Before the resumption of the debate on this Bill there appears to be a misunderstanding. Perhaps the House will allow me to explain something which may save a lot of trouble.
Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Bill, 1975: Second Stage (Resumed).
We have no objection but it is a pity the Minister did not do this in the course of his Second Reading speech.
I was not aware that people would misunderstand me so easily.
I do not want to get into an area of controversy but the Minister is responsible for the terms of legislation he puts before the House and if the terms of legislation mean what we think they say, in other words, that he is passing on or proposes to pass on to traffic wardens matters that would normally be the function of trained and qualified policemen.
That is cod. The Deputy's party agreed to a Bill which would do exactly that but we are not doing that.
We did not.
The Deputy should not be hypocritical. The Bill was approved the last day before the former government went to the country.
In that event, I will let the debate take its course and let this party explain what we think should be in the Bill.
The Minister can stuff that one.
We have on record where the Fianna Fáil Party stand in this regard.
We have heard too much of that type of comment.
This is an important piece of legislation and one that is long overdue. It extends the duties of traffic wardens and this is necessary, particularly when one considers the time taken up in courts by gardaí on minor traffic offences. It is necessary that we should have some streamlining in this area. The duties could be extended to ensure a free flow of traffic because I do not see why it is necessary for a guard to be on traffic duty. The duties of the traffic warden could be extended so that he could control the flow of traffic through our cities.
We all realise that parking is a big problem. I have come across quite a lot of cases in the city where large lorries park in the inner city residential areas and because there is no prohibition on this sort of parking they cause great annoyance and concern to the residents in those areas. We are encouraging people to live within the city centre but that is not much use when those lorries are allowed to park right outside a house. Many of the houses have no front gardens so we can understand the problem the lorries are causing. Some law should be passed whereby only private motorists living in those areas could park there and heavy lorries would only be allowed park in certain designated areas.
Parking meters are very essential in the city areas but people living in those areas have no parking facilities. We should have some legislation to give people living in the central city area parking facilities beside their homes. This could be done by a special permit or a special disc for them indicating that this is residential parking. It is wrong not to provide parking facilities for people living in those areas. People are being forced to live outside the city area. We want to encourage them to come back.
A great hazard is caused by large trucks parking on road bends and at parts of roads which do not have adequate lighting. This is very dangerous. We should look at the whole question of parking facilities for heavy transport coming into the city, which is likely to increase in the future. There should be designated areas for those heavy lorries and they should only be permitted to park in them. This would eliminate the problem of accidents. We all know of cases of cars running into the backs of trucks which are either badly lit or are without any lights at all.
Has the traffic warden the right to stop cars and have them checked for tax discs? When he is walking around and notices a car without a tax disc or one out of date, does he just take the number and have a summons issued later? Does he check for insurance? It does not seem to be in the Bill but if he is checking the tax discs I suggest that the person should be asked to produce his tax disc and insurance certificate to the local Garda station. A tax disc could be missing and the driver might not be aware of it. It would be much better to ask him to produce the relevant proof at the Garda station rather than have the matter as it is in the Bill.
We will have to expand the traffic warden staff and we will have to look at an adequate training programme for them. If we are giving them new responsibilities it is desirable to ensure that they are trained in courtesy and dealing with the public. The traffic warden should be given a basic training in the law, particularly in regard to the responsibilities he caries so that whatever he does is within his terms of reference. We should ensure that he does not overstep his authority.
I welcome this Bill. It is important to give traffic wardens maximum responsibility. They will do a much better job as a result and the traffic will flow more freely. This should relieve the Garda of quite a lot of work in relation to traffic so that they can spend more time on crime prevention and law enforcement.
The leader of the Fianna Fáil Party this morning, when told by the Minister for Local Government that this was effectively legislation which was on the stocks before Fianna Fáil went out of office, made the point that each Government must stand over their own legislation. When we were in Government and I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach I did not notice any legislation of this kind before the Government. While I do not suggest that the Minister for Local Government is attempting to mislead the House those of us who were not acquainted of that legislation pre-Coalition Government days should not now have it wrapped around our necks that it was Fianna Fáil legislation. It is the legislation of this Government and they must stand over it. We totally disagree with this legislation in relation to a number of areas which are of great concern in relation to the role of our Garda.
The Government must accept responsibility for this legislation. I am sure when the Minister for Local Government is replying he will tell us if the Government, he and the Minister for Justice, have had consultations with the various Garda representative bodies. Let us be clear that we are not being critical of the personalities of the wardens or questioning their integrity. These are people who are employed to do a particular job and they have been doing it within their terms of reference.
What we are concerned about is the role of the Garda Síochána and the erosion of their responsibilities by an untrained force of men called traffic wardens. At the moment traffic wardens affix a ticket to a car windscreen. The fine may be paid to the Garda Síochána and this is processed through an office presided over by a sergeant of the Garda Síochána. To date the traffic wardens have been under the control of the Garda Síochána, and that is the way we on this side of the House would like to see it continuing, but after the message of this Bill the situation will become different.
On the matter of consultation, which we say did not take place with the Garda Síochána Representative Bodies before the introduction of this Bill, it is as well to remember what has been said in the past by a number of Ministers but more particularly by the Minister for Justice in theGarda Review of October, 1973. On the Garda role the Minister for Justice, Deputy Cooney, stated that he would at all times be in the fullest consultation with the Garda Síochána. Here is one case where the Government were not in full consultation with the Garda Síochána. This belies the socalled open Government about which we hear from time to time. This Government are as open as they want to be, and if there are any secrets to be kept they will keep them as best they can, but again the Minister for Justice is inclined to give away Cabinet secrets and do away with the whole concept of Cabinet collective responsibility.
However, in regard to open Government and non-consultation with the Garda Síochána in the context of this Bill, it is interesting to note that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is conducting a public debate with the RTE Authority, and the Minister's own party have given lip service to the whole concept of industrial democracy. Surely, in the light of that background and thinking, the Garda Síochána, who enjoy the highest respect and confidence of the community, should be consulted on a Bill of this nature, a Bill which is eroding further their responsibilities in relation to law enforcement.
It is not my intention to engage in inflammatory language or the langguage of the demagogue, but one can understand the feelings of the Garda Síochána in relation to this legislation. I am presuming they are annoyed at the erosion of their authority as regards law enforcement. This Bill, for the first time, gives legitimacy to doubts about the Government's attitude on the role of the Garda Síochána in relation to the citizen. The garda is a highly trained and skilled person when he takes up duty for the first time. He has had an extensive course of training in crime detection and in public relations with the ordinary citizen. He has behind him all the training and discipline of a respected force.
So much for the garda and the manner in which he is educated to confront the citizenry. Then there are the traffic wardens who as I say, without being critical of them personally, are as I understand it, in the case of the Dublin city area, brought to the Mansion House for three or four days under the control of a sergeant of the Garda Síochána. They are given a short course in how to perform the 11 functions which are now within their competence. These 11 functions are under traffic control regulations, and I shall deal with those functions later on. This group of people are not trained to deal with the citizenry, and let us be fair about it: the motoring population are probably one of the most harassed groups of people in the country. Only a short time ago the price of petrol was increased out of all proportion, and we are informed this morning we are going to have a mini-budget. Are we certain that within that mini-budget on Thursday week the road tax will not be doubled, as has been suggested?
Now what the traffic wardens are being instructed to do is to take the names and addresses of citizens who can be fined £20 if they refuse to give this information to this untrained body of people. Worse still, in our view, is that the Bill intends to take the control of the traffic wardens from the Garda Síochána and give it to the local authority. The local authority will now perform the functions of the Garda Síochána in relation to traffic offences and offences related thereto.
That is an appalling concept. If the road traffic laws in a local authority like Dún Laoighaire are to be applied in this way, what happens— possibly this is only theory—if a traffic warden and a garda approach the same car whose owner has not got his tax disc displayed? Who takes precedence in that case, the garda or the traffic warden? I would not suggest there would be a public row between the two, but there is the possibility at least of confusion in such an instance. The traffic warden could tell the garda: "I am working for the local authority. You have nothing to do with me". The garda might say: "I am a member of the constitutionally established law enforcement agency. It is my function".
There could be confusion and doubt and an undermining of the properly constituted law enforcement agency. The traffic warden is now being given power to take the names and addresses of persons to be prosecuted and this is another direct intervention into the citizen-garda relationship. The citizen does not consider it a hardship to give his name and address to the Garda Síochána. He has been trained to realise that the Garda Síochána are entitled to have that information and that if he refuses to do so he could be arrested. According to the Bill, the warden will be entitled to seek the information and if it is refused by the citizen he is then liable to a fine under section 6:
(1) The Minister may make regulations prescribing any matter or thing referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed.
(2) Every regulation made under this Act shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by either such House within the next twenty-one days on which that House has sat after the regulation is laid before it, the regulation shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.
This is a very serious new departure from the functions, as we see them, of the Garda Síochána.
One wonders whether local authorities have a full ready-made type of operation available to them as is available in a Garda station in relation to the provisions of this Bill. The law officer in each local authority area will be responsible for the enforcement of the Act. The law officer in the local authority area of Dún Laoghaire is an extremely able man of great integrity. Is it fair to him to add extra burdens to his already over-burdened position?
In addition to extra traffic wardens, local authorities will need extra staff to operate the Act as envisaged here and that is another cause for serious concern. The Minister has not told us how many new traffic wardens will be employed and, if the circle is to be completed, how many extra ancillary staff will be needed throughout the country to administer the new traffic system. The most serious aspect of it—I would re-echo what Deputy Faulkner has said in this respect—is that until such time as the Bill is explained fully to us we will have to put our own interpretations on its effects and these will hold good until they are disproved. For instance, we can put our interpretation on section 3 (1), and it is a fair enough interpretation until it is dislodged by the Minister. The subsection states:
This section applies to such of the following offences as may be declared by the Minister by regulations made after consultation with the Minister for Justice, to be offences to which this section applies, namely, any offence under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973 and the offence under regulations made under the Roads Act, 1920, of not attaching to and carrying on a vehicle in the manner prescribed by those regulations a licence in respect of the vehicle issued under that Act.
I accept that before any of these regulations in relation to any offence under the road traffic code are implemented they have to be laid before the House and must remain there for 21 sitting days and then they become a matter of law if they have not been challenged. We all know about these regulations and I often feel there should be another method through which the existence of such regulations would be brought to the attention of the House. Effectively, the laying of regulations before the House means that they are placed in the Oireachtas Library and this method gives me the impression of legislation by stealth. I know our Government did it but the present Government do it far more often than any other Government in the past.
In the meantime, the more serious aspect of section 3 (1) is that any offence under the Road Traffic Acts can be handed over to the jurisdiction of the traffic wardens. We may have some doubts about the validity of that interpretation of the subsection but it must remain until the Minister tells us otherwise.
It would be interesting to take that concept a little further. If the Road Traffic Acts apply to such things as non-display of tax discs, the legislation also relates to drunken driving, dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm, dangerous drivingper se, careless driving, driving without due care and attention and all the rest of it. It applies to driving a defective vehicle and all the umbrella offences that come under that category. That being so, can we see the day when the duties of traffic wardens will apply in these areas? Will traffic wardens be allowed to deal with these extremely serious offences? Will they be allowed to apply the law in regard to these offences? Section 3 appears to have that meaning.
In relation to this matter, the 15th Interim Report of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure discusses the whole matter of on-the-spot fines. It is a continuation of their 5th Report and they were asked to deal specifically with on-the-spot fines. It is a very interesting discussion on the whole morality of on-the-spot fines and paragraph 7 of that report sets out the guidelines as follows:
In general, we are of opinion that offences which could be suitably disposed of under the "On-the-Spot Fines" system would be summary offences in respect of which:
(a) there is no appreciable degree of moral culpability,
(b) a small fixed penalty would be appropriate, and
(c) there would be little occasion for controversy as the offence committed would be visually apparent
That is an extremely important phrase—"that the offence committed would be visually apparent". The committee then discussed the matter further at paragraph 8:
Applying the guidelines mentioned in the previous paragraph we are of opinion that the most suitable type of additional offences which could be dealt with under the system are those relating to:
(1) Construction, equipment and use of mechanically propelled vehicles (under the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations, 1963, as amended);
(2) Lighting of mechanically propelled vehicles (under the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations, 1963, as amended);
(3) Driving mechanically propelled vehicle at speed....
(4) Failure to display tax disc on mechanically propelled vehicle (under the Road Act, 1920, section 5 (6) and the Registration and Licensing Regulations, 1958 and 1962);
Effectively, this Bill is uplifting one aspect of this interim report and making law of what the report suggested.
