SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL, 1924. COMMITTEE STAGE.—RESUMED.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
Section 62, sub-section (5). (a) Line 41. After the word "cause" to insert the words "a referendum to be taken of the electors of the local authority as to whether they would prefer a continuance of the administration of their district by the Commissioners or";
(b) Line 42. After the word "and" to insert the words "in the latter event."
I am afraid I must repeat some of the arguments that I used yesterday against an amendment proposed by Senator Farren. Under the Bill it is mandatory on the Minister to hold a new election at the end of three years. I do not think that is the best way of carrying out legislation in a thoroughly democratic manner. I believe democratic government means government in accordance with the wishes of the people. It is quite possible a case might arise in which people would prefer to have themselves governed, and their local administration carried out, in the way which proves to them to be the most economical and efficient. They might not think that the re-election of a council would be the best way.
I suggest that before the Minister would arrange to have a new election, he should take a referendum of the electors in the area of the local authority, with a view to seeing whether they would prefer to have the administration carried on by Commissioners or have the local body re-elected. In the past I am aware that Commissioners have frequently administered the affairs of a local authority in a more economic and efficient manner than some of the local councils have done it. Last night I mentioned a case where a local authority was done away with in Cork, and immediately all the other local bodies held meetings of protest. They objected strongly to the appointment of Commissioners, but at the end of twelve months it was found the Commissioners had reduced the taxation by something like £60,000, and they had put the affairs of the council on a much more satisfactory basis. The administration, meanwhile, had suffered in no way. At the end of the twelve months the local bodies, on their own initiative, passed resolutions of thanks to the Commissioners. When the period for which the Commissioners were appointed expired—I think it was three years—the local bodies went further, and sent deputations to the old Local Government Board in Dublin asking for a continuance of the Commissioners' administration. The Local Government Board replied that they had no power to continue the Commissioners beyond three years.
If we pass this Bill in its present form the Minister for Local Government and Public Health will have no power to continue commissioners, no matter how efficient they may be, and no matter how they have done their work and reduced taxation. I quite understand the contention that it is at all times desirable to let everybody living in the country vote for the form of administration they desire, but in the case of these local bodies, whose business is entirely of an administrative character, the test that should be applied is how have they done their work, and has it been done in the most efficient and economic manner. If they have done their work well the ratepayers will be desirous of having them again in office. I am proposing that the ratepayers themselves shall be permitted to be the judges of what is best for them.
There is something wrong about the amendment. It does not read quite all right. I understand what you propose is that the referendum should be on the double question:—Do you wish the commissioners to be continued or do you prefer to have a new election?
If you press the amendment as it is it would leave the choice in the hands of the Minister. You would have to put in "a referendum to be taken... or whether they would prefer a new election of such members of such local authorities should be held."
That would meet the case and, if you will allow me to amend it in that fashion, I will do so; that is what I intended.
As representing the General Council, I will support this amendment. The view is held that there should be some more definite and sound basis established before the Minister can take this suggested course. I think everybody will admit that in so far as he has dissolved local authorities, he has had fairly good grounds for doing so. Those grounds are now set out in the Bill on page 29. Clearly, in all these things, some such action as is set out in the Bill would be necessary on the part of the Minister. So long as we have a Government, each local authority cannot be a law unto itself. Local authorities must obey the decrees of the Government, the appointed Ministers of that Government and the various departments. That goes without saying.
The position is that the Minister has this power and he exercises it without any restraint. It is left to him to dissolve the local authority and appoint any person he desires to appoint as a commissioner to carry out the functions of the dissolved corporation or council. So long as you have a fairly upright, honest Minister, it is all right; but when you are making laws you have to make them for the future. We do not know if the Minister for Local Government and Public Health in the future will be of the same high standard of integrity as the Minister we have to-day. He may be a venal Minister and he may use his power and position, for the time being, to commit very venal acts. You are putting a considerable patronage in the hands of the Minister when you allow him to appoint commissioners, irrespective of any standard of efficiency, competency or skill, and without having laid down any particulars as to the qualifications of the person appointed. You are putting into his hands the power of appointing any friend of his to a very highly-paid office without possessing any qualifications of an administrative standard that would justify such an appointment. That is one of the weaknesses of the position. The person appointed can be the Minister's most effective, obedient servant; he can be his tool or instrument, knowing that if he disobeys the Minister, or does not do what is required of him, he may be removed.
The present position is open to all those abuses. Then again, the ratepayer, the man who has to pay for all this, has no voice or no remedy. He may consider that the man who is appointed is not the best man for the position, and that others could administer the affairs of the area in a far more efficient and economical fashion. But he has no remedy, no court of appeal. The Minister is the man in whose discretion all this matter lies, and what can the ratepayer do? The ratepayer to-day is powerless. If a petition were signed by a certain percentage of people in any area, the Minister should, under those circumstances, submit the matter for the decision of the electors. That would be the ideal condition of things, but there is nothing of that sort in the Bill. That, in my opinion, is the only way to remedy the present state of affairs, but no reference is made to it in this Bill. Under the present procedure, you are striking at what is laid down as a sound principle, that you shall not have any taxation without representation. All the ratepayers in the rural areas, and urban areas, are taxed; they have to pay their rates and they have no remedy, for the time being, in regard to the matters I have adverted to. The commissioner is in the position where hitherto the people had their elected board. With their own representatives in power, the people had a voice in the collection and expenditure of the rates. You now take that away and put in one man over whom the people have no control. This man is at liberty, possibly at the instigation of the Minister, to make, collect, and spend the rates.
All these anomalies must be attended to. It is clearly a case for reference to the citizens of the Free State as to whether they are prepared to alter the whole basis of administration by local bodies. It may be a good thing if the present system of administration were altered. It might work out well if we had, as in America and elsewhere, business managers appointed to administer affairs. But it should not be open to any Minister to strike such a very severe, radical and material blow at the system which has been operating in this country for so many years, a blow which affects the franchise of the people and takes from them the liberties and privileges they hitherto enjoyed. They may have, in some instances, abused those liberties and privileges, but if they did abuse them, they have paid the piper.
I also am in sympathy with the amendment. Perhaps the suggestion that we have heard about the American system of putting in a manager to control affairs might be very good if applied to this country. This particular matter is, in my opinion, one which might with advantage be referred to the electors on the plain issue of a referendum. If there were an ordinary election there would be so many things involved that we would not have a proper democratic opinion as to whether or not commissioners were to be preferred to local authorities. If we had a referendum and took it, say, at the end of two years, it would be most desirable. I think that two years would give a sufficient opportunity to the commissioners of showing their worth or want of worth. I think if the citizens at the end of two years had an opportunity of saying that they desire to continue the commissioners it would be desirable.
I think if the mover of the amendment would alter the word "three" to "two" it would make it read so that there would be a referendum at the end of two years to decide on this particular issue of local government, and it would achieve better what he aimed at. I hope I have made my views clear on this matter. I think this is a particular issue on which it would be advantageous to assert the principle of a referendum. It is a principle which the people would eagerly respond to, for they would appreciate the desirability of a referendum on that issue. For that reason I support the principle of the amendment.
As the clause would stand if amended in the way you suggest, it would be open to the Minister to have a referendum at the end of a year, or at the end of two years or three years. The only restriction is that he must have it within three years.
Yes, but I would like to have the referendum within two years.
If the Seanad approves of the principle it would perhaps be necessary to withdraw the amendment and have the matter considered carefully, because I think there are more implications in the amendment than are fully provided for. If you provide that the Minister may have a referendum, and if the people of the area decide in favour of the commissioners, the question will arise, is that for all time or is it for a year or two years, or must an election be held after three years? It is not sufficient to put a section into the Bill without having the full details worked out. Then again who is to pay for the expenses of the referendum? Is the money to come from the Ministry or from the central fund, or is it the local authority that has to pay for it? If it is to be paid for out of the central funds a certain difficulty will arise. If it is to be paid for by the local authority it should be made perfectly clear in the Bill.
Another point that occurs to me in this connection is this. I am not sufficiently conversant with the working of local government to know whether it would be possible for a duly elected body to appoint commissioners themselves or to transfer portion of the work to these commissioners under their own general control. There are many people who feel that the latter method might quite conceivably turn out to be the most satisfactory way of administering local affairs; that is to say, the elected body retaining the administration under their own control, but not attempting to do the whole work of the administration themselves, directly through a large board or council. It is quite conceivable that the electors, after three years' experience, might consider that they would approve in general of the work of administration by commissioners, but at the same time, they might prefer to exercise the veto rather than give the veto to the Minister as to whether the commissioner should be appointed. On the whole I would be prepared to vote for the principle of the amendment if the details could be satisfactorily provided for.
I am sorry to differ in opinion with so many members of the Seanad, whose opinions I value very much on this matter. Personally I am opposed to this amendment, and I am opposed to it for a number of reasons. One reason is the matter of expense. I believe it would involve enormous expense and cost I also think it might lead to results that are now very far from the minds of some of the Senators who are enthusiastically advocating this amendment. I quite recognise that the Commissioners who have been sent out to work in the different parts of the country are giving excellent results in the discharge of the business they have been sent out to administer. What Senator Barrington has said with regard to the appointment of Commissioners in Cork some years ago is quite correct. The rates fell very considerably. I think Colonel Kirkwood was Chairman of the Commissioners sent to Cork at the time. I am aware that the rates were very much decreased subsequently. But, as Senator Kenny has said, we may have great confidence in the present Minister and in the Executive Government which he represents. We all have a share of that confidence, and we have a share of admiration for their statesmanship. But they have no reliable tenure of office. The Government might change, and no doubt will change, from time to time.
I wonder if Senator Barrington would be equally keen on referring matters to a referendum, and give the power of the appointment of Commissioners to another Minister or another Government. I wonder if the very able leader of the Labour Party were President and our genial friend, Senator Farren, occupied the position that the present Minister for Local Government and Public Health occupies, would Senator Barrington be equally enthusiastic in asking that Commissioners be appointed by him.
For myself I cannot say that I would have quite so much confidence then. Proposals like this, if carried out to their ultimate results, might lead to undesirable consequences. At the present time, for instance, you have in Italy Signor Mussolini installed in office and a great military power behind him. His success in conducting affairs is advantageous for Italy, but it is only momentary. I believe that what we should aim at in this country is what was suggested twenty-seven years ago by Lord Balfour when he was Prime Minister and when his brother was Chief Secretary for Ireland. That is, that there should be some differentiation in the franchise as regards the majority of the public boards in Ireland, and that property classes should have higher franchise powers than others. People may smile at that, but I believe that is one of the practical points that we should face, and that we should endeavour to carry into effect. I believe such a differentiation would be for the benefit of the country.
I should be prepared to support this amendment if the referendum were taken at the proper time. But surely it is rather a unique proposal to say that the Minister will, first, without consulting the people, extinguish their local government administration, and that then, after three years, he will give them a right to say whether they desire to have it back again, or whether they should have a new term of government by Commissioners appointed by the Minister. The mover of this amendment claimed that it was the essence of democracy. Generally, principles that are claimed to be democratic principles come from people who hold the most sublime and lofty contempt for democracy and a strong belief in the ability of the people to do anything that is right by way of voting. Senator Barrington has, on more than one occasion, given us the most apalling personal experience of the corruption of public bodies and of the danger of entrusting to such bodies anything in the way of administration of the public purse. The inference is that the people are not really competent to select persons to administer their affairs. Senator Barrington's contempt for democracy is hardly exceeded by the contempt felt for it by Senator Sir John Keane himself. Yet, it is from that source that this magnificent proposal comes of submitting to a referendum the question as to whether you shall give back to the people what has been stolen or torn from them without as much as "by your leave." It is an excellent proposition. If the people are sufficiently competent or intelligent to say whether it is best for them or the community that the old form should be restored or the new one continued, surely they are equally able to say, before a body is extinguished whether it is better to have it continued or extinguished. Is not that the right time to do it? The Minister has given and taken away, and it is not left to them to say whether it should be taken away or allowed to remain as that is a matter for the Minister, but whether it is to go back is to be left to the people to say after three years.
