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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 13 Jul 1939

Vol. 23 No. 5

Air Raid Precautions Bill, 1939—Committee Stage.

Sections 1 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 11 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 11, Sir, would the Minister tell us, in a little more detail than he did on the Second Reading, what he has in his mind with regard to these schemes for local authorities? The Minister must know, as we all do, the terrible burden of rates that the country is bearing now, and there is strong temptation—and, I am sure, if I were the Minister, I should succumb to it—to pass this thing on to the ratepayers. There are any amount of demands for taxation to be put on to the ratepayers, and then forget about it. The burden of rates is very heavy indeed now. It is bearing on all sections. Could the Minister give us an assurance that he will do as little as possible to place any burden on the ratepayers in connection with these schemes in rural districts? There would be very little danger in areas outside Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick. There would be very little danger even in Waterford or Limerick, but I make the Minister a present of those four cities. Outside of those four cities I think it is a waste of money to do more than a very little.

Senator Sir John Keane will have noticed that we are not asking the local authority to bear all the expense. We are only asking them to bear a fraction of a fraction of the total expenditure. I explained here the last day that if the total expenditure on the passive A.R.P. be of the order of £500,000, £320,000 of that will be direct State expenditure into which the local authority does not come at all. Of the £180,000 that remains, at least £90,000 will be spent by the State and perhaps up to £120,000 because we are providing that of the expenditure which will be incurred and which will be borne by the State and the local authority, up to 70 per cent. of that expenditure will be paid by the State. That is a good safeguard to the local ratepayers that the State will not ask them for more than is considered absolutely essential. We are asking the ratepayers to contribute because if they did not and if money were going for any sort of works the local authorities might very well demand that their particular town or village should be put into a state of A.R.P. even though there was no necessity for it. We have indicated in this Bill the extent to which we think A.R.P. should be taken at the moment. You have the County Boroughs of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and a few of the larger towns. Outside of those towns it is not intended that any extensive scheme of precautions should be undertaken. In other areas it is intended that we should have only a small expenditure which would enable the local authorities to extend their precautions if it was ever considered necessary, but at the present time we cannot foresee any expenditure by the ordinary county council that will amount to very many pounds. The ratepayers, as I have said, have the safeguard that the Government will not ask them to spend too much money because for every £1 they spend the Government will at least have to contribute £1 or even 30/-. That is their best safeguard, I think.

I regret I was not here when the previous reading of the Bill took place. I am not quite sure what the financial arrangements are. The Minister assumes the total cost to be £500,000. As this is a Bill which involves expenditure, I presume that a Vote is being taken. Is that Vote for £500,000? I do not know how much it is. The Minister took the figure of £500,000 and said the local authorities would not have to pay more than £90,000. I confess I am in fault here. I was not here the last day, and I do not quite understand what the financial arrangement is. Personally, I regard any money spent under the terms of this Bill as uselessly spent, but I would like to know, and I confess I probably ought to know, what the financial provisions are. Is a Vote being taken? If a Vote is given for £350,000 in the Dáil to the Government for spending under the terms of this Bill, that would definitely fix it that the Government would be committed for 70 per cent. of anything paid by the local authorities, but is there such a Vote?

I mentioned the figure of £500,000 because that is the figure that we expect to spend over a period of years and portion of that has already been spent. Last year we took a Supplementary Estimate for something over £100,000. This year there is in the ordinary Army Estimates a sum of £30,000. So that, in addition to those two sums, there will be further sums asked from the Dáil, which will in all, over a period of years, amount, we think, to somewhere about £500,000. That £500,000 is distributed in this way: a certain amount of expenditure will be borne directly from State funds for gas masks, decontamination, fire-fighting equipment and things of that nature, which will be bought directly by the Department of Defence and held by them as ordinary Army stores to be issued when necessary.

And supplied free?

Supplied free. About £320,000, as far as I remember, will be spent in that way, direct. That leaves £180,000 out of the £500,000, and of that at least £90,000 will be borne by the State and if the full 70 per cent. grant were given in every case it would mean that £120,000 would be borne by the State and £60,000 by the local authorities.

I do not quite follow. The Minister says there was a Supplementary Vote last year and that there is some provision in the ordinary Army Vote of this year. This is a new Bill imposing a new law which involves expenditure of money. Surely there has to be a Money Resolution and a Supplementary Vote as the expenses under this Bill could not have been included in the Estimates that were prepared for this year. I was just wondering what that Supplementary Vote is.

There has been no Supplementary Vote brought forward this year. I gave the figure of £500,000 when we were dealing with the whole question of defence last February, and it was in order to give the Dáil and the Seanad an idea of what was the total expenditure involved that I mentioned that sum. Up to now all we have asked the Dáil for is £120,000 last year and £30,000 this year. If we require more money this year or next year it will have to be voted by the Dáil either in the ordinary annual Army Estimate or in a Supplementary Estimate.

Surely the Minister will agree that inasmuch as this is a new Bill imposing a new law there must be at least a token vote?

When we were preparing the other Estimate we had the terms of this Bill in mind.

Surely under this Bill you will at least have to bring in a token vote?

The Minister will excuse me. Surely this Estimate could not anticipate and provide legally for expenditure under a law that did not exist. Inasmuch as this Bill itself, if it is passed, creates a new law under which money will be spent, I do not see how the Dáil could have voted money last year to be spent under a law which did not then exist.

