Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 16 Jul 1941

Vol. 25 No. 19

Local Government Bill, 1940—Second Stage.

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

This Bill is the third of the three measures under which the system of local government will be changed and reorganised. The first of the three measures was the Public Assistance Act, 1939, which made further and better provision in relation to public assistance and which assumed the establishment of the county manager system. The second was the County Management Act of last year which extended the council manager plan of local government at present in operation in the principal cities to the remainder of the country. Having regard to the explanatory memorandum which was circulated with the Bill I do not think it is necessary at this stage to refer in detail to its provisions.

As regards Part II of the Bill it is essential, in view of the necessity for having a proficient personnel at the service of local bodies, to establish a system of recruitment and control calculated to achieve that result. Conditions of service will be placed on a uniform basis and much of the detail which at present is dealt with by the central authority can under the Bill be dealt with locally under general regulations. An important change was made in the Dáil in regard to officers and servants of vocational education committees and committees of agriculture by excluding them from Part II of the Bill as it was felt that they should continue to be dealt with in separate Acts. Section 23 contains new provisions with regard to age limits on retirement. At present there is no limit for retirement of local officers and in practice officers remain in service until well advanced in years unless they become permanently incapacitated. It was suggested to local bodies some years ago that they should fix age limits but they felt uncertain of their powers and very few took any action. Experience has shown that it is desirable that there should be some rule with regard to compulsory retirement on the ground of age. The same age of retirement may not be suitable for every class of office and so it is proposed to allow the retiring age to be fixed by grades and classes, as well as for particular offices.

The Bill provides safeguards against arbitrary and unjust actions against local officers. Section 25 lays down the procedure to be followed before an officer can be removed. It gives statutory recognition to what has become the practice in cases of this kind. Every officer who is charged with dereliction of duty in relation to his office is given an opportunity of answering such charges. This customary procedure will be given statutory force. Section 10 gives a right of appeal to the Minister by any officer who is aggrieved by a decision in relation to his remuneration, duties or conditions of service.

There is a small amendment of the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926, under which certain posts are filled on the recommendation of the Local Appointments Commissioners. Under that Act the commissioners prescribe qualifications with the concurrence of the Minister. Under the Bill the Minister will prescribe the qualifications after consultation with the commissioners. Section 27 of the Bill is a re-enactment in slightly amended form of Section 11 of the Act of 1926, relating to the suspension of officers which will cease to have effect except for those local officers and employees such as officers of vocational education committees that do not come within Part II of the Bill.

Part III deals with the constitution and procedure of local authorities. As the executive functions of local bodies will be carried out by county managers it is proposed to effect a reduction in membership. Where the number of members of a county council is less than 30 the number of members will be not less than 20 and in other cases not less than two-thirds the present membership. For urban areas the Minister will fix the number of members in accordance with an amendment introduced in the Dáil.

It will be possible, within the limit of the reduction of the total membership proposed in the Bill, to keep a fairly standard ratio between population and membership, and at the same time preserve the representative character of the council, since it will be elected by county electoral areas. Within a county the ratio between population of each county electoral area and the number of members to be returned therefor will be as far as practicable the same.

From an examination of the last census figures it is unlikely that any general alteration of the existing county electoral areas as fixed in 1925 will be found necessary. Where the population of any particular electoral area has fallen substantially since 1926 the number of members may be reduced by more than one for that area, but generally the reduction may be taken as one member for each county electoral area. There will be not less than three members for any electoral area.

Provision is made for the making of a fresh division of the county into county electoral areas. Any general alteration of existing county electoral areas is not contemplated, and only such changes will be made as are essential to keep the representation of the areas as far as possible equal within the county. Section 43, relating to the election of mayors and chairman, is designed to overcome the deadlocks that have occasionally occurred in connection with such elections.

Part IV is in substitution for the present law enabling local authorities to be dissolved. Under the new provisions only the members are removed while the legal continuity of the corporate body is preserved. No other important change is made.

The purpose of Section 57 in Part V is to disqualify rate defaulters for membership of local authorities.

The provisions of Section 61 with regard to the rating of divided hereditaments are intended to meet the case of divided holdings which do not appear as divided on the valuation list.

The provisions of Part VI confer borrowing powers upon the public assistance authorities similar to those exercised by boards of guardians under the Local Government Act, 1898.

Part VII deals with the audit of the accounts of local authorities, the fixing of fees for such audits and clarifies the law with respect to the recovery of surcharges. It is proposed to introduce a yearly period of account and audit as the normal period, while leaving it open to the Minister in special cases to provide for a half-yearly period. This change is made on the ground of administrative convenience.

Part VIII of the Bill deals with approved local councils. Last year the Seanad debated at some length the question of the establishment of parish councils and it is not necessary for me now to retrace the ground covered then. The Bill contains four sections under which local councils established in rural areas may be approved by the county councils and can be assisted in the provision of a building for the use of the local council and in equipping it and paying in whole or in part the cost of caretaking. The county council may utilise approved local councils by delegating functions which can be suitably entrusted to them. The present emergency has, I think, brought home to the people generally the necessity for acting together in voluntary cooperation in order to promote their own interests. There is much work to be done which voluntary bodies can more appropriately undertake than statutory bodies.

As stated in the explanatory memorandum it is intended to bring the Bill, when it becomes law, into operation at the same time as the might be rightly described as a Public Assistance Act, 1939, and the County Management Act, 1940.

Could the Minister and this Bill, which is complementary tell us why, having introduced this Bill in January, he wants it passed now?

Well, I have only got it from the Dáil now. There has been a good deal of amendment. The Committee Stage, therefore, took some time, and I could not get here any earlier.

I know that, but why must it be passed now? Why not pass the Second Reading and finish with it until the autumn?

I did not intend to bring the Managerial Act or this Act into operation until after an election. If there is not going to be an election, I am afraid the position is that we must bring the managerial system into operation, and if I got this Bill passed now, before the Recess or Adjournment, it would take until the first of the new year before the necessary preparations were completed for the bringing into operation of this measure and the managerial system. We would have to get the Local Appointments Commissioners to hold interviews and to select the managers, and there are other difficulties in the way of making Statutory Rules and Orders to operate this Bill. The intention in this Bill is that the manager should have certain powers over staffs. He will be guided by regulations or orders issued in the ordinary way. Acting on these regulations, he will be entitled to appoint the staffs himself. That will have the effect, in my opinion, of removing many obstacles that are impeding to some extent the local government machine. A good deal of work will, however, devolve on the manager and the council.

This is a Bill to prevent local bodies asking the Minister for Local Government to reply to their letters. The managers will reply in future.

This Bill, I suppose, might be rightly described as a machinery measure to put into operation the previous Act which the House passed. With regard to that measure, and this Bill, which is complementary to it, I have the same view as I held when that measure was before the House. I am against the principle of both of them. I do not believe that local government in this country is going to benefit by this alteration in the law. I think that there were faults and weaknesses possibly in the law, as there were faults and weaknesses in certain local authorities, but I do not think that the measures which the Minister has introduced are going to bring any considerable improvement— if any improvement at all—in our system of local government. That is my conviction. If I had the slightest feeling to the contrary I would say so just as frankly. My view about this is that instead of the old system we are going to get through this Bill what one of my colleagues here described as a type of local government civil service. I agree that it is of very great importance to have the officials in our local services competent, trustworthy and reliable. If there is, however, one thing more than another that terrifies me it is the proposal to pass over into the hands of officials, completely and absolutely, almost full control and an absolute right to govern in local affairs practically without reference to the people governed at all.

I think that after a few years' experience of the operations of these Acts we shall find that the affairs of the people in the country are being run by a group of officials. I am not suggesting that they will not be competent officials. In fact, they can become too competent. So competent can they become that they will be removed almost beyond the supervision or even the contact of responsible local citizens. You can build up in rural districts a sort of aristocracy amongst officials. They can get into groups and circles, and they will run the machine in the way they want to run it. They can draw into the circle those men they want and exclude from it those men whom they do not want. The management of local affairs can become a completely closed borough, with the result that very few will be brought into that sufficiently close and intimate contact with the administration of local affairs to get the thorough understanding of them which they should have. Personally I am against that.

