Arterial Drainage Bill, 1944—Second Stage.

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

We have caused to be circulated to members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, with the proposals contained in this Bill, an explanatory memorandum. In view of the circulation of that memorandum, which deals briefly with the arterial drainage code for a period of roughly 100 years, it is hardly necessary for me to cover all the ground again. It will be, however, no harm to make some reference to the Arterial Drainage Act of 1925 and to the experience of the Board of Works, which was the Department responsible for the operation of that Act, for a number of years.

It will give Senators some idea of the vastness of the problems with which we are attempting to deal, when I tell the House that following the passage into law of the 1925 Act some 669 separate petitions were received for drainage schemes. The procedure laid down in that Act was that any six landowners could come together to petition the local authority, with a view to the initiation of a drainage scheme. When that petition was presented to the county council or the local authority concerned, it was obliged to call upon its surveyor to make a report —not a very elaborate report—as to what he thought of the petition, and, following the receipt by it of the surveyor's report, it was free to recommend the petition, but whether it recommended the petition or not, it was by law obliged to refer it to the Board of Works.

It does, as I say, give one an idea of the magnitude of the problem of drainage when we realise that during the years that Act was actively in operation, if I may put it so, 669 petitions were received and that, of these, 619 were recommended by the county councils concerned to the drainage authority at the time, the Board of Works. Out of these 619 recommendations there emerged 51 completed drainage schemes, and, so far as I can say, speaking from memory, these 51 schemes embraced about 80 odd petitions. I do not at this stage propose to go into what became of the remaining petitions, except to say that, during the period from 1925 to 1938, the Board of Works, which was responsible for the carrying out of works under the Act, came to see its weakness and to recognise its shortcomings. The financial structure of the 1925 Act was faulty, or at least it was faulty from the point of view of getting work done. It provided for a contribution by the State, a contribution by the local authority or local authorities concerned and a contribution by the benefited landowners. It also provided that when a scheme was prepared on foot of a petition, it had to be submitted to the riparian owners and if 51 per cent. of the owners of the land included in the area to be drained were to vote against the scheme, nothing more was heard of it.

I could go on reciting all the shortcomings which the Act contained and which were encountered during the period from 1925 to 1938. It was in the latter year that the Government decided to set up a Drainage Commission, and most members of the House, I am sure, are aware that that commission was composed of public representatives, farmers, engineers, and so on. It proceeded to make a very thorough examination of the whole problem and, in 1941, it presented its report. The report will, I think, be conceded by those who have studied it to be a very excellent one, and, following the consideration which a Government is called upon to give to a report of that importance, the Government decided to accept the recommendations in principle. The main feature of those recommendations was a single drainage authority to be, on their advice, a section of the Office of Public Works. Another of the principal recommendations was that the capital cost of drainage in future should be borne by the State, and they made a very rough estimate of what, in their opinion, was likely to be the cost to the State of the work which they envisaged in that report; but it is only right and fair to say that they prefaced their estimate by pointing out that there could be no real reliance placed upon it, having regard to the rather scanty information available to them in relation to many of the districts included in their comprehensive scheme.

They recommended, as I say, that the constructional work should be done at full cost to the State, and also that, after the constructional work had been done, a maintenance organisation should be set up to be responsible in future for maintenance of the works carried out under the Act. In addition, they recommended that that organisation should be called upon to take over all existing works in a gradual way, until finally there would exist an organisation which would be responsible for the maintenance of both the districts to be constituted under this measure and the districts in existence prior to the coming into effect of these proposals. In so far as the provision of the necessary funds for maintenance is concerned, the commission recommended that 70 per cent. of the improved value of their land should in future be borne by the riparian owners in respect of maintenance, and I think they inserted a condition that they would not be called upon to bear that 70 per cent. until three years from the completion of the work had elapsed. I suppose they inserted that proviso to enable land recovered from water to be given some time to become of value to the owner before he was called upon to pay any charge in respect of it.

It is only in that fairly vital matter that the proposals contained in this measure differ from the recommendations of the commission. We are not in any way hostile to the principle that owners whose lands are benefited by the execution of drainage work at State expense, or at the expense of the taxpayer, should be called upon to pay in respect of maintenance at least the amount recommended by the Drainage Commission, but we were bound to have regard to our experiences in relation to the Act of 1925 to which I have referred. I did not refer to this matter, but Senators know that under that Act the actual benefit that accrued to each landowner as a result of the execution of drainage work was calculated and it was on the basis of that calculation of the actual benefit accruing to him that he paid his charges. We found that it was a very cumbersome, very elaborate, very tedious, and very difficult matter to make these necessary calculations and that in many cases they had to be made where only very small sums were involved. Not only that, but even after they were made, following the execution of the drainage works, they were a continual source of difficulty, worry and trouble to the Department concerned, inasmuch as lands are always changing hands and being divided. A farmer is sometimes obliged to sell a certain portion of his land and you always had to have a skeleton staff in existence for the purpose of making the necessary adjustments and calculations where you had this separate charge being paid in respect of lands that had benefited as a result of the operation of a particular drainage scheme. It was because of these experiences which followed the passage of the 1925 Act that we refused to accept the recommendation of the Drainage Commission in this matter of the contribution by the benefited landowners towards the maintenance of drainage works in future and not because we had any objection to the principle of a man paying in respect of the benefit derived by him following a work of this kind.

I have told you of the important recommendations made by this commission which made its report to the Government in 1941. I have little left to say, except that the proposals in this Bill follow closely along the lines of those recommendations, with the exception to which I have drawn attention. There are some eight parts in this Bill. Part I contains three sections that need no explanation, so far as I can see. In Part II the operative section is Section 4. That section gives to the drainage authority the responsibility for preparing and the right to prepare a drainage scheme, to select a catchment area for the preparation of that scheme, and all the powers necessary with that end in view. In that part of the Bill there is no other section, with perhaps the exception of Section 12, to which I need refer. Section 12 gives to the drainage authority power to amend a drainage scheme if, after the execution of the works, it is found necessary or desirable that amendments should be effected.

Then we come to Part III. Section 21 fixes the appointed day. Before I leave that, I want to explain that it is in this part of the Bill that provision is made for dealing with old drainage districts which have been managed by drainage boards and drainage trustees. The proposal here is that, on a date to be appointed, those districts will be transferred to the county councils, that the boards and trustees which have been responsible for the maintenance will go out of existence, and that in future the county councils will be obliged to provide for their maintenance by a flat rate charge upon the rates of the counties.

The most important section in Part III is Section 23. Section 23 sets out the safeguards which are provided for county councils to whom these districts are being transferred. We realise that in many cases those boards and trustees had gone out of existence long ago. We realise that, immediately on the transfer of those areas to the county councils for maintenance purposes, those whose lands were perhaps for many years affected by flooding would have for the first time a very good mark for securing damages should these authorities fail to relieve these lands of flooding. Of course, we recognised that it would not be fair to make it obligatory on a local authority to take over those more or less dilapidated drainage districts and impose upon them a duty to maintain those districts in a better condition than that in which they had been immediately prior to their being handed over to these authorities. Because of the dangers to which local authorities would be exposed if adequate protection in that regard were not provided, we are providing for an inspection by the Office of Public Works of each of those areas with a view to having a record of their actual condition immediately prior to the date of their transfer to the local authorities in order to ensure that, if a riparian owner were to take a local authority to court, we would be able to produce evidence in court to establish for the guidance of that court the condition in which that area was prior to its being handed over to that local authority.

We are providing, too, that the local authority need not, and cannot, be obliged to maintain drainage in a better condition than it was prior to its being handed over. I want to give this explanation, that while the local authority to which these districts will be transferred is not legally obliged to maintain them at a higher standard than when they were maintained by the boards or trustees which managed them in the past, there is nothing to prevent a local authority from improving upon the standard of maintenance until such time as these districts are reached with a view to their reconstruction as a result of these proposals.

When this Part of this Bill was being discussed in the other House some Deputies suggested that a more equitable system of maintenance would have been the creation of a national pool from, say, a flat rate over the whole country—3d., 4d., or 5d., or whatever was felt would be adequate to the task that had to be performed. Some Deputies suggested that that would be a more satisfactory system of providing for the maintenance of drainage than the provisions in this Bill, which oblige the local authority to strike its own rate for whatever drainage districts it has in its charge in its own area. I saw the force of that reasoning to some extent, and we did give to the suggestion a good deal of consideration.

The point that was made in favour of that proposal was that, when ultimately all drainage works are being maintained, as is visualised in these proposals, they will be maintained by a drainage maintenance organisation to be established under the drainage authority, but when that work will be executed by such an organisation and paid for by the local authority out of a flat rate in each county, I can imagine some criticism and some misunderstandings as between the drainage authority and the local councils. I suppose there is always the danger that misunderstandings of that nature may arise when you are called upon to pay for some work in respect of the carrying out of which you have no responsibility or no right to interfere.

While I am prepared to concede that there is some force in the argument that was advanced along those lines when this matter was being discussed in the Dáil, I must say that, considering the arguments for and against, we decided that as we had more or less agreed with the principle—except for the inconvenience of its operation—of the landowner paying for the benefits which he received, it would be best to keep as near to that as possible, and the nearest we could keep to it was that, if we could not make the riparian owner pay for maintenance, or some portion the maintenance charge, then we should make his local authority responsible.

We also saw the difficulty and the danger and the possible source of criticism and misunderstanding that would arise where you have a county which had not a very substantial arterial drainage problem. There are such counties, and we saw the possibility of those people being called upon to strike a fairly substantial rate with a view to the creation of the necessary central pool from which all drainage maintenance work would be done. We realised that these local authorities would say: "Here we are obliged to strike a rate of 6d. in the £, or whatever the amount may be, for the purpose of a general maintenance organisation, and all the works that are situated in this county would not cost a penny in the £." In thinking out this problem of the maintenance of existing drainage districts and the building up of the organisation necessary for the immediate and the distant future, we weighed up all the factors as best we could, having listened to the arguments, and we decided that the course that is visualised here is the wisest in all the circumstances.

Section 23 of Part III, and Section 29, are the two sections of this part of the Bill on which the greatest amount of controversy took place in the other House. I hardly think it is necessary at this stage to go into these two sections in any great detail. I will content myself by drawing attention to the fact that it was to those two sections that the major portion of the criticism of the Dáil was directed and Senators will have an opportunity between now and the Committee Stage of giving them further consideration.

Following the recommendation of the Drainage Commission, the same procedure is being followed in relation to embankments. The commission recommended that embankments should be approached in the same manner as the drainage districts. They recommend that a number of the existing embankments should, in the course of the carrying out of the drainage, be absorbed in drainage works and become part of drainage schemes—that they would be reconditioned as in the case of drainage at State cost and, after reconditioning, would be handed over to the maintenance authority and all their maintenance would be paid for, as in the case of a drainage district, by a flat drainage rate.

