in the Chair.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL, 1924—RECOMMITTED (RESUMED).
I agree to drop amendments 4 and 5, which read:
In page 7, Section 9 (1), line 13, after the word "district," to insert the words "and such others of the powers and duties of such council in such district as the Minister shall direct."
In page 7, Section 9 (2), line 21, after the word "district" to insert the words "and such others of the powers and duties of such council in such district as the Minister shall direct."
They are, perhaps, too wide, and would give more power than was intended. I may be able to adjust the matter later on.
I beg to move the following amendment:
In page 8 to insert a new sub-section before section 12 (3):
(3) a board of health shall appoint a committee for the better and more convenient regulation and management of the relief of the poor for each urban district or town under the Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act, 1854, within its area.
Under the section as it stands, the county board of health may appoint local or other committees. In this amendment I seek to make it mandatory on the county board of health to appoint committees in urban districts or towns under the Towns Improvement Act, 1854. That would include a town or urban district with a population of not less than 1,500. It ought to be apparent to anyone that it is absolutely necessary we should have local people on committees appointed by the county board of health to deal with the administration of home assistance; otherwise there are bound to be abuses, and people who would be sadly in need of assistance might be left without it. It is all the more necessary to appoint local people, in view of the fact that the Minister refused to accept my amendment on the Committee stage, which sought to give urban district councils direct representation on the board of health. There is no guarantee whatever in the Bill that there should be a single representative of the urban district or a town on the county board of health. That is altogether wrong when we consider that the great bulk of applications for home assistance come from people in urban districts or towns, such as the amendment is meant to cover. You are bound to have hardships and abuses of home assistance, unless you have committees set up in the different towns composed of people who are interested in the work, committees that will know intimately the circumstances of the different applicants, and who will be able to say whether the applicant is or is not a deserving person. I do not think there is any necessity for me to develop the argument very much further. The principle was fairly well discussed in Committee. It ought to be quite apparent that, if home assistance is to be administered upon a sound basis, it will be absolutely necessary to have local committees appointed.
I do not think Deputy Morrissey has raised any new point in his argument in favour of the amendment, the subject of which was discussed through the length of forty-four columns on the Committee Stage, when an amendment of similar import was introduced by Deputy Colohan. I cannot see how I could answer Deputy Morrissey on this occasion without repeating the arguments that I used against Deputy Colohan's amendment on that occasion. One of these arguments was that it is not advisable to stereotype a form of committee that county boards of health can appoint.
Will the Minister agree to insert the word "shall" instead of "may," and not stereotype the form of committee at all? The section says that the county board of health may appoint local or other committees. Will the Minister agree to insert the word "shall"?
That would stereotype the committee. Another of the arguments I used was that the question of home help is about to be considered by a commission, and I did not wish to deal with it in this Bill at all. It is a matter that is being at present dealt with under the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Bill, and it will get permanent form as soon as we have had an opportunity of having it considered by a commission.
The Minister has told us there were so many columns of a discussion in the Official Report on an amendment which touched upon this question of local committees. Probably the Minister will agree with me, if he has gone through these columns, that Deputy after Deputy from all parts of the Dáil pointed out in opposition to the proposals from Deputy Colohan, that Clause 12 provided for committees, and they argued on the assumption that there would, inevitably, be local committees and particularly local committees for the supervision or control of this dispensation of home help. That occurred on Section 12, and several endeavours were made to try to ensure that there would be local supervision, either an individual or a committee having a knowledge of the circumstances of the people who are going to receive home help or of the applicant for home help, who would have some say, either advisory or controlling, in respect of the dispensation of that assistance. But nothing yet has been put into the Bill which ensures that any other person than an officer—the official appointed by the board of health—shall dispense home help.
No other person will have anything to do with it in any locality, and under the Bill, as it stands, you are likely to be in this position, that in a town nobody resident in the neighbourhood will know anything about the condition of the people who are applying for home help, and will know nothing about their fitness or their suitability for this kind of assistance. Only the visiting officer, the officer who is to enquire, the relieving officer as he used to be called, will have anything to say to the matter as far as the Bill is concerned. There may be, under this section, local committees appointed by the board of health. The amendment seeks to make it an obligation that the board of health shall appoint such committees in an urban area. I cannot understand the Deputies who argued, as they did, on the assumption that there must be committees of that kind to oversee properly, and assist in, the distribution of this relief. I cannot understand any Deputy of that kind refusing to accept this amendment. It only seeks to put into the Bill provisions which they all argued would necessarily be in operation. If there is no such provision of this kind, and the boards of health fail to appoint local committees, then, you will have a state of things which no one, I think, who has considered, sympathetically, the question of relief for the poor would contemplate with satisfaction. It is universally advocated both by those interested in the problem, from a social stand-point, and those who have studied it, scientifically, and who have been brought into contact with this kind of problem from the administrative point of view, that when you are dealing with the assistance, relief and protection of the poor, that the purely official mind is not enough. You must have the contact of persons who are able to treat the matter from some kind of knowledge, local knowledge, knowledge of the circumstances and of home conditions. That is what this amendment seeks to ensure. The Bill will not provide that. The Bill leaves it open for the board of health in any country district, or in any county, to leave the matter in the hands of the official concerned. That official may be a most generous-minded and sympathetic person. I say nothing about that. But, notwithstanding the individual sympathy, there ought to be some local knowledge brought to bear, and that should be insured in the Bill itself. I hope that the Deputies will realise that aspect of the case and support the amendment.