(5) Allowing identification mark on a mechanically propelled vehicle to become not easily distinguishable (under the Road Act, 1920 section 6);
There are other very interesting on-the-spot fines suggested:
(6) Having wireless set or television set without holding a broadcasting receiving licence...;
(7) Failure of keeper of dog to pay dog duty...;
(8) Street trading... without a street-traders' certificate granted by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána (under the Street Trading Act, 1926);
(9) Stall-trading without a street-trader's licence granted by Dublin Corporation...;
(10) Depositing litter on street (under local bye-laws);
(11) Failure to make an annual return to registrar of companies (under the Companies Act, 1963, sections 125, 126, 127 and 128);
(12) Failure to make an annual return to the Registrar of Friendly Societies...; and
(13) Food Hygiene Regulations, 1950.
The members of the committee stated that on-the-spot fines should be extended to those offences. The committee were silent about who would administer the on-the-spot fines. Traffic wardens will not administer the food hygiene regulations. Will they administer on-the-spot fines for depositing litter on the street, for street trading or the failure to make an annual return to the registrar of companies?
That brings us to another argument which has some validity and flies in the face of the philosophy contained in this Bill. Should we have a specialised force—and this is a most important phrase—under the control of the Garda Síochána to deal with much of what has been suggested by that committee? Should this specialised force be members of the Garda Síochána specially trained to deal with this aspect of law enforcement? Should they be in addition to the existing force of the Garda Síochána? In my view, this is a matter for public debate. I hope when Government speakers are replying they will realise that the Opposition were serious about a public debate on this subject and answer these questions: should traffic wardens be members of the Garda Síochána? Should they be given a lesser type course than that given to the garda going on the beat for the first time? We are not suggesting that this should happen but we are opening a debate on the subject. These are relevant arguments which can be dismissed or accepted, as the case may be.
I realise that I have strayed from the principles of the Bill to some degree but my point in bringing up the 15th Interim Report of the Committee of Court Practice and Procedure was to refer specifically to paragraphs 8 (1) and 8 (4). It was very interesting to note that there was a dissenting voice from a member of the committee to the totality of paragraph 8. The dissenting voice is a respected member of the judiciary—High Court Judge John Kenny. On the 23rd July, 1971, in a note of dissent by Mr. Justice Kenny on paragraph 8 (1), dealing with the construction, equipment and use of mechanically propelled vehicles under the various Road Traffic Regulations, as amended, he said:
I do not agree with the recommendation in paragraph 8 (1) that the "On-the-Spot Fines" system should be applied to offences in connection with mechanical or other defects in motor vehicles. I think that a person who drives a motor car which he knows has a mechanical defect or smooth tyres or bad brakes, commits an offence which involves a high degree of moral culpability. There is little difference in moral blame between the offences of driving when drunk and of using a motor car which is known to be defective. I do not agree that a small penalty is appropriate for such a crime and I am convinced that the nominal penalties (10p for each defective tyre) which are imposed in some District Court areas for offences of this type have led to the view that they are trivial.
The application of the "On-the-Spot Fines" system to these offences will confirm the view that they are not grave. I find it difficult to believe that anyone can think that a fine of £2 is appropriate for a case where a person drives a car with brakes or tyres which he knows are defective.
The number of serious accidents will contiune to increase unless we take effective steps to punish those who drive defective vehicles. I hope that the next Act amending the Road Traffic code will provide for a mandatory disqualification from driving of one year at least when a person is convicted of driving a defective vehicle.
I do not fully subscribe to the views expressed by the judge in relation to the actual punishment of the driving of a defective vehicle although I accept that driving a defective vehicle is a very serious matter. Whether one should go as far as he is urged by Mr. Justice Kenny is a matter for another day's debate. Mr. Justice Kenny's submission is of very high relevance to what we are discussing here. If this Bill is dealing, as we are being led to understand by the Minister, with tax discs and the shifting of the functions of the traffic wardens to the local authorities—and Mr. Justice Kenny considers that defective vehicles are the same as a drunken man driving a car—it would appear that at some future time, by regulation, for any offence under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973, road traffic wardens can be given power to examine vehicles for defects, and so on. According to Mr. Justice Kenny, this is a matter of high moral culpability. If we are serious about law enforcement are we to hand over this area of law enforcement to untrained people?
Of course we are not, and Deputy Andrews knows we are not.
The Minister has now suggested that is not the position. We have grave doubts about that suggestion. I urge my colleagues to take note of the dangers in section 3 which provides:
(1) This section applies to such of the following offences as may be declared by the Minister by regulations made after consultation with the Minister for Justice, to be offences to which this section applies, namely, any offence under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973, and the offence under regulations made under the Roads Act, 1920, of not attaching to and carrying on a vehicle in the manner prescribed by those regulations a licence in respect of the vehicle issued under that Act.
(2) Where a traffic warden has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is committing or has committed an offence to which this section applies, he may deliver to the person a notice in the prescribed form stating...
and so on. This is in compliance with section 103 of the Road Traffic Act, as we understand it.
We are concerned that this Bill might extend the functions of the road traffic wardens. If the Bill deals specifically with the non-display of road tax discs, there is no reason why the traffic wardens should not operate that regulation and why they should not bring to the attention of the authorities the fact that people are not displaying them, or have not paid their road tax. We have absolutely no objection to that. We object to law enforcement being taken away from the Garda and handed over to the local authorities. I do not wish to underrate the functions of the local authorities but the principle is there, the principle of shifting law enforcement away from the Garda. This is a small erosion, but it is a beginning. We see it as a dangerous beginning in shifting the functions of law enforcement from the Garda to an untrained and, perhaps, an undisciplined group of men and women. That is the principle we see being eroded in this Bill.
If the traffic wardens are to be given the authority to enforce the road traffic regulations under the guise of a minipolice force, can traffic wardens join trade unions? This is the logic of the argument. If traffic wardens are to be given the same powers and functions as the Garda in relation to this type of law enforcement, can the Garda ask the Minister for Justice if they can join trade unions? Over the years the Garda have shown themselves to be disciplined and dedicated and loyal to the nation. They have not been found wanting in that respect. As we understand it, the Garda think that if a Bill of this nature is to be introduced into Dáil Éireann they should be consulted about it. They have a legitimate complaint if they are not consulted about it and they must find some machinery under which they would be consulted automatically. Were the traffic wardens or their representatives consulted? Were they told they were to be given these additional functions? Were the Garda told either separately or with the traffic wardens that these functions were being handed over to the traffic wardens? These questions must be answered.
At the moment a group of management consultants are examining the role and the functions of the Garda. We urge that those people who will be engaged in the administration of this legislation should be consulted. This should be enshrined in the report of the management consultants to their superiors and to the Minister for Justice. If a function of a Dáil Deputy were to be given to a county councillor, I am sure Dáil Deputies would take great exception to not being consulted about it. That would appear to be the situation here.
The following are 11 parking offences: Standing a service vehicle for hire at a place which is not an appointed stand, failing to bring an omnibus wholly within road markings and stopping place or stand, parking a vehicle wholly or partly within roadway markings at an omnibus stopping place or stand, parking a vehicle in a place prohibited, parking a vehicle at a time prohibited, parking a vehicle for a time prohibited, parking a vehicle in a manner prohibited, parking a vehicle in a parking place in which parking is subject to the payment of fees without paying the specified fee, parking a vehicle in a parking place in which parking is subject to the payment of fees without paying the specified fees (a) at the time and (b) in the manner specified, parking a vehicle other than a vehicle of a specified class, and stopping a vehicle on a clearway.
These effectively are the functions which the traffic wardens fulfil at present under the control of the Garda Síochána in that the Garda administer the fines. We are being asked to give additional powers to this group of individuals who were set up to fulfil a particular function, the enforcement of parking laws. We accept responsibility for setting up the traffic warden service but we do not want to give them responsibility for carrying out functions of the Garda. This Bill introduces that concept and effectively erodes the functions of the Garda Síochána in the area of law enforcement.
The motorist, apart from not being provided with proper streets in which to do his business and get from A to B, particularly in Dublin, in the shortest possible time will now be subjected to the attention of untrained individuals who can confront him and ask for his name and address. If this Bill becomes law, as it will, having regard to the numerical strength of the Coalition, would the Minister, when replying, give some undertaking that traffic wardens will be given extra training courses? The citizens are entitled to an assurance that the people who confront them are people who know how to deal with them. This is not unreasonable and I am sure the Minister will give it reasonable consideration.
These are our basic arguments against the Bill. The Minister did not make clear the effects of section 3 (1) and we are rightly concerned about this section. The Minister may say that the Garda have many other functions to carry out but the additional powers given to these traffic wardens is a matter of concern. The local authority are now taking over the administration of road traffic offences in relation to the 11 I have desribed and the one outlined here and any additional ones the Minister may care to make from time to time by regulation. The most worrying feature of this Bill is that in respect of any offence under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973, power may be given to the road traffic wardens, by regulation, under section 3 (1). The Minister has suggested that is not the situation and if he can prove that we will accept it and concede that our suggestions are not correct.
The Opposition spokesman on Local Government, Deputy Faulkner, applies his mind assiduously to anything he does and having read this section and applied his mind to it, he is entitled to interpret it reasonably and responsibly. In his opening speech he interpreted the section as he saw it and, indeed, having applied my own mind to it, I agree with his interpretation of it. We accept that regulations must be introduced but, as we understand it, any offence against the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973, may be handed over to the traffic wardens, an appalling concept which effectively does away with the jurisdiction of the Garda Síochána in regard to some very serious offences under that code.
If the section does not have the effect we say it has would the Minister consider putting the section into comprehensible language which does not give the impression it gives at present? The House is entitled to have comprehensible legislation. If the Minister says the section does not have the effect we think it has, it is not our fault when we read the section as it stands. It is absolutely reasonable that the spokesman on Local Government should read the section as he has presented it and it would be unreasonable of the Minister to adopt an aggresive attitude about it. If we are incorrect in this case, we shall be the first to admit it and I hope that the Minister will accept our interpretation is madebona fide in the absence of the service available to the Minister and that we are entitled to voice our interpretation in a responsible manner.
Another aspect of the Bill has not yet been mentioned and might be mentioned now. I understand the local authorities will now administer the fines taken up under this Bill. One can only speculate in the absence of any relevant information. Probably I should have the information readily available to me but I have not. The traffic wardens will be paid by the local authorities. But if, say, there is a corps of 20, 30 or 40 traffic wardens in an area in which all the citizens are law abiding in the context of the road traffic code so that there are no moneys accruing to the local authorities as a result of fines for traffic offences, would the local authority use moneys collected by way of rates to pay traffic wardens? If so, will there be a further increase in the penal taxation of rates paid by urban, suburban and rural dwellers? Can we expect there to come a day when the traffic wardens will become a burden on the rates? Section 8 tells us that with the consent of the Minister for Finance, the Minister may make grants towards the expenses under this Act of a local authority.
Therefore, in the final analysis, the administration of the Act will lie with the Department of Local Government. We are told in section 9 that:
The expenses incurred by the Minister in the administration of this Act shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.
These are preliminary observations on the Bill. In the light of the Minister's replies to the questions raised we shall have to consider whether to table a number of amendments for Committee Stage. I have the authority of our spokesman on Local Government to say this. We have considered the Bill seriously and await the Minister's reply to the Second Stage debate.
I have listened with interest to Deputy Andrew's contribution and I agree with him in his old-fashioned liberal approach, the suspicious approach, to anything which looks like an unnecessary extension of policing in a society which has all too good reason to fear any such extension, particularly when considering the experience of other countries. I agree that the conferring of police powers or, something in the nature of police powers, on relatively untrained people, would not be desirable. I agree also that the more serious the offence the less desirable that that should happen. However, I would draw attention to the fact that only a very arbitrary line separates, in many fields, the work done now by the Garda and the work done by a variety of other people. In this country, as well as in others, the task of law enforcement must be carried out by people, not all of whom are part of the regular police force. Otherwise, no country would be able to sustain a police force big enough to do all the necessary jobs.
It was different a couple of hundred years ago when the State did not take on itself more than the most limited tasks, such as the repression of serious crime, and when it relied on savagery of sentence in order to deter crime rather than the efficiency of prosecution by police officials. In those times it was all right to rely on an almost skeleton staff of local constables backed up now and then by, possibly, a posse. The sheer size of functions is so great now that to have them conducted entirely by the police force would require a force of dimensions that would not be practicable or desirable.
