There is a definition in this section, and perhaps the Minister might tell us the precise purpose of it. I am not exactly referring to the meaning of the expression, but I want to know what is the purpose. It refers to an activity that is mentioned later in the Bill, in Section 55, that of a mines inspector; and it is defined here according to the Coal Mines Act, 1911. Now, taking the air defence of this country, what exactly does the Minister foresee, or possibly foresee, a mines inspector doing?
Committee on Finance. - Air-Raid Precautions Bill, 1939—Committee Stage.
Well, we have two coal mines open at the moment, and we may have another, and there are certain things here which a mines inspector could do in taking precautions for camouflage or for obscuration or blurring in connection with mines so as to prevent indicating where the mines are located. The inspector will be given certain powers of inspection with regard to these purposes.
Therefore, we are taking precautions against air raids and doing it seriously, and we are evidently assuming that, with their great strategical knowledge of military matters, the Germans, let us say, will devote a lot of time to bombarding from the air our coal mines in Leitrim and Castlecomer. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether any provision is being made for the inspection of our gold mines?
We might have to do so.
I see. We may take it that it would be quite as serious as the other proposition.
With regard to Section 6, the Minister here is defined as the Minister for Defence, and the Minister for Defence or a member of the Gárda Síochána are the people named in this section as the people to prosecute anyone for offences under the Act. I take it that an offence under the Act is failure to comply with any particular duties allocated to an individual under the Act. Now, the individuals working under the Act, in the main, are officers or officials of the Local Government Department, and we have, according to this section, the rather peculiar position of an officer or official appointed under one Minister, carrying out his duties, to an extent, under two Ministers, and being prosecuted by the Minister for Defence. I do not think that is correct. In other portions of this Bill certain action is taken by the Minister for Defence, after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, when it is a matter of dealing with local government officers. Here, I take it that this section applies, as far as it applies to officers and officials, to officers and officials of the Local Government Department, and I suggest that, at all events, it is improper, in such a case, that the prosecutions should be carried out by the Minister for Defence. The person who would have the most intimate knowledge of the position, and possibly the peculiar position, of such officers, is the Minister under whom they are working whole-time. It may be that certain duties are not carried out because other duties, more urgent in the eyes of the officer concerned, have to be done, and yet the Minister who knows least about it is the Minister to prosecute.
The Deputy will have noticed that, in the very sections where the Minister for Defence has power to proceed against, say, a local authority, he must do so only after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. It was precisely to guard against the dangers to which the Deputy has alluded that this particular safeguard was put in. You have also the position that, lest the Minister for Defence might interfere unduly or harshly in certain essential industries or public undertakings, or other undertakings declared to be essential, he could only do so after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I think that the danger to which the Deputy has alluded is covered already in the various sections which actually give the Minister power. This only designates the people who may prosecute—either a member of the Gárda Síochána or the Minister for Defence —but wherever the Minister has power over the local officials the thing is already safeguarded by his having to consult the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.
I am inclined to think that there is a considerable amount in what the Minister says in its general application to this Bill, because I take it that subsequent references to consultation between the Ministers, possibly, affect the whole Bill. The other point, however, in this very brief section is in connection with the Gárda Síochána. There is nothing in the Bill anywhere laid down that the Gárda Síochána will take action after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, and we may have a local policeman prosecuting, on his own, the secretary of a county council, or a county engineer, because, in the opinion of the local policeman the county engineer or some other county officer is not doing his work properly according to the views of the local policeman. Now, if the Minister is anxious to leave it stand that the person to be prosecuted is to be prosecuted by the Minister for Defence, surely, in all this work, the Minister concerned, through his Department, is sufficiently conversant with the work of the local official without making the local Civic Guard the prosecuting authority and the first judge, at all events, as to whether a local officer is doing his work properly or not. Supposing you were to apply that to any Civil Service Department —that action would be taken either by the responsible Minister or by any Civic Guard on the premises—it would be regarded as highly offensive and, in the long run, dangerous. Yet, that is to be applied to an allied service. I do not think that it is healthy in a Bill of this kind to have a section such as this. Nor do I think that the section would be weakened in the least bit by deleting the words "Gárda Síochána." The idea that we have reached the point now that a local authority will do its duty subject to giving satisfaction to a local policeman is certainly not the way to look for harmony and co-operation.
The only point is that it is difficult to foresee exactly what may happen in various sets of circumstances. I can see circumstances arising in which it would be practically impossible for the Minister for Defence, and the officials employed directly in the Department, to operate all the sections of this Bill. Take the question of gas masks which are distributed free to the people. It is an offence for the person who gets one to destroy it. That is a case where we would want the co-operation of the Guards to put that clause into effect. The Guards might be the agents of the Minister for Defence in operating that particular section. We would find the same thing in regard to other sections. It might be necessary for a Civic Guard to act on his own initiative. For instance, you have hundreds of factories down through the country. If an order had been issued that they were to obscure their lights, and if some local Guard found one of their lights glaring during a prohibited period, he should be in a position to step in and prosecute.
I was dealing with this in relation to the officials of local bodies. In its application to the general public, the Guards are the proper authorities to take action. But as the section stands, if the Bill were passed this week and if in the opinion of some officious local Guard the Offaly County Council should have their scheme up with the Minister, there is every right given in the section to that local Guard to prosecute the county secretary. He may be able to show in court that he had not got sufficient time to do that, but, nevertheless, he will be pulled into court by the local Guard. I think that a county secretary should be protected from that, and that local officials should be excluded from prosecution.
The wording is "may". It does not say "shall".
What about the Vaccination Acts? They say "may", but are operated as if it were "shall".
I suggest that when you are dealing with a particularly officious policeman there is no great difference between "may" and "shall". I have nothing against the Guards at all. They have more than enough to do without becoming the supervisors of the officers of local authorities. The Guards can be left the remainder of their duties within this Bill, but they ought to be excluded as one prosecuting authority when it comes to the case of local officers.
I agree with Deputy O'Higgins. So far as the general public are concerned, and the instances that were given by the Minister with regard to seeing that the regulations laid down are carried out so far as factories and buildings of that kind are concerned, it is certainly the duty of the Guards to help in the enforcement of this measure; but in so far as corporate bodies are concerned and their officers, it would be injudicious and inadvisable if the Guards had authority to do what they would be entitled to do under Sections 5 and 6 as they stand. Therefore, I think it would be unwise if Section 5 were left as it stands.
There is no amendment down at the moment.
Is the Minister prepared to consider an amendment?
We can consider it before the next stage and see what can be done. To tell the truth, I do not think there is any necessity for it.
If the Bill is to be taken seriously, then certainly in areas where it is considered a scheme is wanted, a comprehensive one will need to be prepared. Let us take it that the fire brigade will be one of the sub-sections operating within that scheme. The Gárda Síochána will also be operating with it. We may take it that the scheme will be on a kind of collateral basis, and that the Gárda Síochána will be a portion of it. The principal officer of the local authority concerned will be made responsible for the scheme, and for all these sub-sections, one of them, as I have said, being the Gárda Síochána. As the section stands, you would have this position: that a more or less subordinate body, from the point of view of the scheme, would be in a position to initiate a prosecution against the individual or individuals responsible for the working of the scheme. Surely the Minister must know that is wrong.
I take it that the section as it stands is designed to give power to a Guard to prosecute when he is told to prosecute on general or particular instructions. If that section were not there, and if the Minister for Defence, through the Minister for Justice, instructed a Civic Guard to prosecute in a certain type of case, or in a particular case, the lawyer appearing for the accused might, when the case came into court, get up and ask the Guard "where is your authority to prosecute?" This is put in in order to meet that. That does not say that in any particular case the Guard will prosecute or that the Minister will prosecute through his officials. If there are some sections in the Bill in respect of which Deputies think that prosecutions for offences should only be brought by the Minister for Defence, then we can put that right.
I notice from the Schedule that all the areas in it are on the east and south coast. I am not objecting to that. On the contrary, I am quite satisfied to leave the west out of it. I was just wondering what was in the Minister's mind.
First of all, they are the most populous centres, and they are taken as being the areas that would be the most likely to be hit in the various circumstances that we could foresee. You start at Dundalk and you go down around the east and south coast and up to Limerick. They are the bigger centres of population. Cobh is taken in although it is not a very large centre of population, but it is adjacent to a military encampment.
You have not taken in some very large centres of population, that is, in comparison to some that are included. You have left out Galway and Tralee.
We have taken in the principal harbours.
Would the Minister tell me why he selects the east and the south? Is there any idea of the raiding distance of planes at the back of the Minister's mind in making that selection? He has not taken in the ports—all of them—and he is not guided by the size of the cities or the towns. He has left out some towns; he has left out some ports, and he has left out some centres of population which are as large as those he has put in. What I should like to know is whether he has in mind the striking distance of the aeroplanes in connection with the selection of places on the east coast or on the south coast?
I do not want to be led away by Deputy O'Sullivan again.
The Minister never was.
The Deputy certainly tried to several times anyway. A couple of times I was foolish enough——
To give information?
——to follow him.
Do not give information to the House. The Lord preserve us from that.
We have taken into the Schedule already the bigger seaport towns in the country. If the Deputy thinks they should be added to, he has power to suggest that to the Minister, who can, by order, add to that Schedule. It is the best shot that we could make. We are taking the districts which we think are most vulnerable.
What I want to know is who does the Minister expect to do the real "shooting?" I hope it will not be quite as bad as the Minister's "shot."
Those things change from time to time. This Bill will go on longer——
Meanwhile we will "shoot" the money.
Spending the money is the only thing that matters.
We are not asking to spend money on this. This is purely a machinery Bill.
We are just passing it for amusement.
Just for fun. There is no money to be spent!
Would the Minister give us, in connection with this section, some reason why every county council is included?
We intend to give every county council some slight idea of the organisation of air raid precautions. That will entail a slight expenditure on their part. It may be a few pounds; it may be £100. We want to have in each county the nucleus of an organisation which could be extended rapidly if the necessity came about. It takes a long time to train people— particularly the key people—in their jobs. We want each county to have a few men who will be familiar with the problems involved, and who will be able to instruct others should it become necessary to do so. We do not want to extend to the ordinary county councils the schemes that are being put in operation in Dublin and the other scheduled towns, because we believe that under present circumstances it would be a waste of effort. We want to conserve their energy until such time as it is required. In order to make the best possible use of their energy when it is required, it is necessary that there should be a certain amount of local education. The county councils' scheme, as far as I can say at the moment, will be confined to doing something about the training of their officials. The Minister for Local Government, I understand, is going to bring in a Bill to compel local authorities to have the minimum fire fighting equipment in their counties. In some counties at the moment there is absolutely none. There are other problems in regard to which county councils might be able to assist. If it were considered necessary to evacuate children from, say, Dublin, they would be able to help us in getting places locally for the housing of those children.
