SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL, 1924.—THIRD STAGE (RESUMED).
(1) A tent, van, shed or similar structure, used for human habitation, or a barge, lighter, boat or other vessel on any river, canal or other inland water (in this section referred to as "a barge") used for human habitation, which is in such a state as to be a nuisance or injurious to health, or which is so over-crowded as to be injurious to the health of the inmates (whether they are or are not members of the same family), shall be deemed to be a nuisance within the meaning of Section 107 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, and the provisions of that Act shall apply accordingly.
(2) A sanitary authority may make bye-laws for promoting cleanliness in, and the habitable condition of, tents, vans, sheds, and similar structures used for human habitation, or of barges used for human habitation, and for preventing the spread of infectious disease by the persons inhabiting the same, and generally for the prevention of nuisances in connection with the same.
(3) Where any person duly authorised by a sanitary authority has reasonable cause to suppose either that there is in any tent, van, shed, or similar structure used for human habitation, or in any barge used for human habitation, any contravention of the provisions of this section or any bye-law made under this section or that there is in any such tent, van, shed, structure or barge, any person suffering from a dangerous infectious disorder, he may, on producing (if demanded) either a copy of his authorisation purporting to be certified by the clerk or a member of the sanitary authority or some other sufficient evidence of his being authorised as aforesaid, enter by day such tent, van, shed, structure or barge, and examine the same and every part thereof in order to ascertain whether in such tent, van, shed, structure or barge, there is any contravention of any such bye-law or a person suffering from a dangerous infectious disorder.
(4) For the purpose of this section "day" means the period between six o'clock in the morning and the succeeding nine o'clock in the evening.
(5) If such person is obstructed in the performance of his duty under this section, the person so obstructing shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable. on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding forty shillings.
(6) Nothing in this section shall apply to any tent, van, shed, structure or barge erected or used by any portion of the Defence or Police Forces of Saorstát Eireann.
I beg to move Amendment No. 26, which reads:
Before sub-section (1) to insert a new sub-section as follows:
"(1) (a) a common lodging house shall for the purpose of the Public Health Acts and all other Acts, applicable thereto be defined to mean a lodging house, the valuation of which shall not exceed the sum of £15 if situated in the City of Dublin, £12 if situated in any of the cities of Cork, Limerick or Waterford, and £10 if situated elsewhere;
(b) a boarding house shall be defined to mean all other houses, excluding hotels, as hereinafter defined which carry on the business of letting a furnished room or rooms in apartments whether with or without board or service;
(c) hotels shall mean any premises with ten bedrooms and upwards, including boarding houses as hereinbefore defined, which shall be set apart exclusively for the accommodation of guests;
(d) no common lodging house shall after the passing of this Act let rooms or beds or permit or suffer the same to be let unless the lodging house shall have been registered as defined by the Public Health Acts;
(c) no boarding house shall within one month after the passing of this Act carry on the business of boarding house or shall let to any person or persons any room or rooms, beds, or apartments in any boarding house unless the same shall have been inspected, certified and registered in manner hereinafter appearing."
Perhaps it would save time if I speak now on this and the amendment following it on the Order Paper?
Just state the substance of the amendments.
My first amendment is simply to define what apparently has never been defined, either in the laws of this country or in the laws of Great Britain; that is, what a common lodging house really is. Under the Act of 41 and 42 Vie., Chap. 52, a common lodging house is defined as meaning "houses in which, or in part of which, persons are harboured or lodged for hire for one night or for less than a week at a time." That, I submit, is exceedingly vague and might include under its scope first-class hotels. The amendment I put down is defining a common lodging house in the words stated in the amendment. The definitions that are set forth in my amendment are, I think, sufficiently clear, and they call for the serious attention of the Seanad and the Government. I was glad to hear the Minister making observations yesterday, or the day before, to the effect that no subject had made greater advances in the recent past than the science that treats of the prevention of diseases.
It is a matter of great and far-reaching importance to this country, to our friends across the Channel, and even our friends at the other side of the Atlantic, that boarding houses, lodging houses, etc., should be under suitable inspection and registered. It is largely, as far as boarding houses are concerned, voluntary action at the present time. The matter has claimed very close attention in some districts, and has led to a considerable outlay on the part of localities. Amongst the other things that have brought the importance of these matters to the minds of the people in my district has been the action of the United States of America. The United States of America for some years past have had their attention very seriously drawn to the need of inspection and registration of houses, not only in the neighbourhood of the great port of Cobh, but in other parts of Ireland. Two years ago they sent over to Cobh a representative, paid for by the American Treasury. They have instituted a place there, and they have gone to considerable trouble in the erection and fitting of buildings there, through which people emigrating to the United States have to pass to be inspected. The different American lines of steamers have also appointed a medical representative to look on and confirm the action taken by the American medical representative. This is entirely voluntary and at no cost to the State. What is called for now is some official appointment.
Notwithstanding what I have just mentioned, emigrants have gone on board and have been taken as far as New York, and when they reach that destination it is well known that in some cases they are found infected with lice, etc., which my friend, Senator O'Sullivan, President of the Irish Medical Association, sitting behind me, will, I am sure, confirm, are the carriers of the dreadful disease of typhus and also of other diseases promoted through incubation. The Government of the United States feel that there is a tremendous risk from people going into their country. Perhaps, after a fortnight walking about the streets of Boston or New York, typhus might break out amongst them. It might lead to the closing of the port of Cobh, so far as shipping for the South of Ireland is concerned, if epidemics of the kind could be attributed to Ireland.
Moreover, over-crowding in some of the houses in which people going abroad have to lodge before sailing, is extremely dangerous. I do not now speak of the South of Ireland only. I refer as well to Limerick and the West of Ireland, the districts of Connaught and elsewhere. In these places there is considerable over-crowding. Incidents have been told to me where several people have been put into the one bed, and then perhaps the moment they leave it another train comes in and more people are put into the same bed. In some cases I believe as many as three people have been known to be put into one bed. I do not suggest that there is any such thing as immorality, but the thing is an evil all the same. All these things call for legislation of a very important character. I beg to move the amendment.
I think the Seanad generally are unanimous in agreeing with Senator Haughton that our sanitary laws require some, little lubrication or some stimulus so as to put them into more effective operation at the present time. I am afraid, however, that Senator Haughton's amendment is not going exactly the right way about it. The difficulty with the present sanitary code is that it has not been put into effective operation. Legislation is there. We have very ample powers for insisting on the registration of lodging-houses and for seeing that those lodging-houses are inspected with a view to preventing overcrowding and uncleanliness, and a generally unsatisfactory condition as regards sanitation. We have all those powers. We have ample powers for dealing with nuisances and for permitting us to inspect those houses whenever it is felt necessary to do so.
Senator Haughton starts off with a definition of common lodging and boarding houses. I am afraid if we insert such a definition into a Bill like this, it will seriously conflict with the legislation that has gone before. The present public health code is extended over numerous Orders and Statutes that have been going on for the last 50 years or more, and common lodging and boarding houses have had their particular meaning under those various Orders and Statutes. If we now introduce a different meaning at this stage, it will bring about endless confusion and difficulty in the carrying out of the laws. Senator Haughton restricts the definition of a lodging or boarding house to a house of less than £15 valuation. That would classify all our large tenements in Dublin more or less as hotels. It is really in connection with those houses that the greatest need appears for sanitary inspection. If we were to go very fully into the definition, we would probably find several anomalies of that kind.
We have ample power to deal with the problem, but we are not able to make use of that power because the machinery is defective. When we have a medical officer of health in each county, and when we have sanitary machinery properly operating, we will get much more satisfactory results. If we fail to get satisfactory results, that will be the time for the introduction of new legislation to make up for any deficiency that may arise in our sanitary laws. I think it is very inadvisable to touch our sanitary code before it has got an opportunity of proving whether or not it is efficient.
Amendment put and negatived.
I take it, Senator Haughton, that disposes of the remaining amendments, standing in your name, to Section 18? They are all more or less consequential upon the amendment that has been negatived?
I am sorry to say that that is so.
Amendments not moved:—
22. Section 18, sub-section (2). Line 60. Before the word "tents" to insert the words "common lodging houses and boarding houses."
23. Section 18, sub-section (3). Before the word "tent" wherever the same occurs to insert the words "common lodging houses and boarding houses."
24. Section 18, sub-section (6). To add after sub-section (6) the following new sub-sections:—
"(7) Every boarding house proprietor or part proprietor and every director of a company or corporation owning or running a boarding house or in receipt of any part of the profits from same shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £100 for permitting or suffering same to be run or used as a boarding house as hereinbefore defined at any time after the expiration of one month from the date this Act shall come into force unless same shall have been duly inspected by the medical officer of health and a certificate obtained from him as to the fitness for the said premises to be used as a boarding house, and a further certificate certifying the maximum number of boarders that could at any one time be accommodated therein, and also until the sanitary authority for the district in which the premises are situated shall have issued to the proprietor or proprietors of such houses a certificate entitling him or them to carry on the business of boarding house proprietor or proprietors.
"(8) Every medical officer of health for the district in which any such common lodging house or boarding house premises are situated shall on payment of the sum of one guinea provided by such lodging house or boarding house proprietor or proprietors inspect the premises in which it is proposed to carry on the same, inspect the same and certify to the proprietor or proprietors thereof in writing under his hand whether the said premises are or are not fit and proper premises to carry on such business; and if the medical officer of health shall certify that the said premises are fit he shall in addition certify without extra fee the maximum number of lodgers or boarders which shall be accommodated in said common lodging house or boarding house at any one time, and in addition. shall specify the maximum number to be accommodated in each room, which said room shall be numbered by the proprietor or proprietors for that purpose.
"(9) Every sanitary authority who shall certify as is set forth in the last paragraph shall on payment of such fee as may be prescribed by the Minister not exceeding the sum of one guinea, issue a licence to the proprietor or proprietors of such lodging house or boarding house entitling him or them to carry on such business, and such certificate shall contain the maximum number of persons who could reasonably be accommodated as lodgers or boarders in such premises at any one time.
"(10) Any sanitary officer or medical officer of health may visit the said premises for inspection purposes, and if an excess number of lodgers or boarders over the maximum be suspected, the said official or officials can at any hour of the day or night enter the said premises for the purpose of inspecting the register of lodgers or boarders which shall be kept in all such premises by the proprietor or proprietors. And such register shall contain the name and address of every person resident on the premises for each day of occupation.
"(11) If any lodging house or boarding house proprietor or proprietors or any company, shall not keep such register for inspection of the sanitary authority or any other authority lawfully constituted, including the Civic Guard, and shall not produce the same on demand, such proprietor or proprietors or directors shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction by the District Justice of such offence, or of an offence of having the number of lodgers or boarders in excess of the maximum permitted by the licence to have his or their licence suspended for a period not exceeding three months for the first offence, and for a second offence not exceeding six months; and shall be suspended for twelve months in the event of a third offence—and such person in the event of a third conviction may be disqualified at a District Justice's discretion, from holding any premises anywhere for a period of twelve months."
Section put and agreed to.
(1) The council of every county shall appoint, with the approval of the Minister, for every county health district in such county, a medical practitioner duly qualified as such and with such other qualifications as may be prescribed to be the superintendent medical officer of health of such county health district and of every urban district in such county situate in or adjoining such county health district, and such officer shall be known as the County Medical Officer of Health with the addition of the distinguishing name of such county health district.
(2) Where an urban district adjoins more than one county health district in the same county the Minister shall direct, after consultation with the councils of such urban district and county respectively, which of such county health districts is to have the same county medical officer of health as such urban district.
(3) The salary of a county medical officer of health shall be paid by the county council and shall be charged on the area for which he acts.
(4) A county medical officer of health shall be a sanitary officer within the meaning of Section 11 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878.
(5) Every county medical officer of health in and in respect of the area for which he acts, shall—
(a) be responsible to the board of health and to the council of every urban district in such area for the effective administration of the sanitary laws and of the various powers and duties of such board and of every such council in relation to the safeguarding of the health of the people, the provision of adequate and sanitary housing accommodation and other similar matters;
(b) advise such board or council, or the county council on any matter where expert medical advice is required;
(c) perform such other duties as may be prescribed and also such other duties as may be assigned to him by such board or council with the consent of the Minister.
(6) A county medical officer of health shall not engage in private practice and shall devote the whole of his time to the performance of his duties.
(7) As from the appointed day the office of medical superintendent officer of health of a rural sanitary district or urban district and the office of medical officer of a county council under the Midwives (Ireland) Act, 1918, shall be abolished and the powers and duties of every such officer transferred to the county medical officer of health.
I beg to move:—
Section 19, sub-section (1). Line 26. To delete the word "shall" and to substitute therefor the word "may."
The object of this amendment is to make it a voluntary matter for the county council to appoint a medical officer of health. In the Bill the word "shall" is used, and I want to substitute therefor the word "may." In certain counties, I believe, councils will object to the appointment of this whole-time officer. Probably some of them will consider that the £400 or £500 paid to the medical officer of health could be much better spent in other directions. The opinion prevails in many places that they cannot afford, until times improve, to make any new appointments. If this officer is appointed, of course he will be whole-time and possibly he will be a sort of local Czar. The county council will have very little control over him. He may make any rules or regulations he desires under the Act. I presume notices will then be served and solicitors will take the matter in hands. I am aware that in one small town in County Monaghan a house was condemned by the medical officer 20 years ago as unfit for human habitation; people are living in that house still.
You should get the Commissioners to attend to that.
That house was unfit for human habitation 20 years ago, and to-day, even though it is very insanitary, it is occupied. What can the council do? What alternative accommodation can be given to the occupier? Unless they put the people into the county home there is no alternative accommodation. There are no houses being built in any of the smaller towns. Under this Bill I presume the medical officer of health will have power to order the closing of an insanitary dwelling such as I have referred to. That would be considerably in advance of public opinion, I submit, and people will not stand for throwing those unfortunate occupants out on the road, until some other accommodation is provided elsewhere.
We should not ask county councils to make those appointments until they feel that the county finances would justify such action. Such a section as this is a considerable number of years before its time. Such a provision as is embodied in this section might be suitable for some places, but it would be very unsuitable for such places as Cavan, Monaghan and other counties.
It is very proper and we all agree that the sanitary laws should be enforced, but the people against whom they will be enforced are all very poor persons who are not able to rebuild their houses or put them into proper sanitary condition. I suppose the gentleman working under the county council will seek a definite order that every insanitary house will be rebuilt. But where will the money come from? It is out of the question to ask poor people to put their houses into proper sanitary order in a short time. If each county council had a discretion, probably after a number of years they would appoint these whole-time officers, but I think a discretion of that sort should be left to them.