In addition, I am not anything like so optimistic as to believe that in these staffs which you are going to build up, you are going to have no failures. You will have failures; just as all humans have weaknesses, faults and failings this organisation which you are building will have its weaknesses and failures. But we shall not hear so much about these failures and failings as we hear about them now. This new officialdom will have methods and ways of its own of throwing its cloak around failures, weaknesses and mistakes. The net result will be, in my judgment, to create in the minds of taxpayers, ordinary citizens who should be intimately interested and associated with all that is happening in local government, a sort of contempt. They will feel that the system and they are not part of the same human organism at all, that it is something removed from them, something in which they have no part and for which they will not take responsibility. It is true that they will not have responsibility. They will not have that close contact which all responsible citizens should have with the government of local affairs. I think that is definitely bad. I think that eventually there will develop a mentality and an atmosphere in which the country people will become more distraught, disturbed, impatient, and intolerant of the system, and that the action which they take to upset it may upset more than local government.

I think it is a sign of definite weakness for the State to make up its mind that it must in this fashion centralise authority as we are doing. We would be making the foundations of the State far more solid by placing trust and confidence in the people locally, by inculcating a better civic spirit than by taking away responsibilities which in themselves develop that type of mind and that type of citizen which are good and in fact essential for the country to have.

In this Bill, it is proposed to reduce the membership of county councils. In a way I do not know why they should be called county councils. You are going to give them authority to levy a rate and advise the county manager but, as I see it, the county manager will be advised by the engineers, the doctors and the other local officers, and the share the county councils will have in the management of affairs will be so trifling and so unreal that I am just wondering how it will work out. The Minister proposes to reduce the number of county councillors, but I think the experience at present is that ratepayers and the poor generally are too far removed from their local representatives.

In fact, a great many people are questioning the wisdom of the amalgamation scheme which was put through after the establishment of our national Government. A great many are arguing, with a certain amount of truth, that attention to the treatment of the poor is much less marked to-day than it was 25 years ago. Now we are going further to reduce the number of people who are supposed to have any kind of direct contact with the great masses of the ratepaying public and the people generally. We cannot be helped by any form of organisation which we have in existence at the moment in our local authorities.

While it may be true that in some counties the numbers are too great I question the wisdom of that decision. In fact, by reducing the numbers and making the areas larger which an individual is supposed to represent, you are making a bigger break between the tax-paying public and the authority to which they pay their taxes and with which they are supposed to maintain contact through local representatives. I think the reduction which the Minister is suggesting is a weakness in the measure but if that is to be, then I think the only possible hope of maintaining interest and having your local authorities in any way responsive to local feeling is to go definitely in for a policy of organising parish councils everywhere. The organisation of parish councils is absolutely as essential and as complementary to the operation of the legislation which is embodied in the three measures to which the Minister referred, as this measure we are passing to-day is to the previous one. When you are establishing a county manager in place of the county council with all the authority and power which we are vesting in him by legislation, when you are reducing the numbers of councils and thereby the number of people who are going to have direct contact with the rate-paying public and the poor who want assistance of various kinds, unless you can create something new, something which does not exist at the moment, to take the place of the organisations that existed in the past, you will not be able to maintain any sort of reasonable contact, any sort of sympathy and understanding between the new organisation that is supposed to be a local authority and the poor and the ratepayers of the county.

It is absolutely essential that the Minister should take action to secure that you have in every parish the ratepayers of the area organised, that they are active and alert and that they keep an intelligent eye on what is being done by the county manager and by the officials, that they should keep informed, through their representatives, as to the reasons why various decisions are being arrived at and various lines of policy are being pursued. If that were done you might be able to put something else to take the place of the structure which has existed up to the present.

The Minister may be very optimistic about the managerial scheme, about the saving to the ratepayers, about the more efficient administration of public services of one kind or another and so on. You may think you are doing much better. On paper, from the reports of inspectors and so on, it may appear that it is a success but, at the same time, as far as the public may be concerned it might be that it was so remote from them that it would be a hopeless failure. I think, in the first place, it is a great mistake to depart from the principle of responsibility that was enshrined in the legislation which we have operated up to the present in this country with regard to the management of local affairs.

I am quite satisfied that some local authorities have not been as competent, as efficient or as satisfactory as one would like them to be. I am equally satisfied that the new system which is going to replace these will prove just as faulty and weak in spots as the old one, but what I fear most is that, when these faults are discovered, the desire to overthrow it all and to get rid of it all will become so strong that there will be reactions of a far-reaching consequence that we ought not to run the risk of having to face. In so far as it is possible to avoid this loss of contact between the people who are to be governed locally and the people who do the governing, I urge that the Minister should make it part of his plan, if he wants his scheme to be reasonably effective, to have organisations in every area—in the parishes preferably, as far as rural districts are concerned anyhow. There should be organisations in every area where the voice of the ratepaying public and the voice of the charitable, who could speak on behalf of the poor, could be heard. I think if that form of organnisation were brought into existence there would be reasonable contact between these officials and the local people.

No matter how well-meaning the officials may be, after a certain number of years in high office we know what kind of development must come about and how far they will get not alone from having respect for the people whose money they are spending and whom they are expected to govern, but from the point of view even of the men who will sit down beside them at a table to advise them. I think that is inevitable when men are put in as county members to be there for a period of 15 or 20 years, and who can only be removed by the Minister, and when he has around him a number of others in the same strong position. As far as the ratepayers and the poor are concerned the officials will be in such a strong position that unless the people are organised in a way they are not at the moment the relationship between the governed and the government will become so strained that local government will get into a much more unsatisfactory position than it is in to-day.

Personally I have no enthusiasm for these measures at all. I do not like this bureaucratic method. I think, when all is said and done, there is not much between totalitarianism of one type or another on the Continent, and this sort of organisation which we are trying to construct. In fact, it is all leading towards the same end, leading away from the people. I do not know, whether in the name of democracy or not, you are justified in going on with it. But I do feel that when you are taking this step you must provide every possible safeguard to see that the worst may not happen and that the point of view of the ratepaying public and the poor will be listened to and respected as we have been accustomed to have it respected in the past.

The Minister, I am quite satisfied, will have his measure. He must, in view of the fact that the other Bill is passed, but I suggest to him that there is no such urgency at the moment as would justify asking that the Committee Stage of this Bill be put through the House in a week or two. It is a colossal measure. In fact, what study I have been able to give to it leads me to believe that you can only study it satisfactorily by reference to a number of Acts. The Minister is asking a great deal.

In view of the Minister's decision to introduce a Bill postponing the elections, I do not know what he thinks is going to take place that he wants to get this measure this side of the adjournment of the Seanad. I suggest that nothing would be lost by leaving the Committee Stage until the House reassembles in the autumn. In the meantime I think we would have a better opportunity of examining it because although from a cursory examination it seems very complete in every detail, one may discover later that in fact the measure is altogether too complete. That, I think, would be a much greater mistake. While we admit that local government at the moment is perhaps in the same lethargic state that exists in affairs generally, I do not believe that it is going to be improved by clamping down the managerial system on county councils that have been many years in office. I doubt very much if it would be a wise decision on the Minister's part to introduce the managerial system in the atmosphere that must prevail in most of these councils that have been functioning for a number of years. I put it to the Minister that he ought to consider that point of view. In my opinion it might be rather a mistake. If the Minister intends to make this change he had better make it at a time when he is making a complete change, so that he can see that the whole thing gets a fresh start by fresh minds approaching the problem in a fresh way.