The obvious thing, I suggest to the Minister, if he thinks there is any danger to any county—I will deal with the reasons he gave us for bringing in every county in a moment—is to have a provision like 10 (b). Only a certain number of urban areas have been brought in, and those have been brought in for a special purpose, because they particularly were not supposed to be immune from attack. If there is an attack, they are supposed to be the most likely places. Surely, the obvious thing would be to go to the trouble, if it is not too much trouble, of doing the same thing in regard to the counties—that is, to have power, by an order, to bring in such counties as the Minister thinks advisable. He says the only reason they are being brought in is for the purpose of educating a few local officials. But that is not so. They have to provide a scheme; they are bound by the Act to provide a scheme. Every county council is bound by the Act to provide a scheme. If they do not, they are liable to be disbanded. They must, of their own authority, provide a scheme. However, we can discuss that on Section 12. The scheme must be provided whether it is ever likely to be put into operation or not. I do not know what the Minister has in mind, beyond the education of a few local officials, for which the county council must pay. It seems to me that a small expense of that kind would have caused much less trouble if it were borne by the central authority. If the Government thinks it is necessary to educate a small number of local officials, surely the obvious way to do that is to take power to do it, and do it directly, instead of this extraordinary method of making every county in Ireland provide a scheme, on the assumption that it is likely to be attacked from the air. Whatever the Minister has in mind when he speaks of the nucleus of a scheme, they must provide a scheme. That is a demand of the Act. I say again that it is absolute waste. The obvious thing to do would be to take the places the Minister thinks would be subject to attack, and provide for them, and, if necessary, to have a provision like that in 10 (b) to schedule other areas. I do not know what good it will do to put burdens of this kind, so far as work is concerned, on local officials. Remember, it is for their own particular county they will have to provide a scheme. Therefore, such a matter as that mentioned by the Minister, namely, taking people out of the City of Dublin and putting them in the county, would not be a portion of the actual scheme of the county, as far as I see it.
I have here a more detailed note of what the county councils would be expected to do. You have the nucleus of a scheme of instruction for the public in regard to A.R.P., that is, I take it, that in each of the larger county centres a few people would be given instruction in A.R.P. work. There would be arrangements for dealing with casualties. It might be that the county councils would have to co-operate with, say, some of the larger towns in taking casualties or taking patients from places like Dublin. In regard to lighting, in a time of emergency—when this Bill would be put into effective operation—the lighting would have to be restricted even in non-vulnerable areas. For instance, if County Wicklow did not come within the full operation of an intensive scheme, the lights would have to be restricted in Wicklow town lest they might act as a guide to Wexford, Dublin, or some other town. Another thing the local county council will have to organise on some scale is the fire fighting service and the training of auxiliary firemen. I have already mentioned what they might be asked to do in connection with evacuation and perhaps in the supplying of vehicles for ambulances, etc. All told, it is anticipated that no county council will be asked to spend more than a couple of hundred pounds on this business at the present time. If, however, things change, they might be asked to spend more.
The unfortunate confusion that surrounds this Bill is the complete difference between the Bill itself and the statement now made by the Minister. If, on the Second Stage of the Bill, when attention was drawn in a fairly pronounced way to this particular section, we had got this statement from the Minister there would be considerably less confusion, but nevertheless there is an amount of confusion still left. The Minister tells us now that the only reason why a county council is specially named as an authority which must have a scheme is because it is considered desirable to get certain of their officers trained in A.R.P. work, to have fire-fighting appliances in that area, and the possibility of using that area for the reception of casualties from elsewhere. Would not the Minister agree with me that every one of these things would apply to places such as Galway as well as places such as Portlaoighise? Galway and other large urban and municipal areas are not mentioned in the Bill—they are to be left out of the Bill. Areas with a lesser population on the south and east coast are mentioned. But I come back to the point made by Deputy O'Sullivan. If all that is desired in the average county is to get people trained, surely it looks like going from here to St. Stephen's Green via Lucan the way the Minister is proceeding to get that amount of co-operation from a county. He wants to get a few officials trained. He wants to get fire-fighting appliances and, if necessary, facilities for the reception of casualties.
And lighting restriction.
In order to achieve that object, he makes it mandatory, under threat of prosecution and imprisonment or fine, that an A.R.P. scheme be made by every county council in Ireland. Assume that the officers take their work seriously and that they study and read handbooks on A.R.P., and they say to themselves: "It is not for us to decide whether this county is in danger or not; our job is to prepare a scheme," their scheme will be a modern, genuine A.R.P. scheme for the county according to the Bill. According to the Minister's statement, nothing of the kind is expected; in fact no scheme is expected for the average county—merely permission for certain officers to do certain courses. That, I take it, applies to areas not mentioned in the Bill at all, and half the excitement and opposition to the Bill arises out of the terms of the Bill. There is no differentiation in the Bill between, we will say, the Dublin County Council and the Leitrim County Council. The sections that apply to one will apply with equal force to the other.
That is covered in Section 12 (2). The Minister is empowered to make regulations and the scheme-making authority has to put up a scheme according to the regulations.
They have to have the scheme first.
An air raid precaution scheme prepared by it. Another matter dealt with in the sub-section is this. We might have, say, for the City of Dublin a thousand and one things which would have to be included in the scheme and for County Donegal or County Laoighis we might say to them in regard to these regulations: "All you have to scheme for is in regard to item 1, item 4 and item 6."
I suppose we had better take the two sections together?
The Committee might discuss Sections 11 and 12 together on the assumption that the discussion will not be resumed on Section 12.
We can do that. Let us take the nucleus scheme put forward by the Minister, which certainly is not indicated at all in the Bill. Look at the various things he mentioned. One was instruction of officials and public instructions. I suggest to the House that that would be much better done by the central authority and paid for by the central authority. The idea of saying that entirely inexperienced people like the officials of a county council should do this would strike anybody except the Minister as being absurd. Surely the obvious thing is to provide that instruction from headquarters—to provide that certain people attend that course of instruction, but not to throw on the county council that particular obligation. Take the various other items mentioned by the Minister. If the Minister looks at the matter from the point of view of the counties, I suggest that the various things mentioned will have to do with some other county rather than the one providing the scheme, namely, arrangements for casualties. If a county is not likely itself to be bombarded from the air, why should it be compelled to provide a scheme to deal with casualties coming from outside, to co-operate for the reception of patients from places, for instance, like Dublin, and, again, not the defence of the people in the county, but the accommodation of people from another county?
The fire fighting service is to be dealt with in another Bill and I suggest that we should wait until we see that Bill. There, again, the distinction comes in between the counties that are likely to be bombarded and those which are not. It is absurd in the case of counties to assume that they are all going to be bombarded. As the Minister may make a distinction in the case of towns, he ought to make it in connection with the counties so far as that is concerned. Then as to the providing of vehicles. Again that may be for the advantage of somebody from a place that is likely to be bombarded. That being so, why should any portion of the expense be borne by the county council? Most of the services, even the question of lighting mentioned by the Minister, have reference to some other place. Why, then, should the local authority, rather than the central authority, bear the burden, as it will have to bear it at least up to 30 per cent. and possibly more, and that, remember, both for the preliminary nucleus scheme and any subsequent expense that will have to be incurred by the county in the carrying out of the scheme? The most the Government will bear will be 70 per cent. On the Money Resolution, the Minister said that he would not promise to give 70 per cent.—that I could not assume that they would give up to 70 per cent. in every case. Therefore, at least, 30 per cent. will have to be borne by the county council, for something which I suggest ought to be done, and undoubtedly would be done much better by the central authority, or for something that is for the benefit of a place likely to be bombarded. I hold there is no justification for putting in that provision, that the proper thing to do would be to take power, as there is power taken in connection with urban centres in Section 10, that the Minister can schedule them when he thinks there is danger, and if he thinks it necessary that counties should help neighbouring counties, which is highly desirable, then there ought to be a provision that the whole scheme should be carried out and the expense borne by the central authority. Why it should be borne by a county that itself is not in any reasonable danger of attack I fail completely to see.
The Minister says that there will be different schemes and that it will be necessary for every county council to prepare a scheme. It is not under sub-section (2) of Section 12, but under sub-section (1) of Section 12 that must be put in. Where the Minister may allow concessions is in reference to certain demands he will make himself under sub-section (2). There is no power whatever to the Minister to allow any concession under sub-section (1). Is the procedure, therefore, to be that there is a scheme which the county councils must prepare under sub-section (1), whether the County of Dublin or the County of Leitrim, and that in addition to that, certain other things will have to be done by other places, namely, Dublin, Cork, etc., according to instructions provided by the Minister? I take it that is the scheme of the Bill. But a general scheme must be prepared by every county. I still fail to see any justification for saddling any county council that is in no danger of attack with any expense under the Bill.
The difficulty is that we are drafting a Bill here for A.R.P. for the country generally. In doing that, I do not think it would be right for us to assume that there is any portion of the country which will always be safe in any circumstances. The Department of Defence in putting down the schedule has indicated the districts which it thinks are more vulnerable and liable to attack. However, we are taking the precaution of providing that a rough scheme will be made in each county, with certain details filled in, so that every county will be able to play its part should the country be attacked and should the vulnerable areas be heavily hit. It is a question of co-operation of one district with another. There is no use in the City of Dublin taking the best possible A.R.P. and blacking out completely, if County Dublin, County Wicklow, County Meath, and other places like that, do not co-operate at least to the extent of blacking out the lights. A scheme of that kind would have to be done in detail by the county council. I contemplate, at any rate, that one thing each county council will have to do thoroughly and well for all the areas under its control is that there would be no public lights blazing if these lights were liable to serve as a guide for attack on other portions of the country. Everybody, of course, has his own idea as to what is most important in regard to this, but I look upon that as the most important part of the county councils scheme.
There is a second part of it, and that is in regard to fire-fighting. We are very badly equipped at the moment to deal with fires arising even in the normal way in various parts of the country. Everybody who has anything to do with a county council knows that there are practically no fire engines over a big portion of the country. We have only one military fire engine in Athlone, which has to serve almost 100 miles around. I think, therefore, that the county councils should address themselves to that problem and see how they can co-operate in having fire-fighting equipment, so that a fire which may start in a town or village can be put out and rendered less dangerous to neighbours. Those two things—the blacking out of lights and the question of fire-fighting appliances—are two of the particular things for which every county council will have to scheme. Apart from that, some of them will have to scheme for the reception of casualties and for the reception of people who may be evacuated. That is not going to cost a lot of money, but it is necessary that we should have legal power to ask the county councils for that, and that they should have the legal power to spend money in getting answers prepared for us.
As to the question of instruction to the public within the county council areas, that is not a costly business. We have at the moment a very big number of Civic Guards throughout the country who are giving A.R.P. instructions, and it will be necessary that the county councils should have power to spend money in seeing what might be done locally in regard to training people. I think that, even though a town is not scheduled, in any sizeable town in the country there should be at least a couple of dozen citizens who would get together and have a little school of their own, so that you will have in a town of 5,000 or 6,000 people and upwards the nucleus of an A.R.P. scheme. If the menace became more acute, and more towns in the country were considered vulnerable, the nucleus in these towns would be able to spread a knowledge of the precautions to take.
It is news to me that an A.R.P. scheme should contain in it provisions for the training of anybody. An A.R.P. scheme, as far as I understand it, means the work that will be done by a personnel previously trained, the duties that will be performed by a personnel previously trained. I accept it that that is the proper thing to be in a scheme and I merely make the remark that I have never seen it in any scheme yet. I have, like others, read quite a number of A.R.P. schemes as samples, but I never saw that that was one of the things that an A.R.P. scheme was designed to meet. I am still strongly of the opinion that, if the desire in the average county is to get people trained in A.R.P. work, the roundabout way to get at it is by insisting on every county, by law, having an A.R.P. scheme. If it is necessary to put out lights, as it was in this country and in other countries at different times, it is not necessary to have a county A.R.P. scheme. A Minister or the Executive Council could get power to order lights out all over at any given time. It is rather a roundabout way of putting out a lamp, if there has to be an A.R.P. scheme for the county before the lamp can be put out.
