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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 6 Jun 1968

Vol. 65 No. 3

Road Traffic Bill, 1966: Committee Stage.


I move amendment No. 1:

In line 22, to delete "Traffic" and substitute "Safety".

The purpose of this amendment is to emphasise that this Bill, which is introducing a number of new provisions in relation to dangerous driving and driving while a person has drink taken, is concerned with safety. For that reason I am suggesting that instead of calling it the Road Traffic Act, 1968, as it will be, we call it the Road Safety Act, 1968. The words "Road Traffic" and "Road Traffic Act" are very nebulous terms and do not mean anything very much to the ordinary person. Where we are concerned with road safety, the enactment under which people are prosecuted should be the Road Safety Act, that where an offence is committed it is an offence against road safety, that all the emphasis and all the propaganda should be about road safety. As I have said, road traffic is a very nebulous, neutral term and does not get at what we are trying to achieve in this Bill, that is, greater safety on the roads. It is for that reason I have put down this amendment.

I can see the Minister saying, and I can anticipate him saying, that he has been advised that this could not be done because the Parliamentary draftsman would find it quite impossible to reconcile the Road Traffic Act, 1961, many of the provisions of which are amended in this Bill and the Road Safety Act, 1968, and he would not know what to call them in the collective citation at the end of the Bill. I want to call the attention of the House to the fact that as it so happens the Act which they have introduced in Great Britain dealing with many of the things such as the breathaliser test, the drunken driving test, is referred to as the Road Safety Act, 1967, and has reference to the Principal Act, the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act, 1960, the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act, 1960, the Road Traffic (Driving of Motor Cycles) Act, 1960, the 1962 Act, the Road Traffic Act, 1964 and that they will be cited together as the Road Traffic Acts, 1960 to 1967, so if the Parliamentary draftsman thinks there is some objection on the grounds of drafting to referring to this Bill as the Road Traffic Acts, 1961-1968, his fears and scruples should be allayed by what they have done in Britain.

Many of the offences which will be commonly prosecuted under this Bill when it becomes law will be offences against this particular Bill, without reference to the 1961 Act. Therefore, we should have envisaged people being guilty of offences under this as being guilty of offences under the Road Safety Act. The idea of road safety should be the dominant theme in all references to this particular Act. It is for that reason and all that this envisages and whatever propaganda value there is in this that we ought to substitute the word "Safety" for "Traffic" in the Title.

I presume if we had the word "Safety" in this Bill, we would also have very good arguments made as to why we should substitute the word "Traffic" for it, but the case can be made either way. The reason why we feel that this amendment is not acceptable in these circumstances is that we have the two governing statutes of 1933 and 1961. They are the Road Traffic Acts of 1961 and 1933, and since this particular measure deals with more than just the safety factors that are involved, I cannot see any good reason for bringing any confusion into this matter by the collective citation or otherwise of the finished articles since it does cover in the minds of most people all that it is intended to do.

If we had "Safety" in, a case could be made equally as well to delete "Safety" and put in "Traffic". It is a toss-up in that sense of the argument, and, to avoid confusion, to leave it as we have it is preferably from every point of view.

It is of course a question of taste as to where you want to put the emphasis. It is not correct to say that the Road Traffic Act, 1933 has anything to do with this Bill. The whole of that Act was repealed by section 10 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, so we are now concerned with the Road Traffic Act, 1961 and this Bill. If we are to shift from this nebulous term "Road Traffic" to "Road Safety", now is the time to do it.

There are other factors in this Bill relating to traffic, though there is very little in it other than compulsory insurance, and others, and safety precautions, when one looks at the arrangements of the sections. There is little in the Bill that does not relate to road safety and now would be the time to make the change. I emphasise it should be related to road safety.

It is the traffic that makes the road safe.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 1 agreed to.
Sections 2 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.

Might I suggest that amendments Nos. 2 and 3 be discussed together?

I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all words down to "and" in line 8 and before "88" in line 8 to insert "Section".

In the explanatory memorandum there is a reference to section 5 which says that sections 88 and 119 of the 1961 Act are repealed. What section 119 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961 which is being repealed was intended to do was to provide that where a person has been injured through the negligent use of a motor vehicle in a public place, the hospital authority should be recouped the cost of maintaining and restoring to health the injured person. It is proposed to repeal that. I think that is quite unfair to the ratepayers who have to pay for the increasing health charges of hospitals. At the present time—I do not know whether the Minister or his Department are aware of this—the position is that the only sums which can be recouped by an injured plaintiff in an action from a negligent driver of a motor vehicle are such sums as he has been charged by the hospital. If one looks at the Public Health Acts, one will see that perhaps 75 to 80 per cent of the public are covered by the Health Acts and, therefore, the maximum charge that can be made for the maintenance of a person in a hospital under existing legislation is 10/- per day, so that one can say, by and large, 80 per cent of the people injured in motor accidents who have to be maintained and taken care of in hospital are maintained out of public funds and the only sum which the county council can recoup from the negligent owner of a car which injured the patient in the hospital is a maximum of £3 10s per week.

We all know that the cost of maintaining a person in a hospital is far in excess of £3. 10s. per week. It is probably nearer to £17, £18 or £19 a week in the public wards of our hospitals. Section 119 was designed to help health authorities—and this is something which is probably of interest to all Senators who are paying rates and of interest to health authorities—and to enable the hospital, and I am particularly concerned with local authority hospitals, to get from the insurance company the additional cost of maintaining a person in a public health institution. Indeed, there should be some payment also, not alone for maintenance, but for the surgeon's fees. It need not necessarily go into the surgeon's pocket but will augment the funds of the public health authorities.

I do not know to what extent section 119 was operating but I know of cases where plaintiffs were liable to pay to the health authority a maximum of only £3. 10s. per week and the High Court ruled that in the case where a plaintiff may have to pay a bill for £17 or £18 for hospital charges, the defendant in the action is liable for only £3. 10s. to recoup to the plaintiff what he has been out of pocket. Consequently, what people are invited to do in this section is to say that the ratepayers are to subsidise negligent drivers of cars. I do not think that is an exaggeration of what the repeal of section 119 means. That is what the ratepayers are asked to do.

I would invite the House to reject section 5 in its present form and to accept my amendment so that section 119 in amended form will be part of our law. The effect will be to make sure that health authorities will not alone recoup the £3. 10s. but the whole £16 or £17, or whatever is the cost of hospital maintenance. I suggest therefore that all the words in section 5 intended to repeal section 119 of the Principal Act should be deleted and that section 119 should stand. It is necessary it should stand in the interests of the ratepayers of the country.

Even if Senator O'Quigley's arguments are correct as to the way in which this has been operating, it seems that to leave section 119 as it is would achieve nothing because it is clear that since the 1961 Act was introduced, an injured party can recover any actual hospital costs he incurs, that the hospitals in certain cases can have a limited amount payable to them under the Act. Outside that, nothing has been achieved by that section. It has not had any effect as far as the hospitals or the ratepayers are concerned. If section 119 has not been operated in the way it was originally envisaged, there is no point in leaving it there, and whatever may be said for introducing an amendment in the future to deal with this problem in some other way, there is no point in leaving the section as it is. Therefore, the deletion of the section should go through as provided for in the Bill.

I strongly support Senator O'Quigley. As a member of Laois Health Authority, I find the problem to be a serious one. Health authorities throughout the State provide an excellent service for crash victims. They put on ambulances round the clock for people involved in serious accidents as a direct result of their own irresponsibility and carelessness. It is a bit much, therefore, to expect the ratepayers to keep on. Laois County Council bill in respect of health amounts to 37/1 in the £ out of a total rate of 65/-. Such figures are startling and it is only fair that the health authorities, the hospital authorities, should not be asked to bear the burden, more especially when such a high percentage of accidents are the result of direct negligence by those involved.

I am a member of a local authority and I agree with the truth of the case made by Senator O'Quigley. There is a responsibility imposed on local authorities to provide treatment for people who have been involved in car accidents and I go so far as to call it a penal burden on them in respect of something that does not concern them really. Very often cases following accidents require a long period of hospitalisation, and if local authorities cannot claim against insurance companies involved, it is unfair to ask the ratepayers to do something that insurance people will not do. Perhaps the Minister may have other views on this but it is unfair to saddle local authorities with the cost of maintaining people in hospital as a result of accidents.