When the Minister was endeavouring to pilot Clause 3 of this Bill through the Dáil he informed the Deputies who were trying to make a case to retain district councils, because of the fact that they would be a medium to help the poor, that the county board of health would appoint committees to look after the various functions of the board of health proper. Now that he has abolished the district councils under Clause 3 of the Bill, he refuses to consider an amendment of this kind, an amendment which I think he will find on careful examination is absolutely necessary. Deputy Johnson has told the Dáil that the official mind cannot deal with the situation as it is now in the various congested districts in the Saorstát. Distress has assumed such an acute form in the various provincial towns in the Saorstát now, that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has been forced by reason of these circumstances to bring forward a Bill here to resurrect the dead contributions of insured contributors.
It is apparent to everybody, including the Minister, that distress has assumed a form so acute that even the small committees operating in the various areas, unofficial as they may be, are hardly able to cope with the demand made upon their services to deal effectively with the payment of home help. In Wexford, where there are practically 12,000 inhabitants, there are at present, unfortunately, five or six hundred people in receipt of home help, and were it not for the fact that two or three local people and myself attend along with the home help officer every Saturday it would be impossible for him to attempt to relieve the poor in that area. What is true of Wexford is true of towns of only half the size, and that, I take it, is the size of the average provincial town. It has been necessary in some towns to seek the aid of the Gárda Síochána to deal with the crowds seeking home help in order to keep some sort of order when relief is being given out.
If the Minister refuses the request which the amendment makes to him, I feel that we are going to have a state of chaos in the various towns. We are told there will be a superintendent of home help, who will manage everything. It is absolutely impossible for him, no matter how clever he is, to deal with the matter effectively. He will not know the people who are making representations to him. He could not be expected to know them. It is necessary that a medium should be supplied through which the people could make representations to this superintendent. The people are going to be neglected, and it will be absolute criminal negligence on the part of the Minister and Government if they refuse to make it mandatory upon the board of health in the various counties to appoint committees.
I would like to be clear on one point in connection with this discussion. It might be possible that a county council would exclude representatives of people residing in an urban district or town when appointing the board of health. That would entail considerable hardship on the poor, because at present it is the members of the board of health who issue the dispensary tickets and the orders to doctors to attend the sick. I do not believe myself that such a case would arise, but if the county council did exclude representatives of persons resident in urban areas I would like to know from the Minister what the position would be.
There is not very much point in what Deputy Shaw said, because the issuing of tickets is not restricted to the members of a county board of health. The board has the right to appoint what they call wardens in the different districts. I put it to the Deputy that it is a much greater hardship that there will be no representative from a small town or urban district to decide who is or is not entitled to home help. I want to bring it home as clearly as I can to Deputies opposite, who may live in urban districts or may be members of urban councils, that there is nothing in the Bill to guarantee that any person living in an urban district elected to the county council shall be on the county board of health. Deputy Johnson raised the point as to the home assistance officers and officials, and the Minister stressed that very much on the last stage of the Bill.
From my experience of the working of a board of guardians, and the giving of home help, or outdoor relief, as it was called, it is the ambition of every relieving officer who wants to stand well with the board to keep outdoor relief as low as possible. Any Deputy who has any experience of the work knows that that is the practice. The fact that you have a superintendent of home help appointed is no guarantee whatever that there is not going to be abuses. Supposing there was a relieving officer who was a corrupt official, and who had a friend to whom he wished to give outdoor relief. He makes application to the board of health for that particular person, paints a suitable picture, and is allowed to give so much relief.
When a superintendent of home help comes along he is not able to decide whether that person should or should not get outdoor relief, as the official will have the person pretty well tutored. The superintendent of home help will not be able to decide, by walking into the house of a recipient of relief, if that person is entitled to it. I believe the system cannot work without these committees, and without people with local knowledge. I think the Minister should come out in the open with his propositions, and let us know if it is his intention gradually to do away with the system of outdoor relief altogether. It seems to me that that is what he is aiming at in the Bill. It puts the administration of home assistance into the hands of people who, in most cases, have no sympathy with, and no real knowledge of, the wants of people who are looking for such assistance.
Deputy Morrissey has gone over the same ground we went over on the last occasion. I am quite as well aware as Deputy Morrissey is of the distress that prevails in the country. It is not confined to the urban areas by any means, and is very pronounced in rural areas, particularly in the West of Ireland, where there is a good deal more poverty than in the towns.
The Minister should make a tour of his own constituency.
I know something about that, too. I do not agree with Deputy Morrissey that the official is the wrong person to administer relief of this kind. There may be exceptions, cases where the official is liable to yield to pressure of one kind or another, the same as any other human being, but, as a general rule, I say he would be far more likely to administer home help in a fair and upright manner than a person who would be amenable to all kinds of local influences. There is no reason under the Bill why committees of this kind cannot be set up.
There is no assurance that they will be.
I am extremely reluctant to insert a provision in the Bill that would make it compulsory to set up committees for dealing specifically with this one matter of home help, leaving the public health and sanitary matters altogether unprovided for. In any case, Deputy Morrissey's amendment does not achieve the purpose he seems to believe it would achieve. It would be quite possible under the amendment for a county board of health to set up in a town a committee consisting of four or five farmers from the opposite end of the county. It does not specifically tie the board of health down to appointing members from the town. In the long run, you have to trust the board of health, so that you might as well trust them in a whole-hearted manner, and not tie them up with knots that would eventually prove ineffectual.
