It was agreed that the Dáil would go into Committee to consider the further amendments on the Report Stage of the Ministers and Secretaries Bill.
DÁIL IN COMMITTEE. - MINISTERS AND SECRETARIES BILL, 1923—FOURTH STAGE RESUMED.
I desire to move, as an amendment, to substitute a new Schedule in nine parts for the Schedule as it stands in the Bill and as it passed in Committee. I take it I should move to delete the whole Schedule first, and any amendments to the new Schedule can then be moved.
I, therefore, move:—
To delete in pages 12 and 13 the Schedule Parts First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth, and to insert in lieu thereof the Schedule following:
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to An t-Aire Airgid (The Minister for Finance):—
The business and functions formerly administered and discharged by the British Treasury in Ireland.
The Revenue Commissioners.
The Paymaster-General and Deputy Paymaster for Ireland.
The Government Actuary.
The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland.
The Civil Service Commission.
The Commissioner of Valuation and Boundary Surveyor for Ireland.
The Ordnance Survey.
The Superintendent of the Teachers' Pension Office.
The Stationery Office.
The Old Age Pensions, save as regards appeals governed by Statute.
The Post Office Savings Banks (administered through the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs as agent).
The Registrar of Friendly Societies.
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to an t-Aire Dlí agus Cirt (The Minister for Justice):—
All Courts of Justice and the Offices thereof save in so far as the same are reserved to the Executive Council or are excepted from the authority of the Executive Council or of an Executive Minister.
The General Prisons Board for Ireland and all Prisons.
The Registrar of District Court Clerks.
The Public Record Office.
The Registry of Deeds.
The Land Registry.
The Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland.
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to an t-Aire Rialtais Aitiúla agus Sláinte Phuiblí (The Minister for Local Government and Public Health):—
The Local Government Board for Ireland.
The Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums in Ireland.
National Health Insurance Commission.
The Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Ireland.
Roads Department (formerly Ministry of Transport).
Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper so far as concerned with Elections.
General Nursing Council and Central Midwives Board.
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to an t-Aire Oideachais (The Minister for Education):—
The Commissioners of National Education in Ireland.
The Intermediate Education Board for Ireland.
The Commissioners of Education in Ireland (Endowed Schools).
The Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools.
The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. (Business and functions relating to Technical Instruction only).
The College of Science.
The Geological Survey in Ireland.
The National Museum of Science and Art.
The National Library of Ireland.
The National Gallery of Ireland.
The Metropolitan School of Art.
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to an t-Aire Tailte agus Talmhaíochta (The Minister for Lands and Agriculture):—
The Irish Land Commission (including the late Congested Districts Board for Ireland—Agriculture and Land Branches).
The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland (except the business and functions relating to fisheries and Technical Instruction).
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries so far as concerned with the Ordnance Survey.
The Royal Veterinary College of Ireland.
The Public Trustee in Ireland.
The Forestry Commission.
Farm Institutes of or controlled by Government.
Royal Botanic Gardens.
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to an t-Aire Tionnscail agus Tráchtála (The Minister for Industry and Commerce):—
Ministry of Transport (excluding the Roads Department).
The Board of Trade.
Registrar of Companies.
Registrar of Business Names.
Registration of Shipping.
Minister for Labour.
Chief and other Inspectors of Factories.
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to an t-Aire Iasgaigh (The Minister for Fisheries):—
Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland —Fisheries Branch.
Congested Board for Ireland—Fisheries Branch and Rural Industries Branch.
The Conservators of Fisheries.
Particular Branches of Administration assigned to an t-Aire Puist agus Telegrafa (The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs):—
Particular Services assigned to an Príomh-Atúrnae (The Attorney-General).
Chief Crown Solicitor for Ireland.
Chief State Solicitor's Department and all local State Solicitors.
Treasury Solicitor for Ireland.
Estates of illegitimate deceased persons.
The alternative is that these new proposals replace the old ones.
