This is an amendment that the Government has inserted in substitution for the one proposed by Senator O'Rourke. I think he has agreed to the amendment, and it just brings it into harmony with the present code. I think there is no objection to the amendment.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL, 1924.—REPORT STAGE RESUMED.
I am in agreement with the wording of the amendment.
That amendment will require a little alteration, in the matter of the words "over which a public right of way exists." A public right of way may be a public right of way merely on foot, or it may also include a right of way for animals, and it may extend to a right of way for vehicles. I presume the Minister means a public right of way, an unlimited one. If so, you would have to insert after the word "way" in the fourth line of the amendment the words "for foot passengers, animals, and vehicles." Then the clause would be amended by insertion of the words after "right of way" the words "for foot passengers, animals, and vehicles."
I beg to move:
New section. Before Section 27 to insert a new section as follows:—
"27.—(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of Part II of the Development and Roads Improvement Act, 1909, and Section 3 of the Roads Act, 1920, the expenses of the improvement and maintenance of main roads shall be a first charge on the Road Fund, and the Road Fund shall be allocated by the Minister in each year to the councils of the several counties and county boroughs in proportion to the total expenditure of the said counties and county boroughs respectively.
(2) The sum received from the Road Fund by the council of each county or county borough under the preceding sub-section shall be in recoupment of the sums expended by such bodies on the improvement or maintenance of main roads in the previous financial year.
(3) Nothing contained in this section shall affect the duty of the county council under Section 25 of this Act to raise and defray the expenses of maintaining and constructing main roads in the county out of the poor rate."
This is, I submit, an important amendment, to secure that the assistance given from the Road Fund to the local authority should be more directly applied to the maintenance of main roads. At present these grants out of the Road Fund are applied only to improvement or construction. The local authority has to bear, out of the local rates, the entire cost of maintenance. I admit that the dividing line between maintenance and improvement is somewhat slender and obscure, and that these two divisions are somewhat arbitrary and do overlap. But as things are now the Minister has power to prescribe definitely the purpose for which advances out of the Road Fund are made, and, in effect, no assistance is given to maintenance proper. The result is that a heavy and increasing burden which is becoming far beyond the financial resources of the local authority, is being imposed in respect of these main roads. Now, if this is to continue, the Government would be met with a very ugly situation. I use these words deliberately. The rural ratepayers are becoming increasingly restive in respect of the burdens of local rates, and the readiest direction for retrenchment is in respect of roads. Other services may follow later on. What is to happen to the Minister if he is faced with this situation which is not an imaginary one, that the majority of the representatives returned to the new councils may be pledged to a limited rate? There is an active movement on foot to secure that—a pledge to secure a maximum rate, and that maximum rate could not meet all the present commitments. It will be difficult, probably, to effect much retrenchment on asylums. It will be probably difficult also to effect without great hardship any substantial saving on the county homes. It will also be somewhat awkward to make drastic cuts in salaries, but it will be quite feasible to make very big cuts in respect of roads, because, after all, the farmers do not want these beautiful, steam-rolled, tarred roads which the motorists require, and which the country requires also in the interests of tourist and other traffic. If the local authority refuses to maintain these roads what is the Minister going to do? Is he going to abolish them, and to send down paid Commissioners to administer these bodies and get a further rate struck which, in some cases, he will have to collect by very coercive measures? That is a matter that can be avoided in very great measure by an amendment of this kind. Furthermore, the allocation of this road fund appears to be entirely in the hands of the Local Government Central Authority, and need not necessarily bear any relation to the expenditure in the county. That again is inequitable and the object of the amendment is to secure that each county will receive a grant in aid proportionate to the amount it spends. It may be urged that it will not be possible to ascertain the expenditure, or to disintegrate the expenditure on main roads from the expenditure on bye-roads. That should no longer be impossible if the Minister carries into practical effect the new accounting methods to which he is pledged. That system of modern accountancy would render it quite feasible to ascertain the expenditure on main roads apart from the others. I therefore ask the Seanad to consider this amendment with sympathy. It is most necessary in the face of growing uneasiness amongst the rural ratepayers.
I beg to second the amendment. I think it is very inequitable that any part of the cost of the maintenance of the roads is not defrayed by the taxes paid by the motorists and that the money paid in by them is devoted entirely to the improvement of the existing roads and the construction of new roads.
Senator Sir John Keane made a statement with regard to the allocation of the Road Fund, in which he said that it was set apart for construction or improvement as apart from maintenance. I do not think that is so. I think that according to statute a certain percentage of the Road Fund is available for construction, and it is also quite possible for the Minister to devote a portion of the Road Fund to maintenance. In addition, the money subscribed by county councils out of the local rates can be devoted to maintenance, and in that connection maintenance includes improvement, which would mean the construction or reconstruction of roads. The total revenue of the Road Fund is at present only about one-third of the money expended out of the local rates in the maintenance and improvement of roads.
When the Senator refers to expenditure on roads, does he mean roads on the whole or only main roads?
I refer to roads as a whole. Road maintenance out of the local rates was, roughly, about £1,500,000 for a year, and the Road Fund revenue for the same period was about £500,000. With regard to this amendment, I would ask the Senator to take into consideration the future progress of the country. I think it is generally understood and conceded that in order to have progress in any country it is necessary to have the best transport facilities that can possibly be afforded. That is the basis of progress in any country. Whether it be tourist, commercial, pedestrian, vehicular or any other traffic, you must have good roads and not merely quagmires. Other countries are meeting the situation as it arises, and I do not think that any country would put a serious embargo on motor traffic. Certainly motorists, particularly tourists, will fight shy of any country that does not cater properly for motor traffic. They are not going to bring a valuable car, costing probably £1,500, here to be wrecked perhaps on a bad road. I think the first inquiry of an intending motor tourist would be as to the condition of the main roads of the country, so as to be sure of being able to get with facility from one point of interest to another. They are not much concerned with by-roads or district roads, but they certainly would make inquiry about and be concerned as to the main roads. Senator Sir John Keane took a different view when he said, "We do not want this tourist traffic. We do not want these beautiful roads for motor traffic at all."
What I said was that the rural ratepayers do not want these roads.
The rural ratepayer is the principal ratepayer in this country. He is a farmer and represents the principal interests of the country, and he contributes in bulk the greatest amount in taxation. When you say "We," if by that you mean the people who are paying this impost for the maintenance of the roads, then if you mean that, I think the farmer is as much interested in the progress of his country, leaving his patriotism aside, and is as much interested in the development of transport facilities, as the shopkeeper or any other person. In so far as that bears on the general progress or development of the country he cannot be unconcerned as to whether the country makes progress. If it progresses he will benefit directly or indirectly. Progress would certainly be to his advantage, and if money is brought into this country by tourist traffic, by the development of horse-racing, or by development in any other direction, the farmers stand to gain. They are the bedrock industry of this country, and should benefit by every progress it makes. The farmers are the people who pay the most rates. The Seanad can take one of two views. They can go back to the primitive time, to the time before the motor, when the roads were sufficient for the class of traffic on them at the time. To-day many farmers have their motors.
In time, with the development of the farming industry, most farmers will have their motors. It is for the farmers to consider whether we should not devote ourselves now to the gradual improvement and development of our roads so that in time the farming industry will progress, and when new industries are created the farmer of to-day who now has a horse and car will have a motor. Is the farmer well advised to take up the position that is taken up for him by Senator Sir John Keane? If we are to go back to the time prior to the motors the Senators will have to ask themselves how they are going to remain at that. You will certainly fall behind. I think it is the desire of every Irishman who has his country at heart that we should keep step, as far as our means will allow, with progress in other countries. You cannot say, "I will stop here, and I do not want to go ahead." Transport and facilities for transport, cheap freights, economic methods of delivery are at the very base and root of all progress, and I cannot see that the Seanad will be wise in accepting this amendment.
I strongly support this amendment, for the simple reason that it must be within the knowledge of everyone that the whole system of traffic on our country roads has been altered within the last few years. I recollect not so many years ago, when any use of the road which might be considered abnormal, such as the carting by steam lorries of timber, was a sufficient ground for an action for damages by the county council, but now if we take an action for the improper use of the road by lorries conveying six or seven tons of goods regularly from the metropolis to provincial towns we should be at law all the time, and I am not quite sure we shall be able to establish our case for a claim for damages. It is obvious that when rates for the upkeep of the road are placed upon the farmer it was never intended that the road should be used as the railways are used. Very often now they are used instead of the railways. I know of cases where goods are conveyed for long distances in lorries at a cheaper rate than by the railways. It is hard on the farmers. He is overburdened by rates and taxes. Now you put this extra charge on him, for the public convenience, of keeping up a road which is, under the ordinary form of construction, unable to bear the traffic, when you have a Road Fund which is available, I believe, for reconstructing the roads. I am sure it would go a short way if we had to construct all our main roads which are used now for this heavy traffic. Therefore I consider that where the Road Fund or any other newly created fund is applied for the purposes of construction it should be also equally applicable for the maintenance of roads as long as this traffic is permitted.
I rise to oppose this amendment for various reasons, the principal of which is that the amendment would prevent the improvement of our main roads. If the county council were to be recouped the amount they would spend on the main roads for their upkeep, I believe the Road Fund would not, as it stands at present, be equal to providing for any improvement whatsoever, and I think everyone will admit that there is a considerable improvement necessary in the state of the roads in this country. I believe instead of decreasing the amount spent on the roads, we should look forward to increasing it by many times its present amount. I believe it will be necessary to do that if this country is going to develop along the lines that Senator Sir John Keane would like it, that is to say, from the agricultural standpoint. I cannot agree with Senator Sir Nugent Everard. He speaks as if the people using the roads were apart and distinct from the agricultural community. I would like to remind him that it is in the interests of the agricultural community that those lorries are using the road. It is to serve their interests, to bring them nearer the market, to give them coal, artificial manures, seeds and other things required in the conduct of their business, and to bring those commodities in the cheapest and most expeditious fashion to their doors. It saves them from having to go for the goods to a railway station miles away. It saves them the delay of waiting perhaps for weeks and the expense of loading at the railway stations and carting home. All that is obviated by having a lorry running from the merchant in Dublin to the farmer's door.
