Public Assistance Bill, 1939—Committee and Fourth Stages.
Sections 1 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 1:—
Before Section 9 to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) The following provisions shall apply and have effect in relation to every public assistance authority whose public assistance district is in the Dublin area, that is to say:—
(a) notwithstanding anything contained in the Local Government (Dublin) (Amendment) Act, 1931 (No. 25 of 1931), such authority shall consist of such number of persons as the Minister shall from time to time appoint and, in the case of the Dublin Board of Assistance, such persons shall be elected by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, aldermen and burgesses of Dublin and the council of the county of Dublin in such proportions as the Minister shall similarly appoint and, in every other case, such persons shall be elected by the council of the said county;
(b) those members (if any) of such authority who are elected by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, aldermen and burgesses of Dublin shall be members of the City Council for Dublin;
(c) those members of such authority who are elected by the council of the county of Dublin shall be members of such council;
(d) the Rules set forth in the Second Schedule to this Act shall apply and have effect in relation to such authority but with the modification that, for the purposes of Rule 2 of the said Rules, those members of such authority who are to be elected by the council of the county of Dublin shall be elected in the same manner as if they were all additional members within the meaning of that Rule, and that the references in Rules 11 and 12 to the first meeting shall be construed as referring to the first meeting of such authority after the commencement of this Act;
(e) subject and without prejudice to the rules set forth in the Second Schedule to this Act as applied by the next preceding paragraph of this sub-section, the Minister may by order make regulations in relation to the conduct of the business and the order of proceedings at meetings of such authority, and every such regulation shall have effect according to the tenor thereof;
(f) whenever any difficulty arises in regard to an election of members of such authority or the first meeting of such authority after an election (other than an election to fill a casual vacancy) of all or any of the members of such authority, or by reason of a defect in the constitution of such authority arising in consequence of an election of all or some of the members of such authority not being held or being defective or in consequence of any other matter or thing, the Minister may by order do any thing which appears to him to be necessary or proper to meet or remove such difficulty and in particular, may by such order if he so thinks proper provide for the holding of an election of all or some of the members of such authority or for the holding of a meeting of such authority.
(2) So much of the Local Government (Dublin) (Amendment) Act, 1931 (No. 25 of 1931), as is inconsistent with the foregoing sub-section of this section and, in particular, so much of that Act as provides for coopted members of the Dublin Board of Assistance shall cease to have effect.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 10 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.
(1) Every public assistance authority whose public assistance district is in the Dublin area shall appoint an officer to be the secretary of such authority.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In sub-section (1), page 10, line 3, to add at the end of the sub-section the words, "and a bank or banking company to be the treasurer of such authority."
This proposed amendment provides that each board of assistance shall appoint a bank or banking company as treasurer.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, agreed to.
(4) Nothing in this section or any regulation made thereunder shall prejudice or affect the application of the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925 (No. 20 of 1925), to public assistance authorities, or the operation of that Act in relation to such authorities.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In sub-section (4), page 10, lines 31 and 32, to delete the words "Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925 (No. 20 of 1925)", and to substitute the words ("Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1939 (No. 14 of 1939)".
This amendment is necessarily consequential on the passing of the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1939.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 16, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 17 and 18 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 19 stand part of the Bill."
I do not know if I am speaking at the right time or not, but would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary for some information as to how these relieving officers are appointed. I have knowledge of some cases where exceedingly immature people with certain local influence have been appointed. I hope any remarks that I make will not be brought home against the case I have in mind. Very immature young people, with but little knowledge of the world have been appointed; they are really not able to stand up against the demands made on them, and I have seen red tickets given in some cases to people who do not deserve them. Are these people appointed by the Appointments Commission, or does it rest entirely with the board of health to make them? It is a skilled job to deal with public assistance, and people of the world are needed to do it, people with a certain amount of knowledge and poise. Would the Parliamentary Secretary enlighten us on this matter?
Under the existing code the assistance officers or relieving officers are appointed by the boards of public assistance. Accompanying this Bill or collateral to it will be the Local Government Bill which will deal with officers of all local authorities, and public assistance officers will be dealt with in that Bill; but the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926, does not apply to public assistance officers. Under this Bill they would still be appointed by the public assistance authority, but the Minister would be empowered to make regulations governing age, educational qualifications and any other qualifications that the Minister may think well to insert in the regulations.
When the Bill with regard to county managers comes into force, will these officers be appointed by the county managers or by the board of health?
That is a question on which I should not like to give an indication now. The managerial system will be in operation before this Bill becomes operative. This Bill becomes operative on a day to be appointed by the Minister and that will not be until the managerial system comes into operation. As to what the reserve functions under the managerial Bill will be, I am not in a position to indicate.
I would indicate to Senator Sir John Keane that if he objects to the appointment by the board of assistance he can have two strings to his bow—either they will be appointed through the machinery of the Appointments Commission or when the managerial system comes into operation the manager will appoint them and not the board.