There will be general concern about the point raised by Senator O'Quigley. What in effect is happening—I doubt if anything can be done about it here—is that in many ways local authorities are subsidising insurance companies who may or may not be fortunate enough in that if the injured party is entitled to the benefit of the Health Acts, he gets the benefit through the local authorities who must pay for the full amount of the irresponsibility of the injured person. Senator O'Quigley raised a point which must arise not under this Bill but under the Health Acts.

It is evident that this section is not being implemented in the way suggested. Senator Ryan referred to the fact that the provision is there but is not being implemented because the courts have decided that what the injured party suffers is the amount which the insurers must pay, and whether this section is deleted or not, that is the way the courts will continue to interpret it. For that reason it does not arise here—this matter of inequity against the ratepayers. It is something for consideration under the Health Acts.

Senators who have been making pleas on behalf of the ratepayers are way off the beam. Section 119 never included the local authority health service role. Indeed it was never intended to do that. In the Dáil, in 1961, when this matter was debated, there was a long discussion on whether section 119 should be extended to include local authority hospitals. It was determined that it should not, and the Bill later was passed by this House. The second point is that section 119 has never been brought into operation, and the likelihood of its now being implemented is very remote, the reason being that recoupment to hospitals is available under the Health Acts in most cases. In addition, it has become common practice for injured parties' solicitors to pay the hospitals directly. All this indicates that the amendment is not necessary.

I wish to ask the Minister one question of a drafting nature. Why is it that when section 6, which we have not reached, provides for the repeal of a number of different portions of the Principal Act in great detail, with reasons given in the Schedule, the repealing suggestion in section 5 is not dealt with in the same way?

The difference between the two approaches is that in section 5 it is a total repeal of the section in question whereas in section 6 it may be of part only and therefore it requires some elaboration.

I want to make perfectly clear what the position is. Under the Road Traffic Act, 1933, to which the Minister referred earlier, there was a provision in section 174 that all hospitals, whether private or public health, could at any time get full recoupment for the maintenance of a person injured in an accident through the negligence of another person. Of that there is no doubt. In the 1961 Act, section 119 was brought in and under that the charges for maintenance were confined to private hospitals, to the non-public health authority hospitals. What I am objecting to is the fact that if we eliminate section 119 of the 1961 Act, there is no way in which we can amend the road traffic law to bring in the health authorities.

The first position to be achieved is to preserve section 119 of the 1961 Act and, having done that, to go a stage further and provide that public health hospitals, such as the county hospital in Castlebar and other county hospitals, and the private hospitals which do work for the public health authorities and are paid for that work, will be entitled to recoup the full cost of maintenance of patients injured in such accidents. The Minister has not dealt with that position at all. The position of the health authorities was worsened under the 1961 Act and is being worsened still further under this Bill which proposes to repeal altogether section 119 of the 1961 Act.

The Minister is misinformed when he says that the cost of maintenance in such cases is in fact recouped from the amount recovered by the injured person and that the section has not been put into operation. Anyone who has any knowledge of the law knows what the position is. If I am injured in an accident tomorrow and in a public health hospital for three weeks, the utmost I can be charged is £3 10s per week, which is a total of ten guineas. The utmost the court will allow me for that three weeks is ten guineas while the actual cost of my maintenance in that hospital for that time could be anything from £48 to £51. There is no way of recouping to the health authority the difference between the ten guineas I am allowed and that £51. That is a bonus given to the insurance company and no one can gainsay that.

I suggest that we preserve section 119 of the 1961 Act and amend it to provide that health authorities will be able to have their full demands for recoupment met. The High Court has ruled that the defendant is only liable to pay for the injured person's maintenance in hospital and all that can amount to is £3 10s a week. That means that every ratepayer, including a widow living in a small house on a rateable valuation of £2 10s, or the father of a small family with a valuation of £5, is paying rates in County Mayo at 89/- or 90/- in the £ to subsidise the neglect of drivers of motor cars. If the Legislature want to do that, they should do it in the full knowledge that that is what they are doing.

The Senator has inferred that section 119 of the 1961 Act was or is in force but, in fact, it has not been brought into operation. It is necessary that such a section should be brought into operation by virtue of an order followed by regulations but neither order nor regulations were made. One of the primary reasons why it was not brought into operation was that it was found, when it came to the drafting of regulations, that it was impossible to draft regulations that would take account of the various situations that would arise and the charges for the various treatments, drugs and other matters that would arise. All that would have to be dealt with and it was found almost impossible to draft regulations that would give effect to the intention underlying section 119.

Since the enactment of that Act, we have not had any representations from the voluntary hospitals or the local authority hospitals in regard to its non-effectiveness as a section. As well as that, it is well to realise that section 174 of the 1933 Act that was talked about here was not, in fact, implemented. In regard to that matter, I would advise Senators to have recourse to the Dáil Debates. It is not quite correct to talk of the taking away by stages and by instalments of the rights of local authority hospitals to full recoupment under the 1933 Act. There was no such right because the 1933 Act was never implemented in that regard. We have not been taking something from them or whittling something down, and in proposing to delete sections 119 of the 1961 Act, we are not taking anything further away because there was never anything in operation. What they never had they cannot lose, either by instalments or otherwise. It is as well that we should know these things because they are the underlying reasons behind the two measures discussed in the Dáil.

I am grateful to the Minister for keeping me right on a matter of law. It agrees with what I have always been saying in cases where orders have to be made to bring legislation into operation. It is stated in section 2 of the 1961 Act that it will come into operation on such day or days as may be advised by order of the Minister, either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision. It has escaped me that the Minister made the order bringing section 119 into operation. I do not know how we are ever to get to know these things but, however, I am grateful to the Minister for the information.

However, all of that is by way of avoiding the issue which is central to my amendment and it is, and the Minister does not deny that it is the position, that if it costs a local authority 17 guineas per week to maintain a patient in a hospital, the local authority is only recouped at a maximum to the extent of £3 10s. That is the central issue and that is what the amendment is all about. The Minister has not attempted to suggest that that is not correct. It is correct, and the fact that that has been going on since 1933 and on up to 1961 and from 1961 to 1968 is a very poor argument for allowing it to continue. I think, judging by the expression on the faces of most Senators, they were surprised to hear that their local authority is subsidising negligence to the tune of £14 or £15 per week on average for every patient who is injured in an accident. That is a fact.

However, I come to deal with the difficulties of the unfortunate poor people who are called upon to draft regulations to implement section 119 in the form of section 174 of the Road Traffic Act, 1933. My heart is laden with grief at their toils and tribulations, but, mind you, if the officials of the Department of Local Government were to go across the corridor to the officials of the Department of Health, they would see very readily how it is possible to assess the charge for the maintenance of a person in a mental hospital and to charge the estate of the ward of court or the mental hospital patient with the annual cost and the weekly cost of maintenance. There is no difficulty at all about that when it comes to dealing with the estate of a ward of court and we all know that there is a means by which the mental hospital authorities, who are exactly the same health authorities as those who are engaged in the maintenance of people in ordinary county hospitals, are able to calculate, in the case of persons who are not entitled to free health services, the cost of maintenance of a mental patient in a mental hospital, present their bill to the Office of Wards of Court and get paid on foot of it.

But the poor Local Government officials are not able to cope with this imponderable problem. They are not able to work it out and say: "We will not be unfair to the insurance companies. We will divide what we consider to be the full cost by two and we will charge them not 17 guineas a week but we will charge them 8½ guineas." They could not do that. Of course it can be done and I am not concerned with costs of drugs, if that presents a difficulty. I am not concerned either with surgeons' fees because the surgeon is there anyway. He is being paid his salary. Of course it may be done, and I am glad to see that the reaction of the House is all against the idea that ratepayers, widows, old age pensioners and fathers of large families should be subsidising negligence. I hope that the proper steps will be taken at a more appropriate time perhaps. Senator O'Kennedy says it should be done in a Health Act; I feel it should be possible in this Act at a later stage to make provision that health authorities and the ratepayers will not continue to be called upon to subsidise negligent driving.