I hold that if the agricultural industry particularly in this country is to develop, we require an extension rather than a limitation, and if so we require far better roads than exist at the present in the country. If the four or five hundred thousand pounds subscribed at present by the motoring community is to be flittered away in a few thousand to various county councils to relieve them of the obligation they have always had of maintaining the public highways in the country, I hold that it will not provide for any improvement, and, therefore, I will vote against this amendment.
I doubt very much if the farmers benefit at all from the existence of lorries, and, if they do, they do not benefit to any appreciable extent compared to the huge impost the destruction of the roads by lorries causes. It is true that lorries are used for collecting milk from creameries. That is done, however, on the side roads and we are dealing with the main roads. These lorries do not deliver the stuff to us farmers. They are used in most cases as an alternative to the railway and canal to deliver stuff to the traders. That does not make a single penny difference to us. It may make a little difference to the trader.
I would like a statement from the Minister as to the cost of the maintenance of roads now, as compared with 1914, in connection with Senator MacLysaght's statement.
I am rather surprised at this amendment of Senator Sir John Keane. He has conjured up a terrible picture of what would happen if the ratepayers of the country got on their hind legs, banded themselves together in a desperate attempt to cut down rates, and, as a result, refused to spend any more money on the roads. Certainly that is a terrible picture, but I do not think there is any great likelihood of it happening. One of the great difficulties about the councils at present is that there is a very great tendency when these bodies come into office to cut down estimates very considerably. They do not show nearly the same alacrity afterwards in trying to put the spirit of that conduct into force, as the very same councillors who are anxious to reduce the estimates are often the ones who bring the greatest pressure on me to increase salaries and pensions. That is my general experience. I would be very pleased with the amendment if it did all that Senator Sir John Keane alleges it would do. I do not see that it is going to make for economy at all. I think it would work in the opposite direction. Apparently the purport of the amendment is to allocate money out of the Road Fund in proportion to the amount expended by the various councils on main roads. That would mean that the most extravagant, and probably the most inefficient, and uneconomical, would be the county to get most out of the Road Fund, whereas a county council that was carrying on its administration economically and efficiently would be penalised. The amendment would not help in any way to take the burden of road maintenance off the shoulders of rural ratepayers.
This Road Fund is, possibly, only the nucleus of a national fund which might eventually develop into a fund that could be utilised for the maintenance of main roads on a national basis. I have visions, possibly at some future date, of capitalising that fund, and being able to use it for the maintenance of roads as a national charge with perhaps additions from the Central Fund. As Senator Kenny has pointed out, last year we expended one and a half millions on trunk roads. Up to now we had no main roads, as main roads are understood under the present Bill. A main road would be one declared as such by the Minister. The nearest things corresponding to main roads under the present Bill are trunk roads, and it was on trunk roads that our grant was expended last year. About one and a half millions were expended on the construction of trunk roads, only a half a million of which came from the Road Fund. Senator Sir John Keane says that this money should be expended on maintenance as well as construction. His amendment restricts expenditure from the Road Fund on maintenance. Heretofore I had no power to expend this money except on the construction of roads but, under Section 37 of the present Bill, I have power to expend it on the maintenance of any road. I think it is very necessary that my Ministry, on the advice of the Road Advisory Committee, should have power to expend this money as they consider most fit, and be left free, so as to make the best possible use of it in future developments.
As I said, we are hampered at present with regard to the Fund. That is the only reason why we cannot maintain roads on a national basis. I have taken ample power under the Bill to maintain the roads on a national basis to-morrow morning if I had the money. The only source from which I see any possibility of getting the money is the Road Fund. If we allow that Fund to develop and grow, I will have power to use it either by capitalising it, or in some other way, to maintain roads nationally. If the Seanad accepts the amendment it means that there will be no possibility of dealing with the road problem on a national basis. Every little county will spend its own money in its own way. The most extravagant council will get most, and the county that carries out its duties efficiently will get least. The amendment puts a premium on extravagance and waste, and for that reason I ask the Seanad not to accept it.
I was very much struck by the total inability of any of the speakers to realise the fundamental fact, that is, the financial position of the farmers. Senator Kenny referred to farmers as if they were national philanthropists, who were even prepared to go to the length of breaking themselves in the interests of that sentiment. Of course, that is totally different from the realities of life. People have got to cut their coat according to their cloth. Farmers cannot afford to pay these charges. Estimates have been made of what farmers are earning. In the best years of the war they were getting nine to eleven per cent. on capital. In the years 1921-22 they were getting 6 per cent., and last year 3.2 per cent. Of course, the results are all hidden by the fact that farmers employ in many cases unpaid labour, and apparently live at a very low standard. Inquiry for three years following the slump showed that small farmers were living at a lower standard than labourers.
The farmer has been asked to keep up the roads for the motorists, roads altogether beyond the requirements that his industry necessitates. The Act of 1909 prohibits any expenditure out of the Road Fund for maintenance. Of course, if this amendment is passed it will mean an extension of the provisions of that Act to maintenance, but I would ask the Seanad to recognise that as bare justice. Senator Duffy said that the effect of the amendment would be to prevent all improvement, but I fail to see that. So far as 75 per cent. of the expenditure on main roads goes, that would be a first charge on the Road Fund, but if there is any surplus, and there is nothing to show that there will not be a surplus —even now, perhaps, there may be a small surplus, though we are in the dark about it, because the cost of the maintenance of the main roads is not known, it is only estimated—that surplus after meeting that first charge could go towards improvement. If the Government desire to give a special grant, as they did the other day in providing £1,000,000, it could quite easily be provided by the Act of Appropriation, which gives that grant, that it should be spent on improvements or construction.
Am I right in my recollection that already, under the Road Fund legislation, three-fourths of it is appropriated to constructive work to meet the first charge upon the Road Fund?
I did not know that that was so. I thought there was a limit of one-third in regard to new construction. That would be for new roads and would be different altogether from the widening or improvement of existing roads. Under the Act, it should be explained, power is given to maintain these newly constructed roads only. So far as these are concerned, the Act gives the power of maintenance, but I am afraid we cannot look forward to any very large measure of new construction in the near future. The Minister is unduly apprehensive about what the farmers are going to do. I am afraid he is not very sympathetic and that he does not understand the farmers' financial position. When people are up against a desperate situation, desperate remedies are required. I hope he will try to meet the situation which I have outlined, but he has given no indication as to how he is going to handle it. My submission is that you cannot force a local authority to strike rates beyond its financial capacity, and that you cannot put soldiers in to collect rates over the people's heads under such circumstances. The Minister suggests or portends that some day he may wish to capitalise the Road Fund. I would remind him that there is nothing to prevent an amendment of any legislation that we are now passing. No one pretends that enactments which we make to-day are going to last for all time. If, as the situation develops, further action or different financial treatment is required it is only a matter of getting fresh legislation and of reviewing the matter in the light of the altered conditions. I hope, therefore, that the Seanad, bearing all the facts in mind, and particularly the fundamental fact which is the financial position of the farmers to-day, will pass this amendment.
I am in sympathy with the principle of this amendment, but there is one point which occurs to me in connection with it on which I would like to have some enlightenment. As I understand it, it proposes to put on the Road Fund half the expense of the cost of the maintenance of the roads in this country If that is to be done, how long, I ask, will the Road Fund last? I would like to know from Senator Sir John Keane, or the Minister, what the total expenditure for maintenance is likely to come to for any one year. It seems to me that under this amendment we might be putting a burden on the Road Fund that it could not bear.
I would like to point out, in connection with this amendment, that already there are statutory charges upon the Road Fund. Therefore, I think, if this amendment is passed, it will be necessary to make an alteration in it, and to substitute for the words "shall be a first charge" the words "subject to existing statutory charges." If the amendment were passed in its present form, the application of expenditure in the way suggested upon maintenance work, would be a first charge upon the Road Fund. My recollection is, that antecedent legislation has already created certain first charges on that fund. One of them is the recoupment to each county council of the expenses it has incurred in collection. That, I think, is made a first charge on the Road Fund by statute. I may be wrong, but that is my recollection. Then, again, I do not know where Senator the Earl of Kerry finds that one-half of the fund is to be appropriated to roads. The suggestion, as I understand it, is that after existing statutory charges are defrayed, the balance is to be applied, so far as it will go, pro tanto in discharging the amount expended by each county.
There was one point raised by the Minister about which I would like some enlightenment. He pointed out that, under Senator Sir John Keane's proposal, the money was to be allocated to county councils in proportion to the total expenditure incurred by each council. What the Minister said struck me very forcibly. It was that such a proposal would be a direct incentive to county councils to be particularly extravagant in their expenditure on the roads. They would be extravagant in their expenditure on the roads for the purpose, as they would argue, of getting as much as they could out of the Road Fund. I would like to know from Senator Sir John Keane what steps he proposes to guard against that happening.
The answer to that is perfectly obvious. It is that the balance that would be available for this purpose would be nothing like equal to the amount expended, and therefore these public bodies would not expend huge sums in the hope of getting only a small portion of that recouped.
But the more they spend, the more they will get.
Yes, but that will bear a small proportion to the total expenditure. This is only a limited sum that will be available as a balance. I am only pointing this out for the purpose of assisting the Seanad. I am not taking any part in this as regards the merits of the matter, because it does not concern me. The position, as I understand it at present, is that this Road Fund is allocated in certain directions. Portions of it are already allocated by Act of Parliament. In the first place it consists of the motor duty which is collected by the county councils, and the first charge upon the Road Fund is to recoup the county councils for the expenses they have incurred in collecting these motor duties for the State. When these moneys go into the Central Fund, the first charge on them is to recoup the county councils for the purpose which I have just indicated. My impression is that there is a further charge placed upon the Road Fund by statute, and therefore, if I am right, all that would be available for the purpose of Senator Sir John Keane's amendment is the balance, and that balance will not be a very large sum. Therefore, the amount to be received under this amendment by each county will only bear a very small proportion to the amount expended, be that sum small or big.
