SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL, 1924—THIRD STAGE.
I desire to inform the Seanad that for reasons that were unavoidable, due to the illness of some of the staff of the Seanad, it has not been possible to have all the amendments that came in to this Bill put down on the one paper. Senators to-day will find the amendments on two big papers, but in making reference to them I will help Senators as far as possible. I have given instructions, however, that the amendments for to-morrow's meeting of the Seanad are all to be incorporated in the one paper.
In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the expression "the Minister" means the Minister for Local Government and Public Health;
the expression "prescribed" means prescribed by the Minister;
the expression "county" does not include a county borough;
the word "road" means any public road and includes any bridge, pipe, arch, gulley, fence, railing or wall forming part thereof;
the expression "main road" means any road which the Minister, by his order, declares to be a main road;
the expression "urban road" means any road in an urban district except a main road;
the expression "county road" means any road in a county except main roads and urban roads; the expression "county scheme" has the same meaning as in the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923 (No. 9 of 1923); the expression "direct labour scheme" means and includes any declaration prepared by the council of a county under the provisions of Article 25a of the Procedure of Councils Order, 1899, specifying the roads in a rural district to be maintained by direct labour, and the scheme formulated for carrying such declaration into effect; the expression "local authority" includes—
(i) a county council, county or other borough council, urban district council, rural district council, board of guardians, or the commissioners of any town;
(ii) any public body which is established by or in pursuance of any statute to perform any of the functions of any of the above-named bodies,
(iii) any committee or joint committee of or appointed by any of the said authorities;
the expression "board of health" includes both a board of public health and a board of health and public assistance;
the word "powers" includes rights, jurisdictions, capacities, privileges, and immunities;
the word "duties" includes responsibilities and obligations;
the expression "powers and duties" includes all powers and duties conferred or imposed by or arising under any Local Act;
the expression "the appointed day" means the day appointed by the Minister to be the appointed day for the purposes of this Act;
the word "maintenance" when used in relation to any road, includes the widening or other reasonable improvement of such road, and cognate words shall be construed accordingly.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
Section 1, page 4, line 18, after the word "gulley" to insert the words "footway, pavement."
I do not think there is any necessity for this amendment, because in the definition the word "road" already bears that meaning. I have no great objection to the amendment, but at the same time I think it is unnecessary.
The definition of the word "road" certainly does not expressly include "footway and pavement." I do not think it will injure the Bill if the amendment is accepted.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I beg to move:
"Section 1, line 18, after the word ‘wall' to insert the words ‘(where such fence, railing or wall was erected by the County Council or Grand Jury).'"
Unless such an amendment as this is inserted in the Bill the liability to maintain all the fences of all the roads in the country will devolye upon the county council at the expense of the ratepayers. According to the Local Government Act of 1898, Section 82, the county councils were bound to maintain all the public works in their counties. Certainly the roads of a county are the principal amongst the public works, and if the words "wall, fence or rail" are included in the definition, it will make the county councils liable to maintain these fences on every road. Section 82 of the 1898 Act says that it shall be the duty of every council and district council, according to their representative powers, to keep all public works maintainable at the cost of their county or district in good condition and repair, and to take all steps necessary for that purpose. In case of the failure of the county council to perform these duties it is open to any person to take proceedings to compel them to do so, and I think it is very alarming to place upon the county councils elected under this Bill the liability of maintaining all the fences which are adjoining the roads in the county. I can well understand that where a road has been raised and a retaining wall put up, it should be maintained, or where the road is lower than the adjoining land that it may be necessary to put up a retaining wall to prevent the land slipping down on to the road. But that the county councils should have the duty imposed upon them of maintaining these fences, not alone on the main road, but on every bye-road in the country, is something that should not be sanctioned. The Minister may say this definition of a road was taken exactly from the definition of the Local Government Act of 1898; but the fact that no person took action against the county councils in the past to compel them to perform this duty imposed upon them, is no guarantee that in the future they shall not be compelled to maintain all these fences if the section is passed in its present form.
My amendment limits their liability to any fences, railings or walls that were erected by the county council or by their predecessor, the Grand Jury. I think that would meet all the purposes of maintaining the roads, and I think it would be desirable to save the county councils and the ratepayers who have to pay the expenses from the enormous cost that would be entailed upon them in carrying out the repairs of all these fences.
There is an omission surely, Senator, in your amendment because if it were passed in its present form there would be no longer the liability to maintain certain fences, railings or walls that might be actually part of the roads. Would you not require to insert "where such wall or railing or wall was erected by or liable to be maintained by."
I am quite satisfied to accept that amendment to my amendment.
Otherwise they would have no liability in connection with any fences, railings or walls, although they were essentially a part of the public road and necessary for its maintenance. I do not know what the Minister will say, but in its present form I think the amendment is too sweeping altogether.
I happen to know a case in point at the present moment where portion of a wall of a churchyard which abuts on the footpath is falling down, and for months that wall has remained in that condition. There appears to be a conflict of authority as to whose duty it is to rebuild that wall. The coffins are not actually exposed yet, but they will be in a short time, for the earth is mouldering away and falling off, on to the road.
It was a case of that kind I had in mind. If the words were inserted "or erected by or was liable to be maintained by."
Does not that still leave the legal point to be discussed?
You can never legislate to stop litigation; the object is rather to promote litigation.
I would be in favour of accepting the amendment as suggested by the Cathaoirleach. Of course, there is no change from the present law under the Bill at all, but, apparently, there are some anomalies that should be cleared up.
The amendment then would read: "where such fence, railing or wall was erected by or was liable to be maintained by the County Council or Grand Jury."
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
I beg to move the amendment standing in the name of Senator Douglas:
Section 1, page 5, line 10. To delete all from the words "the day" to the word "Act" in line 12, and to substitute therefor the following words and figures, "the 1st day of October, 1925."
I have been asked by Senator Douglas to move this and the remaining amendments standing on the Paper in his name. The effect of this amendment is to change the definition of the appointed day as it stands. At the present the expression "appointed day" means the day appointed by the Minister to be the appointed day for the purposes of this Act. The amendment seeks to strike out the words "appointed by the Minister to be the appointed day," and to insert in lieu thereof, the words, "the first day of October, 1925." This and a number of amendments lower down are rendered necessary in consequence of the date on which this Bill will now become law.
When the Bill was originally drafted it was hoped and expected that it would have become law before now, and in time to start the central sanitary authorities which are created by the Bill, at the beginning of the financial year, that is, on the 1st April. The financial year for Local Government purposes begins on the 1st April, and is divided into two halves, the second half-year beginning on the 1st October. You will, therefore, see that the amendment proposes that the appointed day should be a fixed day, namely, the 1st October, 1925, which is the beginning of the second half of the financial year. As I stated, owing to the delays which occurred in the discussions of this Bill in the other House, and which were very necessary and useful, it is impossible that the machinery of this Bill should be put into force so as to bring it into operation on the 1st April in the present year. Accordingly, certain amendments have become necessary in order to avoid administrative confusion which would result if certain provisions of the Bill are brought into operation as provided in the Bill as it stands.
All the administrative provisions in Parts I. and II. which deal with the abolition of rural district councils and with health administration were to come into operation on what was called the appointed day. Under the next section, Section 2, the appointed day was to be fixed by the Minister, and he was to fix a day that was to be within two months of the passing of the Act. If that provision remained in this Bill the rural district councils would be abolished and the new central bodies would have taken over their functions at a broken period in the financial year, and that would lead to perfectly hopeless confusion. By that time the rates under the present law would have been struck by the county councils, and certain of those rates, for instance, those struck for the expenses of rural district councils, would be for purposes which would have ceased to exist under this part of the Bill. Others of these charges, for instance, roads, would be assessed on a different area of charge from that on which they will be assessed under the present Bill. If all that is not set right it would lead to endless confusion. To avoid that confusion it is proposed to fix the appointed day as the 1st October. As I have said, the 1st October is the beginning of the second half of the financial year, and by that time the administrative machinery of the new central bodies will be ready to start, and there will be no overlapping. That is the entire object of this amendment, and of several other amendments which will come on later. I accordingly move this.
I thought that the second half of the financial year began on the 5th October?
No, on the 1st October. The Local Government year runs slightly differently from the others.
Will this have any effect on the date of the elections? Will it defer them still longer than we hoped to have them?
Better interrogate the Minister.
I was going to ask the same question, because Section 3 does not abolish the rural district councils until later.
A later amendment of Senator Douglas deals with that.
Is the Minister satisfied, if we pass the amendment, that we will not nullify the chances of having new councils elected on the 1st October, or will the rural councils remain in office within two months of the appointed day? I would like to be assured that this will have no effect on the election of new councils.
I am quite satisfied that this amendment will not have that effect. Rural district councils will disappear automatically when the next election takes place, and the new sanitary authorities to be set up will administer health services through the machinery of the old rural councils. Without such a provision as that which Senator Brown has so ably moved it would be impossible to put the Bill into effective operation at all.
Amendment put and agreed to.
There is an amendment down in Senator Farren's name to delete Section 2. That is No. 3 on the first Paper. There is also an amendment on the second Paper in the name of Senator De Loughry for the purpose of inserting a new section before Section 2. I think, therefore, it would be better for me to call on Senator De Loughry. This is Amendment 2 (a) on the second Paper. It has nothing to do with Clause 2, and we are still on Clause 1.
I beg to move:
In Section 1, page 5, line 15, after the word "road" to insert the words "and in the case of a main road in an urban district, includes cleansing and scavenging."
This amendment is to make it clear that cleansing and scavenging in urban districts come under maintenance. I hold that this does not introduce anything new into the Bill, but I find that it is not already there. Maintenance must mean maintenance in an ordinary and decent condition for traffic purposes and so forth. I think this is quite reasonable. In case the Minister, for any reason, is disposed not to accept it, I want to make a point and that is, that he should not express an opinion that cleansing and scavenging do not come under maintenance, as I hold that it is for the courts to decide, and if the Minister gives an individual expression of opinion here he would, in my opinion, be pre-judging the deliberate judgment of the courts.
This is rather a more important amendment than the other one down in the Senator's name. I am afraid I cannot recommend the Seanad to accept it. Cleansing and scavenging are very different from ordinary maintenance of roads, because they come under the general heading of sanitation. We have different bodies carrying out these two works. The county councils will be maintaining the main roads in urban districts and the ordinary sanitary authorities of urban districts will be doing sanitary work. It would be a very invidious thing to separate this particular part of the ordinary duties of sanitary authorities from their other duties, and it would lead to very unsatisfactory results. For that reason I cannot recommend the Seanad to accept this amendment.
I quite understand that cleansing and scavenging have been under a different heading up to now, but this Bill seeks to plough up the whole method of local administration regarding road expenditure, and the Minister has not told us what objection there is to cleansing and scavenging coming under ordinary maintenance.
The Minister says that cleansing and scavenging have been hitherto, and will be in future, works of sanitation, and will be carried out by a different body from that entrusted with the ordinary maintenance of roads. This particular clause with which you are dealing is only conversant with the ordinary duties of maintenance, and does not refer to the sanitary part of their work. He has not suggested that the roads will cease to be cleansed and scavenged, but only inasmuch as that duty will devolve on another body, it would be awkward to introduce it in this clause.
I hold that two sections of this Bill seek to spread the expense of upkeep and maintenance on main roads on the county at large. The urban districts will pay their share of the charge. I hold that cleansing and scavenging of main roads through urban districts come under ordinary maintenance. The fact that they have been carried out differently heretofore does not affect the matter, as the whole Bill upsets present procedure.
Amendment put and negatived.
Before Section 2 to insert a new section as follows:—
2.—In every enactment or order containing the expression "lunatic asylum," or the expression "asylum" referring to and meaning a lunatic asylum, the expression "mental hospital" shall be deemed to be substituted for such expression "lunatic asylum" or "asylum" (as the case may be); provided that no proceeding in any court shall be invalidated, and no document, legal instrument, or other matter, thing or act in the law of any kind, shall be deemed invalid, incorrect or irregular, or otherwise affected, by reason only of the use in any such proceeding, document or instrument, or in relation to any such matter or act, of the expression "lunatic asylum" or "asylum" instead of the expression "mental hospital."
The object of this amendment is to give statutory authority to what is the practice already, substituting the words "mental hospital" for "lunatic asylum" or "asylum." I think the words "mental hospital" are much more acceptable, and I am surprised there is no section in the Bill proposing that that should be the name.
