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.