This provides a definition of the expression "reserved function".
Arterial Drainage Bill, 1944—Report Stage.
This is to meet Senator Duffy.
This is to meet an amendment moved by Senator Patrick O'Reilly on the Committee Stage.
This is a consequential amendment.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In page 13, Section 17, to delete paragraph (c), lines 46 to 54, and to insert instead a new paragraph (c) as follows:—
(c) shall, in the case of a claim in respect of interference with water or a watercourse providing power for a mill or other industrial concern in addition to such other consideration as may appear to be relevant and equitable have regard to—
(i) the extent to which the power so provided was used for an industrial purpose during the 20 years next preceding the date of the confirmation of the said drainage scheme by the Minister;
(ii) such expenditure as may have been incurred during the period specified in the next preceding sub-section by the person claiming compensation in connection with a scheme for the utilisation of the power in respect of which interference is necessary for the purpose of the drainage scheme;
(iii) the extent to which the interference with the water or watercourses required for the purposes of the drainage scheme has actually interrupted, varied, prevented, or will interrupt, vary or prevent the implementation of a scheme such as that mentioned in the next preceding sub-section, has involved the loss of the whole or portion of the expenditure actually incurred or will, through the provision of an alternative source of power involve such loss to the persons claiming compensation for such interference;
(iv) any alternative source of power which the commissioners may provide or may be in a position to provide subsequently in lieu of the power in respect of which interference is required for the purpose of the drainage scheme and the terms upon which such alternative source of power will be provided for the benefit of the person claiming compensation.
I do not know whether or not the Parliamentary Secretary has changed his mind as a result of the debate on the Committee Stage, but the number of Government amendments would suggest that in regard to certain matters at any rate he has changed his attitude. On this particular section I am still of the opinion that the amendment proposed would certainly not do any harm to the people who are likely to be affected by the section, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to try to strain a point and accept the amendment. As I mentioned on the last occasion, a somewhat similar amendment was proposed in the other House and I suggested that that fact indicated that there were people besides myself who considered that an amendment of this section was required. It does seem peculiar that the arbitrator is instructed to take two different things into account. One is the time that has elapsed since the particular mill was used from which the water had to be diverted or withdrawn, and the other the alternative source of power provided.
The wording as suggested could be interpreted by the arbitrator as meaning that he has only to consider the use to which the mill has been put within a certain term of years. The economic position in this country has been very disturbed for five or six years past and, as I explained, the country's policy regarding imports has only been taking shape in a permanent form within a comparatively recent period so that a lot of people for one reason or another—economic difficulties and the uncertainty regarding tariffs—may not have put their mills into full commission. Then they find if it becomes necessary to remove the water power which has been supplied to the mill and if that particular mill has not been used within a comparatively short period, that no compensation will be given at all. I think that would be a rather arbitrary proceeding.
In drafting this amendment I tried to keep in mind the possibility that bogus claims might be submitted in regard to mills which had not been used perhaps for 100 years and which there was no intention of using at any time. A claim might be made to the effect that such a mill was held up by arterial drainage. In drafting this amendment I tried to visualise cases of that kind and I think it will be found that such cases cannot be substantiated under the amendment. The section which asks the arbitrator to take into account the alternative source of power seems to my mind a little ambiguous. The arbitrator may be assured that an alternative source of power has been provided but there is nothing in the section to indicate the terms on which such power will be provided. Supposing the owner has to pay for that power, it would take a very large sum to compensate him for the loss of power which was in itself eternal. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into this matter in a sympathetic way and accept at least the spirit of the amendment if not the actual wording.
I cannot accept this amendment. I am still at a loss to understand how Senator O'Reilly can object to the section. There is nothing in Section 17 as far as I can see about which anyone need worry. It merely sets out the matters which the arbitrator will regard as offsetting the other matters that are set out in Sections 14, 15 and 16. I cannot for the life of me see why he seems to labour the point as to the injustice that might be done under this section. He has again referred to the fact that this ten year period may be too short. He may have some reason for thinking that the ten year period is too short, but I think it is a reasonable period, and therefore I cannot at all agree that it should be lengthened. There is no reason for the fears to which he has given expression, and as I said in Committee Stage, I cannot meet this amendment.
Why is it necessary to put in these special directions to the arbitrator? Should the matter not be left to the arbitrator and let the general rules in the preceding sections be the governing rules here? In that particular section why more or less tie the hands of the arbitrator to a particular period? I presume in the normal course the arbitrator in judging the matter would take account of the period, but why should we specifically put in a particular period? Why should we put that period specifically into an Act? In my long experience these particulars have very often consequences and repercussions. I know cases where I tried to convince certain members of the Civil Service that the insertion of a particular figure would have consequences, but it was very difficult to get them to see it. It was only when the consequences arose that they saw that it would be better to omit the figure. I see no reason for tying the hands of the arbitrator. The preceding sections are general enough and any fair-minded arbitrator would be governed by them. While he would be inclined to give whatever benefits or increases there were, he would certainly be bound to make such deductions as would have to be made. Why should he be told "You must take ten years into account"? It will be admitted generally that there is a great deal of looseness in the clauses with regard to the alternative power and nothing to show the terms on which it is to be provided. If the Electricity Supply Board says: "There is alternative power", when will it be available? It might be in five or ten years. There is no provision made for these things. I want the section to be left with certain elasticity.
