Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 6 Nov 1940

Vol. 81 No. 3

Public Business. - Unemployment (Relief Works) Bill, 1940—Report and Final Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 2, Section 1 (1), to delete all from the word "consisting" in lines 16 and 17 to the end of line 19.

This is a drafting amendment. It widens the scope of the Bill.

It is more than a drafting amendment. It is a very wide one.

It is a wide one, but it enables public authorities to put forward schemes for any work which they consider necessary and which it is within their powers to do. There was some mention of ports and harbours, where a number of piers and such like are under the control of the local authorities. Wherever they are under the control of the local authorities, they can do that work themselves.

Does it widen the scope of the Bill sufficiently to permit of the building of a borstal institute?

It applies only to whatever is within the scope of the local authorities.

Does not the Minister think it would read better if the wards "execution of" were left in? My suggestion is that it should read "the execution of which is within the powers".

That is a matter of drafting. I do not know that there is very much in that, but I will consider it in the Seanad. It may be a more elegant way of putting it, but I think that as it stands it gives the powers that are required.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In page 2, section 1 (1), to insert before the definition of the word "prescribed" a new definition as follows:—

the word "road" means any public road and includes any bridge, pipe, arch, gully, footway, pavement, fence, railing, or wall forming part thereof.

The object of this amendment is to have the definition of a public road the same as it is in the Local Government Act. It might be construed that they could go and do some private road.

I am a little bit cloudy on this matter at the moment, but I understand that a public road means a road which is not a cul de sac; in other words, that you can go right through. Is not that so?

Mr. Morrissey

One of the great troubles in this country for a number of years—I am sure it has been brought to the notice of every Deputy in the House—is that type of road which serves anything from two to 22 families, and from which there is no exit at the other end. The trouble is that that type of road has been left altogether to be done by the family or families who are using it. Very often the road not only leads to a number of dwelling-houses or farmhouses but also leads to a bog, and in the summer time it is used by a large number of people from great distance away, with the result that the road is badly cut up. I understand that the local authority is not empowered to spend money out of the rates for the upkeep of roads such as that. If that is so, I think the Minister would be excluding from the scope of the Unemployment (Relief Works) Bill a work which might very usefully be left there, because there is no doubt that very useful work might be done and useful employment given. If you have five or ten families using that particular road, we all know what happens, what is everybody's business is nobody's business; one man is prepared to do the work and the others are not, with the result that the work is left undone. I would ask the Minister to see whether anything can be done in this matter, and would suggest that it should he brought within the scope of a Bill such as this, which is a Bill to provide employment, and useful employment.

Chief Baron Palles in the 19th century ruled that a road of public utility is a definition which includes this class of roads. That would be more familiar to the Minister for Local Government than to me. I agree heartily with the Deputy who has just spoken. If the Minister is not pcepared to go the whole way to meet that situation I wonder would it be possible in a Bill of this kind to provide that the local authority might provide metal at a nominal rate, provided the persons who live on these roads would go and repair them themselves. I find there is growing up in the country a very widespread idea that, if you want something, if you want the front doorstep swept, you leave it dirty until you can get some local authority to come and do it. I think Deputy Morrissey will agree with me that when he and I were young if your road was not metalled you went out and metalled it yourself. You got a few neighbours together and went out and metalled the roads, throwing a few loads this year and a few more the next, and so on, until you got it done. But since we got the minor relief schemes and a variety of other schemes nobody seems to regard it as any part of his duty at all to keep up his own street. It used to be the way that if the landlord's man came upon your street when your rent was paid up, you turned the dog on him, with a certain pride. Now any tramp can come up your road. I suggest that metal should be given to people who undertake to repair these by-roads leading up to their houses or villages, as they often do at 6d. or 1/- a cart, and that wherever a stone-breaker was working any useful person who desired to provide a by-way of this kind should have a right to claim from the local authority's surveyor so much stones as the surveyor considered requisite for the proper repair of a road indicated to him by the applicant for stone.

May I say, before the Minister replies, what the position is? It is all right for Deputy Dillon to talk about what used to happen. What we are concerned with is what is going to happen if this particular type of road is completely excluded. Under the recent scheme of the Department of Agriculture, providing grants for the improvement of farms and farmworks, a farmer can get up to 50 per cent. of the cost. For what? For making his farmyard. He can get 50 per cent. of the cost of making a road on his farm, but the repair of a road which may be serving anything from one to ten or 15 families, and which at a particular season of the year, if there happens to be a bog on that road, may be serving 40 or 50 families, is nobody's business, and the result is that those roads may become almost a danger.

