Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Jul 1962

Vol. 196 No. 12

Local Government (Sanitary Services) Bill, 1962—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

(South Tipperary): As regards the question of regional or group schemes, in my constituency, there has been an element of agitation and often difference of opinion on this matter. We have been pursuing the policy of regional schemes but strong representation has been made to us that we and the Department have not given sufficient consideration to the question of group schemes. Indeed, we had deputations before our county council to that effect. The regional schemes suit certain areas. They seem to suit South Tipperary by virtue of the terrain. Group schemes seem to suit other areas. I believe they have been particularly successful in Wicklow, where you have mountain ranges and valleys to give a group scheme of the gravitational type.

Without in any way disparaging our local engineering services, or indeed the engineering services of any local authority, I feel we have pursued this matter of regional water supply schemes rather incautiously. I tabled a question here to the Minister asking him to set up a small survey team, consisting of a water engineer, an economist, a geologist—something on those lines—to act as a survey and advisory group for local bodies. I felt we did not have locally the type of personnel that would be able to investigate this vexed question of regional versus group schemes. The Minister replied that he felt the advice he had available to him in his Department was adequate to deal with the situation and they were there to help the local authority. I know as regards my own constituency that only one scheme as far as I remember, was actually tabled before the county council and passed as such. After that the manager was given a kind of broad permission to go forward and develop further schemes on a similar basis. At the moment we have ten or 12 regional schemes in the process of being put into operation.

I would again put to the Minister, before this rural water supply scheme is carried further on a national front and in view of the large amount of money involved, that it might be prudent for him to reconsider my suggestion to set up some kind of specialist survey group to advise local authorities, particularly those in the initial stages of development of rural water systems, as regards regional and group schemes. Probably the answer is that both systems could be put into operation in varying degrees in different counties.

I welcome the Minister's provision for some simplification as regards grants. He mentioned four authorities at present dealing with grants for water supply and sewerage. I knew only about three, but these three caused me sufficient confusion. I would welcome any clarification or any kind of order the Minister can introduce in that respect so that, when public representatives are approached by Mr. So-and-So, we will be able to pin-point more exactly what grants and services are available to him.

I gather from the Bill the Minister proposes to make some regulations as regards water charges. That is a vexed question with us. It is a question of expenses, particularly as it affects the rates. It is in that regard most of the agitation has arisen. Years ago, we were in the same position as every other county in that only a small part of the rural area, mostly the non-urban parts, the small villages, had any kind of piped water supply. That was a county-at-large charge and supplied only about 10 or 15 per cent. The figure varied from county to county. There was no agitation at that stage because the cost of supply had been got over a long number of years and it supplied only a small number of people. But when we embarked on more extensive rural water supply schemes, naturally the cost on the rates mounted immediately and precipitately and the agitation started.

It is probable that with the schemes we have in operation at present, there will be eventually an 80 per cent. or 85 per cent, coverage. At present, we are in a transitional phase. That is the most difficult period to be in. As every day passes, the costs are becoming larger and a decreasing number of people are expected to continue paying for a county-at-large charge and get nothing. There are certain sections of the population who appear to have a genuine grievance on this question of the county-at-large charge. They feel they should be personally exempted in whole or in part. First, there are those who in the past, with or without grant, installed their own water supply. Whether it is a small gravitational system or a pump, they are satisfied with it. They feel now it is unfair to ask them to contribute to a county-at-large charge for water which they personally do not need and which they may not elect to take.

These people present yet another difficulty. If they happen to have a pump which will last for another 15 years, they may decide, at the end of the 15 years, to take the gravitational county scheme. If they are exempted now and come in under the scheme at the end of 15 years, when it is half paid for, they may secure a certain benefit. That could possibly be got over by making them pay some subvention for the number of years during which they refused to avail of the local authority scheme.

Another large section who must be considered are those who will eventually be supplied, but not for, perhaps, 10 or 15 years. They argue: "We hope eventually to get a regional scheme in this area but, in the meantime, why should we, over the next ten years, be asked to pay for a scheme that is daily becoming more expensive on the rates?" The third section are those who are so geographically placed that they will never get a water supply scheme. They may be living on the side of a mountain. They may get a pump or a well. They will certainly have a genuine grievance, and quite correctly so, because their geographical position makes it impossible for them ever to have a water supply. These three sections have a legitimate grievance with regard to payment for a system which will fall eventually on the rates on a par with health from the point of view of expense.

At the moment our charges for water in South Tipperary are extremely low. The revenue we get in would just about barely cover maintenance. In fact, that policy has been pursued because it is regarded more or less as a social service. I am not quite sure what the Minister means when he mentions charges. If we charge on a commercial basis no one will take the water. In fact, even though the charges are so ridiculously low, we have been disappointed at the poor response in some areas. The position is improving a little but I thought originally, judging by the demand from certain areas, that there would be a tremendous appreciation of the service. The demand has been disappointing. In some areas people, whom one would expect to know better, just did not bother their heads to avail of an excellent gravitational scheme giving excellent water in 24 hours out of the 24.

The difficulty is that if one increases the charges to anything approaching a commercial figure one runs the risk of people refusing temporarily or permanently, to take water passing by their own doors. That would be very undesirable. I think everybody is anxious from the point of view of the general public, from the point of view of the eradication of bovine tuberculosis, from the point of view of agricultural production, and public health generally, that everyone should avail of what is a wonderful service, a service of which this country can be very proud. I doubt if even the United States of America could compare favourably with the effort we are making to give a water supply to our people in the rural areas.

Much of the difficulty that arises as between regional and group schemes is due to the figures which have been produced by private and semi-private bodies which have initiated group schemes, particularly group schemes on a gravitational basis. I might also point out that the E.S.B. see a great future in this. They, too, are producing figures which compare to our disadvantage. Their figures are based upon sinking pumps and supplying water through electrical power. When we started our regional schemes there was, of course, no such thing as rural electrification and we did not have to contend with this competition. Their figures really make it a little embarrassing for us with our regional schemes. The Department lays down a figure of £300 or £350 per installation as the limit they will sanction. In one of our regional schemes in Dundrum the cost per installation worked out at something like £500. That was sanctioned by the Department. Perhaps, that £500 represents an exaggerated picture because that scheme will have to be filled in later on. That figure represents only the initial skeleton outline. When the various subsidiaries are taken over the overall charge will be lower than £500, substantially lower I hope, and, perhaps, down to the £350 mark.

