Local Government Bill, 1945—Second Stage (Resumed).

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

As I was coming up the stairs to-day, I met Senator O'Dea, who said: "It is local government to-day," and I replied: "Yes, about a Bill that is no longer local and no longer government." That is a fair definition of local government as we understand it now. Before entering on the discussion on this Bill, I would like to say that the Second Reading of a Bill surely should be devoted to matters of principle; but Ministers have adopted a new scheme now for Second Reading introductions. Instead of telling us something about the principles on which the Bill is based, they read us a rather dry and detailed Civil Service essay upon all the sections, explaining them in detail. In other words, they do the business which properly falls to be done in Committee.

The Minister described this Bill as a Bill to consolidate the law and clarify it. It does much more than that: it is a Bill to consolidate the law, clarify the law and, further, to centralise completely the administration of local government. In dealing with the Bill, he did not give us any idea at all as to what the problems of local government are. He did attempt a definition of the functions of a local body, which I think I will be able to prove was entirely faulty. Surely the problem of local government is how to associate local people in a responsible way with the government of their own areas and how to ensure that there will be in local government a certain degree of diversity suitable to different areas, while at the same time a general law will be observed.

As a matter of fact, the Bill is not only a codification and clarification of the local government law, but it emphasises the meticulous care which has been taken to see that every single function is centralised. The Bill reminds me of the Irish phrase for what a successful warrior did to his defeated opponent: "Chuir sé ceangal na gcúig gcaol air"—he bound him by his wrists, by his ankles and by his neck and left him there— and as a sign of further disgrace sometimes he cut his hair. The Minister has done all that to local government and this is the final binding up so that it cannot move hand or foot.

The managerial system was first applied to the cities and when it was being applied to Dublin City I can remember Deputy Seán MacEntee in a state of frantic excitement about this infringement of the democratic rights of the citizens of Dublin. Apparently, he sees things from a different angle now. The managerial system undoubtedly has some merits, but it should be stated as a matter of principle that it is no substitution for representative government and that, if it is put to its extreme limits, it will destroy any kind of local representation at all. The managerial system has come all over the world, as a matter of practice in government, but the system we have applied and administered—and one must take this Bill in connection with the type of administration which the Minister has been giving—is not a managerial system at all.

The manager has very little power, no more than the council with which he is connected. The council has less and less power every day, and this Bill takes from it the last shred of power, about which the Minister used to boast in circulars to members of the Oireachtas, "the power of striking a rate was the all-important function of the local body." I think I have seen that in many of the circulars sent out by the Minister. In Section 30, that power is taken by the Minister, in certain circumstances. If the manager had a certain degree of independence and power, that might be desirable, but it is really the truth now that the manager has become the servant of the Local Government Department and is really a victim between a powerless council, on the one hand, and an overbearing, threatening and somewhat capricious Department on the other hand. Therefore, the system does not work at all from that point of view. It struck me that the Minister is rather misguided in his view of what a local body is. In the debate on the 6th June, when making his Second Reading speech here on this Bill, the Minister said, as reported in column 2082 of the Official Debates:—

"The business of local authorities is a subsidiary business. It is a delegated business—delegated by the central authority, under statute, with a view to carrying on the local services. Not one of those local authorities functions in its own right. They function under the Acts of the Oireachtas. They function as subordinate, administrative bodies in the State and their duty, and their sole reason for existence"—

Mark you, their sole reason for existence—

"is that they carry on those services which the State and the community consider necessary for the common welfare of the people."

Surely, that is a misstatement of what the facts are. Surely, local bodies do not exist solely for carrying out what has been decided to be for the common welfare of the people. Surely, the notion of local bodies is that there will be diversity, that the local people know what is best in the interests of their own locality and their own immediate fellow-citizens, and that, working under the law made by the national Parliament, they will administer each area not necessarily in the same way. The sole reason for their existence is not that which the Minister has said, but what I have said just now. The local bodies must get some chance of having functions of their own.

The Minister, in this Bill and by his general attitude, indicates that they are going to be controlled in every particular thing in every way. The manager is not independent. He is controlled by the servants of the Minister, by a civil servant in the Custom House who perhaps has never been in a county home. He may perhaps motor by it, but he is more important even than the country manager when it comes to the giving of a particular type of opinion.

All that seems to me to be carrying this whole system a great deal too far. When you have centralised government control you must remember also that the Minister's policy as a Party politician is that his Party should control local bodies. On the one hand, you have the introduction of politics by the Fianna Fáil Party into local bodies with the insistence that they shall consist, if at all possible, of people who support the Minister's political views, and as well as that you have administrative and statutory control from the Minister's Department. Surely, what we need is that people should be elected to local bodies on a non-political basis, and that they should get as much freedom as may be consistent with reasonable administration for the exercise of their local functions. It is a very undesirable thing that Kerry should be made as much as possible like Donegal, or that Galway should be made as much as possible like Westmeath. Surely, one of our strengths in this country, is that there has always been diversity between different parts of it. I think one would be justified in saying that the centralisation principle, done in this very detailed, meticulous and certain way, runs contrary to every single bit of our national tradition which always tended towards local control.

Now, it strikes me that the relations of the Department of Local Government with local bodies, in some directions, are rather like the relations of the Department of Finance to ordinary Government Departments except this: that the local bodies are in a much weaker position than the ordinary Departments. The Department of Local Government is able to say exactly how many of a staff it is going to have; it can say whether a particular post should exist, and whether a particular person should be dismissed. It will be able to go further under this Bill and say that certain things should be done.

As a matter of fact, the Department of Finance attitude towards Government Departments is generally a negative one—generally an objection to certain things being done. But it must be remembered that the ordinary Government Department has a Civil Service head and a Ministerial head who can put up, at any rate, some kind of a fight against the Department of Finance. But it appears to me that, once this Bill is passed, there will be nobody at all to stand between the local body and the Department of Local Government. The manager, most emphatically, should be an independent person, but taking the Minister's speech and his general attitude to the provisions of a Bill like this it is clear that the manager has no power at all. He simply becomes the servant of the Department of Local Government who can be threatened, and who frequently has been threatened. That is one of the Minister's special lines, threatening managers and people generally. There is no one, therefore, between the manager and his bosses in the Custom House. Not only has he one boss there; he has quite a variety of bosses over him. It seems to me that, if we cannot get responsible local bodies to whom we can entrust some functions, we cannot work this system of democracy at all. In the end we may find that we cannot get either a Dáil or Seanad. If it is not possible to get people to take action locally for themselves, then the whole system is going to go by the board, and for that reason I think that some effort should be made to leave these local bodies somewhat more power,

We have to take this Bill, too, with the Ministerial attitude. The Ministerial attitude is one which exaggerates—I was going to say aggravates— Ministerial dignity. I have never read of anybody anywhere who has a more exaggerated idea of a Minister than the present Minister for Local Government who in the past, for a number of years, dragged Ministers in the mud, but as soon as the dignity fell upon himself he delivered himself of the most extraordinary statements as to what is due to a Minister. He tolerates no independence, even of thought, on the part of people whom he appoints. Take the unified National Health Society. He dismissed a Bishop from the chairmanship of that society and appointed a civil servant.

Civil servants, of course, have their uses as well as their abuses, and within their own sphere, and in their own line of competency are very good, but surely it is quite clear that a servant of the Minister's Department cannot exercise any function independent of the Minister. It is contrary to the whole scheme of the Civil Service. The civil servant must, in fact, do as he is told, and Ministerial pronouncements on that matter, as well as on most other matters, are full of the first personal pronoun "I expect people whom I appoint to do what I tell them." It seems to me that the whole tendency is wrong and I would like to object to it.

There are a few special points with which I should like to deal. One is a question which was dealt with in the Dáil yesterday on the Estimate for the Minister's Department. The Minister himself made some remarks about it last night. I refer to the way in which the Local Appointments Commission works from certain angles. I agree with the system. It was one of the old Sinn Féin ideas that we should be able to set up here a local government service where merit would be the factor in getting people appointments. The old Dublin Corporation, which was so very much abused, was one of the very first bodies to introduce competitive examinations for the appointment of its clerks. That was done more than 40 years ago. I remember that during the Truce, and before the Treaty, I was asked by Mr. Cosgrave, who was then Minister for Local Government to meet Mr. J.J. Murphy who became Town Clerk of Dublin later, to discuss this kind of a scheme. The Local Appointments Commission now seems to work in a strange way. A Deputy in the Dáil said yesterday that in the County Westmeath, I think, they have a new county manager every couple of years. I think that the Minister said that he himself was rather worried about that state of affairs. I could quote another case which is rather similar, the case of a particular town where a town clerk is appointed, I should say regularly appointed, every couple of years. He remains for a few years. He is trained by a man who cannot get the appointment himself because he is not deemed to be qualified and then, as I say, after a couple of years the town clerk moves to a bigger town and a higher salary.

That is an extraordinary state of affairs from the point of view of that town which is used as a stepping-stone for that sort of procedure. At the same time, the particular officer in the town that I have mentioned cannot get the appointment or cannot be moved to a higher salary scale but his services are availed of to initiate a stranger into the mysteries of local government in this particular town and its affairs. His own salary cannot be raised; he cannot get the job and the town cannot get a town clerk who will settle down in the town, be one of the people and understand what one would call the local people, and the local circumstances. That is one thing which I think the Minister might discuss as a general matter. It was raised yesterday and it was rather important on this Bill.

On a point of order, has the Minister anything to do with the Local Appointments Commissioners, or have the Local Appointments Commissioners anything to do with the Department?

Senator Hayes.

That is a very wise decision, Sir, on a point that was not a point of order. The Minister is responsible for local government. We are discussing now a very compendious Bill dealing with local government, and surely we can range over all the principles of local government on the kind of things the Minister encounters in the Dáil? I am indicating one particular matter which the Minister said yesterday was giving him uneasiness. The fact is that under the Local Appointments Commissioners, you have certain places where the manager or town clerk is a bird of passage. He comes at a certain salary and moves over to another place at a higher salary. The Minister, by way of legislation, might remedy that position and it is quite reasonable that it should be asked whether there is anything he should do about it.

Another point is this: the whole question of inquiries. I wonder whether it is a desirable thing. Local government at one time was comparatively simple. Now, like national Government, it has become a great deal more complicated, and one wonders whether engineers or civil servants of any kind are the proper persons to hold inquiries. For instance, there was an inquiry—I do not know anything about it—which concerned a gas manager and some other manager in Limerick, and our friend, Senator Michael J. Ryan, was counsel there. It lasted for weeks and weeks.

Are you asking him why it lasted so long?

I do not see anything funny in it at all. I believe the inquiry lasted for five weeks, and it seemed to me a waste of time that such an important civil servant should be engaged for five weeks in what, in the end, turned out to be a small and rather personal thing. I notice that in this Bill the Minister has power to appoint other people to hold inquiries. I think that consideration should be given to the point whether it should be a judicial person or a legal person. Another point is that there is a question of principle involved. Under the base, bloody, and brutal Saxon, it used to be the case that there was a rule of law. You knew what the law was, and you were tried under the law, and tried fairly, although they did pack juries now and again. There was a rule of law on which a decision was taken, not in the individual case, but a decision based on certain principles. We have now evolved a number of modes of trial as distinct from trial by judges. You have trial by judges, trial by a military tribunal and trial by a Minister.

The Minister, from his position in the Front Bench, can declare that A.B., although not found guilty by a court, is in fact a criminal. In this case, you have inquiries held in public. A report is submitted to the Minister and a decision is given by the Minister without any indication of what the particular judge reported. I know the arguments that will be made about not being a judge, but it is a mode, nevertheless, of trying people. The trial should be public and the decision should be based on some known principles. While that is not so, there will always be the suspicion that a decision has not been reached on principles but on prejudices, or misconceived ideas before the inquiry was held. This system needs considerable change.

There is one other point to which I would like to allude. The Bill contains a provision, one which I agree entirely with the Minister was necessary, whereby place-names or street names can be changed. Speaking on the Second Stage of the Bill, the Minister mentioned this new proposal, and my view is that it should be made as difficult as possible to change a name. I am not a member of the old ascendancy by any means, but I recognise that in this country we have a history, a chequered history, which involves a great many difficult strains, and I would like to make it as difficult as possible to change a name.

I agree entirely with the provision of the Bill which provides that if you are going to change a name you must apply to the Minister, and it must be sanctioned from Dublin. All this business of place-names is a difficult one. People will tell you facilely what the old Irish place-names were, but the more one knows of local history and the language, the more one appreciates history, and how very hard it is to get the right Irish name. The Minister is quite right in providing that applications must be made to people who have special skill and knowledge. I feel that it is time that something was done in that direction in this highly difficult matter. The same applies to changing the names of streets. It is proposed that four-sevenths of the residents should desire the change. I think the original Bill provided for two-thirds.

That is right.

I am so much against the casual changing of names that I would nearly make it three-fourths. I think the whole urge towards name-changing is simply a form of cheap and very impractical nationalism. There are people who never learned a word of Irish in their lives, and if they heard a word of Irish could not pronounce it correctly after they were told, who want to change names. I am a Dublin man and I would hate anybody to change the name of Grafton Street to anything else. I had acquaintance with some of our honoured dead, and I would prefer that the ancient names of Dublin were left alone. After all, these names are part of our history and they should give us pause now and again. You can march an Irish army down Grafton Street: that is a sign of freedom which is much better than changing the name. If you want to honour the dead, you can do it in a more practical fashion. They built a magnificent avenue on the north side of the city, Griffith Avenue.

That seems to be the way we should work rather than go in for an orgy of changing names. Therefore, I would like to make it as difficult as possible to change names and I would like the Minister to go back to his own proposal in the Bill that there should be a two-thirds majority.

I would like to conclude on this note. It is our business in this country, whatever Party we belong to, or whatever political system we have in our mind, to make the democratic system work. I do not know how a democratic system is going to work in this country under two Houses of Parliament if local bodies cannot be got to do their own job in a responsible way and cannot be entrusted with some powers. If you are not going to entrust them with powers and if you are to put them in a strait-jacket as they are being put in this Bill, then you are not going to get any responsible type of person to come into the local bodies.

Even to-day I was astonished to find a man in Dublin who I thought was in the country. He was an Irish speaker, a 1916 man and a Dublin man. He resigned from a job in the country because the Local Government Department decided that he was to have no assistant. The doctors in the hospital thought he should have an assistant and the county manager thought he should have an assistant but—I do not want to be offensive in this—what actually happened was that a clerk in the Local Government Department thought he should not have an assistant and the result is that he is not going to get one. Now that is interference with local bodies which is beyond all reason. They should have some power of judgment. What I think is wrong is this notion of getting everything nice and tidy, streamlined and efficient. Streamlined efficiency is not going to decide what human beings are going to do. It is not something the Irish people ever wanted and I must say that I am not in favour of streamlined efficiency. Indeed I have a shred of suspicion that streamlined efficiency from the outside, nicely varnished, polished up and placed in the window is very often much more corrupt than the ancient slovenly method we were used to here.

That is one case of which I heard this morning, but there are other cases. I knew of a case where a tuberculosis hospital was going to be put up beside a very big novitiate and the people concerned had the greatest difficulty in convincing the Local Government Department that that should not be done. The Local Government Department has power, apparently, to clear the people out of the country and decide that there will be the site without any reference to the local people. In the biggest county in Ireland, for instance, Cork, they are going to put people out of a house and put an institution in there. Surely there ought to be enough space in Cork to build institutions, enough buildings in Cork to place institutions, or enough vacant houses there to give them a proper institution without putting a man out of his house, whoever he may be. I do not know anything about the man concerned at all.

The whole attitude of the Minister for Local Government is wrong. This domineering, egotistical, threatening attitude towards all local government is wrong. The centralisation attitude is wrong too and it runs contrary to our whole national tradition. It was to a certain extent a weakness in our position that we were never centralised, but those who read our history will soon appreciate it was a strength as well as a weakness. What we want is unity as well as variety. Just as love of Ireland should proceed from love of one's local place and knowledge of Ireland should proceed from knowledge of one's own place, so interest and competency in local government should only proceed from interest in one's local affairs and competency in the progress of local government. If we accept the view that we cannot get competency in local government itself then we have a serious problem to face in electing a Parliament. A decrease in the powers of local government, some people will allege, would mean in the end a decrease in the competency of and a degeneration in the type of person elected to the Dáil, but that is another question.

We ought to preserve diversity in our local areas and preserve an interest in our local places and if we cannot do that we are going to lose something that is of great strength to us. For that reason I think this is an extremely bad Bill.

Senator Hayes has, I think, dealt in a very admirable way with the principles of local government at which a Minister for Local Government should aim, if local government is to give the sort of service and machine which the country ought to have. I confess that to me it is rather refreshing to have a citizen of the city here express the view which has been expressed by Senator Hayes. My experience generally is that we have a type of mind in this country, born in the city enviroment, living its life there which believes and is convinced that all the intelligence, the honour, the originality and the constructive ability is centred in the city; that the people in the country are backward and rather decrepit, a slow moving, slow thinking lot of citizens who can hardly be trusted to do their own business.