If Senator O'Quigley's amendment were to stand, I think he probably appreciates at this stage, in view of what the Minister has explained, that he would in fact be excluding the very end which he hopes to achieve because the health institutions within the meaning of the Health Act, 1947, are, in fact, excluded from the operation of section 119, very clearly excluded.

I hope to bring them in.

It is undesirable that that exclusion should stay and to that extent at least the exclusion is now going. I still feel that this is a matter for the Health Acts rather than for the Road Traffic Act and I think it would be undesirable that the ratepayers should subsidise the insurance companies who, through their good fortune, might happen to have an injured party who was entitled to Health Act treatment.

Having brought the matter so far, I think we had better have a little more of it. This matter was discussed on the basis of whether or not the local authority hospital should be brought in or not. It was discussed at some length. In fact, it was ultimately put to a division, which division was carried by something like 60-odd to 25, which would not indicate a muster even for Party purposes, never mind any firm resolve on the part of any great number of people in the Dáil to alter this. The Department of Local Government did consult very fully with the Department of Health across the corridor and otherwise, both before the 1961 Act, during the 1961 Act's passage through both Houses and prior to this legislation that is now proposed and right along the line.

One of the outstanding points, and the Department of Health fully support the Department of Local Government in this view, is that it is really wrong in principle that there should be a differentiation between road accident cases in their reception at and their treatment in hospitals as against other accident cases, of which there are quite a number. I am inclined to agree that this is a very realistic view. Why should there be two codes of reception, possibly ultimately allegations that there were two codes of treatment for those who would be injured on the roads as against those who would be injured in one hundred and one other ways who might not be insured? This is one of the points in the 1961 debate that was very clearly brought to the notice of the Dáil, and I think it quite a telling fact, and it is still as valid today as it was then, that there should not be this differentiation.

Then there was this matter back in 1933 which was intended but never implemented. We have come a long way since 1933 in so far as availability of hospital and other treatment is concerned and we have come a long way in the sense that what is now available is available to a very large proportion of our population as of right, fully, totally and completely free, and to quite a considerable further number of our population. Hospital treatment, surgery and all that goes with it is free to the extent that the maximum charge that may be made in any case is 10/- a day. Since these treatments are the right of probably 80 to 90 per cent of our population, what can be said to be wrong with those same institutions carrying these people in so far as treatment is concerned, in the same manner in a road accident case, as if it might have been any case, whether illness or any type of accident.

I feel the shoe would be on the other foot if we were to say that now we should select these people in a special way and say: "Because of the fact that you are road accident cases, despite your rights and despite what you are paying for as a ratepayer and as a taxpayer"—because the taxpayers in this case pay 50 per cent and upwards of all of these charges to meet local authority hospitals—"for the small number of you that are there, we will ignore your other general rights of treatment in hospitals and we will tag these on to the insurance companies," who in turn get a large portion of their moneys from the premiums these people pay.

It is very questionable whether this would be a fair method of approach. There is the objection in principle to differentiating between road traffic accident cases and all other cases that may enter our hospitals. This was the tone of the argument against extending section 119 during the 1961 debate. If we are to follow, as was suggested here, a logical pattern, as suggested by Senator O'Quigley, of using this merely as a stepping-stone to an all embracing amendment on Report Stage it is now time to look at this in its broadest sense and that is why I put before the House the arguments we considered very fully in 1961 as to why section 119 should not be extended and should be concerned only with the non-public authorities hospitals.

In my estimation nothing has changed since then to bring about any change of heart in this regard. I feel that the deletion of section 119, which is the intention of section 5 of the Bill as it stands without amendment, is well founded. Again I repeat that for two very good reasons recoupment is available to the hospital authorities under the Health Acts in most cases and the general practice of solicitors has been a growing tendency to pay the hospitals direct out of sums recovered. Those two things should not be affected. Neither should the practice be as it was in 1933, where, even if there was a case where there was no payment made to the hospital as a result of recovery by way of damages or costs, this was a true loss falling completely on the ratepayers, whereas today, in most cases, less than half of that loss falls on the ratepayers.

Today we find that probably 75 per cent of the costs are recouped. At least 50 per cent are recouped and they get £3 10s as well so the institutions are not suffering. In fact, they are getting the same as they did under the 1933 Act and the other Health Acts since then. The vast majority of our citizens receive free treatment but even in regard to those who do not the hospitals can recoup the greater proportion of the money.

The Minister is, I think, unwittingly confusing the issue. What I am concerned about is that the ratepayers of this country, whether it be a small amount or a large amount, are subsidising the negligence of negligent drivers. That statement remains unchallenged. The Minister may want to give reasons why that should be done. If he does not challenge it, as he is entitled to, he confuses the situation. He says that the solicitors for the injured parties pay the hospital costs with the moneys recovered. From that people would be inclined to think that they pay the hospital costs with the moneys recovered but that is not so. They pay a proportion of the hospital costs out of the moneys recovered to a maximum extent of £3 10s a week. If a man is injured and loses a leg or if he badly injures his ankle and gets arthritis and recovers £1,500 for that in that sum is included loss of wages, travelling expenses, hospital expenses and so on. The only hospital expenses which are included in that is the £3 10s per week for whatever number of weeks and days he was in the hospital.

That is all the hospital authority is paid despite the fact that they have to undergo expenditure to the order of £16 or £17 a week in the maintenance of that person. If the Minister says it is right and proper that that should be done the House should know that that is what they are deciding on. There never was a time when hospitals were not paid whenever they made their claim. Before the 1947 Act came in, if the demand was £5 a week, when costs were lower, they were paid the full amount. After the Health Act, 1947, and the 1953 Act, which amended it, and subsequent amendments, the hospital authorities ceased to be paid the full amount, as a result of the rulings and the decisions of the High Court whereas before that they were paid the full amount. In addition, there were surgery fees.

It is a change for the worse now from the point of view of the ratepayers. The Minister says that accident cases are going to be treated differently and that their costs will be defrayed. That is the kind of spurious argument put up by Ministers' legal advisers. There is no doubt that ministerial advisers will make X arguments for and Y arguments against it. That is their job. It is quite unlikely that somebody injured in a motor accident and somebody else injured in a factory will get two different kinds of treatment from nurses and doctors. I never heard anything so ridiculous. The Minister and his advisers think very little of the professional standards of people in hospitals to say that because somebody is injured in a road accident he will get better or worse treatment than somebody injured in a factory.

I agree with Senator O'Kennedy that the first step is to maintain section 119 and the mere maintenance of that section would not cure the position but my amendment is designed to maintain it and thereafter to make a provision to enable all health authorities to be recouped the full amount irrespective of what they may be awarded by the court.

I think the Senator may have misunderstood me. I said, in fact, that the first step would be to delete section 119 in that it would do specifically what the Senator wants to achieve, that it may be dealt with in other legislation. I think the Minister has given fairly cogent reasons as to why he may have to differentiate between road accident and other accident cases.

The whole basis of section 119 was that where an injured party suffered an injury as the result of the negligence of an other party as the law stands as far as entitlement was concerned he would receive maintenance. The only difference I can see about accidents is that the negligent person, if the law holds he is responsible, can recoup the other person for the injuries and loss suffered. The same can apply in factory accidents where the person injured will receive an award. In such places they would be covered by insurance.

I am inclined to agree with Senator O'Quigley that the only difference which would arise in the treatment of both cases is that payment would be made through different sources. In one accident it would be the insurance company and in the other situation where the hospital authority would be responsible they would provide the payment. I think there is this real problem. I suppose it is only fair to indicate it. I suppose you cannot make one law for insurance companies and another for private individuals. If you are going to request insurance companies and other indemnifiers to pay the full rate where a person would otherwise be entitled to Health Act treatment, then if they are requested to do so the private individual must be requested to do so whether or not he would have insurance cover. I think the problem has been highlighted here. The Minister has gone a good way towards explaining it. At the same time, I still feel that in so far as the whole basis of road accidents and others are concerned there is a question of fault and the person must pay for his fault. Until such time as we change that the law should go the whole way and he should pay for his fault and not expect the local authority to pay. However, it still does not arise under this Bill.

