Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 6 Jun 1939

Vol. 76 No. 5

Public Assistance Bill, 1939-Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill proposes to consolidate the existing law relating to the relief of the poor by local authorities, amending it to suit present conditions, and repealing provisions considered obsolete or inapplicable in existing circumstances. The Bill contains very little that is new in principle.

To realise the necessity for this Bill, reference may be made to the condition of the law as it exists at present. Outside the City and County of Dublin, the relief of the poor by local authorities is administered in pursuance of county schemes adopted or approved under the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923. That Act was a temporary one passed, as stated in the Preamble, to make provision to remedy more serious defects in the law and to legalise the county schemes until such time as a comprehensive reorganisation of the law could be prepared and submitted to the Oireachtas. The Act of 1923 has been continued from year to year and it is very desirable that this position should be terminated and that the law should be placed on a permanent basis.

Another strong reason for proceeding with this Bill is the great difficulty of interpreting the law under the present complicated code of enactments. A person wishing to ascertain the law on a particular point must first refer to and study the county scheme relating to the area with which he is concerned and then study the Poor Relief Acts. This latter code is based on the old system of workhouse and outdoor relief. It has become very involved by reason of many amendments and alterations. The extent of the code of Poor Relief Acts is indicated by the First Schedule to the Bill under consideration where provision is made for the repeal or partial repeal of 34 enactments. The ascertainment of the law under existing circumstances often requires considerable research. In addition it involves the solution of many difficult questions of interpretation arising from modifications impliedly made in the Poor Relief Acts by the county schemes. It is obviously desirable that for the guidance of local authorities and of officers engaged in administration, the law should be set out in a clear intelligible form to which reference may easily be made.

Before entering into an explanation of the provisions of this Bill, I would like to explain that it is proposed to accompany this Bill with a Local Government Bill which will deal with matters not considered suitable for inclusion in this Bill, or which relate to subjects of wider or more general application than public assistance matters.

The Bill proposes to continue the present system of supervision by the central authority. No change is proposed as regards the local administrative areas which the Bill proposes to continue. Those areas will be called public assistance districts. As regards the local authorities for the purposes of administration, the position will be that—

(a) where a public assistance district consists only of a county borough the public assistance authority will be the corporation of the county borough.

(b) where the district consists of a county borough together with a county or part of a county the public assistance authority will be a board of public assistance elected by the corporation of the county borough and the council of the county, and

(c) in all other cases the public assistance authority will be the county council.

The proposal to make the county council the public assistance authority has the advantage that it puts responsibility for expenditure on the rating authority. If any particular county council feels that the administration of this measure involves a too onerous addition to its duties it will be open to the council to exercise the power given in Section 11 to appoint a committee or committees. Another point in favour of the county council as the public assistance authority is that, as already intimated to the Dáil, a Bill is contemplated to provide for counties the system of local management which at present operates in county boroughs, and should that measure be passed by the Oireachtas, its implementation will be greatly facilitated by the unification of local government control which the present Bill proposes. As before mentioned, each local authority is to have power to appoint committees, and there is provision for the appointment of joint committees by two or more authorities for any particular purpose.

The Bill will define more clearly than has hitherto been done in any Act the persons who are eligible for public assistance. The definitions are contained in Section 17, and they follow the lines of those given in the county schemes. A poor person who is unable by his own industry or other lawful means to provide the necessaries of life (other than medical, surgical or dental treatment or medicines, and medical, surgical or dental appliances) for himself and the persons whom he is liable under the Act to maintain, shall be eligible for general assistance, which means the provision of the necessaries of life. A poor person who is unable to provide by his own industry or other lawful means the medical, surgical or dental treatment or medicine, or medical, surgical or dental appliances necessary for himself and the persons whom he is liable under the Act to maintain shall be eligible for medical assistance.

It will be laid down as a duty of the local authority to provide public assistance, which includes both medical and general assistance for every person in their district who is eligible therefor. The assistance which the local authority will be empowered to provide may be broadly classified as indoor and outdoor. The indoor assistance will consist of maintenance and treatment in hospitals and other institutions which may be directly under the control of the local authority or hospitals and institutions not maintained by the local authority. The outdoor assistance will consist of home assistance or what was hitherto referred to as outdoor relief, and dispensary assistance or medical treatment, advice and medicines supplied through dispensary officers.

The local authority will be required to provide such homes, hospitals and other institutions as the Minister shall direct and they will be required to restore, alter or enlarge these institutions to provide and improve their drainage and ventilation, and provide fixtures, fittings, furniture and appliances as directed by the Minister. Provision is also to be made for the discontinuance of an institution whenever the Minister thinks proper. Similar provisions are included in relation to the provision of dispensaries and their maintenance.

The Bill will provide extensively for the protection of children assisted by local authorities. The circumstances under which the public assistance authority will be given or may assume the rights of parents over children in their charge will be set out, and also the powers of the local authorities to place out children at nurse, to board out children, to send them to special schools, and to place children at service or in a trade, calling or business.

It will be observed that in the Bill the age up to which a child is regarded as a dependent is 16 years. Under the existing Poor Relief Acts it is 15 years.

The provisions of the Bill as regards finance scarcely call for comment. No change is being made as regards the areas of charge or the method of raising the funds required by the public assistance authorities. The moneys required will be raised equally over each public assistance district. It is not proposed in this Bill to deal with borrowing powers as this matter will be dealt with in a general Bill applicable to all local authorities. The borrowing limit for purposes of expenditure by public assistance authorities is, however, fixed in this Bill at one-fourth of the valuation. This is the limit hitherto in operation.

The powers of the public assistance authorities under the existing law to acquire land are to be continued. It is proposed to re-enact the provisions of the Public Assistance (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1934, which empowers public assistance authorities to acquire land for the purposes of their powers and duties either by agreement or compulsorily. In all the matters above referred to the Bill diverges little in principle from the law as at present in operation. It might be well at this stage to refer in more detail to some of the proposals in the Bill, particularly those which are new or which may be of interest.

Section 12 proposes to provide for the establishment of joint committees for two or more public assistance districts for any purpose connected with the administration of public assistance where it appears to the Minister that joint administration would tend to reduce expense or be otherwise of public or local advantage. It might for instance be desirable in the opinion of the Minister to establish a hospital which would cater for two or more public assistance districts or to establish for the accommodation of some special class of poor persons an institution which would be available for several public assistance districts. Section 12 would enable such an arrangement to be made and a committee to be set up for the management of the joint institution. The principle in this clause is not new as the Poor Relief Acts empowered boards of guardians to combine for the purpose of establishing joint schools for the education of children from their workhouses, and a special Act provided for the establishment of a central hospital in Galway managed by a committee appointed by the boards of guardians in the county.

From Section 20, it will be observed that it is proposed to continue the power given to public assistance authorities by the Public Assistance Act, 1937, to assist societies for relieving poor persons. That Act it will be remembered was passed to legalise an experiment by the Dublin Board of Assistance by which they provided financial and other assistance to aid a charitable organisation which did remarkably useful work in assisting and reforming certain classes of destitute persons. If a public assistance authority was satisfied that a society for relieving poor persons afforded or proposed to afford relief to such persons by providing food or lodging in premises under the control of the society within the public assistance district, the public assistance authority with the consent of the Minister and subject to any limitations or conditions which he might impose, could give assistance to the society by contributing to the expense incurred by the society in affording such relief, by supplying the society with fuel, light, food, water or other commodity for use in affording such relief, by permitting the society to use premises by executing alterations and repairs and supplying furniture and fittings for such premises, and by providing premises with all requisite furniture and fittings for use by the society in so affording relief to poor persons.

Section 21 of the Bill under consideration embodies a new proposal by which a public assistance authority will be empowered to provide land for any public hospital or infirmary within their district. Before the public assistance authority can provide the land there must be a request from the governing body of the hospital or infirmary, the public assistance authority must be satisfied that useful aid is being or will be rendered to the administration of public assistance in the district by the treatment given in the hospital or infirmary to persons eligible for medical assistance, and the governing body must show to the satisfaction of the public assistance authority that the land is required for the efficient performance of the functions of the hospital or infirmary. The public assistance authority may as a condition precedent to providing the land require the governing body to undertake to defray the whole or a specified part of the cost.

Section 22 of the Bill proposes to empower a public assistance authority, on the application of a person eligible for assistance, to pay the reasonable expenses of the removal of such person from their district to some other place if satisfied that the removal is likely to enable the person to support himself and his dependants by his own industry or other lawful means and is generally for the benefit of such person and his dependants. There might be circumstances in which it would be very useful for the public assistance authority to have this power. By sending a poor person to a place where he would be able to get employment they would confer a great benefit on him and his dependants. A similar power was given to local assistance authorities in Dublin City and County by the Poor Relief (Dublin) Act, 1929, but it could not be exercised in the case of a person who was resident in Dublin City or County or both for a period extending beyond two years. Outside Dublin City and County, no such power has hitherto existed.

Sub-section (2) of Section 23 enables a public assistance authority where a person eligible for assistance from them dies outside their district to bury him outside the district or bring the body into the district and bury it. Although public assistance authorities have often brought the bodies of poor persons who died in extern hospitals home to their district for burial they have hitherto had no legal power to do so.

Section 25 contains a new proposal to empower the Minister to prescribe methods of determining the cost of different kinds of public assistance. This is intended to simplify proceedings when steps are being taken to recover the cost of assistance. Hitherto there was no such provision and when proceedings were taken to recover the cost of relief the question as to what was the actual cost had to be argued out in court. This would be much more inconvenient in future when there will be so many different kinds of assistance. It is very desirable that the methods of calculating the cost of the various kinds of assistance should be prescribed and set out in regulations.

Section 29 sets out the circumstances under which a public assistance authority may appropriate money, securities for money and property for the purpose of reimbursing themselves the cost of public assistance. Though the provisions of this section are new in this country it might be mentioned that it is customary with some public assistance authorities to reimburse themselves the cost of assistance out of moneys which they may find in possession of persons who may enter institutions such as workhouses or county homes, and the section will therefore legalise a practice which to an extent already exists.

It will be noted from Section 30 that the proposals as regards the provision of institutions are more elastic than those in the Poor Relief Acts, which bound the authorities concerned to provide a limited class of institutions. They had no power to provide institutions other than those authorised. Section 30 will permit of more freedom, and it will not restrict the growth of any ideas which may develop in future as to the most suitable institutions for the accommodation of poor persons. As regards Section 38 which deals with the formation and alteration of dispensary districts, I might point out that, under existing law, there is no power to divide a district electoral division when altering or rearranging dispensary districts. That limitation will not exist when this Bill becomes law.