There is much reason in Senator Baxter's appeal not to be in too great a hurry in disposing of this measure finally. As he suggests, it is a highly complex Bill which contains a vast mass of difficult detail— difficult to digest and apply—and it is probably the last measure, in these days of local government reforms, that we shall be called upon to deal with for many years. In view of these considerations, it seems to me to be not an unreasonable request that we should be allowed more time to study it.

I should like to draw attention to an ambiguity, as it seems to me, in one of the sections. This has a peculiar interest for the citizens of Dublin. It is in Section 43, dealing with the procedure at the election of a lord mayor, mayor or chairman. When I read this first, I guessed that its purpose was to put an end to the possibility of a recurrence of such things as were witnessed in Cork and Sligo. I was pleased to hear from the Minister that my guess was correct, when he said that it was due to the deadlock that had occurred in certain elections. I would point out to him that, while the purpose is highly commendable, perhaps, he has overlooked that there is a scheme with regard to the lord mayor of this city which has worked admirably. It was devised in connection with the Greater Dublin scheme and, strange to say, everyone was satisfied with it, and stranger still, everyone is perfectly satisfied that it meets the equities of the situation. I would respectfully suggest that to supplant it by this would be a mistake. When you have a local government procedure acceptable to and praised by everyone, and working with excellent efficiency, why not allow it to continue—even though it is an exception to the procedure that obtains everywhere else?

The ambiguity to which I refer occurs in sub-section (a) of Section 43, which says:—

"the proceedings shall begin by a member or members being proposed and seconded and no person who is not then proposed and seconded shall be a candidate."

It is the word "then" to which I refer. We are not being told the stage at which, or the method by which, the proposing and seconding of candidates is to take place. What we are told is that no one who is not then—that is, at some unspecified time—proposed and seconded shall be admissible as a candidate. I can see that the intention is to cut off the possibility of new proposals of candidates later in the proceedings. If that is what is meant by "then"—namely, that when some two candidates or more have been proposed the list is full, final and definitive and that at no later stage shall other candidates be proposed—I can see that that will effect a change in regard to the City of Dublin which is undesirable.

I point out to the Minister, for example, that there are more than two parties or groups representing various public interests in a particular council. It is obvious that if Section 43 becomes the law of the land, no representative of a small group has an earthly chance of becoming Mayor, as he must be proposed at whatever time and in whatever circumstances the representatives selected by the larger groups are proposed as rival candidates. The voting takes place immediately, and he receives the smallest number of votes, as is naturally to be expected, and then, by the sub-section providing for elimination he immediately is eliminated and his chance is gone. There is no survival. Everyone who becomes a member of the corporation of the capital city, no matter how great his public spirit or how devoted his services to the community, is left without any chance of ever becoming the Lord Mayor if he belongs to one of the minor parties or groups.

At the present time there is a possibility—a bare possibility, but still a real possibility—of an arrangement being made, by compromise and exchanges, which might mean his reaching the object of his ambition and the reward of his public service. Moreover, as we have seen, it contributes to more amicable relations between the different groups and that is a blessing in a corporation which used to be remarkable for the series of scenes which were the delight of the reporter's heart and which almost every week— and sometimes several times in the week—resulted in captions such as "Another Scene at the Corporation Meeting". There are better relations between the different representatives and different Parties ever since the Greater Dublin Scheme began to function. I would ask the Minister to take that into account. An exception could be made in the case of the city, as it is exceptional in many respects. At any rate it is the capital of the country.

Speaking of that brings me on by easy transition to the managerial system. I have advocated the managerial system persistently as well as consistently, but I do admit that it is subject to the charge that has to be made so frequently, that it tends to the creation of personal dictatorship in the functioning of the manager. I have always been ready, therefore, to admit that, in the perfection of the local government system, the counterbalance was required of developing a local authority in which the individual membership would count for much in respect of local knowledge of local requirements, that the necessary set-off or corrective of the managerial system was the emergence of the parish council as local authority. I had counted on this Bill as providing for that, and I regret to find that there is no such provision.

There is one other item with regard to which I would not detain the House, were it not that it seems to be somewhat academic. Section 23 begins:—

"The appropriate Minister may declare any specified age to be the age limit for all offices in relation to which he is the appropriate Minister".

That is giving a certain autocratic discretion to each Minister which seems to me somewhat at variance with the care and insistence with which each appointment to office is dealt with in the Bill. In Section 21, and especially sub-section (10) of that section there is great stress laid on the qualifications relating to character, age, health, education, experience, residence and so on. There is what appears to be unnecessary repetition in sub-section (10):—

"The Local Appointments Commision shall before recommending a person to a local authority for appointment to any office, satisfy themselves that such person possesses the requisite knowledge and ability for the proper discharge of the duties of such office".

Now these are undoubtedly very satisfactory provisions, an assurance to the public that no one is appointed to an office who is not a fit and proper person to fill such office, and that all care would be taken to secure that this ideal is satisfied, but then side by side with this the Minister is to declare artifically, and because artifically, arbitrarily, I suggest, that this highly qualified appointee is to go out of office. Surely if he has all these qualifications his continuance in office should be so long as he exhibits these qualifications. In other words, I am protesting not against this particular measure, but against the whole system that we took over from the British régime of getting rid of a man, not because he is no longer able to fulfil a position but because his birthday is such and such. It is leading to additional taxation on a highly taxed people and merely because the calendar says this is the 16th July, 1941, we say "out you go". To-day, according to present requirements we say to one of these eminently qualified officials: "Notwithstanding that experience in discharge of the duties and experience of life and of the world and of men is an important qualification and you have got years of service, because to-day is the 16th July, 1941, you must leave and another man shall be advertised for. The Appointments Committee shall vet him and certify that he is a person qualified to begin the discharge of the duties."

The outgoing official receives superannuation allowance and the incoming official receives salary for the years in which he is acquiring that capacity. The man who had acquired that capacity is rewarded with dismissal for having acquired it. I have no hesitation in calling that an arbitrary and unreasonable system which ought to be ended. In this Bill which is supposed to be the last word—and in many respects I am bound to say it is the last word—in the perfection of our local government system it is perpetuated. The only reason I can see for it is that it has been the custom, but if that consideration is to prevail why have any amending Bills? An amending Bill presupposes that something is being changed. If the fact that it is the custom is sufficient justification the amendment is not justified. However, that may be regarded as a comment on an academic principle of government rather than a contribution to discussion on this particular measure. It is, I submit, relevant because it is perpetuated in regard to what might be called our local civil service as distinct from our national Civil Service. To me experience is a very high form of capacity. Enlightened experience is efficiency and efficiency is what we look for in our public officials. When we have got it are we going to look at the calendar and say this man must go and some other is to come in? That seems to me to be a radically faulty system. If we had more time there might be a further opportunity to mature our views on this matter, and I join with Senator Baxter in asking the Minister to give us more time to allow us to digest it.

I must say I do not share the doleful anticipation of my colleague, Senator Baxter, with regard to what will happen if this Bill becomes law. The Bill is an effort to complete the codification of the law governing local government, but that completion when made is only a step, though perhaps an important step, towards achieving what is, I believe, the ultimate ideal of the local government system—that there should be a fertile and happy association between local democracy and local public opinion on the one hand and expert administration, both central and local, on the other. Now the great fault of the old local government system which is now in the process of being revolutionised was that it confused the function of deliberation and the decision of policy, which is the proper function of a representative body, and the function of administration, which is the proper function of expert administration. The tendency of our changes in local government has been to find a place for expert administration in local government as well as in central government, and it now only remains to put the coping stone on that process by establishing the foundation of what I hope will be the happy relation between the local representative institutions and the expert officials who administer their affairs. Now this Bill is an effort to codify the law dealing with local government, and to some extent a successful effort, and it has to be considered not merely in itself but in conjunction with two previous Bills, the Public Assistance Bill, which is now an Act, and with the County Management Bill, which is now an Act.

