Agriculture (Amendment) Bill, 1948—Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

This is a purely permissive Bill. It imposes no duty on the local authority. It merely leaves it open to the local authority to raise a rate of not more than 7d. in lieu of the existing limit of 4d. for the purposes of the county committee of agriculture under its authority. The reason why the provision is necessary is that about half the county councils have already raised the full 4d. and are not free to grant their county committees of agriculture any further funds. The other half have already raised a rate of between 3d. and 4d. in the £. I think there is only one county council in Ireland that, at present, levies a rate of less than 3d. Some councils will deem it prudent, where they consider that their existing services in the matter of agricultural instruction and for other purposes are insufficient, to raise the additional rate, and thereby make funds available for their county committees of agriculture. Others may decide not to do that. That will be a matter entirely within the discretion of the county council itself. That explains the provision of Section 2.

Section 3 is designed to permit of a county committee of agriculture reimbursing its members for travelling expenses and what is described as maintenance on precisely the same terms as is provided for the members of a vocational committee under the Vocational Education Act. At present you have the anomalous position that a member going to a meeting of the county committee of agriculture who is not himself a member of the county council, is only entitled to be given what may be described as vouched expenses and he may not claim in any circumstances maintenance. Under this proposal a county committee of agriculture will be able to provide, where a member lives more than five miles from the place of meeting, that he be entitled to the mileage he travels at a prescribed rate, and, in addition, he will be entitled, in substance, to the price of his lunch, if he is more than three hours away from home, and to the price of his lunch and his tea if he is more than seven hours away from home on the business of the committee. It further provides for a county committee of agriculture, which forms subcommittees of the whole, to make available similar accommodation for the members of that sub-committee at rates approved of by the Minister for Agriculture.

The last purpose of the Bill is provided for in Section 4. It was intended in the Principal Act to cover all types of public servants who work under a county committee of agriculture. Some doubts arose as to whether the Act, which is hereby amended, was as clear as the Legislature intended, and lest litigation might ensue, it is thought better to enact Section 4 which makes manifest that which it was intended to do under the Principal Act. To the best of my knowledge and belief that is all this Bill is designed to do. I need hardly say that, if any other point presents itself to Senators, I shall be very glad to explain it on request.

This is one of the Bills that we welcome. We are prepared to give every facility for its passage as quickly as possible. We quite realise the great work that our various county committees of agriculture are doing through the country. Where a county council is prepared to place more money at the disposal of its committees, then I think it is right that it should have permission to do so. We are glad to see that the facilities at present afforded to the members of various other committees set up under the county councils are now to be extended to the members of the county committees of agriculture. We do not propose to detain the House on the Bill. We approve of it.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed: That the remaining stages of the Bill be taken to-day.
The Seanad went into Committee.
Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

Is the Minister quite sure that if the sub-committee of a committee of agriculture mentioned in Section 3 is composed entirely of non-county councillors this provision will apply?

Yes. That is one of the purposes of the section and it is certainly designed to ensure that will be so.

This Bill in no way alters the powers, responsibilities or duties of the county committees of agriculture, but, while it is passing through, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to something which has been a grievance in my mind for quite a while. County committees of agriculture offer a good many scholarships every year and these scholarships are confined exclusively to farmers' sons and daughters. The agricultural workers of this country are part of the agricultural community and scholarships should be made available to them.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is outside the scope of the Bill.

The only way in which it might come within the scope of the Bill is that we propose to allow a rate increase from 4d. to 7d. in the £, and, if they are getting more money I might suggest that it could be spent in that way. I am not putting it forward as an amendment, but it gives me the opportunity to ask the Minister the question.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 4, 5 and 6, and Title agreed to.
Bill reported and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Arising out of what Senator O'Farrell said——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

His question was out of order, I am afraid.

On Section 3, it was perhaps trespassing a little on your indulgence, Sir, but I think we can take the Bill as it is and consider the provisions it permits a local authority to make. I would not like Senator O'Farrell to feel that the provision which the local authority is now permitted to make is so restricted as to prevent the son of an agricultural worker benefiting under any scholarship scheme provided.

I think I am correct in saying that all the county council scholarships are accessible to an agricultural worker's son, and I will give the Senator this undertaking: to the best of my understanding, no agricultural worker's son is excluded from the scholarship schemes which may be promoted by county committees of agriculture, but, if they are so excluded, I shall look forward to introducing appropriate legislation at an early date to ensure that they are no longer excluded.

There is no exclusion at all.

The only one excluded is the farmer with a high valuation.

Question put and agreed to.
Ordered: That the Bill be returned to the Dáil.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Seanad stands adjourned until 12th January, 1949. Go dtugfaidh Dia Nollaig mhaith dhíobh go léir.

The Seanad adjourned at 8.45 p.m. until 3 p.m. on 12th January, 1949.