Part V of the Bill deals with the maintenance of drainage works by the commissioners and gives to the drainage authorities the same sort of protection in the maintenance of existing drainage districts as is provided for the local authority in Section 23 of Part III. It is possible that, when we carry out new works in some particular area, we will be obliged to provide the maintenance organisation ourselves for looking after these works and, when that maintenance organisation has been set up, it will be our tendency and inclination to take over from the local authorities immediately surrounding the area in which the new works are created any older districts for the maintenance of which they have been responsible up to that date. In such cases, we are providing in Section 37 for the same type of protection from legal proceedings as we provide in Section 23 for local authorities. Part VI, Section 39, gives the necessary power to carry out additional new works, if necessary. There is nothing of importance in Part VII.

In Part VIII there are two sections which are in accordance also with the recommendations of the Drainage Commission—Section 48 and Section 49. After examination of this whole matter and after hearing all the evidence from local authorities, the Drainage Commission decided that some provision should be inserted in the law to ensure that farmers would not be permitted in future to obstruct in the cleaning of small drains and small streams. In the Bill as it was introduced to the Dáil, there was, to meet that recommendation, Section 48. If you examine the Bill as it was then introduced and the Bill in its present form, you will see that a new section has been added. In the other House, I mentioned that I was anxious to get useful criticisms and suggestions from those Deputies who understood this problem. We had a suspicion that the powers we were taking in Section 48 were altogether too wide and could be used to do injustices in certain cases. With a view to achieving the same purpose, while eliminating the possibilities of doing such injustices, this new Section 48 was inserted. I think that these two sections now meet in the fullest possible sense the point of view expressed in the commission's recommendation.

I find myself at some disadvantage in discussing this measure here, inasmuch it has had a very tortuous passage through the other House. I find myself in the position that there is scarcely any aspect from which I could approach it and say anything new. While I would like to give to the Seanad the fullest possible information as to what is contained in this necessarily complicated measure, I find myself in some difficulty in my anxiety not to repeat myself and become tiresome to those who have to listen to me. I am sure Senators will not be satisfied with the main outline I have given of the provisions of this measure, but wherever I have not been so comprehensive as they require, I will come to the rescue at any time and give to any Senator here any additional information he may require regarding any provisions to which I may not have referred.

I do not think the House can have any complaint with regard to the Parliamentary Secretary's approach to the measure we have before us. I would have preferred that he would have continued with further explanations of the measure, as unquestionably it is the most complicated Bill I have had in my hands for a long time. It is a Bill into which so much can be read, and every time you read it you see something new. The Parliamentary Secretary may hardly believe it, but it is very likely that not many of us have been able to read the debates in the other House and, for that reason, there are some things on which we would have welcomed further enlightenment. However, I am sure we will get that enlightenment.

The Parliamentary Secretary is particularly fortunate in the time and circumstance in which this measure is introduced. In these days, when every duck pond in the country is a wide ocean, no one could have the hardihood to stand up in either House of the Oireachtas to oppose a Drainage Bill. However extravagant the proposals embodied in it may be, very great moral courage would be required to be very critical of its proposals. The Parliamentary Secretary gave an outline of the history of drainage legislation in this country, especially in relation to the operations of the 1925 Act. I know something about some of the works which were done under that Act and the results. Obviously, very much still remains to be done. There are certain aspects of the drainage problem in the country to which I would have liked the Parliamentary Secretary to have addressed himself, and probably he may do so. Those aspects cannot be left out of account in the consideration of our drainage problem. The Drainage Commission, at the end of paragraph 273 of their report, make this statement:—

"It should, however, be noted that afforestation is an aid to drainage, as the growth of trees on higher lands helps to reduce the effects of heavy rainfall by retarding the runoff. In areas where timber is cleared from hills, the streams on the slopes become torrential in heavy rains, lowlying lands are flooded and the rivers draining them are choked with sand bars and debris".

I feel quite convinced that we cannot effectively discuss or plan a successful scheme of drainage for the future without giving very careful consideration to all our plans with regard to the reafforestation of the country. The Drainage Commission, in their report, say that a cursory survey enabled them to suggest that over £7,000,000 would be required to carry out the drainage schemes which they envisage. What will be the results accruing from the expenditure of that money? I suggest to the House that the expenditure which the nation will have to incur on drainage works throughout the country over, say, the next 15 or 20 years, will be very much greater than the sum which would have been necessary had we over the last 20 years or, perhaps, I should say 50 years, put a good deal of money into the afforestation of our hillsides. The Parliamentary Secretary is trying to get machinery, through this Bill, to carry out drainage operations. I suggest that, unless we carry out concurrently with these drainage operations a scheme of afforestation, we are only making certain that the prophecy of the Drainage Commission will be fulfilled, because our hillsides will continue to be washed again into the valleys. I suggest, therefore, that the capital expenditure which we are now going to incur is only a very small portion of the total amount of money which will have to be spent from one generation to another: that is unless our whole plans with regard to drainage are envisaged on different lines from those on which we have been thinking up to the present.

I would like to have some information from the Parliamentary Secretary on the following statement which appears in paragraph 330 of the Report of the Drainage Commission.

"If our recommendations are accepted, the promotion of the necessary legislation may occupy a considerable time. We suggest that it might be desirable, pending such legislation, to undertake the necessary preliminary survey work in catchment areas selected for prior treatment so that the actual works could be launched with the least possible delay."

It is a matter of considerable importance that we should know what advances have been made since the Drainage Commission presented this report to the Government—whether definite steps have been taken by the Parliamentary Secretary's Department —to examine further and more closely the schemes that will have to be put into operation, and to be told how closely the amount of money suggested by the commission as a possible sum is related to the necessities of the case.

The Parliamentary Secretary has taken us through the Bill in a fairly exhaustive and critical way, if I may say so. He has told us that this is a piece of machinery legislation. I submit that it is the duty and responsibility of Senators to examine it very carefully and diligently. I recognise the difficulties which confront anybody charged with the responsibility of carrying out schemes of drainage for the country as a whole. The difficulties of planning must necessarily be of such a nature as to leave one frequently with two minds as to which would be the more effective in carrying out a plan and which would be the more just. I have read through the Bill carefully. It seems to me that the powers which are being given to the commissioners to exercise are of such a nature and character that this House cannot lightly subscribe to them. I want to indicate my disapproval of the fact that it is only the commissioners who will have the power of initiation with regard to schemes. Neither a county council nor a group of people in an area, no matter how badly that area may be affected, is to have the power of initiating a scheme. I think that is not satisfactory. I admit that in one section of the Bill a county council may initiate where somebody sets out to obstruct. Apart from that, a county council is not to have the power of initiation. I think it ought to have the liberty of expressing a desire to have drainage works carried out in a particular area. Under Section 9, when the Minister confirms a drainage scheme, the commissioners will proceed to carry it out. That, I think, is not satisfactory, because it seems to me that the commissioners can set about a scheme, prepare it, submit it, examine it and then proceed to carry it out. There appears to be no obligation on them to listen to anybody who has any objection to it. They are not compelled to alter it. The commissioners are in the position that they are above Parliament.

The commissioners may decide to spend a sum of £2,000,000 on a scheme under this Bill. We have no machinery, once this Bill is passed, to prevent their going on with that scheme, even though many of us may be very unhappy and very dissatisfied with the proposals contained in it, and even though the county council or county councils concerned may look with considerable disapproval on various aspects of it. I quite subscribe to the view that you cannot have recalcitrant and disagreeable people holding up schemes, that you cannot have people who do not want to subscribe to the community welfare standing in the way. I would not have any patience with those people but, looking at the matter from the other angle, I am not prepared to subscribe to the view that Parliament and the people should absolutely hand over to the Commissioners of Public Works or the central drainage authority power to proceed with any scheme, at any cost, without any provision for expressing disapproval of the scheme, however unhappy we may be about it. I put this matter so that the Parliamentary Secretary may comment upon or answer it.

It seems to me that these schemes should be laid on the Table, that they should be open to examination by Parliament, and that, before the Minister's Order is made giving the drainage authority power to proceed, there should be an opportunity for a declaration by either House annulling the scheme. This is not a thing which will be done to-day or to-morrow or in 12 months. We have to look many years ahead in regard to the propositions contained in the Bill. In this regard, I think that the Parliamentary Secretary is asking too much and that he will have to set up, inside his Bill, some machinery which will make it possible for Parliament to review schemes on which vast expenditure is to be incurred and of passing judgment upon them. I think that that would be a feasible proposition and would be a desirable safeguard for Parliament itself because nothing could be more unsatisfactory than to embark on a proposition of that nature about which there was considerable dissatisfaction, which dissatisfaction might prove later to be well-founded.

The Parliamentary Secretary dealt with a few sections about which I am very much concerned—Sections 23, 29 and 37. There seems to be something contradictory in these sections. Section 23 deals with the conditions under which drainage works are to be taken over from the trustees or drainage boards by the county councils. Apparently no council will be obliged to maintain any existing drainage work in a condition or state of repair better than the condition or state of repair in which it was at the time of the last inspection by the commissioners prior to, but not more than 12 months prior to, the appointed day. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary indicated that, in some cases, there were no trustees in charge of these schemes for a period and that they may have fallen into a condition of disrepair. According to that section, the county councils are not to be obliged to maintain these schemes in any better condition than they were when taken over. We then come to Section 29, which deals with the failure of councils to maintain existing drainage works. Sub-section (1) of this section states:—

"Whenever, after the appointed day, the commissioners are of opinion that any existing drainage works which are for the time being maintainable by the council of a county or the councils of two or more counties are not being properly maintained and that maintenance or repair work is immediately necessary...it shall be lawful for the commissioners to serve by post on such council...a notice...stating that in the opinion of the commissioners the maintenance or repair work specified in that behalf in such notice is immediately necessary... and requiring such council or councils to execute the said maintenance or repair work within a time specified..."

I am unable to reconcile that section with the section to which I have referred. Then, we come to Section 37, which deals with works passed over from the county councils to the drainage authority. Here we have a provision exactly similar to that in Section 23. The central drainage authority is not to be obliged to maintain the transferred works in any higher state of repair than that in which they got them. As between Section 23 and Section 37, how does Section 29 come in? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will enlighten us on that question at the proper time. He said there was a section dealing with the transfer from the local authority to the central drainage authority, but I notice that, in that section, there is no obligation placed on the central drainage authority to take over the works. The operative word used is "may", not "shall". The Parliamentary Secretary was very careful in his language. He said: "There will be a tendency and a disposition to take over from the local authorities." When is that to happen? "Tendency and disposition" is a very vague phrase and I should like to know whether local authorities are to have these drainage works on their hands without any effective means of keeping them in repair. The Parliamentary Secretary has himself some knowledge of drainage works which I have in mind. To keep them in repair, machinery which a local authority could not be expected to invest in would be necessary. When is this transfer to take place and will it be a matter of definite policy that the works will pass over from the local authority to the central drainage authority? I should like to hear something more about that.

