Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 21 Jun 1955

Vol. 151 No. 11

Committee on Finance. - Vote 38—Local Government (Resumed).

I do not propose to stand very long between the Minister and his very natural desire to have this debate come to a conclusion, but there are just a few things I would like to say.

The first is with reference to the position of engineers under the revised salary scales of 1953. I notice from reading the Official Report that Deputy Bartley referred to this matter last week, but I do not think it is any harm that I also should refer to it, in the hope that the Minister will see that a fairly serious position has developed.

It appears now that none of our engineering graduates are going into local authority work. In fact, the position is so bad regarding the salary scales for young engineers in this country and for engineers generally in this country, that the final year students in college are being openly canvassed by large firms from England and elsewhere, and as a result we are educating engineers for the world market. That is a very serious situation and it is one that we will have to look into. It is possible that the enormous capital development throughout the world in the course of the past two years or so has pushed up the salaries outside this country for engineers, and it is possible that there may be even a scarcity of engineers and that they have a scarcity value as well as their real value. One of the effects of the situation certainly is that none of our 1954 graduates in engineering went into local authority work in this country, in contrast to the position at the beginning of the war, say, in 1939 or 1940, when 80 per cent. of the new engineers went into local authority work directly after they qualified.

Apart from that position, the engineers appear to have been discriminated against in the revised scales of 1953. For instance, the assistant county engineer who previously had been on a similar scale to an accountant, received a 9 per cent. increase as compared with a 20 per cent. increase for the accountant. The chief assistant county engineer who had previously been on the same level as the secretary and the assistant county medical officer of health, received a 7 per cent. increase as against 16½ per cent. for the other two officers. The county medical officer of health who had previously been on the same grade as the county engineer grade II, received an increase of 14 per cent. against 11 per cent for the grade II county engineer. The grade I county engineer received an increase of 6 per cent., as compared with an increase of 22 per cent. for the county manager.

The result of the discrimination which the engineers feel has been made against them in the revised scales of 1953 has been that at the present time they are boycotting the positions that become vacant from time to time. The County of Offaly at present has no county engineer. There is a position for county engineer vacant in Dublin and I understand that it is quite likely that the posts which are becoming vacant in a couple of other counties in the near future will also remain vacant if discriminatory treatment is going to be meted out to them.

That is the danger in Cork.

The position of city engineer in Cork, as Deputy MacCarthy reminds me, is in the same way and I think the assistant engineer for Dublin also.

For a long time.

I understand also that the Cork Corporation in their wisdom have recommended strongly to the Minister that they should advertise more attractive scales and that Dublin Corporation have made a similar recommendation with regard to Dublin. I am sure that those responsible people —particularly the responsible aldermen and citizens of Cork Corporation—have not made these recommendations without having studied the matter with some care. Whether the Minister himself has received these figures I have quoted, I do not know. If he has received them I am sure that he will give them his earnest consideration.

I notice also in the revision that the gap between the grade I and grade II county engineer has been narrowed. I think that is a continuation of a process that has been going on for some time. I believe that once upon a time there were three grades of county engineer—and, to be quite frank, I think there should still be three grades of county engineer in this country. I certainly think that there is a great gap between the work that a grade I and a grade II county engineer would have to do. If you take an easy county like——

Meath, I think— which is an easy county as against a county like Mayo, Galway or the Minister's own native Donegal. It should be self-evident that a county engineer working in Meath—where I understand they have only perhaps 20 or 30 miles of unrolled roads, by-roads and main county roads in the whole county—is a vastly different proposition from ploughing up mountains in Donegal and going around Deputy Blaney's bends.

It is very beautiful.

It is very beautiful, as Deputy Blaney says, and there is no county into which I like to go more than Donegal, as well for the scenery as anything else, but certainly the roads there must be a nightmare to deal with.

I would strongly urge on the Minister to revert to the old position, where the relative amount of work being done by a county engineer in these particularly difficult counties was reflected in the emoluments he got for doing that work. I imagine, although I do not know the figures, that the county engineer in one of these counties must be responsible for the spending of something like £1,000 or £1,500 per day. That is a very great responsibility and is one for which he and his assistants should be properly paid. The force of events over the past two or three years—the emigration of all our civil engineers—has proved that this matter demands attention.

