Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 10 Dec 1947

Vol. 34 No. 16

Local Elections Bill, 1947.—Second Stage.

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

Prior to 1939 members of local authorities had a very close relationship with the electors they represented. One of the principal objects of this Bill is to restore the position in that each representative of a local authority may have a responsibility for checking and improving the administration of the local services over the area of which he has the most full and intimate knowledge. It has been said that what is everybody's business becomes nobody's business and that principle has had a very great application to local affairs. The Bill is designed to impose upon members of local councils a personal obligation on each individual. This personal responsibility ended when multi-member areas were formed to conform with proportional representation principles to the maximum degree. Proportional representation, as Senators are aware, is a theory of democratic government which may have various phases. It may result in the election of a great number of small minority Parties in any particular assembly or it may result in the representation by one person in a local area who himself is a person believed to be best liked by the majority of the community.

Two consequences have flown from the changes taking place consequent upon the decision of the authorities at a later stage to make local authority elections conform with Parliamentary elections. There is no one individual to whom a ratepayer can go with his grievance or say to himself: "This man is the representative of my district and is responsible for bringing my grievances to the local authority, and is responsible for speaking at meetings of the county council and giving his views as to the lack of efficiency in regard to the administration of any particular feature of local government. This man is responsible for seeing that different features of administration are properly looked after and administered." This applies to questions like dispensaries, their repairs, conditions of roads, sanitary or public health services, pumps, refuse, and so on. The area for which a local authority member now acts is far too large. It amounts in some cases to the whole pre-1921 Parliamentary constituencies. These local representatives are not paid. They have to perform their services free. They are given travelling and subsistence allowances, but that is all. They have their own business to attend to and it is felt that it would be most desirable to increase their personal interest in the administration of the area which they represent by reducing that area. Proportional representation was extended to the local authorities to the maximum degree to enable what might be described as the embittered minority in the State to have some representation during the early stages of the foundation of the State; so that these people who did not accept the new status of the country would be represented on local authorities. These people, I am very glad to say, have largely merged with the remainder of the population and there is no reason to maintain the present system on these grounds alone. No man in the State, no matter what his creed or class, is debarred from public life if his talents and eagerness are in that direction.

The combination of proportional representation in Parliament and single-member constituencies in the local authorities should in our opinion be effected and should, above all, restore the individual personal responsibility of the representatives of the local authorities. The managerial system confers executive powers on one man, very large executive powers and we think that is a good experiment. We think it may perhaps be necessary to amend the County Management Act in the light of experience. But, obviously, if representatives are to be alert and vigorous, if they are to make use of their powers to check the manager's activities, his efficiency and his fairness, they should be able to do this continuously over a particular area.

I would like to remind the House of the difference there is between the Parliament of the country and the local authorities. For the purpose of the argument, I would remind them that Dáil Eireann is the sovereign Assembly of the country. It has power to make laws within the Constitution, it has power to direct the activities of local authorities and to give them additional functions, to enforce their undertaking new responsibities and Parliament may direct a contribution to them in aid of local services. The local authorities, on the contrary, are delegated bodies subordinate to Parliament. It is their duty to administer the law and not to make it. They have no responsibility for legislation. Even the by-laws which they enact must be intra-vires, that is within the law as framed by Parliament.

Senators will be aware that the granting of subventions from central funds to local authorities necessitates, and always will, a suitable degree of Ministerial inspection and supervision. Local authorities have sometimes willingly, and at other times unwillingly, accepted the dictate of the Minister of the day, fortified by an Act of Parliament, to ensure that there shall be a universal minimum standard of service in respect of each aspect of administration over which they have control. Equally, local authorities have been obliged for many years to ensure stability for their finances by the supervision of the Minister, again fortified by an Act of Parliament.

We, therefore, think that it is necessary for each representative to be fully responsible for the area which he represents. We wish to avoid the confusion and the overlapping of responsibilities which, we think, is now occurring. Our experience has been that, in the large electoral areas, some of which are from 50 to 60 miles long and from ten to 12 miles wide, the representation, instead of being widely distributed, tends to be concentrated in the more densely populated areas. We consider that the rural areas are under-represented on the county councils, and that the concentration of representatives from urban areas is highly inequitable. The main revenues of each county council come from the rural areas. The contribution of individual boroughs or of urban district councils within the county councils is not so considerable. The areas representing the main spending sources are, on the whole, under-represented. We made some calculations and found that one-fifth of the persons elected on county councils reside in urban districts, while on the valuation of the urban districts as compared to the valuation of the whole country, the contribution of the urban districts to county charges was less than one-tenth of the total. I think the House will agree that there is something inequitable in this state of affairs. We consider that it is an anomaly that must be corrected. If the electorate use their preferences intelligently in the single-member areas now proposed, the results should be satisfactory, and the most popular man and the best man should be elected.

We have had demands from all sides for the encouragement of parish councils. Under the 1941 Act, the parish councils were given some status. The new electoral areas will be approximately the size of a parish, and so the effect should be that the electors in those areas will take a greater and a more lively interest in local administration. It seems to me to be completely logical that if, on the one hand, one enlarges the functional area of a local authority administration, if one enormously increases the number of specialist functions undertaken by a local authority, we should at the same time, ensure that each representative on the local authority will have a small area to represent, and, will, therefore, be more easily able to examine the functioning and the administration in regard to all these multifarious services. I think I am right in saying that no less than 33 new functions have been added to local authority administration since 1933. In contrast, in the case of the Dáil men of wide experience are required. While these men represent particular areas such as the Galway Gaeltacht, they will be acquainted with widely different parts of the country, in order that they may pass judgment on legislation in regard to a great number of different subjects.

I have given the House some outline of the purpose of the Bill. I shall now give a description of the various sections. Section 2 contains the two main provisions of the Bill. The first is that there will be single-member electoral areas in the counties, and secondly, that the urban areas will be separately represented on the county council on the basis of the county charges on the area. The single member area will be very small in comparison with the huge areas which now return councillors. For example, Donegal and Galway are each divided into five areas. Effective representation is, we claim, not possible under such conditions.

As regards the urban areas, taking the 1945 elections in the counties which included borough and urban areas and in which the elections were contested, of the 540 candidates elected, 184 came from the urban areas. That is about one-third, but the valuation of those counties was some £7,857,000, and of the urban areas £708,000—about one-eleventh of the total counties valuation.

I have given now a measure of the distortion in the representation. No remedy that proportional representation can supply will cure this state of affairs. The solution is to be found in this particular section. In the case of the rural part it is not intended that population will be the basis for apportioning the representation. That is all right for large areas. The local government electorate will be taken, as it is the ordinarily resident population, and a more true measure, but regard will also be had to the sparsity of population and the general character of the areas. A rigid rule can produce anomalies. Take the County Mayo as an example. You have areas there where the population is sparse indeed, and other areas where you have a congested population. It would be desirable, therefore, to give a little bit more weight in representation to the sparsely populated areas, so that a county councillor, on the basis of this Bill, will be able to understand the administration in his area and give the best possible service to the people who elected him. The urban areas will be divided into three-member areas. There the total area is smaller and the population more congested, but there also the representative character of the council must be preserved over the whole area.

