Is the Parliamentary Secretary recommitting the Bill for the amendments?
Committee on Finance. - Arterial Drainage Bill, 1944.— Re-Committal.
I gave an undertaking to Deputy Norton that I must honour in reference to a half-dozen amendments, and having regard to that fact I have made up my mind to re-commit the Bill in respect of all the amendments, but I hope the Opposition will not take advantage of my action to have a further long discussion.
Is the Bill being recommitted?
No; for the amendments only. The sections will not be put again.
How did re-committal arise?
Deputy Norton when leaving the House on a previous occasion asked me if the Committee Stage was to be completed, as in that case he could not move some amendments. It so happened that we did not make much progress on that occasion and only passed six amendments. Having agreed to the suggestion the Deputy made that I would be bound to re-commit the Bill only in respect of the six amendments, I decided to re-commit it in respect of all of them.
On the amendment Deputies may speak more than once.
This is really a Committee Stage.
Yes, to the extent mentioned.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 3, Section 2, line 24, to insert before the definition of "benefited lands" the following new definition:—
the expression "the Reference Committee" means the Reference Committee constituted by paragraph (c) of sub-section (5) of Section 1 of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, as amended by the Acquisition of Land (Reference Committee) Act, 1925 (No. 22 of 1925).
This is a drafting amendment.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 4, Section 2, line 4, before the word "and", to insert the words "and a borough"; in line 5, page 4, before the word "the", to insert the words "or borough", and in line 6, page 4, before the word "and", to insert the words "or borough".
My purpose here is to clarify my mind and other people's minds, who are in some doubt as to the position in Kilkenny. Under the Bill the maintenance costs of any drainage scheme are to be borne by the county council as a county-at-large charge. A county includes a county borough and a county council, but it is not clear if a scheme were embarked upon which would affect a borough area that a county-at-large charge would be appropriate. I shall mention briefly the history of the drainage problem in Kilkenny. In 1931 an effort was made to get a drainage scheme for Jenkinstown, and when Board of Works engineers went into the matter they found that it would be impracticable to have a scheme for that area, as if the job were to be done at all it should be on a very much wider basis. The engineers reported that some 55 miles of the river Nore, from Borris-in-Ossory to below Inistioge would have to be taken in under the scheme. When they went into the figures they found that the scheme would involve an expenditure of something like £200,000, benefit between 5,000 and 6,000 acres of land, and that the estimated annual expenditure would be something like £3,000, whereas the annual benefit would be very much less. They reported, therefore, that it would not be from the point of view of an arterial drainage scheme an economic proposition, but stressed that the prevention of flooding in the urban area of Kilkenny would be the strongest argument in favour of such a scheme.
The matter seemed to fizzle out at that stage, but came on again in 1934. When they found in Kilkenny that such a large expenditure would be involved a limited scheme was considered. The Board of Works prepared a limited scheme embracing the Jenkinstown section and Kilkenny and Thomastown sections, which would cost something like £92,000, affecting 1,360 acres, producing an annual benefit of £950. It was made clear that the problem as it affected Kilkenny City could not be attempted unless at least a limited scheme were undertaken, on which the annual expenditure was estimated at £1,400 as against an annual benefit of £590. That scheme was considered by the Corporation of Kilkenny and by the county council, and broke down on the question of finance. The corporation at the time were prepared to put up 6d. in the £, and the county council 1½d. in the £. The two sums would apparently work out at 25 per cent. of the cost of the scheme. When they approached the Minister for Finance for the other 75 per cent. he said that he could not advance more than 50 per cent. of the cost and that they would have to find the other 25 per cent. from some other source. The scheme broke down then and nothing further was heard of it.
Periodic flooding has taken place in Kilkenny for years and the citizens are very perturbed. On Sunday, the 19th of this month, we had very serious flooding in Kilkenny City, so much so, that church services had to be abandoned in one place, business premises were flooded to a depth of four or five feet and goods and furniture destroyed or damaged, while the inhabitants in a number of houses were in a shocking position. I saw the floods. The condition of the unfortunate people under such trying conditions was certainly deplorable. As a result of the recent flooding the people take the view that some effort should be made to remedy the position in Kilkenny City, and they feel that they have some right to be considered in any proposed drainage scheme that may be prepared by the Office of Public Works. The trouble in Kilkenny arises from the confluence of the Nore and the Dinan river some three or four miles from the city. When the Dinan floods it cuts across the Nore, with the result that the Nore is blocked for the time being, but, when the flood in the Dinan drops, the Nore comes along full tilt and there is an inundation in Kilkenny City. In addition, there is a small river called the Breaga, which comes into Irish-town, Kilkenny, and which is in a very bad condition. The bed seems to have silted up—it is full of dirt, weeds and refuse of all kinds. There are a number of unnecessary bridges over that small river which, if removed, might help matters, but it is felt in the district that the whole problem should now be considered under this Bill. The people affected wish to bring themselves, if at all possible, within the terms of the Bill, and it is with that object that I bring forward the amendment. Under the Bill, the initiative is vested entirely in the Board of Works. Incidentally, I think we could discuss amendments Nos. 2 and 3 together.
Yes, if the Deputy wishes.
The idea of amendment No. 3 is to give a Minister of State or a council, which would include a borough council, if amendment No. 2 is accepted, the right to initiate proceedings with a view to getting the Board of Works to prepare a scheme. The usual procedure under Section 4 of Part II would then be followed. There is a big volume of strong feeling about this matter, and it is felt that both the State and the local authorities are at fault in not having come to grips with this problem of urban flooding in Kilkenny, and, as I have pointed out, the problem of urban flooding in Kilkenny is linked up with the problem of flooding both at Jenkinstown, at the junction of the Rivers Dinan and Nore, and at Thomastown and Inistioge further down the river. Thomastown is in a very bad way at present. Lands are very seriously flooded and the town is very frequently inundated, so much so that in parts of the town the people have to use boats to get about. I seriously suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should allow us to have these provisions in the Bill, so that if the local authority in Kilkenny felt they could take on the job, they would be free to initiate proceedings in the matter.
Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us whether or not he is prepared to accept the amendment?
I am not.
I thought the Parliamentary Secretary would have agreed to the inclusion of a borough when it includes a county borough.
As a matter of fact, it was only towards the end of Deputy Coogan's statement that I came to get any grasp at all of what was being aimed at.
A borough is not covered by the Bill at all.
May I say that I regard the statement made by Deputy Coogan as an excellent plea for consideration of the River Nore?
Not the River Nore.
