LOCAL AUTHORITIES (INDEMNITY) BILL, 1923—FIRST STAGE.

I beg leave to introduce the Local Authorities (Indemnity) Bill, 1923. This is a Bill to establish the validity of certain acts done and omissions made by Local Authorities during the period between the 31st day of March, 1920, and the 6th day of December, 1922.

During the period that elapsed between the Summer of 1920 and the coming into operation of the Treaty, Local Authorities throughout the country, on the advice of Dáil Eireann, engaged in the struggle with the British Government. They broke off relations with the British Local Government Board and functioned under the authority of the new Local Government Department established by Dáil Eireann. This change naturally led to considerable disorganisation and to much uncertainty with regard to the law of Local Government. So many different acts and matters are involved and so many different occasions for illegalities exist, and the records of the period are so incomplete, that it has been found necessary to seek for powers admittedly wide in order to regularise the position.

Might I ask the Minister for Local Government will this Bill deal in any way with the relations as between County Councils and Rate-collectors who refused to carry out their duties under the new condition of things?

I do not think this is the proper time to go into that question. If I was to make a statement on that it would really amount to a Second Reading statement.

This seems to me to be rather a challenge to us of taking a division on this proposed assent to a First Reading. If a Deputy cannot ask a question on a matter of this kind, surely it is depriving members of the Dáil of their reasonable rights?

The Bill does not specifically state anything about the Rate-Collectors. I would want to enquire very deeply into the matter to be able to answer that question. I would certainly want notice of it.

As this is an important matter, and engages the attention of County Councils in most parts of the Free State at the moment, I do think the Minister would be well advised to give it consideration.

Some of the Rate-Collectors will come under the head of the Bill and others will not, and I am not in a position at present to say exactly where the line will be drawn.

As one concerned in this thing to a great extent in the Wexford County Council, which has had to deal with Rate-Collectors who would not do as they were told when the country was in the middle of the war with Great Britain, I feel that I must vote against the First Reading unless this matter is dealt with.

The main question is whether an opportunity will be afforded in discussion on the Bill for raising this particular question. Will the Minister answer that?

Undoubtedly there will be opportunity for raising that question. It comes within the scope of the Bill.

I am satisfied if such opportunity will be given.

Undoubtedly it will.

Question: "That leave be given to introduce the Bill," put and agreed to. Second stage ordered for Friday, 23rd November, 1923.