Local Government Bill, 1960—Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill."

I should like to renew representations I made on the Second Stage yesterday to the Minister. As the Bill is at present drafted, an amendment which I submitted is outside its scope. As the measure is permissive, favourable consideration should be given to the inclusion of Dún Laoghaire Corporation in addition to the four county boroughs. Indeed, as the Minister himself remarked, if necessary, this measure could be amended later, to include not only the four county boroughs but also the county council areas, if that were deemed necessary. As the measure is permissive, it seems to me that there is no objection to an alteration of the Bill at this stage to include the corporation of Dún Laoghaire and to provide for its extension to county councils.

That in no way involves an obligation on any local authority to implement the proposals contained in the Bill but if a particular local authority or any number of local authorities wish to provide facilities for a concert hall or suitable assembly hall, it would enable them to do so. I believe that it would improve the measure and would avoid the necessity for amendment at a later stage. Dún Laoghaire is a very important tourist area. There are other towns, particularly Wexford, which was mentioned yesterday and where a very successful festival has been held for a number of years, where the facilities provided in the Bill might in future be availed of if power were taken in the Bill to enable the local authorities concerned to adopt it.

As I said in the House yesterday, the reason one might say that this Bill is before the House arose in the first instance from the situation that had developed in Cork where the need immediately arose for permissive legislation to enable the Cork Corporation to provide a grant for the rebuilding or building of an opera house there. At the same time as this facility was suggested as being agreeable to the Government, the Corporation of Limerick also came in and made representations that they should be afforded the same facilities. They were two of four of a kind— two county borough corporations out of the four. We received no representations from any other local authority to have these facilities provided for them. We were dealing then with Cork. We had representations from Limerick. There were two other county borough corporations. There has been quite a lot of talk of a concert hall in Dublin. That brought us around to dealing with the four county borough corporations. That was not the only reason it is confined to the four county borough corporations. The real reason I should think at this stage, without its having been well considered, is that no request, no demand and no representations were made by any of the other local authorities.

May I reiterate what I said yesterday? If an urban authority such as Dún Laoghaire or county councils or other local authorities make representations to the degree that we feel there is a demand, then I promise the House, as I did yesterday, that full consideration will be given to such representations and, if necesary, an amendment or amending Bill will be brought in, possibly, to cover those other local authorities in the same manner as this Bill proposes to cover the four county borough corporations.

The Minister's attitude is quite reasonable. The only point is that if the amendment was introduced in the Bill now it would obviate the necessity for amending legislation and would enable the authorities to proceed if they wished to do so.

I should like to support what Deputy Cosgrave has said. I can understand the Minister's point of view to a certain extent. He says that initially the Bill was introduced to facilitate Cork Corporation in the building of an opera house and that subsequently there was a request from Limerick and that because there were two out of four county borough corporations who wanted such facilities he decided to include the four. The thing that strikes me is that the Minister is giving away nothing; the Department of Finance is giving away nothing. As pointed out by Deputy Cosgrave, all that the Minister is doing is to allow the county borough corporations to spend money on such projects. The Minister need not be the slightest bit afraid about giving permission to borough corporations, county councils or urban councils. If they have not the money to give, they just will not give it or, if they are reluctant to give it even though they have the money, they will not give it. The experience in this House is that when a measure of this kind is passed it takes years to bring in amending legislation. We have seen that happen for years past. The Road Traffic Act has required amendment since 1933 and 27 have since elapsed. Whilst I believe that the Minister's intentions are good he will not do the slightest bit of harm in amending this Bill now. He will not be going outside policy or anything else in doing so. The simple thing would be to allow all public bodies to do this.

May I ask the Minister what is the difference between a borough and a county borough? There seems to be some essential difference between a body like Dún Laoghaire Corporation and a body like Limerick Corporation.

The county boroughs have autonomy, as against the corporations which have not.

To a somewhat unsophisticated person like myself the difference is somewhat illusory. To me the Minister's report seems to be reasonable. If Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Corish feel that the Bill should be amended to bring in other local bodies I think that it would be evidence of the life and activity of Oireachtas Éireann if the two of them should get together and sponsor an amending Bill which they could bring in in October and which, I am sure, would have the approval of the Minister.

That would be a waste of the time of the House. There is nothing to prevent the Minister from amending the Bill right here and now.

The Minister said that representations were made by Cork and Limerick, that there is need for these powers in Dublin and that he brought in Waterford to make the fourth body. Might I say to him that when representations are made by a Deputy it is a matter of considerable importance which should not be rejected simply because a local body did not make representations? The Deputy is the elected representative of the area and when he makes a submission I suggest that such submission is of as much, or more, importance than if it was the submission of the local authority.

Far be it from me to disagree with the last speaker. I agree entirely with him but the analogy is not quite relevant. I say this because Cork brought about the movement in the first instance and Limerick, on the representations of the corporation, also made a move. As everybody knows, Dublin and its concert hall project has been going on for years and years. Waterford is the other one of the four of these county boroughs and, in framing the Bill to cover three of them, I thought it would be no harm to provide for the fourth.

