I move that the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, 1929, be read a second time. I think all the laws which are being continued this year appeared in last year's Act. I had hoped that it would not be necessary to insert the Betting Act, but while I hope to be able to introduce a Bill when the Dáil reassembles, there is no likelihood of its being passed before the end of the year, so that it has been decided to insert the Betting Act with the other measures.
Tariff on Down Quilts. - Expiring Laws Bill, 1929—Second Stage.
One of the Acts which is expiring is the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. Some time ago we raised this question. The position of the law at present is very unsatisfactory. There are aliens in this country actually getting all the benefits of citizens, even the advantage of being on the register of voters. There seems to have been no principle of distinction between citizens and aliens, and I would be glad to know when we may expect a Bill dealing with the matter. I think it is only fair that the House should know the position when it is being asked to continue this Act, in order that we would have some indication as to when it is proposed to deal with these anomalies.
Amongst the expiring laws I notice one dealing with motor traffic. Could the Minister give us any indication as to when we are going to have legislation dealing with the Inter-Departmental Report on road traffic. I was more or less promised by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that we would have that Bill before the Summer Recess.
In regard to the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925, I think we should have some statement from the Minister indicating what precautions are exercised to prevent abuse under that Act. It is a very common complaint amongst merchants and other ratepayers that this Act is used by Local Government officials to get goods for their own private purposes at contract prices. If there be foundation for that complaint—and I know there has been some foundation for it—it is a very serious injustice. We all know that the Act is entirely unfair, that it deprives local traders who are big ratepayers of a certain amount of business. If that is done in the interests of economy, of course, the ratepayers benefit to some extent, as they have, at least, something in return, but I certainly think it is a blatant injustice if local officials are able to make use of that Act to buy goods, that represent a fairly big outlay, from the Contracts Department, instead of buying them from the local shopkeepers who are paying their salaries. That complaint is very general throughout the country and, as I say, I happen to know there have been some rather bad instances of it. Apart from that altogether, there are complaints, and the Minister must know that the Act is not generally popular. It will certainly not be more popular if that sort of thing continues. I would like some assurance from the Minister as to whether every possible precaution is taken in that respect.
With regard to the Harbours Bill, as Deputy Murphy has raised the question as to when the Road Traffic Bill will come along, I think we might be told when the report of the Harbours Tribunal may be expected. It has been talked about for at least a year, but we have not yet had any information as to when it will be presented.
There are one or two questions that I would like to get information upon from the Minister. One of these concerns the Motor Car Act of 1903. I think that Act, as it stands, is very largely out of date. It will be generally agreed that many of its provisions did not foresee the great changes in traffic problems that would arise, and that have arisen within the last twenty years. In the memorandum that has been issued in connection with this Bill it is stated "A Departmental Committee on traffic control has furnished its report and the introduction of proposals for permanent legislation is under consideration." They are under consideration for a long time. Some of us would be glad to know when the process of consideration will come to an end, and when legislation may be introduced. Another item on the memorandum deals with the Statutory Undertakings (Temporary Increase of Charges) Act, 1918. It states:—
This Act enables certain Statutory Undertakings (tramways, light railways, etc.) to apply for leave to increase their charges above the amount authorised by Statute, where the undertaking has been adversely affected by war conditions.
Such legislation was probably necessary at that time, but things have changed considerably since then, and this kind of legislation ought not to go on for ever. There ought to be some finality, and some definite time when the Department would make up its mind to bring in permanent legislation to deal with a matter of this kind. Part II. of the memorandum deals with the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923. There is an appendix to the memorandum explaining the reason for extending that Act, and in that connection I would like to know when the long and frequently promised legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission will be introduced. This question of having laws, some of them important and some of them relatively unimportant, carried on from year to year, as has been the case, is not good business. The Departments concerned may be working on these Bills, but some of them have been working on them for a rather extended period. We would be glad if the Minister would tell us when the long-promised Bills dealing with the control of motor traffic, and the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission, will be introduced. The law relating to poor law is in a very unsatisfactory condition at present. Some of it is out-of-date and more of it has been changed in recent years in a temporary way, and promises have been made that a Bill would be introduced to put the law in order, to co-ordinate it, and to give some idea of permanence to the poor law position. At present things are frequently mixed up. Those of us who have been giving attention to the poor law question would be glad to know in particular when the recommendations of that Commission will be given legislative effect to.
I should like to emphasise what has already been said by others as to the necessity for legislation with regard to the control of road traffic. I need not go over what I said on previous occasions, but complaints are reaching me from day to day as to the necessity for a change in the law with regard to this matter. I know that there are two Ministers involved in this, the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Justice, and that whenever there is divided control in a matter of this kind it is always hard to get two to agree; but there is no greater need for anything at the present time than there is for a new Traffic Bill.