Having said that, I would willingly sit down and let the Minister in if one or two of my own pet subjects were not still unsolved. I am glad, indeed, that legislation has now been introduced allowing for differentiation in regard to major and minor roads and giving legal force to the signs which, up to now, have not had any legal force. I would urge upon the Minister that not only should the Act be implemented quickly but that it should be uniformly implemented throughout the country. I make it a habit of reading certain Deputies' contributions to this House and of omitting to read certain other Deputies' contributions. One of those whose contributions I read is Deputy Sheldon and I strongly recommend to the Minister his statements about uniformity in regard to road signs and, for that matter, his statement that these road signs should mean what they say.

For the past three or four weeks there has been a sign on the road home which I take alleging that there are road works ahead. About 100 yards beyond that sign you get on to a new road—a much better one than the one on which you had been travelling and where there was not any warning about road works. When you have travelled about four or five miles on a beautiful new highway and see no sign alleging that there are road works ahead you say: "That is the same thing again. I will not be bothered about it" and you end up with two or three broken springs.

It is better than the sign "Danger, Men At Work".

Yes, it is. What you usually see is "Danger Men. At Work" or "Danger Men, At Work" which, as Deputy Sheldon says, is humorous. I hope we will get to the stage as soon as we possibly can where we will have uniform signs and where we will have in respect of the signs that will be put up arising out of the legislation passed recently the force of law, uniformity, and so on.

One effect that these will have is that it will make it easier for people to know what they are doing when they go out and use the roads. Another effect, I hope, will be that the relative positions in law of the people who are using the roads will be clarified with the result that there should be fewer actions for negligence in the courts and, possibly, some hope from the insurance point of view for the motorist and of course—and this is by far the most, important thing of all— that there would be fewer fatal accidents and fewer accidents involving serious injury. That, after all, is the object of all these signs that we are using and the object of the legislation recently passed in this House. I hope it will be the object of future legislation, although I am not now advocating that.

I feel confident that the Department will implement that Act as quickly as possible and do everything in their power to see that the Act is uniformly implemented throughout the country. I would like to urge upon the Minister that the drive towards the improvement of the county roads should continue. Irrespective of the arguments from one side or other of the House, it is my opinion that it is far more important at the present time that we should provide as many of the people as possible with a reasonable road before we start building highways at the expense of the taxpayer. At the same time, I think that we should build these highways. I think we should look to America and other countries where they build them as toll roads.

I understand that, when they built the Washington Bridge in New York, they expected it would take a very long time before they would redeem the cost and that they were astonished at the very short space of time it took to get in the revenue. I have no doubt whatever that if we were to embark on such a scheme in this country it would be a success too.

I do not want to particularise, but I do want to say that a lot of people to whom I have been talking feel that money is being wasted on certain aspects of main road development in this country at the present time; that too much money has been spent on the widening of roads, for instance, to what they regard as an entirely unnecessary width; and that that is going on at their expense while they are travelling on county roads which are in a hopeless condition.

That is really not the point I want to make. The point I was hoping to make was that I do not see why we should stop spending this money, but I think we should spend it in a different way and consider whether it would affect the small towns along the route if we were to establish a few turnpikes in this country. Frankly, I do not think it would. The small towns would suffer to a very minute extent, if at all, by the establishment of turnpikes or autobahns, as they are called in Germany.

I feel that by making the person who uses the roads pay by way of a toll, while you may be extracting a tax, the money you are now expending on these main roads could be diverted to the better development of the county roads and the person who wanted to to take the main road would still have a very good road. Although it would take him half an hour or an hour longer to get to his destination he would have a very good road.

All the enormously heavy traffic which is ploughing down these main roads every day and wrecking them would obviously go on to the toll road and in that way the present main roads would be saved the very heavy traffic which involves the great cost of upkeep and considerable repairs that obtain at the present time. I would recommend that to the Minister, perhaps not for this year, but he ought to keep it in mind when considering road policy in this country in the future.

