Agriculture (Amendment) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.

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

As Senators are probably aware this is a Bill to amend the Agriculture Act of 1931. Experience has shown that there were certain matters overlooked in that Act, and that it contained certain flaws. This Bill proposes to amend it in three respects. In the first place it deals with the payment of expenses to members elected to fill casual vacancies. Under the original Act a person could not be paid at the end of each half year unless he had attended at least half the meetings held during that half year. Six meetings are held in the half year, so that a person co-opted during the last two months of the half year could not possibly attend half the meetings held during the period. The most he could attend were two meetings. This Bill proposes to amend that particular section. The effect of it will be that if he attends half the meetings during the time he holds office he will be entitled to the payment of his expenses for attendance at those meetings. Under Section 3 there is also an anomaly under the Principal Act. It is this: that people living in urban areas can avail of the schemes of county committees of agriculture although they are in no way responsible for the rate that is struck on the urban population. The urban population contributes a rate of 2d. in the £ towards the schemes carried out by county committees. There is about an equal amount, or perhaps more, given from the Department of Agriculture Vote to those county committees for their schemes. The position is that the urban population does not contribute in any way to the rate although they have availed at times of the schemes. In fact, there is a great danger that officers of county committees—poultry instructresses and horticulture instructors—would be a little bit more inclined to attend to the urban population than they would be to go into the country in response to applications from people who live far away. Under this Bill it will be possible for a technical education committee in an urban area to make arrangements with the county committee of agriculture to get the services of those officers from time to time, the technical education committee paying the county committee of agriculture a small amount in return for the services rendered by its officers. Under that arrangement the people in an urban area will have the right in future to avail, in so far as they require them, of the services of officers such as poultry instructresses and horticulture instructors because they will be paying for those services.

Section 4 deals with the Borough of Dún Laoghaire. Under the original Act the number of members of a county committee was laid down to be at least three for each county electoral area in a county, and at most four. The county council, of course, appointed them. In doing so it had to appoint one at least who was resident in each electoral area. Under that provision the Dublin County Committee of Agriculture was compelled to nominate somebody on the County Committee of Agriculture who was resident in the Borough of Dún Laoghaire which, as I have already explained, was outside the original Act so far as the payment of a rate was concerned. As far as getting any special benefits from the Act was concerned, and being a county electoral area, it really should have been excluded from the original Act. The opportunity is being taken now to eliminate the county electoral area of Dún Laoghaire from the Act.

I can quite understand the necessity for the section dealing with the payment of expenses to people who had not been members of the council during a full period. The Minister explained that they could not be paid their expenses unless they attended half the meetings, and pointed to the difficulties that arose in the case of people appointed to fill casual vacancies. What is puzzling me is this: what is half? Suppose five meetings are held. Will two attendances qualify for the payment of expenses, or must there be three?

I think the Senator may rest assured that the Department of Finance will see that two would not count as the half of five.

As regards the example taken by the Senator, a member would need to give three attendances.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 16th May.