Housing Bill, 1929—Money Resolution. - Vote No. 40—Local Government and Public Health.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £307,556 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1930, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Rialtais Aitiúla agus Sláinte Puiblí, maraon le Deontaisí agus Costaisí eile a bhaineann le Tógáil Tithe, Deontaisí d'Udaráis Aitiúla agus Ildeontaisí i gCabhair, agus Costaisí Oifig Chigire na nGealtlann.

That a sum not exceeding £307,556 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, including Grants and other Expenses in connection with Housing, Grants to Local Authorities and Sundry Grants in Aid, and the Expenses of the Office of the Inspector of Lunatic Asylums.

These Estimates show a net increase of £57,990. It will, however, be seen that in the first part of the Estimate which deals with salaries, etc., there is no increase. I dealt last year with very substantial increases in staff and cost of administration that had taken place. Under the heading "Miscellaneous Grants," apart from the increase shown for housing which is £59,915, Deputies will note that an increase is indicated in every instance. This group includes the contributions of the State to various social services other than housing. The amount is in total £106,396. This is a modest contribution to public services of a most important character. They are the grants towards maternity and child welfare, the medical treatment of school children, the provision of school meals to children and the treatment of tuberculosis and veneral diseases. I suggest to Deputies, apart altogether from the fact that these grants are built up of statutory grants that are given to local authorities and are the measure of the expenditure on these matters by local authorities, it is not desirable to make reductions in them. As a matter of fact, such reductions would be illusory economies. Every pound of this money will bring its certain return manifold in the prevention of needless suffering to mothers and infants and in the avoidance of the many kinds of physical impairment which become chronic in adult life because of neglect, inattention or ignorance during childbirth and infancy.

The progress of preventive medicine must depend entirely on the acquiescence of the public generally in the advantages to be attained. Much enlightenment has been secured by voluntary agencies and by the medical officers and nurses connected with various maternity and child-welfare and tuberculosis schemes throughout the country. That is through these voluntary agencies. Praise is due to those early propagandists who without proper machinery or organisation involved public interest in the facts as to health. In matters of public health the application of the results of experience demands co-ordination and efficient administration.

The appointment of county medical officers of health and the inauguration of school medical services, which are now being steadily advanced, afford the opportunity of placing health schemes on a sound and systematic basis. County medical officers of health are now working in Cork, Carlow, Kildare, Louth, Offaly and Westmeath, and assistant medical officers of health in Cork (3) and Kildare (1). The public health schemes in these counties are in various stages of development. In addition to schemes for the prevention of tuberculosis and for the medical inspection of school children schemes for the eradication of diphtheria have been undertaken in Louth and Cork. On the whole, the Department have no reason to be dissatisfied at the progress made in appointing county medical officers of health.

Will the Minister repeat where the county medical officers of health are now working?

County medical officers of health are now working in Cork, Carlow, Kildare, Louth, Offaly and Westmeath.

Mr. Broderick

I do not think that the medical officer of health is operating in County Westmeath.

The position in Westmeath is that the local body is asking the Local Appointments Commissioners to have a man appointed.

Mr. O'Connell

Did the Minister say Meath?

No. The matter is under discussion in Meath. The adverse financial circumstances of many counties have caused delay, which can be understood. The importance of the question and the necessity for such whole-time health officers are now being generally recognised. The Donegal County Council have decided to appoint a county medical officer of health (£800-£900), and an assistant medical officer of health, who will act as school medical officers and tuberculosis officers; and the Meath County Council are asking the Local Appointments Commissioners to recommend a suitable person as county medical officer of health (£800). The question is under consideration in Roscommon, Wicklow, Monaghan and Limerick, and it is hoped that a number of additional appointments will be made in the course of a few months. It is intended to press for further appointments as opportunity offers in the remaining counties.

The problem of the most effective use of the county medical staff of a public health scheme has engaged the earnest attention of the Department. The easiest administrative arrangement would probably be to allocate an assistant medical officer of health to a particular section of the work, but the effect of this method would be to create watertight compartments in which the staff would lose the wider outlook which is essential to their highest development. In order, therefore, to attain the highest ultimate efficiency, the medical staff of each county unit will be empowered in as many branches of the work as it may be possible to arrange. In Cork and Kildare the Department have been enabled, through the generous financial assistance of the Rockefeller Foundation, to set about providing the requisite organisation for these health units. The scheme in Cork provides for the appointment of three whole-time assistant medical officers of health, to whom shall be assigned definite areas. These assistant medical officers of health will also act as tuberculosis medical officers under the supervision and direction of the county medical officer of health. A superintendent public health nurse and six other whole-time nurses for the school service will shortly be appointed. Maternity and child welfare work will, it is hoped, be carried on here and elsewhere by nurses employed by the district nursing associations under the supervision of the county medical officer of health.

The question of the training of sanitary inspectors has been a matter of much concern to the Department. A three months course of practical experience supplemented by a series of lectures has been arranged in Dublin to enable persons seeking the position of sanitary inspector to acquire a fundamental knowledge of the duties of the office. These courses are given periodically and due notice is given in the Press. It is intended to appoint whole-time sanitary inspectors where county health schemes are in operation and it is hoped that the higher salaries attaching to the positions will attract persons of good education. The work of the sanitary inspector as at present organised was found not to be up to modern requirements. The prescribed course of training is short but the County Medical Officers of Health already in office have expressed their willingness to give further instruction and to complete the training of persons appointed as sanitary inspectors. This arrangement has many advantages which commend it to the Department as there are many sanitary problems of rural life that do not present themselves for solution in cities.

In the case of a school medical service, the organisation of this service is inevitable but it awaits the appointment of the County Medical Officers of Health because the whole scheme of school medical attendance will have to be controlled, directed and co-ordinated by the County Medical Officer of Health. Schemes have been operating for some time in Dublin, Cork and Clonmel. Since we last discussed the matter here new schemes have been put into operation in the County Borough of Limerick, in County Cork, County Kildare, Offaly and Louth. We hope before long that the scheme will operate in Westmeath, too.

Before the Minister leaves that particular phase of the subject, I would like to know if it is his intention to put the young men who desire to be sanitary inspectors to the expense of attending lectures in Dublin, with the possibility also that they might never be appointed. Does the Minister consider there are three centres—Dublin, Cork and Galway—in which this instruction could be just as easily given?

The matter is really only in its infancy. It is difficult to organise these schemes and they will require the co-operation of the university college and the local medical officer of health. I would like to consider to what extent vacancies will exist before incurring whatever expense may be involved. I do not know how costly these courses will be. One does not want to set up courses and invite young men to go to the expense of attending them when there would be no subsequent employment for them. I would be prepared to consider the matter in relation to the number of vacancies likely to occur in the future. I would also consider the places where facilities could be provided.

The Minister is missing my chief point. I take it the intention is to give a course of lectures. After these potential sanitary inspectors have attended the course an examination will be held —a competitive examination—for those who attended the lectures. I suggest instead of putting these men to the expense of attending lectures in Dublin—possibly men from all parts of Ireland—that wherever there is a medical officer of health he would be sufficiently competent to give information to aspirants for sanitary inspectorships.

Deputies will have to understand that there is a very limited number of these positions, and, in so far as instruction can be given by county medical officers of health, we cannot expect them to take control of the raw material for sanitary officers and set themselves up as regular professors, delivering to those aspirants rather important and perhaps difficult lectures in matters pertaining to public health and hygiene, and, to some extent, medicine generally. In order to prepare the ground so that the medical officer of health would have suitable material to work on, you would have to have the co-operation of the university or some other such place where men with experience in medicine and public health matters would be available. Before the present course was arranged for in the City the alternative was to go to London. We are at least making some progress in the matter.

I do not think that the Minister is quite correct. The candidates took out lectures and were examined in local centres, in Cork at any rate.

The Minister should be allowed to make his statement, and these points could be raised afterwards.

As a matter of fact, Deputies already know of these developments. A much more satisfactory way of drawing attention to alternatives would be to send a letter or a memorandum to the Department. If the Estimates are to be discussed in such detail as to determine where and what sanitary inspectors are to be taught, and if we are to have such long discussions over these matters, then we will want a very long time indeed to discuss the entire Estimates. The type of person we are looking for in the shape of a sanitary inspector is a better class of man than we have had up to the present, and he would have a larger area of control.

Under the heading of Child Welfare there are 29 local authorities and 77 voluntary agencies. It is hoped to develop this important service still further in the counties according as medical officers of health are appointed. Much valuable work has been done under existing arrangements both by the local bodies and voluntary agencies. In Dublin the medical officer recently appointed, besides attending at the various baby clubs in Dublin, will hold ante-natal clinics at the Carnegie Institute and will give lectures and instructions to mothers and expectant mothers. That will co-ordinate in a useful way the work of many local bodies.

As regards the welfare of the blind, it is not expected there will be very much increase in the future, and the arrangements are, I think, fairly satisfactory. The standard scheme devised by the Department has been adopted in all counties and county boroughs except Limerick County Borough. Owing to financial considerations, however, only the portion of the scheme dealing with education and training of blind persons in approved institutions has been adopted in Galway and Wicklow counties, and the Boards of Health and Public Assistance in Limerick and Mayo have manifested unwillingness to carry their schemes into operation. These local bodies are being urged to carry out their statutory duties under the Blind Persons Act. Provision is made in the standard scheme for affording suitable blind persons according to their needs and circumstances (1) education or industrial training in approved institutions; (2) employment in workshops of approved institutions, maintenance in a hostel and augmentation of wages; (3) maintenance in approved homes if incapable of work owing to age or infirmity; (4) monetary assistance so as to assure certain weekly incomes to necessitous and unemployable blind living in their own homes. These weekly incomes vary from 14/- in county boroughs to a minimum of 7/6 in counties for single persons, with an increased scale for married blind men and further provision for families.

Under the heading of tuberculosis there is an increase of £9,500, or slightly over 12 per cent. on last year's grant. The numbers of tuberculous patients dealt with under approved tuberculosis schemes have risen steadily in recent years, and the latest returns which relate to the year ended 31st March, 1928, show a total of 14,445 cases, or over 14 per cent. more than in the preceding year. An estimate cannot yet be made as regards 1928-29, but the general indications would point to a further substantial increase in the number of patients dealt with. This influx of patients goes to show that persons suffering from the disease are acquiring more confidence in the arrangements made for their treatment, and that the facilities afforded by the tuberculosis schemes are benefiting the classes of the population for which they are primarily intended. These schemes are developing normally and are in operation in Cork, Dublin and Waterford County Boroughs, and in twenty-two counties. Moreover, Cork County and Limerick County Borough are in the act of establishing suitable arrangements for dealing with tuberculosis, and similar action is under consideration in Meath and Wicklow counties. Roscommon and Longford have not yet decided to follow suit.

The accommodation for the institutional treatment of early cases of the disease is generally adequate and would be quite ample if the more advanced cases which are often sent to sanatoria were provided for elsewhere. The chief desideratum at the moment is, therefore, the extension of the residential facilities for the advanced and moderately advanced cases of the disease which constitute the bulk of the total number of persons affected. Substantial progress has been recently made in this direction, and it is expected that as a result the institutional accommodation specially reserved for tuberculous patients will be increased by about 460 beds in the near future. I think it need not be expected that there will be any very substantial increase in the amount of money to be devoted to the treatment of tuberculosis in the future. The arrangements which exist, with a few additions which require to be made in certain places, seem to be adequate.

As regards finances of county councils, there has been a gradual improvement in the rate collection, but a more willing response to the demands made upon ratepayers will be necessary before local finances are placed in a really satisfactory position.