Yes, we will consider them Part by Part. We will now take the first Part to which there is an amendment by Deputy Morrissey.
I beg to move Amendment No. 26:
In the Schedule, First Part, page 12, to delete the words "The Old Age Pensions save as regards appeals governed by Statute" and to insert in the Third Part the words "The Old Age Pensions."
The object of this amendment is to ensure that this service shall not be assigned to the Ministry of Finance. The Minister for Finance is certainly entitled to scrutinise the total expenditure, but I contend that he is not qualified to deal with the administration of this service, and that this service properly belongs to the Ministry of Health.
The fact is that Old Age Pensions must necessarily come into Finance. They are administered by officers who come under the Department of Finance, that is Excise officers throughout the country. It would be impossible, I think, to get any other adequate machinery for dealing with the Pensions. The ultimate decision as to whether a pension shall be granted in a particular case or not rests with the Minister for Local Government, but the actual investigation of the claims is with the officials of the Revenue Department, and it would be impossible for the Local Government or Public Health Department to set up machinery to deal with it.
That is the position at present, but will it continue to be if the Schedule is passed as it stands? Will the Minister for Public Health, as he will then be, have the final decision as to whether a person is entitled to the pension or not? According to the section the particular branch of the department which is to be assigned to the Ministry of Finance, includes Old Age Pensions. It has this saving clause:—"Save as regards appeals governed by Statute." Does that reserve the present right to the Minister?
Yes, there is no change made in that.
Will that require that in the Third Part there should be some reference to the control of Old Age Pensions? It is deleted entirely at present.
It is not necessary, because it is prescribed by Statute.
This will be a new Statute?
But that is not altering the substantive law of that kind. It can be inserted; there is no difficulty, and I have no objection to inserting the words in the Third Part: "Appeals under the Statute relating to Old Age Pensions."
Cannot this particular sentence be adopted with the deletion of the word "save"?
May I suggest that it is absolutely essential that it should be done, otherwise we will be in the curious position that while a Statute that directs appeals to the Ministry of Local Government or Public Health still remains, it will be illegal under this Bill, which will then have become a Statute, for the Minister for Public Health to have any staff to deal with them. At present there is an Old Age Pensions Department in the Local Government Department, but if the Schedule passes without an amendment of this kind the Minister will be forced to disperse that staff.
As a matter of fact, I think it is sufficiently covered in the Third Part. It is there in the term, "the Local Government Board for Ireland." I think that covers Old Age Pensions sufficiently, and it is merely a matter of letting people see it in so many words that it should be put into the Schedule; but I think it is actually included in the term "Local Government Board for Ireland."
I think if the Minister is prepared to accept the suggestion of Deputy Figgis to omit the word "save," it would meet the case.
That is a bad joke of Deputy Figgis.
"Appeals under the Old Age Pensions Act in so far as they are appeals to the Local Government Department"—I do not think they are necessary at all, but in order to avoid any misapprehension and to put the matter right, I will move later a form of words which need not be corrected afterwards—"Appeals under the Old Age Pensions Act."
Very good; in these circumstances the amendment is withdrawn.
I am afraid I find myself in some difficulty. It is provided that this Department of the Civil Service Commission shall be assigned to the Ministry of Finance, but the operative part of the Second Section says the Ministry shall comprise all the duties of the office concerned, yet we have the Civil Service Regulation Bill, which states that the Civil Service Commissioners are to be appointed by the Executive Council with certain duties assigned to them. How far are these two to be reconciled?
This does not alter the Civil Service Commission Bill at all. It provides that the administration of that particular department falls under Finance, but it does not deal with the appointment of the Commission which is regulated by Statute.
But does not the Civil Service Regulation Bill provide within the four corners of that Bill that certain parts shall come under the Ministry of Finance? If the Civil Service Commission be left out here in the first part of the Schedule, then the Civil Service Commission will fall under the department of the President, and whatever duties are assigned to the Minister for Finance will then, of course, be reserved to him. be reserved to him.
