Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 19 Jul 1962

Vol. 196 No. 16

Committee on Finance. - Local Government (Sanitary Services) Bill, 1962—Committee and Final Stages.

Section 1 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In subsection (1), page 2, line 18, after "dwelling-houses" to insert ", including the vested cottages of tenant-purchasers,".

There is no need to go into any detail because the amendment explains the position. We want to make sure that these people will be able to avail of the section.

I appreciate that the sponsors of the amendment have put it down to elucidate whether or not these vested cottages are included in the section. I want to say there is no doubt whatsoever that in the wording of the section as it stands, without the wording sought in the amendment, they are absolutely and adequately covered. Apart from the power within the Bill, the intention is that vested cottages will be included. The law is there and the intention is that they are and will be included, and will benefit in the ordinary way.

The Minister will appreciate that when this Bill becomes law, there may be disputes elsewhere. We want to have an assurance from the Minister on the records of the House that they are covered.

I should like to ask the Minister if he can clarify a little further the point I raised on Second Reading. I cannot understand why mention of vested cottages is unnecessary in this section and is included in Section 10 of the Housing Bill. It seems to me if it had to be in one, it should have to be in the other.

Perhaps we could just deal with this one at the moment. It is not necessary in this Bill because dwelling houses are included and there is nothing in the section which precludes vested cottages from being regarded as dwelling houses.

I am wrong, I think. I should have referred to it on Section 4.

The reference in the Housing Bill is in relation to charging on the house.

I shall raise it on Section 4.

We may take it from the Minister's remarks that there is no prohibition whatsoever in the section in relation to vested cottages? That is quite clear?

Is it a fact that unvested cottages qualify for supplementary grants for the installation of water?

Vested or unvested?

Unvested cottages are the property of the local authority. They pay the supplementary grants and to a degree it would appear they would be paying in that case.

If an individual living in an unvested cottage wishes to instal a piped water supply or take part in a group scheme, does he qualify for the grant?

A local government grant, yes.

Whether vested or not?

Vested or unvested.

Has that been the practice or has there been a change?

It has been changed for some time. It was changed about a year ago.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In subsection (1), page 2, line 33, after "dwelling-houses" to insert ", including the vested cottages of tenant-purchasers,".

I take it the same position applies in this case?

The same thing absolutely applies to this amendment as applies to amendment No. 1.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 3 agreed to.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

The same applies here?

It is dwelling houses and unvested cottages again.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

The same thing applies in relation to amendment No. 3 as applied to the previous amendments.

Can the Minister tell me why it is necessary to have such completely different drafting between this section and Section 10 (2) (b) of the Housing Bill or is Section 10 (2) (b) intended to do something different. Section 10 (2) (b) says most specifically:

Repayment of a loan under this section in respect of a cottage that has been purchased under the Labourers Acts may be secured at any time in the manner specified in paragraph (a) of this subsection.

I know the Minister, when replying on Second Stage, said that he was visualising a case in which it might be necessary to have a charge. A local authority might say to the tenant of a vested cottage: "We want you to get a surety before we will give you this extra £50." I want him to have the option. If he wants to, he can get a surety but I want him to have the option of saying: "I will give you the charge instead of going to look for surety." I cannot see how under this section he has that option having regard to the phraseology. Perhaps two different people drafted the Bills.

The first real difference between the cases that are envisaged under the Housing Bill and under this Bill is that advances in the case of the Housing Bill are likely—almost sure—to be relatively substantial amounts, whereas in this Bill the amounts will be relatively small and, in fact, could be quite small. Also, advances in this case could actually be purely temporary, for a very short period, possibly even while awaiting the payment of grants to a group. It would only be a matter of getting an advance to cover the amount allocated by way of grants, pending the receipt of the grants themselves.

In so far as the request for security may arise, the local authority may provide any procedure. The idea would be that because of the relatively low amounts likely to be involved that procedure should be the least onerous and cumbersome possible, consistent with reasonable security and care by the local authority. In that regard, for instance, the deposit of the land certificate could be——

The simplest method of all.

We shall probably circulate local authorities to the effect that for this type of scheme, they should adopt a procedure involving the least bother and trouble, perhaps even designating the deposit of the land certificate as fulfilling the requirements of this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

I take it that the same considerations apply to amendment No. 4 as to the previous amendments?

Exactly the same.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Question proposed: "That Section 5 stand part of the Bill."

I should like to have one point clarified. Nothing is mentioned in the Schedule in connection with the repeal of Section 21 of the 1936 Act which prevented loans being made because vesting was considered as a mortgage. If Section 21 is allowed to stand, how does it affect the position? The same question arises in regard to the Housing Bill. I should like to know how we stand on Section 5, if a tenant applies for a loan and if he is prepared to give his vested title. If, in the meantime, Section 21 of the 1936 Act was not repealed, is the vested title of any use to him?

My advice on this point is that it is similar to that raised already in another way by Deputy Sweetman. My advice and assurance is that the deposit of a land certificate does not constitute a charge on the actual property such as would properly be debarred under the section the Deputy mentioned.

How will the vested tenant secure the land certificate to produce it to the local authority?