Within the past few moments I have thought of a number of areas in which law enforcement is carried out by bodies other than the regular police force. For example, we have had school attendance officers since the twenties. There are price inspectors under the orders of the Department of Industry and Commerce. There are health inspectors who have amazingly wide powers, who can batter down a door and invade a premises without the permission of the owner merely to ascertain whether there has been committed inside an offence against sanitary standards. However, these people can eventually require the assistance of the Garda. There are people, too, who are employed by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs for the purpose of enforcing the law regarding television licences. There are people employed by boards of fishery conservators in order to prevent poaching and there are customs officials at whose instance enormous fines can be imposed. A striking example in this regard is the protection of our maritime fisheries. The law which prohibits fishing by non-nationals in Irish territorial waters is not enforced by the Garda. They could not assume this function without having a marine or naval service so the law is enforced by sailors. On foot of what these sailors say, enormous fines can be imposed by the court and gear and catches can be confiscated.
Therefore, there is already in existence a positive army of people in all walks of life who are enforcing the law in matters immeasurably more serious than the non-displaying of a tax disc or parking in an incorrect position on the roadway. Therefore, I do not want anyone inside or outside of this House to go racing around in alarm at Deputy Andrews's words. We are not creating extraordinary additional powers with constitutional dimensions which must terrorise the decent liberal conscience. The intention here is to confer a relatively minor additional function on an organised body of men already in existence.
The point of view articulated by Deputy Andrews and possibly by others is essentially that all law which can end in a penalty ought to be enforced by the police. That might have been fair enough once upon a time in a relatively settled era—for example, in the years 1910 or 1950— and I am taking these two years arbitrarily because they were fairly settled years in the unhappy history of this country. It was all very well for the constable in 1910 or the garda in 1950 to spend his morning peddling out to see if a farmer had a licence for a bull, to see if he had cut thistle, ragwort and dock which had been growing in his fields, or to spend his time issuing prosecutions for not having dog licences. Those days are gone and they will not return until quite different political conditions, such as we have not experienced for the last six or seven years, return. We are now in a situation where all you have to do is to go into the Library and look at the newspaper file of the last week. We are now in a situation where a funeral requires an escort of hundreds of gardaí and where at commemorations an escort is required not only of hundreds of gardaí but also of soldiers. These are not the conditions in which it is reasonable to ask the gardaí, the ordinary police force, to spend their time worrying about tax discs or parking meters.
I picked up this morning's Order Paper when I was having breakfast and looked through it, as is my habit, and I just happened to notice—it came back to me when I heard Deputy Andrews's speech—a whole raft of questions down to the Minister for Justice and I take the liberty now of reading to the House Questions Nos. 55, 56 and 57 of today's Order Paper.
55. To ask the Minister for Justice if, in view of the recent spate of robberies in the Minane Bridge, Nohoval and Belgooley areas of County Cork, he is taking steps to strengthen the Garda force in the area.—Deputy Gene Fitzgerald.
56. To ask the Minister for Justice if he will consider increasing the strength of the Garda force in the village of Dromahair, County Leitrim where there is now a sergeant and one garda.—Deputy Joe McLaughlin.
57. To ask the Minister for Justice if he has any plans for an increase in the number of gardaí stationed in Malahide, County Dublin.—Deputy Raphael P. Burke.
This situation reflected by these questions and others is that Garda stations up and down the country are stripped. We know why they are stripped. We are not debating the political issues behind the necessity for stripping them but every day this House sits and the Minister for Justice is called on to answer questions he has to answer questions bearing on this very matter: why can the gardaí not do this, that and the other? Earlier on on today's Order Paper there are questions as to why there are not more speeding prosecutions. I have to write to the gardaí in my constituency occasionally, and let me acknowledge here that I have had the most absolute and unfailing courtesy and consideration from them, to ask them to do the impossible, to deal simultaneously, a small Garda force, and small because its members are engaged in dealing with subversion, with problems created by the itinerants, by speeding cars, by rioting teenagers after dances. The situation is impossible. It simply cannot be done. The gardaí make a valiant attempt to do it, and everybody honours them for it, but the kind of problems which are met nowadays which the Garda have to deal with are beyond the physical powers of a body of some 6,000 men. It just cannot be done and it never could be done since the State took on in the disturbed political conditions of the last few years the range of duties it has now assumed. Enforcing television licence fees, enforcing vice regulations, enforcing sanitary regulations, enforcing fishery regulations, and so forth, these things have had to be confided, may I say, to a positive army of other people. That is not a new story. It is an old, old story and I am perfectly certain Deputy Andrews would acknowledge this if he were here. I say all this merely to warn the House and anybody who may have been listening to him not to get this thing out of proportion and not to assume we are speaking here of some new, amazing encroachment on the citizens' liberties which requires condemnation or unfavourable scrutiny. Everything requires scrutiny here but what is happening here is a very, very trivial thing compared with the extensions of the law enforcement powers of people who are not policemen over the last 50 or 60 years.
The only other thing I want to say arises from the criticisms of Deputy Andrews and, I think, of Deputy Faulkner on the phraseology of section 3 (1). If I understand their argument it is to the effect that the way in which the subsection is phrased makes it possible for traffic wardens to be employed in the tracking down of even the most serious offences under the Road Traffic Act, 1961, such as dangerous driving causing death, driving under the influence of drink or under the influence of drugs. I must admit—I make a present of this to the Opposition—I certainly would not be happy to see people who were not very specially trained given such wide functions and I presume that is the reason why the powers are not being conferred in a blanket way and why the Minister for Local Government must consult with the Minister for Justice before making any such regulation.
The Opposition would be quite right not to let us get away with an assurance which is not to be seen anywhere in the Bill and I take it the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Local Government will not confer, except in conditions of desperate emergency, the enforcement of the laws against serious traffic offences under the 1961 Act on relatively untrained men. I take it no Minister for Justice and no Minister for Local Government would be so unreasonable. It may be that that is not the intention. It may be that, when this Bill leaves this House, the subsection will be differently phrased. I hope I shall not be misinterpreted now when I say that, against the background of what I have been saying, there are quite serious offences, such as customs offences and so on, which are tracked down by people who are not policemen; they are trained in their own particular branch. I do not see any reason of what I call principle— I can see incidental reasons of desirability to the effect that we cannot allow an elderly man, for instance, who is not sufficiently trained to track down very serious traffic offences; I can see that argument quite well but I cannot see, in principle, why anyone who is not a fully fledged member of the Garda Síochána should not be given some function in the matter of tracking down and bringing to justice even the more serious traffic offences. I hope I am not horrifying anyone in saying this and I think that is not the intention of the subsection.
The Parliamentary Secretary will accept it can be done. The interpretation I put on it, as it stands, is correct.
I know what the Deputy means and I believe the court, when called on to decide the validity of a regulation which conferred, as the section stands, power on a traffic warden to initiate a prosecution for drunken driving would have to look at the section as a whole and would have to say that it is quite clear that any offence of this kind was not intended. I do not mean to deliver a lecture to Deputy Faulkner who is perfectly right to take the layman's approach to this Bill because it is laymen it will affect but a court interpreting any section of the Bill will look at it in the context of the whole and a court asked to say a prosecution for drunken driving could be initiated as the Bill stands by a traffic warden would look down the section, would be invited to do so by counsel, and would look beyond subsection (3) and find reference to the fixing to a vehicle of a notice in the prescribed form. That clearly could not be the intention of the Legislature and neither is it our intention in regard to a prosecution of this kind.
The only way to initiate a drunken driving prosecution is by going straight to the man not the vehicle. It seems to be clear from the phrase to which I have adverted that the offences, which this section envisages, are offences which are absolutely evident and visible on the face of a stationary vehicle. I do not want to prejudge what the Minister may say but it might be desirable if that were said more clearly. It seems to me looking at the section as a whole, that it could not be reasonably taken and would not be taken by a court as empowering those two Ministers, as the section stands, to bring drunken driving within the purview of the traffic warden.
There is one very small point, which may be only a drafting point, which I would like the Minister to look at. I see that in subsection (2), clause (b) of section 3 there is a reference to a prescribed amount but I do not see, unless it may be in some other Act, any reference to who is to prescribe the amount or how the amount is to be prescribed. I see a reference at the top of the subsection to a notice in the prescribed form.
It is in section 1.
I had not read the first section carefully enough. The apprehensions of Deputy Faulkner and other Opposition Deputies are really baseless, even as the section stands, although in principal I would not be against conferring power on persons other than members of the Garda to prosecute a range of offences which at the moment fall within the exclusive purview of the Garda.
They have got a wide range of powers which could not be anticipated from the Bill.
Section 2 makes it quite clear that it is only parking. If Deputy Faulkner reads the section he will find that is all it includes.
We have had so many restrictive measures introduced on road users that I often wonder if we are committed to a punitive campaign against road users in general as a cover up for-our failure to effect a proper facilities for road users. While it may be most difficult for any Government to provide this perfect road code and provide all the things necessary for it, we are dealing rather harshly with road users in general and car owners in particular.
I will deal with the matter in the context of Dublin because that is the area I know most about. There would be less need for traffic wardens if we could provide sufficient parking space. We should not blind ourselves to the fact that we are rather unjust to motorists. Rumours last week suggested that the Government may double road tax on cars. We probably will know that on Thursday week. We had a punitive imposition on petrol at the end of last year. I regard the new measures as a type of cover-up for our failure to provide proper throughfares, proper roadways and access roads so that we can have some type of civilised road pattern.
I have nothing whatever against traffic wardens. They do a good job but I fear any extension of police powers to traffic wardens when such people have not been trained for this. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that various posts, such as health inspectors, had a kind of police duty. He also mentioned other areas. He made a very good case for the employment or more gardaí. An Opposition should be vigilant and ensure that we do not lightly pass legislation which will confer on generally untrained people powers which are required for a very well trained police force. It is the duty of an Opposition in a democracy to watch such measures as this and ensure we do not wake up some morning and find ourselves with an overdose of various degrees of police force.
The Garda, as everybody will agree, since their inception have given a very good service to the community and their integrity is beyond doubt. The traffic wardens in the short time they have been here have also shown they can perform their limited duties in a very satisfactory manner. I want to see the division of power all the time, that the Garda are the police force appointed under the various Acts and that we hold them in respect and have trust in them to do their many duties, some of which are very dangerous nowadays. We should not suggest, as the Parliamentary Secretary did, that because of their numerous duties, we should take some duties from them and give them to a lesser force.
There is a section in the Bill which gives protection to traffic wardens and I agree with it. Some of our traffic wardens, both men and women, suffer violent abuse from some motorists because they are doing their duties. I mention that because I respect the status of traffic wardens but I will not agree to giving them the powers of gardaí. They were not recruited for that and they were never meant to have such powers. While the Minister may say the Bill is a replica of one the previous Government were preparing we do not accept that. I could never find myself agreeing to pass on the power envisaged in section 3 to any man or woman who gets a week's training and is turned loose on the streets. They do their work at the moment without fear or favour.
Does Deputy Moore think that wardens in Dublin only get one week's training?
I mean a short training.
A short training and a week's training are two different things.
How long is the training?
It is six weeks.
Does the Minister consider that is adequate? A garda gets six months' training.
Does the Minister not think he does? The Minister does not know how long he gets. I can see the doubt in the Minister's face that he does not know the length of training a garda gets.
The Deputy does not know how long a traffic warden employed by Dublin Corporation gets to train. The Deputy should have that information before he started to talk.
Does the Minister know how long a garda spends in training?
We are not talking about gardaí; we are talking about traffic wardens.
I will make my contribution in spite of the interruptions by the Minister. The Minister is extending the powers of the traffic wardens at a time when most people do not want that carried out. I should like to know what the attitude of the Garda is with regard to this. Have they been consulted? Will the Minister have it bulldozed through this House and then say to the Garda that they will have to take it whether they want it or not?
Some of the controls introduced in recent times on road users are necessary but all the controls are against the motorists. We have had no-parking signs, yellow lines, parking meters, traffic wardens and the towing away of cars. In my view this is a cover-up for a lack of progress in the design and provision of a proper road pattern so that road users, motorists and pedestrians, can be given the greatest degree of safety. This Bill should be withdrawn until the Government produce a road plan and a highway code. Otherwise we are papering over the cracks in the whole structure of transport.
This Bill will give extra powers to traffic wardens but we do not know whether it will be effective. If the powers in the Bill are so small I do not know whether it is worthwhile writing any regulations into it. Motorists are now suffering from what could be called "trafficitis". This applies to all our citizens because of the great increase in the volume of traffic using the roads which were constructed many years ago. I feel sorry for the old person who has to cross our thoroughfares and for the motorist, who, because of his business, must park within the precincts of this city. In a lot of cases the motorist must park a long way from his business and sometimes when he returns, he finds that his car has been tampered with and items in it stolen or damaged. We do not need an extension of the duties of the traffic wardens but an extension of the Garda and the provision of proper highways.