Perhaps it would be nearer the point to say that a more effective operation of the machine for rate collection will be necessary before full advantage can be taken of the willingness of ratepayers to pay their burden of rates when called upon to do so. Much of the delay in the rate collection that has come under my notice is due to the fact that the county councils are not prepared to urge their rate collecting machines to a full and satisfactory effort. During the last twelve months, however, a very considerable improvement has taken place. On 31st March, 1928, there was 24.5 per cent. of the warrants outstanding. On 31st March, 1929, the percentage of outstanding rates was 19.5. There has been a 5 per cent. improvement during last year in the collection of the rates. Some bodies have made very substantial improvements. There are other public bodies that will require a certain amount of pressure before their rate collection can be said to be satisfactory. The amount outstanding on the 31st March, 1929, was approximately £557,000 or 19.5 of the total year's warrant. At 31st March, 1928, the percentage of the current year's warrant then outstanding was 24.3. The amount of overdrafts on local bodies at the end of March, 1928, was £381,780. This year at the same date the amount of the overdraft is reduced to £201,949. A substantial improvement is suggested there, but on the other hand certain local bodies are rather slow in discharging their liabilities generally. When we say there is a substantial improvement in the amount of overdraft held by county councils at this time as compared with last year, we have to take into consideration that perhaps the explanation of that is that a large number of debts owing by county councils are still unpaid. Every effort is made to see that local bodies discharge their liabilities at a reasonable time. In some cases it is difficult to get that done.

As regards roads, I am glad to say that the relations generally between the Department and road authorities have been satisfactory. There have, of course, been cases where we do not see eye to eye with one another, but there has been no suggestion that our efforts have not been well directed, even in these cases. Work under the national scheme is now practically completed. The sum remaining unpaid on 1st April, 1929, out of two millions allocated, was only £124,439. The greater portion of this sum represents the balances to be discharged when accounts are finally wound up. It was thought that the scheme would have been completed by October last, but at the end of that month the balance outstanding in respect of the different allocations was £276,517, or nearly £300,000. Last year we allocated £500,000 towards maintenance and improvement grants. This year we are allocating £600,000. We had hoped that by the co-operation of county councils a grant for improvement as distinct from the upkeep of main roads would have been notified by this, but for various reasons councils have apparently found it difficult to come to an early definite decision. We were furnished from time to time with figures, and, almost concurrently, with an intimation that these figures would probably be revised at a later meeting. While we are, on the one hand, very encouraged by the evidently thoughtful consideration which the road authorities are devoting to their estimates, we would be glad if they could make up their minds a bit earlier than in general they have done.

An Ceann Chomhairle

took the Chair.

We endeavoured as long ago as October to get the county councils to let us know fairly definitely what their expenditure on maintenance work would be for this year, the reason being that we contribute from the Road Fund 50 per cent. of the cost of maintenance of main roads and 30 per cent. of the cost of maintenance of link roads. Until we would know what amount ought to be set aside for maintenance we could not say how much of the £600,000 could be allotted for improvement work. The result is that county councils find themselves at this time without information as to the amount they can have for improvement work this year. County councils may be ready with their schemes for improvement; summer months are the months during which improvement works are carried out. A certain amount of maintenance work can be left over to winter, but improvement work must be done in summer, and it is most desirable that the county councils would know at the earliest possible moment how much money is allocated for improvement in their areas. The Department has done everything it could do to put county councils in the position of knowing what amount of money is coming to them. Now because of the fact that in some counties we do not yet know how much they are going to spend on maintenance, we have not, up to the present, been able to let them know how much they are to have for improvement. I expect to let them know within another fortnight or so.

This time last year it appeared from the figures then before us that the sums passed by the road authorities for the upkeep of their roads amounted to £1,158,973. The grant towards this expenditure was £235,000 approximately, and by the aid of the grant towards this expenditure the local contribution would be, approximately, £968,000. For the coming year, while all the figures are not yet definitely available, it appears that the proposals passed by county councils for the maintenance of the main roads in both urban and rural areas and the county roads in 1929-30 amount to £1,328,328, of which, approximately, £312,000 will be provided from the Road Fund as a grant. Allowing for a sum, which in a few counties must be applied to additional works, the net sum to be raised by the councils themselves for maintenance is £1,041,328. The increase in both the net figures and in the upkeep grant is largely due to a higher standard of maintenance—viz., surface dressing of the roads which have been laid down at such considerable cost to the Road Fund over the past five years.

The report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the control and regulation of road traffic was presented in September last. The recommendations have been considered very carefully, and while the matter has not been fully considered by the Executive Council up to the present, instructions have been given for the preparation of a Bill along the lines of the majority report. I am not able to say at present when I may be in a position to present a Bill dealing with the matter, but a number of matters have already been dealt with by the Motor Car Public Services Vehicles Order, 1928, which deals with such matters arising out of the report as could be dealt with by administrative action.

Since the last estimates were presented the reports of the Department for the two years ending March, 1927, have been published. I hope to be able to publish shortly the report for the year ending March, 1928. The local taxation account up to the year 1926 has been published since we last discussed the estimates, and I hope to be in a position shortly to publish the accounts for the year ended March, 1927. As to the Poor Law Commission report. I stated in the Seanad some months ago that the rough draft of a Bill dealing with the codification generally of the Poor Law is practically prepared. There is such an amount of old legislation involved in the Poor Law generally that we have thought it desirable to frame a Bill codifying the whole of the Poor Law. It will give an opportunity to the Oireachtas for a full review of the law, and it will be a great blessing to local bodies that have to deal with the administration of the Poor Law to have the law codified into one Act. A considerable amount of work has been done on the preparation of that. I cannot yet say when the Oireachtas will have an opportunity of discussing it, but in so far as it is possible to speed up the work, it is being done.

The Milk Commission has reported and I have before me a draft Bill dealing with the recommendations. In connection with the National Health Insurance Report, a Bill dealing with such recommendations of the Commission as the Executive Council are prepared to approve of has been for some time in the Parliamentary draftsman's hands. The draftsman has been busy with a large number of matters, and as soon as that matter can be dealt with we will introduce a Bill. I have already stated what the position is with regard to Greater Dublin.

The Estimate for this year totals nearly half a million, which is a good-sized figure. If we were getting value for it, nobody would complain. As to whether we are or not, there will be differences of opinion. In some respects, no doubt, good work has been done by the Department. As far as money is available, probably the social services are as well conducted here as in any of the surrounding countries, but the trouble is that there is not sufficient money. I should like to see a good deal more out of the total of just half a million devoted to improving the social services and public health generally. However, before I come to that there are one or two points in connection with the staff on which I would like to have some information. Last year we were told there had been, and I believe there was, a considerable reduction in the number of the staff, as compared with the previous year—considerable reduction certainly in comparison with the year that the new Local Government Department took over. There has also been, as far as the number given in the estimates goes, a slight reduction in the number of the staff in the last year. I am not so very keen on mere reduction of staff. If the reduction means that the efficiency of the staff is decreased, then I am not so keen about it. I should like to see at all cost efficiency in working and good value being given for the money expended. There has been a reduction of five. Where that reduction took place or what the individuals concerned were I do not know and I do not suppose that it matters very much. At any rate, if efficiency is not decreased, it is good to see a reduction in cost and in the number of officials who are, after all, a cost to the community. There is one appointment which seems to be new. Reference is made here to the appointment of an Intelligence Officer. I do not know what exactly the duties of that officer would be. I presume that the heads of Departments would be intelligence officers, especially as far as their own particular branches are concerned. Why there should be one gentleman or lady described as an intelligence officer I do not know—perhaps there is need for it. The Minister will probably tell us why. There is to be a sum of £600, presumably with bonus, spent on that officer. That seems to be a new appointment, as there was no such officer mentioned in last year's estimate.

I notice another new appointment, when going through the estimates— that of a pharmacist. I do not know why there should be necessity for a pharmacist in a Department that is purely administrative. There may be good reason. I imagine the medical inspectors of the Department should be qualified in pharmacy; medical men usually are. They ought to be specialists enough to give any advice to dispensary doctors in matters relating to materia medica. I am sure the House would like to know what is the reason for this appointment. The salary is £250 a year presumably, also, with bonus. There is another matter—that is the case of two general inspectors, which also seem to be new appointments, at salaries of £500 a year each. I take it they are necessary, but I would like to know what the special need is for gentlemen styled general inspectors, and, also, what are the qualifications of these men, and who appointed them. I would like to know if it is the Civil Service Commissioners that selects these men, or if they are to be appointed merely on the nomination of the Minister. If so, we will be glad to know what qualifications these gentlemen possess for nomination to such office. I take it they have some special qualifications, but what are general inspectors? They may be engineers, or doctors, and they may be fully qualified in engineering or in medicine. I do not know whether you could appoint a lawyer as a general inspector to the Local Government Department or not, or a chartered accountant. Whatever they be we would like to know the reason for the appointment, the qualifications, if any, of the persons appointed, and the appointing authority, whether it be the Civil Service Commission or whether it was the nomination of the Minister.

One other appointment. I would like to ask a question about. There is no salary put down this year for the chief roads engineer. I wonder has the chief roads engineer become an honorary appointment. I do not imagine he has. The salary last year was £815, possibly plus bonus. I should like to know if the chief roads engineer is being dispensed with, for then we could understand the salary being left out this year. Presumably that is not the case. What then has happened with regard to him? Why is his salary not included this year is a thing that some of us would like to know.

There are also temporary auditors —there is one, at any rate, provided for. Would the Minister tell us what are the qualifications in the case of these auditors appointed; also, who is the appointing authority and the person who selects them? In sub-section (j) of the Estimates there is this year a decrease of £6,000 in the grant under the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act, 1907. How does that decrease arise? Does it mean there is less provision this year for labourers' cottages to be built in the country, or what, exactly, is the meaning of it? It may be quite all right, and I have no doubt indeed it is, but I do not understand it, and I should be glad if the Minister will let us know the explanation of that decrease.

I was glad to hear the Minister say there was an improvement with regard to the number of county medical officers of health that had been appointed, or were being appointed. I spoke at fair length last year on this subject. I said that, in my opinion, the public health of the Free State was in a very backward condition; you might almost say a rotten condition, looking at it from the public health conditions generally. That is not entirely due to the Local Government Department. It is due to historical causes perhaps, but I believe the Local Government Department, with the money and staff at their disposal, could do more and could force more to be done. They could oblige the authorities in existence and working directly or indirectly under the Department to be more active and to do more to raise the public health standard generally in the country. We think they could do a great deal more in educating the country on the need there is for improvement. They could use the staff to a much greater extent to impress upon the country and upon public men and upon county councils, through the organisation under their control, the grave need there is for improvement in the public health services in the country. Until you get the public, and particularly responsible public men, imbued with the idea that we are in a really backward state in regard to sanitation, public health, and social services, you will not make good progress in this House. There will have to be wider knowledge in the country of the necessity for improvement in these matters before the country is prepared to move forward with the rapidity that is necessary with regard to public health services in general and sanitation and housing in particular.

It is good to see that there has been an increase in the number of medical officers of health. I do not know exactly how many the Minister mentioned as now actually at work. I took down the list—Cork County, Carlow, Kildare, Louth, Offaly and Westmeath——

Westmeath is not actually operating yet; the appointment has not taken place there.

Cork County and Cork Borough are?

So far, so good; but that is a very small number out of the total. Out of the Twenty-six Counties you have only five that have appointed county medical officers of health. That is not good enough. Again, I do not say that the Department is wholly responsible, but I think they ought to bring greater pressure to bear and to use the machinery at their disposal to bring greater pressure to bear in having these officers appointed. I know there is opposition. I know the county councils and the public behind them need educating in this matter, and they will not move, generally speaking, voluntarily or of their own accord. Pressure must be exercised and education brought to bear on them, and I think the Department and its officers could do more in that direction. A good deal has been done in some of the cities, and although I am not certain that I heard the Minister correctly, I gather something was also done in some of the towns with regard to child welfare. That is a branch of health very much neglected in the Twenty-six Counties. Dublin City has done something. It is probably moving fairly well in the right direction, but when we consider the high infant mortality in urban areas in the Free State and compare that with the death rate in urban areas round about us we can see the necessity there is for a big increase in the work being done in the direction of child welfare.

