EXPIRING LAWS BILL, 1928—THIRD STAGE.

The Seanad went into Committee.
Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SCHEDULE, PART I.

I move the following amendment to Schedule, Part I.:—

To delete the following words and figures:—3 Edw. VII., c. 36; the Motor Car Act, 1903; the whole Act; 10 and 11 Geo. V., c. 72.

I move the amendment merely for the purpose of getting, if I can a statement from the Minister as to what the position is in regard to the regulation of road transport. In this respect the law is absolutely obsolete. In the case of the Dublin Metropolitan Division, the Carriage Acts of 1853, 1854 and 1855 have to be relied on mainly for the control of motors and buses on the streets, and, of course, the various Corporation by-laws made in connection with them. The Motor Car Act of 1903 is quite insufficient, in most cases, to provide either local authorities or the Civic Guard with the powers that are necessary. In the country the position is even worse. The Jurisdiction Acts of ancient times are mainly relied upon, and also the Towns Improvement Act of 1854, which enables local authorities to make certain by-laws governing hackney cars and motors. Very few of the local authorities have availed of these powers. We find in the report of the Inter-departmental Committee on the control and regulation of road traffic the following statement:—

In recent years by-laws were sanctioned for the Urban District Councils of Bray, Dundalk and Killarney. In the rural districts of the Saorstát, and in the great majority of the towns, no control for hackney carriages of any description exists.

The Inter-departmental Committee was appointed in April, 1927, to go into the whole question of traffic regulation. It heard a considerable amount of evidence and presented its report to the Minister on the 1st September. Since then, as far as we know, nothing has been done with a view to giving legislative effect to all or any of the proposals of that Committee. At least, no legislation has been introduced. Now, one of the recommendations of that Committee was that the speed for motor buses, which had recently been raised to 20 miles per hour, should be further raised to 25 miles per hour, and that the speed limit for private motor cars should be entirely removed. These were the recommendations, but, of course, they have not been translated into law. Yet we find that an extraordinary condition has arisen. Prosecutions were brought before a District Court against bus drivers for driving at 22 and 23 miles per hour. There was one case where a man was prosecuted for driving at over 25 miles per hour. The legal limit is 20 miles, and yet the District Justice dismissed two cases and imposed a nominal fine in the case of the bus driver who exceeded 25 miles per hour. He went further and suggested to the Civic Guards that, in view of the recommendations of the Inter-departmental Committee on road transport, for the future they should not institute any prosecutions against any driver unless he exceeded 25 miles per hour. In other words, the recommendation of the Committee was to become the law of the land before it was enacted by an Act of the Oireachtas.

The Minister for Justice was questioned on this matter in the Dáil, and his reply was:—

I have seen the report in the Press of the case mentioned by the Deputy, and I have consulted the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, but on consideration of the report of the Inter-departmental Committee on road traffic he is of opinion that, in certain circumstances, a speed of 25 miles per hour is not excessive for single decked omnibuses. I intend, accordingly, to issue instructions to the Gárda Síochána not to prosecute in future in such cases on the sole ground that the speed of the omnibuses exceeded 20 miles per hour.

Now we have the rather unique position of the Minister telling the Guards that, in certain circumstances the law may be violated and he supports that later on by stating "that statute law very often lags behind actual requirements." Well, if it does lag behind actual requirements, in this case, we know where the responsibility lies. It is a rather extraordinary position to leave it now to a Civic Guard to say whether or not he shall institute a prosecution against a driver who has exceeded the statutory limit. I would like to know from the Minister if the other recommendation of the Inter-departmental Committee is to be acted upon, and if instructions to that effect have been issued to the Civic Guards. that is the removal of the speed limit altogether in the case of private motor cars, because the public would like to know what is the position and whether there is a speed limit at all, and if so what it is. Is it to be 25 miles per hour the same as that for the buses, or is it be to 20 miles per hour as laid down by statute law? This is a question that requires some clearing up. The Dáil adjourned until the 20th February next and consequently no legislation can be expected before that time. A considerable amount of chaos exists and will continue to exist in regard to the administration of the law generally. It will depend upon the view of an officer of the Civic Guards as to what action shall be taken in the interest of public safety. The matter is too important to be dealt with in any slipshod or careless way.

According to the last issue of the Trade Journal for the nine months of the present year over 12,000,000 miles were covered by motor omnibuses plying for hire, and 21,750,000 passengers were carried, and yet admittedly according to the report of the Inter-departmental Committee there is no effective legislation in existence which enables the Guards or the local authorities to control effectively that ever-growing traffic. There are certain powers, I think, that might be utilised with greater effect. One of them is the power to insist on the cleanliness and roadworthiness of the vehicles. This power is not administered as stringently as it should be. Then there is the question of overcrowding, which has become, in certain hours of the day, a fearful menace. I had the personal experience about three weeks ago of travelling in a bus licensed to carry fourteen passengers which had twenty nine passengers on board together with the driver. The emergency door at the end of the bus was so pressed against by passengers that nobody could open it. I was wondering what was going to happen in the event of a collision, or in the event of the bus being overturned. I know that the Civic Guards cannot watch every instance. I know there are certain routes in which there is crowding in narrow buses, and which are not so safe as one would desire. That has become notorious, to say nothing of the racing that takes place for the capture of passengers. I hope the Minister will be able to assure the House that he is going to take some steps as early as possible to introduce comprehensive legislation in regard to this all important question of policy.