I am not suggesting that motorists are not to blame for a lot of their own troubles; they are in many respects and we are all inclined to bend the rules if we can. I should like to pay tribute to the traffic wardens who put tickets on all cars whether they are owned by Deputies or anybody else. They act fairly in this regard. I received tickets when I deserved them. I mention this to show that I am in no way prejudiced against traffic wardens. Indeed, I can claim some credit, with my colleagues in Dublin Corporation, for being the first to introduce the school warden service which has since spread throughout the country. It is wrong to impose on the traffic wardens the duties of gardaí which will leave these wardens open to more danger. The Minister should ensure that traffic wardens remain traffic wardens and that they will not have imposed upon them the responsibilities of gardaí when they have not been trained for that job. We are sending out men and women on to our streets and expecting them to be as efficient as a fully trained garda.
When these wardens accepted the job from the municipal and local authorities they understood that their job was to prevent the chaos on our streets but now their responsibilities are being extended and it is possible that in a few years their responsibilities will be extended further by another Bill. I agree that it is not easy to solve the traffic problem in our cities but it is not being helped by the latest menace on our roads, the juggernaut. These vehicles are parked after hours in residential areas. One man told me that even if he had to pay a fine for parking in a residential area it was a cheap way of getting protection for his vehicle during the night. While the people in those residential areas resented him parking there the fact that the crime rate was low in these areas meant that his truck was safe during the night.
The Minister would be better employed trying to sort that problem out than extending the powers and responsibilities of the traffic warden. This move may result in an imposition on the local rates because although the Minister may say that help may be given by the State to the running of this service he warns us that he would not be generous in this regard. We may have a situation where the Garda will be taken away from their duties and the ratepayers will have to pay for those who replace them, the traffic wardens. I understand that the traffic section of the Garda Síochána had the patrol cars which were at their disposal taken away from them. I serve on the traffic committee in this city and at each meeting we are given a lit of new prohibitions by the Garda. Some of them are necessary but this is happening every month. For this reason the duties of the traffic wardens will be increased monthly. In a short time, with the number of restrictions and the increased power of wardens, it will not be the best city for a motorist.
The Government are not facing up to the problem of traffic control and this measure will not do much to help in this regard. If the Minister feels it is a harmless Bill, I wonder why it was introduced.
It is not a harmless Bill; it would not be in the House if it was.
It is like the wealth tax which we were told was innocuous.
It all depends on how much money you have.
That was the word that was used. We can expect that this one is not innocuous. It may be annoying without being innocuous, but what we have to sort out is the question of giving traffic wardens the powers of a garda. That is what the whole Bill is about. We are in agreement with section 1 in so far as it gives protection to traffic wardens in doing their present job, but central and local government must face up to the fact that there is a great problem on the roads and that it can only be solved by a comprehensive policy of road and traffic control and not by expanding the powers of traffic wardens in this short Bill. I do not expect the Minister to perfect all our road systems by waving a magic wand, but he would be far better employed if we were studying how best to help the road user rather than how to punish him further.
I do not know if the traffic wardens have been consulted in this matter as to whether or not they will accept the new duties, or whether the Garda welcome this Bill. Those are two bodies that should have been consulted before the Bill was introduced. They may have been consulted, but from what I hear from individuals they do not agree with it.
We have reached the stage now of a somewhat Orwellian era when extra police powers are being given to people who have not been fully trained for them. The Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Kelly, stated that for a funeral 100 gardaí may be needed, or for a protest march perhaps many more. These are signs of the times we are living in. We do not deny that these problems exist, that the gardaí are having a tougher time now than ever they had, but I think we are wrong in what we are trying to do to help them out. Subsection (5) (b) of section 2 says:
A person who contravenes this subsection shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20.
One can think of some youngster just tearing the ticket off and, in accordance with the Bill, he could be fined £20. In regard to this Bill we are dividing ourselves into "them" versus "us", whereby if you drive a car or even ride a bicycle the Government or the State are watching you like big brother and will punish you severely for the least violation of the law. Therefore, we are increasing the number of people who have got police powers, and I think the Opposition in any parliament in a democracy would oppose this, I do not want to be taken as opposing the Bill because this Government brought it in. We realise the problem is complex, but it requires a different approach.
If a person drives while drunk or drives a defective vehicle he is guilty of an offence, but there should be a more flexible attitude towards violations of parking regulations. An ambulance going into a hospital may well be obstructed by a person who has parked his car there. Of course this is wrong, but the person who parks his car at the hospital may also be bringing a patient in there. We must consider the lack of parking space and try to adjudicate on the lines that every man who parks his car in the wrong place is not a criminal. Instead of giving the traffic warden police powers, what is needed is a goodwill campaign on the part of the Government which will encourage the motorist to be a good driver and encourage the cyclist or motor cyclist to be good road users. Such legislation as this can only create an atmosphere in which road users will view any new punitive measures as ones to be avoided, at best, or to be broken and held in contempt, at worst.
The Minister may amend the Bill— I do not know whether he will or not —so that the powers of the traffic warden will be maintained at their present level. I should like to see the traffic warden doing his duty, certainly. Many of them do use discretion, but we would destroy any hope of creating goodwill if a situation develops in which a traffic warden is there as a policeman. The Minister must realise that if we are not succeeding in curbing abuses on the road, if we are not reducing the numbers being killed or injured, at least in the city, there is another answer to it rather than simply bringing in new regulations and extending the powers towards penalising anyone who, even in a small way, breaks the law. We start off on a false premises if we think those people do not want to break the law, and we all agree that if a person breaks the law he must be punished. However, if the law is unjust one has qualms about punishing a person.
This Bill does not give us much of an assurance that death and injury will be driven from our roads. This morning the Minister said this Bill came from the last Government. This Government have been in office for two years and traffic trends have changed considerably in that time. Therefore, we should have a very much improved Bill. I do not know if traffic laws are more severe or less severe in other countries but in them they have greater traffic density because of greater population.
Our main priority is to make our roads safer for the people using them. Instead of handing traffic duties over completely to wardens we should be thinking on the lines of setting up a special traffic section of the Garda Síochána manned by specially trained officers with knowledge of the needs of road users and with expert training in traffic control. While the main Garda force would be dealing with crime prevention, the special corps I have in mind would deal exclusively with traffic matters. I would even go so far as to suggest that there would be officers with special engineering training so that they could advise on road construction.
We can think of the terrible slaughter in Northern Ireland in the last few years and compare that with the hundreds of people killed on our roads in the same period. I think we would find that a lot more people were killed on the roads. There is, therefore, a prior duty on the Government to try every means possible to reduce deaths and injuries from traffic accidents. We all know that it is impossible to prevent all accidents, but with better legislation and a special corps of the Garda Síochána to deal with traffic control much death and injury could be prevented.
This will not entail a cutting down of the police force. Rather should there be a general upgrading. Until we tackle traffic problems in that way we will not have a proper road pattern and death and injuries will continue on our roads. Since we entered Europe another problem has been added to our traffic control and road safety. We now see roll-on-roll-off containers leaving ferries at the docks, travelling to the four corners of the country and then returning to the ferries to go on to the continent. That is another reason why we must provide a new traffic police force.
I do not agree with the Minister that the Bill is aiming in the right direction. Instead of giving the Garda more power, we are taking some of their powers away from them by giving police powers to traffic wardens. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach pointed out the training required by health inspectors. His point was all wrong. It is agreed that they do long periods of training. So do weights inspectors, but those people do their work in private and the number of people affected by their activities is very small. On the other hand, traffic wardens deal with hundreds of people and thousands of cars per day. The Minister should look at the traffic warden service. In this city while one might get a meter and park the car, when one returns one cannot get out because somebody has double parked. The number of traffic wardens should be increased so that they could do the job for which they were recruited.
The Minister with his colleague, the Minister for Justice, might get together and bring forward a new road charter in which the traffic warden would have his place and the Garda would have prime place. With the co-operation of these two bodies and the goodwill of the road users, we could have a more civilised situation than we have at the moment. Hundreds of people are killed and thousands are maimed each year on our roads because some people break the law. Of course, in some cases these accidents may have occurred because of bad roads. There could be a hundred reasons why accidents happen.
The Minister is responsible for a very competent Department. This Bill is going the wrong way about bringing in an improvement in the traffic situation. Perhaps on the next Stage we will approach this Bill in a spirit of goodwill with the Minister amending it, especially section 3 which worries, not only the Opposition but the Garda and even, to a greater extent, the traffic wardens. Will the Minister tell us the attitude of the Garda and the traffic wardens to this Bill? We do not know. The Minister has the power to discuss these matters with those concerned. One may discuss it with an individual but that is not the same as the Department sounding out the attitudes of the various sections of the community which will be affected. If the Minister takes the trouble to find out what people think of section 3, he will discover that the majority oppose it.
Rightly or wrongly the motorist believes that he has been victimised on many occasions. Motorists took the last petrol increase very badly. They suspect any new move which will further penalise them. I do not suggest that if a motorist breaks the law he should get away with it. Nobody could stand for that. We will have to decide how effectively to punish the lawbreaker. What system will ensure a proper road traffic corps which is not out all the time to punish road users? It is in this spirit that this legislation should be introduced.
Something must be done about traffic in the city. The local authorities are doing a certain amount but in a piecemeal way. In my opinion all our road traffic legislation is piecemeal. When the Minister announced that he was bringing in the Road Traffic Bill I expected a comprehensive Bill which would remedy the defects in our present system. What are the weaknesses in our road traffic legislation? What should we do to perfect them? What must we do to make our roads safer? What must we do to show that we are not out to punish motorists? How can we prevent abuses of the present Bill? As the Minister can see, there is a lot still to be done by the Government and the motorist to make our roads safer. This should be our ambition: to reduce the injury and death tolls on our roads.
The Minister may say this is a simple Bill and not intended to cause a revolution. If so, why did he introduce it? There is a crying need for comprehensive legislation dealing with road usage. This Bill is not doing it. Perhaps when the Minister has another look at this Bill and has heard contributions from both sides of this House he might give us better legislation.
Heavy traffic passing through residential areas can be the cause of ill-health. This is a new feature of suburbia. People's nerves are shattered because of the heavy volume of traffic. I do not blame the Minister for the local scene. The local authorities must do their job, but the Minister has the power to override the local authority. He must set the headline for the new pattern in not alone road construction but in the policing of these roads.
Is it the duty of every Member of this House not merely to pay lip service to the cause of road service but to examine this legislation and say that we are not prepared to penalise motorists for parking in the wrong place or for any other minor infringement of the law. The number of people being brought to court for minor offences is increasing. Instead of increasing the number in the police force, we are going to water it down by saying that we do not consider these offences serious enough for gardaí to deal with them so we will let the traffic warden deal with them, even though he has not the same standing in the community as gardaí and will not have the confidence of the public.
I re-emphasise my earlier point. The Minister with his colleague, the Minister for Justice, should bring in a traffic corps within the Garda. The Garda and the traffic authority in any city should have greater powers than the local authority. The local authority may be second fiddle to the Garda in traffic matters. We are not quibbling at this. This being true the Minister, far from taking power from the Garda and handing it to another body, should be trying to find out how we could give the Garda better facilities and better resources to deal with the problems of road usage in general. If it were a small matter like breaking the law by parking in the wrong place, that could be dealt with very easily indeed. Behind this is the whole problem of what we can do to bring about some improvement in road conduct and road behaviour on the part of motorists. I do not suggest for a moment that all these people are blameless or that some people do not break the law deliberately. Some do. We should be studying why this happens and why so many people are killed on our roads today.
An Foras Forbartha are doing a very good job in this type of study. They can give the Department the benefit of their wisdom and knowledge in these matters. Having such knowledge at his disposal the Minister should get together with the Department of Justice to examine the problem which faces us. It is a dire problem. He should then come to the House and say: "Here is a new charter for the roads." In that charter should be enshrined the principle that the Garda are our only police force, that we are rather jealous of that and that we will not take away any powers from them.
The Minister may say that in this city we have the harbour police. They act only within the dock area. They have been in existence for many years and they have special duties. They have not got the powers of the Garda in many matters, and we have never sought them for them. These men who operate in the dock area have a very tough job, and it is not getting any easier. We did not give them the powers of the Garda. They have a more difficult task to perform than the traffic wardens and nobody has ever said they should be given greater powers. If it were suggested that the harbour police should be given greater powers, we would have to look at those proposals and see what powers they have and what extension, if any, should be considered for them.
We would examine any such proposals in the same way as we are examining this Bill, not because we want to oppose the Minister but because we think that, with the collective wisdom of the House and the resources outside, we should be able to draft legislation which will be for the betterment and the improvement of society in general in so far as it is affected by the pattern of road traffic or the pattern of road usage. There is no easy way out. There is no use in shutting our eyes and hoping the problem will go away because when we open them again it will still be there.
