PUBLIC BUSINESS. - ARTERIAL DRAINAGE (MINOR SCHEMES) BILL, 1928.—COMMITTEE STAGE.
The Seanad went into Committee.
Section 1 put and agreed to.
(1) Any three or more persons being occupiers of lands which are liable to be flooded or injured by water or which are capable of being improved by drainage or being persons upon trust for whom or for whose benefit any such lands are held by the occupiers thereof may at any time within five years after the passing of this Act but not later apply to the council of the county or the respective councils of the counties in which such lands are situate to have drainage works executed under this Act for the purpose of draining or improving such lands.
(2) Every application under this section to the council of a county or to the respective councils of two or more counties shall be made by petition presented (as the case may be) to such council or to each of such councils severally and every such petition shall be in writing in the prescribed form and shall state in general terms the drainage works which it is thereby proposed should be executed and shall contain a statement by the petitioners that to the best of their knowledge and belief the total cost of the execution of such drainage works will not exceed one thousand pounds.
Section 2, sub-section (1). — After word "drainage" in line 28 to insert the words "other than thorough drainage."
During the Second Reading Stage of this Bill, I think the Minister said it was his intention to make it perfectly clear that thorough drainage was not to be included in this Bill. Of course it is obvious it was never intended to be included. Deputy Professor Thrift in the Lower House pointed out that controversy might arise as to whether the text of the Bill and the title were not in conflict. It is perfectly obvious that it would be improper that thorough drainage should be included, for this reason — that only one person can gain advantage from thorough drainage, that is, the occupier of the lands. If it is not worth his while to drain the land, it is not worth anybody's while.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 2, sub-section (2). — After the word "county" in line 36 to insert the words "or county borough."
When this matter was before the Dáil some Deputy asked the Minister to include county boroughs. I think the Minister did not see his way to do so. I am quite aware of several cases in which county boroughs are interested in schemes which would come under this Bill, some of them very suitable schemes. I cannot see any reason why a county borough should not be adopted as well as a county council. I suggest the amendment would make for the better working of the Bill and would be of advantage to the country.
The amendment would really be of no help to the county boroughs, because I can conceive of no drainage scheme affecting county boroughs and the neighbouring counties that would come under the £1,000 limit. If there is a drainage scheme affecting a county borough — a rural area — the different interests as between property of one kind and another are so conflicting that I do not think a minor scheme, operated entirely, as this scheme is proposed to be operated, by the county council, should call for the intervention of the Board of Works. The Senator has an amendment down to bring the Board of Works into the scheme, and I hope to show that it is inadvisable to put a drainage scheme involving a county borough into a minor drainage Bill. That, from our point of view, is entirely unsound, and it would throw responsibilities on the county councils that we do not propose they should shoulder. If there are any county borough drainage schemes that require to be undertaken, they must be undertaken under some other Act other than under a minor drainage Bill, which is framed particularly to help small agricultural owners. I hope the Senator will appreciate that.
In further explanation of what I have said, and in view of what the Minister has said, perhaps I might point out to him that a great many of the old county boroughs of this country have attached to them what are known as liberties, which comprise a very considerable area of land that is to all intents and purposes the same as land under the control of county councils. In addition, these liberties are very frequently used as market gardens, where drainage is often perhaps more desirable than drainage such as is contemplated under this Bill, and it would involve comparatively small expenditure. I know of three of these districts. I do not think the money involved in any one of them would exceed even the limit proposed in the Bill, and it is very desirable and necessary that the schemes should be undertaken in these cases. In fact, they are just the cases with which this Bill, in my opinion, has been introduced to deal, and I do not see any reason why they should not be included.
If the proposal were accepted it would mean we would have to introduce corresponding amendments dealing with county boroughs all through the Bill, and that would throw the simplicity of the Bill out of gear. I think if existing county boroughs desire to be brought in under the Board of Works that such drainage as would be done would be in regard to main rivers. Our system is that, with the exception of the minor drainage schemes, the Board of Works have complete control of the situation. It does not seem helpful or reasonable to ask that the county boroughs should get the advantage of the simplicity embodied in this Bill for carrying out small schemes. The proposal is entirely unacceptable.
I am absolutely sure the Minister is wrong, but as he has a very decided objection to it I will not force the matter. I know of two or three places in which it is very desirable the operations of the Bill should apply.
They would not be precluded from getting the drainage work done under other Acts.
The other Acts are too cumbersome and the places are too small to come under the other Acts.
Amendments 2 and 3 by leave withdrawn.
Section 2, sub-section (2). To delete the word "one" in line 43 and to substitute therefor the word "two."
I think the bulk of the amendments in my name hinge on this point. As I said last week, we are asked to think in terms of what £1,000 would work out at prior to the war. I think the Seanad may take it from me that its value to-day does not represent anything like what it did pre-war. If the Minister does not accept my amendment I would like to know how he proposes to deal with schemes the cost of which exceed slightly £1,000 — say the cost of which amounted to £1,200 or £1,300. It is very desirable these schemes should be carried out. When you come to consider what you can do for £1,000 to-day it seems to me that it is hardly worth while introducing this Bill. I made a calculation as to what £1,000 would cover, and I came to the conclusion that it would not cover more than the improvement of 300 perches by drainage. If we are to be limited to that I think there is hardly any necessity for the Bill. As I pointed out last week, the country will not contribute as much under this scheme as under the Act of 1925. The Minister said I propose that there should be a certain amount of control by the Board of Works over these schemes. I think that is desirable, but it does not affect the question. County councils can be safely entrusted to do all the work even with the limit of £2,000 which I have put down. I cannot see why the amendment is opposed.
This Bill is very much in the nature of an experiment. A large number of schemes under the £1,000 limit were received by the Board of Works under the Arterial Drainage Act of 1925. As a result of the number of these small schemes coming in, it was considered that the smaller schemes could be more satisfactorily dealt with in some other way than under the 1925 Act. On examination of the matter it was decided to give the county councils entire power and responsibility for the carrying out of the minor schemes, and to cut out central control entirely, in that way doing away in the first place with unnecessary expenditure here at headquarters, and in the second place the delay in the carrying out of these small schemes. Also it was decided to transfer to the county councils the responsibility which it was said might be legitimately transferred to them as an experiment to see how they would shoulder the work. Gradually the whole work of the maintenance of drainage districts is being transferred to the county councils, and for the purposes of economy and efficiency they ought to be transferred to them as an experiment to execute the smaller works. We are given to understand, both from the experience of the Board of Works and from representations made, that there is a large number of very small schemes requiring attention. This Bill is brought in for the purpose of getting that work attended to in the most economical way. The Bill is proposed to last for five years, and the experience which we will have gained during these five years will tell us whether the limit of £1,000 is reasonable, and whether it can be raised or not. The Bill, as I have said, is entirely an experiment, and we feel we would not be justified in raising the amount above £1,000, because of the untried nature of the machinery we are putting on to this work, and also because of the great desirability of attending to the smaller schemes. The results will be that the smaller schemes will be readily and effectively attended to, but if we raise the limit to over £1,000 they might not be attended to. Consequently, because of the experimental nature of the Bill, and the general facts we have here before us with regard to the desirability of allowing the smaller schemes to be attended to, we do not propose to accept the amendment.