There are some new proposals in Section 40 which relate to the provision of dispensaries. A public assistance authority is to be required to provide at least one dispensary for every dispensary district and they shall provide in every district such and so many other dispensaries as the Minister shall direct. Under the existing law they are not required to provide more than one dispensary in each district though in fact they do so. The public assistance authority is required to keep every dispensary in proper condition and repair to the satisfaction of the Minister. At present the Minister has no power to require a public assistance authority to keep a dispensary in repair. The provision in the section as regards the use of a dispensary for two adjoining districts is intended to legalise an arrangement which is already in existence in several places.

By sub-section (1) of Section 41, the Minister will be empowered to direct a public assistance authority to provide a residence for a dispensary doctor. This power will be new; as will also be the power contained in sub-section (2) of this section. Under this sub-section, the public assistance authority may, with the consent of the Minister and shall, if he so directs, provide and maintain in connection with or as part of a dispensary a residence for a midwife or other officer. Hitherto there has been no direct power to provide such accommodation for midwives. A midwife could only be so provided for if she were a caretaker of a dispensary. In that case she could be given the apartments of a caretaker in the dispensary building.

The proposals contained in Section 42 of the Bill are new. The section provides that where an orphan or a deserted child is maintained by a public assistance authority and has not attained the age of 16 years all the rights and powers of the parents of the child shall vest in the public assistance authority. The parent, however, may claim the child for the purpose of maintaining it, and in such a case the public assistance authority have no power to detain the child. Under the existing law if a public assistance authority desired to have the rights and powers of a parent over an orphan or deserted child they had had to follow the procedure set out in the next subsequent section (Section 43) and assume those rights and powers by resolution. The public assistance authority had power to rescind that resolution and a court of summary jurisdiction could determine it. The law in force hitherto also provided that a child under the age of 15 years without a parent relieved in a workhouse was subject to the authority of the board of guardians in the same way as it would be subject to its parents if living with them except that the guardians could not interfere with the religion of the child.

Under Section 43, if a public assistance authority assume by resolution, the rights and powers of the parent of a child belonging to one of the classes referred to in the section, they retain those rights until the child reaches the age of 16 years, except they previously rescind their resolution or the resolution is terminated by the District Court. Hitherto the parental rights and powers vested in the public assistance authority until the child reached the age of 18 years.

Section 45, which relates to certified schools, contains a slight change in the matter of inspection. Under the existing law, the public assistance authority may appoint any one of their body to visit and inspect a certified school. Paragraph (c) of sub-section (3) of Section 45 will empower the authority to appoint any suitable person to visit and inspect any such school to which they have sent a child.

Another new provision is that proposed by Section 48 which will empower a public assistance authority with the consent of the Minister to contribute to the support, maintenance and education in an approved institution of any child who is deaf, dumb, blind, imbecile, idiot, epileptic or crippled and whose parents are unable by reason of poverty to provide adequately for the training of the child. Numerous cases have come to the notice of my Department where parents who could not ordinarily be regarded as eligible for assistance were unable to provide the cost of the education of defective children in suitable institutions. The local authorities, though willing to assist, were not legally empowered to do so.

Another section containing an entirely new provision is Section 62 which will give power to a public assistance authority to authorise an officer or agent to enter on land for the purpose of ascertaining whether it is suitable for acquisition. The officer or agent will be empowered to survey the land, make plans, take levels, make excavations and examine the depth and nature of the sub-soil. Consent must be obtained from the owner or occupier who if he objects to the entry on the land may appeal to the District Court. There are provisions for compensation for damage. I consider that this is a very useful and essential provision.

Perhaps the only other section to which I need now refer is Section 84 which will enable the Minister to abolish any of the remaining county infirmaries. This power is not new. The Minister could abolish a county infirmary committee by amending a county scheme under the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923. Only seven such institutions remain, and in at least two cases it is understood that the local authorities desire their abolition in the interests of better hospital organisation. It is considered desirable to retain the power to abolish county infirmaries, so that the necessary machinery may be available in any case where the improved coordination of hospital services renders it necessary.

It will be observed that the Bill contains very little about the appointment and duties of officers and nothing at all about the powers and duties of inspectors. These matters will be dealt with in the general Local Government Bill which is to accompany this Bill. All through the Bill an effort has been made to avoid the use of the obnoxious words and phrases which were a feature of the Poor Relief Acts. In this respect, the new Act will be more in keeping with the sentiments of our people and the dignity of the poor.

Mr. Brennan

It is a cause of some surprise that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health has introduced this Bill at the present time. One wonders why the Department has considered the present an opportune time for bringing in the Bill. When we consider what the Parliamentary Secretary has just said, it merely increases our astonishment. We have here a Bill of 89 sections and three schedules. The Parliamentary Secretary rightly says that the law as contained in the Bill differs very little from the law which is being administered at the present time. In his explanatory leaflet, the Minister tells us that the Bill cannot be operated until two other measures are passed by the House. I wonder, therefore, why the Bill is introduced at this stage. All these clauses have been in cold storage in the Local Government Department for years and now we have them brought before us on the eve of the summer recess. That seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. We cannot operate the Bill if we pass it and it is not going to be operated.

A very good case can be made for codification of the entire law relating to public assistance. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary in that, but that codification cannot be given effect until other machinery is provided. The Bill is not going to get the detailed examination at the present time which it ought to get. We are taking a plunge in the dark in dealing with a Bill of such huge dimensions at this stage. There has been no outcry for it. As a matter of fact, the real want in connection with local government at the present time is a remedy for the overwork placed upon the boards of health. This Bill will not lesson that work because it cannot be operated. If the Minister had brought in his Bill relating to the managerial system, we could examine it and have it put into operation. That would relieve the local authorities of a lot of work, but why this Bill is brought in now beats me.

The Parliamentary Secretary, before he sat down, made the important statement that the Bill contained nothing relating to officers or rating. Of course not. These are the important things, and they are to be dealt with in another Bill. We ought to be given that other Bill. If the House agrees, as I presume it will, to the Second Reading of this Bill, we ought to leave the further stages over until we get the other Bills. Then we shall know where we are. Codification of the public assistance law, and, indeed, of local government law, is necessary. As the Parliamentary Secretary said, legal men have to engage in a vast amount of research in order to ascertain what the law is, but this Bill is not going to simplify anything. The Minister ought to bring in the other two Bills, particularly the Bill relating to the managerial system.

In this Bill provision is made for the county council being the public assistance authority instead of the board of health. I do not see much in that except in so far as it will take work off the board of health through the county manager system. The whole thing goes back to that. We cannot operate the Bill and we are not presented with the machinery by which it is to be operated. The only new principle in the Bill—it is one which we all welcome-is that which relates to the right of the local authorities to assist in various ways voluntary societies working for the relief of the poor. I think that is a very good provision, but the Parliamentary Secretary should tell us what purpose he hopes to achieve by bringing in the Bill now. He ought to tell us, too, that when the House gives this Bill its Second Reading, he will leave it over until the other two Bills which are necessary to operate it are ready.

The whole principle of the Bill is the principle of codification, and the picking out of laws relating to public assistance from Acts containing other matters. As the House will see in the Schedule, the Bill repeals a large amount of legislation, but not all the existing legislation relating to poor law as the Minister has explained in his covering leaflet. I do not see any point in bringing in the Bill without introducing the other Bills to let us know exactly where we are. We want to give this Bill due consideration. There does not seem to be any hurry about it. It has waited for years upon years, and, as I stated a while ago, the only demand that I see amongst local authorities is to take some of their work off them. They are not able to deal with all their work. This Bill is not going to relieve them in that way. I would strongly advise the Minister to bring along some of those other Bills which are much more important than the present measure.

This Bill is a very comprehensive measure containing as it does eight parts. It repeals no less than 20 existing statutes and amends no less than 14 others. I think, with Deputy Brennan, that this is hardly the time of the year that the House should be asked to deal with a very comprehensive Bill of this kind, assisted only by a very perfunctory and not quite understandable memorandum which was issued by the Department presumably for the purpose of explaining the provisions of the Bill. Nobody who has read the memorandum can pretend that it is any real index to the contents of the Bill or that it explains in any detail the wide character of the changes indicated in the Bill, nor does it enable one to understand the general structure on which the Bill is based and generally reared. In the main the Bill, of course, is a machinery Bill and possibly most of the discussion would be more appropriate on the Committee Stage but there are some matters which I should like to raise at this stage in an endeavour to obtain some elucidation which, so far, I have been unable to gather from the memorandum, or from the Bill itself.

Under Section 17

"a poor person who is unable to provide by his own industry, or other lawful means, the necessaries of life for himself and the persons whom he is liable under this Act to maintain shall be eligible for general assistance."

General assistance, presumably, in that context means the necessaries of life. One thinks of the necessaries of life as fuel, food, clothing and shelter. These can be said to be the necessaries of life. If one has them, one need not necessarily have coinage or currency in order to pilot one's way through life. But, in fact, the recipient of assistance from a local authority finds it necessary to have cash for the purpose of meeting the demands of his family which arise from day to day. It has been the practice to administer relief in the form of cash payments, leaving to the recipient the responsibility of husbanding whatever grant is made in the most frugal way and spending it to the greatest possible advantage.

I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether it is intended that the assistance to be rendered under Section 17 shall be rendered in kind, and not in cash, and whether it is intended to disturb the existing practice which enables the local authority to grant relief in cash to persons who benefit from public assistance at the present time. I should like, in particular, to know whether this section in any way restricts the right of the local authority to make payments in cash instead of in kind, if the local authority decides to do so. Both in the Bill, and in the course of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, it was indicated that a person who is entitled to receive general assistance is one who is unable to provide, by his own industry or other lawful means, the necessaries of life for himself and the persons whom he is liable under the Act to maintain. That person can receive general assistance under the Bill, but I noticed that the only person, according to the strict reading of the section, who would be eligible for that benefit is a poor person and for those for whom he is unable to provide. Would that apply, for instance, to a poor person who has no dependents, who is a destitute person, a person who is eligible for assistance at present and who will be a poor person when this Bill is passed, if he be eligible for such general assistance as is provided for under this Bill? It seems to me, from the way in which the Bill is drawn, that it is necessary for a person to be, not a unit but a group. He must not only himself be poor but he must also have persons dependent on him, for the maintenance of whom he is responsible. I should like if the Parliamentary Secretary would clear up that ambiguity.