I understand these tenants would, or should, have available to them their land certificates.

Possibly the matter may be remedied locally but I have had cases in one particular county where there is an extraordinary problem in that such land certificates are not in existence. It is not the fault of the Department but, originally, when a cottage was vested, it seems that by law the local authority should provide the tenant of such vested cottage with the map of his property and that in the event of the death of the tenant and the transfer of the cottage to a son, daughter, widow or husband, such map is stamped by the Land Registry. We have the position now in which such maps do not exist in thousands of cases. The Minister may say it is not his responsibility but will it hold up these tenants for an unduly long period to secure that certificate so that they will be able to get a loan? The Minister or his officials may not be able to answer at present but could the matter be considered?

The Deputy will appreciate that the type of case he has cited is probably somewhat exceptional and is the result of circumstances over which the Department has not, and could not be expected to have, any control. It was due to a lack on somebody's part in the past that this situation may arise in quite a number of cases—I do not know how many. That lack could be on the part of many people, not just one. In circumstances such as these, if and when they arise, even though the land certificate would not, as a result, be available to be used as has been suggested, there would still be available the resort of getting security from a neighbour, relative or friend, as the case might be.

Where groups are concerned, the security might be obtained within the group. In any group of five, six, ten or 12 there is sure to be one or two who without the assistance of the signatures of any other members would be good for the amount involved and which was required for a short term. On that basis, the individual might not be called upon to procure or produce on his own behalf either the land certificate or, if it was not available, a security to guarantee him personally for whatever part of the loan for which he would be responsible. I do not think it is the type of case for which we can legislate specifically. Such exeptions do arise, but if it does arise in this case, the door does not necessarily close as a result because there is an alternative way of getting a loan by security.

Let me make the position clear. I am not blaming any particular individual. I am not blaming the officials of local authorities or anybody else but I should like the Minister to look at it from this angle. Actually, it is not an isolated case. There may be thousands of such cases in other counties and I wonder if the Minister could consider it in this way rather than have the vested tenant looking for somebody else to go surety. When he has the property and if the Minister is satisfied that the cottage has been vested in him or properly transferred from the original tenant to him, while the local authority is preparing the necessary material for presentation to the Land Registry would the Department be prepared not to delay the application in the meantime?

These tenants are not in possession of maps. It may be a case of a transfer from a tenant to a son or daughter or a widow or a husband and these people may wish to avoid spending money on legal costs. We do not wish to direct tenants of vested cottages in one direction. If what they require can be obtained more cheaply through the Land Registry, would the Department co-operate by not delaying the application while the map is being prepared and submitted to the Land Registry?

So far as the Department is concerned there would be no objection to accepting the situation such as suggested by Deputy Desmond, if it should arise. In the first instance, it is a matter for the local authority and if the local authority is satisfied then it is all right as far as we are concerned.

I am a little perturbed by the explanation the Minister gave a moment ago. The Labourers Act of 1936 declares that a mortgage cannot be made by a vested purchaser of a cottage other than by way of purchase price paid by means of the annuity. The fact that there is an annuity does not affect the right of a vested purchaser to create a second mortgage. There is the expressed and explicit proviso in the Act to that effect. The Act provides that the premises shall not be put forward as security for a mortgage. I think it is Section 21 that makes that provision. The Minister said a moment ago that such a restriction does not operate to prevent an equitable deposit of the land certificate.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

There are two separate matters dealt with in Section 21 of the 1936 Act. Subsection (2) states that any mortgage or charge on a cottage made in contravention of the section shall be null and void and subsection (1) provides that a cottage which has been purchased under this Act shall not, during the payment period in relation to such cottage, be mortgaged or charged. The deposit of the land certificate is an equitable mortgage. Subsection (1) says that the cottage may not be mortgaged but the deposit of the land certificate is an equitable mortgage. I think the Housing Bill, which we shall discuss later on, is right because it has a proviso to offset subsection (1) of Section 1 and I think the Sanitary Services Bill is wrong because it has not got that in.

It is a very simple matter for the ordinary person to get out the land certificate. All a person has to do is to go to the Land Registry, or send to the Land Registry, giving the folio number and pay £1 to the Minister for Finance and the certificate comes along. When the tenant of a vested cottage gets that land certificate into his hands, it is no use to him for anything as long as the provisions of Section 21 subsection (1) exist. According to subsection (2), he cannot make a written charge. He can deposit the land certificate but the efficacy of that procedure is ruled out by subsection (1) of Section 21 unless the Minister puts into this section a similar provision to that contained in subsection (10) of the Housing Bill.

I should say that when I was talking about this procedure it was in answer to a point raised by Deputy Desmond. A much less formal procedure is envisaged in relation to this section. The point put forward by the Deputy is not in accord with the advice I have received on the matter. My advice is that the deposit of the land certificate, while it may be an effective charge, is not precluded by the terms of the 1936 Act. That is the advice that I have been given although it would be strange if somebody did not disagree with advice given by anybody on such a matter.