No, I think that is a mistaken view of the Deputy. The general administration of the Department is under the Ministry of Finance.
There is one point I would like to raise. It is in regard to the Registrar of Friendly Societies. I would like to know what the argument is in regard to this officer who, one would imagine, should be under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, inasmuch as the greater part of his office is concerned with administrative work which is under the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Friendly Societies, Trade Unions and Societies of that kind come under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and the greater part of the work of this office and the register of companies should certainly come under Industry and Commerce. I fail to see why the Registrar of Friendly Societies should be brought under the Ministry for Finance.
The reason for that is that the Minister for Finance has to authorise certain persons as fit persons to audit the accounts of Friendly Societies, and that is a very necessary provision for these societies. It is considered that the Ministry of Finance would be the most capable of dealing with that class of business.
Will the Attorney-General explain, as I am unable to understand why the Ordnance Survey should be brought under the Minister for Finance. I should imagine that a task quite technical in its character, and, to my mind, at least, with the present knowledge available, dealing largely with strictly Survey matters, should be brought under some other department.
That matter was very carefully considered, and the reason that department was assigned to Finance was that its work was so closely associated with the work of the Commissioner of Valuation. The Valuation Office is the one through which maps of the Ordnance Survey are issued, and Ordnance Survey was brought under this head in order to prevent duplication and to bring it into close association with the work of the Commissioner of Valuation.
First Part agreed to.
I beg to move an amendment: To insert in the Schedule, Second Part, page 12, the words: "The Public Trustee in Ireland," and to delete these words from the Fifth Part. The main object I had in putting down this amendment was to discover the actual position with regard to the Public Trustee, or whether we were to have a Public Trustee in the sense that such an officer exists in other countries. I understand there is a Trustee in connection with the Land Acts. If he is to deal with land only, I think he should come under the Department of Agriculture in the Fifth Part of the new Schedule. I would like to have a statement from the Attorney-General as to what the position is with regard to the Public Trustee.
The position in Ireland is that the only Public Trustee is the Trustee under the Land Act of 1903. His functions are solely concerned with the sale of land and with the proceeds of estates sold through the Land Commission. There is no Public Trustee in Ireland in the sense that an official occupies a position of that kind in England. In England the Public Trustee is the person who administers estates generally for anyone who chooses to send in his name to have an estate administered by a Trustee.
Does the Schedule make provision for the possible setting up of a Trustee in Ireland, supposing there is a general demand for an appointment of that kind in the country?
No. I do not wish to be taken as indicating, should such a demand be made, that it ought to be complied with. Anyone who has carefully studied the comments on that Department, as it exists in England, especially in recent years, would, I think, agree that it has not been an unqualified success. There are alternative methods of dealing with this matter which, perhaps, at a later date you may consider here for the protection of estates which have to be administered by a Public Trustee. I do not think there is a real genuine public demand for the setting up of an official of this kind in this country, nor do I think that the public who have studied the operations of that department in England would altogether support the appointment of such an official here.
I do not think I can altogether agree with what the Attorney-General has stated with regard to the Public Trustee in England. I am concerned with some estates in England which are administered by the Public Trustee, and the only complaint against him is, and this is not an uncommon complaint even against members of the Bar, that his fees are too high. That is due to the pressure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make that Department a lucrative and revenue-producing one. I hope that by passing the Schedule as it stands we shall not bar the Dáil against the appointment of a Public Trustee in the future.
Or, that by saying that there is a Public Trustee under the Minister for Agriculture, it will prevent the appointment, if it is ever thought desirable, of another Public Trustee to deal with Trusts the same as the Public Trustee does in England.
That would be a matter for legislation, or it might be dealt with in some other way. The question would arise, of course, whether such an appointment would be necessary in a country like this of small estates. In England the large estates administered by the Public Trustee can afford to pay the large fees charged.
