As one who has spent the major part of his life in carrying out arterial drainage work throughout the country, I should like to say that I welcome this Bill. I think it is a move in the right direction. I welcome it all the more because the Minister, in introducing it in the Dáil, did not assume the attitude of take it or leave it, an attitude that unfortunately we have been so much accustomed to. In the Dáil, the Minister said that he thought the Seanad the right place in which to have amendments to the Bill considered. He made that remark arising out of a very important point raised by Deputy Professor Thrift. The Bill undoubtedly is intended to deal with arterial drainage, but as Deputy Thrift pointed out with, I think, a certain amount of accuracy, there might be controversy between the title and obvious intention of the Bill and the text of it as it now stands. That is to say that it might be applied to thorough drainage. For the benefit of the uninitiated in these matters, perhaps I might say that there are three sorts of drainage. There is arterial drainage, which is mainly applied to the large rivers and arteries that carry away the waters of the country. In that a great many people and districts, and possibly even the State, may be interested. Therefore it is only fair, of course, that they should contribute to the cost. Then there is open main drainage, which deals with the smaller rivers, watercourses and large drains, and in that a number of individuals may be interested. It is only fair, of course, that these individuals should contribute to the cost of any work done. Thorough drainage is the execution of close-filled drains on a man's own land. The only person who can benefit by that is the occupier of the land, and it would not be fair that anyone else should be asked to contribute to the cost of work of that kind. People may say, of course, that the poor man concerned may not have any money to do the work. That is not so. If he has not the money, a beneficent country has provided him with the means of getting it. He can go to the Department of Public Works and get a loan. He can pay for it out of the benefit that his land will derive from the work done. Therefore, Deputy Thrift was right in drawing attention to the matter. On the Committee Stage, I will move an amendment excluding thorough drainage from the operations of the Bill.
There was another important point raised in the Dáil by Deputy Brennan with reference to bogs and turbary. It was a point which deserves consideration. From my knowledge of drainage in the country generally, I am prepared to say with absolute certainty that in at least 80 per cent. of the districts in which drainage can be carried out under this Act this question of turbaries will inevitably crop up. A grave defect in all the arterial drainage Acts passed previously was this: that you could only tax people in proportion to the benefit derived by their land. If turbary was rendered available that previously had not been available or if it was improved, or if turf was enabled to be got that could not be got previously, naturally that land derived a great deal more benefit than ordinary agricultural land, and accordingly it was valued higher than agricultural land. The result was that when the turf was cut, the cut-away bog was left to bear the tax that the turf formerly had borne. That is a point which well deserves consideration. I have prepared an amendment to deal with it on the Committee Stage. The amendment will seek to remedy that injustice and to make the matter quite clear.
There is another point that is perhaps of still greater importance. It is this: that the amount of money provided under the Bill should be extended beyond the present limit of £1,000. We sometimes forget that money has altered a good deal in value, particularly since the war. I suppose, before this alteration took place, you would get as much work done for £450 as you would get done to-day for £1,000. Then there are other circumstances that have arisen. Agricultural labour has been very highly organised. The effect of that has been that the amount of work you can get done to-day for £450 is very much less than what you could get done for the same amount in pre-war times. My experience leads me to believe that you could get as much work done in pre-war times for £300 as you can get done to-day for £1,000. In view of that, is it worth while passing a Bill under which for all practical purposes the expenditure is limited to £300? In view of the alteration in the value of money, to which I have referred, I do not suppose that for £1,000, present value, you would be able to get more than 300 perches of drains cleaned. Is it worth while to go to the trouble, expense and inconvenience of passing this Bill for the purpose of enabling a person to clean up 300 perches of drains?
Might be suggest that the Minister for Local Government should approach the Minister for Finance with a view to having the amount mentioned in the Bill extended. Otherwise there is not much use in passing it. This, I think, is a question that the Seanad could deal with. Of course, we cannot deal with the question as to how much the Minister is going to contribute out of the £1,000 limit. I do not see why the Minister for Finance should object to this suggestion. Under the Arterial Drainage Act of 1925 the Minister for Finance can be called upon to contribute a portion of the cost. I think the minimum is 30 per cent., but he can give up to 40 per cent. or 50 per cent., and I think in some instances the whole amount. Under this Bill the amount that the Minister for Finance can be asked to contribute is limited to 25 per cent. I do not see why the Minister for Finance should object to an extension of the present limit. If he consents to do so, he will be getting rid of some of his liabilities, and I believe an extension of the limit would make the Act more workable and worth while passing. I am preparing a number of amendments to this Bill. I do not know if the Minister will accept them. We can deal with them on the Committee Stage. That is all I propose to say on this Stage of the Bill.