If the Minister is insisting that every county, no matter how remote from the danger zone, must have a scheme, the thing that strikes me is, who is the proper person to design the scheme? If the Bill is to be taken seriously, if there is even the possibility of real danger, then the proper person to design a scheme is the most competent person. We are not dealing with a continent; we are dealing with a little island, a little State that you could drive around in a day, and, if schemes are required, then those schemes should be prepared by any competent expert we have in the country. Those are very few in number. A.R.P. and aerial dangers are new to more than 99 per cent. of the people in this country, whether they are officers or officials. There may be a few people who can be regarded as experts in that particular work, and surely, if it is important at all it is sufficiently important to be done by experts. You have 26 counties divisible in the A.R.P. sense into three classes, first, the class that may be subjected to bombardment; second, the class that might; and third, the class that will not. What is really wanted is three, or at most, five schemes.
We have very fine officers, trained in one way or another for the last 17 years and, as the Minister told us, very many of them have been specially trained for some years in that class of work. Is it beyond the capacity of the Department of Defence to draft a scheme that would be suitable for Leitrim and similar counties and ask the local authorities there to implement it? If they cannot do it competently, there is nobody in Leitrim or similar counties that can. It all boils down to this, whether this is a Bill to be taken seriously by the Dáil or the country, or whether it is so much window-dressing, a Bill brought in in order to be in the fashion. Every continental country is doing something of this kind. Surely, if it is to be taken seriously, with all the study and time devoted to A.R.P. by experts in the Department of Defence, it would not take long to prepare a suitable scheme for every county and ask for co-operation, or have power to insist on co-operation?
If the Deputy will look at Section 13, he will see that it all boils down to this, that the Minister has power to prepare a scheme and submit it to the local authority.
It should not be our desire merely to make work for the sake of work, to make worry for the sake of worry.
I agree with the Deputy that if I were drafting the Bill, what he has indicated is what I would do— that the Minister should get a scheme prepared and submit it to the local authority to be put into operation. You have here two sections which result in exactly the same position. You have Section 12 saying that the scheme-making authority shall submit a scheme, and Section 13 setting out that the scheme must be finally as the Minister for Defence decides. It takes two sections to say what a nonlegal person would say in one. I think that what will actually happen is more or less along the lines set out by Deputy O'Higgins. Three or four draft schemes will be prepared, according to the vulnerability of a locality or the intensity of the aerial attack expected. There would be consultation with the local authorities and they would be asked to fill in the blanks in a scheme submitted by headquarters. We have no intention of saying to a county council engineer who has had no experience in this matter: "Give us your air raid precaution scheme."
That is what you are doing here.
If the Minister's statement, made rather late in the day, were made at the beginning, we would be probably at the last section by this time. I am perfectly prepared to accept what he said. If that were the understanding on this section from the beginning, it would have satisfied me.
If the Minister had experience of local authorities, he would not have come into the House in the way he did to-day. He now gives us the meaning of the section— what he now thinks it is, that he will submit a scheme and ask them to accept it. Why is that not stated here? Why is an officer of a local authority liable to be brought up by a Civic Guard if he does not bring in a scheme? Is it not obvious that what we are doing here is aping Britain? That is what we are doing. But we have no regard to the different situation that exists here as compared with Britain. If the Minister had set out that it shall be the duty of the local authorities to submit a scheme if requested, that would be reasonable, but the Minister has not done that. The officers of local authorities are obliged to do it, as otherwise they would be liable to be arrested under another section.
I am not at all impressed with the Bill. I am sure the Minister realises that if you ask a local authority, or any body of men like that, to do something which, on the face of it, appears ridiculous, the last thing you can expect is co-operation. Consider the whole country and if there are areas in which you expect certain things to happen and you insist on co-operation, that is quite reasonable and we will be all with you, prepared to help; but we do not want to put local authorities into the position that they can be penalised. After it is declared that they are subject to penalty under the law the Minister says: "I did not mean that at all; what I meant was that I was going to submit something and the local authority would fill in the blanks." Now, if that is the case, let us know where we are, withdraw the Bill altogether, and bring in something that is sensible and that we can understand.
I think that this whole thing, so far as it affects public officials, is very unwise. Everybody agrees that, if there is danger ahead, people should make preparations for it, but I am strongly of opinion that it is a mere waste of time and waste of public expenditure to ask the officials of public bodies to come up here to the City of Dublin or some other centre for a few weeks in order to undergo a short course of instructions in this whole matter of A.R.P. In an important question of this kind, you cannot leave out other factors which have to be taken into consideration, and one of the important factors in this case is the temper or character of the Irish people. Everybody knows that a man in uniform commands more attention and respect and can do far more in the matter of handling other people than a man in civilian clothes. Even a man in uniform outside a picture house can regulate the crowds much better than he could if he were not in uniform. In my opinion therefore, if the Minister proceeds with this scheme of A.R.P. on the lines laid down in the Bill, by asking public officials to perform these duties, the thing probably will turn out to be a joke.
In order to make the scheme effective you would want to have the military men down first to give the first lesson. As Deputy O'Higgins has stated, if the thing is going to be done well it should be done well at the beginning. If the thing is started badly at the beginning, it will be very hard to make it a success, even as time goes on. Apart from that, some of the officials who have been asked to come along are, in my opinion, indispensable for the carrying on of the particular work in which they are engaged at the moment. As I say, I am strongly of opinion that, in its initial stages, all this work in connection with A.R.P. should be done by men belonging to the Army—men trained in that work. As Deputy O'Higgins pointed out, this thing is new to us. Very few, even of the most experienced men in public bodies, know anything about air raids or precautions against air raids. I myself expressed those views at the urban council before this Bill was introduced, and I think it would be much wiser, instead of having these public officials first, to have members of the Army go around the country and hold conferences at different centres which the people as a whole, and not merely the officials, could attend.
Anybody who does not take cognisance of the differences of opinion that exist at the moment is living in a fool's paradise, and taking that into account one would like to make this thing a success, but if you start in a hole-and-corner way such as this Bill proposes, in my opinion, the whole thing will end in a fiasco. For that reason I think the Minister should give very serious consideration to the views that have been put forward here.
In reply to what Deputy Coburn said, I may say that when we started out to go into this whole question of air raid precautions and what were the best precautions to take in the event of air raids, the question at Army headquarters was whether we should send out available officers round the country or whether we should try to get people to come up from the country to a central school in Dublin, and it was decided that we would set up a central school or college in connection with air raid precautions, in Griffith Barracks, here in the City of Dublin, and invite people, such as Gárda officials, officials of local bodies, officers from various large companies and harbour authorities, and people of that kind, to come up there for their training. By concentrating the school here in Dublin we were able to do much more effective work than we would have been able to do by sending around our few available instructors through the country. We were able to turn hundreds of people out of Griffith Barracks, capable of giving instruction, whereas, if we had utilised our own men by sending them round the country, we would not have been able to train a dozen for the hundred we turned out of the central school.
While it is true to say that the average county council or city official in this country has at present no knowledge of A.R.P. precautions, it is also in fact true to say that with a little bit of training they are the best possible people to take charge of A.R.P. in their areas. Who, for instance, would be better fitted than the engineer of the City of Dublin to look after the lights of the city here and to say how best to carry out a scheme by which the lights could be dimmed or black-ended quickly and effectively? The same applies to the engineer of Dundalk. He knows better than anybody we could send from Dublin, how to blacken the lights of Dundalk quickly and effectively. That is naturally so, since he has been at the job all his life. The same applies to a lot of the other things that would require to be done. Take the case of the medical man. The medical officer has his medical knowledge and only has to add an extra slight percentage of knowledge with regard to gases, and the medical officers are fully equipped to deal with casualties from air raids.
When all is said and done, I think the local officials are the best people to operate this scheme. It is an extension of the various public health services, lighting services and so on, that exist at present, and where casualties come in, also an extension of the ordinary local public health services. I do not think any Minister is going to press unduly upon any of these local people and ask them to do something that is absolutely unnecessary.
Under this Bill the Minister for Defence has to lay the regulations on the Table of the House and if anybody has any doubt about anything he can raise the point here. If a resolution were tabled within a certain number of days condemning the regulations, well, then, these regulations would not have effect if the majority of the Dáil felt that way. I think it is better to leave the matter as it stands, and we will work it out. For a begining, the people who are in charge of this Bill in the Department of Defence will have quite sufficient to do to get schemes going in Dublin and the larger cities. At the moment, and for some time past, the officials in the Department of Defence have been co-operating and consulting with the local Corporation officials in the preparation of a scheme. And if the Bill were through it would be no time until that scheme would be published.
Everything the Minister has said has convinced me that there is no justification, in the Bill as it stands, for bringing in the county councils. It was difficult enough to take the thing seriously at any period, but to have it described as a kind of Public Health Amendment Bill was certainly pretty well to put the lid on it so far as the seriousness of the proposal is concerned. As I understand it, the actual plan is this: we will pay no attention to what is in the Bill, but what actually will occur is that we will follow the lines laid down by Deputy O'Higgins, namely, that the people who are experts and who can draw up schemes will draw up schemes. Well, then, why go through all this roundabout business? Why not start by saying that the Minister will have power to draw up schemes and that he is empowered to get from any county councillor or urban authority that he singles out, schedules, or prescribes by order, such co-operation as is necessary?
Having decided that you are going to do one thing, why bring in legislation of an entirely different kind, which is not what you are going to do? I could understand a Bill of this kind being introduced in a largely industrialised country or in a country that, being situated on the Continent, was in the midst of the actual fighting. But there should be some reference on the part of the Department responsible for the Bill to the actual conditions that prevail in the country. Let us take the things that the Minister himself referred to, and let anybody in this House ask himself, apart altogether from the Bill, what is the normal way of doing it—blacking out? What is the necessity of bringing in the county councils in order to ensure blacking out? Who will ensure that there is blacking out, or that if there is an order issued to that effect, a person who does not black out will be prosecuted? The Guards. Is it not obvious that the Minister has power to order a black out for the whole country or any portion of the country, because that is what it comes to? It is he who takes the initiative, not any local authority, to see that any private individual who refuses to black out is guilty of an offence and will be prosecuted. There is no necessity to bring in the county council.
Let us take the other thing which was referred to—fire-fighting. Again is there any necessity for a county council scheme? It may be desirable —and I understand the Minister for Local Government intends to bring in a Bill to deal with the matter—to have better fire-fighting apparatus apart altogether from the improbability of air raids in counties. Again, that has nothing to do essentially with this Bill. If that is to be provided for by the Minister for Local Government in a new Bill, there is no necessity to bring in an A.R.P. scheme to do it. I was rather surprised that the Department that was responsible for the carrying out of this Bill should refer to the fact that in, for instance, Athlone, there is no fire-fighting machine except the old military one. In one of the principal barracks our up-to-date Department of Defence, which is responsible for fire-fighting, depends on an old military machine! I never heard the Minister refer so derisively to anything than to that fire-fighting apparatus. No doubt the Minister is right, but he might be up to date himself in one of the principal things with which he is dealing in this Bill.