The river responsible for the flooding of Kilkenny City. While I am prepared to make that concession, I want to say that I was at a loss to know what exactly he was trying to come at, not so much in the amendments but in the case he made for them. I think we debated this whole matter — taking the two amendments together, as Deputy Coogan did — very thoroughly on Committee Stage. What I am asked to accept here is that I should go back to the provisions of the Act of 1925, where the method by which drainage should be initiated was laid down, that is, a petition by the riparian owners to the county council, which forwarded that petition to the Board of Works, which, in turn, inspected, and so on. That procedure has been rejected in the report of the commission set up to investigate this problem, and I am perfectly satisfied that the commission, in rejecting that procedure, was on sound ground, and it follows that we also are on sound ground in accepting their recommendation. I am asked now to go back to that procedure. Deputy Hughes seems to have some notion that a borough council is not covered. A borough council is in the same position, so far as my information goes, as an urban council, which would in the ordinary way be obliged to contribute its share of whatever county-at-large rate was being struck for drainage maintenance. The same provisions will apply in the case of a borough council as in the case of an urban council, so that there is no necessity for any clarification of the position in that respect.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary mean a county borough?
I mean a borough council.
A municipal council?
No, a borough council as mentioned here. Kilkenny City is a borough council and a borough council is what is covered here. It is in exactly the same position as an urban council for rateable purposes.
I think the new point is whether a borough would be covered by a county-at-large charge.
So it will.
And a county borough would not?
That is right.
I think the Parliamentary Secretary's explanation is fair enough.
Is any work done inside a borough under this Bill?
If a river passes through a borough, how could we avoid it? If we are working on a river, we must follow it, no matter where it goes.
I can understand the Parliamentary Secretary's difficulty about the power of initiation by a local authority. Once the Drainage Commissioners take on the responsibility of national drainage, schemes will scarcely be initiated by local authorities because it would not be possible to deal with the problem. You would be inundated with applications. The only point in regard to that is the phrase, "shall be lawful" for the drainage authority to carry out schemes. Goodness knows when the drainage authority will carry out schemes. I think that is Deputy Coogan's problem: he does not know when the Kilkenny problem will be dealt with.
What would be the result of giving the local authorities the power of initiation which Deputy Coogan suggests? Would the result not be that the Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Borough Council would proceed to initiate whatever scheme interested them most? The Borough Council and the County Council of Waterford would do likewise and the same would apply to the Cork, Kerry, Cavan and the West-meath county and borough authorities. Would it not all boil down to this, that there would have to be some supreme authority to decide which of all these proposals should be taken first? If we accepted all these provisions which are suggested here as proper, somebody would still have to be given the final say as to which of all the proposals submitted by all the county councils and borough councils should be proceeded with; somebody would have to decide which scheme in all that mass of schemes submitted was the most suitable and most necessary at the moment.
My trouble in connection with the problem is that there is a tendency perhaps to overlook urban flooding under the policy of this Bill.
There is not the slightest tendency.
It is to guard against anything of that nature that I really put this down; to get some sort of undertaking that in preparing schemes, the board would take into consideration problems of urban flooding which cause very serious damage, not only to property but to health. The areas in the City of Kilkenny subject to this periodic flooding and dampness are places in which tuberculosis is prevalent. There are serious epidemics of diseases arising from time to time from these conditions. Public health should at least receive as much consideration in connection with the policy underlying this Bill as the improvement of agricultural land. It is to get some undertaking that that aspect will not be overlooked when they come to implement the scheme that I put down this amendment, because this matter fizzled out in 1931 and again in 1934.
We have no guarantee in this Bill, as framed, that the problem as it affects Kilkenny City, Thomastown, and other centres along the river will be tackled for many years to come. Meanwhile, these unfortunate people will have to continue enduring these inundations and be at the loss of property. Considerable damage is done by every one of these floods. There is serious loss of property and the State is doing nothing to alleviate the ensuing distress. We should have some undertaking that in the policy which the Board of Works will follow cases of that kind will not be neglected. As to the other point, if the Parliamentary Secretary assures me that the county-at-large charge covers the borough area proper, I accept that.
I think it is a good thing that we have had this discussion to get some clarification of what is in the Parliamentary Secretary's mind so far as drainage is concerned. I am rather anxious as to what the intentions of the Board of Works would be in so far as drainage inside towns is concerned. I have in mind the case of the town in which I live—Wexford. Twice within the last month people's houses in a certain portion of the town have been flooded to the extent of two or three feet. That is entirely due to the quantity of water that rushes into the town from a river two or three miles outside the town. The place I refer to is King Street, Wexford. It is rather low-lying and the corporation have found it very hard to deal with the matter. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary if cases of that kind would have the attention of his Department. As Deputy Coogan has said, up to now we have been talking, so far as this Bill is concerned, from the point of view of the reclamation of land. That is very necessary I admit. But, in a great many cases, flooding has been the cause of bad health and has created bad conditions for people who have to live in low-lying areas in towns and cities. I should like to get an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that his Department will direct its attention to cases such as I have mentioned. As I say, flooding took place twice within the last month in the town in which I live. I should like to have an assurance that all the energies of the Department will not be directed to the reclamation of land which, of course, is very necessary, but that some of its activities will be applied to the question of the flooding of towns which is caused by water coming in from outside.
I will not mislead the House by giving any assurance of the kind to which Deputy Coogan and Deputy Corish referred. I certainly cannot give such an assurance.
I shall explain that, I hope. The only guarantee that this House can get, the only means of protection this House has, if work of this nature is being undertaken is when the Estimate of this Department comes up each year. If provision appears in the Estimate for that work, Deputies will then be able to criticise this drainage authority for its decision or decisions in the selection of the catchment areas on which work has been undertaken. There would be no point in my giving Deputy Coogan that assurance when I know that immediately work is undertaken we will be pressed from every part of the country and by local authorities and public men to undertake drainage in every conceivable kind of place. I know that every year when the Estimate is introduced here every Deputy who comes from an area in which there is a drainage problem will make a case for that particular area and he will be able to criticise the wisdom of selecting one particular area as against another area. I do not know of any other guarantee or assurance that Deputies can get. In fact they cannot get any other guarantee or assurance. They cannot have any other protection than the protection provided in that way to members of the House and to the people in the country. As I say, the procedure laid down here as to the manner in which the work is to be undertaken follows the lines recommended to us by those who saw the way in which it worked previously. They were satisfied that this was essential if progress along proper lines was to be made. We have followed that. In connection with our selection of a particular area or areas, undoubtedly there will be people who will say that there were other more deserving areas. We will have that at all times, because this problem is so large that it cannot be hoped that we will be able to go into every district in a year or two and clear it up. Until every district is cleared up, you will have Deputies such as Deputy Coogan making a case for the Nore, Deputy Corish making a case for some part of Wexford, and so on all over the country. But, as I say, the only protection they have is the discussion that will take place on the Estimate for the Office of Public Works.