You stated that the medical officer seemed to have absolute power. You may be quite right, but I cannot find anything in the section that enables him to override the views of the council. I cannot find he has any greater powers than the present medical officers of health, as the section apparently provides that he is given power to do such things as the council may, with the consent of the Minister, approve of. I cannot find that he has got these arbitrary powers that you stated, unless they are contained in another part of the Bill.
I do not say that they are in any other part of the Bill. But this county medical officer will be a whole-time officer. The present men, who are part-time officers, are the dispensary doctors, and know the whole extent of their district. This man will be a stranger. He will get an order from the board of health and his business will be to put into effect that closing order. The county board of health or the county council, as the case may be, composed of seven or eight men, will not sit down to analyse all his recommendations and orders will be issued to close up these premises.
I suppose I might as well say on this amendment what I was going to say in regard to the section generally, that is to ask the Minister to explain how he will stand in this matter, in a practical way. Up to now, as I understand it, the dispensary officers have been doing this work. The plan they work on is that they get a red ticket to go to some poor house where people are sick, perhaps with fever. When they go to the house they see that it is in a very unsanitary state, and perhaps the bed-clothes, where the man has fever, have to be destroyed. The medical officer then reports this to the relieving officers, and the thing is carried out at once. The bed-clothing and any other clothing, according to the doctor's orders, is destroyed, and the whole thing is done automatically, practically immediately, whereas now one medical officer is appointed for a whole county, or perhaps two for a county. I do not know how he will be able to inspect all those houses, unless he goes all over the county, putting his nose into every house that he has suspicion of. It seems to me that it will be a very difficult job, whereas it was hitherto done without any expense, because the medical officer visited these houses on other business. Now it will be a whole-time, separate job, and it will be a very expensive one. Very likely the Minister will explain how it is going to be done, but I do not see how it is going to be done, except at great cost. Of course I may not be very well informed.
I rise to oppose this amendment. I consider the appointment of a whole-time medical officer is the most important part of the Bill. Sanitary matters, as they were carried on during my time, and I have an experience of over 25 years, did not at all receive proper attention. Senator Colonel Moore is evidently confusing the dispensary medical officer with the medical officer of health. He may be the same individual, but the duties are entirely different. The duty of the sanitary sub-officer, who is at present the relieving officer, when he discovers places that are in an insanitary condition, is to report to the medical officer of health, who then' reports to the council. Frequently no action is taken. I welcome this Bill, if for nothing else than the appointment of a whole-time medical officer. I think it is absolutely necessary to have such an officer, and I think it would be futile and absurd without it. I speak as a medical officer with an experience of well over a quarter of a century.
I rise to support this amendment. I think this appointment should be permissive. I hope no one suggests that in supporting an amendment of this kind one is not solicitous for the health of the people. But the position is this: how in many cases can these very desirable measures of reform be made effective?
We know all these things. They are well known and they do not require a whole-time medical officer to deal with them. They are frequently reported, but, as Senator O'Rourke points out, if you do enforce the powers you possess, you turn the people out on the streets and perhaps into the workhouse. There is no other accommodation available. and this is bound up in the whole finance of housing. Until you can build alternative houses, it is futile to try to put these very desirable powers into effect. When you close these insanitary houses you may make an order on the owner to put them into repair. When owners, especially owners of small house property, are faced with the question of rebuilding or repairing, they will abandon the houses. My experience is that it is far more economical. It is quite impossible for an owner to expend money remuneratively on improvements, however desirable, so what is the alternative? He leaves the house empty. You cannot force him to spend money on it. The rents at present are very small and a large portion of these are taken up in the very inadequate repairs that are now done. I admit the repairs are inadequate in small towns in the country, and very often the houses are left derelict. Under the Rent Restriction Act the rates are payable by the owner. Well, the owner is not going to do that. His only alternative is to pull the house down sooner than pay the rates. That is the position you are faced with, and that is the position I believe you will be driven to. You may say it is very desirable that these houses should be pulled down, but if they are the situation would seem to be worse than before. You are going to drive these people you eject into the county homes or on to the streets, or create worse overcrowding elsewhere. Therefore, I feel, as Senator O'Rourke says, that this is in advance of the times. What is wanted is quite well known at present without the appointment of a whole-time medical officer, and it should be left to the county councils to act as they like in this matter.
I hope that the Seanad will reject this amendment. I think the objections to this proposal have been taken on rather a strange issue. The allegation seems to be that this medical officer of health will have some extraordinary power with the county council which the existing officers have not got. You, Sir, have pointed out that he would have no power over the county council at all in respect of the shutting up and pulling down of houses. He must act on their instructions and all he can do is to report and recommend; if the county council in its wisdom thinks that certain houses should remain as they are because of the circumstances of the time, there is nothing to prevent it from deciding accordingly. But surely to goodness he has duties to perform other than recommending that certain houses must be shut up. All over the country there must be a number of ways in which the enforcement of the sanitary laws, the prevention of disease and so forth, can be carried out other than by the shutting up of houses, and it would be deplorable, simply because the county council thought this man might be too well informed for them and might really brush up public health matters, that he should not be appointed.
I cannot understand Senator Sir John Keane and Senator O'Rourke saying that this is in advance of the times. When may we expect to have reached a period when the laws of sanitation shall be applied to the best of the ability of the people who are charged with public administration? In the twentieth century one would imagine that we had at least reached that elementary stage. There are certain situations in which compulsion must be used in the case of a reactionary county council. One has to use powers of compulsion to abate a public nuisance; you cannot allow a man next door to you in a city to keep pigs and generally to pollute the atmosphere; you cannot say: "Let us wait until that man's intellectual development has reached such a stage that he will see that it is undesirable in the interests of public health and common decency to do these things." Many county councils hereafter may be just as reactionary as their predecessors and may say that what Was good enough for their great-grandfathers is good enough for themselves and their families. I do not think we should allow this very important provision to be deleted simply because there may be here and there a county council, such as the County Council of Monaghan, who think they are quite good enough as they are, and that there is no need for improvement. The charge on a county will, I presume, be a farthing or a halfpenny in the £ at the very most, and the additional expense involved will be negligible compared with the benefits to be derived, without taking away from the prestige or the power of the councils, as was mentioned by Senator O'Rourke.
I do not think it is necessary to say very much after Senator O'Farrell's statement; I think he has dealt very fully with the whole position. This county medical officer is not to be a Sultan or a Czar over the heads of the county council. He will have to act according to their instructions in the ordinary course of events, and in any case it is to be assumed that he will be a man of ordinary common sense, and a man worthy of holding such a responsible position. An officer in a position of that kind will not insist on such a high standard of hygiene and sanitation in some backward portion of Connemara as, for instance, in one of the townships in South Dublin. He will use his discretion all along the line, and I do not anticipate that in very many cases an officer of this kind will find it necessary to condemn a house and insist on the inhabitants being turned out and the house pulled down. But in a great many cases while it will not be necessary for him to go that far, it might be necessary for him to insist on the house being whitewashed, or insist on some of the four-footed animals leaving, and preventing in that way the spread of typhus. That is one of the principal reasons for the recurrence of these typhus outbreaks in the West of Ireland, the fact that in many of these smaller cottages four-footed animals are allowed to stay.
This officer will not interfere with the functions of the ordinary medical practitioner that Senator Colonel Moore has referred to, nor with those of the sanitary sub-officer. He will co-ordinate their work, and he will be the driving force in the county who will see to it that work that heretofore was very badly carried out will be performed efficiently. I do not think there is any reason to anticipate any objection on the grounds of expense. The salary of such an officer spread over the whole county would amount to very little; as Senator O'Farrell says, probably about a farthing in the pound. I see that Senator Douglas has an amendment down which I hope the Seanad will be willing to accept, to allow the county medical officer to act for two counties if there are not sufficient duties for him in one. So that every possible safeguard is provided to see that the carrying out of these duties will not cost too much.
I should like to take the view of the Seanad on this. I think that these new councils to be elected shortly should have a little discretion. The appointment of a new whole-time officer at £400 or £500 a year will not be a very popular thing for them to do after facing the electors. In districts where the rates are largely paid by farmers the ratepayers are in a very bad position. A halfpenny in the £ is very small, but it is all halfpennies; if you take two or three dozen halfpennies it becomes a big thing. I do not think it is a very healthy thing to ask the new county councils as their first act to appoint a medical officer at £400 or £500 a year and to pension fourteen or fifteen other comparatively young men.
Well, they are the existing medical officers of health and their offices will be removed. I believe they will have to be pensioned, but that is a small matter. I think this provision is not fair to the new county councils.
I would like to ask a question, arising out of the remarks that have been made. Is the whole-time medical officer not to be appointed where there are already existing medical officers? To my mind the value of this Bill is the fact that he will be a whole-time medical officer. It will make him independent. Anyone practising in a district knows that there are times when he will be placed in the position in which I once found myself. I had a case of diphtheria in a dairy, and the father of the child was the proprietor of the dairy. If I closed the dairy where was my remuneration to come from? These questions will arise, and the value of the Bill is the independence of the medical officer. I hope that those that are already acting will be pensioned, because the expense is not at all a thing that can be measured with the value of the improvement in public health that should arise from this. We will never get to the period when the time will catch up with us if we wait in that way.
Amendment put and declared lost.
I move:—Line 28, after the words "as such" to insert the words "and possessing a diploma in public health from a recognised university or college for at least ten years prior to the date of the appointment."
This officer will occupy a very important position, and it is advisable that every safeguard should be taken to see that his qualifications will be of the highest. I advocate the principle that we adopted some time ago in selecting district justices and judges— that is, that they should be qualified for a certain period before they were appointed. I think the period which I have mentioned is a very moderate one, and in addition to the other qualifications that may be prescribed by the Minister it is desirable that we should insist that any person appointed should have a diploma of public health from a recognised university or college.
I have to oppose this amendment. All medical men know very well that the diploma of public health, say of ten years ago, was more ornamental than useful. The examination has of late got more strict, and it is becoming progressively more difficult to get a diploma now. A medical officer of one year's standing, with the D.P.H., would be better than a man of ten years' standing. You might select a man of ten years' standing with a D.P.H. who was in private practice and who knows nothing about public health matters. I would agree with Senator Linehan if during the ten years he did nothing but public health matters. I am afraid that if we adopt this amendment we may get men who are more or less antique in public health matters.
What you object to is the provision about the ten years. You want that left out.
I think, as the thing stands in the Bill, it is all right.
I support that amendment. Surely in this matter it is not a question as to the technique necessary. It is far more a question of experience of the world to deal with those problems of psychology and of human relations which the latest graduate from some college is quite unfitted to handle. If you insist on qualification in judicial matters and on experience, why should you not insist on experience in a case like this? To a layman, it is hard to conceive that the value of the whole-time medical officer will turn on his academic qualifications. Really, is it necessary for his duties that he should possess the very highest scholastic qualifications? Is it not more necessary that he should have experience of the world, of dealing with people, and a certain personality and presence, which largely comes from experience, by which he can meet and deal with the councils which he will serve? Above all, how can you expect a young man who has just left his teens and who is fresh from some college, to be able to fill a position of that kind in a proper manner?
It seems to me that if you read the Bill closely you will find that the qualifications are left more or less at the discretion of the Minister. I am not very keen on the question of a diploma, because I have frequently found people predominating in college who do not so predominate in the community outside, and it does not take an extremely technical or involved diploma to estimate the sanitary condition of any house. One's nose is nearly qualified to do that. We need not have a mature diploma of 10 years' standing or any diploma at all. It is impossible to go through a medical curriculum, which now takes seven years, without being able to estimate whether a house is fit for human habitation or not.
I rise to support the amendment. People living in the provinces, especially poor people, are entirely dependant for their medical attendance when sick on the local dispensary doctor. We who have county council and public body experience know how strings are pulled in an election of medical officer. Merit, qualification, experience and personality are of no consideration at all, with the deplorable result that nearly all the poor dispensary clientele are sometimes neglected. A very admirable course has recently been taken by the Ministry by the setting up of a Selection Board in making appointments of a serious character of that nature. This Board is composed of qualified medical men, representing medical schools and bodies in the city, each coming from his own affiliated society or association, all men of the highest qualifications. I was appointed as chairman of such a body. I had simply to sit there and listen, and I was delighted to find the spirit in which these men approached the analysis of the qualifications of those candidates who presented themselves. They did not want to know their names. They made that a first condition. They gave them numbers, went through their papers, and they said the public are entitled to the very best man—a man of experience, personality and character— who applied for the position. The result is that every satisfaction has been given. It is a new departure, and it has given admirable results. Applying that principle here, I say some such course should be followed. I say the inevitable result, which comes from personal canvassing, of getting the worst man, should be avoided as far as possible. Under any rule made here the result should be that the very best man must secure the position.
I am in rather a difficult position. I am in favour of the necessity for a diploma of public health, but I agree with Senator O'Sullivan that the ten years' period is rather long. I think it is quite possible for a competent local authority under the section to elect an officer to the position who would not have a diploma. That, to my mind, would be a disaster. The section is rather vague, and I think it would do no harm to put in an amendment requiring the possession of the diploma of public health. I move in section 19, sub-section (1), line 28, after the words "as such" to insert the words "and possessing a diploma in public health from a recognised university or college."
I wonder would it be possible to provide a panel, to be arranged by some expert board, from which these medical officers might be selected. The selection of county medical officers and dispensary doctors seems to be a very big responsibility to place on a body of laymen. After all, I suppose the medical profession is the most important profession in existence, as it attends to the well-being of the human frame. It is a desperate responsibility to leave the selection of members of that profession for public positions to a body of laymen who have no knowledge of medical science. In addition, elected bodies are open to considerable influence, particularly in country districts. The present system, we know, has become a public scandal, and the results have been deplorable. I have been told of a case of a medical officer of a county infirmary. He was able to carry out fairly serious operations, and the people of the county could go to the infirmary for treatment. The position became vacant, and it is alleged that, through extraneous influence, a man was appointed to the position who was utterly incapable of dealing with the same class of cases, with the result that everybody who can afford it now has to come to Dublin, and those who cannot afford to do so have to go without treatment, with serious consequences in some cases. The county council may have made that appointment with the very best intentions, and still have made a mistake. I was wondering if it would be possible to have a large panel of competent medical men, whose names would be before county councillors and members of boards of health, and from whom it would be possible to select a man, and to say that he is qualified, whatever else might be said against him. I do not know whether that is practicable or not, or whether abuse might not creep in. But I think it would be a better way of making a selection than leaving it to people who have absolutely no knowledge of medical science.