On behalf of Deputy Corish, I find that the following amendment stands in his name:—
In the Schedule, Third Part, page 12, to delete the words "Central Nursing Board and Midwives' Board" and to substitute therefor the words "General Nursing Council and Central Midwives' Board."
I think the revised edition of the Schedule embodies the amendment of Deputy Corish, but I have been reminded that there are, in fact, two bodies, and perhaps Deputy Sir James Craig may be able to enlighten us on that point, as to whether the General Nursing Council is one body, and the Central Midwives' Board another body. Perhaps, also, the Attorney-General would look into the matter, and, if necessary, some alteration may be made.
I would like to make a general comment on the Schedule, and it is, that I think the Ministry is making a mistake in retaining under this single Minister all these various Departments, which are not really related. A Minister for Public Health is required, and that Minister may be the most competent person in the world for that purpose and yet the least competent to look after elections. There seems to be really no connection between some of the duties of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. Some of us had hoped that the opportunity would have been availed of to constitute a Minister for Public Health, who would have, in fact, that duty as the sole duty of his office. It would require a Minister's whole time, and I want to express my regret that the Government has not taken advantage of the opportunity to set up that Ministry and to re-distribute some of the other functions amongst other Ministries.
Is the amendment with regard to Old Age Pensions being moved at this stage?
I am willing to move that the words be inserted, subject to correction elsewhere, or if the Deputy is satisfied I will have the amendment moved elsewhere in another form.
Of course, there is a possibility that it will not be accepted elsewhere.
I think I can assure the Deputy that it is really quite unnecessary, from the point of view of effect; that it is included in the functions of the Local Government Board for Ireland. The Local Government Board had this function of Old Age Pensions appeals, and it is carried forward now, so that all that is required is to put the thing in black and white here.
Perhaps it would meet it if after "Local Government Board for Ireland" the words were added "including appeals under the Old Age Pensions Acts."
The amendment is to insert after the words "Local Government Board for Ireland" the words "including appeals under the Old Age Pensions Acts."
I would like to ask for a little information about one service that appears under the Fourth Part of the Schedule since the Bill was originally drafted, and that is meteorological services which are now proposed to be conferred on the Minister for Education. I really cannot imagine a more inappropriate Minister to deal with meteorological affairs. I have a certain interest in these things. For the last twenty years I have supplied meteorological information to whatever Government happened to exist at the time, rainfall and temperatures, without payment, and I do not know why the Minister for Education is dragged into this. The functions of the Minister for Education, as set forth in the Bill, are
"The administration and business generally of public services in connection with education, including primary, secondary and University education, vocational and technical training, endowed schools, reformatories and industrial schools."
What in the world have they got to do with meteorological services? The only connection that could possibly be imagined is that you would require a certain amount of education to read a thermometer or a rain guage, but so do you to be a registrar of District Court Clerks. This does not concern the Minister for Education at all. It does concern the Minister for Agriculture. Rainfall statistics, temperature statistics, and information of that kind are of vital concern to the Minister for Agriculture. It also concerns the Minister for Fisheries, and it might concern the Minister for Defence if one follows the British precedent, because in England the Air Minister—and I suppose the Minister for Defence is responsible for the air as well as for the land and the sea—is responsible for these statistics. But the Minister for Education is the most inappropriate person in the world, both by reason of his functions, and I would say in the present case also, as an individual, because if you want to control meteorological services you have to be some thing of a prophet, and the Minister for Education is both too old and too wise to be a prophet. I think the Minister for Agriculture is a much more suitable person to prophesy. I feel that you then might get what you call a Stop Press prophecy. I should like to know why this is being put on to the shoulders of the Minister for Education. He is already in control of the National Museum, the National Gallery, and the Metropolitan School of Art. These are, to a certain extent, connected with education, but the meteorological services are not concerned with it in the smallest degree.