- Seán Buitléir.
- David Hall.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
- Tadhg O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Séamus de Búrca.
- John J. Cole.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Michael J. Egan.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- John Hennigan.
- Seosamh Mac 'a Bhrighde.
- Donchadh Mac Con Uladh.
- Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
- James Sproule Myles.
- Martin M. Nally.
- John T. Nolan. Conchubhar O Conghaile.
- Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
- Séamus O Dóláin.
- Peadar O Dubhghaill.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Aindriú O Láimhín.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
I move the following amendments:—
7. In page 9, Section 18 (1), line 49, after the word "habitation" to insert the words "or a barge, lighter, boat or other vessel on any river, canal or other inland water (in this section referred to as "a barge") used for human habitation."
8. In page 9, Section 18 (2), line 57, after the word "habitation" to insert the words "or of barges used for human habitation."
9. In page 9, Section 18 (3), line 63, after the word "habitation" to insert the words "or in any barge used for human habitation."
10. In page 10, Section 18 (3), lines 3, 8 and 10, to delete the words "or structure" in each of the lines, and to substitute therefor the words "structure or barge."
11. In page 10, Section 18 (6), line 21, to delete the words "or structure" and substitute the words "structure or barge."
I undertook on the Committee Stage to bring in amendments of this kind. Amendments 8, 9, 10 and 11 are consequential on No. 7.
In page 10, Section 19 (5), to insert after sub-head (b) a new sub-head—
"(c) to exercise supervision over the milk supply of the area and to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure its purity."
This is an addition to the duties of the ordinary county medical officer of health. In addition to the somewhat general duties which are prescribed under Section 19, I am seeking to add, that he shall exercise supervision over the milk supply of the area in which he acts. Probably the Minister will tell me that this amendment is unnecessary, and that already, under sub-head (a) of this section, the medical officer of health has those duties and powers. I think that is the case, but I am anxious to emphasise this matter, and to single it out as one of the most important duties that can fall on anyone charged with the responsibility of the health of the public. That is why I put down this amendment. I owe a certain apology to the Dáil. I had hoped to support it by the opinions of eminent doctors, but circumstances over which I had no control made it impossible in the time at my disposal to obtain those. I put down this after consultation with one or two doctors especially interested in child welfare because they thought it of considerable importance that the onus of discharging this duty should be laid on the shoulders of a medical officer of health.
So far as the City and County of Dublin are concerned, this duty has already been discharged fairly efficiently. We read fairly frequently in the papers of the prosecutions of milk suppliers whose milk has been dirty or deficient in fats. It may be so in Cork, I do not know, but so far as the country is concerned, we have been singularly negligent of our milk supply. I think in the country districts where the milk comes straight from the cow, that even though there are oldish cow-houses and sometimes people who do milking with dirty hands, generally speaking, there is not much wrong. The milk comes straight from the cow and is poured into the receptacles of the children for their tea. I think small country towns are bad, indeed, that is, towns with a population of from 2,000 to 10,000. There is not the same antiseptic quality or the free air or exercise which you find in the actual country districts, and I think more ought to be done in the direction of inspecting and ensuring purity of milk than is done at present. This Dáil has under consideration measures for the improvement of the quality of livestock, butter and eggs, but we have let the milk supply go. I need hardly stress the importance of the milk supply. On it mainly depends the health of the rising generation and the rate of our infantile mortality and, therefore, I hold that while this amendment may not be a perfect one, it should be accepted because it contains a great and desirable principle.
I think it is a pity that the Minister for Agriculture is not able to be present for the discussion of this amendment.
And the Farmers' Party.
As for the Farmers' Party, the Deputy who I thought was coming in to speak on behalf of the Farmers' Party did not remain because he realised suddenly that he came from County Meath. It is a striking illustration of the lack of interest in matters affecting the poor, because this does distinctly affect the poor more than the better off. The people who are going to man county councils and boards of health are not here, not even one representative of them, to consider the question. The proposition of Deputy Cooper is one which should be supported in principle. I think it is doubtful whether any such phrase as "to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure its purity," could be embodied in a Bill with any assurance that it would be accepted perhaps by a careful supervisor.
The idea of giving specific powers in this Bill in this respect, in addition to such powers as they already may have on the general law, is, I think, quite desirable. It will draw the special attention of the medical officers of health that supervision over the milk supply is within their jurisdiction. It is important to bear in mind that this does not merely mean supervision over the distribution of milk in towns. It is supervision over the milk supply, and in that way would do what some of us hoped might have been done by the Dairy Produce Bill which was passed recently. This would give the local medical officer powers to supervise the dairies, or if he already has those powers, it draws direct attention to the fact even though it is duplicating what he already knows. He may not have those powers. If he has not, we should give them to him, and for those reasons I support the amendment even though it should be necessary in the Seanad to amend the phraseology of it. Perhaps even the Minister now could suggest some slight modification of the last two lines and insist on the amendment being adopted in the Seanad.
As Deputy Cooper intimated when he introduced this amendment, I cannot see my way to accept it because it is unnecessary. We have all the powers that this amendment would confer upon us already in present and preceding statutes. I quite agree it would be a good thing to emphasise, so far as you can emphasise by legislation, the necessity for insisting upon pure milk—one of the most urgent matters before the public at the present time. But oftentimes, in trying to do good in one particular way, the only result of our efforts is, not to improve matters in that particular way, but, perhaps, to disimprove them in other ways. In Section 19 (5) (c) I have got ample powers to deal with a situation of this kind. The county medical officer will have other duties in regard to other matters besides milk. He has to deal with meat inspection, and water inspection, and all matters of that kind, and the only effect of picking out one particular point of this kind and stressing it is, not to make the law any more stringent in regard to that particular point, but oftentimes to confuse it and make it less clear and specific in regard to that point, and for that reason alone I think the Deputy would be well advised to withdraw the amendment.