In my Second Reading statement on this Bill, I referred to the fact that a Commission had been set up to deal with the question of lunatic asylums and poor relief. This is obviously a question that should be referred to them. In practice, as Senator De Loughry has stated, we actually make use of the expression "mental hospital" instead of "lunatic asylum." It is a much more kindly expression. I think it would be rather prejudicing the position of the Commission to attempt to pre-judge their decision in this matter. In any case, if the Senator wants to have the amendment made, I think he should have given me some time to look into it, to see how it coincides with the law in the matter. The amendment only came up to-day, so that perhaps it might be brought up again on the Report Stage.
I am quite satisfied, but I do not want this Bill to go through without making the change.
It can come up on the Report Stage if you are satisfied.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
The following portions of this Act, that is to say, the whole of Part I., Sections 8 to 14, and Section 19 in Part II., Sections 21, 22, 23 and 26 in Part III., and Sections 51, 57, 59, 63, 67 and 68 in Part V., shall not apply to the County or the City of Dublin.
I move:— To delete the section.
The section provides that the Bill shall not apply to the county or the city of Dublin. I think the time has arrived when the people in the city and county of Dublin should be given an opportunity to express their views, in the only manner in which they can express them, as to how their local affairs should be carried on. I read the debates that took place in the Dáil, and when attention was called to this section, the Minister stated that Dublin city and county were being excluded from the operations of the Bill because a Commission had been appointed to consider the question of local government for the city and the county. The Minister thought it advisable, in view of that, to put this section into the Bill. I believe there is a necessity for considering the question of local administration in Dublin city and county. I am with the Minister when he says that that should be done. At the same time, I say, that in view of what has happened, in Dublin city particularly, it is nearly time the people were given an opportunity of expressing an opinion as to how their affairs should be carried on. The inclusion of Dublin city and county in the Bill would not in any way deter the Commission from going on with its work.
What I object to is that for five years the people in the city and the county have not had an opportunity of registering their opinion and deciding who should conduct their local affairs. On various occasions Bills were promoted postponing the elections. On every occasion, as far as my party was concerned, we protested against the postponement. We maintain that if it was possible for the people of the city and county at two general elections to select representatives to make laws that apply to the whole country, surely there was no excuse for not trusting the same people to elect representatives to carry on the work of local administration.
I believe this section was put into the Bill deliberately with the object of preventing the people of the city and county of Dublin deciding who should carry on the work of local government. It is an appalling and deplorable state of affairs, and any man or woman having any regard for the city of Dublin, and for the country as a whole, must blush with shame at the thought, that the capital is not fit for local government, and that people have to be appointed to carry on the work of local administration. Commissioners have been appointed to carry on the work of the city. I am not finding fault with their work, but I complain that the people have not got the opportunity they are entitled to; and that it is wrong fundamentally for the Ministry of Local Government to take powers which deprive the citizens of their rights, and to prolong the position indefinitely. There is no intimation whatever from the Government, or from the Department, as to when the citizens will have the opportunity of deciding this matter for themselves. I do not want to introduce anything of a controversial nature, or go into the causes that led up to the suppression of the Dublin Corporation. If I did so, I could defend the position I took up. I am not taking up my present position because I was a member of the Dublin Corporation when that body was suspended. As a matter of fact, it was the greatest God-send to me, as I can honestly say that I devoted much more of my time and worked harder while a member of the Corporation than I did since I became a member of the Seanad. It is a perfect scandal that in the capital city, and under a native Government, the people have been deliberately deprived of the opportunity of expressing an opinion as to how their local affairs should be conducted.
Without going into the pros and cons of what Senator Farren has just said, I would like to call attention to the fact that a Commission is at present sitting, and a very large and very representative Commission, too, under the chairmanship of Professor Magennis, to investigate the whole question of the government of the city and county of Dublin. I think there is not the least doubt that when that Commission has reported, and when the Minister has considered the matter, a Bill will probably be brought forward which may bring back the Corporation into the position it occupied before its dissolution. To delete this section from the Bill, as suggested by Senator Farren, would be to bring to a conclusion, I take it, all the work and labours of the Commission at present sitting, and which has been sitting for nearly a year now. I, therefore, cannot support the motion proposed by Senator Farren, for it is a motion that would destroy all the work that has been done by that Commission.
I rise to say that I have a great deal of sympathy with what Senator Farren has said. The Cork Corporation has been treated in very much the same manner as the Dublin Corporation. I believe the majority of my fellow-citizens in Cork are pleased with the fact that Commissioner Monahan, who has proved himself a very able official, has been installed as a Commissioner; but I recognise that public men like Senator Farren and many of my friends who are members of the Cork Corporation have been very unjustly and unreasonably criticised. They have done splendid public service in these Corporations. As one who has a great veneration and respect for British law and for what happened in the past centuries, I cannot help regretting that what was wrung from that monarch from whom the barons of England extracted Magna Charta was so suddenly and sensationally taken away by a home Government, and with scarcely any notice to the men who were endeavouring to render public services to the best of their ability. I think that some intimation might have been conveyed to them that this sensational step was going to be taken. Instead of that, it was simply that when they met to do the business of the Corporation as usual, the Commissioner appeared and announced that he was going to function instead of them, without so much as by their leave or with their leave.
Since then another public board in Cork has been dissolved—the South Cork Board of Health. Another official has been sent to discharge the work done by that board. Not only is he discharging the work of that board, but also the boards of health for North Cork, West Cork and part of Kerry. I expect the work will be carried out satisfactorily, but it seems a great deal for one man to undertake. I am not going to support the amendment moved by Senator Farren, but I think it is only right to say, in the interests of the men whose records I respect, and whom I regard as personal friends, that I regret that they did not get some earlier intimation of what was going to happen, instead of being treated as they were, suddenly cast out and their services suddenly and peremptorily dispensed with.
I support this amendment. For some time past, as Senator Farren has stated, on one plea or another the election for the Council or Corporation of Dublin has been postponed. This has been done by a side wind. I do not want to go into the question as to whether the Corporation or the Commissioner are the best qualified to do the work which has to be done. By a side wind this thing has been done. It is not good enough for the Minister to go on saying, "When we pass such and such a law, when such and such a thing has been done, then it will be time enough to have these elections." I do not think that is the proper way. I entirely disapprove of the methods that have been adopted in the matter of the Corporations of Dublin and Cork and these elections being put off by a side wind. Senator Guinness told us that he had no doubt that as soon as some Commission had reported that the thing would be all right. I have not much belief in such things. It may be all right at some future time, but such hopes are things that do not appeal to me at all. I would like to see it now down in black and white. It is for that reason I will vote for this amendment.
Like Senator Guinness, I happen to be a member of the Greater Dublin Commission. It is because of the deliberations of that Commission that this section dealing with Dublin city and county is inserted, and Dublin city and county are temporarily withheld from the operation of this Bill. If we delete Section 2 an immense amount of restoration contingent on that Commission would practically make the Bill useless. We heard Senator Haughton and Senator Farren eloquently lamenting the dissolution of their respective corporations. I do not know whether it was intended to imply that when the citizens had selected these two representatives, the dissolution followed post hoc upon it. I am charitable enough to believe that the dissolution of the Cork Corporation and the Dublin Corporation came about largely because large ratepayers were crying out for these bodies to be dissolved. I do not wish to say that all this applied to the Corporation of Dublin, of which I have more knowledge than I have of the Corporation of Cork. But I do know that the city of Dublin to a large extent, as it exists at present, is an insanitary area. That is to say, you have more than fifty human beings confined within one acre of ground. In some parts of the city you have as many as one hundred and thirty-two human beings in an area that really is not fit for habitation.
In the attempt to relieve this congestion the building of houses was undertaken and this building was not an economic proposition. That is to say, there was a loss to the citizens of 12s. 6d. per week on each house or modern cottage built in a slum area. I do not blame the Dublin Corporation for that. But we must remember that there are certain cases and certain things that should not be subject to the public franchise and public vote. The people's health should not be put to the vote of the people. When we consider that already the rates in Dublin have fallen under the new administration, then I say that a great deal of credit should be given to the Minister who, apparently, sought very little popularity in dissolving these bodies.
I am not going into any lengthy comparison in the matter of labour and wages in Crooksling or Dublin, but there has been a disparity which it would be impossible to explain on any other basis than that of nepotism or favouritism. The proof of the pudding is to be had in the falling of the rates. There is another matter I would like to mention in connection with the Greater Dublin Commission. The whole question of the health and the future area of Greater Dublin is at present under consideration. Anything that will interfere with even one of the public buildings of the city, or settle its character, will interfere with the future planning of the city. If anybody were inimical enough to wish to block the plans of future development, that would cause a deadlock.
The state of public health in the city is a scandal. It was a scandal that ran contemporary with the Corporation. I do not connect the two, but they synchronise. Certainly, high rates affect the poor to a greater extent than many people imagine. The higher the rates are the worse becomes the state of child mortality. The mortality rate amongst children in Dublin is a thing one should be even ashamed to ventilate. In the month of August there were 250 deaths out of every 1,000; that means that one out of every four died. That was caused to a great extent by the high rates. Even if the rates only fell by one halfpenny, I believe it would justify the Minister in the action he took.
Some time ago the General Council of County Councils passed a resolution protesting against the dissolution of public bodies, and suggesting a remedy. Their idea was that if a public body proved refractory the people of the area represented by that body should have a chance of re-electing other representatives. In the Dáil this resolution was referred to, and it was discussed at very considerable length. I think the Minister consented, in the event of the dissolution of a public body, to have a reelection within three years. That comes under Section 62 of the Bill, but I find that it is not included in this section, operating in the county and city of Dublin. In the enumeration of the sections which shall not apply to County Dublin, Section 62 is not included. Dublin would therefore be entitled to have an election within three years at the outside.
This morning, at the annual meeting of the General Council of County Councils, I was asked to press our previous resolution and to bring in an amendment, on the Report Stage, touching on the dissolution of public bodies. The General Council of County Councils is a highly representative body. They are primarily interested in the main industry of the country, agriculture; but they have, in addition, a very general knowledge of affairs, and they understand the position in Ireland. When all the members of that body assemble from different parts of Ireland, it is not unfair to assume that their aggregate knowledge is certainly more intimate than the knowledge possessed in the aggregate by members of the Dáil or Seanad. Their view is not one to be set aside lightly; there should be considerable weight attached to it. I believe if you were to take a plebiscite to-day the people would not forego the franchise. If you took a plebiscite now, I am sure the vast majority would be in favour of retaining the principle of election and keeping the supreme power with the people. The people elect the Dáil. They will be also electing the Seanad. Surely, the people, who have more intimate knowledge in their own localities, will be capable of selecting good men. They will do so if you give them an opportunity.
The General Council of County Councils is affected by the dissolution of public bodies. As each public body is dissolved, we lose our membership and we become a less representative body. If that continues, the General Council will eventually cease to exist. I daresay the whole thing will be adjusted in time. I do not suggest the Dáil is composed of the best men of the country, or that we could not get 60 men and women better equipped for the functions of the Seanad than we who are assembled here. Still, people always have either the Government they desire or the local body they desire. If, by an increase of rates or by want of proper sanitary conditions or otherwise, they are seriously affected, people will in time learn wisdom. That is the basis of the principle of election. In my capacity as representative of the General Council of County Councils, I have to table an amendment, pretty much in line with the present amendment, on the Report Stage. It is in the direction of trying to preserve the elective principle, and it protests against the dissolution of public bodies without adequate or justifiable cause.
A big issue of that sort should not be reserved for the Report Stage. Plainly, it is your duty to put a matter of that kind down for consideration in Committee. I would have great difficulty in sanctioning an amendment of that magnitude for the Report Stage. It affects the very root and heart of the Bill, and it should previously be discussed in Committee. You have time to put it down for the Committee Stage, because that Stage will last over some days. If you are interested in a substantial amendment such as you suggest, I recommend you to try and put it in some appropriate place for consideration in Committee.
Very well. The principle is challenged now. I will do as you suggest.
I rise to support this amendment. I think some very serious reasons should be given to the Seanad as to why these two important areas, the county and the city of Dublin, should be excluded from this Bill. I think it is very bad policy to legislate for the country, county by county. I think what is good enough for the rest of the country should be good enough for Dublin county and city, and any privileges they might obtain under this Bill, should be accorded to them as well as any responsibility. I am not at all convinced by the reasons that have been given for the exclusion of these two areas. It is stated that a scheme is in contemplation for extending the city boundaries. The passing of this Bill will not prevent that extension. In the city of Cork an extension scheme is in the air, and notwithstanding that the city of Cork is brought under this Bill. It is also stated that it is in consequence of Dublin city being under the control of Commissioners and having its council dissolved, that we are not to include that city. But in Cork the same thing has happened. Cork is under the control of a Commissioner, and still no effort is made to exclude it. We have the county of Kerry without any county council to conduct its services, and it is brought under this Bill. I think on the broad principle of legislating for the whole of the Free State in one body, that it is a very bad policy to split up the country into sections and to say: "We will legislate in such a way for Dublin and in another way for Galway and Cork." I think this Bill ought to include the whole of the Free State, or it should not be passed at all. I therefore hope that this amendment will be passed, and that Dublin city and county will come in.
