Public Business. - Foreshore Bill, 1933.—Report and Final Stage.

Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

There are one or two questions I desire to place before the Minister in regard to this Bill. I admit that it may be rather irregular to do so now, but I happened to be absent when the Bill was passing through its earlier stages. The Minister at that time mentioned that he had power to carry out certain works and maintain them. I have not been able myself to discover exactly what the Minister referred to. I am in complete sympathy with the Bill as far as it goes in its clauses for the protection of State-owned foreshores and seashores, and in the authorisation of defence works on privately-owned property and the erection of structures on the foreshores. In his speech, moving that the Bill be read a Second Time in the Dáil, the Minister for Industry and Commerce briefly defined the aims and objects of the Bill. In addition to those which I have mentioned "it gives power to control the erection of such works, and provides for the maintenance of new works as well as those existing there already."

I should be glad if the Minister would point out the sections of the Bill which give the Minister power to erect and maintain works for the protection of State or other property against injury by the erosion of the foreshore or seashore by the action of the sea. I have not been able to find a clause in the Bill which gives the Minister power to construct works of defence and to maintain these works as well as existing works. In support of such powers I would like to refer to matters which have come under my own knowledge, and which in my opinion point to the necessity for such powers.

Many members of this House are, no doubt, familiar with the coast of the County Wicklow and the havoc sea erosion has wrought on portions of it. The section of the coast to which I like specially to refer extends from Bray Head to Wicklow. In July, 1906, the Irish Government had agreed to contribute the sum of £22,000 towards works to be carried out by the Wicklow Harbour Commissioners, £10,000 of which was to be expended on coast defence works in the vicinity of Wicklow Harbour, and the remaining £12,000 upon the harbour itself. The sum was to be supplemented by contributions locally guaranteed to the extent of at least £5,000, making a total available for work of £27,000. The engineer appointed by the Wicklow Harbour Commissioners to design the works was Mr. James Barron, of Aberdeen, with Sir Alexander Rendel, of Westminster, as consulting engineer.

The Irish Government asked me to act as their advising engineer. They were to have no responsibility for the design of the works, and I was to limit myself to certifying the various instalments of the Government grants as they fell due. The works were well designed and well carried out by a very efficient contractor, and the final instalments were paid in September, 1908. No arrangement was made for the maintenance of the work, and now all the coast defence work has been destroyed although probably an annual expenditure of £100 to £200 per annum would have preserved them.

I was, unfortunately, not present when the Minister moved the Second Reading of the Bill, but when I read his words that provision was made for the maintenance of new and existing works I rejoiced. An examination of this Bill has not confirmed my hopes, but I trust the Minister will be able to tell me that I am wrong. One of the great sources of waste of national money in Ireland by the British Government was due to the lack of arrangements for the maintenance of marine works constructed in part, or wholly, out of Government grants.

Perhaps I may be excused for introducing some matters not concerned with this Bill at all. But the points that I have mentioned were so brought home to me that I thought, a Chathaoirligh, you would permit me to speak on them even on this stage of the Bill. All of us are familiar with the conditions of the coast. The railway company had a considerable length of it in their charge and carried out their own maintenance, but the portions that I have referred to are apparently now in nobody's charge. The Government does not take charge of them. It is with a view to raising that point and of interesting the Government in it that I have spoken on this Bill, though I am doubtful whether I was really in order in doing so.

Unfortunately the Bill which is now in its final stage has not altered the powers of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in regard to coast erosion. The Bill simply gives the Minister certain powers in connection with the foreshore. These powers are intended to prevent the withdrawal of sand, gravel or beach material from the seashore where coast erosion is threatened. It also authorises persons to erect sea defence works. These are, roughly, the two main principles of the Bill. As regards private property in general, the matter of coast erosion as affecting private property is one for property owners. As regards public buildings, harbours and so on, the harbour authorities and the county councils are responsible. For example, in Wicklow Town the Wicklow harbour authorities are responsible, and in other parts of Wicklow the Wicklow County Council are responsible. The position is that we have no power in connection with the actual construction of coast defence works or with their maintenance. The position that Senator Sir John Griffith has referred to, which arose owing to the failure to maintain works which had been put up in 1906 under his direction, must be put to the blame of the local authority. So far as I can ascertain, the duty of looking after the maintenance of these coast defence works rests, generally, with the county surveyor where the county council is responsible, and in the case of harbours, where there is a local harbour authority, it rests with their officials to see that the defence works are properly maintained.

This Bill seems to me to be the first outcome of the work of the Commission which the Seanad will remember inquired into the whole question of coast erosion in 1931. The report of that Commission has not been published, but the first recommendation they made was that we should take steps to clarify the position as regards the removal of material from the seashore and as regards the licensing of people to erect works. I think that whatever further steps are necessary must be carried out by the local authorities, in conjunction, perhaps, with the Board of Works. The Board of Works do not admit at present that they have direct responsibility in the matter, but if they are approached by local authorities who find a difficulty in arranging for the maintenance of these works, or for their construction, I have no doubt the Board of Works will consider the question sympathetically and endeavour to meet these local authorities. I shall call the attention of the Minister for Finance to the remarks of Senator Sir John Griffith on this question.

I think it is very important that the matter should be kept in hand. The Bill deals with the removal of sand by individuals. That may seem an infinitesimal point, but it involves great risk to the seashore. Therefore, I would press on the Government to keep this question of sea erosion before them.

Question put and agreed to.