Now, it is time we started to grow up here and whatever excuse there might be for that point of view, if indeed that point of view was expressed, in the beginning of the life of this State there is no justification for any such attitude to-day. In fact, the truth is that there was much greater evidence of a sense of appreciation of the work of the people who did not live in the cities in the early years of this State than there is just now. Frankly I am very greatly puzzled at the approach the Minister for Local Government is making to the whole problem of local government. After all, he, like the rest of us, was associated with the struggle of this country to win its freedom and he, like us, can cast his mind back when the local authorities were the fighting centres which were used by our central authority to shake off the grip of the foreigner. It was not the battle which the hunted Cabinet of Dáil Eireann made from 1918 onwards that was the major contribution to winning the first stage in the struggle for the country's liberty but rather the courage, the spirit of independence, the capacity both for leadership and for sacrifice revealed by the men and women who manned the local authorities in this country from 1918 to 1921. They were made the fighting centres, and it was they who in a real sense threw down the challenge to Britain. In those critical years there was an appreciation of the fact that there were men manning the local authorities in this country that could be trusted with the valiant work which lay at their hand to do.

It is rather a strange claim we are making to-day, that our plan has to be so altered and readjusted because of our experience of home government —that in a word, local government must entirely vanish. Perhaps the Minister can contradict me in this, but I do not think he was ever a member of local authority himself. He has on his side of the House, however, as well as on this side, men who have been members of local authorities for many years. I do not want to take the line that people living in rural Ireland have a contempt for many of the ideas which emanate from the capital city but quite frankly the trend of thought in recent years is arousing in a great many of the people of the country anything but a respect for the point of view that is expressed in the capital. Many of us feel that you are out of touch with us, that you never understood us, that you are not trying to undersand us and that you are adopting the argument advanced elsewhere, that there are two Irelands. One Ireland consists of those slow-moving, rather corrupt people who live in the backwoods, in the hills and valleys and along the rivers and backward roads which cannot be made good because of local government regulations. The people of the other Ireland are the dapper, correct people, of streamlined minds, as Senator Hayes would say, whom we get in our capital city. The Government here has as critical a task as confronts any Government in Europe. We are being influenced by the current of thought and activities of Government. I challenge anybody on the Government side to say that there is growing up in this country the same readiness to sacrifice time and money in the public interest and the same evidence of spirit of citizenship which we had before 1920-21 and for a number of years afterwards. I challenge any member of the Government organisation to say that there are coming into their ranks young men with that spirit, believing in the country's future, ready to make sacrifices for it and with appreciation of the fact that a nation's business cannot be properly discharged unless there is such an attitude on the part of citizens. Do they understand that there is national work to be done? Is there readiness on their part to understake resposibilty? Is there evidence of that training and mental equipment which will make it possible for them to do the nation's work?

There is no evidence whatever that there are new people coming along to carry on the work and traditions which we, in our time, have tried to establish. The whole policy of the Minister seems to be directed to stifling that local effort. Strangely enough, when you go to a certain branch of the Minister's Department, you find that the policy is to give old age pensions to claimants in the hope that they will make way for their sons. If a person of the requisite age is prepared to give his rights and his holding over to his son, he will be eligible for an old age pension. There is wisdom in that, because it is placing responsibility on the young man in time, and it is essential that young men should have responsibility placed upon them early. It is not when men grow into middle or old age that they should be asked to carry those burdens.

When you come to the question of government, you find that the policy of the Minister is to remove all responsibility from local authorities. How can you expect a sense of responsibility on the part of local authorities if you place no responsibility upon them? This Bill removes the last vestige of authority from the local people. The only powers left to us, as members of local authorities, were the powers of the purse. We had authority to levy the rate. Beyond that, we had no authority. The county manager carried out administrative work from one meeting to another. He presented us with a copy of his orders. We might question them, but the decisions were arrived at. In Section 30 power is taken by the Minister to abolish a local authority which is not prepared to levy such a rate as, in his judgement, is sufficient. The great offence in the Minister is the point of view that we are not grown up in the country. I do not know where he gets that point of view. I do not know what his experience has been in making contact with members of local authorities. If he had much contact with them, he would be considerably disillusioned. On every local authority there are men of considerable ability and integrity who have, over the years, given valuable service in the administration of local affairs. Responsible people are ceasing to take an interest in the administration of local affairs because there is practically no responsibility left to them. We had power one day in the year to levy a rate and determine what moneys were to be available for the various services for the ensuing 12 months. Now, the Minister is proposing a section which means that on the mere whim of somebody, this power can be taken from us. Senator Hayes reffered to the Minister's statement the other day. The Minister said:—

"The business of local authorities is a delegated business-delegated by the central authority under statute. Not one of these local authorities functions in its own right. They function under Acts of the Oireachtas. They function as subordinate administrative bodies in the State and their duty and sole reason for existence is that they are there to carry on those services which the State and community consider necessary for the common welfare of the people."

I should like to ask the Minister where he got that teaching. I assert that it is not in accord with Catholic teaching. I challenge the Minister to say that a member of a local authority, elected by the votes of the sovereign people, has any less responsibility as a member of that local authority than a member of the Oireachtas elected by the votes of the same, sovereign people. The Oireachtas may decide to restrict in a particular way the powers which these local authorities may exercise, but I say to the Minister that it is not morally justifiable and that it is not a matter that can be argued as the Minister has attempted to argue it. We, members of local authorities, whether county councils or municipal councils, have as much responsibility there as members of the Oireachtas have. To suggest that ours is only a delegated authority is a contradiction in terms. It is more: it is a complete misrepresentation.

I come now to the section in question. The Minister will argue that it is essential because local services might not be carried on because a fractious council would not do as the Minister desires. He will argue that some powers must be available to the Minister to ensure that local services will not fall to pieces. The approach of the Minister on that point has always been wrong. If local services are not being attended to in the interest of local people, the best way to bring the local people to their senses is to leave their services unadministered. If the streets of a town were left for some weeks uncleaned, if county hospital services wre not being provided, how long would local people tolerate that state of affairs? It would be much better to stir up that feeling amongst local people than have this dictatorship from the top. Before suspending a local authority, let public opinion be tested out in that manner and see what the result will be. It is all very fine to argue that the Department of Local Government is perfect in its behavior and in its administrative work. That is not what is accepted in the country at all. The Minister may not believe it, but it is true.

Let me cite an illustration of what is likely to happen when the Minister goes to exercise those powers of suppression f a council. In Cavan we are joined with Mo9naghan for the purposes of treatment of mental defectives and we have a joint hospital. Some years ago, a very expensive building was erected there, costing over £120,000, I think. The expenditure from the local rates of both countries was somewhere between £40,000 and £50,000. I am subject to correction on those figures, as they may be very wide. About 12 months ago, apparently because of the conditions in Monaghan—and, I think, also those in Country Louth—it was determined that those buildings, which were not being utilised at all, would be taken over by the people of Monaghan and utilised for the treatment of tuberculosis. Towards the repayment of the debt incurred for the building, Cavan had spent somewhere between £7,000 and £8,000 and Country Monaghan less. When the buildings were taken over, naturally the Monaghan Country Council were responsible for the debt which had been incurred in their erection, as far as the country councils in the respective countries were concerned, and they were to repay this money. We in Cavan find that the money has been paid apparently into the joint fund in charge of the Cavan and Monaghan Mental Hospital Committee, and we find that, instead of the money being transferred by the joint committee to the bankers or the trustees of Cavan Country Council, on instructions from the Department of Local Government these money are to be held in the funds of the mental hospital committee against further capital expenditure which has to be incurred there.

Now the sum would amount to almost 8d. in the £ on the rates in my country. If that money had been available at the begining of this year, as it should have been, we could have had the rates 7d. or 8d. in the £ less than they were. Those buildings were taken over because it was asserted they were not necessary and were not being used for the purposes for which they were erected. Now, when they are taken over, the ratepayers in Cavan are not able to have repaid to them the money which they expended on those buildings. When the next ratepaying period arrives in my country, if we decide to levy a rate less in the £ by 7d. or 8d. because this money has not been refunded to us, I wonder what this same Department will say. I can see them sending down and demanding a sworn inquiry, with the Minister's own nominee holding the inquiry, and naturally the Country Council in Cavan being dismissed and somebody put in charge because we are regarded as a group of incompetents.

It is all very fine for the Minister to insist that, from his point of view, this is essential. Of course it is-from his point of view. What is the Minister's aim? Is it the complete destruction of local Government? Is he aiming to bring about a set of conditions where no decent responsible man want to have any things to do with local government? Ask the people in the country and you find that that is their firm opinion. Any of us who come to that conclusion as being the policy of the Departments must stand against it. We believe that this country can live as a nation only by living its life in every part of the country, as Senator Hayes put it, with variety and diversity but with responsibility everywhere, even in the most districts. If we accept the Minister's point of view that there is responsibility only in the Custom House and that the burden of responsibility must be taken from all local people and transferred to that centre, then obviously we are going to grow up a group of nincompoops, without any training in the art of government and without any sense of responsibility, either in the conduct of local or national affairs.

I do not know what the Minister is making ready for when he brings about such a condition of things. In a short time, he will have to be passing on this burden of responsibility to his successor. In what sort of way is he passing it on? Who are the people attempting to rise up to succeed him? Where does he see them? They are not in his own ranks and we do not see them anywhere else. The Minister's policy is destroying the last vesting of power left to the local people. It is a disastrous step. No one dealing with local affairs can be satisfied that the administration of the Minister or the Department is on such a level as to justify the confidence of the people being placed in it to such an extent. It cannot benefit us in this House to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, but the principle embodied is a disastrous principle and one which, if accepted by the country, the country will live to regret.

The Minister, in introducing this Bill the other evening, rather impressed me as being in his most reasonable mood. Taking the Bill as presented by him, it is one that would call from me, in ordinary circumstances, less opposition, on account of the reasonable attitude in which he presented it. I can quite see how that clause giving him power would be essential, if and when country councils decided to go against the interests of their own people, as for political reasons and propaganda they sometimes do. But all the people in the country are not inspired with the same go-ahead policy of getting into power themselves, and it is deplorable that the legislation of the last eight or ten years, and even in the time of the last Government, seemed to divest local people of responsibility and leave the rôle of local government almost impossible and certainly one that was not very inviting.

I think it must be fairly said that the Department of Local Government is, in some ways, moving much too fast. It has never been very helpful to local bodies, though they have been looking to it for aid and light. When local authorities embark on great schemes they do not get a great deal of help from the Department. That happened on the Country Louth. Almost 30 years ago we started the work there of breaking away from the Grangegorman Mental Hospital and of setting up a mental hospital of our own. The Department, down to the period of 1928 or 1929, stopped us by every method they could get. Eventually, we got through. One of the big items that came yp for consideration was our valuation in relation to Grangegorman Mental Hospital. Eventually, we appointed two valuers. Their valuation amounted to this, that we in the Country Louth had something like £100,000 of a capitalised value in the Grangegorman Insitution. When the question arose of compensating the Country Louth for that, the Department gave us £32,000 without rhyme or reason. That is typical of the treatment which the Department metes out to local authorities.

When the Hospital Trust Funds came to be distributed, we expected that we would get our share of it. We were the only people in Ireland who had embarked on a scheme that, as well as I remember, involved an expenditure of £250,000. For years we had been hoping that, under the different administrations, we would get a grant from that fund towards the Louth Mental Hospital. When Mr. Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh was the Minister, and when he came down to Louth he graciously told us that he would give us a grant of £20,000 out of the Hospitals Trust Fund. We later got £15,000, making a total of £35,000. That sum has to be compared with the grants which have been given out of the same fund to other mental hospitals in the country. As I have said, we started at the bottom and founded this new institution and that is all that we got. The hospital is not yet fully equipped. For 20 years we have been pressing the Department to give us some further measure of justice. Our appeals have met with no response.

Last year, when the scheme for tuberculosis hospitals was being initiated, we were looking for accommodation for some of our patients. We were advised, and we agreed at the time, to send our patients to an idle wing in a Monaghan institution which had been built out of the Hospitals Trust Fund some eight or ten years ago. I think Senator Baxter referred to this to-day. Therefore, you have the position that while the Department of Local Government on its own builds institutions and there is nobody to occupy them, for some peculiar reason it refuses to give grants to institutions that need them and that evidently have a good case for getting grants. There is in all that, I think, evidence of a want of consideration, of a joining together, one with the other.

There is too much dictation from the Department. It is my belief that it was an ill day for the country when it was decided to do away with the old system of rural district councils. We had then, I think, happy and healthier institutions than we have now. These institutions were governed by the local people. It is all very well to say that you will get loyalty in the Department.

The loyalty from officials in that way might be compared with the loyalty which the old Royal Irish Constabulary gave to their country, to their leaders and to their bosses, but that kind of loyalty will not produce loyalty in the homes of the people, and it is there you want the loyalty to take root. To my mind the Government which started the managerial system should, first of all, have tried to create a sense of responsibility and of citizenship in the people. The grass in the fields, the trees that grow along the roads and the sign-posts on the roads should all be something that the people would be proud of. I think that strong emphasis should be laid on the necessity for citizenship everywhere. If that were done, I think you would find that it is responsibility that makes men. Irresponsibility comes from the strait-jacket. I think that through our local government every possible effort should be made to evoke from the people pride in everything in the country.

At one time I was a supporter of the system of the Appointments Commissioners. The Minister has now told us that his Department has nothing to do with the Appointments Commissioners. In my opinion, whoever has responsibility for them I think they should be able to do something better than to be sending down to the country officials, almost all of whom come exclusively from Dublin. There seems to be a prejudice against the country man. It may seem all right that when men pass examinations that they should get appointments, but why go against all commonsense and all reason? In my opinion, when the Appointments Commissioners send down men with associations in the Custom House it does not tend to create good citizenship down below. There is criticism of that, and it sometimes becomes harsh criticism. In my young days there used to be some criticism of the university scholarships given by the country councils and of the expenditure in connection with them. The Minister seems to be doing the same thing now. We want to keep clear of the Custom House. I think that when a man enters it he should be prepared to stay there. It is not correct that every position in the counties should be filled by people with associations in the Custom House. I fail to see much of an improvement in the officials that have been appointed by the Appointments Commissioners. I suppose there has to be some system of examination, but I do think, with all respect to the Minister, that in the making of appointments some authority should be left to the local people. That in my opinion would tend to promote a better citizenship.

If there has been a failure in local government during the last 20 years I think much of the responsibility for that must rest with the Custom House itself. I think that if the interests of the country are to be promoted, the Custom House should take stock of itself, and see where it is going. Authority in regard to almost everything has been handed over to the manager. Since he is the servant of the Minister, one cannot expect that he will fight the true interests of the county in which he is serving.

He must keep his attention constantly upon the desires of his Department and of his Minister and, as human nature goes, he realises that if there is a decent job likely to be available in the future, he must play the part of a pet or a puppet to get it. If he does not, it is possible, he knows, that he will not get a chance of advancement, but all this means that he will be less informed about events which are happening in his own area.

It should be possible to have a state of affairs in which the best people would go forward for election and the desirability of their going forward should be demonstrated to them. You cannot get good service if you constantly turn down a man's ideas and fall back entirely on the Civil Service. I was one of those who urged the idea of the Local Appointments Commissioners because I felt at the time that it would be of benefit to the country. However, after experience of it, I would urge the Minister to go slowly.

We had a Local Government Bill passed through this House by the activities of Mr. Ruttledge, who was Minister at the time. Since then, we have had other Minister, but they all seem to carry out just the desires and wishes of the Custom House. It seems there is a tide at the Custom House which flows from there through the country. Ministers and men may change, but it is extraordinary that we have always the same view from the Custom House. This is all very discouraging to public-spirited citizens, seeking no gain, who give part of their time to local government affairs.

One wonders what economies in the public services have resulted from these changes, and what has been gained by the abolition of the rural district councils. What has been saved by the County Management Act? These questions should have an answer, and there should be a common system in the handing out to local authorities of grants of money which belongs to the entire nation.

I have often thought that if the Minister for Local Government sent down an inspector once a year to talk with members of county councils, much good would be achieved. Members interested in local administration could then be told why Castlerea, Letterkenny and Clonmel were dealt with in the same way as County Louth. The inspector's replies would satisfy a curiosity which is not satisfied at the present time, and it would allay the feelings of those who think they are not getting justice from the Department. These feelings have been entertained for the past ten, and even 20 years.

In the case of a Bill with so much variety, and dealing with so many aspects of local government, it is probably inevitable that more or less important issues relating to local government will be debated. Senator Baxter has complained that those of us who live in towns do not understand the people who live in the country. The Minister, I think, was born and bred in Belfast, a fact of which he should have nothing to be ashamed of, although I do not think it conduces to humility. I was born and bred in Dublin, a fact of which I should feel nothing the worse, but both of us can be accused of having the same attitude to local government problems. Be that as it may, we have a completely different outlook towards the problem of local government, taken as a whole. The Minister, in introducing the Bill, dealt with it section by section. I do not propose to do that, although there are a number of sections on which I should like to comment and ask questions. It seems to me that this Bill is consistent with Government policy and the policy of the Party which the Government represents. I think that, fundamentally, it is a wrong policy and one for which some day the country will be sorry.

Some short time ago there was an exhibition—I think it was a planning exhibition—in the Mansion House. I was standing looking at a large map which probably some Senators, like myself, found extremely interesting. I thought I was alone and I had not noticed anyone beside me. Somebody said: "Very interesting, Mr. Douglas, is it not?" I turned around, and I saw that the voice came from a well-known priest. I will not mention the name, but it is one that is well known to members of the House. He said, very interesting, but you cannot build Ireland that way. You will never build a healthy Ireland from Dublin. You will have to reverse the present pocess. You will have to let people grow up and become efficient because they want to become efficient. You cannot do that through some central authority.

Since then, the more I thought of the priest's remarks, the more I became convinced that while there must be a certain amount of uniformity, a certain minimum to which every local authority must conform in relation to the central service, you cannot have uniformity all the way and all the time. But that principle is the exact opposite to the principles of the present Government. I urge upon the Minister that he should interefere as little as possible with local authority—not as much as possible.