Last year somebody, I think it was the Minister, gave us the figures dealing with infant mortality in Dublin. They showed that 118 children per thousand died every year in Dublin, whereas the figure in London, was 64 per thousand. Although that figure applies only to Dublin City it is something which gives us reason to think. There is something radically wrong when in Dublin City a hundred and eighteen out of every thousand children born in a year are doomed to death before they reach twelve months. The death rate is not as high in other urban centres in the Free State, but still it is abnormally high. Attention should frequently be drawn to it and to the necessity of the expenditure of money by public authorities on the spread of education so that that alarming death rate could be gradually reduced.

I was glad to hear the Minister refer to the Public Health Commission's report. I understood from him that a Bill, embodying some of the suggestions with regard to improving conditions and adopting the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission, was now being drafted. I know that some of the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission's report are being put into operation here and there in different parts of the country, but there are recommendations in regard to specific problems, like that of the unmarried mother. Unfortunately that problem is growing, and the classification of that type of person. That is something that needs attention and probably money.

The question of the provision of pensions for widows is another important matter that has to be attended to and which will probably prove costly. It will not improve public health if we merely pigeon hole these reports. Public authorities in the country should make use of such reports to spread knowledge, educate public opinion, and force unwilling ratepayers and taxpayers —it is for their own good—along the road towards improving public health. The authorities on whom the responsibility rests regarding public health, public morals, and social services ought to be active in spreading knowledge on these matters, and in that way inducing people to see the necessity of spending more money so that conditions generally may be improved.

During the last few weeks I have had many poor people calling on me in regard to the arrangements for home help in the City of Dublin and in regard to the amount granted. I know that the Ministry is not directly responsible for the administration of home help in the City of Dublin, but the officers in charge are officers of the Department, and from the stories I have heard I believe that they are not acting with that broadness of mind with which they should act when they are up against conditions of poverty and starvation such as exist in the City of Dublin. I know it is true that the home help granted in Dublin is higher than the amount granted in other parts of the country, but the conditions of life in Dublin City are different. I think that the Department, whose officers are administering the public affairs of the city, ought to see to it that the poor are treated with a little more thought and consideration than they are getting, according to the numerous stories to which I have unfortunately had to listen for the last month. I know that in the country the question of home help is difficult and that ratepayers find it hard to meet the claims made upon them. That is not a matter over which the Local Government Department has absolute control, but they could, by way of education through their medical officers, help those who are directly responsible to a greater realisation of their duty to the poor and afflicted. I do not think that all that is possible to be done by the local authorities in Dublin in the way of relieving necessitous cases is being done, I will not say generously, as we are too poor to be generous, but, at any rate, in the way in which, in my opinion, it is required to be done.

I was glad to hear the Minister speak of the improvement in the services in regard to tuberculosis. That disease has been a terrible affliction in this country, and it is good to hear that improved conditions all round can be reported by the Department in so far as practically every county in the Free State is concerned, and that better arrangements have been made for the treatment of all classes of cases. I take it that that is what the Minister said—advanced cases in particular. It is agreeable to know that these poor afflicted people are getting all the attention that can be given to them out of the public purse. We had some talk about housing to-day and have had several talks recently on that subject. I do not want to go into it again. On this side of the House we have expressed the opinion over and over again that we are not satisfied that the Department is doing all it should, or that the Government is giving it all the money necessary to deal with that question.

The money granted is probably being spent as it should be spent, but our complaint is that the effect of bad housing on the public health generally is not sufficiently realised and is not brought home to the people. In regard to the general ill effect, the possible spread of disease from slum areas arising out of bad housing, and the spread of diseases of different kinds, not alone in the areas concerned but all through the community, we think that the Department, purely from a public health point of view, should stress every day and more and more on the Government the immediate necessity of spending a larger sum of money than they have yet spent in any one year in eradicating the housing evil. As there has been some discrepancy in regard to the number of houses built during the last financial year, perhaps the Minister would give us the exact figures in regard to such houses, the number built since 1922 by local authorities, public utility societies, and private persons and, if possible, also the number of houses of three rooms and of four rooms that were included in these housing schemes.

Many county councillors who have been speaking to me are very dissatisfied with the sums granted to their respective bodies out of the Road Fund. I know that it would be very difficult to satisfy the demands that are likely to be made by all these bodies for road purposes. The Road Fund is bound to cause greater and greater difficulty as time goes on. Although the number of motor users and the amount of income from licence duties have increased considerably in recent years, the Fund, when we take into consideration the mileage of road that has to be dealt with, is by no means adequate to cover the demands that are necessarily made on it.

There is only a small portion of the total main roads of the country dealt with in anything like an adequate way out of this fund. The total mileage of important roads in the country is very large, and the amount of money in proportion is small. I have heard more than one person, who claimed at any rate to be an expert, discussing the question as to whether or not there was good value got out of the money spent on the making, re-making and improvement of many of these roads. Probably like every other profession, doctors, lawyers, and the rest, experts disagree, and this road problem possibly has not yet provided sufficient experience for engineers and road authorities in the Free State, any more than it has in any other country, for them to be able to say what kind of surface of road gives the best return for the money. At any rate there is considerable dissatisfaction—probably the Department and the Minister are made aware of it through the county councils and their officers —with regard to the amount made available out of the Central Fund for the maintenance and improvement of trunk roads and minor roads. I do not suppose there is any likelihood that the mileage that has been already covered by the national scheme of two or three years ago will be increased, certainly not to any considerable extent, in the course of the next twelve months. No estimate, as far as I understand, has been prepared for the coming year, although there is and there will be, continued and pressing demand for an increase in that direction.

There was one matter which the Minister mentioned that I have heard discussed at considerable length recently by some county councillors and others. That is the question of defaulting rate collectors. I did not gather from the Minister's statements that there had been any increase in the number of defaulting rate collectors but quite recently a number of cases have been mentioned to me. Whether it is the case that there has been a large increase in one particular county or not I do not know but there has been a large number of cases brought to my knowledge. It occurred to me when I heard them to ask if the Minister or the Department had given at any time consideration to any other means of collecting rates. I was told that in county Kerry they had abolished rate collectors and they were now collecting rates through the post office. If that be true—I do not know if it is, I had not time to inquire into it—I would like if the Minister would tell us how it has worked and if he or his department think that such a system would be an improvement and would be more efficient, even if not less costly. Probably it would be less costly but at any rate some other method ought to be tried if it be true there is every year a number of defalcations. I am told that last year in one particular area there was a number of them. What the amount involved was I do not know. Probably these defalcations were covered by insurance. These rate collectors are under a bond but whether that be so or not—perhaps I am referring to something that has been thought out or on which some considerable discussion has taken place in the Department—if there has been discussion and if the Minister has considered this question of collections and defalcations and has arrived at the conclusion that the present method is the best method and that there is no room for improvement or that no alternative method would be better, I would be glad to hear what his views on the matter are.

There is one other matter to which I would wish to refer. It does not exactly come under the Estimates, but it has reference to the Department at any rate. That is, the question of the rearrangement of the municipal and public services generally in the Dublin area. I would be glad, before the Minister has finished, if he would give us any definite date as to when the Bill, which I presume he has on the stocks for some time, with regard to the rearrangement of local authorities in the Dublin area—I think it is known as the Greater Dublin Bill —is likely to be introduced.

I was asked by a county councillor the other day if I could give him some information on another question to which I would like to refer. I referred him to the Department, and I do not know whether he got the information there. It relates to land annuities and the amounts stopped out of the Central Fund or whatever fund there is at Headquarters out of which the amounts of arrears of land annuities are stopped from county councils. The question asked me was, when, having gone through the courts, the Land Commission secures payment of land annuities from those who owe them in the different counties, if credit is given to the county councils later on for the amounts so secured. That probably is done, but this is one county councillor who did not know whether it was done or not, and if the Minister can enlighten us on that matter I would be glad.

As a member of the Cork County Council, the County Board of Health, and the other boards in the county, I would like to bear testimony to the good work done by the Local Government Department, especially during the past two years. We have in the county at present a principal medical officer of health and three assistants. They are the machinery laid down by the Local Government Department. They are doing very useful work in the county tending towards the public good and the public health. We will have the inspection of national schools which, to my mind, is long overdue. It is there all the evils came from. The schoolhouses are better attended to, thanks to the Board of Works. All that is wanting at present to make perfect the machinery of the public health in our county—let every hen scrape for herself—is the building of more houses for the poor working man. If power were given to the boards of health to institute schemes for labourers' cottages, the same as rural district councils enjoyed, then, after sworn enquiries and the remainder of the legal formalities, I am sure that a great evil would be put a stop to that is compelling poor people to live in insanitary dwellings. Some of these insanitary dwellings are demolished, tumbled down, and taken away altogether, rather than pay rates for them.

The roads in my county are very much improved, thanks to the grants given by the Local Government Department during the past three years. Unfortunately they ceased this year. They were not as good as they might be, although they were not too bad. There is another thing, that in the matter of water supplies which are an essential, the Local Government Department might see their way to give some help by way of grants wherever they think it might be of absolute necessity. As to home assistance, that is altogether left in the hands of the members of the Board of Health and their officials, the relieving officers. As far as we are concerned in the county of Cork, we deal fairly and squarely with these poor people, and never see them short whenever a deserving case is put up to us. We are never brought to book or surcharged by the Local Government Department, and for that reason I am here to thank the Local Government Department and bear testimony to the good work they have been doing.

Earlier I interrupted the Minister with a view to getting some information as to the modus operandi of the appointment of the inspectors with which he dealt. Of course I was slightly out of order, and whilst the Minister gave me an answer I was not quite satisfied with it. For that reason I will repeat my question. I want to say at the outset that I support the Vote. It possesses many good features this year that it did not possess last year. I am for the moment concerned with one or two parts of the Minister's speech in introducing his Vote, and I want to get some explanation. He spoke about a scheme he had in view for the training of sanitary inspectors and mentioned the fact that it would be necessary for those who would secure those appointments in future to undergo a period of training in Dublin. I suggested to the Minister that there were many other places in the twenty-six counties where sanitary inspectors could be trained with little or no expense to the State. Sanitary science is not such a very obscure subject that it could not be taught by any medical officer of health in the Free State. Most medical officers of health now have the Diploma in Public Health, and I understand, in fact I know, that sanitary science enters largely into the curriculum of their lectures and examination. I suggest to the Minister that on the grounds of economy that should be done, so that many of those people who intend to take up careers as sanitary inspectors, need not be put to the expense of coming to Dublin. They could take out their lectures in any town or city and come up for examination, if necessary to Dublin. Even that would not be necessary. Under the old regulations of the British Civil Service, the Minister must be aware, examinations were held in convenient centres to facilitate candidates, except examinations for the higher Civil Service. I want the Minister's sympathy for my suggestion. It would obviate an amount of expense to young men who ambition these posts and it would not in any way take from their efficiency if they were qualified.

Deputy O'Kelly in the course of his speech spoke about child mortality and the high figures for child mortality in Dublin, but it was only towards the end of his speech that he indicated in any way that there were other causes operating besides bad sanitation. I want to suggest that there are other causes and that unemployment and its corollaries, poverty, mal-nutrition, under-feeding are predisposing causes to this high mortality among children in Dublin, Cork and other places. In this connection I may say that this Vote of £18,609 for child welfare, schools for mothers, etc., to me at any rate, appears to be one of the best features in this Vote. I congratulate the Minister on his sympathetic treatment of this particular aspect of local government. Again here I would like an assurance from him that it will not be necessary for inspectors or others set up under this head to have to attend lectures in Dublin. There is absolutely no sense whatever in compelling men or women who intend to follow this career to attend lectures in Dublin. There is a very useful body in Dublin and in Cork, the Child Welfare League, which is doing magnificent work. It has a grant from the Cork Corporation of something like £700 a year, and the Medical Officer of Cork City is a member of the Executive. A number of ladies and gentlemen generally give their time to committee work and other work incidental to the carrying on of a league of that nature. The Medical Officer of Cork is a highly competent man, and I feel sure, also, he will be able to do the necessary work, such as lectures, required to qualify people for the position indicated in the Minister's speech. I am not criticising this Vote as a whole. I am just asking the Minister to consider this aspect of the question. It will not produce at greater efficiency to bring those young men or women, as the case may, be, to Dublin to undergo this course of lectures. These lectures could just as well be given in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, or other centres where you have medical officers of health. I had no desire to speak on this motion at all, except to get from the Minister an undertaking that he would not compel people who want to qualify for these positions to take up their lectures in Dublin, because I say there is no necessity for it.