I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary has taken up a very peculiar attitude. If he set out to be evasive, he has certainly succeeded in it. He was only asked by me, at any rate, to say that they were not going to devote all their attention to the reclamation of land; that they were going to pay some attention to towns and cities where flooding was the cause of bad health.
It is only natural that we would do that.
That is all they are asked to do. It is not necessary to talk for several minutes in order to say that some of the activities of the board will be applied to the case I have in mind. That case is a very serious one. It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that when the Estimate is before the Dáil we can criticise what they have done. That would be too late. The thing would then be afait accompli. We are only permitted to say that we would have expected them to do something else in some other part of the country. I suggest that the House has been helpful to the Parliamentary Secretary in this matter. We have been appreciative of the Bill, which is long overdue. Surely when the Parliamentary Secretary is asked whether or not the case to which I have referred will get the same attention as the reclamation of land, it is not too much to expect a reply instead of being told to wait until the Estimate is submitted to the House, when we will be permitted to criticise it. That is very little good. If the Parliamentary Secretary had seen what I saw in Wexford town during the past month, I think it would be one of the first places to which he would apply the machinery of this Bill. There were over 20 houses with water half-way up the stairs, and people were unable to get out of their houses for hours. All that is due to the fact that water is coming in from the rural areas. Surely it is not too much to ask that preference should be given to cases of that kind.
I have a good deal of sympathy with what Deputy Corish has said, but I must say that that is applicable to a great many towns all over the country besides Kilkenny and Wexford. I suppose that every Deputy could say that there is a town in his constituency which has been very badly flooded during the last month. In the last two days especially, the country all over was practically inundated. We must remember we are living in a very wet climate, and no matter what is done in the way of arterial drainage, there will be always a water problem in this country. I think there are some Deputies who do not appreciate the conditions under which we are living in the country. This Bill proposes to tackle that problem and the Parliamentary Secretary has assured the House that the Bill was drafted by men who have experience over a number of years of the operation of other Acts and of the defects that were in those Acts. I suppose it is right to profit by experience.
I can understand that in a scheme of national drainage the power of initiation must be vested in a central authority such as we propose to set up. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will elucidate this point for the House. How exactly is priority to be decided? The decision dealing with cases as to their priority will be vested absolutely in the drainage authority we are setting up under this Bill, but we are providing no facilities for the people in the matter of expressing their views or making decisions in their own interests. That was our point on the Committee Stage, that we were vesting the power in a bureaucracy to make decisions so far as priority is concerned. That is an aspect of the Bill that disturbs me more than anything else. Once the Bill becomes law, the people in the Board of Works will make the decisions, and there is no machinery for questioning what they do.
There is. The only thing I am afraid of is that the machinery for questioning their decision is here, and it can be very vocal, too.
It is not a question of draining any particular river so much as the question of public health that concerns me. Surely, the public health aspect should get as much consideration as other aspects of this scheme.
Is it not unreasonable to ask me what are the factors that will be taken into account in determining the order of priority? Is it not only natural that the authority that will be given this responsibility will examine every aspect of the problem before it makes a decision? Deputies talk here as to whether we will take into consideration matters of public health or have regard solely to the amount of land that will be reclaimed. Will not location, public health, reclaimed land and such matters be considered by those who will have to make the final decision? It is not reasonable to have to deal with these things at this stage.
We have no idea how long you are going to take on this job.
Nor have I, either.
It may take 50 or 100 years to complete it. Surely, we should have some indication from the Parliamentary Secretary that it will be either a long-term or a short-term policy. We should have some indication of the maximum period we will have to wait for the scheme to be completed. As I visualise it, it will take at least 30 years if Kilkenny is to be touched at all. The entire initiative is vested in the Office of Public Works. All the local authorities are suppressed— they have no voice or initiative of any kind. The least we might get is the order of priority that will be pursued. I know the Parliamentary Secretary cannot go into detail.
I want to stress the problem of urban flooding, and I suggest it is just as important to this State as rural flooding. As a matter of fact, it is more important that you should endeavour to prevent urban flooding, where human lives and the public health generally are affected as a result of periodic inundation. I suggest that it is just as important to attend to urban flooding as to tackle the drainage of marshy land or bog land. It is far more important to put the flooding of urban areas in its proper perspective. If the Parliamentary Secretary saw what I saw on Sunday, 19th November, I believe he would feel compelled to take immediate action in the interests of the people. I have seen crippled persons, with the help of their neighbours, put sitting on the tops of stairs, trying to get a breakfast. They were routed out of bed at 5 o'clock in the morning when water entered their houses to a depth of three feet. There are shopkeepers in Kilkenny who had water flowing in torrents through the back and out the front door; that water was rushing at 30 miles an hour. Is that sort of thing to be allowed to continue until you make up your minds to do the job? All I ask in this amendment is that the local authority will have the right to make representations to the central drainage authority, which will have a year from the date of that representation in which to carry out a preliminary investigation.
If all the local authorities serve 12 months' notice in connection with a scheme that will cost £7,000,000, how are we to give effect to their representations? Deputy Coogan wants the Borough Council of Kilkenny to be in a position to give us 12 months' notice that we should relieve Kilkenny City of flooding. Suppose that right is conceded to every local authority, all having the same sort of problem, and all anxious that we should relieve their flooding, what position would we find ourselves in and how could the organisation here visualised attend to all requests?
You can count on your fingers the number of towns presenting this type of problem.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary give us any undertaking?
No, I could not.
The important point is, will the Parliamentary Secretary give an undertaking that his activities in the first instance will not be confined to rural areas for the purpose of reclaiming land? Does drainage, in so far as towns are concerned, stand on the same plane as drainage for the purpose of reclaiming land? Will the Parliamentary Secretary give an undertaking that all these problems will be considered?
Does not the Deputy know that as well as I do?
I do not, and the Parliamentary Secretary apparently will not give an answer to a straight question. Are we not sent here to elicit such information as I am asking?
If a river runs through a town, we are not going to jump the town.
Would it not be a Gilbertian situation if the drainage authority concentrated all its activities in rural areas while people in some towns and cities throughout the country would have three or four feet of water in their houses? As Deputy Coogan points out, you could probably count the affected towns on the fingers of one hand.
Is it not a silly thing for one Department of this State to be applying a certain amount of its funds to wiping out tuberculosis, while another may be carrying out a drainage works outside a particular town where people have three or four feet of water in their houses at various parts of the year? Houses of that kind breed tuberculosis and, if we are to have a healthy nation, I suggest that it is in the towns the drainage should be started.