Take one of the other things referred to—instruction. Again that is better done by the people the Minister has trained. It is being done already throughout the country according to the Minister. I gathered from the Minister that before this Bill becomes law at all, excellent instruction is being given by the people trained in Dublin and by the Guards. Where is the necessity for saddling the county councils with the responsibility and the cost of that instruction? I quite agree with the Minister that it will be necessary for him to rely on co-operation from county councils, that the country must naturally stand together, but again there is no necessity for a scheme for each county to do that. Authority to the Minister to demand from the county council certain assistance or to pay a county council for doing something if it is to the advantage of a neighbouring county—that is reasonable, but why should a county council be asked to pay for assistance given beyond its own borders? Surely that should be a national charge? Everything said by the Minister is in absolute condemnation of the actual Bill that he is bringing in. It is a cumbersome Bill to assure the Minister's being able to do what he professes he wants to do. I cannot imagine a more cumbersome method of carrying out the programme that is being gradually revealed here. For that reason I think he should redraft the Bill completely. I know we are told that we can object to the regulations, but that is not what I am referring to. I am referring to the unnecessarily roundabout way in which a simple thing is being done. I think if the Minister made up his mind to try the most roundabout and, in the long run, the most inefficient method of carrying out what he now reveals to be in his mind, he could not have hit upon a better plan than he has adopted in this Bill.
I think if I had come in with a clause in the Bill saying that the Minister for Defence shall have power to draft a scheme, to send it down to the local authority and that the local authority would have to put it into operation, I would be accused of bullying like a dictator or perhaps of actually being one. The two clauses would have almost the same effect, but here they are put in language that will not offend the sensibilities of local authorities as much as if I had done what Deputy O'Sullivan suggests I should do. Perhaps if I had done what the Deputy suggests, he might be the first to object to it. As the Bill stands, the Minister for Defence has power to see that any schemes formulated by the county council will be up to date according to the best information at the Minister's disposal. That is the best thing we can do. If a scheme is made under Section 12, in accordance with the various instructions that are given in the school of A.R.P. and with the consultations that will naturally be held with local authority officials, under Section 13 that may be amended afterwards. In Section 13 the Minister for Local Government is mentioned because members of the Government were anxious that any schemes made by the Minister for Defence should be "vetted" by the Minister for Local Government to see that they were reasonable and that the Department of Defence was not getting overenthusiastic to a point where they might be asking county councils to do something that was not altogether reasonable. I think the scheme will work as it stands. It is a workable scheme. The three people concerned will put their heads together to prepare an effective scheme for A.R.P. at the cheapest possible price because the Minister for Local Government is particularly anxious to see that the burden on county councils is not raised unduly.
The three Ministers will knock their heads together and we are not to get any longer a Bill for the extension of public health services, but a Bill to safeguard the sensibilities of local authorities.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In sub-section (1), page 7, line 33, to delete the words "due to" and substitute the words "in the event of."
This is purely a drafting amendment.
Section 12, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Sections 13 and 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority to discharge such functions as may be imposed on them by or under this part of this Act or any A.R.P. scheme in force, and to ensure that officials of such local authority fulfil such functions as may be assigned to them by or under this part of this Act or any A.R.P. scheme in force.
(2) It shall be the duty of officials of local authorities to fulfil such functions as may be assigned to them by this part of this Act or any A.R.P. scheme in force.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In sub-section (1), page 8, line 44, to delete the word "officials" and substitute the words "officers and servants".
This is a drafting amendment.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In sub-section (2), page 8, line 47, to delete the word "officials" and substitute the words "officers and servants".
This is also a drafting amendment.
Would the Minister give us some picture of why these powers contained in Section 17 are required? It is very easy under one type of Bill or another to take powers to compulsorily acquire land or property. It is one of the things that should receive the very fullest consideration and that we should be particularly slow to do. There is far and away too much compulsory acquisition of property in this country under one Bill or another. The only property protected in this Bill from that type of raiding appears to be the property of Government Departments. I think the result of this Bill, on top of a number of other Bills, is that some day we will want a Bill, not to protect us from air-raids, but to protect us from Ministerial raids on property.
I would have grave objection to Sections 17, 18 and 19. They stand together, as a matter of fact. We have set out here under Section 15, that it shall be the duty of every local authority to discharge such functions as may be imposed on them. And, under Section 17, they may be obliged to purchase land for the purpose of A.R.P. Section 18 deals with compensation for that purchase, and Section 19 sets out that after the Minister may have, under Section 16, commanded a local authority to purchase certain lands for A.R.P. purposes, and having advanced, under Section 35, money to the extent not exceeding 70 per cent. for the purchase of that land for A.R.P. purposes, he may, under Section 19, compel the local authority to repay him back the 70 per cent. or whatever other amount they borrowed from him for the purpose of buying the land. That is the situation. That is what we have in the Bill. Does the Minister mean that or is there some other meaning to be attached to this? Does the Minister think it is fair to command a local authority, under Section 15, to purchase certain lands and advance them the money, for the purpose of A.R.P., and then, when the Minister thinks that the menace has passed, to demand back his money which he lent for the purpose and compel the local authority to carry the baby or own the white elephant? I would like to know is that the intention? Perhaps the Minister has something else at the back of his mind. Perhaps it is not what is in the Bill that is going to be operated. But that is what is in the Bill. Section 17 compels a local authority to purchase the land. Section 19 compels them later on, when the Minister feels the menace has passed, to repay back to the Minister the money which he lent them for the purpose of buying it out and they have got to carry the baby. Is that the intention?
Yes. That is there, in Section 19. The position of these three sections is, roughly: if it is the case that a local authority wants to purchase land for the purpose of A.R.P. for the erection of a hospital or air-raid shelter or for stores in connection with gas-masks or other purpose like that, they require to be in a position, if necessary, to take the land compulsorily. If they must take the land compulsorily there has to be some scheme of payment for it and the scheme of payment adopted in this case is the old scheme of compensation that has been in existence ever since the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919. The scheme of compensation in that is that. the Arbitration Board is set up; they take into consideration the value of the land and they pay the compensation. The Minister for Finance is keen that if a local authority has, at the end of a crisis, certain valuable land that is not going to be used for A.R.P. purposes but put to some valuable purpose, the State should get back its share; that if the local authority were going to sell it, the Minister for Finance should get back his share and I think the Minister has the power here to demand it back. But, if the local authority does not dispose of or make any other use of the land than for the purpose for which it borrowed the money, then the money could not be demanded back.
So, apparently, the operation of the Bill is going to be different. That is not set out in the Bill. As a matter of fact, the local authority must pay it back under Section 19. There is no way out of it.
When the purpose for which it has been acquired ceases.
Agreed, but not when the local authority turns it to some other purpose, as the Minister has just said.
If they found some other use for it.
The question of the local authority finding any other use for it does not arise in the Bill at all Suppose the Minister, under Section 15, commanded the local authority to purchase certain land for the purpose of the erection of huts, that he wanted to evacuate certain towns or industrial centres into that particular district, and a local authority had to put down at least 30 per cent. of the purchase money in the first instance, in order to relieve another district, and they had to carry all the administrative expenses after all that, and after the menace had cleared away the Minister could demand back his 70 per cent. before the found out that the local authority had any use whatever for that particular site. That is what the Bill contains.
Does the Minister not know that there has been land used for military purposes and that it is quite valueless afterwards for other purposes? That has happened, as the Minister knows.
I think the Minister would have to be reasonable. You have in Section 19 that the Minister may demand back on the cesser of the land being used for the purpose of A.R.P.
In his opinion.
"Where any land ... ceases in the opinion of the Minister to be required for such purposes, such local authority shall on demand pay to the Minister such sum (not exceeding the amount of the grant made by the Minister under Section 35...)"
The Minister will safeguard himself and the Minister for Finance but he will not safeguard the local authority.
I do not know what we could put in there unless it were an amendment to the effect that on the ground ceasing to be used for A.R.P. purposes it would be put up for auction and the proceeds of the auction would be split in the same proportion as the funds to purchase the property were originally put up. If they were originally 50-50 and the property originally cost £1,000, and the Minister for Finance had put up £500 and the local authority £500, if the land were sold for £200, the Minister would only get £100 from the local authority. Some scheme like that might be put into operation. I think it would be a reasonable amendment for anyone who wanted to put it in on the Report Stage that, when the property ceased to be used for A.R.P. purposes its then value should be distributed between the local authority and the State according to the proportion which the State's contribution bore to the local authority's share in the original purchase money.
If the Minister considers that that is a reasonable amendment, will he put it in?
I think it would not be necessary to put it in, but that that is how it should be carried out.
If that is so, why not put it in? Surely in a matter of this kind it would be reasonable to put in such an amendment, so that the local authority, having recouped its 30, 40 or even 50 per cent. of the cost— which throws a rather lurid light on the "not more than 70 per cent. of the cost" that the Minister has given —of the precautions, which were done possibly for the sake of some outside body, the rest would be handed up again to the Treasury. That would be a very resonable amendment for the Minister to put in in such a case, and seeing that it is reasonable I wonder why does he not put it in? Is it because he is so struck with the æsthetic qualities of this Bill that he does not like to disfigure it?
I really did not think that it was necessary. I think that would be a reasonable way to deal with it and I do not think that any authority would demand more than its proportionate share of the total result.
On Section 17 I would like to say that the Minister has not dealt with the point raised by Deputy O'Higgins as to the necessity for these extremely drastic powers. These are even more drastic than the ordinary powers, as far as I know, which have been taken in other Bills. Only twice before, in the case of the Housing Bill and in the case of the Bill in connection with the Poulaphouca scheme, was it necessary, because it was a matter of urgency. There is not, however, any possible excuse for drastic powers such as these, where the local authority may enter on land at seven days' notice and fix the compensation afterwards.
The only thing is, that we are preparing an A.R.P. scheme and if powers are ever wanted they will have to be used at very short notice. These powers are only given to the local authorities in connection with these A.R.P. schemes and are not for any other purpose. The local authorities may have powers for other purposes that I do not know of at the moment, but I think it is necessary to give them these in connection with A.R.P. If, for instance, they wanted to have an evacuation scheme or an extra hospital set up to deal with casualties and that they wanted to take land to put up a hospital it is reasonable that they should have powers to do so and to pay the compensation afterwards.
Does the Minister seriously suggest that the question of hospital accommodation can be left until only seven days' notice can be given to enable the land to be acquired? Surely one cannot build a hospital in another seven days. If a hospital is required for A.R.P. purposes, it must be planned well ahead of the emergency and, therefore, the question of giving seven days' notice does not arise.
A lot depends on the sort of hospital accommodation.
Like the old fire machines.
I think that this particular section should really receive a lot more sympathetic consideration. It is all very well for any of us to walk in here to Parliament and lay down that people living in their homes will be merely given 28 days' notice to get out. That is justified under the head of the necessity for hospital accommodation or for the evacuation of people out of a danger zone. Let us look at it squarely. A scheme is made out for the different counties and under this Bill certain premises will be designated. If those premises are designated that should be justified only on the grounds that those premises are going to be required. But, according to the Minister, we are going, in the average county, merely to frame the scheme on paper and then wait for the danger. If it is a hospital, the Minister is right in taking powers, but I do not agree that when the premises is a hotel or something of that nature it can be turned into a hospital as rapidly as the Minister appears to think. In fact, people would be in less danger if they were left in the danger zone than they might be by bringing them, if they were hospital patients, into a place which was never designed or remodelled so as to make a hospital out of it.