I venture to say that if this is allowed to operate it will have rather unfortunate consequences. The people who are likely to be affected are not aware that this clause is being put into the Bill, but as soon as it becomes public there will be a great sense of dissatisfaction which will not help this great national scheme of drainage which we are all anxious to see a success.
Is the amendment being pressed?
As there does not appear to be any chance of convincing the Parliamentary Secretary I do not wish to divide the House.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In page 16, Section 23, sub-section (2), before paragraph (g) to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
(g) While a council or two or more councils jointly is or are charged with the maintenance of a drainage district under this section and the Commissioners are of opinion that a certain work or works would prevent or reduce the periodical flooding in any portion of the drainage district, the commissioners may enter into a contract with the said council or councils jointly for the execution of such work or works and undertake to pay the expenses incurred by such council or councils when said expenses shall be certified by an auditor of the Local Government Department. As soon as such contract shall be entered into such council or councils may proceed with the execution of the said contract and in order to enable them to do so shall have vested in them all the powers conferred on the commissioners by Section 9 of this Act. All works executed under any such contract shall be specified in the drainage scheme for the district in which they are situate and the contract price paid therefor shall be reckoned as part of the cost of such drainage scheme.
By this section, Senators will see that on the fixing of the appointed day every drainage work which has up to that time been maintained by a council shall continue to be maintained by the council of the area in which it is situate. As well as that, a drainage work which was in the hands of trustees will also be transferred to the councils. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that he expected to fix the appointed day some time next month. Then, on the appointed day, the works will be thrown over on the councils.
Now I presume it will take a fairly long time before certain works can be taken in hands by the Commissioners of Public Works, and for the scheme which will have to be prepared to be carried out. In the meantime the works are to be maintained by the councils. Under this section they are bound only to maintain the works in the same condition as they were in when taken over, in other words on the appointed day. They must pay for such maintenance out of the rates. Each council would be expecting the Commissioners of Public Works to come and take over these works in the near future or at no far distant date, and that the scheme would then be carried out by the commissioners. Therefore, they will not like to put on to the rates of the county the cost of doing their part of the work which will be part of the scheme. The danger then is that certain works may not be carried out, which if carried out would save a great deal in the carrying out of the scheme when it is completed. There have been several examples of embankments which have fallen down. Senator Honan knows of a case on the River Fergus. There is always the danger of the breaking down of embankments and other works which would throw a big expense on county councils. Certain protection is given to councils. If an action is taken against them all they require is a certificate from the Commissioners of Public Works that the works have been maintained in as good a condition as they were in when they took them over. That protection does not apply to the case I am contemplating, the breaking down of embankments, because that would cause a certain amount of flooding. The commissioners could not give a certificate there, because they could not say that the works were in as good a condition as when they got them, before being flooded.
I was contemplating putting in a different type of amendment, that if the commissioners gave a certificate that the extra flooding was due to sudden damage, that it was not because of the negligence of the council but because of some inherent defect in the works when they were taken over, there would be no obligation on the council. That might save the council, but it would not save the people whose land would be flooded.
The council might get protection, but the lands would continue to be flooded. It occurred to me that you cannot leave the council under an obligation to carry out works which will eventually be part of the scheme to be carried out by the commissioners. I suggest that when there is such a work to be done, either before there is a breakdown of an embankment or where it is contemplated, the commissioners might enter into a contract with the council and say: "You do this work according to the specification of the commissioners", and the council would carry it out, but it would be part of the drainage scheme for that area. It throws no obligation on the commissioners, because it will be part of the scheme when it is prepared, and it may mean a great saving to the commissioners. There is an old saying, "A stitch in time saves nine", and that is even more true in drainage than in other things, because, once flooding starts, the damage that can be caused to drainage works, apart from flooding the country, would be enormous. I have framed the amendment very carefully. It is only when the commissioners think it is a good thing to do it that they need do so.
They are not obliged to do it; they may enter into that contract if they think it is advisable. For that reason, I think there can be no objection to the amendment. It does not compel the commissioners to do anything. It enables them to see that a certain work is carried out by the council if they think it is advisable that that work should be done. Without casting any blame on anybody, I think everybody will agree that the experience in this country is that there is no body which can carry out works in a district as cheaply as the county council. The reason is this: The labourers in the area know their county surveyor. They know that they must work when they are under him. If they do not work when he employs them, he will very quickly get rid of them, and they will get no employment in future years. Therefore, they are more frightened of the county surveyor than of anybody else, and will give him better results in work than they will give to any other public body. I suggest that there can be no objection to the amendment.
Apropos of what Senator O'Dea has said, I strongly support him on that point, because I think it would be a most unfair hardship upon the ratepayers of any county to ask them to take over schemes in which there are serious defects. Senator O'Dea referred to the slipping of banks. It has occurred in a scheme in which I am interested, the Mulkear. If this Bill passes, not alone are the ratepayers of County Limerick asked to pay the relative portion of £31,000,000, plus legal expenses, but they are asked to take over a defective scheme.