The amendment proposes to insert the words set out on the Order Paper. Since then an amendment to that amendment has been proposed by Senator Bennett to omit the words "at least ten years prior to the date of the appointment."
I submit that until my amendment be disposed of no other amendment is in order.
That is not quite right. If your amendment was ruled out, then Senator Bennett would be deprived of an opportunity of moving his amendment. If your amendment is carried, it would be open to Senator Bennett to move that it be amended by omitting the concluding words. However, we had better hear what the Minister has to say before putting the question.
I assume that we are dealing with Senator Linehan's original amendment. Senator Dr. O'Sullivan has pointed out that the D.P.H. of, say, 10 years ago, is rather an obsolete qualification to-day, and I consider that it would not be a qualification which would entitle a man to hold a position of this kind. It is a qualification that is becoming more difficult to obtain every year, and a man who qualified a year or two ago would be much more capable, from the standpoint of sanitary science, than a man who qualified ten years ago. For that reason it would be inadvisable to entertain this amendment. I think we should rather regard this officer as being an executive and an administrative officer, than a man highly qualified technically. He will be a man who will require driving force. He will have to be somewhat of a leader of men—a man who can have his way in the county, and who will be able to influence the various people he will come in contact with, and I feel that it will be a very difficult thing to get men of that stamp. He will be much more than a highly qualified medical officer; he will be a first-class executive officer. I anticipate that we will have great difficulty in getting men of that calibre.
Senator O'Farrell has mentioned that it would be a good thing to have some body other than the county councils to determine who shall get those appointments. It has been the practice recently to nominate selection boards in connection with the appointment of officers for all these positions, and I hope to adhere to that practice in the appointment of these officers, and to see that no man will be appointed who has not been approved by a selection board, composed of competent medical men in a position to appraise his qualifications. In practice, I do not believe that you will have anybody appointed who has not the D.P.H. That is, judging things from the present standard, but I do not know how things may vary in the future. It is just possible that you might have a man with high qualifications in other respects who did not happen to possess the D.P.H., and it might be inadvisable to rule him out. I have been in touch with the Rockefeller Foundation, who are dealing with public health all over the world. They have agreed to allow three fellowships to Irish medical practitioners, on condition that they get appointments. I consider that a fellowship of this kind would be of great value. The holders would be entitled to receive a course extending from six months to eight months, and these men would be very highly qualified. I think that a man who had gone through a course of that kind would probably be better qualified to take up a position of this class than a man possessing the ordinary D.P.H. That is one of the reasons that make it inadvisable to lay down hard and fast rules, and I think it would be better not to insist upon this qualification.
I will now put the original amendment, as it appears on the Order Paper.
The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 30.
- Richard A. Butler.
- Sir John Keane.
- Patrick Williams Kenny.
- Thomas Linehan.
- William Barrington.
- Thomas Westropp Bennett.
- Samuel Brown, K.C.
- Mrs. Eileen Costello.
- Peter de Loughry.
- Countess of Desart.
- Michael Duffy.
- Sir Nugent Talbot Everard.
- Thomas Farren.
- Thomas Foran.
- Dr. Oliver St. John Gogarty.
- Sir John Purser Griffith.
- Henry Seymour Guinness.
- Benjamin Haughton.
- Cornelius Joseph Irwin.
- Joseph Clayton Love.
- Edward MacEvoy.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- Earl of Mayo.
- William John Molloy.
- Colonel Maurice Moore.
- James Moran.
- George Nesbitt.
- Michael O'Dea.
- John Thomas O'Farrell.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- William O'Sullivan, M.D.
- James J. Parkinson.
- Mrs. Jane Wyse Power.
- Earl of Wicklow.
Amendment declared lost.
Do you wish me to put your amendment now, Senator Bennett?
I think it would be well to have some such insertion, as I suggest, in the Bill. In fact, I think it would be essential. I am moved, too, by what the Minister said about such things. After all, people will know that these appointments are coming on, and I am sure it will be felt by every young medical practitioner that he should try to get this diploma.
With regard to the selection board appointed to select the names of medical officers to be put before the county council, may I ask the Minister who is to compose that selection board?
I do not see that there is any provision made for a selection board. The appointment is to be made by the county council itself and not by a selection committee of that body. Of course, by consent or arrangement, I suppose the county council could set up a committee of their own and call it a selection board, but, as far as I can see, there is no obligation on them to do that. Of course I may be wrong.
We have got the power to sanction, and we can refuse to sanction the appointment of an officer if he fails to pass the selection board. This selection board is more or less in the experimental stage at the present time, but as time goes on we intend to stereotype it. The last selection board we had gave very great satisfaction indeed. It acted on several occasions, and was composed of representatives of the three teaching bodies of the medical profession—Trinity College, the College of Surgeons and the National University, with Senator Kenny as the representative of the General Council of County Councils. Dr. Dixon represented Trinity, Sir Arthur Chance the College of Surgeons, and Dr. McLoughlin the National University.
Is it compulsory on doctors appointed to positions as county medical officers of health to pass this selection board? I am anxious to know that, because the Bill does not say that it is.
No. I understand the way it works out is this. There is nothing in this Bill, or any other Act that I know of, requiring the county council to take first the opinion of the selection board. The Local Government Department apparently think they have the power—they are probably right, and I do not question it for a moment—to say to a county council: "We will not sanction any appointment made by you unless he has been recommended by the selection board." In that way the thing can be worked out, I presume, legally, but I pronounce no opinion on it.
On the other hand, that will lead, as it has led in the past, to a conflict between the Local Government Department and the appointing authority.
Arising out of the remarks of Senator O'Farrell and Senator Kenny, might I suggest a further addition to Senator Bennett's amendment? The addition I suggest is to vest the appointment in the hands of the Minister and of the selection board. I am afraid I have made myself somewhat prominent in calling attention to various scandals—they are nothing short of scandals—which have taken place in many parts of the country. I think there is a great deal in what Senator Colonel Moore has said. If the Minister waits until the county council have appointed someone—he may be a very improper person-and then refuses his sanction to the appointment, it will lead to a conflict between the Minister and the county council. If the appointment, in the first instance, were vested in the Minister and in the selection board, it would meet the points raised by some Senators. It would be very desirable, I think, to do that. It would help, too, to minimise the amount of corruption that goes on in many places in connection with some of these public appointments. If the Minister sees no objection, I will propose the addition I have suggested to the amendment moved by Senator Bennett.
I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Bennett. In addition to the qualification of D.P.H., I think the Senator should include in his amendment the diploma of sanitary science conferred by some of the Universities. That is a very high qualification, and if it were omitted it would mean that graduates possessing it would be excluded from appointments to be made under this Bill. As a matter of fact, I think it is a much better qualification than the D.P.H., and I urge its inclusion in the amendment.
Do you see any objection to the addition of that to your amendment, Senator Bennett?
I think it is very desirable that we should have this diploma in sanitary science recognised under the Bill.
As there are a great many subjects turning on this amendment, and as the Minister, I think, is sympathetic towards some alteration or change, he might, on Report Stage, bring up an amendment that would cover the whole ground that has been touched on to-day.
I was going to suggest to the Minister that between this and the Report Stage he should consider very carefully whether he has power to make it a condition of the appointment of medical officers that such persons should be chosen by a panel of this selective committee.
The only way it can come in is under sub-section (1) of section 19:—"The council of every county shall appoint, with the approval of the Minister for every county health district in such county, a medical practitioner duly qualified as such, and with such other qualifications as may be prescribed." Being selected from, or on a panel of this kind is not strictly a qualification, and I doubt if he would have power under this sub-section to prescribe that as one of the qualifications. I think he should consider that carefully.
I think it would be wise for the Minister to consider the suggestion made, I think, by Senator Barrington, whether he would not put in a provision that the person to be appointed should be one of the panel appointed by the Minister, but on the advice of the Council of the College of Surgeons and Physicians, or something of that sort.
Following Senator the Earl of Mayo's question, if we had a motion suggesting that the Minister should supply himself with a selection committee, would not the selection of that committee give the Minister power to appoint?
If you put it into the Bill that there was to be a selection committee it would, but there is very serious doubt whether in the absence of a special provision in the Bill the Minister, as such, would have inherent powers to say, "You must have a committee of selection."
If it were a committee of selection empanelled from medical practitioners it would give people an assurance that those who knew the job were more or less able to select candidates, and at the same time it would take away any question of doubt, such as Senator Brown sees may arise with regard to the Minister's powers.
Possibly the Minister might think it well to let the matter stand over and think upon it between this and the Report Stage. He would be well advised, I think, in the meantime to consult Senators O'Sullivan and Gogarty on the matter. They have very great experience.
There are several propositions put forward on this amendment. One, by Senator Bennett, makes a panel of selection and leaves it in the hands of the Minister.
No, no; I never said anything of that kind.
No, but I think some other Senator did, and it is in regard to this selection power that I wish to take issue. If you have a panel of selection and submit that to the county council which has charge of the doctor, they are going to appoint, I think it is right to pick from that panel one from the two or three that may be sent up. But I think, if you allow the Minister to interfere with the power of selection of the one on the panel, it will only lead to friction in the elected bodies.
I had in mind only the panel of recommendation.
Let there be a panel made by the county council and let the Minister be satisfied with knowing that the candidate selected has the necessary qualification, but if the Minister is to have the sole appointment then goodbye to local administration.
I think we are all fairly well agreed upon the general principle that we are seeking in this matter. I had hoped some Senator would move an amendment which would put this whole matter of selecting candidates for appointment on a proper basis, but when we started hammering out the terms of the amendment we found it ran practically into a new Bill, and I think it will take up a great deal of time.
If you let it stand over till the Report Stage possibly I might be able to put it in a few lines. It is not a matter that should be rushed at all. You should have plenty of time to consider it, and it would not be reasonable to suggest that you should finally decide now. I think the most convenient plan would be to have it brought up on the Report Stage and if the Committee agree to that we will let it stand over until then.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move in Section 19, sub-section (5), line 56, to delete the word "expert." I think the word "expert" is unnecessary.
I think the word "expert" is necessary, but that the word "medical" is unnecessary. Expert advice relates to public health and not to the treatment, say, of disease.
Would it be better to leave out both the words "expert" and "medical," and say "where advice is required"?
The advice is as to public health and not advice as to surgical or other treatment.
The present proposal is to leave out the word "expert."
I will fall in with any suggestion made by the President of the Irish Medical Association.
Then, with the leave of the House, you substitute for your amendment the omission of the word "medical."
Expert advice really relates to public health.
I do not think that these words are necessary, because the gentleman in question is an expert in public health. He is the public health officer and, of course, his advice would only be asked on matters relating to public health.
That is not so. I know public boards very well. They might ask for advice as to treatment— whether such a patient might be sent to a certain hospital. I want to put that outside the pale.
You would also put sanitary matters outside it.
Sanitary matters would, of course, be included in public health.
Then it would read "where expert advice is required on matters affecting public health."
I would prefer to leave it as it stands in the Bill, or to accept Senator Haughton's amendment as it was. I think Senator O'Sullivan rather complicates the issue. The county medical officer would be responsible for the curative as well as the preventative side of disease. His duties are not allocated yet, and it may be possible that this would cut out portion of the duties put upon him in some counties. I prefer to be left some little discretion.
The main objection which the Minister sees to this is that the medical officer might say: "I am only appointed to advise you on matters affecting public health, and I refuse to advise on other matters." As the Minister says, there might be a variety of questions on which his advice might be desirable.
A medical officer of health is not responsible for the curative side of disease.
He might have duties in regard to tuberculosis, and he might differentiate between them.
There is objection to your amendment, Senator O'Sullivan, in so far as it would indicate that his advice would be limited.
I want to limit his advice to matters relating to public health. He must not have anything to do with the treatment of disease, as he would then step in on the domain of other men.
Could it not be put in such a form of words as, for instance, "excluding advice on individual cases." His abstract opinion as to whether treatment is good in regard to tuberculosis might be desirable, but it might be undesirable for him to say that it should be treated in a particular way.
There is the tuberculosis officer to advise on tuberculosis in most counties.
Would the situation be met if these words were adopted: "on any matter affecting the health of the county or district"?
Then the section would read: "where expert advice is required on matters affecting the health of the county or district."
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
In Section 19, sub-section (6), line 62, to delete the words "performance of his duties" and to substitute therefor the words "service of one or more local authorities."
The sub-section as it stands would confine the county medical officer of health to the performance of his duties in one county health district. A county health district under the Bill excludes every urban district in the county, and it would further prevent the county officer of health from also being the officer to advise and take care of the public health in urban districts. That system seems to me to be very wasteful, because there should be nothing to prevent a county officer of health from attending to matters of public health in one or two urban districts. In a county like Kildare or Carlow it may be possible that one county officer of health could very easily do the two counties, and that would be a practical and economical provision.
I support the amendment. I think it should be mandatory on urban councils to contribute towards the services of a medical officer of health, but as the clause stands it is not mandatory. They could apply and get his services if they wish. The part of the county that requires a medical officer of health, especially, is an urban district, as the housing conditions in the lanes and back streets of most towns are appalling. The conditions under which people live are desperate, and are the cause of a good deal of the disaffection in the country, as well as a good deal of disease. I think it ought to be mandatory on urban district councils to employ a medical officer of health.
I am not disputing that, but the amendment will not have that effect, as it only makes it permissive but not mandatory on them.
I am only throwing out a hint that it ought to be mandatory.
To a layman it is difficult to see how the amendment alters the position in the Bill. The sub-section reads: "A county medical officer of health shall not engage in private duties and shall devote his whole time to the performance of his duties." He might work under three councils and still confine himself to the performance of his duties. The amendment says that he shall devote the whole of his time to one or more local authorities, but he would still be confining himself to the performance of his duties. There may be some legal subtlety in this.
I do not think there is, as I found the same difficulty as you.
The term "local authority" is defined in Section 1 of the Bill as:—
"A county council, county or other borough council, urban district council, rural district council, board of guardians, or the commissioners of any town."
If you insert the words suggested, "service of one or more local authorities" in lieu of "performance of his duties," it will be one of these five local authorities which are the local authorities that can exist in a county.
The point that Senator O'Farrell made will remain, that if a gentleman is acting for forty counties he is still performing his duties. If you said that no matter who or what he is, he is to spend his whole time in the performance of his duties, that will cover his duties whether they include an urban district or a county.
As the sub-section stands he can only perform his duties in the one county health district. That would exclude him from performing any duty in an urban district or in another district of the same county.
I think as the section stands, and so long as the officer is acting for a county, he has to spend his time performing his duty, and if he is acting for two counties he equally performs his duties if he attends to both.