I should like to know if the whole of the Road Fund is expended every year on construction or maintenance of roads, or whether there is any surplus accumulating year by year? If there is no sum accumuiating, the amendment will be useless. Obviously it will be a question of getting more money, and the question will be as to who is to get it and where it is to come from. The Oireachtas will eventually have to decide whether the maintenance of the roads is to be almost exclusively, as now, a public charge, or whether the direct users, for commercial and other purposes, should not pay in proportion to the use they make of these roads. A distinguished authority has estimated that the wear and tear of motor traffic on the roads is at the rate of threepence per ton-mile. In other words, a lorry carrying five tons of traffic, and weighing, itself, four tons—giving a total weight of nine tons—causes damage at the rate of 2s. 3d. per ton-mile every time it travels over a road. So that, although these lorries are able to carry traffic actually at a lower rate than the railways or tramways, in reality they carry at a higher rate, if you charge to them the damage they do to the roads—damage made up by public funds. A lorry will carry coal to Athy for about 1s. 6d. per ton-mile, but if you add 1s. 3d. per ton-mile to the damage done to the roads you will find that the total rate is very much higher than the railway charges. So that this competition and the alleged blessing that it confers upon the community is not real blessing at all. It merely means distributing the cost over the community, instead of making the trader or the owner of the lorry pay the freight.
This amendment is not going to increase the Road Fund, and consequently it is useless if the Road Fund is already expended at the discretion of the Ministry. What the Minister has to do is to try and consider means by which the Road Fund will be increased by an increase of taxes on motors, either directly or indirectly, and make them pay in a higher degree than at present for the damage that they do to the public roads.
With regard to the question put by Senator O'Farrell as to the expenditure out of the Road Fund under the Act of 1909, as I recollect it, there is a distinct provision that each year there is to be a published statement by an accounting officer of the receipts and expenditure for each year. So that that information must be available in some White Paper somewhere.
I think the Minister told us that the sum of one million was spent over and above the amount given by the Road Fund, so that the amount spent would be near one-and-a-half millions. The Road Fund is only £300,000. On the Committee Stage of this Bill I spoke on this subject and suggested something on the lines of Senator O'Farrell: that the Central Fund should be called upon to bear the charges because the money derived from the taxation of motors is utterly inadequate. From what we heard in this debate I am more than strengthened in that opinion. If one were to tax railway engines at a rate so that the tax would be able to maintain the railways it would be no more foolish than to expect the tax on motors to maintain the roads at present. We are discussing the future in terms of the past, but that future has not been widely enough imagined. We are in a transition stage at present.
The railways, owing to the way they run, will suffer because in a little island like this one can get everywhere by the road and that is not so with regard to the railways. The railways were not planned for connecting with the best harbours or for the benefit of the people. They were strategic railways constructed for convenience, not cheapness. There is no railway to Black Sod Bay, for instance, or to the Shannon Estuary, but that is only an aside. The roads now have become the railways and people use much the same kind of engines on them. These roads were made originally to carry foot passengers and cars and carts of not more than two tons weight. The roads cannot maintain the traffic and the Road Fund is inadequate for their maintenance. We are talking round and round in circles because this forces upon the Minister a difficulty which can only be surmounted by legislation and not by the Minister. If we prove to him that the roads are inadequate something may be done, but we gain nothing by swopping responsibility between farmers and motorists and looking at them as two different sets of individuals. I do not want to repeat what I said, but it is impossible to expect the Road Fund to meet the difficulty.
We will have to envisage the roads as railways and we will have to build them in such a way as to prevent the annual recurrence of taxes for their maintenance. They will have to be built in a permanent manner and of something that will last for four or five years without becoming an annual drain and the only way to do that is to arrive at a recognition of the position. I have tried to put the matter before the Seanad in the light that it appeals to me, but I am afraid I did so rather confusedly. I am not very clear on the question, but the position is that the roads will have to take the place of the railways in the long run. In England, those who invest in railways look to the day when the railways will carry nothing but mineral produce. Guinness' can send their material from Dublin to Naas with two men to-day, to do the work that five hundred men would be required to do if it went by rail. Soon the roads will replace the railways and the sooner they are put into a permanent position to face that strain the better. That will not be done by a motion or an amendment of this House. To make the taxation of motors as users of the roads equitable would be to ruin the motor industry. It would mean that motors would have to pay three pence a ton-mile and the railways would really be cheaper. The reason of the apparent cheapness of motors at present is that motors have taken advantage of the free use of the roads.
I thought I was winding up the debate when I spoke last, but there has been new matter introduced since, and I should like, if I may, to reply,
I am sure the House will permit you.
The Road Fund has been mentioned. This is an echo of other debates that we have had. There is a statutory obligation on the Government to publish the Road Fund accounts on the 31st January, but they have not appeared yet. I would like to point out further that the Minister has very considerable powers in his own hands, and he has power to prescribe what is a main road. I do not wish to suggest that he should be niggardly, but if he considers the charge is likely to come too high he can naturally be somewhat restricted in his view as to what a main road is. So that he has administratively, in his capacity as Minister, a very considerable lever by which he can curtail this expenditure. I think that that is a very important point to remember.
- Bennett, Thos. Westropp.
- Butler, Richard A.
- Counihan, John C.
- Haughton, Benjamin.
- Hyde, Dr. Douglas.
- Keane, Sir John, Bart.
- Linehan, Thomas.
- MacLysaght, Edward.
- Molloy, William John.
- Moore, Colonel Maurice, C.B.
- Douglas, James Green.
- Costello, Mrs. Eileen.
- De Loughry, Peter.
- Desart, Ellen Odette, Dowager
- Countess of.
- Duffy, Michael.
- Farren, Thomas.
- Foran, Thomas.
- Gogarty, Oliver St. John.
- Goodbody, James Perry.
- Kenny, Patrick Williams.
- Kerry, Earl of, M.V.O., D.S.O., D.L.
- Love, Joseph Clayton.
- McLoughlin, John.
- Moran, James.
- Nesbitt, George.
- O'Dea, Michael.
- O'Farrell, John Thomas.
- O'Rourke, Bernard.
- O'Sullivan, William.
- Power, Mrs. Jane Wyse.
After paragraph (d), Section 25, sub-section (1), to insert a new paragraph (e) as follows: "(e) such road expenses shall be separately levied as a road rate, and shall be shown separately in all demand notes."
The object of this amendment is that those whom the Minister criticises as being men anxious for economy, but more anxious for expenditure, should be made to prove by their acts that they have not made good. Hitherto, it was not possible to levy a road rate separately, because you had the district rate and the main road rate combined. If this amendment were passed, it would be very easy to show on the demand note that so much would be expended for roads and so much on other services. In that way the ratepayers would have a good opportunity of knowing what is spent, and it would be a great incentive to work economically. Hitherto, there has been an immense amount of adverse and destructive criticism of all local authorities and their works, but I suggest that this amendment would enable people to criticise correctly; they would be able to know exactly where their money goes, and they would be anxious as to the spending of it. At present it is a kind of hotch-potch, mixed up with the poor rate, and there is not the same desire or incentive on the part of the local authority to make good. You have just heard a very lengthy debate on the sad condition of the man who keeps the road, because, after all, the main burden is on the farmer. There is no doubt about it—everybody discussing the previous amendment agreed —that the farmer was sick and needed treatment. Doctors differ greatly as to what the treatment shall be, and there is great danger that the poor unfortunate patient will die before he can even squeal. He is squealing, and will have to squeal a long time, but I think if such an amendment as this were passed, it would make for economy and efficiency, and better than all, make people who, during the greater part of the year are apathetic, take an interest in these matters. I think such an amendment as this would give them a direct interest in local management and local affairs, and in that way do untold good.
I second the amendment, and I should like to say that while it is desirable that this duty should be specially embodied in the Bill I imagine that the Minister has power, by order, to regulate what would be printed on the demand note, and I hope that he will go a good deal further. In some of the British municipalities a good deal of valuable information appears on the demand notes. They divide the information into expenditure over which the local authority has control, and expenditure over which the local authority has not control. That alone would be an exceedingly useful piece of information. Then they further sub-divide into various headings. This whole matter is linked up with a proper system of accounting, and if there is a proper, scientific system of accounting, the main heads of account should appear on the demand notes, and give ready information to every ratepayer who wishes to look into the matter.
I am in full agreement with the principle of the amendment, but I think that with a little alteration in the drafting it might suit the purpose better. I would suggest, "in every demand note for rates the portion of the sum demanded which is to be raised for the purpose of the construction or maintenance of roads shall be shown as a separate item."
I am quite prepared to accept that.
Do you not think it ought to be, "in maintenance, improvement, and construction"?
I think it would be better.
Because some money must be spent on improvement.
I do not wish to raise difficulties, but I would point out that the demand notes go out in April, and very often earlier, when the rate is struck, and it would be rather difficult to get the information in time before the demand notes go out.
It can be done later if it cannot be done now. If it is desirable that it should be done, it will be done at once, if possible, or if not, when the first opportunity offers. I am quite prepared to accept the amendment with your addendum.
In the definition, "maintenance" includes "improvement."
Then it will be covered by it.
I was wondering whether it is intended that there should be separate items for maintenance and improvement in the demand note or whether it should be the bulk sum.
I think the idea of the Senator who proposed the amendment was that the demand note should set out how much was spent on maintenance as distinct from construction.
I intended that the whole amount should be specified.
Yes, the whole amount specified, but that it should be stated how much has been required for maintenance as distinct from construction.
That would be better, certainly.
I think you might leave the form of it to the Minister. The principle he has accepted, I take it.
Yes, sir. I am afraid in practise we could not differentiate between construction and maintenance. The amendment I suggest reads: "In every demand note for rates the portion of the sum demanded which is to be raised for the purpose of construction and maintenance shall be shown as a separate item."