I was wondering whether the Ministry were not wise in putting this service under the Ministry of Education. I take it that part of the duties of this service would be the issuing of daily reports regarding the weather. Any of us who have been connected with schools know that the attendance is exceedingly bad, and the reason usually given is the state of the weather. If the Minister for Education were in a position to broadcast every morning that the shower that threatened over the neighbouring hili would not be as serious as parents thought, it might have the effect of improving the attendance. Possibly it might be as well if the Minister for Education was acquainted with the state of the weather for another reason. We know that most of the school buildings throughout the country are in such a state that a shower of rain would have a very serious effect on the inside temperature of the school, and it might be well that he would be in a position to say that such and such a school should be closed on a particular day, as a cold snap was coming over the Kerry hills on that day. These are some of the reasons that I see in favour of keeping this service under the Ministry of Education.
It was recommended that this service should be put under this Ministry, not perhaps for the very practical reasons suggested by Deputy O'Connell, but because it involves research, and it would probably be associated with the College of Science rather than other services. That is the only reason that it is associated with this particular department.
The same reasoning would apply to the Ordnance Survey. Why have you not given that to the Minister for Education? I think personally the most appropriate person —he is not a Minister but a Secretary —to deal with any Department that concerns changes of temperature and sudden storms is Deputy McCarthy, in his capacity of Chief Whip.
Who would control the calms?
Fourth and Fifth Parts of Schedule put and agreed to.
In regard to this Ministry, a little earlier it was stated that to this Ministry would be assigned the compilation of statistics. I want to know whether it would not be a good thing to set that forth in the enumeration of the services of the Ministry, as mentioned in the schedule.
One wonders how often it is necessary to explain some things. I think at a very early stage of this discussion it was explained that these schedules are not exhaustive schedules of the functions of the department. But the description in the descriptive part in the Section is an exhaustive description of the functions of the department, and it does include statistics. The schedule comprises existing organisations or departments which are handed over and grouped into Ministries already described, but if there were statistical commissioners they would be in this last one.
That is exactly why I put this question, because there is now, or has until recently been, a statistical department that has been assigned to another department.
I move:—"In the Schedule, Sixth Part, to delete the words `Electricity Commissioners.' " I would ask the indulgence of the Dáil to go rather into the whole matter of the position of electricity in this country. I should explain that although I rise as a Deputy, and take the responsibility of doing so, I have also a position in connection with the Association of Electrical Generating Stations, and this Association comprises all, or practically all, of the generators of electricity in the Free State, and in that way has got, I take it, all the experts in the electrical world as far as the Free State is concerned. The English Act of 1919 provided for the appointment of Electricity Commissioners. That Act was accepted in Ireland by default rather than with any degree of confidence in the measure itself. In fact, it is thoroughly recognised by, I think, everybody concerned, that that Act is not very suitable for adoption as regards the developments of electrical undertakings in the Free State. This Association was asked by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to advise them in connection with the preparation of a Bill which would govern the progress of electricity and electrical undertakings within the Free State. The Association voluntarily and very willingly gave assistance in the preparation of the Bill. That Bill is in being, and there is nothing, as far as I know, to prevent its having been brought forward except the convenience of the Dáil. I do not say that everything in the Bill would be supported by the experts in connection with our Association, but at all events the Bill would provide a method of dealing with all these things, but one thing it does not propose, and which would be resisted strongly, would be the saddling of the industry with Electricity Commissioners. The Electricity Commissioners are very excellent as applied to the highly developed industry in Great Britain, but they are unnecessary in our area, because unfortunately we are very backward, and the few electrical industries could not be called upon to bear the expenses that would be entailed by Electricity Commissioners, who must of necessity be very expert and have very high qualifications. These things you do not get for nothing. This Association I have referred to has volunteered to give all the expert assistance that is required. It is controlling the industry as a whole; it has a very broad knowledge of the subject, and it is particularly interested in the progress of electricity within the Free State. The Ministry and this body to which I have referred have been in close touch with the Bill, and the members of the Association and I may be pardoned for failing to look for