The Minister has criticised the suggestion on three grounds. First he said that many estimates had been received from districts showing that the work could be done for £1,000. I would like to point out to the Minister that people very often make these applications without sufficient evidence in support of them. An application will come for a scheme, which it is stated will cost only £1,000. When that is investigated it will be found to cost a great deal more than the amount estimated. I think it is almost certain that when it comes to investigating these schemes to find out how far the promoters' estimates of the costs are justified, the number that can be done for £1,000 will be practically negligible.
The second point he raised was that if we altered the figure to £2,000 it would hold up the Bill for a very long time. On the contrary, I think if we do not raise it to £2,000 practically no work will be done, because it will be found when the claims are gone into that they will cost far more than the limit provided in the Bill. The third point raised was that the county council staffs had so much other work to do that they could not find time to do this. I have an amendment down dealing with that very point. I do not think the county council staffs are the proper people to do it. Most members of the Seanad who are members of county councils, and who know what the officials have to do, will agree with me when I say that if they do their own work properly they will not have time to devote to drainage work. Furthermore, I can say as an engineer that this is highly technical work, and the bulk of the staffs of the county councils are employed to maintain the roads, bridges and other work of that sort, and are not able to do drainage work. People should be got from outside, and there is power in the Bill to get outside people to do drainage work. The three points the Minister has raised against it, to my mind, work out in favour of the amendment, and I am afraid I must take the opinion of the Seanad on it. I do not like doing so, but I am quite sure that when the Minister has experience of the working of the Bill he will find that it would have been very desirable that the limit should have been raised to £2,000.
By Section 14 the Government's contribution is limited to £250 for carrying out these schemes. I take it that the whole financial arrangement of the Bill is based on that, and that if we accept Senator Barrington's amendment we will be putting on county councils a number of minor schemes for which they may be liable for each scheme individually to the extent of £750. There might be a multiplicity of schemes over £1,000 and we might be letting the county councils in for a number of schemes that will involve large outlay. As Senator Barrington argued, county councils are practically incapable of carrying out that work. I think it very inadvisable to alter that section. I do not think we should raise the figures in the Bill from £750 to £1,500, as suggested by Senator Barrington.
Amendment put, and declared lost.
Sections 3 and 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 5, SUB-SECTION (4).
No county council or joint committee of county councils shall prepare or carry out any drainage scheme which proposes the execution of any drainage works in any drainage district constituted in pursuance of the provisions of the Navigation (Ireland) Acts, 1842 to 1857, or the Drainage and Improvement of Lands (Ireland) Acts, 1863 to 1892, or the Arterial Drainage Act, 1925 (No. 33 of 1925), or which proposes any interference with the land, rights, and other property of any local authority without the consent of such authority or with the powers, lands, rights, and other property of any body charged with the control of the navigation of any river or having the ownership of any canal without the consent of such body.
Section 5, sub-section (4). To delete in line 19 the words "the execution of any drainage works in" and to substitute therefor the words "any interference with the works of."
This section deals with a highly technical matter. When a drainage district is prepared, and when it proposes to improve land in any townland, under the old Acts the whole of the townland was included in the drainage district. Frequently in the west townlands are very large and they sometimes run into different watersheds. To say that no work should be carried out within the drainage district means that you should not carry out any works even in the watershed of another river. That would frequently arise. Obviously the intention of the section is that the works in any drainage district already constituted should not be interfered with. With that I am in agreement. I think that is very desirable. But to word the section so as to prevent the execution of work in a totally different watershed — although by the exigencies of the law they happen to be in the same district — is to my mind going too far.
I do not mind accepting the sense of the amendment, but I feel that while the Senator has in mind one or two bits of townlands that may be really outside the watershed of a drainage district that already exists, we may have actual interference with drainage in a way that he does not intend, whereas the clause as it stands would prevent that district being interfered with at all except the Board of Works had charge of it. There may be danger of things happening that we would like to avoid. If in his experience the Senator thinks there is no danger I have no objection to the amendment.
I am quite sure as long as the provision remains, that the works of drainage districts already in existence are not to be interfered with, that there is no fear of any damage being done, whereas if the clause stands as it is there is a fear that many desirable things that might be done will be ruled out.
Does the consent of the Minister extend to the next amendment? Is it consequential? It reads: Section 5, sub-section (4). To delete in line 23 the words "which proposes any interference."
Amendments agreed to.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
Section 6, sub-section (2). To add at the end of the sub-section the words: "but in such case, or in case of a refusal by a county council to consider such petition and report, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, issue an order compelling such county council to proceed with the work."
On the Second Reading the Minister told us that if any county council refused to carry out a scheme under this Bill it could be referred to the Board of Works. That would remove the difficulty in some cases. I believe under this Bill there will be very many schemes of £200, £300 and £400, which will be uneconomic for the Board of Works to perform and which should be done by county councils.
I understand that even under the Drainage Act of 1925, where two county councils are involved in a scheme and that one refuses altogether, there is power to force that county council to go on. I strongly suggest that where forcing county councils in matters of this kind has been avoided in bigger schemes carried out under the authority of the Board of Works it should not now be included in this Bill. Where you want the greatest possible expedition you would not put force on the county councils. The object of the Bill is to give powers to people to improve their own position. The Bill is experimental, and we ought to leave any suggestion of compulsion until we have more experience of the work.
Might I say that I quite agree in principle with the amendment and the object that Senator O'Rourke desires to achieve? I also agree with the Minister in his objection to the form of the amendment, but I think Senator O'Rourke's object would be achieved in a different way. I think if an amendment — I do not know how the Minister would receive it — was framed in this way, that where one county council was strongly of opinion that certain works should be carried out, or was prepared to do the work, and if another county council which was not so interested — perhaps not interested at all — refused to join with it, the council which was interested should be allowed to carry out the work, even though portion of the scheme might be in another county. I think that would meet the idea Senator O'Rourke has put forward and obviate any idea of compulsion.
That might be a very serious thing, because a small minute portion might be in the county anxious to have the whole job done, and the greater portion might be in the resisting county. You would be bringing pressure on that county with the least interest to compel the county that had a greater interest to agree. That is the trouble about that.
I do not think it would work out that way. Under the terms of the Bill a county council has to accept certain obligations, and if a county has little or no interest in carrying out work they will not accept the obligation of carrying out work in another county. Where it would actually work in is where one county has got a major interest and the other little or none. I do not know why a county with little or no interest should be allowed to stand in the way of another county carrying out work which would be advantageous to them. I do not think a county which is not interested in the carrying out of certain work would ever accept responsibility or liability for a county which had the major interest. I do not think that case will arise. I think Senator O'Rourke and the Minister should consider the question between now and the Report Stage. It seems to me that if they could get over the difficulty it would be a very desirable thing. As the Bill stands it does not deal with the question where one council agrees with a scheme and another does not. I quite agree with the Minister that it would be utterly impossible in these days to compel a county that strongly disapproves of it to do work against their will.