I beg to move:—
Section 28, sub-section (2), page 13, line 62. After the word "road" to insert the words "(other than a loan borrowed for the purposes of the ‘Bridges (Ireland) Acts, 1813-1875')."
I think some mistake has been made in putting this amendment down in my name. I did not hand it in, but as it certainly covers the point in the first two paragraphs of my amendment, No. 16, I beg to move it. There are two methods by which bridges have been built. One is under the Bridges Act, where more than one county is involved. As far as I can see from this Bill, the effect of the passing of the Bill will be to narrow down the incidence of taxation. You have big bridges like the Waterford Bridge, to which four or five counties contribute. I was satisfied that if this Bill had remained as it was—I may be wrong— that the charge would be narrowed down to one, or at most two counties; therefore, the two amendments that are in my name, one of them without my knowledge, have the object I have set out in the first portion of the amendment, No. 16.
If they are accepted, Senator, does your amendment, No. 16, become unnecessary?
The first portion of it would become unnecessary.
Very well; we will deal with No. 14.
By some mistake these amendments have been put down in Senator De Loughry's name. They were really Government amendments, intended to cover as much of Senator De Loughry's original amendments as we could agree to. They leave the status quo in regard to the Bridges Act exactly as it was before. I am willing to accept them.
I would like to know more about these amendments before they are accepted. The matter is somewhat complicated, but I am given to understand that the effect of these amendments would be to transfer a charge now borne by an urban district from the urban district to the whole county. Would the Minister say what these amendments will achieve, and whether I am wrong in the information I have been given?
If we accepted Senator De Loughry's amendment in full, it would have that effect. It would mean putting a burden on the county which should be borne by the urban authority. It is precisely to prevent that, that I have agreed to allow these two amendments which leave the law as regards bridges exactly as it is at the present time. It makes no change whatever.
I beg to move:
New section. Before Section 29 to insert a new section as follows:—
29.—Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to repeal or amend or otherwise prejudice or affect the Bridges (Ireland) Acts, 1813-1875.
The following amendment stands in the name of Senator De Loughry:—
New section. Before Section 29 to insert a new section as follows:—
29.—(1) Expenses incurred for the construction or repair of any bridge under the authority of the Bridges (Ireland) Acts, 1813-1875, after the passing of this Act, and so much as is on the appointed day outstanding of any loan in respect of any such expenses incurred under the authority of the said Acts before the passing of this Act, so far as they become or, in the case of such outstanding portions of loans as aforesaid are, chargeable to or payable by the county in which the relevant bridge is situate, shall, notwithstanding anything in or done in pursuance of the said Acts, be levied and raised equally over the whole of such county.
(2) For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, a bridge over a river at a place where the mid-stream-line of the river constitutes the boundary between two counties shall be deemed to be situate in each of the two counties to which the said boundary pertains.
(3) Except so far as in sub-sections (1) and (2) of this section is otherwise provided, any expenses incurred after the passing of this Act under the authority of the Bridges (Ireland) Acts, 1813-1875 in respect of the construction or repair of any bridge (being part of the maintenance, as hereinbefore in this Act defined, of the road of which such bridge forms part) shall be, and so much as is on the appointed day outstanding of any loan borrowed before the passing of this Act under the authority of the said Acts for any expenses in respect of any such purpose as aforesaid, shall continue to be, chargeable and payable in like manner as if this Act had not been passed, notwithstanding anything in Section 25 or Section 28 of this Act or elsewhere in this Act contained, but for the purposes of this sub-section, the Borough of Kilkenny, notwithstanding the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, Amendment Act, 1906, and anything in that Act contained, shall, as well for the purposes of the Bridges (Ireland) Acts, 1813-1875 aforesaid as for other purposes, be deemed to be part of the county of Kilkenny, and not to be a separate county borough or county of a city, and the said Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898 Amendment Act, 1906, is hereby repealed.
The Minister has said that the two amendments just passed are the limit of the concessions that the Government are prepared to make in Senator De Loughry's favour. I, therefore, take it that Amendment No. 16 is withdrawn.
I ask leave to withdraw it.
This is an amendment embodying the principle of the one I think that was introduced by Senator Sir John Keane on the Committee Stage. As his amendment was originally drafted, it was a little wide, as it might mean that too high a price might be demanded for materials, stone and gravel, and other materials taken out of quarries that were opened by the local authorities. This would make it necessary to take into consideration the charge that the local authority was put to in getting at the materials. I think in the circumstances that Senator Sir John Keane is willing to accept this amendment.
This amendment permits the payment of costs. It was agreed to in principle on the Committee Stage of the Bill.
This is to carry out an undertaking I gave on the Committee Stage to pay compensation to the occupier on removal from a building that was to be taken down as a result of the operation of Section 30.
This is merely a drafting amendment.
This is another amendment dealing with costs. We agreed to this amendment on the Committee Stage. It applies the same principle to Section 30 as to Section 29.
In Section 30, sub-section 6, page 15, line 50, to delete all after the word "purpose" to the end of the sub-section.
This amendment was moved by me on the Committee Stage, and it was agreed to leave it over for the Report Stage. A great portion of the objection I had to this section has now been met by the Minister. It enables compensation to be paid in the case of the removal of houses, buildings or walls. But I suppose it cannot go so far as to make an order that the local authority should do this work if the occupier desires it. However, the Minister has met me halfway.
A little more, I should say.
This is dealing with costs. The principle was agreed to on the Committee Stage.
It is practically consequential on the amendment already passed.
In the absence of Senator Brown I beg to move this amendment.
I second it. It is a very important amendment.
I beg to move, in Section 33, sub-section (1), page 18, line 64. Before the word "roads" to insert the word "main."
The object of this amendment is to confine the powers of the Minister as regards the material that will be used on the roads—that would be used there without sanction. I want his powers to be confined to main roads and not to bye-roads. I think it is desirable that the county council should have power in the case of the bye-roads to use any material they wish in order to effect any economies that would be possible.
I second this amendment.
I cannot agree to the amendment. The primary object of retaining the power I have under this section is to prevent the use of soft limestone on the roads throughout the country. It is just as necessary to prevent the use of bad material on bye-roads as it is on main roads. Accordingly I would ask the Seanad not to accept this amendment, which means useless expenditure of money on materials that are of no benefit to the roads.
Amendment put and negatived.
I beg to move:—
Section 33, sub-section (2), page 19, line 23. To add at the end of the sub-section the words "and the owner of the land shall not be liable for accidental damage to such sign."
This sub-section was altered during the Committee Stage of the Bill so as to give power to the Minister to have signs erected on land adjacent to the roads. It is possible that these signs may not be properly erected, and in that case and for other reasons I do not see why the owner should be liable to damages.
I second that.
I think it is rather a dangerous thing to insert this provision. As the section stands at present the owner would not be liable for damages done to the signs, and if we insert this he might be liable for damage done.
I beg to move:—
Section 33, sub-section (7). To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"(8) The council entrusted by this Act with the maintenance of any road may, with the approval of the Minister, make bye-laws regulating the maximum speed of mechanically propelled vehicles travelling on the road, and fix different maximum speeds for vehicles of different weights, and if any owner or driver of a vehicle acts in contravention of such bye-laws, such owner and driver shall be guilty of an offence under this section and each shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a penalty not exceeding ten pounds."
This is a section that was before us on the Committee Stage, and it was deferred to the Report Stage. I think the Minister has another amendment similar to this one, which would meet my views. It is amendment 37. I beg leave to withdraw.
I beg to move:—
Section 35, sub-section (1), page 20, line 12. To insert, after the word "date," the words "not being earlier than the date fixed for the termination of the scheme by the terms thereof."
Under the section as it stands at present the Minister has absolute power to change his mind as often as he likes during the duration of a direct labour scheme. The object of this amendment aims to ensure that an existing scheme, which may have been approved of, shall be deemed to have been approved of, and shall continue in operation as long as the scheme was originally intended to continue, and the Minister should not be given power to discontinue that scheme. In the planning out of the work on these particular roads the county council, or their engineers or surveyors, may have mapped out the work, whether it is to be done by direct or contract labour; they might have been working two or three seasons in advance, and they may have got their material and machinery ready, so that it would be a hardship if the Minister had power to say that the work shall go on for four or five months and end there. The amendment aims at preventing the Minister or his advisers from interfering with these schemes, when it has been decided that they shall be done under a certain system.
It also cuts the other way. If the county council has the power to do their work by contract, the Minister ought not to have the power to say to the county council, "You must do it by direct labour." When speaking on this matter on the Committee Stage, I think the Minister agreed that it would be fair that the county council ought to be given some control over the manner in which this work is done on the roads in their respective localities. The councils' engineers ought to be the best judges as to whether the work should be done by direct labour or by contract. I do not think the Minister should have power to interfere with such arrangements.
I second the amendment.
The amendment seems to make provision for more than is suggested by it, for it makes provision for extension as well as curtailment. The proposer of the amendment should not have it both ways. That seems unfair. I think he should leave it to the Minister to extend or curtail as he thinks fit.
May I point out that the Minister can only act on the request of the county council under this section, because by sub-section (3) it is laid down that his action would have to be governed by a request from the county council. I take it that governs sub-section (4), which it is proposed to amend, so that it is really left in the hands of the county council to say whether there should be an extension or curtailment.
I cannot agree to accept this amendment. A somewhat similar one was introduced in the Dáil. As Senator Bennett has pointed out, I have the power to extend as well as curtail. If I am not allowed to curtail direct labour, I should not have the power to extend it. Heretofore these direct labour schemes were on a stereotyped basis. An order had to be signed stating specifically the amount of wages paid, the amount of work done under this scheme, and it could not be varied for three years. It was a cumbersome form; in fact, these direct labour schemes were originally drafted with the object of making it impossible for the councils to work them. At present I am trying to put these schemes on the same basis as contracts. The county councils are in a position to carry out their road work by contract or direct labour, according as they desire, and Senator Farren apparently wants me to put contract labour in a privileged position and to allow them to have their schemes in force for three years, whereas the ordinary contract would be in operation only for twelve months. I think the proper thing would be to allow the county council to carry out whichever scheme is most economical and suitable, and, if not, to allow the council power to bring it to an end before the end of three years if necessary.