I think all this matter will come up for discussion on amendment No. 16.
I thought the point I was about to make was proper to the discussion raised by Senator O'Dea about a county council being asked to take over schemes and maintain them in the condition in which they got them from the commissioners. That was so in harmony with the condition of the Mulkear drainage that I thought it could properly be referred to here.
Amendment No. 16 deals with that.
I do not want to prejudge the issue, but I was hoping that amendment No. 16 did not deal with the Cappamore scheme.
We will deal with that when we come to it.
I think I can understand Senator O'Dea's difficulty, and I can understand too his desire in this regard, but I cannot accept his amendment. I do not see how it could be made workable, even if I could make a different announcement. As I believe I stated on the Committee Stage when an amendment on somewhat similar lines was being discussed, this proposal gets away entirely from the course that is recommended. I must confess too that I have not the same degree of enthusiasm about the ability of county councils or county surveyors, nor have I the same degree of confidence in the output of work—but that is a different matter—that they are able to get from their employees.
Getting back to an examination of the feasibility of asking county councils to do improvement work of the type that Senator O'Dea has in mind, as I said at the outset I must confess that —although one might think that this course would be practicable in certain cases—I cannot see how it could be made to work. It means the introduction of all kinds of patchwork drainage. It means that some survey would have to be made, even before the patchwork would start. It means that when it proved unsuccessful, the engineer who designed the patchwork would be able to say at all times: "Well, it was only a patchwork job." If it does not mean that, then it means that the engineer would have to go in and prepare a thorough and complete scheme for the district. No matter from what angle you examine this proposal, I think you will have to concede that it is not workable.
I should like Senator O'Dea to get his mind back to what we are trying to do in Section 23. There are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 225 drainage districts in the country. Of that number, the county councils, before the introduction of this measure, were legally responsible for the proper maintenance of 136. In so far as these 136 are concerned, the people whose lands are benefiting by those schemes have at the present time the right to insist upon the councils responsible maintaining them up to a proper standard. We are not proposing to make any change here. We are merely carrying over that legal responsibility which the councils now have.
Are they doing it?
They are not doing it. They have not been doing it. There are 96 other districts that are at this moment the responsibility of some boards and trustees, some of which are functioning, many of which are not. We are transferring those 96 districts to the county councils, with the safeguard to which the Senator has referred, the safeguard of being able to provide the councils with our certificate so as to protect them from legal actions on the part of the persons whose lands those districts were constructed to serve. I think, if you keep that picture in your mind, and if you have regard to the enormous legal responsibility which councils have at this moment, and which they have not been discharging in many cases for years, you will find that we are not imposing upon them very heavy additional burdens.
The Senator, in his amendment, suggests that we should go one step further. Even though you leave it to the commissioners to decide, as the Senator suggests here, the decision that we would have to make at all times would be that that proposal could not be given effect to. Since that would be bound to be our attitude towards asking the county councils to carry out additional works, then, to my mind, there would be no purpose whatever in accepting this amendment. I think I know the kind of problem the Senator has in mind. Everybody would like to see a sort of shock squad on the spot, to give perhaps substantial relief for a small amount of effort or for a small amount of expense, but, if you were to allow that sort of shock tactics to be adopted all over the country in relation to highly technical drainage problems, I do not believe you would achieve a very desirable result.
In reply to what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I should like to say that it is because there are so many drainage schemes in these districts that I thought this amendment was necessary. There are 225 drainage areas. Now, how can the Board of Works possibly deal with all those cases together? They cannot possibly do it. Let us take the case of the Brosna scheme. One can take other cases as examples, but, perhaps, that is one of the most important. I take it that they will start on such an area first, as it is regarded as about the most important, and carry it out to its conclusion before they start on other work. Now, how long will they take to finish that scheme before they undertake other schemes? I presume that it might take very many years, and what will happen during those years, so far as the other schemes are concerned? I think that if the Parliamentary Secretary were to read the section, he would find that its provisions apply not only to the works taken over from the trustees but also to works taken over by the council before the appointed day. Sub-section (1) of Section 23 says:
"All existing drainage works which are, immediately before the appointed day, maintainable by the council of a county or by two or more such councils shall, on and after the appointed day and until otherwise provided by or under this Act, continue to be maintainable by such council or councils (whether by themselves or by a committee or joint committee) as theretofore save that the expenses of such maintenance shall be raisable by such council or each of such councils by means of the poor rate as a county-at-large charge."
Then, sub-section (2) says:—
"In the case of every existing drainage district in which the drainage works are, immediately before the appointed day, maintainable by trustees or a drainage board, the following provisions shall apply and have effect, that is to say—
(a) the control and management of such existing drainage district and the maintenance of the existing drainage works therein shall be transferred, as and from the appointed day, to and become the responsibility of the council of the county or the councils jointly of the counties in which such district is situate."
Then, paragraph (3) of that sub-section says:—
"No council or councils jointly shall be obliged by this sub-section to maintain any existing drainage works in a condition or state of repair better than the condition and state of repair in which such works were at the time of the last inspection by the commissioners under this sub-section prior—but not more than 12 months prior—to the appointed day."