When speaking last year on this estimate I said that I quite appreciated the difficulties that confronted the Minister for Local Government in dealing with the sanitation of inland towns in the country. That difficulty, unfortunately, is still with us and, in my opinion, as I said last year, the difficulty of providing inland towns with a proper water supply and with a sewerage system will remain with us until the Government take their courage in their hands and make the whole question of sanitation a national scheme. There is no reason why sanitation should not be treated as a national scheme. Some years ago we had a scheme for trunk roads put into operation. If that scheme was a success, in so far as the highways of the country are at the present time in good repair, and if the highways of the country deserve that attention and the spending of so much money on them, surely there is scarcely any necessity for me or for anybody else to impress upon this House that sanitation and its bearing upon the public health of the whole population of the Saorstát should receive at least the same consideration? I am afraid so long as it is left to local bodies to take the initiative in carrying out these schemes that nothing will be done. We had an example during the last year in the County of Roscommon where free grants were returned because the local council, for reasons of their own, would not incur the odium, if you like, of the farming community by putting the scheme into operation. There is only one way that this can be done, and that is by making the whole thing a national problem. It is scarcely necessary to emphasise the importance of this. Public health is, or should be, our greatest national asset. It is no use talking about stopping emigration or starting industries in the country if we have not proper sanitation, giving the people a chance of being housed properly, and of living the lives that Christians should live.

We have had during the last three weeks perhaps what should be sounded as a warning note to the whole country. We have had, notwithstanding Press reports, a very serious outbreak of typhoid fever in the town of Carrick-on-Shannon. We had three deaths from typhoid fever in that town during the last fortnight, and at the present time there are over 50 or 60 cases under treatment. The town has some sort of water supply, but, unfortunately, the supply is taken from the River Shannon at the identical spot where the sewage of the town gets into the river. It is true that it is filtered, but I understand that the water has been analysed, and has been found to be sewage contaminated. With that epidemic in our minds I, for one, do not like to visualise what will happen in towns of the same size as Carrick-on-Shannon without any water supply whatever or without any sewerage system whatever. With the fatal consequences of that outbreak in our minds, we should be determined to go straight forward to provide every town of the size of Carrick-on-Shannon or smaller towns with a proper water and sewerage system.

Speaking on the question of typhoid fever, I would like to make a suggestion to the Minister. It is, when a case of typhoid fever is reported, as it has to be reported to his Department, that a scheme for compulsory inoculation against typhoid fever should be introduced in that area. As a proof of the effectiveness of the anti-typhoid vaccine, I might quote the case of the British Army. In the Boer War the British Army had more casualties from typhoid fever than they had from bullet wounds. In the last war, when inoculation was introduced, typhoid fever was unknown. In the Boer War we were dealing with thousands of men and in the Great War we were dealing with a question of millions, so that the effectiveness of the vaccine is beyond question. It strikes me that the Ministry of Local Government and Public Health, as it is known, is a somewhat cumbersome Ministry, and I would suggest that there are other Ministries not as important and other Ministers who have not the important work that the Minister for Local Government has to do who are provided with Parliamentary Secretaries. To my mind, it is such an important branch that public health should be treated either as a separate Ministry or that there should be a Parliamentary Secretary responsible for it attached to the Department of Local Government, until such time as we bring the public health of the country and until such time as we bring the sanitation of the country to a level with the public health and sanitation of all other civilised countries in Europe. There is no question of it, we are long behind other countries yet, and we will remain long behind them until we tackle this matter in some earnest way. There is just one other matter that I wish to refer to. That is, the question of the severity of the test, if I might so put it, that is asked for by the Department of Local Government in the case of applicants for blind pensions.

There is no doubt about it when the Blind Pensions Act was introduced—the wording of the Act was "so blind as to be unable to perform work for which eyesight was essential"—the interpretation put upon it was that when the applicant, through defective eyesight, was no longer able to continue his ordinary occupation and earn his living through that occupation he was then automatically entitled to the blind pension. There is no doubt but that was the original intention of the Act. The Department stepped in with a test which was good enough in the case of some people, in the case of the rougher trades. In the case of trades such as shoemaking, tailoring and seamstresses and trades of that class this test is entirely too severe. It is not right to say that because a seamstress can no longer earn her living by sewing she should be disqualified from the blind pension because she can scrub floors. I submit that if through bad eyesight a seamstress is no longer able to earn her living by sewing she should become entitled to the blind pension. I believe that was the original interpretation put upon the wording. I would ask the Minister to consider somewhat relaxing the stringent rules governing the granting of blind pensions. I have been assured by many eye specialists in the Eye and Ear Hospitals in the city that there are many cases throughout the country where the test is too severe. It is true that some sort of test should be imposed and adhered to so as to prevent any kind of lax administration. But I submit that we could produce evidence to prove that the test as at present imposed is far too severe.

The Minister in his address stressed a very important point—the present condition of the rate collection in the Saorstát. I wish to say, as a member of the Cork County Council, that so far as our county is concerned we are alive to the situation, and I wish to say that we will leave no stone unturned to compel our collectors to do their duty. Speaking of the portion of the county that I have the honour to represent, I wish to tell you that last October 95 per cent. of the first moiety was collected, and of the second moiety 85 per cent. was collected on the 31st March last. I am speaking of people in congested districts, districts within the Gaeltacht, occupied altogether by very small holders. When such people realise their duty to their county and to the State, and when they come forward and pay their contribution of the rate, it is an example to the people in the rest of the Saorstát, an example for them to follow. As far as we in Cork are concerned, I can inform the House that that collection was carried out without any seizures and without any persecution whatever.

The success of the collection was due to the anxiety of the people to perform their duty to the State and to the county. If that principle is followed in the rest of the Saorstát our public machinery will work smoothly and our local public services will be all right because there will be the means to meet public expenditure. If the rates are not paid and if the councils in the rest of the Saorstát do not insist on the ratepayers performing their duty, then the country will be in a bad way. As far as my county is concerned we insist that the rate collectors do their duty and then nobody is to blame. If the collectors fail then they are in the hands of the Local Government Department. It is for the local councils to co-operate in this matter and to see that the collections are properly carried out. I entirely agree with what my colleague Deputy Daly said with regard to the anxiety of the Local Government Department within their powers to assist us and the various public bodies in our county. I know that the Local Government Department would do better in many ways if they had the funds. We realise their position and I am certain that we have a very serious question along the seaboard where the poor people are living in houses unfit for human habitation and I am confident that the Local Government Department will facilitate us in every possible way to come to the rescue of the fishermen and labourers there. They are really in a very bad position. We in the country deeply sympathise with the poor people living in the slums in Dublin and Cork. But, as Deputy Anthony said, the slums are not confined to the two cities. There are families all over the State living in even worse conditions. So far as the Government is concerned, and especially the Department of Local Government, I am sure they will give us all the assistance possible in order to enable us to deal with this problem of the deserving poor.

This is a Vote on which I could speak at very great length. There are many subjects which come under review on this Vote, but it is not my intention to deal generally with the matter. I intend to-night to confine myself to one rather important item. I would like to ask the Minister when it is intended to introduce a measure on the lines of the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission. The particular recommendation of the Poor Law Commission to which I wish to refer to-night is with regard to the position of the very large number, I regret to say, of unmarried mothers who are in the various county homes of the Saorstát at the moment. They are rearing families at the expense of the ratepayers. I am sorry to say that oftentimes they are not very long out of the county homes until they return again under similar conditions. In the particular county for which I speak, I am aware that there are a good many chronic cases at present in the Westmeath County Home. What I wish especially to allude to is that the innocent, or what I might possibly call the first offenders, are sent in there, and they come in contact with the chronic and professional element. When they are in their company for a while there is very little hope for their future. I do not know what the Local Government Department may be doing in connection with that matter, but I think there should be something done in the way of grading those first offenders, or, as I say, the more innocent ones, and giving them a chance for the future. At the present time they are given no chance for the future. They are herded there with the professional element and with the chronic cases, so that they get practically no chance of being able to reform, and drag themselves away and rectify whatever mistakes they may have made in the past. I would ask the Minister to say, when he is replying, if there is any hope of a central institution being set up where the first offenders could be kept together, graded and provided with employment. That employment might be laundry work or anything of that kind. I appeal to the Minister to deal with this most important matter. We in this country are very proud of the good name of our people. That is one of the things that I want to see fostered.

I am sure any measure that will be brought forward to rectify this matter will have the unanimous support of the House. I would like if the Minister, when replying, would tell us what is going to be done with regard to the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission in so far as they deal with the particular matter that I have mentioned.

I have listened to a good deal of congratulations to the Minister and his Department. I do not want to let the occasion pass without referring to some matters in connection with the constituency which I represent. I want to bring some matters in connection with Mayo County Council before the notice of the Minister, and I would be glad if he would, when replying, deal with certain resolutions from the Mayo County Council with regard to the work proposed to be carried out by that county council on their own initiative and at their own expense. Some months ago it was moved by that county council that they should raise a loan of £12,000 for the reconstruction of minor roads leading into their populous districts where unemployment is very rife at present. Subsequently an effort was made by the county council to strike a rate of ninepence in the £ for an additional scheme, which also dealt with minor roads connected with the main roads in the area. In both these cases the Department turned down the proposals, possibly owing to technical objection, that it did not come within the Local Government Act of 1925. The works could not be carried out, or at least, were not carried out. The Minister, when replying to a question by Deputy O'Connell here on a subsequent occasion, stated that he did not consider that it was necessary to have any amendment or alteration made in the law with regard to those matters. If the Minister has inspectors in the County Mayo, and I assume he has, that was an extraordinary statement to make in the House. He should be aware that these roads, other than main roads, for the last ten years have had no repairs carried out on them. It is nothing unusual to see on these roads leading from the bogs to the main roads people breaking carts and suffering injuries as a result of the terrible condition in which these roads are kept.

If the Minister had inspectors in the county he would be aware of that. If his inspectors were in touch with the people and with the conditions existing in the county he would be aware of it. In the same way one would think that his inspectors would have been able to report on the unemployment and almost starvation existing in these areas. Dire necessity exists there to secure employment in order to alleviate the distress and to provide better roads for the people who live on the mountainside and on the bogs. These people regularly pay their rates, and they expect to have proper facilities; and they should be enabled to get employment that will put many of their roads into good condition. Now the main roads are steam-rolled and the trunk roads are steam-rolled. But it must be remembered that these poor people who live on those bogs and mountain sides are ratepayers as well as the others. If they do not use the main roads as much as other people, they are as well entitled as the wealthy people to have proper means of reaching their homes and conveying the produce of their farms to the market. If the Minister thinks that there is any reason why that loan of £12,000 should not be granted—other than a technical reason—he might state it. If there is no other reason, it is a simple matter to have the section amended. That £12,000 would, with the sanction of the Minister for Local Government, be raised by the Mayo County Council on its credit. Spread over a period of five years, it would entail no hardship on anybody. It would put these roads into a fairly decent and passable condition, and it would alleviate the hardships inflicted on people who have such bad roads. It would also relieve the unemployment that exists. That could have been done if there were no technical objection in the way of striking that rate for ninepence in the £. The Mayo County Council, as has been stated from time to time, were in a strong financial position, and were quite well able to bear whatever little burden this would impose. I would like to know from the Minister when replying if he has any intention of getting over these technicalities so as to alleviate the conditions of people who live in such dire distress. As the Minister is aware, there was a protest against his action in refusing to sanction that loan to carry out special works. If the Minister can state that he is satisfied that the conditions are such as I have stated—and I am sure he is conversant with the unemployment there, and that those bog roads are in a deplorable condition—then it would be only reasonable to expect that he would take steps to amend that section of the Act of 1925 which prevents county councils from dealing with such matters. But if he is so satisfied, will he state that he proposes to take steps to have it amended and so enable the poor people of that county to get merely civilised conditions and be enabled to carry on their ordinary work without the risk of losing their lives and the lives of their animals and breaking their carts?