Amendment put and negatived.
Amendment 29 (Senator Farren):—
Section 35, sub-section (4), page 20, line 28. To delete the words "or curtailed."
The next is a Government amendment:
New section. Before Section 37 to insert a new section as follows:—
"37.—The Minister may, by an order made under and in accordance with sub-section (3) of Section 7 of the Roads Act, 1920, prohibit or restrict the driving of vehicles of any specified class on any specified highway at any speed greater than the speed specified in such order, and all the provisions of the said sub-section shall apply to every such order."
This I agreed to give Senator Linehan instead of his amendment.
The next is also a Government amendment.
Section 38, page 20, line 50. To delete the words "permanent officer," and to substitute therefor the words "officer (other than a temporary officer)."
On behalf of Senator Dowdall I move:—
Section 38, page 21, line 4. After the word "periodically" to insert the words "or whose employment has been broken for a period of not more than twelve months through the action of a committee of the county council in abrogating its functions."
The object of the amendment is to safeguard the position of pensionable officers who would lose their pensions owing to their years of service being broken through no fault of their own, as, for instance, by a committee of the county council going out of business, so it might besaid, for some reason, such as not recognising the central authority. These cases have occurred, and when the Technical Committees disappeared their employees automatically lost their employment. There are a few cases where these people have the full service with this small break in it. I know of one particular case where a man worked for a Committee in Co. Longford for 10 years, and when that Committee went out of business, for the reason I have stated, he immediately went to the Kildare Committee, where he has been working since. He has thirteen years' service, and yet, because of that small break, he would be debarred from a pension.
As the amendment stands, would it not put the man temporarily employed in a better position than the person alluded to in the section? It might be argued that any man whose period of employment was not broken for twelve months, although he had not ten years' qualification, might be entitled to a pension.
It would be open to that construction.
I think it would.
It is open to that, Senator.
I do not like the principle of this amendment, because all pensions are based on the assumption of continuous meritorious service. I have not had time to look into it, and at this stage I do not wish to accept the amendment.
It would have to be altered in respect to Senator Bennett's criticism, because it requires a provision that he should be otherwise qualified by service, "whose qualification for service had been destroyed by this interruption." That is what is aimed at by the amendment, but as Senator Bennett has pointed out, it would put a person, no matter what his services were, if there were a break, in the position of being entitled to a pension.
If the word were "and" would it do?
It might. I do not like to say it would not.
County councils, technical committees, and so forth were shut down because they refused to recognise the old Local Government Board.
"And" will not do, because then you will be attaching on the first unfortunate man the necessity that his employment should have been broken. If you say "and" that is part of the qualification of the antecedent. The matter will have to be looked into.
It would also be necessary to insert "before the passing of this Act."
Is it possible to bring up such an important thing as this at the next stage?
I will allow you to do it.
"Section 38, page 21. To delete lines 5-7, inclusive."
In Section 36 there is a definition of a pensionable officer. There are some conditions and exceptions to that, one of which is contained in Clause II. (Roman figures). The object of my amendment is to delete that section. In reading it I wondered why an exception should be made for a solicitor in this particular case. I was unable to find any reason for this. Solicitors are not persons that one has an extraordinary pity for. As old people they are not to be much pitied, for they can work at their profession. A solicitor is in rather a favourable position. He does the work of the Local Government in his own office as a rule. He may have to come out of it, but he has to come out of it also for the business of some private persons. He gets a complete monopoly of the work of the Local Government which gives him a particular advantage, and he has a status as a solicitor of the county council which brings grist into his mill. Numbers of people employ him because of that status. Why he should be given a pension by the local body when anyone else who employs him does not give him one is something which I cannot explain. Engineers are not given this pension. They were ruled out the other day. Those pensions should be limited as far as possible to people who spend their lives working for the local body and who are worn out at that work. A solicitor can go on working much longer than any other person. A labourer must go out on the road and get wet and when he gets old he cannot go on. A solicitor can go on to the last moment of his life.
He can also get wet occasionally.
Why should the ratepayers pay a solicitor a pension when he is already paid otherwise? Everyone who knows anything about a solicitor's work and who has had the misfortune to go to law knows that solicitor's bills are as heavy as they can be, and everyone looks on them with horror. No one can look after himself as well as a solicitor. The only reason I can find why this clause is put in is that solicitors belong to a profession and are exceedingly well up in everything. This must have slipped in, and I do not think anybody noticed it until it fell under my eye.
I second the amendment. It seems to me that not only are solicitors being well treated, but they are being treated more favourably than anyone else. They had only to be appointed before the Act of 1919 to come in under the Bill. I know solicitors who were very anxious to get appointments from local bodies because it brought them other emoluments. These men acquired vast businesses and made money, so that to pension them now is grossly unjust. I can call to mind the case of a man who was solicitor to a local body and who is now a State solicitor. I think such cases occurred in many parts of the country. Is it contended that a man who was originally solicitor to a district council and who has now become a State solicitor is to receive a pension? I think that would not be fair. Solicitors, I think, were always well taken care of. Senators who had experience of the old Local Government Board will remember that in my district the district council had advertised for a solicitor and gave what they considered was a commensurate salary for the work, £50 or £60. The Local Government Board of that time, in its wisdom, said the council was wrong and would not sanction the appointment under £100 a year. The district council reappointed the solicitor, but the Local Government Board was adamant, with the result that a man who was willing to give his services for £50 had to get £100. When you had these gentlemen willing to take the appointments I do not think it is fair that they should be saddled on the community as pensionable officers.
I wish to support the amendment. Some solicitors get a fixed salary, and others are paid according to the work they do. Solicitors to a local body have a preference of any legal work, and it is the experience that they are very anxious for such appointments. Such an appointment is a sort of tacit admission that they were selected specially for their merits as solicitors. Where a solicitor is paid for the work he does, on what basis will the pension be computed? A pension could be based in a case where a man gets retaining fees, as in the case of the Waterford Corporation, where £150 is paid, as well as other perquisites. The solicitor to Waterford County Council is only paid for what work he does. How would a pension be estimated there? Solicitors to local bodies charge the last penny of the scale of fees laid down, but a local body can demand taxation of the costs when they send in their bill. A certain percentage may be taken off on taxation. That is the only safeguard there is. We find that no reduction is made for a local authority, any more than for ordinary clients, from the scale of charges.
I support Senator Colonel Moore's amendment for this reason, that when it was proposed to make school-attendance officers pensionable I opposed it on the grounds that when they took up the position it was not pensionable. I think solicitors are in the same position. When they were appointed the office was not pensionable. The Minister came to my aid on the last occasion and said that he was loath to place new pensions on the country. I presume his assistance will be equally forthcoming now.
I was very much impressed by Senator Colonel Moore's very eloquent appeal on behalf of this amendment. The only thing I am sorry for is that the appeal is rather belated. If the Senator had made the speech in the British House of Commons in 1919——
I was not there.
I am sure it would have made as great an impression on that assembly as it appears to have made here. In order to clear the air, I wish to say that I am not a solicitor and have not been in collusion with anyone about this particular section. Really, I think there was some misunderstanding about it. Under this Bill no new pensionable right is conferred on solicitors at all. As a matter of fact, under the present Bill, solicitors will no longer be pensionable. Under Section 8 of the Act of 1919 standing solicitors were specially picked out for pensionable rights. In many respects that was an unfortunate Act. It has given us a great deal of trouble to administer. Standing solicitors who were appointed prior to 1919 acquired pensionable rights under that Act. These officers have those rights, and it is a very wrong principle to interfere with existing rights or to take rights from people who have them under statute. No solicitor appointed since 1919 will have pensionable rights, but we have to protect the interests of those already appointed, which is the sole object of the section.
Will the Minister explain how the pension will be computed in the case of a solicitor paid only fees? Some of these solicitors received enormous fees under the Labourers' Act. How can you compute pensions in such a case?
The usual three years' average applies.
That is a most astonishing statement, that the gross fees are to be taken as the basis of pension. In some cases these fees are a restricted portion, and are for the solicitor's personal benefit. He has clerks to pay, and a number of other charges to meet. For that reason it would be most undesirable to pass the section in its present form.
There is general agreement that solicitors are not deserving of pensions in these cases, and I think the Minister agrees. I fail to see if pensionable officers are already secured why we should reassert some thing with which we do not agree in this Bill. If certain officers are already provided for, could we not strike out this section?
In answer to that, I may say that the solicitors have this privilege under a previous Act. We are taking that privilege from them in this Bill, but we have to protect the rights of those who already have rights. We cannot take the right from any solicitor who has a pensionable right, as he can contract out under a subsequent section. In answer to Senator Sir John Keane, I may say that pensions for solicitors will be calculated on their profits, and not on their gross salaries.
How do you estimate the profits?
By what method do we estimate the percentage? Is it profit on gross receipts?
The 1919 Act sets out a basis on which a solicitor's pension is to be computed, over a number of years, three or five. Surely it must set out some basis.
Of course, the House must take into account the three years' average of his salary, even if it did include the expenses of his office and clerk. These expenses would remain if he is deprived of his office. Senators forget that under this Act he is not deprived of his office. Officers appointed under the 1919 Act have existing statutory rights and you cannot well take them away from them. Inasmuch as you extinguish their employment, you have to provide now whether they get a pension or not. That is the only reason why it became necessary to deal with them at all.
We want to be clear as to whether they have a statutory right.
Yes; under the Act of 1919.
