Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 30 Mar 1955

Vol. 44 No. 12

Local Government Bill, 1954—Second Stage.

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

This Bill deals with such a wide variety of subjects that it is difficult to give a proper review of its contents in a Second Reading speech. An explanatory memorandum, therefore, has been prepared for Senators giving details of each section of the Bill as passed by Dáil Eireann. It is not proposed to repeat now the details in the memorandum but simply to indicate the more important provisions of the Bill.

Part I does not call for any comment.

Part II, which deals with establishment matters, has two chapters. The first deals with offices and employments generally and is largely a series of amendments to Part II of the Local Government Act, 1941, and Part III of the Local Government Act, 1946. The second chapter deals with the amendment of the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926.

An important provision in the first chapter is Section 21, which replaces Section 70 of the Local Government Act, 1925, as respects the offices and employments to which the chapter relates. The section in the 1925 Act prohibits any person from being employed by a local authority while he is, or within 12 months after he has ceased to be, a member of the local authority or any local authority in the same or in an adjoining county or county borough. The section has been considered to be too harsh in so far as minor employment by a local authority is concerned. Section 21 will provide for the disqualification of a person from employment as a minor officer or servant only in respect of membership of a local authority by which he is employed. There is an exception to ensure that membership of advisory and visiting committees will not of itself involve disqualification from employment. Section 70 also provided that disqualification from employment would continue for 12 months after the cesser of membership of the local authority. This restriction is being removed in the case of normal cesser of membership at the expiration of the member's term of office.

Section 24 and the Second Schedule will clarify the position in regard to the power of the appropriate Minister to make age limit Orders. It was considered that under existing law, age limit Orders could be made applying only to officers who on compulsory retirement would be entitled to a pension. There was some doubt about this and it is now proposed to restate the law and to limit the powers of the Ministers accordingly. Doubts have also been raised as to validity of age limit Orders in relation to managers, in view of the terms of the Management Acts which provide that a manager shall hold office until he dies, resigns or is removed from office. Section 24 and the Second Schedule will now make it clear that age limit Orders will apply notwithstanding any statutory tenure that an officer may possess under any enactment.

Other provisions in the first chapter to which I would like to draw special attention are Sections 8 and 20. The main effect of these sections will be that the obligation on local authorities to seek numerous individual sanctions in various matters will be dispensed with, provided the general directions of the Minister for which these sections provide are complied with. This will eliminate a great deal of unnecessary correspondence for local authorities and for the Departments concerned and make for economy and convenience in administration.

Section 26 in the second chapter will exclude certain types of offices from the scope of the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926. These are temporary offices; part-time offices as engineer or surveyor under the council of an urban district or the commissioners of a town; and technical offices, such as that of radiographer, which are relatively junior. The removal of these offices from the scope of the 1926 Act will enable local authorities to fill the posts more rapidly.

Section 27 will remove a source of inconvenience to local authorities by imposing a time limit of three months within which persons recommended for appointment by the Local Appointments Commissioners must take up duty on pain of losing their posts.

Section 30 will enable the commissioners to compile panels of qualified persons from which the needs of a number of local authorities can be met. This should speed up the making of appointments and will also facilitate candidates in that they will not be required to pay an entrance fee for every particular post for which they apply.

Section 36 in Part III proposes to cure defects in Section 69 of the Local Government Act, 1946, which have made it impossible to make suitable regulations on the subject of traffic signs. It is highly desirable to secure uniformity in this matter, and I hope that when Section 36 is enacted this desirable end will be achieved without delay.

The section also contains a useful provision making it an offence to provide any sign, device, notice or light capable of being confused with or obscuring a traffic sign, or constituting an obstruction to the view of a road user.

Some time ago Dublin Corporation requested that they be empowered to provide traffic wardens to shepherd school children across the road at busy crossing places. It was decided to meet their request and to make the power available to all local authorities who wished to avail of it. It should be stressed that the power is entirely permissive; it will rest completely with any particular authority whether to avail of the section or not. Any arrangements made by a local authority under the section will be subject to the consent of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, who will assist local authorities fully in the operation of the section. Ultimate responsibility in the matter of traffic control will, of course, continue to rest with the Commissioner.

The Motor Car (International Circulation) Act, 1909, on which most of the facilities granted to visiting motorists are based, is being replaced by Section 38 of the Bill, which gives the Minister wider powers. As soon as the Bill becomes law, it is hoped to take steps to adhere to the latest convention on road traffic, that of Geneva of 1949. Pending adherence to the convention, it is intended to make an Order accepting as valid driving licence in this country, either the international driving permit of a visitor or his domestic driving licence. This is a step which has been strongly urged by motoring organisations and tourist bodies.

Section 40 contains a number of amendments of the law relating to bridge Orders as contained in Part IV of the Local Government Act, 1946. In particular it will remove doubts as to whether a bridge Order providing for a fixed bridge can be made where a right of navigation is involved, even slightly or theoretically. The safeguards contained in the 1946 Act—a public inquiry and the consent of the Minister for Industry and Commerce— will continue to apply in such a case. The River Shannon has been excluded from the application of this part of the section, in view, as indicated in the Dáil, "of the peculiar standing of that great waterway".

Finally, Section 41 of the Bill enables a border county council to adopt a scheme for the construction or maintenance of a cross-border bridge. For example, this will enable Donegal County Council in conjunction with Tyrone County Council, to proceed with a scheme for the replacement of Lifford bridge.

An important provision of Part IV is Section 51 which is intended to meet complaints about the present method of calculating urban areas' share of county expenses. Briefly, this calculation is done at present according to the total valuation of the different areas, but due to the fact that a smaller proportion of valuations is productive in urban than in rural areas the urban ratepayers tend to be charged with an undue proportion of the shared expenses. In Section 51 it is hoped to get over the difficulty by providing that, in future, county-at-large expenses will be shared between urban and rural areas in proportion to the produce of a penny rate.

Section 50 deals with the making of charges by auditors where loss is incurred to the funds of a local authority as a result of a certificate given by a person retained by the local authority in any professional, advisory or consultative capacity. The section is intended to make it quite clear that the auditor will not have power to question professional or technical advice given by a consultant. He will be confined to querying any sum paid on the basis of a certificate issued by a person acting as consultant.

Part V of the Bill deals with the giving of assistance by county borough corporations towards the provision of parish or community halls. Its purpose is to confer on such corporations the same power as county councils to provide halls for approved local councils or to give grants to approved local councils towards the cost of providing halls themselves.

In Part VI of the Bill there are four sections which require comment here. Section 53 will make the franchise for the change of place names more democratic by giving a vote in such matters to the occupiers of small dwellings.

County councils can at present provide parish halls but they have, it is felt, been constrained from doing so by the extent of the liability they would be taking on if they exercised the power. Section 54 of the Bill will enable them to give grants repayable or not, as they decide, towards the provision of halls.

Under Section 55 sanitary authorities will be empowered to contribute to the funds of bodies providing swimming facilities. Swimming clubs which cannot readily find the money to provide swimming pools will welcome the section, which should also be of benefit to local authorities in so far as it will relieve them of the expense of managing and maintaining swimming pools, as well as part of the cost of providing them.

The corporations of the four county boroughs can decorate the streets for occasions of public rejoicing and other appropriate occasions, but a two-thirds majority of the members of the corporation must vote for a resolution to authorise the expenditure. It is now proposed to do away with the requirement as to the two-thirds majority and to enable the expenditure, which cannot, in any event, exceed the produce of a penny rate, to be authorised by a simple majority of members present and voting. It is also proposed in Section 56 of the Bill to extend the power of providing street decorations to all urban authorities and town commissioners. A limit of 3d. in the £ on the rateable valuation of their areas is imposed.