In connection with motor traffic regulations, I would ask the Minister if the Executive Council have considered, since the Recess, the question of compulsory third-party insurance and the bringing of it into the motor traffic regulations? We were promised that it would be considered, and I would like to hear if there is anything new about the matter. I would also like to refer to the matter of nationalisation, raised by Deputy Little. I know that under existing conditions we have no power to deal with this matter, but the Minister for Justice made some reference to it, and intimated that it might be possible to bring about some understanding by which this country could naturalise aliens living in the country. Is it in our power to pass legislation which would give us that right? Another matter to which I want to refer also deals with motors. It was raised by the late Deputy Holt, and a promise was given that motor vehicles over a certain age would be dealt with for the purpose of road motor tax at a reduced rate. Can the Minister tell us anything about that? Has it ever been contemplated, or is it to be contemplated?
I want to raise the matter of the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act. The manner in which that Act has been administered would not, I think, justify the House in continuing it. As a member of a local body, I have noticed that every second month there have been complaints that the material supplied is not up to the standard, and in nine cases out of every ten we have the Trade Department telling us that we must accept the article, although it is not up to the required standard. I think that the time has arrived when something definite should be done with regard to this. We should either get rid of the Combined Purchasing Act altogether or else the contractors who are put on the list should be made to supply goods up to the standard required. It is nonsensical to invite tenders for a certain article and then, when a definite tender has been accepted, to have to take from that contractor material which is not up to the required standard. That is what has been happening in nine out of every ten cases within the last few years, and it is not fair to the other people who have tendered. I would like to hear some definite pronouncement on that. If the Minister wants cases, I can bring him a dozen or twenty, and his own Department can supply him with at least a hundred from Cork alone. It is not fair to the others who tendered, and it is not fair to the local manufacturers who put in at higher prices, but who found themselves cut out in order to make room for shoddy, because that is what it amounts to. I would like to hear something from the Minister on that, and, if necessary, we will try to deal with it on the Committee Stage.
Mr. Hogan (Clare):
I do not know if the Minister for Finance is the proper authority to give us some justification for the Act to which Deputy Corry has referred, but I do know that some Minister ought to give us some justification for it. There is a large volume of opinion opposed to the administration of that Act. Not alone is the principle wrong, but the administration of it is wrong. Everyone who has any experience of public bodies will know that the article supplied is, in a great many cases, not up to the quality of the sample submitted. In the matter of administration alone the Act needs a good deal of overhauling. I do not know whether the Minister for Finance can give us any idea of the cost, but I do know that different bodies find themselves in the position of having to accept inferior stuff. Apart from the principle that the local trader is cut out altogether because he cannot supply all the Saorstát, the whole machinery of the Act requires overhauling and justification.
A number of these matters must be dealt with by other Ministers on the Committee Stage, and I think it is on the Committee Stage that they can be most effectively dealt with. Deputy Little and Deputy Briscoe raised the question of citizenship. I could not state exactly how the matter stands. The late Minister for Justice had given the matter a great deal of consideration. He had discussed it with other Ministers, and was about to have his Department formulate proposals for a Citizenship Bill. The matter was then entirely dropped for some time; it simply slipped out of mind and out of sight. It has lately been the subject of consideration in the Department of Justice, and they have been dealing with the Department of External Affairs about it, but I could not say how far it has gone. It has been recognised, certainly for two or three years, that it would be necessary to prepare a Citizenship Bill to provide means for admitting people to citizenship, and to regulate various subsidiary matters connected with that. Possibly, on another stage I will be able to give some more information, or the Deputy might get it by putting down a question
With reference to motor traffic, various aspects of which have been touched upon by Deputy Sir James Craig and Deputy Briscoe, the Executive Council agreed some two or three months ago to the heads of a Bill which was submitted by the Department of Local Government and Public Health. The preparation of the Bill has since gone along the lines approved by the Executive Council, and I understand that it is very nearly ready.
Will it be brought in before Christmas?
I could not be sure of that. What the Executive Council decided were seven or eight general principles, and perhaps when the Bill has advanced further in preparation there may be some points that will require further discussion. I could not say just how soon it will be introduced, but I know that if it is not introduced before Christmas it should be very soon in the new year. I am not able to tell the Deputy anything definite about the time that the Harbours Tribunal will report. I know it has been preparing its report for some time, that the investigations have been brought to an end, and that it is simply a matter of preparing a report. I presume that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health will deal with the points that have been raised in regard to the administration of the Combined Purchasing Act on the Committee Stage of the Bill. I always understood that one of the advantages it was hoped to obtain from the combined purchasing system was not merely that goods would be supplied at cheaper rates in a great many cases, but that they would be supplied of better quality and that there would be better means of securing that contractors would supply the quality they tendered to supply. If that is not so, as Deputies suggest, then, of course, there certainly is ground for a close examination of the whole matter.
I would like if, on the Committee Stage, the Minister for Local Government would have a list of all the complaints that have been received from the South Cork Board of Assistance during the past twelve months with regard to goods not being up to standard quality. If he sees the lot of them it will open his eyes as to the way administration is being carried out.
Might I suggest to the Minister that the various Departments would take notice of what is being stated so that we would be prepared on the Committee Stage to repeat our questions and that the Minister would then be prepared to give us full answers.
I will send a note around.