One of the things I should like to mention is that Senator O'Quigley would be as quick as anybody else to make arguments for whatever side he chose either here or in his chosen profession. I am sure he is not living in any cloud cuckoo land and he does realise that if you set standards in the case of an accident there arises the question as to who will be paid by the insurance company. Whatever treatment is meted out to them will give rise to suggestions, however badly based, that there will not be the same treatment for others.

This we have seen time without number whether they are properly based arguments or not. I think Senator O'Kennedy has put his finger on it when he says that where a person has been injured in a car accident and his insurance is up to date and proper that at least whatever damages he gets for the loss of an arm or a leg, or whatever the injury costs, plus the calculated out of pocket expenditure arrived at by the courts—and this includes such things as earnings, travelling expenses and medical expenses, the out of pocket expenses of a person who is entitled through being the holder of a medical card or through having complete cover in hospital or only the 10/- per day—the net out of pocket cost for his hospital treatment would arise and surely it is only this amount that is properly chargeable to him. The generality of people in our country are already entitled to either complete free hospital treatment or hospital treatment at a cut rate. Whichever category he may fall under he will be out of pocket. This accident does not take his rights from him. He has total cover by a medical card or the £3 10s maximum. Surely the insurance cover covers this as his out of pocket expenses which are £3 10s, or nothing at all if he is a medical card holder. These are the rights given to him under the law of the land under the Health Acts. These are his rights and it is only if he belongs to neither the lower nor the middle income group that he comes under the non-health scheme and his total cost for institutional expenses would be his out of pocket expenses. This would be calculated by the court and this would be payable to the voluntary hospital or the public health institution.

This is quite proper and in order. The Health Acts are there to cover 70 to 90 per cent of our population. They are there to stay and they are not going to be repealed. This is the basis on which we will operate for the future and I take it that premiums being paid for insurance by the public will be related to the overall cost of administration. Therefore, if you do not get it on the swings you get it on the roundabouts.

What we are now proposing to do is to bring up to date the law to take account of the improved health scheme in the country.

The injured party will not suffer loss by deletion of the section.

It arises relevantly under the 1933 Act. There was this further development in 1961. To conclude the debate from my point of view on this particular section, what the Minister has said, in effect, is this, although I cannot translate it, that there will be a different standard of treatment for the car accident patient and for any other person who breaks a leg in his own home.

That is not what I said. I said that if you set up two different codes of reception for patients coming into a hospital you will have it said they will be treated differently and that will not be a good thing. That is what I want to get across.

I will not try to recapitulate what the Minister said. Accepting what he said here, if you have two different methods of reception does it not then mean that under the present health legislation, if the Minister is correct, the person who pays nothing, who is the holder of a medical card, would be treated differently from the person who pays £3 10s per week? These are people falling into two different categories.

He did not say they would be treated differently. He said people might infer that.

As they have inferred.

I have never heard it.

Indeed you have and I have a notion you did argue on it.

I never did.

If the Senator says he never said it I accept that.

If the Minister is basing it on any experience, then the present system for the old age pensioner or a person who is the holder of a medical card is caught. If the Minister's reports are correct, there are two different standards of treatment being applied to people in institutions at the present time.

That is rumoured now.

I would repeat for the record that this is exactly what I did not say.

You are afraid it might happen?

Would the Senator make his statement and I will make mine.

I would be grateful to have clarified the Minister's objection to insurance companies paying the full cost of maintenance to crash victims through negligence of a third party. If the cost of their maintenance is paid in full and people simultaneously treated not paid in full there is a likely differentiation in the treatment of these people.

That is not what the Minister said. He said people would say that.

People would say that. Equally so, people can say at the present time—and the Government are doing nothing about it—that a person who is the holder of a card and is entitled to free treatment is treated differently from the person who is paying £3 10s a week. That particular scheme is scrapped and I am all for scrapping that particular scheme. The reason I want that scheme scrapped is that it is inhuman when people are in hospital that efforts should be made to find out what is the income coming into their homes in order to be able to determine whether they should pay 7/-or 8/- extra a week. The Minister has not been particularly helpful on this matter and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

I trust that what I said is not read as having the interpretation Senator O'Quigley gave it because it just is not what I said and well he knows it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Section 5 agreed to.

Acting Chairman

The Chair suggests that in order to avoid duplication the debate should take place on either the Schedule or the section.

I suggest that the debate take place on the Schedule because, having gone through it, it appears that far from being amendments of minor importance, the Schedule provides amendments of the utmost importance such as an amendment to section 104.

Sections 6 and 7 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 8 stand part of the Bill."

I am not quite sure whether what I intend to say is appropriate to this section. It relates to vehicles which comply with requirements of sections 11 and 12 of the Principal Act. Under these sections regulations were made one of which is the Road Traffic (Equipment and Use of Vehicles), 1963. I am concerned particularly with one small point relating to the construction and maintenance of vehicles in accordance with these regulations. Article 30 of the regulations provides that every vehicle shall be so constructed as to prevent the emission of smoke, fumes, et cetera. The Article, however, does not go on to say that the vehicle should be constructed and maintained.

At present, anybody who drives on the roads must be aware that one of the curses of Irish driving is the terrible black smoke, the fumes, the gas pouring out of heavy lorries and defective motor cars, bigger lorries, of course, giving out bigger clouds of smoke. I am sick and tired of writing to major companies, even to petrol companies and road hauliers, pointing out defects of this nature. I ask the Minister under this section to try to see that these regulations are fully, even, may I say, fearfully——


——and fearlessly imposed as they are not at present. My one-man campaign has proved utterly hopeless. Apart from the effect this is having on the countryside and on the health of everybody concerned—may I say it applies to buses in Dublin as well?—it is a significant cause of accidents. If there is a gap in these regulations because they do not refer to maintenance, I suggest further regulations should be made to deal with it. There is a terrible need to ensure that God's fresh air will not be poisoned by this nuisance or by our industrial development. We must take effective steps under the regulations and the sooner the better.

Under section 11 there is power, and regulations made thereunder cover maintenance. They cover the emission of smoke, gas and fumes. The matter of enforcement, however, is for somebody else.

The only regulation I can see in this respect is Article 30 which provides that vehicles will be so constructed——

Under section 11. It is in the regulations.

I have been reading from the regulations.

There is a later one.

I accept that. I presume it is there but I want to ensure that the Minister will see that it is enforced.

I do not disagree with the Senator—in fact I vehemently agree with him—but the point I wish to get across is that enforcement is not a matter for this Department.

That is so and I appreciate it.

On the section, which I regard as an extremely useful one, there are a few matters which I hope the Minister will deal with. I do not know what the position is or what the official view is on the use of safety belts—whether the Department of Local Government recommend them or whether it is the intention at any stage to insist on safety belts being part of the standard equipment of cars and, perhaps, of lorries and vans. It seems from what one reads that many accidents would have been more serious, even fatal, were it not for the use of safety belts. I should like to know what the policy is, whether in time safety belts will become stock equipment in cars the same as rearview mirrors.

There is another matter about which I am concerned. We discussed it with the Minister for Industry and Commerce this morning. It relates very much to road safety. There is no doubt there are certain makes of car sold in this country which have a defect in the steering mechanism. To what extent that becomes unsafe and dangerous I do not know, but I do know that the speed at which it is safe to drive, and at which most people would like to drive—between 40 and 50 miles per hour—is the very speed at which this defect in the mechanism makes it impossible to drive a car. Consequently, the motorist is left with the alternative of proceeding at less than 40 miles an hour or going at a speed of more than 50 miles an hour which he might not wish to do. It is time, therefore, that the Minister for Local Government, purely as a matter of road safety and in the interests of those who will always succumb to the urge of going faster instead of slower when they get a shudder in the front wheel because of this defect, should take this matter up with the motor manufacturers. This morning we discussed this on the basis that motor purchasers should get value for money.