I suggest that the Minister should have a new look at the powers of the Garda and, if their members are too low to enable them to perform their duties to the fullest extent, more men and women should be recruited instead of trying to syphon off some of their duties to a lesser force who are not ready to take on the task. When the Minister is replying I should like him to tell us what is the attitude of the traffic wardens and what is the attitude of the Garda to this Bill. Will he spell out for us whether there will be any imposition on the local rates to finance this extension of the powers of the traffic wardens? They have done a good job in so far as the job they were given to do is being done well. I do not want to see any extension of this power. If they have not got the full powers which the Minister wishes them to have, instead of giving them police powers he should create a traffic corps within the Garda. This corps could very well be made a distinctive arm of the Garda. The attitude should be that the traffic corps are there to help the people and not merely to punish them.
The Minister would be repaid by receiving the fullest co-operation of the people once they knew he was trying hard not to put through some punitive measures but to put through a measure which would help all road users. This cannot be done by taking some powers from the Garda and giving them to people who, while they may be the best in the world as traffic wardens, are not trained for police duties. I do not think they should be trained for police duties. We depend very much on our police force today. In a society which is not becoming more simple but which is becoming more complicated every day, we should ensure that the Garda are looked upon as the guardians of the people and the preventers of crime and not a punitive body.
We should accord our police force the full respect which they deserve. We should tell them we have a job for them to do in the proper policing of our roads and in advising on what we should do to make them safer. We should give them all the resources they need for this most important job. I accept that the Garda are overworked at the moment but we should not take powers from them and give them to the traffic wardens. I do not think that would work. The Minister should have another look at the Bill and, instead of trying to syphon off some of the duties of the Garda, he should set up a traffic corps which would be a very effective body within the Garda. In this way we would achieve a greater degree of safety on the roads and reduce the frightful toll of dead and injured. There is still time to bring in this new charter. This Bill is a very poor substitute for it.
I think that the arguments put forward by this side of the House against the introduction of the Bill are indeed very convincing. I am sure that the Minister will take into account many of the things said here this morning. I would like to compliment Deputy Andrews on his contribution and the research that he has done into the implications of this measure that is being introduced here today. I am sure that the House will benefit from the arguments that he has put forward, which I consider to be very reasoned arguments indeed. On my part, I am convinced that there is no need at all for this kind of Bill, which is an attempt by the Government to provide a cheap police force here. Perhaps the Minister is trying to ensure that when he leaves the Department of Local Government his name will live on because this force, if it is introduced under this Bill, can be named the "Tully Bridgade" because this is something that——
You must be thinking of the Broy Harriers.
——the Minister will be remembered by. I am sure that many people who will, as a result of this measure, get tickets placed on their cars, will think of the Minister and the time he spent, or wasted, in the Department of Local Government introducing measures of this kind.
The powers now being proposed for traffic wardens should be given to the gardaí to allow them to operate on-the-spot fines for offences under the Road Traffic Acts. At least this system could be tested for a trial period. I have no doubt that it would be far more effective than the measures introduced in this Bill. It is pointless trying to create an army of traffic wardens until such time as local authorities have adequate parking facilities. This is the first thing the Minister should concern himself with—to ensure that in every town, every large town in particular and every city, adequate parking facilities should be made available. He should ensure that our motoring public have places to park their cars. This is the big problem now. In every city motorists are harassed. They want to do their shopping in a particular area; they have to drive round and round trying to find a suitable parking place. As soon as they find what they think is a suitable parking place, they have to move away again.
It is the Minister's first duty to provide those parking places. The amenity grants which were introduced some time ago would go some of the way towards helping in this problem. Small communities with the help of these amenity grants were providing parking places, but, unfortunately, now that money is not available we find that local communities can no longer do this kind of work. This is unfortunate because they were doing very good work and providing a service for the general public. I can well imagine the situation, say, in the city of Galway, or in Salthill, at this time of the year, where we have an influx of tourists. Those tourists will be harassed by traffic wardens and driven from one part of the city to the other. It will have a very adverse effect on our tourist industry.
As I said at the outset, the first thing that should be done is to provide the parking space. Then, if the motoring public are not co-operating, by all means some system of ensuring that they do keep within the parking limits could be devised or otherwise they would have to pay the penalty. I see nothing wrong with the Garda Síochána enforcing the regulations. If they were allowed to enforce the on-the-spot fines they would go a long way towards eliminating any problem as regards parking.
The duties as outlined for a traffic warden in this Bill are checking parking, and these could be extended to tax discs. If this is so——
It is being specific in extending to tax discs.
——if it includes tax discs as well as parking then the trouble here, as I see it, is that there is nothing to stop the Minister or any future Minister from extending this to cover other offences under the Road Traffic Act.
There is, of course.
Section 3 (1) does not say so.
It does; it is the same as the existing Traffic Wardens Bill.
Section 3 of the Bill states:
This section applies to such of the following offences as may be declared by the Minister by regulations made after consultation with the Minister for Justice, to be offences to which this section applies, namely, any offences under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973 and the offence under regulations made under the Roads Act, 1920, of not attaching to and carrying on a vehicle in the manner prescribed by those regulations a licence in respect of the vehicle issued under that Act.
My argument is that there is nothing to stop the Minister from extending the powers of the traffic wardens to take in other offences, such as offences for bald tyres or defective lighting or something like that. The Minister has the power to do this, and this is what I would object to, because it is taking away from the duties of the Garda Síochána who are trained to carry out this work. I realise that the traffic wardens will be trained but their period of training is very short. They are not subject to supervision in the same way as the Garda Síochána are. The gardaí have to report to their sergeants or their superintendent or whoever might be in charge every morning and they are given their duties for the day. They are told how to carry out those duties. But for the traffic warden it would be different. They are allocated a stretch of road: they go out, and some of them seem to be "ticket happy": they seem to take a certain joy out of placing their tickets on the unfortunate motorists' cars. Often the motorist has to park the car there because he has no other parking facilities available to him.
Under this Bill I understand the local authorities will have the power to collect the fines. Here, again, I would see this as an attempt to reimburse local authority funds. If the county manager sees that he is running short of money there is nothing to prevent him calling in his wardens and telling them: "Come on lads; get on with the job; I need more money; we will have to get it in some way." This would mean that the traffic wardens would be far more vigilant than they were intended to be. It will, of course, create problems for the local authorities as regards prosecution for non-payment of penalties. As far as I can see, at present the lawyers employed by the local authorities are up to their eyes in work and it is pretty hard at times to have carried out certain work which comes within their ambit. This will create more problems and more expense although I realise that they can recoup any expenses from the Department of Local Government. Nevertheless it will create many problems for our county solicitors. It is completely unnecessary.
The definition of local authorities in the Bill includes a county council, the corporation of a county or other borough, the council of an urban district or the commissioners of a town. I wonder whether town commissioners are entitled to employ traffic wardens or is it intended that the county council, which would be over all authority in the county, would be responsible for the town commission and the urban district council, also.
The town commissioners could employ the following agreement between themselves and the Garda.
Therefore it is a matter for the town commissioners and for the Garda authorities.
In the main it would be the local county council.
The town commission could collect the fines and put them into their funds but the objection I would see to that is that the town commission, some that I know anyway, have a considerable amount of money at their disposal which they have invested and they are not responsible for building houses. This will be a further means for them by which to collect money. I do not think it would be right but I would like the Minister to check on that point——
If Deputy Hussey would tell us which town commission he has in mind, I might have a look at it.
I just mentioned my own town commission in Tuam. They have considerable money invested with the Agricultural Credit Corporation. That is very good but if they have power now to impose fines under this Bill it will mean they will have further funds at their disposal.
They will have to pay the wardens——
Yes, but if the parking facilities were not adequate in the town of Tuam I could see them having a considerable amount of money at their disposal as a result of this Bill.
That would be spent on roads.
If they gave it to the county council we would find use for it. These are just a few arguments I have against the Bill. I shall not detain the House any longer because Deputy Andrews and Deputy Faulkner went into the Bill in great detail. My main argument is that adequate parking facilities should be provided in our cities and towns. If that were done it would be a step in the right direction rather than introducing a Bill that will harass our motorists further. They have enough harassment already with the price of petrol and everything else increasing every day. They have enough trouble besides inflicting this on them.
There is an interesting point arising out of the remark of the Minister, with reference to town commissioners. Deputy Hussey referred to a town commission which has some funds invested. Suppose you had town commissioners who had no funds and who appoint a warden and, as the Minister stated, will have to collect these fines to pay him. One can visualise a situation coming to the end of the financial year where a town commission who want to indulge in the luxury of a warden— and they are quite entitled to do this; every other local authority are doing it—have not the money to pay his salary. There are a couple of choices open to them. They can send a deputation to the Minister to look for funds to pay the warden. The stock reply from Ministers at the moment to requests for deputations is: "No, we will not meet a deputation."
That is not true.
I will instance the Buncrana Urban Council who have now a list of five Ministers chalked-up in respect of refusals to meet deputations.
I am not on that list.
The Minister is. The Minister for Local Government is on the list because he refused to meet a deputation where there was an anomaly with regard to the sale of houses by the urban council. His answer was no. I will produce a copy of his letter which he will not deny.
That would not be a matter for me. It should be settled at local level.
Do not get away from the point at issue, which is that the Minister refused to meet a deputation.
If I did it was because it was something over which I had no control.
The Minister had control.
The regulations apply all over the country and also to new areas——
The Minister is on the list of five. Suppose the town commissioners or the urban council find themselves in the position that they are not able to pay the official salary they will get a "no" from Local Government. At subsequent meetings their attitude would be that, if the warden had not raised a fair amount towards the payment of his salary, he should be told to redouble his efforts. This is one of the many weaknesses in the Bill. It will lead to this sort of thing and this would be in a town where you have an excellent force of gardaí, where it is possible to do this work by means of gardaí, paid by the State and not by the local authority. This is what I am objecting to. This is following a rapidly increasing pattern where payment of services which up to this were paid by way of central funds now there is a dramatic endeavour to transfer payment for this to local authorities.
Deputy Cunningham apparently has not looked at it the other way round. He is somewhat confused. We are paying a lot which was previously paid by the local authorities.
I know that. There is need for this in any case but what I am alleging is that the other thing that is happening to a greater extent is that the buck is being passed to local authorities for payment and this is evident in another Bill before us, on the question of home assistance officers and all this sort of thing. However, the real reason I want to speak on this is that I object violently to the present wording and contents of section 3 (1). There is so much doubt about the position that in regard to offences under the Road Traffic Acts, the wording of the section is such that, from my interpretation of it and from what the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Kelly, said today, I think they might have to be referred to the court for decisions. The Parliamentary Secretary is a legal man and I understand it is likely the decision of the court would come down on the interpretation of the Minister, but he was not quite sure about that. Any serious widening of the existing powers of traffic wardens should be opposed.
I agree that the only offence certified by the Minister is in connection with motor taxation. There are other offences which could be categorised in the same way, such as illegal parking, not displaying tax discs and not having cars taxed. To allay the alarm section 3 (1) is causing I would advise the Minister to state definitely what the other specific offences are.
Parking offences. That is the one point all the Opposition Deputies are missing out on. I agree Deputy Cunningham has a point in what he said earlier but, if he looks at it again, he will see that it is definitely a parking offence.
No. Section 3 (1) as it appears here, and as it appears to legal people, is not specific enough to deal with what the Minister says the duties of wardens will be. He does spell out one duty, that dealing with motor taxation offences. If that is the only one why include the various Traffic Acts? Why does he not specify if there are no others?
I will consider that point but, as far as I can see, it is intended in only one way. It is quite possible that people may take another interpretation, but I think the legal interpretation is the one I have given to it.
Most of the legal people with whom I have spoken do not agree that the Minister's repetition of his legal advice is the correct legal advice.
It is in the existing traffic warden legislation and Deputy Cunningham is aware of that. This is in the existing law. Why did they not find it was wrong then? Why did the legal people not find it wrong then or why have the traffic wardens not been doing other than what they are doing?
Is not the Minister adding other duties than parking to the provisions of this Bill?
No, only the one I specified.
Yes, but why not specify full stop. Why go on to say as section 3 (1) says:
This section applies to such of the following offences as may be declared by the Minister by regulations made after consultations with the Minister for Justice, to be offences to which this section applies, namely, any offence under the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 1973....
One, read on.
One. There may be offences in that batch of Acts——
Read down the section. In fairness, the Deputy might as well read the whole lot. He will understand then what it means.
I was invited by the Minister:
....any offence under the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 1973 and the offence under the regulations made under the Road Act, 1920, of not attaching to and carrying on a vehicle in the manner prescribed by those regulations a licence in respect of the vehicle issued under that Act.
That is the one thing.
The Minister is referring, I presume, to the 1920 Act. Is that right?
Both those Acts cover it.
If it is dealt with in one Act then why specify the 1961 to 1973 Acts?