There is also another point, and that is, that under this Bill we will have veterinary officers appointed for each county, and at the moment it is not yet decided whether it will be the veterinary officer or the county medical officer who will be the particular official responsible for inspecting milk. The veterinary officer will be primarily responsible for inspecting dairies and cowsheds, and things of that kind, and this is one of those border cases where we find it difficult to say who will work it. For these reasons I would not like to be pinned down on a matter of this kind. This would be largely only a propaganda section, and would have no binding legal effect.
Is it optional on a council, or is it mandatory, to adopt the Dairy and Cowsheds Order and the Milk Shops Act?
It is mandatory.
On every council?
Yes, it is.
I am not satisfied with the Minister's answer, even though he spoke as I anticipated. I admit that the terminology of my amendment is inadequate, and I would be quite prepared to meet Deputy Johnson by withdrawing the last half of it. I would like to meet the Minister by inserting the words "in conjunction with the veterinary officer." I think this question needs more attention than has been directed to it. The Minister says it is one of the most important questions before the public. Would anybody here, reading the daily Press, believe that the public mind is really agitated about the milk supply? So far as they are agitated about the milk supply, I think they are more agitated about the price than the quality of the milk. I feel that the Minister's statement that this is only a propaganda section will only help to increase that indifference and apathy in the minds of those responsible for the administration of local bodies. I regret it from that point of view. I do not see that to re-assert and emphasise a principle can do harm.
If the Minister asks me why I singled out milk rather than meat or water, I will tell him. I singled out milk because milk is a matter that vitally affects the welfare of children, and it is in our dealings with children that we in this Dáil have been most negligent. We have in the year past done very little for the children of this country. There was a School Attendance Bill promised months ago, but that School Attendance Bill still tarries. All our measures, useful and necessary though they have been, have done very little indeed to improve either the moral or physical condition of the children of the State, and that is why I would again urge on the Minister to reconsider his decision and if he cannot accept this amendment, to give some sort of an indication that if a more concisely worded and a more carefully considered amendment is put forward in the Seanad he will give it favourable consideration.
I think it is quite evident from the Minister's earlier reply that he is not of any mind to do anything of the kind that Deputy Bryan Cooper suggests. He says that the powers at present in his hands are sufficient, and that at any rate the Bill is giving power to the Minister to prescribe any other duties, which might include greater supervision of the milk supplies.
But the Minister may not prescribe such extra powers, and it is well, I submit, that the medical officer should have the fact directly borne in on him that he is responsible for exercising supervision over the milk supply of the area. If it is not possible to pierce the mind of the Minister by appealing on the health side, possibly if we put the case in respect of the commercial value of better supervision, we might have some success. In the course of the discussion on the Dairy Produce Bill, suggestions were made regarding the necessity for ensuring that the dairies shall be clean and healthful and that the milk which they send to the creameries— whether it is to be made into butter, or sent away fresh, or after pasteurisation sold as whole milk—shall be clean, and that the conditions surrounding the buyers shall be healthful.
The case that was made in discussion in Committee on that Bill was that the creameries and the machinery to be set up by the Minister for Agriculture would gradually introduce provisions enforcing greater cleanliness and better surroundings, and that it would be by a kind of commercial pressure, financial interest, that these better surroundings would ensue. I think that that is too slow. I think it is not quite sufficient. You will always have the minority in a dairying district backward and disinclined to improve their conditions, partly from ignorance, partly from inability, and partly from stinginess. If the medical officer of health is given specific power and our injunction that he must exercise this power, with a view to the double purpose, first, improving the health of the people, and, second, of increasing the commercial value of the butter, then something will have been achieved, and possibly the Minister might be induced, coming from a county where there is a large number of creameries, a big dairying district, on the score of commercial prosperity that would ensue from the adoption of this amendment, to accept it. I think that the double argument, at any rate, one reinforcing the other, might be sufficient to persuade Deputies that an insertion of a provision of this kind is advisable and necessary for the better administration of the health services of the country.
There is no necessity to stress the point, as far as I am concerned, of the necessity of pure milk both from the standpoint of health and from the commercial point of view —why Deputy Johnson thinks that that reason appeals with special force to me I do not know. It is not because I have any particular objection to seeing pure milk in the city or in the country that I cannot agree to accept this amendment. The sole reason is that it does not add anything to the Bill. The medical officer is responsible for the sanitary services and for safeguarding the health of the people.
In that area.
Section 19 (a)——
What would be the position of the medical officer who found that the condition of the area in respect of milk production was quite satisfactory as affecting his own area, but might be unsatisfactory as affecting the people to whom the milk was eventually to be sent?
The case of a man in Clare sending milk into Limerick.
I do not see that the amendment would make much difference in that, because it says, "supervision over the milk supply of the area, and to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure its purity."
If the milk is pure, all is well?
But it is the milk supply of the area, in the surroundings of the byres, in respect of the health of the people in that area; it is the milk supply of the area that is to be supervised.