Steps are being, or have been, taken in Northern Ireland with a view to regulating traffic, and further steps are being taken for co-ordinating it, if possible, and preventing cut-throat competition. According to to-day's paper steps are being taken in Great Britain to introduce comprehensive legislation along the same lines. I would say, in passing, it seems a pity that the Minister for Finance, when promulgating his new policy in regard to the taxation of motor omnibuses, should have thought fit to make his announcement of policy at a political party meeting in Mallow instead of to a House of the Oireachtas. I think a statement of that kind, outlining a new policy in regard to roads, and to a considerable extent in the incidence of taxation, should have been made within the Oireachtas for the first time and not have been given merely as an item of interest at a party meeting. These are the reasons why I move this amendment, and not that I want to press a division, but I hope the Minister will be able to give some information as to his views and intention on this subject of road traffic.

I was very glad to hear Senator O'Farrell say that the object of his amendment was to get an explanation from the Minister. As I understand, the substance of the proposal of the Minister is that the Motor Car Act of 1903 should remain in operation until the 31st December, 1929. The effect of the amendment is that the Motor Car Act of 1903 should last longer.

CATHAOIRLEACH

No.

Very well. I am in favour of the discontinuance or the expiry of the Motor Car Act of 1903 provided that in the interval before the 31st December, 1929, a new and comprehensive Act is brought into operation. With some knowledge of the law, I conclude that that must be the purpose the Minister had in mind, that he intends to bring in a new statute modifying certain of the anomalies in the Act of 1903. Senator O'Farrell is quite right in saying that the Act of 1903, Section 9, gave us a speed limit of 20 miles. We all know—as a certain distinguished man said, we do not live in balloons—that that section was more honoured in the breach than in the observance. I hope that in the new legislation which will be introduced within twelve months a more reasonable provision will be substituted for the speed limit. I think I will not support the amendment, and I imagine that if Senator O'Farrell gets an explanation from the Minister he will not press the amendment.

The position is if Senator O'Farrell's amendment is carried the Motor Car Act of 1903 will cease to have effect as from the end of this year. I hope it is not the Senator's intention to bring about that, because if it is, after that date Senators going home in any decent-sized bus will have to travel at the rate of four miles an hour, and but for the interposition of the Act of 1920 they would have to be preceded by a red flag. I think the Senator must be aware that the purpose of the State in setting up the Inter-departmental Committee in 1927 to deal with the control and regulation of road traffic was to survey the whole position from the modern standpoint and consolidate and codify our whole legislation with regard to road traffic. That Committee reported only recently.

That is the purpose and I hesitate very much to prophesy. When it is a question of examining a very big matter and considering the recommendations of a committee whose operations extended over twelve months, taking into consideration the limitation of parliamentary draftsmanship I hesitate to prophesy that we would be in a position within the next year to do without the Act of 1903. At any rate, there is a fairly reasonable possibility that that will be the position. The legislation that will be introduced as a result of this Report will deal with the consolidation and amending of our road traffic legislation. We will have the whole thing before us in one Act. So far as the position with regard to buses and their speed limit is concerned, I do not think that anyone could wish in the case of a matter such as the speed limit of buses to allow the strict letter of the law to interfere with the spirit of the law. At any rate, on a discussion of a matter like that, if persons definitely object to the matter being taken up by the Minister for Justice in consultation with the Minister for Local Government and with the police authorities who are watching road traffic from the point of view of having it run in an ordinary, efficient and non-dangerous manner and if anyone has an objection to taking a lenient view of transgressions of the law, more in the letter than in the spirit, I think the proper place for discussion is not in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, because the Expiring Laws Bill would be an appalling thing to get through the Oireachtas, if pieces of legislation were to be dealt with in that particular way. All that the Minister for Justice and myself are doing in the matter of the particular speed limit is that, while paying full attention to the spirit of the law that requires certain limitations on motor cars, as far as the requirement, say, of commercial vehicles, such as buses, are concerned, we are acting in a sensible way and not imposing unnecessary restrictions.

I have not given any consideration as to whether a relaxation might not be made in the case of private motor cars but I am convinced that the same relaxation does exist. However the position is that it is intended that legislation based on the Inter-departmental Committee report will supersede the Motor Car Act of 1903 at the earliest possible date, so far as the Department of Local Government is concerned. In the meantime, the Motor Car Act of 1903 is a very valuable Act. Considering the marked development of road traffic which has occurred recently and considering its age it is standing the strain not too badly.

