We have here on this Vote a motion from the Fianna Fáil Party to refer the Vote back. Such a motion is more or less equivalent to a motion of censure. It suggests that there is some principle in the Estimate so serious that it ought not be considered by the Dáil and that it ought to be referred back for further consideration. While on these Estimates, if it is only a point of detail that is wrong, it can be corrected by an amendment under the sub-head. Yet the motion to refer back the Vote suggests that there is some wrong principle in the whole Vote. I have been trying, since this motion to refer back was moved, to find out what the principle was. I heard a good many speeches yesterday, and I read the discussion in the paper to-day with some care, but I am still mystified as to why the Fianna Fáil Party wish to refer this Vote back. Deputy O'Kelly in moving the motion was very mild in his criticism of the policy of the Department. In fact he suggested that there was not enough money being spent. If that were supported it would be grounds for referring the Vote back. But I cannot help reflecting when we are told that while the amount of this Vote, approximating a half a million, to be spent on local government is not enough, that about a month ago Deputy de Valera told us that the taxable capacity of this country is only twelve million pounds.
Public Business. - In Committee on Finance. Estimates for Public Services. Vote 40.—Local Government and Public Health.—(Resumed.)
On a point of correction. I said that if the taxable capacity were reckoned according to the estimate mentioned, that is 1.5 per cent. with reference to England, then it would be twelve millions. I was very careful in my statement.
I quite agree that that was the Deputy's statement. Have I drawn a false inference from it? Does he not consider that we ought to reduce our expenditure?
I mentioned particularly that there was at least another million that could be reduced. I did not estimate definitely what our taxable capacity was. I simply mentioned an estimate made.
I quite agree that all these estimates as to taxable capacity are rather academic. I do not want to misrepresent Deputy de Valera, but I think it was the common ground at any rate of the Fianna Fáil Party in the election two years ago that too much was being spent in this country and that the expenditure ought to be reduced.
Yes, and now we have Deputy O'Kelly coming in and moving to refer back this Vote on the grounds that not enough is being spent. There seems to be an apparent inconsistency in that. I know that the Army will come in——
It will not be necessary to bring it in.
This is one department in which not enough is being spent. We may take it that is the admission. Deputy Lemass had some serious charges. He arraigned the Minister and his Department for a lack of policy. When you attack a Minister in charge of Local Government for a lack of policy, I think the fact is overlooked that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health cannot have the same control of policy that, say, the Minister for Justice or the Minister for Defence could have, as their departments are altogether masters as to the expenditure in their own domains. But the Minister for Local Government and Public Health has to deal with local authorities varying in size and in composition, and varying very much also in their rateable values all over the country from Louth to Kerry and from Waterford to Donegal. It is impossible to lay down a hard and fast policy except, in the most simple and elementary details, in order to deal with all these bodies. You must have flexibility; you must have regard to the circumstances. You cannot deal with, shall I say, the Cork Corporation in the identical manner in which you deal with a small body of town commissioners or an urban council in the West of Ireland. You cannot have a cast-iron policy and fit all authorities into it. There are certain points in which the Minister can insist on his policy, and I think he has as an object a very old proverb as the one guide to local authorities, and that is that honesty is the best policy, and that it is not sound for any local authority, whatever its size or rateable value, to be living on overdrafts from the bank. I do not know that that is challenged. Let local authorities who can do so raise loans by all means if they have the security, but perpetually living on bank overdrafts and paying high interest on these at the cost of the ratepayers is not a sound policy. In my short experience of local government, I find that the Minister has put an end to that sort of thing.
Deputy Lemass touched only lightly on the lack of policy. He went on to arraign the Minister for his undemocratic policy in appointing commissioners to take the place of elected authorities. He said it was unpopular with the people and undemocratic. We are sometimes apt to make an idol of democracy and think it necessarily means elected bodies functioning regularly. It does not necessarily mean that. It means that the people can get what they want. We have only to look over Europe to see that in some cases the people do not apparently want elected bodies regularly functioning and are prepared to see them set aside. That has occurred even here. I wonder did Deputy Lemass ever hear of the town of Ennis. Deputy de Valera was there last Sunday. I think it is a pity he did not take Deputy Lemass with him. Deputy Lemass might have learned about this undemocratic policy of the Minister, because the Minister sent a commissioner to Ennis some time ago. He was prepared to remove him; he was prepared to have elections for an urban council in Ennis, and the people of Ennis unanimously refused to nominate any candidates for that council and insisted upon retaining the commissioner, yet Deputy Lemass says it is hopelessly undemocratic to have commissioners instead of a council. Surely the principal town of Deputy de Valera's constituency cannot be undemocratic. Deputy Lemass changed the venue to Dublin and said that the bulk of the ratepayers demanded the restoration of the Corporation. When did they demand it? How did they demand it? In what form? Has there been a petition? Has even Deputy Lemass gone out at a by-election—and there have been plenty of by-elections in Dublin—and made his strongest point in that by-election the restoration of the Corporation? He has not. There is no strong popular demand.
I am afraid I must get somebody to translate Deputy Cassidy for me. At any rate, Deputy Lemass did not do it at any by-election. It has been going on for a long time. I do not think Deputy Lemass fought the last general election on restoring the Corporation. He certainly did not fight either of the by-elections on restoring the Corporation. I do not believe any Deputy would. Oh, yes—I do not want to do him an injustice, particularly in his absence—I think it is quite possible Deputy O'Kelly might. One of the most attractive features about Deputy O'Kelly is his loyalty to those particular causes that he admired when he was young. I can see Deputy O'Kelly in the armour of Don Quixote, with his umbrella in rest, charging forth against windmills to defend the peerless lady, the Dublin Corporation. Deputy O'Kelly would do it, but I do not see Deputy Lemass as Sancho Panza. Deputy Lemass is a realist, except when he sometimes thinks it necessary to make unreal speeches here. He is in his heart a realist, and he knows there is no popular demand for the restoration of the Dublin Corporation in its old form. There may be, and probably is, a case for following up the precedent of the Cork Corporation Act by a Dublin Corporation Bill, when we have some experience of how the Cork Corporation Act is working. There may be a case for that, but to think that the citizens of Dublin are crying out for getting the Corporation back in its old form, and that the Minister is a tyrant, defying the unanimous cries of the people of Dublin, is simply to put up a case which is preposterous. No. If he were just there would be a better case for censuring the Government, and for referring the Vote back in the speeches of Deputy O'Dowd and Deputy Killilea, because they did deal with realities, they did touch on what is an admitted evil in this country—the lack of sanitation in many of our country towns, particularly in the West. Is the Minister responsible? The Minister cannot go down to Boyle or Ballinasloe or Elphin and suddenly start a water supply and a sanitation scheme on his own account. That is a matter in the hands of the local authorities, and unless he is prepared to supersede all the local authorities he cannot do it. What he can do is to encourage and assist. Is there any evidence that he has refused to encourage and assist? I am sorry Deputy O'Dowd is not here, because I think he would agree with me that one of the most important steps towards getting proper sanitation in the country districts, particularly in small country towns, is the appointment of county medical officers of health. That is the policy of the Minister.
Why does he not insist upon it?
He should. I hope that policy is going to be pushed further than it has been. I hope it will be expedited and carried out. That is much the best way to get proper sanitation—to have county medical officers of health who will teach the county councils and the county boards of health and the other local authorities that they have their responsibility in this direction. Then we should not have the undoubted trouble that exists in Carrick-on-Shannon at present. Another complaint Deputy Lemass made about the debate was that it was discursive. As long as I can remember this Estimate the debate on it has always been discursive, and I think it always will be, because Deputies naturally wish to call attention to matters affecting their own constituencies.
I personally wish to raise two points. One has already been raised by my colleague, Deputy O'Sullivan. It relates to the question of boarded-out children. This in my constituency at present—and I think Deputy MacEntee knows it —is getting a serious issue. I think the Dublin City Commissioners have been drastic in dealing with foster-mothers who have boarded-out children, and quite rightly. The result is that the children are going out of the city into the county, where there is a variety of local authorities, and where it is very difficult to get uniformity of treatment, and you do not get the direct action you can get from the Commissioners. I believe that the powers under the existing law are sufficient to deal with these cases, to remove from the register of foster-mothers any woman whose children habitually die. It is a matter of vital importance, and I hope the Minister will continue to impress on local authorities all the powers they have and to assist them in exercising them.
The second point I wish to raise is with regard to the grant from the Road Fund for the roads in County Dublin. This Estimate came on rather before I expected it, so I had not time to put down various questions. I have figures furnished me by a gentleman whom I know and whom I believe to be reliable—I admit the figures are not official. I understand that in County Dublin the amount levied from the taxation of motor cars last year was approximately £90,000. Of that sum the Dublin County Council receives in grants for maintenance of roads £15,000. I do not want to put my case too high. I do not want to suggest that the motor cars registered in County Dublin confine themselves to the roads of the County Dublin. I am quite certain next week a very large number of them will be found on the roads in the County Kildare, but they do make most use of the roads in the County Dublin in which they are registered. £15,000 for the upkeep of main roads and link roads in the County Dublin is not a very large sum, particularly in regard to Balrothery Rural District Council which lies in the north part of the county. From that £15,000 Balrothery got £3,688, which is not a very enormous sum, considering that they were asked to provide £4,360 for the maintenance of trunk and link roads and also that it was necessary to provide £9,000 for maintenance of local roads. I know I am at something of a disadvantage in pleading for County Dublin, because everybody believes that County Dublin has any amount of money and can afford to pay anything, but in practice Balrothery is a country area with very few sources of wealth, with one or two small towns or seaside resorts, but otherwise a farming area, very closely similar and no nearer to Dublin than kindred areas in Meath and in Kildare.
It is a very heavy burden on the ratepayers of that district, who have to provide very large sums for roads which are travelled over, not only by the local traffic and motor cars registered in the country, but by buses going in some cases as far as Belfast, and in other cases as far as Cavan, and from Cavan northward to the County Donegal. Of course, the ratepayers get some benefit from these buses, but I do not think that a man who comes from Swords and wants to get back necessarily takes a bus that stops in County Dublin; he takes a bus that goes on to Drogheda. They get some benefit, but they have to provide the roads going into Dublin for a very great part of the motor traffic of the whole of the Saorstát, yet they do not get anything like the full amount they should get. They get one-sixth of the motor taxation levied in their county. That seems to be almost negligible. I would be very glad if the Minister would make a little further investigation and inquire into the matter. I think Balrothery has a certain grievance, and it is a mistake to believe that it is an exceptionally rich and prosperous area. It is an ordinary farming area like any other in the Saorstát.
This year's Estimate for Local Government is a sum of £462,556, compared with last year's figure of £404,556, representing an increase of £58,000. It is true that there is more money being made available this year for housing schemes than last year, but the amount available for housing on this year's Estimate as compared with that of 1926-27 falls very short of the financial assistance given in that year. So that taking a review over the past few years, we must come to the conclusion that no real headway has been made towards economy in this particular Department. It appears that the system of local government in operation in this area is far too elaborate for the requirements, and for the needs and resources of the area to be served. It is modelled on a system of government for a very large population and upon a neighbouring country with a huge population to govern, and something far simpler would be required to be put in operation in this country to meet with the economic conditions.
The system in operation here results in a number of water-tight compartments, and nobody dare touch any department that is not strictly defined as belonging to himself. Unification and co-ordination of effort is impossible in existing circumstances. Take, for instance, the Department of Public Health. We have five or six sub-divisions, Hospitals, Sanitation and Public Health, National Health Insurance, Old Age and Blind Pensions, Sanatoria, Tuberculosis Dispensary departments and the rest. Each one of these has to have a separate staff and a separate team of inspectors. The result of that is that it sometimes happens that an inspector from one particular sub-division has to wait until the area is vacated before he can come down and look after his particular sub-division. That is not necessary. There should be co-ordination of effort. And what applies to the Public Health Department and the Medical Branch of Local Government applies equally to the other branches of the service. I submit that until the matter of Local Government is seriously tackled by the Minister and his Department, and the entire system is recast, there cannot be any substantial economy under this head; and if the Minister does not realise that drastic reduction in the cost of government is necessary, I can only conclude he has lost touch with the economic condition in rural Ireland.
Perhaps the Deputy would develop the point as to what he means by recasting the system?
I think I have developed it sufficiently to indicate the lines on which I think it should be recast to secure better co-ordination of effort and to secure less duplication of effort than under the existing system. However, the Minister will have an opportunity later on of criticising any suggestion I make, and I suggest that he should wait until he gets that opportunity.
I notice there is an increase of £9,500 in this year's Estimate for the treatment of tuberculosis, making a total sum of £59,000 for this year. I suggested previously in discussing the matter that the Minister was labouring in a vicious circle. I suggest that again. This scourge is brought about very largely by insanitary conditions under which the people are living, by people having to occupy houses unfit for human habitation, and by inadequate supplies of wholesome and nourishing foods, and, perhaps, to a great extent by the distribution and consumption of milk inferior in quality and very often produced by cows suffering from tuberculosis. There can be no doubt that the Minister could deal with the matter of food supplies and the matter of clean and wholesome milk. We have been promised for a long time legislation dealing with a pure milk supply, but we do not appear to have got any further.
The sanitary conditions in many of the provincial towns, and in fact in most of the provincial towns that I know, are nothing short of appalling. It is true that in the last year or so, the Department has made some effort towards the solution of that, but it cannot be solved, as Deputy Cooper suggested, by local effort. The installation of a modern sewerage system is such a huge financial undertaking the local rates are unable to bear it. The area of charge being so small, the Minister must face one of two things—either increase the area of charge or give substantial grants towards carrying out such sewerage schemes. It is undoubtedly a fact that the conditions of sanitation under which people are living in this country are worse than those in any civilised country in the world.
If the Minister says "nonsense" he does not know the seriousness of the subject under discussion. I speak with personal knowledge, and any medical man in this House who has a knowledge of conditions in provincial towns will tell him that what I say is true. The conditions are primitive.
There may be certain streets where the conditions are primitive, but the Deputy, as a medical officer, is making sweeping charges with regard to towns generally.
What I say is substantially true, and it will be borne out by medical men in this House, no matter to what party they belong. Until these questions of sanitation and housing are dealt with the Minister has there the materials and conditions for manufacturing the demands for the elaborate services for which he is asking us to vote a sum of £400,000. The diseases which he is spending huge sums of money in treating are being manufactured and spread by the conditions which I have described. That is why I say that the Minister is labouring in a vicious circle in this matter of public health. We are still promised a comprehensive Housing Bill. Again, without meaning any offence to the Minister, I will say that in this matter he appears to have either paid no attention to his medical advisers or else to have very little grasp of the situation from the public health point of view. There is a Housing Bill at present before the Dáil which contemplates subsidies for building houses consisting of two rooms and a kitchen. Something might possibly be said for the building of a limited number of such houses in purely rural areas, but the voting of public money to assist in the erection of such houses in towns and cities is nothing short of an outrage at present.
I would like to make a protest. There are some Deputies talking, and the Deputy who is on his feet is not able to make himself effective because he is distracted by having to listen to them.