The principles to be followed in framing the Orders dividing a county into local electoral areas are set out in sub-section (3) of Section 2. Briefly, they provide that in the case of purely rural areas, due regard is to be had to the number of local government electors registered, the rateable valuation, the density of population and the general character of such areas. So far as county electoral areas which are constituted within boroughs or urban districts are concerned, paragraph (ii) of the sub-section provides that where the average amount of the county charges charged upon the urban area in respect of the three years which preceded the year in which the Order is made, justifies it, the urban area shall be constituted as one, or, if the financial position justifies it, more than one electoral area. That is a fairly simple proposition applied to some of the very large towns.

As things are, this will only apply to a certain number of boroughs and urban districts. If, however, the average amount charged upon an urban district would not justify the creation of a special urban electoral area or areas, but is at least half the amount which would justify it, the urban area may be divided into two or more parts, and each part shall be amalgamated with a contiguous non-urban area to form an electoral area, the county charges upon which would have approximated to the average of the county charges upon the purely rural electoral areas. This will apply to many of the urban districts and will afford a larger representation to these areas than could be given by the application of the first rule.

In other words, in an urban area, if the proportion of the county charges is not large enough for it to elect one representative by itself, it will be divided into two and each of the areas will include a rural area, and the representative from that area will have to have both a rural and an urban bias in his attitude towards the local authority's expenditure. It provides an intermediate compromise between the position of the very large towns that will have their own representatives and the towns of medium size where this difficulty of apportioning the number of representatives in proportion to the county charges arises.

Where the average of the amounts charged on an urban district is less than half the average charges in the same period upon the average rural electoral area the urban district will not be divided, but will be merged with the surrounding rural area to constitute an electoral district, the average county charge upon which would have approximated to that upon the rural electoral area. That applies to the very small towns. They will have no separate representation. They will appear as part of a rural electoral area and in some cases the representative will have to have an overwhelmingly urban bias as compared with a rural bias in dealing with local affairs.

I have given a very detailed description of one of the most important sections of the Bill and I now proceed to the others. It has been the universally-demanded practice to postpone the local elections when they are due to take place in the year of a general election. The Minister proposes to conform with this precedent and Section 4 provides that the next local elections will be held in 1950. The last elections were held in 1945, a five-years period, and subsequent elections will be held on every fifth year thereafter. That suggestion, I think, was generally agreed to in Dáil Éireann. It may happen that, at some future time, there may be good reasons why these elections should be held in the fourth or sixth year on a particular occasion. It is therefore proposed to give the Minister for Local Government some discretion in either bringing forward or postponing the date of the local elections; but if the Minister desires to do this, he must make an Order to that effect at least nine months previous to the elections and obtain the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas for it, so that members will see that the Minister is very definitely obliged to take account of the views of the Oireachtas in making that decision. In order the more effectively to avoid having to hold the local elections within a too brief period following a general election, it is provided in Section 4 (4) that if Dáil Éireann is dissolved within nine months before the local elections are due to be held, the Minister may postpone the elections for one year.

Section 5 defines the qualification for membership of a local authority. In the case of a county council, a candidate must be a local government elector for the particular local electoral area for which he is nominated. In the case of any other local authority, he must be a local government elector for the functional area of the local authority. Section 6 indicates the method of election and gives the voters a transferable vote. With such a vote, the elector can indicate the order of his choice for the candidates and his vote can be transferred to a subsequent preference in the usual way, if it is not required for the first choice who may have been elected or eliminated. Section 7 declares that a candidate who is accredited with a number of votes equal to, or greater than, the quota is elected. The quota is defined in Section 1. It is ascertained by dividing the total valid votes by the number of vacancies, plus one, and adding one. The quota is the lowest number that may elect a candidate. Senators are already aware of these provisions.

Under the law as it is now, two irresponsible electors can nominate an irresponsible candidate at no cost to themselves and the returning officer has no recourse but to accept their nomination. We consider that it is quite wrong that the ratepayers should be involved in such expense and we propose, therefore, in future that candidates for election shall deposit the sum of £10 with the returning officer. This deposit is returnable to him, unless the candidate fails to get one-fifth of the quota, in which case it is forfeitable and remains with the local authority. I do not think that members will consider this to be an onerous condition. In a single member area, where there are 500 votes cast, if a candidate cannot get 51 votes, he could scarcely be regarded as a person likely to succeed or as a candidate of a serious kind. It is generally clear that candidates at local elections, with extremely few exceptions, get votes sufficient to justify their candidature, so that this provision will not operate as a bar or deterrent to any bona fide candidate.

Section 9 consolidates the existing law in regard to filling casual vacancies and I should say in this connection that this Bill effects a good deal of consolidation. Section 10 is consequential on Section 2. An amendment was passed on Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann, providing for the election of aldermen which was found satisfactory to members of the Dáil who felt that aldermen with long experience who happened to be independent would not be elected under Party influence by the borough concerned. In the Bill, as amended, persons receiving the highest votes in each area will be automatically elected aldermen.

Section 11 merely provides that existing members will continue in office for their current term.

Section 12 requires some study. I have already mentioned that Section 4 of the Bill provides that no elections for local authorities will be held in 1948 or 1949. Section 12 makes an exception to this. It is desirable that where the members of a local authority have been removed from office at the passing of the Act—in fact, the section applies at the moment to Counties Dublin and Kerry—these councils should be reconstituted as soon as possible. The commissioners are engaged in overhauling the administration, improving it in every way, and the Minister hopes that the election will be held, in Kerry in any event, next year or, if not, in 1949. In Dublin, a different problem arises. Reorganisation is more far-reaching. It involves the complete reorganisation on a new basis and under a new authority of the health services and also the social welfare services, and also involves readjustment of the relationship between the county and the county borough in respect of the ordinary county services. The Minister, however, is hopeful that all this will be done in time to permit the new local authority to be reconstituted in 1949.

Members will realise that if an election is held in 1948 or 1949 there would be no point in holding another one in 1950. On the other hand, to wait until 1955 would be undesirable. It might give a period of office of six or seven years to an entirely new body. So, it is felt desirable to give the Minister power to direct that another election shall be held for either or both of these county councils in any of the years between 1950 and 1955 and thereafter there will be an election in 1955. The Minister has discretion in this matter.

Sections 13, 14, 15 and 18 make adaptations in the Vocational Education Acts, the Agriculture Act, the Public Assistance Act, and the Harbours Act which are consequential on the alteration of the triennial sequence of local elections. Bodies which have to be elected arising from these Acts will now be elected every five instead of every three years, and there is also the question of the creation of single-member areas for electing county councillors.