It is provided in Section 24 that persons may be required to work for such assistance as they are receiving, and the stipulation in the Bill is that if a person does work for the assistance which he receives, then the relationship of master and servant shall not apply and a contract of service shall not be deemed to be in existence. We may have a situation—in fact the Bill provides for the creation of a situation —whereby, for instance, a public assistance committee might decide that it would give general assistance to a certain number of poor persons and, in return for that general assistance, it might ask them to whitewash buildings at the county home. In the course of carrying out these whitewashing operations, some of these recipients of public assistance might meet with accidents. If they do, according to the Bill, the relationship of master and servant does not apply. These may not be persons who are being maintained in the institution. A person who is receiving public assistance outside might be brought in to assist in whitewashing operations. He might fall off a ladder and suffer some permanent disability but, if that happens, the relationship of master and servant does not apply. There is to be no contract of service under which he can sue his employer. There will be no stamps affixed to his card and he will not be eligible, since there is no contract of service subsisting, and since the relationship of master and servant does not apply, to benefit under the Workmen's Compensation Act even though he may be permanently maimed and prevented from contributing in future towards the maintenance of those whom he is liable under this Bill to maintain.

It seems to be an extraordinary provision in a Bill of this kind, that because a person is poor and without any resources, because he is compelled to seek public assistance in the manner contemplated under this Bill, we then deprive him of the protection which goes hand in hand with such valuable pieces of social legislation as the Workmen's Compensation Act, the National Health Insurance Act, and the Unemployment Insurance Act. Above all, we deprive him of the right to go to a court and to have the equity of the circumstances in which he met with the accident determined by the court. The local authority may provide very inadequate scaffolding for the whitewashing operations which are to be carried out. They might be held in a court of law to be guilty of the grossest negligence and an ordinary person employed under such circumstances might be able to sustain in law a case against the local authority but because a person is poor, we take steps in this Bill to ensure that we make him poorer still, and to humiliate him further, by depriving him of the rights and remedies which are afforded to an ordinary citizen. I would like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary tell us on what grounds it is possible to defend a provision of that kind, particularly in relation to very poor people.

In the section of the Bill dealing with institutions, the Minister has power to direct that particular classes of persons must not be assisted otherwise than in a district institution. I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary what class of persons is an order of that kind to apply to. Is it to apply, too, because of any peculiar poverty, because of any peculiar disability? Is it because of their residence in a particular geographical area that they are to have applied to them an order that they can get no assistance except in a district institution. I do not believe that the provision of institutional treatment under the poor law system improves the physique of the person receiving the treatment, whether it is in the form of food or in the form of medicine. I would much prefer to see a scheme devised by which, as far as possible, persons would be allowed the comfort and the security of their own homesteads. But here we have the Minister taking power to ensure that certain classes of persons may not get benefit unless they go into a district institution. At one time the landlord garrison said to the poor in this country: "You go to the workhouse or you stay on the roadside." That is a long time ago, and the folk who issued these instructions are not in power to issue similar edicts to-day. I would like, therefore, to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary on what grounds it is proposed to insist that certain classes of persons cannot get benefit or relief except they submit to such institutional attention as is provided for them in the Bill.

The Bill repeals the Poor Relief Act of 1851—the relevant section of it— dealing with vaccination. It also repeals the section in the Local Government Act of 1923 dealing with vaccination. Under both these sections there was the right on the part of poor persons to free vaccination. It is intended now, apparently, that vaccination will continue to remain compulsory, but there is no provision in this Bill for ensuring that in the case of poor persons there will be the right to free vaccination. I do not know if that is an omission, or what induced the Minister to amend the sections in previous Acts which provided the right of free vaccination. I would like to have an assurance that it is not intended to mulct the poor people by requiring them to pay a fee for vaccination if vaccination is to remain compulsory in the country, as presumably it is.

The Parliamentary Secretary, in his concluding remarks on the Bill, said that all obnoxious phrases had been removed, and that care had been taken not to use them or to repeat them in so far as they were embodied in previous legislation. To me it does not seem to be a matter so much of obnoxious phrases as the maintenance of what one can only describe as a very obnoxious system in very many respects. You altered the title of "workhouse" to "county home." Anyone who has inspected some of those county homes cannot pretend that there has been more than a change of name, or that these are places in which the State or the community, whichever you care to call it, takes special care to succour the aged and the invalid poor. These institutions stand there as workhouses, even though we have now altered the name and given them the more polite title of county home. All the codification which this Bill may bring about will mean really nothing unless we try to breathe through our whole system of relieving poverty a human feeling and a sympathetic understanding.

Paragraph 1 of the explanatory memorandum is well worth reading in order to get the background, as the Department sees it, of the grant of relief in Ireland. It says:

"Since the year 1838 relief has been given to the poor of this country under a system based on the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act, passed in that year. That system was modelled on a similar system in existence in England. It gave primary importance to the principle that the receiving of relief must involve an appreciable amount of hardship and humiliation so that poor people would not be deprived of an incentive to support themselves by their own efforts."

There is the whole conception of our poor law system in this country.

There is the whole conception of it as visualised by the Department: To put hardship and humiliation on poor people so that they "would not be deprived of an incentive to support themselves by their own efforts," as if any of them could possible imagine that the incentive to use their own efforts would be neutralised by the miserable scale of assistance which they receive from many of the boards of health or boards of public assistance throughout the country. I know counties where home assistance is administered on a very inadequate scale. It is extremely difficult for any family in distress to get more than 10/- or 12/- a week at the very most from the local authority, and that can only be got when it is patent to everybody that the family is in a state of extreme poverty. If the family can get it, it may succeed in keeping it for awhile, but even during that period there is a constant inquisition going on with a view to ascertaining whether in fact the sum it is in receipt of cannot be cut down further. But who would imagine that people would destroy and imprison for all time their incentive to rely on their own efforts merely because they have to exist—taking into account the present high cost of living—on a scale of benefit represented by a payment of 10/- or 12/- a week for a family of four or five people, including adults?

I think the value of this Bill is not so much related to its smooth running machinery as to the necessity for a sympathetic understanding of poverty, and a sympathetic understanding of the evils and hardship which go with it and flow from it. The present scales of allowances are absurdly inadequate. They are very much below the standard payable either in the Six Counties or in Great Britain, or in any other country which does not regard poverty as a crime. Here in this country, both in our approach to the workhouse system and to the manner in which we distribute relief, as well as in the low scale of relief which we provide, we proceed to assume, I am afraid, in our approach to that problem, that poverty is something on which you are entitled to upbraid a person. Many of those people wish that they were wealthy and were capable of maintaining themselves, but adversity and misfortune of one kind or another prevents their doing so. If we find them in the condition where they are unable to maintain themselves by their own efforts, the least we ought to do is to recognise their inalienable human right to a decent standard of sustenance. We ought to ensure that that is guaranteed to them in conditions which do not impose upon them the traditional hardship and humiliation on which these Poor Relief Acts were first conceived.

After all, we are paying very sub stantial pensions to people in this country who are not in poverty, and very substantial allowances and gratuities of one kind and another to others who are not in poverty. The public subject themselves to taxation of one kind or another for the maintenance of people who are not in poverty-stricken circumstances. What objection can there be, therefore, to recognising the right of a certified poor person to a reasonable scale of allowance in time of adversity? I would wish that this Bill were used for the purpose of improving the whole administration of the poor law system as we know it in this country to-day, even though it may masquerade under another title. In my opinion it is low in tone, and there is very little real effort made to raise either the conception of life or the conditions of life of those who are unfortunately compelled to resort to it for sustenance. If the Bill is passed in its present form I hope one of the effects will be to improve the administration of poor relief. If it does, it will have the good wishes of those who want to see that system—capable of many amendments of a beneficial kind —substantially remedied in the interests of those who are unfortunately the victims of poverty to-day.

Sir, we greatly appreciate the memorandum which accompanied this Bill. The procedure of preparing those memoranda is one that leaves itself open to what I must characterise as abuse, and I regret the necessity of referring to what I consider to be the very grave abuse by Deputy Norton of the courtesy extended to the House by the Minister in having this memorandum prepared. It begins with a clear heading: "Historical Survey," and it sets out the fact that in 1838, 101 years ago, the poor relief system was modelled on a similar system in existence in England. The memorandum goes on to say:

"It gave primary importance to the principle that the receiving of relief must involve an appreciable amount of hardship and humiliation so that poor people would not be deprived of an incentive to support themselves by their own efforts."

That is an historical fact, but it sets out that fact in order to contrast it with the spirit which inspires the relief of the indigent and sick to-day. It sets out that fact merely to emphasise that we cannot think of approaching this problem in the spirit in which they did approach it then, because we have learned something since then. It does no service to the State or to the Labour Party or to anybody else to misunderstand a paragraph of that kind, and to give open expression to that misunderstanding, when the speaker is the Leader of the Labour Party. I feel sure that Deputy Norton, when he peruses this memorandum again, will come to realise that he has entirely misunderstood it.

I do not see any difference between that condition as described there and what generally prevails to-day.

That is another story. What the Deputy said was that that memorandum showed that that was the spirit in which the Department of Local Government and the Minister approached this problem. That is not true. The Deputy may legitimately say: "In whatever spirit they approached it, the result is accurately described by that paragraph," but it is quite another thing to say that they set down that paragraph to represent their state of mind to-day. They did not.

Will Deputy Dillon allow me to correct him?


If Deputy Dillon will peruse the transcript of the speech which I made I think he will find that that is not what I said. I said: "Here is the approach to the Poor Law system as conceived by the Department." I am not attributing that responsibility to the Department to-day, although I do not see any difference between the conditions there described and the conditions under which many people try to get that relief to-day.

Out of appearing evil good has come, because now we have all cleared our minds and we are all agreed. I entirely agree with the Leader of the Labour Party that that approach to the problem described in the first paragraph here was deplorable. We are happy to think it is an approach which was abandoned 60 years ago, and we are all concerned now to ensure that whatever approach is made to this problem it will not end up with the result adumbrated as a consequence of the attitude of 1838.

I have listened, Sir, to the debate so far, and I cannot help asking again the question which Deputy Brennan asked: "Why dig this up now?" This Bill was in draft in Deputy Mulcahy's office eight years ago, and it was laid to one side before the General Election of 1931, awaiting a whole series of additional Bills which were designed together to reform the system of local government obtaining in this country. The general election put the Government of which General Mulcahy was a member out of office, and this Government came in. Why, at the end of the summer session of their seventh year in office, did they suddenly dig out of a pigeon hole a draft Bill which is a small part of a general scheme adumbrated by their predecessors, and present it to us? I think it is largely for the purpose of giving the Irish Press to-morrow morning an opportunity of having a leading article on how the heart of the Taoiseach forever beats with the poor. As there are about 90 sections in this Bill, neither the poor nor all the readers of the Irish Press will have time to discover what it is that is making his heart beat. However, when they learn that it is Deputy Mulcahy's seven-year old Bill they may begin to think he has palpitation, and they will not be far wrong. However, if this Bill in its several sections can do little good, it at least provides us with an occasion for, I think, a very necessary stock-taking.