I would ask the Minister if he has given the matter of charging consideration. Does he mean to fix some figure between what one might describe as the social service charge to cover maintenance and the purely commercial charge, which would be prohibitive and would prevent anyone taking the water? Has he worked out any system of charging intermediate between the two figures, a system which would give some kind of relief to the three sections I have already mentioned? I want a figure that will be fair to them and, at the same time, not so prohibitive as to discourage those who can avail of the scheme.

With regard to air pollution, the section in the Bill is altogether too sweeping and too generalised. It could be dangerous. It is almost as nebulous as the subject with which it deals. It is a pity the Minister did not see fit to deal with air pollution in a separate measure. Many aspects are involved. Industry and public health generally enter into the picture. Such things as diesel fumes, waste from ships, radioactive fall out, the industrial risks of asbestosis, pneumonconiosis, silicosis, and all these, enter into the picture. What the Minister is asking for here is a kind of blank cheque under which regulations can be made. The regulations could be very sweeping, so sweeping that one feels it would be better if the Minister framed the provisions in more specific and less general terms in order to give the House an opportunity of discussing the matter item by item so that we may know exactly how far he is going and that he does not perchance again ask for a blank cheque and then proceed to draft regulations thereunder which may be unduly restrictive and may not be in general what the House desires.

I welcome this Bill which is calculated to carry us a substantial step forward in the provision of essential internal water supplies for the rural areas and, indeed, for many small towns and villages which today are not as well supplied as they ought to be in the year 1962. I hope this Bill and the facilities which it provides will enable local authorities and individual citizens to take advantage of its provisions and thereby provide themselves with the amenities of the second half of the 20th Century.

My references are more of an interrogatory nature and I hope the Minister will be able to clear up these points when replying. As I understand the Bill, Section 2 provides for grants by the Minister for Local Government. Section 3 provides for similar grants by the local authorities. These grants are not indicated in the Bill but will be announced by means of regulations at a later stage, and local authorities, on the one hand, and the Department, on the other hand, will say: "These are the facilities available."

I should like to know from the Minister whether it is intended that both grants, that is, the grant from the local authority and the grant from the Department, will be sufficient to cover the entire cost of making a connection from a pipe which passes a dwelling house or whether it is intended that the tenant of the house, or the owner of the house, as the case may be, will be required to pay a contribution himself towards the provision of the water supply. In other words, will there be a minimum requirement from the tenant or the owner of the house that he must pay a certain sum of money in order to ensure that the connection will be provided.

I wish to know also what is intended by Section 4. Sections 2 and 3 provide for grants by the Minister, on the one hand, and the local authorities, on the other hand. Section 4 provides for the advances by the sanitary authority to persons providing and installing in dwelling-houses private water supplies or private sewerage facilities. In what way does the advance come into the provision of a water supply in a private dwelling house if the State has made a grant and the local authority has made a grant? Would the Minister be good enough to indicate in what circumstances it is thought the advance will be necessary in such cases?

Could we also have from the Minister an indication as to the kind of advance he has in mind? Will this also be prescribed by regulation and over what period will the advance be payable? I want to take for the purpose of clarification the case of two types of rural dweller. First I want to take the case of the tenant of the non-vested cottage. I take it that under this Bill when it becomes an Act it will be possible for the tenant in such circumstances to avail of a grant from the Minister and a grant from the local authority and with both grants to get a connection from a main which will be provided by the local authority as part of its general scheme of providing water supplies. Could the Minister tell us, after his Department's examination of the problem, how much more it will be necessary for the non-vested tenant to put to the grants he will get from the local authority and the State in order that he can provide himself with an internal water supply? Could the Minister give that type of tenant, even at this stage, some indication as to what it will cost him, on the assumption that there is a main running near his dwelling house, to provide himself with an internal water supply?

I should like to ascertain as well whether, if there is any supplement to be paid by the tenant, it is possible for the local authority to install a water supply for the tenant and to deduct the cost to the tenant of doing so from the rent, that is, that the tenant will get the benefit of the State grant and the local authority grant and that if these are not sufficient the local authority can make the connection for him, the tenant to repay by an addition to his rent over a period of time in the case of non-vested tenants?

I want to deal now with the case of the vested tenant. I understand that at present the difficulty of the local authority is that it is not possible to undertake water and sewerage connections if doing so is related to the tenant's liability to repay the local authority. I think that is due to the belief that it is not possible for the tenant of a vested cottage to alienate the property for repayment of a loan for another purpose. Do I understand from the Bill and the way it is constructed that in the case of the vested tenant, he will get the State grant and the local authority grant and that he will pay the rest himself, or that he may get an advance to supply the third segment, as it were, of the cost, if there be a third segment of the cost, from the local authority which he can repay to the local authority as a separate transaction?

With over 60,000 labourers' cottages throughout the country occupied by persons who are keenly interested in the provision of internal water supplies, the Minister could render a useful service if he could give some indication as to the manner in which he thinks this scheme will operate in respect of tenants of labourers' cottages throughout the country, whether they be vested or non-vested tenants.

I should like to ascertain from the Minister whether any consideration has been given by the Department to the question of the disposal of sewage. At present the effluent finds its way in many cases into rivers. It is quite clear from this Bill and from the general improvements in the standard of living that more and more houses, more and more factories, will be provided with sanitation facilities, a very large number of which will depend on the rivers as a means of taking the effluent.