I oppose this amendment. As a large ratepayer of Dublin city I approve of the action taken by the Minister for Local Government. I think that for the very short time the Commissioners have been in control, we have found a very vast improvement in the local government work of the city. I know from the figures published under the heading of Poor Law, there has been already a large reduction in the rates. I do not know exactly the reason why the Corporation was suspended, but I do know that there must have been very grave reasons for it. As far as my knowledge goes, this Department was quite justified in suspending the Corporation. We, unfortunately, have not our Corporations composed of persons such as Senator Farren or Senator Mrs. Wyse Power. I think if we had there never would have been any reason for suspending the Corporation. But everybody knows that the rates levied in the city have been responsible for the enormous rents which are at present enforced in Dublin. Not only are the rents enormous, but houses cannot be found at any price. When I came to Dublin to live, some years ago, the whole revenue of the Corporation was something like £300,000 a year. That revenue was expanded from year to year until we have now the enormous sum of £1,250,000, and the only material change we have found is that the service for the revenue of £300,000 for the city was entirely superior to the service we get for £1,250,000. I think it was time for a change to be made. I do not want to say anything against any person in the Corporation, but every single citizen and business man that I have talked to approved of the action of the Minister and his Department. I think it will have very healthy effects, and it will make corporations and councils pause before they are so extravagant and so loose in disposing of the people's money. We have come to a time when everybody must pause and consider whether it is justifiable to be piling on these enormous rates, ruining the industry of the whole country. Certainly, with all my weight, I wish to oppose this amendment.
There may be objections of detail against the amendment, but I contend they are not the objections advanced by Senator O'Dea. He has complained—perhaps with some justification—that the Dublin Corporation which was elected in 1920, after being a success, a brilliant success for a time, turned out inefficient and extravagant, and that consequently the only way to remedy the evil was to suppress it and to place the administration of the city in the hands of a bureaucracy. Is there any other alternative? What happens when a Parliament loses the confidence of the electorate? Is the Parliament wound up and the affairs of the nation placed in the hands of a few directors? Is not the logical solution of the position to dissolve the Parliament and appeal to the electors for a new mandate and, if they so desire, for a new Parliament, a new personnel? The Minister has gone out on an altogether different line here. He says: "The people you have elected have not been worthy of the trust placed in them, consequently you are not going to get another opportunity of selecting people until, in my opinion, you have been sufficiently punished for the unfortunate mistake you made in electing such people to administer your affairs."
Local Government electors can make mistakes just as easy as the parliamentary electors. People are often sent to Parliament who are utterly unfitted for Parliament and who do not serve the best interests of the electorate. The Government and Ministerial Departments often go wrong, but is that an argument why parliamentary institutions should be abolished? Senator Gogarty and a number of other speakers have referred to the fact that the rates are likely to be reduced as a result of the administration of the Commissioners. There is no guarantee that that would not have happened, in any case. There has been a downward tendency, and we all know the way they are being reduced. A lot of road work, maintenance and so forth, is being deliberately neglected, and the Government is coming forward and giving grants, moryah, for the relief of unemployment and proceeding to do this work by these grants, money that would come out of the rates if the Corporation were in office. The Government has done that to try and bolster up their action in suppressing these democratically elected institutions.
Nepotism has been referred to, but I have in mind an instance which occurred within the last month or two, where Commissioners—I will not say where—advertised for four public officers and received hundreds of applications. But when these people went to make investigations they found that these positions had been filled long before the advertisements were published, and that they had merely been complying with the law in publishing these advertisements. The Dublin Corporation or any board of guardians never did work like that, because it would be well ventilated, but because the Commissioners are only a few the secret could be kept. I am absolutely in favour of the sentiment of the amendment, but I do not think it would be advisable to pass it, simply and solely because of the reasons advanced by Senator Guinness and Senator Gogarty. A Commission is deliberating as to what the future boundaries of Dublin City should be, in addition to other matters, and I hope that their deliberations will not be unduly protracted, and that they will be able to submit their findings before long. I hope that the findings will not be treated as the findings of other Commissions have been treated by Ministers. What will happen if this amendment is carried is that you will have an election for Dublin City and County within a couple of months, and if the Commission's findings are adopted you will probably have an additional election, with additional expense, a few months later. I do not think the citizens want that, because they are absolutely tired of elections, Parliamentary and otherwise. For that reason, while I am in sympathy with the sentiment of the amendment, I do not feel disposed to vote for it.
The debate has taken a turn that I did not anticipate, because really this amendment will not affect the destinies of the Dublin Corporation one way or the other. It will not have the effect, if carried, of reinstating the Corporation, and it will not have the effect of postponing the elections further, or of bringing them on sooner. I suppose it has merely been availed of to have an opportunity of criticising my Department in its policy of abolishing those local authorities. I am not going to apologise for doing that; I feel that my action in that matter has been amply justified by results in Dublin and other places.
I was rather surprised to hear Senator O'Farrell suggest that useful work in the city is being neglected, and that the funds of the former Corporation are being supplemented by Local Government grants. That is an absolute mis-statement; the Commissioners are getting no grants that their predecessors did not get. Senator O'Farrell has criticised my action in putting out the corporators on the ground that the proper remedy was to have a new election. That all depends on whether the real difficulty lies with the personnel or with the machinery of local government. I am inclined to the opinion that it is partly the result of bad machinery and partly, perhaps, the result of the personnel in a few cases. But if it is the result of the system, it would be no remedy to put in a new body of corporators, and accordingly, I felt obliged in the circumstances to appoint Commissioners as a temporary expedient. Meanwhile, I thought the best thing to do was to appoint a Commission of men who had experience in public affairs to go into the whole matter thoroughly from A to Z and to report as to a proper system of government for the Capital City.
Senator Linehan says that he does not see any reason why Dublin city and county should be excluded. I think that it would be a very bad compliment to those men who are giving a great deal of their time, energy and service to the work of this Commission, in the hope of making Dublin a capital worthy of our people, to prejudge their decision in this way by applying this Bill to Dublin, and it would really have the effect of nullifying their whole proceedings. Dublin is in a different position from Cork; no Commission is sitting to inquire into the conditions of local government in Cork city, and Cork city, while a very important city, is not the capital of Ireland.
Not yet. For that reason the comparison is not a fair one.
I purposely put down the amendment to call attention to the state of affairs that exists in the city, and I have been eminently successful. Senator Gogarty told us that the appalling condition of affairs in the city, with overcrowding and bad sanitation, has been responsible for the deaths of so many children. I want to tell Senator Gogarty, in case he is not aware of the fact, that in order to prove that the statement I am about to make is true, I will present him, free, gratis, and for nothing, with a document which is the most damning indictment of the Local Government Department that could be framed by the hand or mind of man. For ten years the Dublin Corporation Housing Committee was deliberately prevented from building houses in order to remove this congestion, and who was responsible? The Local Government Department. I will present the Senator with a document bearing the signatures of officials of the Ministry, and that document was prepared by no less a personage than the President, as one of the members of the Housing Committee. That will prove to him that it is not the public representatives who are responsible.
It is such a compromising document that I would like to have it.
The Minister has stated that these Commissioners have carried out their duties satisfactorily and that results have proved that. I contest that statement. It has not been proved that the rates in Dublin will be lower by one penny this year, because the rates have not been struck. You cannot anticipate that, because it is only at this period of the year that public bodies commence to go into their budgets and estimate what their requirements will be. Therefore, I think it is a little premature to be pouring out praise on these people. I put down the amendment for the purpose of calling attention to the position, and as a Dublin-born citizen I want to protest against what is underlying the appointment of these Commissioners, that you cannot get enough men or women with sufficient honesty of purpose to carry on the business of the city, but must have paid Commissioners appointed by a bureaucracy. I maintain that that is a deliberate insult to the citizens, that they cannot find enough men and women with sufficient honour to do their duty fairly and squarely by the citizens. I will always continue to protest against that, and I say that if the people who were in power did abuse their position the remedy was there since 1923, to hold a new election and give the citizens an opportunity to elect other people.
Amendment put and declared lost.
SECTION 3, SUB-SECTION (1).
From and after such date, not more than two months from the passing of this Act, as the Minister shall appoint to be the appointed day for the purposes of this Act, all rural district councils shall cease to exist, and upon the appointed day the powers and duties (subject to the provisions of this Act), and the property, debts, and liabilities of the council of every rural district within a county, shall be transferred to the council of such county, and the council of such county shall be the successors of the council of such rural district.
To delete the word "from," and to substitute therefor the word "on."
This is a mere drafting amendment. All through the Bill wherever it is intended to define the period at which the operation of the provisions comes into force the words "from and after" have been used, and some doubt has been suggested as to whether "from and after" means from the beginning or the end of the first day on which it comes into operation. In order to get rid of that doubt—it was not raised by me—it is proposed to delete "from" and put in "on."
Amendment put and agreed to.
On behalf of Senator Douglas, I beg to move Amendment 5:
In Section 3, sub-section 1, line 22, to delete all from the words "such date" to the words "this Act," in line 24, and to substitute therefor the words "the appointed day."
This amendment is consequential on the first amendment I moved to-day on behalf of Senator Douglas. We have already defined "the appointed day" as the 1st October, 1925, and this amendment is for the purpose of inserting that in the present section.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I move Amendment 6:
In Section 3, sub-section 1, lines 24-25, to delete the words "all rural district councils shall cease to exist and upon the appointed day."
On the Second Reading I referred to the abolition of the rural district councils. This abolition is of a wholesale character. It refers to about 150 public bodies, which are wiped out by a stroke of the pen. The Minister has already referred to the resolution passed by the General Council of County Councils. I spoke to members of county councils, to whom the duties heretofore discharged by rural district councils are to be transferred, and their view, and my view, is that the county councils are overburdened with work. There are very few county councils that are not in arrears as regards the work to be discharged by them, and my experience of county council work is that it is high pressure work. From the time you go to the council chamber until some time in the afternoon, when members have to catch trains or set out on long journeys home, the members are kept busily engaged, and the work is really only half done. Relatively unimportant or non-urgent business is relegated to the end, and, coming towards the close, you find that you have no quorum, and that a lot of items have to be left over. When these arrears get rather serious, a special meeting of the council has to be called for the purpose of getting a clear sheet. That is a thing that is constantly recurring.
In addition to their own committees, county councils have to nominate members of the board of health. The business of the board of health has assumed almost as large proportions as that of the county council itself, and the board of health is rarely able to get through all its work. I have a circular here from the County Waterford Insurance Committee drawing my attention to the fact that the meeting called for the 15th inst., for the purpose of appointing a representative of deposit contributors, had to be postponed again owing to non-attendance of county council members, who were entitled to make the appointment. That appointment has been postponed at every meeting held since July. Members cannot come from all parts of the county to committees of that kind, with the result that the business is not dealt with. It is now proposed to transfer the work of the rural district councils to the county councils.
The Minister said that when the road work and public health work was taken away from the rural councils, the balance of the work done by them would easily be done by the county council in a quarter of an hour. Relatively unimportant work from the rural areas will be left to the end of the meetings of the county councils and will never be done.
We come, then, to the more important question of how this abolition is going to affect particular officers. The Minister says that it will save £65,000 a year in running expenses, and £75,000 triennially for elections. I had the election figures since the year 1909 taken out for Waterford No. 1 and No. 2 rural councils. The average for No. 2 is under £96, and for No. 1 under £61. Multiply either of these figures by 150 —the number of rural councils—and you get a total cost of little more than £15,000. I cannot see how the £75,000 was arrived at, except there are overhead charges by the Government that we know nothing about. The figures at our disposal do not bear out that statement of the Minister.