Section 16 is another more complicated section and amends the Local Government Act, 1941, to bring that Act into conformity with this Bill and extends by not more than six months the time within which an election must be held to a local authority, the members of which have been removed from office. We have had a case in County Dublin and in County Kerry but, in future, if members should be removed from office—I hope this will not be necessary—we have to make provision for new elections. The rule will be that a new election must be held after three years but if the following year is a year in which elections under this Bill are to be held, the new election may be held in that year also.

In other words, in the ordinary way, in the case of authorities that have been removed and replaced by commissioners, an election must take place within three years but, if there happens to be a local government election before then, the election can take place in that year. This will enable the regular sequence of local elections to be preserved. The same observations apply to the elections for the Boards of Assistance of Balrothery, Rathdown and Dublin, to be held in the year 1948. In that year, but for this Bill, there would have been an election to Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation and the boards would have been elected at the first meeting after the election.

Section 17 provides that these elections will be held in the year in which an election of members to Dublin County Council is held under Section 12 or Section 4. If the year is not 1950 it will be necessary for the Dublin Corporation to elect their members on the joint board at a meeting within one month of the day of election of the county councils and the members will come into office on the day on which the election is completed.

Section 19 makes a general adaptation of the term "triennial election", which is necessary by reason of the provisions of this Bill and any particular adaptation or modification may be made by Order. In order words, where the holding of local elections every three years affects legislation of any kind, the period is now five years and there will have to be adaptation. This is a consequential provision to provide the adaptation necessary under the circumstances.

There have also been two small amendments in the Dáil making clear the position of urban councils within an area where a local authority has been removed from office—in other words, the urban councils of County Kerry and Dun Laoghaire. It is provided that whether or not the elections of the bodies took place within this five year period or as indicated in the section dealing with them, the election for these urban bodies will take place regularly and in sequence with all the other local elections for the country.

I trust the members of the House fully understand the implications of the Bill. There was a certain amount of criticism in the Dáil in regard to various features of it but, as far as I can see, there were very few members of the House who commented on the principal purpose of the Bill, an interesting change, namely, that of giving an opportunity for one man to represent an area. We do not feel that it is necessary to apply the principle of proportional representation at its maximum to the election of local authorities because they are delegated bodies, because, while they have considerable initiative to see that money is spent wisely and well to improve their services, they are largely administrative bodies carrying out the law, and we feel, for that reason, that it is most essential to restore the personal contact between each representative and his area.

I recall, myself, for a period of time when I was representing County Roscommon there was an area there where, because of the distances between the residence of the county councillor and those who elected him, I found myself unconsciously doing a great deal of local authority work which I should not do, and I know that under the present system in widely separated areas, a number of members of the Dáil find the same thing. They find themselves receiving representations at a place 50 miles from where the county councillor lives. They either deal with the matter direct or simply send the person concerned to the county manager or write a letter to the county secretary, saying: "Will you attend to this?" It is most undesirable and proof of the need for a change in the law and I recommend this change to the House with every enthusiasm.

Quite frankly, I do not know what the Parliamentary Secretary has to be enthusiastic about in this Bill. I do not know what its purpose is at all. The end of a session like this is entirely the wrong time to introduce such a measure. It surely is not the purpose to improve local government. That is not the fact because it is not going to do it. There must be other reasons for the introduction of this measure, so obscure to some of us that we cannot see the purpose of it but I am satisfied from my experience as a member of a local authority that, instead of being a help, it will be a further hindrance to efficient local government. The whole idea, apparently, as far as the Parliamentary Secretary is concerned, is to bring the elected representative into more close contact with the people who elected him.

He speaks about the responsibilities he has got. A person who has a grievance now has too far to go to get his grievance remedied! Does not the Parliamentary Secretary know quite well that the elected representatives to-day are playing practically no part in local councils and have nothing whatever to do with the removal of grievances? To pretend that, by breaking up the districts, a man will be brought more closely into contact with the difficulties in his area and be able to get them smoothed out is a grotesque distortion of the situation in local government.

The Parliamentary Secretary cannot be really serious about the case he makes, as it will be much more difficult under this Bill to get people to go forward for local government service at all. He himself has a peculiar concept about how grievances are to be redressed by local representatives. Apparently he thinks that the whole purpose of local government is that the local representative is available for people who have difficulties; but in another capacity the same Parliamentary Secretary took very good pains to ensure that where people had grievances in the matter of central administration he and his staffs would not be available to them. The argument he makes here to-day contradicts his policy in another respect. He will remember the circular he issued in regard to old age pensions. That is the position which local representatives are in to-day.

What authority have we? What can we do? We cannot employ anyone and we cannot give a shilling increase to any official of ours anywhere. If there are any grievances in hospitals or anywhere else, these are all the responsibility of the manager. Of course, we have managers and managers—some very sensible and some not so sensible. From the point of view of bringing the local representative into more close contact with the people who elect him, this whole thing is going back on the original plan of amalgamation which was carried out when the State was set out.

It is not clear to me as a local representative just where my responsibility will begin and end under this Bill, with regard to the making of a particular road. I will have responsibility for a main road or a by-road or a county road up to a certain point and when it crosses my boundary into the next man's district, I will have no responsibility. Is it to be the same with drainage? I sat on a sub-committee of my county council the other day, where the council appointed a number of those from the various districts who were interested in drainage. We had a problem of drains—not only drains that flow through our own county but that flow through half a dozen other counties as well, before they reach the sea. We have the Parliamentary Secretary coming along now and saying I am to be concerned only with what happens in this townland and am not to be concerned with what happens in the place beyond. It is absurd and ridiculous—the whole idea is really fantastic.

I often think we have difficulties because a great many of our people live on small farms and it is difficult to get them to raise their minds and imagination to the point that there are other farms beyond and problems beyond, just the same as their own, if they could only realise it. This Bill aims at driving every man back into his own little area and making him responsible for that, so that he does not care a button what injustice is perpetrated outside it. His whole idea will be to get as much money spent in his own particular area as possible, no matter what it may be spent on, and if he gets away with it there may be poverty and destitution produced beyond and that can go on as far as he is concerned.

It seems to me that the people in the Department of Local Government do not really know how the country runs its business. The Parliamentary Secretary speaks of Donegal and tells us about wide spaces where there are areas as large as the area of County Carlow. If we want to remedy that, we should add to the number of people to be elected to those particular areas, instead of breaking up the area as he is doing. I have very strong views about this. This is a futile and retrograde measure and, far from getting the best people, it will get the poorer type. The selection is being confined to a particular district, but in that particular townland there may not be one man, from the point of view of local government, worth three-half-pence, while there may be two or three who would make excellent representatives just outside the borderline. This Bill will damage local government and make people have less respect for it and make them have more petty minds. There will be small areas and the whole administration of the county is bad. The general attitude is to-day that county councillors regard the whole county and every end of it as their concern and that the money they take off administration everywhere ought to be on a just and equitable basis. The fact that you have areas fairly large, with a number of people representing those areas, gives a broader view, a better approach and a fairer distribution of the money that is to be spent.