Since we opened the debate on this Estimates, very many topics of the administration of the Department of Local Government have been discussed and also very many matters of local interest in regard to which it would be impossible. for me to go into all the details but I will endeavour to cover as many of them as I possibly can. I hope that the scope of local government affairs that will be solely the responsibility of local authorities will increase gradually and I look forward to the day when the Department of Local Government will be merely there in an advisory capacity to assist local authorities with the expert advice which undoubtedly they can give.

At the moment, of course, the Department of Local Government are a conduit or a pipe-line through which the finances filter from the Department of Finance to the local authorities. So long as we are in that position of being responsible for this filtering of the finances, then there is an onus cast upon us to see, first of all, that we can get a fair proportion of State grants from the Department for expenditure in our local authorities and then see, on behalf of the Department of Finance, that they are properly spent.

Deputy Childers was the first speaker for the Opposition on this Estimate, and I would like now to thank him for the constructive suggestions which he made, and I would like to thank the House generally for the manner in which the Estimate has been received. We have received very many helpful and constructive criticisms and suggestions, all of which have been noted. Deputy Childers was anxious to know about the architectural competition for house design which was mooted in 1947. That competition was initiated in 1947 and was in existance for a period of four years, but despite that fact it made very little progress and in 1951 the competition terminated. However, that does not mean that the Department have not continued to display interest in site plans and design of building. Some of the finest architects in this country are being employed by local authorities in the improvement of the design of houses for local authorities and others, and in matters of siting and appearance my Department's advisers are always available to the local authorities; their advice is often sought and often accepted.

The experts from my Department and from local authorities attend town planning conferences whenever they are conveniently held outside the country and gain very useful knowledge from their attendance at these particular functions. Sometimes my Department are blamed for the delay in sanctioning schemes but that delay is readily understood. We just cannot sanction them right off. We must examine the specifications, the various, site plans, and so on, and when you are dealing with local authorities of the Twenty-Six Counties it is just a little bit difficult at times without overworking the staff you have got.

I would like to refer to what Deputy Flanagan said a few moments ago. He made an appeal here on behalf of the engineers' association for increased salaries for county engineers and assistant engineers. The Deputy may not be aware of the fact that my predecessor sanctioned an increase for these professional men immediately before he went out of office, but what did these gentlemen do? They accepted an increase and immediately put the gun to my head and said: "We will boycott your competitions until we get more." That is the position. The gun has been held to my head and they have boycotted the competitions; they have accepted the increase which was given by my predecessor but they still want more.

One of the very first things I undertook when I became Minister was to introduce an amending Bill to the County Management Acts and I promised that under that Bill I would give the local authorities some say in the increase or decrease of the salaries of its permanent staff. There would not be much use in my locking the stable door after the horse was stolen. I could not turn around, increase those salaries and then come along and say to the local authority: "There you are, you have some say now in the increase or decrease in the salaries of your permanent staff but I took jolly good care to increase them all before I gave it to you." I do not think that would be right.

What would the salary be now?

I understand it is, between £1,600 and £1,700.

It is £1,450.

Plus certain bonuses, bringing them up to £1,600 or £1,700.

It is not too bad.

It is not too bad when you consider the allowance made to Deputies and Ministers. As I say, I must give the local authorities some say in the expenditure of the money which they collect and if these gentlemen wish to make representations now to their local authorities, that is a matter for themselves. The Bill will be an Act to-morrow, I understand, or the next day, and when the new local authorities are elected, let them make their representations to them. I do not see why I should come into it.

Is the increase the Minister mentioned the 1953 increase? There was not one subsequent to that?

It was in May, 1954. This was a new agreement reached by my predecessor, through the good offices of the secretary of my Department, with the County Engineers' Association.

The main thing is, there was only one revision since 1947?

The 1953 increase, I understand, related to the indoor staff; the 1954 one related to the outdoor staff. I have now explained my position, but I think it is very unfair that within a week of my taking office these gentlemen or this association should hold the gun to my head and boycott these competitions. If they had not taken advantage of the increases which were granted to them it would not be so bad.

Deputy Flanagan referred to road signs. I am very glad to be able to tell the Deputy that we propose adhering to the international convention regulations on road signs as soon as we are in a position to do so. I understand that there was an international convention which issued directions with regard to standardised road signs; and we hope to be able to adopt these recommendations as soon as possible. Of course we could not do very much pending the passage of the Local Government Act, 1955.