Deputy Coogan has referred to cases which have come under his notice in the City of Kilkenny. Twice during the past month in King Street in the town of Wexford, I have seen 20 houses under water to the extent of two or three feet, and the dirt and slush left when the water has drained off is certainly not conducive to good health. The first thing the Government should do is to apply the machinery of this Bill to the relief of cases of that kind. We are only asking that these problems be considered at the same time as other problems and that rural drainage should not get preference.
If this is taken calmly, it will be seen that this amendment asks that the local authority be entitled to make representations and that the Board of Works be able in due course to investigate the case made and, if they think fit, to frame a scheme. The whole initiative and working of the system remains with the Board of Works and all the local authority asks is permission to do that which, I think, they could do without permission. The only binding thing in Deputy Coogan's amendment is that the Board of Works, in respectful answer and in ordinary courtesy, should investigate the claim made and, if it is right, then the urgency of the problem should dictate to the Board of Works the necessity to draft a scheme. In all fairness to the Deputy and in due recognition of the rights of local authorities, I think the Parliamentary Secretary should give a favourable answer and say this will be fairly considered.
What is being asked is to an extent reasonable and to an extent unreasonable. Undoubtedly, a local authority has the right to make representations without any legal provision whatever, but if as a result of the exercise of that right, our engineers had to travel around the country, whenever local authorities made representations that there was flooding in this river or in that, the attempts to deal with this problem would be disorganised. Therefore, the assurance requested could not be given. I hope I will get the House, and Deputy Corish in particular, to understand the simple fact that we have completed a survey of the Brosna district, that there are towns and urban areas within that district and, to the extent that they are inside the catchment area, that they will be relieved of any water that is giving trouble.
If the new drainage authority takes on a particular catchment area and prepares a scheme for drainage works, is it not only common sense that the towns affected in that area will be dealt with? This drainage authority does not propose to skip those towns because they are towns or because a river happens to touch upon them and do them damage. They will have to be treated as part of the problem, but only to the extent that this drainage authority decides to prepare a scheme in respect of that catchment area.
The amendment asks the right to make representations and that the representations, when made, should be dealt with. In his reply the Parliamentary Secretary has stated clearly to the House that, if the representations confirm the statements made, they will be investigated. I think that is sufficient for the House and that it is a clear-cut answer.
The amendment asks for a preliminary investigation, on representations made by the local authority. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give some undertaking in this matter.
I certainly will not.
I appreciate the difficulty in the case of a national scheme and the vast number of representations which are likely to be made. Appreciating all that, I think the Parliamentary Secretary could meet Deputy Coogan to the extent of going on record as saying that priority will be given to cases where regular annual floodings occur. Some investigation should be given where flooding occurs year after year during the winter months, in places like Kilkenny, Wexford and Carlow. Carlow is flooded simply because the upper reaches of the Barrow were drained and the lower reaches were not drained at all. The floods then come down rapidly when there is heavy rainfall. The problem in Carlow is more difficult now than it was some years ago. I appreciate the Parliamentary Secretary's difficulty and that of the drainage authority in this matter, but I think he could meet the House by giving an assurance that, where the drainage authority is satisfied that annual flooding occurs in bigger towns and cities, as described by Deputy Coogan and Deputy Corish, an earlier investigation will be made with a view to dealing with the matter.
Deputies have given here this evening a very good example as to what may happen if such an undertaking were given to one or other district. Deputy Coogan has made a very good case for the Nore and the difficulties around the City of Kilkenny, while Deputy Corish has given his version of the difficulties in the Slaney.
It is not the Slaney at all.
It would not be wise to give a guarantee to either of these districts. They are only two of the many districts throughout the State affected by flooding. The representatives of these two districts adversely affected by flooding want the Parliamentary Secretary to give a guarantee that their districts will be attended to. I think that is unreasonable. We have a Department of State capable of handling this drainage problem generally and the professional men connected with it are the best judges, always provided that they take into consideration the representations of the district. To give the City of Kilkenny and the town of Wexford preferential treatment would be unwise.
We are not asking for preferential treatment for Kilkenny or Wexford. We are asking for some guarantee that, in the policy of administration to be pursued under this Bill, the economic schemes from an agricultural point of view will not be put entirely in the forefront, to the exclusion of uneconomic schemes, such as the Kilkenny scheme, which, in the opinion of the Board of Works, is admittedly uneconomic.
None of these schemes is economic, if that is the test to be applied.
People should count in this matter at least as much as cattle and as acres of bog or marshland. When you have to grapple with the problem of reclaiming land, the public health of the people should not be overlooked. It is a very serious problem in Kilkenny, Graiguenamanagh, Thomastown and Skibbereen, which I have heard mentioned; but every town is not affected. The Parliamentary Secretary gives the House the impression that, if he gives way on this point, he himself will be inundated with representations for schemes. I do not see that position arising at all. I suppose there will be seven or eight large schemes to do the entire country and, on the basis of the comprehensive schemes outlined here, there would not be separate schemes for every little stream and river. All we want is that the policy to be pursued will be at least as fair to the townsmen suffering from flooding as it will be to the men in the rural areas and that the health of the people in the urban areas will get fair consideration. We ask for some indication from the Parliamentary Secretary on that point.
I would like the Deputy to remember that this is the Report Stage, although the measure has been re-committed. If I had not decided to re-commit it, we could not have had half the discussion that has been permitted.
The Parliamentary Secretary can blame himself for that.
I can blame myself but I think it is not reasonable to ask that this amendment be accepted.
Is the amendment being withdrawn?
I would not like to see it withdrawn.
Will I put the question?
Have I the right to move it?
I think the Parliamentary Secretary has been unreasonable. He has not met us in this matter. I think the people in the towns of Ireland have a perfect right to get some relief on this matter.
If you were to hold up this Bill for the next 12 months, now that I have decided to re-commit it, I will not mislead the House, the Deputy or the country, no matter how much pressure is put upon me.
We are not asking you.
The guarantees you are asking from me are unreasonable. I could not give them to any member of the House or to any person or persons. I am not going to give them for the sake of getting an easy passage for the Bill.
All that we are asking is a declaration of equal treatment.
How could I give a declaration of equal treatment?
It would be quite easy for you to say that you are not going to confine your powers and activities under this Bill to the country, and that the Bill will be used equally to relieve flooding in the towns as well as in the country.
How could I give a guarantee of equal treatment—that one scheme must be taken before another?
The Parliamentary Secretary does not want to do it.
Are you prepared to indicate to the House what particular priorities are to operate?