I support the amendment, and I do so from personal experience of the working of the Act of 1925. In County Waterford there is an area extending into another county which is subject to flooding. About 40 acres are within the County Borough of Waterford and some 300 acres in the County Council area. The drainage scheme appealed to everybody. The county had much to gain by the carrying out of this project, and the city, from the purely health point of view, and also in view of the improvement of 40 acres of land in its area. The County Council would have gained by the drainage of the land and the higher assessment which would be put on it. It would have prevented a recurrence of flooding on the two main roads, from Waterford to Tramore, over which there is considerable traffic, and from Waterford to Cork. These roads are periodically flooded and all traffic suspended, sometimes for days. It is becoming worse from year to year, and during the last flood on the Tramore railway, which runs through this marshy district, the water was well over the wheels of the locomotive.
That is a case in point where the Corporation of Waterford, although theirs was a minor interest, were avid for the carrying out of a scheme, but the county council refused to fall in with the proposal. As one who was chairman of that council for some years, I regret to say that it was a reactionary one. I say this in extenuating their attitude that they have a high rate there, higher than the farmers are able to carry. They only looked at it from the point of view of what it would cost. When the county council came to consider the matter they turned it down and went on with the next business. There is a case in point. They were interested in the way of revenue and in keeping up the road, which involves them in serious expenditure from year to year, yet they stood in the way of this very beneficial scheme on the edge of Waterford City, with 30,000 people. Having had that experience I support the amendment.
I would appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision in this matter. I am afraid that otherwise some of the most important drainage schemes in our area will be held up unless there is some law to compel certain work being done by county councils. It will be against drainage unless there is some law to compel work of this kind to be done.
I am not very clear about the amendment. The Senator wants to make it compulsory on a council to consider a petition in default. I think that the Bill compels them to consider any petition without the amendment. I think it would be advisable that small schemes under £1,000 should be referred, as suggested in the amendment, to the Minister for consideration, where a county council under its powers refuses to put the scheme into effect. We cannot blink the fact that in certain areas it would be possible for a valuable scheme to be lost because two or three people got members with whom they were persona grata to oppose it. It would be a pity if a valuable scheme were lost. If this Bill remains as it is now the county councils have power to say that a scheme is not an advisable one, and I think there is a danger of some valuable schemes being lost because a petition was not accepted by a county council. The acceptance of a petition would be fortified by a report from the county surveyor that the work was feasible and could be performed within a cost of £1,000. I think it is not advisable that county councils should have any power to condemn a scheme which might be a valuable one. If the scheme is a valuable one, it is for the Minister and his advisers to decide, and if he decides that it is, to direct that the work should be carried out. I think the amendment is a good one.
From the remarks made by Senator Bennett and Senator Kenny, they seem to be regarding larger schemes than this Bill contemplates. We heard about arterial drainage, about roads being flooded and interfered with, and that the county councils would not consent, because the cost would be too much. If a £1,000 scheme is going to be objected to on the grounds that it is going to affect the rates, that is rather far-fetched. The whole principle of the Bill is to give the local people a chance of doing the work themselves, getting free of the Board of Works and of the Minister, and settling their own affairs. That is why the amount is limited to £1,000. The Bill is purely an experiment to try if the schemes will work, to see if local authorities can manage to do some useful work. This Bill will meet schemes that are available. We do not want to be put in the position of trying to compel anybody to do a thing they do not want to do. We are strongly recommended by the Minister and by the Board of Works to let this experiment be made. Senator Barrington wanted the amount to be increased to £2,000, and now the Seanad is asked to restore compulsion. I think the Minister should get his Bill as it is, and work it as an experiment. If it fails, we will have to get something else.
In this matter the question of the cost of the scheme largely enters into the decision of the county council as to whether it should be carried out or not. Generally a scheme is paid for in three ways:— Firstly, a drainage rate paid by persons whose lands are benefited; there is then a Government contribution not exceeding one-fourth of the amount — or £250 — and then there is the county council contribution. I do not agree with this element of compulsion that Senator O'Rourke's amendment introduces, unless it was made clear that no council would be compelled to make a contribution if it did not wish to do so. As regards drainage in general, I do not think it is any benefit to the country to drain land where the benefit accruing would not at least pay the interest on the outlay. It is simply throwing money away to pay more for that work than the benefit that would accrue would be worth, and I cannot imagine any county council refusing to help a neighbouring council, when they are not asked to pay a county contribution. If this amendment is carried and if compulsory powers were given the Minister, I certainly say that he should have no power to compel a county council to give a contribution to a drainage scheme if it did not wish to do so.
I wish to make a few remarks as a result of the experience gained in the County Kildare in connection with drainage schemes. I think this is one of the very best suggestions made, either experimental or compulsory, that county councils should adopt these schemes limiting the amount to, say, £1,000, to be applied in cases in the discretion of the council where drainage is really necessary. After the experience we had last year in County Kildare where flooding arose the drainage will be one of the greatest contributions towards the prosperity of the county. I have experience of farms where drainage was carried out with the greatest possible advantage, and in another place a next door neighbour — one of those people who never wants to do anything either for himself or for anyone else — had to be threatened with legal proceedings before an outlet for the drainage could be secured. I am in favour of county councils having authority to carry out these schemes where they are put forward by the local people. The only drawback I see so far is want of energy in getting the job started. It appears that the whole responsibility is put on the county surveyor, but if the Minister could put forward any inducement by having an independent engineer to take up these drainage schemes. I think it would be a great advantage. No one likes to apply the word "compulsion" to county councils, but it is often very necessary to have some pressure brought to bear on them over and above ordinary methods so that these necessary schemes should be carried out. From the experience that we have had I think it is proper that this suggestion should be carried into effect.
My idea in tabling this amendment was to deal with cases where the principal work to be done was in, say, county A, while in county B the lands would not benefit in any way, but where excavation would have to be done. In such cases farmers in county B would gain nothing except that the engineers would go on their land and clean drains for the benefit of county A. These farmers would appeal to the county council not to entertain this question as it was not going to benefit anyone in their county. As a result that county council would object to the scheme. If the people in both counties are going to benefit both counties would carry on. There are a number of places where all the benefit would be on one side. In cases of that sort one county would have to pay all the charges and the other would not pay anything. In that case Senator Linehan's argument goes by the board. I appeal to the Minister to let the amendment pass. He said that up to the present he did not like compelling county councils to do work, still Government Departments recently compelled them to do certain work. The Department of Local Government compelled county councils to appoint county medical officers of health after the proposal had been rejected by the councils. It is quite common for the Government Departments to compel county councils to do certain work. In the present instance, I think it would be very wise to have such power. It would be seldom necessary to exercise it, but if the Minister had the power to make county councils do the work it would be favourably considered.