Deputies Childers and Kennedy referred to obsolete farm houses on farms of comparatively low valuations. There may be obsolete farm houses, but I think that is due mostly to lack of initiative on the part of the farmers concerned. Grants of £285 are available for the, rebuilding of farm houses. There is also a supplementary grant from the local authority. If farmers want to improve their houses they should take advantage of these grants. If they do this in a very short time we will have very good farm houses all over the country.

In the congested areas along the seaboards and in all the other congested areas throughout the country much more advantage has been taken of these housing scheme grants than in the Midlands and I think personally it is through lack of initiative on the part of the farmers. I think they do it from the point of view that what was good enough for their fathers is good enough for them. I must say that I would like to see them take advantage of the grants available.

They will tell you the valuation officer will come down too quickly on them.

Even if he did——

As the Minister for Defence has said, even if he did that should not stop them. I think we are all at one on that point and perhaps these farmers generally do not realise that there is a seven years' remission. I think they do not take time to study the matter. Deputy MacCarthy will agree that most advantage is taken of these grants in the southern areas and along the western seaboard.

More power to them.

For a five-roomed house a farmer with a valuation of £12 10s. may get grants totalling £570 and a farmer with a valuation between that and £20 may get a grant of £475. Between £20 and £25 valuation the grant is £427 10s. These are substantial grants and I would like that the farmer Deputies in the House would appeal to their constituents to take advantage of these schemes.

Perhaps it is not sufficiently widely known.

That is just the difficulty—to put it across to the farmers. If I could get any suggestions on that matter I would be very glad to consider them. I appreciate it is difficult to have gentlemen calling on them. I am afraid farmers have got an abhorrence of the inspector and we do not want to have too many inspectors calling on them.

Deputy Childers referred to cul-de-sac roads. Under the Local Government Act, 1953, this is entirely a matter for the local authorities. Deputy Flanagan did mention a few moments ago that the county engineer in Meath had very little to do. I think Meath is one of the counties which is taking advantage of this particular Act. They have taken over a number of cul-de-sac roads not classified as county roads and if we do continue to increase the county road grants they will be able to take over more of these roads although I would not advise local authorities to take over too many of them. That I might result in a number of our county roads not being kept up to a fairly high standard.

Deputy O'Malley referred to the differential rent system and said that it was unjust. He said he was making a constructive suggestion to me on the subject of a rent system for the benefit of old age pensioners, disabled and blind persons and others of that kind. I should like to say that I think our present system of differential rents and graded rents is a very good system. What Deputy O'Malley suggests is that there should be some kind of subsidy for these individuals. We are hoping that local authorities, in the planning and building of their housing schemes, will make some provision for newlyweds and for the old, I have seen some schemes, and I refer particularly to Naas where they have the magnificent scheme in which one may start out at one end of a terrace and find newlyweds and move along the terrace as the family increases until at the end live the old.

You have a scheme of that kind in Cork.

I think that is a very good system and I would encourage local authorities to adopt it, but I would not agree at all with this hidden subsidy suggestion of Deputy O'Malley. Deputy O'Malley also referred to the advertising signs and what a blatant eyesore they were in the country. Unfortunately, I have no functions in this matter; all I can do is that, when a local authority sanctions or refuses to sanction the site of hoardings, the applicant may become an appellant and appeal to me, I may either refuse or sanction. I can assure the Deputies that if any of these unsightly signs or hoardings are applied for and that I have any say in it, I will be very reluctant to afford sanction.

There are certain places where these signs are very useful. Approaching a town it is very useful to be able to learn from some sign outside the town as to what garages or hotels are there. For a stranger, particularly, it is very useful to be able to learn not only that there is a certain hotel in the town but also the type of hotel—whether it is an approved hotel. But it is a matter in which the Minister can only use his discretion and even then only when it comes up by way of appeal from the local authority.

Deputy O'Malley referred also to building rings and said he knew of some of those rings. If he does he should communicate with the Department of Industry and Commerce, which is the appropriate Department, but I should like to say that our experience in the Department of Local. Government is that there are no such things as building rings in so far as we know. We had a system to ensure that there should not be when we set up direct labour units in some counties. These units compete in tendering for schemes with ordinary contractors in the areas concerned.