In view of the explanation of the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SCHEDULE, PART I.

I move:—

Schedule, Part I. To delete the following words and figures:—

9 & 10 Geo. V., c. 92, the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, Section 1.

The amendment in my name is to delete the words relating to the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. In connection with the suggestion of the Minister in dealing with the last amendment, that reconsideration of these various Bills might lead to an immense amount of time being wasted, it is essential that the House should realise what they are doing when they are asked to re-enact Bills. Under this Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, there are some Bills, I think, which ought to be considered seriously when they are not merely formal Bills. In regard to the Aliens Restriction Act, 1918, it is proposed to re-enact again Section 1. This Act was passed during the war period and, I presume, was considered necessary at that time. Section 1 of the Act has been re-enacted ever since. It seems, unless Section 1 is re-enacted, there is no power in the hands of the Minister to regulate the introduction of alien labour of any kind, or undesirable aliens of any kind, and perhaps it is justifiable that this should be re-enacted year by year. I think a new and more appropriate form of legislation should be introduced for this country. I put down the amendment with the view to finding out what the policy of the Ministry is with regard to the administration of this Act, and to find out whether it is their intention to introduce permanent legislation applicable to this country as distinct from this mere chance section of the British Act. I want to learn from the Minister if he will give us information as to how this Act has been administered during the last year, the number of expulsions of undesirable aliens that have been made, the number that have been refused admission to the country, and the number, if any, that have been allowed within the country to live within a prescribed area. This is the kind of information that ought to be available, and ought to be placed before the Oireachtas before they are asked to re-enact Bills of immense importance to numbers of citizens of other countries, and even to citizens of this country who may not be formally naturalised.

It was explained, I think, a year or two ago, that there had been some kind of reciprocal arrangement made in regard to admissions to this country of people who were objected to by the British authorities, and refusal on the part of the British authorities to admit people who might have been objected to by the Irish authorities. It is necessary that we should know what kind of arrangement has, in fact, been made and how it is working, what are the prevalent principles by which the exclusion of aliens from this country is applied. If a name is submitted by the British authorities, do we take that as sufficient or are we to ask the reasons why a person is objected to being admitted into the country? This raises a very important question as to the interference, even by arrangement, by the British Foreign Office with the landing into Ireland of what they deem to be undesirable people. People who may be undesirable to British political affairs may not be undesirable to Irish political affairs. It is important to know what is the principle under which this Act is being administered in regard to the admission, or refusal of admission, of aliens. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some figures in relation to the numbers that have been refused admission or those who have been expelled from the country, and, generally, the reasons for their expulsion, how many have been expelled or refused admission on political grounds, and what were the political grounds which animated the Minister in ordering their expulsion or refusal to admit them.

I desire to support the observations which have been made by Senator Johnson. It is highly desirable that in the case of Acts which are put into the Schedule for amendment or repeal the Minister should be ready, as I am sure he is, to give an explanation to any Senator who may require it. Senator Johnson has asked a question which will, perhaps, necessitate some thorough explanation. He has asked why Section 1 of the Aliens Act, 1919, has been re-enacted year after year and why a thorough and comprehensive statute dealing with aliens has not been passed either in this country or Great Britain. The answer is rather peculiar. That section was drafted by Sir John Simon. It is the most effective machine for its purpose that could possibly be devised, and perhaps that is the reason why draftsmen, year after year, have not interfered with it. I am not opposed to the continuance of this measure, because I do not see any prospect of any measure in substitution for it. I agree with what Senator Johnson said, namely, that a full record should be kept and be available for Senators as to the transactions, if I might so call them, under this Act— how many aliens have been excluded during the twelve months, how many have been excluded for political reasons, how many detained, because there is power of detention in that section, and the reason for their detention. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the House as complete an explanation as possible of these matters.

I would like to know from the Minister what persons are classified as aliens.

I think it is well that the Seanad should completely understand the meaning of Senator Johnson's amendment. That amendment proposes to repeal Section 1 of the Aliens Act. Unless the Expiring Laws Bill comes into force the Aliens Act perishes if Senator Johnson's amendment is carried. The result of his amendment will be that any alien who likes and any number of aliens may come in and flood the labour market of this country. It certainly comes rather as a surprise to me that this amendment should be brought forward by one of the best known Labour leaders in this country because a priori I thought, considering the state of unemployment which unfortunately exists here, that the desire would not be cherished by Senator Johnson that aliens from any other country could come in here by the thousand and flood our Labour market. If the Senator succeeds in carrying his amendment any number of undesirable aliens will be able to enter this country to the detriment of our people. The Senator has asked upon what principle this Act is administered. It is administered in this fashion.