Senator Douglas has put up a number of technical objections showing the absurdity of the amendment and how unworkable it is going to be, by having a series of mock referenda, after the Minister himself has precipitated the position which makes the referendum necessary after the operation of three years. I think that one can fairly prophesy, notwithstanding the dangers of prophesying, that, after an experience of three years in any of these bodies there will be a unanimous demand for the restoration of democratically elected institutions. Much sacrifice has been made to obtain such institutions in the first instance. If they are turned down for three years the people are then to be given a right to say by referendum whether they will get them back or not.
There are important elements in this House who are honestly, by race, descent, and antecedents, avowed opponents to democratic government because they believe that it is bad for democracy itself, but I cannot understand a similar state of mind on the part of those who have trumpeted their democratic principles throughout the world and who created contention within these shores in the interests of democracy but who are now bitterly opposed to it. The proceedings in regard to this Bill and the numerous fantastic proposals that have been put forward remind one of the state of Paris on the eve of the French Revolution. It is this tinkering with legislation which has been passed with the wishes of the vast majority of the people that is going to bring a similar state of affairs here if we are going to turn out these democratic institutions which have been provided after years of struggle and sacrifice.
Senator O'Farrell has stated that he is in sympathy with this amendment, provided the referendum is taken before the body is dissolved. It occurs to me that the public are in a much better position to judge the relative merits after they have experience of both parties. Therefore I cannot quite understand the argument of Senator O'Farrell.
I cannot under any circumstances vote for the amendment because, whether we like it or not, Commissioners are at work and are on their trial. They should be allowed a reasonable time to show whether they are better administrators than local bodies, and I think that the real referendum will come when the Commissioners strike the rates for a few years. People will then know where they are and such a referendum will not cost either the Ministry or the people any expense.
Senator Douglas has pointed out some serious technical difficulties in this matter, and I think the whole discussion has been useful in raising this question. Considering these difficulties that have been raised and the considerations that must be carefully studied, I suggest that the matter be referred to the Report Stage and, perhaps, Senator Douglas and other Senators could in the meantime conceive some better scheme.
I think we ought to know the views of the Government towards this principle. I do not think that much good will be done by bringing it up again on Report unless the Government are sympathetic and bring in an amendment which will give effect to Senator Barrington's desires. I am rather tempted to embark upon a philosophic disquisition on the merits of democracy and to reply to Senator O'Farrell, but I think it would be waste of time as there will be other opportunities of doing so, when I hope to show that some of the arguments directed personally against me cannot be supported by proof.
While I am in favour of the best method of working the local bodies, on the ground of expense of the referendum I am not inclined to support the amendment. I think, if it is found desirable to appoint a Commissioner or General Manager for any local body, the decision on that point ought to be left to the local body itself. The case that has been referred to by Senator Barrington regarding the successful operations of Commissioners in Cork was a case where the Commissioners were appointed by the local body itself. It was a very successful and beneficial operation to the ratepayers because within twelve months the rates were reduced by 6d. in the £.
I do not know whether there was any legal authority for appointing these Commissioners but, at any rate, they took office and did their work for the period stated. My only regret is that the Minister when appointing Commissioners for the same body ignored the Commissioners who had so successfully initiated the economic reforms in that body. In the election that will take place the electors themselves can put the question to the candidates whether under certain circumstances they would not be in favour of a general manager or Commissioner to do the work, or at least part of it. I think that in that way the electors will be able to effect the purpose aimed at in the amendment without any expense to the ratepayers in meeting the cost of the referendum.
The first county council in this country to be dissolved was that of Kerry, where a Commissioner was appointed and the result proved eminently satisfactory. I have no doubt if the people of the county were consulted what their reply would be in regard to this question. The affairs of the county have been carried on very well and expenses have been considerably reduced. Of course in this particular case we had a very able Commissioner and it might not be possible to get a similar individual in all cases. The experiment was a brilliant success and the only fault that we have to find with it is that the county council was not dissolved soon enough.
The Minister is in no hurry to dissolve any board, and he does not do so without grave reason. An inquiry has first to be held, and if a council refuses to carry out its duties for which it is elected a Commissioner has to be appointed. This authority should only be centred in the central body, and that is the Ministry. If we pass this amendment, considerable expense will fall on somebody, and if it has to fall on the local authority I think you ought first inquire whether they are inclined to pay for a referendum to decide whether the Commissioner or the Council is to manage affairs. I think that if they have to pay they will not require any referendum. Somebody has referred to Mussolini, but I wonder if he read his recent book, which shows that his way of treating a refractory individual was, first to give him a hiding and then an excellent dose of castor oil.
In listening to this debate I have come to the conclusion that Senator Barrington is rather unfortunate in his supporters. It seems to me that the arguments put forward against the amendment are arguments against the arbitrary powers of the Minister to appoint Commissioners. At the end of a certain time the powers of the Commissioners will come to a close and the Minister will have to have new elections. Taking into consideration what Senator Dr. O'Sullivan has said, the Commissioners will probably have attained success at the end of a certain period. I think the amendment is aimed at allowing the people to judge for themselves whether they would rather have democratic powers as adumbrated by Senator O'Farrell, or more autocratic efficiency suggested by Senator Barrington.
I have a good deal of sympathy with the spirit of the amendment. I think, as Senator Moran has pointed out, that the proper time to take the referendum is after the people in the locality have had experience of both systems, but, as Senator Douglas has pointed out, there are a great many technical difficulties in the way. I may, first of all, state that this idea of appointing Commissioners is more or less an emergency measure. The Commissioners are appointed in more or less an irregular way. There is no constitutional measure under which they can be appointed and under which the people of the locality can have any voice in their appointment. If we were going to make the Commissioner system permanent it would be necessary to devise some such rules and regulations. It is clearly an emergency measure, necessitated by abnormal conditions during the last few years.
I am not anxious that the Commissioner system should be stereotyped in places where it has been found necessary to appoint such Commissioners. The number of men capable of holding these positions is limited. If a Commissioner has performed his duty for three years in a particular place it may be necessary to move him on somewhere else. I do not like the idea of having the responsibility put on me of holding a referendum. If there were some provision brought forward for having a referendum after a petition of a certain number of electors was received I would be in a much stronger position. It would place me in a very difficult position to incur the cost of holding a referendum which might turn out very disadvantageous to the Commissioner. There might be certain numbers voting for him, and after that you would have to incur the cost of an election. For that reason alone I think it would be rather going too far to insist on this amendment. It seems to me there is no doubt, where the Commissioners have proved successful that it is only fair that the people in the locality should be given an opportunity of saying so. The amendment, in its present form at all events, goes very much too far and I could not agree to it.
I would like to make a suggestion which would, I think, meet Senator Barrington's proposal. That is, that a provision should be inserted giving power to the new authority that is elected under the operation of sub-Section (5), to continue the Commissioner under its own control, if it thinks fit. That means virtually that the election would be a referendum, with power to appoint or continue the Commissioner. Some such power could, I think, be very wisely inserted in some part of the Bill. I urge the Minister to consider the matter and bring some provision forward on the Report Stage. From the Minister's remarks it is clear he would like to meet Senator Barrington's proposal in some way. It could be done without expense as I have suggested.
Would it not be met by inserting words, that the Minister should have power on a petition signed by a number of people, a majority of two-thirds, to order an election? That would cover the whole thing and would get rid of the referendum.
I do not see how that gives power to the body re-elected to appoint a Commissioner, as Senator Douglas says.
The whole principle of the amendment is to take away the rights of the people by dissolving public boards without authority.
That has been done. It is not done by this Section.
No, but this Section proposes that after a certain act has been done by the Minister—when he has dissolved a public board—then, not later than three years, there will be a fresh election. The amendment proposes before such an election is held that a referendum should take place. In moving his amendment Senator Barrington posed as an ultra-democrat, but during the discussions, on every possible occasion, he has dealt with the corruption of public boards. I do not stand for corruption in any shape or form. The boards in the country are not nearly so bad now as those that went before them. If Senator Barrington has such a great love for scenting out corruption I would suggest to him that he should investigate what happened before the present boards came into office. There is a story going round in Dublin that at a certain banquet in the past, part of the city estate was given away. I would suggest that Senator Barrington would inquire into that and then talk about corruption. Senator O'Sullivan spoke about the action of the Minister after enquiries had been held.
The Minister should table the report of the Inquiry that was held into the carrying out of its duties by the Dublin Corporation. That inquiry was held, and a report was made by responsible officials. I ask every fair-minded member of the Seanad to study the report, and after doing so to give an honest opinion on whether it justified the extreme action that was taken. As a matter of fact, when this Bill was under discussion in the other House the Minister practically admitted that it was not on the report he took action, but on other information, and that the people who were charged had not an opportunity of meeting the charges. Let there be fair play.
I suggest that the Minister who appointed responsible officials to hold the inquiry should produce the report, as on that report, in my opinion, there were not sufficient grounds for the extreme action that was taken. I am perfectly satisfied that any Senator who goes through that report will admit that such extreme action was not justified. I have objected all along to this method of depriving the people of their rights, without first consulting them. There is no use in saying that people should get an opportunity of deciding these matters before they get control. The people in the local areas elect their representatives on the local boards and they are the same people who elect representatives to the Dáil and are practically the same people who in December next will send members to the Seanad. There is a slight difference in the two elections. If people are competent to elect representatives to the national authority, they are equally competent to elect local representatives. If they are not competent to elect people to manage their local affairs they are not competent to elect people to manage their national affairs. To be logical and consistent, what should happen is that we should all be sacked. If we are to be consistent the Minister should have power to put a man in authority in every Department. There is no fear of that happening. It may be decided to suppress local boards, but I am sure there will be no decision to suppress Parliament.
This is a very dangerous precedent to set up. There is no guarantee that the present Minister will be always here. I hope Senator Sir John Keane will not have a horrible nightmare at the prospect that I am going to put before him. It is not outside the bounds of possibility that the workers in this country may very soon get sense and elect their own Government. So far they have not had sufficient common sense to do that. They have been following political "will o' the wisps," but we hope that in a very short time they will come to their senses, and elect the only people who will look after their interests, and who will not be in favour of class distinctions. A Labour Government may be in power, and then Senator O'Farrell might be the Minister for Local Government. Under the powers in this Bill, as such Minister, he would have the authority to order the county councils to have all work done by direct labour. That would be a horrible nightmare for Senator Sir John Keane, but it is within the bounds of possibility. A Labour Government could say to the county councils "You must do everything by direct labour and if you do not, we have power under this Bill to suppress you." That situation is likely to arise. More unlikely things happened in this country in the past. During the past few years public opinion has changed very frequently, and I suggest that the Seanad should be very careful about placing such power in the hands of any Minister. Personally I would not give that power even to a Labour Minister. I am opposed to such a proposal, as I believe that the people have certain rights, and that no one has a right to filch them from them. For that reason I must vote against the amendment.
As one of those in favour of the amendment, I am rather astonished at the turn that the debate has taken. The issue is whether the Minister, having dissolved Councils, should take steps to let them resume their duties again. Those supporting the amendment, I think, have proved themselves democrats, as power having been taken from the people, it is their desire that it should be returned to them as speedily as possible. I think the amendment should be supported, as I believe it is a thoroughly sound and constitutional principle, and I do not believe any more favourable occasion will arise for putting it into the Bill.