A number of different ideas have cut across this discussion. In reply to what Senator Linehan stated, might I say that there is no compulsion of any kind on a county council to give a contribution to a scheme. The only liability that a county council has under this Bill is the cost of the preparation of the scheme, and for any excess over the actual cost involved in the carrying out of the scheme. If there is any excess like that the county council has to bear it. Senator Bennett apparently would like if a county council refuses to put a scheme into operation inside its own county, apart altogether from a second county being involved in the matter, to give the Minister for Local Government power to say to the county council that it should go on with the scheme. I am very much afraid that there are many inflated ideas abroad as to the number of professional engineers available in my Department. There are two engineers available for outside work on the housing staff. The whole Road Department is run by the chief road engineer with three road inspectors.
Some Senators suggested that if a county council did not proceed to put a scheme into operation, the Minister for Local Government should have the power to do so. I could not do that without getting the statutory machinery that would enable me to do it. The object of this Bill is to give powers and facilities to local people in connection with small schemes to decide these matters themselves. We are putting compulsion on the county councils to see that when a scheme is carried out it will have to look after the drainage and that the benefitees pay the drainage rate. Beyond that there is no compulsion on the county councils to go ahead with schemes inside their own areas. I do not want powers to compel county councils to go ahead with schemes that they do not want to go ahead with. It would be unjust, I think, for me to do so in view of the fact that I am not in a position to assist them.
Senator O'Rourke referred to the case of a drainage scheme coming under two county councils, and where it might happen that one of the county councils objected to the part of the scheme that came within its county being carried out. I do not know whether the kind of proposition that he puts up really exists or not — that is, that a drainage scheme benefiting land in county A may have to have some of the work done in county B, which will not affect the rate in county B. It is quite clear to me that one could not force county B to allow county A to carry out work in an area of county B.
County B has a drainage rate, but the assessment and the valuation on the amount of improvement done to the land by the drainage would be by a valuer employed by county A. He would make his valuation on the estimated amount of work to be done inside the county. This Bill is an experiment, and I would like to leave the element of compulsion entirely aside. If there is a good lot of work to be done, why should there be any desire to deal with a piece of work around which friction may possibly arise? There is a tendency, perhaps, to regard this as a drainage scheme proper rather than as a Bill giving facilities to county councils to deal with the smaller schemes of drainage. As Minister for Local Government, I have no machinery for dealing technically with drainage work. I object strongly to having put into the Bill the proposal that I will have to administer schemes not carried out by the county councils. Such a suggestion was not considered when the major Drainage Act of 1925 was under discussion. I think that the case that Senator Kenny mentions can hardly be regarded as one that would properly come within a minor drainage scheme to be carried out by a county council. No matter how small a scheme is, I think that if two county councils were at loggerheads in the matter that the work ought not to be carried out by either one or the other of them, particularly where we have the Department of the Board of Works for the purpose of carrying out drainage schemes other than minor drainage schemes.
I would plead with the Seanad to leave out of this Bill the kind of case that Senator O'Rourke speaks of. I think we should leave some power to the county councils. We are putting a lot of responsibility upon them in this measure. They are getting under this Bill a fair chance of going ahead with a lot of work that lies before them. I do not think that, as regards the county councils, there ought to be any suggestion or threat of compulsion coming from any side.
I would ask the Minister to deal with the case of an individual who has a weir and fishing rights on his property. The weir is on the border of a certain county. This individual was asked to remove the weir as its existence was holding up the drainage of adjoining property. Certain officials, I think, inspected the place. I understand that when this man was visited by some of the officials with a view to having the weir removed, he made the statement that it would take all the members of the Dáil and Seanad to remove it. This individual has certain fishing rights there, and insists on keeping the weir. The result of that is, that the drainage of the county is held up. That is a very serious matter. I think that the law should be so arranged that an individual should be compelled to remove an obstruction that is holding up the drainage of a whole district. I do not say that this weir should be removed without compensation being paid to the individual concerned.
The matter to which the Senator is referring does not arise on this amendment.
The question of compulsion arises.
But not this gentleman and his fishing rights.
I have nothing to do with this weir, or any person in connection with it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.
SECTION 7 (1).
(1) Every drainage scheme shall be in the prescribed form and shall have annexed thereto all such (if any) maps, drawings, plans, sections, and schedules as may be prescribed and shall show in the prescribed manner all such matters and things as are referred to in this Act as fixed by or stated in the drainage scheme and all such other matters and things as shall be prescribed.
I move amendment 12:—
"Section 7, sub-section (1). To delete in line 43 the words ‘prescribed manner' and substitute therefor the words ‘manner hitherto prescribed under the Drainage and Improvement of Lands (Ireland) Acts, 1863 and 1892.'"
The wording in the sub-section is very vague. It does not say who is to prescribe the documents, and I think the amendment I am moving is absolutely necessary.
There is nothing vague in the Bill at all. I may point out that the amendment moved by the Senator would not carry out what he wants. The prescribed manner is referred to in Section 1, where the word "prescribed" is defined to mean "prescribed by the Minister by regulations made under this Act." Section 25 of the Bill states that the Minister may, by order, "make regulations in regard to any matter or thing which is referred to in this Act as prescribed or which the Minister is authorised by this Act to prescribe."
If that is so the amendment is out of order, because we have already passed Section 1. We cannot alter that now.
From the point of view of the county councils and their officials who will afterwards be dealing with these matters, it is much better, instead of referring to provisions in old Acts, to say that the Minister for Local Government will prescribe in exact detail the way in which schemes must be put up.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 7 and 8 agreed to.
SECTION 9 (1).
(1) If the aggregate value as stated in the drainage scheme of so much of the lands proposed by the scheme to be drained or improved as are in the rated occupation of persons who have duly informed the county council or the joint committee (as the case may be) that they dissent from the scheme exceeds one-half of the total value as stated in the scheme of the lands so proposed to be drained or improved the county council or joint committee shall refuse to confirm the scheme but if the said aggregate value does not exceed one-half of the said total value the county council or joint committee (as the case may be) after considering the objections (if any) to the drainage scheme duly sent to them under this Act and hearing such (if any) persons as they are required by this section to hear, shall at their discretion either confirm the scheme without alteration or confirm the scheme with such alteration (whether by way of variation, addition, or omission) as they may think proper to make therein or refuse to confirm the scheme.
I move amendment 16:—
Section 9, sub-section (1). After the word "aggregate" in line 50, to insert the words "estimated improved."
I hope the Minister will agree with me that it is not the question of the present aggregate value that ought to give the people concerned the right to vote in regard to these drainage schemes, but rather the proportion of the cost that they will have to pay. If, for instance, a man owns two-thirds of the present value of the land and that on that he is only rated for a very small portion of the improvement, it would be unfair that he should be allowed to out-vote the man who is rated for the bulk of the improvement, but who does not hold as much of the present value of the land. Therefore I propose that instead of the section reading "aggregate value" it should read "aggregate estimated improved value."