We have got, at the two ports of the Saorstát at which foreign liners call, namely, Cobh and Moville, immigration officers who examine persons who come in and see that they are fit and proper persons to enter the country. We decide who are fit and proper persons to come in. If it is shown that a person is likely to become a public charge, is mentally unfit, or is of unsound mind, he is not allowed to enter. Moreover, if an alien comes here to take up employment, he must get a permit from the Minister for Industry and Commerce and prove to his satisfaction that he is going to take up employment here which there is no citizen of the country suitable or able to perform. A great number of persons have been refused permission to enter the country because they would be ousting native Irishmen from positions in the country, and, with the present state of the world labour market, I do not think that it would be fair that Irish people should be ousted from the native market by foreigners. If a person is a criminal, he is also kept out. Senator Johnson asked me to give him statistics regarding the number of persons who have been kept out of the country during the current year. I am not in a position at the moment to do so. If the Senator wishes, however, to have statistics given, it can be done by means either of Parliamentary question or a substantive motion. I cannot possibly foresee what speeches are going to be made here, or what information is going to be asked for. The real principle which Senators have got before them, and the one thing which they will have to decide in regard to this amendment is, whether they do or not wish the Irish labour market to be flooded by alien labour.

I am in favour of the continuation of the Expiring Laws Bill. The information that the Minister gave as to the working of the Act is very interesting. He tells us that at Moville and at Cobh vessels are examined for undesirable aliens. I would like to know from him if there is any examination of aliens coming in through Holyhead or through Liverpool, or of people coming from England generally? The Holyhead boat, and boats from Liverpool, land people in the Saorstát. I want to know if these boats are examined for undesirable aliens?

No. Neither Irishmen going to England nor Englishmen coming to Ireland are examined.

I want to ask the Minister another question. Is he aware that people come through these boats who are not English people? I want to point out to him that others besides English people come on these boats, people such as Jews. Are all these exempt from an examination?

If a Jew has been allowed into England he can come over here. Then, if we allow people in here, they can move into England. I do not think it is desirable that we should put up any restriction in the way of people coming from England, considering that we send a great many more workmen— labourers—into England than they send here. I do not think, therefore, that it is at all desirable to raise this question.

The position then is this, that if an alien comes from France or Belgium lands at Dover he and people like him can come across to Ireland and flood the labour market. He is allowed to do it.

Not at all. He is not allowed into England.

Suppose he says he does not mean to stay in England— that he is coming across to Ireland— would he not be allowed in at Dover?

He would not be allowed into England at all, if he were coming over here without our permission. If he came over here for a temporary period, he would be allowed to move about between England and Ireland, but at the end of that period he would be removed. It was only the other day that a gentleman was removed. He had got into England under false pretences, and then he came here to Dublin.

Is the Minister in a position to inform this House that the practice in Dover is this: that if an alien comes from France and lands in Dover and says that he is only going through England to get to Ireland to go to work, then he will be excluded?

He will be excluded in Dover, but if he were allowed in as a temporary person, we would be immediately notified by the Dover authorities and if he were an undesirable person, we would put him out.

The Minister has thoroughly evaded the question I put to him, by trying to direct the attention of the House solely to the position of the undesirable alien or cheap foreign labour. I am fully aware of the risks run regarding the importation of foreign labour. I am quite familiar with the number of men whose work could have been done quite well by Irish engineers employed on the Shannon. I am quite familiar with the fact that a considerable number of men are necessary in the new work of the sugar industry, at Carlow. But the real question I put to the Minister—I hope I made it quite clear to him—was whether or not any regard was paid to political objections? There are undesirable aliens who are unhealthy, there are diseased, undesirable aliens, undesirable through physical reasons. There are aliens who are considered undesirable by the British Government for political reasons, but who may or may not be undesirable from the point of view of the Saorstát Government. What I am anxious to know is what is an undesirable alien in the mind of the Saorstát Government? Have the Government a standard of undesirability of their own, or do they merely imitate and take those standards fixed by the British Foreign Office or the British Home Office? I heard the Minister say a minute ago that some person was promptly removed. Was that person's undesirability because of his political antecedents?

No, but because of filling a position that could be filled by an Irishman, and coming in under false pretences?

I am perfectly satisfied that such a person should be removed. If it is not indiscreet on my part, I would like to reply to the Minister's rather unfair suggestion of being taken by surprise. I wish to inform the House that the Minister was not taken by surprise. The position I want to have explained is—what are the factors that determine the Minister's action in refusing admission to undesirable aliens apart from their physical condition, and apart from their labour activities, or apart from the fact that they may be coming here to take up employment? We have, let us say, a foreign princess coming in here or we have a man posing as a Grand Duke of Russia or a proletarian leader from Russia or a Fascist from Italy. Has the Minister any standards by which he will refuse admission on political grounds—has he any standards which differ from the standards of the British Foreign Office or the British Home Office? Or does the Minister take the implication that such-and-such a person, Johann Schmidt, say, is an undesirable alien in Britain, and therefore, that he may not be allowed into Ireland?