I put it to the House that we acceded to the representations when they did come to us. I suggest also that, had they come from other local bodies or from Deputies when we were considering the Bill, and if we had been given an opportunity to consider the full implications for the entire country, we might now find ourselves considering a different Bill. If representations do come from local authorities or from Deputies the entire matter will be reconsidered and possibly an amending Bill may be brought in to include those places not included in the present Bill.

The Minister has just mentioned the fact that Waterford has been included in the four county boroughs. I have to say that I am very proud of my native city for the fact that there we anticipated this Bill by 80 years. The Waterford Corporation erected the Theatre Royal in Waterford more than 80 years ago with the citizens' money. That theatre had a great success until recently when it was about to close and official reports said that the day of the theatre was over. However, a few big souls got together and got some money from the citizens and the theatre is now open again.

This Bill includes Waterford, Waterford being brought into it in theen passant manner in which Waterford is always included in anything for its benefit. This Bill will ensure that the Waterford theatre will not close because I have faith enough in my colleagues of the Waterford Corporation to know that if the theatre is ever in danger they will come to its rescue. This Bill gives them that right. I see Deputy Cosgrave's point. Dún Laoghaire is a very important centre and it just happens that it is not a county borough. That may be only an accident and the same applies to Wexford.

I suggest to the Minister that he should not alter the Bill so that it should cover the whole country but that he should amend it so that it would cover places which would have populations of 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000. All of these would have corporations. There is a corporation in Galway, Sligo, Kilkenny, Wexford, Dún Laoghaire and Waterford. These are the kind of groups of population that should be brought in under this Bill. I would say to the Minister that he should listen to the representations of Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Corish.

My modest request for information about the difference between a borough and a county borough remains unanswered.

I thought that Deputy Corish had answered the question quite clearly.

I feel with Deputy Cosgrave in the representations he has made in respect of Dún Laoghaire and I think the Minister is wise to undertake to consider the matter. However, I think a note of warning requires to be sounded. I think it would be proper to extend the provisions of the Bill to Dún Laoghaire corporation or to Kilkenny corporation or to a recognisable similar population, but we want to walk very carefully before considering extending its provisions to county councils. I could see a situation arising in which a county council would select a certain place as being the most central position for the erection of a concert hall and every other town would make representations to have a similar hall erected. Pressures would be used that it might be impossible for a local authority to resist.

I agree that where you have a municipal authority representing a compact unit like the City of Kilkenny or the Borough of Dún Laoghaire quite a different situation obtains. As the Minister says, these matters can be considered at leisure but I thought it right to introduce that cautionary note so that when these matters are being considered that aspect of the problem will be borne in mind.

In Section, 1 there is a correction I should like to make. The word "repayment" in lines 21 and 22 should read "payment." I move that the section be amended accordingly.

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

There is a detail here on which I should like to hear the Minister's comment. It is provided:

Where a concert hall, theatre or opera house is provided under this Act by the corporation of a county borough—

(a) it, or any part of it, may be used for the following purposes:

(i) concerts, stage plays, operas or other entertainments,

(ii) public or other meetings,

Are we to assume this places a statutory obligation on the local authority to make it available for all public meetings or is the local authority to determine which public meeting may or may not be held in this hall?

If the local authority builds the hall its control rests completely with the local authority. If, on the other hand, they make a grant to some body or other in order to help them to build such a structure its uses will be governed by an agreement which will have been entered into between the corporation and the body building the structure.

This is a very important point. Does that mean that the use of the hall must be confined to concerts, plays or operas?

It provides for "other entertainments, public or other meetings, lectures, exhibitions, general recreation or other similar social objects"

I think I heard the Minister say there is legislation to permit local authorities to provide assistance for the building of parish halls. Is that correct?

In the 1941 and 1955 Acts that is so.

I am expressing my own opinion only but there should be an understanding that these halls are confined to the use visualised in the Bill. It should be quite rigid on that point.

Would the Minister say what the hall may not be used for? Could it not be left to the local authority to decide about letting the hall?

In reply to Deputy Sherwin, it is difficult to answer positively or negatively the question as to the uses to which such a hall may be put. As regards his suggestion that it should be left to the local authority, by and large the discretion as to its use is being left to the local authority. Whether they run the hall themselves or in accordance with an agreement which they will make with the body to whom they make or have made a grant, the net effect is that the local authority will control its use.

Assuming the local authority assist some group to erect a hall will the hall then be jointly controlled by the group and the local authority?

There is provision here for an agreement to be entered into between the contributing corporation and the body building the hall which will govern its general uses over the period concerned.

Would it not be nearly true to say this hall can be used for any dramatic or social purpose other than a religious service?

Generally speaking, but I should not like to say it would be altogether so.

It would be a useful thing to provide: "other than a religious service".

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 and 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment.
Agreed to take remaining Stages to-day.
Bill received for final consideration, and passed.