It seems to me that in this respect rivers will be asked to take burdens which will be much heavier than in the past and it may very well be necessary, if we are not to destroy the fish content of the rivers and the amenities the rivers provide for swimming and boating, that some attention should be given to the provision of efficient sewage disposal arrangements. In our desire to provide sanitation services—and it is an extremely laudable desire in which I heartily concur—we could very easily develop a blind spot so far as the disposal of sewage effluent is concerned.

Therefore, it is essential that the Department and the local authorities generally should keep their eye on the necessity for ensuring that with wide extension of sanitary arrangements, the pollution of rivers will be avoided in face of the possibility and almost the certainty that in future they will have to take a very much larger quantity of effluent than they have been required to take with our present inadequately developed sanitation services throughout rural areas.

It must be remembered also that a great many rivers in rural areas which are used to take effluent are not fast-flowing rivers and that they travel a good distance before they can get rid of the effluent. I hope that aspect of the matter will be watched very carefully so as to ensure that the value of our rivers, particularly slow-flowing inland rivers, will not be seriously impaired by being required to take effluents to which they are not capable of taking, unless very substantial changes are made in the method of curbing possible harmful effects of such effluents.

In this Bill, there is provision for dealing with pollution of the air. The phrase is used here "pollution of the atmosphere". The enemy in this section appears to be the pollutants and it is necessary to measure the emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere and to take every necessary step to control pollutants. I should like to know from the Minister what is covered by "pollutant". Is this something that clearly, bacteriologically, destroys or harms the atmosphere, or does it cover also offensive smells which would probably not harm the atmosphere but could certainly make living in that atmosphere very uncomfortable. Cases have come to my notice where persons living in certain districts found that certain types of factories became neighbours of theirs and in due course the factory processed commodities which gave off a most offensive odour. The factory is doing a very good job, a very worth while job, and should be encouraged in every possible way, but that is looking at the matter from a national point of view. On the other hand, if your house happens to be situated next door to the factory, it is a bit tough that you should have to bear all the inconvenience of a regular and sickening odour, merely for the national advantage which is shared by everybody, of having a factory to process goods.

I should like to ascertain from the Minister whether this section gives power to deal with offensive odours emanating from factories which may not in themselves be harmful to the atmosphere but which may certainly be very inconvenient and very objectionable from the point of view of local residents who have to live in that atmosphere for 24 hours a day. If not, I hope the Minister will take power to deal with such a situation. I do not know whether the phrase used in the section is sufficiently wide to catch the case of an offensive odour which may not in itself have the effect that could be described as pollution of the atmosphere.

These are the few observations I desire to make on the Bill. As I said at the outset, I welcome the Bill and any steps which will be taken under it to provide water and sanitation services for our people, especially in the rural areas.

I welcome this Bill also. I am very delighted by the enlightened view the Minister has taken of the urgent necessity for sanitation generally but especially in rural Ireland where there are groups of houses. I hope our people will avail of the provisions of this Bill.

I am very happy also that the Minister has specifically provided in this Bill for grants for people who avail of a group scheme. The groups scheme is the only way in which a number of areas in rural Ireland can ever get modern sanitary services brought into their homes.

I want to take this opportunity of appealing to our people to avail of such schemes, where possible. If people wait for the central authority or the local authority to do all this work, I am afraid it will be a long time before water and sanitation are brought to the homes of our people as it is desired they should be by the Minister and the Government.

In regard to grants to sanitary authorities, I hope the Minister will let us know the amount of grants he will give under Section 3. The advances from the Central Fund will contribute a great deal to the extension of water and sewerage to the homes of our people in areas where the people cannot otherwise avail of these services.

There are certain guarantees to the local authority also. That is a very good thing. I should like the Minister to elaborate on that matter when replying. I just intervened in this debate——

To congratulate the Minister.

——to say that this is a very welcome advance.

We were wondering why it had not come already.

It is not a long time since I interrupted Deputy Lynch —I think it was only yesterday.

Only about half an hour ago.

I am always grateful for a little encouragement.

I am sure you are, especially if you have the licensed traders up in the gallery.

Next Tuesday his Bill is coming along.

I welcome this Bill. I hope it is the forerunner of other advanced legislation for the betterment of our people.

We heard it before, Joe.

I am interested in another class of dweller, the temporary dweller. Some years ago, the 1952 Act was passed that gave power to local authorities to refuse a licence to persons who let sites to temporary dwellers. The Acts specified that there must be proper sanitation on the site. That was understandable. However, in most cases, owners of sites were poor people and could not afford to provide sanitation on the sites. The old practice was to dig a hole, as is still being done in a great many parts of Ireland. Thousands of poor people who possessed temporary dwellings in the seaside resorts around the city, in Portmarnock and such places, were compelled to take down their bungalows, to break them up. They were valuable summer resorts and represented heaven to these people and their children for the summer months. They had to leave them there and in many cases break them down with hatchets because they could not take them down otherwise.

In thousands of cases, little homes, heaven to the people who owned them, were broken down because the owner of the site could not afford the cost of sanitation. But the local authorities did not object to caravans in spite of the fact that there was no sanitation for them. There are thousands of sites where caravans are parked and where there is no sanitation but the caravan people are people with a little money behind them. It takes £200 or £300 to buy a caravan and then you must have a motor car to pull it. They were allowed to camp for the summer without sanitation while the other people had to remove their bungalows and huts.

What I am getting at is that we should encourage not only the caravan people to avail of the fresh air but also encourage the younger people to camp out. A number of bungalows were not touched in the wreckage of 10 years ago because the sites were privately owned. It was only where the owners of the sites could not afford the sanitation that they had to order the owners of the hut to break them up. There are thousands of cases where the bit of ground where the hut stands is owned by the temporary tenants and they have not the money to provide the sanitation. I ask the Minister to make the grants available to these people who have temporary dwellings. In the interests of health these people should get those grants and it should be remembered that while they may only occupy these temporary dwellings for a few months of the year they have to pay rates for the whole year as if they were permanent residents.