Deputy Norton has said that he regards the immediate basic requirements of a human being to be food, fuel, clothing and shelter. I agree with him, and I think it is time we faced the fact that the absence of any of those things may, without exaggeration, be described as destitution. I think we have got to face the fact that either we in our day conquer destitution in this community to which we belong, or destitution will conquer us. I have listened for a long time to people on all sides of this House paying their tribute of sympathy to the poor, and I think most Deputies in this House are sincere in that. They are greatly distressed to think of people suffering under the burden of destitution, but I think the time has passed when we might content ourselves with paying tributes of sympathy. I think it is time to do something, and I think the something which requires to be done is quite deliberately to make up our minds that the first charge on the national income of this country is the protection of every good citizen against destitution. If, instead of approaching the problem in a piecemeal way, we gave it the priority to which it is entitled, approaching it in the resolve that we were going to dispose of it whatever the cost, I am not at all sure that we would find the cost to be very materially greater than what we are at present spending. Take the social services at present obtaining in this country—national health insurance, home assistance, old age pensions, widows' pensions, unemployment assistance, free meals in schools, the maintenance of refuges and other places for the destitute poor, labourers' cottages, municipal housing, minor relief schemes; those are only a few of the social services operating, and each of those social services means a separate administrative bill to pay. Each of these social services has attached to it flocks of inspectors, clerks and administrators, with the result that a great deal of money intended for the alleviation of destitution is, in fact, absorbed in administrative expenses. That is not peculiar to this country. If you examine the social services of any country, it is often surprising to discover how large a share of the money appropriated to the relief of the poor is in fact spent in paying administrators to distribute it.

I therefore feel that, instead of producing the Public Assistance Bill, 1939, the Government would be very much better employed if they set their minds to the task of co-ordinating the social services of this country, of bringing all the services I have named and any others whose primary function was the relief of poverty or destitution under the control of one body, with, if necessary, a Minister for social services or, alternatively, a division of the existing Ministry of Local Government and Public Health. Having done that, and brought together under one head all the methods of relief from public funds, and having made sure that every person with a claim on the social services was getting his due from them, and having made sure that any fraudulent beneficiary under the social services was excluded from further benefit, they can then determine how far the provision made is falling short of the abolition altogether of destitution from our community.

The Deputy must advert to the fact that the matter before the House is the Public Assistance Bill. The Deputy now advises the Government to scrap this Bill and substitute something very different, that is to amalgamate the social services and place them under one management. That is quite different from this Bill, and it is the Bill which is to be considered. The Deputy seems to be proceeding on lines which he followed recently in advocating family allowances. However desirable that may be it does not seem to the Chair to be relevant.

I know you will not mind my making a submission in reference to your ruling. The Long Title of the Bill is:

"An Act to make further and better provision in relation to the relief of the poor"

—surely that opens up the question of relieving the poor—

"and for that purpose to amend generally the law relating thereto."

I frankly interpret that as opening a discussion on the entire problem of relieving the poverty of this State.

The Deputy must read the Long Title in connection with the Bill.

Surely I can move an amendment to delete all the sections of the Bill except Section 1.

No such amendment has been tabled.

Because this is the Second Stage. It is open to me to move the rejection of every section in the Bill except the first section, and substitute a complete new series of sections provided I bring them within the ambit of the Long Title; otherwise I do not see how you can ever discuss, except by way of motion, the purpose I have in mind.

The Deputy made a very comprehensive speech on these lines within the past month.

I want to advocate legislation and I cannot do that on the Minister's Estimate. I might do it by way of a resolution. I do feel that where we are confronted with what we are told is one of a long series of Bills, the Long Title of which is:

"An Act to make further and better provision in relation to the relief of the poor and for that purpose to amend generally the law relating thereto,"

then I submit that a very wide ambit is opened up for debate and that I am entitled to say: I do not think that this series of Bills is going to do your job at all.

It is going to add to the heavy overhead charges I have outlined for which I am about to refer you to the Estimates, and I want to substitute for the sections here different sections which will more effectively amend the law generally relating to the poor.

The Deputy is aware that this Bill aims at codifying the law relating to public assistance. It does not alter the area of charge or the method of raising the money. It simply codifies the law, with a few minor exceptions, such as in Section 21 or Section 25. It does not deal with the raising of the money, the amount raised, or the amount given in home assistance. It is not concerned with other departments of social service to which the Deputy refers and which are, therefore, outside the scope of the measure. The Deputy will have to seek some other opportunity of outlining his scheme.

I am at a loss then, because if I am bound to say that this and nothing but this will meet the problem, then there is no need for debate at all. I am arguing that this Bill is perfectly futile and that you might as well introduce a Bill containing the words of Ta-ra-ra-boom-di-ay. I want to delete the whole Bill except the Long Title and to substitute a complete new series of sections which will more effectively generally amend the law for the relief of the poor. It seems to me that unless I am permitted to do that I am bound to this absurdity. I think all this Bill is absurd nonsense, further fooling while Rome is burning, and is going to achieve nothing but the expenditure of more money for a perfectly futile purpose. If we are going to amend the law generally relating to the poor, I think we ought to be allowed to suggest what lines we think it ought to follow. I think I could outline now for the House a plan which will effectively amend generally the law relating to the poor, thus fulfilling the purposes of the Long Title:

"An Act to make further and better provision in relation to the relief of the poor and for that purpose to amend generally the law relating thereto."

However, I await your ruling as I go along, and if I cross the limits of what you, Sir, consider proper, I can very easily be called to order and I shall pass on.

I ask the Deputy to consider the logical outcome of his own suggestion, that the Title of a Bill may be accepted and all else rejected, a new Bill to one's liking being substituted; and that then one might proceed to discuss, not the Bill, but a series of alternative proposals.

If my scheme comes within the Long Title that fulfils the purpose of it.

The Deputy must take the Title and the Bill together.

The Bill is in our hands. I can amend every section or delete every section. I will leave the Long Title but as I am not entitled to substitute it I will pursue a certain line. If you, Sir, decide I am going further than is relevant to the debate, tell me so and I will sit down at once.

The Deputy has already travelled far outside relevant debate.

Why should the Deputy seek to amend Deputy Mulcahy's Bill?

Because Deputy Mulcahy meant to bring in a complete series of Bills. He did not bring this Bill forward. He had it in his office but never meant to bring it in. He meant to bring it in with another series of Bills to be presented. That is my complaint against this Bill.

When the Bills are introduced the Deputy may have the opportunity he desires.

I want to amend the law generally for the relief of the poor, but I do not think this Bill does it effectively. I do not think it can be done, so long as provision is made in this Bill for doing certain things for the relief of the poor, unless provision is also made for doing other things.

I direct attention to the fact that I have here a schedule of 32 Acts of Parliament going to the root of every branch of the question and, in these 32 Acts reference is made to dispensaries, poor law, home assistance, and pauper children. Every branch of poor relief and every branch of public assistance is referred to. There is not a single matter relating to public assistance and social services to which I cannot find a reference in one of these Acts. Surely if we are to deal with that whole schedule of public assistance legislation, it is apposite and relevant to advocate them in a Bill that is to substitute them, and to quote from Acts of Parliament. How else could it be possible to debate a measure of this kind? I put it to the House that this Bill is going to spend money but that there is a chance, within the scope of the Long Title where, by spending less money, this will do the job. How is it out of order to suggest to the House that it should adopt that plan in preference to the Minister's?

The Deputy said that this is a repealing Act. Surely he is aware that the Bill is mainly a codifying measure. If he desires to deal with any of the alterations of the existing law he is quite entitled to do so, or to advocate further changes.

Thank you. Provision is made for the repeal of the Pauper Children (Ireland) Act, 1898. That was an Act under which local authorities were empowered to take certain steps for the relief of juveniles who were destitute. It is proposed to abolish that Act and to substitute something instead. I think that the old provision for dealing with juveniles who are destitute was altogether wrong, because in 1839, or as Deputy Norton has said in 1938, it was regarded as a kind of crime to be poor, and children and families who were poor were penalised for their poverty. The families were broken up, the children were taken from their parents, and the parents provided for in the workhouse. It is proposed now to end legislation arising from that outlook, and to substitute for the children something else. There is provision in this Bill controlling and regulating the attitude to be adopted by local authorities. In taking responsibility for children, I want to put it to the House that there is a much better way of dealing with the problem than by giving the local authorities any power to take a child from its parents for the purpose of providing for it. I believe that the principal evil of poverty in this country is that poverty which makes parents see their children hungry. When I say hungry I do not necessarily mean that they are quiescent. I mean that in addition to children who are literally starving there are other children who are just as much hungry, because their parents cannot afford to give them the kind of food they ought to get. I regard that problem of poverty as one of the most formidable, first, because I believe it gives rise to indignation among the poor, which is amply justified. It places the comparatively well-off in an absolutely indefensible position, because no man in any community has a right to enjoy luxury while his neighbour in the same community is hungry. It does not seem to me to be distributive justice that any Christion man or woman would desire, or could justify the enjoyment of a surplus while a neighbour, and particularly a child, was hungry. That gives rise to the creation of fertile soil for the agitator, for persons who propose revolution, social disturbance, civil commotion and those activities generally designed to destroy the institutions of the State.

I must interrupt the Deputy again. This Act proposes to put boards in loco parentis in the case of certain children. It is a very far cry from that to get down to discussion of the solution of the problem of poverty, and then to proceed to show the revolution or other evils that might arise from continued poverty.

I object to the repeal of the whole of the Pauper Children (Ireland) Act, 1898 until suitable legislation is put in its place. I want now to state the terms upon which I will seek to repeal the Pauper Children (Ireland) Act, 1898. There are only one set of terms upon which I could be reconciled to that procedure, and I ask the leave of the House to state them.

If the Deputy would concentrate on the fact that this is a codifying Bill, that it only repeals certain Acts in order to embody them in a slightly different form in the Bill before the House, that it does not deal expressly, or even by implication, with the abolition of poverty. It deals with the administration of certain funds, poor relief in the main, and contains no clause making further provision, except in minor matters. Legislation to come will, I presume, deal with the problem the Deputy desires to discuss.

I do not think I can serve any useful purpose so, the difference is so radical, and unquestionably, you, Sir, are the proper person to determine that.

That is my ruling.

I accept it and in these circumstances I am unable to discuss the Bill, but that is a matter of minor importance. I hope an opportunity will arise when I can. It is abundantly clear that this does not give enough scope to deal with it.

Not in the view of the Chair.