Accompanying the Bill in the Dáil there is the ordinary Money Resolution that is passed by the Dáil. It is always passed. When a Bill has passed the Second Reading there is a Money Resolution and that empowers the Government to spend the money, if they have it.

I would have thought, subject to correction, that this would certainly require a token vote.

No, a Money Resolution, which was passed.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 12 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, this is the one which says that it shall be the duty of scheme-making local authorities to prepare A.R.P. schemes. Paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) refers to the extinguishment of fires likely to result from air raid attack. Have any steps been taken with regard to the emptying of the gasometer in the City of Dublin? One can well understand that if there was an air raid attack, and if the gasometer was struck, the results could be very disastrous. In fact very disastrous fires have occurred in numbers of places on the Continent due to such causes. I would like to know whether any steps have been taken in connection with the taking over of the gasometer, or the emptying of it.

There is another portion of the Bill which deals with public utilities, and under it we would be empowered to give a grant of 50 per cent towards a public utility in order to help them to overcome any difficulties that might arise. In the case of emergency the Gas Company, the Electricity Supply Board and the people like them are public utilities, and they will be subject to a grant. A scheme has been evolved, in consultation with the Gas Company, for dealing with their premises. I think that the danger there can be reduced to a minimum while at the same time keeping, and making available, a supply of gas for the people in the city.

Some time ago the Government took steps for the establishment of an oil refinery in Dublin. It may have gone west like so many other things. Surely, an oil refinery company would not be regarded as a public utility company.

When we come to that we have the power to say that any company can be declared a public utility company for the purposes of this Bill, but not for any other purpose.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 13 to 64, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 65 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, would the Minister say why it has been considered necessary to take this special power in relation to the pictures held by the National Gallery. Surely, it is equally necessary to protect the pictures in the Municipal Gallery and the treasures in the Museum. I do not know if there is any Act that prevents the pictures in the National Gallery from being moved.

I understand that the Governors of the National Gallery have no power or authority to move the pictures outside the building. This section gives them the power to do that. At the moment they are advised that they have no legal authority to move a picture outside the building, and hence this section.

I have a sort of vague idea that pictures in the National Gallery were, some years ago, lent for exhibition in London at an Italian or Dutch Exhibition.

The Senator, in raising that question is, I fear, taking me beyond what is contained in this Air Raid Precautions Bill.

Arrangements have been made in regard to the treasures in the Museum, the Academy and in Trinity College in case of danger.

Question put and agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the next Stage?

I suggest that the remaining stages be taken now.

I must object to that. I do not think it would do any harm to postpone the remaining stages until next week when the House meets again.

Does Senator Quirke think there is any danger of war in the meantime?

I am not thinking of that, but a number of people did make a complaint that the Minister was slow in the matter of making arrangements for dealing with air raid attacks. Unless there is some very good reason for delay, I think the House should give the Minister the remaining stages of the Bill now.

I do not think the Minister is slow. In fact I hold the contrary view, because I think this is a Bill for throwing away money in a useless fashion. Even if he were slow I do not see why we should take the remaining stages now to make up for his slowness. I am not making any big point about this, but I do not see why the Bill cannot wait until next week.

I did not suggest that Senator Fitzgerald said that the Minister was too fast or too slow, but several other members of the Senator's Party in the Dáil did, in fact, say that he was too slow, and that he did not start in time. Unless the Senator can show that there is some serious objection to the taking of the other stages now, I do not see why the Minister should not have them.

At the moment we have a very small number of Senators in the House, and unless the Minister makes a statement and gives very good reasons for getting the remaining stages now, I think the Bill should be left over until next week. I know that on former occasions, whenever a Minister gave good reasons for the taking of the remaining stages of a Bill, the House invariably gave him his Bill. The majority of the members of the House were engaged on the Land Bill during the evening. They are now at tea. Therefore, unless very good reasons are advanced for taking the Bill now, I think it should be left over until next week. There may be some Senators who may wish to have the opportunity of saying something on the remaining stages.

I agree with what Senator Douglas has said. It may be that a number of the Senators who are absent at the moment are interested in this Bill and may have something to say on the final stages. It would not be fair to them to take the remaining stages now and have the whole thing a fait accompli when they returned to the House. I do not think that the Minister will be incommoded by leaving the Bill over until next week.

Naturally, I would like to get the Bill to-day if I could. It was delayed for a long time in drafting. The delay was unavoidable. The position is that at the moment the Dublin Corporation are doing a certain amount of work for which they have no legal authority. We promised them that, when this Bill came along, we would legalise under it whatever work they had done. They are spending some money on that—there was a Vote of £10,000 or something like that in this year's Estimates. A certain amount of the work has been done in Dublin and I would like to get ahead as quickly as I can. I do not say that there is any vital urgency about the matter for a week, but if there were any Senators particularly anxious to discuss the Bill who were not here I would not mind delaying it. On the other hand, the Senators who were interested both the last day and to-day are here now.

Well, the Minister has said there is no vital urgency.

Seeing that there is objection, it would be better to postpone the Report Stage until next week.

Ordered: That the Report Stage be taken on Tuesday next, 18th July.