There is no obstacle in the way of a person coming from Holyhead into Dublin, but if such a person were entering Cobh from New York and if he were considered an undesirable alien by the British Government, he would be refused admission to Ireland, because once being in Ireland, he would be able to slip into England by Holyhead. Is that the position? I am anxious to know whether the Minister has any standard by which he judges this matter apart from British standards, or is it simply an echo of the British Foreign Office or the British Home Office policy on which he acts? Is that his policy in regard to aliens who are undesirable and are these the reasons why they are undesirable? The Minister has not given any answer to these questions that I put. It is perfectly clear to me, and, of course, to the majority of the House, that the effect of the amendment, if it were passed, would be not to leave open, on the 31st December or after the 1st January, the gates to the importation of undesirable aliens who are all anxious to come in and enjoy the handsome wage that is going in this country, but to send the Bill back to the Dáil. The Dáil would probably have to be called together again and would refuse to accept the Seanad amendment. That is the real effect of the passing of this amendment if the Houses passes it. There is only one effective way of getting information from Ministers on the Expiring Laws Bill and that is by putting down amendments such as this. Consequently, I adopted the only plan that would have the effect of extracting from the Minister any information at all on the matter. I hope that some day, either now or in the near future, we will get from the Minister for Justice, or some other Minister interested in this problem, a statement of Ministerial policy regarding aliens who are desirable or undesirable from the political point of view, what type of person has been excluded from the country, and what is the reason for the exclusion.

The Minister has not answered my question. I want to know who are the people classified as aliens, and whether all people other than those who are Irish-born are classified as aliens. I want to know whether British subjects are to be classified as Irish, and I further want to know if there is any restriction on the people coming over the border— any restriction on aliens. A great number of people come that way, and I do not know whether there is any check put upon them.

Persons who are members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are not regarded as aliens. As far as Senator Johnson is concerned, he did mention to me the other day that he was going to bring this matter forward, but he did not leave me under the impression that he wanted statistics of the particular nature that he asks for now. He mentioned that he wanted statistics with regard to the importation of noxious drugs. If Senator Johnson wants these particulars that he asks for it is easy to put down a motion, and I am prepared to get all the information possible. I do not carry statistics of this nature in my head. The usual course, in order to obtain statistics, is by means of a Parliamentary question in the Dáil, and by means of a motion in the Seanad. If the Senator puts down a motion I will meet his wishes with the greatest of pleasure.

I would like the Senator to give me a concrete example of any particular person he has in mind, if he has anybody in his mind, or if he has heard of any case in which he thinks there has been abuse in the administration of this Act. If he will mention any single concrete case I will have it investigated. Persons are not kept out because of their political views. Nobody is kept out because he holds political views. Aliens have been excluded because they had criminal tendencies, and criminal tendencies and political views are perfectly different things.

CATHAOIRLEACH

The Senator has already spoken three times on this matter, and there must be some limit.

But we are in Committee.

CATHAOIRLEACH

The Senator has spoken three times and has had ample opportunity to say what he desired to say. Besides, he can only speak twice in Committee. Does the Senator desire to press his amendment?

No, sir. I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment 3:—

Schedule, Part II. To delete the following words and figures:—

No. 9 of 1923; The Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923; the whole Act so far as unrepealed; No. 13 of 1924.

It will be remembered by those Senators who assisted in the passing of the Act of 1923 that this Act, comprehensive as it seemed to be at the time, was only a temporary measure. In fact, the extent of its operations were to be confined to fourteen months. There was a promise that at the end of fourteen months, or at least by March, 1925, there would be a new Bill embodying the best of the schemes proposed and included in the schedule of the 1923 Act. There were given to the Minister very considerable powers of modification of the Act, and the schemes embodied in the schedule. Many of these schemes have been, in fact, modified by order of the Ministry of Local Government. I desire to know from the Minister how far he has got in regard to the introduction of a comprehensive scheme bringing this Act up to date. A Poor Law Commission sat since, and certain recommendations were made by that Commission in regard to the granting of home assistance and in respect to the poor law scheme as a whole. We hoped that there would have been some indication of Government policy arising from the recommendations of that Commission. What I am anxious to know is where the Government stands with regard to the report, whether they are on the point of bringing in a Bill to embody all or any of the recommendations of that Commission, and, generally, where we are in regard to the whole question of poor law administration and the modification of the present schemes. There has been a very considerable amount of dissatisfaction with the schemes that are at present in operation, and with the administration of them. I am not going into any detail, nor will I ask the House to consider for any time the complaints made. I think the Minister should give an indication of where he stands in regard to the report, and what he intends to do in the near future in the way of new legislation.