I do not agree that the Senator's amendment is a really sound one. The Senator himself admits the difficulty of estimating the thing properly in working out these particular schemes. In basing a decision as to whether a scheme will be gone ahead with on a vote on more than 50 per cent. of the present aggregate value of the land involved, we are basing it on something which is definite. Take, for instance, that there are four persons with holdings, the aggregate value of each of which is £10, and that three of these want a scheme carried out and that the fourth person does not. The position is that that scheme is carried out because you have £30 as against £10. If the estimated improvement in the people who went to work and carried out the schemes were simply £1 in respect of each holding, and that the other person's estimated improvement was £3, then under the Senator's amendment the £3 people would be able to stop the scheme; but suppose his estimated improvement was 2½ he would not be able to stop the scheme, and yet if when the scheme was finally examined it was found his land was improved by £3, whereas the lands of the other persons combined were only improved by two and a half pounds he would have a particular kind of grievance in law. I do not know how it would be rectified. He would be called upon to pay the maintenance rate, but if the full truth were known at the start he would have been able to stop it. I think it is better to base the decisions on the aggregate value of land. I hesitate to accept the amendment. That would put us in the position, even in any small percentage of our schemes, of basing them on a decision that was not sound.
I would like to explain that the principle the Minister has now laid down is flying directly in the face of the principle that has prevailed in the Arterial Drainage Act up to the present. In all schemes carried out the man who has to pay the bulk of the money has the vote. In other words, the man who pays the piper calls the tune. I think it is a sound principle. To show how a very grave injustice might occur, we will take three men who have a large interest in the drainage of land, which will be improved only to the extent of one penny per acre. They propose to compel works to be carried out for which another man will be rated at one shilling an acre, and they can compel him to incur this expenditure for their own benefit. That is unjust and wrong, and is departing from the principle that has always been enforced up to the present, and I do not see why it should be departed from.
To depart from it in this Bill would be to depart from the principle in the Arterial Drainage Act of 1925. That is the position in that Act, and in an appendix to that Bill. I feel it a matter fundamental to taking decisions that we ought not to depart from the principle accepted in the Act of 1925.
I think the Minister is slightly wrong there. In the Arterial Drainage Act of 1925, if I remember rightly, there was considerable discussion in the Seanad as to whether people should be told before the works were carried out whether they should be carried out or not, and what they should have to pay. I think they were not told what they had to pay. Senators were afraid such a provision would hold up the work and the Bill was passed, I think, under a misapprehension. I tried to insist that these valuation schedules should be given to the people before they were asked to vote as to whether they would carry out the work or not. That is, a man should know whether he was going to pay more than his neighbour, and should know to what extent he would benefit, and he should know the same about his neighbour. That information ought to be furnished in every case. I think, as well as my recollection serves me, that in the Act of 1925 that principle was departed from. In these circumstances there was no estimate of improved value for them to vote on, and the only thing they could go on was the aggregate value.
It is wrong to say that principle was preserved in the Act of 1925. Before a decision is finally given it rests with the landowners whose property is proposed to be benefited and who will pay the major portion of the outlay spread over a term of 25 years before they are asked to accept a scheme to see they are furnished with every particular regarding the cost of the scheme. If the cost exceeds the estimate there would be a proportionate increase. They are furnished with every particular, and the full scheme of assessment must be available for a certain time in the county council offices of the areas drained. The assessment and the maps and all details of the scheme are available for inspection by every owner of land, or person affected by the carrying out of the scheme.
If that is so, the Senator ought to be in favour of the amendment, for it proposes to carry that principle into effect.
There is also the same provision in this Bill, that if a person who has a big grievance, and who, having voted the amount of his annual value, can appear before the county council when the scheme is being decided.
Amendment put and declared lost.
That disposes of Amendment 17 as well.
Section 9 put and agreed to.
When a drainage scheme has been duly confirmed under this Act such scheme (with such reasonable additions, omissions, variations and deviations as shall in the course of the work be found necessary) shall be carried out in accordance with this Act by the county council or through and by the joint committee (as the case may be) by whom such scheme was prepared.
Section 10. To add at the end of the section the words "All such work shall be carried out subject to the approval and control of the Commissioners of Public Works and, failing compliance with their requirements, the Minister for Finance may withhold the State grant authorised by Section 14 of this Act."
Section 10 proposes that as soon as the drainage work has been duly confirmed it shall be carried out. I do not think it is desirable that the work should be allowed to be carried out without any control or supervision. I do not think that a great many of the county councils — I am not talking of county councils that have representatives in this House, but some of those county councils with which I am familiar — would be the better for having a little control. Seeing that the Board of Works have a staff of engineers, and that the machinery is available, it is only reasonable they should be asked to make a report and see that the work is carried out properly before the Minister for Finance is asked to pay his contribution.
Under the Act of 1925 the Commissioners of Public Works had responsibility for seeing the whole scheme carried out. I quite see the wisdom of having approval by the Commissioners of Public Works, who have experience of drainage schemes under former Acts. They have engineers whose work is principally concerned with the carrying out of drainage schemes, and the method proposed for carrying them out should be a matter for approval by the Commissioners of Public Works.
This Bill deals only with minor schemes. Senator Barrington said that only 300 perches of land could be benefited in any scheme under this Bill. To have the Commissioners of Public Works, with all their paraphernalia, superintending such schemes seems to me ridiculous.
All that the amendment suggests is that the Commissioners of Public Works should inspect the schemes.
No. To inspect the work and see that it is being carried out.
Subject to approval and control.
Control comes in in this way: if they see that the work was badly done, why should the Minister for Finance be asked to contribute one-fourth of the cost?
The whole object of this Bill, as I understand it, is to try and carry out small drainage schemes. If the amendment is passed it means that the Board of Works must appoint engineers whose duty it would be to see how these schemes are being carried out. We are told that the schemes will apply to only about 300 perches. Surely the surveyor of a county council is sufficiently competent to undertake the inspection of such schemes.
Supposing, Senator, your proposal was carried, and supposing that the Board of Works came down and said: "There has been something wrong." Money has been spent. Who is going to pay the money that has been spent? Where are we going to get the money? You are asking us to have inspection by the Board of Works.
I am afraid that you cannot be cross-examining the Senator. You can suggest that to me, and then the Senator can answer.
We would then be in the position that a scheme had been carried out and presumably money paid for it, and the Board of Works would say: "This scheme has not been carried out properly." The Government would then say: "We will not give our contribution." Where is the money to be got from then? Under your amendment I would like to know what would happen in those circumstances.
May I answer the cross-examination?
To the best of your ability.
The Senator is going on the assumption that the inspection of the Board of Works would not take place until the work was finished. I say: "Under the inspection and control of the Board of Works." They could send an official down occasionally, and if long before the work is finished he were to say: "You are not doing this in the right way. It must be done in such a way," I think you would find that the intervention of that official would lead to the work being done in a proper manner, especially when it is known that the penalty would be that the county itself would have to pay for it and that it would lose the Government contribution.