Land is one thing: we are accustomed to land being taken over according to any whim. If it is being done for other reasons I am inclined to think that we are justified in doing it when there is an element of danger. But occupied premises is quite another thing: when either the Minister or a local authority takes powers to put people out of possession—on merely giving them 28 days' notice—to evict people out of their homes, on the understanding that the question of compensation will be settled afterwards. Is the Minister aware of the fact that, in 99 cases out of 100, people who are turned out of their homes would want cash to find another home? There is no good in giving them that cash 12 months or two years after they have been rendered homeless. Credit is not so very high in this country that when a person is turned out of his home, possibly without credit, he is going to get another home without money. I do not believe that that particular clause referring to occupied property is required at all.
The element of danger, or the possibility of danger, in this country is very slight and, whereas all these very drastic powers and serious interference with the rights of property and with the rights of individuals are in many cases justifiable in certain countries where the danger is very real, the odds are against any real danger to this country. The odds are certainly long odds against it. The Minister is right to make provision, even against those long odds; but the same drastic provision that is required in certain countries which are inside the danger zone should not be required in this country. Marching in and taking property, marching in and taking houses, marching in and giving people 28 days' notice to get out—that certainly is not justified by any case the Minister has made or by any information we have from elsewhere. There are, unfortunately, only too many empty premises in this country without requiring powers to evict people from their homes.
Before this question is put to the House, I would like to say this. Deputy O'Higgins can blow hot and cold on this question of A.R.P. from time to time. He can say to-day that there is not much risk, when this question of taking steps to put ourselves in a state of preparedness is brought up; but, on another occasion, when we have not taken steps, the Deputy can paint a picture of the imminent danger we are in. Without saying anything about whether we are in imminent danger or not, I simply say this: that, as the Minister responsible for bringing in this Bill to prepare for any danger that should ever arise, if the danger should ever arise when we require A.R.P. it will be absolutely necessary that some such powers as are in these clauses 17, 18 and 19, be in the Bill.
Not necessarily Section 19, surely?
Section 17 anyway. It amounts to this that, if there is a position in which nobody's property or life is safe, are we going to allow some cross-grained individual, who wants to hold on to his own particular piece, to endanger the lives of his fellows? No local authority is going to use compulsory powers unless they are actually necessary. We all know that local authorities have compulsory powers in respect of the acquisition of land for certain purposes, and that they go to the utmost limit to avoid using them, and to obtain the lands by agreement. The Forestry Department has power to acquire land compulsorily, but I do not think they ever used the powers and, generally speaking, the tendency of local authorities and of Government Departments, even if they have compulsory powers, is to try to get land, or whatever facilities they require, by agreement. In a case of real danger, of real emergency, however, I think we should have the power to say to some recalcitrant person who does not want to co-operate with his neighbours in the general defence: "We have been bargaining with you for long enough. We are prepared to do what we can, but if you will not meet us squarely, you must get out."
I take it that when the Minister talks about a real danger, he is speaking of a war situation? I take it that he does not propose that these powers should be utilised in a perfectly peaceful set of conditions and that it is a war situation he is thinking of?
With regard to the giving of notice, yes. If notice can be given a long time ahead in peaceful conditions, it should be so given.
I wonder did the Minister ever read the Defence Forces Act? Surely he has ample powers there for the acquisition of either land or premises for as long as he requires them.
This refers to local authorities.
I know. In other words, you are giving more people liberty to seize. If the idea is to make provision for casualties etc. in national danger, there is an Act passed by this House 17 years ago that gives the Minister power, not to acquire, but to temporarily obtain the use of, land and premises and to compensate people for the use of them. That is a very different thing, in an emergency situation, from giving people authority to go in and acquire, and not just merely to utilise. In face of any A.R.P. scheme, inside the Department of Defence, there are ample powers to make provision within any building in the country, public or private, unoccupied or occupied, for the evacuation of people from a danger zone, or for the housing and treatment of casualties. If there was any reference made by the farmers of this Bill to the Defence Forces Act, I cannot see any justification for that section.
The point raised by Deputy O'Higgins opens up another question as to the difference between acquiring and having the use of. Is there any reason why the Minister should not take advantage of the Act already in existence and have the use of whatever lands he requires? Suppose a local authority, on directions from the Minister, is obliged to take certain lands, say, a field which is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of some man's family, or of some industry. When the local authority and the Minister are finished with it, that man has not got the right under this Bill to get it back. Under the existing Act, he would have that right. Does that not open up a new aspect altogether? If the Minister can get the use of lands or premises until he gives a declaration that the menace has passed, is it not sufficient for him? Why should local authorities be clothed with this right of land acquisition, when the Minister himself has the right to use land during whatever period he thinks it ought to be used in times of stress or danger.
I strongly advise the Minister to withdraw the section altogether. There are various objections to it. I raised an objection to a local authority having to pay for land although they never used it, and, apart from that, there is Deputy O'Higgins' point which is more important. If the Minister can get the use of land and premises during any danger, why cannot he use that power, and not acquire the land, because the people who require the land for their families, for some industry, or for some amenity purpose, cannot possibly get it back if the local authority gets it. I strongly recommend the Minister to think seriously over it before Report Stage and see whether he can operate the other Act instead of using this section to which there are so many objections.
Surely the whole question can be very simply met by withdrawing Sections 17, 18 and 19 and adding the word "land" to Section 21? That would give the Minister all the power he wants. It will not allow acquisition, but will mean that, when an emergency arises, the designated buildings and land can be made use of by a local authority for public air-raid shelters and "for carrying out any of the functions imposed on it by or under this Act". It seems to me that that section, with the addition of the word "land", will give a local authority anything it could possibly want, without having to go to the trouble of acquiring land or buildings.
I doubt that because Sections 20 and 21 deal with public air-raid shelters only.
Sub-section (1) (b) of Section 21 distinctly says:—
"... for use, in the event of attack, by such authority, in carrying out any of the functions imposed on it by or under this Part of this Act."
It that is not explicit enough. I do not know what is.
I will look into the matter, but I think it is necessary to hold on to the powers we have in Section 17.
Section 18 agreed to?
Not agreed to, but I suppose we must accept it.
If the country puts up as good a resistance to air-raid attacks as the Minister puts up to reason, we will be perfectly safe.
I would like to hear the Minister's views on Section 21. As far as I see the position it is this: we pass this Bill this week; within the next month or two the scheme-making authorities will be at work. No matter who prepares the scheme, the scheme in many places will contain provisions for extra casualties, whether from that area or from another area outside. This particular section states that any suitable premises may be designated premises, with the approval of the Minister. It states that a notice is stuck up in those premises to the effect that they are designated premises under the A.R.P. Act. Once that notice is struck up, no alterations, structural or otherwise, can take place in those premises. This Bill is introduced because at the moment we are preparing for war. Other countries did three years ago exactly what we are doing now. War may come in a month or two or it may not; it may not come for seven or eight years. In the meantime powerful political agitators are going to be making occasionally wild speeches. After every such speech is made the world is going to get an attack of nerves. Consequently, our designation notices will remain up because, apparently, distance does not seem to lighten the nerve attacks and we are going to get nerve attacks as well as anybody else. Designation notices will therefore remain up on large premises in every second parish in the country. The Minister can picture that state of affairs lasting not over a week or a month but over a period of a decade of years. The position will be that industry will be practically paralysed. Say that the authorities take a mansion. Home life will be seriously interfered with and inconvenience will be caused. There will be no development, no repairs, no alterations. If these powers are required, the public are certainly entitled to have a few words of explanation by the Minister. It is not good enough to have the section merely passed by calling a number. I rose with the intention of getting the Minister's observations on the necessity for the duration of the designation notices. According to these subsections, the duration is unlimited.
As far as we can see, at the moment at any rate, and for some time to come, it will be necessary for the people of some of our larger towns and cities to provide themselves with public shelters to be used in the event of air raids. If the local authority designates certain premises for use by the general public, as apart from the people within the building itself, and if they put those premises into a proper state of repair, then I do not think these premises should be interfered with without the permission of the local authority. Take for instance certain buildings in the centre of Dublin where there are very big numbers of people congregating at various times of the day. It is essential that there should be some shelter convenient to the place where the people congregate in large numbers so that these people could take cover within a few minutes. It may be that there are only a few buildings in the district which are particularly suitable as air raid shelters. It is not every building which you can use as an air raid shelter. It is only particularly strong buildings which can be so used. These buildings are splinter-proof at the moment and they can be made gas proof at a very reasonable cost. Exits and entrances can be made from and into them. If that is done I think the building should be kept in that condition until the world situation clears up. If the world situation clears up it will be quite a simple business for the Minister to introduce an amendment to withdraw these designation notices and put the scheme out of operation. If the Minister cannot do that without a new Act of Parliament, it will be easy for him to go before the Dáil and put the whole scheme into cold storage altogether. But looking ahead as far as we can see I think it is wise to take precautions that any buildings that are required for public shelters should remain in that state for some time to come. There should be no interference under our clause here. With the permission to compensate the owners of these buildings, I think we are doing no real injustice to the men who own them. We may be inconveniencing them somewhat but public safety sometimes has to take precedence over inconveniences to one or two individuals.
I can see a certain point in what the Minister says with regard to premises which have been converted into air-raid shelters or made suitable as air-raid shelters. In other words, the Minister or the local authority steps in and spends a lot of money on certain suitable, selected premises, say, in the City of Dublin, to convert them or make them suitable as air-raid shelters. I can quite see reasonable grounds for prohibiting the owners of these premises from reconstruction, or any work that would take from their utility in the direction in which the money had been spent. But it is not to that point that this section refers. This section refers to any premises which can be made suitable as a public air raid shelter, or any premises "for use in the event of attack, by such authority, in carrying out any of the functions imposed on it by or under this Part of this Act." The Minister, in his remarks when applying them to the whole section, made use of a very limited portion of the section. This section applies to any place which may be useful for the evacuation of people from a danger zone, or for utilisation as a temporary hospital for casualties. In other words, premises on which the State or the local authority might not have spent one halfpenny in advance. That is a very much wider field than the case made by the Minister covers. If we are to pass this Bill, then we are entitled to a straightforward account of the meaning of each section. The account given by the Minister of this particular section, whether intentional or otherwise, was definitely misleading. Deputies should not be asked to support interference with the rights of property unless they are made fully aware of the circumstances and facts. I would like the Minister would apply his argument to other cases than air raid shelters.
When speaking on this section air-raid shelters were most in my mind. You have public air-raid shelters. That is the principal purpose for which the premises should be designated or would be designated. Take the case of fire stations or first-aid stations. Normally, it would not be necessary to take over premises for these purposes during a peaceful period but it might be necessary, in a period of emergency, that a shed or a garage which had been picked out to serve as a fire-station or a first-aid station should not be altered so as to render it useless for the purpose for which it was designated. Take Rathmines district, for instance. There is a fire-station at Rathmines but quite a number of smaller pieces of fire-fighting machinery might be necessary and it might be desirable to designate a garage or shed as a fire-fighting station. The same might apply in the case of first-aid posts or decontamination depots. This provision will be operated by the local authorities and they will not be unduly harsh on people in their districts.
If this section applied to premises on which the State or the local authority had expended or were expending money, there would be reason in it, but, seeing that it applies to premises on which the State or the local authority is spending no money and which it may never require, it is a serious interference with people.
Under Section 22, there is a right of appeal to the Minister. This section gives power to the local authority to act but under Section 22 there is a right of appeal where premises are designated and the person concerned considers himself aggrieved.