There is another matter in relation to the supply of new vehicles. I understand that a considerable amount of research has been done on the type of tyres which should be used—wheel covers, they are called—and which give maximum safety in cornering and roadholding when brakes are applied. These are the three-ply radial tyres. Ordinary members of the public do not know whether it is safer to use these or to use the conventional tyres and they ought to get some guidance from the Department of Local Government on this matter.

At times I have been absolutely abhorred at the type of vehicle which insurance companies insure. When we talk about keeping down premiums and when we are told that if we impose the full cost of health charges on the insurance companies it will increase their rates, it is also time that insurance companies should look at the type of vehicle they are asked to insure. I have seen people with no experience of motor cars or driving getting a licence and getting insurance cover and being allowed to go on the road in cars that no one in their sane senses would get into or drive. Motor vehicles of a particular year's registration should be submitted to some authority to certify that they are roadworthy.

It may be that in other parts of the Bill it is intended to do this but it seems to me that it is essential that it be got under way at a very early stage. I would be interested in hearing the Minister speak on these questions of safety belts and steering. In the case of some types of car one finds that the lighting installation is inadequate for the speeds at which people drive nowadays. That should also be made the subject of control.

In fact, section 8, which is the section we are now discussing, does set out to deal with the various matters raised by Senator O'Quigley and is capable of dealing with all of them, including the supply and sale of components and parts of cars. This is the real purpose of a great part of this section, to prevent the operation of vehicles that have any inherent weaknesses and to bring the law into such a condition that there will be more than commercial considerations involved in putting such on the market; that it will be an offence to do so. This section deals with all those problems, which are legion.

When Senator Kennedy was speaking on the previous section he referred to the lack of regulations to control maintenance of cars, smoke and other such matters. In regard to that I would refer members of the House to No. 190 of the 1963 regulations which the Senator probably did not have before him at the time.

Could the Minister give some indication as to whether it is the intention to have compulsory examination or inspection of cars of a particular year?

Under section 18 of the 1961 Act we have power to do that but there was the question of the power to have a spot check which was what we felt should precede the general check on any category or year of vehicle. That is now being provided for in this measure in order to close that gap and so enable a start to be made. It will require quite a build up of personnel and knowledge and knowhow in order to do the job in an effective way. This provision will enable the spot check to be made and it is the intention to bring it in as soon as may be after this legislation is enacted and then we can go back to section 18 of the 1961 Act and make a general examination of all vehicles according to year or category.

This is a question on which the insurance companies should be made to bear the bulk of the responsibility. They include in the small print of their insurance policies a clause which states that they are not liable to idemnity if the vehicle is not roadworthy. This is a very mischievous condition. People pay the premiums and they go on the road feeling that they are covered by insurance but when an accident occurs the insurance company repudiates liability because the vehicle was not in a roadworthy condition. If that insured person causes damage to a valuable car the owner of that car will get nothing.

The insurance companies should be made to insist upon the production by a person seeking to insure a car of a fairly ancient model, say five or six years old, of some kind of certificate of roadworthiness. If it was possible to amend the law to make that a condition of the granting of an insurance policy the Minister would be able to get over some of the difficulties of recruiting staff for inspection and examination. The insurance company should be made to insist upon the production from a reputable garage of a certificate that a car of five years of age is roadworthy. That would bind the insurance company. If such a system was operated it would relieve the Minister and the Department of a great deal of the trouble of having these checks because it would put the onus on the insurance company to see that the vehicle is roadworthy. I think that is something worth considering.

There is another matter on which I would like the Minister to give some indication and that is whether it is intended to set up a bureau which will give some guidance to the owners of cars and lorries as to the best available component parts and equipment at any time, what are safe and what are worthless. We have no guidance of any kind in this country. You take your chance and you take your pick and you hope for the best. I feel we are entitled, certainly if we are going to face up to this problem of road safety, to get some guidance from the Department of Local Government as to what is good equipment, what are good tyres, what are the safest tyres for road holding, for breaking and so on.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 8 to delete subsection (5).

I am at a loss to know when reading this particular section why in this particular type of case in relation to mechanically propelled vehicles it is going to be presumed, until the contrary is shown, that there was no licence in existence for the combination of vehicles. I do not know why we are introducing that kind of method of establishing an offence in this section.

The provision is necessary as previous court decisions had the effect of placing the onus of proof in this matter on the prosecution and as will be readily seen and acknowledged this imposition on the prosecution of producing the proof was in many cases well-nigh impossible. On the other hand, in the case of the defendant he has the special knowledge regarding the possession of the licence and it is a matter that is peculiarly within his knowledge. Therefore, I do not think it is asking too much to say that he should be put in the position that we are proposing in this section and that the reverse, that is accepting the amendment, would place an almost impossible task on the prosecution, whereas it is a fact or knowledge uniquely available to the defendant in this case. It is only a matter of imparting this information, whereas the eliciting of it otherwise may, in many cases, prove impossible.

This then is applying the same provision as happens in the case of the ordinary driving licence?

This would be in the same line. It is the same idea.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."

There is a phrase in the section I have not seen before. Subsection (6) says:

A person who contravenes a regulation under this section which is stated to be a penal regulation...

It is the first time I have seen the word "penal" used in relation to a regulation. I wonder what kind of regulation it will be or has it anything to do with the Statutory Instruments?

It is similar to the use of it in section 11 of the 1961 Act. It has its precedent there already established.

I was just wondering. Senator O'Kennedy will be aware that in order to convict a person under a regulation which imposes a penalty it is necessary under the Statutory Instruments Act to establish that notice of the making of that regulation was published in Iris Oifigiúil. If it was, then the penalty can be imposed, the person can be found guilty or acquitted under the regulation as the case may be. The regulation is stated to be a penal regulation. I do not quite follow. Is it because it merely imposes a penalty?

That is why, plus the fact that some other regulations may not necessarily impose a penalty. This is merely a differentiation between the two. I should say as well from the point of view of the possibility of the regulation being wrongly described or, indeed, wrongly taken, in the case of any prosecution it will have been stated in all cases regulation so-and-so and regulation so-and-so are penal regulations; in other words, they carry a penalty. This accompanies the publication of the regulations so describing them as penal and the purpose of describing them as penal is to denote that they carry a penalty as distinct from those which do not.

Might I suggest to the Minister something that will be helpful also in prosecuting for offences under the whole road traffic code? I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the situation but, properly speaking, if somebody is charged with an offence of crossing a white line or if they are charged with parking in a prohibited place in the city of Kilkenny or in the city of Dublin it is the regulation which creates the offence and they are charged with an offence under a particular regulation. Everybody agrees that that is entirely correct, but then when it comes to the stage of prosecuting it is necessary, under the law as it exists at the present time, and I think it is a bit absurd to say that it should be so, to establish that the regulation which creates the offence was published in Iris Oifigiúil at the time it was made or, alternatively, to show that the attention of the person charged was drawn to it. You cannot do that very well in the case of a general road traffic regulation.

Some people have never heard of the Equipment, Maintenance and Use of Vehicles Order which Senator O'Kennedy referred to just now. I think we should adopt a different approach to prosecution for offences under regulations and that, in fact, regulations which contain a penal clause should be laid in draft before each House of the Oireachtas and thereafter that there would be no necessity to establish that the making of these regulations had been published in Iris Oifigiúil. It would streamline the procedure and would make the lives of prosecutors, members of the Garda Síochána, district justices, judges of the Supreme Court and the public a good deal easier and would be more sensible.

It is very refreshing to hear Senator O'Quigley talking about making life easier for prosecutors.

I do not think that was the real purpose of the Senator's argument, if I may say so, but to make it difficult for this House to go through every line and every comma of every regulation.

Senator O'Kennedy understands what I mean.

Maybe you understand each other but I do not.

The Minister can never see any good in even the best of us.

It is not that I do not see good. It is just that I do not see the same good as the Senator seems to see.

