I find it very difficult to understand the phraseology of this Bill. I endorse very strongly the objection made to it by Senator Douglas and especially to the principle incorporated in sub-section (3) of Section 2. If a local authority decides to acquire land compulsorily for housing or any other purpose it has to follow the procedure which is laid down in the two Acts referred to in sub-section (3). Under that procedure, the person whose land is being acquired has the right to make certain representations to the inspector holding the inquiry on behalf of the Minister. If I have read this Bill correctly, a person whose land is being acquired will have no right whatever to plead that his land should not be taken.
Under this Bill, the commissioners can make an order stating: "We want to take your field. We are going to apply the provisions of the 1919 Act in respect of compensation to that field, but we are not going to apply it at all in respect of the provisions by virtue of which you would have a chance of making your case before an inquiry as to whether that field should or should not be taken." That can, and, I have no doubt whatever, will happen under this Bill, because we all know that when a little power is given, more power than is perhaps necessary, it is always the extended power which is used. I say that that can and will happen, but I say further that under the Bill the commissioners could make an order saying: "We are going to take that field and we are not going to give you a penny piece of compensation for it, because we are not going to apply any of the provisions of the 1919 Act, except the provision by which, when we make an order, ipso facto from that date, we take over possession.” I am not trying to make political capital out of it. I think the Minister will admit that it is very bad indeed to vest that power in the Commissioners of Public Works. That is the situation with regard to land as a site for a Garda barracks or as a house for a member of the Garda.
I agree with the Minister, of course, that it is and must be entirely desirable for the public good that there should be a provision by virtue of which sites for barracks and houses for the Garda can be acquired. We are all agreed on that, but I want some chance of the individual getting an opportunity to point out at an inquiry that the acquisition of site A will inflict tremendous hardship on him and that site B, the acquisition of which would inflict no hardship on anybody, is available. That provision is not in the Bill.
As I said already, there is an additional power, a power which should never be given, in the words included in lines 38 and 39 to acquire land without compensation. That is the effect of the words "with such modifications as the commissioners may think proper". I am not charging the Minister with intending to do that, but, whether he intends to do it or not, the power is there and it is a power which should never be given.
I come now to Section 3. I do not understand to what premises Section 3 is intended to refer. In section 2, the premises referred to are a Garda Síochána station or a house for a member of the Garda Síochána, but in Section 3 we have a new definition— premises to be used for the accommodation of members of the Garda Síochána. Is that intended to be a Garda station? If so, why is the same wording not used as is used in Section 2? Is it intended to refer to houses for members of the Garda? If so, why is the same wording not used? As I understand the situation, the only purpose for which a house could be wanted for the Garda is either as a Garda station or for the members of the force. If that is so, why is different wording used in Sections 2 and 3? It does not appear to make the matter as clear as possible and I should like the matter to be made clear before we come to discuss Section 3 on another occasion.
There is also a provision at the end of paragraph (b) sub-section (2) of Section 3 which has perhaps been overlooked. It not merely takes the position as it is to-day, but the position as it was back as far as 1st October, 1946. As I read the Bill, if a notice has been given, a valid notice in the then existing state of the law, by which premises were to be given up prior to to-day, as a result of this Bill, that notice is thrown on one side and is no longer valid and any arrangement the owner may have made arising out of that notice is completely and absolutely upset. I suggest that is not fair and that where a person complied with the law as it existed and made certain arrangements on the basis of his conception, his correct conception, of the law at the time, the law should not be altered to upset his plans in that way.
I also suggest that the point made by Senator Douglas in one respect is unanswerable, namely, that if premises have to be kept on by the commissioners in pursuance of the provisions in Section 3, to whatever premises they refer—and I do not know yet—the person who owns the house should be given the option of saying: "Very good: you are going to keep on my house. We will have the rent fixed, if we cannot agree, by the referee," or "I ask the State to purchase the house so that with the value of the premises I can obtain alternative accommodation and utilise it for the purposes for which I would have used these premises if they had been given to me." There should be an alternative and it should be at the option of the individual rather than of the State.
It appears to me, therefore, that these points raise principles of such importance that it would be highly undesirable that the Bill should be considered in the atmosphere we are in at the moment and highly undesirable that the Bill should be rushed through before the dissolution of the Oireachtas. As between now and next March, or whenever a Bill could be put through, there is nothing to be gained with regard to the building of additional stations and nothing to be gained in regard to the acquisition of sites for houses for the Gárda and everything to be lost by the Bill going through in present circumstances and with the difficulties which I see in it and which must be apparent to anybody who closely construes its provisions.