We have to realise that, until this third Bill is enacted, the very valuable provisions contained in the other two Bills which have been enacted cannot be put into effect, so that, unless we complete the passing of this Bill reasonably soon, the legislative framework of local government is likely to remain in a much less perfect condition than it would be if all three Bills had not only been enacted but put into operation.

Accompanying this Bill, as well as the other two, there was a memorandum, prepared, no doubt, by the Minister's expert officials, which threw a certain amount of light on the background of the problem which the Bill is an attempt to solve. Yes, I confess that I read that memorandum at least twice without deriving as much enlightenment from it as I should have derived. That may indicate either my lack of intelligence or my excessive ignorance of local government affairs from the inside. I frankly confess that I do not know as much about the inner workings of our local government system as it is desirable any reasonably intelligent citizen should know. The Minister should, as soon as these three Bills have been enacted and are in working order, endeavour to enlighten the ignorance of persons like me by completing another memorandum in much fuller detail, with illustrations from the concrete working of the local government machine in all its aspects, which would make it possible for a reasonably intelligent person to understand the essential principles of the working of that machine. That would be a valuable contribution to the education of citizens, not to mention Senators.

If this Bill is passed, the legislative framework of local government will be complete but, in a sense, the legislative background of local government, though important, is not of paramount importance. Far more important will be the spirit in which the new local government machine, both centrally and locally, will be administered both by the Local Government Department and the local administrative institutions. There have been serious complaints that the Local Government Department, so far from encouraging initiative and a sense of legitimate adventure on the part of local authorities, has been inclined to slow down the working of the local machine, and that there have been quite inexcusable delays on the part of the central authority in ratifying the policies which certain enterprising local authorities were anxious to put forward for the good of their areas and of the country.

I do not know with what justification those complaints have been made but, if they were made, perhaps the answer that could be given by the Local Government Department would be that, not having the confidence that it would like to have in the expert qualities of local expert administrators, it has to exercise a much closer supervision of the doings of local authorities than it would have to exercise if it had that confidence. If that be the reason for the undue delays that have been complained of, I hope that, once this new machinery is in operation and we have expert administrators operating in every county and urban district, the central authority will leave a good deal of the local initiative and discretion to those authorities, acting in conjunction with their experts, that there will be an end of this pettifogging, grandmotherly supervision, of which so much has been heard, and that there will be a considerable speed-up in dealing with the various problems of local government which, in many parts of the country, are clamouring for solution.

Our local governing institutions derive their powers from a number of laws, some of which go back as far as 1838 and all of which have, up to now, been scattered at random, more or less, throughout the years that have elapsed since the original Poor Law Act was passed. The fact that these powers were derived from so many heterogeneous sources must have been a serious complication to the authorities concerned, because the bogey of ultra vires was likely to haunt the conscientious administrator at every turn. That principle seems to be at the root of local government as it has hitherto existed in England—the principle that, so far as a local governing authority is concerned, everything it is not specifically allowed to do by law is forbidden. Consequently, the local authority has to quote chapter and verse of the law for every power which it chooses to exercise. In my ignorance and, perhaps, looking at the matter from to academic a point of view, I do not see why the opposite principle should not be introduced and given effect—the principle that everything which is not forbidden a local authority by law is allowed to do. Why should a local authority not have the same right of adventure within the law that every individual citizen possesses? Why should their corporate personalities be limited in law in a way that other personalities—corporate or incorporate— are not limited? There may be some answer to that. If there is I should like to hear it.

On a former occasion, I suggested that the office of the county council might be not only the office in which the affairs of the county council would be administered but also an office in which a bureau of civic information might be maintained, to which citizens could go and have consultation with reference to their civic rights and liabilities, the kind of place, for example, where a claimant for a widow's pension might be able to get expert advice as to whether or not she was entitled to such a pension. At present, there are many different sources of information about these matters and no single focus where all these sources are brought together. In respect of some matters, the citizen must refer to the post office. For other purposes, he must refer to the Gárda barracks. The chief contact he has with the county council office consists of his half-yearly payment of rates. I should like to see all those various aspects of public activity— central and local—focussed in a bureau of civic administration attached to the office of the county manager. Perhaps he would not be directly administering any of these services, but he would render a useful service if he brought together, under one roof, all the information that a citizen could possibly desire to have with reference to his civic rights and liabilities.

And, finally, if I may have a second "finally," in the course of these remarks, I should like to give a special welcome to the proposal to associate the county councils in a helpful way with the parish councils which are growing up throughout the country. There is a great deal of wisdom in Senator Magennis's contention that unless we complement this new local administrative machine by some other institution which will be more closely involved in the daily life of the people, there is some danger of the growth of a bureaucratic spirit. Personally, I am not inclined to accept it that there is a danger, but, nevertheless, the possibility exists, and helpful, friendly cooperation between the county councils and the parish councils, would assist in bringing a breeze of human refreshment, so to speak, into the relations between the county councils and the people whose affairs they administer.

The first reaction most of us had when we received this Bill was to thank God that while democratic institutions all over Europe are being threatened, are being tanked and machine-gunned, in this country God has been so good to us that, after two years of what one may call a world war, we can devote ourselves to work of reconstruction and to the strengthening of working democracy. That is the real significance of the trilogy which the passing of this Bill will complete, the Public Assistance Act of 1939, the County Management Act of 1940 and the Bill we are now considering. The great importance of these Bills, in my opinion, is that they strengthen democracy. That is their whole aim. Democracy is on its trial. It must be as efficient as the Totalitarianism to which it is fundamentally opposed, and it is because that is what we aim at, that we are glad the Minister, in the midst of all the heavy obligations and duties placed on him by the present emergency, has found time for this magnificent work of reconstruction.

For those reasons I welcome the Bill, and congratulate the Minister on having introduced it. There are a few points in which I am particularly interested. One of them is the training of managers. I hope that the Universities will play their part, and that they will take their place as leaders of the people and give the future managers an opportunity of being trained in such parts of their duties as can be derived from books and courses of instruction. We know quite well that a manager is not made in a library but libraries and the experience of other countries where the managerial system has been tried out, will give very efficient help to our future managers, and I hope Universities will be alive to their obligations and opportunities in this respect.

I am also particularly interested in the position of what are called in the Bill approved local councils. The term parish council has not been used, and I think there are good reasons for avoiding it, because the definition of a parish presents legal as well as other difficulties. But what gives vitality to parish councils has been appreciated in this Bill. This work of voluntary cooperation for the welfare of one's neighbours goes on in circumstances in which local knowledge is necessary, and the county councils have been given power by this Bill to help these approved local councils by giving them meeting-places and by helping with equipment.

I hope that as soon as the Bill is passed, and comes into force as law, parish councils will get this help from the county council. A great deal can be done in the present emergency. Take one problem before us to-day, the question of light. In country places, as we have been reminded by Senator Baxter, there is a scarcity of candles. I think it should be possible for these approved local councils with a few very good women—it is very important that there should be practical women on them—to arrange for making what our great grandmothers used in their day, tallow candles. There should be a pooling of parish resources. That is only one case in which parish councils could serve a very important purpose during the greedy winter everyone expects.

Another matter in which I am greatly interested is the provision which is made in the last section for contributions to associations supplementing library services. It is provided that the local authority may, with the consent of the Minister, pay an annual or other contribution to the funds of any association which supplements the regular library services maintained by local authorities to which the section applies, by providing books specially required by students. That is a very important contribution to social welfare and the Minister deserves thanks for having thought of it and given expression to it in this Bill.

I agree with previous speakers that the Bill is a very complicated one and requires all the examination it can get in the Seanad. In view of that, it is desirable that it should be held over until after the adjournment. As to the general principle of the Bill, I suppose we must agree that it is necessary in view of the Acts previously passed and which are awaiting this Bill to come into operation. Personally, I feel sad to think that the general trend of all this legislation is to proceed further along the road to centralisation as the effect, when all is said and done, will be to remove local administration from the people. It may be said that the Bill is necessary. We know that there is much to be said in its favour. There is a very poor public spirit abroad and not that sense of responsibility amongst the mass of the people that is necessary to sustain the life of democracy.