I think that is as broad as it is long. He has the same functions with regard to the milk in the area as he has to the meat, or any other edible production in the area, and, as I say, it does not increase his powers in any way; he has got exactly the same powers. It stresses them, and it would be useful from a publicity point of view, perhaps, to some extent, and would let people see that we were taking a particular interest in milk and milk production. On the other hand, you would have to set off against that the fact that it would be a weakening influence on other functions that are, perhaps, just as necessary, dealing with meat, drugs, and other productions of that kind. For that reason I cannot agree to accept the amendment.
I did not adopt Deputy Johnson's error of addressing the Minister on commercial grounds. I know that the Minister is, or, at any rate, used to be, an idealist, and there is nothing sadder than to see an idealist being turned into a bureaucrat, which is the burden of the Minister's argument. It was purely an official argument, and did not touch the question on human grounds, or on the grounds of health and welfare in the least. If he had met me, recognising the imperfections of my amendment and having no illusions as to my imperfections as a draftsman, I would have met him by withdrawing it. As it is, I am afraid I must have a division.
- Seán Buitléir.
- John J. Cole.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
- James Sproule Myles.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Liam O Daimhín.
- Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
- Tadhg O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An
- Liam Thrift.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Séamus de Búrca.
- Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
- Michael Egan.
- Desmond Fitzgerald.
- John Good.
- John Hennigan.
- William Hewat.
- Donchadh Mac Con Uladh.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Patrick McGilligan.
- Seoirse Mac .
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
- Martin M. Nally. John T. Nolan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Séamus O Dóláin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Ristéard O Maolchatha.
- Seán O Súilleabháin.
- Caoimhghín O hUigín.
In page 11, Section 21, to delete sub-section (2) and insert after sub-section (3) the following new sub-section:—
"(3) On the application of the council of an urban district or of the council of the county in which such urban district is situate, the Minister may by order direct—
(a) that the council of such county is to construct or maintain all or any of the urban roads in such urban district, or
(b) that the council of such urban district is to construct or maintain all or any of the main roads in such urban district:
and, while such order remains in force, it shall, notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section (1) of this section, be the duty of the council of such county or urban district (as the case may be) in accordance with the provisions of such order, to construct or maintain such urban or main roads respectively, but such order shall not affect the area of charge for the expenses of such construction or maintenance, and so much of such expenses as is chargeable on such urban district or on the county, exclusive of such urban district (as the case may be) shall be paid to the council of such county by the council of such urban district or to the council of such urban district by the council of such county respectively in accordance with regulations to be made by the Minister."
This amendment is introduced to carry out an undertaking I gave on the Committee Stage of the Bill to Deputy Corish and, I think, the Minister for Defence. It enables main roads in urban districts to be maintained by the urban district council where that body is competent to do so. It also enables all the roads in an urban district, urban as well as main roads, to be maintained by the county council, whether the county council has in the past been in the position to maintain them.
I would like the Minister to give some explanation with regard to sub-section (1) of Section 21. It says: "(a) the maintenance and construction of all county and main roads in a county shall be the duty of the council of such county; and (b) the maintenance and construction of all urban roads in an urban district shall be the duty of the council of such urban district."
I want to know from the Minister whether county or main roads are included in the expression, "The continuance of main roads through an urban district." Is that the position, I want to know?
A main road is a main road, whether it runs through an urban or through a rural district.
The point I want to get information on is this: If this section is passed, with the amendment, will the county council be responsible for the keeping, maintenance and construction of the main roads which pass through an urban district?
Before the introduction of this amendment all main roads passing through urban districts had to be maintained by the county council. This amendment permits these main roads to be maintained by the urban district, that is to say, by urban district councils which are competent to maintain the roads in a large urban district.
I do not think the Minister is correct when he says that before the introduction of this Bill——
I said of this amendment.
That makes a difference.
I think the Minister, although he intended, no doubt, to fulfil the promise he gave when we were discussing amendments on the Committee Stage of the Bill, has gone beyond that and introduced propositions which run distinctly contrary to the intentions of the amendments he then looked upon favourably. The section provides: The maintenance and construction of county and main roads in the county shall be the duty of a county council. The maintenance and construction of urban roads shall be the duty of the council of an urban district. On the Committee Stage it was sought to introduce words which would ensure that the county road, that is, the main road running through an urban district, would also be maintained by the urban district council. That was the proposition that was withdrawn on the understanding that the Minister would bring in an amendment to embody the idea on the Report Stage. The amendment states that if the county council makes a request that all the roads in the urban district shall be constructed or maintained by the county council, the urban district council may make a similar claim in regard to the main roads, and then the Minister may by order prescribe that such shall be the control.
I think that rather weakens than strengthens the section from the point of view of those who put forward the original amendments. It leaves the likelihood of giving a certain point of view to the Ministry. The county council may claim that they could do the roads in the urban district better than the urban district council itself, and that they could maintain the roads to an advantage greater than the urban district council itself. The Minister can, by order, decide that such shall be the case and can take the power out of the hands of the urban district in regard to the maintenance and construction of all urban roads. That is a worse proposition than the proposition in the original scheme. I do not think the Minister intended to do that, but that is really what has been accomplished by the amendment that he has proposed. I would like to hear from him whether he really intends that, and, if not, whether we might not then be able to find a form of phraseology which would secure the aim that we at least argue is desirable.