The county health officer must be appointed to one county health district. That is stated under a previous section.
You do not alter that by this side wind.
You cannot appoint him to another county, and an urban district could not appoint him to be a medical officer of their district.
What is the effect of the addition of these words and how can the amendment accomplish that?
It permits him to be appointed to any urban district or by any other local authority as defined in the Bill.
I am afraid it does not confer any such jurisdiction. If you want to do that it should be done in express language. You cannot possibly say in this way that the same gentleman appointed under Section 19 as health officer of a county is given power also by the amendment to accept the position of medical officer of an urban district. You could not do it in that indirect way and the words in the amendment would not have that effect. If there is another section which says that a county health officer may be also health officer of an urban district, then the amendment would work. Senator Brown has considered it, I have not.
The alternative suggestion would include not only an urban district but every local authority in a county.
I will undertake to have a section to that effect drafted and brought up on the Report Stage.
I think it is essential, as I am quite sure a court would say that these words of yours could not per se confer jurisdiction to appoint this gentleman to other local bodies in the county.
I follow that, but as was stated, this would prevent them.
I do not think the other alters the position at all. All it says is, that he is to perform his duties. If his duties under this Bill include serving local authorities, then the duties under sub-section (6) include the duties of the local authority.
It would if there was an additional section.
It will require an additional section.
In dealing with an earlier section in connection with the same matter it was stated that two counties could combine to engage the services of one medical officer. If the words suggested now were adopted it would prevent counties combining.
If there is a provision that two counties could combine that is only a provision for conferring dual jurisdiction on the medical officer of health. Any proposal now brought in would require amendment of that section.
Surely the whole object of this section is that the county medical officer will not engage in private practice.
That is so. Whether he is an officer of one or ten districts, he is to give his whole time. The amendment would certainly not confer power under the Bill to extend the services of this gentleman from the county to the local authority. That would require legislation.
I understood there was a suggestion that if a man was appointed medical officer of health for a county he could say: "I am in the county and I am not going to serve the urban district." Senator O'Sullivan said that it is in the urban districts the medical officer's services are most necessary.
That is not the point. I understand that under the Bill as framed the county medical officer of health is not necessarily medical officer of the urban district.
Exactly. You cannot do that by this amendment. If you want him to be medical officer of the urban district you must take power in the Bill to appoint him to the dual position.
That is very important. Can it not be put into the Bill now?
Why should not the medical officer of health for a county be free to act in the urban district if they come to an agreement?
That would depend on the amendment that is to be introduced.
I think that should be done, as some urban districts could not afford to pay a whole-time medical officer.
It would require an amendment to the effect that every person appointed medical officer of health for a county or an urban district under this Bill shall, if so required by the Minister, also serve as medical officer for other districts, as the case may be.
Does not sub-section (2) of Section 19 deal with that?
No, that is only where a district covers two counties. Some urban districts have part of their territory in one county and part in another. I think Athlone is such a case. This would require a special section, I think.
I think we had better leave this matter over for the introduction of an amending section making it mandatory on every urban district council to have a medical officer of health. We could consider it with the Minister between now and the Report Stage.
I think we had better leave the matter over until the Report Stage. So far as urban councils are concerned I think they are included in sub-section (2). If that is read in conjunction with sub-section (1) it will be quite clear. Perhaps this amendment will not give the power we require with regard to appointing a medical officer of health for two or more counties.
I think, perhaps, it would be well to leave it over till the Report Stage.
Will the Minister also consider this aspect, that some contribution should be made by the urban district towards the expenses of this whole-time officer. It is only right that the urban districts should make a contribution towards the salary.
Sub-section (3) deals with that. A demand can be made on an urban council for that contribution.
It is not quite clear, because it says the salary is to be paid by the county council. The obligation is thrown on them.
"And shall be charged on the area for which he acts." The county council may strike the rate in part for the rural districts and in part for the urban districts.
If the officer is acting for both there is a little ambiguity which might lead to trouble and conflict. However, this can also be looked after when the amending section is being brought in. At present the position is not clear in the case of a gentleman who would be acting for two county councils or for one county council and perhaps all the urban boroughs.
Perhaps it would be better if the sub-section were allowed to stand as it is at present. I, therefore, withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Before we pass from this section, I would like to know if anything can be done for the provision of district nurses under this Bill?
Of course there is no objection to the Minister replying to that question.
In the congested districts, in the West of Ireland particularly, the provision of district nurses is a matter of the utmost importance. As it is, there is something of a struggle even to keep one district nurse by voluntary contributions and under Lady Dudley's nursing scheme. The difficulties are great, and it is of the utmost importance that some provision in this respect should be made.
I believe we are subsidising those nurses under schemes for maternity and child welfare, and we are giving them every encouragement we can at present. I do not think it is necessary to put anything in that respect into the Bill we are now considering.
Is the subsidy sufficient to pay the nurses? That is a matter that to my mind is really more important in some districts in the West than even the question of doctors.
Question—"That Section 19 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
I beg to move:—
Immediately before Section 20 to insert a new section as follows:
"20.—(1) Every sanitary authority shall appoint, with the approval of the Minister, for their sanitary district one or more persons registered under the Veterinary Surgeons Act, 1881, to be veterinary inspectors for such district.
(2) Every such veterinary inspector shall be a sanitary officer within the meaning of Section 11 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878.
(3) This section shall not come into effect until the appointed day."
I am asking the Seanad to include under the terms of this Bill some little recognition for the veterinary profession. So far, veterinary surgeons have not been referred to in any part of the Bill. In the past, under most of the rural district councils, veterinary surgeons were appointed to carry out duties pertaining to public health in addition to duties relating to live stock. In some of the poorer districts in the West of Ireland, persons other than veterinary surgeons were appointed by the rural district councils to carry out those duties. I would ask the Minister to include this provision in the Bill to make arrangements, when appointments are being made in connection with the inspection of live stock, meat, and milk, to have those duties carried out by veterinary surgeons.
There is a further reason why I am anxious the Seanad would help the veterinary profession. Since the advent of motor cars, and since the departure of many rich people from Ireland— people who heretofore were the patrons of the veterinary surgeons—it is very difficult, indeed, for the country veterinary surgeon to get a living. If the little local jobs that were given to the veterinary surgeons by various sanitary authorities are taken from them, there would be little or no inducement for a local veterinary surgeon to remain in a county, and the poor people who have stock that may become affected with some disease will be obliged to fall back on quacks or local chemists if they want to have their animals treated.
At various times the Minister for Lands and Agriculture told us of the value of live stock to Ireland. We are frequently informed that it is the main source of Irish wealth, and it is the main hope of Ireland in the future. We can congratulate ourselves in Ireland on having escaped the scourge of foot and mouth disease which is raging in every country in Europe. We ought to be grateful to the veterinary profession, the members of which have watched carefully in order to avoid Irish herds becoming affected. For those reasons I ask the Seanad to adopt this new section. I am sure the members of the veterinary profession will be very grateful to the Seanad for this recognition.
I desire to support this new section. There is nothing more important in the matter of public health than the inspection of meat and milk, and the methods of production of meat and milk. To do this adequately, I think it must be admitted that the veterinary surgeon is the only person competent. Under this Bill it is quite possible that a veterinary surgeon will be so appointed; but if this new section were adopted, it would make it more certain that duties of that type would be carried out by veterinary surgeons. Under the Inspection of Dairies Order, a veterinary surgeon is appointed for each county.
If this new section were passed and a veterinary surgeon were appointed for the duties referred to, possibly the same man might combine the two offices, and such an arrangement could be made between the Local Government Department and the Department of Agriculture. That could be made a workable arrangement. Apropos of this matter, in view of what has been revealed as to the way in which certain veterinary surgeons, who were appointed veterinary tuberculosis officers did, or rather did not, carry out their duties, I would like to throw out a word of warning to authorities to the effect that if they instituted some system of supervision which would be a little more drastic, probably these things would not occur.
In this matter we have to watch very carefully the interests of the ratepayers. For the life of me, I cannot see why a whole-time medical officer could not examine milk or meat. I really doubt very much if it is a veterinary officer's job at all; that is a doubtful point. I feel that a whole-time medical officer is quite competent to pronounce a decision in regard to the quality of meat and milk. If this question of a whole-time veterinary officer is going to be considered, it must be considered, I suggest, in all its aspects; otherwise we would be faced with the position of having one veterinary officer not a whole-time officer, and another veterinary officer specially appointed ad hoc for those sanitary duties. We would be having one veterinary officer appointed under this provision for sanitary duties, and another veterinary officer appointed under the Diseases of Animals Act. In such circumstances we will have really a multiplicity of officials thrust upon the already hard-pressed ratepayers.
The matter cannot, in such a fashion, be decently dealt with. If it is to be handled at all it must be handled in its entirety and from the point of view of having one expert doing all the work and not simply doing portions of the work in one area, irrespective of under what Acts the duties are imposed. I would ask that we should look more at the matter from the ratepayers' point of view. That is the point of view that sooner or later will have to be faced by the Government and by everybody who seeks the franchise of the people.
Whether reasonably or unreasonably, the fact remains that the people generally are getting very anxious about this tendency towards the creation of appointments. They are not able to discern the niceties of those appointments, or how much money is spent in connection with them; their main consideration is the tendency to multiply officials. We should be careful not to encourage anything in that direction. We should see that officials are appointed with full regard to all the duties they have to perform. There should be no appointments piecemeal, and no appointments of large numbers of officials, all of whom might not be fully employed.
I should like to support the amendment, because I think, with the mover of it and Senator MacLysaght, that it is very necessary that provision should be made in the Bill for the appointment of veterinary surgeons. The amendment states: "Every sanitary authority shall appoint, with the approval of the Minister." That is, of course, a saving clause. The Minister need not approve unless he likes.
I am not quite sure of that, Senator. I think that only refers to the approval of the person selected. I think the section is mandatory as it stands and I think that the approval of the Minister only means that the person to be appointed under this section, as it stands, is to be a person approved of by him.
Very well, sir; let it be so then. I should like to point out, as Senator MacLysaght says, and as I know, that it is very important that a veterinary surgeon should be at the disposal of the poorer people who cannot afford to pay very large fees for doctoring their cattle and their horses. There are diseases in horses which require most careful looking after by competent veterinary surgeons. Sub-section 2 of the amendment says: "Every such veterinary inspector shall be a sanitary officer within the meaning of Section 11 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878." I have got the Act here. I have read the sections very carefully and I am afraid that cannot possibly be incorporated in the amendment, because I think it will run counter to the Bill. Leaving that out, I should like to support the amendment and to vote for the appointment of veterinary surgeons under this Bill.
With regard to what Senator Sir John Keane said, he always looks after our financial interests in a most careful way and I admire him for it. I listened most carefully the other day to his speech on finance. After all, these veterinary surgeons in a great many districts would be able, with the aid of motor cars, to cover very long distances. I notice that there is nothing in the amendment against engaging in private practice. With his private practice and the small salary he would have from the public authority, a veterinary surgeon would give most useful service to the public and would give great help in the carrying out of the provisions of the Bill, if the amendment was accepted. I beg to support it.
Whereas at present we have several sanitary authorities in the one county, under the Bill these sanitary authorities—the rural district councils—will be wiped out and we will have but one sanitary authority for the whole county, except in a few instances where large counties are to be divided.
I think it is very necessary to retain, at least for a time, the services of the various veterinary surgeons who are now distributed throughout the whole area. From a ratepayer's point of view there may be some economy in appointing one officer to cover the whole area, but what do you risk by that? At present you have these part-time officers serving the small sanitary areas —namely, the rural districts. You have them established in these areas. They know every cow and horse in the areas, as their ordinary private practice keeps them circling around there. If such an insidious disease as foot and mouth disease, or that other very terrible disease—I think it was called epizootic lymphangitis—or a disease like glanders broke out, it might result in the whole of the Free State being cut off. Formerly, when we were part of the British Isles, if an outbreak of disease occurred in, say, Tipperary, the Government under which we then existed would segregate the county of Tipperary; they would draw a line around it, and would prevent, for a time, cattle being removed from it. Now the Free State is a separate unit; we are a foreign territory, and I think that if foot and mouth disease makes its appearance in any part of Tipperary, Cork, or any other county, we will run the risk of having the whole Free State cut off. I am speaking in the interests of the ratepayers. I think the greatest precaution should be taken. That risk is there, and as it appears to me it would spell ruin for most of the farmers if a barrier were kept up for any length of time. That risk being there, I think it is absolutely imperative on us to do everything possible to detect diseases of this insidious character at the outset, and stamp them out before they get too far. These diseases in a very short time become rather widespread, and it is necessary to have every square yard of our territory under very close observation by men who are eminently qualified to detect the presence of any of these diseases as they occur. Until I considered very carefully the whole situation I took the view that one man, with the aid of a motor car might possible cover the whole area, but when I considered large counties like Cork and Waterford, I changed that view. The infection of one beast may be enough to affect cattle, horses or sheep throughout the whole country, and cut us off from the only market we have. Then I say it would be a very wise expenditure to try by every means to keep these veterinary surgeons in the areas where they are established, who formerly did veterinary work for the rural district councils under the Diseases of Animals Act. They also did duties of Inspectors under the Dairies and Cowsheds Order. These little appointments, together with such private practice as they could secure, enabled them to exist in their areas. Some of them now are at a very low ebb financially because of the times that we have passed through, and if their services are not retained under this Bill it will be imperative on them to leave their districts and go somewhere else in order to make a living.
I think Senator Kenny must have misunderstood me. My remarks were directed against unifying these two duties which arise under different Acts. In some districts the work of the Dairies and Cowsheds Order is done by a layman. That, undoubtedly, is perhaps undesirable, but it is equally undesirable that you should appoint a separate veterinary officer to do that work apart from the veterinary officer functioning under the Diseases of Animals Act. One man ought to do the two. I do not see how that can be effected by the amendment. The whole purpose of my remarks was to urge that the problem should be treated in its entirety and that the two Acts under which the duties arise should be considered, at the same time, in the creation of any veterinary officer functioning in any area.