I did not accuse any supporters of the amendment of being democrats.
I agree with the suggestion that came from you, A Chathaoirligh, as to how a referendum could be held on a petition from the electors, whatever number or percentage may be agreed on. My reason for asking the Seanad to agree to that is, that at present there is no machinery at the disposal of the electors whereby they may express their views as to how the business is to be conducted by the Commissioners. It may be conducted in an unsatisfactory way, as the Commissioners may, from their office, by a stroke of the pen, make a reduction of 25 per cent. in the expenditure on Home Help. That, of course, would show a saving. The Commissioners might also defer expenditure on works which might have been contemplated by a Council.
Unless it is a personal explanation I cannot allow a second speech, as it would not be in order now.
I understood that a Senator could speak twice at this stage.
No Senator is entitled to speak twice on the same clause or amendment except at the close of a debate or except as an explanation.
The Minister has explained and it has been fairly obvious that the appointment of Commissioners was an emergency transaction and was made under abnormal circumstances. In all probability, after they have given a few examples of bringing them to their senses, people will return to the commonsense way, and I am sure that the good councils we had will be elected and will work as well and as efficiently as in the past. Generally speaking, these councils were all right, but in the recent abnormal times they went somewhat astray, and I think that this amendment has been put down in a very good spirit, but that Senator Barrington has been unfortunate in not having been fairly interpreted. The suggestion he has made would be a happy solution of the whole thing, and I suggest in the circumstances that it should be adopted.
In view of the statement of the Minister, I think it would be a mere waste of time to consider this matter further. He expressed no sympathy with it, and if we postponed it to the Report Stage we would travel over the same grounds again with equal results. If he is not sympathetic now it is not likely that any arguments will then be advanced that will create sympathy in his usually sympathetic bosom. I think it would be a waste of time. We on these benches cannot support it for the simple reason that we do not in the first place admit the right of the Minister to dissolve these bodies. We will deal with this matter in a later amendment and in, I believe, a way that will commend itself to the Seanad. I think the matter should be dealt with here and now.
I have often heard that this world was a world of humbug, but it has been brought home to me forcibly by some of the statements I have listened to, and especially by my friends behind me. They have expressed the greatest love for this principle of a referendum, but it must be taken prior to the dissolution of the body. If they are really sincere in that contention why did they not put down a similar amendment to the preceding clause? If they had put down a similar amendment to that which I propose to this clause empowering the Minister to suppress these local bodies, they would have had their wish and I would have voted for it. But they did not do so. They reserved the violence of their wrath for my unfortunate head, and they based their complaints very largely upon the costs of a referendum. The costs of this referendum are put forward as a tremendous bogey, because, I suppose, nobody has any experience of a referendum.
Nobody on these benches made any references to the costs of a referendum.
Senator Douglas and I think Senator Farren——
On a point of order, the Senator's wisest way would be to say where the costs will come from.
They said that they would prefer an election, but they have not said a word about the costs of an election. It seems to me that the costs of an election would, in all probability, enormously exceed the costs of a referendum. A referendum can be taken by sending out halfpenny cards to the electors and asking them to vote "yes" or "no," or something of that sort. Possibly it would be a mere bagatelle. One point has been completely overlooked. Every Senator has spoken of his desire to have everything done in the best possible way, but has completely overlooked the fact that the passing of this amendment will, and must, have an enormous effect upon the Commissioners. It must make a man desirous of doing the best he can. He wants to justify his appointment; he wants to justify the creation of his office, and surely if he knows that at the end of his term of office a referendum is to be taken as to how he has done his work—not the opinion of the Minister, but a referendum of the people whose affairs he is administering—it will have a wonderful effect in making him as efficient as he can possibly be. Nobody has called attention to that fact, but it seems to me to be one of the most powerful arguments in favour of the amendment. Senator Douglas has suggested that this might be held over. If we pass the Bill as it is the Minister is absolutely precluded from taking a referendum, and if it is desirable, for all the reasons I have given, that a referendum should be taken, it is absolutely essential that the amendment should be passed. Otherwise the Minister has no option but to hold an election at the end of the time.
There seems to be a kind of idea in Senator Farren's mind that all local councils are sacrosanct, that whatever they do must be right, and he does not wish any attention called to anything they do that is wrong. The difference between us seems to be this: He would like a roving commission to be instituted to investigate and call attention to the corruption that has taken place in the past, but he deprecates in the strongest way my calling attention to what is going on at present. It seems to me that it would be an idle thing, a useless waste of time, however interesting it might be from the historical point of view, to investigate what has taken place in the past. Unfortunately, we know that a great deal has taken place. None of us are, I think, in favour of what has taken place, and I hope none of us are in favour of its continuance. I do not see that I should be made a target or, as Senator Love put it, be blown to pieces by the great guns of the Seanad because I ventured to call attention to abuses that are undoubtedly taking place from day to day. I think it my duty to do so, and, please God, as long as I am here, I will do it. One moment I am accused of not being a democrat, and the next of being a democrat and advocating democratic principles.
Let us get to the amendment, Senator.
The amendment embodies the most democratic principles that you could have, and that is that the views of the electors shall be consulted as to how they wish their business to be conducted in the future.
Before the debate on this amendment concludes, I ought to say that I find I was in error in the ruling I gave on the point raised by Senator Colonel Moore. My attention was directed to the wrong Standing Order. The Standing Order that I referred to apparently deals with the general business of the House, but there is a special Standing Order regulating procedure in Committee, which entitles each Senator to speak not more than twice, so that Senator Colonel Moore's point was quite right, and I have to express my regret to him that I have said anything to the contrary.
The Committee divided. Tá, 13; Níl, 21.
- William Barrington.
- Thomas Westropp Bennett.
- Samuel L. Brown, K.C.
- Dowager Countess of Desart.
- Michael Duffy.
- Sir John Griffith.
- Arthur Jackson.
- Sir John Keane.
- Patrick Williams Kenny.
- Joseph Clayton Love.
- Edward MacEvoy.
- George Nesbitt.
- Earl of Wicklow.
- James Green Douglas.
- Richard A. Butler.
- Mrs. Eileen Costello.
- William Cummins.
- J.C. Dowdall.
- Sir Nugent Everard.
- Thomas Farren.
- Thomas Foran.
- Oliver St. John Gogarty.
- Benjamin Haughton.
- Dr. Douglas Hyde.
- Cornelius Joseph Irwin.
- Thomas Linehan.
- John MacLoughlin.
- Colonel Maurice Moore.
- James Moran.
- Michael O'Dea.
- John Thomas O'Farrell.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- William O'Sullivan.
- Mrs. Wyse Power.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 62, sub-section (5). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "provided that notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this section an election of members of such local authority shall be held on the date on which the triennial elections for members of similar local authorities are held, and upon the completion of such election all the property, powers and duties of the dissolved local authority shall vest in the body so elected."
This is a General Council amendment and it is in keeping with the remarks which I had intended to make on the last amendment. The General Council first resolved that the cure for a body that has proved refractory was dissolution, with an election to be held forthwith. They proceeded to argue that if the re-elected body proved refractory the Minister still had the power to dissolve it, and that in time people, owing to the extra expense involved in elections, through their pockets, would be chastened, and from the Ministerial point of view, brought to a proper frame of mind. When that amendment was introduced in the Dáil a compromise was effected, and the Minister agreed to a three years' limitation. That was without reference to the General Council. The General Council is still of the same opinion that the cure is dissolution and a re-election forthwith. Here the intention is, that when the elections take place, as they will soon for all public bodies, all these dissolved councils shall fall into line, as there has been already a sufficient test of the extra efficiency and economy, that Commissioners were enabled to bring about to give, as it were, a headline to the newly-elected bodies as to the course they should pursue in the administration of their affairs.
There has been already, as I say, sufficient opportunities given to the Commissioners to show where economies can be effected and where more efficiency can be introduced into the administration. If, after these bodies are re-elected, the Minister sees that they have not learned that lesson, he can dissolve them afresh. But the idea of this amendment is to bring all public bodies into line once more, and let the people see what they can do. The Commissioners seem to have created a favourable impression. Whether that impression is well-founded or not, it is impossible to say exactly. It is quite possible, as every business man knows, to show on paper very great economy, but whether that means greater efficiency is entirely another matter. Commissioners sitting in their office can arbitrarily make economies, but what effect that will have on the general administration or on the conditions under which people live, is another matter.
For instance, take Home Help. The Commissioner may arbitrarily say,
"Home Help will have to be reduced forthwith by 50 per cent." That is an easy thing to do, and it is being done more or less, but there are resulting cases of very great distress as a consequence of economies effected in that drastic way. Similarly, progressive measures that were in contemplation by the previous council may be put off because they would mean increased expenditure or an increased rate, or for some specious reason or another by Commissioners who are on their trial. They will say: "We are on trial for one or two years; we will save all we can, keep all expenses down to the minimum, and we will show exactly the wonderful advantage the ratepayers get as a result of this change in administration." In any business that would be a very bad policy. It is like paying a dividend out of capital from a business point of view, and, besides, in a few years you cannot get at the effect of the reactions of a new policy instituted by Commissioners such as that. You cannot see the effect of it over a short period. We say here that the electors will be in no better position after another year, because these things may still be put off and these paper economies may still be submitted to them.
At any rate the Minister can exercise his power. The Councils will know the power is there, and they will know that the Minister will watch over them when they are re-elected. They know the Minister will have a sharp eye on their administration, and that the inevitable result for them, if they do not conduct their affairs in an economic and efficient way, will be another dissolution. We think, in order to get rid of this it would be well if in future elections these dissolved bodies were brought into line with the other local bodies and to have a general election.
I cannot agree to accept this amendment. Practically it would mean the deletion of the Section, and it will be impossible in these circumstances to get any man to act as Commissioner. For instance, take a situation such as arose in the Dublin Corporation. You cannot expect to get results from these Commissioners after six or eight months or a year, as might be the case if this amendment were accepted. It would put the Commissioners in an altogether impossible position, and for that reason I am altogether opposed to the amendment.
Amendment put, and declared lost.
I beg to move—
Section 62. Before sub-section (7) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"(7) Every order dissolving a local authority made by the Minister under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and shall not have any effect unless and until it has been approved by resolution of each House."
The effect of this amendment is to provide that the powers given to the Minister for the dissolution of a Corporation or local authority, shall not operate until the order is approved of by a resolution of each House of the Oireachtas. I would hope for the sake of the fate of the amendment that it had come from some other quarter of the House. However, I hope it will be considered on its merits, notwithstanding the source from which it comes. Arising out of the political conditions and excesses of the last few years, there has developed what might be termed a physical force mentality in the minds of a very large section of the population. Anything with which one disagrees or anybody whose conduct does not please one, seems to be a fit subject for extinction. There is no time for argument; evidently no hope of improvement. The axe is used where formerly the pruning knife was applied with excellent results. The Government is, unfortunately, no exception to this rule. In no direction has this spirit been more manifest than in the tendency to wipe out what were supposed to be democratically and popularly elected institutions. Simply because certain persons have abused these institutions, it seems to be taken for granted that these institutions are themselves bad at bottom, and that the only cure for them is to abolish them. Surely, it is a wrong principle to judge any institution by the type of people who may happen to control it at any particular time. The truth is none the less true, though uttered by a perjurer, and if we follow this principle to its logical conclusion, you would find repeated alterations and even suppressions of the Constitution of Parliament itself, because it will not be always controlled—I do not know that it is now controlled—by people who are ideal parliamentarians. Surely, the proper thing to do is to seek first of all, whether there are any inherent defects in the system itself, and having remedied these, to give the institution a chance. If it is because of the personnel it fails, by all means have fresh people elected to it.