When people have grievances, they wish to approach someone. I come in contact with grievances where there is a demand for payment to a hospital and they say they are not able to pay, though they are assessed up to a certain point. You examine that and say what you think about it. The Parliamentary Secretary's Party did a great deal to ensure that there would be a political atmosphere in local government elections. Let us suppose you have a small area and there are three or four candidates. One is elected. There are many people who did not support him, but supported others much more strongly, but the candidates whom they supported are defeated. Now, these people have a certain grievance. I do not know how much the Parliamentary Secretary knows about country districts, but he will find that if they have a grievance it is not to the man who is elected for their area they will go, but to somebody from another area who is politically in closer communion with them. That is the truth. That is what is taking place to-day. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that this is going to be eliminated. I say it is, mar dheadh. While you have the whole plan of local government elections the basis for Seanad elections, you are not going to eliminate politicians and politics.

Another objectionable feature, which I am surprised the Parliamentary Secretary has not seen, is that the present electoral system, which gives minorities an opportunity to express their point of view in support of people of their own religious persuasion, is being ended now. I would much prefer to see a situation where there would not be such separate points of view, but it is a fact that that is so. That change is going to happen in my county, in Monaghan and in Donegal.

I do not think this is the way to do it. I think it is too soon, and I would much prefer to see people get a chance to be absorbed in any way we can. This sort of pressure is very undesirable. There are four or five of those people sitting with me on my council to-day. They are colleagues with whom we can all work very amicably. Now, by a stroke of the pen, a situation is created which will have heartburnings which none of us desires. The whole measure is unnecessary and unwanted and will be a definite hindrance and handicap to progressive local government.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

On the last measure before the House I was able not only to approve of the Bill but quite sincerely to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his speech. I am sorry that I cannot do so in relation to this Bill. The oftener I read this Bill the more I am opposed to it. I should like to say that I was disappointed that the Parliamentary Secretary did not deal with what seemed to me to be one of its most important aspects, and that is why it should be passed before the general election. This Bill, for good or evil, makes a number of quite important changes, with some of which I shall deal shortly. It is introduced by a Government which is not sure that it has the support of the electorate, and is sufficiently doubtful about it as to feel it necessary to go to the country at a very early date. Yet it introduces a measure which contains drastic changes, and is pressing to have it passed before the general election, although it is not proposed to hold most of the elections affected by the Bill until 1950. There could be, I know, a few cases where they could be held in 1948 or 1949.

Unless a really good case is made that this Bill is an urgent measure I suggest that it ought to be postponed and be discussed at leisure. It ought not to be what is commonly known as a Party measure, because all Parties are or ought to be equally concerned with the methods by which local bodies are elected. In view of another Bill which is on the Seanad Orders of the Day, we, in the Seanad, are peculiarly interested in this Bill, which is one to decide how the people who will elect us are to be elected. It is proposed in the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Bill that the 43 panel members should be elected by a new electorate, of which roughly four-fifths will consist of people to be elected under the system which is being introduced in the Bill we are now considering. Therefore, for many reasons, it seems to me that this is the kind of measure which should be discussed leisurely and carefully by the Seanad instead of being rushed.

I hope when he replies the Parliamentary Secretary will give us a very clear indication of what grounds there are for passing this Bill before the election. Apart from the merits of the measure, if he has good grounds for passing it before the election, I would let it go, and let some new Government amend it, if there is a new Government, or let the present Government, after further consideration amend it, as they will, probably, want to do, if returned to power.

There are a number of quite important aspects of the Bill to which I desire to refer. Probably the most important of all is the power given the Minister under the Bill. Most of the Orders which he can make are Orders to be made without reference to either House and will not even be laid on the Table. It is proposed to allow him to divide the areas into quite small constituencies. That could be a matter of very considerable significance, and might be done on Party lines or without adequate local knowledge. It is certainly a very big power, having regard to the fact that the results will affect elections to this House. That is all to be done by a stroke of the Minister's pen.

As far as I can find, the only check on his power is to be found in Section 4, for what he does under sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 4 he must obtain Parliamentary approval, but he need not obtain it for anything else. To pass into law, in a hurry just before an election, a measure which is designed to give all these powers in relation to a new system of local government is irresponsible and, to say the least of it, unwise. In some ways I was sorry that the Minister for Local Government was not here instead of the Parliamentary Secretary. He stated, unless I got a wrong report of his speech, that he was introducing a one-member system of proportional representation. These were the words in the report of his speech. The Parliamentary Secretary is much more honest and frank. He admits he is abolishing proportional representation in many areas.

I did not say that.

I am sorry if I have misunderstood the Parliamentary Secretary. If he did not say that, then I must argue the matter still further. We had a striking illustration of what I mean in the County Dublin by-election where there were four candidates. The lowest vote, I think, was about 10,000 and the highest about 14,000. Mr. MacBride was elected, and I take it, according to Mr. MacEntee and possibly according to Mr. Childers, that he has been proportionately elected. How he has been proportionately elected is beyond my conception. According to the Parliamentary Secretary, all the people in County Dublin should feel that Mr. MacBride is their representative. Personally, I disagree politically with Mr. MacBride, but he is an old friend of mine and, consequently, I would have no hesitation in going to him but to argue that the people of County Dublin would go to him or to Mr. Rooney or to Mr. Mullins or Mr. Dunne if any of them had been elected has, I think, no relation to the facts.

We might after a long period of political education reach this standard, but the fact of the matter is that in most areas and certainly in Dublin the people who want to discuss matters of politics or in connection with local affairs will go to people with whom there is a certain amount of political affinity whether those people are the representatives of the area or not. I think the case made by the Parliamentary Secretary is a bad one. Even if my argument is wrong and if the people will prefer to go to local representatives to have their grievances redressed I would say it is not a good system. I want less and less of it. I believe that the more local representatives you have who are prepared to give their minds and their ability towards improving their district and co-operating with the local managers the better and the less time that they give in either adjusting real or imaginary grievances or in pretending to adjust grievances, and in most cases it is pretending, the better. If the case made by the Parliamentary Secretary will increase this tendency it would make me even more against the Bill. There is one other matter which, I believe, is of a very considerable importance and particularly in relation to the City of Dublin, but I am sure it would apply also to Cork and other cities. I have for a very long time been an advocate of representation in city councils and corporations for the representatives of limited companies who pay rates. Now I do not think this should be an unduly large representation, but I have always regarded it as a matter of very considerable importance. We used to have a special representation in Dublin of five members, but the present Government objected to this and abolished it. Why they are so anxious not to have limited companies, whether manufacturing or trading, represented in the Corporation is beyond me. But this Bill goes one step further.

