I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill. The Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923, was passed to remedy the more serious defects in the existing law relating to the relief of the poor, and county schemes, involving in a large measure a total reform of the former poor law system, were adopted thereunder throughout Saorstát Eireann, with the exception of the poor law areas situate in Dublin city and county. The initiative in the preparation and submission of a county scheme under the Act of 1923, rests with the local authorities concerned, and the postponement of the preparation of a scheme in the case of Dublin was mainly due to the fact that radical administrative changes in this area were expected as a result of the reports of the Greater Dublin Commission and the Poor Law Commission. Meanwhile the question of the relief of the poor in the metropolitan area continued to present a special problem.
Section 10 of the Act of 1923 removed restrictions on outdoor relief in all the counties to which the Act applied with the result that home assistance might be given to persons other than those incapacitated by old age or illness or to widows and children, that is to say, to able-bodied persons out of employment. The absence of this power in the case of Dublin city and county necessitated various temporary measures of special relief such as the putting into operation of Section 13 of the Local Government Act, 1898, and the provision of relief grants from Government funds. Relief grants of considerable amounts were made available during the greater portion of the period since the passing of the Act of 1923 and further large local contributions were made by the City Commissioners and to a lesser extent by the local authorities in Dublin county to supplement this relief. A special Committee of the Seanad was set up to consider the matter in June last and they recommended that legislation should be passed without delay providing that, pending the adoption of a county scheme, the Poor Law Guardians in Dublin should be empowered to grant outdoor relief without the restrictions which were removed for the remainder of the country by the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923.
A Bill was accordingly introduced in An Seanad to remove restrictions on the granting of outdoor relief in the Poor Law Unions of Dublin, Rathdown, and Balrothery. As it was desirable that the views of the local authorities concerned should be obtained, a conference on the matter was convened and a committee of local representatives appointed to consider the question of the extension of outdoor relief and it was hoped that their deliberations might result in the submission of an agreed joint county scheme under the Act of 1923. It appears, however, that local opinion favoured the postponement of the joint county scheme until the Greater Dublin question should be settled by legislation. The committee agreed to the proposed extension of outdoor relief but represented that 50 per cent. of the cost of the additional financial burden thereby imposed should be made from Government funds on the grounds that conditions in the metropolitan county merited special terms. They also proposed a division of the Dublin Union into three districts.
At present there are three Poor Law areas in Dublin city and county. You have the guardians in Balrothery area, the guardians in Rathdown area and the Commissioners in Dublin city area. A special committee, consisting of representatives of the local bodies, recommended that relief in respect of the able-bodied should be made a separate charge for special areas. They recommended that as far as the Balrothery area was concerned, it should be a charge over Balrothery area, therefore it would be on all fours with ordinary relief there. They recommended in the case of the Rathdown area, that the Rathdown district should be divided into two areas, an urban area and a rural area, and that the charge should be a separate charge in respect of the rural area and a separate charge in respect of the urban area. In addition, they recommended that in the case of the areas controlled by the City Commissioners, the old North Dublin Union area, the old South Dublin Union area, and the Celbridge Union area, the City of Dublin and the townships of Rathmines, Pembroke and Howth, should be made one separate area of charge in respect of relief for the able-bodied poor, and that the remaining rural portion should be made another separate area of charge. They further suggested the setting up of advisory committees in the city and county for the purpose of administering relief under that Act and of dealing with the work that might be required by the Guardians. The setting up of these committees inevitably rose to the minds of the Committee arising out of the splitting up of the areas into separate areas of charge.
As regards the contention of the Guardians that fifty per cent. of the cost of the relief granted under this Act should be made from Government funds, it would be impossible in existing circumstances to accede to such a proposal. The mode of distribution of grants in aid of local taxation is clearly laid down by statute. The present subventions of poor law expenditure form a large proportion of these grants, and no further relief could be given to local poor law expenditure, even all over the country, without a full examination of the whole question of local taxation and the adjustments that would be required in local government should further expenditure in this direction become operative. Still less could the granting of a special measure of relief to one particular area be justified.
I may say that the Bill which we are introducing now, while replacing the Bill that came from the Seanad, gives practically complete effect to what the Seanad Bill proposed; that is, it extends relief to the able-bodied in the city and county of Dublin in the same way as it is already extended to the rest of the country. It is because there are some matters of detail that require to be dealt with by legislation that it is more convenient to substitute for the Seanad Bill the Bill now before the House.
With regard to the question of the area of charge, the idea dominant in the minds of the rural members of the Committee who considered this particular matter was that the rural areas in County Dublin should not bear any portion of the charges that might be regarded as arising directly from city areas. In the Balrothery area the question does not arise. In the Rathdown area they asked that the townships as a whole be made a unit area of charge for this relief, and that the rural area be made a separate area of charge, too. I have been unable to accept that, because I see no reason why, in the granting of relief to the able-bodied in Rathdown Union, a discrimination is made which is not made in the ordinary case of outdoor relief.
As regards the City Commissioners, I do meet the Committee that has gone into the matter in this particular way. The Bill proposes to make Dublin City, Rathmines and Pembroke, but not Howth, a separate area of charge for this particular class of relief. It proposes to make the rural portions of the North and South Dublin Unions and Celbridge—the whole of that area—another separate area of charge. I think that is meeting, to the fullest possible extent that I think it is advisable to meet it, the case the Committee wished to make for separate areas in the city and county.
We have adopted so much as seemed feasible of the Committee's recommendations as to areas of charge. Dublin County Borough and the urban districts of Rathmines and Rathgar and Pembroke will, under the Bill, bear the whole burden of the additional relief granted in their areas, and suitable provisions are made for the apportionment of the costs of relief as between the city area and the rest of Dublin Union. This is substantially in accordance with the view of the Dublin rural representatives that they should be free from any financial liability under the Act that would attach to the city. Circumstances in the Unions of Balrothery and Rathdown would not justify any similar division of areas.
In view of the extent to which public assistance resources are burdened in Dublin by the influx of needy persons from outside, it has been considered necessary to insert in the Bill a provision requiring a two-years' residence in the county or county borough or both as a qualification for relief under this Act. To supplement this provision it is also proposed that a Union may pay the expenses of removal of a person who does not possess this qualification and who satisfies the Guardians that such removal is likely to enable him to support himself and his dependants elsewhere by his own industry or other lawful means. These provisions will continue in force only until the 31st March, 1931, by which time it is hoped that they will be replaced by permanent legislation dealing with the relief of the poor.