Senator O'Kennedy sees the merit in what I have said. We have reached a stage on other Bills where it is quite clear that in order to implement general principles laid down in different sections of Acts of the Oireachtas, we must make regulations. Now where these regulations create an offence we ought to have a position whereby you do not have to go through the rigmarole of producing orders in every court in the land where you want to satisfy the court that an offence has been committed. This is the position at the moment by virtue of the Statutory Instruments Act of 1947. To my mind, that is an absurd position. I do not want to have the other situation created whereby you can merely lay those regulations before each House of the Oireachtas. As I say, experience has shown, and we are not all gluttons for punishment like the Minister, that on all the orders laid before each House of the Oireachtas the debate is never more than half an hour. As far as I can see, you either accept or refuse but you cannot amend. It is an expeditious procedure and at the same time, where you are making regulations creating objections, we should all be concerned about the upholding of Parliament. Therefore, as I say this present position of having to go through this rigmarole should be looked into. As Senator O'Kennedy understands, I am trying to be helpful to people prosecuted.

Whatever your reasons may be you referred to the Statutory Instruments Act, which would have to be amended, not the legislation here.

We could do it in this amendment. I am merely making a suggestion.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.

Acting Chairman

The Chair suggests that amendments Nos. 5 and 6 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In subsection (2), lines 29 and 35, to delete "Minister" and substitute "member of An Garda Síochána".

This is a section where inspection and examination of a vehicle will be carried out and from what the Minister was talking about earlier it will be necessary to recruit special staff to make those spot checks or bring the vehicles into garages to test them. It seems to me that it is wrong to bring the Minister for Local Government into this section which says whenever the Minister has reasonable grounds for believing that a mechanically propelled vehicle or a combination of vehicles has been used in a public place he may require the owner of the vehicle or combination to submit it for examination by a person authorised by the Minister at a time and place and in a condition of loading specified by the Minister. I would have thought in practice that the detection of any un-authorised use of vehicles or the suspicion of vehicles which are in bad mechanical condition in the first place would be dealt with in the ordinary way by members of the Garda Síochána. If it is left to the Minister for Local Government—I think he is the Minister concerned—I do not know how we are going to work this whole section effectively.

The Minister for Local Government will not have anything like as many officers as there are in the Garda Síochána. I would have thought, therefore, that where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing a mechanically propelled vehicle has been used in a public place he should be entitled to require it to be brought to a particular place and there to have it inspected by an officer of the Minister. I cannot for the life of me see how the section is going to work. It will be left to officers of the Minister, who are not anything like as numerous as officers in the Garda Síochána, to do this work.

The first thing which has been missed in this is that the Garda have got power under section 20 of the 1961 Act to require vehicles suspected of having a dangerous defect to be inspected. This is not being altered by what is proposed in this section of this measure. What is proposed is that as we proceed to a point where we can have checking done in a really effective way, and spot checking in particular, it will be necessary to have technicians of a fairly high order available. It is true that we never can envisage having anything like the numbers available in the Garda at our disposal. In regard to most gardaí in the country, on the other hand, it would be easily and readily understood that, indeed, very few will have the competence to deal with the sort of inspection of a technical nature that will be called for in regard to many of these vehicles in the future.

That is why the officers of the Minister are under this section proposed to be empowered to carry out inspections because of the growing technical nature of the subject. In addition to the powers which the Garda already have, and will continue to have, in regard to inspection where they suspect vehicles to be of a dangerous nature, this inspection by officers of the Department will be carried out. We wish to bring this in as well so that we should get on in the future to what is inspection in the true sense rather than by the way it has been up to now. It is a very necessary part of this operation to give power to officers of the Department in order that the job can be more fully and completely done in future than is capable of being done now or was in the past.

The situation is that this is merely added to what is contained in the 1961 Act.

It is additional.

That is one of the difficulties of running two Acts together and seeing what is contained in a Bill and an Act at the one time. If that is the position it improves the section, of course, and it seems to me that section 19 of the 1961 Act will work all the better.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.
Section 12 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In subsection (2) to add to paragraph (c) "who are authorised officers for the purposes of section 12".

This is purely a matter of detail. It seems to me that where regulations are going to be made in regard to the inspection of vehicles and so on we ought not to multiply the number of officers who would be entitled to ask for the production of documents. I rather think in practice what is intended is that there will be obligations on owners of a fleet of vehicles to provide records for the authorised officers of the Minister and it is merely to confine it to these that I think this amendment is necessary. It may well be that the Minister thinks there are other reasons why officers from his Department, apart from those authorised under section 12, should have access to them. I do not know how that can arise but if that is so it is necessary to leave the section as it is.

On that, as Senator Quigley suspects, it is the intention to use other officers. There would be quite an amount of inspection of such records, as will be prescribed at a later time, which would be purely of a clerical nature and would not require any technical competence on the part of the persons so authorised to inspect. Therefore, it would be necessary to use ordinary personnel of the Minister and by so doing in those cases it would probably save the valuable time of the technical peeople who would be better engaged on purely technical work. This is really its purpose.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 13 agreed to.
Section 14 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In subsection (2), line 54, before "be" to insert "on the direction of the court which convicted".

This section is designed to clarify the handing over of a penalty and who is to direct the handing over of a penalty covered under the section and to what road authority. I can see difficulties in the district courts and difficulties in district court offices where a penalty has been paid in and then the district court clerk says that he has no order saying that it is to be handed over to such and such a road authority. While it is right and proper that the road authority being put to expense because a vehicle with excess weight has been used on the road within its area should get the particular penalty, I think the district court should direct in its order that the penalty should be paid to the County of Dublin or whoever the road authority is. For that reason, I am asking to have it inserted for the direction of the court, so that there will be certainty as to the authority which, in fact, is to get it.

I feel that the position of county councils is not being safeguarded enough. There has been a case in my own county where a large building concern drove a very large item of equipment weighing several hundred tons on four iron wheels from Dublin to Limerick.

Acting Chairman

I do not wish to interrupt the Senator but, perhaps, he should wait for the section. We must deal with the amendment first.

What, in fact Senator O'Quigley would do would be to put this in where it is not necessary. The measure says it shall be paid. That is the end of it. There is no need to get a full direction. The courts will fix the penalty and the penalty will be paid to the road authority.

My experience tells me that it is absolutely necessary. When a fine, of say, £50 is paid to the district court clerk how is he to know, unless it is put in the order made by the district justice, that it is to be paid to such and such authority? In borderline cases as between one county and another it may be a necessary proof in the courts to establish what road authority is concerned. There is nothing in this section to indicate the road authority and it is left completely at large. It should be quite clear to the district court clerk, when he gets in a fine of £50 or £75, that he has an order requiring him to part with £50 or £75 under this section. If Senator O'Kennedy casts his mind back, he will know how reluctant people are to pay money unless they have that class of document authorising them to part with it. This is to clarify the position for all concerned when a fine of, say, £30 or £35 has to be paid to a county council.

Even if the courts neglect to show to whom it is to be paid the worst the clerk will have to do is go to the district justice and have it clarified. It is unnecessary dotting the i's and crossing the t's. It is unnecessary to go into these small points.

I would refer the Senator to what has been said in relation to Senator Ryan's and Senator O'Kennedy's remarks. Under section 67 of the 1961 Act we know that part of the Act has been invoked and it has worked well. It is very similar in its intent, wording and operation. I have experience of this type of work under the 1961 Act and there is no fear that it will fall down in this case. The local authority in question will either be instrumental in having a prosecution brought in the first instance, or they will be bringing a prosecution, and the likelihood of their being entitled to £100 and not following it up is most unlikely.

You do not know a few of my friends in the district court.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 15 stand part of the Bill".

I feel that the penalties set out are, perhaps, inadequate. It has happened that major arterial roads have been damaged to a considerable extent and rendered dangerous. One glaring example of this comes to mind. Some few years ago a road was made at the county boundary in Laois. The road was left with two half-inch deep tracks after it had been newly resurfaced. The road was left in a dangerous condition. The damage amounted to £10 and it was not worthwhile bringing the person in question to court. Even with a vehicle weighing 17 tons it will not make much difference if it is fitted with pneumatic tyres but if it has four iron wheels it will cause considerable damage to the roadway.

