I have no particular interest in this matter, but I know that other Senators are very anxious that the Bill should be postponed. Senator Barrington, for instance, mentioned it here on the last day and he told me that he could not be here to-day. I think there are some other Senators in the same position.
PUBLIC BUSINESS. - DRAINAGE MAINTENANCE BILL, 1924—SECOND STAGE.
I would like to support Senator Moore in his remarks with reference to the postponement of this Bill. Senator Barrington, who knows a good deal about this matter, could not be here to-day and he asked me to suggest that the Bill might be postponed.
This Bill was undertaken with a view to dealing, as far as possible, with the matter of drainage and also in order to give employment during the autumn. Something like £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 has been expended in connection with the promotion of certain drainage schemes all over the country. Certain Drainage Boards have to a certain extent fallen into disuse. It was hoped by means of this Bill that it would be possible to enable the Government, through the machinery of the Board of Works, to undertake the resumption of work in connection with the maintenance of these drainage schemes. A number of schemes have already been inspected. During the course of the year a number will undergo inspection. It was hoped, by the machinery which it is intended to put into operation under this Bill that we would be able to do some good national work and afford a good deal of necessary employment. It is proposed under this Bill to enable the Minister for Finance to contribute not more than 50 per cent. of the expenditure in particular cases. It does not mean that the Minister would of necessity contribute 50 per cent. in all cases. But the necessity for continuing the particular kind of work on which a huge sum of money was expended will, I think, be apparent to everybody. Any delay in the passing of this Bill will possibly interfere with the ordinary maintenance work which would take place in connection with the drainage schemes, and at the same time render it still more difficult to provide remunerative constructive work for the unemployed. I regret that Senator Barrington is not present, but I would be sorry if, by reason of his absence, the Second Stage of this Bill should be postponed, because it is one of those measures which it was hoped that the Seanad would consider and pass.
I do not know whether it would be right for me at this stage to mention that we have had a great many measures before the Dáil, not alone during the past 12 months, but for something like two years past. The Dáil has sat almost continuously for a period of very close on two years. A good deal of work has had to be done in that time. It may be urged that we did not consider, in the order of priority, the importance of each measure and afford the necessary time for the consideration of Bills of the utmost importance. But I do submit, in that connection, that a great many matters have to be taken into account and a number of interruptions of one sort or another which are inseparable from the setting up of a new State. I would be sorry if because of the stock-taking the Executive Council has had to indulge in from time to time, a measure such as this were taken out of its place, and perhaps delayed, when it is of such importance not alone to the country but from the point of view of unemployment.
In view of what the President has said, I would like to withdraw any opposition I may have had to this Bill being read a second time. There is nothing in the Bill to state that very large sums of money are involved. The President has not told us what exactly is involved. I presume that estimates will be submitted, when certain distinct works are to be put in hand.
There is more in this than can be disposed of in that way. In view of what the President has stated, it would seem to me possible, and probable, that the majority of the members of the Seanad might think it desirable to put this Bill through all stages. We do not accomplish much by yielding to the suggestion of the President, to pass the Second Stage to-day, unless we intend to dispose of and put the Bill through all its stages to-day or to-morrow. I only wish to say that while I am sure the Seanad recognises the reality and importance of what the President has said, as to the difficulties the Government has been in in regard to legislation in the last few years, and the inevitable necessity of, perhaps, putting this measure through with undue haste, I think it is a misfortune that the Government did not accept the suggestion that was thrown out to introduce a number of these Bills in the Seanad. We could have put them through all their stages, and, I think, in that way greatly facilitated the work of the Oireachtas and the Government. However, that course was not taken, and now that we are up against it we have really got to pass legislation wholesale.