I would like to have the position made clear. Is it the case that if this amendment of Senator Colonel Moore's is passed all persons who, prior to the passing of this Act, held offices entitling them to pensions, will be deprived of these pensions? Does it mean that previous agreements made by Act of Parliament, by which particular solicitors were appointed and were entitled to pensions, will be affected if this amendment is passed, or will this amendment have the effect of providing only that future solicitors shall not have pensions? I take it, myself, that the Bill does definitely prevent any solicitor appointed in the future from being entitled to pension. But is there danger that, if we remove this, we will be singling out one class of persons who, however wrongly, under a previous Act, were entitled to pensions from getting a pension, and in that way will be repudiating that Act. In other words, we would not be keeping the obligations of the State. I agree that it is foolishness to give pensions to solicitors, if the facts as stated here are correct; but I would hesitate to vote for an amendment which would amount to a repudiation of former obligations.
I think there must be some misapprehension about the legal position of a solicitor to a local body under the existing law. It is quite true that, before the Act of 1919, a standing solicitor to a local body was not a pensionable officer, but under the Act of 1919 he became a pensionable officer, and if dismissed he would have the right to a pension. Also, if he retired with the sanction of the Local Government Board, he would be entitled, if he reached a certain age or suffered from a certain set of infirmities, to a pension. These are the officers dealt with in this section, and if the amendment of Senator Colonel Moore is carried, you will deprive officers entitled to pensions under the Act of 1919 from being pensioned under this Act. It is true that, if dismissed, they would have a right to their pensions under the 1919 Act, but this Act does not dismiss them, and therefore they ought to be entitled to pensions under this Act. It is true, also, under a subsequent section of this Bill, that if you carry an amendment standing in my name later on, they will have a right to elect whether they will go for their pensions under the 1919 Act or under this Act. In Section 8 of the 1919 Act you will find that a pensionable officer is there defined as including the standing solicitor to a local authority.
The words are: "For the purposes of this section, any person duly appointed standing solicitor to a local authority before the passing of this Act shall be deemed to be a pensionable officer of the local authority, notwithstanding that his whole time has not been devoted to the duties of his office."
Therefore, as you see, under the Act of 1919, the solicitor has a pensionable right. What is proposed to be done under this Bill is to give the same officer a pensionable right and to give him a choice whether he will have his pension under the Act of 1919 or under this Bill. You are not creating anything new; you are only giving the officer who has a statutory right a similar right under this Bill, and the choice whether he will take it under this Bill or the Act of 1919.
Under the 1919 Act the officer would be pensionable if retired or dismissed. Under this Bill a different situation arises altogether, and to secure that he will get his pension, this clause is put in. He cannot, unless the clause is put in, be pensionable under the 1919 Act, because he was neither dismissed nor retired. The door is closed up. Is not that so?
I do not quite follow. You may be perfectly right, but I do not follow the point. First of all, what was his position before this Bill was introduced?
Under what condition would he be pensionable?
His position before this Bill was introduced was this: if he was appointed before the Act of 1919, then, if removed from his office from any cause otherwise than misconduct or incapacity, or if he resigns his office with the sanction of the Local Government Board, he would be entitled to a pension.
Does that cover dissolution of the Board? Is there not a new situation under this Bill?
That is right. But this Bill provides for all officers who by reason of the dissolution lose pensions to which they were previously entitled, the right to them.
If you look at the seventh schedule you will find that Section 8 of the 1919 Act is to be repealed, so they will have no rights.
Of course I know that the profession will back up one another. I presumed that from the beginning. Regarding the 1919 Act, that Act was imposed by another Parliament. It was imposed for the purpose of inflicting an injury on local bodies, and of securing their own people. At that time there was not a single representative of the Free State in the Imperial Parliament, which passed it, and I cannot say that I have any particular respect for that Act. It was not passed with the sanction of anybody in the Free State. In fact it was done contrary to the wishes of the people in this country and was simply an imposition. It must be remembered too, that at the time it was passed we had a Parliament of our own sitting in this country. There is another point I wish to make, and it is that I presume these pensions will be calculated in accordance with the amount of work done within the last three years. Everybody knows that the amount of work done by solicitors during the last three years has been very exceptional on account of the variety of happenings that were going on. Therefore, their pensions now would be calculated on what they received during a very exceptional period, and they would get very high pensions. It has been pointed out by Senator Mrs. Wyse-Power and by Senator Douglas that these people are brought into this Act quite unnecessarily, and that if this provision were left out the people who come under the 1919 Act will not be deprived of their pensions at all.
Yes, they will. Section 8, under which they get it, is actually scheduled for repeal in this Bill.
I am sorry if I was mistaken about that. I desire to press my amendment, and I hope the Seanad will not give the solicitors this exceptional position. Even if it were provided for, it was provided for without the consent of anyone in this country.
By way of explanation, I would like to say, as the result of the discussion that has taken place, that when I supported this amendment I had not in mind at all the desire to deprive any solicitor of a right that he had secured under any previous Act. I was glad to hear the Minister reiterate that it is wrong in principle to infringe upon any of these rights, and I hope he will consistently hold to that opinion when some resolutions that are tabled for discussion will come on later. I wish to modify my attitude now in the light of the discussion that has taken place, and I desire to assert again that I had no intention or desire, in supporting the amendment, to take away any existing rights from any person.
- William Barrington.
- Thos. Westropp Bennett.
- Mrs. Costello.
- Peter De Loughry.
- Sir Thos. Grattan Esmonde.
- O. St. John Gogarty.
- Sir John Purser Griffith.
- Douglas Hyde.
- Cornelius Jos. Irwin.
- Sir John Keane.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- William John Molloy.
- Colonel Maurice Moore.
- James Moran.
- George Nesbitt.
- Michael O'Dea.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- Mrs. Jane Wyse-Power.
- James Green Douglas.
- Samuel L. Brown.
- Countess of Desart.
- Michael Duffy.
- Sir Nugent Everard.
- Thomas Farren.
- James Perry Goodbody.
- Henry Seymour Guinness.
- Benjamin Haughton.
- Patrick Williams Kenny.
- Earl of Kerry.
- John McLoughlin.
- John Thomas O'Farrell.
- William O'Sullivan.
- Earl of Wicklow.
On a point of order, I desire to call attention to the fact that the division bell does not ring in the Committee Rooms. I think it is desirable that it should ring in these rooms.
When this place was handed over to us we had no control over the Committee Rooms. I will see what can be done in the matter.
I understand that under the new arrangements, when the Seanad Chamber will be in Leinster House, that the division bell for both the Dáil and the Seanad will ring in all the Committee rooms.
I know that in the Committee room in which the Joint Committee was sitting on Private Bills the division bell always rang.
I beg to move the following amendment which stands in my name:
In Section 38, to delete lines 8-10 inclusive.
This amendment is similar to the last one, but I cannot say that I know as much about it as I did about the last one. There may be someone who can say something for these chemists. I do not know. As I understand, they are not permanent officials, and they do all the work in their own shops as part of their business. They are not whole-time officers as I understand it. I do not really see why they should get pensions, although reasons may possibly be given by the medical profession to show that they should. I do not want to be too hard on anybody, but I did not see any reason heretofore in the case of solicitors, and, so far, I do not see any reason for this.
I second the amendment.
I do not think a compounder of medicine should be put in the same category as the solicitors, and I hope the result of the voting will be different. Senator Colonel Moore said that these compounders did the business in their own shops. That is not so; they go to the dispensaries twice a day, and often have to travel a long distance. They have even to work on Sundays. They are miserably paid. They do a great deal of very useful and good work, and it would be very unjust to deprive them of their rights to pensions.
I hope that the Minister will tell us definitely whether these are people who also were previously entitled to pensions. If so, I will vote against the amendment; if not, I would be in sympathy with it.
These officers are in exactly the same position as the solicitors. They have existing pensionable rights, and the object of this section is to see that these rights are preserved. Like the solicitors, they will suffer as a result of this Bill; they will not be pensionable in the future. Heretofore compounders of medicine were pensionable because they came under the heading of medical officers. In this Bill the definition has been changed from "medical officer" to "registered medical practitioner," which rules out compounders, and the result is that they lose their rights. Unless they are specifically safeguarded by this section, they will no longer have these rights. Neither will they have power to contract out of the Bill. It would be just as great a hardship to deprive these people of their existing rights as, in my opinion, it was to deprive solicitors of their rights.
I hope that the Seanad will not pass this amendment. The arguments that were advanced against the case of solicitors, irrelevant as they were, do not apply in this case, because I understand that these people are paid salaries—very miserable salaries—and have not the special fees such as solicitors have in big law cases. As a result of the fact that their salaries are small, their pensions must be proportionately small, and a man with, say, twenty years' service would get one-third of his salary, which would be an exceedingly miserable pension. They are in the same position as a doctor who has been appointed to a dispensary. He has his salary in that position but he has also his rights as a private practitioner, and it is not contested that he should get some pension when he is deprived of his employment, or when he retires after long service. Apart from these facts, I think that it is a very dangerous and discreditable course to follow to deprive people of rights which they enjoy under existing legislation, and, above all, it is astonishing to find people here who advocate that kind of policy who would move heaven and earth if any rights conferred on them under the old regime, which we have honourably taken over and promised to observe, were proposed to be taken away. If we attempted to take away the rights of landowners and big people of that kind, I wonder what kind of uproar there would be.
You have taken them away.
But what is good law for one section of the community is robbery and exceedingly bad law for another section. I think the principle must be obvious to everybody, and, notwithstanding the fact that we have broken away from that principle in the previous amendment, I hope that in the case of these people, who are certainly not an affluent or wealthy class, their existing rights will be protected.
At the risk of pointing the obvious I would like to remark that there is ample precedent for what is proposed. In fact a coach-and-four has been driven by this Parliament through the existing rights of a large section of the community.
Amendment put, and negatived.
Section 39, sub-section (2), to add at the end of the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—
"(3) In this section the expression ‘officer' includes any person duly appointed standing solicitor of a local body before the passing of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1919."