I shall not discuss Section 58 because I am certain that other Senators will do so. I should like, however, to refer to a paragraph in Section 2 and to express my disappointment that the Parliamentary Secretary did not address himself to this aspect of the measure. He is, probably, holding his horses. In this paragraph in Section 2, we find that the expression "existing drainage district" means "a drainage district constituted under any of the Acts specified in the First Schedule to this Act and wholly situate within the State". "Wholly within the State". Now, it may be that there are only a few of us in this House who know that there are drainage districts in this country that are not wholly within the State, but that is an indication of how difficult it is to blot out the handiwork of God. There are drainage districts in some of the Border counties—my own county is one, and it happens also to be the Parliamentary Secretary's own constituency—which, curiously enough, know no boundary, or rather they stretch across boundaries. There are at least two in County Cavan, about which the Parliamentary Secretary should be very specially concerned and about which I, personally, am very much concerned. I do not understand at all why that limitation is imposed by the Parliamentary Secretary in this Bill. I am aware of the fact, of course, that the Drainage Commission, in making their report and discussing the Border problems, said:—

"While we fully realise the desirability of improving the conditions in drainage areas extending into Northern Ireland, we feel that in present circumstances the drainage difficulties in these areas can be solved satisfactorily and comprehensively only by agreement between the two Governments on the works which should be undertaken, the apportionment of the cost, and the future proposals for maintenance."

Now, the Parliamentary Secretary will have to tell the House something about this. It is an all-important matter. None of us can evade our responsibilities in a matter so important and grave as this is. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary has been over his constituency recently, but I am aware of this fact: that if you were to talk of thousands of cocks of hay having been lost in the lower end of our county and in an area extending into County Leitrim, you would be in no way exaggerating the losses that the farmers in those districts sustained during the past season. There are two drainage districts concerned: one which commences in Leitrim and extends up as far as Carrick-on-Shannon and drains all down through South Leitrim into West Cavan, into the lakes of Fermanagh, and even into Donegal and all that area of West Cavan to which I have referred. There is another area, portion of which commences near the Parliamentary Secretary's own district and not far from the borders of County Monaghan, and another area, portion of which commences far up near County Longford; and all this water has to pour down through Cavan, Fermanagh, and the areas I have mentioned, on its way to the sea.

I do not know what the Parliamentary Secretary proposes to do in connection with that area. I do not dissent from the point of view of the Drainage Commission:—

"That the drainage difficulties in these areas can be solved satisfactorily and comprehensively only by agreement between the two Governments on the works which should be undertaken, the apportionment of the cost, and the future proposals for maintenance."

That is the right thing to do, but what are we doing about it, or what has been done about it? Have any discussions taken place, or are any discussions taking place in regard to this matter? Mind you, this is a problem which I understand very well and thoroughly. I may tell the Parliamentary Secretary and the House that it is a burning question in County Cavan and also in County Fermanagh: that it has always been a burning question in these areas, but that it never burned so fiercely as it is burning at the present moment and has been burning over the last few months as a result of the very severe losses that have been sustained by the farmers in these areas. Very many small farms have been actually devastated by flooding, and the losses sustained by the farmers in hay, corn, turf, and so on in counties such as Cavan and Fermanagh have been appalling. Of course, the Parliamentary Secretary may ask: "What can I do about it?" I do not know whether he will do so or not, but I know what I would do in such a case. In the first place, I would not put any bounds in this Bill on our liberty or power to carry out drainage works within our own State—no bounds whatever. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to exclude any such bounds or limitations. That need not necessarily mean that we shall carry out the works, but at least we should not be limited so because of the fact that we cannot get agreement with the people across the Border as to whether such works should go on or not. I think that, tactically, it would be unwise so to limit our powers, but the time has come for active, positive steps to be taken with regard to that matter.

For many years, since I was a small boy, the people of County Fermanagh and West Cavan have been terribly troubled about the conditions in those areas. There will not be any dissent on the part of the people across the Border, whether they are for this nation or for the Union, in regard to any steps, no matter how vigorous, we may take, to put through a drainage scheme for the whole area. I definitely think that the Northern Ireland Government ought to be invited to co-operate with us in such a scheme, and I think that there should be no hugger-mugger about it. Let it be a public act on our part to invite their co-operation in a drainage scheme for all of that area. Let them be tested on this, and let them prove whether or not they are conscious of the sufferings and losses of the people in those areas. I believe that we should openly and publicly express our opinion on this matter and say that we are prepared to do our share of the work if they will co-operate with us. I would even be prepared to go further, and say that, even if they are not willing to co-operate with us, we will be prepared to go into that part of the country and spend our own money in dealing with this problem.

Turn on the hose.

Of course Senator McEllin is not as concerned as we are about this matter.

Why should I be?

He has a nice dry farm. However, this is a grave and very important question, and I do not think we should exclude the possibility of going on with drainage work in that area. If we find that the people who have authority on the other side of the Border are unwilling to co-operate, are we to do nothing about it? Are we just to sit down and do nothing to put our own house in order? Let me point out exactly what might be some of the consequences of this particular phrase in this measure. The report of the Drainage Commission refers to drainage operations which were carried out on the River Erne, some years ago, under the 1925 Act, under which, I think, a sum of £88,000 was spent. Some of that work was very well done, and some of it was not so very well done.

Some of it, indeed, was very effective and did a great deal of good, but what exactly was done in connection with the drainage of the Erne from the boundaries of Cavan all down through the lakes, around Lough-Oughter Castle and down to the town of Belturbet? The drainage operations stopped at the bridge in the town of Belturbet, and there are three miles of the River Erne from that down to the boundary left untouched, and the net result of those drainage operations is that all the water from above pours down more quickly; it just rushes down on the remaining three miles of territory of our own. Now, under this clause of the Bill, apparently, we shall not have any power if the other people will not co-operate with us to deal with that problem. If they will not work with us, it would seem that we shall not be able to continue operations so far as those three miles of the River Erne are concerned. I think that that is a complete illustration of how we are going to tie ourselves up under this proposal in the Bill. At the same time, I am at a loss to know what the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind when we come to Section 57, because in sub-section (6) I find that:—

"The commissioners may with the consent of the Minister, enter into an agreement with the council (in this section referred to as the external council) of the county in which is situate so much of a drainage district to which this section applies as is outside the State providing for the control and management of such drainage district and the maintenance of the drainage works therein by the commissioners and the external council jointly."

I do not know how the commissioners can operate in conjunction with a council outside because I am not aware that a council outside has any power in this connection at all. As far as I understand the position at the moment drainage trustees operate over the whole area outside. Because we here by this Bill terminate within our territory the functions of trustees, it does not follow that the functions of the trustees on the other side will be terminated and handed over to the county councils. What authority will the county council on the other side have in this matter at all? I am not clear on that point. Whether the Parliamentary Secretary thinks that it is possible to do something under that section I do not know, but I shall be interested to hear his views.

Sub-section (7) of the section states:—

"When the Minister is satisfied that an agreement under the next preceding sub-section of this section in respect of a drainage district to which this section applies has the force of law in the area in which is situate the portion of such drainage district outside the State, the Minister shall by Order confirm such agreement and thereupon such agreement shall have the force of law within the State."

Then sub-section (8) goes on to state:—

"The Minister may, by the Order confirming an agreement under this section, make such provisions (including modifications of the provisions of this Act) as appear to him to be necessary in connection with or in consequence of such agreement."

Now, I am all for agreements made with the people outside with regard to the maintenance of existing drainage works or the construction of new works that are indeed very necessary in this area, but I am not for giving the Minister new powers to repeal by Order sections of this Bill if he finds it necessary, convenient or appropriate to make agreements between the commissioners and an outside council. If it is necessary to repeal sections of this Bill, I think that should be done by bringing in another Bill.

These, generally, are my views about the Bill. Perhaps it may be that the Parliamentary Secretary has very good reasons for excluding drainage work in his own constituency from the terms of this Bill. If he has, nobody will be more glad to hear of them than I, but conditions there are to-day of such a character that I am quite convinced there is no part of the country which requires the speedy application of the provisions of this Bill more than that particular area. While we are all conscious of the fact that the question of getting over difficulties with the people across the Border is not a matter that is easily solved, I think we certainly should not tie our hands with regard to our own territory and the people living in it. I definitely feel that we should not make them understand that they are excluded from the provisions of this Bill.

I feel fairly strongly that the commissioners will be so all-powerful that their powers will need some curbing. I notice in one particular section that the commissioners are entitled to employ contractors and these contractors apparently can exercise all the powers which are vested in the commissioners for the purpose of carrying out any operation. Anybody who has any experience of the manner in which the Electricity Supply Board goes about its work will know that, although the officials of the board are very persistent and although the board has very wide powers in the matter of entering on a person's land to carry out any operation that it regards as necessary, the board at least recognises that the owner of the land has certain authority and certain rights. The officials will go in and tell the occupier what they feel requires to be done. They will ask him to give his consent and will present him with a document which they will invite him to sign. In the event of his refusal, they have certain rights which they can fall back upon, but at least in the first instance they will endeavour to get his consent amicably.

In this Bill it is not suggested that the commissioners should follow a procedure of that kind. They can go in on drainage districts all over the country, not at this time of the year— it would not matter very much in the winter—but in spring, summer or autumn. They or their contractors can enter on a man's land at the busiest time of the year and expose him to great inconvenience and trouble. I would be more afraid of the contractors than of the commissioners themselves and their direct employees. I feel definitely that not only are the powers the commissioners are being given in this Bill to plan and carry out schemes much too wide but that the manner in which they can enter on land and the liberty which they are given to carry out certain works there are such as to make their authority little less than a tyranny, perhaps, in certain cases. While it may be argued that they will not exercise their authority in that fashion, we all know how authority, which has been exercised for a long time and which nobody has the right to question, can be abused.

There are many other matters in the Bill to which other Senators may wish to address themselves. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will be prepared to examine carefully and fairly the weaknesses and faults which the House may feel the measure contains. There is an obligation on us to make this plan a workable and an acceptable plan; such a plan that, when it is being operated after we have passed from the political stage of this country, it will convince the community generally that the people who made the plan knew what they were about and gave them a machine which was at least workable and which, at the same time, imposed no great disabilities or injustices on any of the people for whose benefit it was designed.

The country as a whole has welcomed this Bill and I think that the Government must be congratulated on the vision and the comprehensiveness of the measure. The Bill, as we have heard it outlined, contains, it may be assumed, certain defects which I hope to see deleted, or so altered on the Committee Stage that it will be acceptable to the House. There is one section of this Bill which is for me, firstly as a member of this House and, secondly, as a member of the Limerick County Council, a matter of very serious import. I do not know of anything that has happened in this country for a number of years that has so profoundly shocked the public conscience as the procedure in connection with the Mulkear, Cappamore, Maigue and Loobagh drainage schemes. I have been associated with them from the early days of the initiation of those schemes, from 1929 to a day about a month ago when the last effort was being made by the county council to get the Parliamentary Secretary to find avia media for the ratepayers of the County Limerick. Reading his speech in the other House, I find he has made certain allegations and very specific charges against the Limerick County Council, which have no relation to fact. I hope to substantiate that, if permitted, when the Committee Stage comes before us. Consequently, I formally give notice that I intend to hand in an amendment to Section 58 for the Committee discussion.