That is one procedure. It is my belief, intention and hope that the securing of loans such as we expect under this section will be even less formal than the deposit of the land certificate. It could well be said that the grants as allocated by the Department could be regarded as quite adequate for the small amounts that are liable to arise under this section. Furthermore, another way in which I feel that this procedure will more easily work out is that there will not be a formal passing of cash. A man may have a guarantee of a grant from a local authority but it has been a common practice in many parts of the country over the years that the builder's supplier advances the material up to approximately the amount of the grant and there is an assignment of the grant in favour of the builder's supplier.

A formal assignment? It is usually paid to the grantee in care of the supplier.

The only thing is that the builder, by direction, is assured of getting his hands on the grant. It is not as formal an assignment as the Deputy has pointed out. I expect that for the relatively small amounts that will arise under the procedure of this scheme for these jobs, the type of procedure with the builder's supplier standing in and supplying the material on the strength of the grants allocated, is likely to operate to a greater degree in regard to sewerage and water than it has done in regard to housing. In regard to housing, the amount of material and the cost of the house is very much greater and not every builder's supplier can afford it. That, again, is one of the many ways in which the intention of facilitating those who wish to provide these facilities for themselves or groups could be brought about and it probably will be operated in order to help further the installation of these services throughout the country.

I am still surprised by the advice tendered to the Minister. I agree with him that it should not be necessary to go into all these formalities at all but the advice which the Minister has expressed opens a very, very wide door in relation to the whole question of labourers' cottages which was not visualised at all.

The whole intention of the 1936 Act was that a vested purchaser of a cottage could not pledge his cottage as long as the annuity remained. If the Minister is right in the advice he has just given, then the person can take his land certificate either to the local authority for an advance under this Bill or to the bank and deposit it in exactly the same way as the Minister suggests the local authority can accept it here.

It also means that there is a possibility of a purchaser of a vested cottage being enabled to purchase that cottage, if you like, by his employer. His employer can say: "I will give you the money to buy it if you give me the land certificate on an equitable deposit," which means going back again to the tied house system I thought we had got away from. I cannot see that there is the slightest difference between the equitable deposit to the local authority and an equitable deposit in favour of a bank or anyone else. The vista opened up by the advice the Minister says he has received is that it will virtually negative the fixity of tenure of the vested cottage holder which was deliberately enshrined in Section 21 of the Act of 1936.

If that is the position, I think the Minister would be very wise, indeed, to re-examine it certainly between now and Report Stage. I do not expect him to be in a position to argue legal points but, perhaps, he might get his legal advisers to brief him so that he could explain to the House the difference between this Bill and the Housing Bill because, as I say, Section 10 of the Housing Bill deliberately visualises the existence of the interpretation that has been put on Section 21 of the 1936 Bill ever since it was enacted. The advice the Minister has got in relation to this Bill completely over-rules that interpretation as it has been heretofore understood.

It is not for me to say which is right but it is perfectly clear that it has always been interpreted up to this that a vested cottage holder was not entitled, so long as the annuity remained outstanding, to pledge his land certificate by way of an equitable deposit. The Housing Bill we are going to discuss accepts that as the law and provides a specific exception for it in favour of the local authority, and rightly so. If the interpretation which is confirmed by the Housing Bill is right, this section does not give the cottage holder the optional arrangement—it is only optional. If he is given the optional arrangement provided here, then clearly there is nothing in this Bill or any other Bill to prevent a cottage holder going to the bank and borrowing funds on his cottage. There is nothing to prevent a person buying a cottage for his employee, putting the employee into the cottage and keeping the land certificate for his own security and in that way going back again to the old tied house system.

Deputy Sweetman's contention is that the deposit of this land certificate would, in fact, constitute a mortgage. My advice, as I have already stated, is that it does not constitute a mortgage. In so far as there would appear to be a discrepancy of approach as between Section 10 of the Housing Bill and this Bill, I want to say that the Housing Bill does not, no more than does this Bill, repeal Section 21 or any of the provisions in the 1936 Act outlined by the Deputy. The various procedures which will be drawn up by the local authority are intended to be rather informal procedures because of the fact that the amount is likely to be quite small and the term for which it is required may be very short. In a group scheme operation the advance may indeed only be sought as to the amount of the grants which will ultimately be paid and only for the period until the grants are paid. It is not in the same category at all as operations in regard to the reconstruction of a house.

In regard to the land certificate, the local authority may themselves design their own formula which will be expected to be a simple formula—one which people generally in the country with very modest means will be able to avail of. If in those circumstances the local authority suggests any type of workable scheme whatsoever which they themselves feel is not unreasonable or does not give rise to the belief that they will lose as a result of being too lax, my Department will welcome their approach in this matter. The amounts likely to be borrowed will be small in most cases and the time relatively short. In very many cases there may not be any borrowing necessary at all. Borrowing may be in kind. A local contractor does not have to be paid in advance for his work. These things may not arise.

These sections are intended to give the local authorities every reasonable latitude to draw up the type of procedure best suited to their own circumstances and to enable their people avail to the greatest possible extent of the facilities offered. We are looking to the local authorities to devise the procedures which are the most simple and practicable. I shall have more to say on the question of mortgages and local authority houses when we come to deal with the Housing Bill.

