If the council feel like discussing or challenging that estimate, they can do so, but there you have at least two-thirds of the members of the council who have been in close consultation with the county officer in preparing that estimate for submission to the county council. The county officer comes along in a friendly atmosphere to discuss the matter, but the last word is left with the county council. If anybody wants to challenge it, it can be challenged by any member of the council, but I suggest that, after all this discussion has taken place between the officer of the council and the committees, when the estimate does come to the county council it should have very little difficulty in arriving at a correct assessment of the sum required for the services of the council for the coming 12 months.

I am not going to accept it that people elected by the votes of the people will be so regardless of their duties and responsibilities as to stand for an estimate that will not be in accordance with the full requirements of the county in regard to social services and other functions. If I were to take that view I would not be in favour of scrapping the managerial system at all. I would rather be in favour of scrapping the county councils altogether and of handing over their functions to some responsible officers appointed by the Department. I have, however, full faith that the people of this country—the same people who elect Deputies to this House—will be perfectly competent to draw from their own ranks, from the various strata of Irish life, councillors who will administer the affairs of our local bodies in an upright manner. I have no feeling that there is any justification for the fears expressed by some Deputies that some terrible corruption is going to dominate them. If corruption is going to operate in the administration of the affairs of any of these councils, the councillors will have to go before the court of the people at the end of their period of three years in office and the people will deal with them. I have, however, every confidence that the votes of our Irish people will elect to county councils and urban councils men capable of carrying on the business of these councils in a clean and decent manner.

The powers we are leaving to the manager are not being left to him because of any fear of how they would be exercised if they were handed over to the council, but because we believe they are such as any sensible council would vest in their county officer. What are they? Tenancy functions, employment functions and individual health functions. These are the three items that we take out of the whole category of local administration and hand over to the county officers. Yet by a piece of agile eloquence on the part of Deputy Major de Valera he proved to his own satisfaction—or I wonder did he?—that they constituted 75 per cent. of the total. He divided the present executive functions into four classes, each of which he took to be equal in extent, and on this basis he claimed that the manager was going to discharge 75 per cent. of the whole, because we were giving him the individual health functions, the tenancy functions and the employment functions. Deputy Sweetman answered that point very effectively. Without going into any abstruse mathematical calculations to prove his proposition, he simply produced a book showing that in August, 1950, the Kildare County manager made 237 orders, and he pointed out that of these 237 orders he can, under this Bill, make only 23. That was a practical demonstration of the difference between the managerial system, as it is now operated, and the proposals contained in this Bill.

The individual health functions left to the managers are such as, I suggest, should not be left to any public authority. Many of them are functions which should be conducted with the maximum of privacy. The commission of a patient to a mental hospital, the fee to be charged for his maintenance and the particular type of treatment to be given in a particular institution for particular infectious diseases that may call for the greatest privacy, are certainly not matters that should be discussed in public. They are matters that should be arranged between the county medical officer of health and the county officer. I trust that none of those Deputies who have been opposing this measure will again suggest that there is anything wrong in leaving these functions to the manager.

On the question of tenancy functions it has been stressed by some Deputies who spoke here that the question of the fixing of rents should be one for the council, but it is one which will be fixed by the local authority because it will be part and parcel of their duties to consider the scales of rents whether they be differential rents, graded rents or fixed rents. It will thereafter be the function of the county officer to arrange rents for individual tenants according to what has been laid down for him by the council. I think that is a reasonable thing to do. I also think that the collection of rents and decisions as to whether proceedings should be taken in the event of nonpayment of rent are matters which should be left to an individual officer for the purpose of efficiency.

The point was raised that the giving of individual tenancies should be a matter for the council. There may be an argument for it, but I hold that it is preferable to rely on the existing letting regulations and statutory provisions, whereby the medical officer of health is consulted and is required to have regard to the conditions of the people, how they are housed, their family circumstances, whether they have tuberculosis, and so on. These are the statutory priorities and consultations which the present county managers must observe. If we are not going to rob the medical officer of health of that necessary function, if he is to have a say in applying the letting regulations, I do not see anything wrong in having the final work of allocation vested in the county officer. Otherwise the medical officer of health would have to make a report which would come to the elected representatives and they would have to vote on whether a house should be given to a tenant. But you cannot have a vote on questions of fact and I have perfect faith in the county medical officer, with the co-operation of the local medical officer of the district, to see that the most deserving cases will be housed. Out of a number of houses, they can say that No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 should get houses in that order and in that way the houses are allocated.