I think the House is under an obligation to the Parliamentary Secretary for the review of this Bill which he gave in such detail, a review which has been helpful to all of us in understanding its provisions. The one aspect of the measure which appeals to me is the provision which gets rid of the old procedure under which it was necessary to introduce a special Act for any important drainage scheme such as the Barrow or the Fergus or the Oranmore. That procedure is dispensed with, and we have now a central drainage authority which is getting very wide powers under the Bill. Some of the speakers, Senator Baxter in particular, were apprehensive that the powers are too wide, and one does feel that there are in the Bill certain provisions which place the commissioners in a position to resist almost any claim made against them by people affected by the operations of this Bill. The commissioners are given powers which are wide and comprehensive, but the commissioners, as the agents of the Government, represent public authority, and they are entitled to have wide powers, as against individual idiosyncrasies, to carry out public work of importance in the interests of the people as a whole. Instances, however, which have arisen from time to time would suggest that there is need for some review of the proposals of the commissioners in certain circumstances. In other words, I want to express the view that the commissioners are not infallible even in matters of drainage.

In Section 17, if I may just refer briefly to one item that occurs to my mind, there are proposals which seem to me unreasonable, that is to say that in the assessment of compensation the commissioners set up the defence that any benefit which "may reasonably be expected to arise from" the work has to be taken into account. It is not merely the benefit which the drainage work confers, but the benefit which may reasonably be expected to arise from it. What has been the experience in regard to the Barrow drainage? I have here a copy of a document which was issued by the Barrow Drainage Ratepayers' Association on November 28th, 1939. If you will permit me, Sir, I should like to read a few extracts from it to indicate the benefit which has in fact arisen in respect of one important drainage scheme carried out in this country. Now, I am not making any case in respect of the Barrow Drainage Ratepayers' Association. I do not know the details of the quarrel between themselves and the commissioners, or anything about proceedings which are being taken from time to time in the courts, but I want to draw attention to the character of the benefit arising from this important drainage scheme, which by the way cost a very substantial sum of money. There was a Vote in respect of it for £273,759, which I understand represents only half the cost of the scheme, so that on the whole the Barrow drainage scheme cost more than £500,000. This is what the local ratepayers' organisation says about it:—

"The line along the Barrow valley and its tributaries consists mostly of coarse, rushy land of the poorest quality, and also of cut-away bog and gorse. Large tracts of this land are still subject to flooding. Floods have remained for the past three winters at a depth of over three feet, and a large area of the Barrow district, although not covered with water, has been quite unfit for the grazing of any kind of stock owing to its being badly water-logged. Some of the land is flooded both summer and winter."

I do not want to quote further, but I do want to draw attention to the fact that in one case referred to in the report the drainage rate is, I think, 4/-per acre. The size of the holding is mentioned as 18 acres 1 rood, statute measure, and the drainage rate is £3 10s. 10d. —roughly 4/-per acre. The letting value of the land—because it was let in 1939—was 6/9 per acre. So that, on this holding of 18 acres, after paying Land Commission annuity, poor rate, and Barrow drainage rate, there is a loss to the occupier of £2 12s. 3d. per year.

Another case was mentioned to me some time ago. It has reference to a drainage scheme carried out in connection with the Adrigole river in West Cork. The story that was told to me is that in order to make certain bogs available for turf cutting, the commissioners diverted the Adrigole river by erecting embankments. In the construction of these embankments they took a particular line which, apparently, was at variance with the views of the local people. I am not suggesting that the local people interfered to furstrate the efforts of the commissioners but they did advise that the work should be done in a particular way. The commissioners were not impressed and the work was done in the way they thought best, with the result that in October of this year, when water was rushing from the lake, the embankments were swept away and it is only by the mercy of God that two young girls living in a house in one of the flooded areas did not lose their lives. The embankments were so constructed that not alone was one embankment swept away to such an extent that a large area was flooded, but the other embankment held the water and prevented it flowing away.

I am drawing attention to that fact because of the powers taken in this Bill by the commissioners, giving no right to anybody to express in any authoritative way a contrary view. I do dupport the suggestion that schemes prepared by the commissioners should be tabled in both Houses of the Oiraechtas with provision for the annulment of these schemes if either House so desires.

The Parliamentary Secretary was not firm as to the expenditure involved under the Bill, but the Drainage Commission placed an estimate—a rough estimate, no doubt—of £7,000,000 on the work visualised under their plans. If £7,000,000 was a reasonably accurate figure six or seven years ago, it is wholly inadequate to-day. Costs of every kind have increased considerably between the date at which the commission framed their report and the present time. I would suggest that if the figure of £7,000,000 contained in the report of the Drainage Commission was reasonably accurate, the present figure for this scheme cannot be less than £10,000,000. That is a very substantial sum. What was said, I think by the Parliamentary Secretary, in the Dáil, suggests very slow progress in carrying out the report and recommendations of the Drainage Commission. I understand the Parliamentary Secretary said in the Dáil that it was contemplated that there would be an annual expenditure under the Bill of £250,000. If that estimate is correct, if that is the ceiling which the commissioners are placing on their efforts, it means that it will take 40 years to carry out the scheme recommended by the Drainage Commission six or seven years ago, and these schemes represent work which ought to have been done at that time. So that, unless the Government are prepared to advance much more rapidly than the Parliamentary Secretary seems to have suggested in the Dáil, the work contemplated in the report of the Drainage Commission, upon which this Bill is based, will not be completed before the end of the present century.

What has been the history of drainage in this country? Is it not a story of draining rivers which, in the course of time, again became silted, with consequent flooding? Senator Baxter referred to the matter by quoting from the report of the Drainage Commission on this aspect of drainage. The great defect in regard to our drainage proposals—and it is a defect in this Bill—is that we take no cognisance whatever of the cause of flooding. Nature is not irrational. Providence did not create this country so that its rivers might be perpetually flooded. The rainfall in Ireland is suitable to the climate of this country. The rain which falls here is required for the natural process of fertilising our soil, if it were properly utilised, but it is not properly utilised and, consequently, rivers are flooded and lands need reclamation in all parts of the country to-day.

To make the scheme worth while, it must be associated with a well-designed, comprehensive, national afforestation programme. Unless we plant the hillsides there will be a flow-off whenever there is heavy rain, carrying soil into the streams and from the streams to the rivers, silting rivers and causing flooding. A test was made in the United States of America some years ago in relation to two adjoining areas of equal size, one afforested and the other deforested. The result, as was quoted in the American papers, is that the run-off from the afforested area was 600 gallons and from the deforested area the run-off was 26,500 gallons. That indicates the effect of afforestation on lands, both highlands and valleys.

This country, of course, at one time carried as much timber as any country in Europe. To-day it carries much less than any other country in Europe. Even Great Britain has 6 per cent. of its land area under forestry. Denmark has 8 per cent.; Portugal 17 per cent.; Belgium, 18 per cent.; Switzerland, 22 per cent., and so on, up to countries like Sweden and Finland where the percentage of afforested land is so great that we in this country can hardly believe it because the percentage of our land area under forest is less than one half of 1 per cent.

We are embarking on a very expensive scheme. How expensive it is may be judged from the fact that the drainage of the Barrow cost £547,000. One-half of the cost was paid by the State. Under the present Bill the State accepts liability for the entire cost of drainage. In this case the State means the taxpayers, so that when the ratepayers are relieved from the cost of carrying out drainage schemes it means that the whole of the expense is thrown on to the shoulders of the taxpayers, very often much the same people. It is rather significant that in order to pay off a debt of £273,000 the three county councils concerned in the Barrow drainage scheme have to meet annual payments of £21,570 for 23 years, so that the people of these three counties will be required to pay £496,000, of which £223,000 represents interest on the £273,000 advanced. On that basis, if future schemes run into an expenditure of say £10,000,000 the taxpayers will not merely be repaying £10,000,000 but in interest and capital something amounting to £19,000,000 or £20,000,000, and by the time this scheme is completed it will be essential for whoever is here to come to the Oireachtas with another Drainage Bill because the rivers drained in 1946 and 1947 will have silted once more, and the problem will be then precisely where it was when the Drainage Commission compiled their report five or six years ago.

I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should take into account the suggestion I have the temerity to make, that these drainage proposals should be linked up with a big scheme of national afforestation, and that before commencing drainage work at all he should start on the planting of trees. If that is not done I am afraid future generations will conclude that this Oireachtas has recklessly permitted the expenditure of many millions of money which, taking the long view, will, to all intents and purposes, be thrown away.

I consider this Bill to be a very reasonable effort to face up to a serious problem, and I am hoping that by the time it becomes law, the flaws that it undoubtedly contains may be remedied in a way that will make it of real benefit to that section of the community for which it is intended. I welcome this Bill because it does away with restrictions, the consequences of previous Acts, by which local bodies for certain reasons could hold up a scheme that was sent to the Board of Works. I have in mind a scheme where it was proposed to spend £12,000 on certain drainage works. The Government were pre-prepared to contribute 50 per cent. of the costs, 47 per cent. was to be borne by those who would benefit, and the remainder was to be a county-at-large charge. The county-at-large charge was responsible for holding up that scheme for more than three years, although it was equivalent only to the fifteenth part of a penny in the £ on the county for a period of slightly over 30 years. Subsequently the council agreed to accept that condition, but the scheme is still held up and no effort has been made by the Board of Works to carry it out. I consider the provision in this Bill by which a holdup of that kind cannot occur in future to be very desirable.

The Drainage Commission suggested the setting up of a central drainage authority which would have the power to initiate and to construct drainage works and which could not be prevented from doing so by any reactionary act. I consider that to be an excellent suggestion and I am glad that the Government have incorporated it in the Bill. But I am sorry to say that the further suggestion, in regard to maintenance charges, was not accepted by the Government. As the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, the commission suggested that 70 per cent. of the cost of maintenance should be borne by those whose lands would benefit by a drainage scheme, and 30 per cent. met by way of a county-at-large charge. I am prepared to admit that the reasons for not adopting that suggestion were sincere, but I cannot see why the difficulty of making separate valuations, on the benefits conferred by a drainage scheme, should be responsible for throwing such an excellent proposal aside. We know that in the case of improvement to property effected by ratepayers there is no difficulty, apparently, on the part of the authorities in having improvements valued and extra rates levied. I do not see why a similar system of valuations should not obtain when a drainage scheme is being carried out.

I regard the particular section which refers to maintenance charges as very faulty. I do not see why the central drainage body should take on itself the responsibility of estimating what amount of maintenance should be done every year in the different districts, or why the county administrative body should not have the responsibility of deciding that matter, as they have the responsibility of dealing with the estimates for the other county services. A body which can consider road estimates, estimates for public institutions, poor law and public health services, should not be deprived of any voice in fixing the maintenance charges so far as works covered by the Bill are concerned. I cannot see how any official, or number of officials, living remote from any particular area can have a more intimate knowledge of the extent to which maintenance must be carried out than public representatives who come from the area and who have opportunities of meeting the people directly concerned with the maintenance proposed to be carried out. If some alteration is not made in relation to that proposal, I visualise a position in which, as a result of the amounts fixed for maintenance, the rates in the different counties will soar beyond the means of the ratepayers to meet them.