The idea behind the section is good but we fear that the legal advisers to local authorities may advise that it is not legal to do what is suggested, without the repeal of Section 21 of the Act. While the Department have laid down certain conditions under which loans may be made, those regulations may not be accepted by local authorities. If we could have an assurance that the Department would insist on the land certificate being accepted by the local authority, we would be prepared to let the matter drop.

The other alternative suggested by the Minister is not considered a good idea. If you have to look for somebody to go bail for you at the bank, you are in a very awkward position. The other way is clear-cut. We appreciate the Minister is trying to take the simplest way out. Our fear is that local authority legal advisers may say it cannot be done. Will the Minister ensure that steps will be taken to prevent that happening? If he does, we shall be quite happy.

It is mainly materials that would be affected in this case. It is not like a housing scheme. Even the small amount necessary to put in the materials might not be available to the person doing the job. I assume that, although some people might be able to do it themselves, small contractors would be doing the job in the majority of cases. The money would have to be available. It could not be left in a haphazard way.

We would be glad if the Minister would give us an assurance that, on the passing of this Bill, local authorities will not come back and say, on the advice of their legal advisers, that this cannot be done legally.

The local authorities are not instructed that they need to get a land certificate deposited. Legal advisers differ from each other at times in the interpretation of many things. Not all local authorities are ever fully agreed.

That is an exaggeration, too.

Not always, shall we say.

We will leave it at that.

If any local authority legal adviser says that this may not be done, then the local authority, by virtue of these sections, is not tied to any one formula. They are not obliged to drop the whole idea because this way of doing the job is said to be illegal. They may devise any other type of scheme which they think will operate. For instance, the seeds and fertilisers scheme has been operated without difficulty for many years in many counties. Under it, seeds and fertilisers are advanced to the poorer sections of the community.

But there is a difference in the amounts. In the case of that scheme, it is £1 or £2 at the most.

No; £10 or £20 is not an unusual figure.

It is very unusual in my county.

In any event, I am only giving that as an example of a scheme which has been in operation for many years and about which there has been no difficulty, despite the lack of any formal legal requirements in regard to it. The intention of this section is to give the local authority freedom— freedom to a degree never enjoyed under any scheme before—to draw up their own scheme, and if there is any reasonable semblance of security about it, it will be accepted. They do not have to take their line from what has been said here as to how they should go about doing it. They can devise various schemes. They will find when they come to us that, if the scheme is reasonable at all, we will not only accept it but will welcome it.

We may have the position that a local authority will say: "We cannot do that". County managers will be very quick to advise councils that under the regulations they are not entitled to lend money because they are advised legally that a second mortgage is involved. Is it any use saying to those county managers: "We can devise some other scheme. No matter what scheme is involved, there must be some type of security, but the only security available is the land certificate"? Where do we go from there? The only alternative is to go to a neighbour and ask him to go to the bank with you, to go bail for you, as we say We want to get away from that. Is there any way to get around the other difficulty? Is it possible to have an appeal to the Minister to adjudicate in such cases? Unless something like that is done, I am afraid this section will not work in many counties.

Let me give an extreme case. If the council so decide, they may make the advance and take the applicant purely on his face value. It is as wide as that. It is intended to be that wide in order to make the whole scheme operative. To put it another way, suppose a man had a Sunday hat, it could well be that that Sunday hat would be taken as security for a small advance under this section. If the local authority want it to be the "Sunday hat", or something like that, then they will be enabled to accept it under this section. That is the whole point. We have been discussing just one method mentioned here, but there are several methods available.

There is no difference of view between the Labour Party and the Minister on this, except in relation to our experience of managers in local authorities. I know one official who was manager in Cork. He has gone very far north now, but, from my experience of him, he would be very strict in matters such as this. Whether or not he has changed since he went to Donegal I do not know. We appreciate the alternatives, but we are not concerned with them because we have in mind the tenant of a vested cottage who may not find it very easy to get anybody to go surety for him. The decision will be based on his income, and so on, and the decision may be that he is not a safe mark. If some provision could be made to enable local authorities, through their legal advisers, to find some way out, we would be satisfied. The extraordinary situation is that both the Minister and the local authority are anxious that there should be a way out to enable the local authority to accept the land certificate of a vested cottage. We know the alternatives are there, but we are anxious that the land certificate should be accepted against the mortgage if handed in directly by the tenant concerned.

So far as that is concerned, we will indicate to local authorities, if it is so desired, that they may accept these land certificates for the purposes of this section.

If the manager is not co-operative—I do not believe he will not be co-operative—and the legal adviser backs him up, and there is nothing but difficulty, then the elected body, if they so desire, may operate Section 4.

Would it not be even simpler to put a clause similar to clause 10 (b) in the Housing Bill, and then nobody could argue about it any more?

I would not agree that that is simpler.

I will give the Minister an opportunity of arguing it by putting in an amendment to that effect on Report.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 6 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In subsection (11) to delete paragraph (c).