We then come to the officers who will be pensioned off. In Waterford No. 1 Rural Council, the Clerk and Assistant Clerk, whose aggregate salaries amount to £219, will be pensioned off. Presumably three medical officers and four sanitary sub-officers will be pensioned off. There are three secretaries of public health committees. You cannot pension them off because there is power in the Bill to appoint local committees, and you must find secretaries for these committees, so that there will not be any saving in that respect. Then there are three or four scavengers and four or five waterworks caretakers, who must be retained. Apparently, the Minister in estimating the saving has not examined the staffs of the rural councils and ascertained how many it will be necessary to retain under a different official title. If you took the number whom it will be necessary to pension off and the number whom it will be necessary to retain, and if you compared the salary-figures you would find the difference very small. One of the conditions that the General Council imposed when they voted for abolition of the rural district councils, in the first instance, was that they should be substituted by committees. If you are expecting to get the same zeal or attention by the members of a nominated committee, without any status or prestige, that you get from members of an elected committee, you will be disappointed. These nominated committees cannot have the same sense of responsibility or be expected to give the same attention to their duties as the elected representatives of the people. The elected representatives have to answer to their constituents for their actions. Members nominated are not in the same position. We know how such men do their work. We have an instance in the Insurance Committee. They do not do it at all. They certainly do their own business first, and if they have any spare time they do the other business. That, I think, will be the result of delegating the work of the rural councils to the local committees. As regards the roads, the rural district councils can get their roads repaired at present whenever they are prepared to foot the bill. When you dissolve them, you will have representatives only from the county electoral areas. Many of those representatives will be ignorant of the requirements of particular localities. We will not have the same close representation or the same close knowledge of the needs of the people.
Under this Bill you dissolve 150 rural district councils. You do not touch 80 urban district councils. As to the relative importance of urban and rural district councils, you have 80 urban councils ranging in valuation from £1,500 to £183,000. Only 13 of these 80 councils have a valuation of over £10,000. As against that, you have 150 rural district councils, all with valuations over £10,000 and some with valuations as high as £135,000. It may be said that the urban councils discharge their work in a better fashion, but I do not know that that claim can be justly made. There may be some reason for this discrimination between the urban councils and the rural councils and I would like to know what it is.
Apparently the amendment is directed against the abolition of the rural district councils, but it takes all the work away from them. (Section in accordance with proposed amendment quoted). That will have no effect at all. The rural councils will continue to exist, but all their powers will be taken away from them and they will be purely a body to be admired. Whether that is the aim of the amendment or not, I agree with the section as it stands. Since, owing to the establishment of health committees, all the powers in connection with Poor Law have been taken away from the local authority, the functions discharged by the district councils are very small indeed. I attended a district council regularly and continuously, and I think my colleagues will say that I gave it more care than any member of the council. If one excludes work under the Labourers' Act and Sanitary Acts, the work of the council is very small indeed. Now that the Poor Law work is taken away, I do not think there would be the least necessity for them to assemble to do the work. I think it would not put any serious extra duty on the members of the county council. I do not think rural district councils on all occasions deserved the criticism they received from the local ratepayers, but the members of those bodies were never assiduous in their attention to work except on occasions of an election. They were assiduous then, and you saw the whole number, probably fifty or sixty, there on that occasion. I feel convinced that the work now to be performed by the rural district council can be performed adequately by the county council, and I wish to express my opinion that it would make for economy and would not take away from the efficiency.
I rise to oppose the amendment. I have served for many years on a district council. Then we combined our duties with boards of guardians, and my clear recollection is that 90 per cent. of our work was connected with the board of guardians. All the road work was done at four quarterly meetings. The contractors were present at these meetings, and there was a good deal of fireworks. Fewer members were got to the monthly meetings of the council; it is natural that before your constituents you want to be seen at your best. In any case, where work was undertaken it was reviewed again by the county council and the executive part of the work was directly in the hands of the county council officers. I cannot see that the present arrangement with regard to roads really relieves the county council of any responsibility.
Senator Kenny's experience of nominated members is entirely different from mine. I found that, on the whole, nominated members were better than elected members. They were generally selected by a small body who knew them. They were people who, perhaps, were not successful at securing support in an election. They were silent people, who did their work, in my opinion, better than the elected members. I do not see how the respective valuations of the urban and the rural districts are any real test on the question of abolition. There is much more sanitary work to be done in the urban districts, where the population is much more congested, and, therefore, there is much more reason for retention. I do not know what Senator Kenny would say if, in addition to the rural district work, all the urban district work was thrown on the county council. That would only add to their already heavy burden. I sympathise with the Minister in his attempt to solve this great difficulty. It is a difficulty due to apathy and to the trouble there is in getting unpaid committees to do the work. Unpaid committees are unsatisfactory people who get really no continuous work done.
In America they realise that so much that in many cases corporations are administered entirely by paid managers, and they find the results much better. However, that is outside the principle of this Bill. So far as any improvement in machinery is likely to come, I think it will come in the direction now sought by centralising the work of the county councils, and in hoping that they will sensibly delegate portions of that work to committees. I think the Minister is wise in not drawing any rigid rules or hard and fast demarcations with regard to these committees. It will be much better to allow flexibility, and to let these committees be determined according to the needs of each area.
I am very much in favour of the abolition of district councils. I was a member of a committee of the General Council of County Councils which considered proposals for a Local Government Bill. About 27 or 28 men attended that committee. It was representative of county councils from all parts of the country. Without consulting anyone, about 90 per cent. of those who attended that meeting were in favour of the abolition of district councils. They waited on the Minister, and asked him to abolish these bodies.
Soon after the report of the decision come to by the Committee was published in the Press, some of the public officials down through the country, realising that they were about to lose some nice jobs, brought influence to bear on a number of the representatives on the General Council of County Councils. The result was that the General Council of County Councils unfortunately reversed its previous decision, and proposed at one time to send another deputation to the Minister asking him to keep on district councils, but that proposition was not put into effect. I objected very strongly to any such course being taken. I urged that it would be beneath the dignity of the General Council of County Councils to send another deputation to the Minister asking him to reverse a decision which he had come to in response to a request that had been put before him by a deputation from the same body a few weeks earlier.
I have been a member of a district council since these bodies were set up under the Act of 1898. As long as the boards of guardians were in existence there was a considerable amount of work to be done by the district councils. The custom was for the meeting of the board of guardians to be held at 11 o'clock. The meeting of the district council was held usually about 12 o'clock, or later, but the two bodies were practically the same. The work done heretofore by the boards of guardians has now been transferred to the county boards of health, and the result is that there is very little work for the district councils to do. There is so little to be done that if men were elected to these bodies they would not attend. The only work left to district councils is sanitary work. That is mere routine work, and could be dealt with by the clerk. All it means is, that during the month about half-a-dozen reports are sent in by the medical officer of health. The usual order made on these reports is, that notice is to be served on the people concerned, and if they do not comply with it then the matter is put in the hands of the council's solicitor. All that work, I suggest, could be done in five minutes. As far as labourers' cottages are concerned, there is no intention, I believe, of building new cottages at present, and for the next ten years nothing will have to be done to the cottages except to put a few slates on them or to carry out some other small repairs. That is work that the assistant surveyors employed by the county council could attend to.
As regards road works, district councils have very little control over the roads. It is true, of course, that they accept contracts for the repair and maintenance of the roads, but anything they do in that way is subject to, and must come before the county council. If the county council does not approve of the road recommendations sent in by the district councils, then these recommendations are put into the waste paper basket. Any control which the district councils had over the roads in the past was very little.
I believe that in the past, the people when voting for and electing county councillors and district councillors were more or less in a fog. They had to elect two district councillors and one county councillor for a particular division. It often happened, I believe, that the people did not know whom they were electing. I know that myself, because I often canvassed the electors at election times, and I discovered that many of them did not know the difference between a county councillor and a district councillor. I believe that if district councils are abolished, and that you have only county councils, the people will think more before they vote for men going up for election to this body. In the past, the man who shouted the loudest and was the most active in canvassing got the votes. Previously in the case of a county electoral division the people were called on to elect six county councillors and fourteen district councillors. The number was so large that the people became fogged about the matter. With the abolition of the district councils, the people now will only have to vote for six representatives on the county council, and it is reasonable to assume that they will exercise more care in the selection of these six representatives than they did formerly when they were called on to elect twenty men, fourteen as district councillors and six as county councillors. For these reasons I am strongly in favour of district councils being abolished. Senator Kenny asked why should not urban councils be abolished as well as district councils. That, I submit, is an absurd proposition to put forward. Urban councils have the power to strike rates just as county councils have, but this is a power that was never given to district councils. I do not think it would be a feasible thing to transfer the functions of an urban council to a county council.
Amendment put and declared lost.
As amendment 7, which also stands in my name is, I think, consequential on the one which has just been defeated, I ask the leave of the Seanad to withdraw it.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill"— put and agreed to.
Section 4 was agreed to and added to the Bill.
(1) Any joint board, committee, or authority, all of whose members were, prior to the passing of this Act, elected or appointed by the councils of rural districts situate in the same county health district shall, from and after the appointed day, cease to exist, and the powers, duties, property, and liabilities of such joint board, committee, or authority shall be transferred to the council of the county in which such county health district is situate, and such powers and duties shall be exercised and performed by such county council through and by the board of health for such county health district.
(2) The members of any public body in office on the appointed day who were appointed or elected by the council of a rural district shall cease to hold office on the appointed day, and where, prior to the passing of this Act, it was the duty of the council of a rural district in a county to elect members of any public body, it shall, from and after the appointed day, be the duty of the council of such county to elect such members of such public body.
This sub-section shall not apply to any public body to which the first sub-section of this section applies.
On behalf of Senator Brown, I beg to move:—
In Section 5, sub-section (2), line 28, to delete the word "from" and to substitute therefor the word "on." It is a purely formal amendment.
Amendment put and agreed to.
With regard to amendment 9 on the Order Paper, I have altered the wording of the proposed new section. It is in this form that I now propose to move the amendment: Section 5: At the end of the section to insert a new sub-section (3) as follows:—
(3) One-third of the body so to be elected as in the last sub-section shall consist of persons who are rated for the relief of the poor in respect of property the Poor Law Valuation of which is £10 or upwards and whose names are to be found in the Electors List (Jurors column) current at the date of election. This sub-section shall not apply to any public body to which the first sub-section of this section applies.
This raises a rather far-reaching question, and in moving the amendment I hope I shall not be regarded as reactionary. I am making the proposal for two main reasons. The first is that it might lead to the day when any fear of Commissioners being appointed throughout the country would cease. The second reason is that the personnel of the Boards and the increase of public confidence in them would do away very largely with that regrettable apathy that prevails throughout the country at the present time. The want of public confidence would also be extinguished. I think it is a matter of regret on the part of public men generally, leading business men, agriculturists, professional men, and even trade unionists, that they care so little about the filling of public positions. Yet they freely criticise the actions of the men who give so much of their time and attention and incur so much expense in working for the public.
The Local Government Act of 1898 was introduced by Mr. Gerald Balfour when Chief Secretary for Ireland, and when his brother, the present Earl Balfour, was Prime Minister of England. Deputations from the South of Ireland waited on the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister with regard to this very question of the franchise. They desired that there should be some differentiation in the franchise governing elections to the public boards that were then proposed to be set up. The reply given was that when the Irish people were being given Home Rule, as they were to some extent by the passing of that Act, they would think of their pockets first, and allow politics to take a secondary position. I am afraid, as has been admitted from all sides of the Seanad, that during the years which have since intervened such has not proved to be the case. I am afraid politics have been trotted out rather too freely, and that the management of public affairs has been relegated too much to the background. I am afraid that the amendment I am moving will not cover all the ground that my friends in the South of Ireland would desire it should cover. Our desire is that this amendment should apply to every position in the country. Unless I am allowed to raise this matter again later, it will not achieve the object that we have in view.
As it appears in the paper it covers persons referred to in sub-section (2). That is the whole subject matter of it. It could only apply to persons to be elected under sub-clause 2 of this particular section.
I want to cover everybody.
If that is your object it would have to be contained in a new section to the Bill.
Then I think it would be better, now that you have ventilated the case, to bring up a new section on Report Stage, because this section, even with the amendment proposed here, would not carry out your object.
I suggest there is a very big principle involved in this amendment, and that that principle should be decided in Committee. It would not be sufficient merely to withdraw it from Committee now, and then have this big principle decided on the Report Stage.
I agree. Senator O'Farrell is quite right. The Senator will have an opportunity before the Committee Stage closes of putting down an amendment asking to incorporate a new section to have this franchise applied to all these bodies.
If I had an expression of sympathy from the Minister upon the subject it would encourage me further.
He does not seem inclined to give it.
I am not in a position to give a very favourable reply upon this. As I mentioned on the Second Reading, my object in introducing this Bill was to make it more or less noncontroversial, and I am afraid it would assume anything but a non-controversial appearance if it went back to the Dáil with this proposal tacked on to it. I hope at a later stage to introduce an Electoral Bill, and perhaps the Senator would have the opportunity of debating this question better when that Bill comes on.