The Deputy also referred to delays in the payments of Department of Local Government grants and suggested that a considerable amount of money was spent by local authorities on interest pending the payment of these grants. That is not true. I have had a special, not made on the matter and I find that the total amount of overdraft interest paid by local authorities in 1954-55 was estimated at about £176,000. Very little of this is due to the withholding, of grants, which are estimated at £20,000,000 on revenue account. Of this £20,000,000 £18.6 million is made up of four grants as follows: the health grant, £6,091,600: the agricultural grant of £5,178,454; the Road Fund grants of £5,700,000 approximately and the housing loan charges contributions of £1,594,999. That makes a total of £18.6 million approximately. The health grant, is based on local authorities' health expenditure and is paid quarterly. Ninety-five per cent. of it is paid within the financial year, 4.5 per cent. in the following March and the balance of .5 per cent. when the certification of net health expenditure is completed. Very little of the £20,000,000 is attributable to overdraft interest.

The contributions to housing loan charges are paid in full in the financial year except for a small balance held back until the housing revenue accounts have been audited. I think it is an unfair charge to make that there is delay in the payment of these loans. It was also suggested that there was a delay in the payments of the loans to private builders. Previously there was undoubtedly a delay, but I have endeavoured to remedy that.

I found that some of my inspectors had files on hand for two or three months without calling on the builders and when I made inquiries I was told that very often the inspectors had called on the builders but they would not be there at the time, so the houses could not be inspected. I have changed that system. From now on each applicant for a loan or grant will be notified in advance by postcard of a forthcoming visit of an inspector; he will be notified of the date on which the inspector will call. That should ensure that the builder or applicant will be present so there should be no further difficulty or delay in that matter.

Deputies Tully and Ormonde referred to rural water supplies and I must say that I am in full agreement with them. I have actually caused a circular letter to be sent out to all rural sanitary authorities asking them to expedite the progress being made in the supply of water to rural districts and offering to pay loans, particularly for the supply of water by electricity. Now, the Minister for Agriculture has intimated that he is prepared to pay a grant of 50 per cent. up to a maximum of £100 for the installation of water pumps electrically worked. I do not think the Minister for Agriculture encourages the hand pump. Certain authorities disagree with them and I agree that there should be no necessity for them in future when there is such a very fine grant available. I should like to say again that I am in agreement with Deputies Tully and Ormonde that farmers and rural dwellers generally should take advantage of these schemes.

Deputy Briscoe referred to flat dwellings in the centre of the city here and to the necessity for increased density of flat dwellings. One would imagine from what he said that my Department was holding up some scheme of the Dublin Corporation. Not one solitary project has been put forward by the Dublin Corporation to me for sanction in connection with the erection of flats in the central city area. I am in full agreement with him, and, when schemes are submitted to me by the new corporation, they will receive our careful attention and will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible.

Both Deputy Briscoe and the Lord Mayor, Deputy Byrne, spoke about the compilation of the register and about notes or cards being sent to electors informing them of their number and place of voting. This matter was debated here on the Local Government Estimate last year and at that time it was suggested that a card should be sent out immediately after the appropriate date, 15th September, asking each elector if he had ensured that he would be on the register. That would be a most difficult thing because the relevant dates 15th September and 15th November, the last date by which they may make application——

20th December.

I beg your pardon— 20th December. There is very little time between 15th September and that date, and I am informed by the returning officers that they have difficulty enough in compiling the voters lists without sending out cards. Remember that it is very difficult to arouse enthusiasm in voters, unless there is an election in the offing, and I am afraid that most of these cards would be committed to the wastepaper basket.

With regard to notifying voters prior to a local election of the place at which they may vote and their number, I am afraid that would require legislation, but I am endeavouring to ensure by all the means that I possibly can that there will be brought to the notice of electors the place at which they vote and their number. I have sent out circulars to all local authorities, particularly in Dublin and Cork, informing them that posters must be put up outside every public building, and, if they are pulled down, they must be replaced. I have also, through the good offices of the Press, endeavoured to bring to the notice of the public their responsibilities and their duty to vote, and I have endeavoured to inform them as to where they may seek the information they request—their numbers and, their polling stations. Further than that I cannot go without legislation.