Surely, that sub-section applies to all works maintainable by a council under Section 23—works which were previously in their hands and which they are now to be allowed to continue to maintain under Section 23, as well as the works transferred to them by trustees. If that is so, their liability is not now, or will not be after the appointed day, what the Parliamentary Secretary said it was before this Bill becomes law or before the appointed day under this Bill. My suggestion is that where a council or two or more councils are charged with the maintenance of a drainage district under the section, and the commissioners are of opinion that certain work or works would prevent or reduce periodical flooding in any portion of the drainage district, the commissioners may enter into a contract with the council or councils concerned, jointly, for the execution of such work or works, and undertake to pay the expenses incurred by the council or councils when these expenses shall be certified by an auditor of the Local Government Department.
The point is that when the appointed day comes they will have the liability to maintain these works in which they were but that they will not have any greater liability, and that they will not be liable to put an extra charge on the rates. In the case of most counties that I know of, the members of the councils think that the rates are sufficiently high already, and they do not want to incur the cost of raising large embankments or building big works, if they think that the commissioners will undertake to do the work. The result is that they will not do it, the commissioners will not have time to do it, and these works will become worse and worse from day to day until the people concerned are worse off than if the work of maintenance or improvement had been carried out from time to time. If these works are not carried out from time to time, you will have water continually rushing down through these areas, causing flooding and so on, which will mean that the cost will be twice as big. In my opinion, the council concerned will not do it because they will say to themselves, in effect: "The commissioners will be coming along in a year or two, and why should we undertake the work?"
Now, as regards the points I have made, the Parliamentary Secretary says that he does not think the council would do this work properly; but it must be remembered that it is the Commissioners of Public Works who will make out the specifications and ask the councils to undertake the work and that it is only after the commissioners have made out the specifications that the councils will be asked to do the work. Now, if it is not done in that way, what will be the alternative? Are we to say, let the works go? I think that that would be a very serious matter so far as lands that will be flooded all over the country are concerned. I have already mentioned one area a moment ago, and I think that if proper work was undertaken there, there would be a sufficient flow of water from the Corrib to drain all that district. It would be only a matter of two or three miles over a thirty or forty-mile stretch of river, and if a scheme and specifications were laid down, it would be a matter for the council. I have not very much experience about other counties, but I know, so far as my own area is concerned, that the former Parliamentary Secretary, the late Mr. Hugo Flinn, said, in regard to the work done in our county under the county surveyor there, that wonderful work had been done. I think it would be better to leave such things under the charge of the county surveyor, because the people concerned are dependent on him for their living and, accordingly, they would work harder under him.
I think it would be better, therefore, once a scheme and specifications are prepared by the commissioners, that it should be left to the council to see that the work is carried out, just in the same way as it would be left to an ordinary contractor, and that no more costs would be paid than had been laid down under the specification. The commissioners would know whether any extra cost had been incurred, and should have the power to refuse to pay such extra costs, because I think that if they did not have that power it would be a very serious matter. If I thought that, I should withdraw the amendment. This, however, is only an enabling section, and why should we not say that certain powers, in regard to drainage work in the country, should be given to the councils, so far as management is concerned? I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to agree to this amendment.
Mr. Baxter rose.
Senator O'Dea was replying.
Can I say a few words in reply to Senator O'Dea, Sir?
I am afraid not—not on the Report Stage.
Well, if the House would agree, I should like to make a few remarks by way of explanation.
If the House agrees, the Parliamentary Secretary can say a few words by way of explanation.
My only reason for asking for permission to do so is that I think this is a matter of misinterpretation.
I suggest, Sir, that we should do either one thing or the other: either finish this now or re-commit the amendment.
I do not intend to speak again.
I think it is a question of whether under Standing Orders, we can re-commit this amendment.
Yes, it is a matter of Standing Orders. It is a question for the House whether it wishes the Bill to be re-committed in respect of amendment No. 9.
This is an important matter and I suggest that we hear the Parliamentary Secretary.
May I suggest that there has been a misunderstanding and that it is important we should get the matter in order? The Parliamentary Secretary desires to clarify this matter. Some of us who were impressed by Senator O'Dea's speech would like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary. Therefore, I formally move that we re-commit the Bill in respect of this amendment. Afterwards, we can resume the Report Stage. It should, of course, be clearly understood that we shall not all make three speeches each on the amendment.
I was merely anxious to say that, in my opinion, Senator O'Dea's interpretation of Section 23 was at fault. Sub-section (2) of Section 23 says:—
"In the case of every existing drainage district in which the drainage works are, immediately before the appointed day, maintainable by trustees or a drainage board, the following provisions shall apply..."
I think that you are right and that I am wrong.
Before we depart from this matter, may I make one point? In the discussion which has taken place on this amendment, Senator O'Dea praised the county surveyors, and the Parliamentary Secretary took occasion to say that he had no great opinion of county surveyors. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary should not indict a whole class of people in that way. It is probable that county surveyors are like Parliamentary Secretaries—some of them are good and some of them are not so good. However, they are nearly all graduates of the National University of Ireland and I have a very high opinion of them and have heard high opinions expressed of them. The Parliamentary Secretary is very ill-advised to indict a whole class of people who have difficult work to do, who are doing it very well and who are not by any means overpaid for doing it.