We are in a period of extremes. A couple of years ago, in response to popular clamour, we agreed to adult suffrage. In the City of Dublin at the present time, in the parliamentary divisions there is a population of 340,000 or 350,000 men, women and children, and you have about 160,000 electors or practically one in every two of the population. Just as this widespread suffrage is granted, there is a swing of the pendulum towards the other extreme, towards the suppression of the institutions for which these people were made electors. It is a contradiction absolutely. You have one act contradicting and counteracting the good effect of the other. The Minister stated the other day that corporations and county councils may have failed because of the inherent faults in the machinery of local government. In this Bill he seeks and claims to remove these defects and to set up as perfect a local government machine as it is possible for any Minister to set up. He has altered the basis of representation and evolved a new system of administration.
Why must we assume that the Bill is going to be a failure? Why must he assume in this that the people are bound to do wrong, will inevitably do wrong, and that consequently he must take to himself such powers to suppress those institutions elected under the powers granted by this Bill? After all if we are going to have any sort of dignity attaching to any of those institutions, we must not leave their existence hanging on the whim of an individual Minister, because a Minister, no matter who he may be, will be a baby Minister as far as experience of Parliamentary and world affairs are concerned. We are a new nation, and any Minister we may have will be a baby in experience, and to leave it to his experience and intelligence to say that the local government of a great county or city is to be obliterated and nominees put in by the Government to manage, is something we should pause at doing. Unfortunately, as the Bill stands he has that power, and all this amendment seeks is that before an Order of that kind is operative it shall be approved of by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The suppression of a county council is not a mere routine act of administration. It is a drastic and revolutionary proposal and the least a Minister should do is to report to the Oireachtas and seek its approval. He will have all the experienced officials of his Department helping him to influence the two Houses, and the chances are that he will be able to carry it through. No self-respecting citizen would dream of being elected to a county council or city Corporation whose existence hung on the breath of the Minister. There will be no dignity, no self-respect in that, and where there is no self-respect or dignity, there can be no responsibility.
A Senator suggested to me a few months ago that the telegraphic address of the Minister, in compliment to Mussolini, should be Macaroni, because of the policy he has taken to himself and which he is proceeding to carry out, not only in respect of old obsolete councils, but in respect of his own new set of councils. We should be careful lest the pendulum should swing a little too far East and become West. It has become popular for the last couple of years to sneer at everything that savours of democracy. The reason for that is obvious. Democracy was preached by those who flouted its principles. We may find we have passed panic legislation for which we shall be sorry when, in a cooler time, we look back on it. This amendment is not a very strong safeguard, but at all events it will leave both councils and corporations the satisfaction of saying that no power in this country, except that of the Oireachtas, could take away from them the power conferred by the people.
In moving this amendment Senator O'Farrell said he wished it had come from some other quarter, as it would probably have a greater chance of favourable consideration. While I think every member of this House agrees with me, that any amendment proposed by Senator O'Farrell, by reason of the manner in which he does it, always enforces consideration, yet, I must say I have often heard him advocating more effectively other amendments than this one. He has said, obviously thinking of what has taken place rather than what may, that it is open for the Minister, at his whim, to abolish those councils. I submit that, inview of what has taken place, he is not justified, in any way, in making that suggestion or putting that argument to the Seanad. No council has been suppressed without consideration and a great deal of publicity, and without those whose conduct has been indicted being given a chance to vindicate what has been done if they can. It is not that I am an anti-democrat, but in view of the incapacity—unfortunately in many cases it was clear that there was even corruption—of the local governing bodies for the last few years, they had to be removed. I hold that although efficient administrators may be scarce and may not be capable of being found, yet those nominees put in could not be worse than the elected bodies who were inefficient to start with and almost useless. Coming to the amendment, Senator O'Farrell proposes that if, after an examination of the misdeeds or merits of those councils by somebody appointed, the councils are not able to give an account of their stewardship, and if on the report the Local Government Minister dissolves the council, that Order is not to take effect until both Houses give their assent to it. It is unnecessary. Each county has a number of members in the Dáil, and the Seanad also represents practically every county. It is open for the members of the constituencies representing those counties to raise the question if they have a good case. The Dáil will not give a vote of confidence to the Minister, and that in itself is a safety valve. Even in this House if a council was suppressed, some means could be availed of to raise a debate. That is an effective safeguard in the interests of those councils. The Minister will not suppress councils or corporations without good and sufficient cause, and he has only suppressed very few already. Why was no debate raised in the Dáil if they were suppressed without sufficient cause? Why was not the Minister seriously challenged? He was not, because everyone knew that those councils were suppressed because they deserved to be suppressed.
I must protest again, as I have often protested against this insane desire of each Minister to get more power to manage everything and to lay down rules for cattle and everything else that we have to manage in this country. Some of them have neither much experience nor, perhaps, knowledge, and they think they can regulate the affairs of this country by arbitrary Acts. I think those things are suggested by permanent officials, who know they will have the management of these affairs and that a Minister is only a puppet in those matters, not knowing anything about them. There is a curious view held by some people in this world that they should manage the affairs of everybody else. Senators who object to Ministerial interference in other affairs support it in political matters. Senators want everything done by the Minister. I have never approved of this system of Ministerial control, and, fortunately, while I was the only one at first who disapproved of it, everyone in the country disapproves of it now. That is a good sign of awakening intelligence in the country. When you abolish Councils you will soon abolish everything else. When the next Dáil is elected, if it is not the sort of Dáil Ministers like, if Republicans are elected that they do not approve of, abolish them. They will continue that until they abolish themselves, and that will be the end, I hope.
I have been trying to suppress fires within me, but Senator Moore has called me to my feet to defend the charge of implied inconsistency. When you are levelling charges of inconsistency you should come down to the foundation and not deal in superficial generalities. I have always, and I will now, oppose autocratic control of individuals, trade and commerce. But we are now dealing with the capacity of people to administer the affairs of Local Government, and let me suggest to the House that there is a difference between a popularly elected body making laws and a body administering. My experience is that a popularly elected body is generally inefficient at administration. I make this statement deliberately after having served for many years on a local body, and I can see in reality, and in the abstract, no one more unfitted for administration.
Why, then, do you tolerate them?
One does not like to make a sudden revolution in methods long in force and for that reason they are tolerated. But they have produced chaos from order. They have run up rates by inefficient administration, until these rates are an intolerable burden. From that intolerable burden comes unemployment. Surely the Senators on the Labour Benches know that one of the fertile causes of unemployment is heavy rating. Industry has to bear these rates and, when they are heavy, industry is handicapped in competition with the industry of other countries, where no such heavy rates are payable. When this state of chaos, amounting in some cases almost to bankruptcy, is brought about, what remedy is there but to put in trained administrators to do the work which these popularly elected bodies are supposed to do? I defy anybody with experience to describe those popularly elected bodies as efficient administrators. They are, for the most part, run by permanent officials. If they let the officials alone, they get on decently enough, but when they take to politics—and it is on those occasions that they are generally suppressed— they show how unsuitable they are and that they deserve suppression.
I am brought to my feet by Sir John Keane's remarks. A Commission some time ago paid striking eulogy to the work of those local bodies subsequent to the passing of the Local Government Act. They stated that they compared favourably with their predecessors, both as to economy and efficiency. It was a startling revelation to those who were opposed to the introduction of that Act and to the extension of Local Government in this country. It was a revelation as to the native ability of Irishmen, drawn from rural sources, who took upon themselves duties and functions of which they had previously no experience. That is a sufficient answer to all these insinuations and innuendos at the expense of local bodies. For a long series of years after the introduction of the Local Government Act, when times were normal and when politics did not exercise such a sinister influence upon affairs, these bodies did their work well. We are getting back to normal times now—at least I hope we are—and we are getting back to the sane outlook of the years that I have referred to, when men were elected on those boards who conducted public affairs so well as to draw forth the eulogy I have referred to from a more or less hostile Commission.
As regards this amendment, I do not want to take away the Minister's right to dissolve. The General Council of County Councils admit that if a body is refractory and will not comply with certain conditions laid down by the Local Government Department, there is nothing for the Minister to do but to remove its authority. But the General Council hold that the remedy is not to deprive the people of the franchise but to dissolve the body in question and hold a new election. The suggestion in this amendment is absolutely impracticable. The local authority of which I have the honour to be Chairman—the Waterford County
Council—was subjected to inquiry by the Local Government Department. We were on the threshold of dissolution. Although we got a rather severe castigation in more than one respect, the case was not considered sufficiently serious to merit dissolution. Some members of that body challenged the findings of the Inspectors sent down to hold the inquiry and they demanded that the whole of the evidence should be laid upon the table of the County Council. The inquiry lasted many days, there were a considerable number of witnesses heard and when the typescript of the evidence was sent down, it was found to be a very bulky document. It was about as large as an attache case. I put it on the table and invited the members who asked for it to read it. One man said: "It would take us a year to read it." I said: "You called for it and there it is." Another member stood up and said: "I propose that copies be circulated." I caused inquiries to be made amongst local printers as to the price of 40 copies of this document—that would be one for each member of the Council—and I was told that it would cost £150. I asked the Council if they were prepared to impose £150 on the ratepayers for the printing of this evidence, and nobody would take the responsibility of proposing that that course be adopted. The result was that the typescript was sent back to the Local Government Department.
We are in the same position here. I am not in a position, if I am asked to consider the decision of a Minister in one of these cases, when he acts on the recommendations of Inspectors, to come to a proper conclusion, unless I have perused the evidence submitted to the Inspectors. No Senator here would have the time, disposition, or will to read through this mass of evidence and it would become a matter of argument as to the point of view of Senators and the point of view of the Inspectors who held the investigation and made certain recommendations to the Minister. We will have a battle royal here and in the Dáil, and possibly some member will demand that a very considerable number of copies of those reports of the local inquiries be laid upon the table, so that he and others may have an opportunity of dipping into the thing and seeing on what evidence the conclusions were arrived at. That must be the inevitable result of a thorough debate of the Minister's action in any particular case. I submit, although I am in accord with the spirit of the amendment, that the course suggested here would be absolutely impracticable.
I think the Seanad has more or less made up its mind on this amendment. Senator O'Farrell has objected to Ministers being babies, and Senator Colonel Moore goes further and objects to Ministers being "baby powers." I think some little power must be given to Ministers, even in matters of this kind. The power I get under this Section is administrative; not legislative. If we were to be checked and controlled at every point in our administrative duties, it would be very difficult to get anybody to accept the responsibility of Minister. My conduct is open to the censure of the Seanad and of the Dáil at any time.
I am often reminded of the fact that I am a politician. I suppose it is my duty to be a politician, and politicians, as a rule, are very good judges of how public opinion is going. I would be very reluctant to suppress any public body if, as a result of that, I was to incur general hostility in the area where that body was suppressed, or if I could not justify its suppression. I think it would be going to very extravagant lengths to insist on the insertion of this amendment.
Senator Dowdall has said that it is open to the Deputy of any particular area where a local authority is suppressed to raise the question. Surely he knows that Government Deputies in the Dáil are tied hand and foot. We heard cries recently from those who fell away from the Government that they did certain things absolutely against their own conscience, because they were bound by the Party vote. I suppose that is inevitable, but it is one of the arguments against leaving it to a Deputy to raise this question. He will not be allowed to raise it against his own Minister.
Why not refer it to the House?