Roadmaking at present is a highly skilled operation and every county engineer takes pride in his work. The standard of our Irish roads is something that should be admired and appreciated and it is most unfair, now that we have an opportunity of attempting to preserve the quality of the work that is being done by our engineers, that we should lose this opportunity of ensuring that anyone who damages or wilfully goes out and has disregard for the way he leaves the surface of the roads should be prohibited by penalty so that it will not happen again. It is very easy to cause £1,000 damage to arterial roads especially if smooth surfaced with tarmacadam. It has happened in the past and it is well known.

Penalties are completely inadequate and they will not deter people if they want to take heavy loads on the roads without a proper set of rubber tyres on the vehicles.

If there was nothing else in it I should fully agree with the Senator, but under section 17 of the 1961 Act there is power for a local authority to recover the full cost of damage done. The penalties are there for exceeding the weight. These may be additional to the right under the 1961 Act, section 17, to recover the full cost of any damage done to a public roadway by so exceeding the weight or in the manner suggested by the Senator. In section 16 of this Bill care is taken to cover the situation mentioned about the machine which came through Kildare to the boundaries of Laois. This section provides for power to stop, and to have the gardaí stop and arrest, if necessary, anybody who attempts to do this in the future. Therefore, between sections 15 and 16 of this Bill and section 17 of the parent Act of 1961, it will be a very expensive exercise for anybody to indulge in this in the future.

I am glad to hear it.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 16 and 17 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 18 stand part of the Bill."

I should like some clarification as to what exactly is meant by the regulations the Minister has in mind under subsection (2) paragraph (b) as to the qualifications that will be required for licensed driving instructors. The entire section deals with the licensing of driving instructors. Is it the Minister's intention to insist in the cases of all present instructors who have been giving instruction for reward that they shall pass a fresh test or pass a test if they have not passed one already? Will this apply to all people now giving instruction? Many people who are not full-time driving instructors continue in rural Ireland to give instruction for reward, often of a very minor nature, in the driving of motor propelled vehicles. Are they to be prevented in the future from doing so or will they have to pass a series of tests if they intend to do so in the future, and if so what kind of tests?

Does the Minister intend to insist that all present driving school instructors shall be subjected to tests before they are allowed to continue in their profession? In relation to both of these categories, I should like to know on whom will the cost of such tests fall if the Minister, by regulation, is to insist that all instructors, whether full-time or part-time, have to be licensed and must pass the test. Will this be a charge on the instructors or not?

The point has sometimes been made, though it is regrettable, that we have got to rely to such a great extent on untrained teachers. Nevertheless many of the untrained teachers are in practice more effective and more valuable sometimes than fully trained ones. The same applies to instructors in driving. It may well be that those who are not full-time professionally involved may be, in practice, better or at least as good instructors as those who are full-time professionally so employed. I should like to ask the Minister precisely to say does he intend to prohibit, under paragraph (b) of the subsection, anybody else other than the licensed instructors from giving any instruction for reward in driving?

I should say at the outset that the explanatory memorandum that accompanied this measure indicates that the bringing in of any of these controls will of necessity be, shall I say, by instalments—that they will have to come in gradually. It has not been decided yet what will be done or how it may be done in relation to existing driving schools and instructors. It may well be that in some cases there will be exemptions of people already operating who, indeed, may have qualifications of quite a high order in driving, perhaps, not from any authority in this country but from other countries throughout the world.

It may be that on examination some people who may not have had qualifications as such, who are without formal qualifications, will be found to have had experience and whose success may have been such that they would be entitled to be exempted and given recognition. The House will appreciate that the matter will have to be gone into in a detailed way. I know from my time in the Department of Local Government. when we were on the 1961 Bill and from my contacts with the then existing schools of motoring in this city, that this is a method which all the established schools in the country desire. I should imagine there will be the fullest cooperation with the established institutions and it should make the job easier for the Department of Local Government in drawing up their code of practice to have established in this country a properly licensed instructor body.

I do not think it can be done quickly. It will have to be done stage by stage, and without the thorough detailed examination that will undoubtedly be required, it is difficult to be specific at this stage in answering any of the numerous questions the Senator has asked. The general intention of approach is that this will be done on a stage basis, that it may be done on a basis of exemptions for those who have been qualified elsewhere and, perhaps, for those who, though they have no formal qualifications, have displayed their ability in discharging their jobs— perhaps, better ability than those with formal qualifications.

Finally, the Senator asked me what we intend to do with what I might call the hedge school people down the country. I cannot see that we can do a great deal except to admonish them to be careful, and to create penalties if they attempt to charge something they are not entitled to. We can tell them, of course, that if they want to avoid all that, perhaps, it would be preferable if they had a big enough field to get into it and to stay there—safest for all concerned.

The Minister's reply seems to be eminently reasonable and understanding. I am relieved to hear that he is prepared to hasten slowly and that he realises the necessity for that. Also I am pleased to hear that he intends to reserve the right to exempt certain instructors both on previous qualifications and on record. In that, too, I think he is right. In relation to the last matter—those who are part-time instructors and sometimes with quite a lot of experience and very effective—he made two suggestions. The first is that they should operate in a large field rather than on the road.

I would ask him to consider the possibility, within these regulations, of allowing for long years of experience and also for part-time service as an instructor in a driving school. I would not like to think of the instructors in the driving schools getting a monopoly because the closed shop might not be justified. There might be part-time instructors who would be fully competent and these men should not be shut out. Admittedly, they should be treated very carefully, but I am satisfied that the Minister being aware of the problems, will hasten slowly and secure the right people to do the work.

I should have said on the other amendment that it might be desirable and necessary to commence this on a voluntary basis with the cooperation of the people already in the business, which will be forthcoming.

I would like to know if it is the intention that all applicants for driving licences must attend one of these driving schools?

Not at all. God forbid that should ever happen. I mean no reflection on the schools but that would be crazy.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 19 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 20 stand part of the Bill".

Might I ask under this section in regard to driving licences and driving tests, if it will be possible to allow people taking a driving test to use their own cars if these happen to be cars with automatic transmission? I understand that this is allowed in Great Britain and Northern Ireland and it would be ridiculous if a person whose car has automatic transmission would have to hire or borrow a car in order to do his driving test.

That matter comes up in section 22 and, perhaps, we could leave it to that.

I should like to compliment the Minister on the fact that in this section to which there was a considerable number of amendments to be made a new section was substituted for the amended section which was the right thing to do. While congratulating the Minister on doing it in this case, I regret that it was not done in a number of other cases.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 21 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 22 stand part of the Bill".

The point I want to make in regard to section 22 and the question raised by Senator McDonald is that it does give power and authority to consider this matter. I will go no further than that. It is right that we should approach the matter in that way and that consideration should be given to the idea of a limited certificate in relation to cars whose drivers have passed only in cars with automatic transmission. I am not satisfied that a case can be made for giving a general licence to a person who uses his own automatic drive car. He may wish to drive other cars or may have on occasion to drive them and where you may use your hands and head in driving the automatic car the driving of the other car involves the use of your feet, hands and head together. This combination is like whistling, chewing a meal and driving a cart, if the Senators ever hear that expression.

In section 22 there is recognition that something requires to be done about the automatic drive machine but I would not like to convey the impression that merely because there is something in section 22 which permits consideration to be given to the matter that if you have an automatic transmission car licence you can drive anything. They are just not the same sort of animal. It is recognised in this section that we can get around to thinking about the matter and it can be approached in that way.

Then if a salesman sells an automatic car which is comparatively easy to drive to a person who has not previously held a licence, that person will either have to hire a car or borrow one in order to take his test. I feel that such a person is being mulcted.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 23 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 24 stand part of the Bill".

I regret that the Minister did not take power under this section to impose speed limits on particular persons. From what was said on the last section it seems that after a person gets his driving licence he is apparently free to travel at 60, 70, 80, 90 or 100 miles an hour on the very next day. I would have thought that there was a case for imposing a speed limit for one or two years on such people. It would probably entail the fixing of some plate on a car; it might entail changing the "L" plate for another plate, and for a year after a person gets the first driving licence he would be compelled to use that plate on any vehicle he drives.