The strange thing is that, so far as I recollect, I did not mention county surveyors in an isolated sense. I did question the statement by Senator O'Dea that county councils, through their engineering staff, could get from their employees a greater volume of work than could be secured by any other authority. I questioned that, and do question it, irrespective of where, or how, these gentlemen got their degrees. I have some experience of county councils. I am not throwing a blanket indictment over county surveyors or any particular class but I am entitled to dispute the claim put forward by a member of this Assembly that the volume of work obtained by county councils is greater than that obtainable by any other authority.
The Parliamentary Secretary did say that, but he prefaced his remarks—perhaps unwittingly—by saying that he had no great opinion of county surveyors. I could not have invented that statement. He went on to talk of the volume of work done. That is a matter of opinion—a matter of which I have no knowledge. But the Parliamentary Secretary did begin with a general indictment of county surveyors.
Perhaps the House will now come back to amendment No. 9.
Mr. Patrick O'Reilly
Even though the Parliamentary Secretary did make that remark, he intended it to apply only to the maintenance of drainage works. I am inclined to agree that the Parliamentary Secretary is correct but, if so, it is because the works were in such a condition that county councils could not effectively maintain them. The burden would be too great. It would not be fair to indict county surveyors or county councils, but I do not think they have been indicted. If the works had been in better condition, the county councils would have made an honest effort to maintain them. It is to be hoped that the records of county councils will improve in the future.
I take it that the amendment is still under discussion?
While the Parliamentary Secretary and Senator O'Dea were discussing this matter, I was trying to get clear in my mind an idea as to how it would operate. I was trying to apply it to conditions which I knew myself, so as to see whether there was any purpose in it. The Parliamentary Secretary's view is, apparently, that a scheme will, from the beginning, go on to completion—that the scheme as a whole will be carried out. I gathered from Senator O'Dea that a number of drainage districts will now pass into the control of county councils in respect of which further constructional work will be necessary.
I think I was wrong in saying that. It is only drainage works which are maintainable by trustees or a drainage board which will be transferred.
A number of schemes will be transferred to county councils all over the country in the centre of which some portion of constructional work may be necessary. This work might alter the character of the whole drainage area if carried out. As regards the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell drainage area, I am informed that a small amount of constructional work to portion of the canal running out of the lake would alter the conditions over the whole drainage system. Will the commissioners go over those drainage districts and see whether portions of them are in such a broken-down condition as to require immediate reconstruction? This reconstruction would be portion of the larger scheme when it would come to be carried out but, if this portion were carried out early and quickly, it would make a great difference. I am not going to quarrel as to whether the work should be carried out by the commissioners or by the county council. In a county like ours, where you can get things fairly well done by the county council, with experienced engineers, it might be possible to do it, but I do not say that they want the responsibility there. The contrary would, probably, be the case. Where a limited amount of money spent on constructional work now would make a great difference and would be portion of the larger work to be done later, I think it should be carried out. The view of the Parliamentary Secretary, apparently, is that you will take things in a particular order—begin at the beginning and go on to the end. I think that Senator O'Dea's amendment would go a long way towards meeting the problem.
If I may say so, if the Parliamentary Secretary could think of any other way besides a contract by the county council, I would be prepared to add it to the amendment. If he would prefer that the work would be carried out by the commissioners themselves, or by the county council under contract, I would be glad to accept it. All I am anxious about is to see that certain flooding will be stopped at the earliest possible date. I do not care who does it, but it must be done.
Everybody would like to see that result achieved, but you cannot do it this way, and there is no use in putting pious hopes into the Bill.
Why not take power yourselves to do it?
You cannot do it. Do you realise the enormity of the problem you are giving to county councils if they are going to discharge the responsibilities they are given? Do you realise how formidable a task you are setting them, without speaking at all of adding additional works, even if they were feasible, in relation to those 96 districts which are in a most hopeless condition? Think of what county councils will have to do. Think of the rate they will have to provide over an extended period, if they are to get those places back into any shape at all, without considering the sort of additional work you have in mind.
May I say that it is because I do realise the size of the problem that I propose this amendment? As I said before, take the 96 cases transferred from drainage trustees to councils. They will have to maintain them in the same condition. If the banks break down, they will have to repair them or else leave themselves liable to legal action. There is no protection given for any damage of that nature. What is going to be the expense added to the rates of the county? It means that the thing will be impossible. Nobody knows what the rates would amount to.
There may be a mandamus to compel the council to do the work, but they will not do it, and what will happen then? In the meantime, the land is flooded and the floods continue because the commissioners have not time to come into the area. The council is liable to riparian owners for the damage to their property. How long is that to be allowed to continue? The works are going from bad to worse. Must there be no remedy? I would be glad to be told that I was wrong in my proposal, but I would also be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary told us he would put in a provision of his own to remedy that state of affairs from the appointed day, when the works are taken over by the commissioners, for the purpose of carrying out the drainage of that district.
I put that in the mildest possible way. The commissioners need not do the works if they do not want to. It is only in cases where they see that the work is urgent that they will prepare the specific plans and ask the council to get them carried out. If they do not do that, why not carry out the work themselves? I do not want to see flooding continue, and actions taken against county councils where they have no answer, because there is no defence under this Act. There is a defence given them if they can show that they maintained the works in the condition in which they took them over, but suppose the banks break down? Then the commissioners cannot give them a certificate, and they have no protection in any action, whether for mandamus or for damages.