He can, but he will not do that again. There is then no power in the Bill to undo what the Minister has done. He is given supreme power. The meanest criminal, charged with the worst crime, has the right of trial by a jury of his own people. Under this Bill you can suppress the greatest Corporation in the State on the recommendation of a packed jury appointed by the Minister, who has his mind made up in advance that the particular institution is going to be suppressed. It is very remarkable that practically every one of the bodies suppressed had a particular political tinge. I do not say that some of them were not inefficient. But it is remarkable that they had this political tinge, and it was probably due to Senator Kenny's influence that Waterford County Council was not suppressed. Senator Sir John Keane said, frankly and honestly, that with him such democratic institutions were just tolerated——
I did not say that. To the best of my recollection, I said that these popularly elected bodies were singularly unfitted for administration.
I thought the Senator said they were to be tolerated. I withdraw the remark I made. It is considered desirable to have the means of extinguishing these bodies at will. It is in democracy that progress and efficiency are found. No great efficiency is ever found in despotism. We find nothing under despotism but slavery. To say that democracy is inefficient is absurd, judging by history. Eventually, I suppose somebody like Mussolini or General Primo de Rivera will come along, set up a little, institution of his own, find that our Parliament is inefficient and suppress it. He will have this Bill to point to as something to go on.
Senator Kenny, while agreeing with the principle of the amendment, frightened the lives out of Senators by his description of the voluminous documents they would have to read. But these are not technical documents.
What about the Rules of Court? I wonder how many Senators know those Rules. These Rules cannot become operative until a resolution of both Houses has been passed approving them. It must be assumed that when we approve of Rules of Court we know all about them. We accept responsibility for them and we are not a bit frightened. In fact, the people who pretend to be frightened by this amendment are the people who insisted that these Rules should be approved by the Seanad before allowing the Bill to go through.
I knew in advance that the amendment was doomed. It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first drive mad. We have the example of the Bourbons who saw the disaster coming upon them and still were unable to make the concessions that were necessary in order to stay the Revolution. A weak, disunited, broken-up Government is taking autocratic powers which the strongest Government of any democratic country would not take.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Section put and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.15 p.m.
(4) No order shall be made by the Minister under this section adding an urban district to a county health district or dissolving a board of commissioners of a town unless either—
(a) the council of such urban district or the board of commissioners of such town as the case may be applies to the Minister to make such order, or
(b) the Minister is satisfied, after the holding of a local inquiry into the performance of the duties of such council or board, as the case may be, that such duties are not being duly and effectually performed.
I beg to move:
Section 63, sub-section (4). To delete paragraph (b); and consequently to delete in lines 15, 16 and 18 the words “either”“(a)” and “or.”
This section gives the Minister power to reduce an urban district council to the status of a town commission and, in turn, abolish the town commissioners or, at least, amalgamate them with the county council or some other local authority and also he can, without any application from the urban district council, amalgamate that body with the council of the county. The effect of the amendment will be to prevent the Minister doing that except on the application of the council. If the council are not carrying out their duties satisfactorily, the Minister has power under the previous section to dissolve the council, at least for three years. Without any expression of opinion from the electors, it would be hardly fair to absorb the body in the county council. It means abolishing completely the local authority or, at least, sinking its identity in some other body, without seeking the views of the electors or of the authority itself. The amendment seeks to prevent that except at the request of the council or town commission concerned.
The same principle applies to this as to the last amendment of the Senator. It is an administrative act of the Department amalgamating those areas and I do not consider it is necessary that the Oireachtas should have to approve of this action before it is taken. They have got an opportunity of criticising the conduct of the Minister subsequently and that should be sufficient.
I do not think the Minister is talking to the amendment I moved. He talks about the Oireachtas having to approve of his action. This does not seek to do that.
What the Minister was saying was that if he takes action under the section and his action is objected to, it can be challenged in the Dáil or Seanad.
In the case of the amalgamation of an urban district council with the county council, the option is given to the urban council of not availing of it, whereas a similar privilege is not accorded to the county council or county health board, which might have to take over very heavy responsibilities from the urban council. It is provided that the Minister may at his discretion lay these liabilities on the county or make them a special charge on the urban district. The county council ought to have the same privilege of refusing to take over the duties of the urban council.
That does not apply to this amendment. That would be a matter for a separate amendment.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment 124 not moved.
Section put and agreed to.
I beg to move:—
Before Section 64 to insert a new section as follows:—
64.—The grants in aid of the costs of lunatics in district lunatic asylums payable under Sub-Section (2) (c) of Section 58 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, shall be paid to county councils through their asylum committees.”
This amendment seeks to restore asylum committees to the position they were in prior to the Local Government Act of 1898, when they had the right to collect these grants themselves. The reason for it is, that under present conditions county councils very often, through being short of money for other purposes, withhold these grants and use them, temporarily at any rate, for other purposes. It has been my experience on the Grangegorman Mental Hospital Committee, that it would be better for asylum committees if they were allowed to collect the money themselves. That principle is observed in the case of criminal lunatic asylums, committees of which collect this money themselves. I do not think there can be any reasonable argument against the amendment.
This amendment, or one practically the same, was previously discussed in the Dáil. I opposed it primarily on the ground that this whole matter of the treatment of lunatics is the subject of a commission that will be dealing with the matter shortly, and I do not want to prejudge their decision. Secondly, under the present Act we are making the county council the financial authority for the whole county, and it is not considered desirable that committees of the county council should have control over finance. The Senator has referred to the fact that before the passing of the 1898 Act asylum committees had financial control, but of course there were no county councils at that time. Now the county councils are being made the financial authority for all other committees, and there is no reason why asylum committees should be excepted.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 64 put and agreed to.
Section 65 put and agreed to.
On behalf of Senator Douglas I move:—
Immediately before Section 66 to insert a new section as follows:—
66.—Sub-section 7 of section 9 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, shall be amended by the omission of all the words in the sub-section from the words "and the expenses" to the end and by the substitution therefor of the following words, that is to say: "and the expenses of each half-year ending on the 30th day of September or the 31st day of March shall be defrayed by the several counties in proportion to the number of lunatics from each county maintained in the lunatic asylum in such half-year, and the committee for the asylum shall be a joint committee of the councils of the counties with a representation of each council (determined in case of dispute by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health) in proportion to the number of lunatics from each county, according to the average of the three local financial years which ended next before the last triennial election of county councillors."
The object of the amendment is, to make the expenses of a joint lunatic asylum—that is, one for more than one county—fall more equitably on the counties. Section 9 of the Local Government Act, 1898, makes the expenses of the joint asylum payable by the several counties in proportion to the number of lunatics in the asylum from each county according to the average of three years before the last triennial election. The amendment proposes that instead of that, each county is to pay in proportion to the actual number of lunatics in the previous six months. That seems to be a much more equitable system than this system of averages. The amendment preserves the mode in which the proportional representation of each county on the joint board is fixed.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I beg to move:—
Immediately before Section 66 to insert a new section as follows:—
66.—Section 16 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1902 (which empowers a county council to pay a subscription for the association of county councils of Ireland) shall be and is hereby amended by the substitution therein of twenty pounds for ten pounds as the limit to the amount which in any one year may be paid as a subscription to the funds of the association.
This merely regularises a proceeding or practice not authorised by the existing law, where county councils have been paying more than the authorised £10 as affiliation fee to the General Council. It has been allowed by the Minister, and this section is to make it legal.
Amendment put and agreed to.
New section. Immediately before Section 66, to insert a new section as follows:—
66. The following enactments, that is to say, sub-section (1) of Section 201 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878 (41 and 42 Vic., cap. 52) and sub-sections (7) and (8) of the
Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898 (61 and 62 Vic. cap. 37) shall not apply to a contract made by a sanitary authority to pay fees for professional services.
I think, in order to make the amendment clear to the House it will be desirable to read the sections referred to. The Public Health Act, 1878. Sub-section (1), Section 201, reads:—
"Every contract made by a sanitary authority whereof the value or amount exceeds fifty pounds shall be in writing and sealed with the common seal of such authority."
The remaining sections referred to are:
(7) Every debt, claim, or demand which is directly or indirectly payable out of the poor rate, and becomes due after the passing of this Act, shall be paid within the half-year (whether the first or the second six months of the local financial year), in which the same was incurred or became due, or within three months after the expiration of such half-year, and not afterwards: Provided that the Local Government Board may, if they think fit, extend the time within which such payment may be made to a time not exceeding twelve months from the date at which the same was incurred or became due.
(8) If any person claiming any such debt, claim, or demand commences any legal proceedings within the time hereinbefore limited, or the time to which the Local Government Board may grant extension, and with due diligence prosecute such proceedings to judgment or other final settlement of the question, such judgment shall be satisfied notwithstanding that the judgment is recovered or the final settlement arrived at after the expiration of the said time, and all proceedings taken by mandamus or otherwise for enforcing such judgment without delay shall be deemed to be within the operation of this enactment.
It is almost unnecessary to remind the Seanad that on the passing of the 1898 Act very considerable works were carried out in connection with the sanitary improvements of the towns and villages throughout Ireland, and this involved the appointment of various engineers to look after his work. Where it occurred that there was no fixed officer connected with the sanitary authority they went outside and sought advice from independent sources. The result was that a considerable amount of work was executed by independent engineers, and they came face to face with these sections. They had to ensure that the work, if it was likely to exceed £50 in value, must be covered by a sealed contract with this particular body. It is hardly necessary to point out that the custom amongst engineers has been to receive their instructions generally by letter from the clerk or secretary of the Board, and act on them if they are satisfied that they are the orders of the Board. Such difficulties have arisen in the course of the work that it has been impossible for the work to be carried out within a certain period. Under the sections that it is proposed to exclude from application to such fees, a sanitary authority must enter into a sealed contract if such fees are likely to exceed £50, otherwise it is not a valid contract, and they are not legally liable for the payment. The fees are also not recoverable when six months overdue, unless a writ has been served before the expiration of such six months or during certain extended periods mentioned in the Act. Such a state of affairs is neither just nor desirable. I do not believe these clauses were intended to cover such agreements. They have already caused great injustice.
It is not reasonable to place an engineer or other professional man on the same footing as an ordinary tradesman or contractor. The former can furnish his account when the goods ordered from him have been supplied, while the latter can claim payment for his work, when he receives a certificate from the engineer in charge of such work. On the other hand an engineer is frequently engaged to prepare plans, etc., for works, usually to be paid for out of a loan, which may not be proceeded with for years, and sometimes never, and it is scarcely fair that he should in such cases be debarred by the section in question from recovering a reasonable portion of his fees on the work actually done, although his demand may not be made within the existing statutory limit.
In fact, in cases of works proposed to be carried out under loan, and not proceeded with, there should be no time-limit for the recovery of fees. Cases have occurred in which, owing to the difficulty of collecting rates, the engineer has been asked by a council or sanitary authority not to press his claim, and examples are not wanting of these claims being repudiated afterwards because the amount had not reached £50, or because the claim was not satisfied within six months. It is to remove, if possible, these anomalies that I would ask the Minister and the Seanad to take this amendment into consideration. It is not a very great thing to do. It leaves both sides free to adjust a difficulty which might occur, and save expense and avoid injustice and trouble.
With regard to the law requiring that a seal should be placed on the contract of each professional man, that, I think, is a grievance we might agree to have remedied.
If you did that what evidence would you have of the contract?
The letter from the clerk.
That would not be satisfactory. That contract might be made for an unlimited amount with a professional gentleman merely on a letter from the clerk.
As regards the other part of the amendment, I am against removing the provision in the Local Government Act, which provides that all bills and accounts ought to be sent in at a certain stated period. That is absolutely necessary in order that the councils might know how they stand, and be in a position to fix up their budget for the ensuing year.
There is another and much more important reason—that is to throw the liability for the payment on the rates of the year in which the debt was incurred, and not postpone it, so that a new class of ratepayers would have to pay.