Most of the repeals contained in the First Schedule are consequential on amendments in the body of the Bill. It should be mentioned specially that the repeal of Section 51 (7) of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, will put local authorities on the same footing as other bodies in so far as liability for payment of debts is concerned. Senators will remember that the Public Authorities (Judicial Proceedings) Act, 1954, which was enacted recently, puts local authorities on the same footing as other bodies in so far as legal actions are concerned.

The repeal of Section 10 (2) of the Irish Universities Act, 1908, will do away with the obligation on local authorities to seek ministerial sanction to incur expenditure, exceeding the produce of a penny rate, in providing university scholarships.

When we passed the Local Government (Repeal of Enactments) Act, we felt that further Local Government Bills coming before us would be more of a consolidation nature than this present Bill. We are disappointed in this Bill from two aspects—firstly because of the manner in which the Bill is presented, as a Bill of references, and secondly, because of what the Bill does not contain rather than what it does. From the many statements made in public in recent months in particular, we would expect that, when a Bill in relation to the functions of local authorities would be presented to us, it would be a Bill to extend the powers and functions of members of local authorities much more so than the present Bill does. If we examine the Bill section by section we find that the powers given under the Bill to the Minister, or if not to the Minister, to the county manager, are not, I think, what the great majority of the people expected in a Bill of this nature.

We have, I think, an innovation in this Bill in that we have a provision under which the Minister for Local Government—and I should say, not only the Minister, but the Minister for Health, and Social Welfare also, shall give directions to the local authority in the matter of enactments passed. The Dáil and Seanad have the opportunity of examining what is contained in Bills before they become law. In the matter of regulations made by the Minister, provision is made in this Bill, as has been made in other Bills, that the regulations be laid on the Table of the House, and that they can be brought up for discussion. If the members of the House think likewise they can be annulled, but in the matter of a direction given by the Minister there is no such opportunity, and the direction might be more important and detailed than any of the regulations made. I shall probably come to this later on.

As I said at the outset, we feel that when a Bill of this nature comes before the House, it is only right that we should determine the importance of local authorities. Their functions have grown in recent years while those of the Department which controls them, and which in this Bill is asking for more control, have been more or less curtailed. We have not one Minister for Local Government now; we have three who are, in accordance with the terms of this Bill, empowered to give instructions, make regulations and give directions to local authorities. The very limited extent to which the functions of local authorities are enlarged in this Bill is indeed rather disappointing.

Section 4 provides that these regulations shall be laid on the Table of the House. While that is a provision which we welcome and which, if it had not been in the Bill, we would have pressed to have incorporated in it, we should bear in mind that the annulling of a regulation, if the House so decided, would not affect any actions already taken under that regulation. The Parliamentary Secretary reminded the House that this was more a Committee Stage Bill than a Bill which one could discuss on Second Reading, and with that I agree, but, in order that we might be enabled to give whatever assistance we can in making the Bill what we would wish it to be, we must ask the Parliamentary Secretary to bear with us while we try to elicit more detailed information from him as to what procedure it is proposed to take in relation to the various matters under discussion.

He referred to Section 8 and said that the purpose of that section is to expedite sanction and to remove many of the delays that have taken place in the past. Every member of the Seanad and the public at large will welcome any step in this direction because there has been in the past untold delay in sanctioning matters sent up to the Department, whether it be a plan for a housing scheme or a request to raise a loan for a particular purpose. No matter what it is, there seems to be a very large area of pigeon holes in the Custom House into which these requests find their way, with the result that there is great delay even in getting replies to queries sent to the various sections. I fear that what the Minister is attempting to do in this section will not bear fruit because it can only relate to sanctions of a general nature, and, where individual applications for sanction are sent up for specific purposes, I am afraid there will be the same delays.

I ask Senators to direct their attention to Section 9 which contains one of the provisions to which I take very serious objection. It sets out that the Minister may direct—there is no question of making regulations or giving an opportunity to this or the other House to examine any regulations and no provision made for consultation with local authorities or with the organisations representing the various classes to whom it may apply —that the remuneration of all the offices in relation to which he is the appropriate Minister—and here again we can have three Ministers giving a direction—or of such of those offices as belong to a specified class, description or grade and so on, shall be inclusive.

The power which the Minister already has and which he has exercised on almost every occasion has had very serious results. We see various offices becoming vacant from time to time and the local authority proceeds to fill them. An advertisement is issued in the papers specifying the office and— what is very important, of course—the remuneration. We then see various official organisations taking immediate steps to instruct their members, because they consider that the remuneration offered is not in keeping with the office, not to apply and we then have the position that various important offices—medical and engineering posts —are left unfilled and the local authority operations are held up because the Minister has this power to direct a local authority as to what the remuneration should be in any specified case.

That is one side of the picture, and it is a serious side, but there is a still more serious aspect of the exercise of this power, that is, where the Minister acts in a directly opposite way, as was done on one particular occasion, and directs a local authority immediately to increase the remuneration or to make certain provisions for their staffs. The local authority, I hold, is the body charged with the responsibility of running the various institutions. They are the people who must answer to the community at large for their actions and they are the people who understand the needs of the position and the type of person best fitted to fill it. If they consider that it is essential, in the interests of the community, that a certain remuneration, whether in excess of what the Minister thinks should be offered or not up to the standard which he considers necessary to induce people to come forward, I hold that it is a matter for the local authority. They are the people who must levy the rate to collect the money to meet these charges and I have a very serious objection to giving the Minister authority to make a direction of this kind.

We will have a further opportunity on the Committee Stage, but, without repeating what I have said, the same considerations apply in regard to Section 20 where the same power is given. We have one section empowering the Minister to give a direction to a local authority as to what remuneration should be offered for a particular post and then we find that the matter was regarded by the Department as being so important that they considered it essential to have another section dealing with almost the same matter.

We come then to Section 30 which provides for a change in procedure in relation to appointments. I do not say that the Local Appointments Commission have been entirely successful, but they have done a very difficult job fairly well and I do not think that any departure from the procedure adopted in the past is warranted at present. The reason given for this change is that it will make it more convenient for applicants and involve them in less expense. There is provision in the section for the compiling of a panel of candidates and I have grave doubts in this regard. I should like Senators to give particular attention to this section because we heard quite a lot in the past about appointments made by local authorities and we heard suggestions made that it was essential to take the power of appointment from local authorities for various reasons.

There has been general satisfaction with the manner in which the Local Appointments Commission has acted. We must do everything we can do to maintain the confidence of the people in this institution and more particularly the confidence of the local authorities and the applicants for positions. We must ensure that a person applying for a position will feel that the matter is going to be dealt with in all justice and that such an applicant is not going to be left under any feeling of doubt in the matter. I would like to put it this way. If an engineer or a medical officer or a dispensary doctor makes an application for a position he is brought before an interview board.

In the case of a dispensary doctor, some of the applicants are sent to various posts throughout the country. While the remuneration in each case may be the same there may be an inducement in the matter of the locality to which the applicant is appointed. The board may decide from its examination of one of the applicants to send him to Achill Island and to send another to Galway City. If the man sent to Achill Island knew he was going to be sent there, he probably never would have applied for the position at all. In this way you might have a feeling created amongst the applicants that justice was not being done particularly as there is also a section in the Bill that where a person appointed does not take up a post in a specified time, that post is then declared vacant and steps are taken to fill it again. I have a feeling that it might hardly stop at that. The Appointments Commissioners might feel that if a person came before them again for a post shortly after being appointed by them to another post they should not look on his application as favourably as justice would require.