If the Deputy refers to me, I am very sorry. It was quite unintentional on my part.
I am quite satisfied that I am making myself effective.
My sympathy with Deputy Dr. Ward prevented me from telling him that he is talking about the Housing Bill rather than about the Estimate.
I did not intend talking to any great extent on the Housing Bill but I did intend talking in some detail on the Minister's policy towards a solution of the white scourge problem and on his housing policy in particular in that regard. In that connection I would not ask him to accept my opinion but I would refer him to a report of the County Louth Medical Officer of Health. In the course of his report he said: "During 1918 something over 50 per cent. of the patients who reported to the tuberculosis dispensaries came from houses of the small unhealthy type, ranging from two to three rooms, and the majority of the remainder from houses with two rooms and a kitchen." That has an obvious bearing. If the Minister hopes that these county medical officers of health will inspire the confidence of public bodies and the public in general he will require to model his policy on the recommendations and suggestions of these officers. If he brings in a Housing Bill and asks the Dáil to vote money for the construction of three-roomed houses, in view of a report such as I have read from a county medical officer of health, he cannot expect that the public will have the confidence in such medical officers that is essential if there is to be any advance made in public health in this country.
We learned yesterday from Deputy Dr. O'Dowd that there was a serious outbreak of typhoid in Carrick-on-Shannon and, so far as I understand, that there were at least three deaths. The Minister is probably aware that a very deadly outbreak has also occurred in County Monaghan and that three members of a family have died. I understand that though the epidemic is strictly limited there will unfortunately be further deaths. The Public Health Department ought to make a very searching inquiry into the origin and the cause of the spreading of these diseases. In that regard I may mention, though I have no reason to believe that it has any particular connection with the epidemic referred to, that there is a very big trade done across the Border in second-hand clothing. I do not know exactly what steps the Ministry take to ensure that there is a thorough and proper disinfection of all second-hand clothing coming across the Border, but I, as a medical man, have never been satisfied that all necessary precautions are taken in that regard. I suggest to the Minister's serious consideration that second-hand clothing should only be allowed in at certain points where there should be a disinfecting plant supervised by his own medical officers.
Under the schemes of amalgamation it is expected that the county hospitals are to be up-to-date institutions, and it is intended that firstclass surgery will be available to the people in these institutions. Many of such institutions have no X-ray apparatus. I would just as soon have the Minister take a mote out of my eye with a bayonet as to submit to certain operations without previously having the diagnosis confirmed by X-ray. I suggest to the Minister that he should consult with his medical officers, decide on a standard plant, and, having estimated the cost, request public authorities to have X-ray plant installed that will at least be sufficient for diagnostic purposes. It is utterly unfair that the public should be deprived of the benefit towards a diagnosis which a simple X-ray plant will give. I might also suggest that it would not cost very much to provide artificial sunlight in these institutions, and I would like if the Minister would give that matter his consideration. I notice in the Estimate here a sum of £7,600 for the treatment of venereal diseases. There are schemes in operation in most counties in connection with these diseases, but to my mind they are pure waste of money. As I pointed out previously, the people who suffer from these diseases will not go to the medical officer who is appointed for the purpose of treating them. They will either go to a private practitioner or go untreated. I repeat that these people should be treated in a central institution. It will certainly not cost more; it will probably cost less, and I repeat that they should be compulsorily isolated until they are certified as cured. The people who contract this disease are people who will spread it. Fortunately it is not a very big problem in this country, but to deal with it in the proper fashion is the surest way to secure that it will not become a big problem. It is very often spread innocently through lavatories, towels, drinking utensils, etc. I say in all seriousness that the public should be adequately and completely protected from contracting these contagions in that innocent way.
Before concluding, I would like to have a word with the Minister on the question of road grants. We heard from Deputy Sheehy yesterday that they had complaints to make in Tipperary. I had some complaints to make here a year ago, and I think we have been a little more fortunate than our friends from Tipperary, because as a result of the pressure put on the Minister from our part of the country, we drew another £10,000. It is not so much with that matter that I wish to deal at the moment as with the question of the maintenance grants that will be forthcoming. I asked the Minister some time ago if he was able to say how much per square yard the roads cost in Counties Louth, Meath and Monaghan. I did not succeed in drawing him on that particular point, but it is an undoubted fact that in the making of the trunk roads £2 was being spent in Counties Meath and Louth for the £1 spent in Monaghan. It seems to me that the only deduction that can be drawn from that fact is that the roads in the making of which twice the amount of money was spent will be more easily maintained. I hope when the Minister comes to allocate the maintenance grant he will allocate to Monaghan £2 for every £1 allocated to Meath and Louth, because it will take twice as much to maintain the roads that have not been properly constructed.
Most of the matters that I want to discuss have been touched upon by other Deputies who have spoken. I would like, if I could, to induce the Minister to give us some indication of his policy in regard to national roads. On every occasion on which an Estimate came before the Dáil, I have endeavoured to extract from the Minister some statement of policy on the matter. In reply to a question by Deputy Fogarty yesterday as to the tardiness or the niggardliness or the parsimony of his Department in dealing with that particular county in giving grants, if I understood the Minister rightly, he said that he could not take a particular stretch of road and say that he would give so much for that, that it was the comparative national utility of the road that was subsidised. I want to know if, by saying that, the Minister wishes us to understand that his Department has raised these roads to the level of a national utility service, and whether they are going to become a central or national charge. Surely if they are a national utility service they ought to be a national charge, and it is hardly fair to ask ratepayers of a particular district, who, perhaps twenty times in the year, use these roads, to pay in the main for the upkeep and maintenance of them.
I suppose when one comes to discuss an Estimate of this kind one can only speak about one's own experience in particular counties. I know that the main channel of transport for the people who pay for the roads in County Clare, for instance, is not the national roads. I find lorries from Waterford, Cork, Tipperary, Dublin and all over the country coming into that county, breaking the surface of the roads and utilising them far more than the people who pay for the roads in that county. Perhaps the Minister would say whether his policy is to make these roads a national charge. I think he has had an expression of opinion from public bodies on this matter; I think quite recently he had an expression of opinion from the Clare County Council. Some means ought to be discovered—and I am sure it is not beyond the ability of the Minister's Department to find a means—by which the people who use the roads most frequently and get the greatest utility out of them should pay for their upkeep.
I also desire to refer to a matter which I mentioned last year with reference to the central purchasing scheme. Repeated complaints have been made to the Department from public bodies as to the class of material sent out from the Central Purchasing Department—complaints as to its quality. I have again to repeat that evidence is not wanting to show that foreign manufactured material is being distributed in this country by that Department. That is something that is very serious, that a branch of the Department set up to save public money should assist in distributing material made outside the country, which material gives no employment in this country except, perhaps, whatever employment is given through its distribution.
Some few months ago the Minister heard an expression of opinion from the Dáil on a very urgent social matter—the matter of pensions for widows and orphans. That opinion was very clearly expressed from every quarter of the House, and an amendment to a motion was carried which asked the Executive Council to take certain action and to examine the position with a view to seeing whether there would be any extra burden put on industry in such cases. I would like the Minister to indicate to the House whether any advance has been made in that investigation, whether the investigation has been initiated; if so, how far it has got, if any results have been arrived at, and whether we are likely to have any legislation in this matter.
It is a matter much more pressing than probably the Minister is aware. I do not want to make a speech now which I am not entitled to make. I want just to ask the Minister whether any decisions have been reached in the matter. There is another matter, the matter of the housing of harmless lunatics and children not mentally developed. I think that there is very little care given to these children. They are confined in county homes and what used to be called workhouses. The surroundings, the housing, and all the other conditions are very bad, and the Minister ought to indicate to us whether there is any policy towards taking these to some central institute. The Department have got centralisation mad on certain matters. This is a matter it might centralise with some effect, and I would wish the Minister to indicate whether anything has been done on this matter. Deputy Cooper talked about a local matter I do not want to refer to, but I want to assure him that these people who start and create a state of affairs are surely the best people who ought to be left to clear up that state of affairs. That is all I have to say to him.
I rise because I have considerable doubts in my mind whether the policy of the Department of Local Government is taking the right direction, especially as far as sanitation and healthy food are concerned. We know that very serious efforts have been made and considerable sums of money spent on medical advice. Special officers for the treatment of tubercular diseases have been appointed, sometimes perhaps against the wishes of county councils. All that certainly looks very well on paper, but I find in my travels through the country that there are not any great efforts made to prevent disease at its foundation. I am afraid it will have to be admitted that in rural Ireland housing in certain districts is not at all sanitary or conducive to good health; and furthermore, that in the majority of those houses sound food is not to be found. You find young people brought up on black tea and potatoes. Those are things we have to face. I have seen that. I know that takes place. As I say, it does not seem consistent that considerable sums of money are spent to cure the disease when it is there, when by the spending of part of that money at the right time you could prevent the necessity of spending big sums of money later, and of appointing specialists to cure the disease.
I take it there are two things necessary for a healthy nation, and those are sanitation and sound food. As I say, in a great many parts of rural Ireland they do not exist and there are no facilities for them. I notice on the roads children going to school who show visible signs of want of proper nourishment. They show signs that they have not had sufficient milk and it is not obtainable. Feeble efforts have been made occasionally with cow plots to provide milk for such children, and I know that in certain schools cocoa is provided. I think medical men will agree with me that a proper milk supply and facilities for getting it for those children are absolutely necessary if they are to be healthy men and women. If they are not healthy, as is often the case, the charge falls on the rates, and we have a great deal of talk of appointing special medical officers to cure a disease that possibly might have been prevented. A good many of those houses in rural Ireland, on hillsides and bogs, are thatched houses, not of three rooms, but sometimes of two, and in a good many cases one, surrounded by water, approached by a lane that is nothing more than a river, not conducive to good health. I have doubts in my mind if those things could not be remedied much cheaper than when the disease arises and an attempt is made to cure it. You have the same thing happening in towns I have towns in mind, big market towns, in which big numbers of people are collected monthly at fairs. There is no means of sanitation or water supply. Perhaps two or three thousand people collect into such towns once a month for a fair, and perhaps more than a thousand people collect in there on a market day, and there is no sanitation whatever in the town. I know the Minister for Local Government will tell me that that is not his fault, that that is the fault of the sanitary authority, the local council or the county council. That of course saves him for the moment. It is a good argument, but at the same time how long are these arguments to continue? While the Minister for Local Government throws the blame on the county council and the county council throws the blame on the Minister for Local Government those diseases crop up. You are to-day threatened with typhus. You have typhoid fever in Carrick-on-Shannon and the other places, caused purely and simply through want of proper sanitation. I think we are fairly lucky our population is not big.
The same thing, but we are lucky that our population is not larger. I do not think any serious effort has been made to prevent most of those diseases when in the initial stages they could have been easily prevented.
I rise to support this motion standing in the name of Deputy O'Kelly to refer this Estimate back for reconsideration. My principal reason for doing so is owing to the attitude which has been adopted by the Department of Local Government in connection with grants for the Road Fund, and also in regard to their attitude in connection with road workers' wages, more particularly in County Donegal. The Minister will probably remember that the previous Minister for Local Government, some years ago, sent out a circular to all the county councils fixing for the road workers on the main roads, the trunk roads and the tourist roads a maximum rate of wages. That rate of wages ranged from twenty-six shillings a week in Co. Donegal and Co. Leitrim to 46/6 per week. I would like to point out that the road workers in Co. Dublin who were getting the high rate were doing exactly a similar class of work as were the road workers in Co. Donegal or Co. Leitrim. Surely the Minister cannot justify a differentiation in rates of wages to road workers doing similar work. If he does, surely he will not attempt to justify a differentiation in the rate of wages given to road workers ranging up to 26/- a week. The Minister believes as far as Co. Donegal is concerned that the cost of living is lower than other counties. Incidentally I may point out that when I make reference to the Co. Dublin rate of wages I am not endeavouring to advocate that they should be reduced, but I am endeavouring to submit to the Minister and to show reason why he should not have refused to sanction an increase in the wages of the road workers in Co. Donegal. If he contends that the cost of living in Donegal is lower than that in Co. Dublin or some of the midland counties, we have him recently advising the Donegal County Council to appoint a medical officer of health, and the Minister has fixed, as far as the appointment is concerned, £800 a year plus £200 travelling expenses similar to that which he fixed in some of the counties in the midlands. He did not differentiate as far as the salaries of the medical officers are concerned.
Take, for example, the young gentlemen who come up to Donegal to act as Pension Officers, with their pockets loaded with secret documents, urging them to reduce expenditure and to disqualify applicants for the old age pension. No differentiation is made in their salaries. The pension officers, I understand, in the south and in the midlands have the same rate of wages as they have in County Donegal. When auditors from the Local Government Department come to audit in County Donegal, they get the same pay as when they are working in the midlands or in the south. But when it comes to the question of the workers' wages the Minister has the audacity to tell the Donegal County Council that 26/- per week is a sufficient wage for a married man with a wife and family.
Will the Deputy allow me to ask him if it is not a fact that what the Minister would not give his permission to was that the Donegal County Council should pay workers who were paid out of the rates a particular wage and that workers who were paid out of State grants should get a higher wage?
Apparently the Minister is under a misunderstanding or he has been misinformed.
The position was this: Some considerable time ago the Donegal County Council decided to increase the wages of the road workers employed on the main roads, the trunk roads and the tourist roads from 26/- to 30/- per week. The Minister's Department refused to sanction it on the ground that the workers whom they employed by direct labour on the by-roads in Donegal were only getting 26/- per week. The Minister's Department apparently were not cognisant of the facts of the situation in Donegal. It might be information for the Minister and his Department to know that there are very few, if any, road workers employed by direct labour on the by-roads in County Donegal. The only occasion on which that could arise would be where no tenders were sent in for a particular contract, with the result that the work would have to be done under the supervision of the county surveyor. I would like to point out further to the Minister that when the matter was again brought before the Donegal County Council in order to get over the objection raised by the Minister's Department, the Donegal County Council decided that, as far as the road workers' wages were concerned, even on the by-roads, where they were comparatively few, they would bring the wages up to 30/- per week.
To demonstrate that the Local Government Department were only quibbling in regard to the situation, they again refused to sanction the increase to 30/-. I would like to point out that as far as this particular maximum of wages for road workers is concerned, the National Executive of the Labour Party took it up with the Minister's Department as far back as the 15th November, 1927. In the course of a letter to the Minister, the Labour Party pointed out that it was unfair when councils were prepared to pay a certain wage that the Government should object. They pointed out again that it was unfair that the motor users of the country who contribute to the Road Fund should get their roads made at relief work rates. It was pointed out also that grants out of the Road Fund will recur so long as road making has to be undertaken by the county councils.
"It is not right," the letter went on, "that the State should fix a maximum wage applicable to work done directly by the councils and to work done by contractors. The principle of a minimum wage in public contracts has been generally accepted. The principle of a maximum wage imposed is reactionary, tending to degrade the standard of life and sends us back to the days of the Combination Laws. It is a clear incentive to private employers to reduce the wages of all workers receiving more than the maximum fixed in the public contracts."