I wish briefly to endorse the remarks made by Senator Johnson. I was a member of the Poor Law Commission. For two weary years we sat and we dived into a whole mass of legislation. We rather feel that our work is wasted or, to a certain extent, deferred, because these matters were put before us at the time as pressing. Some of the recommendations that were made—incidentally I will strike a personal note and say some of the minority recommendations—were, at least in my opinion, exceedingly valuable. I would specially refer to the recommendations made in very specific terms, which have never been challenged, with regard to the simplification of some of the exceedingly archaic forms of local government accounts. I do really press the Minister on this point as we have very little opportunity of raising it except by the rather cumbersome method of putting down a motion. We have little opportunity of raising matters of administration in regard to which some of us claim to be qualified to speak. I am glad that Senator Johnson, with his great knowledge of parliamentary methods, has afforded me this opportunity.

There are, I submit, very pressing problems requiring legislation embodied in the report of the Poor Law Commission, to the preparation of which a large number of people voluntarily gave their time and research. I hope the Minister will give us an assurance that steps are being taken to embody some of those recommendations in legislation.

I want to support Senator Johnson and Senator Sir John Keane in this matter. I also desire to ask the Minister whether there are any outstanding claims, or whether there is any pending litigation depending upon that Act of 1923 which it is now proposed to repeal? I am sure the Minister will be in a position to give that information, because I am quite confident that he would not seek to repeal an Act unless he was quite satisfied that there were no claims by individuals depending upon it.

I take it, it is merely to get information that Senator Johnson has put the amendment down—that it is not really meant to do away with the Act. As we are talking on this, I hope that in the coming year the Minister will find time to put the Poor Law Commission's Report, or portion of it, at all events, into law. Senator Johnson and others are not satisfied, apparently, with how things are being done. As Senator Sir John Keane said, a great deal of very valuable time was given voluntarily for over two years by members of the Commission, and it is time that some recognition should be given, at all events, to the outstanding portions of that report, if not the whole of it. It is with that view alone that I speak, and I ask the Minister if he can at all, to put some portion of it before us before the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill comes up next year.

In reply to Senator Comyn, I think his difficulty arises out of not realising that in the schedule here there are a certain number of Acts which will expire at the end of this year, if we do not pass this Bill. We are simply asking for power to extend them for another twelve months. Further consideration, if extension is required, will take place on the Expiring Laws Bill next year. The Preamble to the 1923 Act is suggestive of the work that requires to be done before a permanent Act could be introduced. Senators and those connected with local administration know that there is a mass of legislation, extending as far back as 1838, which forms the whole legal scheme for the relief of the poor. It is a very complicated business. The 1923 Act abolished the workhouses and boards of guardians, put the administration of poor relief into the hands of a central body in the country, provided central institutions for the relief of the poor, and provided that persons, without restriction, once they were subjects for poor relief, could be relieved either inside or outside an institution. Since the introduction of that measure both persons administering local government and poor relief and the officials have very great difficulty in knowing where they stand from the point of view of law. That is fully appreciated in the Department and a considerable amount of work has been done in the Department in connection with it. In fact, there exists at present the first draft of the proposed legislation which, looking at all the legislation dealing with poor law relief from the beginning of the last century down to the 1923 Act, looking at the 1923 Act, and at that part of the Poor Law Commission's Report which requires legislation to put it into effect, looking at the position in a comprehensive way like that, will codify, consolidate and amend the existing legislation dealing with the whole of the system of poor relief, and will replace all the poor relief legislation which has gone before it. I quite realise the valuable service given by the members of the Poor Law Commission and the length of time they spent over the matter was an indication of the importance of it and of the wide amount of matter that has had to come up for review. It is well worth while that we should get a complete, codified and consolidated Act dealing with poor law relief. As I say, I actually have in the Department the first draft of that proposed legislation. That will have to be further sifted by passing through the parliamentary draftsman's office, after I have given further consideration to the terms of the first draft. Without hoping to do too much in the matter of a big piece of legislation like this during the coming year, we are approaching as quickly as I think reasonably can be expected of the Department, and those others concerned, the time when we will pass through the Oireachtas a piece of legislation that will codify and consolidate our whole poor law system.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move:—

Schedule, Part II. To delete the following words and figures:—No. 20 of 1925; the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925; the whole Act.

The Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925, was not an annual Act—that is to say, not an Act which expired in one year and then was renewed, but an Act passed for three years, and this is the first time it has appeared in this Expiring Laws Schedule.

The second time. The Act would have expired in June this year if it had not been included in the Expiring Laws Bill last year.

My hope in this matter was that we could get from the Minister a statement, which I do not remember to have been made last year —perhaps my memory is at fault—as to the manner of its working, and whether there has been great satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Nothing I have seen by way of criticism has removed my support of the principle embodied in the Act, but we have seen, time and again, comments and complaints from members of local authorities regarding the manner of its administration and, as it seems to me, a considerable amount of misapprehension has arisen. Whether that misapprehension has arisen from some false direction or a misunderstanding of the import of the Act, I cannot say. My hope is that the Minister will be able to give some reassurance, and perhaps guidance, to some of the local authorities that have complained.