A very large number, without hesitation I would say the majority of the businesses of size, whether manufacturing or otherwise, are now limited companies and a very large number of the smaller ones also are limited companies. A limited company cannot be registered as a voter, and the directors, unless they reside within the particular area, are not registered as voters. I cannot give the numbers of directors in Dublin or Cork who reside outside the city area, but on going through the businesses of which I have knowledge, I find that the large majority of them reside outside the city area. Under this Bill, they cannot become members of the city council, and I estimate that of the present city council eight or nine members will be disqualified on those grounds after 1950. They would be disqualified immediately but for a saving clause. All the people I have in mind are engaged in business in the city and all of them are fairly substantial ratepayers. I think this is retrograde step. I am not asking for any special representation at the moment. I am simply saying that it is desirable that men of business ability should be persuaded to go into the Dublin Corporation and similar bodies. It has been very difficult to persuade them to do so and it will be always difficult to persuade them. The powers are limited and they cannot make anything out of it.

I say they cannot make anything out of it.

I am very much surprised by the Senator.

Why should such a Bill be introduced to make it impossible for those who have sufficient civic spirit to go forward as candidates to get elected? Why should you say that they should not go forward? Although their main interests are in the city and although they pay rates in the city, they are disqualified under this Bill because they live outside the area. The directors of limited companies are in that position to a very large extent.

I think it is a mistake, and that it is a retrograde step. I have emphasised this entirely from the commercial point of view because I am more or less a commercial representative in this House. But the argument is not confined to that section of the people. It would not at all surprise me if before very long, one were to find that the officers of unions and others will be disqualified because they reside outside a particular area. I know one or two who, as a matter of fact, do so reside. I have put down an amendment for the Committee Stage, but I do not know that it is fully satisfactory. I am totally opposed to the bringing in of this Bill now and of having it passed through quickly, a Bill which proposes the abolition of proportional representation over a large area and a change in qualifications so as to make it impossible for large ratepayers in the cities to remain members of the council. Most important of all, I object to the handing over, without any control, of complete and autocratic powers to the next Minister for Local Government, whoever he may be—we do not know what Party will be in power—to decide particular areas and boundaries and how they are to be divided. It is quite irresponsible, I think, to do all that in a hurry a few weeks before a general election, and for these reasons, as I say, I am totally opposed to the Bill.

I think it would be a waste of time to say very much on this Bill. In my opinion, it is a farce. Before going on to deal with it further, I want to say that it was a pleasure and an education to hear the Parliamentary Secretary speak on it. I hope that many such men as he will be found in our Parliaments in the future.

To come back to the Bill, where is the use in introducing it? For centuries our people struggled to secure the right of national and local self-government. We were termed "Hottentots" because of some racial defects, and for some unknown reason we were told that we were unfit for national self-government. It is 67 years since Lord Salisbury said that we were not fit for local government. The Fianna Fáil Government says it to-day. I wonder if Lord Salisbury could come back from the Great Beyond and were to examine the developments that have taken place since the right of local government was conferred upon the country, would he not think that he was justified in what he said 67 years ago? We have this Bill with its geographical manipulations and undemocratic system of representation. In my opinion, it would be better if, instead, we had a Bill to alter the Managerial Act and to give back to local authorities powers which they have not to-day. There is nothing in this Bill to increase their powers or to give an interest to the people to select representatives. I can tell the House, with my 22 years' experience on a county council, that at the last local elections we found it very difficult to get intelligent men to go forward for election. There has been a gradual lowering in the standard of public representatives on local bodies. I know quite a number of very capable and efficient men who take a deep and abiding interest in local administration. They want to see local affairs carried out in an equitable and intelligent way and with proper regard for the people in their area, but they are just longing for the moment to come when their term of office will expire. They will not go forward again for election and the reason is that the county councils to-day have no powers.

Are we dealing with the Managerial Act or with the Local Elections Bill?

We are dealing with the Local Elections Bill.

I submit then that the Senator should confine himself to it.

The powers of the local bodies are being limited and circumscribed. By reason of that, public interest in the selection of public men to administer local affairs has been lessened. Public bodies have nothing to administer now. The one appointment they can make to-day is that of a rate collector. Even the estimate for the coming year is submitted to the county council by the county manager. They are obliged to approve of it. If the Minister is of opinion that the sum stipulated in the estimate is the sum that is required to finance the local services, the council has to approve of that, or else a sealed Order is sent down by the Minister removing the council from office and appointing a commissioner in their place. Since the advent of national government there has been a dangerous tendency towards centralisation. We find that in this Bill. The Minister is being invested with extra powers so that local administration is to be administered almost wholly from Merrion Square. I suggest that, instead, the policy should be one of decentralisation. If that were done, we would find the local people taking a greater interest in local administration.

We all remember the fine representatives we had on the local bodies that were elected after the passing of the Local Government Act of 1898. Those men received no remuneration for the services they gave to the public. They gave their time, attention and interest to the work of the local bodies. In the main, their administration was efficient and it certainly was local. All that has been done away with since the advent of national government. The people were not consulted, and then we had the Managerial Act. The local bodies have very little power to-day. The only power they have, as I have said, is to elect a rate collector, but they will have even less power when this Bill becomes an Act. The Fianna Fáil Government appear to agree with what Lord Salisbury said 67 years ago, that the people of this country are not fit for local government. What the motive may be behind this Bill I do not know, but it seems to me that the passing of it will be a bad day's work for the country because, as I have said, it will lessen the interest which the people should take in their local affairs. In a few years, unless there is a change, no responsible man will care a hoot about going forward, because he will merely be dealing with matters in which he has no jurisdiction. The whole thing is a matter for the county manager and then for Merrion Street. It is the antithesis of democracy as exemplified by this Bill.

Fortunately there is somebody with some experience who does not feel inclined to take as pessimistic a view of this Bill as other Senators who have spoken. I have considerable experience, and, as soon as I saw this Bill published, I regarded it as a step in the right direction, because I knew electoral areas, of which my own town was part, which extended right across the county and I knew representatives on the county council living in my own town who knew nothing about the area at the other end or even in the centre. It is a step in the right direction that the areas should be cut up and that every man representing the people should know about his own area. If he does not, it is easy to bring him to book. When there are five or six representatives for an electoral division, as somebody here said, everybody's business is nobody's business. There is no competition as between the various representatives, but in this case, the areas being joined together, with the centres quite close to each other, there will be a stimulus in the direction of doing work well. If, in a small area, there is an active representative, or two active representatives, the effect will be to incite others to a greater exercise of their functions, if they are not already doing so.

I was really surprised to hear Senator Baxter arguing that one of them might get a drain made through his area, which, when it came to the end of the area, would not be continued. No local authority would allow such a thing to happen. If a drain or a river clearance scheme is started, it must be done from start to finish and due provision to that end will be made before the work is started at all, so that argument has no validity. Senator Madden talked about the county councils' lack of power, but the general opinion is that if these bodies exercised the powers they have in an intelligent way, they could do a lot more than they are doing. Senator Madden talked about the very worthy people on county councils in the past. That is so to a great extent, but they were exceptions, and even at the present day I hear exclamations about what it cost such-and-such a doctor or engineer to get his position under the old bodies. There was one doctor with whom I was acquainted——

There is no use in going back on these matters.

