Perhaps it would be convenient for the Seanad to deal with the Dublin Reconstruction (Emergency Provisions) Bill, 1924, now, as it is only a formal matter.
DUBLIN RECONSTRUCTION (EMERGENCY PROVISIONS) BILL, 1924—REPORT STAGE.
That Bill stands in a very peculiar position. It is on the Orders of the Day for the Report Stage, while the Committee Stage has never been concluded. The Seanad may recollect that when the Second Reading was concluded it was resolved that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. The Select Committee met and made a report, which consisted really of the exclusion of a new section that had been inserted by the Committee themselves. They had inserted a new section in the Bill, but on reconsideration came to the conclusion that it did not exactly carry out what they contemplated. The Seanad will recollect that there was a discussion between the Minister and, I think, Senator Brown, with a view to seeing if they could not arrive at some compromise. The Bill was then referred back by the Seanad to the same Select Committee. That Select Committee never sat since. The Committee attempted to hold a sitting, but there was no quorum, and, therefore, the Committee Stage of this Bill has never been concluded.
I feel that the situation is a little irregular and that, to some degree, I am personally responsible. I think it is not quite correct to say that we never got beyond the Committee Stage. When the Seanad discussed this Bill it was on the Report Stage. I think the Bill was only sent back to the Committee for the purpose of seeing if we could not arrive at some compromise. When the Committee tried to meet there was no quorum. At that abortive meeting of the Committee we did enter into an agreement with the Minister which he is now prepared to carry out. If possible I would suggest that the Standing Orders be suspended in order to get this Bill through to-day.
I have no objection if we could secure the attendance of the Minister. I sent a messenger to find out if he was available, but he was not to be found.
The Minister asked me in his absence to move the amendment, and I am prepared to do so.
You represent the Select Committee and the Government.
It shows you how completely we are one. The compromise arrived at was this. You may remember that on the last occasion I was not satisfied that Section 2, as it stood on the report from the Select Committee, would not work very grave injustice in the case of owners of sites in Sackville Street, and the district to be reconstructed, by reason of the direction given, practically, to the arbitrator, as to how he would arrive at the value of the site. As the section was then drafted it seemed to me the owner would not get compensation for anything, except the value of the site itself, and that the full advantage of the Reconstruction Grant, and the cheap money that was to be given under this Bill, would not be compensated for. It was suggested that the Minister for Finance would come to our rescue, and would let the Corporation have either the whole of the Reconstruction Grant, or such portion of it as was thought fair, or that a compromise might be arrived at, and justice done. As a result of conferences with the Minister for Finance, an arrangement has been come to. The arbitrator is to arrive at the value of the site in the ordinary way under the Lands Clauses Acts. The Corporation are to pay the value which the arbitrator is to find of the site itself, and then the Minister for Finance is, out of the Reconstruction Grant, to pay the Corporation the difference between the mere value of the site, and the value of the site to the owner.
That is very interesting, but it does not appear in the amendment.
It does not, but the section goes out. You will find that there is another section to go in and that Section 2 goes out. As I said on the last occasion that the Seanad met, my amendment is to be carried by consent.
We must get this right if it is going to involve assessment of property and judicial determination. This is still the Committee Stage. The Select Committee not having done their work have not been discharged. I want to make the position clear as it occurs to me. On the last occasion when this Bill came before the Seanad on the report of the Select Committee, owing to a question that was raised, it was agreed that the matter be referred back to the Select Committee. They were to come to an arrangement and report that arrangement if it was arrived at, to the Seanad. It appears the Committee did sit and did arrive at an arrangement, but unfortunately they had no quorum, and therefore, they were not the Select Committee in the proper sense of the word, and have never discharged the duty that was referred back to them. They should have called a second meeting and secured a quorum.
That is where I am afraid I am at fault. I did not like to give the Committee the trouble of coming back again for the mere purpose of telling them they had nothing to do.
How do you propose to meet that now?