There is a right of appeal to the Minister but the Minister is making a case which would afford no prospect of success in an appeal. If war was certain in three or four months, a lot of this would be in reason but I picture a situation in which we may be all the time expecting war for nine or ten years. To say that the biggest and strongest premises —I presume these are the type which would be selected—cannot have any alterations made for the next ten years because they might be required for some purpose under this Bill, is, to say the least, unreasonable. Again, we seem to be overlooking the fact that, in a state of war or emergency, the Minister's Department has power to utilise any premises it requires. That, has, I think, been completely overlooked.
So long as we are living in a democratic country and have democratic institutions, if the people are pressed unduly, the country will hear all about it. I think it can be left at that.
We may not be living in a democratic country. The Minister is leaning on the elected local authority to do these things. If he had been sitting in this House on a certain occasion recently, he would have heard one of his colleagues outline provisions for the appointment of managers instead of these local authorities.
That is what I was going to remind the Minister about.
There is an appeal to the Minister.
That is the supreme reason.
Would the Minister consider, between now and Report Stage, the insertion of a reasonable time limit? What I want to guard against is having a designation-notice stuck on premises for the next ten years. If this particular section had a life of only two years and had then to be renewed by special legislation, it would, at least, modify it. If a place like Guinness's happened to be designated, it would be a terrible thing to think that no alterations could take place until such time as a war had come and had been fought to a finish, one way or the other.
I take it that if premises were designated and the owner made application for permission to alter or change them from the condition they were in at the time of designation, reasonable consideration would be given to his application. If any local authority or any Minister acted unreasonably in the matter, questions would be asked about it in the Dáil and the position would be ventilated. That would have its effect in inducing the Minister to meet the people whose premises were designated in a reasonable manner. I do not think that we can put in a time limit. I do not know whether or not the present state of world affairs will continue until there is a burst-up, but until there is a good prospect of permanent peace in Europe a Bill of this nature and powers of this character are necessary.
I take it that the general defence of the country is far more important than A.R.P. Yet the general defence of the country is dependent on an Act which has to be renewed every year—the Defence Forces Act. That has never caused any trouble to the Minister, the Army or the Department of Defence. It has been renewed automatically from year to year. If this Bill were renewable after a year or two years, and if conditions remained as they are at the moment, with friction in the air, the Minister would merely have to walk in here and get the Bill renewed in the course of a few minutes. The potential interference involved by this Bill is, to say the least, serious.
I shall consider whether we can provide that premises should be designated only for a period, and that, on the termination of that period, designation should lapse. If conditions still remained as they were at the time of designation, it would be necessary that the local authority should have power to re-designate them.
A resolution could be introduced here after the period.
I shall have to consider that question.
I think the word "the" is wanted before the word "Minister" in line 55.
Section amended accordingly.
On the section, the Minister, I am sure, will agree that local authorities have very important functions to fulfil with regard to public health, housing, etc. As the law stands, they cannot be dissolved except in cases where a certain procedure has been followed. In this Bill we are taking power to dissolve them without following that procedure: to dissolve them merely because, in the opinion of one Minister or two, they have not carried out certain duties assigned to them. Why are we discarding the machinery that up to this had to be employed before a local body could be dissolved? To quote the Minister, "We are a democratic country." This does not smell very strongly of democracy. I am afraid that we are going to become less democratic if this section goes through.
I do not know that it would be of any use to get into an argument about democracy. I think that democracy is being put in the position that it will have to safeguard itself from attack. Otherwise, some other form of organisation will have to be found that will be able to safeguard itself. There are all types of democratic institutions. You had the type when everybody had a say in the Parliament, a voice directly in the framing of the laws, up to the present system whereby we have an assembly of over 130 members to frame the laws under which we live. If a certain local authority objects and refuses to put into operation an air-raid precautions scheme, then it will be necessary for somebody in that area to carry out the scheme. If we were to proceed to supplant the local authority by the holding of an inquiry, Deputies know very well that it might take six months or a year to do so. An inquiry, I understand, was recently completed that went on for a couple of years. If we want an air-raid precautions scheme put into operation quickly, then we have to cut out that form of procedure. We have the alternative form set out in this section. The powers that we are taking in it are definitely restricted to failure to carry out an air-raid precautions scheme and not for any other type of offence that might be committed by a local authority. They are definitely restricted to the purposes of this measure.
If a local authority did not carry out certain other functions which it had been required to carry out, it might bias the mind of the Minister for Local Government so that in his view it might be held that the local authority had not carried out air-raid precautions work satisfactorily. Therefore, this legislation could be invoked to dissolve a local authority, and the customary procedure of a local inquiry would not be held because it was the view of the Minister for Local Government that certain air-raid precautions work had not been satisfactorily carried out. Could that not happen under the section?
The general public are there and would be in a position to judge.
We have now reached the position when we are told that the dissolution of a local authority will depend on public opinion. The further we go into this Bill—this section is an illustration of it—the more clearly we see the unwisdom of bringing in these local authorities at all to do work, except possibly in connection with a couple of cities, that could be much better done by the Department of Defence. The Minister is taking very drastic powers in this section. There may be, and there are, very grave reasons for dissolving a number of local authorities perhaps. For instance, county councils can be dissolved because they fail, through their officers, to draw up one of those absurd schemes which the Minister has in mind.
Apparently the local authorities are not to draw up those schemes now. The Minister is going to do it for them. But who is going to decide whether the local authority has failed in its duty? Not the Minister for Defence, the man who is responsible for the defence of the country. It is not on his shoulders to make any decision. The decision is to rest with a Minister who, whatever other excellent qualities he has, is not entrusted with the defence of the country—the Minister for Local Government. What means has he of knowing whether they have failed or not failed to carry out the actual duties imposed on them by this Bill?
How is the Minister for Local Government to satisfy himself? There is not to be an inquiry. There is no provision in the Bill compelling him to make any inquiry. Is the position to be that he is to be rung up by telephone by the Minister for Defence and told, for example, that the County Leitrim is in grave danger: that the Leitrim County Council has failed to prepare a scheme, and that the county is in imminent danger of being bombarded? Having heard that, is the Minister for Local Government, without taking any steps himself, to proceed to dissolve the county council? There is no provision to show that the Minister will take any steps, why he should satisfy himself or as to how he does this.
I think this is a most outrageous section. It seems to me that it has got very little consideration in drafting. As Deputy O'Sullivan has pointed out, the decision to dissolve the local authority rests with the Minister for Local Government. But that Minister has nothing to do with these air-raid precautions schemes. How is he to satisfy himself as to whether or not there has been compliance with the regulations which are the responsibility of the Minister for Defence? In my opinion it is an unheard of thing that the Minister for Local Government should dissolve a local authority for failure to carry out regulations made by another Department. It is preposterous to propose such a thing in this House.
Whether local authorities are in the future going to be appointed by the Government or elected by the people, much co-operation cannot be expected from them unless the Government show that they have some confidence in them. With such a section as this in the Bill, how does the Minister expect to get any local body to co-operate with him in this work? This section goes right against the grain of anyone imbued with any sort of democratic feeling. In my opinion there should be no departure from the present procedure: that a local body would not be dissolved until an inquiry has been held by a competent authority. I do not think that the Minister for Defence should ask the House to pass this section in its present form: that it should be within his power to send a communication to the Minister for Local Government requiring him to dissolve some local body because it had not, in his view, correctly interpreted some A.R.P. regulation made by him. That, as I have said, is an outrageous proposal to put before the House, and should be withdrawn.
The only thing is that if the local authority fails to carry out its work, and if those precautions are considered urgent, then some steps will have to be taken against that local authority. I think everybody will agree on that. If I proposed that the Minister for Defence should be given power to dissolve the local authority, then Deputies might very well say that the Minister for Defence was the judge and the jury in the trying of a case between himself and the local authority, but there is another Minister brought in, and it is easy for any Deputy here to envisage what is likely to happen. Suppose some county council refuses to do its job and make a scheme; that is reported to the Minister for Defence by his officials. The matter is enquired into, and the Minister for Local Government is officially informed. If the Minister for Local Government thinks that the offence is not of such a character as would warrant their dismissal, then he need not do it. He has the same powers, more or less, at the present time, following upon an investigation, but where those public inquiries are set up it is nearly always to inquire into some matter that may be rumoured around but in regard to which there is no real evidence of outstanding facts. Here it would be a matter of public knowledge, and easily proved, as to whether or not the local authority had refused to carry out its scheme of air-raid precautions.
If the Minister will allow me to intervene at this point, I should like to point out that they may not have refused. They may have been attempting to carry it out, but it may not have been satisfactory in the opinion of the Minister. The local authority may have made a pretence of carrying out the scheme. They did not refuse, but they did not conform to the regulations considered necessary by the military authorities. There is a conflict of opinion there, and there is obviously a necessity for an inquiry to be held on the spot. The local officials of the council may say: "We have endeavoured, as far as we reasonably could, to carry out the regulations." The inspector from the Minister's Department may say, "No." There is a conflict of opinion, and there is need for an inquiry. The question of a definite and blank refusal is quite a different matter. Here there is authority vested in the Minister for Local Government, and the means of communication to him are not clearly defined. He is merely given a big stick to flatten out the local authority because they have not conformed to requirements in regard to the scheme. The source of his advice in the matter is not clearly set out either. I am suggesting that the Department of Defence ought to send down there a competent authority to inquire on the spot, and give an opportunity to the local people to argue the question as to whether or not they had in fact reasonably complied with the regulations as set out in the Bill. I certainly think an inquiry ought to be held.
I think the Minister should not yield on this point. It must be remembered that air-raid precautions are designed for the protection of life. If the powers advocated by Deputies on the Opposition Benches are given, you will only be tinkering with the subject. If you set up an authority to inquire into those matters during a time of stress or a time of danger, while they are inquiring into the question as to whether or not the local authority has done its job there may be a loss of life. It would be a case of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. I think the Minister would be well advised not to yield on this point.
I do not think it is a question of looking for any authority or any power. It is a question of bringing the local authority under those schemes. I think it should be purely a matter for the Department of Defence—and not for the local authority—to have those schemes carried through.
It is a question of protecting life.
It is not a question of any powers.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Denis.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Brady, Seán.
- Breslin, Cormac.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Buckley, Seán.
- Carty, Frank.
- Corry, Martin J.
- Crowley, Fred Hugh.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Flinn, Hugo V.
- Flynn, John.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Fogarty, Patrick J.
- Friel, John.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Hogan, Daniel.
- Kelly, James P.
- Kissane, Eamon.
- Loughman, Francis.
- Lynch, James B.
- McCeann, John.
- McDevitt, Henry A.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Brady, Brian.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Meaney, Cornelius.
- Moylan, Seán.
- Munnelly, John.
- O Briain, Donnchadh.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Loghden, Peter J.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- O'Rourke, Daniel.
- O'Sullivan, Ted.
- Rice, Brigid M.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Martin.
- Ryan, Robert.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Laurence J.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Conn.
- Belton, Patrick.
- Benson, Ernest E.
- Brasier, Brooke.
- Brennan, Michael.
- Browne, Patrick.
- Coburn, James.
- Cole, John J.
- Corish, Richard.
- Curran, Richard.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Esmonde, John L.
- Everett, James.
- Giles, Patrick.
- Gorey, Denis J.
- Hickey, James.