anything concerning electricity or electrical developments in the Ministers and Secretaries Bill. Otherwise this matter would have been brought before the Dáil long ago, and this is my apology for bringing the matter before you in connection with the amendment I have proposed. First of all, I say there is absolutely no need for including the Commissioners in this Sixth Part at all. There is no object in perpetuating the term as applied to the electrical industry in this country. The Bill which is in some pigeon-hole or other deals with the whole subject. Why complicate the matter by bringing into this schedule powers and giving them to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce? In that respect, it seems to me, while I do not want to impute any bad motives to anybody, to be very strange that in the circumstances the Ministry have been parties to putting in this without in any way bringing it under the notice of the Association. It may be said there was no obligation on them to do so. I say it was, because there was an understanding as between the Ministry and this Association that the Association would be kept in touch with any development in connection with the Bill that was on the stocks, and in connection with any electricity development as a whole. Further, the inclusion of this provision which gives to the Ministry the power to appoint Electricity Commissioners, or Commissioner, in essence, if it was put into operation, leaves the Ministry in the position that as far as their Bill is concerned to control the future of electricity they are in the happy position that they can carry on and scrap that Bill, or bring it forward or not, just as they like. In other words, this undermines by a side-issue the principle of the Bill which they themselves have drawn, and which is being held up. I ask the Dáil to delete any reference to the Electricity Commissioners, and I do so feeling that its inclusion is unnecessary and even dangerous, and that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should not be given this power in this way. I may be entirely wrong, but I feel that by the inclusion of these words the Electricity Bill will be at the very least considerably delayed. I have no doubt the Attorney-General will tell me that this is a nice little thing that means nothing, and all that sort of thing, but if it means nothing, if it does not give the Ministry of Industry and Commerce any extra power, then why include it?
I am a little at a loss to understand to what Department the Deputy desires to transfer the authority over these Commissioners. I take it that the Commissioners exist.
I was expecting to hear the Deputy say that the authority over these Commissioners ought to be the Ministry of Fisheries. There are only three other Ministries to be passed through, and I think the connection of the Ministry of Fisheries with the electrical shark and other electrical fishes, alleged to exist in the seas around the West Coast of Ireland, represented by Deputy O'Connell and others, would bring that authority under that Department. The Ministry for Posts and Telegraphs might also be the right Ministry for this particular Department. I can hardly imagine that even Deputy Hewat would desire to put the Attorney-General in charge of the Electricity Commission.
There is really nothing sinister in the inclusion of these Commissioners under their natural heading. The Minister for Industry and Commerce permits me to say that a Bill dealing with the whole subject of electricity, and the subject matters of those Bills in England, is in course of preparation, and as soon as it can be put into form, it will include provisions such as those in the Electricity Clauses Bill, and so on, as well as suitable provisions corresponding to, or in substitution for, those in the Act of 1919. As soon as it is ready it will be introduced. It is not being lost sight of, and it is engaging the attention in the rough draft form in which it was presented to the legal draftsmen in my Department.
This inclusion here of the Electricity Commissioners has nothing to do with the Bill, which must be introduced to deal with this subject in Ireland, because the English Bill is not applicable. The inclusion here of the heading of the Electricity Commissioners simply provides for the administration of such matters pending the introduction of legislation, which will be at the earliest practical moment. I can also give Deputy Hewat an assurance, if it will further sustain him, that pending the introduction of the Bill, there is no intention to appoint Commissioners. In the meantime, however, the matter cannot be left hanging in the air, and some Department must take it over, and the proper Department for that is the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
That Department has already that power, as it takes in the powers of the Board of Trade, who were the parties who appointed Commissioners. The people whom I more or less speak for, say that this Clause is unnecessary, and are very anxious that, if possible, it should not be put in at all, but if, for any technical reason, the Attorney-General makes a point that it should be included, if it is not going to be operative might we have an assurance to that effect, and if it is not going to be operative would it not be better to drop it, as the Department is carrying on very well without it? If they appoint these Commissioners they would put themselves in the position of being able to take on all the powers of the Electricity Commissioners, under the Act of 1919, which we maintain should not be put into operation in this country as it is unsuitable and quite unnecessary.
