Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Bill, 1973: Committee and Final Stages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Before we take up consideration of the Committee Stage of this Bill I should like to indicate that I have ruled amendment No. 2, in the name of Senator Robinson, out of order as it is outside the scope of the Bill as read a Second Time. The Senator has been notified accordingly.

Naturally I accept the ruling of the Chair that this amendment is out of order. I am disappointed in this because I had raised it fully on the Second Stage and it seemed to fit into the general framework of this Bill. I should like to ask the Minister if he could indicate when this provision of the Civil Liability Act, which would make road authorities liable for failure to maintain the roads adequately, will be implemented? In the Civil Liability Act there is a date before which it could not be brought in.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Taking the Senator's point that she is not arguing with the Chair, I think if she could arrange it under the appropriate section of the Bill on Committee Stage it would be more in order.

Section 1 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

To add to subsection (1) "provided that the Minister shall make such a declaration only after consultation with the local authority responsible for the area in which the road is situate and such other local authority as may become liable to perform a function in relation to such road under section 12 of this Act."

This amendment stands in the names of Senator McGowan and myself. I appreciate the necessity for the Minister in this situation to declare, by way of order, any existing public road a national road for the purpose of the section and the Bill so as to enable action to be taken on having a proper motorway network. I appreciate this is the primary purpose of the Bill. Our only interest in putting down the amendment was to enable this to be done after consultation with the local authorities concerned.

Senator Lenihan, I am sure, is as anxious as I am to ensure that the Bill be passed as quickly as possible and that it will do the job it is intended to do. I should like to assure him that the necessary provisions are already made in the Bill. In fact consultation has taken place between my predecessor and the authorities concerned. This amendment, while it is well intentioned, would do nothing to strengthen the Bill: it would not improve it in any way. I am satisfied that the various and wide recommendations received from the road authorities, and the recommendations from many other interested bodies, were considered before the final selection of roads was made in August 1970.

As regards consultation with other local authorities which may become liable to perform a function in relation to a national role under section 12, I should like to state that on the rare occasion when such a contingency would arise the national road in question would already have been so declared and would have been the subject of a direction to the defaulting road authority before the introduction of another road authority performing certain functions. In the circumstances I cannot see that any useful purpose would be served by this.

There is one other point. While I know Senator McGowan and Senator Lenihan were anxious to improve the Bill, I should like to point out that the amendment would be technically defective, even if it were necessary, because the Bill deals with road authorities and not local authorities. I am sure Senator Lenihan can see the point. If, for instance, the local authority responsible for the area were Town Commissioners, who are not a road authority, Senator Lenihan could see the difficulties which might arise. I assure him that the section as it is in the Bill is adequate to do the job.

The thinking behind the putting down of the amendments was to ensure that there would be consultation. This happens I take it from the Minister in the ordinary course of events and the consultation that is taking place will always take place. On the Minister's assurance in that respect I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 agreed to.
Sections 3 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 14 stand part of the Bill."

Before this section I wanted to insert a new section which the Leas-Chathaoirleach has ruled to be out of order. I fully accept that ruling. The purpose, as I said at some length on the Second Reading, was to bring into effect the provision of the Civil Liability Act, 1961, which has never been implemented—the question of making a road authority liable for damage caused as a result of their failure to maintain adequately a public road. I accept that this is out of order, although it means that not only are we continuing the position where road authorities are not liable if the individual citizen wants to take an action for maintaining a public road but they are not liable now in relation to new motorways. If these motorways in the course of time fall into a state of bad repair and a citizen is driving along and his car goes into a hole or is damaged or a particular individual is injured or somebody else is injured as a result of an accident, there is not any way in which the individual under the present state of the law can sue the road authority. This would be useful first of all for the protection of citizens and, secondly, in order to create standards and to force authorities to maintain standards.

I do not want to speak to the amendment which has been ruled out of order but I want to ask the Minister to indicate when this section 60 of the Civil Liability Act will be brought into effect. This should be a liability for the road authorities and, I understand this has been the position in Britain since 1965.

I should like to support Senator Robinson on this point. I appreciate it is out of order on this Bill. On the section—speaking broadly and very briefly—there is a strong argument for a specific measure implementing what was proposed in the amendment or else bringing section 60 of the Civil Liability Act, 1961, into effect. I support Senator Robinson's inquiry from the Minister—I know it is not quite his field—as to what is proposed to be done.

There is a real lacuna or vacuum in the law at present in regard to road users. They are, in effect, deprived of legal remedies in situations such as have been mentioned: an accident arising out of some mishap caused by the nature of the road itself or by something inherently wrong in the construction of the road. With the ordinary citizen deprived of this right of action there is a real gap in the law. It is not relevant strictly to this measure but certainly the Minister should convey the views that have been expressed here to the Minister for Justice, the relevant Minister, and request him to bring in the positive law reform needed in this area. He should either implement the section that exists in the Civil Liability Act, 1961, or bring in a legislative measure on the lines of the proposed amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Strictly speaking, as both the Senators have said, this is out of order. I have been lenient with both Senators but if the Minister wishes to make a comment I will allow him. Otherwise we will have to put the section.

I have to introduce a note of acrimony but it is only fair to point out to Senator Lenihan that his party had this while in office, and the reason they did not bring it into operation was because that section was defective.

It has been defective for 13 years.

It has been. It has not been in operation over the past 13 years and nothing has been done to change it. The fact that I am here now means that possibly something will be done about it. I do not propose to recommend to the Government that they should bring in this section because of the fact that it is of no use. It is not possible to operate it in the way in which it is intended. For instance, it mentions traffic but it does not include in traffic pedestrians, so that it would be little use at all. I do not want to break the rules of order but Senator Robinson's amendment would deal with private roads like those through the Phoenix Park. That is the reason why it would not work. I assure the House that this is one of the things the Government are looking at and if necessary, legislation will be introduced to deal with matters of this kind.

I should like an assurance from the Government——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The amendment as proposed by Senator Robinson was ruled out of order. I allowed her make the point on the amendment and I am allowing no more talk on it.

I was surprised that the Minister stood up here to tell us what we did not do. There is no use standing up and saying the past Minister did not do it. What we want is something done today and we are here to try to get it done. If a man has a new car and drives it on a motorway where a big hole may have been left by somebody, he could run into it, his car could be wrecked and perhaps he or his family could be injured. There should be something in this Bill to cover——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I must interrupt the Senator——

The last Minister did not do it. The present Minister should tell us why he is going to do it and not make a laugh of the last Minister.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator is out of order. I allowed the Senator to make a point.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Please do not interrupt the Chair.

I do not wish to be out of order, but at present under the ordinary law it is possible to take such action. If somebody has his car damaged, there is heavy insurance taken out by the local authorities in order to compensate for this. What Senator Robinson and Senator Lenihan were referring to is an entirely different matter.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Aylward, I am not allowing you to proceed.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 15 to 17, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.