Deputies Giles and Tully referred to the cul-de-sac roads. As I have said, I have given increased grants this year for county roads. These Deputies referred to the county roads of Meath and the position is that Meath has got £30,000 this year for county roads. Meath may take over these cul-de-sac roads and have them declared county roads, and then deal with them with their additional allocation for county roads. As a matter of fact, that is the first thing that is done—these roads are declared county roads—but I would advise them to be very slow indeed about taking over too many of them, until they get their own county roads up to a certain standard.

Deputy Giles also referred to the dangerous bridge at Enfield on the main Dublin-Galway road and spoke about the Government's failure to do anything about it. I am very glad to inform him that a grant has been allocated for this bridge and plans have been approved. I hope that work will go on very shortly. The matter rests now with the Meath County Council.

The same Deputies also referred to a number of bridges in Meath which were damaged in the recent floods. As I said, I think, in reply to a parliamentary question some time ago, I would have no objection to certain projects such as this being undertaken out of the allocation made under the Local Authorities (Works) Act, and if a proposition is put forward for a particular bridge, by all means, we will consider it and it certainly will not be ruled out without serious thought.

Deputy Sheldon referred to the different methods of doing road maintenance. It would be a very good thing if we had a standard, but nobody will appreciate better than Deputies how difficult it would be to procure a standard for all Ireland. One can readily realise that a standard which suits the bog roads of West Cork or West Donegal, or anywhere in the West of Ireland, would not be in any way suitable for the Midland Counties. It is impossible. We would like to have adjoining counties agreeing on some standard, but that is a matter for themselves. I cannot very well dictate to them nor do I wish to do so. I hope that when I have finished in the office of Minister for Local Government, we will be here merely in an advisory capacity and not as dictators to local authorities.

Deputy O'Malley suggested that all the roads of the country should be made of concrete. Expert opinion disagrees. There are certain roads in the cities where concrete might be very useful, but where you have a bog foundation, it is impossible to use concrete, except by way of a reinforced concrete raft, which is very expensive. I think the tarmacadam road is quite satisfactory. We have, had experience in a neighbouring county, County Meath, of an experiment in cement on the road between here and Slane. I think it was not a great success. We saw it torn up the other day and the road redone in tarmacadam.

I think I have dealt with the points raised by the various. Deputies, with one exception—a Deputy from my own county, Deputy Blaney. In opening my remarks, I thanked Deputy Childers, who spoke for the Opposition, and the other Deputies for the manner in which they had received the Estimate. The only attack—and I think it was a personal attack—made on me was made by Deputy Blaney. He referred to my policy of allocating more moneys for county roads than had been allocated in the past and he instanced three projects in Donegal which he said were major main road projects. He instanced three particular projects in Donegal which, he said, were major projects that should not have been carried out. He referred to them by name. One was at a place called Mullinagung. This is costing, approximately, £700. Another project was at Liscooley, on the Lifford-Ballybofey road, which is costing, approximately, £6,000, and the third was on the Milford-Letterkenny road at a cost of £4,000.

Deputy Blaney said that these jobs should not have been undertaken. May I say that one of them was actually sanctioned prior to my taking officer? The other two have been sanctioned in my time because they were based on a prior plan, and because the public transport companies refused to put on these particular routes a standard bus They have been putting on sub-standard buses. The Gardaí and the bus companies have been pressing my Department for years to straighten out this road so as to give them an opportunity of putting a standard bus on it. I make no apology to anyone for the expenditure of this money. I think it is a very good thing, and I make no apology to the people of Milford for giving them a road which will enable them to have facilities that others enjoy as regards a standard bus transport in the locality. I say the same in regard to the people of Liscooley and of Kilmacrennan. I think the people have a right to these facilities.