I think the Senator can feel easy in his mind about this question.
I hope that that is so. This concerns, not an ordinary class of worker but people of great responsibility; and when we have this appointments machinery it should be used. Surely it should be possible, now that we have secondary education and educational certificates, that some test of competence be introduced—an academic test if possible. It should be possible to devise some simple diploma for these people. I think the Parliamentary Secretary is not perhaps fully alive to the technicalities of the job or to the very considerable technique that is necessary. It is somewhat in the nature of the job an almoner has to do in a hospital, and they have considerable training. To employ a young slip of a boy or girl is really very wrong.
I do not want to unduly prolong the debate, but I would like to draw the Senator's attention to the fact that in each public assistance district there is a superintendent assistance officer who is selected by the Appointments Commissioners; so that, to some extent, I think, the machinery is fairly closely watched by persons who have an expert knowledge of their job.
Section 19 agreed to.
Section 20 to 25, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 26 stand part of the Bill."
Might I ask the Parliamentary Secretary why, if a man has an illegitimate child and admits that the child is his, he should not be liable to maintain it? It does not seem quite reasonable that if a woman has to maintain her illegitimate children, a man should not have to do so, if he admits that the children are his.
Is that not covered by another Act?
That is the reply. The liability of a father of illegitimate children is governed by the provisions of the Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930, and that is why a father is not specifically referred to here. He is covered by a specific piece of legislation dealing with the fathers of illegitimate children.
Up to now, the woman has had no liability?
This is not a new provision. Not many people may have been aware of it, but it was enshrined in the old poor law relief code. She had a statutory liability. I do not believe it was very much enforced, but it was there, and this is not a new principle.
If the position is the same in regard to both, why is the woman specifically mentioned here, and not the man?
Because there is not a special Act governing the woman's position, as there is in the case of a man. The Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act applies to the father, and not to the mother.
Surely the position is that you must make provision for the child? Where the father admits, or there is reasonable proof, that the child is his, it is covered by special legislation passed here a few years ago; but you have cases where the father cannot be found, or no proof exists, and some provision has to be made. Therefore, I think it is necessary to maintain the legal liability for the father. The mother, I think, has a recourse—and if she has not, she ought to have—against the father which, when it can be proved, would relieve her of the legal liability. Is that not the position?
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 27 and 28 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 4:—
At the end of the section, on page 16, to add a new sub-section as follows:—
(3) In the foregoing sub-sections of this section, the word "money" includes money deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank or any other bank and the expression "security for money" includes a deposit-book issued by the Post Office Savings Bank to a depositor and also includes a Savings Certificate, and the powers conferred by those sub-sections respectively on a public assistance authority shall include:—
(a) in the case of money in the Post Office Savings Bank, power on obtaining possession of the deposit book issued in respect thereof by that Bank, to withdraw such money or a sufficient portion thereof in accordance with regulations in that behalf made by the Minister for Finance, and
(b) in the case of money in any other bank, power to apply to the District Court for and, if that Court so thinks proper, to obtain an order directing such bank to pay such money or a sufficient portion thereof to such public assistance authority, and
(c) in the case of a Savings Certificate, power on obtaining possession of such Certificate, to realise such Certificate in accordance with rules in that behalf made by the Minister for Finance."
This amendment is intended to give more effective powers to public assistance authorities to recover debts due by persons from moneys invested in banks and moneys invested in Savings Certificates.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 29, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 30 to 52, inclusive, agreed to.
(1) Where a public assistance district is situate wholly within one county, the expenses incurred by the council of such county acting as the public assistance authority for such public assistance district shall be raised by such council by means of the poor rate equally over the whole of such public assistance district.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In sub-section (1), page 26, to delete in lines 17 and 18 the words "the council of such county acting as"; to delete in line 19 the word "such" and to substitute the word "the"; and to insert in line 19 after the word "council" the words "of such county".
This is merely a drafting amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 53, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 54 to 58, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 59 stand part of the Bill."
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he has had occasion at any time to look into the rather dry matter of what, I think, is called the form of public accounts. Some years ago I was a member of the Poor Law Commission, and I had occasion to go into this matter in some detail. I came to the conclusion that the whole of the accounting machinery is most cumbersome and out of date. There were endless forms duplicating one another, and, with some knowledge of the subject, I felt sure that if you got in a modern accountant to look at the thing he would scrap the lot and cut down half the forms and probably make the thing more secure and much more simple. If the Parliamentary Secretary wants to follow that matter up, he will find a note, or addendum, which I wrote on that subject to the report of that Poor Law Commission. I am concerned that what appeared to be these dull prosaic matters do not seem to interest people in authority. There is no glamour attaching to anything of this kind, but you have no idea of its effect on efficiency, and, ultimately, even on the saving of staff.