Apart from the aspect of the question raised by Deputy Johnson, I can see visions of very extreme friction as between urban district councils and county councils. In the Bill, as originally drafted, before a transfer of control could take place from an urban district council to a county council, there had to be agreement between the two bodies. On the basis of that agreement you could proceed without friction, but if you leave it to the option of the county council to extinguish the control of an urban district council, by a request to the Minister, on which he acts, I see possibilities of great friction. Of course, it is not quite clear on the question raised by Deputy Johnson whether this applies to all urban districts. It could not possibly apply to all urban roads, because all urban roads, except main roads, pass through the urban areas, and are at present bound to be maintained by the urban district council. It is only the main roads that are maintained by the county council. I expect that that is what is intended to continue, but whether the phraseology here is sufficiently clear on that is another matter. At any rate, I see a considerable amount of friction ahead if this amendment is passed. I think that the old arrangement in the Bill was much better than the proposal in this amendment, because under that arrangement you had to have agreement between the county council and the urban district council before this transfer of control could take place from the urban to the county council.
I am at a loss to understand how the Minister can tell us for a moment that the amendment he puts forward here would suit the requirements of the amendment put forward by my colleague, Deputy Hogan. Sub-section (2) says: "The council of an urban district or the council of the county in which the urban district is situate may, with the consent of the Minister, agree." That is to say, that the two councils must agree before the county council can come into the urban area to repair a road. In the amendment proposed by the Minister the county council may make representation to the Minister with a view to going in, constructing and maintaining a road in an urban area. To my mind that is a very undesirable state of affairs. I do not think it is a wise thing to permit a county council to go into an urban area to construct or to maintain a trunk road or, indeed, any road in an urban area. As Deputy McGoldrick said, it is going to lead to conflict and to chaos. I wonder what would influence the Minister, what representations made by a county council would influence him, to permit a county council to go into an urban area to construct and maintain a road in that urban area.
I wonder if the Employers' Federation in a certain town wanted to bring down wages, and if it approached the Farmers' Union, which had sufficient representatives on a county council, to secure that that county council would make representations to the Minister, with a view to bringing in county council workmen, who would be paid at a lower rate of wages than workmen in an urban area, would that influence the Minister in acceding to the request of the county council? It is not unreasonable to expect that it would. I do not think the Minister—no matter how he stretches his imagination— can think for a moment that that amendment embodies the principle put forward in Deputy Hogan's amendment. The amendment by the Minister certainly does not please this side of the House.
I was interested in, this matter when it was before the Dáil on the last occasion, and I must say that, to my mind, the amendment on the Paper now is better than the original provision in the Bill. It gives power to a county council or an urban district council to make application to the Minister. It does not confine that power to the county council alone. The urban council can make representation as well as the county council. That being so, I am of opinion that this amendment goes a long way to meet the case put up on the last occasion. What was in the Minister's mind on the last occasion, I think, was that there were many urban districts not able to get the machinery or to maintain their roads as well as they should be maintained, having regard to the standard now required. If that work can be done by the county council in a better manner, and if the council of the district wishes it so to be done, I think it is the proper procedure.
But you must go further than that. The urban district must get a share of the expenditure for the maintenance of these main roads in the entire county. If we do not do something of this kind, the urban district will have to maintain its main roads through the urban district at its own expense. That is a consideration which Deputies—and particularly Deputies from urban areas— should advert to. I want to see a proportion of the money that will go to the county council for maintenance of these main roads being obtained by the urban councils for the main roads in their districts.
That is not in question at all.
It is involved in the amendment. As far as I can see, the amendment meets the case put up on the last occasion. I may be utterly wrong, but I regard the amendment as a vast improvement on what was in the original Bill. For that reason, I am inclined to support it.
If the Minister for Defence would read the original Bill he would see that the financial obligations are already secured. The words in sub-section (1) include the following:
From and after the appointed day, the maintenance of all urban roads in an urban district shall be the duty of the council of such urban district.
They may then come to an agreement with the county council, if the Minister approves, whereby the county council will maintain or construct, not merely the main roads, but the urban roads within that town. The amendment makes it likely in certain circumstances —which, I think, are readily conceivable—that the county council shall put in a claim to have the right to maintain and construct even the urban roads within the urban district. And, provided the Minister approves—notwithstanding the objection of the urban council—it shall be so. That is a most undesirable development, and certainly makes the proposed amendment much worse than the original section.
As I understand the arguments advanced, Deputy Johnson and his Party think that the county council should not be brought into an urban district against the will of the urban district council.
Except at the request of the urban district council.
I think that is sound. When you form an urban area, I take it you do not intend to provide for dual control over the services rendered in that area. It may be that an urban council will recognise that the roads in a particular district would be administered better by a county council than by them. There could be, then, something in the nature of an agreement with the county council, but I think it would be very wrong to allow a county council to go into an urban area, and, on any pretext, take over control of the roads. If there were good and sufficient reason for the change, it should be advanced by the urban council rather than by the county council.
The discussion which we have had shows one of the reasons why some of us have objected to divided authority in the matter of road control. Take a particular case that possibly this amendment is designed to meet. Take half a mile of main road running through an urban district. The rest of that main road will be maintained by the county. The half mile in the urban district will be maintained by the urban authority. That half mile of road is not maintained at all up to the standard of the rest of the main road maintained by the county council. Complaints are constantly being made against this urban authority for not keeping its portion up to the standard. The Minister complains that he has no further power under the original Act than to make representations to the local authority. Unless there is agreement between the two authorities—the county council and the urban council—as to the terms on which this road shall be maintained, the Minister has no power to act.