The Senator is answering points raised.

Those of the past had no greater virtues than those of the present, and I am sure that under this Bill you will find better men, if they are in the area at all, coming forward. They will know what they are to do because they will have a circumscribed area and they will know the people within the area and will know further that, if they do not do their duty, they will not be elected as representatives a second time. I think the Bill is a worthy Bill for these reasons, and, as a person in public life for a considerable time, I welcome it.

One of the reasons for which I dislike this Bill is precisely that the members of a county council under it are going to have a power which was not mentioned by Senator Madden which they can operate and utilise exclusive of any Ministerial control—the power, to which Senator Douglas referred, of selecting the members of this House. It was an unfortunate day for local government in this country when politics were brought into the county councils. It would be far better—and all Parties in my county agree—if there were no political blocs in the election of representatives to county councils and if these elections were conducted purely on the basis of local interests.

The day when county councils had, of necessity, to deal with what were national problems went when we got our own Parliament. Prior to that, the county councils and the General Council of County Councils were the only bodies through which national feelings could be expressed. That day is gone, and I feel very strongly that county councils—using that term to cover all local authorities—should consider and should content themselves considering only the problems of their particular counties and should not discuss national problems in the wider sense which can and should be discussed in the Dáil and in this House. Having regard to that, it is very regrettable indeed that the Fianna Fáil Party decided to contest county council elections on a political basis. That contest has been continued and is bound to be continued so long as the particular provision remains in the Seanad Bill. It is one of the unfortunate things which arises on all our county councils—not perhaps as a result of this Bill but as a result of the other Bill—but it is something we must consider.

Apart from that, I find it extremely difficult to understand the mentality of the Department in dealing with this Bill. The Custom House—using that phrase to cover not merely the present Department of Local Government but the old Department of Local Government and Public Health—has been at very great pains in recent years to try to ensure that in each local authority the system of having separate areas of charge would be abolished, that in each county there would be only one general rate and that the cost of all the health services of the county would be spread over the whole county as a county-at-large charge.

Candidly, the result of that appears to be that there is not the same responsibility, if I may use the word, in the members of the council in considering the cost of what they are asked by certain of their constituents to do in a particular area. It is one of the tendencies that has developed since the separate charges were abolished and there was a unified rate over the whole county. It is exactly the reverse procedure that the Department is now envisaging in this Bill. What is going to happen under this Bill is, quite clearly, a tendency for a small area to try to claim something off a county at large. I think the two schemes which the Department has considered are entirely and absolutely contradictory.

Apart from that, I want to reiterate what has been said by other speakers in regard to the method by virtue of which these powers are going to be exercised. I find it very difficult indeed to follow the abstract method by virture of which the Minister is going to operate his Order. I think it will be quite impossible to follow it or for any of us to consider how this scheme will operate unless each of us is given in respect of each county that he knows an example of approximately how it is going to work and how in each county the areas are going to be divided.

Apart from that, it is very greatly to be regretted that the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary has chosen the method that he has chosen in this Section 2. You cannot divide any county in suitable and satisfactory areas merely by sitting down in an office with a map in front of you and certain tables of population. It cannot be done. You must have the local knowledge. You must know that the people in one area are accustomed to go to one particular side of that area to market, to shop and so forth; that the people of another area have special ties with the adjoining area to the south, whereas on a map it might look that they would be better joined to the north. There is no provision whatever in Section 2 by virtue of which the Minister will consult the local authority before he makes this distribution. There is no provision in respect of the appointment of polling districts and polling places. In Section 3, it is a reserved function of the council. It should be a reserved function of the council, because only the united knowledge of all the members of the county council could deal with that question of geographical ties, just as the united knowledge of all the members, and not one particular person, could deal with the most efficient and most satisfactory method of dividing the areas so that local ideas, local feeling, local sentiment and local convenience could be considered.

I hope, therefore, during the passage of this Bill through Committee there will be introduced into Section 2 a provision, by virtue of which, before any Order is made, it will be mandatory on the Minister to submit a draft scheme to the county council, that the consideration of that draft scheme will be a reserved function to the members of the county council and that, the county council having considered that scheme, the Minister will be bound to take into account any and every such representation that may be made by the council concerned before making the scheme into an Order. I hope that, over and apart from that, there will be in addition a specific provision by virtue of which any Order made in pursuance of this section will be open for tabling and discussion in either House. I want to be quite clear that I am not referring to any particular Minister or any particular person who may be there for the time being; this is an arrangement that can be made and that can be altered later on but there is in that section, without these safeguards of, first of all, consultation with the local authority and, secondly, the tabling of the Order, all the elements of the worst possible system of gerrymandering that there could be, a system that might be used specifically and purposely because the county council is the basic four-fifths of the electorate of the members of this House.

I find it difficult also to see why the Minister has decided that there is not to be an election either in 1948 or 1949 and that the next election is to take place in 1950, unless I might perhaps allow the unworthy thought to enter my head that one of the reasons is that the Minister at present has a majority on the county councils but I suppose it would be utterly unworthy to allow such a thought to find expression.

He would still have that majority if the elections were next year and the Bill was never introduced.

I think the Senator is going to get a very, very rude shock.

I approach this Bill from rather a different viewpoint from that taken by other speakers. I feel the country is suffering because there is a lack of proper respect for the importance of local authorities and maybe that is due to the way in which their powers have been taken off them in recent years. I agree with Senator Madden, to this extent, that the right type of man will not be attracted to local authorities unless he is given a real sense of responsibility. No man is going to waste his time simply sitting around a table without having real powers to do something effective. The striking of rates and the spending of rates is a very important item in our community existence and you will not get the right type of man if he finds that in fact he has to submit everything he does to what is in fact a paid servant of the State, who supervises all his actions.

But there is one feature of the Bill that particularly appeals to me and that is one that somehow or another has not appeared to those who have spoken before me. I rather like the new type of more intimate relationship that the Bill is going to effect between the elected person and the people whom he represents. I think one of the minor tragedies has been that there has been an insufficient degree of contact in local authorities between the elected representatives and the people. I am old enough to remember when there was a very live interest taken in the elections to local councils, district councils as distinct from county councils, when there was keen rivalry to be elected, when it was something to be called "councillor", when it meant something, and gave a prestige and cache to the person who occupied that position. These were the times when councillors had some real, effective work to do and effective powers to enable them to do something worth-while.