There might also be a case for allowing the court, where a person has been convicted for a certain offence, as part of the penalty to place on that person the obligation to drive at a certain speed for a certain time afterwards. For instance people who are convicted of perhaps minor offences, offences of pure carelessness or, perhaps, pure ignorance of the Rules of the Road I feel there would be a good case for making those people drive under a certain limit for a certain time and affix to their vehicles some distinguishing mark, some plate, and I think that as people would usually be driving in their own locality it would be quite simple to apprehend them if they exceeded the speed limit that had been fixed either by the Minister in the case of a first offence or by the court if an offence had been committed.

For the information of the Seanad what Senator Cole has been advocating is not to be downed out of hand but, offhand looking at the Act, it appears that power to do this, not perhaps in the personal way in which Senator Cole has mentioned, may be already in the 1961 Act and may be done under that Act by regulation or order of the Minister. This matter has and probably is still receiving consideration but the pros and cons of it can be hammered out at some other time. I think Senator Cole will be glad to know that something like what he advocates appears to be already in the 1961 Act. There may be power there to restrict the speed but not in the personal sense of one person or another but rather by categories. It could be all drivers licensed for the first time in 1968 or all drivers licensed in 1965 and since then. This is the manner in which the power might be capable of being used, that is a power to say to different groups: "You may not drive beyond a certain speed." This power appears to be in the 1961 Act but as yet has not been used and maybe it will never be used. I do not know, but it appears to be there and I think that is the important thing.

Could the Minister refer me to the section of the Act?

Section 42 of the 1961 Act.

(Longford): I think the Minister should give very serious consideration to the view expressed by Senator Cole. In his reply he referred to the fact that the power is there to be used in relation to categories of drivers rather than individual drivers. I feel that does not answer Senator Cole's point. I think Senator Cole means a person who has been found to be dangerous, not necessarily because he is a learner—it is not just learners who are dangerous but rather the sort of people who have no regard for other people and behave in an anti-social way or in a negligent manner—and I think Senator Cole's point could be met if there was some kind of plate that that person had to carry. It might be an S plate which meant that he would not exceed 40 miles per hour or it could be a D plate which would indicate that he was a dangerous driver. If people who have a poor record of driving and drive in a dangerous or improper manner, and we know that there are such people, had to do this I think this would be a good idea. I think the Minister should give serious consideration to the idea expressed by Senator Cole.

I want to raise a matter which is analogous to Senator Cole's point which I think is an eminently sensible suggestion and might very well be used by the courts instead of disqualification in the case of careless driving. I think that having to bear on the motor car the stigma that one is confined to a particular speed might very quickly have a very sobering effect on people. I think there is a sadistic touch about Senator Cole which I had not suspected up to now. I think it would be a useful remedy to have in the Acts but the point that occurs to me always is that we ought to have different maximum speeds for different types of vehicle. It is there for the heavy duty vehicle but what I am thinking about is the small mini-car that will come right up behind you when you are doing 50 or 60 mph and sweep ahead of you at 70 or 75 mph. That to my mind is the kind of vehicle that we should limit to what is regarded as a safe speed. The consequence of coming into contact with another car or a telegraph pole when you are driving a Chevrolet or what is the car the Ministers have—the Mercedes——

He would not know one if he saw it.

He is very innocent.

I am not good at makes of cars.

You are good at nothing.

——and the consequences of coming into contact with something like that in a mini-car are quite different. It may well be that it is in these Acts that we are now beginning to find out contain so many hidden secrets and powers we have never known about. Seriously, I think that for, say, an eight HP car we should limit the speed to 50 or 60 mph, whatever is regarded as safe. I would not mind if we were limited all over the country to driving all cars at, say, 65 mph. Again, if we had more Garda patrols on the longer stretches of road where speed is got up we would very quickly reduce speed and reduce the incidence of fatal injuries and very serious accidents. I should like to hear from the Minister whether, in fact, there is power in the regulations either in the 1961 Act or elsewhere in this Bill that we have not seen to fix maximum speeds for different horsepower cars. If there is not, I think serious consideration should be given to it.

I rather like Senator Cole's suggestion and I wonder if something could be done about it but I should like to mention the general speed limit on the Dublin-Naas dual carriage way. When this was first introduced I thought it was unnecessary but now that I have got used to it I think it is an excellent idea. It appears that all traffic on that road travels at something very close to 60 mph and this includes lorries, buses and the lot. I think this very safe because you have very little traffic passing you and it is now a much faster stretch of road for the ordinary commuter than it was when you were free to do 70 or 80 mph. I observe from using that stretch that very few people exceed the speed limit of 60 mph and I wonder if we could extend that to specific stretches where there have been injuries or many fatal crashes.

I understand that each county has a speed limit committee consisting of the Garda authorities, the county engineer and, perhaps, someone from the Department. In Laois this committee met once when the scheme was introduced and has not been re-convened. Yet on many occasions speed limits have grown up in villages, have been modified, have been taken away. There is a village called Cullohill on the Cork road which is situated on a very straight and fast section of a major arterial road and despite the fact that there are up to 300 children stepping out directly to this road the Department or some crazy nut in the Department recently saw fit to up the speed limit to 50 mph and they attempted last year to take it off altogether. This is surely a ridiculous situation because motorists who are used to slowing down and reducing the speed limit in the various towns when they find a small village without a speed limit assume that it is quite safe to drive through at 70 or 80 mph. I feel that these committees should be utilised.

The views of the local residents and the county engineer are very important. After all, it is the county engineer who knows his road and what his particular roadway is capable of serving. It is wrong for the Department to ignore the local officials and the local councils completely. I would appeal to the Minister to ask the Minister for Local Government to take heed of the recommendations made by the various councils. In my own county we have made several observations regarding villages. The village of Ballybrittas is another one where the traffic comes very fast. It is a very straight road but it has a dangerous junction.

Those are points which worry many of us on the local authorities because there is so little we can do. The public seem to think that members of councils are the villains of the piece when, in fact, there is some person in the Custom House or O'Connell Bridge House, wherever they are domiciled now, who continues disregarding this. I would like if the Minister could let us know if he will change the present situation and have the views of the local authorities listened to.

I am not much enamoured of the suggestion that there should be a differential in regard to speed limits for different types of motor cars at different horse power. It complicates and confuses the situation and might make it almost impossible for the Garda to maintain any speed limit at all. It is difficult enough to prevent people from exceeding the speed limit but if the Garda have to go on to horse power or the kind of emblem which a car has it would make things very difficult for them.

I would suggest, if there was to be any differential, the most sensible method would be not to do it by horse power but by the age of the car. I think a car over 10 years old doing 70 miles is really a menace. There is a good deal to be said for having some sort of additional speed limit on old cars because those old rattle traps doing 70 miles an hour are really a menace.

I would really like to ask the Minister on this section whether there is any general proposal to bring in a general speed limit into this country. I would strongly recommend that there should be. Other countries are tending to come around to this idea. Certainly in the USA, even on the motorways, there is a speed limit ranging from 65 to 80 miles but the average is around 70 miles. Of course, they have a 70 mile limit in England. This is the only sensible way to deal with the situation for two reasons. First of all, many drivers are simply not able, particularly the young and inexperienced, to drive down roads at 70 and 80 miles an hour without being a menace to themselves and everybody else. While there are drivers who are experienced and highly skilled in driving a car at any speed, the fact remains that such people driving at 70 to 80 miles an hour have very little defence against the lunatic, who has not their experience or skill, who comes out of a side road.

A sensible step to take under this section would be to bring in a universal limit all over the country of, I would say, a maximum of 70 miles an hour on the best roads and, possibly, a lower limit on the not so good roads. Certainly, there should be no question of a general licence given, as it exists at the moment, to anyone to drive a car, whether it be a mini or a bigger car, as fast as he likes. Motor cars are simply a means of getting people from one place to another in reasonable safety and in reasonable time. Nobody has the right to use roads as a form of racetrack as many people do at present. I would strongly recommend the Minister to bring in a general limit as soon as possible.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 25 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 11 may be debated together with separate decisions if necessary.

I think it is hardly worthwhile embarking on this most interesting section of the Bill at this hour of the afternoon.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
The Seanad adjourned at 5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 12th June, 1968.