One flaw—it may not properly be called a flaw—in the Bill is that the time taken to carry out the necessary surveys in relation to schemes which the Board of Works may take up, as other speakers have said, is liable to run to a very considerable length, so much so that many years will have elapsed before any work of drainage is carried out. I suggest that, in the meantime, however, schemes similar to the scheme to which I have referred— and there must be many of these pigeon-holed in the Office of Public Works—should be gone on with. They have been drafted by officials of the Office of Public Works. They have been recommended in several cases to the different local bodies and objections raised by these bodies in many cases have been very effectively answered by the Board of Works, as I know happened in the case to which I refer. The objection raised to that scheme originally was that it was absolutely out of order in that it took on subsidiary work before the main work was carried out. The Board of Works very effectively disposed of that objection, and while surveys are being made in relation to new schemes, I see no reason why schemes already reported on and on which a considerable amount of public money has been spent, should not be gone on with immediately.

In the matter of the surveys which will be a preliminary to these schemes, I should like to refer to the possibility of these being carried out in a manner which might lead to trouble afterwards, in so far as the costs of construction are concerned. I know one very important scheme which was carried out at considerable cost. Some of the money was provided by the Government, but quite a large amount had to be provided by the ratepayers of the particular county, and when the amount estimated as necessary to carry out the scheme was spent, it was reported to the county council concerned that, in the actual work of cleaning up the river bed, the workmen came across a species of clay known as boulder clay which was not provided for in the original estimate. That belated discovery, for which the officials who made the initial survey were mainly responsible, involved the people of the county in the expenditure of thousands of pounds extra in having the position put right.

I hope it is not expecting too much that when people who are considered to be expert in the matter of making surveys are making these surveys in any particular area, they will be able to visualise the type of clay or the nature of the ground which will have to be dealt with in the operation of the scheme. It is not unreasonable to expect at least that they should be at least expert enough to have a fairly accurate idea of the nature of the ground on which the work is to be carried out and the consequent cost of that work.

If some accommodation could be arrived at in this matter of maintenance charges and if the Government would agree to give some voice to the people affected by these schemes in formulating them, the Bill would be a very good Bill, but if the Parliamentary Secretary cannot see his way to give a voice in the drafting of these schemes to the people concerned, it will be a very serious defect in the Bill. If it is proposed to carry out the provision that gives the central drainage authority power to fix the annual maintenance cost for the different counties, I foresee very serious consequences in many of the counties which will be concerned with such drainage works as are carried out. If the Bill could be amended to meet these few points, it would be an excellent Bill. It would be an honest effort to do work which has been neglected for years; it would give farmers extra areas of land for cultivation; and it would provide hundreds of acres of turbary which are at present under water and of no use for the supplementing of the country's fuel supply.

I am rather inclined to agree with the remarks of the last speaker about not consulting the local authorities and not giving them a voice at least in the matter of maintenance charges. Otherwise I think the Bill is worthy of welcome by the House. It means, as I look upon it, the spending of a great deal of money in the rural parts and, as such, it is one of the first Bills presented to Parliament which I would go all out to meet. I never had the honour of meeting the Parliamentary Secretary until now, but County Cavan and County Monaghan have created a deep impression on the "wee county." In 1925 a Drainage Act was passed and they came forward with large numbers of men, started up river, worked towards the sea, came within about a mile of the "wee county" and we never saw or heard from them from that day to this, but their mud comes down all the time. Now that the present head of the Office of Works has started at the sea, I am sure he will come right up and take away the dirt that his countymen have succeeded in sending down in avalanches. The fact is that, looking at the position as it confronts us now in Louth, we would be almost inclined to take any Bill which would take the present water away. For years we have been agitating on the lines of Senator Duffy to have our hillsides in Cooley, in the northern portions of the county, and the other hills around Collon, of plan of campaign fame, planted. That would benefit these areas very materially. Most of the land that the Dee and Glyde go through down to mid-Louth is excellent. I am certain it will benefit very materially by the present Bill. As to the question of afforestation, I should like to see it linked up with the question of coast erosion, which is a very serious matter. If that were dealt with, it would bring thousands of acres into cultivation between Dundalk and Drogheda.

My experience over a long number of years, as chairman of a joint committee consisting of representatives of Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth, has been far from happy. My experience of drainage boards in County Louth has also been far from happy. Everybody will recall that I was opposed to the County Management Act. But, somehow or other, sufficient interest in drainage work does not seem to have been displayed even by our most enthusiastic landowners. I do not differentiate between large farmers and small farmers, because if a large farmer works his farm properly he has to pay labour. Neither large farmers nor small farmers, with a few exceptions, gave to our drainage boards such attention as would warrant my stating that you can expect much from them nowadays. I sometimes wonder why the leaders of our two political Parties do not tell the people that, instead of going to clubs to look for this and that, they should attend public boards. They are not attending to their duty on public boards. I suppose that is the reason why we have had the County Management Act. They certainly do not attend the drainage boards, and sometimes they make fools of people who attend them. I suppose the drainage authorities will remember having before them Fane and Wottonstown drainage schemes. The farmers in these districts approached the county council and a petition was sent to the Board of Works. Two schemes were put into operation and did excellent work. When the times got bad during the economic war, these people refused to pay their rates. We could not get a bob out of them. A sum of £15,000, I think, was spent on these two local schemes for the benefit of these townlands, but they were allowed to go into disrepair and they are to-day monuments of want of attention. Hence I am afraid I cannot defend very strongly the rights of the local authorities. I am afraid that we will have to give way in this instance to the present Bill which goes all out to do a job and, if persevered with, will, I think, accomplish a good deal. Therefore, I shall give the Bill such support as I possibly can. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will exercise commonsense in its administration and not be making big issues out of small things. Waters will not run all out unless they run smoothly. For my part, I shall support the Bill so far as I can, unless there are some specific amendments to which I might lend my support.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

Like several other speakers to-day, I support this Bill in its general principles but rather, I think, as a choice of evils than as, possibly, the best way of doing it under other conditions. I was very much struck by what Senator McGee had to say about a lack of interest on the part of local bodies. It is a deplorable fact that this centralisation to which we are being driven is largely due to lack of interest—there is a vicious circle, and the lack of interest is largely due to an increasing measure of centralisation, to the Civil Service official spirit endeavouring to get things done in a hurry. You must endeavour to educate the people and you cannot do everything in a hurry; you must endeavour to avoid mistakes. But apparently the attitude that is being taken up is: "We must take everything into our own hands and tie up or manacle the local bodies." That has been the tendency ever since this State came into being. That is confirmed by a very representative authority. I have been reading the Report of the Vocational Commission, a very comprehensive document, which cost a great deal of money. What is going to happen it in the long run I do not know. This report points out:

"Experience, has shown there are certain difficulties which militate against vocational organisation."

I am not going to open up a debate on the Report of the Commission on Vocational Organisation. I merely want to refer to two sections which militate against local interests. One is:—

"The centralising tendency of recent years in local government administration has brought about a progressive decrease of local interest in local affairs."

We see that to a certain extent behind the spirit of this Bill. I was amused to see another thing in the report. Time produces strange results. We hear of people who in their lifetime were persecuted and in later years they are actually canonised. Here is what the report says:—

"The absence of a class of landlords such as exist in certain countries has deprived us of a potential source of leadership."

It is rather interesting to have that on record, coming as it does from a very representative and by no means an ascendancy body. I feel that this Bill is partly necessitated by the fact—and Senator McGee, who has wide experience of local authorities, reinforces me—that there is a lack of interest. Undoubtedly it may be right good business to sweep away all these various bodies and this great confusion of trustees and local boards, and bring everything under one central authority. In any case, even if there was interest in these things it might be justified, but it does not do away with the fact that the way local interest is steadily diminishing owing to centralisation is deplorable.

The Parliamentary Secretary should have regard to what has been said by Senator Baxter, Senator Duffy and other speakers with reference to the drainage schemes of the future. This whole subject is being approached with the Civil Service mentality, the totalitarian mentality. I am afraid I have had to use that expression in connection with other measures, but there is a totalitarian mentality in the Government of this country. This drainage scheme is being presented to the local people practically as afait accompli. It is true that after a scheme has been drawn up the local farmers and the local authorities may be asked for observations. I suggest that that is the wrong way. When you have a certain scheme prepared you are practically committed to the framework of the scheme, whatever it may be, and you are not likely to make any substantial concessions. You really have a wrong approach and you should endeavour to work on safer ground.

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider something of this nature. Prepare a draft scheme, which is not in very much detail—an outline scheme. Ask for co-operation, from the start, in preparing the scheme, from the various people affected in the catchment area. Having got that to a certain stage, if you cannot get agreement, obviously the Government view must prevail and the drainage authority must say: "No, we are going on with this." Give a fair opportunity to those concerned from the beginning in dealing with the underlying principles and, after that, if the local authority still resists, they will have to give way and the scheme will have to proceed. I think that is a totally different method and a much sounder method than that of preparing a scheme to which, in the nature of things, you are committed and mentally biased and then asking the local authority for its observations.

I am not casting any aspersion on the Civil Service, which is a very hard-worked body, in saying that they do not like, when a scheme has been worked out, that annoying people should be raising this point and that point. I wish the Parliamentary Secretary would realise that the slower and more democratic approach is better. It reinforces my feeling that this centralising tendency running through our Government is dangerous and undemocratic, in the proper sense of the term. It is not educating our people up to the interest they should take in their local affairs. I hope that, even now, the Parliamentary Secretary might be prepared to make some concession on those sections which deal with the preparation of a scheme and asking the views about it afterwards.

It is most important that this drainage scheme should not be looked on as being in a watertight compartment, apart from soil cultivation as the outcome of forestry. I agree with Senators Baxter and Duffy that the two things should go together and, when putting in a scheme in any particular area, there should be, from the very beginning, close co-operation with the Department of Forestry, so that the two activities may march together. Otherwise, the country will lose effective drainage, on account of the excessive soil erosion.

I wish to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary—and, through him, the Government—on bringing forward this scheme. Bad as it may appear to some advocates of democracy, one can claim at any rate that it cuts with one blow the Gordian knots of red tape and futile opposition. Never was a Bill more overdue or more badly needed in this island. With all due deference and respect to the last speaker, I hope that this scheme at least will be watertight as, otherwise, it will be very peculiar drainage. Be that as it may, I welcome the introduction of the Bill and congratulate the Government in bringing it forward, late in the day though it may be. I would like also to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the cogent, lucid and detailed statement he made. I think he was complimented by Senator McGee, and I also join in the congratulations. I agree with Senator McGee in his remarks as to the impression which the Parliamentary Secretary's county men have made on other counties: a very definite impression, both spiritually, culturally and sometimes physically.