There is an aspect of this which I do not think has been referred to recently. Those of us who have taken an interest, as I have, for many years, in the development of parliamentary institutions, have realised that in practically every country serious-minded persons have been concerned with the extreme difficulty of maintaining our parliamentary machinery on democratic lines. The tendency has been towards more and more dictatorship and where it has not been towards more dictatorship, the tendency has been towards more and more bureaucracy.

We realise that Parliament is unable, in the limit of time available, to exercise adequate control over the various matters with which it ought to deal. It is a realisation of that fact which has led to the growth of bureaucracy and other undesirable growths elsewhere. The opinion of what seem to be the best minds is that democracy can best be maintained through devolution and decentralisation. When you come to think of it, it surely becomes obvious that if democracy is to mean anything at all to the large majority of the people, the people must feel that they are part of the Government of the country. They will not have that feeling if they get a vote only once in every five or six years. How are they going to be interested? They can only be interested in national affairs through local government—local government with responsibility and authority.

Now it seems to me that the present tendency will lead to a certain amount of chaos and will not really work. The type of person who serves in the Civil Service, if he is efficient—and I believe the vast majority are-must tend towards uniformity. He wants rules which he can impartially and fairly carry out. The essence of good Civil Service does not tend towards variety. It seems to me that although we are a very small country and although our population is small, that we have inside our nation a very considerable amount of variety and that it is in the development of that variety that we will ultimately become strong and that our nationality will really revive. Now that is what the vast majority of us desire, no matter what our Party affiliations may be.

There is no use in trying to make Kerry, Galway or Mayo like Dublin. You may get them to become subservient, you may get them to elect county councils, which rather than be abolished will do exactly as they are told, but all you will secure is that the people will lose interest. They will not fundamentally change and it would, in my opinion, be a bad thing if they were to become like Dublin. I would like to draw the attention of the House towards an aspect of this question of the increase in centralisation of local government which I think is very often overlooked. It is quite a common thing to pay lip service to our desire to end Partition but nobody seems to give very much thought as to the lines on which Partition may be ended. I do not know that I will see it but I believe it will be ended. It will not be ended however under a system by which all the local bodies in the Six Counties are going, voluntarily and immediately, to be placed in the position in relation to Dublin that this Bill and the previous policy place local authorities in all the rest of Ireland. I am not going to suggest that this scheme would bring in any better results immediately than all the other schemes and the talk about ending Partition, but it is my conviction that we should have decentralisation and a recognition of local differences; a desire to develop these local differences, to recognise that the people of Ulster, of Cork, or of Kerry may want to go their own way and that it is a good thing that they should do so even though it is difficult for people like the Minister and myself who have spent the most of our time in Belfast or Dublin to understand or approve.

I think it was the Minister for Industry and Commerce who made the remark that we had to do what is good for the people. I do not think we can deal with all people in that way. People have got to learn to do what is best for themselves. You cannot, from above, particularly from Dublin, get a really efficient State by acting on what I would call petty efficiency. There is one particular matter with which this Bill deals to which I want to refer. As we all know, the Minister has power after an inquiry to abolish a local body. That power is extended under this Bill to the extent that if they do not vote rates which he considers satisfactory, there will be an inquiry and if they then do not submit and vote the rate which he dictates to them they may be abolished.

I am not one of those people who is foolish enough to say that under no circumstances are local bodies ever to be abolished by the central authority, but I am strongly of opinion that the present method is fundamentally bad. If a local body is to be dissolved, it should in my mind only be after a public inquiry with a published report. The reason for the public report is that the people who elected the body that was dissolved ought to know why it is being dissolved and why they should not re-elect them. At present there are always plenty of whispers, but one never knows definitely or clearly what is the reason for the abolition. The same principle applies to hospital boards and other local authorities. I suggest that we should start a completely new method. I would not take away the power to hold the inquiry, but I would provide that the inquiry should be public. Secondly, I would require that the report must be published. If after the report is published the Government decided to dissolve the body they should only dissolve it for a period not exceeding 12 months under any circumstances. The object of its being dissolved should only be to give the electors a chance of electing another body and they should elect it with the full knowledge of the reason why the dissolved body was dissolved.

If the electors re-elect the same body I would let them have it because I believe that if after there has been an inquiry and if after the facts have been published the people of Kerry want a council which in the opinion of the people of Dublin is not a fully efficient council the best thing is to let them have it. They will pay for it in the long run. It may not be the quickest method but it will be the only satisfactory method on which you will build up democracy and responsibility. I am quite willing to concede to the Minister and the Government that in a particular matter you may get quicker results or apparently greater efficiency by ordering something to be done from Dublin and seeing that that is done but you will not get greater efficiency in the long run.

Just one other matter before I sit down. I can understand why the Government wants to take power to enforce the striking of what seems to them a satisfactory rate. In general terms we might divide local rates between that part of them in respect of which the local authority has really no say at all —the services which have to be provided as a result of Acts of Parliament or central action—and the other portion which is to provide purely local services and which I think should be clearly the local authorities own responsibility. I know what I am going to suggest is quite contrary to the idea of this Bill and I do not suppose it will be adopted, but I would like to see rates divided into two parts. One part would be that for which the local body was not responsible, the money they collect for the various services. The other rate would be that for which they were responsible and which I would leave entirely to them without any interference. If they were going to do without the services paid for by these rates then I would let them do without them and that would be the better way to approach the problem in my opinion. My objection to the Bill is not to any specific provision of it but because of the fact that it seems to be based on a policy that is fundamentally wrong.

Local government law has always been a very difficult matter for people directly associated with the carrying out of the business that falls on the members of local bodies. During an experience of 20 years of local bodies I never yet met a member who could say he was fully acquainted with the various provisions in the law that had to be operated. If a Bill was drafted for the purpose of making the law understandable to representatives elected to public bodies it would be justified in itself and it would help to save a lot of the time that is wasted at present in discussion mainly because of the ignorance, on the part of the members, of the law they are operating. This Bill, however, is not such a measure. Instead of clarifying the existing code, to my mind it makes it more involved—involved on all sides. I am fully in agreement with Senator Hayes that the Bill has been drafted mainly for the purpose of making further inroads on the present rather attenuated powers of local bodies. It is a rather peculiar commentary on the advent of legislative independence that that independence was used to deprive local bodies of the extensive powers they had when they functioned under a Department of an alien Government. With Senator McGee, I agree that those bodies which wielded those very extensive powers functioned tolerably well. There may have been abuses in certain cases but those abuses were rare. From a rather long association with some of those people who gave their time to the public as local representatives, I have abundant experience of the many services they rendered through their attendance on those bodies, notably at estimates meetings. I have known thousands of pounds deducted from an estimate presented by officials of the council. That took place after strict analysis of the various items in the bill and never was it alleged subsequently that any service suffered as a result, though officials, in presenting the estimate, always laid it down that it was the irreducible minimum, if they were to carry out the work in question.

The first invasion of the authority of local bodies took place under the Act of 1926, known as the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act. I was a member of the minority who supported that Act because of what it proposed to do. It was intended to remove from the atmosphere of local influence the making of certain appointments, so that influence would not play a greater part in the making of the appointments than the merits of the candidates who offered themselves for the vacant positions. As I have said, I was in a minority. Not only in my own county but throughout the country, the operation of that Act was vehemently opposed by representatives of all shades of opinion. In County Mayo, the members of the Fianna Fáil Party on the local bodies were the spearhead of that opposition. Their opposition was accepted as sincere and honest. I believe that it was sincere at the time. They felt that this attempt to take from local bodies the powers they enjoyed under a foreign Government was absolutely undemocratic and should be resisted.

The test case occurred in 1929 when the name of the appointee of the Appointments Commissioners was submitted to Mayo County Council for election. The council on two occasions by a majority refused to carry out the law as laid down in the Act of 1926 and the result was that it was dissolved. At that time, the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, at a public meeting in Mayo, declared that the centralising of power in Dublin was a mistake. That was taken as the policy of that Party, and it had the support of many public representatives who were not of the same way of thinking politically as they were. The dissolution of the council at that particular time did not ease matters. Rather did it intensify them. At the subsequent general election—I say this without fear of contradiction—the restoration of the council which was dissolved was one of the most important planks in the platform of the Party which succeeded the outgoing Party as a Government. They implemented the promise given to the electorate that, if returned to power, they would restore the council. When returned to power, they set about the restoration of the council but it turned out that a council, once dissolved, could be reassembled only by way of election. It appeared, however, that there was no limit to the number of commissioners who could be appointed and so the dissolved council was reassembled as a council or board of commissioners. One part of the promise was thus carried out. Those who expected that the promise would be further implemented by repeal of the 1926 Act have been very much disillusioned. Not only was the Act left unrepealed but centralisation became the out-and-out policy of the new Government. To-day, in this Bill, we have the climax of that policy.

As other Senators have pointed out, this Bill deprives local representatives of any power to represent those who placed them on those bodies as a result of election. They have power to levy a rate, but they have no power to determine what that rate should be. Whereas, some years ago, if a council were dissolved, it created a sensation in a locality or county, under this Bill a council may be dissolved without any inquiry. Certain features of this Bill, if given legislative effect, will impede the work of local bodies. One of these provisions is that which provides for the eventuality of a second rate. Any person in this Assembly who has been a member of a public body will recollect that, in many cases, the rate collector finds it very difficult to complete one warrant. If he has to complete two within a year, it will add to his difficulties and to the difficulties of the body under whose supervision he is working.

Another objectionable innovation in this particular Bill is the introduction of a county fund. I said earlier in my remarks that this Bill was very involved. I have discussed the section which refers to the county fund with several people of long association with the work of public bodies and from none of them can I get an explanation as to what that section really purports to do. Under the existing law, at the estimates meeting the different officials submit estimates for the particular services they administer and the council during the year has to function within the limit of the amount estimated. For instance, the expenditure under public health was divided into several sections and in no case was it permissible for the amount budgeted for under any particular heading in that service to be exceeded. I have known cases where, during the functioning of a certain board of health with which I was connected, it happened that payments were made after the fund had been exhausted. The banks returned the cheques and the members of the body were afforded an opportunity to investigate the circumstances which led to the expending of a sum greater than that which was voted for the particular service at the annual estimates meeting. I trust that this section does not make it possible, through the county fund, for any section of a particular service to be utilised to finance another, in other words, that no one service may be starved to pamper another.

There is another very objectionable section in this Bill, the section which increases the powers of acquisition given to local bodies. The existing power is pretty extensive. A local body may acquire compulsorily for the purposes of its functioning any land or other property necessary for it. This section in the Bill we are discussing goes further, by providing that a public body may acquire land or property without setting out the reasons for which it is acquired. It is a known fact that land acquired by any public body is never paid for at its market value. Even under the existing law, I know of certain abuses that have crept in, where a member or members of a local body initiated preliminaries for the acquisition of certain property for a specific purpose and, before the preliminaries were completed for the acquisition, the member concerned had purchased for his own particular personal use more than five-sixths of it, the remaining one-sixth being devoted to the use for which the whole was to be acquired.

I hold that, if this particular section giving power to local authorities to acquire property without specifying the use to which it is to be put, is carried into effect, it will lead to abuses. Any person in touch with the work of such bodies can visualise the character those abuses might assume. For instance, take the case of a person having land near a town that might be necessary in years to come for building sites. If that person happened to be of the timid type, the mere reference to the possibility of acquiring it by a member, even though the body of which that person was a member did not intend to acquire it, would immediately lead to depreciation in its market value. Some knowing individual might come to the owner and say: "I am afraid they are going to acquire that property from you and the best thing you can do is get rid of it and let it go to some person able to put up a better fight against the local authority than you can." That could easily lead to the property being disposed of at a price very much less than its market value.

Having made such inroads on the powers of the local bodies and deprived them of the benefits they could be to the people who elected them—for very often those members stood between their constituents and an extravagant officialdom—the people are thus deprived of the benefit of representatives who can exercise that power. Members of local bodies in future cannot interfere with public expenditure. They are in constant touch with the people, they have daily contacts with them, they understand their condition and their needs; and, above and before all, they understand the circumstances of the people and the amount they can afford to bear in the matter of rating. If, however, at an estimates meeting, members of a local body do interfere with the estimate put forward by the manager and his staff, they render themselves liable to dissolution. Therefore, they will not be disposed to run that risk by making suggestions which might lead to the public body they act on being dissolved.

Personally, I do not know why this Bill has been introduced, other than to take from the bodies the very little powers they have at present. If a Bill were introduced that would save the people the necessity and expense of selecting periodically bodies which, when selected, have very little power, I could understand it. Though I could not on principle support such a Bill, I would at least admit that its introduction was a logical sequence to the policy of centralisation that has characterised the present Government since its advent to power.

I claim to be one of the veterans with experience in local affairs. Together with the Chathaoirleach, my recollection goes back to the days of the "shining ring". The master of the workhouse in Dungarvan was one Shine and, in our efforts to correct malpractices, we thought we would choose the samples of tea on an anonymous basis. The chairman happened to have foxy hair and the question was asked: "When has it become the practice to identify the samples of tea by a clipping of the master's hair?" I do not put that forward altogether as a virtue, but there was the human touch in local government—and I could tell many stories of the same kind, which the Chathaoirleach, who was on the council—or the board of guardians, as it was in those days— will remember.

I cannot too strongly support the general plea put forward by Senators Hayes and McGee and many other speakers, for a stay on this ultra-centralisation of authority in the Custom House. I think they have made that plea adequately and I wish at the moment to make another approach to the question. I think we are agreed that a very considerable reform is needed in local government. If there were any special authority supporting that, I would call to mind the Minister himself. When giving a lecture in the Mansion House on January 22nd last, he said:—

"We have in this State a superstructure of local administration as democratic and progressive as any in the world."

I wonder if he were correctly reported, but after all this quotation is taken from that irreproachable journal, the Government Party organ.

"But its foundations are greatly overburdened, for they belong to a past age. Unless these foundations are modernised, local authorities, under post-war conditions, will find difficulty in discharging even their present responsibilities, not to speak of the new services public opinion may demand."

In the same lecture he spoke about the foundations or origins of the system and said they were the work of foreign conquerors. Of course, one must remember that he was speaking to a rather special gathering and wanted to give this a political connection.

"They were the work of foreign conquerors, whose purpose was to substitute for the native policy, broken-up, administrative units and machinery which would make their conquests secure. In time our people accepted these units as fundamental elements in local administration and look upon them as something consecrated by time and tradition in which they take a local pride and to which they owe a local patriotism."

Now, presumably, the Minister intends to sweep all that away. If he does intend to make fundamental reforms in local government, I strongly protest against this legislative procedure. The House will remember that a motion was discussed here not so very long ago calling for a White Paper. The Taoiseach was present. Perhaps White Paper is a rather vague expression, but the motion called for an outline of these contemplated reforms in local government, so that we could consider the whole future structure of local government in the light of those proposals, so that, in fact, we could proceed in an orderly manner. We should have the principles upon which those reforms were to be introduced put before us and have a general discussion before any legislation was introduced, but not a bit of it. I do not know whether it is guile, or whether it is due to stupidity or perverseness, but the Minister has brought in this Bill which, on the face of it, would appear to be mainly a machinery Bill.

I ask Senators to look at Section 30 which makes a fundamental inroad on the powers and responsibilities of local authorities. On the occasion that the motion was before the House Senator Hayes, if I remember rightly, said that we were creating reforms in local government—I think he said that we were revolutionising it—by piecemeal methods. That is just what this Bill is. I protest strongly against the manner in which these reforms are being brought about. First, there is this Bill and then there is the Public Health Bill. We cannot see the picture as a whole. We have these objectionable features which are being worked into what is mainly a machinery Bill—a Bill that is not fundamental in its nature. I ask the Minister to address himself to this question: What does he intend to do in local government, and not merely to elaborate on the machinery for rates, roads or bridges? If he will answer that question "What does he intend to do?" then we will know where we are heading and we can see the picture as a whole. Moreover, on the occasion that the motion was before the House the Taoiseach promised this White Paper. We have not got it yet. We are still as ignorant as we were then as to what is in the Minister's mind. Two more Ministries are to be created and all kinds of things are to be done, and yet we are told nothing. We have this most objectionable Section 30 which is being put into this Bill. So far as the local authorities are concerned, it will to all intents and purposes make them servants of the Custom House.

When the Minister claims that we have a most efficient superstructure, let me apply one or two simple tests as to the efficiency of that superstructure. The superstructure—the central government—may well be judged by the information which it gives to the ordinary person who wants to know what is going on. I have been trying to find out what is the tendency in regard to rates over the past few years. That is a very important matter to know in view of the fact that more and more burdens are being put on the local authorities. I want to know what is the trend of rates. I go to the only document that can give me information on that and I find that the latest publication is for 1942-43. No local taxation accounts have been published since then. If you want to know what is the aggregate of local rates raised since that year, you cannot find it anywhere. I cannot, and I do not believe that other people can find it either. The Statistical Abstract does not give any particulars of the rates raised in any year later than 1942-43.