Look at the matter from the point of view of the amendment, bearing in mind the case I have mentioned. "On the application of the council of an urban district, or of the council of the county in which such urban district is situate, the Minister may, by order, direct, either that the council of such county is to construct or maintain all or any of the urban roads in such urban district"— that is where the urban district has not carried out its work properly, or, in the alternative, "that the council of such urban district is to construct or maintain all or any of the main roads in such urban district."
That provides what is to my mind an absolute essential. Suppose that in one case the county council is not keeping its roads up to a certain standard and a complaint is made by the urban district council, the Minister has power to act. If, on the other hand, the urban district council does not keep its roads up to standard and complaint is made by the county council, the Minister also has power to act. But if you had the original clause maintained, he would not have power to act except those two bodies entered into an agreement.
I am not at all satisfied with this amendment. The Minister promised to introduce an amendment to meet some views expressed regarding the control of roads by urban authorities. To judge by what Deputy Good has said, one would think that county councillors, some of them coming from ten or fifteen miles outside an urban area, are more interested in the main roads passing through the towns and in keeping them in proper state or repair than the urban councillors who come from the urban districts and who are immediately concerned with the state of those roads. It would be interesting to see how the thing would work out in practice, and to see how two sets of machinery, one belonging to the county council and the other to the urban council, and two sets of men, one under the control of the urban council and the other under that of the county council, would operate. It would also be interesting to see when an urban authority, charged with the control of gas or electric mains, digs up these mains, how the road will afterwards be settled by the county council. I cannot see any reason for this proposal except that suggested by Deputy Corish to the effect that as the workers in rural districts are likely to have less wages, they will possibly be used as a lever to reduce the wages of men controlled by the urban council.
I regard the observations of Deputy Good as jocular. He could not possibly put forward any large percentage of cases where he would find that roads running through an urban area, in the maintenance of which every man trading in the area is interested, would be better looked after by the county council. On the other hand, I feel that you are going against public opinion very much in this Bill in regard to many things that are being done, such as removing the district councils and so forth. Now you propose to take, without their consent, from the urban councils the authority which they had over their main roads and to hand them over to the county councils. I feel that you are going to have a good deal of antagonism if you have to face problems of that kind. I think it is wrong, and I think that the original Bill, where it provided that agreement should be come to between the urban and the county councils before that could be done, is a sensible piece of draftsmanship which will meet the situation. You should not give authority to the county councils to take control from the urban councils. I think it is wrong to insist on this amendment being inserted, as it is only going to do damage and create a lot of friction.
If Deputy McGoldrick had been here during the Committee Stage he would have realised, under the Bill as it stood, that originally all main roads were maintained by the county council—those that went through urban districts, as well as those through rural districts. The original Bill gave the county council two kinds of authority over urban roads. First of all, it gave the county council absolute authority over all main roads, even those going through important towns like Drogheda, Clonmel, Wexford, and towns of that kind. Certain Deputies here demurred to that section as it stood originally, and said that it was unfair to insist on the county council maintaining roads in towns that might almost be considered cities, that they had splendid machinery of their own, in every way adequate to maintain those roads at a proper standard. It was, on the other hand, agreed pretty generally that small towns are not able to maintain main roads running through them up to the same standard as main roads in rural districts, and it was accordingly decided that it would be better to have the main roads running through small towns maintained by the county council. Accordingly, we decided that there should be no change in regard to small towns, and that the county council should continue to maintain the main roads running through them, and that with regard to the large towns that there should still be power to maintain the main roads.
There was another provision in sub-section (2) which enables the county council by agreement with the urban authorities to maintain roads, other than main roads, in urban areas. We started to draft an amendment to meet the wishes of those Deputies who objected to maintaining the main roads in large towns by the county council, and we looked at the question, and also at the section, as a whole. We decided that we would give power to the larger towns of some importance to object to having the roads maintained by the county council, and that we were to be a kind of board of arbitration to decide whether they were competent to deal with these roads or not, and that in cases where we were satisfied that they were competent we would grant these powers to urban authorities. In addition to that we also decided that as a final referee the Minister would be the best person to decide whether or not the county council would be the best authority to deal with all the roads in an urban area; I really think that there is a verbal change, a slight change, in form in the amendment, but it gives everything the Deputies desire with regard to the main roads, and makes little change with regard to other roads in the urban area. I do not think there can be any objection to this amendment.
The Minister speaks of a verbal change; does not he admit that if this amendment is accepted the county council, with his approval, can take over, construct and maintain roads in an urban district against the wishes of the urban district council and without any consultation with them?
But heretofore they had no power to change them at all. We give them added power with regard to main roads.
Heretofore the county council could not do it without agreement with the urban council under Sub-section (2) of the Bill.
That was with regard to by-roads, but with regard to main roads they had no discretion at all. They were maintained by the county council.
Will the Minister say what is a large town?
It would not be easy to say.
I move Amendment 14:
In page 11, Section 21, after sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(4) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any road or portion of a road which under the provisions of any enactment it is the duty of any person other than a local authority to construct or maintain.
This is meeting the view expressed by Deputy Corish, that roads at present maintained by authorities other than local authorities, by private individuals, should still continue to be paid for by such authority.
Amendment agreed to, and the new sub-section ordered to stand part of the Bill.
I move Amendment 15:
In page 12, Section 22 (b), line 2, to delete the words "fourteen days" and substitute the words "one month."
This amendment was put down at the request of several Deputies, and was agreed to during the Committee Stage.