There are four parties involved in this matter. First and foremost there is the county council, and if our county councils are not to be able to bear the responsibility that this Bill will put on them, I say good-bye to local government. In the second place, there are the county council officials, whose reputation and position depend upon their carrying out their work properly. In the third place there are the occupiers, who have to pay rates and who will have to bear the burden of work improperly or ineffectually carried out, or carried out at too big a cost, and there is the competent land valuer, or land surveyor, who has to make a report upon which the county council will give their certificate to the Minister for Finance. And really, if reliance on these four means to see that the work is properly done is going to fail, then the Board of Works would not be of any use at all. To bring the Board of Works in on all these schemes would involve multiplying the present Board of Works staff quite a number of times. It would mean that we would refrain from placing a responsibility on the classes of people I have mentioned that I think these classes of people should be competent to bear, and if they are not competent to bear it, then no central Government will be able to help the people to do their work at all. The whole principle of the Bill is to divert responsibility from the Board of Works.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.
The following amendments stood in the name of Senator Barrington:—
Section 12, sub-section (3). After the word "lands" in line 46 to insert the words "or of turbary owned or."
Section 12, sub-section (6). After the word "lands" in line 5 to insert the words "or turbaries."
Section 16. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"(3) Where in the execution of any Drainage Scheme it is found
(a) that a new turbary is made available;
(b) that an existing turbary is improved or extended, or that the facilities for working it are increased by reason of the lowering of the water level;
the County Council or Joint Committee shall fix and collect such a rate, either per turf bank or per load of peat removed, as will in their judgment secure from the turbary owners or occupiers such a proportionate contribution towards the cost of carrying out the scheme and maintaining the works as, having regard to the relative value or the benefit received by them from the drainage, shall seem to such County Council or Joint Committee to be fair and equitable."
This is a matter of very great importance. When this was before the Dáil Deputy Brennan called attention to a very important aspect of it. From my knowledge of the sort of work that can be done in the country, and of the country itself, I can say with absolute confidence that 80 per cent. of the schemes cannot be carried out without benefiting turbaries in some way or other. In the past there has been a great objection in connection with turbaries. The improvement schedule had to show the value of the land after the work was completed, and naturally if a turf bog which held a very considerable amount of turf was rendered more valuable or was improved in any way, it benefited more than ordinary agricultural or grass land did, and it was valued very highly. The result was this: The turf was not valued at all, but the valuation was put on the land, because of the turf. The turf was then cut away, the wretched cut-away bog was left, and that cut-away bog was left liable for the whole rate that had been put on it originally in consequence of the turf. That gave rise to most of the dissatisfaction which arose in connection with arterial drainage in the past. The turf was gone; a great many people were left saddled with most exorbitant and excessive charges because the turf had been extracted by somebody else who put the value of the turf into his pocket, went away and left that charge. I think it would be a very desirable thing if that could be amended in this case. There is no question about it that no work of this kind can be carried out without benefiting the turf bogs. Therefore, I beg to propose Amendment 24.
Perhaps it would be convenient if we took Amendments 22, 23 and 24 together.
Very well. Amendment 24 would establish the principle, and these others would be consequential.
Somebody might raise the question, perhaps not having considered it very carefully, as to the difficulty of collecting that rate. I do not see any difficulty. In the past landlords who owned turbaries did not experience any great difficulty. They appointed an official who was known as a bog ranger. He lived on the spot, and as a rule he collected the rates on the turf bog without any great difficulty. He was paid a poundage rate for what he collected, and the matter was met in that way. There is no question about it that this is the only way in which the question can be solved. The turf should be made to pay for the benefit, and in many cases the turf would pay the entire cost of the drainage.
I accept the principle of the Senator's amendment, and I propose to bring in an amendment on the Report Stage to meet the suggestion. I think the suggestion could best be met, in so far as Amendments 22 and 23 are concerned, by including it in the definition under "lands." The way proposed in the amendment for collecting the rates would, I think, be rather difficult to carry out. But I think the thing can be met in the first place by certain changes in the Bill; for instance, replacing the word "rated occupier" by "occupier" in certain parts of the Bill, and in the final adjustment of value and fixing the drainage rate, to have the drainage rate so arranged that portion of it would be paid by persons who have turbary rights, that they will be rateable to the county council in respect to their turbary rights, and to make provision whereby, when the drainage rate is finally assessed, the turbary right owners, and whoever is involved in the scheme, will be rated definitely on turbary rights, the owners being rated over the particular number of years that will correspond to their estimated years of benefit from the scheme. I am satisfied that it will be possible to frame an amendment that will deal with the position satisfactorily.
Amendments ordered to stand over to the Report Stage.
Sections 12 to 16, inclusive, agreed to.
Section 17, sub-section (1). To insert after the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—
"(2) For the purpose of discharging the responsibility for the maintenance of a drainage works, the County Council or Joint Committee by which the Drainage Scheme has been carried out may, subject to the approval of the Minister, make agreements with the rated occupiers, or some of them, of the lands drained or improved by the Drainage Scheme, for the execution of the necessary maintenance work to the satisfaction of the said County Council or Joint Committee, and such agreements may include provision for abatement of the drainage rate assessed on such rated occupiers, and for the recovery of the cost of maintenance work executed by the said County Council or Joint Committee, in default of compliance with the terms of such agreements."
The principle is involved in this amendment. Amendment 25 is only consequential, and with your permission I propose to take Amendment 26 first. The object of the amendment is to seek to give effect to a suggestion I made during the Second Reading debate. In the Bill as it stands, a county council or a joint committee responsible for carrying out a drainage scheme are themselves required to maintain the drainage works in good order and condition in perpetuity. For that purpose a rate must be levied which will include an amount to cover the cost of maintenance, and this rate, as far as it relates to maintenance cost, must be levied in perpetuity if the works are to be kept in good order and condition. A complaint I have heard on many occasions is to the effect that the amount of the rate in respect of maintenance is out of all proportion to the original cost of the scheme, that, in other words, it is abnormally high, and that because of that the drainage works are not always kept in good order and condition. This was notoriously so in the case of the Suck Drainage Board in Roscommon, where a very high rate was levied for maintenance purposes, and where the Board discontinued its maintenance work for quite a long time. Flooding took place and a considerable amount of damage to crops occurred as a result, but notwithstanding this fact the maintenance rate was ruthlessly collected. Farmers have declared that with half of what they paid in this way they could have kept the river in good order, free from mud banks and other obstructions.
I know that the schemes contemplated in this Bill are on a different basis from the River Suck drainage, but the problem is the same in the case of all. It is the fear of the amount of the rate that will be levied in respect of maintenance that will frighten off a number of farmers from promoting or encouraging many of these schemes that they would otherwise favour and that in many cases are very badly needed. In estimating the cost of maintenance the surveyor will have to be on the safe side; he will have to see that the county council is properly protected; he will estimate on the high side rather than on the low, and the rate will be levied in accordance with his valuation. It has been suggested that in actual practice it will be the farmer and his sons, who are rated occupiers, who will get the work of maintenance to do, but, as may be quite apparent, many other influences and considerations will creep in, and it will afterwards be found that what may be the case in theory will work out quite differently in practice, and that if a would-be employee for this particular work has no other claim than that he is a rated occupier or an owner he will find that he will be left nearly every time. I think that is rather a poor sort of consolation to hold out. The amendment is not compulsory; it is merely permissive. It gives the county council power to make agreements with the rated occupiers to enable the occupiers themselves to keep the works in good order and condition, in accordance with an agreement made by the county council. It also makes provision for the county council itself to do the work, in the event of any of these occupiers failing in course of time to comply with the agreement, by collecting the cost of such work from the defaulting occupiers.
