The purpose of this Bill is to enable the corporation of a county borough to provide a concert hall, theatre or opera house themselves or to assist financially a body providing such a building. Some time ago, the Cork Corporation were given to understand that State assistance, by way of loan, would be provided for the rebuilding of Cork Opera House. One of the conditions attached to the undertaking was that the Corporation would, if they were given the necessary power to do so, make a grant of £25,000 towards the project. The Corporation subsequently passed a resolution agreeing in principle to give a grant of £25,000 to the Cork Opera House Trust Fund and requested the Government's permission to do so. I informed the Corporation that, while existing legislation did not empower them to make the proposed grant, the necessary steps would be taken to enable them to give effect to their resolution. This Bill fulfils that promise. It is not, however, restricted to Cork Corporation. It is proposed that the powers set out in the Bill be given to all four county borough corporations.
In proposing to extend the provisions of the Bill to all county borough corporations the Government had regard to a request from Limerick Corporation that any concession being made to Cork should also be made to Limerick so that the latter corporation might be enabled to assist the executive committee of Féile Luimnighe in the provision of a theatre and concert hall. While no similar requests have been received from Dublin or Waterford Corporations there have been frequent references to the need for a concert hall of international standard in Dublin and I therefore thought it reasonable that the Bill should apply to all four county borough corporations.
The procedure to be followed, where a corporation wish to put the provisions of the Bill into operation, is set out in subsection (2) of Section 1. The procedure contemplates the adoption of a resolution by the local authority, who then give notice of the resolution in the newspapers, followed by a waiting period of 60 to 180 days after which it must be confirmed by a further resolution of the local authority. The resolution does not become operative until it has been confirmed by an Order of the Minister for Local Government. The procedure may appear cumbersome but where expenditure from rates on a project of this nature is contemplated it is desirable that the proposal be given the maximum publicity so that objectors may make representations and have them considered.
In addition to assisting other bodies in providing a concert hall, theatre or opera house, the Bill enables any of the four corporations to provide such a hall themselves and the purposes for which a hall provided by a corporation may be used are set out in the Bill. Generally the purposes are the holding of concerts, stage plays, operas, meetings, lectures, exhibitions and general recreation or other similar social objects. Where the building is provided by another body with assistance from a corporation such assistance may be conditional on an agreement between the corporation and the body as to the use and disposal of the building.
Use, other than that specifically mentioned in the Bill, may be made of any building provided under the Bill, if such use is occasional only or, if continual, is restricted to a part, which is not a substantial part, of the whole building.
Reference has been made to the desirability of extending the provisions of the Bill to other local authorities. The position is that county councils and county borough corporations have power, under existing legislation, to provide halls for parish councils or to make a grant to a parish council towards the provision of a parish hall. Urban district councils and borough corporations have power to provide town halls which may be used for conferences, meetings, lectures, dancing, plays etc. Neither county councils nor county borough councils have availed themselves of these powers in regard to the provision of parish halls. Neither has there been any general demand from local authorities for the powers in the present Bill. In fact the only request for such powers, as I mentioned earlier, came from Cork and Limerick Corporations.
If, however, a general demand does develop for the extension of the powers in the Bill to other categories of local authorities, sympathetic consideration will be given to the question of introducing the necessary amending legislation.