For the moment does the Senator withdraw his amendment?
In view of what the Minister has just said about introducing another Bill I shall fall in with his suggestion and ask leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Section 5 agreed to, and added to the Bill.
Section 6 was agreed to and added to the Bill.
In every county health district in a county to which for the time being no county scheme relates, poor law guardians shall, after the appointed day, be elected on the like days and in the same manner in all respects as members of rural district councils are now required by law to be elected.
I beg to move, in line 47, to delete the words "are now" and to substitute therefor the words "were immediately before the passing of this Act."
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 7. as amended, was agreed to and added to the Bill.
I beg to move amendment 11:—
Section 8. Immediately before Section 8, but included in Part I. to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) No elections of rural district councillors shall be held after the passing of this Act.
(2) On the day on which the next statutory election of county councillors after the passing of this Act is held all rural district councils shall be dissolved and the property and the several powers and duties of every rural district council shall be transferred to the council of the county in which the rural district was situate, and shall be vested in and exercised and performed by such county council until the appointed day.
(3) In the case of the council of a county to which for the time being no county scheme relates or to which a joint county scheme for such county and an adjoining county borough relates, the powers and duties transferred by this section to such council shall until the appointed day be exercised and performed by a board established for the purpose in the like manner as a board of public health would be established in that county under this Act after the appointed day.
(4) In the case of the council of a county to which a county scheme (other than a joint scheme for such county and an adjoining county borough) relates the powers and duties transferred by this section to such council shall until the appointed day be exercised and performed by the body to whom under such county scheme is entrusted the administration of the relief of the poor in the area in which the rural district was situate.
(5) The Minister may by order do all such things and make all such regulations as in his opinion shall be necessary for the proper preservation and management of the property and the performance and exercise of the powers and duties transferred by this section and generally for giving full effect to this section during the period between the dissolution of the rural district councils and the appointed day.
This amendment proposes an entirely new section in Part I. of the Bill, and the reason for it is this. In the two amendments I moved, which alter the "appointed day" and fixed it for the 1st October, 1925, the date for the abolition of the rural district councils is now fixed for the 1st October, 1925. Under the existing law the election of these rural district councils would have to take place almost at once—between this and the 1st October in the present year. That would involve a very large amount of absolutely useless expenditure of public money and for that reason there ought to be no election held for these rural district councils, and, accordingly, the first sub-section proposes a new section as follows: "No elections of rural district councillors shall be held after the passing of this Act." Now, coming to sub-sectian (2), the situation that it, and the following sub-sections, are intended to meet is this. As rural district councils are not abolished, that is, finally abolished as councils and as rural districts, until the 1st October, 1925, they would function, in the meantime, as rural sanitary authorities. The roads will have been taken away from them, and the Poor Law has already been taken away from them, and vested in the present health boards under the present Local Government Act, 1924, which is a temporary Act. So, in the meantime, these rural district councils would function in the transition period between the date of the passing of this Act and the 1st October next as sanitary authorities. Now, it is not desirable that they should do so. They were elected in what is usually described now as war times. They have no real mandate from the people and their administration of their rural districts is admittedly inefficient.
On the other hand, the new county councils will be elected almost immediately after the passing of this Act. Some Senators were anxious to be assured that an earlier amendment which was moved by me, and carried in Committee, was not in any way postponing the election of the county councils. Under the existing law the election for the county councils must be held before the 31st March. If this Bill goes through quickly, they will be held considerably before that date. The idea, I think, at present, is that they would be held about the 19th March, and it would be possible to hold them on the 19th March if this Bill could come into operation by the 12th of February—I am not quite certain on the dates, but I think I am right. If the Bill does not pass sufficiently quickly, through both Houses, to bring it into operation by the 12th February, it may be necessary to postpone the election of the county councils for another week or so.
They must be held under the existing law before the 31st March. Now, during the transition period between the election of the county councils and the 1st October, the remaining functions of the rural district councils would be far better transferred to the county councils, but as the county councils are, under this Bill, to delegate their functions as sanitary authorities for the counties to the boards of health, which are established under this Bill, it is to a body corresponding to the boards of health that the functions of the rural district councils should be delegated during this transition period. In some counties there are already bodies of that kind. There are boards of health. Every county which has a county scheme under the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1924, has already got a board of health which would be the proper body to which to transfer the duties and functions of the rural district councils and sanitary authorities during the transition period. Certain counties have no such county schemes, and in that case the proper body to which to transfer the functions of the rural district councils is the sanitary authority during the transition period. It would be a body, which the county council could elect at its first or second meeting, of the same nature as the body which is in existence in counties where there is a county scheme.
Accordingly that is what is intended to be done by these sub-sections, and it is done by sub-sections 2 and 3. The phrase, "shall be dissolved," does not mean absolutely put an end to. It is a technical dissolution which has happened to Senator Haughton's Corporation in Cork, and to Senator Farren's Corporation in Dublin. As regards sub-section 3, the county council will have to elect a board of that kind, which will be elected exactly as the county board of health will be elected when this Act comes into full force. Sub-section (4) applies to the case where there is already a county scheme. It transfers the rest of the functions of the rural sanitary authorities to the same body who already perform the functions in connection with poor law and the medical charities. There follows a sub-section giving the Minister power to make orders. This is a purely temporary measure, and it transfers in this transition period the functions of the rural district councils to a body which under the Act will have to perform, and ought to perform, similar duties.
This is a very complicated section, and I am afraid that considerable confusion is created by the introduction of the word "dissolved" in paragraph 2. We have already accepted an amendment by you, Senator Brown.
We have already accepted an amendment by which under Section 3 all rural district councils are to cease to exist on the appointed day.
The appointed day is not necessarily the 1st of October. The appointed day under the definition is any day which the Minister may appoint.
No. Under my first amendment we have defined in Section 2 the appointed day as the 1st October.
Then you must amend Section 1.
Section 1 says that the expression "appointed day" means a day appointed by the Minister.
The first amendment which I moved on behalf of Senator Douglas amended Section 1.
I see, but to my mind a difficulty still remains. You use the words in sub-section (2), "shall be dissolved." Dissolution means death.
No. That is why I explained it was the same kind of dissolution which has been applied to Dublin and Cork Corporations. They only ceased to function.
Then why not use those particular words, "cease to function"?
Because the word "dissolve" is used in the Act, which gives power to the Minister to dissolve. The abolition of rural district councils does not take effect until the 1st October, and the vesting of the property of the rural district councils in the county councils permanently does not take place until that date. This section is purely temporary. It vests the property of the rural district councils, dissolved, but not finally put an end to, in the county councils temporarily, to enable them during the transition period, to do the work in the meantime. I think it is all right. I raised the point with the Minister, and I am satisfied that the word "dissolved" is correct. If the Senate prefers it, and I think the Minister would not object, because it amounts to the same thing under sub-section (2), it could be altered to read "all rural district councils shall cease to function." That would get rid of all doubt in your mind, and, perhaps, in the minds of other Senators. If the Minister accepts it, I would alter it to read in that way.
You see it is hard for the man-in-the-street to recognise a distinction between "cease to exist" and "dissolution."
If you put in the phrase "shall cease to function" everyone will understand it.
I think so. I will adopt that phrase.
Is the Minister satisfied?
What connection is there between that and sub-section (1) of Section 3?
None, because sub-section (1) of Section 3 points to the absolute annihilation of these bodies on October 1. The present one only deals with the temporary suspension of their functions. That is to say, between the period on which they are temporarily suspended until their actual death under Section 3. That is the reason why I think the word "dissolution" was not right.
We have already decided that they ceased to exist, and are abolished on the 1st October. Now, they will have a premature death on the passing of the Act.
Would it not be decenter to say that?
New Section, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) From and after the appointed day, and subject to the provisions of sub-section (2) of this section, the area of every county, with the exception of those portions (if any) of that area which are included in urban districts, shall for all purposes form one rural sanitary district or rural district within the meaning of the Public Health (Ireland) Acts, 1878 to 1919, and the council of such county shall be the sanitary authority for such rural sanitary district or rural district, and such rural sanitary district or rural district shall be called by the name of "The County Health District of......................." (with the addition of the name of the county).
Section 8, sub-section (1), line 50, to delete the word "from" and to substitute therefor the word "on."
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 8, as amended, stand part of the Bill"— put and agreed to.
Sections 9 and 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
PROPOSED NEW SECTION.
Before Section 11 to insert a new section as follows:—
"11.—A county council may, subject to the sanction of the Minister, remit any portion of the poor rate that they think fit for a period not exceeding five years in respect of any building in which, when completed, work calculated to give employment is intended to be carried on."
The object of this amendment is to enable the county council to grant partial or total remission of rates for a limited period of, say, five years where a new building, such as a factory, is being put up. There is a precedent for such action in the Housing Act of last year, under which a partial remission of rates is given for, I think, twenty years. If this amendment is passed it would enable the county council to grant a remission of rates in such a case. It would be permissive and not arbitrary for them to do so. Such a proposal would, I think, tend to encourage people who are about to build new factories and would not entail very serious loss to the rates as, after a limited period, the county council would be able to collect the full rates.
Naturally I am very much opposed to the principle of remission of rates. It is a very serious thing for my Department to countenance in any way. Under very great pressure the Department agreed to a limited remission of rates in the case of the Housing and Building Facilities Act, but it was rather reluctant to do so. If you look at the thing from one point of view, it seems an admirable idea to remit the rates on a factory or on any building that would give employment. We must, however, bear in mind that some one has to pay the increased rates that result by a new factory or a new house having to pay none. In the long run, the effect will be to defeat the object that is in view. If as a result of increasing rates, existing factories or existing businesses have to close, it will mean that fewer people will risk the construction of new factories. On the whole, I think it is a very risky proposal to introduce, and I think the Seanad will be very well advised not to accept the amendment.
Amendment put and negatived.
Question—"That Section 11 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) A board of health may from time to time appoint such and so many committees as they think fit for purposes connected with the exercise or performance of any of the powers, duties and functions transferred to the board by or under this Act which in the opinion of the board would be better or more conveniently regulated or managed by or through a committee.
(2) A committee appointed under this section may be either a general committee empowered to exercise or perform powers, duties, and functions in relation to the whole of the county health district or a local committee empowered to exercise or perform powers, duties, and functions in relation to a limited portion only of the county health district.
(3) Every committee appointed under this section shall consist of not less than three members, and may be composed either wholly of members of the board of health or partly of such members and partly of other persons.
(4) The acts of every committee appointed under this section shall be subject to confirmation by the board of health, save that the board may with the sanction of the Minister empower any particular committee to do any act (including the institution of legal proceedings) within the authority conferred on the committee by the board which the board itself could lawfully do.
(5) The quorum, procedure, and place of meeting of any committee appointed under this section, and the area (if any) within which any such committee is to exercise its functions, shall be such as may be appointed by regulations to be made by the board of health with the approval of the Minister.
(6) Save as is authorised by this section, it shall not be lawful for a board of health to delegate any of its powers or duties to a committee.
(7) The provisions of this section shall apply to every board of health and public assistance in the performance of their duties under a county scheme in the same manner as they apply to such board in the performance of their duties under this Act notwithstanding anything to the contrary in such county scheme.
To add at the end of the section a new sub-section (8) as follows:—
"(8) The board of health shall have power to grant home assistance to all persons recommended for such assistance by the assistance officer, either in kind or in cash, such persons not to be possessed of more than five acres of land."
This amendment aims at giving boards of health much more discretion than they have in the granting of poor relief. At present provisional relief cannot be given in cash without the risk of being surcharged by the auditor. Boards of health should be given discretion to give relief in cash or kind. I think that the giving of relief in kind sometimes leads to abuse, and that relief should be given in cash where necessary. Any person in possession of over half an acre of land cannot legally get poor relief or home assistance. A man or woman, 70 years of age, with six or seven acres of land, can get the old age pension, a man who is unemployed can get the dole, but a poor man with four or five acres of land cannot legally get relief. Boards of health, I consider, should have discretion in giving relief to persons who have up to five acres of land. It may be said that people with five acres of land are not destitute, but anyone who lives in the country knows that two-thirds or three-fourths of that land might be under water and be useless. The amendment will have the effect of legalising the grant of relief in such cases.