In reply to that letter the secretary of the Department, on 13th February, 1928, wrote to the Labour Party as follows:—
"As it is no longer the intention to intimate a specific appropriate rate of wages when grants from the Road Fund are to be notified to local authorities, the Minister does not think it necessary to discuss the reasons which in the past made such a course not only desirable but inevitable.
"The Minister thinks it unlikely that any objection would arise as to the rates of wages which local authorities generally will propose for future schemes, but he must reserve the right to interfere in any cases where on the information before him the cost of the proposed scheme is excessive."
That letter was sent from the Minister's Department to the Labour Party on the 13th February, 1928, and even after that, when the Donegal County Council decided to increase the road workers' wages from 26/- to 30/- per week, the Minister's Department again objected. Their first quibble was that the handful of workers who were working on the by-roads by direct labour were only getting 26/-, and when the county council decided to increase the wages to 30/- per week, the Minister's Department came along with another quibble, and would not even then sanction the wages. In this letter that I refer to, the Minister states that he must reserve the right to interfere in any case where, on information before him, the cost of the proposed scheme is excessive. Does the Minister mean to insinuate or does his Department want the people of the country to believe that 30/- per week is an excessive rate of wages? I pointed out in my opening remarks that road workers in County Dublin and in Louth, Meath, Tipperary, and Wexford were getting a much higher rate of wages. Why does the Minister's Department still refuse to sanction an increase to 30/- per week?
Some time ago in this House a question came up regarding relief rates in Dublin County, in a place called Whitehall. We criticised the action of the Minister at that time, because for that particular relief work he fixed a rate of 30/- per week. I pointed out to the Minister that at that time by fixing 30/- per week for a worker in Whitehall, he was endeavouring to drive in the thin end of the wedge in order to reduce the wages of the working-class people generally. I was interrupted by the Minister, who strenuously denied it. I asked him did he stand for 30/- per week, and he told us that he did not stand for 30/- per week. But now the Minister and his Department are standing for a lower wage than 30/- per week. They are standing for 26/- per week.
What I do stand for is not to allow a county council to be lavish with State money to an extent to which it is not prepared to be lavish with its own money.
The Minister says that what he does object to is the county council being lavish with State money. Does the Minister contend that a wage of 30/- per week for a man with a wife and family for whom he has to provide clothes, food and education is lavish?
I do not contend that at all.
He made reference to the fact that the Donegal County Council was not prepared to pay to those workers employed on the by-roads 30/- per week. Is that the Minister's contention?
My contention is that the Donegal County Council want to pay higher wages out of State money than they pay out of money provided by the rates.
That is altogether incorrect, because the Donegal County Council have already decided that as far as the workers they employ by direct labour are concerned, they will pay them 30/- per week.
Could the Deputy state the date of that decision?
I can furnish it later to the Minister, but that was really the decision arrived at. I would like to say for the information of the Minister that most of the work on the by-roads in Donegal is done by contract and not by direct labour.
I hold that the Government have a duty towards the people, and I hold that the Government are not discharging that duty towards the people. I think it was Deputy O'Reilly who referred to the fact that proper food was essential for good health. How can any Government Department, or how can any Minister for Local Government and Public Health have the audacity in this House to defend a 26/- a week rate of wages for a married man and family? Would any Deputy in this House believe that that is a sufficient rate of wage? If not, how is it that the Local Government Department is at present standing in the way of people getting a living rate of wage? I hold that it is the duty of the Government to look after the welfare of the people, to endeavour to legislate for the welfare of the people, and to endeavour to increase the standard of living of the people. But we have the Local Government Department refusing to allow them even to bring it up to what I might call the very low wage of 30/- a week. Deputy Cooper, in the course of his remarks, lectured us on what his interpretation of democracy was. He told us that democracy meant that the people can get what they want. Now the ratepayers' representatives in Donegal have already decided that they want the rate of wages in Donegal to be fixed at 30/- a week in the case of the men working on the roads. The Local Government Department have refused to sanction that rate. Is that democratic? I do not believe it is. Surely the Government will not persist in that attitude. I hope the Minister will not try to make out that the Donegal County Council are asking more from the Government than they are prepared to pay themselves. That is not so. If the Minister believes it is so, I tell him he is misinformed with regard to the situation. I hope the Minister when replying will tell us that his Department is now prepared to sanction this rate of 30/- a week. Indeed 30/- a week is low enough for a married man and his family.
I think the Minister is to be highly congratulated on this Vote. The criticisms levelled against his Department are of an extremely trifling character. The criticisms offered by the Fianna Fáil Party have been, if I might say so with all respect, mutually destructive of one another. First we have the criticism by Deputy O'Kelly which, in my opinion, was a sound and fair criticism. Deputy O'Kelly in dealing with the Estimate said that as far as his Party was concerned they would not complain if we were getting full value for the money. As far as social services are concerned he went on to add that they were as good here as in any of the surrounding countries. Yet Deputy Ward went so far as to say that in the matter of social services this country was one of the most backward countries in Europe. I am one of those who have always been very cynical, if I might say so, with respect to some of the pet theories of the doctors. I felt confirmed in my cynicism as I listened to the speech of Deputy Ward on this Vote. Deputy Ward has pointed out, in dealing with the Estimates, that there had been increases amounting to £57,000. He said that as far as this particular Department was concerned we were not striving for economy. Yet in the course of further remarks Deputy Ward went on to add that the country stands in need of elaborate schemes of sanitation, the setting up of a central institution for venereal diseases, and the building of larger houses. The Deputy told the House that the money provided by the Minister for this Estimate was too small. He said that on the one hand, and yet just the same as his Party have said on the platforms throughout the country, he wants economies effected. On the one hand he wants an increase in the Estimate and on the other hand he wants the Estimate to be reduced. I think it is high time that the Fianna Fáil Party began to realise that the time for this sort of foolish nonsense has passed, and to let us get down to facts and deal with the existing situation as it actually is.
I would ask Deputy Ward as a medical man to look at the increases in this Estimate—to look at the various heads under which those increases occur, to point out each particular head in which an increase appears, and to say what he wants struck out from the Estimate that has been framed by the Minister. Let the Deputy look over the items in which there are increases. These increases amount, under housing grants, to a sum of £59,900; increased grants for the treatment of venereal diseases amount to £9,500. Then there are increases for the treatment of tuberculosis, for the welfare of the blind; increases for the provision of meals for school children; increases for the medical treatment of school children and increases for child welfare. All these increases amount to a sum of almost £75,000. Yet Deputy Ward tells us here in another voice that one of the great drawbacks in the country at the present moment is the lack of nourishing food for children. The Deputy wants us to embark upon various medical schemes for the betterment of the health of the people, and at the same time he complains that this Estimate has been increased by a sum of £57,000. The Deputy stated here to-day that one of the fruitful causes of tuberculosis is caused by the bad housing conditions throughout the country, people living in one-roomed, two-roomed and three-roomed houses. How can the Deputy, if he wants a reduction in the Estimate that the Minister has introduced, advocate building schemes and other social services like that? I have the greatest possible respect for Deputy Ward, but at the same time we must all deal with these problems in the light of common sense. As representing a Dublin constituency, I take a view exactly opposite to that of Deputy Ward. I have had experience of living in other cities where we had systems of self-contained three-roomed flats. I appeal to the Minister to endeavour, as far as the City of Dublin is concerned, to embark on these self-contained dwellings. I am very closely concerned with the health of the people living in these self-contained areas, and from my own knowledge I can say that, as far as tuberculosis and other things are concerned, the references made by Deputy Ward in the course of his remarks are a figment of a disordered imagination. I am one of those sceptical individuals who will not go to a doctor until I have to do so. Sometimes when listening to the speeches of Deputies belonging to the medical profession in this House I congratulate myself that I am not so far wrong in what some would consider a very primitive idea.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer. I know that more or less that matter is not within the ambit of the Department of Local Government but it is a matter I would like to bring before the attention of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I refer to the relief of distress in the City of Dublin. I know that there could be no more sympathetic individual dealing with matters of Local Government, as far as the poor of this city are concerned, than the Minister himself. But there is no good in closing our eyes to the fact that this question is there. I think it is only proper and right that the existence of this question should be voiced from these benches. There is no use in closing our eyes to the fact that there is a great deal of destitution in Dublin and that philanthropic and charitable societies are complaining that the relief in the measure that the State is entitled to afford is not being given to the destitute poor of the City of Dublin. I have noticed that the Dublin Union Commissioners in the report which appeared recently show that the poor law relief for the month of March, 1928, stood at or about the figure of £6,000 odd. For the month of March, 1929, that figure had increased to £9,084. That, undoubtedly, shows that as far as the month of March was concerned there was a considerable increase on the expenditure over that of 1928, but I would submit to the Minister that the reports of charitable societies, such as the Vincent de Paul, that have been brought before me as a Deputy reveal that very great hardships exist and that those are not getting the sympathetic consideration from the Commissioners that they are entitled to.
Could the Deputy bring to my notice any such report from the Vincent de Paul Society?
I would be very glad if the Minister will look at one of the reports which I will bring to his notice and I will avail myself of the invitation of the Minister to do so.
Will the Deputy assure me that he has these reports?
I will not assure the Minister that the Vincent de Paul Society have come to me and given me the report to which I refer, but I can assure him that many members of the Vincent de Paul Society have come to me and made those statements to which I have referred. Perhaps if I took a concrete instance to illustrate what I am referring to, the Minister would understand my attitude in this matter more fully.
The Minister is not responsible for the administration of poor law relief in Dublin.
I have admitted that he is not directly responsible.
Nor is he indirectly responsible.
He is head of the local government in this city.
He is not responsible for poor law relief anywhere, not even where there are Commissioners. There is no difference between Dublin City and anywhere else in the Saorstát as far as this particular matter is concerned. In some respects Dublin City may come in for special treatment in the Dáil, but it must be understood that the Minister is not responsible for the actions of the City Commissioners any more than he is responsible for the actions of the Cork Corporation or the actions of any local council.
The administrative machinery is there, and it is controlled from this House. Otherwise, we have no means of remedying any anomaly which may exist under present conditions.
In so far as the Minister has power, Deputies can draw matters of that sort to his notice, but the Minister is not directly or indirectly responsible for the actions of the City Commissioners.
The Ceann Comhairle has said the word that I wanted him to say. The Minister has power, and when he has that power he is the only person that I can appeal to in this House.
I want to get this matter made perfectly clear. There are Commissioners, but the Minister is not responsible for the actions of the Commissioners any more than he would be responsible for the actions of local authorities. The Commissioners are exactly in the same position as local authorities would occupy; they are in the same position as the local bodies they replace.
Reference has been made to relief work in Dublin and I have already touched upon relief work at Whitehall. Was it not the Minister who was responsible for the 30/- a week wage paid at Whitehall?
I will answer the Deputy by saying certainly not. Surely the Deputy did not want me to keep on interrupting him while he was speaking by contradicting every wrong statement he made?
But the Minister defended it in this House.
I defended the position taken up by the City Commissioners in starting relief works in Whitchall and paying relief money at that rate.
And are they still paying 30/- a week?
We cannot discuss the local affairs of the City of Dublin in this House because those local affairs are now being administered by Commissioners. We cannot discuss them any more than we could discuss the affairs of any local authority in the ordinary accepted sense. I have given a certain amount of latitude, but I am not prepared to allow the local affairs of Dublin to be discussed here.
So much has been said by Deputies on this matter—Deputies O'Kelly, Lemass and others—that I hope I will be allowed a certain amount of latitude when I come to reply.
Then perhaps I can deal with one concrete instance. I think it will show pretty clearly what I suggest exists in the City.
I do not want to hear any concrete instance from Dublin City. It gets us into another sphere of administration altogether.
Well, I simply will not deal with the concrete case but with certain facts that have come to my knowledge.
I will hear no more about it.
All I want to say is that the Ceann Comhairle admits the Minister has certain powers.
He has lots of powers.
If the Minister makes that admission——
The Ceann Comhairle now makes a ruling and not an admission. I will have to rule the Deputy out of order.
If I am ruled out of order I am one of those who will never question the action of the Chair. All I will say is that certain assurances have been given by the Minister as far as the relief of workless people in this City is concerned. I think it is the duty of any one representing the North City to bring to the notice of the House the condition of affairs that exists in the City at the present time. I have had cases brought to my notice where men are out of employment for two years, and they are relying on the wages earned by their wives charring. No relief can be got to assist those individuals. I will not presume on the licence that the Ceann Comhairle has given me. I appeal to the Minister to look into those matters. Undoubtedly he has a great influence in this particular matter, and I would like him to see that something is done soon to help those unfortunate people.
I hope I will be allowed to continue in the same strain as Deputy Byrne, because I wish to deal with the housing question.
I am against the introduction of housing into this debate. We have had a Housing Bill already for three stages and there are two more stages to come.
Deputy Byrne's speech dealt considerably with the housing question.
And with doctors.
Yes, with the medical profession, and I hope members of it will be permitted to reply.
Yes, Deputy Byrne dealt with the doctors.
I would like some information from the Minister in regard to housing, particularly in the Gaeltacht.
I do not object.
On last year's Estimate I dealt at length with the housing question in the West of Ireland and I mentioned the attempts to eliminate fever and tuberculosis in the poorer rural districts and the Gaeltacht. At that time an epidemic of fever had just occurred and the medical inspector who was enquiring into the conditions there reported on the housing conditions in the Gaeltacht. I have frequently questioned the Minister here about the policy of his Department on this matter of housing in the Gaeltacht. A fortnight ago the Minister told me that a conference was being held amongst heads of Departments under the chairmanship of the Minister for Lands and Fisheries. They were dealing with Gaeltacht problems and particularly with the housing question there. The conference was called together some time last October. I would like to know the attitude of those officials towards the matter and also the attitude of the Minister's Department. In the Estimates this year no provision is made for any special housing scheme in the West or for dealing with rural slums. I am inclined to believe that the Minister was simply putting me off when he told me the heads of Departments were considering this matter. If they did consider it in a serious way and intended to improve rural slums, surely some provision would have been made in the Estimates. I believe that in those areas in the West where fever is endemic the Minister should make provision for some special housing scheme to deal with it. I know that he cannot expect to stop these ever-recurring fever epidemics and to do away with fever in the congested areas unless he improves the housing conditions of the people. The report which was sent to him by the medical inspector sent down at the time of the last outbreak goes to show that the Minister's Department should be responsible for the improvement of these conditions and that it should not be left to any inter-Departmental conference. I think also that where tuberculosis occurs in these small one-roomed houses in the West and where a family dies one after another, year after year, until it is altogether wiped out, some arrangement should be made to have these houses destroyed and cottages built in their place.