I have very little to say on this matter. So far as we are concerned we find the Local Government Department and its general administration giving extreme satisfaction. With a little co-operation from the county councils and the urban councils I think it must be regarded as one of the finest institutions we have. It is dealing with such a large volume of business and with so many branches and doing the work so well that it would reflect credit on the largest commercial institution in the world if it were able to show that it discharged its duties in the same manner as the Department of Local Government does. With more co-operation from the county councils and the urban councils—and such co-operation is most desirable—we would have much more satisfaction than we have at present. When appointments are to be made the county councils and urban councils rather resent these appointments being taken out of their hands. They want to make them on their own initiative. They feel that these matters should be left entirely in their own hands. But one always notices that when matters become chronic so far as the county or urban councils are concerned, then they would like to pass their responsibility on to the Department of Local Government. At other times they are anxious to have the appointments left in their own hands. It is not altogether fair.

In that way I do not think it is altogether fair for the councils to be nagging at the Department that is doing so well for them in regard to the roads. I think the Department has done very well for the public highways. I do not know if the contribution from the Road Fund has been allotted in proportion to the mileage of roads in the various counties, but it would appear that some counties have got a little better treatment than others. I understand that is due to the amount of the rates subscribed by the particular counties.

On the housing question I heard a statement made that the Local Government Department did not deal fairly with the rural districts. My experience is the reverse of that. I found where housing schemes were carried out according to plans and specifications that the rural areas were afforded every facility and got the grants directly the schemes were completed. To make an insinuation like that was not fair either to the Local Government Department or to the Housing Department. Where there was any question as to the retention of an old wall or gable of a house, I found that the Department went so far as to send down a special inspector and that they made a contribution pro rata to the expenditure.

There is another matter concerning county councils, urban councils and mental hospitals to which I should like to refer. In urban areas a demand is made for poor rate by the county councils which very often is in excess of the ability of the urban areas to pay. I have a case in mind where the poor rate in the urban area last year was 4/6 in the £. This year the county council made a demand on the urban area for a sum that would be equivalent to a rate of 9/-. When that is added to the town rate itself, it places the urban council in a very awkward position and imposes an extreme financial hardship on the ratepayers of the town, because it might mean a rate of a pound in the pound.

We must remember that the Road Fund discharges the obligation that was heretofore carried by the urban areas, and that that money is given to the county councils for the making of the main roads through the urban areas. These roads were maintained for the most part out of the urban rate some time ago. At present the money for their upkeep is largely contributed by the Road Fund. Yet the county councils are making a demand for much more than the cost of maintaining the roads when they were maintained out of the urban rates. I should like the Local Government Department to investigate the contribution that should be made, taking into consideration what the urban council originally expended and the amount of money contributed out of the Road Fund at present for these roads Then there is the question of the mental hospitals, which the county councils have no jurisdiction over. The county councils have a right to appoint a certain number of members on the mental hospital committees. Three counties may be represented on such a body. These committees for some reason have the right to demand from the county councils any sum of money that they think fit, and the county councils are not in a position to cut down the demand. Irrespective of the capabilities of the county councils to pay, the mental hospital committees make the demand and, I understand, the county councils are compelled to pay.

Will the Deputy say if they are compelled by legislation?

I understand that when a mental hospital committee make a demand it is incumbent upon the county council to meet it. If a majority of the mental hospital committee decide that a certain sum is to be contributed by a county, the county council must provide that sum.

What I want to make clear is that if in order to change that state of affairs it would be necessary for the Minister to introduce legislation, then the Deputy cannot argue that on this Vote.

I agree. It is rather a hardship on county councils to be placed in the position that they have no control over the dispensing of the huge amounts that are demanded by mental hospitals. In such cases they have to strike a rate which the ratepayers are not capable of paying. The point I want to come to is, that something should be done to relieve the county councils of the responsibility of contributing that sum and that it should be put under some other heading. I think it should be placed on the Central Fund, as we find it impossible to carry on in the various county councils under the present system. On the whole, I am satisfied that as matters stand the Local Government Department is giving very reasonable satisfaction but I hope that the Roads Department will go into the matter that I mentioned as between the urban councils and the county councils. I find that urban councils in my particular district are incapable of carrying on any longer. They are looking for de-urbanisation because the rates demanded by the county council have become exorbitant and they are not in a position to pay them. It would mean striking a rate of a pound in the pound if, in addition to paying the town rate, water rate and the sanitary rate, they were to pay a county rate of 9/- in the £. I should like to see some adjustment made in respect of the contribution of the county councils to the trunk roads, having regard to what was expended on the same roads when they were maintained by the urban districts previous to 1926.

I am not going to find fault with the condition of the roads. I think, on the whole, they are in an eminently satisfactory condition, but I am going to bring forward again my persistent grievance, namely, that we should have a Minister for Public Health, or at least a Parliamentary Secretary. In my earlier days in the Dáil I pressed for a Minister. I have become more modest as time went on, and in latter years I have been asking only for a Parliamentary Secretary with a medical training. That does not mean that I am finding any fault with the present Minister for Local Government, who does his very best, but there is no doubt the sanitary condition of the country is not satisfactory. There is no doubt that in the small towns and villages in the country the conditions of sanitation are deplorable. I do not think that any worse case could be brought against the sanitary conditions of the country than the fact that there are seventy cases of enteric fever in one urban area alone.

We have had already a good deal of discussion with regard to the cause of smallpox and the method to be employed to wipe out that disease. Never for one moment did I suggest that sanitation would do anything to eliminate and prevent smallpox, but I do say that enteric fever and diphtheria—two diseases prevalent in two very distinct areas—are diseases eminently brought about by bad sanitation and by bad water supply. It is asked where are the medical inspectors? What is the use of sending a medical inspector to inspect cases where he could do no good, and where it is plain that it is necessary that these urban areas should have proper sanitary arrangements. These urban areas are not able to pay the rates themselves, and their agricultural friends do not want to pay them, and that is where the great trouble arises. If you put on a rate for sanitation in the urban areas, it is extended then to the rural areas, and quite naturally the farmers in the rural areas do not want to subscribe to what is a very necessary thing if the health of the entire community is to be maintained. I do not want to say very much about it, except that it is disgraceful at this time of day that there should be an epidemic of enteric fever in any part of the country, a disease that is undoubtedly caused by bad sanitation.

There are three or four other points that I would like to touch upon. One is to ask what the conditions are up to the present with regard to the county medical officers of health. One of the first things I did in this Dáil was to suggest that owing to the state of sanitation in the country, it was necessary that a county medical officer of health should be appointed for a county or group of counties. How far has that been carried out? Because we can never get a satisfactory condition of sanitation in the country until we have county medical officers of health alone responsible for that class of work. The second point I want to know about is: What progress has been made with regard to medical inspection and treatment of school children? I have spoken on that subject both inside and outside the Dáil for a number of years. It is a very necessary thing, if you want to have a first-class adult population, that we should look after the children. I need not say anything more about that at the present time. I want to say a word upon a subject which touches me very nearly, although it was said on the last occasion that I spoke upon it that I was only shedding crocodile tears. That is the subject of the sanitary conditions of the schools of the country. They are a perfect disgrace. It would take almost a million pounds to make the schools of the country what they should be. There is nothing more disgraceful than to compel children to attend schools in which there are no fires, where the sanitation is bad, and where they are compelled to breathe over and over again foul air for want of proper ventilation. I made a suggestion before that it would be a good thing if these schools had been blown up instead of the county mansions, because then we would have got better schools built in their places.

I am quite sure the Minister is doing his best with regard to these matters, but there is some more push required in order to get the local people and the managers to undertake the improvement of these schools.

I was speaking at a meeting in Trinity College a short time ago and I made an appeal to the students that when they went down the country they should try and encourage philanthropic ladies to form committees and do something to improve the condition of the schools and also in regard to the provision of meals. I am glad to see that so far as the Estimates are concerned the amount of grants for the treatment of school children has gone up to £3,000. but with regard to the provision of meals the increase is not very great. I want to make this clear so that no one may run away with the wrong impression. I do not think it is the Government's business to provide food for the entire school children. I think that would be a very undesirable attitude for the Government to take up and I would not support it for a single moment. But I think every encouragement should be given to local philanthropic bodies willing to do that work and to increase their funds by small grants so that the children would be enabled to get better food.

I want to say again that there is not very much use sending medical inspectors to inspect enteric fever conditions. On the face of the thing there is want of sanitation that cannot properly be affected in any way by any inspection or by small improvements. There must be a general reformation and there must be proper water supplies for those towns that are affected. I think it was Deputy Ward who described some time ago the state of affairs last year in the town of Monaghan, which was such that they were enough to bring forth tears from a Fianna Fáil Deputy, not crocodile tears, of course, such as I was supposed to shed, but real tears.

There is one matter that I want to raise on this Vote, and that is the question of the regulation of the motor bus traffic. I think it is the Minister for Local Government who has power to regulate the size and seating capacity and the speed, and make various other provisions for the safety of the passengers in motor buses. I feel it would be a bad thing to let this opportunity go by without asking the Minister whether it is not possible to take more definite steps than are being taken at present for the protection of the passengers on motor buses. I live on one of the principal motor bus routes in Dublin. I suppose there are fifteen or sixteen lines of buses, of all sorts and sizes, running on that route. I should certainly say there is hardly any part of the world where such dangerous conditions are allowed to prevail as there are at the present moment on these bus routes. I have myself driven in motor buses where the driver, a rather pleasant young man, removed his two hands from the wheel when going about 30 or 35 miles an hour, in order to kiss them to a girl standing at the corner. I have often been in a bus the seating capacity of which would be 14 or 15. In the centre there is a narrow passage about a foot wide, and not only were all the seats occupied by passengers, but that passage was also full of people.

In addition to its small seating capacity, the bus was so low that an ordinary man could not stand upright in it. That type of bus is quite frequent on that main road, and the type of driving which I mention is not infrequent. In addition there is the constant practice of buses racing one another on that road. I speak of that road particularly because I know the conditions there. I am certain that the same conditions exist in other parts of the city, and probably all over the country. I do not want to raise any large question about the motor bus traffic. In fact I do not know whether this is the time to raise it. I do not want to make any attacks on people who are carrying on this business, and I have no desire to interfere with the livelihood of bus-drivers and others connected with it, but the state of affairs at present is very dangerous so far as the public is concerned, and if it is allowed to go on as it is going on, some day we will have a terrible accident in which a large number of people will lose their lives or will be seriously injured. We will then have a national scandal and regulations will be made, but we will have a great deal of talk about closing the door after the horse is stolen.

I think that this is a matter that would arise on the Estimates for the Minister for Justice. I am not finding fault with the statement, but I think it would be a pity if it were not made in its proper place.

I understand that it is the function of the Minister for Local Government to deal with the question of seating capacity of buses and the safety of passengers. The Minister for Justice is responsible with regard to traffic regulations and so forth.