We want that portion of the Bill deleted which provides that in future it will not be possible for people to do something which, at the moment, practically everybody does. I refer to the weekly car wash. This Bill makes it an offence to wash a car, or a van, or what-have-you, by using a tap outside or a hose from a tap inside the house. The prohibition will apply even to a pram. The extraordinary thing is that if the car is washed by using a bucket, even if there is a hole in the bucket, it will be quite legal. If someone decides to carry water from a tap inside the house, and there is a hole in the bucket, not alone will he draw down the wrath of the authorities but he will probably draw down the wrath of the housewife as well and he will certainly waste a lot more water than he would waste in the normal way.

I think someone got the idea this was a heinous offence which must be stamped out. Someone may have known of some neighbours who washed their cars. He may have had no car himself. He said: "We will stop those fellows from washing their cars". That is probably the secret at the back of this particular section. I think the Minister will agree with me— possibly he does not have time now to wash a car—that there is a great deal of pleasure in removing the mud and putting a good shine on the car with a Flexee brush.

Did the Deputy say "pleasure"?

It is a pleasure. There is no doubt about that. We think this subsection should be deleted. It says:

a supply for any purpose incidental to a dwelling-house or private garden (including washing a private vehicle) if the water is drawn otherwise than from a tap inside a dwelling-house or if a hosepipe or similar apparatus is used,

I assume this also refers to the offence of watering a garden, a little drop of water on the roses, or something like that. It is quite ridiculous to include such a provision in a serious piece of legislation like this. I appeal to the Minister to delete that subsection.

If the Deputy's interpretation of the intention of this subsection were the correct one, I should be only too ready to withdraw it. The Deputy's interpretation is, however, not the purpose of the subsection at all. The purpose of the subsection is to enable a charge to be made for the use of water over and above domestic use in order to prevent abuses or a waste of water.

The Deputy mentioned washing his car. If we were to leave the position wide open, then anybody could wash everybody else's car. In those circumstances, there would be an unlimited abuse of water. This subsection does not make a charge compulsory. It merely enables a charge to be made in certain circumstances. The Deputy mentioned a garden. A garden could be of a very sizeable acreage. It could be a very profitable garden. If the local authority does not wish to make a charge, if they feel there are no abuses in the directions the Deputy has mentioned, they are not obliged to make a charge. The subsection is included in order that, if they wish to make a charge, they can do so legally. They may find it necessary to wipe out abuses or to curb wastage of water for purposes not strictly related to domestic use.

Is it seriously suggested that in the society in which we live if people have a tap in the kitchen they cannot bring a hose out through the door to wash their cars?

You can do that with the permission of the local authority.

Surely we are allowing ourselves to get into a fantastic position. This is the way you drift into folly. Somebody has said that an abuse exists, that in exceptionally dry weather in an area of short supply some irresponsible persons may use water to wash cars or water their rose gardens, which ought to be stopped. Representations have been made by some zealous soul. A Bill is on the stocks, the Local Authorities (Sanitary Services) Bill: here is the time now to stop this practice, and we put in a section like this into the Bill.

We all live in the country. The Minister lives in the country. Is there any reality in the picture of any resident we know of taking a hosepipe out through the kitchen window and washing all the cars in the county or setting up a business as a car washer? Do any of us know any of our neighbours in rural Ireland who would be seduced by the opportunity of easy profit that he would elect to earn his living by taking a hosepipe out through the kitchen window to wash not only his own car but all his neighbours' cars, a wet, dirty, ill-rewarded job?

This is the kind of picture which bears no relation to reality. The Minister invites us to do this. The Minister ought to understand this as well as I understand it. Suppose you put in a provision that watering roses renders you liable to a supplementary charge by the local authority, I want to remind the Minister that that will not operate in the way rational people may contemplate. What will happen is that some mischievous old baggage who has seen you watering the roses last Tuesday will be off hot foot to the relieving officer to say that So-and-So was using the water, so hard to come by, in order to water roses.

That has been done and that is why this section is in.

That complaint has come to the relieving officer, then to the superintendent relieving officer, then to the county manager; the county manager has mentioned it in some conference in the Custom House and now here is the baggage moving into action to put an end to the villain that sprayed the roses to the outraged fury of the next door neighbour whose roses did not bloom that year.

I suggest to the Minister that the intention may be excellent but we are in danger of falling into the customary error of employing a 400-ton hammer to crush one monkey nut. There is no abuse existing that requires legislative control of this kind. Occasionally a situation arises in which if there is a water shortage in the local town an irresponsible person will waste water but ordinarily the public reaction to that in the neighbourhood will correct such abuse and you will see decent fellows driving their cars out to the bridge at the end of the street and washing them at the river if they have to be washed when there is a local shortage of water.

This is the mischief-maker's charter. I do not believe the Minister wants that. I suggest to him that he is putting in the hands of every cantankerous old baggage in the country the chance to harass her neighbour if she takes it into her head to do so. It is activities of that kind that give rise to very much more irremedial difficulties in rural communities than the occasional abuse of somebody wasting water on washing a car or watering a rose garden or something of that kind. Wasting water can be stopped without any hard feelings by anybody but if a neighbour falls out over an issue of this kind the consequential ill-will may be long-enduring. I would advise the Minister to have another look at this section and to see if these provisions are essential and if they are not I recommend him to drop them.