During the winter months the farmers and their sons have hardly anything to do. They can do this work just as it suits them, very much less expensively than it could be done by the county council. The whole idea underlying these minor schemes is to make them less expensive on the farmers and to encourage the farmers to promote them where they are necessary. One of the best kinds of encouragement to give is to ensure that the schemes will be as inexpensive as possible. When the original cost of a scheme is paid off the rate which the council must levy, under the Bill as it now stands, will continue in perpetuity, and it is this that frightens the farmer. Under the arrangement suggested in the amendment, all that would be necessary on the part of the county council would be to have a periodical inspection, maybe only once a year, to see that the piece of drain or tributary river, as the case may be, has been maintained as originally apportioned out between the various rated occupiers. The amendment also provides that any such agreement shall have the approval of the Minister before it is entered into. That is a formal arrangement; it does not mean anything much to the Ministry, but it is an additional protection. In view of the fact that this is permissive I think it should get a chance. I think every avenue should be explored with a view to making these schemes inexpensive and at the same time encouraging the farmers to avail of the very useful powers contained in this Bill. The great advantage of this amendment would be if it were put into operation the council would not then be compelled to levy a rate in respect of maintenance, so that the rate levied would be smaller than would otherwise be the case, and they would have all the powers they require to see that the works are maintained in proper order and condition.
While I approve of the principle which Senator O'Farrell wants to carry into effect, I am afraid that the amendment would not effect it. I have been responsible for the maintenance of a great many districts in the past, and invariably I have found that the most anxious desire of the drainage boards was that the occupiers themselves should maintain the works. That has been an almost insuperable difficulty. Perhaps it is one of the reasons—they are not far to seek; they are pretty well ingrained in human nature—why drainage schemes are necessary, because in some place or other an obstruction exists, and the man on whose lands that obstruction lies feels that he will be doing the main work of the whole district itself for the benefit of his neighbours if he undertakes the work. The neighbours will be very keen on getting him to do it, but the man himself thinks differently, and the only way it can be done is by a voluntary scheme between the body that is responsible for the maintenance of the river, and the tenants themselves for them to take a contract to do it. They can do that without this amendment; that is quite open to them, and if that is done the whole object that Senator O'Farrell seeks to secure by this amendment will be fulfilled. But I think, from my experience of the past, that it would be found impossible to get a number of them to agree.
I support the amendment. There is a good deal of force in Senator Barrington's objection, but in the past the schemes that Senator Barrington had charge of were large schemes where big rivers were concerned. Looking after these would require a large body of men and very extensive works. The schemes under this Bill will be more or less small, and a farmer's son or a labourer would be capable of dealing with them. I think the principle involved is very sound, and it seems adequate for every detail. I certainly think that the rate to be struck for maintenance would be rendered very much less by the acceptance of an amendment of this character.
I support the amendment. Under the old drainage committees the weakness was that it was difficult to collect the rates to maintain the work. These men were not remunerated, and when times became a little difficult for the farmers there was opposition to the payment of this drainage rate. Other farmers on the Drainage Committee did not care to press them and had no interest in pressing them, with the result that the maintenance of the drainage works fell into disuse. To-day the Board of Works have three thousand men and twenty-five engineers making up a leeway of the old drainage works where the banks were allowed to fall in and the courses got blocked, and the drainage rate, through not being collected and used for the purpose of maintenance by the local committees, went by the board and the committees dissolved. They felt the onus of this work. It was work that they were not paid for, and they did not see their way to bring other farmers into court. Under Senator O'Farrell's amendment the county council would still have control, and if an arrangement can be made to keep these works maintained the county council will see that the work is done. Under the existing Drainage Acts the county surveyor makes an estimate of what it will cost to keep these works maintained during the year. He sends his estimate to the county council, and the levy is made on the owners of the lands. They collected that assessment with the ordinary rate under the 1925 Act and that would last for thirty-five years. Then when the owner's liability ceases, when he has paid his contributions for thirty-five years, and when the principal has been redeemed by way of a sinking fund, and he has contributed from year to year towards drainage maintenance, it is then a very simple matter for the county council to maintain these works in perpetuity. The county council, under their present powers with regard to roads, can carry out any work under direct labour, or they can sub-let a section to a contractor. The same applies to this work. It would be quite in keeping with the county council's practice, and it would be the line of least resistance for them, if they could arrange that the actual people concerned, who would be benefited by the work when it was done, would get paid for doing the work. I think the principle is a very sound one, and I have pleasure in supporting it.
This Amendment 26 appears to me to be unnecessary. If the county council or the joint committee for the drainage scheme is responsible for the maintenance, it is surely open to them to arrange with anybody they like to maintain it—with the people on the spot or with anybody else. That being so, I do not see the necessity for the amendment.
I think the amendment is a bad one, and that it is inadvisable to put it into the Bill. The Senator says that every avenue is to be explored, and I would like to see the county council getting the right to explore every possible system by which this could be most economically and conveniently carried out. After the carrying out of a drainage scheme, for the first year or two there is a certain type of maintenance work to be carried out arising out of the fact that the works are new. I think that that work particularly might be left to the direct responsibility of the people who carried out the scheme. In the earlier years after the carrying out of the drainage work, on the other hand, the maintenance work is lighter than it is subsequently, so that as the Bill is experimental, as there are five years during which it is proposed to run, I prefer to leave it to the county council to find out in their own way how they could best maintain these schemes. There is nothing at all to prevent a county council entering into such an agreement, although I feel that there might be difficulties, particularly in the successful carrying out of works, by such agreements. The fact that it is permitted, and that it is only one way in which the local payer of the drainage rate can probably assist to make the cost small, makes this, to my mind, an inadvisable thing to put into the Bill.
The amendment simply says that the county council may, subject to the approval of the Minister, do certain things.
It can do them now without the approval of the Minister if it wants to.
The Minister says that they can do it now, and still he says that this is a bad amendment. In other words, if you remind them of the power that they have you are doing a wrong thing. I cannot gather any other meaning from what he says. I did not think they had powers to do that, but what I do think incumbent on them is that they must levy the rate to cover the cost of maintenance. They must pay that money to somebody, and you will certainly remove one of the real practical objections to these schemes being promoted at all if you are able to persuade the promoters that the ensuing rate is going to be small, rather than levy a rate that may seem exorbitant and which the farmer knows he will have to pay in perpetuity. Some of these schemes may be so small as to involve only ten or twelve people at the most.