In any of these one-roomed houses when anybody is stricken with tuberculosis and a death occurs it is an extremely dangerous practice to allow the people to continue to live in the hovel. The expense of re-roofing and slating these thatched cottages and reconstructing and disinfecting them would not be half as great as the expense of the treatment of the whole family for years and years and their utter dependence on the rates for their upkeep. I hope the Minister will give us more information as to what he intends to do with the fever-stricken areas. I also wish to deal with the dispensary system. The Minister, since he took over this Department, has not shown very much originality in dealing with the problems in the country districts. The same old system is carried on and the same old methods used as in the days of the British Government. They were quite suitable for industrial areas, but are not at all suitable to rural areas here. The ordinary dispensary waiting rooms and their equipment are not what they should be. The prescribed lists given to medical officers for drugs and instruments are much the same as they were forty or fifty years ago, and the same old methods and diagnoses are being followed. The result is that you have no halfway house between the very well-equipped hospital and the very poorly-equipped dispensary. Until dispensaries are brought up to date good work cannot be expected from medical officers in rural districts. To give an example: I applied for an instrument called an ophthalmoscope three years ago for the examination of eyes. It is a very useful instrument, because it is rather difficult to estimate the degree of blindness for blind pensions, and almost impossible to diagnose many eye conditions without this instrument, which costs about £4. The Local Government Department refused to sanction the purchase of the instrument. That instrument should be on the prescribed list, and supplied to medical officers. Every man who qualifies in medicine has to do a fairly long and intensive course in ophthalmology, and there is, I think, no dispensary doctor practising to-day who would not be well able to use this instrument. The result of this instrument not being supplied in my case is that I have to send for the ambulance to remove every single eye patient who would require this instrument for the diagnosis of his case and get him removed to the central hospital in Galway. It costs £3 to take him there and £3 to take him back, as well as his upkeep in the hospital. That sort of false economy in the equipment of dispensaries is not conducive to good work by the medical officers, and is certainly not good for the patients.
I wish to draw attention to a matter which Deputy Connolly referred to yesterday, and that is with regard to the maintenance of trunk and county roads in urban areas. The system in the recent past has been that the county council is made responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of trunk and county roads in the urban areas. As a result of that there is a certain amount of overlapping, misunderstanding and clashing between the two bodies. Hitherto it was the responsibility of the urban council to maintain all roads within the urban area. I maintain that that system was much more satisfactory than to impose on the county council the duty of going into the urban area and trying to maintain the county and link roads within that area. In addition to the other misunderstandings which may occur, if a sewer becomes choked in an urban area the county council repudiates responsibility and says that it is a sanitary matter for which the urban council is responsible. On the other hand, the urban council repudiates responsibility and says that the county council is responsible. I think it would be very much more satisfactory if the Minister reverted to the old system by which the urban council would be made responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of roads within their area. At present the county council is responsible for the county and trunk roads and the urban council for the other roads. That must inevitably lead to misunderstanding and dissatisfaction and, in consequence, the Local Government Department is invited to come in and settle the dispute. An opportunity should not be given for such misunderstandings to arise, and it lies with the Minister and his Department to remedy that matter, which is not beyond their power.
I have heard references made to the question of home assistance and the amount of money expended and to certain roads which should be made in certain localities. The amalgamation system has led in my opinion to a considerable amount of abuse in that way. As a result of the amalgamation system, we have county-at-large rating substituted for district rating. When we had district rating every public representative in a particular district was responsible for the money expended within that district and for the rating in that district. Now a public representative is not responsible for the rate within any particular district. He owes no responsibility to that district except that he wants to have as much expended within that particular area as is expended in an adjoining area. In other words, the amalgamation system throws out an invitation to public representatives to become extravagant, because it is not the responsibility of the particular representative of an area, but is the responsibility of the county at large. Consequently it is not the desire of a public representative to curtail expenditure within an area, but rather to have as much money as possible expended in that area, so that he can say he has got so much money expended within his area while another man had only got so much expended. While human nature is what it is, it is only natural that these comparisons will be made. Therefore the amalgamation system, in my opinion, has led to abuses in that respect, because it has created a rivalry amongst public representatives not in the curtailing of expenditure or in the economising of expenditure but in expending lavishly and recklessly and without any idea whatever of what the consequences may be, or the benefits to be derived from such expenditure. These are matters that I think deserve consideration. I know that under present conditions we cannot very well alter them, and, in fact, I have very little hope that anything I say here will affect the position, but there might be some means devised with that object in view for the future.
The Minister said something with regard to introducing, in the near future, an amending Local Government Bill. Perhaps, in drafting that, he might introduce something that would remove some of the difficulties that I am endeavouring to point out here to-day. I have heard a great many people, and particularly members of the Labour Benches, talking about county medical officers of health. Well, as far as county medical officers of health are concerned, it may be a very good thing, but I am afraid that we are out for making this country a country of officials, to a very great extent. Let us look, for instance, at the position. What is the population to-day? What was the population forty or fifty years ago? How many dispensary doctors have we in the country to-day compared with the number we had forty or fifty years ago? What is the duty of a dispensary doctor? Is he a whole-time officer or a part-time officer? I am a member of a county board of health. Perhaps the doctor will say: "I am overworked. I deserve an increase in salary." I do not blame him for that. That is what I should expect from a doctor. His desire and his ambition is to improve his position. The public have to pay, and they have a right to call the tune.
Deputies on the Labour Benches desire to put up all salaries and wages. I have no objection to reasonable wages and salaries at all times, but I would like to see that the people who bear the burden should have an opportunity of expressing their views upon the matter, and I hope they always will. With regard to the appointment of county medical officers of health, because one county has committed itself to that system does it follow that without the opportunity of having the right to say "yes" or "no" every other county should follow suit? What is the position? I live in a very large county, and I think there are at least five or six dispensary doctors in that county. These men are not whole-time officers. Because they are dispensary doctors we must take it that in the imagination of the public they are regarded as whole-time officers. They are no such thing. It may be thought that all their time is taken up and devoted to attending to red tickets. I am a member of a board of public health, and in the last four years I have issued five red tickets. That is what is happening.
Would the Deputy explain? Are there other members of the board of public health issuing red tickets in his area?
Quite a number. The reason I mention that is that I hear very much said about the appointment of the county medical officers of health. Are the dispensary doctors not men in responsible positions? I take it they are. And are they not capable of discharging efficiently the duties that county medical officers of health would be called upon to discharge? In a huge county like Mayo, of which I am one of the representatives in this House, what chance has a county medical officer of health discharging his medical duties over that huge county efficiently? I say none whatever.
took the Chair.
The Local Government Department attempted in the recent past, in connection with home assistance, to appoint a superintendent home assistance officer for the county. I say the money given for that purpose was absolute waste. I say that deliberately, and I hope I have convinced the Minister that that is the case and I hope I have convinced him now.
No, I am quite unconvinced.
Well, if the Minister is not convinced, at all events, I am convinced, and every county representative associated with me is convinced that it was waste of money. You might as well ask a man to fly to the moon as to go through the huge County of Mayo investigating the case of every man and the manner in which he received and got home assistance. It is absolutely impossible, something beyond the exercise of the power of any individual, however energetic. No man could possibly do it. This man was paid £200 a year, a ridiculous salary, but there was no necessity for it because it could be done very much better otherwise, and is being done better otherwise.
What I was leading to when I mentioned county medical officers was this: You have a big number of dispensary doctors in that area. Why not assign to them a certain portion of the duty that this county medical officer would be supposed to undertake? These dispensary doctors are not whole-time officers; they are part-time officers, and their principal income would be derived from their private practice. That is so, and if it were not their position would not be very comfortable; they could not possibly live on the salaries they get as dispensary doctors. I grant all that, but the dispensary doctors I know in my county are men with substantial incomes from their private practice. Their salaries are, to my mind, fairly good.
The county-at-large charge under the amalgamation scheme, to my mind, was something that led to a good deal of abuse. I hope it is not badly abused, but the fact of having a county-at-large rate instead of a district rate, I say again, and I repeat it a thousand times, was only calculated to set up a kind of rivalry amongst public representatives whereby each man would try to have the largest amount he could spent in his own particular district. The test applied at the present time is: How much has a certain councillor got spent in his own area. Heretofore it was what was the rate in that particular area. Now it is, how much can you get expended in a particular area regardless of what the consequences are or the benefits to be derived from that expenditure. I say it is the benefits to be derived from the expenditure that should be taken into account.
With regard to the maintenance of the roads generally, I think the present position of the roads is one that requires, and I am sure is receiving, the serious attention of the Minister because the position generally in the country as a result of the bus traffic is a problem that will be absolutely impossible for local bodies to grapple with in the near future. It was never anticipated that the roads would be subject to such traffic as that brought about by the use of motor buses. So far as I know, nothing has been done to make the proprietors of such buses pay their fair share in maintaining the roads which they are using. If something is done there may be some hope for public bodies being able to deal with the problem, but if the question is not taken up and dealt with it will be impossible for rural ratepayers to bear the burden which they will have to carry in the not far distant future. The position will then be impossible for them. Public representatives will be in an unenviable position, and it will be even worse for the ratepayers. By dealing effectively with the problem the Minister for Local Government would be doing a great service. I hope he will do so, as otherwise the position of public representatives and of rural ratepayers will become absolutely impossible.
I trust that the Minister will not be influenced by the speech of the last Deputy, especially in regard to county medical officers of health. Deputy Davis referred to the fact that Labour members in particular have impressed on the Minister the necessity for having whole time medical officers appointed and he gives as an excuse, why they should not be appointed, the question of salaries. We consider, however, that the health of the people cannot be measured in terms of an extra penny in the pound on the rates for the appointment of whole time medical officers. According to the Estimate a sum of £59,000 is to be spent on the treatment of tubercular patients. Anyone with any experience of insurance committees knows that the only way to cope with that disease is to treat it in its infancy and to do that you must have whole-time medical officers who will examine the children in the schools and give advice as to their proper treatment, rather than having that treatment delayed until the disease has advanced to such a stage that it is too late to be treated by medical officers. Deputy Davis stated that instead of having whole-time county medical officers there should be dispensary officers over a very large area. I hope when the Minister brings in a new Local Government Bill he will see the advisability of appointing dispensary doctors who will spend their whole time in looking after the sick poor and who will not be dependent on private practice to keep them in their positions. People on public boards realise what it is costing to maintain the sick in various hospitals.
Now that we are to have county medical officers of health I appeal to the Minister to give a further allowance for housing because, as one who has a little experience in the administration of insurance committees, I agree with Deputy Dr. Tubridy that people suffering from consumption and getting six months treatment in a sanatorium should not be allowed to return to houses which very often have been condemned by the sanitary authorities. If they are allowed to do so it means a huge waste of money. Money spent on the appointment of county medical officers of health will be wasted if we do not grapple with the housing problem and in my opinion the small allowance hitherto made will not deal adequately with that problem. I would also ask the Minister to state what is the amount of the capitation grant for the maintenance of insane persons. It is a great difficulty with members of public boards, when framing their budget, to make provision for the maintenance of insane persons when they do not know the exact amount of the capitation grant which the Minister will give. Eighteen years ago the amount of that grant was something like 4/- per head per week but now it has been reduced to 3/6. Members of public boards would like the Minister to state definitely whether the amount per head is to be 4/-, 3/6 or 2/6 as otherwise there may be arrears in their budget.
We heard to-day a good deal about the Commissionership system, and about public boards appealing to the Minister to retain Commissioners. I wish to refer to a remarkable incident that occurred in connection with the abolition of the Bray Urban Council. An inquiry was held at Bray, and it was adjourned at 6.30 p.m., but by one o'clock the next day a wire was sent to the Town Clerk abolishing the Council. Evidence was submitted at the inquiry, and I would like to know from the Minister what were the reasons for abolishing the Council. We are offered reasons other than those submitted at the inquiry. Surely it cannot be held that there was mal-administration in the affairs of the Bray Urban Council when out of 15 members 9 were ratepayers' representatives, one was an Independent, and five were Labour representatives? It can hardly be said that things were not right when the majority party on the Council consisted of nine ratepayers' representatives. I believe that the sole and only excuse for the suppression of the Council was the fact that some of those representatives, not being familiar with public life, made glowing promises at the previous election as to what they were going to do in the interests of the ratepayers, and when they found they would not be re-elected, as they had not fulfilled any of their promises, they made a special appeal to the Minister or his Department to send down an inspector to hold an inquiry with a view to abolishing the Council. The only excuse given was the payment of wages to some old men in the employment of the Council, and, without being personal to the present Commissioner, I would say that the very men who appealed for the inquiry would now appeal to the Minister to hold an election, having had an experience of one year's work since then. The same gentleman has been in Ennis. I believe that after some time you will not find in Bray appeals made to the Minister, such as those quoted by Deputy Cooper, for the retention of Commissioners as against properly-elected councils.
I have a grievance against the Minister, not only in connection with my own county, but, according to Press reports, for his refusal generally to receive deputations. I can quite understand the attitude of the Minister in certain circumstances. If, for instance, a deputation were coming to Dublin merely for the sake of coming, and without having any views to put before him, one could understand his attitude. But where you have a public body, representing 50,000 or 60,000 people, unanimously passing a resolution requesting the Minister to receive a deputation in regard to a particular matter, I do not believe that it is democratic on the part of the Minister to refuse to see such a deputation.
Deputy Davis made a great appeal about the roads. I would like to know what is the Minister's policy in connection with the roads. Deputies here, at various times, have advocated the nationalisation of roads. I am in favour of the nationalisation of roads. I hold it is unfair that the ratepayers of the country have to bear a large proportion of the cost of the upkeep of roads that are rarely used by them, and that are being used by the people of the whole of Ireland. I hold that special consideration in that respect should be given to County Wicklow, which is a tourist county. It has claims that no other county, with the exception of County Kerry, has, and the ratepayers of that county should not be asked to bear the burden of the upkeep of the main and trunk roads. I would like the Minister to give some idea of his policy in connection with the nationalisation of roads. I hope he will not be influenced in any way by the remarks of Deputy Davis in regard to the county medical officers. The Deputy referred to the case of one dispensary doctor in his area to whom he issued only five tickets, but he stated, honourably enough, that there were other members who were also issuing tickets in that area, and for all he might know the other members of the Board of Health may have issued hundreds of tickets. I am glad to hear that, if what Deputy Davis states is true, the doctor has so little to do in that area. He has had only to attend five people. That speaks well for the health of that area, and I am sure that other Deputies would wish that areas in their constituencies were in a similar state to those in Deputy Davis's constituency.
A good deal has been said in reference to the insanitary condition of small towns. Deputies are all aware that this is a very big problem. The small towns are certainly in a bad condition owing to the lack of sewerage systems and water supplies, which are very much needed. Much has also been said in regard to the inability of local authorities to bear the cost of these schemes, but I would like to know what steps local authorities have taken to help to bear portion of the charges. I saw about two years ago in my own constituency, when relief grants were made available by the Minister for Local Government, that six schemes, including water supply schemes and sewerage schemes, were submitted to the Minister.