I am afraid that the remedy proposed will not prove very successful, because the more responsibility is taken from the people, the less responsibility and public spirit will there be in the country. It is sad to feel that this legislation should be necessary. I feel very strongly on one point, that the Minister has lost an opportunity of reconciling an efficient organisation, such as he has planned with the democratic cooperation of the people as envisaged in the provisions relating to the recognition of local councils. That is not sufficient to provide a link between the mass of the people and the new bodies that it is proposed to set up in this Bill as well as the preceding Acts.

The clause in this Bill dealing with approved local councils seems to be rather vague. It says that where the inhabitants of a locality in a county health district have, either before or after the commencement of this section, established a council, committee or body, that body may be recognised by the county council but it lays down no means by which such body shall be established. It does not state how such bodies are to be established. I think that in that connection a great opportunity has been lost. It is desirable that there should be established these local bodies commonly called parish councils, but which in reality might be called rural councils, because it is in rural districts they are most necessary. These councils should be distinct from urban councils. It is generally recognised that it is desirable that rural localities should have some separate organisation of their own. The value of these organisations has been demonstrated during this crisis. The Minister will have observed the wonderful initiative and energy that have been developed by the voluntary organisations of Muintir na Tire and the parish councils in every district where they have been established. We can contrast their enthusiasm, their energy, and their readiness to adopt new methods with the rather cumbersome machinery, the red tape and sometimes the silly cumbersome methods which have become general in Government Departments.

The value of these councils and their general usefulness have been clearly demonstrated. Everybody believes that it is desirable that such councils should be established in every parish in the country. What I cannot understand is why the Minister should not have selected the one method by which they could be immediately established by providing that these parish councils should be elected by the people of the parish. Why not adopt the simple method of compiling a register of the families in each parish and allow these families to elect their own councils? The procedure could be laid down by an order of the Minister under this Bill. The powers could be defined afterwards or they could be delegated by the county council. The establishment of such a council system in each rural parish on an elective basis would create at once a social unit which would be of infinite value in the social and cultural development of the country. I would ask the Minister to consider this matter because I believe that by simply making these councils elective instead of dealing with them in the haphazard manner in which they have been dealt with up to the present, he would create a revolution in Irish society, a revolution in Irish government, which would give new life and energy to the local government system of this country.

After a considerable experience of local government, I think that it would be in the best interests of all concerned that this Bill should be passed within the present session. There is no doubt that councils have been elected for such a long time that they have become stale and inattentive to their work. They are more prone to find fault with others than to look for faults in themselves and, as we can see from the Press this morning, they are very fond of finding fault with the Local Government Department. I think the real reason for any looseness in administration is to be found at the source and that it is the councils themselves who are not so active in their work as they should be. The fact is these local bodies have now been in office for seven years whereas the normal period is about three years. No new blood has come into the councils and, in consequence, they have become rather stale. At the moment there is little likelihood, and indeed I do not think it desirable that there should be, of an early election. Meanwhile, I think the managerial system should be put into operation until such time as elections can be held. That I take it would be in the public interest and to the benefit of ratepayers generally.

Certain remarks were made here to the effect that an age limit for officials was undesirable. I think an age limit is most desirable, and I approved of it on the County Management Bill. It is quite conceivable that unless there is an age limit you might find some managers approaching their offices in perambulators. I do not think that is desirable. Somebody has remarked that is an exaggeration, but it is nevertheless conceivable. It is quite possible that a man might be capable of performing very difficult duties efficiently up to the age of 60 or 70, but he would probably be an exception. I think it highly desirable, therefore, that there should be an age limit.

I do not know whether it is relevant on this Bill, but I am very anxious that the Minister for Local Government should consider the present position of urban councils. Urban authorities have reached a very serious position, inasmuch as one-fifth of the valuation in some urban towns is entirely unproductive. One-fifth of the stores, offices and other buildings has become untenanted, and there is not in these towns the business which was formerly carried on there. The rates, between town rate and county rates, average about 25/- in the £, some of them more and some of them less. When one-fifth of the valuation is unproductive, it means that four-fifths of the ratepayers have to bear the rate that should be borne by the unproductive one-fifth, in addition to their own rates. It is often not possible for them to do so, so that many local authorities are not getting sufficient rates to finance their services. The Minister may tell such bodies that they are not striking a sufficiently high rate, but we have often pointed out that if you strike a very high rate it will be less productive than a reasonable one. I do not think that any remedy lies in that direction, but something must be done to relieve the position of these urban authorities. I suggest that the agricultural grant might be extended to such urban councils. At present they get no agricultural grant, and the agricultural grant represents a reduction in the rate up to 7/3 in the £. Urban towns get no benefit from that at all. I hope the Minister in his wisdom will consider doing something similar, but, as things are at present, urban towns are going to the ground. If that happens, it will be a bad thing for the Government. They were always good sources of revenue, and it would be a very bad day for the country and for the Government if urban towns were to go down badly, as they seem to be going at the present time.

Unfortunately, I was not here to hear the Minister's speech but my remarks on this Bill will be mainly from the point of view of the officials of the local authority. I think we need not be unduly alarmed about the subject matter of the sections relating to local authorities' officials because I believe that most of the regulations and definitions that are given here apply to local authorities at present. They seem to be very detailed and, I might say, ambiguous when put down in black and white but really they are all in existence, or practically all in existence, at present. When one reads them it strikes one that the Minister has extraordinary powers of legislating by declaration, almost, and the declaration is then given the force of law. I presume that he has those powers, practically, of making regulations and declarations at present but, however, that is one of the things that struck me in reading the various sections that apply to local authorities' officials. Section 20, for instance, says that the appropriate Minister may by declaration do all or any of the following things in respect of a specified office in relation to which he is the appropriate Minister.

There is one other thing that strikes me about that. There are different appropriate Ministers and they may make different declarations, which would mean that different officials of local authorities may have even a different retiring age. I would hope that such is the case. Notwithstanding what some Senators may think as to why I was elected to this House, I am the representative of the veterinary profession here and I would like to address myself to the Minister about the position of part-time veterinary inspectors throughout the country who are appointed to do public health work, which is mainly the domain, I might say, of the Minister for Local Government, but who also perform duties under the Diseases of Animals Acts, which is practically entirely the domain of the Minister for Agriculture, so that they more or less have two appropriate Ministers to supervise them, in addition to their local authority. These men are appointed on a permanent basis but they are not pensionable. If a retiring age of, say, 65, is applied to them by declaration, it has the force of law straight away. On reading Section 23 I fancy that we would be better served if we could define in the Bill itself what is the retiring age for the different services. Professional men cannot enter the service of a local authority at the age that a clerical officer enters, 17 or 18 or perhaps 16 years. He cannot enter until a much later date in his life because he has to go through a professional course in the university or, as I speak on behalf of the members of the veterinary profession, through the Veterinary College. I think that it would be very unjust if they are not made pensionable officers. That, I think, requires a further Bill.

Previous speakers have referred to this Bill as being the coping stone, more or less, of local government legislation. I think another Bill is required and it has been requested repeatedly, a Bill altering the pension regulations for local officials. If a local official dies at present his salary is cut off the moment he dies. He is not paid for the next day. In the Civil Service the widow or dependents of an official—the widow at any rate—gets a certain lump sum which is portion of the money which the official has more or less contributed towards his superannuation allowance. A lump sum is allowed on the date of death to the widow of a civil servant. That does not apply in the case of a local authority official. The day he dies his salary is stopped. That is a thing which local officials for years have been requesting the Department of Local Government to amend. I think we require another Bill to put the coping stone to the system of local government. It would certainly be of great advantage to have a uniform system for local government officials as well as of local government throughout the entire State. Such uniformity does not obtain at present. You have officials doing similar duties at different rates of remuneration and under different conditions of service.