There is another matter in connection with these appointments. The majority of our local authorities have power to make certain appointments and the county manager in the majority of these cases sets up a selection committee to deal with the matter. These committees make recommendations and the appointments are generally made on these recommendations particularly in the case of the transfer of dispensary doctors. There again I think that we should insist, either by regulation or by incorporating it in the Act, that such committees would consist of one or more members of the local authority concerned so that the interests of the local authority would be looked after and to eliminate any possibility of a doubt existing as to whether the person appointed was appointed for reasons other than that he might be the best person before the board.

The next important section is Section 31 which deals with roads. A tremendous lot of work is being done today on our main roads and great improvements are being carried out, but the time has come when we should pay more attention and devote more money to the repair, maintenance and improvement of county and village roads. There are certain provisions for that, but I would like to see included roads leading to fishing places and other places of interest to tourists. While you may find it an attraction to have your main roads in proper condition, that makes it all the more hard for tourists and visitors to understand why the county roads should not be in as good condition and it also makes it hard for the daily users of such roads who also contribute a great deal to the upkeep of the main roads.

The next thing I would draw attention to is Section 36 which deals with sign-posts. Certain conditions are laid down and it is hoped as a result of this section to have a better system. I think there is one thing on which the Department should insist and that is that there should be uniformity in our sign-posting. There is very little use in having in one particular county a very thorough system of sign-posting and having in the next county a different system. There is very little uniformity about it at the present time and it is very misleading particularly to strangers and foreigners in the country.

Section 37 provides for the appointment of traffic wardens to patrol places where school children cross the roads. We have passed many Acts in the past which transfer from the central Government the responsibility for matters that should rest on them and also their financial burdens and I think that this section does that. The provision of traffic wardens may be a very good idea and the excuse may be given that there are not sufficient Guards available to do that work. What we now propose to do is to give authority to the local authorities to provide these wardens, but they must also foot the bill for doing so.

Section 40 of the Bill is one which deals with the erection of bridges. It states:—

"Section 52 of the Act of 1946 is hereby amended by the addition of the following section:—

Except where the bridge Order relates to the River Shannon the work may be executed notwithstanding that it constitutes or will constitute an interference with any right (including, in particular, a right of navigation, whether or not conferred by statute)."

I think this is a section which gives power to the Minister for Local Government, whether or not the right has been already conferred by statute and whether or not it interferes with navigation, to proceed with the closing down of navigation rights and the erection of a bridge. The Parliamentary Secretary in his presentation of the Bill assured us that the necessary inquiries would be carried out but what is the use of having an inquiry into the question of erecting a bridge when the Houses of the Oireachtas have already given powers to the Minister to proceed with the erection of the bridge whether it interferes with navigation or not? The Minister in the Dáil did not give any justifiable reason why this should apply to all other bridges in the country with the exception of the River Shannon. I think this is an important matter for us and particularly for members from areas which may be concerned.

The next important section is 42, paragraph (1) of which says:—

"A local authority having any power to borrow may, for the purposes of providing temporarily for any expenses that may be incurred by them in the execution or performance of any of their powers and duties, borrow with the consent of the Minister by way of temporary loan or overdraft."

I would like to get, if possible, from the Parliamentary Secretary what the cost to the various local authorities throughout the country in a period of, say, 12 months, has been in the way of payments of overdrafts and the raising of temporary loans from their bankers resulting from the withholding of grants or loans payable to them through the Department. I think this constitutes a very serious problem for local authorities.

To what section does the Senator refer?

Senator Hickey is always interested in finance and I must give him the information. It is Section 42. I am sure it affects the Cork Corporation as much as it affects any local authority in Ireland. In particular this relates to the grants and loan provisions made in respect of housing. Last week we provided in the Central Fund Bill a sum of money to pay over under the Housing Transition Fund. That fund expired seven, eight or ten years ago. Yet there are moneys due by the local authorities throughout the country under this heading. This matter of withholding grants and payments in respect of loans, according as they are due, by the Department creates a very serious difficulty for local authorities. If some method could be provided to deal with this matter and if there was some co-ordination between the Department of Local Government and the local authorities, considerable sums of money could be, I think, saved to all our local authorities by the payment of these moneys when they are due. The necessity for the local authorities to enter into commitments with their banks would be avoided.

Paragraph (1) of Section 52 states:—

"The corporation may provide a building for use by an approved local council for public and other meetings and for lectures, exhibitions, general recreation or other similar social objects and may entrust the care and management of the building to the council either permanently or temporarily."

We welcome this section and hope it will be availed of by many of our councils. This section should be taken in conjunction with Section 54 which provides that the county councils may make grants to local councils for the erection of parish halls. I think this matter was discussed many times in this House, particularly on the motion to set up parish councils and to give statutory authority to them. When the County Management Bill was first passed, it made provision, I think, for the local authorities to erect parish halls.

A parish hall is very useful in a parish provided it is a parish hall. I do not know if any council in Ireland has availed of the powers given to it to build a parish hall. The first essential in regard to a parish hall is that it must be a parish hall. It must be controlled by representatives of the parish and these representatives must be elected or selected by the people of the parish. In very few cases could you justify the giving of a grant by a local authority to any particular body to erect a hall for sectional or any other purpose. It is only on the conditions I state that it would be of any benefit or serve the purpose that the framers of the original provision had in mind. The various members of the local authorities throughout the country would be only too pleased to see in every parish a hall providing the facilities that were foreshadowed in the 1941 Bill.

The first difficulty to surmount concerns who is going to erect the hall and whom the local authority will recognise. I would not be disposed to encourage the giving of grants and loans to any other type of persons for the erection of parish halls except the halls were really going to be parish halls and that they were controlled by a parish council. Provision then would have to be made for the erection or selection of this council. No provision has been made for the selection or election of a body of that kind. Therefore, I think that any provision in the Bill for the council to give grants to bodies that do not exist will have very little meaning.

While one might say that Section 55 is the same thing, it is of an entirely different nature because here the local authority has power to give a grant to a body interested in the development of swimming. Such an organisation already exists and is composed of persons who are interested in that sport. Therefore, that cannot be put in the same category at all as that in connection with the erection of parish halls.

Section 57 provides that the council of a county or corporation of a country borough may, with the consent of the Minister, contribute to the funds of a society, committee or other body providing or proposing to provide a museum for the reception of objects of local antiquarian interest. This is a section of the Bill that we would like to see implemented in many places throughout the country. It is a section to which it would be much easier to give effect than the section in relation to the parish halls. It is one that would serve a very great want in the country at the present time. It was suggested in a debate on another Bill by Senator Liam O Buachalla, I think, that provision should be made—I think it could be met very well under this section—to have a folklore museum in a place like Galway where there are a university and other facilities. It would benefit ourselves at home and it could be used in particular as an attraction for our tourists. Such a museum would be of great advantage. This section might be a help in that direction but we would also require greater financial assistance from the Central Fund than the local authorities could provide.

I had intended to direct attention to Section 45. That is an important matter because Section 45 guards against an oversight on the part of an official publication in regard to the revised valuation lists. That is understandable but, since we are making this provision, we should incorporate in the Bill that the lists should be published, if not in the places where they have been published in the past, then in all newspapers circulated in the particular county.

Provision is also made for a more democratic form, as the Parliamentary Secretary put it, of compiling the register of voters for the changing of place names. This, I think, is one of the matters that we all welcome. In the past, a good deal of difficulty has been experienced in having some of the imported place names changed to ones of Irish origin. The difficulty of doing that, in the past, has been that a few interested people wanted, for business or other reasons, to hold on to the name by which they thought the place was better known up to modern times.