There is one point in connection with this Bill to which I wish to draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention. It is more or less a local one in connection with employment. We have a peculiar position in Cork. This position arises particularly in the case of the South Cork Board of Public Assistance. I would like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary especially to this particular section, so that it might be changed in order to give the contributing bodies to this joint board of assistance some relief from their present position. In the case of the South Cork Board of Public Assistance you have really a joint board made up members nominated by members of the Borough Council of Cork and members nominated by the Cork County Council. An anomaly arises in connection with the rates spent by this joint body. The city portion of the contributing area gives one-third of the funds administered by the board; the county area supplies two-thirds. But when it comes to expenditure, the city absorbs two-thirds and the county area gets only one-third—that is, the county area administered by the joint board. That is a very anomalous state of affairs and I think a remedy is called for.

In connection with the joint board there happen to be in the South Cork Board of Assistance area five or six urban areas, Kinsale, Macroom, Youghal, Midleton, Cobh and Passage. These bodies contribute out of the poor rate to funds to be spent by that joint board, but none of these bodies has the slightest voice in the striking of the rate and they have no voice in the spending of the money, because they have no representation on the board. I do not know if that problem exists in any other place except in that portion of County Cork. There are five urban districts situated in the area of the South Cork Board of Assistance, there are two in West Cork, Clonakilty and Skibbereen, and there are two in North Cork, Fermoy and Mallow. I think things ought to be fixed in a more even fashion, so that Cork City would not be able to absorb two-thirds of the whole expenditure for home assistance.

I do not at this stage want to raise a question with regard to the way discrimination enters into the expenditure in the city area as against the county areas. I merely want to avail of this Second Reading to bring under your notice this general question of the disfranchisement of certain areas with regard to the administration of poor relief. The county council asks them for a definite sum. They must provide that as a net sum. The urban area must pay the cost of collecting it and it must also be responsible for any arrears that may arise. These fall back again as an additional burden. In that particular area it is certainly a problem, one that can be, I think, dealt with on a further stage of this Bill.

Section 23 of the Bill deals with the burial of deceased persons and it is not quite clear if it is the intention to confer authority on boards of health or other public assistance authorities to defray the expenses of the burial of deceased persons in their native districts when they die in institutions within the jurisdiction of the board of public assistance. I understood that the board of health had no statutory authority previously to send the remains of deceased persons from the institution where they died to their native districts for burial. Section 23 gives the right to the public assistance authority to defray the expenses of burial when they die within the public assistance district.

Sub-section (2) gives the right to defray the expenses of burial and the removal of the person from outside the district for burial inside the area of the public assistance authority. It has happened in the past that poor people, when they died in an institution, were buried within the grounds of that institution when their relatives were unable, through poverty, to defray the expense of removal to their native district. I remember when the amalgamation of the boards of guardians took place. At that time it was certainly not the intention that such rights should not be conferred on the boards of health. I merely ask the Parliamentary Secretary if such rights are conferred upon the public assistance authority and, if not, perhaps he will consider the advisability of having something included during the Committee Stage which will cover that point.

I think Deputies will appreciate the desire of the Parliamentary Secretary to bring about some co-ordination of the various regulations and Acts that govern poor relief generally. Anyone conversant with local authorities, particularly boards of assistance, is of opinion that the various Acts and regulations are rather complicated. This is a rather comprehensive measure and the few points I want to make, deal with its omissions rather than with what is in the Bill. For a long time I have been interested in social work in the city. There are many points about which we find ourselves in difficulties from time to time and we have no authority to deal with them. I believe it is the intention to cover these matters now.

Section 29 deals with the appropriation of property. I do not know what is in the Parliamentary Secretary's mind on that particular point, but it would seem to me that the section is giving power to the local authority to appropriate the property of a poor person who might, for instance, come into the Dublin Board of Assistance, into one of the hospitals under the Dublin Board of Assistance, with savings, which might amount to a considerable sum. I have in mind the money that some poor people would put on one side for burial purposes. It would strike me, according to the Bill, as it is drafted, that that money could be appropriated under the Bill, and I do not think that that ought to be the case. I quite admit that, in many respects, it may be necessary for a board of assistance or a local authority to try to recover moneys which might be spent for maintenance or otherwise, but there are cases of that kind, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider that point, because my attention has been drawn to it.

Now, with regard to Section 48— assistance of defective children—I would like to endorse what has been said by some of the previous speakers, and that is that, in view of the fact that, according to the Parliamentary Secretary, other Bills are to be introduced in connection with this matter— referred to in this explanatory memorandum that has been circulated to the House—it is not giving the House the opportunity, of which, I think, the Parliamentary Secretary ought to avail in connection with this Bill, which is very important to all of us, to deal with the matter properly. In that connection, I would suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary ought to consider seriously the suggestion that has been made of postponing the Committee Stage of this Bill until such time as we would have all these other Bills before us, to be considered in relation to one another. My reason for saying that is that I do not think this is the correct course for the Parliamentary Secretary to take. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary when he makes up his mind to introduce a Bill, ought to take the House fully into his confidence, and he should not introduce such important matters as this in a piece-meal manner, because I think that in a Bill of this kind, which is a very important Bill, he will find that the House will be quite willing to help him so long as the House knows what he intends to do with regard to these various other Bills.

Again, with regard to Section 48, I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to see that that particular section should apply to the County Borough and County of Dublin so as to enable the Dublin Board of Assistance to send defective children, other than inmates of the workhouses, to suitable institutions, and also to make provision for the sending of adults to suitable institutions. Perhaps I should have said at the beginning that good progress has been made from time to time under the various regulations and Acts that have been introduced and that are going to be repealed by this Bill; but I should like to say that, with regard to the particular case to which I have referred, we have, at the moment, I think, roughly, between 80 and 100 inmates of the mentally deficient or epileptic type, and we are not able to deal with them in the manner in which we should like. We are very anxious that the law should give us the opportunity to deal with such cases in a proper way and have them sent to suitable institutions, and I would ask the Minister to deal particularly with this matter in the Bill, even if he were to do nothing else. There are over 20 of the sections of the Bill which we would like to see applied to Dublin, but if the Parliamentary Secretary would sanction the inclusion of that particular section so as to give the Dublin Board of Assistance, and probably other boards in the County Dublin, an opportunity to deal with these particular cases, of the kind to which I have referred, I think it would be very satisfactory.

Now, I should like to refer to Section 17, which has to do with persons eligible for public assistance. Perhaps I should have referred to it earlier. Deputy Norton has referred to this matter, about the payment either in kind or in cash. Having had experience of both systems, I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary ought to consider the point of view of leaving some discretion with the local officer as to whether such payments should be made either in kind or in cash. I think it is quite obvious that there are cases-and I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary, if he thinks it over, will realise it—in which you could make the payment in cash with a certain amount of satisfaction, whereas you could not make the payment in kind with anything like the same amount of satisfaction and, vice versa, in other cases, payment in kind may not suit every applicant because the circumstances may be quite different.

I said a moment ago that there are well over 20 sections in this Bill which could be applied easily to the City of Dublin, and for that reason I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to try to take the House into his confidence and, when he is dealing with this whole matter, to give us the opportunity of seeing how far the three Bills, which he proposes to introduce, will be in keeping with the one now before the House. I think that if he does that he will go a long way to bring about a very important piece of legislation. It will be of considerable assistance to the House if an opportunity is given to the House to discuss this whole matter in all its lights; but I do say that now, coming towards the end of the session, this is hardly going to get the proper consideration from the House that such an important piece of legislation merits, when it is introduced in the manner in which it is now being introduced.

I should like to agree with the last speaker with regard to his remarks to the effect that the Parliamentary Secretary, in introducing this Bill, is not giving the House a clear idea of what are the broad outlines of the reforms that are intended to be introduced. It is absolutely impossible for any Deputy, studying either the Bill or even the explanatory memorandum, to get a clear grasp of what is intended to be achieved. The chief objection that I would be inclined to make to this Bill is that it has been introduced either two or three months too soon or eight or nine years too late. We have had the statement made that the Bill was drafted eight or nine years ago; but yet it has been held up for that long period, and the Parliamentary Secretary's Department, seemingly, has not been able to devise anything to improve upon it. Now, in the last seven or eight years, vast sums have been spent on hospitalisation throughout the country, and this Bill makes provision for reorganising assistance areas and, perhaps, joining together two or three counties for the purpose of providing hospital institutions. It seems to me that a very serious mistake has been made in not introducing this measure at an earlier date, or before such vast sums of money had been expended on hospitals which, at a later date, may become absolutely superfluous. For that reason, I think that the Parliamentary Secretary, having delayed so long, should have deferred, in fairness to the House, the introduction of this measure until a complete scheme of local government reform had been devised.

There are various objections to certain sections of this Bill, but the principal objection that I find to it is that it does not deal with the relief of poverty at all. Now, the first and most elementary step towards the relief of poverty would be the provision of work for those who are destitute; and yet, in this measure, I think there is no provision in that respect except that public assistance authorities, as Deputy Norton has pointed out, may send those in receipt of public assistance to whitewash the local institutions or do minor works of that kind. I do not suppose they are allowed to splash any whitewash upon the members of the boards of assistance or upon the officials or even upon the Minister, but it seems to me a very tinkering method of dealing with the problem. To my mind, there should be no need for public assistance for any section of the community except the aged and infirm and children. There should be no need for public assistance for any other section of the community. Yet we find a Bill now being introduced to provide public assistance.

We have been told that obnoxious terms have been completely discarded but I think the Title of this Bill is a rather obnoxious one. At the present time there are altogether too many people forced or encouraged to depend upon public assistance of one kind or another. Until such people are encouraged to depend upon employment there will never be any satisfactory reform in the social conditions of this country. As I have said, there are certain sections of the community who are entitled to the fullest possible measure of State assistance—the infirm, the aged and children. With regard to the infirm, attention has been drawn to a section which, I think, compels persons in receipt of assistance to enter certain State institutions. If the object of that section is to compel people suffering from various infectious diseases to enter the institutions provided for them I think it is very desirable and that it is about time effective measures were adopted to compel people suffering from infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis or anything of that nature, to take advantage of the institutions provided for them. If, however, it is intended to compel people who are not infirm but who may be destitute through unemployment, to enter what is known as the county home, it is a very obnoxious provision.

Reference has been made to the fact that it is a great reform that obnoxious terms have been discarded, that we have changed the old workhouse or union to the county home. I do not consider that that is any far-reaching reform so long as the nature of the institutions remains the same. So long as miscellaneous sections of the community are herded together in those institutions, I think the system is altogether wrong. I think the Bill will be doing some good if it enables the Minister to reform that system, if it enables the Minister to separate the various types of people who are at present committed to the county homes and have them treated in institutions specially designed to give them the most effective treatment.

