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.