I am not going into a long dissertation on the general scope of the Bill. Various points have been covered by previous speakers, but I will say how much I am in sympathy with Senator Douglas's remarks on the exclusion from the possibility of election of what I am going deliberately to call the very responsible type of citizen. I think it is an absurdity to make a provision so arbitrary as this which will make it impossible for the largest ratepayer in our cities to be elected to a local authority, if he wishes to be elected, simply because his residence is outside the area in which his busness or other interests are. You can easily have the situation that the most important ratepayer, from the point of view of employment and the amount he pays in rates, will be forever excluded from the possibility of participation in local work. I think that is a flaw. I find it hard to believe that it is deliberately intended that way, and I am hoping, with Senator Douglas, now that the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary has been drawn to it, that something will be done to remove what, in my opinion, is a blot on a Bill that otherwise has very many attractions for me.

I would like to say that one point in the Parliamentary Secretary's speech impressed me very much, that is, the proposal to give representation to parishes. From my experience of Roscommon, I know that there are three very large parishes in an area in which, two men out of each parish are elected, whereas there are two other parishes that are equally important, from which no representative is elected. I know that there has been a good deal of discontent in these parishes on that account. I would like to see every parish having representation. It is my personal opinion that Party politics should be cut out of the county council and until that is done the best type of man will not come forward. If this new Bill aims at giving decent representation to the parish, I welcome it very much, but I am entirely with Senator Sweetman when he suggests that the draft should be put before the county councils. The Bill should not be rushed through without the county councils being able to express their opinion on it. After all, they know the various districts in their own counties and if they were asked for suggestions there is no one who could help the Minister better than they. I am not going to suggest political motives to this debate, but if there are such motives at the back of it, it will not do much good. Party politics should be completely unknown in the county council, and every ratepayer in a district should be able to feel he was getting a square deal from every representative, no matter to what Party he belonged.

With regard to powers, I must say that, speaking for my own county, the councils have no power. Senator Madden said councils have the power of electing the rate collector. They have and they have not. There have been a couple of cases in my county where rate collectors have died and the county manager divided their districts among existing collectors, his idea being to make it practically a whole-time job and a decent one. I think the majority of the county council would hold a different view. Most of the collectors have other means of living, perhaps they have farms, and they are not depending on these positions, so that it is a kind of side-line which helps out small farmers.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I allowed Senator Madden deal with that, but it must not be taken further.

I welcome the Bill to the extent that it is designed to give decent representation to every parish, but I cannot stress too strongly the advisability of getting the views of county councils before it is rushed through.

I think we have had a good deal of gross misrepresentation in regard to this Bill and I must try to convince the House that we have no sinister intentions in placing the Bill before the Oireachtas. First of all, in regard to the urgency of the Bill, arrangements for local elections in 1948 have to be begun well in advance. If the Dáil is dissolved as we anticipate and a general election is held at the end of January or the beginning of February, it will be much too late to make alternative arrangements of this kind. That is the reason for the urgency. We do not wish to make arrangements for a local election in 1948 and we must make alternative provision before that time. The Bill is extremely urgent and I would ask the indulgence of the House in pressing it forward in every way.

Senator Baxter said this Bill is a further hindrance to more efficient local government and that it will be very difficult to get good representation when it becomes law. I do not know whether I should at this stage give a more detailed description of the work and functions of county councillors, but in order to enlighten some Senators who appear to be very worried about the Bill, I want to give some idea of what county councillors do. First of all, under this Bill, the county councillors will represent their own immediate areas. They will be able to do that much more easily than before, because it will be a smaller area. Secondly, there is nothing to prevent them taking representations from people living in contiguous areas who happen to have some personal objection to the person elected in their own areas. Thirdly, the county councillors elected will continue to have collective responsibility for the work of the county council as a whole and there is nothing in the Bill that diminishes in any way that collective responsibility or the capacity of a county councillor to discuss general local administration problems in the county council. There is nothing to prevent him from discussing the mushroom resolutions that float around county councils all over the country. He can still continue to debate the level of the old age pensions or the means test or any other matter, whether or not it is genuinely the ordinary business of a county council.

There is nothing to prevent persons who desire to acquire experience of local administration and thus become interested in the Dáil from using the county councils as stepping stones from their position of ordinary citizens to that of members of the Dáil. The whole point is that from now on a person going forward for election knows that the amount of work he will have to do on behalf of his constituents is limited in area. He will know them all personally and know the pitfalls to avoid in dealing with them. He knows his own people intimately and knows those who are going to make excessive claims on his attention and how to get rid of them. He knows how to deal with every aspect of local administration in his area and he will have more time to devote to the larger considerations of local government, just because he represents the interests of an area somewhat the size of a parish. I speak with the utmost sincerity when I say it is a very interesting and useful change in the system of election for that reason.

I know very well that, if I were myself to take an interest in local government, I should first of all wonder whether I would have the time to do that as well as attend to my duties as a Deputy of the Dáil. One of the things that might influence me would be that I could do my business either as a member of the Dáil or in my private capacity much more easily when I was aware that I knew my area was small and could tell what was going on without even seeing the people. If a pump went out of order, I would know about it before someone came to me to complain. Instead of people having the humiliation of travelling long distances, only to find a councillor away from home on business, because some engineer was not doing his job well or not seeing to the pumps, or because a contractor for pump repairs was not doing his job and let the council down, they will know whether their representative is available.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary give an example of a county electoral area of 50 or 60 miles in extent?

Donegal. Naturally, the quality of a county council depends on the quality of the representatives elected.

I think this Bill should encourage the election of men who have a wide point of view in regard to local administration and matters of that kind generally, and who understand the needs of their constituents. We do not want to encourage what might be described in a purely vulgar sense as parish pump politics through this Bill. We believe that we ought to be able to get representatives who will have a good broad point of view regarding local administration, and, who, at the same time, will represent a particular area and not try to encourage the election of people who have a very narrow point of view.

Senator Sweetman and Senator Douglas suggested that the Minister's Orders in connection with the delimitation of electoral areas should be laid before the House. This practice is not general. The Minister for Local Government in 1925 was entrusted with the responsibility of making new electoral areas and when he did so there were no complaints. Why should the present Minister be the subject of any potential suspicion in this regard?

I look at the matter in two ways. In the first place it would be political suicide for any Party or any Minister to make these divisions in a way that could be suggested as having a political background. Secondly in regard to the work done by the present Minister for Local Government, no one has ever suggested a breath of suspicion against him. He has had enormous responsibility in regard to town planning, the sanctioning of housing schemes, and the provisions of the recent Constituency Bill, in which he must show and has shown the utmost integrity. Whatever criticism has been made against him, it has always been accepted that he personally is utterly impeccable in his conduct.

Why should such suspicion be cast against him when it was not cast against the Minister for Local Government in 1925? If Senator Sweetman must take a cynical point of view, they may believe what I said, namely, that it would be political suicide for a Party or a Minister to make use of this Bill for gerrymandering purposes in connection with local authorities.

In regard to the business franchise in Dublin it was never regarded as very successful. I do not think there was any regret when it ended. We do not intend to change the proposed method of election. Under the present method a person who is an elector of a local authority must have business premises in, or must be a resident of, the area. That is the position under this Bill.