So far as my Department is concerned in regard to seating capacity and so forth, there was an Order issued in October last when we dealt with the matter after careful advice and technical consideration. So far as speeding and cutting-in are concerned, these are matters for the Ministry of Justice. If there is over-crowding, for instance, it is a matter for the Ministry of Justice, as my Department has no officials on the streets to watch for that or to take proceedings. The Order issued in October last dealt with dimensions, seating accommodation, and so forth, and we have done all we can, and anything further that requires to be done, so far as my Department is concerned, will be done, arising out of legislation based on the report of the Inter-departmental Committee.

I do not wish to prevent the Deputy from dealing with any aspect of this matter which would come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Local Government, but I am inclined to agree with Deputy Moore that it would be more desirable to have the matter discussed on the Estimates for the Ministry of Justice. There could then be a fuller discussion.

I raised the matter now because there is no definite co-ordination in regard to it. It is difficult to know under what Vote it should be discussed. I was anxious to ventilate the matter as there is always the risk of a bad accident occurring. I am willing, however, to postpone what I have to say on the matter until later.

Does not the Minister's Department make regulations as to the speed of buses?

Yes, but in so far as we are responsible for making regulations they have been made. I think I have explained that we did not desire to do anything in regard to modern traffic conditions which would be injurious both socially and commercially. It was the opinion of the Committee which dealt with this particular matter that the regulations ought to be changed. That is so far as any technical speed limit is concerned, but in so far as further regulations require to be made regarding the Local Government Department new legislation must be awaited. In so far as what are complained of are breaches of regulations framed by the Local Government authorities, or breaches of the law occurring on the streets, there is no machinery but the police to deal with them.

It is the function of the Department to deal with questions of the size of buses and so forth.

Yes, and that has been done.

A great deal more has to be done. On the road to which I am referring there is a large number of buses which are altogether too small for the work they are doing, and the size of the bus is one of the factors involving danger to the public. I have every day experience of that.

If the point is that the buses are too small for their seating capacity—I doubt if that is the case—it would be a matter for us, but if it is a matter as to their overladen condition it is a matter for the police.

The Minister's Department is responsible for the inspection of taxi-cabs plying for hire in the city. A considerable number of these licensed taxis are not safe. I have been in some of them and the driver could not get them round a corner unless by swinging around on his wrong side of the road. Some Department should look into that matter.

I think it is a matter for congratulation that a Government Deputy has expressed an opinion on this problem, because he may encourage some of his colleagues to appeal to the Government with more effect, at least, than we have been able to do, to organise and control the 'bus traffic. There is no interest that does not find fault with the present system by which buses are racing each other and snatching passengers from each other, to the terrible danger of the public.

I hope the Deputy is not coming into conflict with his own point of order.

I will leave the subject at that. The real reason I got on my feet was to ask the Minister to consider the position with regard to the inundations of the sea at Greystones and Wicklow. I understand that his Department is at present dealing with the position of the families who suffered so badly in the recent storms at Greystones. I am not asking the Minister for a statement at the moment on the subject, but I suggest that, if he wants to avoid a much bigger problem in Wicklow town, he ought to use his influence with the Department of Industry and Commerce—I think that that is the Department concerned—to try and get work going at Wicklow which will save thirty or forty thousand pounds worth of property at The Murragh. Unless the work is done this summer he will have to face a grave state of affairs in that town. The season is advancing and there is not much time to lose. As more will probably be heard of the subject later on, it may not be desirable to go into it now and in any case, it comes more appropriately under another Vote. With regard to the Estimate generally, it seems to me that the Ministry do not want to encourage anything in the way of criticism or suggestion from any part of the House, or else they would give a little more information when introducing the Estimate. This Estimate deals with the State responsibility for dealing with an expenditure of ten millions.

The Minister responsible skims over the subject in a speech lasting about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, and he gives us no information as to various things that are worrying the ratepayers of the country, and that are the cause, in many cases, of considerable hardship. On the big subject of the collection of rates, he had no remarks to offer as to whether any more economical system than the present system could be tried; as to whether the postal system was approved of by his Department, and whether he would encourage other localities to adopt that system. On the question of arrears of rent on labourers' cottages and the sale of labourers' cottages which is agitating a great many county councils—we know it is a very big source of loss to practically every council in the country—he has nothing to say to the Dáil as to the attitude of his Department. One would think that, concerning a big department like that, where there are the best engineers in the country, the best medical men in the country, the best officials in the country, there would be a great deal more to be said; that there would be at least some theorising for the advantage of the House on the occasion of a big Estimate like this. The Estimate itself being for about half a million of money would justify a much more elaborate statement, but when we remember that there is behind it an expenditure of ten millions, it seems incomprehensible that we should be given no idea of the views of the Department.

It seems hopeless altogether to get any information as to the view of the Department on the administration of the Road Fund, or what its outlook is with regard to the future. I do not think that the Minister can be satisfied that the best use has been made of the sum of six millions that has been spent through the medium of his Department on roads since the Free State was established. Certain engineers throughout the country, those of them who express their minds, do not seem to be satisfied that the problem of road-making is on a very definite or secure basis. Numbers of them have written articles during the past twelve months to show that the finances of road improvement and road-maintenance have broken down. Some of them have suggested, a very big loan with a view to embarking on a definite and much bigger scheme of road construction than has hitherto been attempted. Those of them, at least, who expressed their minds on the subject, seem to be quite dissatisfied with the position, and do not seem to have much hope that the roads which are being made can be maintained out of the money that seems likely to be available from the Road Fund in the future. It is true that you have in the last report of the Local Government Department a statement like this: "Publicists accustomed to describe the roads as the worst in Western Europe have acknowledged the vast progress made in recent years, and the splendid condition to which the roads have attained."

It is all very fine to make a statement of that kind, but it is not satisfactory to those who are concerned as to whether these roads can be maintained, and whether the improvements which will be necessary in the future can be done out of money likely to be available from the Road Fund. It is the opinion of several of the road engineers in the country that water macadam roads are the merest throwing away of money, that they last far too short to justify the expenditure, and that the maintenance of them, which amounts probably to £300 or £400 a year per mile, is not well spent money, that it would be very much better to go in for the better type of road and so to save a considerable amount in maintenance in the future. I think on that subject the time ought now to have arrived when the Minister, through his advisers, through the engineers who advise him, should be able to make a statement as to what are the conclusions of his Department. Last year I quoted a statement of the Chief Roads Engineer to the effect that some surveyors are able to get work done nearly 50 per cent. cheaper than others. So far as I have heard these wide discrepancies still prevail and notwithstanding that there has been a very continuous and heavy fall in the price of road material it appears to be the opinion, of some surveyors at least, that the cost of building roads and of road improvement is not being reduced proportionately.

There is the further question as to how far native materials can be substituted for imported materials. On that subject I think the Minister might well supply us with a little information. His Department, I understand, has had under observation an experiment made at Shillelagh, in Co. Wicklow, where native slate powder was used instead of ordinary materials. The local opinion now is that that road has stood the stress of traffic as well as any other road in the county, that it is much better suited to horse traffic than the ordinary main road, and that the use of that material should be encouraged. If it has the qualities that I submit it has, then there is a big case for it. It is by no means fair to the farming community that so little attention is paid to their constant complaints that horses cannot travel on the motor roads. It seems an extraordinary state of things that in a community where agriculture is the chief industry the main roads should be constructed entirely with a view to motor traffic and an absolute disregard of the feelings of those who are contributing very largely towards the upkeep of those roads. I think there are a great many farmers in the House who can testify that in bringing cattle to fairs it is a common thing to have to take a round of five or six miles because of the dangerous condition, from the point of view of travelling, of the roads. If, as I say, there is a native material that obviates that state of things, then the Department should at least be more enthusiastic about it than they seem to be at the moment.

It has also been suggested that, with a view to meeting that problem, there should be a certain margin of the road left which would not have as smooth a surface as the main portion of the road. That would not be always practicable, but I think that even in places where it is practicable it has not been followed up. I think that before the Minister concludes he ought to give us at least some information as to the attitude of his Department on this big subject. Nearly a million a year has been spent on roads for some years past, and for that very big sum there ought to be much greater results than have been shown up to the present. In particular, I hope the Minister will tell us what the general cost of maintaining the roads which have been made by grants from the Road Fund is, and what he thinks the aggregate cost will be for that service, and to what extent it will absorb the money likely to be available from the road fund in future.

There is another matter that has agitated some surveyors I know. That is, where the local councils refuse to provide money for maintenance, the roads they have made at very big expense are likely to suffer very severely. Apparently the Department's attitude is that they will only give money for maintenance where the local council itself provides a certain sum for maintenance. That may be all right with a view to discipline amongst local bodies, but I think you could easily create this position, that a community, having given a big grant for the improvement of a road, might see all that money wasted because of the failure to provide money from any source for its maintenance. I have been told directly, at least by one surveyor, that he was faced with the prospect of seeing all the expense of constructing a considerable mileage of road practically wasted because, he said, without proper maintenance it would quickly go to pieces. I hope the Minister will be able to give us some information on that point before he concludes.

There is one aspect of the Local Government and Public Health Vote which I should like to ask the Minister to deal with in his reply. It is a matter of general interest to the whole country, but it is particularly interesting to the constituency which I represent, County Dublin. It is that of the suggested legislation arising out of the Commission which sat within the last couple of years in connection with the Poor Law, especially that of the treatment of what are known as boarded-out children. It is a very serious problem in the County Dublin, and I should like the Minister in his reply, if he is in a position to know it, to state what is the policy of the Ministry in regard to it. I observe from the vote that there is a sub-head dealing with child welfare, schools for mothers, and so forth. I need not go now publicly into the details of the scandals in this matter in the County Dublin. The Minister is sufficiently aware of them, and I should like him in his reply to let the House know if he has any proposals this year to deal with that very serious aspect of what is a very grave Local Government and Public Health matter.

There are a few matters that are irritating members of public boards down the country. One is the question of the expenses for attendance at public meetings.

That is law.

I take it I am in order?

The Deputy is not. He cannot advocate legislation on this Vote.

It is not so much legislation as the interpretation of existing legislation. The grievance is that the legislation is so interpreted as to make it very difficult for members to maintain their average of attendances, and if the Minister will say to-day that his Department will not so rigidly enforce these regulations, it will make matters easier for the members' attendance. I suppose I cannot deal with the attendance of members at Joint Committees who get no expenses?

I think it would be wrong to allow a discussion to proceed here that would suggest to members of public bodies down the country that the law was other than it is. The interpretation put upon the Act is the interpretation that is in the Act. If there is any doubt about that, it is unfair to members of public bodies to suggest otherwise when there are alternatives. The first is to suggest new legislation, and the second is to get a different interpretation, if possible in the courts. These are the only alternatives.

The Minister made reference to the fact that legislation will be introduced on the lines of the Report of the Poor Law Commission. I trust in that legislation that some effort will be made to co-ordinate the medical services. At present dispensary medical services and medical services under National Health Insurance rather overlap. It would be advisable if the whole matter were taken into account in the coming legislation. I spoke some time ago here with reference to the number of workhouses in the country. Many of these houses are becoming absolutely ruined. Perhaps the matter could be dealt with in this way. At present in the county homes throughout the country you have the aged poor, and you have the imbeciles, and you have unmarried mothers and children, and some effort should be made to segregate these different classes. It is most undesirable that unmarried mothers and other classes should be in the one institution. It is impossible to give them adequate care, and if an effort were made to utilise some of the empty public buildings now derelict over the country perhaps these classes could be more adequately dealt with. The inspectors of the Department do not always consider the interests of the ratepayers and make suggestions in respect of these matters. An inspector, speaking to myself in connection with the opening of a district hospital, suggested that the proper way to meet it would be to build a new hospital. His suggestion was that a new hospital should be built just outside an old building which was a huge place in good order at the time. A few hundred yards away there was another building. It looked absurd to suggest that a new building should be erected and that these two should be allowed to go derelict.