For the information of the House and particularly of those Deputies who have taken this matter so much to heart, may I say that as far back as the water works clauses of 1863 this type of matter was then entertained and dealt with? Not only could a charge be made for using a hose for any purpose without the consent of the authority controlling the water supply but it was declared as being unlawful.

Queen Victoria was then alive.

Let us modernise.

Let us modernise is right but let us conserve water for the purpose for which it is most used and most needed. In the principal town of Deputy Tully's county, here are the charges operating at the moment. There is a charge of £4 per annum for a public house, a store for bottling——

Or diluting?

——and a bakery. What they use it for is another matter. A chemist is charged £2. I suppose that is for washing the bottles. In order to use a hose a person must pay £1, whether it is for washing cars or for any other purpose. That is the charge in An Uaimh at present.

What is the water rent on those houses?

That is not the point.

It is the point.

No. What I am saying is that this is an urban council and for domestic use there is no water rate as such.

You are trying to catch the people who do pay a water rate.

Put the section in simple language.

Could it be in any more simple language than it is?

You should differentiate between mass car washers and single car washers.

This is enabling local authorities who have control over the water supply to differentiate. It is for that purpose this provision is put there, so that they may in fact charge where an undue amount of water is being used.

Have they not got that power already?

This is the power we are giving them at the moment.

They have that power; otherwise they could not do that in Navan.

There are quite a number of things in this Bill which were said to be there already but about which some doubt might have been created in the past. In regard to this matter considerable doubts have been created in the past as to how they may or may not charge for water. It is in order to simplify the existing procedure, to enable these things to be done and to be shown that they can be done and that there is no ambiguity about the authority of the local authority, that we are putting the matters in this form. It is not for the purpose of catching the old lady or the young lady who is watering her roses. That is not one of the matters which we are legislating to prevent.

What is horticulture?

We are legislating to enable the local authority, on whose initiative a water scheme or schemes were provided in any part of their functional area, where water is being used on a lavish, wasteful or commercial scale, if they so wish, to make a charge. It is no more and no less than that. The proposal in the Bill will not bring about repressive measures unless they are considered necessary by the local authority. We are not making these things illegal. We are merely giving the local authority the power to make charges for water used for certain purposes above and beyond the ordinary household uses. I can see no reason why it should be removed. In fact, I can see every reason why it should be retained—but not to abuse it. It is there to ensure that users of water do not abuse the privilege they may enjoy of being connected to a piped water supply, provided at public expense, in any area or town.

There seems to be a change of foot on the part of the Minister in this connection. He has just quoted an Act which allows, according to him, the local authorities to do exactly what he is proposing to give them authority to do in this measure. It is true that in rural areas where the local authorities put in a water scheme they charge a water rent according to the valuation of the house. They charge a tenant of a house 30/- a year as a water rent. It is now suggested that if the tenant waters his roses by means of a pipe or hose —it does not matter if he does it with a tap—or if the tap is outside he must pay an extra charge, if the local authority desires.

"If the local authority desires."

The local authority in any area has the right, and exercises it where there is a danger of a water shortage, to notify the householder that there is such a shortage and that water may not be used for A, B, or C. That is quite a common thing in rural Ireland at present. It is now suggested that a system should be introduced which will allow somebody to inspect a private person's garden or house to find out if there is a tap outside or if a hose is being used. As Deputy Dillon said, it gives the long-tongued lady the opportunity to tell stories about her neighbours.

All this arises because somebody got the bright idea that there should be a change in legislation where water is concerned. Surely the recent position in Rush has not been the cause of this? Was this point introduced because there was a water shortage there, which some people alleged was caused by a number of people who grow fruit and vegetables? Is that the reason why this is introduced? Under the present system, people can be told they are not to use water for a certain number of hours. Is that not sufficient? Has that system not being working well?

Reference was made by the Minister to Navan. He did not refer to another matter in regard to Navan. An unfortunate person living outside the town boundary must pay up to £20 per year water rent. No effort is made in this Bill to remedy that situation. The person happens to be an urban dweller, according to the regulations, and not a town dweller. Surely this is going too far? Are we now to have a tax on cleanliness? Will there be a tax on people because they believe in using a little extra water for some purpose outside the house?

With reference to the watering of a very big garden, I do not think it is reasonable to suggest that there will be a conspiracy whereby people will decide, in order to thwart the local authority which supplied the local water main, that a big garden will be laid down which can be watered several times a day in order to waste water. Has the Minister looked at another point, namely, that if there is to be a charge for water it is assumed a meter will be installed? Who will instal it? What will the cost of the meter be? Will the position not be worse in the last case than it was in the first case?

Again, I will describe this section of the Bill as being not alone frivolous but mischievous—a section which has been inspired by people who do not like to see their neighbours doing something which they themselves cannot do because they have not got the necessary equipment.

A tax on cleanliness.

That is right. The Minister is a very sensible person. He must realise, as we do, that the section is ridiculous. I would ask him to withdraw it. I believe that if it is not withdrawn it will be laughed out of this House. It certainly will be laughed out of existence by the general public if it ever becomes law.