I think the Parliamentary Secretary misunderstood what Senator Douglas said. What the Senator was advocating was that the director of a company would be qualified, which is an entirely different matter.

I may have misunderstood the Senator. Senator Madden spoke very pessimistically. He said that Lord Salisbury spoke of the Irish people as not being fit for local government. The Senator suggested that local government was ending in this country, that representatives were of a less desirable kind, that there was more centralisation and that it was becoming more difficult to find responsible men going forward for election to county councils. He also suggested that this Bill was in some way undemocratic. I cannot find anything undemocratic in it. It removes anomalies as between urban and rural areas about which no one has spoken this evening. Rural areas have been given greater representation in relation to county charges.

Senator Madden also said that there was now less work for county conncils and representatives of local authorities as a result of the county managerial system and of centralising influence. Surely I am not compelled to give now a history of the development of local government. It would take too long. To put it briefly, everybody knows that what is called centralisation has been the result of larger subventions from the Central Fund towards local authorities' services, that with these subventions more satisfactory services exist, and this inevitably necessitates control and supervision.

And larger demands on local ratepayers.

There has been an increase in the specialised functions of local authorities which require the assistance and supervision of specialists at the head of any particular service. How impossible it would be to maintain the old type of purely decentralised government with regard to the development of such a service as the tuberculosis welfare scheme, in view of the fact that everyone concerned has to have an intimate medical knowledge of this subject. How equally impossible it would be to maintain the administration of road services without some control from the centre, when roads are more and more a matter of modern engineering practice, on which local authorities require advice and guidance as to standards.

Having said that, it would seem to me that compared with 1910 local authorities under the managerial system have far more matters to discuss. They have 30 or 40 new functions, the carrying out of which necessitates their supervision. Older members of the Seanad know what work local authorities had in 1910 compared with the work they have to do to-day. Every service carried out by the manager is subject to the supervision of members of local authorities. A local authority has power to suspend a manager, they have power to supervise the performance of his duties and to examine and revise estimates. That is a very important function.

Tell us more.

There is nothing to prevent a local authority electing a road committee, a health committee and a housing committee to examine and report on the work of the county manager. There is nothing to prevent them from having a series of meetings before rates are struck at which the work of the county manager will be examined from every aspect. In fact, a number of authorities divide themselves into committees for that purpose. There is nothing to prevent a road committee going through the road estimates paragraph by paragraph and agreeing among themselves about the works that must be carried out.

That whole work was done by boards of health in 1910. They looked after institutions and public administration.

I am afraid the Senator is making a speech.

All that work is now in the hands of the county manager.

There was no board of health in this country in 1910.

Well, whenever they were established. I am not sure of the year.

The county manager can neither borrow nor make rates or amend or revoke by-laws without the consent of the council. The councils have absolute power over all these matters. They have the power over boundary extensions and the declaration and clearance of improvement areas. They have complete responsibility for making planning schemes of any kind and they can extend the rate of building.

Is not that all pure theory and humbug?

The councils have the power of disposal over their own property and they have reserved functions in regard to parliamentary areas polling districts.

Does this reserved power over-ride this Bill?

Yes. They still have reserved functions. They also can regulate the acceptance of tenders and they have the power to appoint committees to examine every aspect of the manager's administration. They can regulate to a considerable degree the rate of housing and by voting more money they can build more houses. A lot of those things are done reluctantly by local authorities because they mean more money. If they employ their time usefully they can do a great deal. I can see from reading the report of county council meetings in the local newspapers every week that progress is being made. I read those reports religiously and I notice that many councils are beginning to realise their powers in regard to the supervision of the county manager's work. In some areas the whole trend is very satisfactory, but in other areas county councils do not appear to have accepted the managerial principle so well, but I believe as time goes by their understanding of the system will be in the right direction. If in time it is necessary to amend the system, I am sure the Minister of the day will do so. Senator Sweetman spoke of the need of having local knowledge in the formation of those new electoral areas. So far as I am aware, in the Department of Local Government, there never has been any criticism of the Department in regard to the operation of the franchise in general. We have a rather fine tradition in this regard. In making his Orders, the Minister will have regard, no doubt, to local circumstances. One could commence with the unit of the dispensary area as a first basis for the new electoral area. I think it will be quite possible to work out a scheme that will be satisfactory to the local authorities concerned. The obvious thing is to tackle the urban areas first and reduce their representation, as I indicated earlier on the Second Reading. Having seen how they fit into the scheme, the Minister will deal with the remaining areas. Due account will be taken of such factors as the towns to which people go marketing. If there is a sparsely populated and scattered area separated by mountains the officials of the Department responsible will have to use their intelligence and have regard to the section of the Bill which says that population and the numbers of electors are to be taken into account. Sanitary services are levied over the county ex-urban and that explains to a degree why existing councils have an undue preponderance of urban representation. One of the proposals of this Bill is to give county health representatives a greater bias.

One member of the House spoke of the abolition of proportional representation. Well, the single transferable vote applying to a one-member constituency is referred to in the Constitution, Article 12, Section 2, dealing with the election of President. There is no suggestion for abolishing proportional representation underlying this Bill. There is nothing in the Constitution providing that local authorities should be elected in any particular manner. It is purely a matter of law. I think that political heat and the emphasis of the political viewpoint will be lessened by this Bill. I hope that the people of the country will have the intelligence to elect the man who is best qualified for undertaking local administration. At the same time, such a person will have some political bias. I do not believe in the theory of people having no politics.

Hear, hear!

I see members of this House who call themselves Independent, but they are really anti-Government. There may be some exceptions, but I do not know them. The same applies to the members of local authorities. Generally speaking, the people who call themselves Independents are against the Government of the day. There is no use in saying that there will not be politics in the local councils as a result of this Bill, but I think that a man will need to have a personality, an appeal to the electorate, who will know his weaknesses before he is elected. So long as the electorate are intelligent, they will elect good men. I ask the House to have second thoughts on this matter. There has been a suggestion that there is almost something sinister in this Bill. It seems to me that it is a Bill designed to give back to the local authorities zest and interest in their work and to base representation on the conception of the parish. During the war there was a great deal of talk about parish councils, but they did not survive the emergency period. Under this Bill, areas about the size of a parish will have administrative significance through the reduction in the size of the local electoral areas. In conclusion, I would like to recommend the Bill to the House as an advance in local administration.

Question put and agreed to.

When will the next stage be taken?

May I rise on a point of order? Would it be possible for us to reach agreement on the Bills we are going to take to-night? There are numbers of civil servants and officials who will have to wait around until 10 o'clock and it would facilitate everybody if it were possible to agree on the particular items of the agenda that would be taken to-night.

Are all the Ministers who have Bills on the agenda available?

Yes, they are all available. I think if we took three more items we would be doing well. That would be about as far as I think we could go to-night.

Yes, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 on the Order Paper.

I think we should go on and see what business we can get through before adjourning.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 17th December.