As to the question of the county medical officers of health, however desirable they may be, there is no doubt that the ratepayers of the county are objecting very strongly to these appointments. Suggestions have been made that the services undertaken by these officials can be carried out by the existing medical officers of health. I know there are objections to that, but it might be possible to meet them. People are becoming convinced that the growth of officialdom is getting beyond them and that before long you will have more officials than the people in the country can pay for. Whatever we may think of the desirability of medical officers of health, undoubtedly the people resent very strongly their appointment.

Deputy Moore dealt rather well with the roads question. We seem to imagine that the only people we have to cater for in this matter of roads are the motorists. In any county of Ireland the vast majority of the people are not motorists. A very considerable section of the ratepayers are people living in districts served by second or third-class roads. The county councils are so hard driven that they are gradually dropping these roads out of their estimates. The result is that people living in mountain areas are deprived, in some cases, of egress or ingress, and when they come down on the tarred county roads their horses and cattle break their legs. These are the vast majority of the people for whom we are supposed to cater. It is all very well to build magnificent roads for English motorists who go through our country and admire our scenery, but we must realise that we have a duty to our own people. I have seen cattle lying on these roads with their legs broken, and I have seen horses with their tackling broken. The people, apparently, have no redress. I know instances where people when going to fairs have gone several miles out of their way to keep to the by-roads, realising the danger of bringing young cattle on tarred roads, and that if they did bring them on these roads they were likely to lose one or two of them. The tendency for years past has been to neglect the second and third-class roads, and to concentrate on the main highways. We should see to it that our people who live in mountain areas are not neglected. The argument has been put up that these people are only small ratepayers, and that we would not get enough value for the roads, but they are our own people. I am a motorist myself, and I appreciate a good road, but it is not fair that those people who live in mountain areas should be served by roads that are not merely indifferent but absolutely bad.

Last year I referred to a report issued in County Clare regarding the sanitation in many of the schools in that county. The same problem has been referred to to-day by Deputy Sir James Craig. I should like to support this appeal to the Minister to give more consideration to that matter.

It is particularly important now that the Compulsory Attendance Act is in force and the schools are more crowded than they were. It is useless to provide an excellent programme and first-class teachers for children who are cold and hungry and who are standing all day in badly ventilated schools in a foul atmosphere. They cannot learn. It is imperative that the sanitation of these schools should be improved. Every day we see reports of houses condemned for being insanitary or for one reason or another. I should like to see lists of schools condemned and even closed, because children would be better off at home than attending many of them.

The Minister might inform us how many counties or boroughs have medical inspection or dental inspection of school children. My colleague, Deputy Goulding, stated that the appointment of such medical inspectors is not popular with the ratepayers, that it involves expense. It does, but it more than repays the expense. It repays it in fitting the children to take advantage of the instruction afforded them. It is well repaid in improved health, and also in the fact that statistics reveal in other countries that in the early years of school a large percentage of children, particularly in urban areas, suffer from diseases which are easily curable but which present a difficult problem when they get more advanced. In that way much suffering is saved them, and eventually much money is saved to the nation.

The matter of sanitation comes, of course, under the Local Government Vote. There were other matters referred to—heating and so on —but they do not come under this particular Department.

Regarding the road problem, it has struck me that our whole policy in that matter may require reconsideration. I do not know that this State can afford these great trunk roads and the money spent on them. I do not know, if we could afford it, that it is the best way in which to spend the huge sums now devoted to that purpose. It may be better, perhaps, to spend less on these roads, considering that we are an agricultural country, as we are so often told in the Dáil and elsewhere, and to give better facilities to the farmer, and if possible even to give some of that money to the local councils for the improvement of the smaller roads which are mainly used by the farmers.

There are a few matters which concern the County and City of Waterford. I suppose what one says about these matters applies in a great many cases all over the country. One matter was already referred to by Deputy Goulding, and that was the matter of the empty unions owing to the changes under the amalgamation that took place. There are a lot of buildings in Waterford City that are absolutely derelict, and the whole matter should be looked into. You have these buildings, and at the same time a County Home is being put up at Dungarvan, about twenty miles away. It is a great cruelty to old people who have to go to the County Home from Waterford. It really means that they are parting from their own people for ever, because their relations have not the money to visit them. The change really works a very severe hardship on the old people who are sent to the County Home. When you have empty buildings there you could easily provide for old people within a radius, say, of so many miles of the City of Waterford, instead of their having to go off for the remainder of their lives to Dungarvan, because that is what it really amounts to. It is a matter which the Local Government Department should consider very carefully. By a little re-organisation they could do two things at the same time. They could do a humane action towards those people, and at the same time they could save these buildings, which are of considerable value. If it was only to keep them in repair, it would be worth while putting somebody into them.

Another matter which has been referred to, almost adequately, is the matter of the roads. The whole question of the roads is an extraordinary one. If you make the roads good you will have, as a certain person who is largely interested in the cattle trade said, to get roller skates for the cows to go along these roads. You make the roads so good that they become a nuisance to the country, and, after a time, owing to the heavy traffic, they get into a condition when they become an increased expense.

It is not easy to suggest a solution. I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject. My own experience is that two or three years ago the roads were in a very admirable condition. They had been engineered by men who knew their road work extremely well, but the roads are now getting into a bad condition. I want to say that a great deal of money will have to be spent on these roads in order to bring them back into good condition. I do not know whether it is within the powers of the Local Government Department to make regulations which would economise the wear and tear on the roads. For instance, regulations could be made so that nothing greater than a five-ton lorry would be allowed to travel on the roads. The result of that would be to throw a considerable amount of traffic on to the railways and so save a considerable amount of extravagance in the wear and tear of the roads.

Another thing which affects Waterford, just as it affects the rest of the country, is the lack of houses for the working people. In Waterford 800 houses are needed. There are people in Waterford at present paying 10/- to 12/6 for a single room. The people for whom these 800 houses would be required should not be asked to pay more than 5/6 a week for them. They could not afford to pay any more. That would be the very highest that could be expected from them. There is considerable unemployment in Waterford. While you have unemployment on the one hand, you have, on the other hand, the question of slums and the lack of houses. There is no use in saying that if the Corporation of Waterford could raise a rate so as to co-operate with the Government in the building of houses a solution would be found. The rates in Waterford are extremely high already. They are high for several reasons, and it would be impossible for them to increase the rates. The same thing holds good for the county rates, because if you take the rates and the land annuities to-day as they fall upon the farmers, they amount to more than the old rents that fell upon the farmers in the days when rackrents were paid.

There is one other matter to which I would like to refer. Again, it is not a matter which I am quite sure is within the powers of the Department of Local Government and Public Health. The capitation grants for patients in mental hospitals were fixed at a time when the purchasing power of money was much higher than at present. Owing to the fact that a change in the value of money has taken place, the present arrangement works very hard on the local bodies. I do not know whether or not that is a matter that can be dealt with by the Local Government Department under its present powers, or whether new legislation is required on the matter. There is one question I would like the Minister to answer. In England and in Northern Ireland measures are being taken to prevent the erection of petrol pumps along the public roads practically within ten yards of each other. I would like to know whether the Minister intends to restrict the number of public pumps here before they become an impediment to traffic.

It would be very hard to expect the Minister or anyone in his Department to know what the country's needs are in respect of roads. From some Deputies we have complaints that sufficient money is not given to construct the roads properly. Other Deputies have complained that the roads are too well attended to and too well made, and the farmers are complaining that too much money is being spent on them. I say that in some parts of the country sufficient money has not been given for the reconstruction or maintenance of roads. I have no hesitation in saying that it is not the Minister's Department that is responsible for that state of things, because the tendency is, in the case of some counties, to take advantage of the maintenance grants given by the Government in order to apply them in relief of the rates. That policy might be all right in five or ten years' time, when the roads have been brought to the standard required in order to deal with traffic. To my mind county councils should not be allowed to take advantage of the grants given by the central Government in order to apply them to the relief of rates.

Deputy Connolly raised the question of the manner in which roads within urban areas have so far been dealt with by the county councils. I believe that the Minister will see the wisdom of bringing in legislation to go back to the position that prevailed prior to the passing of the Local Government Act of 1925. I say that because the dual responsibility that prevails at the moment between the urban councils and the county councils to see that the main roads inside the urban areas are properly maintained is a matter that will leave these particular urban roads in a bad state. I want to deal with the Wexford county. This year the estimate for main roads was reduced by 30 per cent., and a portion of what was left was transferred from main roads to third and fourth class roads. That left a comparatively small amount of money to deal with the main roads all over the county. Now a 30 per cent. reduction all over the county or rural areas would not be felt to any great extent, but in the urban areas it would be felt to a very appreciable extent. When I tell you that the amount of money allocated last year for the maintenance of main roads in the borough area in Wexford was £875 and that this year, in consequence of the reduction, the amount is only £525, I think you will agree that that is a very serious matter so far as the urban roads are concerned. The farming element, who are in the majority in the county council, cannot be expected to understand the problem of road-making inside an urban area. They are not going to pay the attention that is necessary to the making of roads inside an urban area. The Local Government Act of 1925, as well as making the county council responsible for the maintenance of roads, makes them responsible also for the maintenance of the channel courses and the footpaths. The farmers have not to deal with channel courses and footpaths and things of that kind, and they have not the same interest in these matters that an urban representative would have.

The urban centres are prepared to pay a higher rate in order to have their roads maintained, but they are subject to the vote of the rural population. I am not complaining about the way in which the farmer representatives vote. They have a perfect right to vote in accordance with the views they hold as representing the people in the rural areas. But, taking all the circumstances into consideration, I believe that the Minister will have to go back to the position that prevailed prior to the Local Government Act of 1925. In the town of Enniscorthy the same state of affairs prevails, to a lesser extent than prevails in Wexford itself. Because of the fact that Enniscorthy Urban Council recognises that the amount of money available for their roads would not permit of the roads being properly constructed or maintained, they were prepared to borrow the money in the bank. They had received an assurance from the bank and the bank was prepared to advance the money. They asked the county council if they were prepared to allow them to use the maintenance grant for three or four more years to pay interest and sinking fund. The county council were prepared to do that, but the Local Government Department refused to permit it. They say, and say rightly, that that is not the function of the urban council and the Act of 1925 prevents their doing it. That just shows what I said in the beginning, that the urban authorities would be better off if they were allowed to maintain the roads within their own area. It shows that they are prepared to expend more money than the county councils are prepared to give them.

Everybody will admit that roads in an urban area require a greater efficiency in the matter of their maintenance than do roads in a rural area. Pedestrian traffic is greater in urban than in rural areas. In consequence of that I believe the proper thing to do would be to revert to the old system. There may be some roads in an urban area which may be completely handed over to the county council, but there are parallel linking roads which should, in my opinion, be handed back to the urban areas themselves.

There is another thing in connection with the roads and the maintenance grant to which I would like to refer. At the present moment the policy of the Local Government Department is to pay 50 per cent. of the amount of the maintenance required on the main roads, and 30 per cent. on the link roads. The Minister will not, I think, suggest that the main roads have all been reconstructed yet. There are certainly some main and link roads that have not yet been brought into any sort of shape. The Wexford County Council have applied to the Ministry for permission to borrow some money in order to reconstruct certain portions of the road down near New Ross, and they have asked if permission be given for them to borrow the money, that they should be permitted to use the maintenance grant in order to pay off the sinking fund and the interest. The Department of Local Government have refused to do that. I know very well that the Department cannot guarantee that there is going to be a maintenance grant for any number of years, but if there were a maintenance grant, they should be permitted to use that. In my opinion, it would be more economical to permit of that being done rather than that this amount of money should be put into a bad road year after year. You would have the roads constructed properly. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision in that matter. When a council is prepared to borrow money it shows that they are interested in the matter of road construction.