The maintenance work in connection with most drainage schemes, as many Senators know, consists in taking up a bit of mud that may have congregated in the middle of a stream or the removal of the branch of a tree which may have fallen into the stream, and which eventually, if left there, would block up the water-course. A man or his son could easily attend to matters of that kind in the course of their ordinary work if they see such obstructions in a stream. But if they know that if they do not do that the work will be done for them, and that they will have to pay for it, they will be more careful in attending to little matters of that kind. They can do the work themselves if they want to, any day that suits them, as long as they keep the stream in good condition. Why it should be considered bad policy to suggest to the county council that, with a view to reducing the cost of the maintenance rates under these schemes, they might remind people that they can do the work themselves, baffles me. The complaint that I have always heard in connection with these drainage schemes is that it is not the original cost of a scheme that presses most heavily on farmers, but rather the rate levied in respect of maintenance. That is the reason why so many of these people allow their lands to be swamped. They allow that to go on rather than risk a burden in perpetuity which this maintenance involves.
I think that the embodiment in legislation of suggestions is undesirable. The fact that a suggestion of a particular kind is made, so far from informing people, may have the opposite effect, and may blind them to other suggestions. I think it is much better to leave the whole sphere free from suggestion. There is nothing in this Bill to bind the county councils as regards having this work done in the best possible way. I think we might leave the county councils free to receive such suggestions as have been made here, and free to realise their powers, apart from making suggestions in our legislation.
Might I draw Senator O'Farrell's attention to the latter part of his amendment where he refers to provision being made for abatement of the drainage rates assessed on the rated occupiers concerned? As I understand the position, the rate is not a flat one from year to year, nor is it a rate levied in perpetuity. As the Minister has pointed out, the maintenance rate will be very low for some years after the scheme has been carried out. The position is somewhat the same as that of a man who builds a house. For the first three or four years after the house has been built, the cost of repairs is very low. Under these schemes what occurs is this: that after a scheme has been completed the county surveyor makes an estimate from year to year as to the amount that will be required to maintain the work. As I understand it, the rate is not a rigid thing at all. It is only rigid under the old Acts as far as the amortisation period, which, I think, extended over 35 years, was concerned. That, of course, had to be so, because the amortisation figure is worked out on the principle of yearly payments to be made over a period of 35 years.
As to the additional rate to be added to that for maintenance purposes, an assessment has to be made from year to year by the county council on an estimate submitted by their county surveyor. Some years that additional rate may be nothing at all, while in other years it may be a penny or twopence in the £. I think in regard to this matter that Senator O'Farrell is labouring under a misapprehension in thinking that the rate struck for maintenance purposes is rigid, and has to be made for all time, even during a year when there is no outlay for maintenance. That is not the position.
The drainage rate is the rate which the farmer has to pay in order to pay off the original capital cost, and also to provide for maintenance. The word "abatement," in my amendment, refers to an abatement in the cost of maintenance in the event of such an arrangement as I have outlined in my amendment, being entered into.
Amendment put and declared carried.
Amendment 25, in my name, is consequential on the passing of the last amendment. I therefore move:—
Section 17, sub-section (1). To delete in line 1, the word "maintain" and to substitute therefor the words "be responsible for the maintenance of."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 18, 19, 20 and 21 agreed to.
(1) A county council or a joint committee appointed under this Act may appoint such and so many officers as they shall from time to time think proper for the purposes of this Act.
(2) There shall be paid by a county council or joint committee to the officers appointed by them under this section such remuneration as may be determined by such council or committee.
(3) Any officer appointed under this section may at any time be removed from his office as such officer by the council or committee by which he was appointed.
I move the following five amendments:—
27.—Section 22, sub-section (1). To delete the sub-section and to substitute therefor a new sub-section as follows:—
"(1) When a county council or a joint committee appointed under this Act has approved of and is engaged in carrying out five schemes under this Act, they may appoint such and so many temporary extra officers as they shall from time to time think proper for the purposes of this Act, subject to the approval of the Minister."
28.—Section 22, sub-section (2). Before the word "officers" in line 61 to insert the word "temporary."
29.—Section 22, sub-section (2). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "subject to the approval of the Minister, but such remuneration shall in no case exceed five per cent. on the cost of the works."
30.—Section 22, sub-section (3). Before the word "officer" in line 63 to insert the word "temporary."
31.—Section 22, sub-section (3). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "and shall not be entitled to pension or retiring allowance."
I think it is better that I should take these five amendments together, and it will be admitted by anyone who reads this section that amendment of it is necessary. The section gives a county council power to appoint such and so many officers as it may think fit for the purposes of this Act; to give them such remuneration as may be determined by the council, while the third sub-section states that any officer appointed may at any time be removed from his office by the council or committee which has appointed him. What I want to draw attention to is that the sub-section does not state whether such an officer is to be liable for a pension or not. From what I know of some of the county councils in the country, I have no doubt whatever that if the Bill became law with this section in it in its present form, a good many of the clever gentlemen well known in many parts of the country in the matter of getting jobs, would immediately get hold of their relatives and friends and get them appointed officers under this Act, whether there was any drainage contemplated or not. They would then proceed to get the county council or committee to pay them whether there was work doing or not, and if these temporary officers were removed they would see that they got pensions. The object of my five amendments is to prevent such a thing happening. I think that the amendments are absolutely necessary.
At the present time the Minister has full power not only to control the appointment and tenure of officers, but also the remuneration paid them by any local body. Section 26 makes it quite clear that the exercise of any functions of Government or public administration vested by statute in the Minister cannot be interfered with by this Bill. So that so far as additional officers are concerned the Minister has full control in the matter. As regards superannuation, no officer with less than ten years' service at present can get a gratuity of any kind. The amendment is really an attempt to put in powers in regard to matters over which the Minister has full control already. If it were to be set out in the Bill that you could not pay more than six or seven or eight per cent. in regard to carrying out a particular work under the Bill, that might easily prove unsatisfactory. I would ask the Seanad to accept it that already full powers of control in regard to appointments are vested in the Minister. If it becomes necessary to make either temporary or permanent appointments in connection with this particular work, you will not be assisting the position by passing amendments of the kind under consideration. Already the Minister possesses full powers.
I think it would be important to have put in at the end of Section 22 the words "subject to the approval of the Minister" because, although there is a general principle for making appointments subject to the approval of the Minister, if a special provision is contained in the Act which does not refer to that power, it would be argued afterwards that exception would be taken in the case of these officers, and that the Minister's approval was not necessary. The Minister has referred to Section 26, but it is not at all clear that that section would preserve the approval of the Minister in the way that he suggests. I think it would be well to insert the precautionary words that I have mentioned at the end of Section 22. That would make the whole clause read "subject to the approval of the Minister." I think the matter is one worthy of consideration.
I will certainly give it consideration, although I think the point has already been fully covered.
I hope the Minister will consider the matter between this and the Report Stage. There is the other consideration, too, one of course that we all very much regret, that the present Minister may not always be the Minister for Local Government. In the future, some other person may hold that office and may hold different views to the present Minister. As regards Amendment 29, I think it would be desirable to put in some limit such as I have mentioned, namely, 5 per cent.
You are asking the county council to carry out a certain kind of work. Unless they stand up to their responsibilities and do their work well, any clause which you may put into the Bill about the Minister is going to be of no use.
Ordered: That the five amendments be allowed to stand over for the Report Stage.
The Seanad went out of Committee.
Bill reported with amendments.