So much for this vaunted efficiency of the central authority. It is only a small thing, but promptness of publication is a very good indication of efficiency. The annual report of the Department of Local Government is two years overdue. The latest is for the year 1944. Will the Minister justify those belated reports against his claim that his Department is the most progressive and democratic Department, not necessarily in the Government, but in the country, or words to that effect? The Minister may well plead that these encroachments on the paths of local authorities go back to a period prior to 1932 when the present Party came into power. I propose to read now some extracts from a Minority Report which was published in connection with a Poor Law Commission that was appointed in 1927. This report deals mainly with the question of the financial responsibility of local authorities, and although it is now 20 years since those remarks were recorded, I think they have a very important present value. I quote:—

"It is, therefore, essential to try to arrive at some method which will assure sound and responsible finance. This will be found along the lines of respect for the financial autonomy of the local authority. No service involving increased expense should be imposed upon the ratepayers. If the central authority regard any new service as essential it should be paid for out of central funds, if the local authority is unwilling to undertake it. Applying this principle to the recent past, I am of opinion that such appointments as the superintendent assistance officer and the county medical officer of health should have been permissive and not mandatory upon county councils.

In this connection I feel compelled to comment generally on the increasing tendency of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to fetter and control the local authority. There is hardly any matter, however trifling, to which his consent is not required. In one case that came to my knowledge recently a small payment of £10 to a county surveyor for extra work done had to be sanctioned by the Department. In the same council, proposals for the reduction of rate collectors' poundage were rejected and other proposals were imposed. In the Act of 1925 the words which imply or require the consent of the Minister appear 23 times.

I am willing to concede that tight control is often the line of least resistance and greatest immediate safety. By running no risks it is always easy to avoid mistakes. There is at the same time no reason why a popularly elected Parliament should be more trustworthy than a popularly elected council, and the ultimate stability of either is only secured by cultivating a sense of direct responsibility. The value of local councils as a nursery for public men and a centre for the growth of a civic sense has been enhanced by the wide extension of the franchise. This purpose will never be secured by a lack of trust and by dual control.

I realise that the grants in aid of rates from the Central Fund justify some measure of regulation and control. The central authority might well refuse to assist local councils unconditionally, yet I consider the objections to divided control so strong that means should be sought to obtain the fullest possible degree of financial separation. This might be done by making certain services representing the total of existing grants entirely State services, and allowing the remaining services to be entirely local services. This would entail an examination of the entire field of local expenditure which was not within our terms of reference, and I recommend the inquiry to be carried out. In any such financial separation the purpose of the agricultural grant, namely, to lighten the burden on land, must not be abandoned, and it would be necessary to preserve and continue in future local services the present proportion of cost borne, respectively, between land and other hereditaments."

I think that has a very present application, and I am ashamed to say that I think it very good, although I wrote it myself 20 years ago. Those 20 years have gone by and the same problem is present here, and yet there is no attempt to get to grips with this responsibility of local representatives. Some time ago, a young person asked me, a young person from the country, how he could get into public life. He told me that he could not expect to get in on his national record because, politically, it was not very good, but he said he might have a shot at local government. I had honestly to tell him that under the present centralised control of local government he would practically be a "yes-man", a "yes-man" who would have to toe the line. I told him that he might expect to have little or no scope for the exercise of his initiative or his special qualifications.

That is a fact, and I do not know how the Minister can possibly deny it. It was emphasised for us to-day by Senator Hayes. This desire for a superficial order which very often covers only disorder, hampers the achievement of democratic aims, but it seems to be the policy of the Minister's Department. What are we to do? I really do not know, except to ask the Minister what are his general proposals. Are we to go along like the Public Health Bill without any indication or knowledge of what the Minister has in view, beyond what he talks about at Party meetings?

If the foundations are rotten, which I do not agree, then so far as they are rotten, he and his predecessors are responsible. If they are rotten, it is his responsibility to put them right and let us know what is intended. The root of this question of divided authority is that of finance, and so long as we have this system of bribery—practically bribery, because it is that when the Department says: "If you strike such-and-such a rate we will give you a grant"—you will not get a proper sense of responsibility, and I would implore the Minister to review the position in the light of the Poor Law Commission's Minority Report.

I would ask the Minister to examine the position closely in regard to local authorities and to change the present system. He can make it clear to local authorities that their rates enable the allocation of so much for local services, and a reserve which must be set aside for purposes for which no subventions can be expected. The local authority might deal with local roads, but the main road expenses might be taken off the local authority. This clear division would remove this incessant trouble and friction about expenditure and grants and also this attitude of the Department: "We are giving you money and therefore we must tie you up and leave you no discretion".

I would ask the Minister to consider allowing all other services to be run completely by the local authority to do what they like, so that Kerry shall not be required to come up to the same standard as Dublin, orvice versa. You will then get local diversity, if you segregate certain services as being entirely local, and leave financial responsibility for them to the local authority.

I can see the importance of the practical suggestions to get away entirely from and to dispense with this matter of divided control. It is most important that local government should be made a training ground for the younger men. You see here to-day the extraordinary position that there is not a word —later, perhaps—from the Government Benches, on this most important matter, this Bill of which nearly every section is important. I do not know whether they lack training in their youth in questions of local administration or whether they are so satisfied with the Party arguments that they think the proposals of the Bill are above criticism. We want to get away from that kind of spirit altogether. We want to get young people trained in the affairs of government to speak out and not to walk around the lobbies when they are told, or to act as pure automatons. I do feel you must begin in the local councils and give the young people a feeling of pride and responsibility in their work, and encourage them to have scope and opportunity for learning, and for initiative and for their ideas.

The Minister's Department is, perhaps, the most important Department of State. It comes into every home and touches the daily lives of our people, and I may say that it is the most unpopular Department of all the Departments of State. I am afraid that the Minister is largely to blame for that unpopularity, but, even now, it is possible to get back that system of division of functions whereby members of local bodies will be encouraged to develop a sense of responsibility. They can run their own affairs, and they should be allowed to make mistakes in doing it, because unless you make mistakes you can never learn. We will not get anywhere with the system which compels uniformity everywhere, which destroys the spirit of true democracy, and discourages the rising generation from taking their rightful place in the administration of the affairs of the nation.

Very large questions have been opened up in this discussion—the difficulties of centralisation, the inherent difficulties of departmental planning and matters like that. These points could not be dealt with by me in a short speech and I propose to leave them entirely alone and to confine my remarks to some smaller and technical aspects of the Bill before the House. From one point of view this Bill could be regarded as a spring cleaning and tidying up Bill and there were quite a lot of loose ends in relation to local government which needed tidying up. In regard to a very big borough in Ireland for instance I came to the conclusion some time ago it was probable that a correct rate had not been struck for ten years and in so far as this Bill does make an attempt to produce uniformity and an approach to simplicity I welcome it very heartily.

I want to go a little bit further, however. There is one loose end that has not been touched on and which I think the Minister might delicately pick out, stroke through his fingers and put into place. The power of appeal against the surcharge made by an auditor is at the present moment in a rather unsatisfactory condition. There are, in fact, two appeals. The Minister, I think, will not desire me to give him the exact sections, because he is very familiar with them, but I can give them subsequently if he desires them. Shortly speaking, there is the power of going to the High Court oncertiorari on a pure question of law and on such matters of fact as may be necessary to consider in order to decide that question of law. If the High Court decides that the surcharge was illegal, the surcharge goes. If the court decides it was legal, the surcharge stays and, so far as the person who is surcharged is concerned, that ends the matter.

There is a parallel system whereby the appeal against the surcharge is made not to the courts but is made to the Minister and the Minister has also power to decide whether the surcharge is lawful or not. In addition to that, however, he has the further power, even if he considers the surcharge was lawful, to say that in all the circumstances it is not right or just, or fair or expedient, or in any other term which he may use, that the sum so surcharged should be paid by the person on whom it has been surcharged. Now, it is perfectly obvious that anybody with any intelligence is going to choose that form of appeal which allows him to get out not merely on legal grounds but also on grounds of general fairness and equity. The result is that all appeals go to the Minister, who decides them on one or other of those two grounds of appeal, but appeal on legality has become an appeal to which resort is very rarely had.

That is not desirable. The Minister may be a very good judge of whether it is in all respects right that a surcharge should be remitted but he would, I think, be the first to admit that on questions of legality he is perhaps not in all respects as completely equipped to deal with it as are the judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court. But we are getting no judgments concerning a question which is of considerable importance— whether surcharges are in fact legal or not legal. That can be very easily cured. As matters stand now you have to choose one or other of the tribunals and having elected it you are finished. You cannot then go to the courts and say: "Here is a matter which in the interests of local government should be decided, that it is a matter of legal importance to see whether the auditor's interpretation is the correct interpretation or not; that we should know whether in fact it is legal or not." You ask the court then to give that decision. When they have given the decision however there is no method of going back to the Minister and saying: "Now we have the legal point decided but irrespective of that it is obvious that although the auditor was forced to make the surcharge yet in fact the action of the person surcharged was either suitable or commendable." If a person surcharged has gone to the Minister there is no method of subsequently testing the legality of the matter before the courts.

I suggest to the Minister that he himself should introduce an amendment whereby the formal and technical legality of any particular surcharge can be tested in the courts, and when the decision of the court has been promulgated the matter can then be further referred to the Minister to see whether the exaction of the sum surcharged is in all the circumstances one of which the Minister would approve. It seems to me that that is a matter which would help the Local Government Department by insuring the legality of the matter to them and it will remove what is not merely a technicality but a block on the action that may be taken in these matters. I have not at the moment prepared an amendment on that subject because I am hopeful that the Minister will say that he will have the matter looked into by his staff or his legal adviser, to see whether it is not a matter which he himself would like to sponsor. If he does so I would much rather leave it to the experienced heads of the Department—the officials of the Minister's Department—to choose the exact form of the amendment. If the Minister so desires I can draft an amendment, an amendment, I think, of Section 63 of the 1898 Act and that would bring the matter up for fuller discussion on the Committee Stage. I would rather feel, however, that this should be a matter not for opposition but for collaboration.

We have wandered about a good deal from the actual terms of this Bill. We have discussed the question as to whether the Act of 1940 should not be repealed and the managerial system done away with. Senator Ruane said that the first interference with the powers of local authorities was when the Officers and Employees Act of 1926 was passed. If I were a member of a local authority I would have been very pleased to have those powers taken away by that Act. Before that there was a very awkward position with people, who might be your neighbours, coming up to canvass for their friends. With that situation you had to try to make up your mind who was the best man to be appointed. Each person thought he was the best man or at any rate the best friend and that he should be appointed. There were grave difficulties in that system. The Local Appointments Commission have worked very well indeed although I do say we had very good officials before it came into force. In our county, we had excellent officials, as good as could be got anywhere but we have also got very good persons appointed since the Appointments Commission came into operation.

Senator Hayes seemed to question this appointment commissioners idea. I have heard a lot of complaints against them but I have found that when these complaints were investigated there was no justification for them and that the person who was first nominated by the selection committee got the appointment. I do not think that anything could be done wrongly while the present chairman of the commission is in that office. Everybody will, I think, agree with that.

As regards the managerial system, I had a good deal of objection to it and still have certain amount of good in some respects. In other respects, it has done harm. I think I should prefer to let the members of the local authority carry on their business in their own way. My experience was that our county council was an excellent body and did its business thoroughly. They had great regard for the interests of the ratepayers. They were themselves substantial ratepayers and I knew very well that the rates would not be reduced when a county manager would be appointed. It is not the county council that raises rates; it is the Local Government Department. They have schemes, which may be necessary or very good, and it is those schemes which have increased the rates. They give a contribution, no doubt, towards the cost of those schemes but the remainder of the money has to be found by the local authority. It is the multiplication of those schemes which has increased the rates and the rates have gone so high in the different counties that it is, probably, time to call a halt. Senator Douglas said that two rates should be struck, one by the local authority and one by the central authority. That is, more or less, what happens at present. Half of the cost of public assistance and of public health schemes is borne by the Central Fund. That is equivalent to Senator Douglas' idea. Then the money from the Road Fund accounts for the greater part of the cost of maintenance of the trunk roads.

When the councils had the carrying out of their own work, it had a good educational effect. Members of the council studied local government law and their powers and duties. When they went home after a meeting of the council, their neighbours gathered in and they discussed their powers and the limitation of those powers with them. That gave them an interest in local government and it is a pity to do away with that in any way. Senator Ruane said that the great difficulty about this Bill was Section 30, and that the Minister could now dissolve a council without an inquiry. That is not so. The bodies which have been dissolved were dissolved because an inquiry was held and it was considered that they had not done their duty in the striking of the rate. Under Section 30, provision is made for the holding of an inquiry. After the inquiry, the Minister, if he is so advised, will call upon the members of the council to strike a further rate or make sufficient provision. If they do not carry out that requirement, they will be dissolved. However, they get a double chance. They can go to the inquiry, listen to the evidence and subsequently change their minds, if they think fit. If they do, there will be no dissolution of the local body. I think that that is a relief rather than a worsening of the position of the local authorities. The only thing I object to in that section is that the local authority can be called upon to strike a supplementary rate. To my mind, that would be expensive. The cost of striking a rate is fairly considerable. A great number of clerks have to be brought in to fill up demand notes and receipts for the collectors of rates. When the agricultural grant is apportioned, they are brought in again and have to make an allowance in the rates in respect of that grant. That costs a considerable sum. I made inquiries in our county and I found that it runs to about £1,500 a year. If a supplementary rate had to be made, it would cost at least £900. I suggest that the Minister should consider empowering local authorities to raise a loan to supply the deficiency, that loan to be repayable within a term of 12 months. That is my objection to Section 30. If I thought that Section 30 was put into this Bill for any other purpose, I should oppose it.

I want to give a warning as to the suggestion I heard of an idea in the minds of the Department to widen the roads to, I think, 110 feet and, in our county, 92 feet. I hope that that is not contemplated and that there is no foundation for the rumour. There is no necessity whatever for speed tracks in this country, as in America and elsewhere. If you have these, you will have more accidents. They will have exactly the opposite effect to what is contemplated. I agree with the straightening of corners and the widening of certain parts of roads but the making of a road the width I have mentioned, with a place for cyclists, a place for motor-cars and a place for ordinary cars on each side, reminds me of the story of the professor making two holes, one for the small dog and one for the large dog, forgetting that the small dog could use the hole for the larger dog. I think that this proposal regarding roads is entirely unnecessary. The roads are very good as they are and very little improvement will make them perfect. If this idea is genuine, I hope it will be abandoned. I regard the waste of land as the serious aspect of it. We have not enough land. We want all we can get and I do not like to see too much of it taken away.

There is a provision in Section 10, sub-section (1):—

"Expenses of the council of a county shall, save where it is otherwise provided by law, be charged equally over the whole of the county."

It is very difficult to say what are expenses that are provided for by law. For example, there is the upkeep of the buildings of the local authority and the payment of certain members of the staff. I do not know that those are all provided for and it may be an injustice to charge them on the urban or sanitary authorities. I suggest that the Minister should consider the advisability of charging them on the county health district, instead of charging them on the county at large.

Section 14, relating to the rates on vacant premises in a county, appears to me to be word for word the same as Section 23, and I imagine some printing costs would be saved if Section 14 were altered to saying: "in any part, rural or urban, of a county" instead of leaving it for the urban area alone.

There is also Section 20, which deals with the adjustment of rents in certain areas. It deals with urban areas and Section 28 deals with areas in a town. So far as I can see, those two sections could be combined, with very little difficulty.

In the Second Schedule, Part I and Part II, I note that in boroughs and in urban areas the half rents are rateable to the poor rate under Section 63 of the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act, 1938. It is abolished in towns that have commissioners, as well as in rural areas, but it applies to urban areas and boroughs. One-half is too much. In some towns the rates are very high. I know a man who got a rent of £400 a year and thought he was a wealthy man, but found afterwards that he had to pay rates on £200 which, at 30/- in the £, took away £300 out of the £400, although he got that rent from the Land Commission. Rates and rents in towns have gone up considerably, but if you pay on half a rent you will find there will be very little left for the lessor. I suggest that the half should be changed in towns and I do not see why that should not be done in the other areas.

There were certain other points I expected would be brought into the Bill but they were left out. For example, there is a section of the Local Government Act, 1898, which enabled the Congested Districts Board to transfer to the county council certain harbours, but the section says "constructed by or acquired by the board". In the schedule to that Act, the harbours are mentioned that were transferred to the different councils. A great many of those harbours were not erected by the Congested Districts Board and had not been acquired by the board, so that it would appear as if, even though they are named in the schedule, they really were not entitled to be transferred, under the wording of the section. I hope some provision will be made so that the title to those harbours will be a valid title, though it is very doubtful if they have any power to do anything with them.

This Bill in some part goes a very small distance towards consolidating what has been described very fitly as the impenetrable jungle of the law of local government, a jungle which is appalling for anybody who has ever to face it in regard to ascertaining the law on any particular point. When it goes some distance, it is a pity it did not go very much further and is not very much more complete. In fact, I think I would not be unfair in saying that the only aspect in which it is complete in that respect is in regard to the part which deals with bridges. However, I hope sincerely that the completion of the task of consolidation is not one for which we will have to wait very long, for a variety of reasons, and more particularly because of the situation arising in respect to the County Management Acts.

I do not quite understand why it is said, in the opening section of the Bill, that the Local Government Acts of 1925 to 1941 are to be construed with this Bill, but the County Management Acts of 1940 and 1942 are not to be so construed. It appears to me to be essential that those Acts would be construed also, so that the interdependence between them and certain sections of the Bill may be considered as one homogeneous whole.