The case was made from the Opposition Benches—I forget by which Deputy—that the local representatives would approach the question from the angle of who would be the best tenant, who would be the man who would best keep the house neat and clean, who would be the man who would best pay the rent and who would be a good solvent tenant; that in that way they would know more than the medical officer of health and that the medical officer of health would approach the matter from a different angle. I say that I hope he will. If there happens to be a careless father or a careless mother, I hope that the family will not be deprived of a house just because there is no guarantee that for a time they may not be the best people to keep the house neat and clean. If they cannot pay the rent there are methods of dealing with that. I would prefer the doctor's approach of seeing that the family in greatest need would get the house and we are trying to carry that approach into other things besides the allocation of labourers' cottages. I believe in the system whereby the medical officer makes a report as to the most suitable tenant and I believe that that should weigh with the county officer who will eventually become the county secretary as servant of the elected representatives. The Bill provides that the manner in which he proposes to proceed must be laid before the elected representatives and there will be nothing underhand about the procedure.

With regard to employment functions, I think that the employment of staffs should be under the control of one individual. If you leave the employment of staffs to the members of the council they will often be faced with very distasteful decisions and I have no doubt that the elected representatives would clamour to have the employment of staffs restored to one individual. Also rules and regulations are laid down whereby persons must be selected by the Local Appointments Commissioners or by interview boards. With regard to manual staffs, the county officer, who will eventually become the county secretary, will have control with the assistance of the engineers and others who run the services for the council.

In this Bill we are providing something more for these employees than has been in the code already. We are providing for an appeal. There was an appeal as to conditions, grading and status for officers, but there was no such provision for manual workers. Deputy MacEntee derided it, saying that it was an appeal from the local authority to the local authority. It is not. If the workers have a grievance against the county officer with regard to conditions or status or remuneration they can appeal to the council who will sit and consider the matter. I hope that there will be an advisory conciliation committee established in every county and every assistance that can be given to them from headquarters will be given so that they will be able to try such matters on a local level and that regular conditions of service will emerge from the use of the conciliation machinery. It is not an appeal from the local authority to the local authority but from the workers to the elected representatives and they can upset decisions of the county officer and it eventually comes to the Minister if a change is to be made in status or salary.

Those are the three powers with which the county officer will be vested, individual health functions, tenancy functions and employment functions. I have read out a list of typical functions which will be taken from him in order to put it on record, because in spite of any blank denials that we are taking anything from him and in spite of those who say that we are only changing the label on the bottle, we are transferring important and comprehensive powers from the county officer to the elected representatives and we are making sufficient changes to warrant the title "the repeal of the County Management Act". We are leaving only special functions to the county officer such as are not normally performed in an assembly, but we are achieving a position where public administration will be under the control of the elected representatives.

There are some particular points to which I should like to advert. Deputy Bartley raised a question as to what would happen under Section 13 when the county officer becomes county secretary. The answer is that the assistant county officer's title may be changed by the Minister by the Order he will make amalgamating the post of county officer and county secretary under Section 15. However, the posts do not exist except in Dublin and Cork so it is not a vital matter.

Deputy Bartley also wanted to know why we had not separate Acts to provide amendments of the Act of 1926. This Bill provides only temporary amendments to facilitate and expedite any consequential appointments. Therefore there was no need to introduce special legislation for them as they are quite proper to this Bill and consequential on its other provisions and are due to lapse when their purpose is spent.

Deputy Kissane is in serious trouble, and, although I tried to call his attention to the fact that he was on the wrong line, he refused to look at any other lines. He said that Section 9, sub-section (4), gives the Minister power to remove a county officer at any time and that, therefore, the Minister was more undemocratic than those who introduced the 1940 Act where the council had the power to remove the county manager by a two-thirds majority. In fact, of course, a council cannot remove the county manager, even with a two-thirds majority, without the sanction of the Minister, but, in any event, if the Deputy had read Section 9, sub-section (3), he would see that the Bill does not propose to enable the Minister to remove a county officer, but only an officer appointed temporarily, pending the appointment of a permanent county officer. This is a routine and necessary arrangement in the case of a temporary post.

Deputy Kissane was not convinced that there was any real change whatever in the existing managerial system and said that the council were always able to appoint committees such as we have now, but there was a big difference, because those committees had not power to deal with the functions of the county manager. I have listed the functions of the elected representatives which were not the functions of the county manager. We have now given the right to the elected representatives to elect executive committees to deal with these extended powers which have been given to them by this Bill.

Home assistance should not be left to the elected members, said Deputy Kissane. The home assistance officer serves the county manager at the present time and it is the right of the county manager to override and overrule the decisions of that officer. The committee will have the same power under the Bill and they should have that discretion. The home assistance officer will report to the committee instead of to the county manager and they should have the same rights of using discretion as the county manager has. We are transferring the power from the manager to the elected representatives. They will also have the advice of the superintendent assistance officer and his reports and the views of the county officer himself will be available for the help and guidance of the members.

Some complaint has been made about the menace of allowing a decision to be taken in the absence of a quorum, by one man, be he chairman or county officer. That is confined solely and absolutely to home assistance claims and is put into the Bill to ensure that, in the absence of a quorum—we hope that it will not take place frequently —no deserving home assistance case will go unsatisfied, pending a further meeting. It is confined absolutely to home assistance applications.

