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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Apr 1934

Vol. 18 No. 14

Public Assistance (Acquisition of Land) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The object of this Bill is to empower local public assistance authorities or poor law authorities to acquire land for the purposes of their powers and duties. The provisions of the Bill will apply to the purchase of land either by agreement or compulsorily.

Hitherto the authorities concerned did not possess compulsory powers. If they required land they could only purchase by agreement, and the results were not always satisfactory. The local authority had to confine their selection to any land that might be offered for sale and very often the land offered for sale was not the most suitable for the purposes of the local authority. Neither was there any machinery to fix a suitable price and the local authority had to rely on bargaining methods which rarely secured the land at a reasonable figure. Invariably when it became known that land was required by a local authority in any particular locality the value of the land in the neighbourhood went up, and the local authority if they desired to proceed with their project were compelled to purchase at an inflated price.

In the ordinary course of their administration the purchase of the land by a public assistance authority is not a very frequent occurrence, and it might not be a matter that would call for special provisions. At the present time, however, all those bodies are engaged in the provision of improved hospital accommodation, and their hospital schemes often necessitate the purchase of new sites. Where the expenditure of large sums of money is involved it is highly desirable that the authorities concerned should be afforded every facility to work out their schemes successfully. If the poor law authorities are to be expected to negotiate the purchase of suitable sites for their hospitals it will be necessary to equip them with much more extended powers than they at present possess. There can scarcely be any great objection to endowing the public assistance authorities with powers to acquire land compulsorily. Public health authorities already possess such powers for the purposes of housing, water supply and sanitary schemes. Where any local authority are under an obligation to acquire land for the purposes of their powers and duties, the power to acquire compulsorily is essential to the successful performance of those duties.

The scheme of the Bill for the compulsory acquisition of land contains nothing new. It is similar to that provided in some of the Housing Acts. When a public assistance authority desire to acquire any particular land compulsorily, they may make a compulsory acquisition order. They must give the usual publicity by advertisement and by notice to owners, reputed owners, lessees, reputed lessees and occupiers.

Any person aggrieved by the compulsory acquisition order may make objection to the Minister. If no objection is received by the Minister he may as he thinks proper either refuse to confirm the order or confirm the order with or without modification. The Minister may also if he thinks fit cause a public local inquiry to be held before dealing with the order.

Where an objection (other than an objection which in the opinion of the Minister relates only to compensation) is made to the compulsory acquisition order and not withdrawn the Minister must cause a public local inquiry to be held in respect to the order, and after consideration of the report of the person holding the inquiry and of the objection or objections which occasioned the inquiry the Minister may as he shall think proper either refuse to confirm the compulsory acquisition order or confirm the order with or without modification.

Any person who is affected or whose property is affected by a compulsory acquisition order may apply to the High Court for the complete or partial annulment of the order. The High Court may as it shall think proper annual the whole of the order or part of the order if satisfied that the order or any part of the order was made in excess of or was otherwise not authorised by the powers conferred by the Act, or that the person making the application or any other person has been substantially prejudiced by any failure to comply in relation to such order with the provisions of the Act.

Other minor provisions of the Bill are those which will enable a public assistance authority, with the consent of the Minister and subject to any conditions which he may impose, to appropriate and use for the purpose of any of their powers and duties, land vested in them for any purpose and not required for that purpose, and also to sell land acquired under the Act which appears to be no longer required for the purpose for which it was acquired.

In regard to this measure, which I think will be a very useful one and seems to cover the ground pretty closely, I do not see any clause as to the measure of compensation. Paragraph (a) of Section 7 provides: "If no objection (other than an objection which, in the opinion of the Minister, relates only to compensation) to such compulsory acquisition order has been duly made to the Minister," then there shall be a public inquiry. I do not suppose, having regard perhaps to other legislation, that it was necessary to put into this measure any special provision relating to the measure of compensation. I mention the matter because I think the Parliamentary Secretary is now dealing with a class of case which, in some respects, is not similar to the case of acquiring land for building. Under this measure it seems to me that premises adjoining hospitals or premises on ground which will be regarded as suitable for hospitals are to be acquired. There will be a certain goodwill attaching to premises of that kind. It is different from the case of acquiring land upon which no buildings have been erected, and in respect of which there is no goodwill. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary has considered that, and I am sure he has very good reasons for not including in the Bill specific provisions dealing with the assessment of compensation. If by any chance, which is very unlikely, he has omitted to consider that matter I am sure it can be disposed of on the Committee Stage.

The measure of compensation which Senator Comyn refers to will, of course, be arrived at by the arbitrator following the sworn inquiry. I presume the Senator has read Section 4 and, of course, a man of his legal eminence will understand it even better than I do. I think that the usual machinery for arbitrating and for arriving at adequate and proper compensation is set out in Section 4. All such questions as have been mentioned by the Senator would, of course, be taken into consideration by the arbitrator in arriving at his figure. However, if the House is convinced that any further amendment is necessary on that it can be considered at a later stage, but I think the Senator will find, when he examines it more closely, that what he had in mind is already adequately safeguarded.

I was only thinking of the question of goodwill attaching to premises, and no doubt it is adequately safeguarded.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 18th April.
The Seanad adjourned at 6.55 p.m. until Wednesday, 18th April, 1934, at 3 p.m.