In that report, it was suggested that you cannot suddenly change the whole of an accountancy system over night. There is a certain necessity for experimentation in the matter, but it suggests that these old archaic forms are now largely out of date and should be examined in the light of modern knowledge and modern machinery. What was suggested there, I suggest now—that you get a modern examination brought to bear on this whole question. You could then introduce, experimentally, in one area, the new system concurrently with the old, give it a trial run and see how it works parallel with the existing method. When it had been proved, as I feel sure it will be, if tried with honest and good intentions, it can be applied universally. There is no modern, live, up-to-date attitude towards this business. Commercial business is every day renewing and examining its accountancy machinery. I have never seen, and I have always taken an interest in this matter, any disposition on the part of either the Finance Department or the Local Government authority to do anything but let the old system keep going. It is inevitable, I know, in government that the thing which gets along somehow will not be disturbed, but I do feel that the same outlook on efficiency which applies to commercial institutions should apply to Government institutions.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary seriously to examine this matter, and not merely to be satisfied with the assurances—no doubt given to him with every good intention—of officials who have been brought up from their early days of service on a system with which they are perfectly satisfied and which they naturally do not want the inconvenience and disturbance of having to change.
Senator Sir John Keane is not altogether correct in his conclusion that the officials are completely satisfied with the form as it exists at present. It is intended, when this Bill becomes law, or before it becomes operative, to draw up an entirely new form. The officials do agree that such a reform is necessary.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 60 to 67, inclusive, put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 68 stand part of the Bill."
There is a matter to which I wish to refer, and I do not know under what section I may deal with it, or under what section I may would be in order in doing so. I was not present when Section 9 was under discussion, but I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what is the attitude of the Government with regard to the report of the Greater Dublin Commission so far as concerns the future reform of the Greater municipal administration, and in particular what is the attitude of the Government as to the future area of the City of Dublin as distinct from the County of Dublin —that is, if the County of Dublin survives at all. The answer to that question is of importance, not only in relation to public assistance under this Bill, but in relation to other matters now under consideration: for example, the proceedings of the Transport Tribunal and the Housing Commission. The affairs of these bodies would be greatly simplified if they knew for certain what the future area of the City of Dublin would be.
I do not think that is quite in order.
It is not quite in order, but had the Senator been in the House and raised it on an earlier amendment it would be in order. I would not like to tie the Senator too rigidly on the question of order. However, as the Senator would probably find excuses for bringing up the matter at a later stage, I will say all that I have to say on it at the moment. I cannot, on the Public Assistance Bill, anticipate the terms of a Bill that has not yet been drafted or submitted to the House. Before the Senator entered the Chamber a somewhat similar question arose relating to other contemplated legislation, and the same type of reply was given.
May I say that on the Fifth Stage, if I am present, I would like to make some remarks about putting the cart before the horse, which is what we are doing in the matter of this Bill.
I am quite sure that the Senator will be at liberty to raise the question on the Fifth Stage. In fact, most of what he would have to say on the matter could have been read in yesterday's leading article in the Irish Times, where a putting-the-cart-before-the-horse accusation was made.
What I have said was my opinion before the article appeared in the Irish Times.
Section 68 put and agreed to.
Sections 69 to 90, inclusive, put and agreed to.
First Schedule put and agreed to.
(2) A member of a board of assistance elected by the corporation of a county borough who ceases to be, or is disqualified for being, a member of the city council for such county borough shall also cease to be, or be disqualified for being, a member of such board of assistance.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In Rule 4, paragraph (2), page 40, line 32, to insert before the word "assistance" the word "public".
This is merely a drafting amendment.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That the Second Schedule, as amended, stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Enactments under which a Board of Public Assistance is a Local Authority.
No. 5 of 1925—The Local Government Act, 1925.
No. 20 of 1925—The Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1925.
No. 34 of 1926—The Local Authorities (Mutual Assurance) Act, 1926.
No. 39 of 1926—The Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926.
No. 3 of 1927—The Local Government Act, 1927.
No. 23 of 1927—The Juries Act, 1927.
No. 21 of 1928—The Local Authorities (Mutual Assurance) Act, 1928.
No. 19 of 1931—The Local Government Act, 1931.
No. 41 of 1935—The Local Government (Dissolved Authorities) Act, 1935.
No. 42 of 1935—The Local Authorities (Mutual Assurance) Act, 1935.
No. 55 of 1936—The Local Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1936.
I move amendment No. 7:—
To delete the reference to the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing Act, 1925 (No. 20 of 1925), and to insert in lieu thereof a reference at the end of the Schedule to the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1939 (No. 14 of 1939).
This amendment is necessary because it is consequential on the passing of the Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act, 1939.
Amendment agreed to.
Third Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
The Title agreed to.
I suggest that we should take the remaining Stages now.
We could take the Report Stage now.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
I propose that we leave the Fifth Stage over until Tuesday or Wednesday next.
According to the Parliamentary Secretary, we could wait until next year for this Bill because it will not become operative until another Bill is passed.
Fifth Stage ordered for Wednesday, 19th July.