The Minister agreed to give one-fifth of the estimated cost in each case and the schemes were then sent back to the local authority. However, after bearing the huge engineering expenses of these schemes, the local authority was only prepared to carry out two of the six schemes, and I think these were the two smallest. We are not going to make very much progress if that is going to be the attitude of the local authority in every case. I would suggest that the local authority in each area should strike a rate to finance water supplies and sewerage schemes both in towns and rural districts, a rate, say, of even a penny in the £ per annum, and so create a fund for the different schemes needed throughout the county. I would suggest that out of that fund some advance should be given and that the Government should be prepared to help with a small grant, and the district would then bear the remainder of the cost. I would like to know what were the engineering expenses attached to these five or six schemes which I have mentioned, because they were a pure waste of money. Nothing has been done after all these expenses in most of the schemes. Unless we have the cooperation of local authorities and the Government I do not see how we are going to make any progress. Certainly I believe it would repay local authorities and the Government in a very small number of years, because you would not have hospitals and county homes filled as they are at present with patients, most of whom are suffering from diseases attributable to bad water supplies and bad sewerage. We have heard a good deal about tuberculosis schemes, but certainly I must congratulate the Minister for Local Government on his recent Housing Act. I believe if we continue building houses at the same rate as under the two recent Housing Acts, in a period of years, outbreaks of disease will not be so frequent. In regard to roads, I do not altogether agree with what Deputy Killilea suggests about the Galway roads. I think we have roads in Galway as good as in any county in the Free State.
I am saying roads in Co. Galway. There is pretty good mileage of good roads. I think that even Deputy Dr. Tubridy will agree that there are pretty good roads in Connemara.
I referred to roads in North Galway and East Galway.
I would not like that remark to go without question. It may well be that a good many of the local authorities have reduced their road expenditure considerably when they got very big grants. I know one local authority which a few years ago reduced road expenditure about 30 per cent. because they got a very big grant out of the Road Fund. If that is to be the general procedure with local authorities we are bound to have some bad roads in the different counties because the district roads are not getting much more attention from local authorities than they were some years ago. In regard to this matter, I put down a question last December in reference to the great delay in the allocation of grants from the Road Fund and I got an answer to the effect that the Minister had asked each county council in the Free State for proposals for the coming year. My question was put down early in December and the Minister stated that he had written to the local authorities in or about the 21st October, and at the time I received that answer he had got replies only from eight local authorities, and out of the eight only four had answered the questions he had put to them. Now if we are to get on with road work or relieve unemployment I believe local authorities should have more life in them.
I have taken a very deep interest in the speeches here to-day. I know that the Opposition in the Dáil is here for opposition. You would naturally think that when the Opposition criticises a Department it would be a constructive rather than a destructive criticism, particularly when a colleague of mine gets up to criticise a Department dealing with medical matters such as we have here before us I would expect something helpful from him. I listened with great attention to Deputy Dr. Ward's and Deputy Dr. Tubridy's speeches and I am sorry to say that I will have to criticise and say that in my opinion Dr. Ward's speech was a vicious attack on the Department of Local Government. I expected that we would have some constructive criticism at least. Deputy Dr. Ward took exception to the Department of Local Government when he said that there were a number of watertight departments in the Department of Local Government. There are a great number of departments, I think there are more departments in it than perhaps in any other Ministry. My experience when dealing with the Local Government Department is that they are very efficient in every way and as far as I can see from the way it is run and its general management in every respect the Local Government Department is one of the premier Departments in the State.
I am very anxious to see the day when Deputy Dr. Ward perhaps may become the Minister for Local Government. I am sure the millennium of government will have arrived by then. I quite agree with Deputy Ward that one of the great essentials to the welfare and good health of our people is good housing. I consider, though you may do other things in your Department of Public Health, the great essential is good housing. Until we get some national scheme perhaps whereby thousands of houses are built for our people then we cannot make any great headway against diseases such as tuberculosis. Happily this Government, no matter what anybody says to the contrary since it has come into office, has not been idle in accomplishing one of the great essentials to the welfare of the State. When you consider what the Government has been up against I think what they have accomplished is nothing short of marvellous. I hope that perhaps in the near future some national plan may be devised whereby houses will be built all over the State.
Now the question of the disinfecting of second-hand clothes is one that interests me, because in Waterford, where I come from, large amounts of second-hand clothing are imported. They are distributed from Waterford City to the West and centre of Ireland. The citizens of Waterford are doing very good work for the rest of Ireland apparently, and as far as I know they get nothing for it. They disinfect these clothes, and we get no definite return. I think that should be seen to later on.
Reference was made also by Deputy Ward to our county hospitals. He said there was no X-ray plant in some of them. There may not be, but I have a definite promise from the Department of Local Government that they are shortly going to give us an X-ray installation in Waterford, and I suppose as time goes on you will have these X-ray plants and the other necessary up-to-date medical paraphernalia installed in all these hospitals. Deputy Ward talked of sunlight treatment. He did not talk of the other X-ray treatments. I was reading an article the other day in a medical magazine. I do not know that those Vincent Lights, sunlight and other lights are all they are claimed to be. However, I suppose if it is desirable they, too will be installed. I think it was Deputy Tubridy who mentioned something about the lists for prescribing medicines. I am a little bit older than Deputy Tubridy or Deputy Ward, and I probably did as much dispensary work as they have done in years gone by. I always found that the medicines on the prescribed list were quite sufficient for anyone who cared to prescribe or mix them, and quite up-to-date. Some people seem to think that it is not desirable to have a county medical officer of health. I want to congratulate the Minister for Local Government. I think that one of the best things that could be done in this country in general, and for the welfare of the people, is the getting of the county medical officer of health to work. Get him appointed to every county, because all medicine now tends towards preventive medicine, and not to try to cure the person so much when he is ill.
I have not much to say but to put a few questions to the Minister. Unfortunately Deputy Brodrick painted a very rosy picture which I think is not borne out by facts in the course of the few words he said. In reference to the Government Housing Acts, he said he could congratulate the Minister on the Housing Acts which were all that could be desired. I take this opportunity, since I was unable to take the opportunity the other night on the Housing Bill, to question the Minister on the point raised here by Deputy Tubridy, Deputy Mongan and myself some time ago with regard to the Governmental policy of housing in the Gaeltacht. I regret that no mention was made of a specific sum to be set aside for housing on this portion of the Vote. We were promised a Bill, and I had hoped that some indication would be given in the Minister's opening statement in introducing his Estimate of what the provisions were likely to be. No doubt the right honourable and esteemed doctors gave us the benefit of their eloquence in this debate referring to public health matters generally, and said that bad housing was responsible for much of the disease existing in the country to-day in the areas I referred to and for which I asked some indication of Governmental policy. Bad housing is the premier obstacle that people have to contend with. The Government should make up their minds speedily on this question, and I believe in this Estimate under this sub-section (S) which we see on page 147 "grants to persons and local authorities building and re-constructing dwelling-houses," some specific sum should have been set apart for housing in the congested areas. Deputy Tubridy, I think it was, spoke of a national housing scheme. This Bill, the Government promised us, with regard to the Gaeltacht, will, I hope, embody some such scheme. I would like the Minister to give us some indication when he is concluding as to when he will introduce that Bill and what its provisions are likely to be.
Deputy Everett referred to capitation grants to the management committees of mental hospitals. No mention was made by the Minister in introducing his Estimate of any Governmental policy in this matter. In view of the fact that every mental hospital in the 26 counties has sent forward resolutions to the Local Government Department within the last three months asking for some alteration to be made in the system by which the capitation grants are made, I think it is due not alone to this House, but also as a matter of courtesy to these committees of management representing the ratepayers, that some indication of his intentions with regard to that matter should be given before this debate closes. Some time ago the Minister, in connection with the policy which is being pursued in the Gaeltacht organ, "An Ghaeltacht," sent forward notice to a certain council with regard to seeing that the officials, after a certain period, would be able to conduct correspondence in the national language. I forget the exact time that was given to the officials to acquire a knowledge of the language, but I would like to know what steps, if any, are being taken in connection with counties which are scheduled as Gaeltacht counties, to see whether the officials under the regulations prescribed by him are acquiring a working knowledge of the Irish language, within a certain specified period. There is no doubt but that policy of the Government with regard to that matter is not going far enough. The time mentioned by the Minister in his letter to this council is absurd. It was too far ahead. Everybody will admit if he is serious in that regard, or in seeing that officials in the Gaeltacht counties are able to conduct their business in the Irish language, that they should be given a certain limited time, a time that will be reasonable and at the same time that will not allow any possibility of escape from the regulations.
There is one other matter that was dealt with in the course of the debate. That is the question of the roads. It has been dealt with so extensively that I am not going to occupy the time of the House further, except to state that it is regrettable that some system has not been adopted by which the by-roads of the country would receive a certain amount of consideration from the Government. The only roads mentioned in the Governmental proposals, as far as I can see, are the main, trunk roads and link roads. But no attention seems to be given to the by-roads, which are really the roads that count. I am of opinion that the main, link and trunk roads are quite good enough at the moment. There has been undoubtedly a tremendous improvement in them in the past few years, and I think some attention should be now given to the by-roads and that in the allocation of grants under the Government scheme for encouraging the maintenance of roads, a certain specific sum ought to be allocated, and that the local authorities ought to be instructed that a special sum should be given for the improvement and maintenance of the by-roads.
How much of that would Cork want?
We would want every cent you have got if you would give it to us. There is one other matter in this Estimate which I would like some information on, and that is the question of the combined purchasing scheme. This scheme has been in operation for four years and so far as I can see it costs about £3,000, exclusive of bonus. I would be glad if the Minister, in concluding the debate, would give us some indication as to the economies achieved by that scheme. I think it would be interesting to know, in view of the experience of many members of local committees since the introduction of that Bill.
I quite agree with the grants to local authorities in connection with the treatment of school children, child welfare and tuberculosis. The Estimate, as a whole, is not a bad one, but I believe economics could be effected, and effected not at the expense of the people mentioned in these various institutions. I hope that the Minister will give us some information on the points I have raised and particularly with regard to a Housing Bill for the Gaeltacht.
I would like to support the Deputies who have advocated the treating of sanitation in this country as a national question. Personally I do not think that the question is incapable of solution, as some people seem to think it is. I think the Local Government Department could very easily solve the question in the same manner as they solved the bridges question. The county council were obliged to strike a rate of 6d. in the £ for five years. Of course I know there is nothing to prevent the county councils doing that at the moment, but they will not do it. Last year I advocated the same thing. I think if sanitation is to be attended to in this country it can only be done in that way. I am afraid that the Local Government Department does not realise that sanitation in nearly all the towns and villages of the country is in a very bad state. Deputy Davis referred to the disadvantages of the county at large rate. It has its disadvantages but it has its advantages. As far as I am concerned, I have always advocated that it should be a county area, and for this reason: In every county there are poor districts and rich districts. We find that the poor districts are more thickly populated than the others, and under the county-at-large rate the rich district is able to assist the poor district, whereas under the old system the poor ones tried to pay for themselves.
Deputy Cooper referred to road grants and made a plea for a higher portion of motor taxation being paid to the Dublin County Council than they are getting. I was always under the impression that this fund was distributed on a fair and equitable basis. But I am afraid I have been mistaken. Deputy Ward made a statement here to-day that by bringing pressure to bear on the Minister he was able to get £10,000 extra for County Monaghan. When we heard that statement we began to rub our eyes. It was not contradicted.
I hope the Deputy does not take all Deputy Ward's statements as seriously as he took that.
It was not denied. I began to wonder whether we were not asleep in the West, because we have not been pestering the Minister's Department.
The Deputy will remember that there was a special invitation from Deputy Ward not to interrupt until he was finished.
With regard to Deputy Cooper's remarks, it may be that the Dublin County Council is not being properly treated in this matter of motor taxation. I am aware that there are oil lorries down in Roscommon which have been housed in Roscommon but which have been registered in Dublin though they have never gone up to Dublin. Those lorries do more damage to those roads than all the others and these vehicles are all taxed in Dublin. For that reason I think it would be very unfair to have the matter considered on such a basis. Like Deputy Mullins I would like that the Minister would make some statement as to the capitation grants to the mental homes. That is a matter that has been discussed at great length from one end of the country to the other and I think that some consideration should be given to those local authorities who have been trying to carry on those institutions under existing conditions.
I would like to say a few words with regard to the urgency of appointing county medical officers of health. I am aware that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health fully realises the importance and necessity for the appointment of these officials. Nevertheless since the Act was passed providing for their appointment the progress has been very slow. That is not the fault of the Minister. He has received in most cases very little co-operation from the county boards of health and from the county councils. In fact in the majority of cases those bodies have resisted making the appointments. Of course I can understand that is natural enough as we must admit that finances at present are not in a very good condition so far as the local bodies are concerned. Nevertheless, no economy or no efforts at making economies would justify the county councils in refusing to appoint those officials. Their work is of immense importance. It is much better to spend money in preventing disease than in curing it.
It has, I believe, been said in the course of this debate by Deputy Davis, whose experience is more or less confined to his own county, that dispensary doctors could do the work of the county medical officers of health and that they have plenty time for it, having very little dispensary work to attend to, and that all their work is private practice. Deputy Davis apparently arrives at that conclusion because he says he issued only five tickets in the course of the year. It would be equally true for other Deputies to go even further, and because they issue no tickets to say that the dispensary doctors have nothing to do. Nevertheless, if you hunt up the records of those dispensary doctors you will find that they get a lot to do. The same thing was said one time by a member of a board of guardians in my own case. We had not the county health boards at the time. This guardian said that he never issued a red ticket in seventeen years. Nevertheless, I had attended some 1,500 cases in that neighbourhood. It was quite true for him to say that he never issued a ticket for me. But he intended deliberately to mislead the people he was addressing. I am afraid this applies, to some extent, to Deputy Davis.
I question that. On a point of explanation, I am quite prepared to have a return made with regard to the red tickets, or red runners, as they are called, issued in the County Mayo, and I undertake to say that that return will substantiate what I have said.
I do not think that Deputy Hennessy meant to convey to the House that Deputy Davis was deliberately trying to mislead the House.
However, we will proceed. That is not the only reason why dispensary doctors could not efficiently discharge the duties of county medical officers of health. If they took up those duties seriously, the first people that possibly they would come in conflict with would be their own clients, their private patients. I need not tell you that if you were to put one of your own private patients to considerable expense with regard to some insanitary premises, of which he was the occupier, he would very soon look for some other medical officer. For that reason alone, and if only for that reason, it is impossible for the dispensary doctor to discharge efficiently his duties as medical officer of health. Moreover, the salaries of the local medical officer as officer of health vary from £10 to £20 a year. I have often heard the Mayo doctors severely criticised. When that criticism was investigated, or at least when that hostile criticism was investigated, it was found that there was very little foundation for it.
The Mayo doctors are amongst the worst paid doctors in Ireland. They have the largest districts. Their districts are double and treble the size of the average dispensary district in Ireland and they do not, in many cases, receive half of what the other doctors are being paid. I know that the Mayo doctors have proved on different occasions that if they were paid the ordinary travelling expenses, the ordinary rates for the ground covered in attending their patients, that they would be getting double their present salaries. I do hope, especially as there is a grant of one and a half millions coming from the Central Funds, that the Minister will see that these doctors will be adequately remunerated for their work. I think that is the Minister's duty. He is under a statutory obligation, where the local authorities fail to do justice to their officials, to step in and to exercise his authority. It would be nothing short of dereliction of duty on his part if he does not see to that.