Decent people who have worked all their lives and who have been in the habit of earning their living cannot be expected to go into an institution, no matter by what name it is called, so long as that institution is also open to other sections of the community. For that reason, I think the county homes, if they are to be continued at all, must be confined exclusively to one section of the community, that is the aged and infirm. Other institutions must be provided for the various other types of people who are treated in those county homes. It should be possible to provide other institutions. I think this Bill will help to make that possible by enabling various counties to be amalgamated for that purpose. Therefore, while I agree that the House is not being treated fairly in not having all the Minister's plans put before us, I think no Deputy would be inclined to vote against the Bill.

I wish to make very brief reference to Section 46. I regret to say that there is an unfortunate omission from this section, inasmuch as there does not appear to be any attempt made to bring pressure to bear on local authorities to use rural homes and so forth for the boarding out of children rather than institutions. There is a very unfortunate tendency amongst local authorities to place children in institutions rather than in suitable homes. I have given the matter considerable attention, and I am sorry to say I am forced to the conclusion that the people who are responsible for the placing of these children are concerned more with the interests of the institution and keeping up the numbers of children in these institutions rather than with the actual welfare of the children themselves. It should be emphasised, in connection with this matter, that the cost to the ratepayers in regard to the institutional housing of those children is considerably more than the cost of placing the children in homes.

I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give this matter very careful attention, because I can assure him that in connection with the Dublin Board of Assistance and the Pelletstown Institution the children are being placed from that home in various other institutions of a similar type throughout the country, even though there are applications from hundreds of homes throughout the country which I would consider suitable for those children. I sincerely hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will look into this small point.

I wish to deal briefly with a few small matters in connection with this Bill. In the first instance, I consider that all able-bodied persons should be fully provided for under the Unemployment Assistance Acts. With those Acts in operation and with whatever improvements may be effected in them, I do not think able-bodied persons should be eligible for home assistance. I also think that the National Health Insurance Acts should provide for all benefits for employed persons without throwing them on the rates.

There is one particular matter contained in this Bill that amazes me. Under Section 7, power is taken to divide the area to which the Act applies into public assistance districts. Since the amalgamation scheme was brought in, six rural districts have been amalgamated with Cork City. That is an amazing position, when Dublin City is an area in itself for the purpose of home assistance. Waterford City, I understand, is also a separate area for the purpose of home assistance. The position in Cork is that although the rural areas subscribe two-thirds of the total amount subscribed, the city spends two-thirds of the total amount and the county obtains only one-third. That is, one-third of the total money is spent on the people in the six rural districts; and Cork City, which subscribed only one-third, spends two-thirds of the total money in Cork City area. That is an injustice that, in my opinion, should be remedied under this Act.

There is ample opportunity there, in Sections 7, 8 and 10. I think Section 8 should be amended to enable the Minister to remedy that injustice in this Bill. I see no reason whatever why an injustice like that—which has been repeatedly pointed out over a number of years, has been repeatedly protested against by complaint to the board of assistance concerned—should be allowed to continue when the Department and the Minister come in with a new Bill. The opportunity is there now, and in my opinion the injustice should be remedied. If the Minister would be prepared to accept amendments, I am prepared to draft them and send them in; otherwise, I would prefer he would introduce amendments himself. Sections 7, 8 and 10 should be changed so as to take that load off the backs of the rural people in those six rural districts in Cork—the load of having to pay two-thirds of the total rate and getting back only one-third, and Cork City paying one-third and getting two-thirds back in home assistance.

If there is any difficulty in connection with the ownership of hospitals that might easily be settled on a capitation basis. There is no reason whatever why unfortunate farmers and ratepayers of the county should be mulcted in order to provide for people in the city who are very well able to look after themselves. I would appeal to the Minister, now that he has this opportunity, to remedy that injustice to the people of Cork. If he would look back his files he will find at least 30 protests from the rural areas of South Cork—protests against that injustice—covering a period of from ten to 12 years, ever since the city manager handed over the reins of the South Cork Board of Assistance to the Joint Committee. Ever since, protests have been sent in yearly and regularly, and the matter has been raised here in this House on at least two or three occasions before. I think the Minister should remedy it now.

As this Bill does not seriously interfere with or propose to change the present law very much, I had not intended to speak; but I think the statement just made by Deputy Corry is very serious, in so far as able-bodied men are concerned. He has just suggested to the Minister that he should take some powers to prevent able-bodied men from being eligible to draw home assistance. I am surprised that Deputy Corry should make such a suggestion, especially when I understand that he is a member of the county board of health or of the county council in Cork. Deputy Corry ought to know that there are certain periods in the year when men are off the unemployment assistance and they have, of necessity, to go to the county health boards in order to get home help to tide them over that period. I am sure he is familiar with the situation in districts where certain people, with evil intentions, send anonymous letters to labour exchanges indicating that certain persons have a certain income or are doing work. Immediately on receipt of a letter of that kind, invariably the recipient of unemployment assistance is cut off from the labour exchange.

On anonymous letters?

Yes; and he must, of necessity, go to the county health board in order to receive assistance. In cases of that kind three or four weeks—and in some cases a longer period—is needed for investigation, and their only source of succour would be to go to the county health board. I am sure Deputy Corry was not aware of cases of that kind or he would not have attempted to suggest what he has just suggested.

I quite agree with him that the Unemployment Assistance Act should be in such a degree of operation now that it should not be necessary for any able-bodied man to seek home assistance but, unfortunately, the machinery is not as perfect as Deputy Corry visualised. I would ask the Minister to be very careful in what he does in this matter.

In some cases, also, it is necessary— and it has been done—that unemployment assistance be supplemented by home help. In some cases it is absolutely necessary because of the delicacy of children, or matters of that kind. If able-bodied men were declared ineligible as far as home assistance is concerned, it might prevent them getting milk under the tuberculosis scheme providing milk for delicate children. I do not suppose that the Deputy meant it in that way, but I am only trying to prevent the Minister doing something detrimental.

Deputy Kelly raised the question of the burial of poor persons, including their removal from hospitals to their homes. I would like to ask the Minister what is the position of a poor person who is an inmate of a mental institute. We have had cases in our county where very poor people died as patients in a mental hospital and whose people would have liked them brought home for burial in the family burial ground; but the mental hospital had no authority or power to pay the expenses of the removal of such persons. I submit to the Minister that when a person dies under these conditions—destitute, and their people destitute—there should be some provision to enable the committee of management of a mental hospital to pay for the removal of the remains of the person and for the funeral expenses, in the same way as would be permitted in the case of a county home or the county hospital.

I would like to refer to the point made by Deputy Norton when he drew attention to the phraseology used in Section 24, sub-section (2) which reads:

"Where a public assistance authority requires under this section a person to perform work, neither such requisition by such authority nor the performance of such work by such person shall operate to create or imply the relation of master and servant or a contract of service between such authority and such person."

That seems to me to be deliberately evading Section 5 of the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1934, which defines what a workman is; and prevents a man, when he is working for a public authority, from having either his National Health or his Unemployment card stamped. As Deputy Norton pointed out, under certain conditions that man might be called upon to do work, and during the course of that work he may be involved in an accident. In County Wexford about 15 years ago, there was a case of that kind where a man was employed by the county health board and in lieu of receiving home assistance he was called upon to do certain work, during the course of which he lost an eye. The case was brought to court, and eventually to the Supreme Court, but that man could get no satisfaction because of the operation of whatever Acts have been in operation up to now. Here it is laid down very explicitly that a man does not occupy the same position as a man does in regard to an ordinary employer, and I submit that that is very unfair. Here is a man who is offered employment because he applies for home assistance. He does certain work which we must assume is work which is required to be done by the local authority. If, in the course of that work, he meets with an accident which will prevent him from working any further, I submit that he ought to be insured in the ordinary way and that the Compensation Acts should apply in his case. A man of that type might meet with an accident which would prevent him from following any avocation afterwards, and, if he meets with such an accident, and is not entitled to compensation, it means that he is going to be something tantamount to a pauper all his life. That is not a very good term to use, I admit, but, unfortunately, a great many people will look upon him as a person of that kind. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to give careful consideration to the couple of points I have raised before Committee Stage.

I think we are all in agreement that a codification of the existing law is very necessary, but we are not too sure that the provisions in this Bill should be made the law before the other Bills which have been promised come before the House, so that we may know exactly what amendments of the existing local government law are proposed. There is no possibility of knowing what the local government law is likely to be in the future, until we have the other Bills before us, and I agree with other Deputies who have suggested that the Parliamentary Secretary should postpone this Bill until the other Bills have been circulated. There are certain new provisions in this Bill which visualise a county manager system and, in that respect, I think there is one weakness at the very beginning. Public assistance committees will go out of existence when the county manager system comes into operation and the county council will then be the public assistance body. The Parliamentary Secretary, in his opening remarks, said that it is also provided in the Bill that if a county council cannot administer public assistance, they are empowered to call on persons outside to do so. I think that is an admission that the county manager system is not going to be the right system, because if that body, the county council or whatever other body it may be, is not capable of administering public assistance the system breaks down there and then, because if you call in outside persons, they will act without any responsibility. That is one serious defect in this Bill and it should not be allowed to pass. While you may get very admirable persons to act on local committees, when they have no responsibility for the raising of rates, they act without responsibility in a great many cases.

Another provision with which I do not agree is that which allows the making of grants to charitable bodies. We know what happened under the Public Charitable Hospitals (Sweepstakes) Acts—when the sweepstakes became available for the voluntary hospitals, charity became dried up. I am afraid that if these very admirable bodies, which are doing great work all over the country at present—the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other societies—find that they can get large grants from public authorities, their work will mainly depend, in the end, on what they can get from public authorities. I think that is the tendency all over and if the public get to know what they are contributing in another way, they will not contribute as much in charity as they did. I think it is not a sound principle and that it should be changed on Committee Stage.

As I said in the beginning, this Bill depends on the bringing into operation of the managerial system and I believe that we will also want a Public Health Bill—we cannot get on without it—and I think we ought to have all the proposals before us before we can make up our minds as to whether it will be a good system for the country or not. I will go further and say that it is a pity, when the local government law is being amended at all, that the Government did not go further and evolve something more in keeping with the times than this Bill. We have at present several authorities administering assistance to able-bodied men. We have the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Board of Works, the Local Government Department, and the Minister for Agriculture is already planning to provide similar assistance, so that almost every Department of the State will be providing assistance to able-bodied men in some form or other. I think that one authority, whatever it may be, should provide that assistance in the matter of giving work.

I do not at all object to the provision for the giving of assistance to able-bodied men in case of necessity. It is often very necessary but if you had one central authority providing work, assistance or whatever is necessary, it would solve the problem. There would then be no need for a Public Assistance Bill, or public assistance committees because all this work could be done under public health. Most of the home assistance given at present—and I think Deputy Corish will agree with me in this—is given to people who are infirm in some way and very little is given to able-bodied men. You would need no public assistance authority if you had one central authority dealing with the unemployed and giving assistance to them, whether in the shape of work or money. I think the Government should go further than they have gone in this Bill and devise a scheme whereby there would be a great saving in the matter of administration.