I would ask the Minister to provide the grants for these people who own their own camping sites and who own bungalows and have not the money to put in the sanitation. Whether we like it or not, there are thousands of them and the Minister should consider applying the grants to these temporary dwellings. I am speaking on behalf of those people because I was chairman of the Temporary Dwellers' Association at the time. I fought their case in court and lost it and it cost me £40.

While Deputy Burke may have been the only Deputy to congratulate the Minister on the Bill, I think it has received the support it deserves. All the Deputies who have spoken have shown a desire to bring about an improvement in the amenities in rural Ireland. The Minister has given the figure of a quarter of a million homes without water or sewerage. That gives us an idea of the task that confronts the Minister and the local authorities if they are to expedite the provision of water supplies for the people of rural Ireland.

In 1959, the Minister made a great effort to help on this project when he announced the scheme whereby water and sewerage facilities would be made more readily available. The circular that came to my county council, and I am sure it went to all the other county councils, informed us that we could now plan to provide water for the people in the rural areas either by way of a county council or regional scheme, by group schemes or by individuals themselves. As a further incentive he was increasing the subsidy paid before that and he was also extending the repayment period from 35 to 50 years. That was a great incentive and I think every local authority in the country accepted his statement and set out to try and fulfil his wishes.

They proceeded to carry out surveys in each local authority area. I know that survey is now complete in many areas and I know that as far as County Wicklow is concerned, when the survey was completed, we were informed that it would cost from £800,000 to £1,000,000 if the local authority was to provide water for every house. I must say that there was no great objection from any side of the council chamber when that announcement was made. It is going to take a great number of years to achieve the objective and what we decided to do was to improve our present town and village schemes and extend them as far as they would go.

I think that is a good line to take. We are going to improve the existing supplies and extend the pipe lines as far as they will go. There is no question of spending £800,000 or £1,000,000 in the space of three or four years. This is a long-term scheme. The Minister hopes to have it completed in ten years. It is unlikely that he will achieve his target in that time but a job will be done and I have no doubt that the ratepaying community will be able to stand up to the demands on them.

I am glad to see that the agricultural grant and the Local Government grant will now be administered as one by the same Department. That is desirable because people were held up under the old system where the two grants were administered by separate Departments. There may still be difficulty in administering the Local Government grant and I should be obliged if the Minister would devise some scheme to simplify the system of approving applications for this grant. At the moment an applicant has to send his application form to the county council for a certificate, then to the Department who eventually send down an inspector to examine the scheme. That should be short-circuited in some way so that the county councils would themselves take up the schemes with the Department.

My county was one of the first to organise group water schemes. They were begun in the north-west of the county by a very energetic Catholic curate, the Reverend Father Collins. He was with us for three or four years and due to his enthusiasm and to his promotion of co-operation among the people, he was responsible in no small way for having water supplied to 200 or 300 houses in that locality. He even went to other areas and advised the people on ways and means of getting these schemes going. He gave a great lead in Wicklow and many other curates have now taken up the task so that quite a number of group schemes are being provided.

I do not agree with the suggestion that there is no liaison between the Department and the group scheme committees. In my experience, everybody has been leaning over backwards to help one another get on with the job. If we are to achieve anything in this group scheme effort, we must have that type of co-operation. I have done my best to encourage people to participate in them and I do not think they will regret doing so. When one considers that the average cost to each applicant is in the region of only £17 or £18 per house, including the cost of putting in sinks and taps, one realises the advantage of participationin these group schemes. The Minister and his officials would do well to push ahead with them. There are, of course, still areas that can be better served by regional schemes but I think the members of local authorities are the best judges in that matter; they are quite capable of dealing with the problem of whether an area would best be served by a regional scheme or a series of group schemes.

I should like to refer at this point to public sewerage schemes. Deputy Desmond made the point that there should be some provision in public sewerage schemes whereby people could be connected in a more simple manner. I suggest that branch lines from the main sewer should be taken to each individual's entrance gate and that a junction should be placed there so that the person who wants to connect will only have to come through his yard. That would obviate the necessity to tear up perhaps the public roadway and the pavement as well. The cost of providing these branch lines could be paid for by a county at large charge.

Commenting on the Bill on the whole, I think the Minister deserves the congratulations of not only the House but of the people outside as well. It was he who initiated the present drive to bring piped water supplies to the people of rural Ireland. I have no doubt he will achieve his object and that he will have the co-operation of local authorities throughout the country.

Every member of a local authority will, of course, welcome any Bill which helps to provide water for people in need of it. Looking at the Minister's speech, I find he suggests that the inception of rural water supply scheme dates from 1959. In Kilkenny we did not wait until 1959 to start regional water schemes. They had been there for many years before that. One of the first things the Minister should have done in a Bill of this sort was to increase the grants for regional schemes and group schemes. The Bill as it is is but a tightening up of the system, and an amalgamation of the grant schemes. I should have thought the Minister would be concerned to provide some tangible benefits—that he would do something to encourage people in the matter of water supplies.

The Minister and the Government must realise by now that the impact of rates on householders throughout the country is almost intolerable. It follows therefore that the Minister should not do anything to increase that burden. But that is what the Bill will do. The Government got so frightened of the consequences of high rates that they had to bring in a Bill to relieve rates. They did so because they felt the weight of protests from all over the country. Although I agree that every rural dweller should have a piped water supply, they do not want such amenities at the cost of even higher rates. Therefore, it would have seemed important in this Bill to have increased grants towards water supply schemes.

The Minister might also have told us how we could shorten the delay between the initiation and completion of regional water schemes. I have in mind the Mooncoin regional water scheme. It was initiated many years ago but it has been subjected to insufferable delays because of the gauging work which had to be carried out to determine the best source of supply —because of the inspections to find suitable sites for a reservoir. It has taken years and years. That was quite all right many years ago but nowadays people can provide their private supplies through the installation of electric pumps so that in schemes where initially there would be between 400 and 500 applicants for water supplies, by the time the schemes are completed, many of those applicants will have got their own private supplies. I would ask the Minister to look into that.