I charge the Minister with being a little disingenuous. Consider the case of a public garage proprietor or somebody for whose business it is necessary to have a very large water supply. The plain truth is that the only water supply he can get in a private house is a half-inch rising main. Anybody who wants to turn on the tap in the house may do so day and night, with nobody to say yea or nay.

We are making a provision here that, if instead of letting the water run down the plug-hole of the kitchen sink, a person attaches a hose to the tap for half an hour to water the roses, to wash the car or to do any domestic chore outside the house he renders himself liable to a special charge. The Minister should look at this section again. Certainly he should consider the deletion of paragraph (c) of subsection 11.

I do not think anybody here would complain if there were a special charge for a person engaged, for instance, in a trade, business, agriculture or horticulture. If a person is engaged in a large-scale enterprise, it is not unreasonable that he should pay a charge for his raw material which in this case may be part water. If he is engaged in a trade or industry or business it is not unreasonable that he should pay a special water rate because he is an exceptional charge on the local water supply. I think, in fact, most of us who are in business usually pay a special water rate if the nature of our business is such as to cause us to use more than the normal supply.

When we come to a supply for any purpose incidental to a dwelling-house or private garden, including washing a private vehicle, if the water is drawn otherwise than from a tap inside the dwelling-house, or if hose, pipe or similar apparatus is used, that that should make a resident whose only source of water is a rising main half an inch in diameter liable to a special water rate is clearly not in accordance with the wishes of the House.

God help him if he attempts to put out a fire.

Unless the Minister knows of some urgent reason why it should be there, a sensible arrangement would be to drop paragraph (c) of subsection (11). I do not think the world will fall down if he does. On the other hand, he will remove not an urgent or catastrophic cause of likely rural civil war but a very possible source of bad relations between neighbours, of which, God knows, in the imperfect world in which we live, there is a sufficient abundance already, without adding to it.

Another aspect which I imagine will cause difficulty if the Minister insists on this provision is in regard to the householder who has a walled-in yard attached to his house. If he brings his motor car into that yard and connects up his hose and starts washing his car, what authority will any official of the local authorities have to take a look over the gate or climb over the wall to look into the backyard? I can see undue difficulty arising for local authority officials. The local water curator in some places gets £10 or in larger villages he may get £20 or £25. Is he now supposed to check every household where a hosepipe is available? Will it be like the radio licences and even though the hosepipe is not being used will the very fact that a man has a water hose mean that he will have to apply for a special licence?

Will it mean that the county engineer or some such person will be directed by the county manager to employ the local ganger in each area to keep an eye out for a possible flow of water from these enclosed yards in case some terrible damage is being done by people washing their vehicles? I suggest we can get on without this provision. In the summer time through advertisements in the press, and by their own employees calling on the people, when water is in short supply, the local authorities ask for, and usually get, co-operation from the people in the matter of water consumption. That is essential in these areas. In this case, however, it is suggested that the onus will be on the local authority so that in the future they will have to bring people into the district court because they have water hoses available, or because some official of the council took a chance and climbed over a wall and found the occupant washing his car. If we insist on this subsection, we will create more difficulties for local authorities than we realise at this stage.

There has been a very great amount of misunderstanding in regard to the application of this section and subsection. If Deputies had read the explanatory memorandum which accompanies the Bill, they probably would not have misled themselves as they have done. Subsection (11) is to be read in conjunction with subsection (1). We have been discussing this matter as if it were to have nation-wide application. In fact, the subsection read as it is to be read with subsection (1) applies to urban areas where no general water rate is chargeable or allowable under the law, nor is it proposed that it will be allowed under the law in the future. In other words, water for domestic use may not be charged for under the existing law and it is not proposed that the new law will enable a charge to be made for domestic use.

In urban areas.

Subsection (11), paragraph (c) which the amendment proposes to delete, in fact, applies to urban areas and urban areas only.

It does not say that in the Bill.

Anyway, that makes it worse.

Why does the Minister not say what he means in the Bill?

Deputy Mullen obviously did not read the Bill or the explanatory memorandum.

The Minister is making a case for the change.

The explanatory memorandum is not the Bill and the Minister is well aware of that.

I am reading the memorandum and I cannot say that it makes it very clear. I have had it before me all the time.

The whole point is that this is excluded from domestic water supplies.

Surely the House will appreciate that domestic water has been defined and that definition has no relevance except in so far as the urban areas are concerned because of the fact that under the existing law, and we do not propose to change it, domestic water supply may not be charged for in urban areas.


The only difference is if you take it out of the hose, it is not domestic water but if you use it in a bucket, it is.

Of course you could put your foot in the bucket, too.

The Minister has put his foot in the bucket. It is too small to be arguing about; take it out.

It is not too small.

Well, re-phrase it.

Let us look at it this way. If we were to give away on this matter, then it means that in the future no charges could be legally made for the use of water in an urban area for any purpose whatever.

If what the Minister says is correct, all the charges up to now have been illegal.

The Deputy knows, as I know and as every other public man who has any interest in water supplies knows, that in the past various court decisions have been given in regard to the legality of charges made for water for various purposes in urban areas. This present law is designed to clarify the position, to avoid a situation arising in the future and to make available to local authorities powers whereby they may make charges for water used for various specific purposes.