With regard to the appointment of county medical officers, I am not at all satisfied that the Department of Local Government are doing all that they should in this matter. As far as I know the Act passed here in 1925 makes it mandatory on the county councils to appoint these medical officers of health. Here we have been going on for the past three years and only a small number of councils in the State have appointed medical officers. On numerous occasions I have advocated that an officer should be appointed in Wexford, and I have been beaten on the point. There are twenty-seven county councillors in Wexford. Thirteen are in favour of the appointment and fourteen are against it. I think in a case like that the Minister should use what powers he has got under the Act to see that the medical officer is appointed.

There is a lack of cohesion amongst the medical officers of the county in consequence of the fact that they have nobody to guide them as to the standard of sanitation in the county. In various parts of the country there are places that are absolutely insanitary. Everybody knows the effect that has on the health of the people. In a great many cases in the schools, the position is so bad that in my opinion the children should not be attending them at all. There is then this question of the medical examination of the children at the schools, a very important matter, which has been referred to by Deputy Fahy. I urge the Minister to insist upon exercising the powers conferred upon him under the Act of 1925 and to see that the county councils do appoint medical officers of health at once. It is not fair to the other county councils who have appointed these officers. Every county should be treated in the same way.

Deputy Little referred to the question of the mental hospitals throughout the country. He referred to the matter of the capitation grant. These grants were fixed years ago when the value of money was much more than it is now. I suggest that the Minister should ask the Department of Finance to reconsider the position with respect to this particular matter. The Department of Local Government and Public Health is a Department which one does not want to criticise. I must say that it is a Department which, to my mind, is functioning in the interests of the country, and its officials are always very courteous and always very approachable.

The discussion on this Estimate has ranged over quite a number of the activities of the Department of Local Government and Public Health in a most unsatisfactory manner. We have not succeeded in getting the mind of the House on any particular question. Every question has been dealt with by different speakers in a different manner. I think the fact that the discussion has been carried on in this way is largely due to the manner in which the Minister proposed the Estimate. In proposing the Estimate, we think that it should have been the duty of the Minister to have told us what the policy of his Department is in respect to the various activities with which it is dealing. I think he should have told us the policy that they have been following heretofore, the goal they have been aiming at, how far they have succeeded in attaining that goal, and the progress they hope to make this year. Instead of that, he indicated to us the states of decomposition which the reports of various Commissions and Committees have reached in the pigeon-holes of his Department. He told us that the report of the Commission dealing with the National Health Insurance was looking healthy and was expected to be moving around again soon. He told us about the state of the report of the Poor Law Commission. Apparently that was not so healthy, but all hope had not yet been abandoned. There have been a great number of other reports, including the Greater Dublin Commission Report, which have been placed in the limbo of lost causes.

Deputies anxious to find out the policy of the Local Government and Public Health Department would not find it in the reports of the debates which have occurred here. The policy of the Department of Local Government and Public Health, as far as I am able to discover, never has been discussed in this House. If we want to find that policy we have to look for it in some pamphlet issued during an election by the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, or we may find it in speeches delivered by Ministers at public meetings throughout the country. That policy was never brought forward here. It was never gone into here in a manner which would enable us to see its main outline or permit us to subject it to our criticism.

Has the Deputy ever looked into the annual report of the Department of Local Government and Public Health?

Undoubtedly we can find in the annual report of the Department a very thorough and informative account of the different activities upon which the Department has been engaged. I suggest that that is not enough. We should know what the Government are doing and hope to do, particularly what they hope to do with respect to the various matters with which the Department deals. It deals with housing, roads, local government and public health administration.

Let us take the question of housing, which has been discussed at some length to-day and during portion of the session preceding the Easter Recess. So far as we have been able to discover the policy of the Department and of the Executive Council, it appears to be based upon the belief that, if they periodically reduce the grants which they give for housing, in some mysterious manner, in consequence of these reductions in the grants, the cost of housing will also go down. But we have not been told whether the Government are satisfied that that policy is working out. Can they directly trace any reduction in building costs to the various reductions which have taken place in housing grants? Do they think that if they continue at the present rate, and ultimately reach the point at which the grants will have disappeared altogether, housing costs will then be back to what we might consider normal? I do not think so. Do they seriously believe that if they follow the policy they are pursuing they will be able adequately to deal with the housing situation in this country? Can they see any possibility within the period of the life of this Dáil or the next Dáil, that the abominable conditions which exist in Dublin will be ended? Do they see any possibility, following their policy, of providing decent housing accommodation for the large number of families who are now living in tenements declared to be unfit for human habitation? If they do not see such an end to their policy, are they going to change their policy? Have they anything else in mind to substitute for it? We think it is more important that we should be told the attitude of the Executive Council on matters of that kind than that we should be informed about various minor activities of the Department, as the Minister did to-day, in connection with most of which we would be able to get all the information we require, either by question in the House or reading the Departmental report, to which the Minister has referred.

The same thing applies to roads. This question has been mentioned in this debate more often than any other. The Minister mentioned, I think, that one and a half millions will be expended this year on road construction and maintenance. Does the Minister think that that is enough, or that it is too much? We want to know where we are going in this matter. Do the Government think that the amount provided this year for the maintenance of roads already constructed is sufficient to keep these roads in good repair, or that a larger sum should be provided? Do they think that it will be possible to prevent any wastage, such as has been suggested by Deputy Moore, without any increase in expenditure? Or is it their view that expenditure is too high, and is merely being maintained at the present level because of the great volume of unemployment and the necessity of making some provision for it? We have not got the mind of the Ministry on these matters and we want to know it. We want to know their mind in respect to a number of other matters to which I do not wish to refer. These are the principal activities of the Department to which the Minister has only made very casual reference. He gave certain statistics relating to them. The same thing applies to Local Government and Public Health administration in general. We are discussing now a motion to refer this Estimate back for reconsideration. It is because we are utterly dissatisfied with the policy of the Minister, so far as we have been able to detect what that policy is, that we are going to support the motion. We think the Dáil should express dissatisfaction not merely with the policy, but with the refusal to give information concerning it, by referring back this Vote.

One of the reasons which I think should influence the Dáil to take that decision is the attitude of the Ministry towards the matter of the municipal government of Dublin. We have had this matter discussed here also during the present year, but that fact should not prevent us again expressing dissatisfaction with the dilatory manner in which the Ministry have dealt with the whole problem. The citizens of Dublin are getting really perturbed about the situation which exists in respect to its government. We have seen the figures published in the Press dealing with the expenditure incurred by the Commissioners appointed by the Government. We have seen that since these Commissioners were appointed the total amount paid in salaries to Corporation officials has been increased by 12.3 per cent., or £20,987. We have seen that the amount paid in pensions to ex-officials has been increased by 7.4 per cent. But we have seen also that the wages paid to manual workers have been cut by 25.6 per cent. When we examine the figures in detail, we find that not merely has that bias in favour of the highly-paid officials, as against the lower-paid manual workers, operated in respect of those employed by the Commissioners, but that any economy which has been effected has been very largely at the expense of the relief provided for the destitute poor. I notice that even the Dublin "Evening Herald" on Friday or Saturday last published a two-column article in its first page dealing with the fact, in which the views of prominent workers in charitable organisations were expressed to the effect that there was unnecessary parsimony in the administration of relief, and that there was serious destitution amongst a large number of families in Dublin in consequence. The big increase in the municipal debt and various other matters relating to municipal government of a serious nature are such that a very large and rapidly-growing section of the citizens are looking forward anxiously to the day when the control of local affairs will again be placed in the hands of their own elected representatives.

We have agreed that a situation did exist in 1924 in respect of many matters concerning the Dublin Corporation which could be quoted to justify the appointment of Commissioners, but, as I have pointed out on some previous occasion, many of the evils or grievances which could be pointed to to justify the appointment of Commissioners had been dealt with and remedied as long ago as April 1st, 1927. According to the Commissioners themselves, in the reports submitted to the Minister, as published in the report of the Department, we find that they themselves declared on 1st April, 1927, that they had already dealt with the various evils which had grown up in the administration of the Corporation, to deal with which they had been appointed. Nevertheless, they are still there, two years later, doing the work which should be done by an elected and representative council, and doing that work in a manner which is not altogether in accordance with the wishes of a great body of the ratepayers. The Government, as I said, have permitted that position to arise. They could at any time since the publication of the report of the Greater Dublin Commission in 1926 have introduced legislation to regularise the position, but they have not done so. They have let the whole thing go by default, and as an expression of disapproval, in consequence of that default, I think the House should support the motion to refer the Estimate back.

There are a few items about which I want to remind the Minister before this debate comes to a conclusion. The first thing that would strike anybody here from the heart of the country during the discussion of this Estimate would be that there is no such place on the map now as Galway and Mayo, or some of those backward counties. We have heard a lot of talk about the housing problem and the houses that should be built in Dublin, and so on. I should like if the Minister would take into consideration a town like Ballinasloe. Quite recently from Ballinasloe town a circular was sent to many Deputies in this House pointing out that there were over 100 houses condemned there by the medical officer of health, for want of proper sanitary arrangements and other causes. So far as I remember, for years back there has not been one new house built in Ballinasloe. I am sure that houses are wanted in other small towns like Ballinasloe just as much as in Dublin.

There are other cases out in the country districts. I have here a case of a family that had been practically wiped out by tuberculosis. The local medical officer has condemned the house these people are living in. I hold in my hand a letter from the Administrator of Tuam, Canon Walsh, recommending a grant to be given for the building of a house for these people. I think these are the most important points in the housing problem. If we here stand for these things we are nothing short of what I would call a pack of murderers.

May I ask whom is the Deputy criticising in this matter?

The Local Government Department.

On what point?

On housing.

Well, what about housing?

I am giving a case where there was a family living and I may as well come out and speak plainly about it. Take a house with a pig-sty at the front or at the back door. The people in that house are suffering from tuberculosis. The disease was not in the family before, neither the father nor the mother had it, and now that family is practically wiped out. Are people like that to be neglected?

Do I understand the Deputy is asking for greater facilities for the people in Ballinasloe to build houses than are embodied in the Housing Acts we have been dealing with?

No, I have said that a town like Ballinasloe should not be forgotten, but now I have gone away from Ballinasloe into the heart of the country to a place away from any town.

Does the Deputy charge us with denying to any public body or person a grant which the legislation passed here empowered us to make?

I do not. But I say that the first thing you should do is to look up cases like this. The man I refer to is a man that looked for a housing grant over 12 months ago and did not get it. Quite recently another member of the family passed away.

I would like to be clear about this. Does the Deputy say that the person applied for a grant under some of the recent Housing Acts and was refused such grant by my Department?

Well, he did not get the grant, at any rate. I cannot say exactly whether he was refused or not. There are promises made and he might get it in two years' time.

Then the Deputy does not know what he is talking about.

I am not so sure of that. I think the Minister is a little out. This man made an application for a housing grant twelve months ago. All the money was not expended then.

Do I understand he was refused?

He did not get it, anyway. Whether he was refused or not I do not know. The Department have mysterious terms that they can use. A man gets a reply that the matter is having the consideration of the Minister, or something like that. That is not a refusal, but it is not getting the grant, all the same. He is told it is having consideration, but it is having consideration too long.

I hope the Deputy will think it worth while to write me giving the names and addresses of the people themselves.

Yes, I will do that. I think when cases of that kind are put forward they are the first cases which should be attended to. These are more important than anything else. If there is tuberculosis in a country house it should be attended to immediately, because people are actually dying fast there.

Then there is the question of roads. If you travelled all Ireland you would not find worse roads than in Galway. There is one trunk road between the north and east of Galway—the trunk road leading from Ballinasloe to Galway. In Galway they have been fighting for ages for a road from Ballinasloe to Mountbellew, where there is heavy traffic. The Minister and his Department use the iron hand, and it would be well to use it in this case. I have known cases where men were idle on the roads six weeks before Christmas at a time when they should be working, and at the present time they are spreading stones only to have the cars come along to scatter them over the ditches. These are things which should be attended to, and I hope they will receive consideration.

I move that the Committee now report progress and ask leave to sit again to-morrow.

Question agreed to.

The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.