We have a consultant on that scheme in Kilkenny and he is now regarded as practically an official of the county council. I would ask the Minister, first, to increase the grants so that the impact will not fall so heavily on the rates. Every member of a council is anxious that every person will get facilities. Secondly, the Minister should see to it that there are not the delays we have had in the past.

I am very glad indeed that the House has generally welcomed this measure. While there have been criticisms, I feel that generally they have been well intentioned, though possibly not very well put in all cases. Deputy Sweetman suggested that Deputies were at a distinct disadvantage in dealing with the Bill because an explanatory memorandum had not been circulated. Not disagreeing with that view, and since it has come from a member of the legal profession, we will have circulated between now and the next Stage, which we expect may be next week, something on those lines in order to clarify the various terms and legal phraseology in the Bill which may not be clearly understandable.

Deputy Sweetman also made reference to the question of law reform in regard to sanitary services legislation and asked when such reform legislation may come before the House. Although I would not like to be tied to it, from the progress we have made, I hope to be able to come to the House in 12 months' time with certain major law reforms in that regard.

Does the Minister mean he will sectionalise his consolidation of the local government code?

I am speaking of sanitary services for the moment.

Yes. Deputy Sweetman also asked questions in regard to the grants administered by the Department of Agriculture and those administered by Local Government. He asked how they were intended to work in the future. By and large, so far as the servicing of a dwelling is concerned, that will be a function of the Department of Local Government taking over from the Department of Agriculture. So far as water supplies relating to farm buildings, farmyards and land are concerned, they will still remain under the Department of Agriculture. In general, the distinction will be as follows: all grants in relation to water installations, with the exception of those dealt with by the Department of the Gaeltacht, will be the function of the Department of Local Government; and all water for farming purposes, out-offices, cow byres and the watering of land for cattle will fall to be dealt with by the Department of Agriculture.

A number of speakers dealt with the question of whether or not regional water schemes are the best means of achieving the aim we all desire: a piped water supply for all dwellings in the country. The sooner we get away from the idea that a regional scheme, a private supply or a group scheme is the answer, the better. It is by a combination of all three of these methods that it will be possible over a number of years to achieve the end we all desire. No single approach to this matter—I repeat, no single approach—can hope to succeed in attaining that end. It is only by an amalgamation, with each complementary to the other, and by the utmost co-operation of all concerned, that we will make headway in supplying water to the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time.

I should like to reiterate, and I do not do so contentiously, that it is not I, as has been asserted, as Minister for Local Government, who has propagated the idea that regional schemes are the only answer. Rather has it been the commentators on what I have been alleged to have said who have brought about the impression happily disappearing, that I and my Department are interested only in regional schemes. From the announcement in 1959 and on several occasions since, I have gone out of my way to make it clear we are interested in getting water for the greatest number of our people in the shortest possible time in the most economical way. I did not say that regional schemes, private installations or group co-operative schemes are a necessity, but that all three should be worked together in order to achieve our aim in the shortest possible time.

Many of the other questions asked will be answered by the circular I propose to issue. Nevertheless, I intend to deal with some of them. One question asked by more than one Deputy was what would be the effects of Sections 2 and 3. Briefly, Section 2 provides for the payments of grants by the Department of Local Government and Section 3 provides for the payment of grants by the local authority. Questions were also asked about Section 4. Section 4 gives the local sanitary authority the facility of making advances. That provision is mainly directed towards facilitating local group schemes under way at present. It may cater for some other functions over a wider field. The intention is to provide for advances from the sanitary authority to facilitate the operation of group schemes and make available loans on a rather simple basis, designed and drawn up by the local authority, or advances which, subject to the approval of the Minister, will not necessarily be hedged by the provisions which, I think, Deputy Sweetman had in mind, and which he read into the section of this Bill but which are really in Section 10 (2) (b) of the Housing Bill.

When the Minister was at lunch, I mentioned that I had traced it. It is Section 10 (2) (b).

We shall be discussing that particular section later. The difference between it and Section 4 (2) is that loans under the Housing Bill will be secured on the houses, whereas the loans and advances proposed under this section need not necessarily be so tied up in any general legal formula, such as mortgages. Indeed, the amounts of the grants or the advances likely to be necessary in water and sewerage group scheme operations are likely to be quite low per head of the group. Cumbersome and costly loan procedures will more than likely be unjustified. The idea is to make the scheme more readily available and to encourage groups to avail of the provisions.

Might I ask the Minister a question? In the case of those applying for a grant under a group scheme, suppose half have already got a grant for water and sanitation, will they be debarred from qualifying under the group scheme?

Without trying to sidestep the question, the Deputy will appreciate that any two of a group of five, or seven, or ten would have the same merit and, therefore, in the case the Deputy puts forward, it would be safer and wiser for me to say that such cases, as they arise, will be considered on an individual basis. I could not give a general reply to the question.

The reason I ask is that I know that in the case of 20 or 21 families, some have already got grants from the Minister's Department——

For service to houses.

——for service to houses, but they are without water on their land, and they have a very poor supply indeed to their houses. Would these qualify with the other tenants?

I do not think I can add to what I have said. If the Deputy supplies the detailed information, we will try to work it out and give him the answer.

Before the Minister finishes with the question of loans to vested tenants, what amount has he in mind will be available by way of loan? The Minister said the amounts would be trifling, so trifling that it would not be worth having a mortgage provision. What amounts has he in mind?

Around £40, £50 or £60. It is not so much that the amounts would be trifling, but, because of the very nature of the operation and the average cost of such operations up to date, the amount likely to be needed to supplement the two grants from the local authority and the Department would probably be roughly £50 per head of the group wishing to avail of the supply.

Does the Minister visualise that the owner of a vested cottage would have £50 to hand ready to put down? I certainly do not. It does not seem sense to me.

It is not a question of what I visualise or do not visualise. There are certain vested cottage occupiers from whom one could borrow £50.

There are, but there are plenty who would not have £50 and who would deserve the facilities.

I quite agree. One cannot generalise in a matter like this. Some might merit these loans, but might not be able to afford these loans.