It is all right for Deputy Dillon to say the people should do it themselves. I can agree with that but the fact is that if there are five or six families living on the road, one person may be very anxious to do it and may do his part but another may refuse to do anything at all about it. That has happened in regard to drainage and everything else. There is no use in one farmer getting his drains cleaned and deepened if the farmer on the next farm refuses to do anything at all. I think, if we are out to do useful work and to do work which is going to give the highest amount of labour we ought not to exclude that particular sort of work, particularly when another Government Department is prepared to give up to 50 per cent. of the cost to a farmer making a road on his own farm or actually making his farmyard.

I have some sympathy with Deputy Morrissey's point of view in this matter. I think I had some difficulty some years ago about that particular Section 25 of the 1925 Act. A local body cannot make a road unless it connects with two public roads, but I think a good deal of that complaint has disappeared since these minor relief schemes have been availed of, and while there may be difficulties here and there about those roads, in the main, I think, they have been able to be met out of the unemployment relief schemes. There is no way, I think, in which you can provide the metal or the material which Deputy Dillon has in mind, that is to hand it over to local people to utilise. I do not think there is any power in the local authority to do that, but in this Bill we are going on the powers that are there already in the local authority and I would not in this Bill propose to make any alteration in that Section 25 of the 1925 Act. As I say, I believe that in the main they can be met out of the minor relief schemes that have been made available. I know the difficulty may arise from time to time that the extent of unemployment might not justify that. That is a difficulty undoubtedly but in the main the county surveyor is in touch with the administration of these minor relief schemes and where he finds himself in the position of having to deal with the case of such a road as Deputy Morrissey has in mind I think the county surveyor can avail himself of the unemployment relief schemes to try to get the work done in that way.

Whatever he may say is completely governed by the number of unemployed on the register in the district, but there are other points —if the Minister will allow me to make them.

The Deputy may make the point though we are not in Committee.

I just wanted to make this point. As a matter of fact, I quite agree with the Minister that to a large extent the problem has been met for the moment out of the minor relief schemes, but the trouble is going to arise again, because what happens is this: just like the Land Commission when they divide an estate, they make a road; it is left there; nobody is responsible for the maintenance; nobody puts a shovel of stones when a hole appears in it and in three or four years it is just as bad, or perhaps worse than it originally was and the money is, to a certain extent, wasted.

In regard to the point that works of this kind have been met out of minor relief schemes, there is the fact that in a good many areas minor relief schemes have been held up and often cancelled where grants have been made and expense incurred by the officials of the Board of Works because, perhaps, one of the persons whose land was affected objected. If this Bill were applied to such work it would meet that difficulty. Therefore, I think that this amendment should not be carried through unless the Minister would be prepared at a later stage to introduce some amendment in the Bill to make this Bill applicable to minor relief works so that the work could he carried out even though there might be some minor objection.

If I were satisfied from reports of county surveyors that there were many of those roads existing I should do that. I considered it on other stages.

Five in one small district.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 2, line 36, Section 2 (1), to insert before the word "for" the words "wholly or partly".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Amendment No. 5 is out of order on several grounds, as the Deputy has been informed.

Might I submit, while I accept the ruling of the Chair as the judicial decision on this question, that if this is really out of order it means that the entire purpose of this Bill is to transfer the main portion of the cost of relieving unemployment to the local authorities.

The Chair is willing to hear the Deputy advance reasons why his amendment should not be ruled out of order but not to hear a speech on the merits of the Bill.

The point I am trying to make is that it has been contended that the main principle of this Bill is not to transfer a substantial portion of the cost of relieving unemployment to the local authorities. When I introduce an amendment suggesting that the cost shall be borne out of moneys provided by this House, it is ruled that that amendment is out of order on the ground that the main principle of the Bill is to have those works financed by the local authorities.

It is primarily out of order because it is obvious that such a radical amendment should have been submitted on the Committee Stage. It cuts right across the Bill and would make the principle of the Bill, as affirmed on Second Reading, ineffective. It is questionable whether it does not impose a charge. It is too radical to be accepted on Report. If the Deputy had submitted it in Committee it might have been admitted.

Amendment No. 5 not moved.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In page 3, before Section 3 (2), to if insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) The local authority shall be deemed to be carrying out such work with all reasonable speed if the work is undertaken within the financial year commencing after the date of the Minister's certificate and proceeded with without avoidable delay.