I have dealt with the question of tenancies and have given my opinion as to the suitability of the present system, of the doctor's reporting in consultation with the officer in accordance with the lines and specifications laid down and on the basis of the statutory Orders and letting regulations.

Deputy Commons spoke about draft orders and said that there should be some prior consultation before the written drafts are submitted. No doubt, such discussion may take place and may be suitable and useful, but I wonder if it is essential to put such a clause into the Bill. It is a matter for purely informal discussion. If they want to have a discussion about them, it might be useful to have one, but it is scarcely something which should be inserted in the Bill. Such discussion will take place, I am sure, between the county officer and members of the committees.

Deputy Brennan would prefer to continue to make the case for home help to the county manager rather than to the elected representatives. Why, I do not know. He says they always got a fair hearing from the manager and that he always listened reasonably to their case, and why he would not like to make the same case to his co-members, with the co-operation and assistance of the county officer and assistance officers, I do not know. It seems to be a further indication of the lack of confidence reflected in the speeches of Deputy Corry and, I think, Deputy MacEntee himself as to these people utilising their positions for the purpose of buying votes. That is not a fair outlook on how elected representatives will do their business in dealing with home assistance for deserving people in their areas. I personally have no fear that that will arise, and, if it does, there is the court of the people which can be appealed to in a very short time to deal with anybody who adopts that attitude. The other members will also be there to correct any such tendency, and, if there is any dishonest or corrupt member, he can be dealt with.

The Deputy also spoke about the same seven members being elected to the two committees. I have already dealt with that. That is scarcely a possibility. There will be two committees comprised each of one-third of the members and then there are plenty other committees to which the other men can be elected. They will be changing around every 12 months and I have little fear that any council will put the same seven members or the same 14 members on two committees, to the total exclusion of the others. If it does arise, it will be an indication that there is something wrong with the situation in that county.

Deputy Brennan also says that the committees have no explicit power to amend the county officer's estimate. He must consult them before he prepares the estimate, and, if they have an estimates committee, he must consult that committee. He must consult the two executive committees on the health and general purposes side, and, if there is an estimates committee, he must consult them also before finally submitting his estimate to the council. With all this previous discussion, there is no reason why a council should have any difficulty in dealing with the estimate in an atmosphere of friendly co-operation with the county officer or county secretary.

Deputy Sweetman raised a point as to how a temporary officer would be appointed who did not get in under Section 10. He will find that, under Section 15, the Minister can appoint one who has not been so appointed. That is provided in the Bill. Deputy O'Rourke said he had made a careful study of the health committee's functions and proceeded to inquire whether the health committee would be in a position to know the circumstances of even a few applicants for home assistance. They will not touch that at all. They will be confined to functions under the Minister for Health. It is the other committee which will deal with that matter and with the help they will get from the home assistance officers and the superintendent, there is no reason to think that the system will not operate as successfully as, if not more successfully than, under the management system.

Several Deputies asked why we did not simply amend the County Management Act and said that all the talk about this Bill was not justified. It would not be so easy to amend the County Management Act and it was much more satisfactory to introduce a comprehensive and self-sufficient measure such as this. We have enough legislation by reference, and, if we attempted to amend the County Management Act, we would have had a thing of shreds and patches, of scissors and paste, a lowyer's nightmare and not a lawyer's dream. I think we are doing the correct thing in placing on the Statute Book a measure of local government which is self-contained and self-sufficing. I am not going to say for how long it will last, but I have an idea that Ministers who follow me will be slow enough to make changes.

This is a reasonable measure, a measure which will make for efficiency. There is nothing spectacular about it and we are denounced because it is not spectacular, but a moderate and reasoned approach was the best method to ensure the provision of an up-todate and efficient system of local government. I should be very slow to have anything to do with the introduction of any measure dealing with what I consider to be a sacred issue, local government, if it could be suggested that there was anything shaky, shady, or corrupt about it or that there was anything of the nature "hooey" associated with it. For that reason, I resent the gratuitously insulting references made across the floor. Were it not for the sense of humour which Deputy MacEntee accused me of having, I could scarcely have taken them with the same equanimity.

I do not feel guilty of the charges made of corruption or disreputable tactics of any kind. I can say in complete sincerity that this Bill has got careful consideration. I believe its draftmanship is should and I can assure the House that it is not a matter of steamrolling it through and not the result of departmentalism. It is an honest approach to use the experience of local government which some of us have had to provide a democratic system with efficiency in administration. I believe it ought to appeal to the House. There will, perhaps, be a good deal of amendments and I have been told that there will be many amendments. These will be considered, but I believe that the framework we provide here is something on which we can build an edifice that will be a credit to the country and that will make for efficiency and the democratic advancement of local government interests. I only regret that the criticisms from the other side were of a destructive rather than of a constructive nature and I am hoping that we will have more constructive criticism on the Committee Stage. I have the greatest hope for the success of this measure and I commend it once more to the House.

Could the Minister say what his intentions are regarding Dún Laoghaire?

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 29th November.