I quite see that, but I cannot see what objection there is to putting an enabling section in the Bill to enable the tenant of a vested cottage to borrow on his cottage, if he so wishes, in the same way as he can borrow for reconstruction work.

The Deputy may have misunderstood me. I do not anticipate that the loan provisions, or the provision governing advances by the local sanitary authority, will be any more onerous in their repayment provisions than would be a loan under any of the Housing Acts or under the section in the proposed new Housing Bill. It is not intended that that should be the position.

No, but I want the tenant of a vested cottage to be able to meet the difference between his grants and the total cost by means of a loan, and I cannot see where, under this Bill, he will be able to do that.

I am afraid I shall have to leave the Deputy at that point. We can have it out on Committee Stage. Possibly the memorandum will clarify the position in the meantime, or perhaps further confuse it. I do not know which.

My difficulty is that I believe amendments designed to meet the point would be ruled out of order on the ground that they would impose a charge. I cannot, therefore, particularise it by amendment.

We will do our best to solve the problem, if a problem exists, and if it is one we believe merits general consideration.

There will be a Money Resolution?

There will.

We can discuss it on that then more conveniently.

A few Deputies suggested that the grants should be increased. I suppose that is a fair request, particularly from Opposition Deputies. I suppose it is fair that they should quote increasing costs as an argument for increasing the grants. While bigger grants would have their benefits, higher grants would mean a higher charge on the rates. Deputy Crotty said we should increase the grants and thereby reduce the inpact on the rates. Deputy Crotty, if he examines into the matter, will see that if we increase the grants from the Department, unless we change the system, we will likewise increase the grants from the local authority. These grants are paid out of rates and, therefore, they would be no saving to the rates, as the Deputy seems to suppose. I do not agree that we should increase the grants at the moment. The organisation of group schemes and the activity in relation to private individual installations are running at a level which, while it can expand, as we hope it will, shows an increasing tempo. While that evidence is there, it would seem to refute the idea that the grants are niggardly or that they fall so far short of the actual cost of these operations that they are useless and should be increased.

Where private individuals or groups of individuals participate, the over-all estimated costs in returns to our Department would not seem to bear out that a great deal of money is required to be found by these people throughout the country. In fact, in very many cases in rural Ireland, particularly where the applicant or some member of his household can lend assistance in doing the work, no money contribution whatever is required in order to make a private installation or to participate in a group scheme installation. That being the case, the need for increasing these Departmental grants, or indeed the supplementary grants, does not seem to be a pressing problem, nor does it seem justified at the present time. We must have regard also to the pool from which this money is likely to come. It comes from the public generally and over-use of it would not be to the public advantage. While what we are offering seems to be doing a reasonably good job and not imposing too heavy a strain on the individual who is participating — and the evidence is that that is so at the moment — no real case exists for increased grants.

It has been suggested that regulations in regard to air pollution are rather a sweeping and possibly a dangerous way of dealing with this matter. As the House generally will appreciate, the approach to air pollution is one which needs to be couched in fairly wide terms because we are dealing with matters that not only have recently arisen but whose development is completely unforeseen and which will arise probably in a very short year ahead. Rather than try to legislate in detail to cater for what we know and that which we anticipate, plus what we cannot know and do not anticipate, it is felt we should deal with it by regulation which would give greater flexibility in meeting the situation as the circumstances demand. It is for that reason and no other reason that the proposals in regard to the control of air pollution are in the form of regulations rather than detailed legislation.

Deputy Desmond made a rather strange but quite a sensible comment on Section 8 wherein the appeal against notice from the local authority does not lie to the Minister but to the district court. The reasons he put forward to the House were fairly well based. I agree generally with his view that the appeal to the Minister for Local Government under section 8 would, in the long run, be better in the public interest than the possibility of a lack of uniformity of view on the part of various learned district justices in different courts. It may well be that that may be the right thing to do but we have a precedent for these appeals to the court in the Fire Brigade Acts and some other Acts as well. The view expressed by Deputy Desmond is a rather unusual one in this House. It is one on which in these circumstances I feel in sympathy with Deputy Desmond and it is a matter we can discuss more fully on Committee Stage.

Deputy Blowick contended that we in the Department of Local Government are pushing through regional schemes and having pushed the regional scheme and put pipes and water through the country we then prohibit the use of that water for certain purposes. That is not what is intended nor what is in the Bill. It is not a question of prohibiting other uses of the water but that those other uses may have to be paid for. This is not a new departure or a new curb on the use of water in or around the home. It is merely a continuance of what has been there, a prohibition on the use of water for these external purposes, as it were.

Surely those other purposes are excluded in the Bill?

The use of water for these purposes is not excluded by the terms of the Bill.

The uses are not excluded by the terms of the Bill, nor is it obligatory on the local authority to charge for water for these uses, that is, the accepted uses as defined in the Bill.

Subsection (11): "but exclusive of".

Paragraph (c) of subsection (11) surely prohibits the use of water for the purposes set out in the paragraph. It leaves no loophole.

That is exclusive of domestic use.

Surely the farmer wants much more water for his land from a regional scheme than he does for domestic purposes?

I quite agree.

He will use ten gallons to one.

That being so, is it not fair that there should be in the future law a continuation of the provision that exists in the present law that a charge may be made for that water but need not necessarily be made if the local authority does not think fit to do so?

The Minister had better scrap the regional scheme, if that is the case. The land will not be able to bear all the charges for these benefits, if things go on like that.

It is a very elementary matter. It is equitable that the more water one consumes, the more equitable it is that one pays more for it according to use. If I drink a cup of water and another person wants one hundred gallons, there is no great equity about charging me the same amount for that small quantity as would be charged to the other person for the much larger quantity. However, as I have said, there is no obligation on the local authority to make that charge but they are being given the continuing power, which they already enjoy, to make a charge. If they do not want to make a charge, they need not do so.