This Bill does not purport to deal with poor relief at all. That question is being left to the consideration of a Commission. Who should and who should not get relief? The question of finding a test that will enable us to give relief to deserving people, and to prevent undeserving people getting it is one of the problems that is giving the greatest difficulty. For that reason I have appointed a commission to inquire into the matter in detail, and when they report I will bring in legislation based on that report. I think that would be the time for an amendment like this, and that it should not be introduced into a measure of this kind. We are not now in a position, without the findings of the Commission, to decide whether it would be advisable to accept such an amendment or not. I think it would be inadvisable to do so.
I am afraid I cannot put the amendment. I think it is outside the scope of the Bill.
I protest: This is a Local Government Bill dealing with county councils and boards of health that are in charge of the rates. As the law stands, if a man or woman is entitled to relief it must be given in kind —tea, sugar and coal. I have before my mind at the present time a circular that was received at the last meeting of a body of which I am a member, in which the Local Government Department called attention to a case where relief had been given in cash, and pointed out that the matter had been referred to the auditor, as there was no power to give relief in cash. I do not think it is right that the boards of health should be prevented from doing so, and if the Minister would intimate that he will not exercise the powers he has under the Bill in such cases I will be satisfied.
The boards of health have absolute discretion in the matter. They can give relief in cash or kind. The boards of health have absolute power, so that I think the Senator must be under some misapprehension.
I will send you the circular. It is a great grievance that relief cannot be given to a man or a woman who has over half an acre of land while the same class of people, with six or seven acres of land, can get the old-age pension. That is a thing that cannot wait. Those people have to go into the county home, and it is a great hardship on them.
In any event it might be advisable to leave out the word "possessed." A person might own 1,000 acres and only possess 5. I really think it is better withdraw the whole amendment. I do not believe I could allow it to be put.
If you cannot allow it, I had better withdraw it.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 12 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
I am withdrawing amendment 15, which reads as follows:
Section 13, sub-section (2). Line 45. To delete all the words after the word "paid" to the end of the sub-section.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 13 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
From and after the appointed day, the committees appointed by county councils and mentioned in the third schedule to this Act shall cease to exist, and the powers, duties, property, and liabilities of every such committee shall be transferred to the council of the county by which such committee was appointed, and such powers and duties in so far as they relate to any county health district shall be exercised and performed by and through the board of health for such county health district, and in so far as they relate to any urban district shall be exercised and performed by and through the board of health for the county health district adjoining such urban district, or where there are more than one such county health districts, by the board of health of such of those county health districts as the Minister shall direct.
"Page 8, line 61. To delete the word ‘from' and to substitute therefor ‘on.'"
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 14, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
PROPOSED NEW SECTION.
I beg to move:—
Immediately before Section 15 to insert a new section as follows:—
15.—Where immediately before the appointed day the provisions of any statute or portion of a statute are in force in a rural district or part of a rural district by virtue of an order or resolution of the council of that rural district adopting such provisions, such provisions shall after the appointed day continue to be in force in the same area but subject and without prejudice to any recision, alteration or extension of the adoption of those provisions duly made by a competent authority after the appointed day, and the expenses of the administration of such statute or portion of a statute in such area shall be charged on such area."
This is a very technical amendment. It is intended to meet a purely legal difficulty which arises in this way. Large numbers of Acts, such as the Public Library Act, and Acts of that character, can be adopted by rural councils and sanitary authorities. They do not apply to any district until they are adopted by the councils. It often happens in some one or two districts in the country they adopt an Act of that kind while others do not. As most of those Acts are specially adapted for adoption by one whole sanitary district, and mean the striking of a rate on the whole of that sanitary district, it would be impossible as this Bill stands for a board of public health, which will be the sanitary authority for the one sanitary district now consisting of the whole county, to work the adopted Act in a separate district.
The amendment gives them the power, which they would not otherwise possess, to work the special Act in a particular district, and they can charge the cost of working that Act on that district. The amendment takes the form of a new section. It carries out what I have explained to the Seanad.
As regards the expression "without prejudice to any recision, alteration or extension of the adoption of those provisions," could you not leave out the words "of the adoption"? It would read all right without those words.
I think it would, and I would ask the Minister to allow that alteration.
I think you will require the words "of the adoption."
"Those provisions" mean the provisions which have been adopted. Why would it be necessary to repeat the words "of the adoption"? I am making the suggestion merely for the purpose of making the new section read better.
Perhaps the Minister will consider the matter you suggest before the Report Stage.
New section put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 15 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
It shall be the duty of the Minister in the exercise and performance of his powers and duties, to take all such steps as may be desirable to secure the preparation, effective carrying out, and co-ordination of measures conducive to the health of the people, including measures for (a) the prevention and cure of diseases, including the avoidance of fraud in connection with alleged remedies therefor; (b) the treatment of physical and mental defects, including the treatment and care of the blind; (c) the initiation and direction of research, and the collection, preparation, publication, and dissemination of information and statistics relating thereto; (d) the training of persons for health services.
I beg to move:
Line 21.—To delete the words "take all such steps" and to substitute therefor the words "recommend to the local authorities such measures."
The effect of this amendment is to challenge a very important principle that underlies the whole of this Bill and I am endeavouring to try, if possible, to get the Seanad to agree on what should regulate the powers of interference, by the Minister, with the local authority. At the outset, I postulate that those local bodies are autonomous; they are elected to do a job. They are elected under powers conferred by the Act and as long as they do their job efficiently and without extravagance, waste or neglect, and obey the legal orders of the Minister, they should not be interfered with. It is only when they become disobedient, extravagant or inefficient that the Minister should intervene. Under no other circumstances should the Minister interfere. He desires to take power to make those bodies, so to say, progressive. He wants to be able to say to them: "You are not keeping up-to-date in accordance with modern science or sanitation or in the matter of the treatment of disease and the improvement of health. I want to interfere and to impose certain duties so that you will become more progressive."
That cuts at the root of the responsibility of a popularly elected body, and that should not be allowed. The reason why it is dangerous is that you have a very wide gulf between the mentality of a poor rural district, only able to afford a certain standard of civilisation and only educated up to a certain standard of progress, and the Minister here in Dublin, educated, in touch with advanced opinions, and advised by a consultative council of experts, all imbued with the idea that their latest introductions are essential for the salvation of mankind. Mankind can get along very well without a lot of what modern science has put forward. The elected body should really be the judge. It is going beyond the functions of the central body to say: "You shall adopt these measures which we think are necessary for the good of the people." Such an attitude would cut at the whole root of popular institutions. You might as well abolish those bodies and administer their affairs entirely from headquarters.
There is nothing more destructive to responsibility than to have an extern body interfering with a local authority when that authority is doing its duty as efficiently and as economically, within the law, as possible. I would ask the Seanad to confine the powers of the Minister to recommending those measures to the local authority, so that they shall have all the facts before them. They can then hear both sides of the case. There is no doubt the scientific side will be amply and adequately pressed by the whole-time medical officer. It would be unconstitutional, and certainly against the whole spirit that should underlie any form of democratic institution, for the central authority to thrust measures on the local authorities. The local authorities have to answer to the ratepayers. In some cases they have a very limited amount of money with which to carry out their services.
This amendment only came in at the last moment. I only saw it this evening. It is a very important amendment. It strikes at the root of the whole position in many respects. I would like a little more time to consider it. At the outset, perhaps, Senator Sir John Keane attributes importance to this section that it does not hold. I think that to limit the application of the section in the way that he suggests might seriously hamper me in the performance of my duties, which include legislation as well as administration. The public health above all other matters is one of those things in which we must have co-ordination and unity, if we are to be effective at all. There is no good in having a certain sanitary code in operation in Dublin, if, outside the city limits, you have another code carried out inefficiently. The central government must be allowed some authority and some discretion in having its views accepted and enforced, if necessary, in other parts of the country. There is nothing in the section which obliges me to thrust my views on local authorities. At the same time, if the Senator's amendment were accepted it would exclude me from doing anything, if it were found necessary to do anything, to have the duties of a local authority properly carried out. Perhaps it would be a good thing to leave this over until the Report Stage, when we can go into the matter more fully and see what the exact bearing of the amendment will be. At the present stage I would be very slow to accept the amendment.
I am not quite sure that Senator Sir John Keane is not misreading the meaning of the section as it stands. It does not seem to interfere in any way with local authorities. It is something addressed to the Minister. It is really a counsel of perfection. As I read the section it does not give the Minister any power to interfere with the administration of public health at all.
You see it is very wide. It reads: "It shall be the duty of the Minister to take such steps as may be desirable," and so on. What limit is there to that?
Well, there is none, but it does not give him any express power to dictate to the board of health or to the county council.
I do not know about that.
If it was intended to dictate to the board of health or the county council, I suggest that it should be put expressly into the section. At present it looks as if it were only intended to call the Minister's attention to the duties he has in regard to public health generally.
You may be quite sure that this Minister and every other Minister will use every despotic power they can. In every Bill before us they say, "I want power to dictate to everyone in the Saorstát." Indeed, they want to dictate to everybody in the world. They want to dictate to the people in the Dáil and Seanad and to the people of Ireland on how to breed cattle, and how to bring up their children, and everything else. Once they get their fingers into anything they keep them there.
I may say I have no inclination in favour of this section at all. It was thrust upon me. It was put up by the medical profession and by their representatives in the Dáil, and I accepted it.
I think it would be unwise for you to give it up without consideration, because everyone must see the importance of having uniform legislation in the country in order to cope with sanitation and prevent disease. Unless there was some central power to enforce uniformity the whole Bill would turn out worthless. I would ask that the matter be held over to see whether the section is not capable of some modification that would give some reasonable satisfaction to Senator Sir John Keane. I think it will be wise to accept the Minister's suggestion and let it stand over for the Report Stage, especially as this amendment has only come in at the last moment.
I am satisfied with that. What is in my mind is that the Minister may have in contemplation some institution as suitable and effective in the prevention and cure of disease. Then he may, by order, direct all the counties to adopt this, and set up some establishment of that kind against their will. I do not think the counties have any objection if the central authority would pay. In the counties we are anxious that we should be up to date. But if it is a case of extra luxuries in this way being imposed on local authorities, and the cost of which will be borne by the taxpayers, it is a different matter. If that were to be done I say it is not the taxpayer should pay the cost. If the Minister will consider the whole matter, I should be perfectly satisfied to allow it to stand over.
By consent this matter stands over until the Report Stage.
I beg to move amendment 18 to Section 16. The amendment reads:—
To add at the end of the section the following new sub-sections:—
(2) For the purpose of giving advice and assistance to the Minister in connection with the exercise and performance of his powers and duties in matters affecting or incidental to the health of the people there shall be established a public health council.
(3) The public health council shall consist of the following persons: eight persons representing boards of health, appointed by the Minister after consultation with such boards or a representative association thereof: four persons representing councils of county boroughs, appointed by the Minister after consultation with such councils; two persons representing persons insured under the National Health Insurance Acts, appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Association of Approved Societies and the Association of Insurance Committees; three persons being registered medical practitioners, appointed by the Minister after consultation with organisations of such practitioners, at least two of such persons being registered on the Medical Register in respect of a diploma in sanitary science, public health or state medicine; one person being a registered dentist, appointed by the Minister so as to represent such dentists, after consultation with any Association thereof; one person being a registered veterinary surgeon, appointed by the Minister so as to represent such surgeons after consultation with any Association thereof; two persons representing registered nurses, appointed by the Minister after consultation with any Association thereof; two persons representing certified midwives, appointed by the Minister after consultation with Associations thereof.
(4) The Minister may make general regulations for regulating the proceedings and quorum of the public health council, and the council shall act in accordance with those regulations.
(5) The Minister shall be ex-officio a member of the public health council, but shall not, save as hereinafter provided, vote at any meeting of the council.
(6) The Minister may take the chair at any meeting of the public health council and in such case shall have a casting vote.
(7) In the absence of the Minister, an officer of the Minister, appointed by him, may attend a meeting of the public health council.
(8) The Minister may require any of his officers to act as secretary or other officer of the public health council.
(9) The public health council may appoint committees consisting of members of the council or of members and other persons for the purpose of considering matters referred to such committees by the council.
(10) Payments may be made by the Minister out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas to members of the public health council and committees thereof to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance in respect of the following matters, that is to say:—(a) repayment of travelling expenses, (b) payment of subsistence allowance, (c) reasonable compensation for loss of remunerative time.