On the question of National Health Insurance, a certain amount of money paid by local authorities in home assistance at present goes to families which are getting a very small amount of National Health Insurance, and I think that all that should have been examined before this Bill was introduced. I believe the Parliamentary Secretary would be wise not to press this Bill through all its stages at present, until the Dáil has had an opportunity of understanding what local government law will be like when it is amended to the full extent to which it is proposed to amend it. There are other matters which can be dealt with more fully on Committee Stage, but I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to keep in mind the fact that the giving of the power to a committee of the county council, whether there are some members of the county council on it or not, to expend public money will be found not to be in the interests of anybody in the end, and, also, that the giving of grants to charitable bodies which are doing charitable work at present will be to the detriment of those bodies, in that it will dry up all charity, as it did in the case of the voluntary hospitals.

At the outset I wish to state that I think this codification of the various public assistance Acts into one Act is long overdue. I have heard the arguments put forward for and against the postponement of the present measure until other Bills are first introduced. As far as I can see, I do not gather what useful purpose can be served by that postponement. After all, this is only dealing with public assistance, and not dealing with the question of who is actually to be put in charge of the machinery in the different areas.

There is one point in this Bill to which I am personally very much opposed. That is interference with the able-bodied persons who at present may be entitled to public assistance. We have here words in Section 17 (1)— the words which set out that "a poor person who is unable to provide by his own industry or other lawful means the necessaries of life..." Now, in that connection when you come to the question of an able-bodied person I would like to draw the special attention of the Paliamentary Secretary to (2) of Section 17, which says that "a poor person who is unable to provide by his own industry or other lawful means the medical, surgical or dental treatment, or medicines, or medical, surgical or dental appliances necessary for himself and the persons whom he is liable under this Act to maintain shall be eligible for medical assistance."

That is all right as far as it goes. But we have in the rural areas a special type of people who form a very large section of the community, namely, the small farming type, that is the farmer who may have from ten to 20 acres of very indifferent land, people who in the dairying districts may carry from three to six or seven cows, sometimes more. A very awkward and serious problem confronts these people when they themselves or a member of their family get ill. In the circumstances in which the Poor Law service is at present administered, these people do not get a ticket for treatment under the Medical Charities Acts. They have to find some other means of trying to get hospital treatment for themselves or their families. Very often they cannot get it. In Cork the Cork County Council subsidises two charitable hospitals in the city to the extent of £750 annually to each hospital. These subsidies are meant to help to cater for the type of persons I have mentioned and for other persons who may be able to pay portion of their medical charges at the hospitals. But what is happening in practice is that the run of patients on these two hospitals exceeds the amount of subsidy four or five times. The beds available at these institutions are never without patients at certain periods of the year and very often these unfortunate people have to wait their turn for hospital treatment for considerable periods. In the meantime, you have the danger of the certain disease or ailment getting worse and worse. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary when this Bill comes before the House at a later stage to take his courage in his hands and make some provision for the type of patient I have mentioned. This is a problem with which we in the Cork County Council and local boards of health are faced every day. In practice, the present boards of assistance are not inclined to cater for people of that kind. Furthermore, the rules and regulations drawn up by certain boards of assistance are also acting as a hindrance to the getting of medical treatment for the type of person to whom I refer. I agree that these rules and regulations are drawn up with very worthy motives. It would be well if in this or in some other Bill, provisions were made for the smoother working of giving hospital and dental treatment to these persons. I submit to the Parliamentary Secretary that it is a very serious problem and I look upon it as one for which a remedy is long overdue. The people who really can pay for themselves do not need assistance from the local authority or from the Central Authority. The people who are clearly entitled to the benefits of the Medical Charities Acts are also pretty well catered for. But, unfortunately, the type of people whom I have mentioned seem to be nobody's children. Their lot in life is a hard one, especially as regards getting hospital or dental treatment when they meet with the ills and ailments from which people are likely to suffer. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider his views on that matter and try to make provision for the cases of the people that I have mentioned.

I propose to deal with the points made in the criticisms on the Bill largely in the order in which they have been raised in the House. All the Deputies seem to have one line of criticism in certain respects. We have had complaints from all sides of the House that the time is not opportune. As to why the time is not opportune nobody has made a convincing case. It seems to me that there has been some failure to grasp the purpose and intention of this Bill. Deputies who read the explanatory memorandum in connection with this Bill must have realised, if they read that document at all, that the public assistance legislation operating in this country at the present time is in an absolutely chaotic condition and that it is almost beyond the wit of man to determine what is the public assistance legal code in certain respects at the present time. Deputies ought to bear in mind in relation to this Bill that what it purports to achieve is a codification and co-ordination of the existing poor law code with very few new innovations or additions to the legal code as it stands. It is palpably true to say that this Bill cannot operate until certain consequential or collateral Bills are introduced or passed through the House, but surely it must be conceded that a beginning has to be made sometime, that the production of any one of the collateral measures, as we may call them for the purpose of debate, involves a considerable amount of the time of the technical staff, the legal officers and the draftsman's office and that we cannot come along and present to and conduct through this House three or four complicated measures at the same time. We must begin somewhere and we have begun here. The other Bills will follow as soon as it is possible to get them from the draftsman's office.

I need scarcely mention to Deputies who have been taking an intelligent interest in this Bill that it does not become operative until the appointed day. The Minister will fix the appointed day and the appointed day must be fixed in relation to, and in consideration of, the time when the other Bills will be submitted to this House and passed. If, by any chance, that contemplated legislation should be rejected by the House, it is clear that this Bill cannot become operative at all. I should like to make one other point. Strange to say, I did not anticipate that the discussion would take the line it has taken—that is to say, criticism because of the introduction of this Bill before the introduction of those other measures. I should like to make the point that, before this Bill can become operative, regulations— complicated, extensive regulations—requiring a tremendous amount of technical attention and involving difficulties of draftsmanship, will have to be drawn up. The Bill must be passed before we can even get down to that complicated question of drafting the necessary regulations arising out of it.

Deputy Norton, in discussing Section 17, seemed to have some doubt as to whether public assistance could be afforded in cash or in kind. I gathered from his remarks that he had come to the conclusion that, under the terms of Section 17, public assistance could be afforded only in kind—in the form of institutional treatment. I think that he slightly misunderstood the section. Perhaps, on a closer scrutiny of it, he will be satisfied that public assistance in general can be administered either in cash or in kind. Under existing regulations, there is a limit to the amount of public assistance that can be afforded in kind to able-bodied people but 50 per cent. of the assistance can be administered in kind or in cash. The Deputy seemed to have some anxiety, also, as to whether a poor person without dependents would be eligible, under Section 17, for public assistance. I do not think that there is anything in that point but I shall have the section further examined to ensure that the intention will be achieved. It is the intention of the Bill to ensure that a poor person, with or without dependents, will be entitled to relief.

On the question of the contract of service under Section 76, both Deputy Norton and Deputy Corish had a great deal to say. I must confess that they have advanced a strong case for further consideration of that particular aspect of the Bill. Between now and the Committee Stage, I shall avail of the first opportunity to go into that matter with a view to amending the law regarding the contract of master and servant unless there is some insurmountable difficulty which I cannot, at the moment, see.

Deputy Dillon said, amongst other things, that the time was past when we could content ourselves with sympathy for the poor. I do not think that even Deputy Dillon would contend that we are contenting ourselves with sympathy for the poor. When he says that the poor must be the first charge on our financial resources, I find myself in complete agreement with him, and I think members on this side of the House will be in full agreement with that sentiment. But we cannot completely remove destitution overnight. Insofar as our financial resources will permit, we are setting up the necessary machinery to work towards a satisfactory solution of that problem. I shall only say in relation to that particular line of criticism that it is very interesting and that, personally, I find myself in agreement with a great deal of it. The question of family allowances is one that has attractions and ought to be carefully examined. But it must be borne in mind that any increase in our social services will lead to increased expenditure and, when Deputies get up in this House and advocate extensions of our social services, they should not be too critical of us if we have to inflict additional taxation on our people to find the necessary money to finance those schemes. I shall not pursue that point further. At all events, Deputies ought to be logical and, if we are to have increased and extended social services, let us go to the public and say, "We have got to tax you to provide those increased social services which we consider desirable. It is not a Party matter. All Parties are agreed on it."

Of course, you could not save anything at all?

Nothing substantial. Deputy Dillon spoke of the desirability of co-ordinating our social services. I am sure the people in Monaghan will be staggered, if not alarmed, when I say that I find myself in agreement with Deputy Dillon on this point, too. They will wonder what is happening and they may think that I am in agreement with him on too many points. The Deputy will, however do something outlandish soon, which will give me an opportunity of disagreeing with him and recovering lost ground. By all means, co-ordinate social services as soon as it can be done. It would be a huge undertaking to co-ordinate all social services but, at all events, we are making a beginning by co-ordinating poor law services. That appears to be more pressing and more appropriate to the discussion of this Bill than the general question of the co-ordination of our social services.

Deputy O'Neill's principal anxiety in relation to the Bill arises out of the perpetuation of the existing machinery of administration of public assistance in Cork City and South Cork area. He would like to see some relief from the cost of public assistance, particularly as regards the rural part of that joint area. The Bill does not propose to afford any relief. Deputy Corry spoke on the same matter. All that I can say on that point is that it is a purely local matter. I am sure that I shall probably hear more from the Cork representatives but the position in Cork is the deliberate creation of the Cork people themselves. This joint scheme was submitted under the 1923 Act, approved of, and it has been since in operation. All this Bill is doing in relation to it is to perpetuate the existing condition of things.

It is time to end it.

It is a comparatively rare experience to get complete agreement in Cork and we are reluctant to break up the agreement that has been reached. It might be a long time before they would agree again on a new scheme. I would advise Deputy Corry in that regard to consult with the representatives of Cork City and to see if they are as enthusiastic about a remodelling of the scheme as the representatives of South Cork area.

People who get 8d. for 4d.

Deputy Kelly expressed some anxiety that, according to his interpretation of Section 23, it does not seem completely to cover the point he has in mind regarding the burial of destitute persons. I think the type of case Deputy Kelly had in mind was where a person who died in an institution within the jurisdiction of the public assistance authority had come in from an outside district.

Mr. Kelly

From the local district.

I thought that the section covered that point but I am not so sure on reconsideration that it does. I shall look into the matter, however, and, if it is not completely covered in the section, we shall deal with it on the Committee Stage.