I do not think it is any hardship to ask a man to send in his bill every six months. It is only a man with plenty of money who would not send in his bill within that period.
I think you will find there are some exceptions to that rule. A rural district council, of which I am a member, was billed not long ago for something over £1,000 by a firm of solicitors for costs extending over a period of 9 years. Delays and postponements occur in legal proceedings, and solicitors can only send in their costs when a case is completed. They may have expended certain moneys in the first or second year of the proceedings, but they cannot send in their account for part of their costs.
That is met by the Act itself.
Senator Sir John Griffith wants to have the same conditions applied to engineers. That is only reasonable.
They do apply. Under the present law the fees are not earned until the job is completed, and the time does not begin to run until the job is completed.
I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything in the matter. You, sir, have dealt with the two points raised by Sir John Griffith. I think it would be a very serious matter to remove this safeguard to the local authority when entering into a contract with the civil engineer, or any other individual. The seal of the authority is the only evidence of the contract, and the only way of ensuring that the local body itself would be aware of the contract that has been entered into.
It would be a very serious power to give to the clerk of a local authority to enter into a contract for a sum over £50. in fact to an unlimited amount behind the backs of the council. With regard to the removal of the ordinary statute of limitations, that applies to local authorities, and as you, A Chathaoirligh, have pointed out, it would be a very serious matter if a debt like that were allowed to go on accumulating from year to year, and that a different body of ratepayers altogether might become responsible for the payment of a debt contracted by ratepayers, perhaps three or four years previously. Under the present Bill they can, with the consent of the Minister, have the limitation extended for two years after the debt becomes payable. I think that is quite sufficient without any further extension.
I do not want to put Senator Sir John Griffith in a wrong position over this matter. I think I am right in my recollection—he will tell me whether I am or not, and perhaps Senator Brown would also help to put me right if I am wrong—that it has always been held that this limitation does not apply to a continuing contract where the work has to be carried on from time to time and when payment only becomes due when the work is finished.
But there are cases in which the contract is never started.
A wise engineer then will apply within the six months.
He would have to wait for more than six months to find out whether the contract was starting. I do not think engineers are as sufficiently protected as solicitors are.
Perhaps you might get as much protection as you really need without making it so wide as it is here. As it stands here, the clerk, by word of mouth——
There is nothing to the contrary in your amendment as to the wiping out of the conditions about the seal. A clerk giving instructions, whether by letter or word of mouth, might involve a council in a liability for hundreds of pounds.
Surely there must be some arrangement as in the case of solicitors.
I never heard of any. Their work can never be said to be complete in a particular period. It is only completed when the case is over and it is only when the case is over that they are entitled to be paid. I think this would be a tremendous breach in the law. Perhaps you might be able to bring up something on the Report Stage which would meet the individual case you have put. You see if your amendment were agreed to it would abolish the whole thing.
If the Minister were sympathetic and were disposed to help me I would agree to have the matter brought up on the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 66 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
I beg to move:—
Immediately before Section 67 to insert a new section as follows:—
67. So much of Section 1 of the Health Resorts and Watering-Places (Ireland) Act, 1909, as enacts that the moneys expended for the purpose mentioned in that section shall not in any one financial year exceed the amount which could be raised by a rate of one penny in the pound on the rateable value of the district or town shall not, after the passing of this Act, apply to the council of an urban district or the commissioners of a town, and in lieu thereof it is hereby enacted that the sums expended by the council of an urban district or the commissioners of a town for the purpose mentioned in the said Section 1 of the said Act shall not in any one financial year exceed the amount which could be raised by a rate of threepence in the pound on the rateable value of the district or town.
The object of the amendment is to enable local authorities to increase the amount that might be spent under the Health Resorts and Watering-Places Act by striking a 3d. rate instead of a penny rate. When the Railway Directorate Bill was before the Seanad I opposed the Bill rather strongly. I have since found that the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Great Western Railway of England are cooperating in making a serious effort to attract tourists to Ireland. I know also that the Tourist Association and a rather influential body in America are working, with some reasonable hope of success, to attract tourists here. This amendment is to enable the advantages of certain attractive resorts to be properly advertised.
I am in favour of the principle of this amendment, but I think we will have to extend it somewhat between this and the Report Stage. We have been in consultation with the Tourist Traffic Committee dealing with this matter, and they have been anxious to make some changes. Probably the Senator would be in favour of making some additions to the amendment before the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 67 put and agreed to.
(1) Where the business of any council or committee is transferred by this Act to any county council, the existing officers of that council or committee employed in that business shall, from and after the appointed day, become the officers of such county council in like manner, subject to the provisions of this section, as if they had been appointed by such county council, and any such officer may be transferred by such county council to the board of health of any county health district in such county.
(2) For the purposes of the enactments relating to superannuation or to compensation for loss of office, the services of any existing officer of any such council or committee before his transfer under this section to a county council or a board of health shall be reckoned as services under that county council or board of health.
(3) If any existing officer of a rural district council is removed from office in consequence of changes effected by or under this Act, the cost of any compensation granted to such officer for such loss of office shall be charged on the area of the county to the council of which the business of such rural district council is transferred by this Act, exclusive of the area of any urban district in such county.
(4) In this section the expression "existing officer" means any officer who is in office on the appointed day.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
Section 68, sub-section (1) line 20, to delete the word "from" and to substitute therefor the word "on." It is merely a clerical amendment.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I beg to move the following amendment on behalf of Senator MacEvoy:—
Section 68. To add at the end of sub-section (1) the words: "and existing officers of district councils shall, where eligible and able to perform the duties, get first preference in order of seniority as officials of any county council or board of health."
Senator MacEvoy asked me to move this amendment for him, but I am not very well acquainted with his views on the matter. As far as I can see from reading it, it seems to me to be a reasonable amendment, and if put into effect is, I think, calculated to save the ratepayers a considerable sum of money. It asks that the existing officers of the district councils, where eligible and able to perform their duties, should get first preference in order of seniority as officials of any county council or board of health.
I am in sympathy with the spirit of this amendment. It will be the object, in the administration of this measure when it becomes an Act, to give effect to the intentions of this amendment as far as possible. All these officers will first of all become officers of the county council, and naturally if there are any positions vacant for them they will get first preference. At the same time, it would be a very serious matter to put into an Act of Parliament a very restrictive clause of this kind, which insists on giving first preference in order of seniority. In a great many cases you might not be able to put that into effect. The term "in order of seniority," is a very wide one, and oftentimes a man not exactly in order of seniority may be very superior to the man next before him, and might be much more entitled to the office than the man actually in "order of seniority." On the whole, therefore, it is a very dangerous thing to put in a restrictive clause of this kind into a permanent measure, and I do not think the Seanad should insist on passing it.
Would the Minister be prepared to accept the amendment if the words "order of seniority" were deleted?
The Minister has stated that these officers will now become officers under the county councils. Does that mean that all the clerks employed by the district councils will become straightaway officials under the county councils? If that is the case, I think there will be too many of them.
In answer to Senator Colonel Moore, I may state that all these officers will automatically become officers under the county councils. The county councils can then decide whether they will retain these officers themselves, or whether they will appoint them to positions under the boards of health that are to be set up, or whether it will be necessary to superannuate them. At the start, they all automatically become officers of the county council.
If the Minister is prepared to accept the amendment, I am satisfied to have the words "order of seniority" deleted from it.
I am not prepared to accept the amendment, even with the suggested alteration.
Even if the amendment were to be altered as suggested by Senator O'Rourke, I think it would not be a satisfactory one. The word "eligible" is a very loose term, and if an officer were not appointed to some position he might presumably take an action on the grounds that he was eligible for some position or other. He might sustain the claim that he was an eligible man, but yet he might not be the best man for the position he was seeking to get.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 68, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
If an officer of a rural district council holds more than one office under that council or jointly under that council and another local body, and is removed from the office from which he derives the greater part of his income in consequence of changes effected by or under this Act, he shall be entitled to relinquish all the said offices and to receive compensation on the same terms and conditions as if all his offices had been abolished.
On behalf of Senator O'Farrell I beg to move:—
In Section 69 to delete the word "jointly."
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 69, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister may by order do any of the matters following, that is to say:—
(a) apply to boards of health any existing enactments relating to county or district councils with such modifications as he shall deem necessary;
(b) make such adaptations of any existing enactment (including any Local Act), relating to any matter dealt with or affected by this Act as appear to him necessary or expedient for carrying this Act into effect;
(c) make rules for carrying this Act into effect, and in particular for regulating—
(i.) the estimating and raising of the expenses of boards of health,
(ii.) the accounts, audits, and annual estimates of boards of health,
(iii.) the transfer of the property and liabilities of any public body abolished by this Act,
(iv.) any adjustment of rights, duties or liabilities required for the purposes of this Act;
(d) make regulations respecting the procedure of local authorities in connection with the business imposed on or transferred to them by or in pursuance of any enactment (including this Act), and by any such regulations annul or vary the Local Government (Procedure of Councils) Order, 1899 (as amended by any provisional order duly confirmed) or any provision thereof;
(e) where it appears to him that any Local Act contains any provisions similar to or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, declare such provisions to be no longer in force.
(2) Every order made by the Minister under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution is passed by either House of the Oireachtas within the next subsequent twentyone days on which such House has sat after the order is laid before it annulling such order, such order shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such order.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
Immediately before Section 70, to insert a new section as follows:—
70.—(1) This section shall apply to any rate made by the council of a county or urban district before the passing of this Act for the service of the local financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, 1926.
(2) Every rate to which this section applies shall be raised and collected as if this Act had not been passed.
(3) The proceeds of every rate to which this section applies, raised for the expenses of any duty of a rural district council, may be expended in the performance of such duty by the county council or board of health to which such duty is transferred under this Act.
(4) Where the area upon which, before the passing of this Act, the expenses of the performance of any duty of a county, urban district or rural district council were charged has been extended by this Act either directly or by reason of the transfer of such duty from such council the proceeds of any rate to which this section applies may be expended under this Act in the performance of such duty in such extended area.
(5) If the amount of any rate to which this section applies raised and levied upon and in any area exceeds or is less than the amount of the rate which would have been raised and levied upon and in such area under this Act for the service of the said local financial year, such excess or deficit shall be taken into account by way of adjustment in the rate to be raised and levied for the service of the local financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, 1927.
This is a very technical amendment. The object of it is to insert a new section before the existing Section 70. The necessity for it arose in this way: in many cases the rates for the financial year beginning on the 1st April next will have been struck before the administrative provisions of the Bill, now going through, come into force, and for practical purposes it is necessary that that should be. The estimates and demands have already come in in most cases; the rate books have been prepared, printed and filled up, and in order to have the new rates struck under the new Act you would have to have new estimates and demands and new rate books made out. That would entail a very long delay and the expenditure of a very large amount of money. It is, therefore, practically impossible that new rates could be struck for the first half of the present financial year beginning on the 1st April next. That being so, the only practical alternative is to let the rates that will have been struck before the 1st April next in some cases—because they must be struck by the new council if they have not already been struck by the old one—to let these rates stand and be collected.
If something were not done to make these rates legal they would be illegal. They would have been struck, some of them, for purposes which no longer exist: for the purpose of rural district councils. They would have been struck also for certain districts which are no longer the districts on which they ought to be levied, and, therefore, what it is proposed to do by this new section is to let every rate that is struck before the 1st June, 1925, be made valid. As a matter of fact, I will have to ask the Seanad to agree to an alteration in sub-section (1) of the proposed new section. As it is printed it reads: "before the passing of this Act." I ask the leave of the Seanad to have these words deleted and to have inserted instead the "1st day of June, 1925." That is necessary, because the new councils will not be elected in time to have the rates struck before the passing of this Act. The second proposition is to make every rate struck before the passing of the Act, or after the passing of the Act, on the old estimates and demands and on the old rate books, a valid rate, but to adjust them afterwards where it happens that the rate is struck for a different purpose or in respect of an area that is not a proper area under this Act. All this can be adjusted in the next rate struck, so that in the end no injustice will be done to any ratepayer or to any district.