It has to be that way. If I were writing legislation myself, like Deputy Cunningham, I would write it down in layman's language that we could understand but the legislation might not stand up in court. To make it stand up in court it has to be phrased in that way. If the House feels that this does not meet the situation I will have a look at it to see if I can change the phraseology so that it is very specific.
Is the Minister saying now he is going to amend this Bill?
I am prepared to look at it to see if it is necessary to have the phraseology changed so that it will be specific about parking offences and the non-carrying of passengers.
My answer to the Minister is that, if that section remains unchanged, I will be opposing it.
If I have to change it the section will not remain unchanged.
The Minister is promising an amendment which will clear any doubts we have and the legal people have.
Any doubts the Deputy has. I will be glad to oblige.
The Minister has not all the legal advice available.
No, but I have very good legal advisers.
The Minister says there is only one extra offence he wants to add. It seemed wide enough to cover other offences. It would go this far; it might be desirable to include some other offences.
I am not going to hand over any more except that one.
The Minister will have to make this clear in legislation. It is not his intentions that count; it is the law that goes on the statute book will count, when the Minister is gone and another Minister takes over.
Deputy Cunningham is perfectly correct about what I did. I took what his Minister did when he was in office and put it in. I thought that would be right, but even Fianna Fáil will not accept it now.
I am speaking for myself.
The Deputy is on safer ground.
Thank you. I do not understand why, having enumerated a wide range of Acts from 1961 to 1973, and then the 1920 Act, there is all this verbiage in order to cover motor taxation only. This is one of the things what has caused this lengthy debate. The other is the question of payments. Deputy Hussey raised a very interesting point, that is, the question of facilities for parking in the various towns.
I regard the non-reference to school traffic wardens as an omission from the Bill. I do not know if this is the responsibility of the Minister or not. This is something which he could consider. It would be desirable to have all traffic wardens included in future legislation; traffic wardens have to deal with pedestrians as well as motor car offenders. They should not only have to look after car offenders. Everybody is against the motorist— in many cases rightly so—but pedestrians, as well as others, can also offend against the Traffic Acts. It may not be possible for the Minister to do it here, but school wardens should be included either in this or future legislation which would tidy up the whole matter and put the responsibility on one authority.
It is strange, in present circumstances when the Dáil is approaching the recess period and a very heavy recession period also, that we should be taking up the time of this House dealing with a Bill urgently brought in by the Minister. What is the urgency of this Bill? Even when there are traffic wardens to deal with parking offences, the Government do not have the money to provide the parking facilities to which the motoring public are entitled if they are to observe the regulations of this Bill. In this period of recession, we are taking up the time of the House discussing a Bill, which I suppose is necessary, but is certainly not urgent, dealing with regulations which cannot be enforced in many areas because of the lack of facilities.
The Planning Bill has been before the House for a very long time. The Minister, when in Opposition, called for this Bill over the last ten years. When the then Opposition made accusations against people in charge of planning——
With regard to the Planning Bill, I will sit through August if Fianna Fáil will pass it. Will we deal with it in the month of August?
The Minister is making no effort at all——
I am making an effort to put up with the Deputy who is talking a lot of nonsense on the Planning Bill, because the Opposition do not want it and we know why they do not want it.
We want it.
We know very well the Opposition do not want it. They did not want the Planning Bill, as they do not want this Bill because it might touch some of their friends.
If the Minister wants to talk about planning permission friends, he has many more than I, who dealt with planning for three years.
The people who were refused planning permission by the Opposition although they were entitled to it, and then received it, will be my friends. I did not give it to them because they were my friends.
The Minister is dealing with a motorway from Dublin to——
An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle
This is the Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Bill——
——the North Road. The Minister has riddled that road with——
——planning permission for accesses on to that road for private houses. The Minister has more planning friends than I have, after spending three years dealing with planning permission.
When the Deputy was in office he did not do too badly.
There were no questions raised in the House when I was dealing with planning. There were no questions raised by newspapers. The Minister wants to hold on to planning as long as he can——
I would not mind the newspapers. Because if we depended on the newspapers——
That is the last thing we want. We had it long enough.
If the Minister had come in last week with the Planning Bill, instead of this Bill, we would have dealt with it.
The same as they did last time. The Opposition spoke on a section for a whole night.
The protection of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains and other high amenity areas is more urgent.
We cannot have this. The Chair has been pointing out to both sides of the House that we are dealing with the Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Bill.
I am dealing with it in the context of the Recess period we are approaching. I am making the point——
The Deputy does not have anything to say about the Bill. He just wants to delay the House.
Plenty has been said about the Bill. I hope the Minister will pay attention to what has been said. I also hope he will amend it on lines suggested by Members of this House as well as outsiders. We are not the only people who have shown our dissatisfaction with this Bill. Many responsible people outside this House—I am sure the Minister has had representations in respect of the provisions of this Bill——
I have not.
I hope the Minister's statement is not in line with his statement that he did not refuse to receive a deputation from Buncrana Urban District Council and afterwards admitted that he had refused. I would not accept his word when he says he did not receive representations against this Bill, in view of his statement to me 15 minutes ago.
We will keep to the provisions of the Bill.
That is what I am doing. I am saying that the Minister has stated that he did not receive any representations in respect of the provisions of this Bill from people outside of this House. I do not believe that.
Is the Deputy suggesting that the Minister is telling an untruth?
An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle
Deputy Cunningham to conclude his speech.
It is my opinion that it is an untruth, having found the Minister telling one earlier, during my short contribution. I am not terribly interested in the minor points. I know they will be aggravatory. Local authorities may not be the best people to appoint wardens. I do not know whether the appointment of wardens will be made by the Local Appointments Commission. It would be desirable if this could be done. I do not know whether it will be the manager in the local authority who will decide where the wardens are required. It is an important point. Will it be optional for local authorities not to appoint wardens if they feel that the payment of these wardens will cost more money? If the fines, and so on, do not measure up to the total salary and other expenses of the service, and if any debit balance in that respect is passed on to the rates, then I would say the elected members of local authorities would like to have a say in the appointments, that is, whether there should or should not be one, two, three or four traffic wardens.
A number of such points are not covered in the Bill and I would like to hear more about them. I have two main quarrels with the Bill. One is the danger there is that a Minister for Local Government may, in future, by regulation, pass on more onerous duties to them. I do not mean onerous in the ordinary sense; I mean duties which are the responsibility of the Garda authorities and should never be the responsibility of anybody else in the field of traffic law. The other is the imposition there may be on local authorities and, of course, the status and equality of the wardens appointed. If it is to be done, and it is to be done if this Bill goes through the Houses. I would like to see appointments made by local appointments commissioners who will have fairly stringent criteria which they will take into consideration in the making of the appointments.
My contribution will be short on this matter. I want to underline one fact. When the Minister addressed the House in introducing this Bill, he stated that the previous Government approved proposals for legislation generally in line with the Bill now before the House. I would have expected to hear something about that from the spokesmen from across the floor. As far as I can see, in any speeches made on this matter, or in the larger part of their content, there has been a negative approach to what is being attempted by this Bill.
This is a simple Bill for the purpose of enabling the Minister for Local Government to make regulations. Those regulations must be made after consultation with the Minister for Justice. We all know that the Garda authorities are under the supervision of the Minister for Justice and, anything that deals with policing and control, is a matter for that Department in the first instance who are primarily responsible for law and order in the civil sphere.
This Bill deals basically with motorists and traffic and any antipathy to this would possibly be stemming from those people who have suffered by virtue of the fact of having had to pay parking fines. I do not know why there should be opposition to this Bill. Many motorists welcome the fact that if they commit the minor offence of parking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or in the wrong manner, they can absolve themselves by paying the fine instead of having to go through the trauma of going to court and possibly retaining a lawyer to act for them. Having contributed to parking fines in my time, my own personal experience is that the courts have taken a reasonable view and, where the anti-social crime of taking one's parking ticket and transferring it to another car has occurred, and one does not pay the fine not knowing that a parking ticket has been put on one's vehicle, the court has taken a reasonable view in the circumstances and dealt with one accordingly. Basically, most people who have received a parking fine have, with some reluctance, but with a certain amount of gladness, paid the fine rather than go to court. That is what this Bill is directed at and primarily directed at—relieving the burden of supervising traffic control in relation to the Garda.
I am sure there are Deputies like myself who are aware of complaints having been made by the public that, where offences have been committed, the Garda authorities have been unable to investigate them due to their load of work. I am aware that this has occurred in the Dún Laoghaire area. Some years ago people came to me about the problem. I was not a Member of the House at the time and I conveyed my information to other people to deal with it.
It would be a bad state of affairs if a person had reported breakings-in and there were not sufficient Garda available to investigate and to give due time to the investigation of such crimes. This is no reflection on the Garda authorities.
It so happens that there is an overload of work and that the Garda are being asked to do work which I think is not properly within their jurisdiction. They are trained men in the investigation of crime and in the prevention of crime. It is ridiculous that they should have to spend time on minor breaches of traffic regulations and minor breaches of the Road Traffic Act. This Bill has been painted in the light that regulations might be made whereby traffic wardens would have power to deal with major offences. This is really scaremongering. I certainly would not go along with the idea of giving traffic wardens power to deal with, say, offences concerning alcohol or drugs in the management of motor vehicles. I do not see that that is contemplated in this Bill. Certainly, if it were left to people like that, there would be a tremendous number of acquittals. Appointing traffic wardens for that type of offence would not get us anywhere. It would not effect proper justice and would not get convictions where convictions were called for.
The Minister has stated that it was apparent some time ago that the matter of parking supervision was absorbing a disproportionate amount of the time and resources of the Garda. I wonder if there are any Deputies who can recollect the amount of time taken up by Garda just walking along the pavements in Dublin supervising the parking of vehicles? If one were to translate that type of work into the present cost of maintaining the Garda force, there would probably be a very big outcry from the public about the amount of money that would require.
My own view is that it would be a demeaning type of work for a member of the garda. It would not be worthwhile work. Remarks were made about work that was done by those who were not members of the garda force such as making certain census inquiries. I do not think that is contemplated in the Bill. If these censuses are taken by certain members of the gardaí there was also another reason: It was the way of a guard to take out his bicycle on an afternoon to go into a rural area and possibly, by the way pick up necessary information for the investigation of crime. This is a well-known fact. They were ostensibly going out to take a census. This was how the police work was done in the past. The police force are more mobile now and they are more centralised and police investigation is done in a different manner.
I respect the views expressed by Deputy Andrews, particularly his concern that traffic wardens would not possibly be sufficiently skilled or experienced to deal with crimes or even to inquire deeply into them. But petty offences relating to traffic control are not the type of work that the Garda Síochána should be engaged on.
Certain fears may be expressed that this type of work may have the effect of limiting the availability of jobs in the Garda Síochána. I do not think it will. My experience is that the gardaí at present have more than enough work to do. This is a simple easing of a pressure area which can be done by people who are not members of the Garda force.
The fact that it is possible to give this authority to people who are not members of the Garda force does not necessarily mean that a person has to admit that the ticket is correct. We can always deny the charge. That is well provided for. The onus will remain on the prosecuting person or body to prove their case. I am somewhat surprised that no reference has been made to the tremendous powers that are vested in fishery board conservators. We had a recent instance where a man is alleged to have committed an offence. Some days later, on a completely different occasion, in the full presence of his family, his car was removed ostensibly under the authority of the fact that the man is alleged to have committed a criminal offence contrary to the fishery code. There has been a very pregnant silence about the powers certain people have. There has been a lot of talk in the House about the possible dangers under this Bill which deals with petty, minor traffic offences, but not a word was mentioned about this matter. Many of these decisions are made in other spheres by people who have absolutely no police qualifications whatever, whose authority is not related to any Government Department but is given to other bodies, administered basically by laymen. Yet, these powers are being fully and heavily exercised with little sign of leniency or understanding of the circumstances.
I am surprised at the tenor of this debate over this small and minor matter. The only major aspect of it is the amount of unnecessary words and time being spent on the Second Reading of this Bill.
I would like to say a few words on this very important Bill. In recent times the Government have stressed the importance of getting high priority legislation through the House and the necessity to bring some of the high priority legislation to the Upper House. We now have an example of what high priority legislation is. This Bill must be regarded as more important than some of the other measures that have not yet come before the House. It is a measure that has caused some concern here. In relation to road traffic there is a necessity to update the situation. The movement from the horse to the mechanically propelled vehicle was a movement from a mare to a nightmare in so far as parking and travelling is concerned in this city. There is a need to update legislation in relation to road traffic and in relation to all aspects of road traffic.