I also feel that we should move very warily in this matter. There is no doubt that in some counties we have under the Dairies and Cowsheds Order a veterinary officer who is supposed to inspect dairies and cattle. I speak with a very intimate knowledge, because we were compelled in the sanitary district in which I was one of the people concerned, to elect a veterinary officer because the Local Government Board insisted on it. The Local Government Board proceeded against us and took us before Chief Baron Palles. We won our case, but we were defeated on appeal, though we might have gone further. We did not go to the House of Lords, where we would probably have won. You have a number of inspectors under the Dairies and Cowsheds Order receiving sums of money for doing nothing. If on the top of that you are going to appoint new officers, with new duties, leaving the existing officers with nothing to do, it would certainly not make for —I will not say economy—reasonable administration. Therefore I think the whole question of the appointment of veterinary surgeons should be delayed. We are asked that every central authority should appoint a veterinary inspector. The Bill on this point is slightly ambiguous as to whether you will have one or more sanitary authorities in each district. Certain boards will be set up to work under the county health board; whether there should be only one sanitary authority or whether we will have a number of sanitary authorities in a county does not appear clear. This point may arise, and it will want to be watched. While I think the amendment is very necessary, I do not think it should be passed as it stands.
We must realise that this Bill concerns the public health, not horses and cows. A veterinary surgeon is not required to tell us whether a piece of meat is tubercular or otherwise. The medical officer that it is proposed to appoint will have an intimate knowledge of that sort of work. He is trained very carefully in it. A veterinary surgeon is not necessary for it. Neither is he necessary to tell us whether milk is tubercular or unfit for consumption. The medical officer will be quite capable and efficient to do that. And as well as the medical officer of health, we have the public analyst, who can discover if there are any other matters in the milk that should not be in it. We should confine ourselves to the health of the people at present, and not mind the health of the cows. I do admit veterinary surgeons are necessary in the country; they can do a great deal of good work, but I do not see how under this Bill we can create posts for these gentlemen.
I wonder if Senator Parkinson has read sub-section (2) of his amendment. It states:—"Every such veterinary inspector shall be a sanitary officer within the meaning of Section 11 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878." That would cover Senator O'Sullivan's objections to this veterinary surgeon interfering with the question of cattle with tubercular disease. I am sure that what Senator Parkinson wants is to have a veterinary surgeon to do the duty of a veterinary surgeon, and not the duty of a sanitary officer. After all we know what a veterinary surgeon's duties are. Anybody engaged in stock-rearing has to call in a veterinary surgeon very often to attend to his cows, his horses, or pigs.
I am afraid if that is the object of the amendment it would be outside the scope of the Bill. This Bill has nothing to do with the curing of cows and horses, and if the object is to call in a gentleman to look after cows and horses, and not to deal with them from a sanitary point of view, I would have to rule it out of order.
May I say, with all due deference to your ruling, that what Senator Kenny says is perfectly true. I well recall, and it may be in the memory of some people who remember the Boer War, that there was a most awful disease introduced into the South of Ireland called epizootic lymphangitis. It was a terrible disease, and that part of the country was shut up and no horses could be exported from it. Then we had Pink Eye from the same source. How would you like, if you were people who breed horses, to have your district shut up, which is exactly what happened? I had the pleasure of bringing forward the matter in the Imperial Parliament, and we had a tremendous debate about it. As a result these horses were slaughtered; it was a most horrible thing.
If a veterinary surgeon is appointed —you do not agree with me, sir, on that question—he could report at once that this disease was in existence, and then these animals could be segregated, shut up or else destroyed. They had to be destroyed before. There is no reason to suppose that this sort of insidious disease may not creep into the country again. That is the reason I support this amendment.
I am afraid I have wasted a good deal of my time listening to the debate on the Local Government Bill, according to what Senator O'Sullivan says. I was under the foolish impression that this Bill was brought in for the prevention of disease. I thought all these sanitary officers, and all the medical officers of health, all this cleanliness in houses, and Senator Haughton's overseeing of lodging houses, were for the purpose of preventing disease. I find it is not that, but that what the medical officer and all those higher officials have to do is to wait until a thing appears and then find what it is. The main duty, I thought, of veterinary surgeons was not to find the tubercular microbe in milk, not to find the glands in a diseased carcase, and say that a cow or bullock had tuberculosis: I thought his main duty would be to put these animals in such sanitary conditions that they would not develop tuberculosis and that people who used the meat or the milk could do so without the imprimatur of the analyst or the medical officer of health. That is why I move the amendment, so that we shall not be deprived of the services of half the veterinary profession who will have to give up this country if something like that is not provided for them.
My idea, Senator, was the same as yours, but it was on the ground that I thought it was rather out of place in this Bill, and that its proper place would be a Livestock Bill, or some Bill of that kind. This has nothing to do with the preservation of animals or the prevention of disease amongst animals; it is for the purpose of public health, preventing disease amongst human beings. Of course you might argue that it is possible that diseases peculiar to animals might spread to human beings. That might be so; I do not know, but I think the primary purpose of this Bill is to deal with the health of human beings and not of cattle.
The primary object, I take it, of Senator Parkinson is that he has the interests of human beings at heart. This amendment does not approach the question from the point of view of the animal but from the point of view of the human being. At present we have numerous sanitary officers who have really been appointed to do the work of veterinary surgeons, the inspection of meat, and duties under the Dairies and Cowsheds Order. I disagree with Senator O'Sullivan when he says that those duties could be better carried out by medical men. I think if he discussed the matter with members of the veterinary profession they would tell him that this is a highly technical matter, and is not only the inspection of diseased carcases. In some cases if a pig is condemned for tuberculosis it is necessary to condemn the whole carcase; in another case it is only necessary to condemn the head. The inspection of dairies and cowsheds is really the work of a veterinary surgeon. We insist, wherever possible, that the man to carry out these duties shall be a veterinary surgeon. He is the only man who can do this work efficiently. But in many cases this is not compulsory, and unqualified persons have been appointed to do this work. The result is that the work is not properly carried out. It has been put up from a great many sources that it would be advisable to insist that these duties should be carried out by qualified men. That is all this amendment proposes to do. It would not increase the present duties in any way, or the fees or salaries of veterinary surgeons. All it insists on is that whoever does carry out these duties must be a qualified man. For that reason I think it well to accept the amendment.
But is that quite right? Are there not veterinary inspectors now? This does not provide for the appointment of sanitary officers, but it provides that they are to be veterinary officers.
Mr. De LOUGHRY
We have a veterinary inspector in Kilkenny urban district, and his duty is to inspect meat in the stalls, and to report if it shows signs of tuberculosis. He has also to help the sanitary officers in their inspections of the dairies and cowsheds.
I think that under the Public Health Act the local authorities have power, if they think it is desirable and necessary, to appoint a veterinary inspector. In a large centre one veterinary inspector would not be sufficient. In Dublin there are four, but then the duties of inspection of slaughter-houses and things of that kind are usually carried out by what are known as sub-sanitary officers. The veterinary inspectors do not go round to see that the slaughter houses are properly cleaned. I think that, under the Public Health Act, the local authority has power, if it thinks it necessary, to appoint a veterinary inspector, and to appoint a sub-sanitary officer for carrying out the duties under his supervision.
If that were so the only difference would be that this amendment would make it mandatory, whereas at present it is permissive, is it not?
In Cork we have lately had a veterinary surgeon appointed by the new Commissioner.
I should like to ask the Minister what Section 11 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act actually is. He proposes to accept the amendment if the Seanad agrees. Any number of veterinary inspectors may be appointed according to sub-section (1) of the amendment—"Every sanitary authority shall appoint one or more." You will at least have one, and you may have a hundred. Each one of these is to be a sanitary officer within the meaning of Section 11 of the Public Health Act. I would like that section to be read for us before we rush into this.
That is exactly what I said. I do not think that Section 11 of the Public Health Act would work at all.
I would like to know exactly where we are before the Minister accepts the amendment. What is Section 11 of that Act? Can the Minister tell us?
I think it would not work very well in rural districts. We have one veterinary inspector under the Cattle Diseases Act and another under the Dairies and Cowsheds Order, and this man would be a third. The county councils will not stand this if it means five or seven new officials. We have now two, which is quite enough. There is no necessity for a third man in a district like mine.
Would Senator Parkinson's object be gained if he did not make it mandatory—"the sanitary authority may"? As it stands every sanitary authority, whether they wished it or not, would have to appoint this officer.
The whole reason for saying "shall" is that rural district councils have appointed people to do veterinary surgeons' work who are not veterinary surgeons.
Section 11 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, is rather long. I do not know if I should read it.
Does it make provision for a sanitary officer as a veterinary surgeon as distinct from a sanitary officer as a doctor, because this makes provision that every veterinary inspector appointed shall be a sanitary officer within the meaning of Section 11 of the Public Health Act? I would like to know if that provision is specifically for a veterinary officer.
There is so much doubt about the existing law as to the appointment of these veterinary officers that I think it would be wise to allow this to stand over until the Report Stage.
The Minister has accepted this amendment.
The effect of Section 11 of the Act referred to is to provide that every medical officer of a dispensary district shall be the sanitary officer for such district. He is to get such additional salary as the sanitary authority may determine. Then it goes on to say: "and every sanitary authority, whether urban or rural, shall appoint such other sanitary officers, including a medical superintendent officer of health, as the Local Government Board shall in each case direct." That is all there is in the section.
It deals altogether with the medical men.
Apparently it deals with the medical branch of sanitary officers.
We are asked to do a new thing altogether. We must have a medical officer under the Act, and we are now asked to appoint veterinary officers. We have no power to do it at all. Then the Minister is prepared to accept the amendment. What are we to do?
I had better call your attention to this, that a subsequent Act dealing with the subject of the prevention of tuberculosis was passed in 1908, and Section 17 says: "The expression ‘sanitary officer of the sanitary authority' in the Act of 1878 shall include any duly qualified veterinary surgeon approved by the sanitary authority for the purposes of that section." That is to say, any veterinary officer appointed under the Tuberculosis (Ireland) Act of 1908 is to be deemed to be a sanitary officer in the same sense as the section that I have now read in the Act of 1878, but I do not think that that assists us very much.
The effect of this amendment would be to compel every sanitary authority in the country to elect a veterinary surgeon as one of their officers. All the urban districts of the county will be sanitary authorities, and if this amendment is carried, each of them will have to appoint a veterinary surgeon as one of their officers. The object of the amendment has been stated to provide jobs for a certain number of officials, who are not able to live as well as they think they ought. There are many other people in the country who find it hard to make ends meet at present, and there is no opportunity of providing for them out of public funds. At present several sanitary officers are in the employment of rural sanitary authorities and, if I remember rightly the regulations, it is in the power of the Minister to refuse to sanction any sanitary officer who has not the required qualifications. It is open to him to prescribe that certain officials of the sanitary authority shall be veterinary surgeons if the work is such as should be done by those officials. I object to the compulsory provision in this amendment.
The concluding words of Section 11 of the Act of 1878 are important, because they define the duties of those sanitary officers of whom the veterinary surgeons would become a branch if this amendment passes. These are what their duties comprise:—The discovery, inspection or removal of nuisances; the supply of pure water, making and repairing of sewers and drains and generally aiding the administration of the sanitary laws within the district.
The only object in putting in that section was to give power to pay a salary. One of the provisions is that the sanitary officer shall be paid a salary.
Is not that a rather roundabout way of putting it?
Yes; but it is only part which applies to a veterinary surgeon.
Could they not have provided for a salary without making the veterinary surgeon a sanitary officer under the Act?
There are certain existing enactments under which veterinary officers may or must be appointed—I do not know which. It is quite possible that there ought to be a medical officer appointed to discharge duties other than those. I do not know. We ought to see, before we adopt an amendment like this, that the duties of those veterinary officers will not overlap. I move that the matter be postponed until the Report Stage, when the present clause may be looked into and an appropriate section drafted to carry out the idea of Senator Parkinson, if it is thought proper.
As Senator Brown said, the old provision was introduced to pay a salary, and this amendment would lead to the same thing. It would permit the council to pay a salary and create a new position. In our county we have four of those gentlemen. It is impossible to find any of them for dipping purposes or anything else when wanted. I cannot understand the Minister accepting this amendment. If it were brought up last week under the Live Stock Bill, it might be in the proper place but I consider it is out of place here.
In the list of duties for the medical officer, as far as I can recollect, inspection of meat or of milk was not specified and I suggest, as another Senator said, that a veterinary surgeon is more suitable for such inspection than a medical officer—with every respect to the great profession represented by Senator O'Sullivan. There is also great force in what Senator the Earl of Mayo reminded us of an epidemic which happened here some years ago when different counties were held up. In those days, with the rapid advance of science, I think we should take appointments of this kind into consideration.
I do not wish to rush the Seanad into a thing which some Senators do not seem to understand, and if giving them time will enlighten them a little, I am satisfied to postpone the amendment until the Report Stage.
I propose that the amendment be now put.
I agree we leave it over until the Report Stage.
I propose that the Senator does not get leave to withdraw this.
He is not asking leave to withdraw. It has often happened here that after an amendment has been discussed, the Minister or a Senator would say: "We have not had time to consider this. We do not know how far it is going to carry us. It may be that you could satisfy us whether we ought to support it." The Minister might say: "I am not against the principle but I would like to look into it." I do not think we ought to refuse to Senator Parkinson what we have granted to others.
We never before had anything like this position in which the amendment was accepted by the Minister. I think we understand it.
Although Senator Parkinson and myself have been at variance with respect to the duties of our respective professions, I think the courtesy of allowing him to withdraw the amendment ought to be extended to him.
It is not a great courtesy, because if the Senator's motion were defeated now he could, with leave, bring it up on Report. I think it would be far better to leave the matter stand over until the Report Stage.
Senator Parkinson's point has been that we do not understand it. I want to emphasise that we do.
I certainly do not understand it.
It is best that this matter should remain over until the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 20 put and agreed to.
In Section 21, sub-section (1). Line 16. To delete the word "from" and to substitute therefor the word "on."
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 21, sub-section (1). Line 16. To delete the words "appointed day" and to substitute therefor the words and figures "1st day of April, 1925."
This is not quite a formal amendment, because the appointed day would there mean the 1st October next. It is quite right to postpone operation of part 1 of the Act until the 1st October, but the third part of the Act, of which section 21 is the first section, is in a totally different position. There is no reason why it should be postponed until the 1st October, because road administration is already in the hands of the county council. Between the passing of the Act and the 1st October, the duties of the rural district councils will be transferred to other bodies. Therefore this part of the Act should be in force on the 1st April and not on the 1st October.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I move the following amendment:—
"In Section 21, immediately after sub-section 2, to add a new sub-section (3) as follows:—The council of any county may declare any road a public road provided it is not less than 11 feet wide at any point and connecting two public roads."
Under the law at present, county councils cannot repair roads that are under 16 feet wide, except they have been repaired by the Grand Jury. The result is that in districts in which a few Grand Jury men resided in the old days they had the local roads repaired and the county council maintain those roads, but in districts where there were no Grand Jurors residing there are a n amber of small roads which are in disrepair. The county council is not empowered to repair those roads. It is to remove that grievance that I propose this amendment.