I have already indicated that, in the course of our activities so far, we have surveyed the catchment of the Brosna, and I have explained that that will extend to towns and boroughs subjected to flooding. They will be relieved. If we go to some other catchment area to-morrow, or in 12 months' time, and if there is flooding in a particular town or towns, then these towns will be relieved in similar fashion. I do not see what further assurance I can give.
Having gone through these schemes, is the Parliamentary Secretary able to give the House any idea of how long these townspeople are to continue to suffer?
I have not the faintest notion.
What are the considerations that will govern decisions as to priorities?
I could not even tell the Deputy that.
This certainly will get a preference?
I could not tell that.
In the case of a Bill of this tremendous size, I am quite sure the Parliamentary Secretary could not give any such guarantee. If I understand the English language, he has stated that local authorities have the power to make representations and he, on behalf of the Government, has assured the House that these representations will get the earnest consideration they deserve. Can he go any further? He cannot give a guarantee. I think the Parliamentary Secretary has gone far enough.
Amendment put and declared negatived.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In page 5, Section 5 (1), line 30, to insert before the word "as" the words "circulating in the said area".
I move amendment No. 5:—
In page 6, Section 7 (1), line 53, to insert before the word "and" the words "The Minister for Local Government and Public Health".
Amendment No. 6 in the name of Deputy Hughes.
On a point of order, I had a Motion before the House asking for permission to raise a certain matter on the adjournment. We are now one hour from the time of adjournment. I ask the Chair if it is possible that the Minister for Justice should be present in the House at 9 o'clock. Several Deputies have certain questions to put to him.
The matter is out of order altogether. The House is dealing with a specific Bill and cannot go away from it now. Amendment No. 6 in the name of Deputy Hughes.
I think that, if Deputies require a certain Minister to be in the House, we have the right to have that Minister here.
The business before the House is the Drainage Bill, which is being conducted by the Parliamentary Secretary. Deputies cannot ask for other Ministers to come in now.
At 9 o'clock.
We have nothing to say as to what is going to happen at 9 o'clock. The business for to-day's sitting was ordered at 3 o'clock and we cannot depart from that now.
We are asking that the Minister for Justice be here at 9 o'clock.
We are dealing with the business before the House and we cannot depart from that.
This is a matter of national importance.
The business before the House is of national importance.
Why not go out and bring them in?
If you and your Party were right he would be here.
The responsible Minister is here attending to his duty.
Deputy Walsh should not talk to me. I was in the House when he was out of it.
Money for nothing.
That shows your ignorance. You are getting money for nothing.
The business before the House is amendment No. 6 in the name of Deputy Hughes.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In page 7, Section 9, paragraph (a), line 37, before the word "additions" to insert the word "reasonable".
Although we discussed this matter before, it never came before the House by way of formal amendment. I hope that since our last discussion on it the Parliamentary Secretary has gone into the matter and that, possibly, he is prepared to change his mind.
If Deputy Flanagan is not interested in Deputy Hughes' amendment he can leave the House.
I submit to your ruling, but I will not take impudence from Deputy Walsh.
I did not hear it.
He is most insulting.
Deputies should try to conduct themselves and not engage in personalities.
I want to insert the word "reasonable" before the words "additions, omissions, variations and deviations". The section, as it stands, says that the commissioners having prepared a scheme shall proceed "to construct, execute, and complete the drainage works specified in the scheme with such additions, omissions, variations, and deviations as shall be found necessary in the course of the work." The power taken in that paragraph is far too wide, particularly when you have a section like Section 12, which makes provision not only for alterations but for substantial alterations. I think, in view of all that, that it is obviously necessary to insert the word "reasonable".
Section 12 is very wide in scope. I submit that, according to this section, all previous plannings and submissions can be substantially varied. Having regard to the machinery which is envisaged, that power is far too wide. The Parliamentary Secretary made clear in Committee that this section was intended to be operated only in the case of minor matters which might arise in the course of the operation of a scheme. In the original drafting of the plan, these matters might not have been foreseen. All the difficulties which might arise in the operation of a scheme could not be foreseen and some power would be required to go outside the scheme occasionally. But paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) is very wide in scope. The 1925 Act uses the word "reasonable". We agree that very wide powers are necessary for a drainage authority operating a national drainage scheme if the work is not to be delayed by unforeseen difficulties. On the other hand, we must think of the individual. There is a responsibility on Parliament to put in safeguards which are necessary in the interests of the individual. If Deputies examine legislation passed over a long number of years, they will see that safeguards were always inserted in matters vital to the interests of the individual. It is unwise to depart from that practice. The Parliamentary Secretary has lifted a section out of the older Act but he has deliberately omitted a necessary word so far as the individual is concerned—the word "reasonable". If the drainage authority behave in an unreasonable way and if the word "reasonable" is in the Act, a person who thinks he is aggrieved will have the right to bring them into court and get a decision. When the word "reasonable" is omitted, the whole meaning of the section is altered. The wider power given in Section 12 was not included in the 1925 Act at all. Yet, the drainage authority had to operate a provision in which the word "reasonable" was used. We are making substantial provision in Section 12 for any change which may be necessary in the course of operation so that this section is definitely designed to deal with minor alterations. As at present drafted, it gives the drainage authority power to go outside these minor alterations. It is absolutely essential, in my opinion, that the word "reasonable" be inserted.
This matter was discussed very fully on the Committee Stage and I see no reason for changing my mind on the matter.
- Anthony, Richard S.
- Bennett, George C.
- Blowick, Joseph.
- Broderick, William J.
- Cafferky, Dominick.
- Coburn, James.
- Cogan, Patrick.
- Coogan, Eamonn.
- Corish, Richard.
- Keating, John.
- McFadden, Michael Og.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Donnellan, Michael.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Finucane, Patrick.
- Flanagan, Oliver J.
- Giles, Patrick.
- Halliden, Patrick J.
- Heskin, Denis.
- Hughes, James.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Sheldon, William A. W.
- Spring, Daniel.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Boland, Patrick.
- Bourke, Dan.
- Brady, Brian.
- Breathnach, Cormac.
- Breen, Daniel.
- Breslin, Cormac.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Buckley, Seán.
- Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
- Butler, Bernard.
- Carter, Thomas.
- Colbert, Michael.
- Colley, Harry.
- Corry, Martin J.
- Crowley, Fred H.
- Daly, Francis J.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Fogarty, Patrick J.
- Furlong, Walter.
- Gorry, Patrick J.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Healy, John B.
- Hilliard, Michael.
- Humphreys, Francis.
- Kilroy, James.
- Kissane, Eamon.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Loughman, Frank.
- Lydon, Michael F.
- Lynch, James B.
- McCann, John.
- McCarthy, Seán.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Moran, Michael.