There has been a certain amount of discussion to-day on the working of the County Management Act, on its efficacy and its usefulness or otherwise. It so happened that, last night, I was in the other House for a few moments, listening to the Minister, and I heard him say that he entirely endorsed a remark made by another Deputy, that a manager should be the manager for the council and not the manager of the council. I agree—and I said it long before the Minister said it. I said it on a public platform in Naas. It was very shortly after the Act had been brought into force, but at that time there was not the direction and co-operation from the Department towards managers that there is to-day. Because I feel that that has been proved so absolutely, I welcome every criticism that is made of the tendency towards central government. I believe that the Minister will come to realise that that tendency is wrong, just as he came to believe, in the last three years, that the first manner in which he started on county management was entirely wrong and just as he has now mended his hand in that respect.

Many of us were inclined to blame the managers for the attitude they adopted when they took over first in 1942. I admit quite frankly that I was so inclined, and I admit equally frankly now that I was wrong. It was not the managers who were at fault in that respect in the first instance, it was the lack of direction in the right way that they did not get from the Department. In the beginning, the Department did not take up the firm attitude that it took up, for example, in the circular of the 7th February, 1946, which was issued by the Minister after he and his Department had been taught by the Kildare County Council the proper function of managers and the proper relationship of the manager to the council. That circular was issued only after there had been, in the previous November, what I might describe as a real dust up in Kildare, and when all Parties—the Minister's Party, the Labour Party and the Party to which I belong—united in making certain that the manager in Kildare was going to be the manager for the council and not of the council. It was only three months after we had stuck out our chests and showed we were united in action, that the real orders were sent out by the Minister to ensure that the manager would really be a true official and not the boss of the council. In the attitude of the Minister, I welcome that change with open arms and hope that it will continue. What I have said, I have said principally for the reason that I want publicly to state that it was perhaps unfair to blame individual managers when they were operating a policy which has now been changed by the Department of Local Government and Public Health.

We can remember the speech that the Minister made not very long ago in Dublin at, I think, a Fianna Fáil meeting when he said that, in his opinion, it would be better for local government if counties were abolished. That is all part of the attitude to get the streamlined efficiency about which Senator Hayes spoke. I entirely agree that you might, perhaps, get more streamlined efficiency if you had the whole country cut into little squares, each of the same size and each administered by a separate local authority. It might, perhaps, be more efficient in one respect. I want to suggest that, in my opinion, it would break down one of the most valuable things that we have in local government, and that is the county tradition. For that reason, I was a little surprised that up to this no one has publicly, so far as I know, objected to that tentative proposal on the part of the Minister. I want to suggest that no matter what efficiency might be produced by it, or how it might assist the problems of the Minister's Department in dealing with local government, that to do away with the county tradition—to lose all the value that stands behind it—would be a most retrograde step. In a short time it would mean the complete and absolute disappearance of any local government whatever in the land.

Senator Hayes and some other speakers voiced violent objection to Section 30. I want to join wholeheartedly in their objections. It seems to me that this section must be considered, not on its own but as part and parcel of the whole scheme of local government that is being put through at the present time. It must be considered in relation to the Public Health Bill that is before the other House, a Bill that is going to mean a vast increase in local taxation. It must be considered in relation to the scheme to which Senator O'Dea referred in regard to roads. I suggest that the real purpose of the section is to make certain that the Department of Local Government is going to be able to impose on a local authority, whether the local authority likes it or not, charges for dealing with the grandiose schemes that are under consideration and in preparation.

Hear, hear.

There was, in what I have described before now as the Bible of my friends opposite, an editorial on the 6th March, 1946, dealing with the rates that were about to be struck by the local authorities. This editorial appeared in theIrish Press, the newspaper which is directed and controlled by the Party which, at the moment, happens to be the Government. That editorial sneered at any attempt that might be made by county councils or urban councils to keep down the rates to a level which the people could afford to pay. The whole tendency of the article was one of incitement to local bodies not to bother in the slightest with the amount of rates that was going to be levied in the different areas, but to consider solely what could be done with the money so levied and collected. All of us have to cut our cloth according as we have it, and so it must be with local authorities. There is not the slightest use in starting grandiose schemes if it is not within the ability of the ratepayers to pay for them.

We should remember that the agricultural community may not always be in the position it is in to-day. There may be after this war, as there was after the first world war, a slump. Therefore when we are planning local government schemes we must make up our minds that when they come to be paid for, the country may be faced with a slump. We must make certain that the burden which will fall on the people in the future, arising out of those schemes, will be such that the people can meet it without any undue interference with their ordinary lives or with the carrying on of their ordinary business. That point does not appear to have sunk into the Department of Local Government. The Department is simply considering those schemes from the Dublin end, or from the point of view of service, without any regard for the ability of the people to pay for them. Unless we have a reversal of that policy we are going to find in Section 30 an instrument that will be used to ensure that the local authorities will be asked to strike and collect a rate that will be beyond the ability of the ratepayers to pay. I am not going to sit down and see that done, and neither are those who have already spoken, without making a most vehement protest against it, not only on this stage of the Bill, but on the Committee Stage when we shall have the opportunity of going into the matter in more deail.

I also want to refer to certain details relating to the operation of local government, some of which enter into the Managerial Act and some of which do not. I understand that there is, in regard to the central government, a thing which is known as the power of virement. That is to say, that in the case of an Estimate for one of the Departments of State, the expenditure under one sub-head may be exceeded, while under another sub-head it may not be reached. In that situation, moneys may be transferred from one sub-head to the other, provided that the total, or the over-all amount expended, does not show an increase on the Estimate as voted by the Dáil. There would appear to be, on the part of the local authorities, the very greatest doubt as to how that power operates in regard to local estimates. I have failed to ascertain whether a county manager has any right to transfer sums that are allotted to one sub-head of the county council estimate to another sub-head. There are, of course, four main sub-heads: road charges, public assistance, public health and the general purposes charges. These are all set out on the estimate form that comes before the county council. That may be all right so far as the council itself is concerned, but every council—and I think the Minister has urged this—has an estimates committee. It goes into the details under the four headings to which I have referred very much more specifically than the general council does at the estimates meeting.

Now, I quite appreciate that, so far as an estimates meeting is concerned, that without the permission of the council subsequent to the estimates meeting, the manager cannot transfer portion of the provision for roads for expenditure on public health, but it does appear to me that he is, perhaps, able to transfer money from one sub-head of public health to another sub-head of public health, and I would suggest to the Minister that there should be something in the nature of some authority to determine whether virement in that way can be exercised without the authority of the central government.

I understand that the practice in central government is that the sanction of the Department of Finance for virement must be obtained. I suggest that it should be possible for the Department of Local Government to arrange that virement should be possible after the consent of the chairman of the council has been obtained for the transfer. I do not think it would be desirable to bring the whole matter before the council and to thrash out all the estimates at a further meeting, but where there is going to be a saving on one sub-head, and where there is over-expenditure on another, I do think that the money allotted for one should not be transferred to the other without first having the consent of the chairman of the county council, or the local authority, whether town commissioners, urban council, or otherwise.

I do not see how I could bring in an amendment dealing with that subject on one of the sections. It would mean a new section and I am, therefore, throwing it out to the Minister on this Second Reading debate, so that he might consider it himself in the meantime, and, perhaps, I could persuade him to bring in an amendment on the next stage to that effect. I wanted to refer to another question that arises in rather the same way. The law of local government, as the Minister admits, has become most complicated. Even the recent County Management Acts are complicated, and it is very difficult to know what exactly are the powers of the councilvis-a-vis the manager.

I suggest it should be one of the specific duties of the county secretary —duties is the word, so that he himself cannot get into trouble by so doing it—that he should, whenever requested, give the council any information as regards their powersvis-a-vis the manager and whether certain acts done by the manager are within the proper powers of the manager. The elected members of the local authorities, unless there happens to be someone acquainted with the law, a member of that authority, will find it almost impossible to find out what their powers are in certain respects, unless there is some official who is authorised to advise them in that regard.

The secretary is the chief officer under the manager, and therefore it would be reasonable to require the secretary to advise the elected members, but he could not do that unless there was a specific requirement within the Act. If he did do it, without having the duty imposed upon him, it might afterwards be suggested that he was acting disloyally. Reference was made by Senator Hayes to the difficulties which local authorities were having in regard to the changing of officials. While I subscribe to the view entirely that it is wrong to confine a man to a particular job when he wants to get away, I feel that the present practice does not make for efficiency or for long service. I do think that we have to face the difficulty in local government and local authorities, that officials will go away to improve their positions. I know that it is a constant source of worry to local authorities that their officials are liable to leave them. I have heard many criticisms from my colleagues of the General Council of County Councils.

Frankly, many members of local authorities are worried and I think there will have to be some attempt made to suggest that where a person undertakes a position in a local authority, he will, at least, undertake to serve for some minimum term so that he will not be there for a month and immediately pass on to somewhere else.

I do not know if one of the results of this Bill, when it is passed, will be the publication of a new Public Bodies Order. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten me in that respect. If he does decide to make a new Public Bodies Order, I would like to draw his attention to one thing which might have very serious consequences. There is a provision in the present Public Bodies Order that rates and other moneys collected under or on behalf of a local authority must be lodged within 48 hours of receipt, to the account of the council. Now, we all know well what local conditions are, and how impossible it is to comply with this provision on occasions. We know that there must be stringent regulations to ensure against the possibility of moneys going wrong.

What is worrying me is this: that 48 hour regulation must be broken regularly and to the full knowledge of county council officials, and sooner or later, some rate collector, in a remote area, will go wrong and the insurance company which has his bond will say they are not liable because this man has broken his bond by not lodging the money within 48 hours, and the local authority has not taken steps to see that he complies with the order. The insurance company may go on that line, and may get out of their liabilities, and, therefore, I suggest that the order dealing with this matter should be an order capable of fulfilment. It is quite impossible in remote country districts for moneys to be lodged in 48 hours after the receipt of them. Very often these moneys are received on a Friday evening, and unless the rate collector is able to go to the nearest bank before it closes on the Saturday, he must hold over the money until Monday, and the order is thereby broken. It is bad to have orders of that sort when they cannot be fulfilled in the ordinary way.

Reverting to the question of roads, I think it is time we had a considered disclosure of intentions from the Department of Local Government as to what they intend to do in regard to those large scale arterial highways of which we have heard a certain amount of rumour. In the case of Kildare, for instance, many people would be interested to know what material difference these highways would make to the people. If rumour is right, it is intended that some of our towns will be by-passed in Kildare, and that the ordinary trader and business man will be seriously inconvenienced. It is essential that the people affected along the present routes should know what is going to happen. I think it is right that the Department should state their plans in respect of, at least, Kildare. Cottages are being built by the local authorities' authority on selected sites. We do not know whether they will be near main roads or not. We do not know what lines the roads will follow from Maynooth to Newbridge. There are many other areas similarly in the dark. How can there possibly be any proper site selection? How can there be any scheme of cottages to be erected until it is known what scheme the Department have in mind in regard to road development and local government development?

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

Before the adjournment I think I had covered almost all of the matters to which I intend to refer at this stage of the Bill with just a few small exceptions, however. One of the things which, at the instance of the Minister, has been done admittedly by the local authorities themselves in many areas, is now made mandatory under Section 10, namely, that there will be only one flat rate over the whole county and there will not be the separate charges to which we were heretofore accustomed. I can appreciate that that makes it very much easier for striking the rate and that it makes the administration much more handy, but I wonder whether it is wise to take away from councils that power to provide services by way of special charge. Perhaps we could deal with that more satisfactorily on the Committee Stage, except for the fact that it is all part of the same scheme and that a pure rule of thumb method would be adopted in every case rather than what may be suitable to meet the local needs.

Some time ago we had a Bill here dealing with harbours and on that Harbour Bill I adverted to the position in regard to officials who had transferred from a local authority to a harbour authority or vice versa. The same matter arises in respect of this Bill and, as I requested the Minister for Industry and Commerce in that case, so I now ask the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to see if there cannot be some method of insuring that service by a person now in the service of a local authority—if he has previous service with a harbour authority—would be counted in respect of his pension. It would need some fairly elaborate arrangement in regard to contributions and so forth and I do not think it is a proper matter for inclusion in this Bill. But the general principle, however, that there should be co-relation is one that should be accepted as it was accepted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in relation to harbour authorities. I would ask the Minister dealing with this Bill to indicate that so far as local authorities are concerned he would be prepared to concede the same reciprocity. In regard to another section of the Bill there is a difficulty going to arise which is somewhat unfair and which I do not think was visualised at all in the framing of the Bill. I refer to Section 67 which deals with traffic signs. I entirely agree with the Minister that the proper road signs should be uniform and should be set out in the regulations as to size, etc., and that they should be official. But, from the tourist point of view, I do not see what objection there should be to putting up a notice that such-and-such hotel is four miles away, that such and such garage is 100 yards away and that you can get goods of a particular type at Sweetman's shop—he has not one—a mile down the road. As the section is phrased, those advertisements could not be erected. I agree at once that it was not intended to exclude them, but I think that so long as the advertisement stated that the shop or hotel or other establishment was a certain distance away, then the sign would have to correspond in size and other regards with the advertisements referred to in sub-section (2). It would be unfair for business people to be restricted in that way while other people are entitled to deface the countryside with advertisements such as "Bile Beans are the best." It is a necessary attribute of a hotel that it should be able to advertise, with an arrow, that it is two or three miles down such-and-such a road. There should be some thing to deal with that.

That covers everything I wish to say in connection with this Bill except in connection with one section. I refer to Section 38. Section 38 provides that, where the appropriate Minister is of opinion that, on account of special circumstances, the duties of a particular office should not be performed by the holder of that office, he may, by Order, direct that the duties of that office shall be performed by a deputy. In his opening speech on this Bill in this House, the Minister referred to the existing power in this respect. He said that there was already provision in the Act of 1941 by virtue of which the duties of a particular office can be carried out by a deputy during the absence or illness of the holder of the office. He indicated further that there was some doubt whether, in other cases, performance by a deputy was a valid performance. I take it that the interpretation of the Minister's remarks is that, for illness or other short absence, the existing law is adequate. I want to make perfectly clear that, in my view, there must be very special circumstances, indeed, to make it proper that the duties of a particular office should be carried out during a long absence by a deputy. I want the Minister to tell us most specifically— if he is not in a position to do so this evening, I am quite prepared to wait until the Committee Stage—what are the existing cases which it is proposed to ratify by this section. I want the Minister to tell us most specifically by what legislative authority these existing cases have carried on and what statutory enactment this section will delete. Further, I want the Minister to tell us whether in any existing case where the duties are at present being carried out by a deputy, it will be necessary, once this section is passed, for a new Order to be made by the Minister approving of the office being carried on by a deputy. My information is that, prior to the advent of the Fianna Fáil Government, there was no provision to enable an office-holder to carry out public duties through a deputy for a long or indefinite period, that that was changed when the present Government came into power in the initial instance and that it was changed and carried out in reference to a particular office. If it had not been done in that one respect, there could not have been any reference to certain matters that were recently before the Dáil and Seanad. As I read it, this section is intended to give statutory recognition to that principle, which was one of the aspects of a matter which troubled us a fortnight ago. I want the Minister to tell us further the name of every person who is carrying out an office through a deputy.

On a point of order, the Senator seems to forget that the Minister is responsible to the Dáil for the administration of his Department and not to the Seanad.

The Senator does not forget anything of the sort. This section is being brought in to give statutory recognition to a particular principle and we are entitled in this House to know what the instances are which it is being brought in to cover. I submit, A Chathaoirligh, that I am perfectly in order in requiring to know the basis and the reason for the section which is in the measure that is before us and I assume, Sir, until you call me to order, that I may continue.

I want to know whether the rumour that is going around is true, that there is another case in which the duties of an office are being carried on by a deputy while the holder of that office is away but is acquiring pension rights and has a close connection with the Government. If that rumour is true, then it appears to me that this section is going to need the most stringent amendment, so that the House and the public will know whether a Parliamentary Secretary has been able to ensure that the operation of the order, which this section is changing, has been used to further his own particular family ends. We want to get this clear. There are other cases, too, down the country that are not so serious, but we should not be asked to enact this section blindfolded.

The Minister is responsible to the Dáil for the administration of his Department, I agree. We in this House are responsible for the legislation that goes through it and we would be burking our responsibility if, because it was unpleasant to refer to any particular action, we did not refer to it, when it was going to receive statutory recognition and statutory permission for the future. I wish to say only that on this stage, but we will come back to it again on the later stages of the Bill.

I do not intend to add much to the stream of eloquence which has flowed along the passage of this Bill this afternoon. In fact, I do not propose to discuss at all the question of local government administration which I imagine properly arises on the Bill. What I want to do mainly is to direct attention to one of the outstanding weaknesses of almost every measure that comes to this House from the Department of Local Government. This Bill is a consolidating measure, which proposes to repeal certain Acts of Parliament and reenact in a different form their main provisions. In the Schedule, seven Acts, mainly concerned with bridges and libraries, are being repealed; but the Bill, in the Schedules and otherwise, amends 40 other Acts of Parliament.

If there is one Department of State in which there is an outstanding need for codification, to bring all the laws relating to the activities and functions of the Department into one unified system, it is the Department of Local Government. The matter was referred to at some length on a motion which was before this House some months ago. Attention was drawn to the fact that many members of local authorities and many of the officials are unable to understand the laws applying to local government. At that time, an undertaking was given by the Taoiseach that the matter would be investigated, to see to what extent it would be possible to lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas codifications of the statutes under which local government administration is carried on. Instead of that, we get in this Bill proposals to amend 40 statutes.