I have fixed 11 feet as the minimum width of a road which the county council will be empowered to repair. I am aware that in some counties the rule I have referred to has not been brought into operation. Neither the county surveyor nor the county secretary raise any question with regard to it, but in several counties and in my own county —Co. Monaghan—this has been a burning question. After the Local Government Act of 1898 was brought into operation, the officials of the Grand Jury came before the auditor, objected, and got the cost of repairing those roads surcharged. The result is that the county surveyor has refused to pass any payment for what he does not regard as a "legal" road. This amendment would enable a county council to repair many small roads leading from one county road to another. Those roads are what I might call "poor men's roads." A small amount of money would repair them. The men served by them have been paying rates for years. They live half a mile or so off the county road and they get no benefit from the rates which they contribute.
Would the Senator accept some amendment which would provide that there should be room for two vehicles to pass on those roads? If the roads are only 11 feet wide, I do not see how two vehicles can pass.
If you make those roads 16 feet wide, it will cost an enormous amount of money. Those narrow roads serve the people very well. They are 11 feet at the narrowest point, but there might be places where they would be 16 feet or 18 feet, and where carts could pass. If you change the width to 16 feet, it would make my amendment useless.
As the amendment stands, it would be a serious encroachment on the rights of private property. At the present time, for a private road to become a public road, it has to be dedicated to the public either explicitly or implicitly by the owner. If you allow the public to acquire a road in this way, it is very hard to say where it is going to end.
Moreover, I think the tendency of this amendment is in the wrong direction. Ireland is at the present time a very much over-roaded country. There are far too many boreens, and that is one of the reasons why the upkeep of roads is so very expensive. There are a great many of those roads, and the tendency in the past was for persons of influence to try to get them maintained at the public expense. By giving this power to local authorities, the tendency will be to increase that trouble rather than prevent it. On the whole, I think the tendency of the amendment is in the wrong direction.
I will take the views of the Seanad on my amendment. I think it is important that county councils should be given power to maintain those roads. In counties where you have small farmers, you will find fifteen or sixteen of them living along those roads. In most cases, these farmers would take out the contracts for the repair of these roads, and they would do a great deal of work to them. They have been paying rates since the Grand Jury system was established, and they have had no repairs done to those roads. They have a grievance, undoubtedly, and where a county council is willing to spend a small amount of money on these roads they should have a discretion in the matter.
I would like to support this amendment, subject to protecting the rights which the Minister seems to think are endangered. I think that could easily be done. There are very few individuals who wish to maintain the roads they have. And when there are roads of that character they are generally well kept. I do not think the county councils would wish to encroach on these roads. But there are many houses which are only reached by long boreens, which it is nobody's business to keep in repair. It is extremely difficult to make the journey up to these houses in winter time. Sometimes these small roads are one and a-half or two miles long, and it is a great hardship on the people who live along them to travel such roads in wet weather. These people are paying rates for the upkeep of the public roads, and I think they should have some consideration. It should be within the discretion of the county council to repair these roads which serve their ratepayers. It is news to me that Ireland is over-roaded. If it is, its roads must be in the wrong places. There are many districts which require a road, and in which there is nothing but a bridle-path. The question of encroachment on private property could be set right by a small amendment if the Minister would consider the matter on the Report Stage.
I think the Minister's statement is founded on some antiquated historical views, rather than on realities. I am speaking of the congested districts of the West and such places. The reason these boreens and small roads exist here, while they do not exist in France, is because in France the people live in villages, and there are large tracts of land not occupied by anybody. In the West of Ireland that is not the case. The people live in isolated cottages, which are approached by these boreens. Many of these districts are boggy or mountainous, and, as Senator O'Farrell has said, the approaches to these cottages are practically impassable.
These boreens and laneways are impassable at night. Doctors and priests going to attend patients who live in these places experience the greatest possible difficulty in trying to reach the houses. There may be a bog on the one side of the laneway and a precipice on the other. Even though Senators smile at the mention of a precipice, it is a fact, as I know myself, that in many places you have along these old roadways what constitutes a precipice at both sides. The bog at either side is often cut away to a depth of ten or fifteen feet below the level of the road. That, of course, leaves the road in an extremely dangerous condition. I know myself a doctor who fell into one of these bog holes. I agree with Senator O'Farrell that the poor people who live along these boreens ought to be provided with a safe roadway so that priests and doctors and others going to attend them at night may not have their lives endangered.
I desire to support the amendment. The people who live along these roads pay the usual standard rates in the county. Hence I think they are entitled to get the same facilities as other ratepayers, and it is most unfair that they should continue to be subjected to the hardships they now undergo in the matter of bad roads which give access to their homes. I think it is only right that we should give permission to the county council to keep these private roads in some sort of order. As Senator O'Rourke pointed out, their maintenance seems to be no one's concern, and the result is that they are allowed to get into a frightful state of disrepair: in fact, many of them are so bad that one's life is in danger when travelling over them. We all know that in many places the people who live on these roads will not unite to carry out any sort of repair to them. Therefore, I think it is the duty of the county council to take them over and see that they are put in fairly good order.
I have more experience of boreens than, I suppose, any Senator in this House. I have travelled over them night and day for over a quarter of a century, and I say it is a disgrace that considerable numbers of people in this country should be left with only such means of access, as these boreens afford, to their homes. It must be remembered that these people pay large sums of money in rates. Since they do pay rates for the upkeep of the roads in the county in which they reside, I think the least they can expect is to be provided with fairly decent roads. I know several places where a person would have to walk a mile, or perhaps two miles, to reach a house on one of those boreens. The idea of bringing any sort of a car along them would never enter the head of any man. They are not roads at all. They are merely passages and bridle paths full of pot holes and deep trenches. I think that as the people who live on them pay rates they are entitled to be provided with a proper roadway. On many of these boreens you have fifteen and sixteen families residing. In my opinion they, as ratepayers, are as much entitled to a good road as the people who live in lovely houses with grand entrances to them.
I also desire to support the amendment. In parts of the country that I know of, there are twenty and thirty houses situate on some of these boreens. In the winter months it is almost impossible to reach these houses. I know that in one place, after the month of November, the only way in which you can reach the houses on one of these boreens is by a boat. The county council of that county started at one time to make a decent road to these houses. They went a certain distance with the work, when they were told that they had not power to carry out such an undertaking. The work was then stopped and no further progress was made with the road. All these people are ratepayers, and, in my opinion, they have the same claim to have a good road giving access to their homes as the people who live along the trunk roads.
This amendment opens up rather an appalling prospect. If you are going to give a road for a motor car or for a lightly constructed vehicle such as a medical officer would use, by making every boreen practically in the country suitable for that kind of traffic, you are going to place a stupendous burden on the ratepayers. I endorse fully what the Minister said, that we are a very much over-roaded country. That is the opinion of county surveyors and of all experts who have studied this question. I would like to know the meaning of the words "and connected to public roads."
The amendment should read "connecting two public roads."
That was the point that I was going to raise. In that case, of course, there is a very considerable safeguard, because county councils will not be able to declare as public roads, roads such as boreens which merely lead to a group of houses in very many cases. These boreens do not connect two public roads, and there is a distinct safeguard there. On the whole question the fact remains that the county councils are responsible autonomous authorities, and if the evil influences are such that they cannot protect themselves against them, then I do not think there is much good in our trying to protect them.
As a city dweller I desire to say a few words on this question. I have had some experience in travelling through the country, and on many occasions was astounded when I saw the means of access provided for large numbers of people who live along these boreens. It is really a shame that these people should only be provided with such antiquated means of access to their homes. I have seen them going along these laneways with their carts, in some cases a distance of half a mile, and it was a marvel to me how they were able to keep the cars from turning over. During many debates in this House we were told that the tenant farmers were the backbone of the country. If they are, then we ought to provide them with better means of access to their homes than many of them enjoy at present. All that this amendment means is that the county council may take over these little roads and keep them in a proper state of repair. Surely that is the least that these people, who are ratepayers, should expect. They are paying rates to maintain the roads of the county for other people, and they are left themselves without a decent means of access to their own homes. That is a state of things that should not be allowed to continue. I hope the Seanad will not be influenced by Senator Sir John Keane's argument as to the burden that this would place on the rates.
On a point of personal explanation, I desire to say that my remarks were made in ignorance of the misprint of the amendment on the Order Paper. If I had known that that precaution was provided for, that the roads must connect two public roads, I would not have objected.
There is the other point that has not been covered by this amendment. These roads may be private property and I think there ought to be some provision put in to the following effect, "with the consent of the owners of the lands adjoining on either side."
A county council never undertakes to make a road except they have the consent of the adjoining-landholders.
This section enables them to do it without consent.
If consent is necessary, they will get it. The people aggrieved will come to the county council and ask to get the road put into repair. The county council will tell them to go to a solicitor and get a form of consent signed by the adjoining landholders. When that is brought back, the county council will declare the road a public road.
What does the Senator mean by a road less than 11 feet? Does that include the water table?
Under the existing law a 16-foot road is practically only 11 foot of road when you take the water table out. If an 11-foot read is to be measured in the same way, that is, from fence to fence, you will only have about a seven foot roadway on which no two cars, no matter how small, even if they were donkey carts, could pass. I think we had better be quite clear about this. There is another aspect. I do not know how the amendment here is going to safeguard the county councils from the consequences of accidents by night. Repairs to the surface of the road will not do anything in that direction. Will it entail liability upon the county council for accidents that happen and for not keeping the roads, at all times, in sufficiently good order? If cars, whether motor cars or other cars, meet with accidents, it might be contended that the road was not kept in proper order and was not maintained as it ought to be by the county council. We know and have instances in every county where glorified boreens have in time through development of one or the other, formed a link-road.
Occasionally a labourer's cottage was built there; then perhaps another labourer's cottage was built, and then some private individual came to live there, and in time the road began to assume a form of importance, whereas it might be only a boreen or short way or a connecting path between one main road and another. We have had applications in the Co. Waterford of this kind, but we do not agree to put increased cost upon the already heavy charges for the roads in that county. We have now 48,000 miles of roadway in the Free State. We are very much over-roaded compared with England and Scotland, and that entails an upkeep for those roads of £30 per mile, or one and a-half million pounds, out of the ratepayers' pockets. I do not know what extra mileage this reduction of width from 16 feet to 11 feet would mean. The Senator does not give us any idea of that, but it would mean a multiple of £30 for each mile, and that would be a considerably increased burden. These aspects of the question should be considered by the Seanad before it comes to a decision.
It seems perfectly evident that the rates are no longer adequate to maintain the roads of the country. This might be availed of as an opportunity to ask the Ministry to put the burden of the roads, that is the main roads, upon some other plan. Roads connecting small hamlets with the main road might be kept up by arrangement with those people served by such roads, and they might be maintained in fairly good order by them, irrespective of their rateable value. From the little I know about roads in the congested districts, the rateable value of the districts served is inadequate to keep the roads in anything like decent repair, and the result is a tremendous hardship on families that have to pull their cars through peaty and rocky surfaces. From what Senator Kenny says it is apparent that if we pay £30 per mile for the maintenance of our roads it is a perpetual recurring charge, and it can only be met by a change in the character of the roads themselves. It would require capital to provide an alternative form—namely, ferro-concrete.
I was amazed at the cheap estimate made recently that a ferro-concrete road would only cost £7,000 per mile. That would save a tremendous amount of recurrent expenses, and, certainly, a country that was able to deal with such important matters as the overlapping system of the railways should be able to deal with the question of roads on some other basis than that of the rateable value of the houses hard by, particularly as Senator Kenny has shown that the development of roads in a district has the same effect as the laws of supply and demand, and that easy access creates population. I urge upon the Ministry to get out of the narrow definition of a road by its breadth, and to try to come to some other method of rating for upkeep. The breadth of the road varies with the season of the year and the encroachment of the grass upon the border.
I think you are quite right, A Chathaorligh, with regard to this amendment. The council in a county may declare any road to be a public road. Private interest, of course must be considered as well as public interest, and when you, sir, said there might be actions for trespass and that sort of thing I think you are perfectly right. I think this is a particularly dangerous amendment with the words "any road" in it. "Any road" means any road in the county. I should be inclined to vote for the amendment if it means that the county council in any county may declare a certain road to be a road, but if the word "road" covers any pathway that any vehicle or car could come along it would be a different matter.
If this amendment is passed who will pay for the upkeep of the roads? I am very anxious to know is it the ratepayers of the county or the ratepayers at large.
The ratepayers of the county at large.
The whole charge will fall upon the particular county, and it will be open to them to agree or not.
It seems to me that there are two points involved in this amendment; one is the treatment of private roads, and that could be met by the suggestion made by An Cathaoirleach himself. The other is the width of the road. I served a very long apprenticeship on a county council, and I know that these applications for new roads constantly came before us. It is a matter of intrigue and all sorts of underhand things to try and get the boreens made into public roads. Public roads, I believe, have a limited width of 16 feet. Now you are asked to still further widen the powers of the county councils to include what has been described here as bridle paths, which must give an enormous opening for intrigue and at the same time cause an enormous outlay on roads. It was always taken into account as long as I was a county, councillor that where there was a large number of families living on a road it would be worth while to put the road in contract up to this hamlet or cluster of houses. An amendment to the effect that any road exceeding 11 feet should be made a public road would be very dangerous, and I will therefore oppose the amendment.
I would like to ask the Minister to enlighten us on two points. First, how is the width of a road measured? There must be some statutory method of measure.
From water-table to water-table.
Then the next point is, what obligation rests on the council when a road becomes a public road? I know several roads which, owing to their width, are public roads. They serve a very restricted number of houses, and the county council gives a grant of something like £30 to be expended on them over a number of years for the purpose of doing a little surface work. Such roads are not put out to regular contract. In that case would the county council be liable if there was an accident owing to an inadequate or defective surface? The county council might, I think, quite reasonably continue or, in some cases, extend that method of grant, which costs very little. It is a different question to a grant of £30 a mile. I think the council should be protected against capricious actions for damages.
This matter is only permissive on the county council. If the county council does not wish to do it, or thinks it is too expensive, or only wants to do one bit at a time, it is at liberty to do so. Senator Everard has told us that there are constant applications to the county council and that they have been refused except in particular cases. Why not allow the county council to decide this matter for itself? Senators who object to this amendment do not, I think, quite understand the position, especially as regards mountain and bog roads in the West of Ireland, as they mostly live in County Meath where there are good roads. People in congested areas in the West live in inaccessible places where the roads are bad. All the developments in this country have been effected in the east, whereas the west has never been developed.