- Morrissey, Michael.
- Moylan, Seán.
- O Briain, Donnchadh.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O Cléirigh, Mícheál.
- O'Connor, John S.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Loghlen, Peter J.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- O'Rourke, Daniel.
- Rice, Bridget M.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Mary B.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Skinner, Leo B.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Conn.
Sir, while the majority of the members of the House are now present, I would ask whether the Chair would give a ruling as to what a Deputy can do when he raises a matter in connection with the reply of a Minister to a Parliamentary Question about which the Deputy is not satisfied, when the Minister himself is not present. What is a Deputy to do in connection with a reply to such a question, when he wishes to raise the matter again?
There is no reason to apply to the Chair in such a case. The procedure is provided for in the Standing Orders of this House.
Well, if members of this House require a responsible Minister to be in attendance in order to answer important questions, what must Deputies do in order to ensure that the Minister must be in attendance to answer such questions? Is it not in order to raise such a matter?
It is not in order for the Deputy to raise it now. He should read the Standing Orders, a copy of which is supplied to each Deputy.
A number of Deputies——
The Deputy must resume his seat.
I apologise, Sir, but cannot Deputies raise such a question now?
They cannot, because there is no notice of such question.
Deputy Donnellan asked for leave to give notice of the question, and leave was refused.
Leave to introduce the question being refused, the matter is finished.
All I wish to point out is——
The Deputy will resume his seat.
With all respect to the Chair——
The Deputy can best show respect to the Chair by resuming his seat.
All I wish to point out is that there is a great deal of uneasiness in the country with regard to this matter, and Dáil Eireann is the place to raise it.
Amendment No. 8.
With all respect to your ruling, Sir, I think it is most unfair that——
Amendment No. 8.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In page 8, at the end of Section 9, to add a new paragraph as follows:
(h) it shall be the responsibility of the commissioners to have all claims for compensation arising out of the operation of this Act which have not been settled by agreement brought for hearing not more than twelve months from the time such claims arise before an arbitrator provided for in this Act.
The purpose of this amendment is to have a claim for compensation dealt with within a reasonable period. I do not want to tie the Parliamentary Secretary down to the twelve months, if he thinks it is too short a period; but I think that the House should set some limitation to the period over which a claim for compensation can lie undischarged. We have had experience of claims of this sort having remained undischarged for a long time, and the individual claimant has no redress whatever.
I think one might easily envisage a situation where the whole livelihood of an individual claimant might be affected. For instance, the claimant might have an interest in milling or something of that sort, and his whole income might be held up for an unreasonable period as a result of this. I might even give an example, where a certain portion of land was required for the purpose of coastal defence, and where the claims for compensation have not yet been settled, although that happened over three years ago. I think that is an unreasonable period and that it is very unfair to the individual concerned. That is what prompted me to put down this amendment, but apart from that I think that a reasonable limit should be set to the period of time in which a reasonable claim for compensation may be discharged.
I think Deputy Hughes will agree that it would be impossible to stipulate a set time in which to deal with all these claims.
There should be a maximum period within which appeals could be decided. I do not want to be unreasonable.
There could not even be a maximum period fixed because circumstances might arise in some one or two, or even three or four cases, in which a decision could not be reached within the maximum period. We would be as anxious as anybody else to clear off these claims not in 12 months, but in six months or one month if possible, but circumstances might arise over which we would have no control to prevent our giving effect to that desire. In that case it would not be wise to enact a provision which sought to compel us to do something which circumstances would render impossible.
What circumstances does the Parliamentary Secretary envisage that would prevent the Drainage Commissioners having these claims decided within a reasonable period?
Questions of title for one thing.
That should not take such a very long time.
You would be surprised how long.
We are dealing now with individual farmers and in some cases the amount of compensation to which they would be entitled would be very substantial. It is, therefore, desirable that farmers, mainly small farmers, should not have to wait an unreasonable time for compensation in respect of whatever land the Drainage Commissioners will take over for the purposes of drainage schemes. It is only fair that there should be a time limit.
There cannot be.
It should be clearly set out that claims for compensation should be settled within at least two years. What Deputy Hughes has stated is perfectly true. I know of cases myself where land was acquired four years ago for the purpose of erecting coast watching stations. The unfortunate owners have not been compensated yet and, as far as I can see, there is no likelihood of their being compensated in the near future. If under this Bill the Drainage Commissioners acquire land, it is only fair and reasonable that the people who suffer by the exercise of these extraordinary functions of the commissioners should be compensated within a reasonable period of time.
We all agree that that should be so where it is possible but, in cases where it is not possible, we do not want to be bound down by any hard and fast provision.
The experience of many members of the House has been that claims of this sort have been put on the long finger. The Parliamentary Secretary assures the House that the claims will be dealt with in a reasonable time, but we know that has not been the practice in the past. We have given one example—it is not, I admit, the responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary—in which claims have been outstanding for four years. I am quite satisfied the same thing is going to occur under this Bill. I suggest that there is a responsibility on the House to insert some provision in the Bill which will establish some definite time limit. I do not want to be unreasonable. I inserted a period of a year in the amendment for the purposes of discussion, but I am satisfied to make that two years if the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to meet us. The House will appreciate the desirability of having these claims settled as speedily as possible, especially where the man concerned is in poor circumstances. The money may be urgently required. You may do away with his whole livelihood. The officials concerned may not be very much worried about it and the claim may be left on one side for a long time. Surely the House will appreciate that we have a responsibility to set some time limit for the people who are doing the job? If you set a time limit the obligation will be discharged within that time limit, but if you do not put in a time limit, many of these claims will be left undischarged for a long period.
I think the Parliamentary Secretary is very unreasonable in his attitude on this whole measure, particularly in regard to provisions which we consider essential in the individual's interests. It is merely to protect the interests of the individual against the bureaucratic machine that we have moved in these matters. The bureaucratic machine will steamroll the individual if we do not protect him. If we believe in the liberty of the individual, we must take steps to insert these safeguards. Are we going to legislate in this House to hand over to civil servants absolute bureaucratic control in these matters? If members are satisfied to legislate along these lines, I venture to prophesy that you will have an intolerable position in this country in a few years' time. I would point out that experienced legislators, not merely in this House but in the British House of Commons down through the years, have seen fit to insert in legislation of this kind a number of necessary safeguards so far as the individual is concerned. In recent years here we are trampling on the rights of individuals in our legislation. I do not want to waste the time of the House but I shall be compelled to divide the House on this amendment if the Parliamentary Secretary does not see fit to meet us in some way. I am prepared to be reasonable on the question of time, but I do want some time limit fixed.