I now put this new section, with the alteration mentioned by Senator Brown, that the words in the first clause of the section "before the passing of this Act" be deleted and the words "the 1st day of June, 1925" be inserted instead.
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
On behalf of Senator Douglas I beg to move:—
Section 70. Immediately before Section 70 to insert a new section as follows:—
70.—The Local Elections Postponement (Amendment) Act, 1924 (No. 39 of 1924), is hereby repealed and in lieu thereof is hereby enacted that the Local Elections Postponement Act, 1922 (No. 4 of 1922), shall be construed and have effect as if the expiration of two months from the passing of this Act was substituted therein for the first day of January, 1924, where that date is mentioned in sub-section (1) of Section 1 and sub-section (1) of Section 2 of that Act."
This is purely a machinery amendment.
I am accepting the amendment.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I beg to move:— Section 70, sub-section (1) (c) (ii.). To add at the end of the paragraph the words: "and in such rules provision shall be made so that units of cost for comparative and control purposes can be established."
I am afraid the Senate is getting somewhat weary of my attempts to get reform made in the methods of keeping Government accounts. The House will recollect that I have consistently taken up the position that the right place to begin this reform is the local government accounts, because not only do they lend themselves eminently to the commercial usages of accounts of control in administration, but any change in them will not have the same disturbing effect that it might have in the accounts of the central fund—
You have already convinced the Minister and he is prepared to accept your amendment.
I may tell the Minister that I do not consider, but of course I am open to correction, that the accounts in their present form will lend themselves to the reform that I suggest in this amendment.
He may change his mind now.
It may be necessary to make certain fundamental changes in the accounts, which can only be done after inquiry, and I shall be glad to hear from him that he will make such inquiry.
I have got expert advice upon this matter. Most of the head officials in my department are capable auditors who have devoted a very considerable time to the study of that branch of the question, and I think they will be able to meet with the Senator's wishes. It will entail the issuing of a new Public Bodies Order which will considerably alter the whole position in regard to accounts and costing.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I beg to move the amendment standing in the name of Senator Douglas:—
Section 70, sub-section (1), paragraph (c). Page 32, line 2. After subparagraph (iv.) to insert a new subparagraph as follows:—
"(v.) the actions of county councils, rural district councils, urban district councils, boards of health, committees and officers during the period between the passing of this Act and the appointed day."
I think this is merely a formal amendment. It simply adds to the matters about which the Minister may make temporary rules for the carrying on of county councils, rural district councils and others between now and the appointed day.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move:—
Section 70, sub-section (1). After paragraph (e) to insert a new paragraph (f) as follows:—
"(f) Suspend any election to any local authority in the County or the City of Dublin until legislation dealing with the general reorganisation of local government in the County and the City of Dublin has been passed by the Oireachtas."
As I understand it, the law at present permits the Minister to postpone elections till next March or June, I am not sure which, but in either event it means you would have county councils and rural district councils carrying on their election while the Greater Dublin Commission is in progress and while their future is under the consideration of the Commission. It is with the object of giving the Ministry power to postpone the Dublin City and County elections that I move this amendment.
I think the City and County of Dublin are excluded from the provisions of this Bill.
The Greater Dublin Commission now sitting probably will not make its report for a year and then, perhaps, another year will elapse before legislation is passed following on that report. These elections are long overdue and I think it would be too long to wait for a year, or possibly two years, before the new elections are held. I do not see why the electors of the City and County of Dublin should be debarred from the exercise of the same right as the electors in other parts of Ireland.
This amendment raises a rather difficult question. We have, at the present time, a Commission sitting in Dublin upon which there are many distinguished and eminent representatives, both of the Seanad and the Dáil. These people are carrying out very onerous duties at great inconvenience to themselves, and I hope that the conclusion of their labours will bring forth something very desirable in the way of indicating what kind of reform would be best suited to conditions in Dublin city and county. All through this Bill I have been very anxious to avoid anything that would prejudice the conclusions of that Commission in any way, and for that reason none of the provisions of this Bill that may, in any way, conflict with the conclusions of that Commission have been applied to Dublin. But with regard to the elections, they do not come under the provisions of this Bill, primarily, and I must say I am in a very difficult position in being asked to postpone the elections further for the city and county of Dublin. Very considerable pressure has been brought to bear on me to have these elections held, and without consulting the various authorities concerned I think it would be looked upon as a very arbitrary act to prevent them holding the elections on the ordinary date. I do not think that the holding of the elections will prejudice the conclusions of this Commission in any way. I do not wish to take up any particular stand in the matter, and I shall be guided by the views of the Seanad. If they are in favour of the amendment, I will accept it, and if not I will abide their decision.
Amendment put and negatived.
Section 70, as amended, put and agreed to.
First Schedule agreed to and added to the Bill.
RULES REGULATING THE PROCEEDINGS OF BOARDS OF HEALTH.
1. A board of health shall consist of ten persons who shall be elected by the county council from amongst their members at the annual meeting of the council held next after a triennial election, and the election of such persons shall be part of the first business to be transacted at such annual meeting.
I beg to move as an amendment:—
To delete Rule 1 and substitute therefor a new rule as follows:—
"A board of health shall consist of—
(a) nine persons elected by the county council from among its members;
(b) two persons elected by each council of an urban district within the county;
(c) such number not exceeding five as the county council may think fit of persons not being members of the county council or of an urban district council to be elected by the county council after consultation with the councils of urban districts within the county, and with associations representing persons engaged in the administration of health services or actively engaged in promoting the health and welfare of the people in the county. The election shall take place at the annual meeting of the county council or of the urban district council as the case may be, next after a triennial election, and shall be part of the first business of such meeting. If three or more persons are to be elected the elections shall be conducted on the principle of proportional representation."
It is provided by my amendment that the board of health shall consist of nine persons elected by the county council from among its members, and a number of representatives from other bodies on the principle of proportional representation. The schedule as it stands provides that the board of health shall consist of ten persons, all of whom shall be selected by the county council, which has itself been elected on the principle of proportional representation. In other words, the board of health will be a sub-committee of the county council elected, not on the basis of proportional representation, although the council itself is elected on that basis, and the county council can monopolise the whole of the positions on that board of health. That is not carrying the spirit of proportional representation into that very important body, the board of health, entrusted with very important and far-reaching powers. In addition, there is no provision for direct representation of the urban districts coming under the control of the board of health. They are contributory bodies in regard to finance, and they have relatively large and dense populations with special problems of health and sanitation and poor relief, and so forth. They come under the superintendent medical officer of health of the county health district under Section 19. They also come under the board of health in regard to matters specified in the third schedule in regard to tuberculosis, committees, midwifery, and so forth. In the event of their dissolution under Section 61, they come under the board of health for a very wide variety of purposes; but there is no guarantee at all that they will have direct representation on the board of health. It is a mere chance that they might get some of their representatives as one of the ten that may be elected by the county council. I think that my proposal is a reasonable one so far as these bodies are concerned.
The amendment goes a little further and suggests that a few persons not exceeding five, with special qualifications in respect of health matters and sanitation, might also be added by the county council after consultation with the organisations from which these would be drawn. Any specialised information placed at the disposal of the board of health would always be useful. This suggestion is not a new one. If the Minister considers the board is too large, there is no objection, provided the principle is accepted, to reducing the number to any figure that might be suitable. I think the latter part of the amendment very important, that the board should be elected on the basis of proportional representation, seeing that the county council that selects the board is elected on that principle, and so as to preserve the balance throughout the whole administration I think this principle should be accepted.
Senator O'Farrell's argument seems to assume that the majorities invariably pack committees with their own supporters. Of course, that is not the general experience. What would happen in the Dáil if the committees were packed by the majority? In practice things do not work out that way. It is generally recognised in all serious assemblies that committees should be composed of all parties that represent the public interest. I think it is a groundless alarm to think that the councils will put on people of a particular complexion on those committees, even though, theoretically they could do it. There is no reason why they should, no more than the Dáil or this assembly.
I have an amendment which suggests at the end of Rule 1 to add: "Provided that in electing the board of health the county council shall elect one representative at least from each county electoral area."
After this amendment, I will take up yours, Senator.
If this present amendment is carried, it would exclude the other, and I am sure Senator O'Farrell would have no objection to add mine to his amendment.
I oppose this amendment on the ground that if it were passed there would be 22 members of the board of health and the representatives of the county council would be in a minority. That would be a wrong position to put the county councils in.
In most counties, urban councils have big representation on the county council. By the amendment the Dundalk and Drogheda urban councils would be put in the position that they would have a voice in sending members direct to the county council, and there would have a voice in the election of members on the board of health. In addition, if this amendment is passed, they would have further representation on the board of health. I do not see why the urban council should have direct representation on the county council, and, in addition, be able to elect another set of men on the board of health. My experience is that all members for urban districts are very extravagant in the matter of relief when they see it is spread over the whole county. I am of opinion that it is against the interests of the rural districts to give too large a representation to the towns.
As regards the proposal to give representation to the urban areas on the board of health, I think there is a very important point to be considered before the Seanad will agree to the method of electing the board of health that is proposed in the schedule.
The urban areas have their own sanitary authorities. They are not liable for any public health rate in the county. They have the privilege of electing the county councillors—at least partly so. They are part of the county electoral division that elects the county council and in that way they get representation on the county council and the county council elects the board of health. They are then disposing of the public health rate in the county although they contribute nothing to it.
In the County of Cork there are ten urban areas having a population of 40,000, and the proposal in this schedule is to give those people the power to regulate the sanitary arrangements of the county to which they contribute nothing. I think that is a very bad principle in the Bill. These urban areas have their own sanitary business to do. They have their own sanitary rates and I do not think they would be anxious to increase their expenditure by contributing anything to the county.
I think the principle in the Bill is an extremely bad one, that is the principle of allowing people to have the management of rates to which they contribute nothing. I am aware that there is considerable difficulty in arranging the matter so that all parties would have proper representation. I think it is not beyond the bounds of statesmanship so to regulate the representation that equity and justice would prevail in this matter. It would be possible for the Minister to make a new order regulating the number of councillors to be elected for each county electoral area. Under this Bill the number of councillors has been increased so that it would be absolutely necessary to make a change in the existing order.
Are you supporting the amendment. Senator Linehan, because we are on the amendment now?
I am objecting to the urban areas proposed in the amendment having further representation.
Then you are arguing against the amendment?
Yes, as I said, it is a difficult matter for the Minister to arrange, but I suggest that he should make the urban areas separate county electoral areas. In the case of the county of Cork, where the urban areas have a population of 40,000, they will be entitled to at least 8 or 10 county councillors. These representatives, I submit, should not have any voice in the spending of the public health money raised in the county, while having all the other privileges of county councillors; having the privilege of electing members of the boards of public assistance and so on, and all other business of the county. I think, however, that they should be excluded from voting on any appointment by the boards of public health of officers whose duties will be confined to the spending of the sanitary rate in the county.
I think the matter has been so thoroughly discussed that it is not necessary for me to say very much. Under the Bill the urban authorities are just as well represented as the rural areas. In fact, under this Bill the urban authorities will have more representation, proportionately, than under the previous local government law, because previously you had the chairman of each rural council ipso facto a member of the county council.
