Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Jul 1938

Vol. 21 No. 8

Public Hospitals (Amendment) Bill, 1938—Second Stage.

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

This is a Bill to amend the Public Hospitals Act of 1933. Under this Bill it is proposed to constitute a hospitals trust board as a body corporate to take the place of the National Hospital Trustees appointed under the Public Hospitals Act of 1933. That Act did not constitute the trustees a body corporated and securities held by them for the Hospital Trust Fund were registered in the individual names of the trustees. The existing trustees will become members of the hospitals trust board. The Bill regulates the manner in which the board shall carry on their proceedings.

The Bill also deals with two other matters. It is proposed to release the trustees from their liabilities under the Act of 1933, if the Minister is satisfied they have performed their duties under that Act. The accounts of the trustees are audited regularly, and the trustees present an auditor's report and certificate. All the investments and bank balances are verified at each audit and it is considered reasonable that the trustees should be released from all liability in respect of the Hospitals Trust Fund when they are in a position to show that they have carried out all their duties satisfactorily.

The Bill also gives powers to the new board in relation to providing office accommodation for the bodies connected with the Sweepstakes. Up to the present the office accomodation for the Sweepstakes Committee, the promoters and the large staff employed by them has been of a temporary nature. In view of the extent of the accommodation required it has been found impossible to obtain suitable offices in one building. The Sweepstake Committee requested the National Hospital Trustees to undertake a scheme for centralising the staff in a new building. Provided they are authorised to adopt a building scheme with the sanction of the Minister, the trustees are prepared to comply with the request of the Sweepstake Committee. By bringing together the headquarters staff in one building it is anticipated that there will be a saving in administrative expenses. Apart from the economies of a central building it is expected that greater efficiency of administration will be possible by concentrating the staff. The Bill is put forward with the approval of all the parties interested in the Sweepstakes.

I think it is very necessary that the Hospitals Trustees should be given corporative form. I would also ask the Minister to consider the desirability of giving them some remuneration. They have quite substantial duties to perform, and have to bear very considerable responsibility. Any body of men entrusted with the investment and custody of funds running to the amount of £8,000,000 should not be expected to do this work for nothing, especially as the Sweepstake is practically a commercial concern. I would ask the Minister, if he has not got the powers already, to consider seeking them by way of amendment to this Bill, so that the members of the board may be paid, not a large remuneration, but adequate remuneration for the work they do. This Bill is also giving the new board the power to own property in order to provide facilities and office accomodation for the Sweepstake organisation. We know that the plans for the building are already well advanced, and that work on the frontage opposite the Royal Dublin Society's premises, Ballsbridge, will shortly begin. I hope that the board will take into consideration the erection of a building of a character worthy of that important site. They should also consider, I think, whether the main hall of that building might not be used for other functions of importance outside the Sweepstake work. I take it that the building will be used mainly for the draw.

We are badly in need of a concert hall in Dublin. It might be possible to design the hall of that building so that it would be suitable for that and other purposes of a general public character, possibly on a rental that could be considered afterwards.

Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to clarify one part of the Bill, clause 8, which gives power to the board to adopt a scheme for the provision of office and other accommodation. The clause states:—

8.—(1) The Board may, whenever they are requested by a sweepstake committee so to do, adopt a scheme for the provision of office and other accomodation for sweepstake committees and for the employees of sweepstake committees....

and so on. It is with regard to the phrase: "whenever they are requested by a sweepstake committee so to do." There is some possibility, I think, of ambiguity there. The point that would present some ambiguity, to my mind, is this: it may mean that the Sweepstake Committee has no functions except to request the board to adopt a scheme, such scheme as the board itself might devise, or whether it might, on the other hand, mean that the Sweepstake Committee should itself first frame a scheme and request the board to adopt it. I think that the wording or drafting is a little loose, and might lead to some misunderstanding in the future. I am not contemplating any difficulty arising with the present board and the present Sweepstake Committee, but it seems to me that the manner of drafting it does leave it open to some ambiguity, and it is possible that in the future some dispute might arise between the committee and the board as to whether the Sweepstake Committee had any voice in the drafting of the scheme or whether they had nothing to do except to say the word "go" to the board.

As regards the points raised by Senator Sir John Keane, the question of payment to the individual trustees has never been raised by the trustees themselves.

They do not want it then?

Well, possibly. No suggestion has ever reached me.

It has reached me.

They went to the wrong quarter. We do not pay the bank for the work they do. The bank acts as the officer of the trustees. The trustees themselves appointed the bank as their officer to carry out the work, and we pay the bank. Perhaps if they thought a second time they might have made another suggestion in the early stages, but there is no power at present to pay the individual trustees. At any rate, so far as I am concerned and the Department is concerned, no suggestion of any kind has ever reached us, nor have the trustees, nor any member of the trustees or of the new board ever suggested that they thought they were entitled to some remuneration.

As to the nature of the building, I have had some conversations with those who are responsible for the design of the building: There is to be a very large office building, I understand, and something in the nature of a large assembly hall that could be used, as the Round Room of the Mansion House is used at present for the sweep draw, but the intention is, I understand, that the hall shall be of such a kind that it can be used for concerts and other public functions of that kind and that it is hoped, at any rate, that it will supply the want that has been often spoken about in this City of Dublin, of a hall of a kind that could be used for public concerts in particular.

Might I ask the Minister if it is intended to harmonise the exterior of the building with that of the Royal Dublin Society building opposite?

That I cannot say. I have not seen even a sketch plan of the building. I have not seen any details. I was just told when the trustees first approached me about this Bill. Some people had mentioned to me the question of the possibility of a proposition of this kind coming along, and right at the very beginning I had it suggested to me that if an approach was being made to me it would be a suitable opportunity to raise the question of a suitable assembly hall in Dublin for concerts and other functions of that kind. I did that and was told that had already been thought of or anticipated, but as to the nature of the frontage of the building I do not know. I will make inquiries. They have got a very distinguished architect, and I am sure that the committee—I suppose it is the Hospitals Sweepstakes Committee will have the final say in the adoption or selection of the type of building— will be guided in their selection by the competent architect they have selected. In any case, for fear anything might be overlooked, I will call attention to the point raised by Senator MacDermot.

I do not think there is any likelihood of a misunderstanding with regard to the wording of the clause Senator Rowlette has mentioned, but I will have it examined again.

Will the Minister explain what is the meaning of it? I do not understand it. Perhaps he will explain?

It is definitely brought in to meet the case that had arisen. The sweepstakes committee have already requested that suitable buildings be provided, and it is not likely, I am told—we have had the point discussed already by those with whom I have been in touch—that there will be any suggestion for further building.

Tá aon rud amháin—ba mhaith liom focal do rá mar gheall ar thicéidí an scuaibín. Ní bhíonn aon fhocal Gaedhilge ortha. Is dóich liom gur mór an truagh é sin. Tá Gaedhilge ar gach aon pháipéar a bhaineann leis an Tigh seo agus ba cheart go mbeadh roinnt bheag de theanga na tíre ar na ticéidí sin. Tá súil agam go bhféachfar chuige feasta.

Níl aon chomhacht ag an Rialtas ar mhuinntir an scuaibín—dream neamh spleách iseadh iad—agus ní féidir leo cur isteach ortha acht léighfe siad cunntas na díospóireachta seo agus tá súil agam go gcuirfear roinnt Ghaedhilge ar na ticéidí feasta.

Question—"That the Bill be read a Second time"—put and agreed to.

Is it proposed to take the Committee Stage now?

If the Seanad has no objection.