I have directed the attention of Senators to a number of matters so that between now and the Committee Stage they can be thinking about them with a view to seeing that the Bill may be improved before it leaves this House. After all, there is very little that is new in the Bill, but we should at the same time see that it is as perfect as we can make it before it leaves this House. I would go so far as to say that there is no fundamental change proposed in the Bill. We find that the things that were promised are not in it. We cannot say now, and neither can the Parliamentary Secretary, what the Minister himself said when introducing the Bill in the Dáil, that the extension of powers will be embodied in another Bill—in a County Management Bill which is to follow. This latter Bill has not come before us yet, but some of us have read the contents of it. As regards this Bill, there is nothing in it which gives to local authority the powers that were promised, powers which it was suggested were essential if the democratic institutions of local government were to continue.

I would conclude by saying that, I think, the Department of Local Government could do much more than it has done in the past for the smooth running of the work undertaken by local authorities if it were to give more attention to the matters which are sent up to it as well as by the prompt payment of the moneys which are due from time to time to local authorities.

I am glad to see that a change has been brought about in various ways on the question of local authorities. It is now no longer an unnational thing to say that political Parties should take an interest in local authorities. Up to some few years ago, and indeed up to quite recently, the suggestion was that it was not right or proper for political Parties to contest local elections, or that there should be any interference on their part with local government. I welcome the change that has come about in the minds of the leaders of one of the large Parties in particular on that question. It is my belief that the more the political Parties take an interest in local government affairs the better it will be for the work entrusted to local authorities. After all, the members of local authorities have to answer to the people who elect them. They also have their responsibilities to their various Parties. I believe, because of that, that they will take an interest in local affairs, and that it will all lead to better work so far as the local authorities are concerned. That, I suggest, will be much better than to have the local authorities composed of people who have nothing in common except the desire of making promises such as were made during the last general election.

The purpose of this Bill, as set out in the explanatory memorandum, is to remedy certain anomalies and to remove unnecessary restrictions in the existing local government law. The Bill is another example of what is known as legislation by reference. It is only the members of the House, or people who have access to the existing statutes and the opportunity and time to analyse and study them in reference to this Bill, who can get a clear idea as to what it actually proposes to do. Since the passing of the first Local Government Bill, we have had various amending Bills and of course this will not be the last one. The chances are, of course, that we will secure more efficiency in the administration of local affairs as a result of putting the provisions of this Bill into operation. We will, no doubt, in the course of time, arrive at the conclusion that there are still other changes necessary. Two of the reasons that, nearly always, are advanced for the introduction of Bills of this kind are that they make for greater efficiency and economy. Whatever our opinions may be as regards the increased efficiency which the new legislation was responsible for, I think we can all agree that it has not contributed towards economy in local administration. Those of us who have been connected with local bodies for a considerable time must realise that, as regards administration, there is a considerable amount of waste. No matter how regular members may be in their attendance at meetings, and no matter what amount of attention they may give to the discharge of their duties, the feeling amongst them is that they cannot put their fingers on where the waste occurs, but it does occur.

I was of the opinion that when the Minister proposed to introduce this Local Government Bill, arrangements might be made for the setting up of some expert body, some body of inspection, that would be put in the position of being able to go into this question of waste or into the question of the utilisation of certain of the materials with which the local bodies have to deal. For example, in the matter of public health, there can be no doubt that, as regards surgical equipment and medicine, there is a certain amount of waste, and no member of a local body, no matter what his qualifications may be, can put his finger on where the waste occurs. Of course, it is stated that when the auditor comes around to check up he can draw attention to those matters which seem to him to call for closer investigation on the part of the local bodies. The fact, however, is that the auditor's reports are not furnished for a year, and sometimes 18 months, following the period which they cover, so that in actual fact the position is that the members of the local bodies are during that time engaged in other matters, and it is almost too late to hold an inquest into the administration of a year or two previous.

I was hopeful that in this Bill it might be found possible—with a view to giving local bodies an opportunity to deal with matters with which they are competent to deal—to transfer certain matters more appropriate to subsidiary bodies to them, matters which at present are the responsibility of the local body. For example, we have the Diseases of Animals Act, the Seeds and Fertilisers Act, the Sheep Dipping Orders, the Control of Dogs Order and the Wild Birds Protection Regulations. These are matters which would be more appropriate for committees of agriculture. They were handed on to the local councils as legislative Orders before the agricultural committees were set up. Now that we have efficient agricultural committees functioning in every county, there is no reason why the matters I have just referred to should not be made the responsibility of these committees. By so doing, you would leave the county council proper more time to deal with the particular work for which the members are fitted and elected.

There is another matter connected with education. When a new council is set up after a local election, various subsidiary committees are formed, including a vocational education committee. That committee is made up of members of the council and other people of certain academic qualifications, to co-operate in carrying out the administration of the vocational education service. That committee has complete control over a particular service in the county and they come to the council only once a year, when they demand the finance they need for the subsequent year. That is as it should be, but there are other educational subsidiary committees set up by the council—such as scholarship committees —and these bodies are also made up by council members, teachers, clergymen and people with academic qualifications which make them very useful members of such bodies. To my knowledge, such bodies have been responsible for drafting very beneficial schemes for primary scholarships and university scholarships and they are quite competent to administer these schemes in committee.

Unlike the vocational education committee, however, when the university scholarship committee or the primary scholarship committee meets and sends on a report, an inquest is held by the county council on that report and very often the scheme is upset by people who are not as familiar with the particular object of the scheme as are those responsible for drafting it. I see no reason why that work should not be made exclusive to the committee. It should not be a matter for discussion by the local council when it meets after the scholarship committee has held its meeting.

In regard to the panel arrangement in Section 30 of the Bill, I am inclined to agree with Senator Hawkins in questioning whether this section will effect the improvement in local administration that the Minister intended to effect. For instance, if a county surveyor dies suddenly and the necessity arises for filling his position, some of his assistants familiar with the work would certainly be competent to carry out his duties; but under this panel system, if it is not amended, such an assistant would not be in the running for the position, as the appointment would be made from a panel that might have been set up a year or two before. Similarly, you might have a doctor dying suddenly in a good dispensary.

Other practitioners in poorer dispensaries under the jurisdiction of that local body may be anxious to apply for the position and go before the Local Appointments Commission, but if an appointment is made in a short time from an existing panel—which may be a year or two old—doctors who may be very deserving of promotion, and who before the commission would be considered suitable, will not have an opportunity of going forward.

These are matters that might be dealt with in Committee and perhaps on the Committee Stage the Minister may see fit and proper to transfer the duties I have mentioned to the subsidiary bodies, so as to leave councillors more time for the many responsibilities now on their shoulders. It has been stated that the powers of local bodies have been drastically curtailed in recent years, but their responsibilities have increased and any improvement that can be effected in existing local government law to give them time to carry out the particular duties for which they are competent, leaving extraneous duties to be administered by competent subsidiary bodies, would certainly be an improvement in local government administration.

To-day we are restricted to a discussion of the Bill's general principles and I will keep as far as possible to the general principle, although on the Committee Stage I shall be proposing an amendment of some weight. It seems to me that in one respect the Bill cuts across a principle which should be observed, which is the principle of keeping open the inland navigable waters. This is a matter which seems to be of national and local interest. Part III deals with roads—that is, with one kind of highway—but it seems to neglect the other kind, the water highway, except in one particular case, the case of the Shannon. The amendment covering the River Shannon acknowledges, as far as I can see, the principle for which I am contending.

The claims of our water highways were very adequately expressed by the Commission on Canals and Waterways of 44 years ago. These claims are still valid. Attempts are being made to build up our tourist traffic. Of course, that could be greatly assisted by the development of our inland navigable waterways. The claims of our rivers for development have been further pointed out by the working of the Inland Waterways Association. This association has already expressed publicly that it is concerned at the Bill in its present form as offending against the principle upon which the Inland Waterways Association was formed, and it feels that revision of the Bill should ensure that public navigable waterways will be protected. I think it is quite certain that unless public navigable waterways are protected, public rights are bound to be infringed. That is why, in this particular respect, the Bill seems to me to be bad in principle.