The Attorney-General is hoist by the petard of the Minister for Finance as he argued in an earlier effort and in another connection that it was unnecessary to put in anything about old age pensions as the powers of the Local Government Board had been transferred and now in this case all the powers about which the Attorney-General spoke have been formerly possessed by the Board of Trade. It is absurd to say that these hypothetical invisible people do not exist and therefore their powers cannot be transferred. If Deputy Hewat carries his motion to a division I shall vote for it.
I do not know if the Deputy realises that what I said was that the Commissioners are not proposed to be appointed under the Act of 1919, but whatever public services are to be administered arising under that Act, which is in force pending legislation of our own, should be the concern of some department and I think the department should be this one. I submit that for this reason it is properly introduced into this Schedule.
I would be very loth to divide the Dáil, but I feel strongly on this matter and I appeal to it to say that the Attorney-General has not made any case for the inclusion of these words in the Schedule. The Department is carrying on perfectly well, as things are, and has not found any embarrassment for want of powers in connection with electricity undertakings. If there is going to be any delay about the introduction of this new Bill, I say that it will provide for a new state of affairs entirely. The interval between now and the passing of that Bill will not be any more embarrassing to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce than the period through which they have gone. If there was no legislation on the tapis dealing with the matter, the Attorney-General's argument to include this might have more force than it has at present. I think, however, it has no force now, as pending the new legislation the Ministry of Industry and Commerce will not be embarrassed.
The Deputy, I think, ought to have given some history dealing with this matter. Up to the time of the introduction of the Act of 1919 the Local Government Board functioned, I think, as the Electricity Commissioners function now.
The powers were under the Board of Trade.
They were under the Local Government Board before the Act of 1919. That is a position that might reasonably have been explained. In the Act of 1919 these powers were transferred to the Board of Trade who appointed Electricity Commissioners.
The Board of Trade is represented here by the Ministry for Industry and Commerce. Obviously, if there are any powers which the Board of Trade should exercise, those powers should be in the competence of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Yet we had a Bill before us dealing with electricity, the Electricity Undertakings (Continuance Charges) Bill, and the Minister, I think, said, in introducing the Bill, that it would be necessary to arrange for somebody to review those charges and to give an authority for varying any increase over the pre-war cost from August last. I do not know at the moment whether or not the functions to be performed under this Act were functions which under the British Government were administered by Electricity Commissioners. If so, and we exclude now, in deference to the Deputy's wishes, Electricity Commissioners, we might find ourselves in a dilemma, and I do not think the Deputy ought to press his point.
The real position with regard to Electricity Commissioners is that under the functions laid down by the Act of 1919 they are unsuitable to this country. They would not have been adopted if things were in a normal condition when the Act of 1919 was being passed in the House of Commons. The local authorities here, including the Dublin Corporation, would have appeared to resist the application of the Electricity Act to this country, but in 1919, as you all know, we were in a very disturbed state here, and no part in connection with the Bill was taken. The Electricity Commissioners had been condemned by yourselves, because you have not adopted the subsequent Act of 1921 of the British House of Commons, but you have taken up the stand that you are prepared to legislate for electricity in a separate Bill with knowledge of your own requirements and in that Bill the Electricity Commissioners have no place whatsoever, and would not be accepted by yourselves, because of the unnecessarily extravagant charge that would be placed on the undertakings.
In Great Britain a small levy on the undertakings pays for the expenses of the Electricity Commissioners. They are men of high standing, getting a large salary—I have no doubt they earn it—but it is said that a levy that would pay for that service would be a very heavy burden on the undertakings as they exist at present. The point we make is that there is no need for the Electricity Commissioners. We are satisfied that the Minister for Industry and Commerce should have control. We are satisfied, as a body of experts, to give all the technical advice necessary to the Ministry and that there is no need to appoint Commissioners. Why then include them in this Bill?