The amendments are extraordinary, in some cases. If you look at the Schedules, you find words added, words deleted, sections deleted, paragraphs deleted, paragraphs amended, new paragraphs inserted. Then when you look at some of the sections in the Bill, you find other additions and other amendments to the same Acts. For instance, take Section 73. It purports to amend Section 86 of the Act of 1941 and to amend it in a manner that is not quite easy to follow. When you turn to the Schedule, you find there are further amendments to the Act of 1941—for instance, the repeal of Section 32. On top of all that, you find in Section 6, this provision:

"6.—(1) The Minister may by order make such adaptations in any statutory or other enactment in force at the passing of this Act and relating to any matter affected by this Act as are in his opinion necessary to enable the enactment to have effect in conformity with this Act."

This shows the state of confusion in which the law relating to local government is at present. My main concern is to draw attention to that and to urge the Minister, as early as possible, to have the whole code of laws, which goes back well over 100 years, in relation to local government administration, brought together, codified and rendered in up-to-date language. This Bill amends an Act which was passed in 1836 but was adapted with amendments by the Local Government (Adaptation of Irish Enactments) Act, 1889, and a number of other statutes. This state of confusion is unfair to local administrators who have to deal with public affairs.

I wish to refer to Section 41 and would go even to the extent of saying that it seems to me that this Bill was introduced largely for the purpose of enacting Section 41. Sub-section (4) of that section provides:—

"If the Emergency Powers (No. 216) Order, 1942 (S.R. & O., No. 433 of 1942), is revcked on the date of the commencement of this section, a sanction which was given by the Minister for the purposes of Article 3 of that Order shall continue in force and be deemed to be a sanction given by the Minister for the purposes of subsection (2) of this section and shall be capable of being revoked accordingly."

Sub-section (2) of the section sets out, in considerable detail, the provisions of the Emergency Powers Order to which reference is made, No. 216. It means, in effect, that under this section it will be unlawful for a local authority to give an increase of 1/- a week to a road worker without the sanction of the Minister. That is its purpose, briefly. You have in this Bill a conglomeration of sections dealing with bridges, with the audits of local authorities, with the casting vote of the chairman and other matters, all strung together. My submission is, that the main purpose, the principle of the Bill is to give effect to this provision which prohibits a county council from giving an increase of 1/- a week to a road worker unless and until they get the sanction of the Minister. I consider that a most serious invasion of the rights of local authorities. If we have local authorities with most of their functions clipped by the supervision of the county manager, it seems to me that they ought, at least, to have the liberty of saying what the local ratepayers who elect them are willing to pay the employees of the local authority. After all, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the people who should decide what is a reasonable wage to pay a carter, a quarryman or a road worker in a rural area are the ratepayers who have to pay the wages. If there is any difficulty or any disparity the local people will know it. The local council may not, I think, fix the rate of pay for these men themselves. It is done by the county manager, but the local authority has to find the money. The members have to find it in their own pockets, because they are the ratepayers who finance local administration.

That is more precise.

The point I am making is that the local authority is a body elected by the local ratepayers, and the latter are the people who will have to provide the funds, except to such extent as there are State grants for the administration of local affairs. If a county council, consisting almost exclusively of the farmers of the county, is agreeable to pay 40/- or 45/- to road workers and quarrymen, I think it is an outrage on local government to insert in this Bill a provision which says that that increase cannot become operative unless the council gets the sanction of the Minister, and that in a Bill which contains provisions authorising the Minister to instruct a local authority to make other appointments—to foist other appointments on a local authority whether the local authority like it or not.

I could understand the Minister defending the making of the Emergency Powers Order in the conditions under which we have been carrying on during the last six or seven years. Once the Minister for Industry and Commerce made an order pegging down the wages of the industrial workers and of workers in private employment, I can see the force of the Minister coming along and saying: "Well, if there is going to be a ‘standstill' in regard to wages in private employment, there is also a need for a ‘standstill' order applying to employees of local authorities." I think that both Ministers were foolish in taking that line. I think it was bad policy, and has had disastrous results and that these results are going to continue to be disastrous, for many years to come. As I have said, I can, at the same time understand the Minister defending the making of the Emergency Powers Order, but what I want to protest against is the continuance in permanent legislation of the power which he took when he made the Emergency Powers Order No. 216, and which is now being incorporated in this Bill.

I do not desire, as I said at the outset, to discuss the Bill in detail or to traverse the ground that has been covered by a number of other speakers in relation to the policy of local government administration, or the lack of a policy if one prefers that phrase. But I do point to the fact that the one essential link with the past five or six years which is embedded in this Bill is Section 41 which, in my opinion, should be deleted in this House. I hope that, at a later stage, the House will agree to the deletion of the section.

I would like, in the first place, to refer to a few technical points associated with Sections 10, 64 and 21. There is a certain amount of doubt in the minds of some people regarding the new amalgamated rate: whether, say, the poor rate would be regarded as a county-at-large charge or whether it would be regarded, as formerly, as a demand on the local council. From the references in the Bill to county-at-large charges, apparently the Bill is going to change some of these, and there is going to be a consolidated rate in the urban districts. It would appear that certain charges which have, up to the present, been classed as county-at-large will be treated as a demand on the local authority. That is of importance in relation to the assessment of the fraction for the relief of agricultural land proposed by the Minister. I have read the Minister's remarks regarding that which he made in the other House, and these remarks would seem to be just a little bit alarming at first sight. We are to have changes in the assessment fraction on agricultural land from one-quarter, in some cases, to three-quarters in others. There are some districts which will get an advantage from that, because it was stated that the assessment on agricultural land in certain towns, in Drogheda and Galway, was the same as the assessment on buildings. In other words, there was no relief on agricultural land in these towns but under this Bill the towns named will get a certain amount of relief. From the same statement made by the Minister, it would appear that some towns are going to get relief and that others will be made to suffer by having to carry larger burdens. It is a matter which, I think, requires a little clearing up. I am assuming that the new assessment fraction will apply to the consolidated rate made up of what is called the borough rate, plus the poor rate; the consolidated rate, that is three-fourths?

The consolidated rate, yes.

In that case, it is not quite so bad, because I found that this quarter applies only to sanitary rate. I cannot say that it is general, but it is the case in my town. I am glad the Minister says it will apply to the consolidated rate. Councils living in towns always regard it as a hardship to require the payment of poor rate on unoccupied houses. There is a considerable amount of ignorance about poor rate, but it did not matter how the demand was satisfied, and it was up to the town to make allowance for unoccupied houses and to levy the rate accordingly.

With regard to this new assessment fraction proposed, I want to call attention to the fact that the fraction of Dublin City is a half. The Minister explained that in calculating that fraction he was endeavouring to make it coincide as far as possible with the case before. In Limerick, I find the assessment fraction is three-fifths, and in Waterford it coincides with the fraction .7d. so that we have cases where in a big city like Dublin, there is an assessment fraction of a half, in Cork City three-fifths, and in Waterford .7d.

I think that roughly there are seven boroughs and it is proposed that three-fourths or .75d. be adopted. I suggest there is something needing explanation there. Land cannot be more valuable in these small boroughs than it is in Cork or Waterford. I was not able to find it for Cork in the City Management Act, but it probably is roughly the same as Waterford or Limerick, and it does seem very extraordinary that we should have a higher fraction in these smaller boroughs. If we take other towns which are not boroughs, the fraction accepted is three-fifths. If we take Dundalk as an example, we find that it has a population considerably higher than some of the other districts which are boroughs.

I think the population of Dundalk is round about 14,000 and that is greater than the population of Kilkenny or Clonmel, and yet the assessment fraction in that big town is lower than in other towns. The Minister referred to the desirability of securing uniformity but this uniformity can be worshipped too much. In fact, it was almost impossible to secure uniformity without inflicting a certain amount of hardship on people. I admit it makes things much easier instead of getting a whole lot of fractions under one heading. The rates can be estimated more quickly and so on, but that uniformity has been adopted without reference to the hardship you may inflict on the people who are the subject of it. That is as much as I would like to say at the moment on this new assessment fraction.

In Section 64 there is provision that when a local authority is put out of office all the subsidiary bodies also go out of office. I am associated with the vocational education committee and I was a member of it when the local authority was suspended and there was no attempt to interfere with what we call the original members. On a large body where Very Rev. Canons of the Church or other Church dignitaries, very sensible people, are members, it does seem a bit hard that they should find themselves suddenly ejected for no cause whatever. I doubt if people would like to offer themselves for appointment when their positions may be withdrawn without notice. I would like to suggest to the Minister that he could introduce some little qualifying provision to cover cases of that kind.

The county manager at the time was a very tactful man, and he told me that he wished to interfere as little as possible with the people who were working the different committees, and so on. In fact I think he attended only one meeting of that body, although he was representing the council. He left the external members unchanged and the work was very successful in that way and the good feelings created by his tact went a long way to carrying the country over critical and dangerous times. I would suggest something should be done about that particular matter.

Perhaps I should return for a moment to one point I forgot to mention earlier. We hear a lot nowadays of green belts and the necessity of planning towns so as to keep them in touch with the country as much as possible. There have been objections to ribbon building and very rightly, too, I should say. Unless something is done to give relief on the agricultural land within the borough it will be impossible for the people running these places to maintain agricultural land. They will be forced to sell the land for building purposes. If there could be any little encouragement it would be very desirable, because nothing could be more wholesome or natural than to keep the town and country side by side as much as possible.

Another thing is that the value of land varies very greatly. In my own town I find that the average valuation per statute acre works out at £1/11/0. There are portions of land below that figure and portions considerably above it. Some pieces of land touch as high as £5 per statute acre and it can be understood how difficult it is to carry on agricultural work of any kind with a valuation like that. Not alone does it involve the payment of a high rate but also a high property tax. These people will be obliged to go out of business and that will mean a certain amount of unemployment and that is the consequence I have indicated.

One of the technical sections of the Bill deals with the question of rates on unoccupied houses. Up to the present, so far as I know, you made a return of unoccupied houses, and no rates were collected. Under the present Act provision is made for the collection of the rate whether the house is occupied or not, and there is also provision for a refund. That seems an unnecessary formality which adds considerably to the work of the staff and collectors and what advantage will be achieved is not easy to see. I hope the Minister will consider that point.

With regard to the bigger aspects of the Bill, references have already been made to changes of officials. I do not know where Senator Hayes got his information nor do I know whether the case he mentioned applied to my own town or not but actually it does fit in with the experience of that town. There have been three or four different town clerks there in my own time and the local Press shows that the corporation is getting very restless about the matter. They are wondering can anything be done about these continuous changes resulting from the training of people for higher positions. It seems to me that our particular town is being made one of the training centres for that sort of thing.

The Appointments Commission has been referred to during the debate. Being an official myself, when I meet other officials in my own profession and professional associations we frequently talk shop about this matter and there is this general feeling about the Appointments Commission: it is known that certain people will be appointed sometimes months ahead. I could quote several cases of that myself.

On a point of order, may I point out that I have no responsibility for the Local Appointments Commission? The Local Appointments Commission was set up under its own Act and I suggest it does not arise under this Bill.

Yes. The only case where it would arise would be in relation to employees of the Local Government Department. Outside of that, is does not appear to go.

Mr. O'Reilly

Perhaps at some future date the House may have a discussion limited to the question of the Local Appointments Commission. Speaking for myself, as an official, I must say that my experience has been very happy in relation to county managers and such people. At the same time I feel that anything that endangers the position of the local authority will be bad for the counties themselves. Therefore, on this section which provides for action to be taken if an insufficient rate is struck—that is, after an inquiry as to the sufficiency of the rate or otherwise—I agree with previous speakers that that will not encourage the highest standards in local government.

If I were asked to state what is the keynote of the moment in regard to local government I would say that it is cynicism. There is a lot of cynicism at the moment. If one can so subordinate one's personal views and one's personality and feel happy while doing so then in the normal course one will probably go higher up the ladder. Those, however, who try to take an independent view of things are not happy about the present position. They feel that matters should be so organised that officials may ultimately reach the higher rungs of the ladder without having to comply with the views of any particular Party or any particular policy.

I agree with Senator Douglas that if a local authority acts wrongly it should be allowed to act wrongly because the people who elect the local authority do not deserve anything better and they will be forced ultimately to a position where if they have not the manhood to do it in the beginning, they will ultimately have to correct matters by putting in the proper type of people.

This artificial way of using the whip from headquarters, however, is not going to do any good but it will demoralise the people. I would be glad to see the Minister for Local Government going into close conference with the Minister for Education and devising a series of popular lectures with a view to opening the minds of the people in regard to citizenship and what is aimed at and intended in regard to rating matters and citizenship so as, generally speaking, to throw back responsibility on the people themselves.

Most of us have read, and some of us may have been present at a lecture given by Professor Hayek recently in University College, Dublin. He wrote a book on "The Road to Serfdom" and he pointed out that if we keep going in the direction we are going, that ultimately the same thing will happen in this country as happened in Germany. If we read a book recently published, on the "Managerial Revolution", we will see that we are taking part in a managerial revolution ourselves, that we are creating a privileged caste among the people and that the people outside that particular caste will have no chance of rising in the service. This will ultimately bear evil consequences. I want to assure the Minister now that I am not in the slightest degree influenced by political sentiments in what I say.

I have done a certain amount of thinking in this matter and I can tell him that if he came round to us officials in disguise and listened to our opinions he would hear views similar to those I have expressed. I have no intention at all of annoying the Minister when I say this. I think it is my duty to say it to him and I hope the Minister will take those views in the same spirit as they are offered.

I have made a few technical points and I would like the Minister to give them sympathetic consideration, particularly the view I have expressed on the assessment fraction for rates on agricultural land.

An té a léas teideal fada an Bille feicfidh sé gurb é an cuspóir feabhas a chur ar chóras an Rialtais Aitiúil. Tar éis scrúdú a dhéanamh ar an mBille, tá mé sásta go gcuirfidh sé feabhas ar an gcóras sin chomh fada agus is féidir le Bille nó dlí, dá fheabhas iad sin, a dhéanamh. An díospóireacht ar fad beagnach do bhí anseo inniu níor bhain sé leis an mBille. Ina áit sin, chaith na cainteoirí a gcuid ama a chur síos ar an Acht Bainistí Contae. Chaitheadar a gcuid ama ag fáil locht ar na Bainisteoirí. B'fhéidir go bhfuil an ceart acu, go bhfuil siad le cáineadh. Is dóigh go dtárlann uaireanta nach n-iompraíonn bainisteoir é féin ar an mbealach is stuama agus is ciallmhaire le linn dó a bheith a deighleáil leis an gcomhairle contae. I mo thaobh féin de, tá mé sásta gur daoine cliste iad na bainisteoirí. Ag an am céanna, ní mór dom a admháil nach mar a chéile fear cliste agus fear stuama ciallmhar. D'fhéadfadh duine a bheith an-cliste agus ag an am céanna nach mbeadh an-stuama agus an-chiallmhar. Caithfimid cuimhniú ar sin.

Is dóigh liom go gcaithfimid a bheith foighdeach agus, le himeacht aimsire, ní foláir go dtiocfaidh líon prionsabal chun cinn leis na daoine seo a stiúradh. Le himeacht aimsire, bunófar traidisiún sa tseirbhís sin agus nuair a thiocfas siad ní bheidh mórán cúis casaoide againn.

Ní fíor é nach bhfuil na daoine ag cur suime in obair na gComhairlí Contae. Ag an togha a bhi againn tamaillín o shoin, thugamar faoi deara an méid daoine a bhí ag iarraidh dul isteach sna Comhairlí Contae agus thaispeáin na gnáth-dhaoine go raibh tuigsint acu ar an gcóras nua. Tháinig athrú mór ar an gcóras rialtais áitiuil nuair a tháinig na bainisteóirí. Comhairleóiri Contae a raibh taithí acu ar rialtas áitiuil sul tháinig an tAcht Bainistí Contae i bhfeidhm, admhaíonn siad go bhfuil ríméad orthu mar gheall air. Roimhe sin, bhí ar na Comhairleóirí a lán aimsire a chaitheamh le mionrudaí. Bhíodh a lán daoine ag iarraidh orthu rudaí a dhéanamh ar a son agus ba deacair dóibh a ndualgais a chomhlíonadh i gceart. Anois, an obair atá acu baineann sé le polasí agus leis na ceisteanna móra maidir le rialú na Contae. In ionad a bheith ag caitheamh a gcuid aimsire le mionrudaí, tá siad saor chun aire a thabhairt do cheisteanna dlithe, prionsabail soisialtais agus prionsabail rialtais agus is dóich liom gur fearrde na comhairli contae an t-athrú sin.

Ba mhaith liom rud a mholadh maidir leis an taobh seo den scéal. Ba mhaith liom duine éigin a bheith ann a bhfuil an-tuigsint aige féin ar rialú poiblí, duine a thuigfeas ag an am céanna aigne na comhairle contae, an polasaí atá an Roinn Rialtais Aitiúil ag iarraidh a chur i bhfeidhm, agus a bheith ann mar liaison idir an Roinn agus na bainisteoirí agus mar liaison idir na bainisteoirí ad féin. Chuideodh an duine seo leis na bainisteoirí na deacrachtaí móra a bheas acu ó am go ham a réiteach ar an mbealach is fónta. Chuirfeadh sé in iúl dóibh an méid atá ar bun i gcontae eile, an bealach ina n-ionsaítear ceisteanna achrannacha sná contaethe eile agus ar an mbealach sin cuirfí chomh-oibriú ar bun i ngnotha rialtais áitiúil.

Is dóigh liom go dtugtar na bainisteoirí go dtí an Roinn féin ó am go ham le comhairle a ghlacadh i dtaobh nithe mar iad seo atá i gceist agam. B'fhéidir go bhfuil cigiré nó cigirí den tsaghas atá mé tar éis a mholta ag obair cheana. Má tá, is maith é. D'fhéadfadh sé bheith go bhfuil sé ró-luath an toradh atá mé ag iarraidh a bheith ar fáil. D'fhéadfadh sé nach bhfuil mé sáthach foighdeach agus go mbeidh an rud atá mé ag iarraidh ar fáil ar ball.