On the question of linking up afforestation with this, while that may be verya propos, it cannot be approached now, as it is not in the province of the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with afforestation. If I may digress a little, like my predecessors, I may say that afforestation is a rather tough proposition to bring up, in this House or elsewhere. One speaks rightly about the very great need for afforestation and about the part it plays in preventing erosion. I have no doubt about that, as it is a scientific fact. When one comes to consider the Government decisions in regard to afforestation, I have noticed that, when they try to get land for afforestation, it leaps up in value as soon as they attempt to acquire it. It may be the property of a small farmer or a landed proprietor and, indeed, may have been a mere incubus to the tenants, but it suddenly appears to be a most valuable portion and the tenants suddenly discover that, from the point of view of liberty and so on, it is worth five or six times what the unfortunate Government is prepared to give for it. From that point of view, afforestation is a very difficult thing to foster in this country. No doubt, if it could be done simultaneously with the drainage scheme, it would have a definite effect on the health of the people and on the raising of the temperature in this country. The fact that this Bill is being put through the House now does not necessarily mean that afforestation will not go on concurrently or coincidentally with drainage, though they are two different things.

I am sure, on the question of local authorities' wishes being flouted, that that would be very regrettable; but I take it for granted that the Government of the day, whoever they may be, will take cognisance of and be sympathetic to the wishes of the local authority wherever and whenever schemes are being proposed. That is a reasonable assumption to make. In one of his reflective and reminiscent moods, Senator McGee complained about the decay of democracy in modern days and complained wistfully that there was something to be said for what Senator Keane would term the totalitarian view of things. He complained that democracy was, to a certain extent, barren during these last few years. There is some truth in that and I agree with Senator McGee that it is very regrettable, but as to the causes and remedies, this is not the place to go into them. I suggest that the old caste was one of "bread and circuses," when people refused to do their duty and exercise civic spirit. There must be civic spirit if the Government is to be carried on.

Finally, I wish to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on introducing this Bill and also to congratulate those in this House who may possibly differ from one another on their abandonment of the attitude which is symbolished by the unspoken query: "Can anything good come out of Egypt?"

I think it is only right that I should follow the last speaker in congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary on his introduction of this measure. I congratulate him on the general principle of the measure and also, if I may do so without presumption, on the refreshing novelty that he made an introductory speech and did not merely read a statement to the House, a speech which, I may say, was very clear and explanatory. I propose to deal with two points only. The operative section of Part II of the Bill is Section 4. It puts the whole scheme in being. Under it the Board of Works, as the central drainage authority visualised in the report of the Drainage Commission, will inaugurate a plan for a scheme. The scheme will be prepared by civil engineers. They will be capable and competent experts in matters relating to drainage and civil engineering problems. Then the scheme will be published and sent down to the county councils. It will, I think, be admitted by all of us that once a scheme has seen the light of day it will be very much harder to get it amended than if the amendments had been proposed earlier. I want to appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary —though frankly I do not like the method—that, in regard to this matter, he should introduce some provision akin to that in Section 7. What I mean is that, before a scheme sees the light of day, provision should be made for consideration of it, not only from the civil engineering side but from the agricultural side as well. I make that suggestion because I feel that, from the beginning, if a scheme is considered from the agricultural angle as well as from the purely level angle—I use that expression to describe in a rough way what I mean—there would be a far better chance of it working in satisfactorily with the agricultural needs of a particular catchment area. I agree at once that the Parliamentary Secretary is providing for consultation with the Department of Agriculture under Section 7. But that will not take place until the scheme has seen the light of day. We all realise that once a thing has seen the light of day it is much harder to get it amended than when it is going the rounds of the various Government Departments before it has taken final shape.

My second point arises on Section 28. I am sorry to say that I regard the principle that was adopted in the Land Act of 1933 as a bad and demoralising one. It may have been necessary in that case. I am not going to discuss that now. It is a principle that, in my view, puts a premium on laggards, on people who fail to discharge their obligations. My reading of Section 28 is this: that people who have not paid their drainage rates are going to get away with it, while the people who have paid are going to get no benefit in respect of arrears of drainage rates. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that, instead of the proposal in Section 28, it would be preferable to permit the local authorities to decide that it is only fair and right that arrears over, say, a period of three years should be remitted, but that in the case of people who are more than three years in arrear in the payment of their drainage rates, the arrears should be collected from them or spread over a period if you like. People who have paid up their arrears for those three years should, I suggest, be credited with the sums so paid by them against their poor rate for the coming year. Otherwise, it seems to me you are going to subscribe to the principle that people will be entitled to argue: we might as well try and hang out from paying as long as we possibly can because the most that can happen to us afterwards is that we will be made pay; if we refrain from paying sufficiently long somebody may come along and introduce a measure under which we will get out of the payment of our just debts. I want to appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to ensure that whatever arrears are going to be remitted under this Bill will be remitted by reference to years' arrears for a particular drainage area, and that anything paid in excess over a specified period will be credited to the payees against their poor rates.

The scheme that I have in mind is, of course, the Barrow. The Drainage Commission in their report rightly point out that it was a good, sound scheme, and was well executed. While that is so, the charges were admittedly too high for the benefited occupiers to pay. It surprised me very much indeed to learn that, after this Bill had been given a Second Reading in the Dáil, a Bill that contains such a provision as that in Section 28 about arrears, the Department of Local Government and Public Health should suddenly awaken to the fact that there were six years' arrears of rates due in the case of the Barrow scheme, and should decide that there would be seizures by the sheriff if the arrears were not paid at once. That decision was taken by a Department which had done nothing for six years, and appeared to me to be a clear breach of faith. What would happen is this: that the arrears will be collected even though no effort had been made before to collect them in the county. The arrears will be collected from the people who were willing to discharge their obligations, but under Section 28 of this Bill those who were not prepared to discharge their obligations will get away with it. So far as the Barrow scheme is concerned I feel that all the arrears should not be collected. I think it would be an unfair and an unjust imposition on the benefited occupiers. Whatever allowance, however, is made, should be made to all the benefited occupiers and not merely to the laggards, because if that principle is admitted you will never get a proper collection in respect of any State or local authority debt.

Hear, hear.

I regret, too, from the personal angle perhaps, that the power of remission in Section 28 is a purely executive power which will be operated by the county manager. I think it would be desirable that, at the very least, before the county manager could remit the payment of rates, the local authority, which has responsibility for the striking of the rates, should have some say in the matter. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, while, if he wishes, preserving— though it is against my grain—the manager's power of remission, will give a veto on the exercise of that power to the elected representatives in the particular area. I came across a case the other day—I am going only on the statement of my informant—in which a man got a 21 days' notice last month for payment of arrears of drainage rates. At that time, this Bill was practically through the Dáil. The amount involved was £109 and it was in respect of the Rathangan river. When he asked the rate collector for details—his father had died about three years before and he had only come into the holding and did not know much about the matter—he was told that the 21 days' notice as in respect of 26 years' arrears of drainage rates. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us in due course—I mention the matter now so that he can prepare himself fully and thoroughly—what arrears county councils are entitled to collect. I did ask the question privately in a letter to the Board of Works but, unfortunately, my letter must not have been sufficiently clearly phrased because the Board of Works completely missed its point. In ordinary, civil contracts the collection of arrears is limited to six years. Are we arguing about six years' arrears under Section 28? In some other classes of case, 12 years' arrears can be collected and, in others, 20 years' arrears. The State can, it appears, collect arrears for ever. In connection with that section, what number of years are we arguing about, because we must know that so as to provide that some definite, proportionate remission will apply to the man who discharges his obligations quickly as well as to the man who has tried to get out of his responsibility at the expense of his good neighbour? It was because of that, that I opposed so vehemently in my own county the effort made by the Local Government Department, who had done nothing for years in respect of drainage rates, to take out of the hands of the Oireachtas, while this Bill was pending—because that is what they were doing—power of dealing with arrears. If the Local Government Department had got their way, they would have ensured that the Bill would not be operative in that respect.

I should like to express the same apprehensions as Senator Sweetman has expressed lest the schemes made under this Bill should assume a concrete and unchangeable form before an opportunity is given to present objections by those interested in modifying the schemes. As the Bill stands, very little time and very little opportunity are given to local authorities or individuals likely to be affected by a scheme to prepare their objections and to make themselves heard. I know that, when the scheme has been prepared under Section 4 and copies have been sent to the councils under Section 5, the local councils, whose objections might be on a rather large scale, involving, on their part, engineering investigation, are given three months in which to prefer their observations in regard to the scheme. The engineers may have taken two or three, or perhaps more, years to prepare the scheme. Yet, a county council which is affected vitally over a very large portion of its area is given only three months in which to prepare its objections.

But if a county council is given three months, the unfortunate individual is given only one month from the time notice is served on him of intention to acquire or interfere with his property or rights. Even if, within that limited—I think too limited—period, he is able to prepare objections of some weight, he has really no means of seeing that they are entertained with a sympathetic eye. It is quite true that, by Section 7, the commissioners are to consider every such observation and, after consultation with various Ministers, may make such alterations as they think fit and submit the scheme as so altered. Then the Minister is either to confirm it or refer it back to the commissioners. But there is no provision for a local inquiry. There is no provision for the local bodies or individuals attending and making their case. It looks to me as if these provisions are really little more than a smoke-screen. I do not say that they are meant to be a smoke-screen, but I do say that they are a smoke-screen because, in that limited period, without provision for an inquiry or other attendance, with full evidence, before either the commissioners or the Minister, it seems to be abundantly clear that objections will be overruled by the weight of official authority. The great engineering body is, perhaps, the most useful servant the State has, but it is very dangerous to let an engineer have his head. He is apt to become filled with a sort of fine frenzy of construction and destruction and, in order to bring to realisation the scheme he has formed in his mind's eye, he will, consciously or unconsciously, blind himself to other considerations. There may be a great number of considerations which did not occur to him but which should be put forward.

I now pass to one of the considerations—a small one perhaps—on which I speak with a certain amount of feeling. When you are interfering with a river, one of the things you must consider is the question of fisheries and fishery rights. I am not suggesting that the interest of agriculture should be subordinated to the interest of sport, but I am saying that a heedless engineer can do a great deal of financial damage to the country by interference with, or destruction of, fisheries, and that, short of that, a great deal of harm may be done in interfering with the local sport of local people. The Barrow drainage scheme was disastrous in many respects. Some of the best trout fishing in Ireland in the upper reaches was ruined, and I believe the scheme could have been done just as well—perhaps, more effectively—without doing any such damage. The provisions in this Bill for conserving the interests of fisheries and fishermen are entirely inadequate. Senators will notice that this matter is dealt with by Section 10. The first sub-section of that section states that it is not to be obligatory on the commissioners, when constructing drainage works in pursuance of a drainage scheme, to comply with the Fisheries Acts. The next sub-section states:

"Notwithstanding the exemption conferred by the foregoing sub-section of this section, the commissioners shall, when constructing drainage works in pursuance of a drainage scheme, take such precautions and make such provisions as the Minister for Agriculture may consider adequate for the protection of and avoidance of injury to fisheries during or in consequence of the construction of such drainage works, provided that the said Minister shall, in consultation with the commissioners, satisfy himself that taking such precautions and making such provisions will not cause substantial detriment to such drainage works or substantial hindrance to their construction."