Professor Magennis suggested, in regard to the retiring age, that a man was compelled to retire when he was at the peak of his abilities. That may be so in very many cases and, in that case, it would be a very great hardship on an official of a local authority to be compelled to retire but, of course, there is also the other way of looking at it. There is the young fellow coming along, to whom Senator Honan referred. If there was no opportunity for the younger generation, they would become old men before they got a chance of being placed. That cuts both ways. But my special appeal here is for men who are permanent but not pensionable. I compare them to the dispensary doctors, who are pensionable. The dispensary doctor is part-time as much as the veterinary surgeon is and the veterinary inspector is whole-time really as much as the dispensary doctor is. If they are compelled to retire they should be retired on a pensionable basis. If they are not compelled to retire, there is something to be said for their remaining on for the period they are suited to carry out their duties.

I must say that I have not studied the meaning of Section 21, sub-section (5), which states:—

"For the purposes of the Act of 1926, none of the following qualifications shall be deemed to be professional or technical, that is to say:—

(a) certification as a midwife,

(b) registration as a nurse,

(c) any qualification relating to training or experience as a nurse or midwife,

(d) any qualification relating to the knowledge required by a nurse or midwife."

I think it is unfair to term nurses' or midwives' qualifications as not being professional or technical. I am rather surprised, if that is so, that Senator Mrs. Concannon did not notice this. Nurses nowadays have to go through a course and become qualified and their qualifications should be regarded as professional and certainly as technical. If it is contained in the Act of 1926, I do not approve of it. However, as I have said, I have not studied the sections of the Act of 1926 relative to this section.

That section does recognise them as professional but they have not to go before the Appointments Commissioners to be recommended for appointment.

They can be appointed by the board.

That is an amendment of the Act previously passed by us? The wording of it here seems to remove from the nurses and mid-wives——

They are recognised as professional but they will not have to go before the Appointments Commission.

That was recently passed by us, and I am glad that that is a proper interpretation of it. Most of these detailed regulations mentioned here are in the hands of the Minister already, and to a person reading it, it would seem that everything has become centralised in the Department of Local Government or in the appropriate Minister, as mentioned in the Act. In the County Management Act there is a clause which empowers the establishment and official recognition of the parish councils, and I understood that the introduction of parish councils would not come into this Bill at all, so that the Senators who have mentioned that can be quite satisfied that there is a provision in the County Management Act for the official recognition of parish councils.

It is in Part VIII here.

I endorse what Senator Honan has said—that there is a necessity for the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will go on with it, and let us get on with the work. I was on a committee of three appointed by an important body to examine the Bill, and as far as I can see there is nothing controversial in it. As far as the managerial system is concerned the principles have been agreed to already. The Bill is necessary, and there is nothing in it which should hold it up. Senator Baxter seems to think that the Minister would not be justified in reducing the number of members of a council. I hold the opposite view. I am speaking subject to correction, but I think that until the 1925 Act we had a large number of representatives. Under the old county councils there was a number of co-opted people, and there were the chairmen of the different district councils. It was a loose system, and the number in the council might run up to 60. Under the 1925 Act that was done away with, and there were so many representatives from each area. I would say that county councils were too large, and that we could have done more work if they had not been so large. I am in favour of smaller bodies. If what Senator Baxter visualises is that every district should have a member living in it, he would have to go back to the whole paraphernalia of district councils and poor law guardians, and there would be overlapping. The present system works equally well, with the lesser number.

I have a lot of sympathy with Senator O'Dwyer in regard to parish councils. I gave my opinions to the Seanad some months ago on that question and still adhere to the definite idea that parish councils could do useful work. If this Bill is to be put into operation, however, we can let it develop and if it should be necessary to have a new Bill giving statutory powers to parish councils, that could be done. I do not think there is anything controversial in the Bill. I endorse what Senator O'Donovan says in regard to the hardships on officials, and one instance came under my notice recently. When these men give 20 or 30 years' service and die in office there is no provision for widows or dependants. I believe that is unjust and hope it will receive attention in the future. I am very anxious that this Bill should go through, and think most public men agree with it, so I hope the Minister will stick to his guns and go on with it.

I intend to support the Bill. Some Senators say there is no need to hurry with it, and that it may be left over until after the holiday period, if there is one this year. In my opinion, the Bill is long overdue. The present councils—county and urban—elected in 1934 are now seven years in existence. Certainly, they are not, like John Jameson's whiskey, improving with age; they may be mellowing, but not in the same way. I hope the Minister will proceed, and that, when the Bill becomes an Act, he will make provision for the holding of elections before the winter. Then the new bodies will be able to deal with matters which have been long in abeyance. From 1898 up to the present time, three years has been the term for county councils, but recently the term from 1934 to 1937 was extended from 1937 to 1941. I hope that the new bodies will be elected in a short time. In regard to Senator O'Donovan's suggestion about pensions, although it may not be appropriate on this Bill, I hope the Minister will take cognisance of my suggestion. It has been recommended very strongly by local bodies in Monaghan and Cavan. The county council in Cavan state they are in favour of it and in Monaghan we are in favour of it. The suggestion concerns a contributory pensions scheme for public officials. The mental hospital officials contribute towards a pension in later years, and that works out very well. I suggest to the Minister that, if it is not possible to deal with the matter under the Bill, he should introduce one for the setting up of such a scheme.

I agree with the remarks of Senator O'Dwyer with regard to parish councils, and think there should be some general system whereby the heads of households would vote or whereby some other election system would be properly defined. A system has been in vogue in some parts, where parish councils have been set up by a small body of men. Generally there is no proper publicity when a meeting is called for the purpose of setting up a parish council, without anyone knowing definitely what is about to be done. The result is that very few attend and so some of the parish councils consist of a few people who are not at all representative. I hope the Minister will take that into consideration and make some provision with regard to the setting up of parish councils. I hope they will take the place of the old board of guardians as a link between the poorer sections and the higher elected bodies, say the county councils. In matters of public assistance and many other things the parish councils could be very useful, but at the same time they should be representative.

Section 57 provides that where a member of a public body, a member of a county council, or of an urban council fails to pay his rates within the time allowed, that is a disqualification. I am informed that some members of local bodies and urban councils have not paid their rates for years while they were responsible for the striking of very heavy rates for their neighbours. It is time that that system was done away with. I am credibly informed that that goes on in a number of places.

I do not know what Senator Professor Johnston meant when he referred to the grandmotherly supervision of the Local Government Department. I do not know if in any case it was grandmotherly. It was in many cases stepmotherly, but I think great supervision has been required in all cases. I am speaking from 27 years' experience of local bodies. I have fairly good experience and I am a member of practically all public bodies with the exception of urban councils. Irish people may be very honourable and honest, but we are inclined to be too sympathetic where possibly the law would not allow us to be sympathetic. I can speak of experience of many things that as a Senator I have been asked to do or to get done, but there is no provision in the law to do them. The people who asked me were representatives of public bodies.

There is certainly a necessity for supervision. Senator Johnston asked why public bodies are only allowed to act within the chapter and verse of the regulations and he compared that position with the powers of other bodies. We may all do what we like so long as we do not break the law, but certainly as public administrators we can only administer the laws set down to be administered. Senator Baxter made a passing remark that there was no enthusiasm for these measures. I cannot agree with him that in Monaghan and Cavan there is not enthusiasm. I do not know so much about Cavan as Monaghan but there is enthusiasm both for the Managerial Act and the present Bill which enables new bodies to be set up to deal with matters which are urgently required. I thoroughly approve of the measure.

It is said that this Bill is likely to interest people in democratic rule. I hope it will, but I have my doubts. It is a retrograde step to formulate laws that may lead to an attitude of aloofness on the part of the populace towards government. It is well known that we are all politicians more or less. If the Bill banishes politics from public bodies I should say it is worth its introduction, because my experience is, and anybody who reads the papers knows, that there are distinct political divisions in local bodies much to the injury of the transaction of business. Economic business should be the first consideration. I regret to say that in the majority of these councils, business is not done for reasons of good government but simply on political lines. I hope something may be done or some regulations formulated to kill that habit. In public boards where politics are never mentioned work can be done in perfect harmony.