Deputy Mullins spoke about the Irish language, and urged that the Minister should make it the real language in the Gaeltacht. My idea about it is that the Minister has gone too far altogether about the Irish language. I am speaking now as to the efficiency of medical administration, and when I tell you that it is the policy of the Government to appoint a man if he knows Irish—or, to put it in this way: if he knows Irish he need be only half as good as the doctor who does not know Irish—I do not think that that is in the interests of the poor. I do not approve of that policy.
There are no half-good doctors. They are all good.
Some doctors are more experienced than others. The policy should be to appoint the best doctors you can get. I do not think it is a proper thing to experiment with the poor in this matter of the doctors. Remember, when a private patient is choosing his doctor he does not look for a doctor who is able to speak the Irish language. If the private patient finds that one doctor is better than another for performing an operation, and if the better doctor can be got at the same money, he will get the better doctor. That same principle should be applied here. I appeal especially to the Labour Deputies to see that the best doctors are appointed irrespective of any language qualification.
Do not the Local Appointments Commissioners look after that?
I admit where there is an Irish-speaking district that there is a necessity that the doctor should know Irish for the efficient discharge of his duties. But you could attach too much importance to the matter of the language between a doctor and his patients. Veterinary surgeons are notorious for making very accurate diagnoses and they do it without any consultation with their patients. Coming away from the medical business, there is one other matter that has struck me. There is a habit in many counties of keeping the footpaths in a very rough way. That is only remotely pertaining to this question. I would ask that all these footpaths be maintained in a way that the boys and girls going to school can walk on them and continue on them with safety. Very often at present they have to leave the footpaths and move on to the centre of the roads, thereby running the risk of being run down. I am not specifying any county in which the footpaths are really bad, but I know there are places where shingle is placed on the footpaths and one can hardly walk upon them unless one is iron-shod. I would ask the Minister to devote some attention to that matter so as to prevent the young children going to schools from getting sore feet and suffering from injuries caused by faulty footpaths.
As regards the county hospitals, immense improvements have been made. If this Government had done nothing else to justify its existence it might very justly take credit for what it has done in regard to county hospitals. I must say that their work in this connection is admirable and they have done a lot of work that they are reasonably entitled to claim credit for. There are, however, some places where the sanitary accommodation is very bad and the equipment is very indifferent. I know the Minister is continually addressing local authorities on these subjects and he is doing his best in the matter. I think, however, if he exercised some of the statutory powers he has it would be beneficial. If he warned local authorities that he would be obliged to appoint a Commissioner to carry out certain works should they refuse to do them he would be really doing the right thing.
The proposal is to refer this Estimate back for further consideration. Deputy Cooper understood from the statements made here that it was to be referred back for consideration in order to put more money into it. I have not made out any reason, or have not been able to get at any point upon which consideration is asked. I certainly have not found it out from any of the speeches of the Deputies opposite, whose policy is to refer this back for reconsideration. As far as we are supposed to expect criticism from them on this Vote, the only criticism that I see we are going to be given is the inarticulate criticism of walking into the opposite lobby. I have been accused of not theorising for the benefit of the House. This Estimate is presented in the simple and formal way in which it has always been presented. It is presented because of certain statutes that involve expenditure— grants to local bodies when they carry out certain actions. The policy behind the Estimate is enshrined in the Acts of the Oireachtas or the Acts that went before the Acts of the Oireachtas. In so far as the results of the operation of these Acts are concerned, these are enshrined in our annual reports. I have not been able to find out on what particular points I am expected to theorise.
Certain questions have been asked dealing with the matter of staffing. Deputy O'Kelly raised certain questions on, I think, the understanding that additional staff of special kinds has been provided. That is not so. On page 142 there is a list under the heading "Inspectorial Staff." It will be seen that there are thirty-two members of the Inspectorial Staff provided for in the current Estimate, whereas last year's Estimate provided for thirty-five. In the meantime one officer of the inspector class has resigned, another has been transferred to the Board of Works, and a temporary engineering officer has been dispensed with. Attention is drawn by Deputy O'Kelly to the fact that an intelligence officer is provided for here, that the chief roads engineer seems to be missing in this Estimate, that two general inspectors, apparently additional, have been provided for and one temporary auditor. All these matters simply arise out of staff reorganisations that have taken place.
There is, naturally, in connection with the Department of Public Health alone, apart from all the other branches that the Local Government Department has to deal with, a big amount of statistical work to be done. I have spoken on a previous Estimate as to the possibility or otherwise of getting some of the statistical work taken up by the Department of Statistics. Until the ground-work of our own statistical work has been done inside the atmosphere of the Department, I am not able to say to what extent any part of the statistical work attached to the Department could be done by the Department of Statistics. It will be remembered that the publication of the local taxation accounts was delayed for a very long time following the war period. We have published the local taxation accounts up to 1926. We have re-begun the making of our annual reports so that there is a big amount of statistical and editorial work arising out of the Department itself. All that is altogether apart from the work of keeping in touch with public health matters in other countries. An officer is described here as an intelligence officer. It may be simply a matter of propaganda in the office. In the Department they describe him as an intelligence officer but he is the head of a section whose duty it is to deal with editorial and statistical work, and the growth and control and supervision of the library side of the Department which I consider is necessary.
As regards the chief roads engineer, we had in the Department a certain staff dealing with engineering work proper—waterworks and that kind of thing. We had a chief engineer and an assistant. On the roads we had a chief roads engineer and three other inspectors dealing entirely with roads. Under housing, we had one architect and two engineers permanent, and we had two temporary architects. One roads engineer has gone, and one temporary architect, under housing, has gone. I was convinced that in the first place we wanted greater elasticity in the engineering machine in the Department and I was anxious that the whole engineering side should be organised as one staff under a chief engineering inspector so that whatever might be the fixation of men arising out of their experience and arising out of their being confined to particular branches of work for a certain number of years, that that tendency would be got away from and that we would have a general engineering staff that would give us greater elasticity as far as the use of the staff is concerned, and greater variety at times in the work of the officers concerned, and, therefore, a greater capacity in the individual members of the staff to enable us to use them on different kinds of work. That explains the chief roads engineer.
There are two general inspectors down here. It will be noticed that there is one medical inspector short. It will be noticed that there is one trade inspector short. These were two officers whose employment dated from pre-1922. They had been employed as Commissioners in charge of public bodies in the meantime. Their salaries have not been charged to the Department, but it was considered reasonable that the establishment that these officers would be entitled to if their services had been used in the ordinary work of the Department would not be prejudiced—that they would not be prejudiced in the work of the Department by the fact that they were considered of such a capable character as to have been employed on Commission work. The change there simply arises out of the fact that these two inspectors have been established.
As to the auditor, this is simply a case of where, on page 42, one general inspector less, at a salary of £550, inclusive, is shown. That is because the inspector has been transferred from inspectorial work to auditorial work in order to help in the work of clearing off the audit arrears. I should like to mention that very considerable progress has been made in bringing up the arrears of audit that of necessity took place in 1921, 1922 and 1923. For instance, on the 30th April, 1925, the number of audit periods in arrear was 1,700; on 1st April, 1927, 770; on 6th April, 1929, 495. There are added to that 495, 181 audit periods that now come due for audit in respect of the year ended 30th September last. While there are certain arrears of audits that I should like to see cleared up, very considerable progress has been made.
Deputy O'Kelly raised the question as to why a pharmacist had been appointed. Attention has been drawn here to the list of medicines that dispensary medical officers use, and I should like to support the statement made by Deputy Dr. White that the list in the form in which it is at present is as up-to-date a list as any public service is using. If there are matters omitted or wrong in that list, as I said last year, I should like to know what they are. I want to assure the House that the list of medicines that dispensary doctors are using is as up-to-date a list as is used in any public service. The duties of the pharmacist who has been appointed are, to draw up annually a prescribed list of medicines and medical and surgical appliances, to revise the prices of each item therein in accordance with market quotations then current, to examine in detail the ordinary requisitions for medicines and appliances submitted by medical officers in dispensary districts and poor law institutions, and to advise if the expenditure involved is reasonable, having regard to the number of patients, together with a rather long detailed list of duties in connection with that matter. These points, I think, deal with the staff questions raised.
Deputy O'Kelly asked for an explanation of the decrease of £6,000 under sub-head I. Under the Labourers' Act, 1906, a special fund for labourers' cottages was set up. The building of labourers' cottages under the Act was financed by the provision of loans on land purchase lines at 2¾ per cent., and in addition it was provided that a certain percentage of the annuities required to pay off the loans would also be provided. Out of the Labourers' Cottage Fund 16 per cent. of the total amount to be paid out in annuities was provided, and out of the Ireland Development Grant another 20 per cent. was provided, so that as well as loans at short prices 36 per cent. of the total amount required to pay off the annual annuities was provided. Arising out of the abolition of two Judgeships of the High Court and the reduction of the salary of the Lord Chancellor a certain amount of money was provided for the Labourers' Cottage Fund. The Free State portion of that coming in annually was £7,352. It will be understood that there was the Labourers' Cottage Fund on the one side, and the Development Grant on the other. Arising out of the Land Acts of 1923 and 1925 the Development Grant was wiped out and the 20 per cent. that should annually come from that grant then became a State charge. Under sub-head J that 20 per cent. is provided for— £24,461. In the meantime, arising out of investment of the money in the Labourers' Cottage Fund the amount in the fund rose to such an extent that it is unnecessary to provide from State funds the total amount of £7,352 per year. The capital in the Labourers' Cottage Fund, as far as we can see, will be kept at a sufficient level by making a grant in future of £1,352, so that we can avoid voting the extra £6,000 per year into this particular fund. The Act of 1906 gave power, when the moneys in the Labourers' Cottage Fund were sufficient for its purpose, to have the surplus transferred to the Ireland Development Fund. That fund is now wiped out and there is therefore no fund for it to be put into. The amount that would come from the Ireland Development Fund to the extent of 20 per cent. is provided for under sub-head J. That is how that £6,000 comes to be saved.
Sanitation, school meals, the inspection of school children, infantile mortality and maternity mortality, have all been referred to at very great length. To mention any one of these leads to the question of the county medical officer of health. I feel very grateful that the House generally supports the idea of the county medical officer of health so strongly, because whether you discuss sanitation or the inspection of school children, or even when you deal with mental hospitals, or any other kind of hospitals, you work back to the preventive side of medicine and the public health aspect of it. You come up against the question of the county medical officer of health. There is no use in the Department of Local Government trying to evangelise the country in reference to the prevention of diphtheria or in connection with dealing with school children. The work that has been done in Louth and in Cork for the thorough eradication of diphtheria by the county medical officer of health, who is on the spot, in supervising the work and educating the council as to the necessity for it, and letting them see the work going on under their eyes, is worth all the pamphlets and all the circulars that the Department of Local Government could issue. It is not only in that matter of education that the county medical officer of health must be the medium. When you come to attack disease at its roots and get on to the child, it is the county medical officer of health and his supervision and inspection and co-ordination of the facts and figures, as well as the actions that are taken in dealing with the children, that must be looked to for achievement in that particular direction.
Deputies have suggested that the county medical officer's position has not been advanced as rapidly as it might be. There is already one in Louth, Offaly, Kildare, Carlow, Cork, as well as the medical officer of health in the City of Dublin and the City of Cork. In Westmeath the Local Appointments Commission recommended a man for the position there. A dispute has arisen between the Local Government Department and the local authority as to this appointment, and now the position has arrived at the point where we are "mandamusing" the council ——
I would like to ask the Minister a question in regard to this matter. Does the power of fixing the salary of the county medical officer of health rest with the county council or with the Minister? That is what is causing the delay in appointment.
It rests with the Minister. If the Minister is not satisfied that the salary that is being fixed is a suitable salary he can take action in the matter. In the case of the counties Donegal and Meath I expect that action is practically being taken by the local councils to secure the appointment of county medical officers of health. There are certain other counties—Monaghan, Roscommon, Limerick and Wicklow in which the matter is rather promising either for the reasons that the councils are taking action in the matter, or that a certain state of affairs exists which is putting me in the position that I feel I must take action.
One of the duties of the county medical officer is the supervision of midwives, and there are counties where deaths arising out of maternity cases are so great, comparatively, that I think that the work of supervising of the midwifery arrangements in these counties cannot be further delayed. That goes on in all twelve out of a total of twenty-seven, and while I appreciate very much the pressure that Deputies would put upon me to move faster in the matter I cannot be dissatisfied with the position, knowing that the local bodies are being thoroughly won over to the idea.
They are not.
It would be much more satisfactory if the local bodies of themselves could be won over to the idea without being forced by the Department to make the appointment or that if the Department is forced to make the appointment the result in a certain number of counties will be such that the departmental arm, if it requires strengthening by public opinion, will be thoroughly strengthened to enforce the appointment.
Deputy O'Reilly spoke of sanitation and spoke of food. I personally think that on the food side in fact we have no public education. I feel we could do with a good lot of it. I feel in that respect that we must, in the first place, have the practical experience of our county medical officers of health, examining the health of our people first, showing up the defects, and indicating the causes of these defects before it is worth while to embark upon any kind of campaign to educate people more on the efficient and economic use of food.
On the sanitation side it is not, I want to argue, a fact that sanitation has been neglected. At the present moment more and more work is being done towards getting proper sanitation. During the year past loans to the amount of £180,000 have been sanctioned for waterworks and sewerage. Exclusive of an expenditure of £110,000 on main drainage in Dublin, work has been done in Kerry, Limerick, Donegal and Leix. On a previous occasion I gave a list of very large amounts of money given under the relief grant towards proper sanitation. There have been, as Deputies have said, outbreaks of enteric fever at Carrick-on-Shannon and elsewhere, and outbreaks of typhus fever elsewhere, but I do not think we need elaborate what a bad state of affairs that is, and how unnecessary if local bodies had only taken time by the forelock and agreed to contribute, to the necessary sanitary works, the money which they will otherwise undoubtedly spend, some time or other, in stamping out disease of one kind or another.
The question of housing has been raised. We have discussed housing, and I think the policy that is being pursued is pretty well understood. Deputy Tubridy and Deputy Mullins asked what is being done with regard to housing in the congested district. I was not, in spite of Deputy Tubridy's fear in the matter, trying to mislead him in any way. I said explicitly when I replied to him that the position in regard to housing in the congested districts and in the Gaeltacht was being examined and reported upon by a committee of representatives from the different Departments interested in the matter. The ideas of that committee have reached the different Departments interested and will have due consideration. The solution of the housing difficulty, either here or in the Gaeltacht, cannot be found by expressing opinions upon and asking questions about it. In reply to the same Deputy (Dr. Tubridy), when dealing with the Second Reading of the present Housing Bill, I said that to the extent to which building costs generally were reduced so that we could feel that we had financial resources to tackle our housing problem, to that extent would our ability to deal with housing in the congested districts in the Gaeltacht be affected. The matter is recognised as a definite problem, and that is all I can say about it at the present moment. It will have to be discussed in its own time.
The question has been raised as to what we are doing with regard to dealing with second-hand clothing coming into the country. Second-hand clothing coming into the country is examined at certain ports.