I do not think that that is quite an adequate protection. At least, it should be provided that, on the balance of economic benefit and on the balance of hindrance, the injuries to the fisheries should not exceed the benefit which would be caused by carrying out the scheme in the particular way desired. What I have in the back of my mind is that, by slight alteration of the scheme, by carrying out the dredging in a different way or by doing it at different times, these interests are capable of being reconciled but that, unless there is something rather stronger than this sub-section and unless there are more elastic provisions for representing to the Board of Works the interests of the fishermen, they will fall by the wayside, as they certainly did in the case of the Barrow scheme.

Lastly, I should like to call attention to the provisions as to weirs, which are contained in Sections 46 and 47. Obviously these sections have been framed too tightly. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, perhaps, he might define a weir as any structure which does not affect the level of water above such weir to a greater distance than, let us say, 100 or 200 yards, because, as the section stands at the moment, it will prevent anybody putting up a groyne, a weir, or anything of that kind, without being subject to a fine of, I think, £500. Under the section, as it now stands, nobody can make the slightest alteration in a weir or a groyne, without suffering heavy penalties, unless he takes the elaborate precautions contained in Section 47—and which I am sure will be very unpopular—of applying to the commissioners for their consent and forcing the commissioners, before they give that consent, to consult with the Minister for Agriculture. Framed as the section is, it would be impossible to do the smallest alteration to an ordinary groyne without having it considered by the commissioners, who then would have to go, further, to the Minister for Agriculture.

I am merely calling those matters to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. If necessary, I would be prepared to submit an amendment in regard to these matters, but possibly it will be sufficient for me to call the matter to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary in order to have it given sympathetic consideration.

Ní maith liom an ócáid seo a scaoileadh tharm gan a chur in iúl go bhfuilim ar aon-intinn leis na daoine a chuir fáilte roimh an mBille seo agus a mhol é. Tá moladh mór tuillte ag an Rúnaí Párlaiminte as ucht feabhais a chuid oibre ar an mBille. Taobh amuigh d'fheabhas an Bhille fhéin, is maith liom é bheith os ar gcomhair de bhrí go dtugann sé tuilleadh léargais dúinn ar scéimeanna an Rialtais le haghaidh feabhsuithe na tíre go generálta agus le haghaidh na mblianta casta atá i ndán dúinn sa tréimhse iargcogaidh.

Fuarthas lochta ar an mBille: ní chuireann sin aon iongna orm. Lochtaítear gach Bille; ach, maidir leis an gcasaoid a rinneadh fán gceann seo, ní mheasaim féin go bhfuil mórán brí leis. Níl fúm aon fhreagra a thabhairt ar aon chuid den chasaoid sin, mar tá a fhios agam nach dtógfaidh sé i bhiad ar an Rúnaí Párlaiminte míniú agus freagra sásúil a thabhairt air.

Tá fáilte ag muintir an Iarthair roimh an mBille seo. Iadsan go háirithe bhíodar an-mhíshásta gur cuireadh moill mhór ar an mBille cheana. Sinne a bhfuil eolas againn ar cheanntracha fliucha an Iarthair, ceanntracha a mbíonn sé ag báisteach iontu dhá lá as an trí cinn, b'fhada linn go dtiubhrfaí an Bille isteach agus is fada linn go ritear é; sinne a bhfuil eolas maith againn ar na portaigh báite agus ar fhuarlocha árda na Suca, Locha Coirb agus Abhainn an Chláir, gan trácht ar mhion-aibhneacha, is fada linn go mbí an Bille seo ina Acht ionas gur féidir bualadh faoi'n obair gan mhoill.

Apart from what I have just now said in Irish, there is one other question that I should like to mention, and it has to do with those districts situated along the tidal portions of rivers. Those of us who are interested in drainage must have noticed, from time to time, that considerable losses are incurred in those particular areas, and in looking through the Bill I am not sure whether those areas are included or not. Perhaps one trained in legal phraseology will discover that they are not excluded, but reading down through the definitions, one is not sure whether or not they will be included under the Bill. My object in raising this matter is to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, when he is replying, to indicate to us why such areas have been excluded—that is, if they have been excluded—and if they are excluded I should like him to let us know that he is not forgetting those areas and that something will be done about them as soon as possible.

There is one particular area in which I am specially interested. I have been trying from time to time to find out who is responsible for the maintenance of the banks of the river concerned. A great deal of harm is done by flooding there. Sometimes the tide rises so high that it overflows the banks of the river, and at other times the banks are burst. As I have said, I have tried on various occasions to find out whether the Land Commission is responsible or whether the tenants are responsible, but I have failed. In any case the damage is being done year in and year out, and I want to make a special appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary for a sympathetic consideration of those areas. If they are not included or if they cannot be included in the Bill, then I hope we shall have a statement from the Parliamentary Secretary to the effect that those areas will have attention as soon as possible.

I wish to join with Senator O Buachalla in giving congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary for the manner in which he has introduced this Bill, and more especially for the manner in which the Bill is drafted. I think I have knowledge of almost every Drainage Bill that has been passed since, I think, 1847, and I do not think that any of these Acts was drafted as well or efficiently as this Bill has been drafted. The Bill has got rid of a great number of faults that were contained in the old Acts. It appears to have been drafted with great care and great ability.

One important point here is that this is work which can be commenced immediately. We will not have to wait for materials. That is one of the great things about this Drainage Bill. Apart from its necessity, it will give a lot of employment immediately. Certain objections were raised by Senators who have spoken. One of these objections was raised by Senator Baxter, who said that the commissioners were all-powerful. They are not all-powerful. They have to submit their bill to the country councils, first of all, and then to every landowner—all of whom are entitled to send in their objections, if any, to the Minister—and the Minister then considers these objections, and he can refuse to sanction the scheme, or he may decide to amend it in any way he wishes. I think that that is a sufficient protection for ourselves; and, of course, the Minister will also have an eye on the amount of money than can be spent in any particular year.

Senator Duffy has suggested that we should have re-afforestation before we commence national drainage in our country. I do not know what was in Senator Duffy's mind when he made that suggestion. I do not think that he knows the difficulty in connection with the planting of trees, or the difficulty in getting shurbs or plants at the moment. For instance, if you are going to re-afforest this country now, to plant seeds for the production of such trees as the Spanish chestnut, and so on, you would have to wait for 40 or 50 years, while those trees were developing, before you could start work on drainage, according to Senator Duffy's argument.

I did not suggest that.

Well, I hope I did not misunderstand the Senator. He may not have meant to say that, but I gathered that that was the gist of his remarks. I think he quoted the cases of Portugal, America and other countries where 26 per cent. of the areas of these countries was planted with trees.

On a point of personal explanation, what I did say was that simultaneously with the starting of drainage schemes trees should be planted.

I am glad that has been explained, because I think it would look not at all well in the interests of labour that schemes like this should be delayed for 30 or 40 years before being commenced. It would be a very bad thing for the country. I am sure Senator Duffy knows some parts of the country which I know. I know a place called Gortcloonmore, about eight miles from the town of Galway. I once had to visit that area when the road leading to it was flooded. I had to get a man to lead in my horse while I walked along the road, which was covered with at least two feet of water. I had to step along on stones to get into the house which I was visiting, and while in the house I had to sit with my feet on a form until I had written what I had to write. That is the condition under which these people were living owing to the flooding in Gortcloonmore, and one of the reasons for the flooding was that, in the interests of the owner of the fishery in the town of Galway, the weir was kept at such a high level that it drove the water back into the holdings of these unfortunate people. It was not in the interests of the fisheries that it was kept up, but to prevent salmon going up to the Oughterard area, where they might be caught by ordinary fishermen. It was to make money for the owner of the fishery. I for one would like to see the fullest possible powers given in this Bill as against vested interests, so that no owner of vested interests would be allowed to flood the holdings or the houses of poor men in any of these areas.

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider also the Lough Corrib-Lough Mask Drainage Order and see if there is anything in that Order which prevents the weir being lowered. If there is, I think that this Bill should be amended to give the necessary power notwithstanding anything contained in that Order. I think that I could give the Parliamentary Secretary a copy of the Order. It is a very old Order, but probably I have got a copy of it in my possession. This Bill is the most important we have had before us dealing with post-emergency work. I think that the schemes should be started even before the emergency is over and that, therefore, the least delay in passing it into law, the better.

I do not wish to detain the House too long at this hour of the evening as I have no doubt that Senators are very anxious to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's reply to the points that have been raised. I am glad to observe the fine spirit in which the debate has been conducted, and while many compliments have been paid to the Parliamentary Secretary, I think it only right that we on this side should compliment members of the Opposition for the helpful manner in which they put forward the points they raised and for the constructive criticism which they have so far offered. There are just one or two points that I would like to raise in regard to the ultimate effect of these drainage schemes. While I have no doubt that they will be very effective and will ultimately achieve their purpose in draining and in bringing into productivity a very large area of land that is at present flooded, it strikes me, remembering that our live-stock trade must always remain one of the principal branches of the agricultural industry, that these schemes might have the effect of leaving certain areas without sufficient water supplies for live stock. There is nothing so distressing to a farmer as to have to travel long distances at certain periods of the year in order to secure an adequate supply of water for his live stock.

I think myself that the commissioners or the engineers in the administration of the Bill should at all times have due regard to the importance of maintaining, either artificially or by ordinary methods, a water supply for these areas, and that they should even try to utilise the general arterial drainage scheme for the purpose of supplying water to areas that are not at present adequately supplied. At one period of my life, I happened to visit Holland, a country which had then a magnificent arterial drainage system. The famous windmills there are brought into play for the purpose of driving the water into the higher levels where naturally the supply of water is not so abundant. In fact, the drainage system and the windmills are mutually helpful. The windmills are used for driving the water and the water in turn assists the windmills. If our live-stock trade is to continue to be one of the principal branches of the agricultural industry, the promoters of these drainage schemes should devote their engineering ability towards facilitating our farmers in the conduct of the live-stock industry.

Another aspect of this Bill is that arterial drainage is likely to impose a good deal of hardship in the case of ordinary manufacturing industries. A large number of industries depend for their power on an adequate supply of water. Tanneries, sugar factories and many other such factories must have an adequate supply of water. I hope that due regard will be paid to the desirability of ensuring that the water power necessary for such industries will be maintained, if not in a natural, at least in an artificial, way. There is also the question of mills which are operated by water power. It is generally recognised that there is no power in the world so economical as water power for mills and industries of that kind. I do not think any compensation would be sufficient recompense for the loss of power occasioned by interference with the water supplies to these industries. While I presume that the principle of arterial drainage is a general lowering of levels around a particular given point, I think that by means of sluices or otherwise it would be possible to maintain the water power of these industries. Water power is a tremendous advantage in lowering the cost of production in industry and it is a very vital matter to ensure that the country should avail to the utmost of this cheap form of power. Those are the two principal points which I feel it desirable to mention. I will conclude by congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary and the Board of Works and, indeed, the commission, on such a magnificent Bill. It is long overdue. I have no doubt whatever that it will completely justify itself and supply a long-felt want, not alone on the part of the farming community but of the country as a whole.