I propose that by resolution we should now suspend the Standing Orders.
I have much pleasure in seconding.
I now move:—"That the Select Committee appointed on the last day to report be released from the obligation of reporting."
The Bill is now being considered on Report, and you can accordingly strike out this clause and insert your new clause.
Yes, sir. What is described as Section 2 on the Order Paper is the new Section 2 that was inserted, and that has to go out. It is not the Section 2 that was in the Bill originally. I move that.
In other words, you seek to slay your own offspring?
Yes, because we have got a better family now. I therefore move to delete Section 2.
I second the motion.
We are asked to delete one section before seeing the alternative section. If we delete it without seeing the other section, and we find then that the other section is unacceptable, where do we stand?
The new section will be found on the other side of the Order Paper.
I have been looking at it, and I cannot find anything about the Lands Clauses in it.
No, sir, the Lands Clauses are in the Schedule to the Bill, as originally drafted.
Is that Schedule to remain?
It is. The amendment, which is a Government amendment, and which I move on behalf of the Minister, is:—
Schedule. — Immediately after paragraph 6 to insert a new paragraph 7 as follows:—
"7. Where the land is the site, or part of the site, of a building or buildings in respect of which a Judge has made a report under Section 15 of the Damage to Property (Compensation) Act, 1923 (No. 15 of 1923), the Arbitrator appointed for the purpose of settling compensation shall, in addition to any determination which he shall make for that purpose, also fix and determine the value of the land without such building or buildings and as if such report had not been made."
Now, the report is the report which recommends the amount of theex gratia grant, and in any case in which an ex gratia grant has been made this amendment throws on the arbitrator the duty of ascertaining the value of the mere site, and that is for the purpose of enabling the Minister for Finance to know what amount of the ex gratia grant he is to give for the Corporation. He is to give the difference between that and the total grant.
Where does it appear that the Corporation is to get that?
That is an arrangement under which they would have to trust to the undertaking of the Minister who has made the agreement.
It is not in the Bill?
No, but they are satisfied with the Minister's undertaking.
I formally move that the new clause be inserted in the Bill.
Are you moving amendment No. 3, Senator—to delete paragraph 7? I thought perhaps you wanted to destroy another member of your family.
No. 3 is to delete paragraph 7 of the Schedule, and I move it. Paragraph 7 of the Schedule is an unnecessary paragraph, because Section 6 of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act of 1919 gives power to the arbitrator to state a case, and the courts can compel him to do so, and that is a more useful power than the power given by Clause 7.
Is the Minister consenting to this?
The Minister desires it. I am moving it on his behalf. He intends to rely on the powers of the other Act.
I move to delete all after the figures "1896" in paragraph 10 of the Schedule. The right of appeal on a question of fact is entirely taken away by Section 6 of that same Act to which I referred—the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act of 1919—and therefore the Minister desires that the proviso should be struck out. There is no appeal on a question of fact, but the arbitrator has the power and may be compelled to state a case on a question of law.
Senator O'Farrell has given private notice of an amendment to Section 6, line 46.
With your permission, sir, I beg to move that the words "two years," in Section 6, be deleted, and that the words "one year" be substituted. The effect of this amendment is to give power to the Corporation to take over any derelict premises on which the work has not been started one year from the date of the passing of this Bill. The Bill as it stands gives two years. One cannot possibly see why O'Connell Street should be kept in its present deplorable condition for two years after the passing of the Bill without the Corporation having power to take action. It is quite plain from statements which have appeared in to-day's Press that a miserable piece of speculation and gambling at the public expense, and at the expense of the appearance of the principal street in the Capital, is being indulged in. Senator Dowdall let the cat out of the bag on the last occasion when he referred to the attitude that Labour should adopt on the condition that employers deign to start this work for which the State is paying. He said that if Labour would guarantee that there will be no trouble, no strike, during the period of reconstruction there would be no delay in starting. Obviously that was a guarantee that could be given, provided a similar guarantee were given on the other side. But the real meaning of the delay is that the employers are gambling upon a reduction in wages. They have got awards based on the present cost of materials and labour.