The Bill, as I said, seems to acknowledge the principle of keeping navigable waterways open by exempting the Shannon from interference, by the local authorities, with rights, including those of navigation. The Parliamentary Secretary in mentioning this exemption, said it was done in view of the peculiar standing of this great waterway. It seems to me that the Shannon is not a peculiar waterway; it is simply our biggest. It is a navigable waterway, and that is not peculiar. I think the peculiar thing about it is the exemption extended only to the River Shannon. I think that, in failing to extend that exemption any further, the Bill contradicts the principle which it appeared to acknowledge by exempting the Shannon. It threatens public, local and private rights.

How it does so in practice may be seen, I think, from the case of the Blackwater, which has already been discussed a great deal in the Dáil. In this case, Youghal Bridge, which is an open bridge near the mouth of the Blackwater, is in disrepair. Youghal Urban District Council, on the best consultant advice, decided in favour of reconstructing the bridge at a cost of about £250,000. Now the local government authorities propose to build a new fixed bridge at a place called Ardsallagh, about a mile above the present bridge. This proposal obviously offends against the principle of keeping public navigable waterways open. It threatens, in effect, to seal off the River Blackwater which is navigable, I think, for about 17 or 18 miles, as far as Cappoquin. It is also navigable along the Bride River, which you can reach through the River Blackwater, of which it is a tributary. I think there is a question of its being navigable for three and a half miles at another point between Cappoquin and Lismore.

It was pointed out already in the Dáil that the river traffic was composed of large schooners. This volume of traffic, if not very great, at any rate was enough to warrant attention. Between 1951 and 1954 22 ships, of at least 300 tons, with masts at least of 60 feet, passed through the Youghal Bridge. Obviously they could not have passed with this proposed new fixed bridge. Then there is this question of the 21-foot clearance. I think it is useless to argue, as the Minister argued, that those schooners are now obsolete. The fact is that they have sailed up the river during those years, and there is no reason why they should not continue to do so. There is no reason why we should contemplate cutting off the possibility of more traffic up the River Blackwater.

In going against principle, it seems to me that Section 40 offends against local interests as well. It has been already pointed out in the Dáil that the existence of the new fixed bridge obviously threatens the existence of the town itself. It also affects the local fishermen. The Lismore Board of Fishery Conservators have already protested, and put the case of the fishermen. This pinpoints the matter still further. You cannot go against the general principle of keeping open navigable waterways. If you do, as I say, general and private rights are affected as well. The drift net fishermen will lose five-eighths of a mile between Ardsallagh Bridge and the other bridge. Further, they will have to pull in their drift nets about half a mile above the new bridge at Ardsallagh, because otherwise the drift nets would be caught by the piles which are planned as part of the new bridge.

There are further details which I could give, but which I think are best left until Committee Stage. The oddness of this decision is, perhaps, emphasised by the fact that the new fixed bridge is to cost something like £385,000, while reconstruction of the old open bridge was costing something under £250,000. I would like to say—I shall say it again on Committee Stage —that I think the Minister has such a responsibility in the matter that he should invite a public inquiry, ask for tenders or submit the whole case to a neutral authority. While this example I have given shows how local government, by infringing the principle of keeping open public navigable waterways, may offend—and will continue if the Bill passes in its present form, to offend—against public, local and private rights, I think the principle upon which I have spoken can be maintained irrespective of this example, and I certainly look to other Senators to maintain it. They will think of other examples themselves. In his poem, The Faerie Queen, Spenser, who was a planter, spoke of the Irish rivers as the bridesmaids of the marriage of the Thames with the Medway. I would say that we have a chance to wed our Irish rivers to a rich commercial and pleasure traffic of our own and we should hesitate very much before making our waterways the unwilling brides of bureaucracy.

Is féidir diospóireacht an-leathan a bheith againn ar an mBille seo. Is dócha ná fuil bóithrín ná casán in Éireann nach bhféadaimis tagairt a dhéanamh dó fén mBille seo ach nílim chun é sin a dhéanamh. Tá pointí áirithe le cur ós cóir an tSeanaid agam. Ar an gcéad dul síos, is maith liom a fheiscint sa Bhille go bhfuil feabhas mór ar an scéal maidir le hallaí do chur ar fáil fén dtuath. Deineadh iarracht ar é sin a dhéanamh cheana sa Bhille a ritheadh tríd an Oireachtas sa bhliain 1941, is dóigh liom, ach ní fhéadfainn a rá, ná ni fhéadfadh éinne a rá, gur tógadh oiread is halla ar fud na tíre go léir fén Acht san. Ní fheadar ón domhan an gcuirfidh an leasú atá á dhéanamh sa Bille seo feabhas ar an scéal. Tá súil agam go gcuirfidh, mar níl aon rud is mó a theastaíonn ó mhuintir na tuatha ná hallaí den tsaghas atá i gceist, chun saol na tuatha do ghealú agus chun na daoine do choimeád ag baile, más féidir. Sin é an fáth go bhfuilim go mór ar thaobh an ruda san atá i gceist agam.

Maidir leis an mBille i gcoitinne, ní mór atá le rá agam. Táimid le tamall anuas ag gearán mar gheall ar an méid atá le rá agus le déanamh ag an Aire maidir le rialtas áitiúil. Bítear ag gearán mar gheall ar a mhinicí is a bhíonn a ladhar sa scéal agus tá a lán daoine ar an dtuairim gur ceart é sin do leigheas más féidir —sin é an rud, más féidir. Ní fheicim aon dul chun cinn sa Bhille seo chun é sin do leigheas, ach, mar sin féin, nílim á rá gur furas é a dhéanamh, gur rud é gur furas a dhéanamh, mar córas an-chrosta is ea córas an dlí áitiúil. Ní hé gach duine a thuigeann é agus ní dócha go dtuigeann na comhairlí contae uaireanta é, agus, rud eile, dá dtuigdís féin, ní mór an t-am a bheadh acu chun na fadhbanna a bhaineann le rialtas áitiúil do réiteach agus fágann siad fé sheirbhísigh na comhairlí contae na fadhbanna san do réiteach, agus uaireanta, sa deire thiar thall, fágtar féin Roinn Rialtais Aitiúil é agus, do réir mar atámaid ag dul chun cinn agus do réir mar atámaid atá rialtas áitiúil ag leathnú, sin é mar is mó a fágtar rudaí fé chúram Stát-Seirbhíseach nó fé chúram Seirbhíseach na gcomhairlí contae.

I do not propose to keep the House very long in my contribution to this debate. This Bill is the type of measure that could lend itself to a very wide discussion, if people were so inclined, but, at the same time, I would say that the majority of its provisions could be more appropriately discussed on Committee Stage.

As I have already remarked in my opening sentences, local government in this country has been becoming more and more complex as the years go by. I suppose that, in great measure, is due to social developments and greater demands by the people for what they consider should be their amenities. The difficulty, of course, is that all these amenities for which people look from time to time have to be paid for and then the trouble arises.

Unfortunately, at present there appears to be a greater tendency on the part of the central authority to pass on the burden to the ratepayers, with the result that we see the rates in every county soaring to such a degree that some of these county councils are constrained to adjourn their meetings to see if, by any chance, they can find some way of paring and pruning the estimates for the current year. I do not know whether there is any remedy. I think the remedy is to have the tendency the other way—that we should look more and more to the central Government for financial assistance. If that were done, I think the people of the country would understand the situation better and would know better where they stood.