There are two or three sections to which I should like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. Those are Sections 17 (c), 46, and 48 (2) (c). Last week, when considering the Land Bill, considerable stress was laid upon the tendency to inflict losses on individuals in the interests of the State. The three sections I have mentioned have a tendency to inflict losses on individuals. I am particularly uneasy about the effect of Section 17 (c), because it is there stated that in the assessing of compensation consideration must be given to the use to which, say, a mill has been put during the previous ten years. I can visualise the case of a person who bought a mill within the last five years or so, but who, owing to the peculiar conditions which have been existing for some time, did not find it possible to make any particular use of that mill. In spite of that, the commissioners, the persons who have to assess compensation, would be obliged to take into account the use to which the mill has been put within the previous ten years. I would ask the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to give some little consideration to the case I have mentioned, although it may perhaps be an exceptional one.

In regard to Section 48 (2) (c), again it may be that a person, a small farmer for example, is quite comfortable as he is, but he finds that somebody higher up has decided to carry out some drainage improvements, and suddenly he is told that he must carry out improvements at his own expense. Again, a person who is interested in a weir is apparently obliged to keep that weir in a certain condition at his own expense. Portion of the section entitles the commissioners if necessary to appoint a keeper for that weir, which in turn would involve him in very great expense. The tendency of a lot of our legislation for some years past has been in the same direction, that is to inflict hardship and loss on the individual where something for the good of the nation as a whole is being attempted. I just give one example which has come to my notice, and that is the case of the demolition of houses. People may have been deriving a revenue from house property for some years, and suddenly the corporation or whatever authority is concerned finds that it would be desirable to demolish those houses. Very often, the loss of the rent involves very serious hardship, but on top of that the person concerned is bound to carry out the demolition at his own expense. That is another example of the same tendency. I say that in the case of this Bill, as in the case of the Land Bill last week, we should endeavour to reverse engines and make sure that individuals do not suffer where the good of the State generally is being attempted. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give attention to those points, and I will probably put down an amendment on the Committee Stage dealing with one of those sections.

The speech made by Senator O'Dea has brought very vividly before me the sufferings which women in the flooded areas have to endure in their homes. For that reason it seems proper that, even for a moment, the voice of a woman should he heard in this Assembly in welcoming this Bill. I am not able to contribute any enlightenment to the subject with which it deals. I might almost say that my knowledge of it dates from my close attention to the Parliamentary Secretary's introduction of the Bill, on which I congratulate him, but there are certain big aspects of the matter that must strike everybody. One is the approach which has been made to this Bill. To my mind, it was approached in an ideal manner. The problem was recognised as a national one, and the Bill was conceived as an attempt at a solution of that problem. I believe that a great many of the drainage schemes we have had already turned out to be failures because they were too much localised. Consequently, while they did good in one part, they did harm in another. Taking advantage of that knowledge, the Government approached this problem in a big way, in a very proper way. They appointed a splendid commission, which took three years to consider the problem in all its aspects. Unlike other commissions, the fruits of their labours were carefully studied, and this Bill is the result. That is a very important thing. It seems to me very notable and very worthy of commendation.

My mind goes back to one who, I feel sure, contributed largely to the solution of the problem as it is set forth in this Bill. I feel sure that a large contribution to that solution was made by the great constructive mind of Hugo Flinn. I think we should not forget what he did for us, and I, who appreciated him very much and who had an opportunity of knowing his great heart and his great mind, would like to say a word of praise of him.

The problem, as I said, is a national one, and its solution has been made difficult because we do not posses the whole territory of the nation. I was very glad indeed to hear Senator Baxter remind the House that we have only three-fourths of the country under our control. I do not think our national arterial drainage problem will ever be fully solved until we can plan for all Ireland. That is an added incentive. Another point which strikes me about this Bill was emphasised already by Senator O'Dea, and that is that it is the basis of a great scheme of employment. All our regenerative measures must be based on as full a measure of employment as we can give to our people. We may have schemes that look very well on paper, schemes in regard to health, insurance and all that kind of thing, but this scheme, which promises a large measure of employment and which will increase the value of our land and the health and happiness of our people, is very much to be welcomed. I am very proud to have been here to-night to hear my friend, the Parliamentary Secretary, whom I have known and admired for many years, introducing the scheme, and I congratulate him on it.

I should like to join with the other members of this House in welcoming this Bill. I think no Bill which has been presented in either House has given so much satisfaction to the agricultural community, and any comments that I make now are not meant to detract in any way from the good intentions of those who assisted in its drafting. We have been already reminded that a Government commission spent a couple of years studying this drainage problem and they estimate that it would take £7,000,000 to carry it out satisfactorily. I understand from speeches made in the Dáil that under this Bill there will be an annual expenditure of £250,000. At that rate it will take 28 years to implement the scheme fully. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will say whether or not it is a fact that the Government do not intend to start the drainage scheme for five years. That is rumoured and, if there is any truth in the rumour, I am afraid it will entail a great deal of disappointment throughout the country. Yesterday I travelled from the West of Ireland and, from Ballaghaderreen to a good distance east of Mullingar, the land all along the railway line was flooded. I saw cattle grazing there, and for a distance of 50 or 60 yards from the railway line into the fields there was at least a foot of water. I know that in my district there are small farmers, with, say, ten to 12 acres of land, whose land is at present flooded. One man with a farm of 16 acres during the last week has had only about a rood of land; the rest is a lake.

Senator Ruane made some striking remarks, and I should like to support him in what he said with regard to local administration, that they should have some say in fixing the charge. In my opinion, members of county councils having an intimate knowledge of the district would be in a better position than anybody else to advise as to what the district was able to bear and as to the suitability of the schemes. I should like to express the hope that the Government will give due consideration to whatever recommendations local councils may make, and that they will take the local councils into their confidence in regard to any schemes they propose to carry out.

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give some idea as to the position in the case of abolished county councils where there is a commissioner acting. In such case I suggest the commissioner is not in the same position as members of the county council to judge, and where a county council is abolished and where local bodies are not operating, except through a commissioner, some means should be devised to give full consideration to the wishes of the agricultural community in the country.

There is a scheme which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will bear in mind. Lough Gara is accountable for the flooding of a very large part of County Roscommon and Co. Mayo. There has been keen agitation about it for, I should say, 20 years, Difficulties have arisen, from vested interests. I hope in future those interests—and they are not very important I think— will not prevent the scheme from going through. A large part of County Mayo and County Roscommon is flooded, and the scheme would only mean the lowering of the Tinacarra river. I understand the previous Government went to a good deal of expense in having the scheme surveyed, but I understand some hidden hand has been at work and the scheme has never materialised. I trust the Bill will have the good results that everybody, irrespective of Party, expects it will have.

This is my first experience of taking part in the deliberations of this Assembly, and I may say the general atmosphere and the peace and quiet of the place appeal to me. I will try as well as I can to reply to the points that have been made during the course of the discussion. The first point I should like to refer to is that raised by Senator Kingsmill Moore in regard to fisheries. I am not a fisherman but I should like to ask the Senator to read paragraph 293 of the Drainage Commission report. This is what they say in regard to that matter:—

"We endeavoured to secure specific evidence of actual damage done in fishing rivers as a result of drainage operations. Very substantial work has been already carried out all over the country and it is remarkable that we have not received at any stage of our proceedings any real evidence of serious or even appreciable injury to fisheries. We had, in fact, evidence from the representatives of an anglers' club that while fishing in the localities suffered a temporary set-back during drainage operations it has actually improved since."

I am not a fisherman. I do not even contact fishermen but that is what the commission had to say on this matter after they had investiaged it.

As far as Section 10 is concerned, to my regret, I should say that it gives to the Minister responsible for looking after fishery interests much more power than I should like to see him having. Instead of sympathising with Senator Kingsmill Moore, my whole tendency would be not only to resist doing anything in the way of meeting his point, but to try to curtail the powers which the Minister secures here in regard to that question. What were the principal objections raised during this debate to the provisions of this measure? One was with reference to local initiative. I have gone over the different points to discover how many Senators who spoke referred to that matter and I find that it was the most popular form of criticism. I must say that I cannot find myself in sympathy with that point of view. What does local initiative mean? What do those who talk about local initiative want? Have we not had experience of local initiative in the Act which has been in operation since 1925? The fact that that Act was based on local initiative was one of the principal reasons for its failure. With that experience to profit by, why should we, in a measure like this, which has been drafted with a view to the elimination of that weakness, hanker after a provision that has been found in the past to be unworkable?

As I explained in the other House, there is no reason why a local authority, whether a borough council, county council, urban council, or any public body, should not make representations to the authority visualised here to deal with drainage as to the need for carrying out drainage work in particular districts. In my defence of this provision in this Bill in the other House I stated that there must be at the end some authority to decide the order in which work will be done. Mayo County Council will be affected, and the same problem may affect Sligo County Council, Roscommon County Council, Monaghan County Council, while Wexford County Council may have a problem of its own. Every county council and every local authority will be urging the drainage authority to have its problem approached without delay. I can see no way out other than that recommended by the commission, giving to a central authority responsibility as well as power to make a choice, and to proceed with the work. I do not remember which Senator referred to the recent report of the Vocational Commission.

It was all very well for that commission to deal with matters as they did, but here was another commission set up for the specific purpose of studying and making recommendations as to how the problem of drainage should be dealt with. It consisted of chairmen of county councils, engineers, people with experience of the problem as well as representatives of the Board of Works, who were responsible for the administration of previous Acts. In fact, the commission was composed of people drawn from practically every class in the community, and definitely recommended the Government to establish a separate authority to which should be given the powers set out in the Bill. I have some experience of local authorities. I served my apprenticeship on a local authority that has been responsible for the largest amount of drainage work carried out under the Act of 1925. I can say that I entirely approve of this measure from the point of view of my experience of a local authority. I entirely approve of the implementing of the recommendations of the commission to give to one authority all the power set out in Section 4, concerning which there has been a good deal of criticism.

Reference was made to three other sections with which I dealt in my opening remarks, Sections 23, 29 and 37. I shall try to help Senators who had some difficulties there. So that Senators may understand the points aimed at in these three sections I should state that there are 229 drainage districts in the Twenty-Six Counties, and county councils are responsible for the maintenance of 133 of them. Trustees are responsible for 64, and drainage boards for 32. In Section 23, we are aiming at transferring to local authorities those 96 drainage districts that are or should be maintained by the trustees of these boards. We are taking power in the section to ensure that these local authorities will be protected from legal action by riparian owners. In the event of a good deal of flooding, having regard to the fact that in many cases maintenance has been neglected, we are providing the necessary safeguards to ensure that the riparian owners will not be in a position to insist upon a higher degree of maintenance than was given in these districts by these boards prior to the "appointed day."

Debate adjourned at 8.30 p.m. until to-morrow.