Tá rud nach dtaithníonn liom agus sé an rud é ná deacrachtaí atá ann má éiríonn ceisteanna achrannacha le réiteach idir an bainisteoir agus oifigigh nó séirbhísigh chomhairle contae. Níl aon ghléas ná goireas ann le go bhféadfaí na ceisteanna sin a thabhairt os comhair údaráis éigin go phoiblí le go scrúdófaí agus réiteofaí iad. Má éiríonn ceisteanna achrannacha idir na hárd-oifigigh, is féidir fiosrú poibli a chur ar bun. Is dóich liom gur féidir faoin Acht Bainistíochta Contae le duine a chasaoid a chur isteach go dtí an tAire é féin; ach is é an locht a faightear ar an scéal sin go gcuirtear in iúl do na seirbhisigh nach cead doibh dul ag aon duine taobh amuigh lena gcuid casaoide. Cuirtear in iúl dóibh nach ceart dóibh dul thar an mbainisteoir lena gcuid casaoide. Bíonn an-fhaitíos ar sheirbhísigh má chuireann siad féin casaoid ar aghaidh go dtí an tAire go bhfuil siad marcálta agus go n-íocfaidh siad as i ndeireadh scríbe.

Sílim go ndearnadh tagairt do chás áirithe i dtaobh seirbhíseach a bhí tamall fada in oifig an-tábhachtach. Ní raibh sé sásta leis na coinníollacha fostaíochta mar d'athraigh an saol go mór ó thóg seisean an posta.

Ní raibh aon bhealach aige a chúis a chur dá scrúdú agus réiteach a fháil air. Is é a thárla sa deireadh gur bhris ar an bhfoighid aige agus gur imigh sé glan as a phosta. Is é an chúis is mó go bhfuil an-aiféala orm é bheith imithe a fheabhas a bhí an Ghaeilge aige agus a riachtanaí atá sé Gaeilge mhaith a bheith ag an oifigeach a bheadh sa phost atá i gceist agam. Más cheart é a luadh anseo anois, is truagh liom nach bhfuilimid níos déine ná mar atáimid, agus na postanna sin á líonadh, maidir le eolas a bheith ag na daoine ar an teanga. Ba cheart féachaint chuige, ní amháin go mbeadh daoine ann a mbeadh an teanga acu, ach go mbeadh daoine ann a bheadh umhal ar an teanga a labhairt. Is iomdha Gaeilgeoir sa tír nach labhrann Gaeilge.

Tá rud ann in alt 28 a bhaineas le rátaí ar fhoirgintí. Ba mhaith liom go smaoineodh an tAire, am éigin, an bhféadfadh sé na tithe agus fundúireachtaí atá ag plé go díreach le Gaeilge agus le saoithiúlacht Ghaeilge a shaoradh ó rátaí.

Is fíor go bhfuil scoltacha ar fud na tire saortha faoin dlí, ach tá daoine ann a cheannaigh tithe nó a thog ar cíos le seans a thabairt do dhaoine óga teacht isteach agus an teanga a fhoghlaim agus a cleachtadh agus freisin cleachtadh a dhéanamh ar nithe a bhaineas le saoithiúlacht na Gaeilge. Níl mé ag iarraidh go saorfaí aon duine ó rátaí muna bhfuil an obair atá ar bun aige go fíreannach agus go díreach agus go cinnte ar son na Gaeilge, agus go bhfuil oideachas a thabhairt sa bhfoirgint. Tá sampla den tsórt sin i nGaillimh d'fhéadfainn a luadh. Tháinig cuid againn le chéile ann agus chuireamar airgead as ár bpocaí féin i dtoll a chéile. Cheannaíomar teach mór agus táimid ag iarraidh gach uile shórt rud a chur ar bun ar mhaithe leis an teanga, agus saoithiúlacht na Gaeilge. Níl aon ioncam againn ná aon ghnóthachan beag ná mór. Ina a dhiadh sin, caithfimid rátái troma a íoc— £1 10s. faoin £—gach bliain ar an áras sin. Níl a fhios agam an bhfuil an dlí go cinnte díreach ina choinnibh, ach d'iarramar cúpla uair go mbeadh an teach slán ó rataí agus ní raibh an bainisteoir contae sásta—agus is eisean an príomh-dhuine, is dóich—geilleadh don iarrtas. Níl a fhios agam cé hé a bhfuil údarás aige, sa deire, faoin scéal. Tá súil agam go gcuimhneoidh an tAire ar an scéal sin. Má tá an dlí inár gcoinnibh, b'fhiú dó féachaint chuige go saorfaí obair den tsórt sin ó rátaí, mar tá sé díreach chomh tábhachtach le obair na mbunscol agus obair scoile ar bith eile.

Maidir le Altanna 74, 75, 76 altanna a bhaineas le ainmneacha sráideanna agus bailtí, tá a fhios agam go bhfuil deacrachtaí maidir le athrú a dhéanamh ar na hainmneacha sin. Ba mhaith liom a iarraidh ar an Aire— agus ní rud an-mhór é agus sílim go bhféadfaidh sé é thabhairt dúinn—go mbeadh cead ag údarás áitiúil, más mian leo, an t-ainm Gaeilge a chur ar shráid agus gan é d'áireamh mar ainm nua. Tá sompla agam féin sa bhaile: sé "An Bóthar Árd" an t-ainm a bhí ariamh ar an mbóthar ar a bhfuil mé mo chomhnaidhe. Tugadh "Taylor's Hill" ar an gcuid íochtarach den bhóthar agus sin é an t-ainm atá cuid de na daoine a tabairt ar an mbóthar ar fad le tamall. Ní ceart go mbeadh orainn anois dul go dtí an comhairle cheanntair agus vótal a bheith ann chun go mbeadh sé de cheart againn an t-ainm ceart, sé sin "An Bóthar Árd", d'úsáid. Cuirim sompla eile i gcás: má tá "Mary Street" ar sráid, má shocraíonn an chomhairle cathrach "Sráid Mhuire" a thabhairt uirthi, ní ainm nua é sin, agus ba mhaith liom nach measfaí mar ainm nua é. Feicim go bhfuil deacrachtaí ann ó thaobh dlí ach tá súil agam go dtabharfar tosaíocht sa chás sin don Ghaeilge.

I dtaobh ailt 89, tá an riaráiste oibre ann maidir le iniúchóireacht ar fud na tíre. Béidir gurb é na blianta cogaidh a bhí ciontach leis an riaráiste mór a bheith ann, agus béidir go bhfuil na hiníúchóirí ag teacht suas leis an obair anois. Muna bhfuil, sílim gur ceart— bíodh go dtarraingeodh sé costas mór— níos mó iniúchóiri a chur ag obair, ar chuntais na n-údarás poiblí.

Maidir le alt 93, alt a bhaineas le gearradh crann, ba mhaith liom go smaoineodh an tAire Rialtais Aitiúil ar an rud a mhol mé don Aire Tailte nuair a bíomar a cur síos tamall ó shoin ar maidir le foraoiseacht—go ndéanfaí socrú nach gceadófaí crainnte a d'fhásfadh mór a phlandáil in aice na mbóithre móra. Ag taisteal na tíre dhom le blianta, is iontach an méid crann a chonaic mé tuite i ndiaidh stoirme. Fiú amháin i lár an tsamhraidh, coicís ó shoin, ag teacht ó Ghaillimh go dtí an Seanad dom, b'éigin dom cupla uair, dul timpeall den bhóthar mhór, thart cúlbhealaí, mar gheall ar chrainnte a bheith tuite trasna ar an mhóthar mór.

Tá súil agam nach mbeidh sé dé mhíádh orainn crann tuitim orainn a chuirfeadh deireadh ar fad linn.

Ar mhaithe le lucht taistil na mbóthar agus sláinte an phobail i gcoitinne, ba cheart dúinn féachaint chuige nach mbeidh aon chrann den tsórt sin ag fás i bhfogas 40 nó 50 troigh den mhórbhóthar, mar is mór an chontiúrt iad nuair a lobhas siad. Tá an oiread spéise agam i gcrainn agus bainim an oiread aithnimh astu le duine ar bith eile ach is mó mo spéis i mbeatha duine agus ba mhaith liom nach mbeadh na crainnte lobhtha sin ina mbaol báis do dhuine ar bith.

Isé cuspóir an Bhille feabhas a chur ar an chóras rialtais áitiúil. Níor thaispeáin einneach anseo aon áit nach ndéanann an Bille feabhas—chomh fada agus is féidir le Bille nó dlí é dhéanamh. Té mé an tsásta go bhfuil sé os ár gcomhair agus tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh sé an mhaitheas atá ceaptha dhó a dhéanamh.

Mr. Patrick O'Reilly

In the few words that I have to say on the Bill, I propose to direct them to matters which seem to me to warrant attention. I do not propose to deal with the general principle of the Bill. I think it would be impossible to do that unless one were to make a study of all the Acts that have been passed from the reign of George or William down to the Local Government Act of 1941. Apparently, the Minister is taking power in this Bill to ensure that it will be possible to dissolve subsidiary bodies which are nominated by local authorities. It seems to be a peculiar Ministerial custom to dissolve local authorities in such counties as Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim. I suppose that is following up the good example that was set by the Minister for Local Government when the Mayo County Council was dissolved many years ago. I do not think it would be advisable to dissolve such boards as were set up under the Act of 1856, as amended, in so far as it affects the Corrib Navigation Act of 1945. That Act, and the amending Act, so far as it applied to the Corrib navigation, proposed to set up boards of trustees to control certain navigations. In the event of a particular county council being removed from office, it is probable that these boards of trustees would not be removed since they may not come under Section 52 of the Act of 1941. I am not a lawyer and cannot say what the position would be. My object in drawing attention to it is that the Minister may deal with it when he is replying.

I am also worried about the effect of Section 37 in so far as it proposes to deal with married officers. Unless it was specifically stated in the terms of his appointment that an officer would have to retire on marriage, I do not think such an officer should be retired compulsorily unless compensation was awarded to him. I know of one or two cases where people were appointed to positions. At the time of their appointment there was no reference whatever to the fact that they would have to retire on marriage.

I assume that male persons would have been appointed to positions as a result of examination. Therefore, if this Bill should have the effect of obliging them to retire, I would consider that a hardship was being inflicted on them. It may be stated that this section only deals with persons who gave an assurance or made a contract to retire on marriage, but that because of some faulty legislation it was not possible to retire them when they got married without the enactment of this particular section.

When discussing a Bill like this dealing with local government, it is difficult to avoid making some reference to the Managerial Act and to the system that is operating under it. I would like to see that system a success because I realise that it would be impossible in modern times for members of local authorities to discharge many of the duties that are now their responsibility.

There must be an executive officer with executive authority to carry on the work unless the position is to be arrived at when local authorities will remain in permanent session which, as in the case of Parliament, is impossible. I am of opinion, although I would like to see the system a success, that there is grave disquiet. Members of local authorities are not at all satisfied with the operation of the managerial system. It is very hard to state exactly where the fault lies. It may be that members of the local authorities are not taking full advantage of the powers they have.

If the Minister would state that, I would be inclined to agree with him, but there is a feeling that the loyalty of the managers is to the Custom House rather than to the local authority that employs and pays the manager. There is distrust and non-co-operation in local administration, which unless it is removed, will ultimately lead to bad results. It is an unfortunate thing from the Minister's point of view that local bodies continue to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of the Managerial Act. That is happening irrespective of the political outlook of members of the county council, and why there is not that confidence and co-operation I cannot understand.

I think that local authorities should be given as much power to deal with matters as would reasonably be workable, having regard to all the circumstances, because where a local authority feels it is only a rubber stamp and that the manager is cooperating more with the Department of Local Government than with the county council, there is bound to be that non-co-operation that will make local government really a menace to this country in the end, should it continue to go in that direction.

The one big fault in my opinion in the Managerial Act is the lack of the human touch. No matter how efficient a manager is he cannot discharge his duties and functions in regard to public health and local assistance matters as well as the local authority, composed of men who have local knowledge and the human touch. Any mistakes that were made by members of the old boards of health were made in favour of the poor. It is possible under a very efficient system devised by the manager to make mistakes also but they may be made against the poor rather than in favour of the poor. I would regard it as more important to make mistakes in favour of the poor than against them. I can see that the aim of this measure is to ensure that local government will be more precise and efficient and that there will not be any doubts about the ability of the Minister to dissolve local authorities.

It is a pity that view is taken in official quarters because it has been stated that local authorities should have a right to go wrong. I consider it would be better for a Government Department to allow a body to go wrong and to allow the people responsible to put them right, as in my opinion, and I have faith in democracy, the people would put them right. It would be far better to allow the people to put them right than to have a continual whip over their heads in the shape of a Government Department.

As a councillor for over a quarter of a century, I have fairly wide experience of local affairs, and I am more than surprised by the attitude taken up by the present Minister for Local Government in sending down county managers over the county councils of the Twenty-Six Counties. In my experience, our council has done nothing wrong. We have always carried out the dictates of the Minister for Local Government. I have acted under the British Government, under Mr. Cosgrave, and under the Fianna Fáil Government and I have found out now that our powers are altogether finished. We have no powers. When I was on the board of health we could give away labourers' cottages. We could make the appointments of charwomen in hospitals, but to-day we cannot do any such thing.

I find that it takes four months to give out labourers' cottages under the present managerial system while we used to give them out every month. That means that the local authority is losing money because of this roundabout procedure. As I said, we used to give out cottages at every monthly meeting. Now, applications must go to the medical officer of health, from that to the rate collector and the dispensary doctor and back again to the manager. Very often, this means four months' delay. I consider that the local authorities in the past have always acted conscientiously, and I have the greatest praise for the work done by the county councils. This managerial system is the negation of democracy and I consider that the councils all over the country are being driven to taking no interest in local business. In time to come I believe that it will be difficult to get local councillors to act owing to this filching away of their powers.

Another matter to which I should like to refer is the question of travelling expenses for county councils. I think the Minister has made no proper provision for it at all. I know councillors who travel considerable distances. The other day I met a man who cycled 24 miles for 3/-, that is 1½d. per mile. I consider that such a man should get proper remuneration, otherwise I do not see how he could be expected to travel.

On a point of order, I do not like to intervene in this discussion, but really the House is discussing the administration of local government. There is nothing in this Bill about travelling expenses. If I come here to help the House, I do not see why my time should be taken up with extraneous matters.

Section 17 of this Bill deals with election expenses and I cannot see why travelling expenses are not relevant. My point is that travelling expenses should be dealt with. I may say that I agree with the Minister in the section dealing with the striking of insufficient rates. I know that some councils have been cheese-paring in this matter of striking the rates, and have been paying £500 or £600 on overdrafts as a result. But, for the rest of the Bill, I do not think it is a good Bill. It has filched away the powers of local representatives and it will be difficult to get men to serve on local authorities in the future.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister to conclude.

Sir, it is an astonishment to me to find there have been so many sedulous students ofMein Kampf in this House. The Opposition Senators have evidently gone on the theory that if they misrepresent the purpose of this Bill and repeat and reiterate that misrepresentation ad nauseam, they will get the public to believe there is something in what they have to say. This misrepresentation began with Senator Hayes, was continued by Senator Baxter, was taken up by Senator Douglas, was pursued by Senator Sir John Keane and we have just heard, so far as this debate is concerned, the end of it from Senator Hayden. Senator Hayes started the ball rolling by saying that in this Bill we were witnessing the final binding up of the local authority so that it cannot move head or foot. He alleged that in some way we were trying to make conditions in Kerry obtain similar to those which have prevailed in Galway and suggested that by doing that we were in some way infringing the liberty and impairing the efficiency of the local authority. But none of the Senators who took that line of argument in this debate referred me to any sections except, I think, three, out of the 93 sections in the Bill which in any way curb or circumscribe unduly the liberties of the elected representatives.

Take Part II of the Bill for instance. Part II contains provisions dealinginter alia with the keeping of accounts, providing for the proper accounting of public moneys, for the consolidation and levying of rates, for the rating of vacant premises and for the relief on land and certain other properties in county council and urban areas in respect of rates. I would like Senator Sir John Keane to tell me which of these particular provisions he objects to. He will have an opportunity on the Committee Stage of the Bill. Does he object to the fact that we are providing, first of all under Section 7, that the fund that was maintained immediately before the commencement of this particular Section shall be continued in existence? In what way does that unduly circumscribe the liberty of action, or would he desire that the county council should be at liberty to wind up that fund and dissipate its moneys in whatever way the elected representatives may seem fit to do?

Section 8 provides that all moneys shall be paid to the treasurer of the council and goes on to lay down that save as provided by the section only the receipt of the treasurer shall be a good discharge to a person paying a sum to the council. Does Senator Sir John Keane, Senator Hayes or Senator Douglas see anything objectionable in that provision from the point of view of sound administration and good local government? The same section goes on further to provide that the treasurer of a county shall pay the sum received by him under this section, if the sum is paid for the purpose of a voluntary civic improvement fund, into that fund, but in all other cases into the county fund. In what way can the enactment of a statutory provision to that effect be thought to be contrary to the proper purposes of a local government Bill? Section 9 states that all expenses incurred by the council shall be paid out of the county fund and that payment shall not be made out of the county fund unless it is properly authorised in accordance with Section 21 of the County Management Act.