They hope by dragging this along for two or three years that the cost of labour and materials would come down and that they would have made a wretched little profit at the expense of the city and of the citizens. I do not think the Seanad should encourage that. We have been put to a terrible strain in compensating the owners of those houses. We do not think they are entitled to gamble on the situation at this period of our progress. As I stated on the last occasion, this is likely to be more or less a momentous year in this city. I know that though there are thousands of visitors coming to the country this year, there is now no hope of having these wretched ruins in O'Connell Street cleared away by the 1st August; but there is every possibility that in two years from now, if the Bill is left as it is, the same wretched spectacle will be presented to any visitors to our city. We have, since 1916, ruins left untouched and the people are only just now considering the question of rebuilding. Some owners of premises in O'Connell Street are trying to sell their premises evidently at a price that would please them. But they are in no hurry to complete that bargain, seeing that they have two whole years to wrangle over the price. I sincerely hope the Seanad will take the view that twelve months from now—three years after the destruction—is quite sufficiently long to give those people to make up their minds whether they are going to rebuild or not. Surely if they have not made up their minds they ought not to be any longer allowed by the Corporation or whoever is in charge of the city to have these sites as they are. The Corporation, or whoever is in charge of the city, should step in and set those sites to someone who would build on them.
I rise to oppose this amendment. I was not here when this Bill was in Committee, but I read some reports of the debates, and I think a proposal such as this was negatived in Committee. With regard to what Senator O'Farrell says, I just wish to say that that throws me back to the case of the destruction of the Transport Workers' offices in Cork.
Now these people who are so desirous that other people should rebuild did not themselves rebuild at all, even though the destruction took place four years ago. They went and bought a new building, and the unsightly edifice that was destroyed is still left there. It is quite clear that this unsightly edifice does not disturb the aesthetic susceptibilities of the Labour party in Cork, but a ruin in Dublin is a painful sight to them. These people have made up their minds to rebuild, and if they do not rebuild in three years, they would never make up their minds to rebuild at all. I was interested, and, unfortunately, was a victim of what took place in the matter of this delay. Personally, I would be particularly anxious to get going again with rebuilding, but the fact is that the compensation has only been awarded in respect of those destroyed areas within the past two or three months. I think this delay is caused by the Dublin Corporation, who may take portions of those sites. Any plans or maps furnished or submitted now would be cut in ribbons by the effect of this Bill, and by the action of the Dublin Corporation. I submit that what was put into the Bill in the first instance was not unreasonable, and I would ask the Seanad to support the Bill as it stands.
This amendment was not given notice of in proper time and did not appear on the Agenda, but at the request of the Senator I told him that I would allow it is to be moved, because I think the Senator's object was more to call attention to the matter. I do not think he was anxious to press it to a division. He might be satisfied with an opportunity he had of raising it.
In view of the fact that I did not give notice, I did not press it to a division. I only hope that Senator Dowdall will use his influence with those who are holding back in this matter of rebuilding.
Personally I have pressed the members of the Board of Directors, of which I am a member, and have urged them to get going, and in this matter I was not actuated by selfish motives. I do feel for those people who are out of employment, men with whom I was always on good terms. What I said was that I did think it would be a great incentive to get going if an assurance were given that no strike would take place without having at first resorted to arbitration. If the employers would give some guarantee that they would not try to reduce the standard rate of wages, the workers, on the other hand, should give a guarantee that they would not resort to strike. But I do not think it was in order when we were in the midst of the gas strike in Dublin some time ago, in which there was no question of wages whatever, and the answer was rather ambiguous.
We will not go into that controversy.
That concludes the Report Stage, and concludes our business.
The Seanad rose at 6.15 p.m. until 3 o'clock on the 19th June.