An amendment similar to this was discussed at very great length in the Dáil, and defeated by a very small majority. The difference between the amendment that I am submitting now and the amendment that was defeated in the Dáil amounts to this, that this amendment does not propose to delete sub-section (1) of the section, as the amendment in the Dáil did. This amendment does not propose to do that. That clause gives the Minister power to establish consultative councils in the manner prescribed by the Minister. In the next place, whereas the original amendment in the Dáil gave power to the proposed public health council to meet of their own volition and discuss matters initiated by the members, and make recommendations to the Minister, this amendment does not propose to give them such power, and they can only be called into conference when summoned by the Minister. So far as the appointment of a consultative council of this sort, and a consultative council generally is concerned, I do not attach very much weight to them. We have had bodies appointed under previous Acts, either wisely or unwisely, particularly with regard to the administration of roads. We have, for example, the Roads Advisory Board, a statutory board called into existence by a British enactment. We had experience, also, within the last week or two of a consultative council being agreed to by the Minister for Agriculture, but, as to when or how or on what matters he will consult that council, we had no very clear indication from him. One would naturally think, when a proper consultative council would be in existence, representing every interest concerned, if that body came to any decision on any particular matter submitted to them, that the Minister would feel practically bound to give effect to that decision. I consulted the Minister for Agriculture—I had an informal discussion with him—and I found that he holds no such view. When the consultative council comes to a decision that is in line with what the Minister thinks should be done, he will adopt that decision. If not, he is absolutely free to pursue his own course. So these remarks, as applied to consultative councils, would tend to undermine the whole importance of this amendment, but the evidence, so far as we can see, goes to show that the Minister has absolute control.
That is to say, if the consultative council came to a unanimous decision, or an almost unanimous decision, on a certain point, the Minister would find it very difficult in the Dáil or Seanad to sustain that attitude when confronted with the fact that his own consultative council had an entirely different opinion. I suggest a great deal of time can be saved in the Dáil and Seanad if Ministers, when drafting measures, brought to their assistance, as they attempt to, but not as completely as they should, representatives of the interests concerned, persons who have a full knowledge of the various interests concerned, touched or affected by the measures. If we get a proper skeleton in the first instance, it is very easy to pad it, but if the skeleton is out of joint, you always have great difficulty in knocking it into proper shape to meet administrative and other points of view, in going through the Dáil and Seanad. A great deal of time is wasted in these discussions, and what follows all this is, that you have disjointed and ill-considered amendments. The Minister comes along and says: "I will not accept that amendment, or I I will not accept another amendment." That puts an end to it. We then have a sort of one man measure. It has afterwards to be buttressed by various Orders in Council to fill in matters that have been overlooked. If Ministers were a little more pliable and were not so rigid—I do not make this indictment against the Minister in charge of this Bill, because, so far as he is concerned, any time the General Council approached him they found him always ready to give every consideration to any views they advanced—it would remove a great source of dissatisfaction.
I would ask, seeing that the Dáil was practically almost evenly divided on a similar amendment, and seeing that the amendment as submitted here takes no power from the Minister which it was proposed to give in the Dáil, and that this consultative council proposed here will not be a body that will meet on every trivial occasion, puffed up with its own importance, that it should be accepted. This will not be a body to take all sorts of decisions to the Minister and more or less press acceptance of them. This council will only be brought into conference by him, and only when summoned by him can they meet. We have also added to the amendment submitted to the Dáil a further provision in regard to adding to the personnel of the Committee two persons representing persons insured under the National Health Insurance Act, appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Association of Approved Societies and the Association of Insurance Committees.
I support this amendment, and I do so with all the greater pleasure because it was originally a Labour amendment. I am glad to see it has appealed to somebody who is not in the Labour ranks. The Bill in respect of central health matters is very unsatisfactory. It provides for no central authority apart from the Minister himself in respect of health matters. Everybody will agree that in questions of sanitation and measures for the prevention of the spread of disease and so forth, we are very much behind most progressive countries. This Bill seeks to overhaul local administration, and while it proposes to remedy, in some respects, that very lamentable state of affairs, it would seem as if the whole initiative and responsibility for any improvement that may take place must come from the Minister and his immediate advisers. The Bill gives him power to set up all sorts of ad hoc committees to consider specific questions relating to health. These committees may be composed as he may decide. The personnel may be drawn from whatever body he may decide, and they shall report to him in the manner prescribed; they are to have no powers of initiation at all and will merely have the task of considering a particular question and of reporting according to their terms of reference.
This amendment proposes that there shall be set up a central health council, and it sets out how it shall be composed—boards of health, eight representatives; county boroughs which are outside the county health districts, four representatives; the medical profession, three; the dental profession, one; the veterinary surgeons, one, and the registered nurses and certified midwives two each. It will be agreed that is a representative type of committee for health purposes, and that it is not extravagant in its representation, although I take it that Senator Kenny is not absolutely wedded to the number. It would be a matter for discussion as to whether the numbers were too little or too many. It also proceeds on the lines of the report of the Committee set up by the Local Government Board, the Irish Public Health Council, which recommended in 1920 the formation within the Ministry of Health of a Council composed of representatives of public and professional interests to which would be entrusted the general direction of policy in regard to the administration of the medical and health services in Ireland. The framers of that report were composed of representatives of the Local Government Board. insurance commission, medical profession, nursing profession, local authorities, insurance committees, approved societies, veterinary surgeons and the Registrar-General of births, marriages and deaths. Although they disagreed as to the actual composition of the council, they were unanimous in their findings as to what its powers should be.
They recommended, for instance, that it should have the power of deciding the general policy and principles of administration of the public health and medical services, and that the activities of the Ministry directly concerning health under either of the systems indicated above should be subject to the general control and direction of the health council, comprising representatives of the local health authorities, of medical and allied professions, and of other organisations concerned, and medical and health services. So that there is nothing particularly novel in this idea; it has been the subject of mature consideration by a very representative Commission, and, I think, should, because of that, because of the special requirements of the case, commend itself to the House. I think the Minister might welcome the advice which a body of that kind would be able to give him, the expert information which could be adduced from it, and the wonderful assistance it would be to him in exercising the powers in Section 16. How can he exercise any particularly expert beneficial influence unless he has a central body with some sort of permanency attached to it that will be able to assist him? At present, and under the Bill, there is no provision for a unifying, a co-relating, and a stimulating authority in respect of public health; there is no particular body whose duty it is to study these matters and devote their whole time to it with a view to devising up-to-date methods, and considering them in their application according to the requirements and conditions obtaining in various parts of the country. It is with the object of providing such a body, and thereby remedying the condition of affairs, which is a terrible menace to the community at present, that this amendment is put forward. We know the terrible ravages that are caused by tuberculosis in many districts in Ireland, both rural and urban, but particularly rural areas, where one would imagine that it would be most easy to cope with a thing of that kind. A great many of the people have not the faintest idea of up-to-date methods of sanitation, and in remote districts they will not adopt the most elementary system of sanitation, and they are victims of every disease. I believe this Council would be the first step towards reaching these districts, and towards eliminating what is an exceptionally great menace to the health and the general condition of the people as a whole.
Might I ask, on a point of information, as to whether the new clause proposed by Senator Kenny is not really for the purpose of making mandatory the permissive Clause 17?
No. Its object is to define the constitution of this Council.
That comes afterwards, no doubt, sir.
It is not defined by Clause 17, and it does apparently differ from 17 by making it mandatory.
That is so. It makes Clause 17 mandatory.
And it also specifies the constitution of the Council.
I oppose this amendment. Under this Bill you will have set up throughout the country a number of new permanent full-time officials dealing with sanitary methods. It seems to me that the frame of mind produced by the amendment is looking backwards rather than forwards. We know quite well that in the past sanitary authorities were mere transient people, with little interest in the matters they were supposed to undertake. Under this Bill you will have a number of fully qualified sanitary officers in every county, men conversant with every phase of sanitary laws, and that being so I cannot think that it is advisable in a poor country like Ireland to set up a body such as this. This proposed health committee I take it is to be a permanent committee, sitting permanently if it so desires, because as I read the amendment there is no limitation of its powers by the Minister. The only power given to the Minister over the committee, as far as I can see, is contained in sub-section (4), which says: "The Minister may make general regulations for regulating the proceedings and quorum of the public health council, and the council shall act in accordance with those regulations." He can regulate the quorum and the proceedings, but he is given no power in the proposed amendment to regulate the number of meetings which may be held. Therefore I take it that some Senators who are and have been very adverse in their criticisms of the Bill in view of the fact that local authorities in the past have been very anxious to make permanent appointments must now hide their diminished heads and feel that they themselves are most anxious to set up a number of permanent officials, doctors, midwives and others, to do work which, I maintain, can be adequately done under Section 17. The Minister proposes to set up a body of this nature, a body which, I take it, will be largely of the expert opinion which he has about him, and who will be able to act with his authority. I think if we consider the amendment closely we will have to make up our minds and satisfy ourselves that the alternative proposed by the Minister is much more preferable. It will make for economy, and I believe will be just as efficient in the interests of the country and in the interests of administration.
I am inclined to agree with Senator Bennett. I think too much credence is given to the advocacy of the council, because very little is to be gained by invoking or inviting from a district the chief medical man, or the most prominent agitator, to sit in conclave with a midwife. I was anxious that there should be some provision with regard to the prevention of incurable diseases to include the schools, but I have heard from one of the officials that the whole of the children's health in the schools is in the hands of the Ministry. There are large and world-wide organisations, such as the Rockefeller Institute, which has volunteered to co-operate in the training of certain inspectors, if this Bill passes as it stands. I merely mention that, because I think that any efforts for the prevention of disease must begin in the schools. The schools are the places which are first shut up on the existence of any epidemic, and the schools are the places where disease is detected and diverted, or prevented.
Any such roundabout method of inviting discussion and interfering with the carrying out of definite steps ought, I think, be avoided. At first sight, it does appear to invite some democratic co-operation in administration. Nothing is to be gained by being too low in essential organisations. Consultation does not always make for efficiency. We are told by the newspapers—for that reason I take it with a grain of salt—that in Russia lately they got all the master artists, put them in a room, and told them to produce a masterpiece. You lose a good deal of initiative if you have to democratise every single human activity, and in the same way you will not gain very much in the administration of public health by selecting every man in the street. It is like the case of a man sitting in a railway carriage and asking a fellow passenger how he got over his disease. In the European spas the patients have a general consultation, but they do not always meet a person with a parallel trouble, and, therefore, the symptoms may not be as easily cured as the consultation would lead you to believe. I intend to vote against the motion, because it really makes for difficulty in the administration of public health. Public health is hard to deal with, no matter what plenary powers the Minister may possess, and a Minister in no circumstances can be considered a tyrant in public health matters, except, perhaps, in the sense of Lord Iveagh, who evicted people from Bull Alley and put them into Iveagh Buildings.
The question the House should ask itself is whether those suffering and in bad health are really going to gain by a proposal of this kind. I do not think there is any question as to what is wanted—better housing, better education as to the elementary rules of health and, above all, money to carry this into effect. Is there really anything to be gained by bringing all those super experts together to stress and to elaborate the needs of public health throughout the country? In years to come, when a vast improvement will have been made, when slum areas are cleared out, when housing generally is totally different and when work is being done in the schools, then it may be necessary, but at the present time it seems to be a waste of energy and an attempt which will have no result. What is the use of a council of experts to advise the Minister on matters of policy which he cannot really impose? He admits himself he has no power to enforce any measures on the local authority but merely has power to co-ordinate and regulate existing powers. What can be gained by getting this body of experts to sit and dissertate on policy and draw up elaborate expert recommendations? All of us, even those of us who are laymen, know what is wanted and the difficulties lie altogether outside the scope of the experts.
Reference has been made to the fact that this idea was first mooted by the Irish Public Health Council of 1920. That was at a time when Ireland was being ruled and administered from Westminster. Of course, conditions have changed very much since then. As a matter of fact, although this proposal was initiated by British authority, there is no such advisory body in their own public health administration in England. There was such a body recommended for Ireland, at a time when West-minister was the place where our laws were hammered out and when all these laws were applied to Ireland by a kind of scissors-and-paste system. The Chief Secretary of Ireland was in the position of the present Minister for Local Government and, naturally, a stranger coming into the country and not knowing local conditions, found it necessary to have some body of this kind to advise him. We are in an altogether different position. We have got our own Parliament, composed of men thoroughly familiar with all these matters.
We have our own Local Government and Public Health Departments, and a Minister who is supposed to be in fairly constant touch with the public. There is no reason why a body of this class should be brought together—a miscellaneous collection of people, as Senator Gogarty said, consisting of midwives, veterinary surgeons, nurses and doctors, all jumbled together, to give advice on matters which, as a body, they would not be in a position to advise on. They are in a position to give advice on their own professional concerns, but they are not in a position to advise generally on public health. Those people will be brought together at great public expense. Travelling expenses will have to be paid, subsistence allowance will have to be paid, and it is suggested that there should be reasonable compensation for loss of time. I do not know what that would amount to. It generally happens that a body like that sits very frequently and always finds excuses for remaining in session, and we have to pay the piper, although we do not call the tune. I think the amendment is an unnecessary one, and I ask the Seanad not to adopt it.