In the old days there was no action for damages until a decision was given some years ago, I think it was in a County Wicklow case, and the result is that they are now liable for damages as well as for mandamus. Are they to be compelled to do the work out of the rates of the county? The judge has not to consider where the money is to come from—he simply has to give an order for mandamus. The Board of Works can have power to have the work done under contract in accordance with their own specifications, making good the cost when the original scheme comes around, because it will be part of the whole scheme. It will save so much work, and save so much damage by flooding.
I consider this to be a very serious matter. I do not know if my friend appreciates how I feel about it. I have seen cases of the flooding of houses—I suppose everyone has seen them—where nothing has been done, and nothing can be done unless you had about 15 or 200 Boards of Works to carry out all the drainage schemes. Therefore, councils must get assistance from some quarter. I do not care if the Board of Works do it themselves, but in the name of God let us end this terrible flooding of people's houses and homes. I know a river 40 miles long, and a drainage scheme for it would cost nearly £250,000. The scheme I contemplate will be a matter of the improvement of about a mile of that river, and if that job is done the flooding will be removed. Why should it not be done? Why wait for years in the name of God before that can be done?
Like that of the Parliamentary Secretary, our object is to prevent or reduce flooding, and I hope that we will be able to do that at the earliest possible moment. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary isan idem with me on that point—his mind is the same as mine, but I am freer from expert and other advice than he is, and I would ask him to raise himself above any influences which might be brought to bear on him to point out the difficulties that might exist in cases like that, and to get on with the work as quickly as possible. I make an appeal to him and I hope it will not be lost on him. I know he is of the same opinion as I am.
The Parliamentary Secretary has met every point on this Bill very fairly and in a practical way, and what he says is quite true. The county councils are going to get an enormous burden of work thrown upon them by transfer on the appointed day. They will have to provide considerable funds, and I think it is true that by doing certain works in drainage districts which may be of a constructional nature, the actual amount of money required for the final maintenance of the district as a whole will be lessened. I have a very definite case in my mind, although it is different from that mentioned by Senator O'Dea, of the breaking-down of a lock on a canal which holds the water over a vast area. Quite a small expenditure would open up that district and make an immense difference in the amount of money required in the remainder of it. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary ought to consider that.
It is a practical proposition and it has to be faced, whether it should be done through the commissioners or the county council, or whether the commissioners should send out their "shock squads", as they were described, or any other form of machinery without waiting for an application. By doing a job in a drainage district promptly, the amount of money to be spent in maintenance could be considerably lessened. I feel that the Parliamentary Secretary should not dismiss this matter lightly and that he should do his best to see if the suggestion is practicable.
The result of all examination given to this problem and everything placed on record as a result of the examination is against your reasoning.
They are not convinced?
Not only that, but in my own practical experience—not because I happen to be associated with the Board of Works, but because I saw a scheme carried out, the biggest scheme under the 1925 Act——
We are not thinking of any big schemes like that.
Let me try to prove the case I have in mind. Not only am I influenced in the course I am taking by the advice of those who have examined this problem, but I am also influenced by what I have seen myself and by the results which followed upon the patchwork approach to drainage such as is suggested here.
Under the 1925 Act, the engineer selected portion of a district that would give the greatest economic return. He was forced to do that for the reason that the economics of the scheme were going to have a bearing on the question whether the scheme would be carried out or not. He therefore picked that portion of the district on which there was the greatest amount of "meat." After that procedure had been followed, after the Act of 1925 had become law up to the setting up of the commission, there were 50 different districts created under that Act. Everybody who knows anything about those districts, everybody who has been concerned with or who lived in those districts, I think will say that they were not satisfactory.
In fact I shall go this far—and I am not speaking now, if I may say so, officially. It was the explanation given to us when we as members of the Cavan County Council and of the Monaghan County Council were urging the adoption of a scheme for the Dromore and Annalee districts. The outfall for that district is the Erne. A sum of £80,000,000 has been expended on the reconstruction of the Erne. We were given to understand that, although that vast sum of money had been expended, the bed of the river was not sufficiently low to enable a scheme to be prepared for the Dromore and the Annalee district—a tributary of the Erne. I do not know whether the records of my office will establish the truth or otherwise of that statement. I am speaking now from the recollection of one who at the time was a member of the local authority which was interested in having that additional scheme undertaken. If that is correct, is it not proof that this piecemeal approach to drainage is entirely at fault and that those who recommended against it were entirely justified?
It is not.
In addition, is there not this further proof? If you go into a district in which there are a number of obstructions that can be removed at the small expense to which Senator O'Dea referred, why should it be necessary to expend more on that district? Suppose that he says that a proper drainage scheme in a particular district would cost £250,000. Why should that £250,000 have to be spent there if as a result of the removal of, say, a mile of rock for a comparatively small sum, a very substantial relief could be afforded to those whose lands are affected, because after all the chances are that even the major scheme will not afford complete relief? If we are to proceed on that assumption, why should it ever be undertaken if we can solve at least the major portion of our problem by tackling the different drainage schemes in the manner suggested by him? There is this further reason. Suppose you have a number of obstructions in a drainage district, the removal of which would afford additional relief. Are you entitled to remove those obstructions in that slipshod or easy-going fashion without having regard to where the water will go when you remove them?