A variety of criticisms has been made by various speakers. I would like to refer to section 3 of this Bill. Section 3 states:
This section applies to such of the following offences as may be declared by the Minister by regulations made after consultation with the Minister for Justice, to be offences to which this section applies, namely, any offence under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973 and the offence under regulations made under the Roads Act, 1920, of not attaching to and carrying on a vehicle in the manner prescribed by those regulations a licence in respect of the vehicle issued under that Act.
It refers to any offence under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973 and to an offence under the regulations made. The powers sought by the Minister are extremely wide and can be interpreted as applying to each and every section of the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973. The Minister for Justice, I understand was not aware of this situation until the Bill came before the House. This defective line of communication between Ministers in relation to the presentation of legislation shows that a Minister was discourteous to one of his colleagues. The proposal to consult him afterwards in relation to such offences is one that we distrust on this side of the House. All or any of the offences in this high priority legislation before us could mean each and every one of the offences there if regulations are made. We do not trust the Minister for Local Government or indeed the Minister for Justice. We have heard so many conflicting statements in recent times by the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Justice that one could not reasonably be expected to trust them or their statements or their assessment of situations.
The Minister and some other speakers indicated that this was legislation left behind from the previous Government. This point has been made by the Minister for Local Government, Mr. Tully, for what reason I do not know, and by Deputy Desmond. The fact is that the Minister for Local Government has introduced a Bill which will give him and his colleagues the widest possible powers.
I have here the Road Traffic Act of 1961 and the Road Traffic Act of 1968. I have just gone through them and seen the variety of offences the Minister can by regulation make if this Bill is passed in its present form. He deals with on-the-spot fines. When we take the garda as against the traffic wardens, the situation where an on-the-spot fine is imposed is one of coercion. With the garda system one is told to move on, or not to do it again or one gets a caution of one kind or another. The ticket-happy persons we see from time to time, without any caution, apply tickets to cars. The on-the-spot fine to my mind is not all that healthy but it does relieve pressure. There is another side to the story. There is no provision here for the safeguarding of the motorists' property. Power will be given to apply tickets for the two offences I mentioned. When it comes to the licence disc, section 3 provides:
A prosecution in respect of an alleged offence shall not be instituted during the period specified in the notice and if the payment specified in the notice is made during that period no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall be instituted.
Is that what the Minister means in relation to a ticket being affixed, that a prosecution in respect of an alleged offence shall not be instituted during the period specified in the notice? If the payment specified in the notice is made during that period no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall be instituted. Does that in fact mean that a man need not tax his car but merely pay the fine? Does it mean that as long as he pays the fine specified on the ticket the offence of non-taxation of the car will not be pursued? Is that what the Minister means? Is that what is meant by paragraph (c) of subsection (4) of section 3? Can the Parliamentary Secretary indicate if that is in fact what is meant?
That is the offence of not displaying the disc.
The question is whether he can proceed from area to area and merely pay a fine for the non-display of a disc; the question of the taxation of the car is not covered by this Bill? Is that so?
He must still pay the tax.
Will a person be prosecuted under this for non-payment of tax?
He will be prosecuted by the police.
We have a situation now where a person not displaying a disc will be prosecuted by the police on the basis that the ticket was affixed by the traffic warden. Is that the situation? First, there will be the payment of the fine to the local authority and then prosecution by the police in respect of the particular offence, is that so?
The two, yes.
Nowhere in this Bill is there an indication that there will be this sort of dual control, this dual prosecution which there would have to be in relation to the non-display of a tax disc. So we will have in fact two sets of prosecutions in respect of the non-display of a tax disc, one by the Garda authority and one by the local authority. Is that so?
That is so.
Now we have the position reasonably clear, that the powers of the traffic warden will ensure that there will be communication with the police. Could the Parliamentary Secretary tell me on what basis will the police prosecution take place? Will it be on the basis of a submission from the local authority? Will it be on the basis of the production of documents from the traffic warden to the police? Will the traffic warden have to communicate both with the police and the local authority or how will this communication take place?
Will there be a dual set of tickets, one set for the police, where an alleged offence of the non-display of a disc will be further checked by the police and prosecuted if such is the case, or will the local authority check it out and then refer it back to the police? What will be the procedure before the prosecutions about the tax disc will be effected? Will it be through the local authority or through the traffic warden?
The powers that be will work these out. The Minister will take that point in his reply.
This is a very important question.
The Minister could clear any misunderstanding, but he was not allowed in.
This is a very important aspect.
He got his chance this morning and he did not take it, so wait until the Minister comes in.
This is a very important aspect because we want to know what powers are being given to the traffic wardens under this Bill. Are their powers now much wider or is there a greater burden being placed on the local authority legal officer or, indeed, the local authority? Will they be the prosecuting authority in relation to non-taxation?
The Minister will cover that in his reply.
The Parliamentary Secretary does not know.
No matter what the Parliamentary Secretary says, it will not satisfy the Deputy.
This is very important, and before there can be further discussion on the Bill this point must be clarified by the Minister. The Parliamentary Secretary must agree that it is very involved —the question of delegation of authority and the question of absolute authority in relation to procedures. We would like to know if the traffic wardens or the Garda Síochána or the local authority will all have responsibilities. Will there be three sections of responsibility, two sections or just one section? If the gardaí have to check out on the issue of a tax disc immediately after the ticket is affixed then they might as well, in the first instance, check out and prosecute properly because much less would be involved. We have here the suggestion from the Parliamentary Secretary that if the local authority prosecute for the non-display of the disc and the car is not taxed, the Garda may prosecute so that there would be a double prosecution.
The powers, as we see, are much more wide and much more involved than has been suggested by the Minister earlier and indeed by Deputy Esmonde. This Bill has been presented to this House as having no complications, as being a refined piece of legislation that is easily understood by the ordinary man. We find now that there are complications. There are complications in relation to section (c) of subsection (4) of section 3, complications that are very important. Subsection (5) of section 3 reads that:
A notice affixed to a vehicle under subsection (3) shall not be removed or interfered with except by a person to whom the notice applies.
In the case of a company car or truck would it be the owner of the car, or the driver, or the secretary of the company, who could remove the notice so affixed? Again, this is a matter we would like to have clarified. It cannot be interfered with except by the person to whom the notice applies. Normally speaking, the traffic warden notice applies to the owner because he merely takes the number of the car and ascertains the registered owner's name from the tax office. So one could go around with a windscreen full of tickets if the driver cannot remove them. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us who is the person who can remove the ticket?
That can be answered later.
We do not want this question and answer session.
This is important. I could lend my car to any member of this House and a ticket would be affixed and if the person to whom I lent it removed the ticket he would be liable to a £20 fine in accordance with (b) of subsection (5). If a child removed the ticket he would be liable to a fine not exceeding £20. Maybe we can be told in the course of the debate the person to whom the notice applies. Tickets have been affixed to my car on numerous occasions, both when I was driving it, and when other people were driving it, but the notice came back to me as owner of the car.
We have the widening of powers of the traffic wardens. Indeed these traffic wardens give a fairly good service but if their powers and their responsibilities are to be widened, will their status be upgraded? A matter which has been mentioned before is the question of their training. This Bill indicates that very wide powers can be given to them.
Irrespective of what interpretation the Minister for Local Government likes to put on it, when subsection (1) of section 3 is interpreted there is the question of the Minister for Justice and indeed the Minister for Local Government, after consultation between both, declaring by regulation any offence under the Road Traffic Acts of 1961 to 1973. One can be assured that the legislation of this nature being as broadly based as it is here must be of concern to us. Deputy Esmonde spoke about the powers of water bailiffs and other people. Great as these powers may be they could not possibly be as wide as the powers that the Minister can give to traffic wardens under section 3 of the Bill. We would like to know if there will be additional training or additional upgrading of the traffic warden force as a result of additional duties being imposed on them. Were the police force consulted prior to this legislation coming before the House? This is important because there is the question of the duties that were previously executed by the Garda under the Road Traffic Acts of 1961, very broad duties that may be whittled away by this device. Is it the Government's intention to have a cut-price police force, with extension after extension, after consultations between two Ministers? One could well understand anything evolving after discussion between two of the present Ministers, particularly the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Local Government.
There have been so many statements from both Ministers from time to time that one would have to distrust any statement that would come from them. Generally speaking Ministers do not take very broad powers onto themselves such as are spelled out in this Bill but in this case, the powers are extraordinarily broadly based and can be open to abuse. This Bill is suspect, notwithstanding the desire of every member of this House to ensure that traffic can park and flow freely and that every effort must be made to ensure both the protection of the vehicle and that there is no obstruction. I would like to know also if the powers are transferred to the local authority who will prosecute? Will it be the local authority law officer? Is it he who will prosecute if a prosecution takes place? Will it be the local authority law agent who will prosecute once a ticket is affixed? Maybe the Parliamentary Secretary could help us on this difficult path.
I am sure the Minister will help the Deputy along.
Unfortunately the Minister is not here at the moment and we want information on this particular score. It is an important point. When the powers are transferred to the local authority, will it be the law agent of the local authority who will prosecute?
The law agent.
Now we know that it is the local authority law agent who will prosecute and at the moment— nobody should know this better than the Minister—the local authority law agents are so overworked and overburdened that they are unable to cope with the normal work of the local authority. They will now be entrusted with the additional job of prosecuting possibly thousands of offences in a city this size and with this population. There will possibly be thousands of prosecutions in the course of the next year. The Minister knows full well that the legal departments of local authorities are the most difficult to staff and overburdened as they are, unable to deal with the existing problems—even after siphoning off much of their work to outside legal people they are still way behind in the local authority work—it is proposed to impose this extra burden on them. We have an unreal situation developing. Will there be a pile-up of prosecutions? Will it be a lawyers' paradise? What is behind this thinking? On the other hand, we read here that the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, make grants towards the expenses of a local authority under this Act. The Minister may, I understood that the Minister had indicated that this should stand on its own. The cost could fall on the rates, if the fines are not collected, to meet the administration necessary. One can visualise the very heavy legal costs evolving from this particular Bill. We know what legal fees are. We have all experienced them in relation to loans for people purchasing houses. We know the hold-ups that occur as a result of inadequate services by the legal departments of the various local authorities.
This brings me to my second point. When managers of local authorities feel there may be a call on the rates to meet the administration of this particular Bill, they may be tempted to pressurise traffic wardens into fixing tickets without discretion, without caution, or without warning. Discretion is vitally important in this situation. On the last occasion on which I got a parking ticket I did not pay the fine. I got a summons and I explained to the court by letter, that I got out of my car, went into a shop to get change and, when I came back, there was a ticket affixed to the windscreen. The Justice was more reasonable than the traffic warden. We could have a situation in which traffic wardens would be pressurised into affixing tickets without discretion. They might hide around the corner until they saw someone disappear for change and promptly affix a ticket. At the moment they use some discretion; they walk up and down the road and, if the meter has expired, they wait for a reasonable time to see if the owner will return and, if he does, no ticket is affixed. But, if there is pressure from the manager to ensure the rates will not be affected in any way, and taking into consideration that there may be large-scale legal costs, a situation could develop which might not be in the best interests of either the local authority, the Minister, or indeed the motorists. We know that, while the Garda are doing the job, there is a certain protection for the motorists who park their cars illegally; the necessary action is taken by the Garda and one accepts fully that particular situation. Motorists are also aware that there is this element of protection so necessary and desirable in these days.
I would like to know if the Garda were consulted prior to the production of this Bill. I would not like to see the Garda in any way downgraded by the diversion of some of their duties to some other section unless the other sections are properly trained and equipped and paid to deal with the problems involved. Traffic control is most important, but one has to consider the lack of facilities for car parking without payment. Meters appear at every corner. One has to consider the high price of petrol and the lack of protection for motorists. We would hope that at some stage some consideration would be given to the people who give so much by way of road tax, petrol tax, fines and parking meters. I would not like to think the additional powers given to local authorities would in any way stimulate managers to lecture the traffic wardens on the necessity to affix as many tickets as possible.
There are a number of points which have to be answered in the course of this debate, some of them have already been mentioned. Some of them have been clarified. The question of the double prosecution has been clarified. We wait now for the Minister to tell us the sequence in which the prosecutions will take place for the non-display of the tax disc and the fixing of a ticket on a car where a tax disc is not displayed.
I hope he will enlighten the House on these matters so that a more comprehensive examination can be given to this Bill. I can assure him and the Parliamentary Secretary that this Bill will get very serious consideration because section 3 has given the broadest powers possible to Ministers to apply each and every section of the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973. This is far too wide a power to give to any two Ministers. I hope the Minister will have second thoughts about the entire situation when he re-examines section 3 (1). I believe he does not understand that section and I would earnestly ask him to have another look at it, and to get advice on it if he does not understand it, which apparently he does not.
Section 10 of the Act reads :
This Act may be cited as the Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Act, 1975.