May I point out that this amendment follows the lines of the Council of Agriculture and Technical Instruction and that objections to one apply very largely to the other. I would also like to say that this question has been treated with a flippancy that a very important matter of this kind should not be treated with.
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 23.
- William Cummins.
- Michael Duffy.
- Thomas Farren.
- Thomas Foran.
- P.W. Kenny.
- Colonel Maurice Moore.
- J.T. O'Farrell.
- William O'Sullivan.
- James J. Parkinson.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- William Barrington.
- T.W. Bennett.
- S.L. Brown.
- R.A. Butler.
- Mrs. Eileen Costello.
- J.C. Counihan.
- Peter De Loughry.
- Ellen Odette, Dowager Countess of
- Oliver St. John Gogarty, M.D.
- Sir John Purser Griffith.
- H.S. Guinness.
- Benjamin Haughton.
- Sir John Keane.
- Thomas Linehan.
- J.C. Love.
- Edward MacEvoy.
- James MacKean.
- W.J. Molloy.
- James Moran.
- G. Nesbitt.
- Michael O'Dea.
- B. O'Rourke.
- Earl of Wicklow.
Amendment declared lost.
I move amendment 18a:—
After Section 16 to insert a new section as follows:—
17.—Nothing in the foregoing section shall empower the Minister to enforce or authorise the enforcement of any particular form of treatment for disease upon any person, subject however to the enforcement in all cases of any quarantine regulations for contagious or infectious diseases.
This amendment is put down to allay an apprehension that is strongly felt in certain quarters, owing to the general character of the word "measures." There is no definition of "measures" and it is felt that under Section 16 the Minister may have power to impose a certain form of treatment on an individual. That would be going far beyond the ordinary practice. Vaccination is made compulsory by Act of Parliament and it is felt that the Minister might have power to extend that to measures of inoculation, which I believe are very fashionable amongst medical practitioners nowadays, or to compel people to submit to various forms of medical inspection and examination whether they wish to do so or not. Generally the apprehension is that the Minister might go far beyond what is understood to be the present practice. I may mention that under the Education Act of Northern Ireland there is a provision which states that nothing in the Act shall be construed as imposing an obligation on a parent to submit his child to medical inspection or treatment. There was a similar provision under the old Public Health (Medical Treatment) Act, 1919 which, I presume, still applies here. If this alarm is not well founded, the Minister, I presume, will say so, but if he seeks power to impose treatment I do not think the House should give it to him.
The same remarks apply to this as to the previous amendment moved by Senator Sir John Keane. I have had very little time to consider this amendment, which is a very important one, as I only got it this evening.
I was going to call attention to this, that if Senator Sir John Keane's previous amendment, suspended for the Report Stage so as to give the Minister an opportunity of looking into it, were adopted, then this new section would be inconsistent with that, because the new section only provides that it shall enforce matters relating to quarantine regulations, whereas under the amendment to Section 16, the Minister would be limited to making recommendations, and therefore I think it would be wiser if these two proposals of the Senator were considered together.
I am agreeable to that course being taken.
Amendment left over for consideration on Report.
Before Senator Kenny moves his amendment to Section 17, I was going to suggest that when we have disposed of that section we will then come to a new set of sections altogether dealing with such interesting subjects as lodging-houses and caravans. We might now arrange about the continuation of the discussion on these new sections. It looks, I think, fairly certain that by sitting for some time to-morrow and on Friday we will have disposed of the Committee Stage of this Bill. We made substantial progress to-day and dealt with a number of matters in principle that will not arise again. I suggest, if it suits the convenience of the House, that we might adjourn now as soon as we have disposed of Section 17. I desire to know if Senators have any wish to express as to the hour at which we should meet to-morrow.
I suggest that we meet at 11.30 to-morrow.
I think we should adhere to our usual hour and meet at 3 o'clock.
We could meet, say, at 11 o'clock to-morrow and work up to 6 o'clock in the evening, or if Senators desire we could meet at 3 o'clock and sit on to 9 or 10 o'clock. I suggest, unless there is some serious objection to it, that we meet at some convenient hour to-morrow morning.
A number of Senators who were here during the afternoon have left, and if we make any departure from our usual meeting hour at 3 o'clock they will not know about the change.
I could have a wire sent to absent Senators intimating to them that the hour had been changed.
I would like to accommodate people whom it would suit to meet at 11 o'clock to-morrow, but the general arrangement is that our meetings take place at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Many of us have made our arrangements accordingly, and it would be very inconvenient for a number of Senators, including myself, to be here at 11 o'clock to-morrow. I could not be here at that hour, and I do not think that, without some grave reason, we should alter the hour haphazard in that way.
I am entirely in the hands of the Seanad. With regard to myself, the hour of meeting is a matter of indifference to me.
I have some engagements for to-morrow morning, and I could not be here at 11 o'clock.
I take it, then, that as soon as the Seanad has disposed of Section 17 the House will adjourn until 3 o'clock to-morrow, when the Committee Stage of this Bill will be resumed.
(1) It shall be lawful for the Minister by order to establish consultative councils for giving, in the manner prescribed by the order, advice and assistance to the Minister in connection with such matters affecting or incidental to the health of the people as may be specified in the order.
(2) Payments may be made by the Minister, out of moneys to be voted by the Oireachtas, to members of consultative councils and committees thereof, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, in respect of the following matters, that is to say—
(a) repayment of travelling expenses,
(b) payment of subsistence allowance,
(c) reasonable compensation for loss of remunerative time.
(3) Every consultative council established under this section shall consist of persons having practical experience or special knowledge of the matters in respect of which they are to give advice or assistance.
Amendment 19, which stands in my name, is consequential, I think, on a previous amendment which was defeated, and, therefore, with the leave of the Seanad, I propose to withdraw it.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
I beg to move:
Section 17, sub-section (2), to delete line 44.
We are considering at the present time a Public Health Bill and the appointment of a Public Health Committee. It seems to me that there is no epidemic from which the public health is suffering more at the present time than the epidemic of extravagance. We are spending more money than we can afford, and if there is any way in which we can save money, I think it is the bounden duty of the Seanad to recommend that way. I think that whatever view the Seanad may take of this section, the words that I propose to delete "reasonable compensation for loss of remunerative time" leave a great deal to be desired. If that paragraph in the section were allowed to stand, it would throw the door open to any amount of expense and to any amount of things that, I am sure, were never contemplated. I think that whether the Seanad agrees to eliminate this or not, the wording of that paragraph will have to be amended in some way to enable the expenses which may be incurred to be brought down within reasonable limits. I know from my experience in the country that a great many of the district councillors of whom we heard so much the last day and to-day, in the course of the discussions on this Bill, are not exactly the persons over whom one would shed many tears. I have myself been appealed to vote for a district councillor for the reason that "Sure the poor devil has nothing else to live on." That was the reason put forward to me. On a subsequent occasion I inquired how that district councillor had got on. I was told by his sponsors that he had done fairly well, and that it was only fair now to give another poor devil a chance.
I would like to know if we are discussing rural district councillors or the question whether the Minister has power to remunerate people for services rendered.
We are discussing the proposal to delete paragraph (c) in sub-section (2) of Section 17.
There is no reference in that to district councillors.
I am assuming that the people who would be anxious to get it would be of the class to which I am alluding. I have known many extraordinary things to be done in the country, and I think it would be well if the door were banged and barred against this sort of thing. On the last day the Bill was under discussion, Senator MacLysaght gave an admirable description of the proceedings at some of these district council meetings in the country. He described them as a mixture of party politics and graft. If the people who succeeded in getting elected as district councillors now succeed in getting positions on the councils to be set up under this section where, I ask, will the corruption end? To my mind this paragraph should be deleted from the section altogether. I cannot for the life of me understand what the phrase "reasonable compensation for loss of remunerative time" means. It may mean anything, and therefore I think it is highly desirable that it should be most strictly limited. If not, I propose to eliminate it.
The Senator made an interesting speech, but he seemed to be talking of one thing while he had another in his mind. It is very easy to be virtuous at other people's expense. This proposal is that people appointed by the Minister to act on one of those consultative councils, whatever they may be, and who will be doing public work at all events, shall receive reasonable compensation for the loss of remunerative time. A similar principle obtains, to a certain extent, in this House, and I have heard no objection from any Party to reasonable compensation for the loss of remunerative time. Let us not try to be virtuous and economical at the expense of others unless we are prepared to adopt a similar principle so far as we ourselves are concerned. This payment is at the disposal of the Minister; it is he who must fix the amount, and see whether it is to be paid. Senator Barrington is afraid to leave these things in his hands lest he may be extravagant, and that somebody who is a member of an old rural district council may get something to pay him for the time he lost. I believe it is quite a good principle to pay people for work that they do, because work for which no payment is made is hardly ever worth having. If you ask people to do work, it is a good thing to pay them for it. If you want a good engineer, or if you want a good surgeon, you are not going to get the services of either of them for "nix," as it is called. He will look for reasonable compensation for loss of remunerative time, and what is good for the doctor or the engineer should equally apply in the case of the shopkeeper or the farmer or the artisan or whoever he may be. I certainly hope that this amendment to delete the paragraph will not be passed, because it would only be a mock display of economy at other people's expense.
I should like to ask what councils these are? Are they to be councils scattered all over Ireland, or are they to be councils that meet in Dublin to assist the Minister?
The proposal in this amendment is, I think, a most illogical attitude to take up. It seems to be the general mentality everywhere at the present day that in the transaction of the public business of the various public bodies throughout the country the people performing those duties should not be out of pocket in doing this business. I think that is about the minimum that might reasonably be expected. Any county councillor who has had experience of attending county council business will see what that means in pounds, shillings and pence in the year. My attendance at the county council for a year means to me about £40, and that is only one of the bodies that I have to attend. Possibly there may have been a better civic spirit in the old days, and that the people were imbued with a greater sense of self-sacrifice when doing the little business of the country that was allotted to them. I suppose they thought it an honour and a pride to be allowed to do any of the business of the country, inasmuch as any measure of administration at all was given to them. But the novelty has worn off; we live to-day in different times and in more practical times. What cost one penny in those old days costs three-pence to-day and expense which was negligible then is a serious matter now and seems to public men to be at least a little more than negligible. I might remind Senator Barrington, and he can find instances of it if he goes to the archives of any county borough or county council, that under the old regime of administration there was corruption running riot. They parcelled out the territory of this country, one to the other, and we are suffering to this day from that, so that no jibes come well from the mouths of Senator Barrington or others in the Seanad. It is an insult to the people of this country and they resent it.
I never recommended corruption in the past and I deprecate it to-day.
If people realised the implication of the words, "reasonable compensation," they would find they are fraught with such an amount of economy one might safely leave the matter to the Minister. In no one instance that I can remember has that "reasonable compensation" for remunerative loss of time ever exceeded the potentiality of the employment of that time. In other words, there is not a man in this House whose salary as a Senator would not be multiplied if he devoted his time to earning more. And if it is so easy to make laudible sentiment about corruption and the rest of it, the awful example of those communities that met without any compensation—I am not now alluding to the Dublin Corporation—should be enough to encourage anybody to endorse the Minister's wishes. People that have no remunerative time are not worth enlisting, and when we think, as I said before, of the kind of remuneration that goes with the words "reasonable" we may safely leave it.
This debate is something in the nature of a storm in a teacup. The amount of money involved is very small. If Senators were as familiar with the work of the Ministry of Finance as I am, they would have very little fears about the working of this section. It was only after getting a very strong promise from me to the effect that this section would be kept within very limited bounds that I was able to induce the Minister for Finance to move a financial resolution for it at all. These bodies are not going to be set up all over the country to advise every local authority throughout the Saorstát. They will only be set up to advise the Ministry, and they will only be set up in cases of emergency of some kind. And if it is necessary to set up these bodies it is only right we should be able to command the services of the best people to give us advice. It may be necessary to bring experts from Vienna or New York if a plague of a very unusual kind broke out. In such cases it might be better to pay decent remuneration to the experts, who lost valuable time in advising us, than to allow the plague to take its course with the loss of millions of lives, and for that reason I think that we should be willing to accept this section, as it is.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 17 agreed to and added to the Bill.
That disposes of the Committee Stage for this afternoon. I take it that it is the desire of the Seanad, that we shall adjourn now and resume the Committee Stage to-morrow.