Deputy Doyle is considerably concerned about the City of Dublin in relation to the Bill. As Deputy Doyle knows, this Bill does not affect the position of Dublin. Deputy Doyle says that it is a rather attractive Bill and that there are about 20 sections in it that he should like to have operated in the Dublin area. There are some sections, of course, that are more attractive to him than others but to give Dublin area the benefit of certain sections, without giving them the benefit of the whole Bill, is not just as simple as it appears, as Deputy Doyle fully understands. Public assistance as far as Dublin is concerned is administered under a special code under the terms and conditions of the Act of 1929 and the old phrasing has been maintained. While relief is described throughout this Bill as "public assistance," it is referred to in the 1929 Act as "outdoor relief,""workhouse relief" and other forms of relief. Although that may not seem a big point to Deputy Doyle, it does constitute a considerable difficulty in attempting to graft a particular section of the Bill on to the conditions obtaining in Dublin. Having heard from Deputy Doyle that there are some 20 sections of the Bill that are attractive and that he would like to see in operation in the area he represents, I should like to hear from him—I quite realise that he has not an opportunity of telling me now but perhaps he could convey it in some other way—what are the objectionable features of the Bill inasmuch as I would be favourably disposed towards considering the possibility of repealing the Act of 1929 and having this Bill applied to Dublin in the same way as it applies to the rest of the country. Personally I cannot see any fundamental objection to that line of action. I think it is quite a logical and proper approach to the position but Deputy Doyle might possibly be able to put forward some reason why that should not be done.

Deputy Doctor Hannigan, discussing Section 46, expressed a desire that children should be boarded out to a greater extent and that institutional care should be avoided as far as possible. With that sentiment I quite agree. I think it would be much more desirable, if suitable surroundings could be found, to board out these children so that something approaching normal home conditions could be provided for them. That is a matter, however, that will be dealt with by regulations arising under the Bill. It can be adequately and fully dealt with without amending the framework of the Bill in any way.

There seems to be a difference of opinion, even on this side of the House, on the question of the provision of machinery to afford public assistance for able-bodied men. That difference arises in Cork. Deputy Meaney disagrees strongly with Deputy Corry. This time I find myself in agreement with Deputy Meaney, so I hope that if Deputy Corry gets troublesome about the other contentious question Deputy Meaney will back me when we come to deal with that question. As Deputy Corish pointed out in relation to this question, there often is a long interregnum between an application for unemployment assistance and the actual receipt of the assistance. Various questions arise sometimes that cause a considerable delay in the determination of a claim and it is necessary that some machinery should be available to provide public assistance during that period. In certain areas, where the claimant to public assistance is the father of a large family, he has a big number of dependents and the amount of unemployment assistance may not be sufficient but, at any rate, the amount, if any, of public assistance to be awarded in such cases is a matter entirely within the discretion of the local authority. I do not think that in these matters local authorities are particularly irresponsible. I think they are conservative enough. I think it can be safely left in their hands to determine each case on its merits and to say whether or not, in the circumstances, an able-bodied man is or is not entitled to assistance.

Deputy Allen is disturbed at the thought that county councils may appoint committees to administer public assistance. Again, there is no compulsion on them to do that. If county councils appoint committees to administer public assistance, or to discharge any of their other functions under the Bill, they do that as a deliberate act to relieve themselves of a certain amount of work. It is very hard to please everybody, but if the Central Government were to take responsibility for determining and deciding these matters then we are accused of being dictators. We are told that it is not a democratic thing to do, and so on. When we say to the county councils: "Well, use your own judgment in this, you are the local people, you are living on the spot and ought know what is best", there is objection taken to that, too. At any rate, I do not think that the power that we are giving to the public assistance authorities under this particular heading is likely to be abused.

Deputy Allen also objects to grants to charitable organisations and societies. His experience of the effect of the Hospitals Sweeps in drying up charitable donations alarms him as to what may happen under the provisions of this Bill whereby a local authority can make certain money advances and make certain other provisions for charitable organisations to discharge certain functions in relation to the poor. Well, there is probably some foundation for that anxiety. But in so far as we have had any experience of the work of such charitable organisations—our experience is limited, unfortunately I would say—but in so far as we have had experience, it has been a very encouraging experience. Personally, I should like to see an extension of that charitable work. I do not think that the encouragement that will be given to it under this Bill will in any way curtail the activities of those organisations or dry up their resources. I do not anticipate that local authorities are going to be as generous as the Hospitals Trust Fund is to the voluntary hospitals or to the hospitals of the local authorities for that matter; but, at the same time, I do not think that the extent to which this power will be availed of by local authorities will in any way dry up their resources from charitably disposed people.

What about the pressure that will be brought to bear on them?

So far as we have had experience of it, I want to say again that it has given very satisfactory and encouraging results. We are prepared to extend the experiment. I think, from what I have heard from Deputies on every side of the House—that is if they expressed themselves here as I have heard them express themselves outside on this particular question—they would say: this is a very desirable step to take, and that if I indicated to the House that I had any intention of wavering on the matter I believe there would be protests from all sides of the House.

Deputy Meaney is not altogether satisfied with the definition of "a poor person" as set out in Section 17. In sub-section (1) of that section a poor person is defined as a person "who is unable to provide by his own industry or other lawful means the necessaries of life." Deputy Meaney did not indicate what improvement could be made on that definition. We, in the Local Government Department, would be quite prepared to accept any better definition if we could get it, but it seems to me that it is very comprehensive. A considerable amount of thought has been given to that, and we have not been able to find any better definition of "a poor person" for the purpose of this Bill at any rate. Deputy Meaney seems to think that a small farmer might be held not to be entitled to public assistance within that definition. I do not agree with his interpretation.

My experience has been that in about 70 per cent. of the cases they are, in practice, ruled out.

But if they are it is because of the interpretation given to the definition by the members of the local authority. Within the framework of that definition there is ample scope for the local authority to determine, regardless of the size of his farm, whether a particular person is, in all the circumstances, able to maintain himself and his dependents. If he is not, then he is entitled to relief.

I wish the local authorities acted on that.

The same line of argument applies to admission and treatment in an institution. Small farmers who are not completely destitute and are not ordinarily looked upon as destitute persons—people who may, in fact, be able to contribute part of the cost of their maintenance in an institution—may, within the framework of the Bill and under the regulations that will be made under it, be admitted to any public institution as a part-paying patient—a small farmer, an artisan or as a member of any other class in the community. I think that covers all the points made on the Bill.

May I put one or two points to the Parliamentary Secretary? In his reply he dealt with some of the remarks I made on the measure. My anxiety with regard to some of its provisions being applied to the County Borough of Dublin is not to be taken as implying that I wanted the whole Bill to be applied to the City of Dublin. I referred to the fact that over 20 sections in it are applicable to Dublin. I simply want to stress the point, which was also made by other Deputies, that I believe the House is anxious to help and facilitate the Minister in this matter so that we may have, if possible, a complete co-ordination of our social services. I suggested that the best way to deal with that would be to postpone the Committee Stage of this Bill until we had the three other Bills before us. The House will then be in a better position to approach this whole question of the co-ordination of our social services. That result cannot, I believe, be achieved by taking this legislation in a piecemeal fashion.

The matter that I want to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary is that, at the moment, the Dublin Board of Assistance have demands before them in relation to 100 unfortunate people that they are not able to deal with. If all the legislation that has been foreshadowed were before the House we could deal with all these cases in a comprehensive way. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the Committee Stage of the Bill be postponed until the autumn to enable that to be done.

Would the Deputy say if there are any sections in this Bill that he considers should not apply to the Dublin area.

I have not gone sufficiently into this to be able to say. We have had the Bill in our hands only for a week. As I have said, there are over 22 sections that will affect the Dublin Board of Assistance in its administration. What is to be the position if they are made applicable to Dublin. Going back on a point I made earlier, we have cripples and all kinds of people coming into the Dublin Union. We have to take them in and make paupers of them in order to be able to send them away to suitable institutions. We send them to Cabra and other institutions, but we cannot send them to homes for epileptics.

Yes, but that is not meeting the point. That is making a case for the application to the Dublin area of something that is in the Bill. What I should like to know is whether there is anything in the Bill that the Deputy would object to having applied to the Dublin area?

Not to my knowledge at the moment, having regard to the short time I had at my disposal in which to study the Bill.

On the question of extending the whole Bill to the Dublin area and having uniformity throughout the country——

I will go into the matter and let the Parliamentary Secretary know.

For the purpose of considering amendments, would the Parliamentary Secretary indicate whether, general assistance provided for, the Bill does in fact empower the committee of public assistance to grant that assistance in the form of cash payment?

Yes. As far as able-bodied persons are concerned, outside Dublin the public assistance authority can grant it half in cash and half in kind at present, and that is likely to be the position under the Bill.

What happens at the present time is that the board of health can grant and does in fact grant the entire relief in cash, and not in kind. In the Bill it is provided that the person who is not able to provide himself with the necessaries of life may get general assistance. Does general assistance mean the necessaries of life in the form of food, clothing, shelter and fuel, or does it include, for instance, the wherewithal to purchase those commodities?

The relief may be partly in cash and partly in kind.

Can it be entirely in cash?

It may be entirely in cash except in the case of able-bodied men.

What is the section in the Bill which provides that limitation?

I cannot refer the Deputy to the section at the moment, but at any rate it will be clarified in the regulations to be made under the Bill.

Do I understand then that, while the Bill provides that the committee of public assistance may grant general assistance, when you come to find out what general assistance is you have to wait for the regulations.

It may be in cash or in kind. I will go into the matter again, but I am told that the regulations may definitely define whether it should be cash, or how much should be in cash and how much in kind.

But that has not yet been decided

Question put and agreed to.

When will the Committee Stage be taken?

Would this day week be too soon?

Mr. Brennan

Next October.

This day fortnight then?

Is there any particular reason for having it before the session ends?

We want to get on to the other Bills.

There is an appointed day? It will not be brought into operation before October?

No, but a tremendous amount of regulations have to be drafted under this Bill, and we want to get on to the drafting of those regulations, so that on the appointed day we will be ready to operate the Bill.

There is nothing to prevent the drafting of the regulations.

We can hardly assume that the Bill will go through. We must wait until it has been passed.

Mr. Brennan

What is the purpose of the regulations at the moment? The Bill will not operate until its companions are passed?

The Deputy would not make the regulations until all the Bills were law and then spend another two years on them?

Mr. Brennan

I would not be in any hurry.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give us any idea as to how comprehensive the other three Bills will be——

We will not go into that at present.

——and the possibility of getting them to the same stage as this one before we go on to the Committee Stage?

Will the Government amendments be circulated early?

They will be circulated as soon as possible. We will give you every facility.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 20th June.