Many of the roads mentioned by Senator O'Rourke are used almost solely by people who, although they live in isolated districts, are large ratepayers, and although they pay a considerable amount in rates, practically no money is spent on their roads.
I should explain that there is no idea of spending £30 a mile on small boreens. The roads to which I refer have never been repaired, and there is not much traffic on them. People who use them have been paying a large amount in rates for several years. In my county there are many roads under ten feet wide and they have been maintained because years ago members of the Grand Jury took an interest in them. In poor districts the roads are not, however, repaired as the county council has no authority to repair them. This amendment will, however, if passed, give power to the county council to repair them, and I think that that is only a matter of justice.
I think we should be quite clear as to what roads are included in the amendment. Senator Sir Nugent Everard said that a road is measured from water-table to water-table, and if that is so there is no need for the amendment, because these roads are sixteen feet wide, whereas those which Senator O'Rourke has in view have eleven feet between the fences. His idea is that it will not cost anything like £30 a mile to keep them in order. I know a lot of small roads maintained at a shilling a perch, or £8 a mile.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 21, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
From and after the appointed day:—
(a) the Minister may, on the application of the council in whom the duty of maintaining any road other than a main road is vested under the provisions of this Act, by order to be published in such manner as he shall direct, declare that such road is to be abandoned, and from and after the date of such order no expenditure shall be incurred by such council in respect of the maintenance of such road, but such order shall not affect the right of way of the public over the surface of such road;
(b) when a council proposes to apply to the Minister for an order under this section, the council shall before making such application, give public notice of their intention so to do by advertisement at least once in each of two successive weeks in one or more of the newspapers circulating in their functional area, the latest of such advertisements being published at least one month before the application is made;
(c) before making an order under this section in respect of any road the Minister shall, at least one month after the publication of the advertisements required by this section, hold a local inquiry into the expediency of abandoning such road, and the provisions of Article 32 of the Schedule to the Local Government (Application of Enactments) Order, 1898, shall apply to every such local inquiry.
I beg to move:—
In Section 22, line 1, to delete the word "from" and to substitute therefor the word "on."
This is a formal amendment.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I beg to move:—
In Section 22, line 1, to delete the words "appointed day" and to substitute therefor the words "first day of April, 1925."
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 22, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) From and after the appointed day:—
(a) the expenses of maintaining and constructing county and main roads and abandoning county roads shall be raised and defrayed out of the poor rate;
(b) the expenses of maintaining or constructing any main road in a county shall be raised equally over the whole of such county;
(c) the expenses of maintaining, constructing, or abandoning any county road in a county shall be raised equally over the whole of such county excluding any urban district;
(d) the expenses of maintaining, constructing, or abandoning any urban road in an urban district shall be defrayed out of the fund or rate out of which the cost of paving and cleansing the streets in such district are or can be defrayed but shall be excluded in ascertaining any limit imposed by law upon any such rate;
(e) the provisions of this section shall take effect notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in any Local Act or in any Provisional Order confirmed by or having the force of an Act, in force at the date of the passing of this Act save that where under any such Act or Order any person other than a local authority is liable to make any payment to a local authority in respect of the construction or maintenance of any road such person shall still be liable to make such payment to the council charged under this Act with the maintenance of such road.
(2) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any road or portion of a road which under the provisions of any enactment it is the duty of any person other than a local authority to construct or maintain.
I beg to move:—
In Section 23, line 28, to delete the word "from" and to substitute therefor the word "on."
Amendment put and agreed to.
In Section 23, line 28, to delete the words "appointed day" and to substitute therefor the words and figures "1st day of April, 1925."
Amendment put and agreed to.
I move the following amendment to Section 23, sub-section (1):—
Before paragraph (a) to insert a new paragraph (a) as follows:
"(a) the expenses of maintaining and constructing main roads shall be raised and defrayed seventy-five per cent. out of the Road Fund and twenty-five per cent. out of the poor rate."
I am not tied to the exact proportion as set out in the amendment to be borne by these respective funds, but I move the amendment in order to try and persuade this House and the Government to mete out more justice to the rural ratepayers in respect to the maintenance of these main roads. The Minister may say that the system that is in force in this country for the maintenance of main roads is legally not different to that in England. The duty of maintenance is thrown on the local authorities which bear the expense, being recouped in certain measure from other central funds. That is true, but the point is what is the measure of recoupment? In order to form a true and fair opinion on this matter you have to examine that. In England a very large percentage—I am not able to say how much—of the expense of the maintenance of main roads is refunded from whatever the fund may be that is used for that purpose. It is a fund financed largely out of the duties on motor vehicles. In addition to that, it is very important to remember that the rural ratepayers in England have in recent years received a considerable grant in aid of relief of rates from central funds. I think I am right in saying that half the increase in rates since 1893 has been taken off their shoulders. I am not absolutely certain of the figure, but it is very considerable, so much so that in districts of which I have personal knowledge the rural rate on agricultural land is only 2/- in the £. Of course, if these roads had only to serve local requirements they would be of a totally different character to what they are now. Farmers' carts do not want wide, steam-rolled, highly macadamised roads which the motorists want. As a rule, motors are not part of the equipment of even substantial farmers. Horse dealers, cattle dealers, veterinary surgeons and other professional men have motor cars, but the average farmer has not. Furthermore, these roads are a detriment to the farmer in many cases, because they are very often dangerous to horse traffic. so that the farmer has an additional burden of having unsuitable roads owing to their slippery surface.
It is most inequitable to regard this matter in terms of counties. Take a county like Kildare. The traffic there is, in a very large measure, through traffic, radiating to further centres in the South. Only three-fourths—there are no exact figures available—or three-eighths of the cost of keeping main roads is contributed from other funds, so that five-eights is borne by the local rates. I need hardly emphasise that on the Minister, as he is conversant with the rural districts, and knows what a heavy burden that is on local rates and on local industry. Farmers admit that good roads are necessary to deal with motor locomotion. You cannot stop the advent of motors, but the burden should be equitably placed. Some fund other than the local rates should be used to finance the upkeep of these main roads. If merely rural interests were to be served, one-fourth of the present expense would be sufficient. The remaining three-fourths is necessitated by motor traffic, and should be taken off it.
I hope the Minister is going to give us some satisfactory assurance—something better than he gave in the Dáil— that he has power to take off local rates such roads as he may declare should be taken off. I think the Minister has inserted an amendment in the Bill which will give him power, if he wishes, to relieve certain roads that he may prescribe altogether from local upkeep, and put the charge entirely on central funds. That is not sufficient. We want an assurance from him that he is going to deal with this matter in an equitable spirit, and place this burden where it should be placed. I know that it is a difficult matter, and involves amongst other things the question as to what is the best form of motor taxation. Wherever the funds are to come from, the fact remains that it is not fair to place the burden on the agricultural dwellers. The object of the amendment is to secure that justice shall be done.
I am not quite sure if Senator Sir John Keane includes in the term "main roads" what have been described as trunk roads.
We have not got any definition of what main roads are. The Minister takes power to classify certain roads as main roads. By main roads I mean roads that serve other than purely county needs, and that should be so financed.
Trunk roads are classified by the Road Board as national roads. They are the main arteries of the country. Main roads are roads classified as roads connecting large centres of population. District roads are roads linking up the main roads, and spreading themselves throughout the whole district. If the amendment embraces trunk roads in its ambit, it will deal with a mileage of 8,000 miles, of which the Road Board classified 4,000 miles as trunk roads and 4,000 miles as main roads. The ratepayers are at present paying 2/7 in the £ for the maintenance of these roads. That figure has been worked out by the Road Board, so that the present cost of a main road is double the cost of an ordinary or district road. The aggregate paid by the ratepayers is one and a half millions, and when that is divided by the total mileage of the Free State it works out at £30 for some roads and £60 for main roads. According to the amendment 75 per cent. of the cost on the Road Fund would mean £360,000 taken off the ratepayers. The Road Fund is made up from motor taxation, which amounts to £700,000. What was the Road Fund devised to meet, and what work was it supposed to accomplish? Its primary object was for the purpose of reconstructing roads and it has nothing at all to do with their maintenance. A reconstructed road is expected by motorists to be a road capable of carrying up to 15 tons at a speed of anything from 12 to 15 miles an hour. The speed is often more than that. With all the resources of the Road Fund, apart from the other assistance mentioned by Senator Sir John Keane, the road authorities are not able to keep pace with the destruction of the roads without touching at all their reconstruction, or building them up to meet the needs of modern traffic.
Ferro-concrete is the only road that can stand up to modern traffic. But if you contemplate laying down a ferro-concrete road, you have to be prepared to pay an appalling figure. The cost will be so great that the finances of the country could not stand it. Eight thousand miles of road at £7,000 a mile would mean an appalling outlay. What we are making an effort to do is to get some form of road, short of the ferro-concrete kind, that will give a life of from 8 to 10 years under moderate modern traffic. That would not involve any encroachment at all on the funds now at the disposal of the Road Board. This road that I suggest would last 8 or 10 years if the modern traffic were regulated. That is to say, we will have to curb the speed and also limit the weight of the traffic. If we do not do that we cannot keep pace with the destruction of the roads. Our finances would not stand it.
A sub-committee has been sitting on this business for the past two months, and this sub-committee has given some days each week to its consideration. On that sub-committee you have a representative of every section of road users, and all are at their wits' end where to find the money to overtake the destruction. When these roads were laid down they were never intended to bear the traffic of to-day. Their foundations were never intended to cope with such traffic. Now you have to begin with strengthening the foundation and then finishing up with the modern surface. That is the position with which you are faced to-day.
I agree with Senator Kenny in what he has said about the roads, but if we have to wait for relief with regard to local taxation until some period when the Road Board will be in a position to make the roads in Ireland able to cope with the traffic on them, it will probably be Tibb's Eve. That is very poor satisfaction for people intimately concerned with keeping the roads of the country within the reasonable limits which the ratepayers can bear, whilst at the same time satisfying, in a sort of transitory way, the needs of motorists.
In my part of the country they tried very hard within the last two years to bring up the main roads to a high standard. The main road from Charleville to Limerick was brought up to a high level. What is happening now? You had within the last year or so a tremendous flow of traffic, and that is still increasing. You have lorries weighing from three to seven or eight tons coming from the borders of the County Cork and passing over these roads. It was by a tremendous effort on the part of the local authorities that these roads were improved, but now they are full of pot-holes. At the time, the rates for the county went up as high as 16/- in the £, a figure utterly unbearable. The roads themselves cost as much as 8/- in the £ to maintain. That is a figure quite impossible for the ratepayers to bear.
I think that some arrangement should be made whereby the Central Fund, which I suppose should be called the Road Board Fund, and which is now, I take it, a growing fund, might be used for this work. I think the suggestions made by Senator Sir John Keane might be considered. Now, the use of lorries on the roads is becoming very common, and it is evident that the Minister will have to devise some system of taxation. Some of us are in favour of the taxation of motor spirit, and some of us believe that would relieve us of taxation for road maintenance.
Unless some suggestion such as that outlined by Senator Keane is accepted, you will have local authorities, no matter what explanation is made, rising up against the growing cost of the roads and saying: "We cannot maintain them." That will come before long. Nobody desires it. Every man in the country is anxious to see people come along and enjoy themselves along the road in their motor cars; but when the dweller in the country has got to pay enormous sums for the upkeep of the roads, you can hardly blame him asking: "Where is the money to come from to meet this?" For that reason, I think it would be well that some amendment on the lines of Senator Keane's should be accepted.
I am inclined to agree with what Senator Sir John Keane has said, and even to go further. I believe it is a good principle in finance to cut down current expenditure. If the Ministry of Local Government can give a grant from the Central Fund, I think it would go some way to ease the position. I have some figures here dealing with the laying down of a permanent road to Cork, a distance of 165 miles. Before quoting the figures, I must get rid of the unnecessary idea that there should be any opposition between the farmer and the owners of motor cars. The man who owns the motor car helps to enhance the value of the farmer's land. It brings it nearer, so to speak, to the city.
The owner of the motor car or lorry is not the enemy of the farmer. As far as I can see, there is scarcely a farmer in the country who has not got a motor car. That expensive and luxurious machine called the Buick is also called the farmer's car. If you take a sum of £7,000 per mile for a ferro-concrete road, you would get a road to Cork made for £1,155,000. That would improve the road from Dublin to Cork and also to Cobh, and it would take in all the intervening counties. I once made a mistake on this road subject. When I thought I had a good idea on the subject, I ventilated my ideas on the matter in the papers. The people who read my remarks put me down, I suppose, in that pigeon-hole in their minds where generally they place the people who usually write to newspapers. I deserved that. Without repeating what I said then, I will reiterate the opinion I held.
If we were to set down a road from Cork to Dublin for motorists it would have the effect of bringing the country tighter together. No country can be over-roaded. Amongst other things, roads make for better social conditions. In modern times no country can get on without motor transport. If you lay down a motorists' road from Dublin to Cork, it could be maintained by a system of tolls, which could be collected at toll-gates. You could also deal with the problem by giving strips of the road to Americans who might endow it and call the portion of the road after their own name, and pay the cost of laying down that particular section. You might have a Henry Ford stretch, a Rockefeller stretch, or you might have some stretches named after the Cinema people. There are probably many important Irish-Americans who are anxious to endow this country, and who have endowed it, men who have given lavishly of their money. When this thing, which is a business-like proposition, would be put before them, they might increase their endowment so as to establish a permanent highway like that which stretches across the west coast of America from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Now, that would get rid of this expense of £30 a mile annually, or even £10 a mile, which is being spent without any hopes of permanency. The taxation of motorists is, I think, ill-distributed and therefore unjust. If anyone has had the experience of being towed by a lorry, he will understand how the road is worn by the lorry. The road is injured not so much by the speed as by the weight of the lorry. I would certainly, in all fairness, try to make an initial charge on the owners of motor lorries. That would not injure their business.
Any man who has a lorry should pay £30 or £40 for the privilege of using it on the road. All that leads up to the idea that some sort of contribution will have to be given by the Ministry of Local Government to enable them to make the roads as they ought to be.
Ferro-concrete is not I might mention, an unwearable surface at all, but it will stand for many years and save the annual outlay.
Senator Gogarty is wrong when he says every farmer has a motor car, but he is right when he tells us of the injury that is done to roads, and how they are ruined by motor lorries. Senator Sir John Keane in his amendment uses the words "main roads." I think it would meet the case better if he used the words "trunk roads," which we have already heard. I understand, however, that the word is not in the Bill and, therefore, it has not much force. What he has said would reduce the mileage from 8,000 to 4,000, and would deal only with the central arteries, which are the ones most required by motorists.