This amendment is designed to meet the difficulty that I raised on the Committee Stage, the difficulty of a local authority receiving a certificate perhaps immediately after it had struck its rate. The amendment is designed to overcome that by providing that if they start on the work within the next financial year it will satisfy the requirements of the legislation.

The point the Deputy wants to have emphasised by this particular amendment is that after the local authority has made its estimate and struck its rate, it should not then be called upon to undertake work which was not provided for within the rate. One of the disadvantages of an institution such as this legislature is that it prides itself upon its immoral financial method of doing business. The local authority is much more moral, much more exact. It specifies the undertaking before it puts the liability on the citizen; it indicates what sum it is going to expend and, having done that, it strikes the rate and it cannot spend any more than what is definitely specified. Here in the legislature one can spend anything at any time; all that is necessary is a vote. The Deputy merely wants to bring the Minister back to the moral path and keep him in the same position as the local authority, fairly honest, if that be possible.

I should like to support the views expressed by other Deputies in regard to this matter when it was discussed on the Second Reading and on the Committee Stage. It is the considered view of the officials of the Dublin Corporation that this amendment is worthy of sympathetic consideration. Inconvenience would be caused by the manner in which the section is drafted in the Bill.

I should like to support the amendment from a slightly different aspect. I sympathise with Deputy Benson and Deputy Doyle in their view as to the position of the local authority, but what about the unfortunate ratepayer? He usually gets some notice; he sees a headline in the paper about the rate that is about to be struck in his district. He more or less strikes his own budget in order to meet that rate. If, just a short time after that has appeared in the paper, another few shillings are added to the rates and the ratepayer has to provide for that increase, then I think we are heading for national bankruptcy.

My objection to the amendment is that it creates too rigid a procedure. If a corporation or other local body wants to undertake a work it can sometimes borrow for that work. In the case of works that I have in mind, practically all of them would be initiated by the local authorities themselves. They might want to undertake them at a certain time, but, on the other hand, you may have local authorities that might not be anxious, although it might be desirable to have certain works done, to go ahead with them. If the House accepts the amendment the position will be that the Dublin Corporation, or any other local authority, could say that they would undertake certain work in January, but they might not carry out that work until the following March 12 months; that is, they would have more than the whole following financial year in which to defer carrying it out. That would be the position if we accept the amendment as laid down here. That would be something like 15 months, and you would be put in the position that you could not do anything.

I do not think the Minister is quite correct.

I observe that Deputy Doyle shakes his head.

They must spend the money within the year; they cannot carry it over as you can do here. The amount would be expended in the financial year which ends on the 31st March.

If the Minister certifies a work in January, they need not take any steps until the following March 12 months—that would be the position under the amendment.

No purpose would be served by doing that. The rate would be struck and they would have the money.

I am afraid it would be making it too rigid. I have written to the corporation on this matter and I think they will be satisfied about it. I do not want to make it too rigid.

Would you undertake to put proposals to them sufficiently early—previous to the financial year in which they would have to undertake the work?

My belief is that the corporation and other local authorities will be quite satisfied.

Amendment No. 6, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 7:—

In page 3, to delete Section 3 (2). The suggestion behind the amendment is that the Minister already has all the power he requires in Section 72 of the Local Government Act.

This is more of a clarification, or perhaps an amplification of Section 72 (2) (b) of the Local Government Act, 1925. That section says:

"If and whenever a local authority wilfully neglects to comply with any lawful order, direction or regulation of the Minister... the Minister may, by order, dissolve such local authority."

There is no provision there for an inquiry.

Is it not unnecessary legislation when you have it already provided for?

It is better to have it dear in this.

Amendment No. 7, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 8:—

In page 3, line 41, Section 4 (1), to insert before the words "of a" the words "and maintenance".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9, which is also a drafting amendment:—

In page 3, line 48, Section 4 (1), to insert before the word "to" the words "as on and from a specified date".

It is necessary that the date of the transfer should be specified.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:—

In page 3, Section 4 (1), to delete in lines 49 and 50, the words and figures "Section 24 or" and substitute the words and figures "Local Government Act, 1925, in relation to such road or the said portion or portions thereof (as the case may be) and all powers and duties of the said council under", and to delete all words from the word "and" in line 50 to the end of the sub-section and substitute the words "improvement, and maintenance thereof."

This amendment arises on a question raised by Deputy Esmonde on the Committee Stage. I believe the point he raised was a good point and we are providing against it.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:—

In page 3, line 63, Section 4 (4) to delete the word "of" and substitute the words "specified in that behalf in".