My point is this: In the Act there is provision made whereby the local authorities may purchase locally, if they are prepared to take the risk that the goods purchased locally are as good and as cheap, that there is no loss to the local exchequer by the purchase of these goods, in preference to purchase through the combined purchasing scheme, and that only in the case where there is misuse of the powers of the local authority with regard to purchasing is there any liability on that purchasing authority. There may be some obligation. I am not sure whether, in the innumerable orders coming from this Department, an obligation is imposed upon the local authority to purchase a certain class of goods only through the combined purchasing scheme, but it is correct, I am sure, that provided the local authority can satisfy the auditor that no loss has been occasioned, either in quality or price, by purchasing locally, there is no liability of a surcharge. That, I think, is the position. If it is not the position, it is the position as believed by some local authorities, and it is the position as I read the Act, and as I understood it at the time it was passed. There are many local authorities who feel that they could purchase locally as cheaply and with greater satisfaction with regard to quality, but they say they are prevented and prohibited by the central authority. I should like the Minister to explain what is the position in that respect.

Have there been any orders issued by the Department which, in any circumstances, compelled the local authorities to purchase through the combined purchasing scheme? Or if they are prepared to take the risk and know they are getting better value, locally, than through the combined purchasing scheme, are they at liberty to do that? That is a matter of some importance. I know that a good deal of local dissatisfaction has occurred, partly because of loss of local trade and partly because of the plea that local shopkeepers should be supported. I do not think that that has any weight, or should have, but if the local manufacturer could supply an article of better value than under the combined purchasing scheme, and that no loss, because of price, is occasioned to the local authority, I think it is true that they are entitled to purchase, locally, and I would like that confirmed or contradicted by the Minister.

I agree with Senator Johnson that the fact that a statute of this description has to come up as a temporary measure for continuance is one that needs explanation. There are many provisions in this Act which, at first sight, would seem to be most excellent—combined purchasing, testing of commodities, conferences—and I wonder why an Act of this description is not made permanent. No doubt when it was introduced originally, it was intended to be experimental. The experiment now has lasted more than three years, from 1925 to 1928. I feel greatly obliged to Senator Johnson for bringing on this motion, as we had not an opportunity of considering the Act. I looked through the Act, and it seems to me to be a most excellent piece of legislation. It would be a matter of interest to know why it is only a temporary measure, because in the case of a temporary measure there is that insecurity about its continuance which is very injurious both to the trading public and to the local authorities themselves. The House ought to get some explanation from the Minister as to whether or not he is going to include in the new comprehensive Act, which I understand he is considering, anything in the nature of a permanent statute dealing with matters of this kind.

Nothing that I suggested, up to the present, in regard to legislation in course of preparation, referred to this particular Bill. It is inevitable that permanent legislation dealing with combined purchasing will be passed. The reason that this Act is now in the Expiring Laws Bill is that, originally, I think, there was a certain amount of opposition and query as to whether it was advisable to have a central purchasing system. The Dáil passed the Bill, so far as my recollection goes, for a period of five years, but that period was cut down in the Seaned to three years. This Act would have expired in June last but it was included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act of last year. I think, from what has been said here, everyone realises that the principle of the Bill is quite satisfactory and sound. I did make a statement in the Dáil on the Expiring Laws Bill last year, dealing with that particular matter, and explaining, that although a certain amount of combined purchasing was going on from 1922, the Act had really been less than three years in practical operation. The class of work that required to be done in connection with it, was of such a kind that we have not experience over a sufficient length at the present moment to definitely come to conclusions as to the particular principle that ought to be enshrined in permanent legislation.

Senator Johnson referred to the question as to whether local bodies can purchase other than through official contractors. If an article of equivalent value can, to the Auditor's satisfaction, be purchased, locally, there is nothing to compel the local body to purchase from the official contractor. I do not know whether my recollection is right in this particular matter; but, I think, Senator Johnson was responsible for the introduction of that provision in the Act himself. It has been very faithfully acted on in the administration of the Act. But I do suggest that it has a very serious weakness and that when we come to pass permanent legislation it should not permit of something that is going on at the present moment. I will just deal with that particular point. Contracts are entered into for a period of six months, but the contractors have no idea whether they are going to get an order for a single article, or a single yard of stuff, yet they are asked to quote a price in that particular position. A very considerable amount of thought has been given to the matter as to whether we could not so arrange things that an estimate would be given, at any rate, of the approximate amount of any particular class of article or material required over the period that the contract should run. If contractors knew that they had a prospect of getting an order for a fair bulk, I feel that they would be able to quote prices materially lower than at present. At present, because a contractor does not know what he might expect, he quotes a price not as low as he could quote if he knew the amount of the order. That leads on the part of purchases made locally, to conditions like these: there is a certain mental hospital and the Local Government price for a certain class of tweed is 4/11d. per yard. That can be purchased locally at 4/10d. A certain class of black cashmere is quoted at 9½d. per yard but it can be purchased locally at the same price. A certain class of sheeting is quoted at 1/7d. per yard it can be purchased locally at 1/7d.