While we appreciate the Minister's difficulty in trying to provide all these safeguards, does he think it equitable and just that a man should be charged for washing his car or watering his garden?

Or washing the pram.

Or watering the roses.

I have asked the Minister a simple question.

A pram is a vehicle and if the pram of the baby referred to by Deputy Coogan earlier were washed with the domestic water supply, it would be an offence.

An effort is being made by members across the House, and particularly immediately across from me, to make the debate ridiculous.

No, the section is ridiculous.

It is absurd.

No, the section is not ridiculous but by talking in the terms in which they have been talking, Deputies have been making the whole proceedings ridiculous.

Paragraph (c) is ridiculous. It is absurd.

It is not absurd and the Deputy well knows it. He knows also, as do other members of the House, that what is contained in the Bill is a mere modernisation, or the modern form, of a fact which has, in fact, existed for many years without charges that it was ridiculous, or repressive, or Victorian, or wrong. Can we not get down to the basis of a fact which has existed——

Let us get down to the motor cars.

It was carriages in the old times.

And a man with a red flag had to go with it before it could be washed.

I asked the Minister a simple question. Does the Minister believe that a man who washes his car with the aid of a hose, or waters his garden with the aid of a hose, should pay an extra water charge? If he believes that, he is entitled to argue the way he is arguing.

It is a private garden and not an acre, as was mentioned a few moments ago.

The local authorities, as indeed has been the case in many other measures and advocated by many Deputies, are being given the power, if they so desire, to make a charge for these things to which Deputies are objecting. In having regard to what they may do, we must have regard to the fact that they are not "nuts" in the local authorities.

The manager is the authority.

I never saw and I hope I never will see anyone who seems so helpless in the hands of the county manager as does Deputy Tully. I know that is not the actual fact of the matter at all——

It is not.

——but he does make it appear as if he is absolutely helpless in the hands of the manager. He knows that is not so and I know it is not so, and pleading that sort of case does not convince anyone here, or outside, of the validity of his arguments generally. We are merely giving powers in this Bill to the local authorities to handle their business in regard to water in the way they think best in the interest of the public good. That puts in a nutshell what this Bill means. If there are abuses of powers, it is not the Bill that is wrong. It would be the local authority who so abused the power proposed to be given. I am not suggesting that the local authorities would abuse this power. If I thought they would, I would not give them the power——

Why not exclude the garden and the car?

The Minister has misread his own White Paper which sets out that the origin of the business was that when a water rate was struck in an urban area for the domestic water supply, it apparently resulted in a series of judicial decisions out of which emerged the conclusion that washing a carriage with the domestic water supply could not be properly described as a domestic use of water. Apparently that decision has been carried on by some other judicial decision that watering a garden with a hose constitutes something in excess of a domestic use of the water supply in respect of which no rate has been levied. It is now proposed to set those two judicial decisions as to the proper use of the domestic water supply beyond further doubt by incorporating paragraph (c). This is what the Minister and his Department conceive to be the existing situation as a result of the judicial decisions as to the nature of the domestic water supply.

I want to suggest to the Minister that a fundamental error is here involved. We are all familiar with the large paved courtyards which were associated with houses like Mountjoy House, Leinster House or some of the other palatial establishments in days of yore, in which one of the occupations of the day for the coachman and the footman was the washing of the carriages. That does not go back to the 18th century. It was a common characteristic of the 19th century. You would have found in the backlanes of Dublin, behind Fitzwilliam Square or George's Street, accommodation for that type of transaction.

Some case being raised that that was not a normal use of the domestic water supply, in the circumstances then obtaining, it may have been thought that it would cause an excessive strain on the water supply which justified an exceptional charge. There may have been a case of a person using a domestic water supply to water what was in fact the merchandise of a large market garden. In order to prevent that abuse, a prosecution was taken, a rate levied, and on appeal, it was determined that that person had something other than a normal domestic water supply.

I want to put to the Minister that in our conditions today the washing of a car, or the watering of a suburban garden or the kind of garden that now exists in the urban areas in our society, does not fall outside the normal use of the domestic water supply. I urge on him not to get himself committed as a matter of principle to something on which he thinks he is in the right and that we are all fractious, and in the wrong. I would ask him to look again at paragraph (c) of subsection (11) between now and Report Stage, and if he sees any force in the representations which have been made, and if he decides that without excessive inconvenience or the danger of serious abuse paragraph (c) could be dropped, he should drop it. If he does, I think he will have made a constructive contribution to meet a reasonably argued case about a matter which is of some consequence to some of us. By doing so, he will not delay the passage of legislation for which he is responsible. I suggest that might be the sensible thing to do in this case.

I will have a look at it anyway.

That is fair.

The Minister says he will look at it.

I mean I will consider it.

By saying that he will have a look at it, does the Minister mean that he will have a look at the whole section or only the subsection about which we have been talking?

I have been requested to look at paragraph (c).

Will the Minister put down an amendment for the next Stage?

I will consider it between now and the next Stage.

If not, we will retable our amendment.

I will put down an amendment to delete paragraph (c).

Put it down anyway.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 agreed to.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.