I would be inclined to agree with Senator Sir John Keane if his amendment were worded in a slightly different manner. It is not possible to give effect to this amendment for the reason that the road tax on motor-cars, which is at present the main source of building up the Road Board Fund, was imposed some years ago on the understanding that the money would be devoted to the improvement and construction of roads, and not to the cost of ordinary maintenance. Some sort of calculation was made a few years ago as to what the maintenance of main roads costs. But we have arrived at the stage now when it is very difficult, almost impossible, to say where maintenance ends and reconstruction or improvement begins. I believe that the percentages laid down here would be equitable, if you take the cost of the upkeep of the roads in future into account.
Traffic on the roads has changed to a great extent. It has increased so much that from this onwards it will take, possibly, four, five, or ten times the amount formerly necessary, to keep them in a reasonable state of repair and keep them at the standard that will be required. It would be only fair and reasonable to ask the Road Board, in other words the motorists, to provide a fair percentage of the cost. The word "maintenance" in this amendment is the difficulty. Under the guarantee given to the Motorists' Association, you cannot devote any of their money to road maintenance. The tax upon them was imposed on the strict understanding that it was for road improvement.
The question of maintenance may be omitted from this onwards. In reality what is required is road reconstruction. It is an absolute necessity that all the main and trunk roads should be reconstructed. Different material will have to be used than that to which we were accustomed. No macadamised road with the ordinary surface would now be equal to the strain of modern motor traffic. While, perhaps, a solution of the difficulty might be found in prohibiting the use of motor traffic on the roads, I do not believe the farming community would be prepared to agree with that. As Senator Gogarty states, the farmers' interests have, through the medium of the motor, been brought nearer to the towns.
We all know the agricultural industry is well served by motor transport. Motor lorries go through the rural districts collecting fowl, eggs, butter and milk and other commodities. In various ways motor traffic is a great aid to agricultural industry. It would not be to the interests of the farming community to prohibit commercial lorries and other motor traffic using the roads. That being so, the only other course left is to provide a reasonable percentage of the cost of reconstructing those roads in an up-to-date fashion. The question of receiving assistance from the Road Board will require a great amount of consideration. The cost of the road upkeep will, as Senator Kenny has said, amount to an enormous sum of money. Some way will have to be found by the nation as a whole of providing that enormous amount.
I do not feel at liberty to say much about how that money is to be got at the moment, as at present an inquiry is being held with a view to seeking a solution to this question. I would ask Senator Keane to change the wording of the amendment, and I am sure he will then have the full support of the Seanad.
What form of words do you suggest?
The improvement and the construction of main roads is the difficulty. I would suggest that these main roads be taken over by some central authority and the county councils be asked to subscribe, in lieu of the money they are spending now in maintaining roads. They might, perhaps, provide an amount equivalent to 25 per cent. of what would be necessary to reconstruct those roads.
On a point of order, I am not quite sure whether under the Constitution we have any right to deal with the finances of the country. It is suggested that 75 per cent. of the cost of the maintenance and construction of roads should be paid out of the Road Fund. I am not sure that the Seanad can do what is recommended, or that we can alter the Bill in that way.
I am sorry that at this stage of our proceedings the Senator should have raised this point, because we had disposed of this over twelve months ago, and disposed of it as a result of a very anxious and important deliberation that took place in the Seanad following upon a report of a Special Committee to whom the matter was delegated, and who gave a very exhaustive report on the position of the Seanad in this very matter. It was then decided consistent with, and in agreement with, the advice I had given to the Seanad, and also in agreement with the unanimous opinion of the committee appointed to go into it specially, that our rights in this matter are to be found in the Constitution, and if they are, then we have no power to interfere with money grants in a Certified Money Bill, but in any Bill not a Certified Money Bill admittedly our power of making amendments is unlimited. That is what the Constitution lays down. If the Senator is curious for the reference I can tell him that the date of the report is the 19th March, 1924, and he can obtain a copy of it.
I, naturally, have considerable sympathy with the idea at the back of Senator Sir John Keane's mind in moving this amendment, being one primarily interested in keeping down the rates and protecting the ratepayers as much as possible. I think it will be quite clear that I am not in a position to put this amendment into effect, if agreed to here, without the consent of the Executive Council or the Minister for Finance, without a Financial Resolution. I have only the rates to administer, and I have to depend upon the goodwill of the Minister for Finance as to what other funds I can get to assist me in carrying out my duties. Under the Bill I have taken very wide powers. I have taken power to declare what shall be a main road. Heretofore that rested with the county councils. I have also taken power to maintain or construct any road I like, and to divert money from the Road Fund for that purpose, but I am limited to the amount of money in the Road Fund, and that would not be a fleabite in the amount required for repairing and maintaining the main roads at the present time.
The fund only amounts to £360,000 and that sum would be altogether inadequate. I would like if our financial position would justify it to have a considerable addition to that fund from the Central Fund, but I am not in a position to command that. and in the circumstances I think that no useful purpose would be served by insisting on this amendment. I am doing everything I can to get grants for the maintenance of these trunk roads. Last year we got a grant amounting to over a million pounds, to supplement the ordinary Road Fund, and I hope as time goes on we will be able to increase that Fund Of course, as appears from this debate, this whole question of roads and revenue from motor taxation and the weight of lorries, is all bound up together. and there are different ways that we might arrive at the solution of this very serious problem of maintaining our roads. There is no doubt if we could exclude all the heavy lorries, that would be one way to maintain our roads. If the expenditure of last year were maintained for three or four years it would be sufficient to put them in a perfect state of repair, if they had only to bear the pre-war traffic, but when you have motor lorries of six or seven tons weight pounding along the roads it is really impossible to keep a surface that will stand up to them for any length of time.
Senator Gogarty referred to the fact that concrete roads are an ideal solution. In America they have been proved to be such, and I have travelled over thousands of miles of such roads and found them satisfactory. I have been informed by the engineers that the concrete road has not proved completely satisfactory here owing to the dampness of the climate. Concrete is a very porous substance, and when it does not get an opportunity to dry properly the surface is very friable.
In any case, it is not a regular panacea, and we have not got the money to construct these concrete roads at the present time. I am doing all I can to co-ordinate the repair and maintenance of roads and making every possible effort to get grants from the central Fund to supplement the ordinary rates, but I think it would be a very serious matter to lay down any hard and fast principle, particularly as we have the Roads Advisory Committee, of which two Senators are members, going into this whole matter of motor taxation, the proper system of maintaining roads, and the proper system of allocating and distributing the costs of these roads on the local and central funds. At the present time, in order to put this provision into operation, we would have to get a Financial Resolution passed, and I do not think it would be fair, even if we had no difficulty in doing that, to ask assistance from the Minister for Finance when we are all anxious to bring down taxation and to balance the Budget, and when particularly opinion is rather inclined for a decrease rather than an increase in income tax. I see no other way out if we pass this proposal. There is no way of putting it into effect without increasing income tax, and for that reason I would ask Senators to consider seriously the matter before passing this amendment.
I think this debate has served one useful purpose. It has shown the House that the Government have not, or at least have not announced any clearly thought-out policy, with regard to this crying evil, and it is a crying evil, as I hope a few remarks I will make, will show. Senator Kenny is able to distinguish between maintenance, improvements and capital expenditure, but Senator O'Duffy, who also with Senator Kenny is a member of the body inquiring into this matter, has postulated that it has in practice become impossible to show the distinction, and I think anybody who uses common sense must see that they must be bound up together. Any question of the increased quantity of metal might be put in either category, improvement or maintenance, but you have to look at the problem as a whole, and it is very disquieting to be now told for the first time that the rural rates are receiving no contribution whatever towards making these roads. That is the effect of Senator Kenny's statement, that the whole of the Road Fund is going in what I might call capital expenditure, and that the rates are bearing not three-eighths of the cost of maintenance, but the whole cost of maintenance. Whether the Road Fund money is expended in the best manner is naturally somewhat a technical consideration, but it does occur to some people, rightly or wrongly, that a good deal of the damage that is taking place on the roads is due to the neglect of waterproofing the surface, and that a larger proportion of the Road Fund expenditure might be devoted to that purpose. However, that is a technical consideration which I do not wish to press, because I have not got adequate knowledge. Here we have £760,000, approximately, being spent on what are generally called main roads, and we have got the roads in the present condition.
This is a most appalling and serious matter, and Senator Bennett has really pointed out the vista of what is likely to happen. What is likely to happen is that you will get a strike of the local councils against the maintenance of these roads, even in a condition which would be suitable for lighter motor traffic. There was a case in Mallow, where the roads were steam-rolled twice over last year, and they are almost as bad as ever. I have not verified that, but I have been told it is so. What will the local authorities do? They will not go on. They will say, "Very well, we will abandon the whole thing." That is going to happen. The Government have not shown that they have any policy to face this and to say that they are going to come down by coercion and make the local authority go on steam-rolling and resurfacing these roads every year, or twice a vear is absurd. It is simply letting the whole matter drift. Another very important consideration is involved; it arises under another section of the Bill and must be dealt with now. The Minister takes further powers to impose conditions of maintenance. Poor as the maintenance is now, and although no relief whatever for it is given, the Minister is taking power to weight the burden further by imposing conditions as to the nature and quality of the materials that shall be used on the maintenance of the roads, making the position even worse than we thought it was. We have had from the Chairman the fact that the amendment is perfectly constitutional. I would ask the House, even if they feel that this amendment could not ultimately, owing to the financial conditions, be carried out, that we should make our protest now by passing it and calling attention to the very serious state of affairs that is involved in the policy of the Government, which has put up no policy to deal with that state of affairs.
I wish to make it quite plain that I have assumed in the answer I gave to Senator Sir Nugent Everard that the usual Message came from the Governor-General approving of the appropriation towards the purposes of this Bill of money to be voted by the Oireachtas. That is the form it takes, and that is in compliance with the Constitution, which says that this money can only be applied by law. Another section says that no law can be passed except by both Houses. It is on that assumption that I ruled that the amendment was in order: Perhaps I might, for the information of Senator Sir Nugent Everard, read the concluding paragraph of the report to which I referred: "Article 38 of the Constitution provides that every Bill introduced and passed by the Dáil may, unless it be a Money Bill, be amended in the Seanad, and the Dáil are bound to consider any such amendment. The sole and only restriction to be found in the Constitution upon this unlimited right on the part of the Seanad to amend any Bill other than a Money Bill is in the case of an amendment which involves the appropriation of any part of the revenue of the Free State, and no such amendment can be made unless and until the purpose of such appropriation has been recommended by a Message from the Governor-General under Article 37, a condition precedent which is equally binding upon both Houses of the Oireachtas. As this condition was admittedly fulfilled by the Message in the particular case, we have no hesitation in answering in the affirmative." Therefore, I am assuming, and I believe I am right, that for the purposes of this Bill there was a Message under Article 37 of the Constitution approving of the appropriation of moneys to be voted by the Oireachtas towards the purposes of this Bill. On that assumption I have held that this amendment is in order, but of course I am not to be taken by that as in any way recommending it or saying that it is one that the Seanad should adopt. That is entirely a matter for them.
I think that appropriation was only voted in respect of Section 17. I do not know whether that would bring everything in the Bill under it or not.
I have not seen the Message, but would there not have been a Message authorising the appropriation by the Oireachtas of money for the various purposes of this Bill? Take, for example, the various officers and their salaries and pensions.
They all have to do with local authorities. I do not think that there was any appropriation except for the consultative councils.
I have not seen the Message. If the Message authorised no appropriation of Free State finances for the purposes of this particular portion of the Bill, in my opinion this amendment would not be in order, but as I have not seen the Message and do not know its form or contents, I cannot say whether this is in order or not.
In the absence of a Message, how could sub-section (2) of Section 17 have been passed?
That is my difficulty. We have passed a number of clauses which, I think, involve outlay.
That Message came down specially with reference to Section 17. It is the only section in respect of which a Money Resolution was required. It is printed in italics in the Bill.
Can you inform me, Mr. Burke, whether the Message in form expressly confined itself to the appropriation of money for the purposes of Section 17?
As well as I can recollect—I am not quite sure of it—it did.
If it did, of course, the position would be quite different.
I would not like to say that definitely, but I am nearly sure that that is so.
This amendment only refers to money under the Road Fund.
I think that that money has been lodged to the Central Fund.
But it has to be relodged in the Road Fund.
That is a different matter. That does not affect the question of its appropriation now.
It is only a matter of how it is to be spent.
What we are now on is the amendment moved by Senator Sir John Keane, in which he seeks to appropriate the portion of the Central Fund which consists of the Road Fund, but which at present is in the Central Fund, or what in England is called the Consolidated Fund. This Road Fund now forms part of the Central Fund, and no part of that Central Fund can, in my opinion, be appropriated by an amendment in this House, or in the other House, unless there has been a previous Message from the Governor-General authorising the appropriation of that Fund for that particular purpose, and it is on the assumption that there has been such a Message that I gave my ruling.
This Road Fund is earmarked for road purposes, and I think the money can be spent for these purposes without any Message from the Governor-General authorising its expenditure. The money can only be spent for one purpose, and this amendment only lays down the proportions in which it may be spent. I think it is hardly the same as voting a fresh sum out of the Central Fund.
Before putting that amendment, would it not be better to clear up the question as to whether the amendment is in order?
I ruled it in order, but I did so on the assumption that the Message from the Governor-General authorised the appropriation of money to be voted by both Houses of Parliament for this particular purpose.
I think you should clear up that point before voting on this question.
I have sent for the Message. I have a recollection of it, and my recollection agrees with what the Minister said. If we are going to adjourn now until to-morrow we could take up the matter to-morrow.
The suggestion I was about to make was that as a Committee has this matter under consideration, it should be left over until the Minister would decide which of the recommendations of the Committee, if any, he would adopt. That will not take a long time, and the matter could be postponed until then.
That is an argument on the merits. What we are concerned with at the moment is whether the matter is in order or not.
If this amendment be carried now, it may alter the deliberations of the Committee. It might, indeed, dissolve the Committee.
I would ask that the matter be put to a vote now.
I do not think I could do that. Certainly if you ask me to do so, I will wait until the terms of the Message have been ascertained.
I move that we adjourn until 11.30 a.m. to-morrow.
I do not want this House to put itself in a false position. We have asserted a certain position which I think is right and which, so far as I know, was not then challenged and has not since been challenged. Do not let us deprive ourselves of the strength of that position by making a mistake in its application. We would be making a mistake in its application if we inserted a provision in the Bill which the Message of the Governor-General does not authorise.
We would have to rescind it.
The Seanad adjourned at 7.10 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Friday, 30th January.