This is consequential on amendment No. 9.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:—

In page 5, before Section 6, to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) Where—

(a) the Minister has consented to the borrowing of moneys by a local authority for the purpose of defraying the expenses of one or more certified works by means of the creation and issue of stock (in this sub-section, referred to as new stock), and

(b) moneys are held by such local authority in a redemption fund for the purpose of the redemption of any stock (in this sub-section referred to as existing stock) previously issued by such local authority,

the Minister may by order authorise such local authority to exchange, by agreement with the holders, all or any of the existing stock which is required to be redeemed within a period not exceeding five years from the date of such order for new stock equal in nominal value to the nominal value of the existing stock so exchanged and to withdraw from the appropriate account or accounts in such redemption fund and expend for the purposes of such certified work or works and for the expenses (if any) of such exchange an amount equal to the nominal value of the existing stock so exchanged.

(2) Moneys borrowed by a local authority for the purposes of a certified work shall not be reckoned as part of the debt of such local authority for the purposes of any enactment limiting the amount which may be borrowed by such local authority or limiting the amount which may be borrowed by such local authority otherwise than in pursuance of a provisional order confirmed by the Oireachtas.

The object of this amendment is to enable a local authority, if it wishes to borrow money to defray the expenses of certified works by means of the creation of stock, to exchange existing stock with the, consent of the holders of such stock, in cases where that stock is to be redeemed within five years. If the holders of such stock consent, new stock will be issued to them and the money for that purpose will be taken from the redemption fund of the existing stock. I understand that the corporation have already circularised a number of existing stock holders and have obtained agreement with these stock holders to this proposal. I want to regularise that procedure by this amendment.

The only portion of the amendment to which I would object is sub-section (2), which states that the money borrowed for the purposes of a certified work by a local authority shall not be reckoned as part of the debt of such local authority. The point, I think, is that there was some object in appointing a statutory limit beyond which a local authority could not borrow. It does not seem to me that there is any good reason for departing from that limit. I think that in many cases there is far too much of a tendency to borrow for works which really should not be of a capital nature. I think it is a pity that further power should be given to go outside the statutory limits. The Minister, of course, will say that this is an emergency measure and that it is intended to deal with the emergency only, but I think that, as a limit has been imposed, it should be adhered to unless there is very good reason for not doing so.

There is a similar provision in some other Acts. As a general rule, the limit to the amount which can be borrowed is double the valuation. As regards emergency works, I think it is probably unlikely that the amount borrowed would be very much because the contribution from the State would be fairly high, but this section here would enable something more to be done than is contemplated as emergency measures. It would enable a local authority to borrow for the building of houses. That is the object behind the amendment, that the corporation may be able to avail of certain moneys which they could apply to the building of houses.

Mr. Brennan

I do not think that the principle of the amendment is a good one. I entirely agree with Deputy Benson that if borrowing is to be undertaken by local authorities in the ordinary way—and this is in the ordinary way, although the money may be utilised for extraordinary purposes arising, as the Minister says, out of an emergency—and if the time for redemption is the normal time allowed, the amount borrowed should be reckoned as debt. There is no use in pretending that we are not going into debt if we are going into debt. Let us get a true picture of the situation. If the Minister came in here and said: "We will advise and permit local authorities to borrow money, but the redemption period will be of such short duration that we will not regard such moneys as public debt", one could understand this proposal. But the Government does not prescribe any such conditions. The debt is going to be raised in the same way as on previous occasions and ft should be regarded as ordinary debt.

In the case of housing, for instance, you have often to borrow.

Mr. Brennan

But you are creating assets.

This amendment is to enable certain stocks to be exchanged in the City of Dublin, and the proposal, I understand, is that monies in the Redemption Fund can then be applied towards house-builduis in Dublin.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendments Nos. 13, 14 and 15:—

In page 5, Section 7, to delete all from the word "which" in line 57 to the end of the section.

In page 5, at the end of Section 7, to add three new sub-sections as follows:—

(2) A local authority which is the executing authority in respect of a certified work consisting of the construction of a new road or the improvement of an existing road or partly of such construction and partly of such improvement may acquire any land either by agreement or compulsorily for the purpose of improving the frontage of such road or of facilitating or controlling the proper development of the land in the neighbourhood of such road.

(3) A local authority which has acquired any land under the immediately preceding sub-section of this section may, with the consent of the Minister, sell or let, by public auction or private treaty, in suitable lots and subject to appropriate conditions, any land so acquired.