This amendment might seem, on the face of it, to be consequential; I mean that it might seem that it ought to be rejected because Senator Colonel Moore's amendment has been carried. That is not so. Section 39 only applies to officers of more than ten years' standing. The effect of Senator Colonel Moore's amendment has been to deprive all solicitors of local bodies, no matter what their length of service was, of the status of pensionable officers. It has also deprived those solicitors of local bodies who have under ten years' service entirely of any rights they had under the Act of 1919. My amendment would still give the solicitor of a local body who has more than ten years' standing his rights under the Act of 1919. What it does is to give an officer of more than ten years' standing the option of saying whether he will take the rights that he has under the Act of 1919 or the rights that are being given to him under this Bill. You have deprived those solicitors of their rights who have less than ten years' standing, and we cannot go back on it. But those who have been serving local bodies for more than ten years, if this amendment is adopted, will have the rights they were given under the Act of 1919, that is, they will be entitled to elect to retain the rights that were given to them by the Act of 1919.
I second the amendment.
I think that before the House would pass this amendment it should be quite satisfied as to the method by which these pensions are assessed, because there may have been a very big law case during the previous three years on which this assessment takes place, and I think it would be monstrously unjust to assess a pension on that. I do not know whether there are certain statutory rules and regulations for assessing pensions, but if there are not we ought to be enlightened, so that we may see that no undue burden is placed on the ratepayers by a method of calculation which is exceptional, and which does not appear to apply to other officers who are on fixed salaries.
There is a feeling prevalent that the Act of 1919 largely saddled the incoming Government with a good deal of ready-made pensions, and I think equitably to assess a title to a pension one should go back ten years before 1919 and see how long these legal officers were serving. That would clear the minds of anybody who entertains the idea that people are taking opportunities, independent of their label—that what is called the old gang, has invited its friends to gather round and become pensionable on the new Government. If we could know the length of service prior to the Act of 1919 we would be in a position to judge the title to a pension of any of these persons whose positions we are discussing.
This amendment would only apply to solicitors who were at least five years in office before 1919, and who are now ten years in office.
I would like to support this amendment. We do not believe in special pleading for a special class. It is a most extraordinary thing, but we hear some Senators supporting solicitors, whose service to a public board is part-time, to enable them to get a pension, and at the same time opposing a man who gives thirty years' hard work in the service of the same people. These Senators hold up their hands in horror at the thought of such a thing. I do not believe in that. I believe a man should be consistent, and that he should vote for pensions for every person who gives good service, and, further, that he should not be drawing a narrow line between a solicitor and a man who works in the streets. We are perfectly consistent. We believe that every man and woman who gives good and faithful service are entitled to superannuation in their old age. The reason that we support this amendment is because we believe in that. If we were vindictive we should oppose this amendment and say: "We will not support it because you would not give a pension to our people." We do not believe in doing that. We believe it is right to support the amendment, although the people who are pleading in favour of it have not been as consistent as we have been in voting for these pensions.
If we were starting with a clean slate in this matter I would vote against the amendment, because I do not think solicitors should be eligible for pensions. As I understand it, if this amendment is passed we will be restoring pensions to some of the solicitors that we have just knocked out.
The ten years' service men.
Some of them would only have five, but this would give it to the ten years' men. That would include some of those who were believed to be pensionable before, and although I believe it was wrong in the first instance to take it away I cannot support this amendment.
I think the time is opportune now distinctly to stipulate and lay down the lines on which these pensions are to be computed. Senator Brown may have an idea of his own, but I think there is a want of definiteness about the whole thing. I know solicitors of county councils have been earning abnormal fees in connection with the defence of claims for compensation, huge schemes for labourers' cottages and the acquiring of land and all that, within recent years, and if the average is to be computed on the last three years' earnings, or what might be considered their earnings, from the taxed cost of these solicitors' fees for the past three or four years, it would be an enormously heavy burden on the pension list. It would be inequitable, and I ask Senator Brown to help the Seanad to deal with it. The question of the computation of the pensions is a big one. I would say that it would clear things up if the average were taken over the whole of the period of service rendered by the solicitor. If you take a bad year with a good year you will get the assessment on an equitable basis, but certainly to consent to signing a blank cheque in this way is more than the Seanad should be asked to do. I think the mover of the amendment ought to state what the liability will be in the matter of pounds, shillings and pence.
Would not the case be met by putting a maximum in the Bill, beyond which no pension, calculated as described by Senator Kenny, would be paid?
You cannot do that without going back and practically repealing the previous section, which defines the mode in which pensions are to be calculated.
It does not define it.
It does, because it shall be based on all fees and emoluments.
For how many years?
For the last three years. The previous section has done that.
The word "fees" is not mentioned in the section.
The word "emoluments" includes all fees. I do not think they could have made very much during the last three years. One of them was, perhaps, a good year, but one of them was almost a blank year.
In this case, also, I must vote against this amendment. It would upset the amendment already passed by the Seanad. I am against pensions for short periods. I think those Senators opposite who are fighting for pensions ought to agree with me as to what pensions are really for. Take the case of a man who goes into an office or any business whatever, spends his whole time working there, and gives to the public service so many years of his life that he is practically unable to work any more. I think that man is worthy of a pension, but I do not think any man is worthy of a pension who goes into any employment, whether civil, private, or public, merely for a short period, for five or even ten years. A man goes into an office for ten years. He goes out at the age of 30 or 35, as the case may be, in the full vigour of youth. I do not think pensions are meant for these people at all. I think once you begin to grant pensions to people who have served a short period of five or ten years, you begin to lay on the State an impossible burden, a burden which may be increased to almost any extent. All sorts of employees would come under it who gave a short period of service or who left their employment after a few years. Why should they get it? Such a person does not get any pension out of a private office. Nobody will give a pension to a person who served five years in his employment. Why should you do it? This State is becoming overburdened with pensions of all sorts. Millions of pounds are being lavished in these pensions. The country is simply swamped and is crying out loudly against it. I cannot see any reason for giving pensions to these people. I think also this question of the amount of pensions these persons are to receive does not seem to have received any attention from the Minister. If he worked out the sum that some of these people get from fees he would be staggered. I think that some of these solicitors have got quite enough already, and I must oppose this amendment.
I also oppose the amendment. I think there seems to be a difference of opinion as regards the basis on which these superannuation allowances should be levied. In one case it would appear to be on the whole salary, and in another on certain profits. Apart from that altogether, I think it is a wrong principle that any person who has not given his whole time to the service of the State should be pensionable. In these cases, these officers do not give their whole time. They give a very unimportant portion of their time to the service of the State, and for the portion they gave to the service of the State they have been sufficiently remunerated by the vast amount of work they derive from the populace. For that reason I think it is a very unjust principle that a person who is not a whole-time servant should be entitled to a pension. I think the amendment should be defeated.
I am fully in agreement with Senator Bennett's views as regards solicitors. I do not think that the office should be made pensionable, and I have embodied that principle by not making it pensionable under the present Bill. But in this particular case it is not a question of saying whether solicitors should be pensionable or not. It is a case of our finding they are pensionable already, and I think it is wrong to deprive these men of the rights which they have already. There have been several questions put as to how pensions for solicitors have been arrived at. It is not easy to arrive at these figures. If a solicitor sends in a bill of costs for work done during a period of ten years and that falls under one year, you would not allow that as one year's emoluments. You will take into account that the work was spread over ten years. All these factors are taken into account administratively. That is the great objection to putting down minimum pensions. If you have a minimum pension scale, well, you are obliged in law to pay the officer his minimum pension, according to the sixtieth scale. For that reason we are not having minimum pensions. We allowed a very wide discretion in this matter and it is necessary that we should have it, and we take every precaution to see that no extravagant pensions are paid under this scale.
There is a point in this that requires elucidation. Is the proposition to give a pension to a solicitor on his gross takings without deducting from it what he pays his clerks? Because that means a tremendous amount. It is not on his profits that he would be getting a pension in that case. You would be pensioning the whole office.
It is solely on his individual profits that the pension would be calculated.
Could we have an assurance on that? I ask that, because Senator Brown has said the opposite. He says the emoluments include the fees; and he is a well-known authority; that would be quite opposite to what the Minister has said.
How would anybody know what his profits were?
There is no doubt at all you could ascertain what his profits are from his account. The fees are statutory fees more or less, and you could, by picking out the items for twelve months, ascertain what his profits, and what his costs were in that period. That is the meaning of it. He is not paid on what he gives a barrister.
I would like to ask if, when calculating the pension, the solicitor would be allowed pension on what he pays his clerks, or part of that? That would considerably increase the amount of the pension. Would the solicitor pay a proportion of that pension to his clerks?
- James Green Douglas.
- William Barrington.
- Samuel Brown, K.C.
- The Countess of Desart.
- Sir Nugent Talbot Everard.
- Thomas Farren.
- Henry Seymour Guinness.
- Benjamin Haughton.
- Patrick Williams Kenny.
- The Earl of Kerry.
- John McLoughlin.
- John Thomas O'Farrell.
- William O'Sullivan.
- The Earl of Wicklow.
- Thomas Westropp Bennett.
- Richard A. Butler.
- Mrs. Eileen Costello.
- Peter De Loughry.
- Oliver St. John Gogarty.
- James Perry Goodbody.
- Sir John Purser Griffith.
- Dr. Douglas Hyde.
- Sir John Keane.
- Thomas Linehan.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- Colonel Maurice Moore.
- George Nesbitt.
- Lernard O'Rourke.
- Mrs. Jane Wyse-Power.
I beg to move:—
Section 40, sub-section (1), page 21, line 60. To add at the end of the sub-section the words "and unless the officer has failed to give continuously satisfactory service, not less than an allowance calculated in accordance with the scale laid down in the Fifth Schedule to this Act."