Another unusual suggestion was made by Deputy Blowick and one about which I think there must be some misunderstanding: a water main passes through a farmer's land and the farmer has been refused a tap to water his cattle on land where there is no other supply. I agree that that is possible and there may be good technical reasons for it but when the Deputy went on to say that pipes had come through the land even without his being asked for his consent, I refuse to believe that those things have taken place because wayleaves are sought and without them public schemes are not carried out, to our knowledge in the Department, in any county. It could well be that the wayleave may have been granted and that after the main had gone through the land the request made by the farmer had been refused, possibly on good technical grounds. I have seen it happen that the pressure, for instance, may be too high or too heavy. On the other hand, it could be too low and any break in the existing main or further tappings of it could reduce the pressure to such an extent as to make the water supply to the town or village less than sufficient.

What about the other case that I mentioned about water mains on the main road and 25 houses wanted water badly?

That might be due to the same type of technical difficulty. Again, it could be a question of the local authority not feeling for their own reasons financial or otherwise, that they should provide the water at that stage. Without the actual details of these complaints it is rather unfair to comment because the circumstances might be entirely different from what one might have in mind when talking about them.

In regard to the apparent difficulty, when there should be no difficulty, I would be quite happy if the Deputy would furnish to my Department the actual cases he has in mind and we can try to unravel the situation and see what can be done about it.

Deputy Hogan had something to say about water supplies and the reference in my introductory statement to the commencement or inception of the scheme in 1959. He went on to say how much had been done in regard to regional water schemes and other water supplies for as many years back as twenty. It would be inferred from what he said that I as Minister for Local Government was taking credit to which I was not entitled. All I can say to Deputy Hogan and to Deputy Crotty, who had the same sort of narrow little view of this matter, is that so far as I am concerned I do not care who gets credit so long as the water supplies are extended at an accelerated tempo throughout the country.

One thing I do say is that when we started pushing this matter we did not do it in any empty sort of way. What really made it possible to say that anything was conceived or started in 1959 as against any other year in the matter of water supplies was that the Government of the day made new and bigger and better subsidy facilities available to local authorities to encourage them to do these things and that we raised these subsidies by, broadly speaking, an average of almost 50 per cent. That was really the inception of these programmes.

It is not a question of when I started it or when somebody else said that it was started. The real question is how quickly we can get on with it and what work we can do. If there are people in the country who feel they started it I hope they will not at the same time criticise me because I started it. I do not like to lose both ways. The only reason for talking of this is that I am blamed for it on the one hand and, from much the same source, am said not to have had much to do with it in 1959.

If we succeed in our aim to get water supplies more widely disseminated and more readily available to the great majority of our people all of us will be quite happy and will not care who started it or who brought it about.

Deputy Hogan also referred to the question of water charges. I might explain in regard to this Bill that there is a simplification of what a local authority may do in regard to charging for water in future as distinct from the water rate and rent procedure of the past. As Deputies are probably well aware, particularly those who have been members of local authorities for some years, doubts have been cast on the validity of charging certain water rates and rents in certain counties as a result of decisions of the courts and in some cases the higher courts have declared against the validity of these charges. What we can say to have happened was that much the same procedure was operated in the striking of a water rate as in striking the general rate. In some counties they have gone part of the way with that procedure; in other counties they have gone still further; and in still further counties they may have gone less of the way with that procedure. It is this lack of uniformity of approach to the procedure to be applied in water rate levies that has brought about the adverse decisions of the courts. Whether that be so or not, all will agree that this cumbersome procedure surrounding a charge for water should be removed and in its place there should be the simple provision, as is proposed in this Bill, that local authorities may be enabled to buy and sell water freely, without any procedural commitments whatsoever that could be said to deter them from making proper charges or leave them in the position that they would be unable to collect such charges as a result of some court decision.

In so far as the rates of charge are concerned, it has been suggested here that I as Minister for Local Government should define what these charges should be. It is far from that idea that we are working on this Bill. Rather is it that we are giving wide scope to the local authority. It is not my intention that the Minister for Local Government should lay down any uniform charge for water to be applied in all cases. It will be for each local authority to decide, in their own circumstances, how and in what way and at what price it proposes to supply water to any user of water in their functional area.

When this matter has been considered properly it will generally be agreed that it is better that this should be so rather than that there should be any attempt by the Minister for Local Government to lay down charges for all local authorities irrespective of the circumstances obtaining in the county in question.

Then there has been the very old argument that people not benefiting from a water scheme or scheme of public origin should not have to pay rates in respect of that service. It has been suggested that in addition to that group there is the group who will not benefit from a public scheme for probably five, seven, ten or twenty years and that they again should be relieved of any general rate application or implication until such time as they obtain benefit; and that there are finally a third group who by installing their own private schemes will never have to call on the local authority's public supply and that therefore they should be entirely relieved of any general rate charge forever and always thereafter.

On the face of it this seems to be a rather logical sequence of thought but when we stop to examine the situation we find it is not quite so logical as it appears. If people in the county health districts throughout the country in all cases were only to contribute to that from which they hope to benefit there would not be much sense in having any public services at all. I would say there are many local government and local authority services to which people contribute as ratepayers and never hope to benefit from them but in fact hope they never will be in a position where they could benefit by one pennyworth from those services.

There are such services where one would not wish to be in a position to benefit by them and where one still does pay and is compelled to pay. When one looks at it like that, it must be accepted that if we are to have these services, the only way in which they can be provided is by general charges, whether by rates or taxation. In regard to the water services, a considerable proportion of all the cost which will arise will fall on the general taxpayer. We might draw the conclusion that a person who has his own water supply installed or who cannot avail of a scheme for some special reason should not pay his part of the charge but we might as well say that a person resident in Dublin or Cork should not pay tax on cigarettes, liquor or beer because he was contributing to the provision of a water scheme for the people of Donegal. If everyone took that view, we would have no public services or amenity services or social services of any kind.