Were it not for the introduction of a Managerial Act there would be some. We have examples at home, and nobody knows that better than Senator Healy. There is a good deal of alarm among public officials as to how they would be affected by this measure. I do not know how far that alarm is justified, but they have certain vested rights of superannuation. Public officials have given important service; they are in a manner of speaking managers. In many cases these officers were performing functions tantamount to those of the modern manager. Their interests should be carefully considered, and attention be given to the question of superannuation. Perhaps the proper place would be a Superannuation Bill. I thoroughly approve of the establishment of parish councils, but some device should be adopted in connection with them. This will be government by orders. I pity the public officials of the future, because I am alarmed at the number of circular orders that can be issued by the Minister. I can conceive the letter box being packed with circular orders under this experiment to arrive at a proper system of local government. It is one of the many experiments embarked upon by the last Government and by the present Government. I wish it good-luck. We are fond of experimenting, and if the present Government goes out of power I feel that we will have more experiments in formulating a system of public administration. I ask that some consideration should be given to the formation of parish councils. They have been formed in haphazard and queer ways, sometimes by individuals and groups of individuals. In many cases, they were elected on a fairly democratic basis, and they are functioning freely. In other cases, they were brought into existence by a group of individuals who were called to the first meeting, and who constituted themselves the authorities for the future guidance of parish councils.

These particular councils have been very ineffective. Some direction should be given as to the constitution of these councils. I would go so far as to give them certain statutory powers but the Government, in its wisdom, thought better to wait and see. Possibly, it is just as well, because the testing time did arrive sooner than expected and these councils are on their trial. I hope the Minister responsible will spare the issue of circulars which are tantamount to Acts of Parliament made under the authority given by this Bill. It is a pity that this Bill should make for centralisation. Decentralisation, which would bring the people in contact with the public bodies, would be more desirable. I hope the Bill will do everything the promoters claim for it because there is a necessity for change in the present methods of public administration.

Tá na Seanadóirí uilig ar aon intinn mar gheall ar an mBille seo, do reir na tuairimi do chualamar go dtí anois. Ach nílim-se ar aon intinn leo. I am sorry I was out of the House when the Minister was speaking to-day. My views on these matters are fairly well known. I spoke and voted here against the extension of the managerial system. I am not enamoured of this Bill, and I cannot understand the people of this House who have not confidence in themselves to discharge the duties which they asked the public to return them to discharge. Most of the members here are members of local authorities—either county councils or town councils—and it is perfectly clear that they have lost confidence in themselves as administrators.

I was surprised to hear Senator Johnston's remarks. He said he was 27 years in office. I was elected in 1908-34 years next January—and, during that time, I did not see any graft. My colleagues in Dublin Borough Council are honest men and women. They did their duty honestly, without fear or favour. There are two of them on my left—two honest men. They have done their duty and I do not understand the remarks of Senator Johnston at all. Neither do I understand the remarks of Senator Cummins. Fancy a popular body in Ireland being without some politics! Is it possible? Can anybody visualise a public body divorced from politics?


I have yet to learn that politics and honesty cannot go together in public life. I have yet to learn that it is not possible—Senator Cummins may enlighten me—for honest men to have political views and do their duty in public life. I have one suggestion to make to the Minister—that he should appoint a manager for his own Department. As everybody knows, we, in this city, are in a bad way for houses. Senators know what happened in the North Strand and Bride Street and two or three houses have now to be dealt with in Upper Bridge Street. We are in a bad way for housing. Tenders were received some time ago for a block of flats in Cooke Street. They are before the Minister's Department for months. I called down there to ask one of the officials either to kill the contract or to let it go through. When we want houses so badly, one would expect that we would get some encouragement or help from the Minister or his Department but that contract is held up. We may be told that the price per flat is high. That is true but there are other considerations in connection with this contract. Street widening has been taken into the expense and also the question of damage to other houses in relation to previous buildings. My suggestion to the Minister is that, before he proceeds to place managers all over the country, he should get a manager for his own Department and let us get on with our work in the city.

I do not know the facts of the case to which the last Senator refers. It would be much more appropriate if the Senator were to approach me on the matter and we could see what the causes of delay were. I do not accept for a moment the allegation that we are trying to hold up housing in this city. Tribute was paid to my predecessor and to the Department for the encouragement given to the corporation in the work it was doing to rehouse the people.

I mentioned that I went to the Local Government Department about the Cooke Street block of flats.

The Senator mentioned that the contract price was rather high. If there is a position like that, surely it should be examined. If you get a tender out of all proportion to a tender received previously in respect of similar houses, it is a matter for examination.

I am thinking of the time allowed for examination.


That does not arise on this Bill.

Senator Baxter said that this was a machinery Bill. I agree with him. It is a machinery Bill. It is complementary to the Managerial Bill and to the Public Assistance Act. Many of the provisions in this Bill are already in operation in various ways in the local government code. Many of the provisions that were in the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923, are reincorporated in this Act with certain amendments from the experience that has been gained, where such amendments were regarded as desirable and necessary. In the operation of those temporary provisions, and also in the operation of other old Acts, it was found that they had often to be operated by way of inference because their meaning was not clearly set out. What we have tried to do in this Act, in the first place, is to try to clear up the law on the matter and to clear away any doubts that existed and to try to bring in some sort of clarity and order. Some of the old Acts went back for 100 years and we are now trying to do something to lay the foundation of some system of codification of the local government code itself.

It was not exactly relevant, perhaps, that we should have had some discussion on the Managerial Act, but I suppose it is impossible to discuss one measure without reference to another. I do not agree that the Managerial Act has resulted in the taking away of the interest of the people in their local authority. I think that the essence of democracy is to see that the business is efficiently administered. I do not think that democracy can ever last by having a system in which the people who are elected are not in a position to carry out their duties themselves, no matter how honest or conscientious they may be. As I said, when the Managerial Act was passing through this House, you had a certain position since 1925 when the public health was thrown over on the local bodies attached to county councils.

Since that time and the amalgamation of the boards of health with county councils, you had the position in which it was impossible for any local representative conscientiously to perform his duties in the time that was at his disposal. I ask: what would a director of a company think if a similar principle was applied to the management of a company? If we take the position of a body of directors, we find that they are anxious to have the business of that company carried on to the best advantage. They cannot be there all the time, so they appoint an executive, like a managing director, to carry out the work for them. It is no use in making play with the argument that the councils have no power. The councils have the main power—that is the power of the money. The manager cannot carry out any scheme or do anything unless the money is voted to him. If that power would not satisfy Senator Healy or anybody else, I do not know what would satisfy them. If the council want the manager to do a particular thing, then they provide the rates or the money to enable him to carry it out.

Senator Baxter referred to the cutting down of representation. There have been too many representatives. We have to admit that, although we do not propose, operating under this Bill, to make any drastic reduction. Before 1925, you had fewer members than you will have when this Bill is brought into operation. If I might give an example, you had the boards of health established in 1925. That resulted in two members of the board of guardians automatically going over, or an allowance being made for them to become members of the council. Under those Acts the boards of health are abolished and they have the manager to carry out a great many of the duties they performed before that.

In Cork, pre-1925, you had 32 members. After 1925, as a matter of fact, you had 68. On their own application, it was reduced to 43, and the allocation that is proposed now is 43, leaving it at the number selected by themselves. Under the other arrangements, they would have got something like 68. They said it was too big and reduced it to 43. In Galway, pre-1925, they had 20 members. After 1925 they had 40. We propose to leave it at 31. In Mayo, they had 24 members pre-1925 and after 1925, they had 35 members. We propose to leave it at 31. If there is any other Senator interested in a particular county I would be glad to give him the figures for it. Senator Baxter might be interested to hear that in Cavan, pre-1925, the number was 25. After 1925, when the boards of health came into operation, it was 32, and we propose to leave it at 25. All the other areas are in very much the same way. The reduction proposed is very small—three to four and five members in many of those cases.