The schedule provides for a minimum pension calculated at the rate of one-sixtieth of the average of the last three years' salary. The maximum pension cannot exceed two-thirds of the actual salary. Now no matter what may be said against the undesirability of having minimum pensions fixed, I think it is a very necessary business arrangement that the local authorities should have some definite basis to go upon in calculating the pensions to be paid to any pensionable officer. This is necessary. I think the position of having twenty different local authorities with as many different scales of pensions is not right. In respect of the individual who is pensioned, I should say that we must remember that these pensions are looked upon as part of his salary. Every employer takes the question of pension into account when he is assessing the salary of the employee, and the salary is reduced accordingly. Is it fair to leave the man from whose salary that deduction has been made without having the least idea as to how he stands in respect of pension? One council may decide on one particular basis of assessing the pension, while their successors may decide upon an entirely different basis, with very inequitable and unjust results to the individual concerned. The most that a man could get under this would be two-thirds of his salary, and he must have forty years' service in order to get that. He must have thirty years' service in order to get one-half of the average of his last three years' salary as a pension. The amendment is sufficiently wide, I think, to allow very great discretion to a local authority in assessing a pension, because it provides that unless an officer has failed to give continuously satisfactory service he shall get his pension, so that if there are circumstances which operate against the spirit of this amendment they can be taken full advantage of by the local authority, and, moreover, the pension has to be finally passed by the Minister before it becomes operative. I think most of the members of local authorities will welcome the establishment of a definite basis for pensions, because it would save them from the very undesirable attentions that are paid to them by people who are about going on pension with a view to getting a good pension as against a bad one. I believe there are people with ten or fifteen years' service who had a pension of two-thirds of their salary assessed. That cannot be done now except in a way the Minister will have to turn down. It seems to me extraordinary that there are pensionable offices created, and no local authority has any knowledge of what basis the pension shall be calculated. It is a most unbusinesslike and chaotic arrangement, and leads to all sorts of abuses. The Minister said, I think, on the last day, that it was intended at some future date to bring in a Bill dealing with pensions. I suggest that Bill cannot deal with those who are about to become redundant now as a result of the operations of this Bill, and in respect of people who are not redundant, their pensions will fall due in the next ten or fifteen years. The new Bill will operate in their case independently of this amendment, because it can repeal all previous Acts, and consequently the Minister cannot be prejudiced in introducing it by accepting this amendment.
I beg to second.
I cannot agree to accept this amendment. There are very grave objections to accepting the principle of minimum pensions. In the discussion on the last amendment, questions arose which illustrate the difficulty of having a minimum pension. In the case of solicitors, it is a very difficult thing to arrive at what their pension really should be, and there might be considerable differences in the point of view of various people as to what the pension should be. It would be very difficult to decide how a court would rule in the matter, and the result would be that if we had a minimum pension scale fixed in practice we would be obliged to grant probably the maximum pension in order to protect ourselves against an action in court. If we insert a minimum scale, the final authority for deciding the scale of the pension would not be the Ministry but the court of justice, and in order to avoid the risk of costs and defeat in the court, we would be inclined to grant a more liberal scale; in fact, the maximum scale. In practice we always adhere to the sixtieth scale, and add years for meritorious service. That is the usual administrative system.
If, as in the case of solicitors, which was dealt with before, their fees for the previous three years were exceptionally high owing to exceptional conditions, that would be taken into consideration in arriving at their pension, but if we are tied down by a minimum pension scale then it will be impossible to take such considerations into view, and in practice we will be obliged to grant maximum pensions where a much more moderate pension would be equitable. For that reason I ask the Seanad, in view of the difficulty the country is in at the present moment, not to agree to this.
I do not know what the fate of the amendment will be, but I do seriously suggest that when the Minister opposes an amendment he should indulge in arguments which would appeal to an assembly with even the most elementary type of intelligence. He proceeds to argue against this on the grounds of the difficulty of assessing a solicitor's pension when he knows that by the last amendment solicitors are deprived of pension. Why put up obstacles that do not exist? He says that if you fix a minimum in order to protect yourself from legal action you will have to pay the maximum. In every case of ten years' service you will have to pay a pension amounting to two-thirds of maximum. Unless the Seanad has other reasons I suggest that no argument has been used against the amendment.
Senator O'Farrell has simplified the matter by saying the minimum scale is based on salary alone, but the Senator must bear in mind that we have to take emoluments and fees into consideration as well as salary. In theory it is easy to draw up a scale and say the minimum is so many 00000 sixtieths of the officer's service. There are tremendous practical difficulties, and in order to safeguard ourselves we have to grant a much larger pension than we would in the ordinary course of events. I took the solicitor's case as an example because it was under discussion here some time ago.
Section 40, sub-section (2), page 22. line 8:—
To add at the end of the sub-section the words "and unless the officer has failed to give continuously satisfactory service, not less than an allowance calculated in accordance with the scale laid down in the Fifth Schedule to this Act."
This amendment is not a case of pension but is compensation for the loss of office, and I think where people are deprived of their employment, just as in the Railways Bill, it is a different case from that where a man retires after a certain period of service. I suggest it is a different proposition altogether when you deprive a person of his employment through no fault of his own.
I oppose the amendment because of the practical difficulty of putting it into operation, and that applies in this case as in the other.
Section 48, sub-section 2, page 24 To delete the sub-section.
This is an amendment to delete the sub-section as it stands. I think the officer who gets a pension ought to be very well satisfied to pay his ordinary debts to the shopkeeper. A number of officers who may get pensions have expressed to me that they have no desire to be treated differently from the rest of the community in the payment of their debts.
I second the amendment.
This amendment was up several times before, and I leave it to the Seanad. I have no view in this matter at all.
Before Section 54 to insert two new sections as follows:—
"54.—Before the election of county councillors next held after the passing of this Act, the Minister shall by order define each county electoral area and the number of councillors to be elected for each area, having regard to the number of local government electors in each area, and shall declare all the urban districts in each county to be one or more separate county electoral areas.
"55.—No member of a county council or board of health elected for an area forming or being wholly included in an urban sanitary district or districts shall act or vote in any case in which such council or board acts or votes in its capacity as rural sanitary authority, but he shall be entitled to vote and act at the election of a county medical officer of health for any county health district in the county."
I regard this as a very important amendment. There is a provision in the Bill at present which enables electors in urban areas that are not liable for the rural sanitary rate to have a voice in the expenditure of that rate. I think that is a very wrong principle to adopt. I think taxation should go with representation and these two amendments are put down to remedy a defect in the Bill. The urban areas are excluded from the sanitary area of a county and the ratepayers of urban districts pay nothing towards the rural sanitary rate. It is very wrong therefore that they should have any voice in the disposal of the money of the rural ratepayers. Urban areas at present form a very large part of some counties. In County Cork urban areas form one-eight of the entire population. The Bill gives such areas a right to have a voice in the selection of persons to administer the rural sanitary rate. The amendment I propose directs the Minister to define the electoral areas of the county. I presume that, in any case, he will have to do that, as the number of councillors to be elected in the future differ considerably from the numbers elected in the past. When making the division into electoral areas I have suggested that the Minister should keep the urban areas separate from the rural districts and allot to them county councillors who would have power to vote on every subject that came before the council or board of health, except when it is acting as the rural sanitary authority.
There is a precedent for doing so, as, when the Public Health Act was being introduced in 1878 the powers of the rural sanitary authority were entrusted to boards of guardians, with the exception of members elected for urban areas who were to have no voice when the guardians were acting as the rural sanitary authority. The amendments that I propose are on practically similar lines. I can see no great difficulty in separating the urban areas and giving them their own county councillors. As a matter of fact, I think in the Dáil the Minister was told by those interested in urban areas that when amalgamating large rural districts there would be nobody from the urban districts to represent the poor of the town, and that the voice of the urban areas would be swamped by the rural districts. In the matter of the relief of the poor, and of the rates that go to provide for the poor, it would be an advantage for each urban area to have a county councillor in its own district. If the amendment is carried I believe there will be in most cases one councillor allotted to each urban area, and in some cases two councillors. I hope the Seanad will not insist on the principle of giving persons who are not liable for a rate a voice in its disposal.
I wish to support the amendment and I do so largely because I have received a considerable number of representations from the country that the principle is inequitable of giving urban districts a vote for expenditure towards which they do not contribute. Of course that is a flagrant violation of the accepted principle of democratic government. If I remember correctly taxation without representation lost us the States of America. Although this is a very microscopic example of the same principle, it holds. Another reason is that anyone who has experience of how these councils work, knows that there is very considerable difficulty in getting attendance. The urban representative will be on the spot, and naturally, will be more inclined to give regular attendance. Added to that fact they are voting away money which they do not raise. That will be a very great injustice. There is no difficulty whatever in making the alteration. There is a certain amount of administrative trouble, but there is no difficulty in separating the urban and the rural areas. It is quite easy to do so, for the elections and the division will be effected if the amendment is carried.
I am strongly opposed to the amendment. It is, I think, a wrong principle to try and separate the rural from the urban districts in that particular way. Undoubtedly it is true that there is some anomaly about having representatives from the urban areas deciding, as the sanitary authority of the county, what the rural areas are to do. It may be also pointed out that it is not a good principle to have men from the southern end of a county health area deciding matters affecting the northern end. All these little difficulties will arise in administration. The good results that will follow from this policy very much outweigh the evil consequences. In practice it would be impossible to put Senator Linehan's scheme into operation. The idea of bulking all the urban districts into one electoral area and giving them representation as such would give rise to extraordinary anomalies.
Take the position of Tirconaill. Under this scheme you would have three townships there constituting an electoral area, and they would be only in a position to elect one member. Would that one member represent Buncrana, Bundoran, or Letterkenny? It would be impossible for him to be a good representative for the three townships. If he came from Letterkenny, Buncrana or Bundoran, he would naturally look after the interests of the particular town he came from, to the neglect of the other two. In the same way in County Longford, the quota for two townships, Longford and Granard, would be only two representatives. Those two representatives would be elected by the Longford township, which has more than a two-to-one majority over the electors of Granard. That would mean that the Granard people would be doubly unrepresented in the public health administration of the county. A great number of anomalies of this kind would arise if we were to insist on this cleavage of urban and rural interests, and for that reason I would ask the Seanad to permit the present arrangement, which is the only practicable arrangement, to stand in the Bill.
Amendment put and negatived.