I move Amendment 16:
In page 12, Section 22, to delete paragraph (c) and substitute a new paragraph as follows:—
(c) before making an order under this section in respect of any road the Minister shall, at least one month after the publication of the advertisements required by this section, hold a local inquiry into the expediency of abandoning such road, and the provisions of Article 32 of the Schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898, shall apply to every such local inquiry.
This is a similar amendment. The idea was that a road could not be abandoned without the holding of an inquiry before such abandonment of the road.
If an inquiry by the Local Government Department is to be held in all these cases, with all the paraphernalia of lawyers and witnesses, and all that, I am afraid it will be a serious business. I ask the Minister what he thinks of it from that aspect of the case.
I do not think there is any danger of what the Deputy mentions. The cost of one of these inquiries, naturally, would be in proportion to the importance of the road. If it is a small trivial road the inquiry would not be an important one, and would not cost much. The local inspector would carry it out without cost of any kind. If it were a big road it would be a different matter.
I move Amendment 17:
In page 12, Section (e), line 30, immediately after the word "Act" to add the following words:—"save that where under any such Act or Order any person other than a local authority is liable to make any payment to a local authority in respect of the construction or maintenance of any road such person shall still be liable to make such payment to the council charged under this Act with the maintenance of such road."
This is a consequential amendment on Amendment 14.
I move Amendment 18:
In page 12, to add to Section 23, the following new sub-section:—
(2) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any road or portion of a road which under the provisions of any enactment it is the duty of any person other than a local authority to construct or maintain.
This is a consequential amendment also.
I move Amendment 19:—
In page 12, before Section 24, to insert a new section as follows:—
An order of the Minister declaring any road to be a main road may be revoked by the Minister, and on and after the date when such revocation takes effect such road shall cease to be a main road.
This amendment is necessary in order to give me power where a road ceases to be a main road no longer to have it classified as a main road and maintained as such.
I move Amendments 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 27:
In page 12, Section 26 (1), line 53, to delete the words "county surveyor of a county" and substitute the words "council charged with the maintenance of any road."
In page 12, Section 26 (1), line 55, to delete the words "the council of a county" and substitute the words "such council."
In page 12, Section 26 (1) (a), lines 58 and 59, to delete the words "situate in such county or in an adjoining county."
In page 12, Section 26 (1), paragraph (a), line 61, and in page 13, paragraph (b), line 3, and paragraph (c), line 10, and paragraph (d), line 14, to delete the word "any" and to substitute the word "such."
In page 12, Section 26 (1) (b), line 63, to delete the words "in such county or in an adjoining county."
In page 13, Section 26 (2), line 26, to delete the words "county surveyor" and substitute the word "council."
In page 13, Section 26, before sub-section (3), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"(3) Any powers conferred by this section on the council of a county may be exercised directly by the county surveyor of such county, on behalf of such council."
These are all of the same kind and deal with the same matter, to enable a county surveyor to get material for roads wherever it is desired, and also the urban councils.
I move Amendment 26:
In page 13, Section 26 (2), lines 28 and 29, to delete the words "against the will of the occupier thereof, without the previous" and substitute the words—"except with the consent of the occupier thereof or under the authority of an."
This is also an amendment introduced at the suggestion of Deputy Cooper to insure that the county surveyor or urban council must get the consent of the owner, or the authority of the district justice, before entering on the lands to avail of these powers.
I move Amendment 28:
In page 13, Section 26 (3), to delete lines 37, 38, and 39 and line 40, down to the word "council" and substitute the following words—"(3) The council or contractor by whom or on whose behalf are exercised any powers conferred by this section in respect of any land shall pay to the owner or occupier of such land."
This is also a consequential amendment.
I move Amendment 29:—
In page 14 to insert before Section 27 (3) a new sub-section as follows:
(3) No order shall be made by the Minister under the next preceding sub-section in respect of any occupied cottage or other small dwellinghouse unless and until the Minister is satisfied that alternative accommodation, reasonably equivalent as regards rent and suitability in all respects is available for the occupants, and it shall be the duty of the council charged with the maintenance of the road to assist the occupants to obtain such accommodation.
Power is given to a council to raze to the ground a cottage on the corner of a road, if that cottage obstructs the view of motorists. The amendment seeks to restrict the powers of the council in that respect until the occupier of the cottage has been provided with alternative accommodation. It really comes to be a question as to whether the safety of road users, or rather, shall I say, the need for care and the necessity for slowing down on the part of motorists, is of greater importance than the necessity of housing a person. I think it should appeal to the House as reasonable. Ordinary structures which are not habitations are not affected by the amendment, and in the case of a habitation, a cottage which is on the road, and is an obstruction, it is not right that the local authorities should remove that cottage unless some alternative accommodation is provided.
I do not suppose there are very many cases throughout the country. There may be a few; there may not be any. The fewer there are, the less obstacle this will be to the pleasure of motorists. However few they may be, the cottagers in such houses should be protected and should not be turned out on the road to satisfy the requirements of speed. I think the Dáil ought to accept this amendment without further discussion.
I would like to say on this amendment that I would be prepared to accept it if Deputy Johnson would agree to the insertion of the words "occupied dwellinghouse in existence at the date of the passing of this Act" in substitution for "occupied cottage or other small dwellinghouse," and delete from "and it shall be the duty," etc., to the end of the sub-section.
That is quite easily understood, and I am very glad the Minister has met us on that point.
I move to report progress.