It has been said that it is much better to leave the number of members as it is, on the grounds that they have local touch. We are not proposing any such reduction as would take away the local touch from those areas, but, in addition to that, there will be those approved parish councils, and also public bodies will be able to appoint any committee for any particular purpose throughout the county. If they want to appoint committees which they think can perform useful functions, there is nothing to prevent them; they have the power to do it.

I referred to the question of parish councils in the debate before in this House, and I pointed out that the view I held, and the view that people who are mainly interested in the councils held, was that they were quite satisfied to have the least possible interference by statute. They wanted to be allowed to develop in their voluntary way, and I believe it is the best way they will develop, but if Senator O'Dwyer's point is going to be accepted that they should get statutory powers and duties, then it was better for us not to have any amalgamation in this country at all, because we are going to be back again where we were 20 years ago.

It is too soon yet to say how those parish councils will develop, and what part they will play in this country. They certainly have fulfilled very useful functions in this emergency, and the great opportunity came at the time, so far as they were concerned at any rate, for them to play their part in performing the functions which they have been performing. I have heard reports about them, and I have had no complaints. In fact I have nothing but admiration and appreciation for the magnificent work they have being doing, and for their co-operation without creed, class or political viewpoint, and I think that if you introduce the elective principle, you are going to create division rather than unity in the parishes. I think there is hardly any doubt about that.

Senator Magennis raised one or two points. He referred to Section 43, and quoted from it that the proceedings shall begin by a member or members being proposed and seconded, and no person who is then proposed or seconded shall be a candidate. I think that line 44 in the section refers to "begin"—unless they are proposed at the beginning of the meeting it is not permissible for them to be proposed at a later stage. It may be that the point Senator Magennis has raised is quite possible, but the only experience we have had was in Waterford City. In Waterford in the first election a man was elected who was not formally connected with any political party. The man who was elected the other day was a Labour representative, a man who was a member of one of the weakest parties in the council. At any rate they were not the majority party. You will find that this will work out just as well. I do not know that there is much to be said for the possibility that Senator Magennis has in mind. What we are up against is that deadlocks have been occurring in various parts of the country and elections have been absolutely held up. For some time back there have been occasions when councils met and certain people would not vote. The result was that nobody could be elected because you had not a majority of the members present voting for any candidate. The little experience we have of this system shows that people who are not in the majority party can be elected.

The Senator also raised the matter of the age limit. I do not know that it can be said that an age limit is being inserted because it is in the British tradition. We have heard of a case in this country—those who were in the Department at the time are personally aware of it—of a man who occupied the post of inspector up to 90 years of age. You might find it difficult to get somebody to say that such a man was unfit for duty. People who have a discretion in that way are reluctant to exercise it, but we have to admit that as people advance in years the output of work deteriorates. At the same time it is very hard to see, in the absence of an age limit, how you can enforce retirement, or how you can get another person to certify that an official is inefficient. There may be deterioration in output or a falling off in output but you will find it very difficult to get superiors or anybody else, remembering perhaps the assiduous attention which that man may have paid to his duties in the past, to certify that he is unfit any longer to carry out his duties.

It has never been satisfactorily determined at what age in individual cases that deterioration which means inefficiency sets in. That is why I call the limit of 65 arbitrary. Many judges, both here and in the neighbouring State, were efficient judges when over 80 years of age. It depends on a great many circumstances. In addition, there is imposed on a small country like this a very heavy burden of excessive taxation to pay two salaries simultaneously, merely because it is decided that on a given date a man's occupation expires.

The cost is not by any means so great as we are inclined to imagine. A man who is in a fairly responsible position has a salary perhaps of £900 a year and his successor is appointed at £550 or £600. If you add the salary of the incoming official to the pension of the outgoing official there is a loss for a few years but the man who is retired normally passes out in a few years so that the monetary loss is not considerable. I have not gone into more than a few cases and I have not made any extensive examination to ascertain what it would cost in the entire service but if such examination could be satisfactorily made, I am told that the loss would not be by any means so considerable as some people are inclined to imagine. Coming back to the question of defining the time for retirement, I think it is almost impossible to frame a definition that will fit in with anything except age. You employ men for instance in the fire brigade and various other services for which there must be an age limit. If a civil servant is in good health when he reaches the age of 65, in certain cases under the present code, he is allowed to continue from year to year on a certificate of good health until he reaches the age of 70, but I have not heard of many people who have asked to remain in their positions after they reached the age of 65. They are usually entitled to pension when they come to that age. I could not see any other way of dealing with this matter except by an age limit.

Senator Johnston asked for a memorandum on local government. I would be very glad if such a memorandum could be prepared but it is a very big question. There was a famous work published years ago known as Vanston's. It is now out of print, and I wish it could be brought up to date and reprinted.

It was not of much use to the general public.

I am afraid it would be a rather difficult matter to cover everything in a pamphlet. Something might be done at some future time after this Bill and the other Acts have been in operation for some time, to clarify the position so far as they are concerned. A system might be adopted such as is in operation in other countries for a codification of the law. A committee of the House might take these Bills after they have become Acts and codify them with other Acts which have been the law for some time. They could all be brought together and formally submitted to the House for approval without discussion, because, of course, we would not be enacting any new principles. Much could be done towards codification along these lines, but so long as there is a possibility of discussing Acts which have been already passed, it would be impossible to approach it from that angle at all.

Senator Cummins stated that some officials were alarmed by this Bill. I assure the Senator that I have not heard anything about officials being alarmed because the officials know the position under the provisions already existing. We are merely removing any doubts that may exist under these provisions. There is no intention, however, to take away any existing rights they may have. I do not think that they need ever be alarmed about the circulars or orders that will be issued under the Bill. What is intended under the Bill is that managers will have certain powers with regard to the appointment of officials. The appointment of major officials will be retained by the Department so that they can be referred to the Appointments Commission who may decide to fill these posts by way of examination or by whatever other method we may lay down in the regulations. That will save the Department a good deal of trouble and will lessen the burden in that particular way. But once the regulations are made specifying the type of official that is required in the various offices throughout the country, the manager's position will be quite clear and he will know his duties and his functions in the matter. It will save circulars going out every other day and requisitions for sanction, etc., as has to be done at the present time.

Senator O'Donovan referred to the case of a man holding a double position. The example he gave was the man who held a position under the Diseases of Animals Act. It is quite possible that so far as one particular post is concerned he may be under the Department of Agriculture and so far as another post is concerned under the Department of Local Government, holding both positions at the same time. In a case of that sort, I can only say there must be consultation between the Departments concerned and if the Departments were so foolish as to fix different retiring age limits, undoubtedly the official would go out of one position at one particular time and out of the other position at another time. That is a thing that I do not think is likely to happen.

Senator Johnston referred to a bureau of information. I think that would be very desirable. That is a matter that could be done in any case without having to make any provision for it in the Bill, but I think it would be a desirable thing if you could have some sort of information bureau that would be available for the people who are in the unfortunate position of having to apply for home assistance, widows' and orphans' pensions, and anything of that sort. It would be very desirable and helpful if there were such a bureau of information at their disposal. That is a matter that can be taken up, apart altogether from this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

This day week?

This is a matter in which a great many members of the House are interested, and this is the most important stage of the Bill. Surely, there should be a fortnight between this and Committee Stage. I suggest this day fortnight.

I was only thinking that I had conceded most of the points in the other House. Of course, new points may arise here.

I think the Minister could be facilitated after the Committee Stage. I have no amendments for Committee at all, but I think the House should take the matter in that way.

I quite agree. Let it be this day fortnight.

If there are no amendments, then we can pass all stages.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 30th July, 1941.