I would say to the Deputy who put forward this idea, which is probably a reflection of certain arguments made to him by people in his constituency or elsewhere, that the freedom we are giving and the simplification of the code that we are making in regard to the charges for the actual water supply are matters that can be used to quite a degree to help to offset the application of the general rate charges to the people in the county who are not benefiting in any way by the scheme. It will be possible to make a fair charge on those who use the water and those who use the greatest amount of the water and the more that charge is, the less will fall by way of extra rate charges on those who are drawing no water from the common pool.

The individual who put in a private supply or who participated in a group scheme has already got help from the taxpayer and the ratepayer of his county. It is not always true to say that such individuals provided their own water supply by the sweat of their brows and that they should not now contribute to the rates of the county for the general supply. They themselves in many cases have added to the general rates burden for water in so far as they got a grant from the local authority for their own supply, which grant was paid out of the rates. The case that could be made for non-application of the general rate is more apparent than real. It is no harm that the matter should have been discussed here and if it can be clarified to any degree throughout the country, it is a good idea that it should have been discussed here.

Deputy Norton, among other things, asked whether offensive odours would be covered under the air pollution provision. The existing law, which we are not touching for the present, covers these matters in its existing provisions. That is the answer to his query. It is not proposed to cover offensive odours in this Bill. They are already covered. The ordinary sanitary services law covers matters like this and therefore it is not included in this Bill.

Deputy Brennan mentioned that the Local Government water grant procedure was somewhat cumbersome and that it seemed to be more difficult and long drawn out than the procedure of the Department of Agriculture. I cannot see how that should arise, but I will look into it and if, in taking over the Department of Agriculture water schemes, we find something useful that they have been operating, we will be only too happy to adopt it. My own experience in these matters would not bear out what the Deputy says.

The Deputy also mentioned the question of connection to sewers and the tapping of these sewers and the tapping of pipes in local authority schemes presently under contract. He asked would it not be possible to have the extensions to the sewers made by the contractor and possibly paid for by the local authority while the main contract was being done. This is a matter which we have under study in the Department and we have already circularised all local authorities to the effect that it should be done where it is possible. Section 9 of this Bill makes it legally feasible for county councils to do these things and have them done while the contract is in progress and to make arrangements with the people who intend to connect to pay their proportionate parts of the cost.

We are making provision to have such work done while the main contract is in progress where it would be more economic than if the council did the work under contract, had the place closed up, and then had to come along again and open it to have the connection made. We have been in touch with the local authorities about this matter and Section 9 of the Bill makes it more readily done under the law than it possibly was in the past.

Deputy Crotty mentioned delays in dealing with schemes and he particularly mentioned the Mooncoin regional water scheme. He suggested something should be done to speed up the procedure and that the consultant engineer on that scheme had practically become recognised as a permanent member of the local authority's staff. I am quite happy Deputy Crotty mentioned this because it gives me an opportunity to refer generally to the slow manner in which many of our schemes have been carried out over many years.

If there is a slowness in procedure the local authorities in question should take strenuous action to ensure they are not held up further merely because a consultant is so busy on so many jobs at once that he has not got time to get round to particular ones. In proposals that have come to me from local authorities I have taken steps to insist that where a firm or a company of consultants are in question some one person of responsibility in that company should be responsible for whatever scheme is concerned — that it is not merely a company's name and no more.

I have told local authorities that in the various stages of these schemes time limits should be placed within which these people undertake to produce final or preliminary plans, as the case may be. If they do not there is only one remedy — get rid of them, because it is too much to expect the Government, the Department, members of this House and local authorities to try to facilitate the speedy completion of such schemes by producing ways and means so that essential jobs concerned with water supplies and sanitation should not be held up because people with too many jobs on hand at once——

Is there not a difficulty in connection with the payment of portion of a consultant's fee before the completion of the work?

That is not quite the difficulty I had in mind.

Could the Minister prescribe tablets for them? It is the local authorities who are wrong, not the Minister.

The tablets might be necessary in other places.

I am not inclined to say who is wrong but I would be obliged if members of the House who are also local authority members would take note of what I have said and take the necessary steps to see that there are no undue holdups by consultants who are overburdened with work already.

Deputy Sherwin mentioned the provision of sanitary and water services to caravans and temporary dwellings beside the sea. There is quite a difficulty here. These summer dwellings are normally placed on land for which a rent only is being paid and therefore the people using them are in the dilemma that, while the local authority insist they should have water and sewerage services, the dwellers are not in a position to provide them because they were not owners of the land. All I can say is that it can be a complex and difficult problem, but if we in the Department can help any of these groups who live by the seaside in caravans, chalets or bungalows we shall try to work out some way of getting them out of their dilemma. We shall try to unravel the situation for them if it is humanly possible.

Could it not be overcome by a system of charging such as was adopted under the Land Project?

I am not talking about their inability to pay. There are other disabilities.

Inability to grant a right way, for instance?

There are quite a number of problems. I honestly do not know what the problems are but I am inviting interested groups who have such problems to put them before us. With that and the promise that I will circulate to Deputies a brief explanatory memorandum on the contents of the Bill, I shall leave all other matters for discussion on Committee Stage.

On Tuesday next?

When does the Minister think he can let us have the memorandum?

The Deputy will have it on Tuesday.

Until we see that memorandum, it is rather hard for us to plan amendments.

When it was mentioned to me, I readily agreed to provide such a memorandum.

The Minister should make an effort to have the memorandum available for Deputies on Monday and order the Committee Stage for Wednesday.

I shall try, but surely is a reflection on the intelligence Deputies to say it would take them two days to assimilate what is in the memorandum?

I understood the Minister to say the memorandum would be circulated on Tuesday and that he also wanted the Bill on Tuesday.

That is right.

It will take us at least a day to put down amendments and it will probably take the Minister another day to get a brief on them.

Surely the Deputy is not suggesting that Deputies will not frame amendments until this is circulated? I take it that if amendments are thought to be required, they will be put in before then.

I suggest the Minister try to give us the memorandum on Monday and take the Bill on Wednesday.

We can order the Bill for Tuesday and see how we get on.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 17th July, 1962.