In that connection, I would refer to Sections 53 and 54 of the Bill. Section 53 proposes to amend the 1941 Act in relation to the erection of parish halls and I see from the explanatory memorandum that there is not a single instance in which the provision in the former Act was availed of. It was not availed of in any part of the country, for the simple reason that the local authorities have been put to the pin of their collar to strike a rate commensurate with the demands of the people to whom they are responsible and they would not dream of entertaining the thought of spending money on a local hall for any purpose. Now, under Section 53, the proposal is to give permission to the local authority, the county council, to contribute towards the erection of a hall, thereby relieving the local authority of the responsibility of maintaining and managing the hall. Whether the amendment will have the desired effect or not is something which we have yet to find out.

I am very interested in this Section 53 because, as I have said, the erection of parish halls is a very desirable thing for more reasons than one. The erection of these halls for cultural and recreational purposes is very desirable and it is from the cultural angle rather than any other that I refer to the section. These halls, if they were erected up and down the country, could be centres of cultural activity, places where our native language could be taught and practised——

And public opinion enlightened.

——where Irish plays could be produced and where cultural development generally could be carried on. That is badly required in the country to-day and it would be a proper continuation of the work being done in the schools for the language. I sincerely hope that after the enactment of this measure we shall see some halls built in the country and that the local authorities will be able to see their way to make a contribution towards those halls. Of course, this is only a permissive section. It would be far better if the thing could be done directly through the Department of Local Government because of the fact that the local rates are so high all over the country and it appears to me that there is no great hope that these local authorities will provide the necessary funds or make the necessary contribution towards the erection of the halls envisaged in this section.

The same, of course, applies to Section 54 by which the local authorities are given powers to contribute towards the laying out of swimming pools. These are, of course, very desirable amenities in the country and in many parts of the country the people are clamouring for them but here again when the local authorities find themselves confronted with enormous bills, will they be disposed towards making the necessary contribution? Again, I suppose time will tell.

Senator Hawkins has already referred to Section 30 of this Bill and I think it is true to say that Section 30 is more or less a revolutionary section. This is the section by which the Local Appointments Commission can dispense with competitive interviews—they can dispense with competition in the case of applicants for posts under local authorities. That power is contained in Sections 29 and 30. As I have said, this appears to me to be a revolutionary change and, as Senators have already said, I am afraid it could lend itself to abuse. Whether we shall be able, in Committee, to tighten the section somewhat we have yet to see. We would want a little more information about it. Is it to be the position that if certain professional people such as doctors or engineers make application and appear before the Appointments Commissioners, they can be selected afterwards without a further interview? If that is so, will it then be confined to those who have already had an interview? There is reference here to a panel. Will that panel consist of applicants who have already been before the Appointments Commissioners or will the commissioners have power and authority to put names on to the panel without any interview? That is a question we would want to examine and I would like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he is replying, to give us a fuller explanation of it than he has given already. Since it was a revolutionary change—a change from what had been taking place over a number of years—I think he should do that. When there is such a case it is right to remember that the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary who is responsible for the piloting of the Bill through the House should give us a full and detailed explanation of what he has in mind.

As I said, I do not propose to keep the House very long but there is one thing I would like to refer to although it is not mentioned in the Bill. It should be mentioned in some Bill. That is the question of derelict sites which comes within the province of the Minister for Local Government. I know there is a Derelict Sites Act in existence but I have seen towns in the country where there are derelict sites, where old houses have been levelled and the rubble left there before the eyes of the people. Houses have been built in these places since and new sites have been acquired for the building of such houses but these vacant sites have been left there. I submit that before any new site is acquired, or new houses built, the vacant sites that already exist in towns and villages should be built upon because these things are eye-sores in the country. These derelict sites in some parts of the country are great eye-sores.

In conclusion, the Minister in the Dáil mentioned the consolidation of the local government laws. I think that is a very desirable thing because it appears to me that there is no more complex system of law in this country than the local government law. There are very many references to be taken into account when dealing with this matter and in fact this Bill which we are discussing to-day teems with references which make it all the more difficult to deal with. I am glad to know that the work of consolidation is proceeding in the Department but when that work will be completed is another matter, I suppose.

Mr. Douglas

I would like to comment on one or two sections of the Bill but I do not propose to detain the House very long. I particularly welcome the introduction of Section 37 which provides that local authorities can set up a system of traffic wardens in connection with the safety of school children. I think that this provision is long overdue. They have had this system for some time in the North of Ireland. I know that when motoring through Newry and Portadown recently I was stopped by two white-coated wardens carrying large posters which said: "Children Crossing". I know that the Gardaí in Dublin have been providing facilities for children going to and from school at certain times in different parts of the city but there is still a great deal that could be done. I realise that it is not possible for the Gardaí, with the staff available, to provide these facilities in all places. Like Senator McHugh, I am rather perturbed about Section 40 and in particular with the proposed addition to Section 52 of the 1946 Act which provides that:—

"Except where the bridge Order relates to the River Shannon the work may be executed notwithstanding that it constitutes or will constitute an interference with any right (including, in particular, a right of navigation, whether or not conferred by statute)."

I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he would give us clarification on this section, particularly in relation to the right of navigation. I am thinking of the statutory powers which are vested in the Commissioners of Irish Lights. They, I understand, are concerned with the safety of the coast and in seeing that harbours of refuge are kept open to ships in time of a storm or stress.

I believe there is mooted at the present time the idea that a bridge should be provided to the mainland at the island of Valentia. I think that Valentia is one of the most important harbours of refuge on the west coast, and if this section would permit the Kerry County Council to erect a bridge in the position of the present ferry, that is, I think, from the Cahirciveen side to Knightstown, it would seriously interfere with the shelter which the island at present provides for ships. I know, for on more than one occasion I have been on a ship when we had to take shelter in Valentia. If the ship is over 800 or 900 tons—and that is quite a small ship—it is desirable that it should go well beyond the present line of the ferry. As far as the Commissioners of Irish Lights are concerned they would, I think, technically have to oppose a bridge at Portmagee which I think is the other position mentioned as a suitable place. There is water at the present time in that particular channel at high water, although I believe that at low water it is dried out. If there is navigable water of any sort in that particular channel it would be desirable to keep that entrance to Valentia open also for the smaller fishing boats which might seek shelter there. With regard to the deep fishing trawlers, I do not think they can any longer use that particular entrance to Valentia. I would oppose having a bridge put up at Knightstown. If the section becomes law there should be some sort of provision for harbours of refuge.

There is another harbour I can think of which is a harbour of refuge. It could conceivably be cut off by a bridge. That is the harbour at Killy-begs. It has a narrow entrance. I do not think there would be any great point in putting a bridge across at this entrance. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should consider making some provision in Section 52 of the Act which would exempt harbours of refuge.

There are two other places where bridges have recently been erected and which, I think, have cut off navigable water. One is at the Corrib in Galway. I know there was an outcry at the time when Lough Corrib was cut off from the sea, but I feel that is not nearly so serious a restriction as, I think, Senator McHugh suggested in his speech. There is also the canal between Blacksod and Broadhaven. As far as I know that small canal is almost silted up. I do not think it would be very serious if navigable water was cut off there, but I view with particular concern this question of harbours of refuge. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will consider putting down an amendment to this section on the Committee Stage or possibly he might consider allowing me to do so.

Section 44 of the Bill provides for borrowing for the maintenance of a town hall. I have always viewed with concern the idea that maintenance should be provided for by borrowing. I think it would be much more desirable if maintenance of this kind was provided for out of revenue. I think it might have been better if this section had not been introduced into the Bill.