If there is smuggling in second-hand clothing going on, that is another matter, but arising out of the small-pox position in Britain a number of months ago, regulations were introduced securing that all second-hand clothing entering the country would have to come in through certain ports and would have to be examined and disinfected there. Deputy O'Kelly asked for certain figures as to the number of houses built in different years and the number of them that contained three, four or five rooms. Taking the number in bulk first, the number of houses that have either been built or are in process of building by local authorities since 1922 is 5,657. The number in the case of private persons and public utility societies is 11,256. That gives a total of 16,912. In respect of houses to be built by local authorities, but not yet begun, there will, under the Acts up to 1928, be an additional 1,200. That is approximately a total of 18,112. On Second Reading I gave the figure as 18,134. It is impossible to state at present the exact number of houses to be built by local authorities and private persons. There may be a transfer in one way or another arising out of the fact that people who have got certificates to build may not, for various reasons, do so, so that a small difference in the number of houses built by public authorities may come about.
With regard to the number of three-roomed, four-roomed and five-roomed houses built, I can only give the actual number built up to the 31st March, 1928. The number of three-roomed houses built by private persons was 352, or 5.1 per cent. of the total number; the number of four-roomed houses was 1,521, or 22.3 per cent. of the total; and the number of five-roomed houses was 4,937, or 72.6 per cent. of the total number of houses built by private persons. In the case of public utility societies, the number of three-roomed houses was nil; the number of four-roomed houses was 111, or 52.1 per cent. of the total; and the number of five-roomed houses was 102, or 47.9 per cent. of the total number built by public utility societies. The number of three-roomed houses built by local authorities was 333, or 8 per cent. of the total; the number of four-roomed houses was 718, or 17.7 per cent. of the total; and the number of five-roomed houses was 3,006, or 74 per cent. of the total number built by local authorities.
These are the figures, so far as I can give them, which the Deputy asked for. A question was also raised by Deputy O'Kelly in regard to land annuities, and as to how local bodies stood with regard to annuities held in respect of one year's arrears—whether when the complete arrears are made up the amount is refunded to local authorities. There is a full description of what takes place in regard to these monies given in the two reports that have been issued. What happens is that in February of each year the Land Commission makes up the nett amount that is outstanding and that is charged against the Guarantee Fund at that time. If, for instance, in any particular county the total arrears of annuities was £50,000 in February of one year and if in the following February it was £40,000, the total amount withheld from that county would be £40,000 for that year. The total amount of monies withheld from public bodies in respect of land annuities is £495,015.
These adjustments are apparently made in the middle of February and the county councils are supposed to have their estimates passed by the end of March. The county councils are not made aware of the adjustments until April. Would it be possible to have these adjustments made, say, in December, when the county councils could take them into consideration when preparing their estimates?
I will have the matter examined. I do not know what the technical reason is. I will ascertain, in the first place, why it is that they cannot be advised regarding the amount withheld until April. I will find out if that is so.
It is so.
With regard to the other date, it is a statutory one, and if it can be changed I will be very glad, because I realise the difficulty in which public bodies are, especially if they are in the position of not knowing what money is coming to them. That is why, in the matter of roads, I make inquiries in October each year to see what is to be expended so that the monies can be voted at the earliest possible moment. A question was also raised by Deputy O'Kelly in regard to defaulting rate collectors. During last year, 16 collectors defaulted, and the defalcations involved a sum approximately of £5,650. Whether on full examination of the position by audits further sums may come to light it is difficult to say. The position of my Department with regard to this matter is not too simple. In the year before there were nine cases of defalcation involving, approximately, £5,000. That, however, is only the amount of defalcations that actually came to light. Everything that is possible for the Department to do to tighten up the situation and to make it clear that defaulters are not going to get away with it has been done.
The Department has endeavoured to get local bodies to give their secretaries power, where they find a prima facie case of defalcation, to swear information. While the object of that provision is very clear, I regret to say that there are county councils which have not given their secretaries that power. The result is that where a prima facie case of defalcation has come to light unnecessary delay takes place and public money is lost. Deputy O'Kelly asked whether the Post Office system of collection in Kerry has been a success or not and whether the present method was the best method. I find Departmental opinion to be that the present system, if properly carried out, is probably the best. The statutory provision by which the Post Office system could be experimented with has expired, and results in Kerry and Sligo were not such as to warrant making it in any way general. In the first place, the cost of it was not very much lower than the cost of the present system, and, in the second place, if we take Kerry for the period of four years during which the collection was carried out by the Post Office, you could get in all right the rates of people who are willing to pay, but there is a residue —in the case of Kerry the residue would amount to about 14 per cent. —which it is difficult to get in and which, in fact, has not been got in. I think the amount outstanding in Kerry, as a result of the residue to be got under the Post Office system, is probably £100,000. At the present moment the system worked in Kerry is that the county secretary is made rate collector, assisted by one or two officials. The procedure followed is that the rates are sent to the county secretary, acting as rate collector.
During the current year there has been a considerable amount of improvement. The amount of rates outstanding in Kerry on the 31st March, 1928, was approximately 42 per cent. of the assessment. This year it is about 21 per cent., so that there has been 20 per cent. of the whole assessment a better collection. I feel that the remaining 20 per cent. contains that 14 per cent., or whatever it is, that there is a difficulty with regard to the collection through the Post Office because one man cannot get around to deal with the situation in the way in which rate collectors with small areas would. The flaw in the present system is that county councils, for one reason or another, when a vacancy arises, will appoint men who are not the right type for the position. Either because the man is hard up, out of work, or some more or less personal reason, he is appointed rate collector. The Department has very little control over the type of person that is appointed. The Minister can only refuse to give his sanction, but he cannot go and get the right type of official. If county councils would address themselves to the consideration of the rate collecting machine so as to make the personnel of the machine the proper type, then the present system, so far as the experience of the Department goes, would really be the best. Under the system of postal collection for four years in Kerry, 14 per cent. of the rates was outstanding. When we consider the amount irrecoverable and written off for four years throughout the country, the amount this year is gratifyingly small. It varies round 1 per cent. That is a tribute to the present type of organisation, and the results would be very much better, I suggest, if we could remove from the present machine any unsuitable rate collectors that are there.
The question of roads has been referred to a good deal. We had, particularly from Deputy Moore, what I might call the annual jeremiad of the Deputy as regards roads. The Deputy, in the first place, complains that there is no use in attempting to look for information in regard to the administration of the Road Fund. If there is one thing available to Deputies, in respect of any section of the Local Government Department, it is information. In so far as the annual reports are concerned, everything has been done to bring them up to date. The annual report for the year 1928 will, I hope, soon be in Deputies' hands. The local taxation returns for the year ending March, 1927, will also soon be in Deputies' hands. Deputies will realise, if the Department has to wait unnecessarily for months to make allocations from the Road Fund to county councils, how long we have to wait to receive from county councils the information which must appear in our annual reports. I want to know what information is denied to Deputies. The Deputy objects that in the matter of the Road Fund there has been no theorising for the benefit of the House, that it is hopeless to get any information in regard to the Road Fund, that engineers do not consider that the problem of road-making is on a very definite or secure basis, that the finances of road-making have broken down, that the roads that have been made cannot be maintained with the amount likely to be available out of the Road Fund, that the proper type of road is not being built, that the cost of road improvement has not been reduced proportionately with the reduction in the cost of material, that generally the farmers cannot use the roads, and that he cannot see why use is not made of home material.
I do not know what to say to the House with regard to our road policy. The Government road policy unfolds itself before Deputies every day of the week and anything I might have to say, as it were, in defence of the Department's policy in regard to roads, is vitiated by the praise of roads on the one side and the lamentations on the other. I am satisfied with regard to roads that there are certain county councils which are called upon to spend too much on the roads. In previous discussions here we have set a kind of headline to indicate what local bodies might reasonably be asked to spend on the maintenance of roads, in view particularly of the value of money and the increased wages of road workers. We have said that they might be expected to pay in all 150 per cent. of what they spent in 1914. There are certain councils spending more than that. If we take County Donegal, Donegal is spending much more than that. The rate for roads alone, taking the valuation of County Donegal, is higher than the rate in any other county. Galway has been spoken of. Perhaps Galway is paying too much for roads. There are certain counties paying more than they might reasonably be expected to pay, but in so far as the Road Fund is being administered to deal with that situation, everything is perfectly plain as to the lines on which it is being administered. In the first place 1,600 miles of national road were built and £2,000,000 was spent on them.
A certain amount of money is then given every year. For the last couple of years money has been given towards the maintenance of roads and their improvement. Money has been given in respect of maintenance in this way, that the Road Fund is made to bear fifty per cent. of the trunk roads and is made to bear thirty per cent. of the total expenditure on link roads. That is the contribution to maintenance, and in so far as other moneys are available from the Road Fund, it is given towards the improvement on a definite formula which I explained here on another occasion. It is based on the amount the counties have expended from rates on the roads over a particular period.
May I ask why does the Minister's Department differentiate with regard to the maximum rate of wages given to workers on the main roads on tourist and trunk roads?
The Department does not differentiate in any way. Prior to the period in which the letter which the Deputy quotes was issued, when the beginning of the big expenditure on roads was being arranged, there was a certain relief idea in the organisation of that expenditure, and rates then fixed related in a certain way to the rate of agricultural wages paid in the different counties' schemes approved and in respect of which allocations were made prior to the date of that letter some time in 1927. In connection with these schemes the rates of wages that were set out by the Department prior to that date were associated with these schemes. Moneys were voted since then, except for the general provision that the Deputy read out in the letter, that in the case of any scheme, the total cost of which appears to be excessive, the Minister reserves the right to step in and examine what wages are to be paid. The Department makes no attempt to control wages in any way, but as I have said, we will not allow a county council paying a certain rate to the road workers from rates to pay a higher rate out of money that is easily got from the State.
I might say, as far as high rates are concerned, that practically no direct labour on the by-roads is employed by the county council. The Minister says he will not allow them to pay more out of the Road Fund. He is actually doing that by prohibiting them from paying as high a rate to the workers than some of the ordinary counties are paying.
I would be glad to examine and find out if there is any case in which we are allowing a local body to pay higher rates from Government grants than it is paying out of its own rates.
That is not my contention.
I take it Deputies will appreciate that it is a thing that ought not to be done. As I say, there is a grant towards maintenance and towards improvement from the Road Fund. The improvement is based on a definite formula and Deputies ought not to be misled by any statement made here by Deputy Ward that because pressure was brought to bear on the Minister they got extra money. If Monaghan in any circumstances got extra money it did not get money it did not deserve, and when people complain that one county gets more than another they have to attack the formula first and then we can come down to a discussion.
Balrothery has been mentioned here. We cannot differentiate in respect of Balrothery any more than we can differentiate in respect of any of the other five district councils in Co. Dublin, or in any other county. The position in regard to Dublin is that the motor tax collected in County Dublin over the period from 1st April, 1922, to March, 1927, was 31.41 per cent. of the total collection. This is a percentage called the percentages of expenditure from roads. The percentage of population, valuation, and mileage was taken into consideration, with the result that County Dublin got 7.95 per cent. of the total sum given to county councils, but County Dublin got its grant towards maintenance on the same lines as the other counties. In the case of the urban districts in Dublin there is not the old arrangement that, say, was between an urban district and an ordinary county. Inside the urban district from the point of view of one county council and rural district councils there are no main roads, so that the amount that went to maintenance in County Dublin went to the rural districts, and any amounts which went to the urban districts were given towards improvement there. The matter was discussed last year by myself and representatives of Balrothery. I could not see my way to discuss the matter this year with the representatives because the position was exactly the same, and I see no reason why the Balrothery area would not deal with the responsibility for maintaining its roads in the same way as any other part of the country.
Deputy Moore complained that native materials are not used to the extent to which they ought to be on the roads, and mentioned some particular quarry. You cannot, in the matter of roads, use, to a very large extent, materials that are not fully tested. I understand that in the quarry he is speaking of certain tests have been carried out, but I would ask the House to believe that native materials are used in road making whenever they can be efficiently made use of, and that brings me to a point. In connection with combined purchasing a statement was made at the Wicklow Co. Council and elsewhere that a certain contract had been entered into which was a scandal, that tar from the Dublin Gas Company was not accepted under the combined purchasing system for the roads this year, and that the order was given to an English firm. It was also suggested that 45 hands were thrown out of employment in the gas company because of that. I answered a question already in connection with that, to the effect that to give the contract to the gas company would have meant anything from a preference of 15 per cent. to a preference of 25 per cent. in respect of a very large contract.
I quite understand a certain percentage being given to Irish materials under the combined purchasing system, but I have found it difficult to get local bodies to give a preference to Irish materials. The Local Government Department is not a buying Department. It is only a price getting Department. I cannot bring pressure on local bodies to buy Irish materials when they can get non-Irish materials more cheaply. Due to the fact that the Minister for Local Government controls the expenditure of the Road Fund he is able to secure that local bodies will buy their tars and bitumens from a particular firm to which a contract is given. The result of buying in large quantities is that they are able to get their materials at a very reduced price. I can understand a preference being given to Irish materials, but I found it difficult to get local bodies to give that preference. I fail to see why a preference to the extent of anything up to twenty-five per cent. for a by-product should be given to the Gas Company here.
I say this, arising out of the contract being given to an English firm, the price being substantially lower, the representatives of the Gas Company have to a certain extent—I say it here bluntly and straightly— terrorised the English firm and are selling their tar to the English firm for distribution here. The Gas Company in Dublin who were not prepared to sell tar to the county councils at a particular price are prepared to sell it to an English firm at a lower price.
We are handling in the Road Fund very large sums of public money and we have to adopt a very rigid and straight attitude in connection with the matter. Speaking on the Central Purchasing Department, it was mentioned that £3,000 was spent on the Department and it was asked what was saved. In that one matter alone in one year £13,000 have been saved on the purchasing of tars, bitumens and emulsions by local bodies, apart altogether from the standardisation and assistance given to Irish industry by the operation of the Combined Purchasing Act.
I have endeavoured to get the figures as to the changes that have taken place in the prices of tars and bitumens in Britain, where large quantities of these substances were used for the roads in the last few years, with a view to comparing the effect of the reductions. I am not yet satisfied with the information I have got, but it is sufficient to show that we have secured very large reductions, and at some future occasion when we are dealing, perhaps, with combined purchasing, I will have more definite information. Deputies are worried as to why Irish tar is not being used on the roads. It is because the Dublin Gas Company is prepared to sell its tar to an English firm at a lower price than it is prepared to sell it to Irish county councils.
took the Chair.
Deputy Ruttledge spoke of the difficulty put in the way of local bodies in dealing with certain classes of roads, a certain class of distress, and a certain class of unemployment. We were led to understand that in Mayo there are roads of the bog type where no work at all has been done for the last ten years, and as a result men and beasts are losing their lives, cars are being smashed up, and there is general desolation as a result of the inability of traffic to travel on these roads. He complained that the Department, in the first place, would not allow the Mayo County Council this year to get a loan of £12,000 to spend on the work, and in the second place, that the Department would not allow them to raise a rate of ninepence in the pound to deal with that work, that the work was necessary because the roads were in such a bad condition, and because there was terrible distress in the county. If they had their own legal advice when they were not satisfied with the legal advice that they got they would know that there was no statutory power to expend that money, and that the Minister had no power to allow them to spend it. If there were any of these roads that the council felt ought to be the responsibility of the county they have a formal way of making them the responsibility of the county. If any of these roads were roads that they were prepared to make public roads there is a certain time of the year— in October—when the council could formally take these roads in charge and say: "We will be responsible for improving them and for their maintenance in future." But the Mayo County Council did no such thing. So much for the possibility of their being able by law to spend money there.