- Hughes, James.
- Keating, John.
- Keyes, Michael.
- MacEoin, Seán.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Murphy, Timothy J.
- O'Higgins, Thomas E.
- O'Neill, Eamonn.
- O'Sullivan, John M.
- Pattison, James P.
- Reidy, James.
- Rogers, Patrick J.
- Ryan, Jeremiah.
Section 32 raises the point to which Deputy O'Higgins referred at an earlier stage as to who was to be the prosecutor if there was default by the officers of local authorities. Between now and the Report Stage I will consider whether we will confine a prosecutor to peace times. I will consider whether that can be done.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In sub-section (1), page 18, line 16, to insert after the word "air" the words "and for the minimising of such injury or damage".
This is a drafting amendment.
I informed Deputy O'Higgins that amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are out of order. Amendment No. 5 would impose a direct charge and amendment No. 6 a potential charge.
I move amendment No. 7:—
To add at the end of the section the following proviso:—
Provided that in no case shall the difference between the percentages determined on in calculating the amounts of the grants made under this section, in respect of the expenditure incurred by any two local authorities, exceed five.
This amendment is designed to ensure that in the 70 per cent which, according to the Bill, is the maximum, and according to the Minister is the minimum, there will be no variation beyond that of 5 per cent.; in other words, that if 70 per cent. of a grant is made in one area towards the cost of A.R.P. at least 65 per cent. of a grant would be made in any other area. The amendment was worded more or less in the knowledge that the other amendments would be ruled out of order.
I am not quite so certain about amendment No. 7, but the Deputy has moved it.
My opinion on the section is really this, that whatever expenditure there is under any A.R.P. scheme should be met out of the Central Fund and not out of local funds. I asked the Minister at another stage to justify this differentiation and to justify expenditure out of local funds. I cannot see any justification beyond the fact that this is the principle adopted in Great Britain and followed there. I can see reason why in a country spending £1,000,000,000 on national defence, and because of the immensity of the expenditure required to put up a real national defence, the safety of civilians is partly the responsibility of local bodies. While I am not saying it in any critical spirit, we cannot afford here to put up a real national defence scheme. We have not the wealth to do it, even if we had the population. Consequently our Defence Department and our national defence, being so small, should at least include provision for the safety of civilians as far as we can ensure it, in the rather unlikely event of an attack on the country—unlikely in its application to the average country. I can only see friction, difficulties of accountancy, delays and reluctance to carry out schemes by local authorities when they are to be responsible for at least 30 per cent. of the cost, and possibly 70 per cent. I cannot see why we do not say firmly in the Bill, 70 per cent. if that is the reason.
There is a suspicion, rightly or wrongly—it is not my suspicion—that the amount of the grant is going to be decided by the comparative wealth of the administrative area. In the wealthiest areas, the areas in which schemes are most wanted, and Dublin in particular, the Minister would get very full and free co-operation in any air-raid precautions scheme if he was prepared to say that the Central Fund would stand the whole cost. The Minister may think there is something extraordinary about that but, I think, if we are to take this work really seriously, and if there is real danger, and if the situation is grave, then we should not be hair splitting as between 70 per cent. and 100 per cent. The odd 30 per cent., going the rest of the road, is a small price to pay for real co-operation and genuine work. I believe that will not be got where the local authority has to pay one-third of the cost. In particular, it will not be got where there is a genuine reason for doubt as to whether a local authority may not have to pay 75 per cent. or 100 per cent. of the cost. My amendment, which was not in order, was designed towards making the Minister's contribution not less than 70 per cent., to make it mandatory that 70 per cent. should be paid by the Minister in every case. I do not believe that would be the ideal way out at all. I think it would be worth the other 30 per cent. for State funds to pay the full cost and get the services of the local officials. When I say the full cost I do not mean to include the salaries and expenses of officials or others in the service of local authorities. I think the use of their services should be a sufficient contribution by local authorities. At all events, it is clear that if the really important thing is to have as efficient an air-raid precautions scheme as is possible, and to have it as efficiently implemented as possible, it should not be jeopardised by the difference between 70 per cent. and 100 per cent.
I have strayed from the amendment to discuss the section as well but, in a few words, the amendment is designed to remove suspicion that is at the moment in the minds of public men, that while 70 per cent. is named in the Bill, the Minister is not tied to 70 per cent. and it may be five per cent. The object of the amendment is that if 70 per cent. is granted in any county then in no other county can less than 65 per cent. be granted. I would rather have no amendment but that the Minister by agreement would meet the particular point made by waiving his bargaining about 70 per cent. or 60 per cent. or 50 per cent. If he is really sincere why not say that it will be 70 per cent. in every case, because then on any occasion he can go the rest of the way and make it 100 per cent.? I am moving that that be done.
Two questions were raised by Deputy O'Higgins, one was whether the State should not pay the full 100 per cent. and the other whether it should not pay whatever percentage it is going to give in every case. In regard to the 100 per cent., already the State proposes direct expenditure totalling £320,000 out of £500,000, and of the £180,000 that will be distributed between the State and the local authorities it is proposed to pay a certain amount. If the State were to pay 100 per cent. there would be no inducement at all to a local authority to economise in its scheme, and all sorts of fantastic and unnecessary schemes would be put up. The people have to pay the cost one way or the other, and I think it would be very foolish on the part of the community as a whole, to encourage sections to go ahead and to expend money unnecessarily or in an uneconomic way. Already we have had certain suggestions which came up from local authorities which are criticised from the point of view that they are unnecessarily expensive, and that the work proposed to be done was to be done in a way that was much more expensive than was necessary. If the State were to pay the full 100 per cent. I am perfectly certain that objection would be made in a very big number of cases that come up. Even on the basis of the £180,000, of which the State bears 50 per cent. and the local authorities 50 per cent., we are not asking a big amount off some local authorities. Take the City of Dublin. We opened up negotiations with the city many months ago on the basis of a contribution by the State of 50 per cent. towards part of the scheme that would be carried out by the corporation. In the City of Dublin the State will bear £160,000 direct expenditure. A sum of £90,000 is to be spent by the local authority and we proposed in regard to that £90,000 that the State would contribute £45,000 and that the local authority could, if they wished, put up their £45,000 by getting a loan and repaying it over a number of years. Even if they were to repay the whole £45,000 in one year, it would not amount to more than a few pence in the £.
It would be somewhere about five pence or six pence. Even assuming it was seven pence, that could be spread over a number of years. Dublin City has a wealthy community and it is spending a lot of money every year for certain health services, public lighting services, and so on. I think that it is necessary for them to have an insurance so that, in the event of an air-raid, the city will not be completely destroyed. Even if they had to spend seven pence in the £ for one year it would be a rather good insurance. But it will not be necessary for them to do that on the basis of the 50 per cent., because the money can be raised by loan and repaid. The City of Dublin is in quite a different condition financially from, and its people are much more wealthy than, taking a town at the other end of the scale, Cobh. Cobh has been very badly hit for a number of years and it would be unfair to the people there to ask them to bear the same proportion of the charges as Dublin City.
In reply to Deputy O'Higgins, I would say, first of all, that we would be very unwise in paying the full 100 per cent. to any local authority and, as regards the second portion of his objection, I think it is only fair that an urban community should be asked to pay according to its means. Even if we go only to 50 per cent. in the case of Dublin, I think we are not asking them to pay a sum which will mean any undue hardship on the citizens. It is a reasonable figure that we are asking them to pay, even on the basis of 50 per cent. It would be wrong to have a scheme on such a basis framed for the town of Cobh, because that would mean a very big increase in their rates. It would not be fair to ask the Cobh people to pay on the same basis as the people of Dublin.
We propose to have a differentiation between wealthy communities and communities not so wealthy. Deputy O'Higgins alluded to the fact that a system such as this is in operation across the water. In England they make a differentiation. There are two factors that they take into account when arriving at the percentage of the total cost that the Exchequer will bear, as against what the local authority will bear. The first factor is the weight of population and the other factor is that of vulnerability. Another point is the amount which would go on the rates as a result of air raid schemes. Those factors will also be taken into account here. One particular factor that I would take into account is the ability of the local authorities to pay.
As far as I follow the Minister, his fear of central funds paying the full cost of air-raid precautions is that local authorities will be extravagant and will spend a lot more than there would be any necessity for spending. I think a lot of the discussion on this Bill is going around in circles. We seem to forget that it is only some 20 sections back, a couple of hours back, since the Minister stated that whatever scheme would be operated and implemented by the local authorities would be a scheme prepared by his own Department. If there is any truth in the suggestion of extravagance under any circumstances, that charge rests at the door of his own Department, if we are to relate his remarks now to those of a couple of hours ago.
I urged that 100 per cent. of the expenditure should come out of public funds and not out of the rates, in the knowledge that whatever the scheme was, and whatever expenditure there would be, it would be in accordance with the scheme prepared, as the Minister stated, by his own Department. Are officers of his Department going to be recklessly extravagant because it is central funds they are handling, or are they going to be more cautious because 30 per cent. comes out of the rates? There must be a relation between one section of this Bill and another, and there must be a connection between one Ministerial statement and another. That argument does not hold water in view of the Minister's previous statement as to the manner in which this Act is going to be worked.
I can see the necessity for safeguarding public funds, whether in a time of peace or war, and whether they are funds derived out of the rates or out of taxes. There is a danger that if the Minister's statement on an earlier section were to be ignored, extravagant schemes might be embarked upon locally. But in view of the fact that the Minister says whatever scheme is operated and implemented in any area it is going to be a scheme prepared by his Departmental officers, then we can rule out extravagance, and I pay that compliment to the Department.
What is the next thing essential in that scheme after it is prepared? That it gets harmonious co-operation from the local authorities and their officers. Whether 70 per cent. of the whole or the full 100 per cent. is worth spending at all, the expenditure is justified only if the aim is to get the best results. The best results can only be obtained by real genuine co-operation, by real willing work on the part of the local authority and their agents. You will not get that type of co-operation, and you will not get that willing work if you have to bludgeon the local authorities into contributing at least 30 per cent. of any money expended under these A.R.P. schemes. As long as it is left at least 30 per cent., critics and opponents who are opposed to any expenditure on any scheme will concentrate on those particular words. It is unwise to have them in, and if we are thinking in terms of public safety —and those are the only terms on which we can think of this Bill if we are to take it seriously—if we are thinking of public safety, the safety of human beings, we should not be haggling as to whether it is to come out of a rate fund, or local funds, or central funds. In the long run it is the same few poor Paddies who pay both, and as long as you get the price of your scheme, in one way with harmony, help and co-operation, and in another way with difficulty and obstacles put in the way, the second course is not justified, because the same money from the same person bears a different type of label to an extent of 30 per cent.
I should like to support the plea made by Deputy O'Higgins, because if this uncertainty prevails as to the amount of the State contribution towards the expenses incurred in connection with any scheme that has been inaugurated by a local authority, it will mean that that local authority will economise on that scheme and cut it down as much as possible, and, possibly, defeat the whole object which the Minister has in view. The Minister must be aware that uncertainty of a like nature has operated against the building of houses in many urban districts. For instance, the Government give 66? per cent. contribution to the cost of loan charges for the housing of people from unhealthy areas and 33? per cent. towards the loan charges for normal housing, that is, the housing of people whose houses are not condemned.