Part IV of the Bill deals with local finance. I am sorry that it has not given more power to the local bodies especially in regard to dealing with the question of expenditure and estimates. One of the problems I have found in the Dublin Corporation is that, when we come to consider the estimates, particularly in considering the estimates as a whole, there is no provision whereby the council can suggest a general reduction in the total estimates for the year.

Under the present law, we have to pin-point a particular item in the estimates and suggest that it should be reduced by a certain sum. It is not possible for the average member of a local council to have sufficient knowledge of the particular department whose estimates they may be considering to pin-point a sum and say it should be reduced by so many pounds. I think some provision should be made whereby the people considering the estimates and the rates should be able to refer them back to the city manager and let him suggest where economies should be made. I think it is very desirable, if we are going to have a practicable approach to local expenditure, that it should be possible where there is danger of striking very high rates, to refer them back to the city manager suggesting that the rates should be a maximum amount and then ask the city manager and his officials to apportion the rates in such a way as to give the best service for the amount that it is felt can be collected.

The section that worries me most is Section 40 and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply will make some suggestion whereby we can in particular protect these harbours of refuge. There are not very many of them in the Twenty-Six Counties.

I must certainly say that I see very little change, if any, in this Bill in the way of curtailing the powers of the city or county managers and giving to the local authorities the powers so many of them sought. I must agree with Senator Hawkins with regard to Section 9. Again, here is an indication that the local authority really means the city manager. Section 9 says:—

"The appropriate Minister may direct that the remuneration of all the offices in relation to which he is the appropriate Minister, or of such of those offices as belong to a specified class, description or grade, or of a specified one of those offices, shall be inclusive remuneration."

The local authority cannot exercise their authority in regard to the remuneration which any of their officers should have.

Section 20 states:—

"The power of a local authority under Section 10 of the Act of 1941 to assign remuneration to an officer shall not be exercised except in accordance with such one or more of the following as may be appropriate from time to time."

Again, it is the Minister's directions that count with the city manager.

I believe that we have no change whatever in this Bill especially as regards a local authority exercising the power that it should have as to the remuneration it can give to any of its officers. I think we are all agreed that there should be some change in that respect. Most of us have knowledge of the local bodies and we know that officers have been appointed without any consultation whatever, even with the most conscientious members of the council. It is one thing to have a manager but it is another to say that he should be the manager of the members of the council. I am satisfied from my experience of public bodies that if a manager has a good practical suggestion to make, he will always find a sufficient number of conscientious members to support him in his proposals against any opposition with which he may meet from a minority. You will always, of course, find a few individuals who will not want to accept his proposals, but, as I say, if a manager has a good recommendation to put before the council he need never fear that he will not get a sufficient number of members to support him. I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what improvement is being made in this Bill so far as the local authority and its relation with the manager is concerned. The position is still the same as far as I can see.

Senator Kissane referred to Section 29. I have been wondering what is the idea in the change that is proposed in that section. To my mind, it will be open to a terrible lot of abuse.

I cannot understand what is meant by saying in the section that "the person or persons to be recommended for appointment to such office or offices cannot be satisfactorily selected by competitive examination". In that event, the "Local Appointments Commissioners may...dispense with the competitive examination required by the Principal Act and may select the person or persons to be recommended by them in such manner as they think proper". What is the idea of a provision of that kind? Does it not mean that if persons apply for positions and go before the Appointments Commission, that the latter will be in a posi-to appoint some man to the position without any competitive examination at all? I think the section, as worded, is open to a great deal of abuse. While I agree with having the Appointments Commission, I can tell the Parliamentary Secretary that very often there are grave doubts in people's minds as to whether everything is done openly and above-board. With a section such as 29, how can the average person in the country have any confidence in the commission so long as there is that loophole? What it amounts to is that any number of people may apply for a certain position and yet the Appointments Commissioners in their wisdom can select a person for that position without any competitive examination. I should like to hear some explanation as to why that provision is being put in the Bill. I personally could not agree with it.

As regards Section 40, which deals with schemes for cross-border bridges, I am in entire agreement with what the last speaker and Senator McHugh said on this section. I have some knowledge of Youghal Bridge. We should not legislate in such a fashion as to choke up any highway. After all, we are legislating for the future. There are places such as Lismore and Cappoquin to be considered, and we should not put up any permanent bridge that would interfere with traffic passing through to them. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will convey my opinion on that to the Minister.

I should like to refer to sub-section (2) of Section 42, which deals with borrowing by way of temporary loan or overdraft. The sub-section provides that the period for which a sum of money is borrowed under this section shall be such period, not exceeding ten years, as the Minister may sanction. I should like to know what is the idea of limiting the period to ten years. Senators, I think, know what my views are about borrowing and on the burden which it places on the rates and on local authorities. At the same time I cannot understand why if a sum of money has to be borrowed it should have to be paid off in ten years.

Senator Kissane talked about the building of parish halls. I agree with him that we have not a sufficient number of parish halls in the country to help to brighten the lives of our people. Why is it that we cannot build halls? Is it not a fact that the reason is that we have not the money to do so? I suggest it is a contradiction to talk in the way that we talk here of the desirability of building parish halls and of doing other worthwhile works so long as we admit that we have not the money to carry out those works. We have the stones, the bricks and the cement, and we have the men, and yet these things are not done. The reason is that we have not the money.

I agree with Senator Kissane that there is a great need for works of this kind, and yet while we admit the need we cannot contribute one penny towards the building of those parish halls. I think this is a matter to which we should give more serious thought. It is something that requires more than talk. No one is going to shake me in my conviction that what is practical and possible should not be financially possible. That is a matter that we can deal with later. My belief is that the building of parish halls should be more vigorously dealt with because there is a great need for them everywhere.

Section 63 provides:—

"Section 90 of the Act of 1946 is hereby amended as follows:—

(a) by the substitution in sub-section (1) of ‘the manager for the local authority may, with the consent of the Minister, appear separately at the inquiry and such appearance may be personal or by counsel or solicitor for ‘the Minister may, if he so thinks proper, order that the manager for the local authority may appear separately at the inquiry'."

Can anyone tell me if there is any indication in this section that the members of the council are to have any say as to whether the manager should be represented at the inquiry or not? The Minister can order him to be the person to represent the local authority. I think there is very little change, if any, being made in this Bill as regards making the city manager or the manager of a corporation or a county council anything other than what he is at present. I cannot see that any change is being made. I should like to hear what explanation the Parliamentary Secretary has to give as regards Section 29. I would not like to see anything done in the case of Youghal Bridge that would mean a block for traffic in the future. After all, we are legislating for the future, and we should bear that in mind.

I should like to refer to Section 14, and in particular to paragraphs (m) and (n). Paragraph (m) proposes the following amendment to Section 19 of the 1941 Act:—

"...providing for the imposition by local authorities on holders of suspensions from performance of duties (including short-term disciplinary suspensions, not exceeding seven days), the non-payment of remuneration during the continuance of the suspensions and, upon the termination thereof, the forfeiture (in whole or in part), payment or disposal otherwise of remuneration which would, but for the suspensions, have been paid during the periods thereof."

I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what is the necessity for this amendment to the 1941 Act. It appears to me that both the managers and the Minister already hold very wide powers under Section 27 of the Local Government Act, 1941, which enables them to suspend, withhold remuneration, withhold all documents in the case of suspension for any alleged failure, misdemeanour or neglect of public duties on the part of a public official. I suggest that the suspension of a public official is a very serious step and one which should not be resorted to either by the manager or the Minister except on very serious grounds. The inclusion of the present proposal in this Bill has given rise to a certain amount of resentment already, I am informed, on the part of local government officials generally. I am more concerned to know something about the reason for the provision in this particular sub-section in the new Bill. I say that because it seems to imply that minor breaches of discipline are widespread in the public services. If that is so, I would like to hear either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary on it, because the representatives of the officials have no evidence at all, I am reliably informed, of any necessity for the extension of these further powers to the Minister.