As to the question of distress, because they allege there was distress there, there was a certain amount of money required to be spent on these roads, and because the Department would not allow the money to be spent illegally the action of the county council in the area in which there was distress was to decline to go on with certain other special road work that had been put up to them, and that the county surveyor considered necessary. I think that is an answer to the question of distress. The county councils have no statutory power to do work of that particular kind, and I must say, looking at it in a detached way, that the proposal, as a relief measure, followed by a refusal to go on with necessary work that otherwise they would have gone on with, makes me consider that a proposal of that kind was somewhat on the lines of the proposal of the Sligo County Council this year when they proposed to distribute to twenty-seven members of the Council £100 each, to be spent by them in any way they wished on any roads they wished, without any proposal from the county surveyor or without any supervision from the county surveyor.
On a point of order. Twenty-seven members out of how many?
Perhaps the Deputy would tell us how many. I cannot.
Twenty-eight, and as one member of the Council, I am not included in the twenty-seven.
I might point out to the Minister that £2,800 was spent by the Sligo County Council for years previously in exactly the same way as it was proposed by the majority of the Council to spend it this year, and the Department took no action.
I am all the more astounded.
That is one up for the Minister.
I take it, from the attitude I see reflected in the House, that that is a kind of road administration that ought not to be allowed to be carried on. I do not want to say that the Mayo proposal was as bad, from one point of view, as the Sligo proposal, but I say, in view of the fact that the two counties are so close together, I had to have my suspicions. I want to say again, if Deputies want to complain that they cannot get any information with regard to the Government road policy, there is a half an hour every day devoted to questions, and any aspect of the road administration upon which Deputies require information, if they are able to know what they want sufficiently to put it into a question, we will be able to give that information.
I asked the Minister a question yesterday, and I have not got an answer. I asked him a question in connection with the upkeep of main roads in an urban area.
In the matter of the main roads in the urban areas, we are four years before our time. If you look into this matter of dealing in a satisfactory way with the main roads running through an urban area, we have the British road authorities following our example four years after we started. I do suggest to the Deputies who remembered the relations between the urban councils and the county councils under the pre-present scheme of local government here and who remember the difficulties they had to contend with in connection with financing matters, to say whether the present arrangement is not almost the only satisfactory arrangement you could have. I think that the urban districts generally must be very satisfied with the new arrangement by which the county council with its better machinery takes over the main roads passing through the urban district. What is the difficulty? Is the difficulty that the urban district feels that it does not get enough money—that enough money is not devoted to the keeping of the roads in proper order? If that is the difficulty, then the Department has the responsibility because the test is there as to whether the main roads in urban districts are kept in proper order. It is reasonable to feel that the county councils, perhaps with the tradition of the county councils in the matter of urban roads, are not too anxious to keep the main roads in urban districts up to the standard that urban districts would like. But all that is a responsibility of the Department. It is their responsibility to see that that is done. The responsibility of the Department, from the point of view of public health alone, would drive them to see that the road surface in urban districts is of such a kind as to combat the dust and the nuisances bearing on public health in urban districts. If we see that the financial difficulty can be got over by proper inspection and by seeing that the main roads through the urban districts are properly dealt with, then the only difficulty is the border-line between maintenance and scavenging. I do not think that we ought to adopt an awkward system of main road maintenance in urban districts simply to get over a difficulty like that. I cannot see that with any sensible group of officials on the county council side, and with any sensible group of officials on the urban council side, that there should be any disturbing difficulty as to what is scavenging and what is not.
The question as to what is scavenging and what is not does not arise.
I say there can be no difficulty there.
Would it be correct to say that the Minister had permitted certain urban areas to opt out, and is that possible still?
I would say right off that it would certainly be against my views as to how the main roads through the urban districts should be done. There are perhaps very few urban districts, perhaps not more than four or five, which look after their own roads, but one of my most recent actions in the matter was to take away the main roads from under the control of a borough and to pass them on to the county council. My whole tendency would be in that direction rather than in the other. I think that we have a very progressive system and a very up-to-date system in connection with the matter.
On the question of the mental hospitals, and the allocation of the grants to mental hospitals, I find that when we go back to the history of the State grant towards mental hospitals, we inevitably find that that grant was an efficiency grant to encourage the local authorities to take mental cases from their workhouses and other such institutions and put them into mental hospitals. As I have said by letter to various councils in connection with the discussion that has taken place about the mental hospitals, the moneys that are going to mental hospitals at the present moment, in view of the fact that as efficiency grants their day is over, are simply part of a big, a rather unwieldy scheme in certain aspects of State assistance to local services. Now the amount of State assistance to local bodies is approximately £3,000,000 a year. If anyone suggested that the amount of the grant that we give to mental hospitals should be considered as a special matter and to say whether it should not be increased, my answer to them is that a piecemeal business like that would be an absurd thing to undertake at the present moment. If anything has to be undertaken, it might be to examine as to whether such a grant as is given in respect of mental hospitals should not be withdrawn and given for some other services getting closer down to the root and preventing disease, mental and other kinds. The question that local bodies raise when they raise the question of grants to mental hospitals is a question of the allocation or the reallocation of the present grants or an increase of the grants to local bodies generally. That is a very different question. My attitude to this mental hospital question is governed by that outlook.
Deputies have referred again to the question of the unmarried mother. This is a matter that has been given a very considerable amount of attention and consideration in the Department of Local Government and Public Health. It is a particularly difficult problem, and has received a great deal of attention from the Department. The Department views with the greatest sympathy the proposal for the special grading of what are called the first offenders as distinguished from the habitual offenders. At the moment discussions are proceeding between the Dublin Union Commissioners and the Sisters of Charity with the object of providing for the first offender as distinguished from the other cases. The first offenders require careful, individual treatment, and large homes appear to be unsuitable. Developments are also taking place in Cork, where a house for the first offenders has been working successfully for some years, and where arrangements are being made for ante-natal care of such cases. All that I can say in reply to what has been suggested here—and I do not think that there have been any definite suggestions made as to what might be done, is that the matter, which is a difficult one, is getting very careful consideration.
Deputy O'Sullivan and others have raised the question of the boarding-out of children. As the Deputies have said, that is a problem that is acute in the neighbourhood of Dublin. In connection with that matter, there have been discussions between the Department and various representatives of philanthropic societies in Dublin and its neighbourhood. It is not free from difficulty, but the discussions resulted in more unanimity of view than has heretofore prevailed. Legislation will be necessary in connection with the matter. But I think that some of the more thorny points in connection with the matter have been got over, and it may be possible to do something very soon. That is another matter which, as I have said, is receiving very close attention.
The question of Dublin City and the attitude of the Commissioners in respect of outdoor relief and salaries and wages has been very much discussed here. It was one of the special reasons given by Deputies on the opposite benches as to why this Estimate should be sent back for reconsideration, whatever reconsideration of the position in Dublin would have to do with the Estimates. As regards the position of relief in Dublin, I will give the House figures of the amount of outdoor relief expended in the Dublin Union area over a long period. It is essential the members of the House would have these figures in their minds when discussing this matter and when listening to what some Deputies have to say in connection with it. The following is a yearly return showing the amount of outdoor relief expended in Dublin under the Corporation:—1913, £14,805; 1914, £15,390; 1915, £16,096; 1916, £20,028; 1917, £25,752; 1918, £33,587; 1919, £56,677; 1920, £94,564; 1921, £115,327; 1922, £115,681; 1923, £127,532; 1924, £127,793. At that time there were 14 Relieving Officers in Dublin and two Supervisors. That shows that in 1924 there was £127,793 expended as against £14,805 in 1913.
In 1924 the Guardians were superseded and the Commissioners were put in. Out of the 14 Relieving Officers, 4 were dismissed and 2 were prosecuted. During the Commissioners' time the amount expended on outdoor relief was: 1925, £95,691; 1926, £84,237; 1927, £99,607; 1928, £86,050; 1929, £88,538. The amount spent during the year ended 31st March, 1929, was approximately £2,500 more than that spent in the previous year. From October, 1927, to March, 1928, there was an expenditure of £45,648, and from October, 1928, to March, 1929, the figure was £48,401, approximately £3,000 additional being spent during these months. It must be remembered that is at a time when, if we take the unemployment position in the area as indicated by the number on the live register and as indicated by the claims on the live register in the Employment Bureau for the Dublin District, the numbers were fewer than in other years.
Deputies will argue that the figures on this register do not represent the total unemployed in this city. I am quoting these figures as an indication of the unemployment in the city now as compared with last year. The total number on the live register in January, 1929, was 6,721, and in the same month in 1928 the number was 9,848. As a matter of fact, for four years previously the number registered as unemployed was higher than it was last January. Since 1925 the number of unemployed in the month of February has been more than the number of unemployed in February, 1929, when there were 6,922 registered as unemployed, as against 8,101 in the same month last year. In March there were 6,809 registered as unemployed as against 7,678 in the same month last year. At the beginning of April, 1929, there were 5,914 unemployed, as against 7,307 in the same month last year. There is a very considerable decrease in unemployment implied by these figures. If we take January or February and work back for four years we will find there is only one month in which the number of unemployed during the four years was similar. In March, 1927, there were 6,510 registered as unemployed, and in March, 1929, the number was 6,809. As against last year these figures show a very considerable decrease in unemployment.
As I have quoted, during the six months' period of the winter the increase in outdoor relief has been considerable. I am asked to exercise my authority to get the Commissioners to instruct their officers to be more broadminded in the matter of giving relief, and to have more heart and more consideration for the poor. I stand on very firm ground when I say that there were never better arrangements for dealing with relief. We all know there is very considerable unemployment in the city, and a considerable amount of distress. I have indicated the position as compared with last year, and, as compared with any year that ever went before, there is a better machinery for giving relief to the people in the city. Deputies have suggested that there were reports of charitable societies complaining bitterly of the position with regard to relief. Let us at least stick to facts. I could not get the Deputy who spoke of the reports to agree that he had a report. There is the closest possible co-operation between the Commissioners and the charitable societies in the city in dealing with the relief of the poor this year. There has never been a time in which a person of the able-bodied class has been able to get relief in the city. It has been possible, by stretching matters between the Minister and the Commissioners this year, to give relief to able-bodied persons. Certain people are taking legal action to force the Commissioners to do this, that or the other thing. My own position is that to enforce the pure legal position in Dublin would be to do a very considerable injustice to the people in need of relief. The situation from the unemployment point of view and from the point of view of the additional money that has been given during the winter is as I have quoted.
I must admit that Deputies who spoke on this relief matter put on the soft pedal, and very justly so. Nevertheless, whether you put on the soft pedal or not, when it is said that there is want of heart, want of judgment and no breadth of outlook in dealing with relief in the city, and when these words appear in cold print, it gives a misleading impression. It is suggested then, that as against the parsimony of the Commissioners in dealing with relief and the attitude of the Commissioners in cutting down wages—whatever is meant by that—a very considerable amount of money is squandered on higher people. In reply to Deputy Lemass's statement in which he said that since the Commissioners were appointed salaries have increased by 12.3, or £20,987, and that there was a decrease in wages paid of 20 per cent., I may say that during the year ended 31st March, 1924, the consumption of electricity was 15,000,000 units. During the four years ending 31st March, 1928, the consumption was 25,000,000 units. The consumption of electricity in these four years has risen from 15 million to 25 million units. That involved an increase of officials and salaries, and the cost was £7,000. An indication of the increased work in the housing department may be gathered from the fact that up to the 1st April, 1924, the number of dwellings provided under the Housing Acts by the Corporation was 2,548, and on 1st January this year the total was 5,159. The increase indicated there involved an increase in salaries of about £1,500 per annum. The increase in salaries spoken of by Deputy Lemass also covers the services of school medical inspectors, additional veterinary inspectors in connection with meat examination, and services in connection with blind pensions. The increase also covers a re-grading by which persons in receipt of wages to the extent of £15,000 were graded from a wages class to a salary class. That is on the increase of salaries. On the question of the reduction in wages, the Commissioners found that in many matters it was more efficient and economical to do by contract what was previously done by direct labour, such as the cleaning of the streets. The saving in wages in the cleansing department as a result of doing the cleaning of the streets by contract was £30,000.
Does that mean that the saving to the city was £30,000?
As a result of the adoption of the policy of cleansing by contract.
Thirty thousand pounds saving?
Yes, well over £30,000.
By comparison with what year?
By comparison with the direct method of cleaning the streets. The change from cleaning the streets by direct labour to cleaning by contract meant a saving of £30,000 in wages. So that salaries have gone up because of increased services and more work and because of more income from electricity. Wages have gone down because instead of being classified under the head of wages in the Corporation accounts this is classified under some other head dealing with contracts. Salaries in the meantime have been reduced—some of the higher salaries have been reduced. Architects' fees have been saved to a considerable extent by getting permanent architects and the salary figure has been increased in that particular way. But the impression that Deputy Lemass wants to give is that salaries have soared high and wages have gone down, and that the increase in salaries has been at the expense of the wage-earner and the person entitled to outdoor relief. That is an entire misrepresentation of the matter.
The Deputy is concerned with the amount of municipal debt incurred by the Commissioners. From that point of view a comparison of the nature of the debt in March, 1924, with March, 1928, is advisable.
In March, 1924, the reproductive debt, that is, the debt in respect of reproductive services, including housing and electricity supply, was £1,932,905, the unproductive debt was £899,868, or a total of £2,832,773. As against that the debt on the 31st December, 1928, was £4,480,401. Of that the reproductive debt was £3,656,015, and the unproductive debt, £824,386. So that while the debt of the City increased it was an increase of the reproductive debt. The unproductive debt of the City was reduced by about £75,500. So that the statements of the Deputy to the effect that the citizens of Dublin are alarmed by the amount of their debt are not worthy of the Deputy or of the House and are misleading and are not true.
The financial affairs of Dublin City are matters of credit which we want to keep up, if it were only to secure that such money as Dublin City wants for its housing and other schemes will be got on terms which will ensure that the citizens will not have to pay too much. There is nothing that I have heard in this discussion from the benches opposite to suggest that in the first place there is any reason for referring back this Estimate. In the second place, if it is referred back I would like to know what requires to be reconsidered. We have not heard from Deputies opposite who proposed to refer this matter back what these items are.
Would the Minister tell us what steps are being taken with regard to the disinfection of old second-hand clothes coming across the border?
Second-hand clothes can only come in after inspection and after disinfection unless they are smuggled in.
Even by paying the duties? I am dealing with the case of the land frontier.
The customs officials cannot admit second-hand clothes. Their instructions are that second-hand clothing must come in through definite specified ports.
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