The group of amendments with which we are now dealing refer to the power to take compulsorily trust funds that have been provided for the maintenance of embankments. We are opposed to that, on the grounds that those trust funds have been specially provided for maintenance purposes, and the intention behind this piece of legislation is that improvements, drainage works and embankment works generally were to be a national charge. The country got that impression and promise, and Dáil Eireann has agreed that that is the proper procedure, if we are to carry out national drainage effectively in the future. We think it is unfair to local authorities that substantial trust funds created for some counties should be swept into the Exchequer by the Minister for Finance. We are here empowering him to do that, and the maintenance charge will be thrown back on the ratepayers in that particular county, and it will be a substantial charge in some areas.
Where you have capital provision of that nature made over a period of years, and a regular yearly income accruing for maintenance purposes, it is bad financial policy, taking the long view, to destroy capital sums of that sort, and it is an injustice to the ratepayers in the counties concerned. The problem is concentrated in a few counties, where the maintenance charges are substantial. If we destroy the capital sums, we will let the Land Commission out of a very awkward situation. The Parliamentary Secretary should appreciate that it has been a problem in the Land Commission for a number of years. Not merely are we letting them out, but we are going to sweep away all the funds which were accumulating from one source or another over a period of years. When estates were acquired under the different Land Acts in the past, and where maintenance of certain works was the responsibility of the landlords in the past, that responsibility was carried on through trust funds, which were the responsibility of the Land Commission. Now, it is proposed under this Bill that the drainage authority will take over the responsibility for maintenance and pass on the financial responsibility to the local authority. That is a most unjust provision, so far as the general ratepayer in a particular county is concerned. If it were general throughout the whole country, it would be a different matter, as it may be argued that they would get substantial benefit.
It is true that certain counties will benefit substantially, but certain other counties — Waterford, Limerick, and Wexford, counties on the seaboard, where water from inland counties is being discharged, are really corridors from counties situated further inland, which get rid of surplus water by discharging it through those counties near the sea, where the problem arises. I represent some inland counties and it is not my problem at all, but I would point out to the Parliamentary Secretary, firstly, that it is going to put a substantial charge on the few particular counties concerned. If the present maintenance capital sums were preserved for maintenance purposes, it would be fairer to the ratepayers situated in those counties. Secondly, it is bad financial policy to rake in substantial capital sums that are very useful and which have been provided very conveniently, by the vision and foresight of people who went before us, to ensure that an annual income would accrue for work of this sort. I would like also that the Parliamentary Secretary should inform the House as to the aggregate capital sum that is involved, so far as the Land Commission is concerned, and the yearly income that accrues from the capital sums.