I think I have assured the Deputy that there is no intention of appointing Commissioners, and I think I have explained that what this does is to transfer the administration of the functions hitherto discharged by Electricity Commissioners to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. That appears to be the thing Deputy Hewat's Association wants. I cannot see, with the repetition of the protest on the one hand, and the assurances I have given on the other hand, why this matter should be pursued.
I am persuaded by Deputy Hewat's speech that we ought not to accept his motion. I would draw attention to the head of this paragraph of the Schedule, "particular branches of administration assigned to the Ministry for Industry and Commerce." I take it there are certain branches of administration which have been by statute allocated to some body called the Electricity Commissioners, or some body, in the absence of Electricity Commissioners, who are doing the work assigned by that statute. Deputy Hewat tells the Dáil that his Association has been in consultation with the Ministry regarding a Bill to deal with the control of the electrical supplies, and then tells us a little later that if there were any proposal to establish Electricity Commissioners, his Association would not have it, and rather suggests that his Association is trying to control the Ministry, incidentally the Oireachtas, in regard to electricity. I do not know what powers Electricity Commissioners have, or are intended to have, but it almost seems to me from the speech of the Deputy that it is necessary to have such Commissioners, and when he says that the Association, which I am quite sure is an important and influential body of gentlemen, would not have such a thing, it may be very desirable that that thing should be imposed upon them. Because of that speech, I am decidedly in favour of retaining this, for fear of possible lapses on the part of the Ministry.
In a Bill yesterday I did not find any reference that any order was to be made under that Bill authorising charges which have been made non-legally, and which shall be made by virtue of any Order to be made in the future subscribed to by Electricity Commissioners. Looking over the Schedule, one finds particular branches of administration assigned to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and I fail to see where the case lies for what the Deputy recommends.
- John J. Cole.
- John Conlan.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Sir James Craig.
- John Good.
- William Hewat.
- Connor Hogan.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
- Ailfrid O Broin.
- Richard R. Beamish.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Louis J. D'Alton.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Patrick J. Egan.
- Osmond Grattan Esmonde.
- Henry J. Finlay.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- David Hall.
- Domhnall Mac Carthaigh.
- Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
- Pádraig Mac Giollagáin.
- Seán Mac Giolla'n Ríogh.
- Eoin Mac Néill.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Patrick J. Mulvany.
- Martin M. Nally.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- John T. Nolan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Mícheál O hAonghusa.
- Criostóir O Broin.
- Próinsias O Cathail.
- Aodh Ua Cinnéidigh.
- Tomás O Conaill. Conchubhair O Conghaile.
- Liam O Daimhín.
- Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
- Séamus N. O Dóláin.
- Eamon O Dubhghaill.
- Peadar S. O Dubhghaill.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Eamon S. O Dúgáin.
- Aindriú O Láimhín.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Pádraic O Máille.
- Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
- Seán M. O Súilleabháin.
- Caoimhghín O hUigín.
- Seán Príomhdhail.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
I do not know whether it is possible to elucidate under this heading who will have control of aerial navigation. Is it possible that the Postmaster-General will be the authority controlling aircraft for commercial purposes because they will be generally engaged in carrying mails? I have not been able to find out from the Schedule or from the Bill exactly where the control will lie over that Department of public activities. Perhaps the Minister will tell us.
There is at present no Department of Civil Aviation. If and when such a Department is created it may be attributed to the Postmaster-General or such other Department as may be thought fit. The only Aviation Department at present is the Air Branch of the Defence Forces. Probably it will be desirable and necessary hereafter to consider legislation to control the use of the air for ordinary civil purposes.
Part 8 put and agreed to.
Part 9 put and agreed to.