In my view, another title could be given, a declaration of war by the inter-party government of 1975, against the unfortunate motorists of Ireland in the year 1975. I do not consider that too strong a statement to make when one reads section 3 (1), which states :
This section applies to such of the following offences as may be declared by the Minister by regulations made after consultation with the Minister for Justice, to be offences to which this section applies, namely, any offence under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973.
It goes on to talk about the nonregistration of cars under the 1920 Act, but the first part of this subsection specifically refers to all offences under the 1961-1973 Acts. We all know the wide powers under those Acts, such as the drunken driving charges and many others.
There is no more maligned section of the community in 1975, in my view than the motorist. He is burdened with massive car taxation, appalling insurance premiums—assuming he can get motor insurance in the first place—and the unprecedented petrol charges. One must recollect the manner in which the petrol charges were brought in— by a sleight of hand operation last December, when an extra 15p was put on to each gallon of petrol without even a vote of this House until this Party demanded it.
We have a chaotic traffic situation in this city because of the lack of parking facilities provided by either the local authorities or the Government. The road network—and to use the word "appalling" would be probably charitable—within the city results in nothing but chaos, and in the country it is not much better than the old dirt tracks of the horse and cart era. On top of all that the motoring public is burdened with high maintenance costs to keep their cars on the road.
This Bill, as introduced by the Minister for Local Government on behalf of the Inter-Party Government, suggests that a motorist is somebody who uses his car merely for pleasure.
Before coming into this House I remember reading on many occasions the excellent case made by the present Minister for Local Government for the workers of the Meath area coming to Dublin. He wanted to give them tax free allowances against their expenses on their cars, which they had to use to get to their jobs. Most people use their cars for business purposes, be it getting to or from their job—commercial travellers, doctors, vets or any other section of the community. Most cars are used directly or indirectly with business. The sooner this gets across to the inter-party regime the better. I know the Minister, when he was on this side of the House, appreciated this, but since he went to the far side of the House, he seems to have lost sight of the situation.
We have had a number of Bills before this House since this present Dáil started—not a very startling record of legislation introduced by the Government. As a matter of fact, the most appalling record of legislation——
A bigger number of Bills than Fianna Fáil introduced in five years.
Any legislation we have had has been of a purgative nature. Here we have the Local Authority (Traffic Warden) Bill 1975. The Government are trying to set up an auxiliary police force on the cheap, with the one aim of further penalising the already over-burdened motoring public. If the Government are serious about the need for this work to be carried out, surely it would be better to increase the number of the gardaí, set up proper traffic sections within the Garda and designate to them the job of looking after the motoring public, rather than trying to get a second police force on the cheap, an ill-trained police force, because I do not think the word "training" is mentioned in the ten sections of this Bill.
In his Second Reading speech the Minister said that this Bill was only directed at car taxation. I question this in the reading of section 3 (1) if it is only brought in for car taxation, surely it would be better for our police force even one day a month or one day every two months to carry out a nation wide campaign against users of motor vehicles that are not properly taxed. This would be more effective than giving powers to an ill-trained and under-trained traffic warden corps. Of course, if we are to read and interpret section 3 as it stands at the moment, we are in a very different situation and one to which I as one member of this House objects to. This is a situation where we are handing over to a body other than the respected police force of the State powers to charge people for serious crimes under the Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973. The Minister has said this is not the intention of the Bill. Whether or not that is the intention, that is how the Bill reads. The Minister is shaking his head but that does not appear in the Official Report.
Let me say for the record that it is not.
I listened with interest to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach saying there was another interpretation of the Bill, that put forward by the Opposition. The Bill as it reads, whether it is the intention or not—and it is open to legal interpretation—suggests that the traffic wardens could be given the power, either by the Minister for Local Government or the Minister for Justice, to charge people with very serious crimes and offences under the Road Traffic Acts, 1961 to 1973.
It does not.
It should be a function of Parliament to introduce legislation which is clear and which is not open to misunderstanding. The point has been raised and I hope the Minister will put down a clarifying amendment on Committee Stage.
If the Bill is read without an amendment from the Minister, then the meaning is that the Minister is extending to the traffic wardens the power to charge motorists and road users with very serious crimes, such as drunken driving or dangerous driving. I am not in any way trying to cast a reflection on the men and women who comprise the traffic warden units.
It has not yet been proved that traffic wardens are widely acceptable to the motoring public and the general public. The first requirement for any police force is that they must be acceptable to the public at all times. Since their inception, the Garda have been widely acceptable as a fair and reasonable police force. We should not try to diminish their acceptability by imposing on them the task of working in co-operation with a force who have not been widely acceptable to the motoring public and the general public. The traffic wardens, as a whole, have not been properly trained for the tasks they were given. There is no suggestion in this Bill that they will be given further training for the extended duties the Minister intends to give them or has the power to give them.
Surely the best way of guarding against car tax evasion—nobody is trying to protect people who do not pay car tax—is by extending the existing membership of the Garda and setting up proper units within that force for traffic duties only, rather than setting up auxiliary police forces as is provided for here. The word "auxiliary" has many connotations in the context.
One other aspect of this Bill is the question of the burden on the rates. This is being set up within the local authorities. The Minister in his Second Reading speech made it quite clear that the Government have no intention of subsidising this force except in very extraordinary circumstances. It is a fair interpretation of the Minister's speech to say it is not the Government's intention to subsidise this force in any local authority area. If this is the case, the wardens will be a burden on the rates. On the other hand, a situation could arise in which the eager beaver traffic wardens who justified their existence within a local authority area could become a source of income for the authority, by pestering every motorist and road user with charges for not producing their tax disc, and so on.
Deputy Dowling asked the Parliamentary Secretary a number of questions. The Parliamentary Secretary clarified a number of points. He said the traffic warden under the terms of this Bill will merely be able to charge the motorist for not displaying his tax disc. After that, in my understanding, it is up to the Garda to charge him for not taxing his car. There is a double situation. There is a charge by the traffic warden for not displaying the tax disc and a charge by the Garda for not having paid the tax.
I understood that the aim of this Bill was to cut down the burden of work on the Garda. Surely this will create further bureaucracy at a time when we have trouble paying the existing bureaucracy. The Minister will understand what I am talking about. The Government have to find the money to pay the salaries of the existing civil servants without creating another civil service corps. These extra burdens are being placed on the shoulders of the already overburdened motoring public who are paying car tax, extra petrol charges, insurance premiums and maintenance charges. What do the motoring public get for all these charges?
We have a road surface which it is probably fair to say is the worst in Europe. Having driven around quite a bit of Europe on various holidays I can say we have the most appalling road structure.
It was a couple of years ago.
It still is. There are no parking facilities in the city. All we have are traffic wardens going round handing out parking tickets, even as Deputy Dowling said, to a man who went into a shop to get change for the parking meter. All the burdens are placed on the motorist with nothing on the plus side. The road network is bad. There are no parking facilities in the cities or towns. There is traffic chaos in cities and towns. On top of all this, the Minister wants to hand over power to an auxiliary police force who have not got the respect which our existing police force command. That does not imply any insult to the existing members of the traffic warden force. They have not been properly trained for this work and are not geared to it. This is a declaration of war by the inter-party Government against the already overburdened motorist.
I am very interested in this legislation. I have received a few tickets for breaking the law. Whoever breaks the law deserves them. I have got them myself the same as anybody else. I do not mind that, but what I do mind is that, because of this Bill the traffic warden is taking on more, taking on the tax. There are a few questions on this Bill which I would like to ask the Minister. Firstly, the gardaí will probably leave the inspection of tax discs to the wardens. Who is going to look after the tax discs when the wardens finish work in the evening?
The gardaí will still have the responsibility as they have always had.
They may still have the responsibility but the fact is that they will not be as vigilant on the job.
Why should they not?
The matter is being handed over in this Bill to the traffic wardens. I do not know what hours the traffic wardens work because there are not many of them except in Dublin. I do not know anything about them : they do their duty and do it very carefully. I believe that the gardaí are probably trained to know when to use discretion.
I do not know whether traffic wardens are trained or not in regard to discretion in the matter of a person who just pulls up and has an urgent message for a business premises and runs in and out again and is given a parking ticket. This, to my mind, is a thing that a garda would not always do : they usually say that it should not be done and advise you to drive away quickly or they will issue a parking ticket. Would a traffic warden get some kind of special training?
There is a danger in section 3 of the Bill. There is no use in the Minister giving any promise : he is there now but we do not know who will be there in three years' time.
He might not be as reasonable as I am.
I am not saying whether you are reasonable or not. Ministers change. If you make a law, you can interpret it and say you will only use it in a certain way but I have no doubt that the Minister under section 3 can give whatever authority he likes to the traffic wardens. Have the Garda authorities been consulted on this Bill? Do they approve of it? I have got summonses from the gardaí too, speed limit summonses, and all kinds of summonses, in relation to breaking the law in small ways but I am very worried about this question of traffic wardens. I understand that traffic wardens will be appointed under local authorities and in a country town they will be local people. The gardaí are appointed as a result of an examination and they operate on a national level. I understand it is very seldom that a garda is stationed in his own home town. These wardens will be local people and human nature does not change.
I cannot understand how people can say that such a thing could not happen, but everybody knows human nature. The local authorities appoint the traffic wardens. They are appointed and paid for by their local councillors. We all know that if the county councillor parks in the wrong place say, in Galway, the local traffic warden will know him and will say : "I am working for him." The traffic wardens may not know the TDs or people of the Government. They might know the Ministers but that is about all. Is there a danger that the human element will come into this Bill, that there might be discrimination? I do not think that question would apply at all to the gardaí. I would be very worried about local people being appointed as traffic wardens to carry out traffic regulations and issue on-the-spot fines or summonses for untaxed cars at local level because they are likely to know the people involved. This is my view, and I express it because of practical experience. I am also particularly worried about the cost to the local authorities and about the comments made by Deputy Dowling. If it was the case that these men wanted to justify themselves and that they heard that this matter was raised at a council meeting, that the traffic wardens were costing so much to the council, and that some of them would have to be disposed of, then a man, for his own sake, would have to hold on to his job, and would say to himself : "The more money I get, the better chance I have of holding on to my job." They could become tax collectors for their local authority.
Everybody tries to keep the law as far as possible, but I would be caught every day in Galway, there is a double line outside the health board office in Eyre Square and we drive up on the footpath if we want to go in for a message. Nobody stays there very long and there is plenty of room left. Nobody, at the present moment, as far as I know, is fined but if you are there for a long time a garda will come along and summons you. I do not think they do that if a person goes in for a message and comes out again. I foresee that if you have a traffic warden there, you will not go in or if you do, I do not know where you will park your car.
This is the problem that I see. Motorists at the present are well followed-up for all kinds of offences. I would be very wary about giving authority the gardaí have to traffic wardens. I also fear that it would interfere with tourism. Take Galway city for instance. If you were to enforce the traffic regulations everywhere there is a double line at the moment, people could not park at all. One is allowed to pull in on a single line for a moment to do business.
The corporations and one of the local authorities have asked for this power : they want wardens appointed.
I am not a member of the Galway Corporation but I am a user of the city of Galway.
You will be subscribing to their funds shortly.
I try to keep the law as much as I can but I can assure you that a motorist, no matter where he goes, is annoyed enough at the present moment. I am not objecting to the appointment of traffic wardens but I object to giving them so much power. I also object to section 3 of this Bill under which I think any Minister can extend the powers of the traffic warden beyond what I think would be reasonable.
There is also the question of the dual summons. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to clarify this. Deputy Dowling raised this matter. If a man is caught for a parking offence he is fined on the spot and that is that. If a man is caught for tax he is fined by the local authority but if you want to make him pay his tax you must bring him to court. Is it the local authority who take him to court, or is it the Garda? Will he have to pay the fine and then will the traffic warden have to notify the Garda and will the Garda then summons the motorist for having an untaxed car? These are very important points.
I may have misinterpreted the Parliamentary Secretary but I took it that it was the local authority that would issue the summons. Are we to load the already overburdened local authorities with work of this kind? Perhaps the Minister would clarify that. There is a difference between an on-the-spot parking fine and having an untaxed car. The payment of the £2 fine does not alter the fact that the car is untaxed. Somebody has to issue a summons for it. Who issues the summons? Is it the local authority or the Garda? Will there be a £2 fine plus a court case and a second fine? The unfortunate motorist wants to know how many times he will be fined. It is important for the local authority to know whether they have to take legal proceedings. How will the two be dovetailed? Will the traffic warden notify the local gardaí that a specific car was parked in such a place? Will that be the procedure?
Perhaps the Minister could tell us if he would be prepared to change section 3 so that it would deal only with car tax? Is it at the discretion of any Minister to give as much authority as he sees fit at any particular time?
I move the adjournment of the debate.