Of course you will have regard to it.
Therefore, you must have regard to the preparation of the complete scheme.
It does not follow at all.
I want to get this point clear because while I am not a technical person I think I am making a commonsense approach to this question. You may go into a district in which you have a major river in which you have a number of obstructions. I do not believe that from the technical point of view you can remove those lightheartedly and say "Well, the removal of that obstruction will afford relief" without asking yourself what will be the result downstream, and I contend that you cannot know properly what the result downstream will be unless there is a complete survey made of the entire district from an engineering point of view. I may be wrong, but that sounds commonsense to me. That is a further reason why the course suggested by Senator O'Dea is not a practical proposition. Everything that we can see is against it; my own opinion and technical reasoning are against it, and there is no chance in the world that such a course would ever be followed by a drainage authority no matter whether they had the power to follow it or not.
Might I ask a question of the Parliamentary Secretary in reference to the statement he has just made? He stated his experience of a scheme in his own county for the execution of which, I think, he can largely claim credit. He referred to the position of the Dromore and the Annalee district. Down in the middle of that county we have the Erne. He tells us that the experience of the technical people was that the bed of the Erne was not sufficiently low to enable the upper reaches of the river to be affected. That may be; I am not contradicting that, but will the Parliamentary Secretary deny that the drainage which they carried out in part of the drainage district did not effect an immense amount of good to that area without doing any damage to the rest of the area?
Of course I know that.
It did an immense amount of good. That is Senator O'Dea's case. It did an immense amount of good for which the people are very appreciative.
You have missed my point entirely.
I have not missed the point. The Parliamentary Secretary is missing our point. That is the trouble. Each portion of drainage districts should be put into condition without the whole district being put into condition at that particular time. That is the problem that I have in mind in the other districts I am thinking about, and I think Senator O'Dea has the same problem in mind.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary allow me to give a number of examples in support of my contention? I know of a case at Headford. When I was a non-sitting T.D. and I thought I had to do something to justify my existence I was brought out to Headford and we solemnly walked three miles of the river. I saw that the trouble about the river was that near the mouth where it goes into the Corrib there was certain obstruction, and I said to a man: "Will you drain a mile of that river for £10?" and he said that he would. One £10 would really have drained more than that river because the obstructions were near the mouth. Take the Corrib. The Corrib is, I think, 30 miles long. If there is a scheme made out for that river, the Commissioners of Public Works would have to make it out for the entire river. That river drains Lough Corrib and also Lough Mask, with which it is connected by an underground channel. If anybody asks the engineers in Galway who know about the Corrib, they will tell you that if you make an opening at the cut, a distance of three or at most four miles out—and I am sure the Board of Works' engineers will know it even though they have not investigated it— if you make that opening you will drain the whole Corrib and you will prevent flooding around the places where the people cannot get into their houses. Why delay the carrying out of a three-mile scheme for years and years until this enormous drainage plan has taken effect?
I have great respect for experts, but I say that experts want to have a complete picture, like a painting. They do not believe in doing the immediate good because they say: "That is not my scheme. It must be a perfect scheme and this is not a perfect scheme." But why not cause the least possible expenditure and do the most good before you complete the picture? I think the matter is very, very important from the point of view of the areas I know. I know different places like that where a small bit of work would do a tremendous amount of good. There may be cases where the bed level, like that of the Erne, is not low enough, but that is only an exceptional case and the exception will not prove the rule. Most rivers are not of that nature. Most rivers are obstructed at the mouth and that is what does the damage. A very little expenditure will stop that. I want to provide in the Bill something that will do urgent work and I think it would be criminal not to make some provision like that. We are all of one mind on this subject and the whole country is anxious about it. It is a very important matter.
In my amendment the Commissioners of Public Works are left as the judges as to whether the work should be done or not. The amendment will not have any effect unless they come to the conclusion that that small improvement will be an advantage and worth the money to be spent on it. It is only when they decide that it is of importance that it will be done. Why prevent them doing it or entering into a contract for the doing of it? They can do it themselves if my friend prefers, but it is only when they decide it is a good thing that it will be done. That is the practical effect of the amendment: whether it is good or bad, they are the judges as to whether it is good or bad and can say that if it is good it shall be done and if it is not it will not be, and so the amendment does no harm. Why there should be any objection I cannot see.