A certain class of diaper is quoted at 2/6¼ and it is purchased locally at 2/6. In discussions with those who have been administering the Act, I find that, at any rate in certain areas, there is a tendency for the local body, in conjunction with local traders, to take the official list and make local purchases, either at the same prices or at a farthing a yard or a penny an article below them, and I think that the local bodies are not getting good service in that way. In the beginning of last year, having given certain thought to the question as to whether we could not purchase in bulk such articles as tars, bitumens and matters of that kind which were required in very large quantities, I caused arrangements to be made by which an estimate of the amount required by county surveyors during the current year would be made. In looking for tenders for these materials we gave that estimate, and to a very large extent, as a result of that, we succeeded in getting one contractor to supply a particular class of stuff at a price lower than the others by means of an ordinary competitive tender, a number of county surveyors being brought in to advise on the whole matter, as well as the Advisory Board which acts in connection with the operation of this Act. We succeeded in getting what was, I believe, a reduction of 11.5 per cent. on the cost in that way. In all, in connection with the different classes of these materials, there were 3,722,007 gallons purchased, and the total cost was £132,911. On the prices for the previous year that was a saving of £15,374, or 11.5 per cent. That required a considerable amount of organisation and co-operation on the part of county surveyors, but I think it was an effort in the right direction, and that it promises, if we could extend it to other matters, to give very much greater economies to local bodies in their purchases.

Recently I had a deputation from some of the woollen manufacturers, and as a result of further consideration of the question as to whether we ought not to contract by bulk as against by time, I have communicated with local bodies with regard to ninety-eight articles under the headings of linens, woollens, suits, caps, shawls, blankets, and matters of that kind, and I have asked them to give, for the purpose of the contracts we will be entering into for the months from April to September, estimates of their requirements so that approximate quantities may be quoted when we are looking for tenders. We hope in that way to lead up to a position whereby local bodies will organise their requirements so that contractors will know for a definite half year the approximate amount of materials that will be purchased. I hope that that will convenience contractors very much, and particularly convenience local manufacturers of woollens and such things, as well as providing additional economies for local bodies. In this matter I feel that we should, so to speak, take our sticks one by one and break them. We have a certain amount of experience, and the local bodies had a certain amount of experience in connection with the purchasing of tars last year. I hope that over a wider range of matters they will have a certain amount of experience this year in organising their purchases. I feel that if we were able to develop along that line we would cut out local buying, with very great profit, and we would be able to assist contractors materially.

There is another matter in connection with which we are carrying out additional experiments at present, and that is in endeavouring to make more use of a particular class of coal from Castlecomer. Certain institutions are making further trials, under suitable conditions, of a class of coal that has been fully examined by our Combined Purchasing Department and rather satisfactorily reported upon. The whole position has been under review. It is not easy to move quickly in the matter, but I think that another couple of years' working will put us into such a position that we could see upon what lines permanent legislation should be introduced, and I would submit to the Seanad that, as the present Act is giving a certain amount of satisfaction— there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction also—it would be advisable to have another couple of years' experience before introducing permanent legislation. In the meantime, as far as any information with regard to the progress of the matter is concerned, the report for the years 1922 to 1925 which was issued last year, and the report of the Local Government Department for the year 1926-27, which was issued this year, both contain information as to the progress made under combined purchasing. I do not think that it would be easy to arrange to give an annual report on combined purchasing on a Bill like this when we include it in our annual report. I anticipate that it will be possible to issue our annual report for the year ending March, 1928, before next March, and in so far as formal reports go, I do not think we can move much more quickly than that. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in so far as the operation of the Oireachtas is concerned, any information or any statistics that we have in the meantime may be obtained, either by correspondence or in any other way that Senators wish. I appreciate the fact that Senator Johnson does not mean to drop the Act, and I think that no one really does.

I suppose we can have these reports to which the Minister has referred?

I do not know whether Senators who came in on the 6th December this year are entitled to back publications, but they can be seen in the Library.

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Perhaps this would be a suitable time to decide if the House will sit to-morrow.

CATHAOIRLEACH

Nothing has been settled as regards to-morrow.

The hour has arrived at which the Seanad usually adjourns. Is it the intention to continue the business on the Order Paper now?

CATHAOIRLEACH

Better finish this Bill now.

Bill passed through Committee without amendment.
The Seanad went out of Committee.
Bill reported.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 19th December.