Deputy Blaney likes to make charges against me when I am not present. He accused me, the other day, of switching a sum of £15,000 from his constituency to my own parish. He has made that accusation from many platforms. That money was switched, but it was switched by my predecessor. Deputy Blaney, as a member of the Donegal County Council, knew all about that switch. He also had the opportunity of putting down a parliamentary question in this House, and of asking me who switched the money when it was switched. He had an opportunity of raising the matter at the Donegal County Council but he did not do so. He waited until the eve of the local elections to make the accusation outside a church in his own constituency. If Deputy Blaney was fair to his own people he would have objected to that switch being made and would have raised the matter in the council chamber or in this House. Why did he let the money go without making some protest? That is something that I would like to know.

However, I only want to put the facts before the people. I do not want to gain any political kudos from this, but I think that, in fairness to my predecessor, I should say that the reasons why he made the switch were very good reasons. I say that in fairness to him. I am not saying that I would have made it, but I do want to say that the reasons which compelled him to make the switch were, in my opinion, very strong reasons. I certainly am not going to take the credit or discredit for what was done. I, naturally, am always glad to see grants. coming into my own constituency, but I had nothing whatever to do with this, and I am sure the people of East Donegal will appreciate that.

I do not think I have anything further to say, except to thank the House and particularly Deputy Childers, as the spokesman of the Party opposite, for the manner in which the Estimate was received. I appreciate very much the many constructive suggestions which were made, all of which I may say will be very carefully examined.

I am sorry I was not present for the opening of the Minister's statement. Will the Minister be good enough to say whether he mentioned that he would now be introducing a Traffic (Amendment) Bill?

I did not. I do not think it will be absolutely necessary for the present until we see what can be done by way of regulation under the Local Government Act of 1955. It may be that, eventually, we will have to introduce one, but not in the immediate future.

I was thinking more as to whether the rules had been changed since 1947, and of matters where the Guards are concerned as regards the initiation and gathering of facts and of consultations. I was thinking of the many proposals that have been made to save the time of the Garda Síochána. It is agreed by everyone that a great deal of their time is involved in dealing with traffic offences, and I was anxious to know whether anything has been done to bring the present position up to date. Many anomalies have been brought to light such as the matter of serving summonses. Many people are of the opinion that much might be done to enable the time of the Guards to be used more effectively than it is at present.

That is a matter more for the Department of Justice than it is for me. Already, there is an inter-departmental standing committee working on that matter. When we have an opportunity of studying the findings of that committee I, personally, think that legislation may be required. If I find that it is necessary, I shall make no delay in introducing it.

There was a start made in 1946.

It has gone on for a long time, but the Deputy will agree that times are continually changing, and very often a view which one may be prepared to accept to-day may have to be changed next year to meet a change in the times.

On the question of the register of electors, may I put this case to the Minister? It is that of the person who changes his residence. He finds that when election day comes round his name is not on the register although it has been on the register for perhaps ten years. He has been living at the new address for a considerable time, but through, perhaps, some error that occurred when the register was being printed this man finds that his name is not on the register at the time when he wants it, namely, in the year when there is an election. Will the Minister say if there is any machinery. in this Department by which a mistake of that kind can be rectified in time to enable that person to vote at the pending election?

There is absolutely no machinery whatever, unfortunately.

Would the Minister consider thinking out some kind of machinery to meet that very specific problem?

I think that in some cases there had to be a reprinting of portion of the register where it was discovered there were printers' errors, to supply whatever omissions there were in the original. I am not aware of any particular case of the kind that the Deputy has referred to. In a case of that kind, however, there is not any machinery at my disposal to give a man in that position the right to the franchise.

If there was time could not that portion of the register be reprinted? Take it that this man finds, ten days before polling day, that his name is not on the register, even though it had been on it for ten years previously, is there not any means of correcting a mistake of that kind?

Absolutely none.

I suggest to the Minister that he should put some of his electoral experts thinking on that problem because it causes more annoyance than anything else that I know of.

It does. We find that all over the country.

Will the Minister say if there are any plans in contemplation for the improvement of the main trunk road between the town of Bray and Dublin? This is a long standing problem and I should like to know if anything is being done about it.

We are continually improving the roads.

I am speaking of the main-trunk road between Bray and Dublin.

The county council have the matter under consideration.

It is a wider issue than that.

So far as I am concerned, it is not. It is a matter for the local authority and nothing has come up to me about it.

Vote put and agreed to.