I should like to appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to meet the House in some way in regard to this amendment. Deputy Hughes does not ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tie himself to any exact form of words but he wishes that some limit should be set to the time within which the arbitrator would be obliged to sit and adjudicate on these claims. In the Bill we are providing some safeguards for the people concerned inasmuch they are given the option, if there is not agreement, of going to arbitration. If we do not, however, set some limit to the time within which the arbitration proceedings must be determined, we are practically compelling a man in poor circumstances to accept the offer of compensation made to him rather than risk going to arbitration seeing that the arbitrator may not sit for ten years. If he is entitled to some compensation it is practically putting the pistol to his head and saying: "You agree to our offer or we shall hold the matter up for arbitration and the case may not come off for at least two or three years." I think the Parliamentary Secretary should at least give some consideration to the amendment so that some limit might be fixed. The period suggested by Deputy Hughes might be extended to two years.
I submit that only a small percentage of cases will go to arbitration, and surely the Parliamentary Secretary must appreciate that there is a responsibility on the House to see that a man is not kept waiting for an unreasonable period for compensation and that the liability which the drainage authority has incurred must be discharged within a reasonable period. There is no question of consequential loss involved and if a man is kept out of his money for three or four years it may seriously affect his ability to maintain his family. We are not unreasonable in this matter and I think the Parliamentary Secretary should at least give some consideration to our representations. He should not be absolutely adamant. What is the use of the House considering any legislation at all, if the Parliamentary Secretary remains adamant on every point and takes up the attitude that he must adhere absolutely to the draft of the measure as it is introduced? The purpose of Parliament is to examine all legislation brought before it in the best interests of the people and to use the practical experience of Deputies to try to improve the measure from the people's point of view. I cannot commend to the House the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary in that respect. I am sorry to have to say that, but the Parliamentary Secretary has not tried to use the House as it ought to be used. This is not a contentious measure by any means. We all want arterial drainage done, and surely a wise man in the Parliamentary Secretary's position would try to use the House to improve the measure.
Surely the Deputy does not suggest that I should give way merely for the sake of hearing the Opposition say: "You have met us", or "You have been nice to the House", or, to make use again of that famous word "reasonable", "You have been reasonable with us"? My approach to this measure is that, to the extent to which I regard any suggestions made by members of the Opposition as designed to bring about an improvement, I am prepared to consider and accept them. To the extent to which I am not satisfied that they will have that effect, I must oppose them. I have considered this amendment, and, while I can say to the House that it would be our desire to pay compensation in every case as quickly as possible—even, as I have said before, well within the term of 12 months mentioned here — cases will arise in which it will not be possible to pay within 12 months.
Cases may arise in which it would not be possible to pay within two years. Cases may arise in which it would not be safe to have a limit of any kind such as is suggested by the Opposition. Therefore, I must run the risk of being accused by Deputy Hughes and others of being unreasonable in refusing to accept an amendment which I regard as one that would ultimately retard the carrying out of the work in which we all claim to have an interest.
We ask nothing of the Parliamentary Secretary until the amount is found due, because the amount is not due until it is agreed upon by somebody. All we ask is that that sum of money should then be paid within a reasonable time. Is there anything unreasonable about that? Why should it be refused?
I do not want even to go that far. All I want is to put responsibility on the drainage authority to bring the matter to arbitration. I want to see that it is brought to arbitration within a reasonable time. My amendment does not go beyond that. The Parliamentary Secretary a moment ago mentioned the question of title. For the purpose of bringing a case to arbitration I do not think that will arise at all. You can bring your case to arbitration, and the question of title is a matter for the other side altogether. All I am asking——
The vast majority of those cases——
——is that the cases should be brought to arbitration within a reasonable time.
What I was trying to say, but of course the Deputy did not want to allow me to say it, is that the vast majority of those cases are settled without arbitration at all. They are settled by agreement.
I have already said that.
We have always tried to reach agreement with those concerned, and that will continue to be our policy, but cases will arise where it would not be possible to fix a limit as suggested.
Do you investigate title in every case?
Yes; we would have to.
In many cases you will find that farmers will have had loans from the Board of Works and from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. In those cases there can be no doubt about title?
That is right.
Then the percentage of cases in which you would have to investigate title would be small?
We would have to know that the person in question was the owner.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary in any event indicate to the House what type of machinery he proposes to establish for the purpose of dealing with compensation cases? He has indicated that it is his desire to dispose of cases as quickly as possible. If that is his desire, I assume that at the back of his mind he knows the type of organisation he is going to set up for the purpose of dealing with the payment of compensation in all those cases.
When the case is taken to arbitration and the amount is fixed, the sum awarded would stand in court to be claimed by any individual who could establish title. In a case where no title was established, that sum might remain unclaimed for years. The question of establishing title is not a matter for the Parliamentary Secretary at all; it is a matter for the other party. Where there is no payment, the case would be brought to arbitration and the amount would be fixed. The amount would then stand in court to be claimed by some individual who would be able to establish title. That is the usual procedure.
Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?
The Parliamentary Secretary will not meet us in any way.
I think the Deputy is behaving in a most childish fashion in this matter.
No; the Parliamentary Secretary is doing so.
Amendment put and declared negatived.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In page 9, Section 11 (1) to insert in line 27 before the word "and" the words "or improve an existing alternative road or bridge"; to insert in line 32 before the word "and" the words "or of such improvement (as the case may be)" and to insert in line 49 before the word "confers" the words "or an existing alternative road or bridge improved by the commissioners (as the case may be)".
This amendment provides for the inclusion not only of the erection of a new bridge but the improvement of an existing bridge.
I move amendment No. 15 on behalf of Deputy Norton:—
In page 12, to delete Section 14 (5).
Section 14 (5) reads:—
"No action shall lie at law or in equity against the Minister or the commissioners or any officer, agent, or servant of the Minister or the commissioners in respect of any act, matter, or thing in respect of which compensation is payable by virtue of this section or either of the two next following sections."
I think it will be agreed that this is rather arbitrary, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to agree to the amendment.
We have provided for payment of compensation. We have covered this matter, and, having covered the payment of compensation in the event of the interference to which the Deputy refers, why should there be a claim against the Minister and his agents as well?
But any of the agents might do something outside the scope of the particular section under which it is agreed that compensation should be paid.
But, if the Deputy will look at the compensation provisions, he will see that there is no possibility of what he fears occurring.
Unfortunately, I am moving it on behalf of another Deputy.
I think the Deputy may withdraw it.
The point is already covered.
By what section?
By arbitration proceedings.
We have already provided for the payment of compensation.
I move amendment No. 16:—
In page 13, Section 15 (2), line 2, to delete the word "Minister" and substitute the words "reference committee".