I am afraid I do not mind very much what happens to this amendment for the reason that some words in the amendment seem, to my mind at least, to take all the force out of it. These are the words which say that the commissioners may do a particular thing at their own sweet discretion. With these words the amendment is useless. What I would want to find out from the Parliamentary Secretary now is whether there is anything to prevent the commissioners proceeding without very much delay to deal with a drainage scheme such as Senator O'Dea has mentioned. From what I know of the area in question and from what I gather from Senator O'Dea's remarks, this scheme itself would constitute a major drainage scheme even though the monetary cost is small. I know the cut in question. If Senator O'Dea is right, an opening of a few miles there would drain the whole Corrib, and even Lough Mask. He says that work would cost very little. To my mind this would be a major scheme. If all this is true, is there any reason for Senator O'Dea's fear that the undertaking of such a scheme would be delayed for very many years? If there were any such danger, then I would agree there would be something to be said for the insertion of an amendment on lines that would provide for the taking up of such a scheme at an early date. I would like to point out, however, that this is a national Drainage Bill, and consequently I believe tinkering with local schemes unwise. If the commissioners cannot do the work at an early date, I do not think the council can do it at an early date, and if the council can do it, the commissioners themselves can do it. So I do not see the need for uneasiness. The wording of the amendment gives the commissioners power to order that a certain work be done or not be done solely at their discretion, and I think that takes all the force out of the amendment. Again, if the doing of the work is as easy as Senator O'Dea says—and I agree he has more knowledge of the problem than I have—then I think the scheme would be a major scheme and one that should be tackled without very much delay. What I would worry about is: are there any grounds for believing that the undertaking of such a simple straightforward scheme would be delayed for such a long time as Senator O'Dea believes?
There are 225 schemes.
There are 225 schemes, but they may not be anything like the scheme Senator O'Dea has in mind.
Unlike Senator O Buachalla I am very interested in this particular amendment because a great many women are concerned. What we here ought to ask ourselves is: in this big national scheme which the Parliamentary Secretary has put before us with such force, is there any provision for emergency schemes and does Senator O'Dea's amendment do more than give power to the commissioners, while they have supervision of or responsibility for a scheme, to use the machinery of the county council on works which may be major in consequence although they are minor in actual execution. The commissioners would have to assure themselves that the proposed scheme would not do any harm. It seems to me very strange that there is no provision for emergency schemes which, at a time when we might be very badly off for food, might save a great deal of arable land; schemes which might also save a great many homes from flooding, and prevent a great deal of sickness both in human beings and in animals. This flooding has tremendous social consequences. To me the proposal seems to be that the commissioners are to be empowered to use the machinery of the county council, if they see fit to do so, in order to do certain things that are urgently called for in order to prevent the flooding of people's homes and the consequent discomfort particularly to the women of the country.
I should like to say a few words on this amendment, mainly because of the Parliamentary Secretary's reference to the Dromore and Annalee drainage scheme. I was very much interested in that scheme. When it was prepared, it was estimated to cost somewhere about £22,000, and we were given to understand at the beginning of 1934 that it was about to be put into operation by the Commissioners of Public Works. My information—I am subject to correction—was that the cause of its being stopped was that the chief engineer had retired and that the engineer who took his place would not proceed with the work until he made an examination. The statement of the Parliamentary Secretary was that the outfall was not sufficient. In any case the scheme failed to materialise. The work has been held up and its holding up affects Monaghan very much.
I certainly agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that piecemeal or patchwork drainage will not have the desired effect. I had some experience in our own county—I know it was the case also in many other counties —where small drainage schemes have been put into operation. They did a little bit of good in a certain portion of the county, but afterwards caused flooding in places further down. In one case, I succeeded in getting a minor drainage scheme through. It was put into the hands of the county surveyor, but there was a deputation from people further down, that it would cause flooding there. I had to make a further appeal, which resulted in the portion further down being taken in also. Even then, the people further down were still grumbling.
In my opinion the principal work of a drainage commission is to prepare the way for legislation to start drainage at the ultimate outlet, at the sea, and to work back, making a thorough job of it. There is no use in doing just a bit here and a bit there. The county councils generally agreed that drainage work should be started at the last point, and carried back from there. I think the construction and maintenance of drainage works should be in the hands of the commissioners and not of the county councils. Under this Bill, the maintenance of those works is being handed over to the county councils. I should prefer it to remain in the hands of the commissioners. From my own experience, I strongly support the views of the Parliamentary Secretary. There is no use whatever in attempting to carry out piecemeal or patchwork drainage schemes.
- Baxter, Patrick F.
- Campbell, Seán P.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Doyle, Patrick.
- Fearon, William R.
- Healy, Denis D.
- Johnston, Joseph.
- Keane, John Thomas.
- Kyle, Sam.
- McGee, James T.
- Madden, David J.
- Counihan, John J.
- Crosbie, James.
- Douglas, James G.
- Meighan, John J.
- O'Dea, Louis E.
- O'Reilly, Patrick.
- O'Reilly, Patrick John.
- Ruane, Seán T.
- Ryan, Michael J.
- Sweetman, Gerard.
- Clarkin, Andrew S.
- Corkery, Daniel.
- Crowley, Tadhg.
- Hayden, Thomas.
- Hayes, Michael.
- Hearne, Michael.
- Hogan, Daniel.
- Honan, Thomas V.
- Johnston, Séamus.
- Keane, Sir John.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kennedy, Margaret L.
- Lynch, Peter T.
- McCabe, Dominick.
- McEllin, John E.
- Magennis, William.
- O Buachalla, Liam.
- O'Donovan, Seán.
- Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
- Quirke, William.
- Ruane, Thomas.
- Smyth, Michael.
- Stafford, Matthew.
- Tunney, James.