I could go through every one of the provisions of this Part II of the Bill and show that every one of them is proper and necessary for the good administration of a local authority. We have got Senator Sir John Keane, however, coming up here and alleging that the purpose of this Bill is to make local authorities mere ciphers and their managers creatures of the Minister. The same thing applies to Part III. Part II deals mainly with the local authority finance. Part III makes some amendments which have been found necessary in order to clarify the position of officers of the local authority in regard to their tenure of office and in regard to the amalgamation of offices where the local authorities desire that the offices shall be amalgamated. To what single provision under Part III of the Bill, except perhaps Section 38, does Senator Sir John Keane or any other Senator who has spoken in criticism of this Bill, object? Is it their contention that there should be no proper procedure laid down for the amalgamation of offices under local authorities and that there should be no provision for regulating and controlling the remuneration of servants and of certain officers of local authorities, that the local authority should be left at liberty to pay whatever salaries and fix whatever remuneration it likes for these officers, irrespective of the fact that the central authority, the State, is the largest ratepayer in this country and by far the largest contributor to the local funds?

As I am on this point in relation to Section 41, may I inform the House that we pay no less a sum than £2,800,000 to local authorities in respect of rates on local lands, that we pay over £1,000,000 as a contribution to the maintenance of county roads, that we pay half the cost of many of the county health services, and that therefore we are vitally interested—the State, the Oireachtas and the Government, which is responsible to the Dáil and to the taxpayers—are vitally interested in seeing that the remuneration paid by local authorities to their officers would be reasonable and will not be extravagant?

Did you ever find any of them extravagant?

I have no apology to make for the fact that we, the Central Government, are doing what it is prudent to do and what ratepayers expect their local representatives to do, that is, to see that the local remuneration is proper and is just. That means that it is proper to the office and to the requirements of the office and is just to those who have to provide the money.

Take Part IV of the Bill. That Part proposes to consolidate, codify and modernise the law regarding the construction of bridges, viaducts and tunnels in all those cases where more than one local authority is concerned. Hitherto we have been operating on a code which dates back to the year 1813, I think. We are proposing to modernise that code. We are amending it and altering it so as to adapt it to modern requirements. Because of the fact that we had not a modern code to deal with this matter, very important bridge works have been held up. We could not get the local authorities to agree as to which of them should move first. Yet, when we bring in a Bill which will simplify the procedure and make it, so far as possible, comparatively inexpensive, we have to listen to speeches such as those delivered by Senator Sir John Keane, Senator Hayes, Senator Sweetman and Senator Baxter. Do they want me to delete Part IV and let the old system stand?

Delete Section 30.

When they say that we may pay too much for efficiency and when they talk about streamlining, do they want us to go back to the obsolete provisions of 1813? If we did, the first to cry out and criticise us for doing that would be the Senators who have criticised this Bill.

Take, then, Part V of the Bill. Section 61 of Part V clears up a question which was sometimes in dispute as to the right which a person who has not been elected to a council has to vote if, by chance, he comes to preside as chairman over the first meeting of the council. The chairman of a council does not go out of office until his successor is elected.

It may happen that, following the local elections, the outgoing chairman is not elected. He may decide to go to the first meeting of the council and exercise his right to take the chair. Cases have arisen in which he has claimed the right to vote. That right to vote has been challenged. The law is obscure in the matter. In Section 61 we are clarifying the law. Is that undue interference with the proper functions of the county councils or do those Senators who have been criticising the Bill want us to leave matters in their present confused state? It seems to me that that is what they want us to do.

Take Section 62. That deals with the right way of deciding a matter about which a division has taken place in the local authority, resulting in an equality of votes. I do not see how, in trying to do that, we are to be condemned on the ground that we are interfering with the due and proper liberties of the local authorities. In Section 63, we are restoring a power which was formerly vested in the Minister for Local Government and of which he was only divested by the Act of 1941. Experience has convinced me that, where a local authority refuses or wilfully neglects to comply with a requirement which is imposed upon it by or under any statutory or other enactment, it should be removed from office without putting the ratepayers of the functional area concerned to the expense of having a sworn inquiry, when the inevitable result of the inquiry would be to show that the members of the local authority had been obdurate and persistent in their refusal to fulfil the requirements of the law. Section 64 clears up doubts. It has been the invariable custom, wherever members of a local authority have been removed from office, to act on this interpretation of the law, that their bodies are dissolved with the local authority.

Does that include an agricultural committee?

Only in so far as the members are members of the county council.

A new committee has to be set up and has always been set up in such circumstances. The practice has been, acting on a certain interpretation of the law, that these bodies should disappear with the local authority which set them up. We want to make that position clear beyond doubt. Section 65 fixes at three the quorum of commissioners in a town which is not an urban district. At present, the quorum is six. In the case of urban district councils, it is three and we do not see any reason for having a quorum of six in the case of town commissioners. Section 66 deals with the audit of accounts of certain public bodies. The principal part of it is intended to clear up a sort of duality in the law which appears to give to two separate Ministers the right to determine when and why and by whom the accounts of certain subsidiary bodies, like vocational education committees and boards of conservators, should be audited. It is quite true that this dual legal authority has not, in practice, caused any inconvenience or led to any conflict of opinion, but Senators will agree that it is desirable that only one Minister should be in a position to determine these matters. That is the purpose for which Section 66 appears in the Bill.

Section 67 gives to the Commissioner of the Gárda power to require local authorities to erect road-signs in order to provide for the public safety. It makes further provision to ensure that these signs will be mechanically operated in places where that is necessary. In what way can a requirement of that sort be held to be contrary to the public interest or to be an undue infringement of the rights of local authorities? Are we to take it that Senators who have criticised this Bill wish to refrain from giving to the commissioner powers which are necessary to secure the safety of the public?

Did any Senator challenge that section?

The Senator challenged the Bill generally. The grounds of his challenge, and the grounds upon which his colleagues took their stand, was that the Bill, in general, constituted an unwarranted interference with the rights of the local authorities.

I urged my criticism on the ground of the general policy of the Minister, not necessarily confined to this Bill.

The Minister will recollect that, so far as the consolidating sections which he has mentioned are concerned, I said it was a good thing we had them. He has shied off the issue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister must be allowed to proceed.

Wherever we challenged him, we were very specific as to the sections, but the Minister is evading discussions on the sections.

Senator Sir John Keane said: "Leave the local authorities to do what they like" so that Kerry will not be brought up to the same standard as Dublin.

There is a Kerryman here. Let us hear what he has to say.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister is in possession.

I am glad to see that Senator Sweetman was not so general in his condemnation. He praised Part II.

And Part IV.

And Part IV. I suppose his attitude was like that of the curate towards his egg. Still, you cannot have an egg which is slightly good or slightly bad: it is either good or bad. This Bill in general is a very good Bill, but if Senator Sweetman is not prepared to say it is a good Bill in every Part, there are other Senators who are prepared to condemn it in every Part, because they had not a good word for it at all. Like Senator Sir John Keane, they said: "Let them do as they like." That means we should have an inefficient system of accountancy, say, in County Kerry and perhaps a good system in Donegal. We may have good administration in Waterford, but it does not matter to a Waterford man whether there is good administration in Mayo or not. The general purpose of the Bill is to ensure that there will be good local administration all over the country. That is the purpose for which the Department of Local Government exists.

Before the Minister leaves Section 67, would he deal with the question of hotels?

Yes, I intended to deal with Senator Sweetman's speech in general, but I will say, so far as the advertising of hotels is concerned, I do not think that traffic signs erected by a public authority should be used for the purpose of private advertising.

Hear, hear, but the section provides further that no one else can erect a sign. That is my objection.

I do not think there is any prohibition on the erection of a sign in an ordinary case.

Yes, under sub-section (10).

Sub-section (10) says that a person other than a road authority shall not provide a traffic sign visible from the road without the consent of the commissioner. That is because the sign may be misleading. It must be a sign which will not endanger the safety of the public. But the sub-section does not say that in no circumstances will a traffic sign be allowed to be erected by any other person than a public authority. The Senator must be assured that the commissioner will act reasonably in a matter of this sort, bearing in mind that we want to facilitate travellers—and particularly travellers by road—in getting to their destination or in satisfying their material needs on the way.

I think it would be covered by the restriction on signs in sub-section (2).

Perhaps it would. It would have to be a sign of reasonable dimensions and, as the Senator will appreciate, from the point of view of tourist development it will have to be a sign which will not be a disfigurement to the site on which it is erected.

But it may not be a disfigurement.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

May I remind the Minister at this point that there is a matter on the adjournment at 9.30?

I am very sorry but, after all, I have been here all day. I want to remind Senators that they are responsible for dealing with those Bills which are the responsibility of the Seanad, that the Minister attends here to assist the Senators in discussing a Bill and does not come here to hear his Department criticised, that the Minister is not responsible to the Seanad. I very strongly object to a Bill of this sort being used to criticise my administration of the Department. As I have said, the Minister attends here as a constitutional right.

And responsibility.

It is the Seanad's duty to dispose of the measures which are sent to it by Dáil Éireann and the Minister comes here to assist Senators in discharging that duty, but he is not bound to listen to some of the things to which I was compelled to listen to-night.

On a point of order, that is criticism of the Chair and should not be allowed, as the Chair is the judge of order and not the Minister.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister may proceed.

If the Minister did not come to the House with the Bill, he would not get the Bill.

The Senator had better refer to the Article in the Constitution which Senator Sweetman had in mind when I was last before the Seanad. I am quite prepared to discuss measures in a reasonable way when I come here, but I must protect my constitutional position as Minister responsible to Dáil Éireann.

To Oireachtas Éireann.

To Dáil Éireann. The Senator should go and study the Constitution in that regard. The Minister's responsibility with regard to the administration of his Department is to Dáil Éireann. The Seanad's responsibility in regard to the Bill is likewise to Dáil Éireann. I am reminding the Seanad that the House has very definite responsibility in relation to the Bill.

Let the Minister try to get his Bill without coming here and see what happens.

I do not think the Senator would prevent me from getting the Bill. Section 69 gives a road authority power to undertake works jointly with a harbour authority. It gives them power. You have been told that this Bill is filching powers from local authorities. You have been told that by Senator Baxter and by Senator Hayes.

The next section provides that the Minister has power to arrange scales of maximum expenses for elections regulated by rules framed under the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Act, 1898. Section 71 gives to the local authority general power to ensure against damage by fire.

They had that all along.

That is not so. If that were so, this section would not be in the Bill.

We will discuss it in Committee. I cannot see how a local authority could pay insurance premiums if they had not the power to do so.

Section 72 is to clear up another doubt that has arisen as to the exact duties of rate collectors. Hitherto, it has been assumed that the law provided that the rate collector should give the local authority the necessary information to enable rate books to be compiled. The section makes that a definite obligation on the rate collector. In what way does it infringe on the liberties of the local authority? Section 73 gives to the county council, the corporation of a county borough or an urban authority power to contribute towards the provision of a band performance within its functional area.

Is that an infringement of the rights of the local authority, according to Senator Baxter? Would he prefer that it should not be there? He will have an opportunity of dividing on that section when it comes before us. Will he divide on it on the grounds that it is an interference with the liberty of the local authority?

If I want to divide on it the Minister will not prevent me.

No, I am only asking will the Senator do that?

I am a free man.


I need not thank you for it.

The Senator ought, at least, exercise his freedom always on the side of truth, even when criticising a Bill.

And so should the Minister when answering criticisms.

Sections 74, 75 and 76 are all designed to ensure that the local authority will have power, if the local ratepayers so decide, to change the name of a street or town or townland. I can quite understand that Senator Sir John Keane might object to that on the same grounds that Senator Michael Hayes objected to it, but in what way does the conferring of that power on a local authority interfere with the liberty of the local authority? Section 77 provides that a local authority may invest any money for the purpose of a sinking fund in any of the stocks, funds and shares which trustees are empowered to invest in. In what way does that infringe on the liberties of the local authority? Section 78 provides—this was a point which Senator Baxter was on—that where a local authority secures moneys which are capital moneys that it will invest those moneys for the benefit of the inhabitants of its functional area. Senator Baxter was complaining that the Minister for Local Government did not allow the Cavan County Council to spend capital moneys which it had raised by borrowing to meet current expenses. I wonder what would Senator Sir John Keane think if I came along with a proposal of that sort? I used to hear, when I was Minister for Finance,——

On a point of explanation.

The Minister should be allowed to make his speech without these interruptions.

I complained that when moneys raised by the Cavan County Council were not used for the purpose for which they were raised, they should have been returned to the Cavan County Council.

And you said that if they were they could be used to reduce the rates. I remember that, when I used to be Minister for Finance and had to borrow money for capital purposes, Senator Baxter was one of those who criticised me most strongly on the grounds that I was not balancing my Budget, and that I was using the borrowed moneys to defray current expenses. That is what the Senator blames the Minister for Local Government for—for prohibiting the Cavan County Council from doing just that.

The Minister surely misunderstands. This money was spent, but it was repaid because the buildings were taken over by another body, and I hold that the money should then have gone back to the Cavan County Council.

With a view to allowing the Cavan County Council to reduce the rates. Section 79 deals with the acquisition of land and gives to the local authority power to acquire land. I think it was Senator Ruane who suggested that that was a very undesirable thing to do. He said that, of course, this would lead to grave abuses, that one of the consequences of it which occurred to him was that if the members of a local authority wished to injure a person who had land which might at one time or other be for sale, all they had to do was to suggest in public that the county council might acquire it at some time, and that at once the value of that land would be depreciated on the grounds that it would not be subject to free sale. But the Senator did not read the section or he would have seen that this land can only be acquired by agreement: that under Section 79 land cannot be acquired compulsorily. It has to be acquired by agreement. That means that a person who has land to sell will naturally get what he regards as a fair price for it.

Section 80 provides that henceforward, when the county manager is going to dispose of land belonging to the local authority, he will give due notice to the local authority of his intention to dispose of that land, and that he cannot dispose of it until he has considered what suggestions they may have to make in regard to it. If the local authority resolve that the land shall not be disposed of, then it cannot be disposed of by the manager. Now, in what way does that section bear out the criticism which has been urged against this Bill? In what way does that interfere with the proper liberties of the local authority? In what way would that react to the detriment of the County Kerry as against the advantage, say, of the County Galway? In what way should that power be conferred on the County Galway and not be given to the County Kerry? Does Senator Sir John Keane, and do other Senators, want us to have a position of inequality created in this matter? Is it not desirable that that power should be given to all elected members of local authorities, whether they are members of the Galway County Council, the Mayo County Council or the Dublin County Council?

Section 81 gives to local authorities the power to integrate, with the nearest private holding of land, a patch of land which has been isolated by reason of the fact that there has been a diversion of the road. These isolated , as we all know, are sources danger to wayfarers. Is there anything unduly curtailing the liberties of a local authority in giving them that power? Senator Baxter apparently thinks there is—at least he does not think there is, he knows there is not, but he wants the general public to believe that there is.

Section 82 provides that urban authorities shall have the power to borrow for the purpose of constructing and maintaining loans. Again, where is the restriction or curtailment of the power of local authorities in that matter? I challenge any one of the Senators who have criticised this Bill to point it out to me. As I have said in relation to the previous section, they know there is no curtailment, but they want the general public to believe that the local authorities are being put in a sort of strait-jacket by the Minister.

Section 83 provides that a sum borrowed by the county council of the county as a public assistance authority shall not go to restrict or limit its borrowing powers in respect to other matters. In what way, again, let me ask Senator Baxter, does that curtail unduly the liberties of a local authority? Section 84 provides for the regulation of the issue of stock by a local authority. Is there any sound ground, from the point of view of the public interest, upon which, say, Senator Sir John Keane should object to that section of the Bill?

I do not want to interrupt the Minister but I could ask him a lot of questions on that.

And answer him, too.

In view of the way in which the Minister has been interrupted, I think the House should agree to sit all night, because with these interruptions it will be impossible for the Minister to finish by 9.30.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

At 9.30 we can consider that.

Section 86 provides for a separate appearance at a local inquiry by the manager. It might happen that the manager's conduct in relation to the affairs of the council would become the subject of a local inquiry.

Hitherto, following the precedent which was laid down in the City Management Acts passed by our predecessors, it was assumed that the manager should instruct counsel on behalf of his local authority to appear at a local inquiry. Surely it would be an anomaly that a manager who was in fact the subject of the inquiry at the suit of the local authority should be in a position to instruct counsel to appear, nominally on behalf of the local authority, but in fact for himself, and the purpose of this section is to give the Minister the power to require the manager to be separately represented and to empower the local authority to instruct counsel to act on its behalf.

Section 87 provides that where the Minister considers it reasonable that a contribution shall be made towards the cost and expenses reasonably incurred by any person, other than a local authority or other body, in relation to the inquiry, the Minister may certify that the contribution shall be made and direct its payment by the local authority.

I do not want at this hour to go through all the other sections of the Bill. I would like, if time permitted, to go through all the other points raised by Senators who spoke constructively on this debate, who spoke to fulfil the real function of this House —to improve measures which have been passed by Dáil Éireann and which will, inevitably, become law. That is why the Minister comes here and listens to the debate so that he may, if he can, assist the House.

It is very nice of him indeed.

The Minister comes to listen to suggestions for the improvement of a Bill. I am very grateful to those who have addressed themselves to the discussion of the measure in that spirit. I should say that although I am not in a position to reply to them or to undertake that they will be carried out I will give the fullest consideration to the points of view they have expressed.

Question proposed—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time"—put and and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Next stage?

Wednesday next, Sir.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 26th June.