Under this Bill that is no longer the case, so that proportionately the urban areas will have their representation increased. With regard to trying to secure proportional representation on the board of health, I am in favour of that idea. But there are two kinds of proportional representation that we want to secure. First of all, we want to ensure that each electoral area shall have representation on the board of health; and, secondly, we want to ensure that every group or party on the county council will be able to have a representative on the board of health. Senator O'Farrell's amendment will not secure that object, but there is a later amendment (139), which will. I would ask the Senator not to press the amendment.
In the circumstances, and if it will facilitate the Seanad, I will withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move:—
Second Schedule. Rule 1. Line 50. After the word "elected" to insert the word "by proportional representation."
The object of this amendment is to have the election of committees carried out by a system of proportional representation so that minorities will have an opportunity of being represented.
I will oppose this amendment. In my opinion it will be carrying the system of proportional representation much too far. There is no evidence to show that those committees in the past were not fairly chosen and were not representative of all sections.
I should like to draw the attention of the Seanad to amendment 139, which is in my name. If this amendment is now carried, it would considerably affect my amendment.
I was going to refer to that. Perhaps, in the circumstances, Senator Butler will allow his amendment to stand over? Senator Mrs. Wyse Power points out that it would be in conflict with the principle of her amendment, which more or less covers the same ground.
I am quite agreeable to allow my amendment to stand over pending a decision on Senator Mrs. Wyse Power's amendment.
The same would apply to amendment 138, in the name of Senator Kenny.
There is nothing controversial in my simple amendment; the point of it is covered in Senator Mrs. Wyse Power's amendment.
If the Seanad accepts her amendment, your amendment can be put as an addition to it.
I beg to move:
Second Schedule. Page 33. Immediately before Rule 2 to insert a new rule as follows:—
"2.—The members of the board of health shall be elected as follows:—
(a) for each county electoral area in the county health district one member of the board of health shall be elected from among the county councillors elected for that area;
(b) of the other members (in this rule called additional member) any group of county councillors comprising the necessary number of such councillors may nominate a councillor to be a member of the board of health, and such member shall be elected on such nomination without any voting;
(c) the remainder of the additional members shall be elected successively by a majority of the votes of the county councillors who are not members of any such group of county councillors as aforesaid;
(d) the number of councillors necessary to form a group for the purposes of this rule shall be the number obtained by dividing the total number of county councillors present at the election by the number of additional members to be elected or where the number so obtained is not a whole number the whole number next greater than the number so obtained;
(e) no county councillor may be a member of more than one group."
What is suggested in my amendment is, in regard to the election of members of the board of health, that in each county electoral area one member shall be elected from among county councillors elected for that area. In regard to other members, any group of county councillors comprising the necessary number of such councillors may nominate one of their number to be a member, and without any voting he can be elected. As is set out in paragraph (c), the remaining additional members can be elected successively by majority votes of councillors who are not members of any group. There is introduced into the amendment a small flavour of proportional representation.
Is there any limitation or definition as to what would form a group?
The formation of a group would depend on the councillors themselves. They would have to be unanimous in forming that group. The number might be either three, five or seven. I do not think there would be any difficulty in forming the first group. If groups were not sufficiently large enough they might have to amalgamate.
You do not put in any minimum number for a group.
This amendment works out in a very complicated fashion. Could the Senator tell us how this would affect the total number of members of the board of health? It is really important that the number should not be much beyond ten.
This amendment does not affect the number at all.
A large board is one of the worst things you could have.
What would happen in the event of there being more than ten electoral areas in the county?
Does not this amendment suggest a very complicated method? I would imagine that the amendment of Senator Butler is a simple way of dealing with the question. I do not understand how it is going to be done, and I do not think that county councillors will understand it. If we accept Senator Butler's amendment every section will have representation.
Senator Butler's amendment in actual practice would be absolutely impossible, as it would mean working out proportional representation to over five hundred decimal places. The other method, although it looks very complicated, is really very simple. It is a rough and ready form of proportional representation. It ensures that no electoral area will go without representation. The greatest number of electoral areas in any county is eight, and each one of these will be entitled to elect a representative on the board of health. After that you have the remaining number. It has been argued here and in the Dáil that various parties and groups should be entitled to representation, that the majority party in the county councils might for some purpose, political or otherwise, refuse representation to the minority, and that even if representation were granted to each electoral area there might be no representation for each particular group. The remaining part of the section will ensure that. Sub-section (d) decides the number of members to constitute a group. In actual practice this system will be simpler than that suggested by Senator Butler.
The non-labelled councillor under this proposal will have no chance of getting on this board. I am sure that at the next election there will be various groups of candidates, but there will also be independent candidates who would not desire to be in any particular group.
I wish the Minister would explain sub-section (d) a little more clearly.
It is like thinking of a number, dividing it by two and taking your first thoughts away from it.
It is a new cross-word puzzle.
In my view, it gives uniform representation and I will support it. Apart from the question of proportional representation, if this is not insisted on, you will have the personnel of the board of health largely thrown into the melting pot. It is quite possible that, as a result, you may get a board of health with considerable bias in one direction or another. I think that the suggestion aims at trying to take the sharp edge off party representation on such boards. Suppose that three is the number necessary to form a group, what would happen is, if we were members of a county council, I would go to two other councillors and say: "We will agree to nominate so-and-so." A nomination would then go in signed by the three members. Groups of three other members representing perhaps Labour, Farmers or Independents, would hand in similar nominations, and in that way you would have a general distribution of representation. Thus, not alone would you have uniform representation throughout the councils, but you would also have it among the parties, and there would be no particular overweight of opinion by any particular party. It may be a cumbersome way, but in the absence of a better alternative I will support it.
I think I am be ginning to understand it, but to do so one would want to have some experience in solving cross-word puzzles. If it is difficult for Senators to get it into their heads, I should think that it would be almost impossible to try and hammer it into the heads of farmers.
Some of us are not quite so thick-headed, but I think there are cases where the groups would be very large. If, for instance, you had a council of 30 members, you might have two groups of 15 members each.
I would suggest, if the principle of the proposed clause commends itself to the Seanad, that it might stand over for the Report Stage to see if it could not be worked out in a more simple form. I confess that I have not the faintest notion of how sub-section (d) is going to work.
I would want to take it home with me.
I think it is quite a simple matter. Of course, it is very difficult to work out without the actual councillors being present. If this was a county council working it would be very simple. Taking a county council of 40 members with four electoral areas you would have one representative for each electoral area.
There would be 6 more to be elected to a board of health of 10 members. You have still 40 members to elect the board of health, who would have to elect 6 more. In order to get the quota you divide 6 into 40, and one above, so that the result will be 7.
I think if you could accomplish that you would solve everything.
We should have a demonstration now.
Perhaps Senator Mrs. Wyse Power could make this simpler and make the illustration less formidable than the Minister did. The Seanad seems in favour of the principle.
I will bring it up on the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator Kenny's amendment, No. 114, is similar to Senator Mrs. Wyse Power's amendment which is going to be brought up on the Report Stage.
My amendment is:—
Second Schedule. To add at the end of Rule 1 the following:—
"Provided that in electing the board of health the county council shall elect one representative at least from each county electoral area."
It will not prejudice the other amendment.
If Senator Mrs. Wyse Power's amendment is not adopted on the Report Stage, I will let you move this one.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Second Schedule. Rule 1. Line 50. After the word "elected" to insert the words "by proportional representation."
Amendment put and negatived on a show of hands.
Second Schedule. Rule 5, line 21. To delete the word "council" and to substitute therefor the words "councillors present."
I would like that two-thirds of those present at the meeting should have power to depose a member of the board of health. Senators can visualise the case where a man who is a glaring offender may have some friends and may induce them to stay away from the meeting so that two-thirds of the members could not be present. Members interested in the public health will go to the meeting and vote, but my amendment secures that two-thirds of those present can disqualify another member. I think the amendment is a reasonable one.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Amendment number 117 not moved.
Second Schedule, as amended, put and agreed to.
COMMITTEES TO BE ABOLISHED UNDER PART II. OF THIS ACT.
Committees of Management appointed under Section 5 of the Tuberculosis Prevention (Ireland) Act, 1908.
Committees appointed for the purposes of the Midwives (Ireland) Act, 1918, under Section 16 of that Act.
Committees appointed under sub-section (4) of Section 2 of the Blind Persons Act, 1920.
I move:—Third Schedule. To delete lines 14 and 15. I put down this amendment to ascertain from the Minister what is proposed to be done with the Joint Hospital Board in Cork. I do not see such a board covered by any section in the Bill. The hospital I refer to is for the cure of tuberculosis and is constituted by representatives from the rural district, the urban district and county borough of Cork, under a special Act of Parliament. I fear that by this Bill it is proposed to abolish this board, and I would be glad to hear the Minister's views.
There is no longer any necessity for these committees, as the county board of health is taking over all the duties. There was no board of health for dealing with public health matters when these committees were set up. It would only lead to spreading the duties over various bodies and cause a great deal of disorganisation and disruption if we had small committees working on their own and not responsible to the board of health. Accordingly I do not think there is any necessity for the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Third Schedule put and agreed to.
ACTS TO APPLY THROUGHOUT SAORSTÁT EIREANN.
Infectious Diseases (Notification) Act, 1889.
Infectious Diseases (Prevention) Act, 1890.
Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1890. Part III.
Public Health Acts Amendment Act, 1907. Part IV.
Tuberculosis Prevention (Ireland) Act, 1908. Part I.
Fourth Schedule, line 25. To delete the word and figure "Part IV." and to substitute therefor the words and figures "Parts IV. and V."
Amendment put and agreed to.
Fourth Schedule, as amended, put and agreed to.
5. There shall be paid to every member to whom a contribution is payable under Section 57 of this Act, a sum calculated in the manner prescribed in the next rule in respect of each meeting of the county authority or authorised committee attended by him provided that no contribution shall be paid to any such member in respect of a meeting held at a place situate less than five miles by any route from his official residence.
6. The sum payable under the preceding rule in respect of each meeting shall be calculated as follows, that is to say, four pence for each mile of the journey from the member's official residence to the place of meeting travelled by railway, and five pence for each mile of such journey travelled otherwise than by railway.
Fifth Schedule. Page 35, line 10. To delete the word "five" and to substitute therefor the word "twelve."
The Bill proposes that councillors shall be paid 4d. per mile for attendance, if they live over five miles from the county council office. I think that clause was put in to enable county councillors who live in counties like Mayo, and long distances from the place of meeting, to attend the meetings. I think it is rather beneath the dignity of members of the county council who live five miles distant from the county council office to look for payment for attendance. A councillor who lives 12 miles distant from the county council office might be paid. I think that it would work out better that way.
I think the general opinion of the Seanad on previous sections and amendments discussed was that, if anything, we were on the niggardly side in payment to members of local bodies, and I think that it is rather unfair to substitute twelve for five in this case. A man having to travel five miles to attend a county council meeting is put to considerable expense and trouble, and I do not think we should agree to this proposed change.
I would suggest to Senator O'Rourke that there is not much difference in dignity between 1/8 and 4/-.
I desire to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Fifth and Sixth Schedules put and agreed to.
Seventh Schedule. To add at the appropriate place in the Schedule:—
61 and 62 Vic., c. 37. The Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. Sub-section (2) of Section 3.
This is an amendment to repeal a section of the Local Government Act, 1898. The matter was discussed here previously, and you, sir, said that if my amendment was passed it would prevent the co-option of members of county councils. I find by Section 24, sub-section (4) of the 1898 Act, that provision is made for filling casual vacancies, so that the passing of this amendment would not prevent a county council from filling vacancies caused by death or resignation, or similar causes.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I suggest that sub-section (3) be also added.
Do not be adding any more after your last amendment has been accepted.
Seventh Schedule, as amended, put and agreed to.