Cases have arisen where urban councils have built houses of a type that would be a little bit above the ordinary house and they proceeded to erect those houses on the understanding that the contribution of the Local Government Department would be 33? per cent., but when the town clerk, in the course of his business, sent his demand to the Local Government Department for their contribution on the basis of 33? per cent., he got a letter from the Department to the effect that, owing to the nature of these houses and the type of people who occupied them, the contribution would be only 15 per cent. The result was that the rents of these houses were 2/- dearer, and I may say that we, in Dundalk, would be very slow to erect houses of that type now, owing to that uncertainty prevailing.
The same thing applies here, to a greater or perhaps to a lesser extent, in connection with air-raid schemes. Under Section 12 the local authorities, whether they are county councils or scheduled areas, such as the Dundalk Urban Council, of necessity will have to propound a scheme, and if this uncertainty prevails about the national contribution of 70 per cent., and there is the feeling that it may be reduced to 50 per cent., 40 per cent. or 30 per cent., as the case may be, and, on the Minister's own statement, according to the wealth prevailing in this or that particular district—although very few districts in the country can boast of being over-wealthy at present, and even in the great City of Dublin, although it may appear to be wealthy, still one must not forget that the rates are very high in Dublin, over 20/- in the £, while in Cobh the rates may be only 4/- or 5/- in the £, but pro rata the small places would not be paying any more than the big places—if this uncertainty prevails, as I say, it will militate against the successful working of the scheme.
Speaking generally, I would urge on the Minister that it would be better to be specific in connection with this matter of the State contribution and, if the contribution is to be 70 per cent., then say that it will be 70 per cent., and let there be no qualifications or conditions attaching to it, because, as I say, so long as you have this uncertainty, it will work against the successful operation of the scheme.
Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?
Is it unacceptable to the Minister?
I think I have explained already, at fairly good length, the objections that I see to giving 100 per cent. As I say, I have been strengthened in that objection as a result of recent experience that certain activities in connection with air-raid precautions were carried out, to my belief, on an unnecessarily expensive scale and in an expensive way. If we do not give the local authority some interest in keeping down the expenses, then I can see unlimited demands being made. Now, it will mean very little on the rates to have a reasonable scheme of air-raid precautions in the scheduled areas, but if it is going to come out of the Central Fund and if you are going to have inordinate demands and unnecessarily lavish schemes promoted in the scheduled areas, then it is going to mean a big increase in the national taxation, and it is in order to try to safeguard the national exchequer, the national purse—and the citizens' pockets will have to contribute to the national exchequer—that we have associated the local authorities in the payment for these schemes.
Now, with regard to this sort of static air-raid precautions, as we might describe it, they are not being asked to pay much. Even in the City of Dublin, where we have asked them to pay 50 per cent., it does not amount to 50 per cent. of the total; and that does not take into account active air raid precautions, such as the provision of anti-aircraft and things of that kind. I think it is good for the country to contribute something so that it will contribute its share to economy. Besides that, the Department of Defence could not possibly "vet" a scheme, coming up from a particular locality, with the same care and detail as the local authority concerned could devote to it, particularly if we are interested in keeping down the rates. I do not want to impose any undue burden either on the rates or on the national taxation through these air-raid precautions.
Now, with regard to differentiation between the various localities, I think that the principle is a good one, too. If, for instance, you were to prepare a scheme in proportion to population and spend the same proportion in the town of Cobh as in the City of Dublin, you would have the result that the rates in the town of Cobh would have to be increased four times as much as the rates in Dublin. I think, therefore, that it is necessary to differentiate and to do all we can for a town that is situated like the town of Cobh, and ask Dublin to bear its fair share. I consider Dublin to be the most wealthy urban community in the country. A lot of the national taxes are spent here owing to the various Government services being located here, and we have put up to Dublin that they should bear 50 per cent—that is, really, 50 per cent. of 30 per cent., or 15 per cent. That, I take it, will be the minimum offered to any authority of that type, and it is between that and the 70 per cent. which we could give to the others.
The Minister has departed again from his previous statement. What I mean is that, when the Minister was in a bit of a difficulty on a previous debate, when we asked him on the Second Reading to make it 70 per cent. and somebody argued that 70 per cent. was the maximum but that it might never be made, the Minister, speaking from that Bench over there, told us that in these cases the maximum and the minimum were the same thing, and that when it came to Government funds, the maximum had always to be given. That was apparently accepted by the House and the Bill went through its Second Reading. When we rounded that corner, now we get a different picture. The maximum and the minimum are no longer the same. The percentage which will be given to any local authority to assist in the work will depend on the population, the poverty or the wealth of the area. If we are dealing with a centre in which there is a big population and a considerable amount of Government expenditure then the maximum and the minimum will be no longer the same. The Minister has no divine right to have one argument in relation to a Bill to-day and completely to ignore it to-morrow. Whether or not it misleads his own Party, it certainly misleads people who want to take a Ministerial statement as being a genuine reliable statement, sincerely made. We had these two statements. Are we to ignore the first? Are we to take it that 70 per cent. may go as low as 5 per cent.? Certainly it may go down to 50 per cent. In view of all these contradictory statements and doubt as to what the contribution will be, in view of the shaken confidence in Ministerial statements how are we to hope for willing, anxious and enthusiastic co-operation? I do not think it can be got on those lines.
On Second Reading I raised the question of the use of the word "forthwith" in the third line of sub-section (1). I should like to know whether the Minister proposes to take, or has taken, any steps to see that material for use for this purpose is available so that it can be done "forthwith". I understand that on an occasion when we endeavoured to get sufficient material for the obscuration of the North Lights, it was impossible to obtain 400 yards which we would require for that purpose. It is no use asking anybody to do anything forthwith if they cannot do it.
I am afraid that it means as soon as possible. If it is impossible to do it, it cannot be done. That is all.
Is there any use putting it in the Bill if it cannot be done?
"Forthwith" means as quickly as possible, with all possible speed.
That does not answer the real point which is: are any steps being taken to see that material is made available for this purpose? That is the essential point, not what "forthwith" means. Will the stuff be available if it is wanted?
All I can say is that there is a Government Committee associated with the Department of Industry and Commerce that has the duty of taking stock of essential materials. I do not know what particular material the Deputy found was short but the matter can be considered.
There is one point to which I desire to draw attention on this section. Sub-section (3), paragraph (a) gives power for the date to be altered after consultation with the Minister for Finance, but it does not apparently cover the alteration of the date, the 6th April, 1939, in the case of work subsequently carried out. I am not sufficiently optimistic to think that the income-tax rate will be lower next year than this year, or that it may even remain at the same figure. The paragraph, therefore, means that if the reasons are sufficiently good, a grant will be paid on the shelter when completed, even though the date of completion is later than that named in the Bill, but there will be no extension of the dates in respect of the income-tax allowance. It will be still the current rate for this year, even though the work is done in the next financial year.
The idea is to give all persons the same grant, whether this year or next year. The idea of fixing in sub-section (3) (a) the date, January, 1940, was to encourage everybody to take these precautions immediately. If it is found that it is absolutely necessary to extend the period beyond that date, then the power is there to do it without coming back for a new Bill. However, there will be no guarantee that if these shelters are provided after the first day of January, 1940, any grant at all will be forthcoming, so that it would be up to everybody to try to get them done, where they intend to do it, before January, 1940.
I think in many ways the 1st January, 1940, is a little early. There might be very good reasons why people, if they are proposing to rebuild, would incorporate anything of this sort during the process of rebuilding. For one thing, it could be done much more economically and with much less disturbance to the building. Under this section, if they want to start building in February or March it will not work. On the other point that I raised, the Minister's reply is not perfectly accurate, because the allowance will not be the same if the work is done next year under a higher income-tax, because the income-tax will be paid at a higher rate but the allowance will only be paid at a lower rate. It is not free from income-tax. It is merely an allowance equivalent to the standard rate of income-tax.
Yes, that is all.
Under Section 58 the allowances will be granted, apparently, on shelters constructed in any factory or similar establishment, but under Section 59 relief from rates will only be granted where that shelter is to be used solely for the purpose of affording air-raid protection. It is right if an allowance is given for the work being done that some remission should be given. There is provision that it will not be included in the valuation? Is that correct?
If it is solely for the purpose.
There again it is solely for the purpose?
That seems to me unreasonable, because if you are making a shelter, obviously it is possible that you have increased the value, from the valuation point of view, of that building. The point is that under the Valuation Acts the premises may have been increased in value by the addition of certain works that made them suitable for a shelter. That is, to a certain extent, recognised by Section 58, which gives an allowance equivalent to the income-tax on the capital expenditure thereon, and it seems to me unreasonable that that particular shelter, which will presumably be perfectly suitable for the job—or the Minister would not have passed it under Section 58—should not get relief. Surely it is equally entitled to relief from inclusion in the valuation with the one which is solely for that purpose?
Of course, the theory of the rateable valuation is that a person should pay rates according to the rentable value of the premises, and if the portion of the premises that was designed for use in emergency as an air-raid shelter has a rentable value for ordinary peace-time work there is a case for asking them to pay rates on it. If, however, the shelter that was erected had no peace-time use or rentable value then it would be unfair to ask the occupier to pay rates on it. But, so long as you have the system of rates in operation where people pay on rentable valuation, then I think you must collect rates on strong buildings that are suitable for air-raid shelters but are used for other purposes during peace times. Under the previous section we are giving a grant to people who strengthen buildings. We give a grant to them amounting to the rate of income-tax in the £. That has assisted them, but that strengthening or alteration of the premises may have also increased the rateable valuation but has no rateable value unless it is used for some peace-time purpose.
I agree with the Minister. I do not know on what system valuers work but when they come round to inspect premises they invariably ask how much did the job cost, which presumably means that they make some use of that figure. If they ask that question now there will be included in that figure a certain amount of money which was used solely for the purpose of air-raid protection. The building would have been in a certain form but for the fact that the shelter was being incorporated. The fact that that was done raised the cost by so much. If the valuer works on the gross figure, then the valuation, and hence the rates, will be fixed on work which was put in solely for protection purposes. That is what I am objecting to. I am not suggesting that the whole shelter should be free from rates. That would not be fair if it was used for ordinary peace-time purposes. My point is that, if by reason of the fact that certain extra works have been carried out in order to make a shelter, the valuation is raised, then there should be provision here for reducing the valuation to what it would have been if those works had not been done.
I will look into that and see if there is any necessity for an amendment to this section but I think it would be altogether wrong for a valuer to increase the valuation of a certain premises simply because the walls were much thicker than would normally be required. For instance, if a building is normally strong and will stand up to the ordinary wind and weather, it has a certain valuation for rate purposes if people want it for a shop or house or anything else. I think that should be its value in all circumstances even though the walls were thickened or supports were put in to render it suitable as an air-raid shelter. I do not think the Commissioners of Valuation should take the extra cost of the thick walls into consideration. If, on looking into the thing, I see that that might happen, then we might be able to introduce another safeguarding section or clause into the Bill.
Under existing conditions, if the Minister discovers that they would consider it a case for increasing the valuation, an amendment will be introduced to overcome that?
Yes, but I do not see how they could take it into consideration. It is not the original cost of the thing that counts; it is its rentable value, I think.
Would the Minister say what is the purpose of Section 63?
To safeguard the general public against wretched stuff being sold here, that is not effective for the purpose. For instance, some time ago there were gas masks on sale in the city. My Department did not approve of them but we had no legal power to stop it. This section is to prevent worthless equipment being sold.