I formally move amendment No. 17:—
In page 13, Section 16 (1), line 14, to delete the word "generally".
I was in some doubt as to what was really intended by this amendment. We cannot agree to it if my interpretation of what is intended is right.
I move amendment No. 18:—
In page 13, Section 16 (2), line 20, to delete the words "one year" and substitute the words "three years".
That meets an amendment of mine.
We are meeting you in this matter.
The second time.
I move amendment No. 19:—
In page 13, Section 16 (3), line 25, to delete the word "Minister" and substitute the words "reference committee".
I formally move amendment No. 20:—
In page 13, line 33, to delete the words "or may reasonably be expected to arise from".
We would have to take into account that most of these claims for compensation would be settled long before the drainage scheme would be carried out. You would have to use these words. You would have to have regard to the benefits that might reasonably be expected to arise from the carrying out of these works because, if you had to wait, you could not settle all these claims for years.
I move amendment No. 21:—
In page 13, lines 39 and 40, to delete the words "or which may reasonably be expected to arise from".
This is nearly the same as amendment No. 20:—
I move amendment No. 22:—
In page 14, before Section 19 (4), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(4) The commissioners shall send a copy of every award made under this section to the council of every county in which the area or any part of the area constituted by the award to be a separate drainage district is situate.
I think this is meeting Deputy Hughes again.
I move amendment No. 23:—
In page 15, lines 31, 32 and 33 to delete the words and brackets "(save as is otherwise provided by this Part of this Act in respect of arrears)".
This amendment proposes to fund the arrears of unpaid drainage rates.
This is connected with 25, is it?
It is to fund the arrears of drainage rates and spread repayment over a long period of years. According to the report of the Commission, I think, the total amount of arrears is somewhat more than £600,000. There is over £300,000 due by the counties interested in the Barrow drainage scheme, and the balance is due by other counties where drainage schemes have been carried out. In some cases these arrears will mean a very substantial addition to the rates, and it would be very unfair and very unreasonable to ask the county councils to meet the total amount of arrears in one payment.
They are not being asked to meet it.
I am anxious to find out from the Parliamentary Secretary the period of years over which he intends to spread repayment.
We are giving power to the local authority.
Will they be entitled to make their own arrangements?
There is no limit?
There is no limit.
No limit in respect of the number of years?
They may make any decision they wish.
It is a question for the local authority.
I think it is covered.
I put down the amendment because I was not satisfied that it was completely covered. I want to be clear on this one point, that the county councils have complete and absolute authority to spread the repayment of these arrears over any number of years.
There is no limit at all?
No limit whatever. They have complete discretion.
That is the point I wanted to be perfectly clear about and my sole object in moving the amendment was to elicit that information.
Will there be any recommendation made to the local authorities about funds?
I think you should do something about it because there ought to be some common measure. I see a difficulty arising in connection with the Barrow drainage arrears, which are considerable. I know there are arrears against one man of approximately £700. If one county makes one decision and another county makes a more favourable decision, there will be a nice kettle of fish right away. If there was some direction from the central authority as to how arrears are to be dealt with it might be very useful. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should consider that. It is inviting trouble to have one county manager making one decision and another county manager making another decision. Some recommendation should be made.
We have examined the matter very carefully and have decided not to interfere with the discretion which councils have been given in the treatment of this whole matter.
Let the pot boil over.
I take it the Parliamentary Secretary will make an effort to secure some uniformity as to the manner in which the arrears will be collected.
I do not think that would be wise. The question of arrears presents different problems in different places and you could not have uniformity.
I know the amounts vary in the different counties. I do not mean to press the matter.
There is a similar problem in respect of three counties on the Barrow and you might do something about it.
I move amendment No. 24:—
In page 15, to add at the end of Section 22, line 44, the following new sub-section:—
(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) of this section or the River Owenmore Drainage Act, 1926 (No. 3 of 1926), shall be deemed to limit the amount of any moneys to be raised by virtue of the said sub-section (1) in respect of the River Owenmore drainage district by means of the poor rate.
(3) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) of this section or the Barrow Drainage Acts, 1927 and 1933, shall be deemed to limit the amount of any moneys to be raised by virtue of the said sub-section (1) in respect of the Barrow drainage district by means of the poor rate.
This amendment is designed to make clear the position in regard to maintenance of the Barrow and the Owenmore. The Act of 1926 provides that a sum of £500, with discretionary powers to the Sligo County Council to add £100, should be spent on the maintenance of the Owenmore. A certain sum is set out for the maintenance of the Barrow, and, in the case of the Barrow, the Department of Finance, under the Barrow Drainage Acts, were obliged to contribute 50 per cent. of the cost of the maintenance, but as a result of the scheme in this Bill in relation to the Barrow, that contribution will come to an end. We are anxious to ensure that the authorities responsible for the maintenance of these two districts will not be confined to the sums that are specified here, fearing that, say, in the case of the Barrow, they might find it necessary to spend not £6,200 but £7,000, and that the authorities would not be held up for the sake of a few hundred pounds, but would have power to spend a larger sum than the sum specified.
This amendment does not mean that the Drainage Commissioners can force the county council and say that they must spend such-and-such an amount?
It means they will have freedom to do so if they feel it necessary.
I think the Parliamentary Secretary is not quite correct there. When the transfer order operates, and when it becomes the responsibility of the Drainage Commission, and the Drainage Commissioners submit their bill, under this section, there will be no limitation set to the amount of money that may be demanded. I think Deputy Roddy ought to be clear that that will be the position.
We are entitled to do that, apart from this amendment.
If you had not this section in the Bill, you might create an anomaly.
This amendment does not affect the matter at all.
It only covers up to the transfer order. I think you are wrong there.
It only covers the county council for the purpose of striking the rate.
But when the transfer order operates and when maintenance becomes the responsibility of the commissioners then there will be no limitation set to the amount of money that may be spent by the commissioners for maintenance and you will submit your bill to the local authority.
That would be the case apart from this amendment.
You might be limited if this section was not repealed.
No. They have spent in the last four years on the Barrow £6,930, £6,374, £6,856 and £7,074. We want to make sure if the county councils concerned, or if Sligo County Council, consider that £600 should be spent instead of £500 or £550, they would have power to strike that rate.
Is the Minister sure that the amendment actually means that?
That it rests with the county council to say what the amount should be?
Yes. The £500 is the sum mentioned that must be spent on the maintenance of the Owenmore. We are anxious to ensure that a greater degree of discretion will be given the local authority in the event of it being necessary to expend a larger sum than £500.
That is while they are in charge. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say what will happen when the transfer order takes place? I move to report progress.