(4) Every sum received by a local authority in respect of the sale or lease of land under this section shall be applied by such local authority firstly towards the cost of the acquisition of such land, secondly towards the expenses of the relevant certified work, and, as regards any balance remaining unapplied, for the purpose of the powers and duties of such local authority in such manner as they, with the consent of the Minister, think proper.

In page 5, to add at the end of Section 7 a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, a local authority shall not acquire compulsorily under this section any land which is held or occupied by another local authority or by any body corporate for the purposes of a railway, tramway, dock, canal, gas, electricity or other public undertaking.

These amendments arise out of points put forward by Deputy Benson in the discussions on Committee.

That is as regards town planning?

Amendments agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:—

In page 6, Section 8 (4), to delete in line 18 the words "copy of such order published in pursuance of paragraph" and substitute the words "copies of such order posted and published in pursuance of paragraphs (a) and", and to delete in line 22 the words "such publication" and substitute the words "the said copies of such order".

Under the Bill as it stood, amongst the things required to be done in connection with the making of a preliminary order, was the posting of a copy of the order on the land, and it also required the posting of a copy of the map. Deputies will understand that would, in practice, be impossible, but the owner can inspect the map in the office of the local authority.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 17:—

In page 6, at the end of Section 9, to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) Before determining an application under this section, the Minister may hold a public inquiry into the subject matter thereof and Article 32 of the Schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1938, shall apply in respect of every such public inquiry in like manner as the said Article applies in respect of the local inquiries therein mentioned.

This makes provision for the holding of inquiries and the defraying of expenses connected with them.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendments Nos. 18 and 19:—

In page 7, line 6, Section 11 (1), to delete the word "seven" and substitute the word "fourteen".

In page 7, line 7, at the end of Section 11 (1), to add the words "and such local authority may enter on and take possession of such land on the date so specified".

Amendment No. 18 meets a point raised by Deputy Cosgrave, that the time within which the vesting order was to operate was too short. The time has now been extended from seven to 14 days. Amendment No. 19 makes it clear that the local authority can enter into possession of the land 14 days after the making of the vesting order.

Amendments agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:—

In page 7, at the end of Section 11, to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(3) If any person obstructs or interferes with the entry on or taking possession of any land under this section by a local authority, such person shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds or to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three months or, at the discretion of the court, to both such fine and such imprisonment.

Under the Land Clauses Acts, in cases of obstruction or interference on entry to land, it would be necessary to resort to the services of the sheriff. What we propose to do under this amendment is to make such obstruction or interference an offence.

Mr. Brennan

This is not absolutely-necessary. The old procedure should hold good.

The old procedure was very cumbersome. You had to get the sheriff.

Mr. Brennan

Is that not what we pay the sheriff for?

We would probably have to pay him his fees also.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21:—

In page 7, line 27, at the end of Section 12, to add the words "and such registration shall comprise a statement that such land is vested in such local authority subject to the payment of any purchase annuity, payment in lieu of rent or other annual sum, or portions thereof, payable to the Irish Land Commission under Section 11 of the Unemployment (Relief Works) Act, 1940."

Vestings are free from equities, but the Land Commission want to protect themselves and, in any case where an annuity is payable, the registration of the title will be subject to the Land Commission annuity. I suppose the local bodies will purchase the land purchase annuity.

Mr. Brennan

Is there any provision made for the purchase of the annuity?

The local authorities can do that. That is usually what is done, but where they do not do so, the Land Commission will be protected.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:—

In page 7, line 40, Section 13 (2), to insert before the word "payment" the word "and", and to delete the words "and recovery".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:—

In page 7 at the end of Section 13, to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(3) Compensation payable under this section by a local authority shall, in default of payment, be recoverable from such local authority as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

This meets a point raised by Deputy Cosgrave on the Committee Stage.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 24 not moved.

I move amendment No. 25:—

In page 8, before Section 17, to insert a new saction as follows:—

17.—Any work of public utility to which a certificate or order under this Act relates may be described in such certificate or order by means of a general statement of the charactcr and purpose of such work without specifying the situation of every or any portion thereof or, in the case of a road, the exact terminal points or course thereof.

This will enable a work to be stated in more general terms. As the Bill stood, it would mean that you would have to specify the terminal points of a road. It might happen in making a road, that, while you may have described it fairly accurately, it may not go that far, or it may vary its course. This will enable the work to be specified generally.

Mr. Brennan

I wonder if this is advisable in any other respect except in regard to a road?

You may have the same thing in connection with a waterworks or other schemes. They may certify a waterworks and then find that they could not perhaps utilise a particular site.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Amendment No. 26 not moved.
Question—"That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.