The second point is in regard to paragraph (n) also in Section 14. This provides for the amendment of Section 19 of the Local Government Act, 1941, by providing for the supplementing of the regulations by directions. I do not wish at the present stage to do more than refer to the objections, which have been very rightly stated more than once on general principles, to the tendency to legislate by regulations. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary are we now expected to endorse legislation which proposes to legislate by direction in addition to regulations? As far as I can observe, there is no provision in the new Bill for the submission of these directions to either House of the Oireachtas. That is a very undesirable principle to enshrine in any Act and I would like to hear something further from the Minister regarding it.

The same sub-section proposes to provide for the supplementing of the regulations "by directions (being directions for the purpose of giving effect to the regulations, but neither extending the regulations nor widening their scope)". My interpretation of that—which I agree is wide open to correction, yet it is the only interpretation I can put upon it—is that the Minister seems to be seeking there some type of power of restriction. If that is the intention, I would like to know why those powers are being sought now. It would appear to me, alternatively, that the proposed new sub-section would tend to lessen, if not to destroy, the initiative at present resting in the local authority in moving on matters of staff, discipline or routine of this particular nature.

Those two sub-sections of Section 14 involve very important principles on which we should be slow to give our benediction, until we are satisfied that they are necessary, first of all, and that they are intended to be worked on sound and proper principles. At this stage I have no more to offer by way of comment on the Bill, but I would like to hear the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary later on these two points.

This Bill can be regarded as a departmental or committee Bill which is necessary to improve and tidy up various sections in previous Acts, particularly the 1941 and 1946 Acts. Therefore, its many provisions are urgently required and are regarded by local authorities as very necessary. It is particularly necessary to codify and consolidate as soon as possible the various Acts relating to local government legislation—this would simplify, for the officials and for the public generally, the administration of these various and difficult Acts. Despite the fact that we had the 1941 and 1946 Acts comparatively recently, many new provisions are required now, as, for instance, Sections 13, 27 and 30. Furthermore Sections 9, 31, 38, 39, 41, 54, 55, 59 and 66 are very desirable.

I would like to refer the Parliamentary Secretary, first of all, to Section 12 and ask him is it not inconsistent with Section 17 of the present Bill or Section 6 of the County Management Bill. In Section 14 (2) I would ask him to include, on the Committee Stage, the words "on holiday or suspended" after "absent". While a dispensary doctor may be on holiday, he may not be absent from his district or if he were suspended there is no provision made for that under that particular section.

Under Section 19 the Minister fixes the remuneration of engineering, medical and other professional positions and important administrative positions. There the Minister takes on himself tremendous responsibility out of the hands of the local authority. I agree that such a section was provided for under the 1941 Act, Section 29, but Section 19 goes further and permits the Minister to provide the remuneration of a particular class rather than of a particular individual. Considering the inequality that exists in various parts of the country, considering the amount of inhospitable land, the lack of industries, the amount of bog and mountain that we have in different counties along the western seaboard and the reduced standard of living there, it seems unfair that the remuneration of officials in each county should be standardised by the Department—particularly when you consider that the agricultural labourer and road worker in these counties are paid a lesser sum than in other counties and that these are zoned. It seems unfair that the "major officials"—which is the wording in the section—should have the same salaries.

It is also a bad principle to my mind, that salaries all over the country for county medical officers of health, county engineers, county managers in particular and county secretaries, should be the same—because in that case there is no incentive for an excellent official to apply for transfer from a small county to a big county where he would have greater responsibility and much more work to do. For instance, if we take the case of Louth, or Wexford, or rather Wicklow, and compare them with Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo or Donegal, it is quite easy to understand that the responsibilities of the work of a county manager in the latter counties would be very much greater. I think, therefore, that a certain responsibility should be permitted to the local authority in the fixing of the salaries of these major officials.

In connection with Section 27, I suggest that it should not be mandatory to request the commissioners to make an appointment if the first official has not taken up the appointment within three months. There are times when it would be unreasonable to expect an official to take up an appointment. If, say, he was an official of a local authority who wished him to remain to the end of the financial year, or the school year, and if the other local authority was agreeable to that, it seems to me that section makes it mandatory to refer the matter to a solicitor after three months. I think there should be a certain amount of discretion on the part of local authorities in certain cases.

I would suggest, in connection with Section 35, sub-section (3), that it should be a continuing offence for each day that the offence is committed. As the section reads, it would appear that there can only be a prosecution once even though the offence is continued for two or three days.

In connection with Section 37, sub-section (3), is it the traffic wardens who should prosecute, or who can prosecute? If not, is it the Gardaí? The traffic warden, apparently, is a person who would detect the offence, but it does not appear that there is any authority, under this section, for traffic wardens to make the prosecution.

Considerable reference has already been made to Section 40. I would refer again to the question of compensation. It seems to me that the compensation would be payable by the local authority, and that the central authority would not have responsibility in connection with that compensation. Considering that a grant of up to 70 per cent. of the cost of the erection of a bridge is made, it seems to me that it is only fair that the central authority should take responsibility for the percentage of the grant they have put up for the erection of the bridge. After all, the money for the grant comes from motor taxation, to a large extent from the Road Fund. As bigger and stronger bridges are necessary as a result of vehicular traffic, and as the money has been provided largely through motor taxation, it seems to me unfair that the local authorities should be entirely responsible for any compensation that may be payable as the result of any loss by a private person using the river.

In connection with the Local Authorities (Works) Act, references have been made to the fact that there seems to be no provision for maintenance after a job has been done. If the Minister would consider making grants for maintenance work, it would, in my opinion, be very desirable, because work has not had the ultimate effect it should have had because it was allowed to be neglected subsequently. As the grants for local authorities works are so small, very little practical work can be done. In my county no arterial drainage work has yet been done. It is suggested that it may be several years before the Board of Works can deal with any of our rivers. In the meantime, therefore, we are referred back to the Local Authorities (Works) Act; but the local authority have not sufficient technical people on their staff, or insufficient money is being provided in any area to do a decent job. I would ask the Minister to consider making bigger grants for districts where the drainage scheme is very bad, and where small farmers are unable to take advantage of the rehabilitation schemes due to the fact that the drainage of the rivers would have to be done first.

One reason why I consider parish councils have not been a success is that they have very little authority. If the Department could grant them greater authority, it would be an incentive to organise, and to get their councils recognised by the local authority. The provision whereby grants can be made available for halls rather than a total amount for their erection is, in my opinion, a very great section. I see no reason why the local authority, rather than the parish council, should not also be entitled to erect a swimming pool. Apparently, under the section, only a swimming club, or such-like is permitted to obtain that grant. As the parish council would be more concerned than the local authority, it would be the more responsible body to supervise the construction and the running of swimming pools.

Reference has also been made in the other House to the fact that dispensary medical officers appoint locums who live, possibly, up to 15 miles from the dispensary district from which they carry on their duties. The same also applies to dispensary nurses. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider making provision whereby members of local authorities should have a say in such matters where complaints arise.

In connection with roads, very often a county council fights shy of taking over a private road because of the standard laid down by the Department of Local Government. The Department's standard is very difficult for a council to provide, in the sense that a county road has to be, I think, 15 feet wide. Many of the private roads are not near that width. The expenditure involved in maintaining them would be so great. While a cul-de-sac may now be taken over, local authorities are not anxious to do so. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider reducing the standard in cases where the roads serve only a small number of houses.

May I suggest, in connection with Section 38, which proposes that British citizens should be entitled to drive their cars here on their British driving licences, that this might be applicable to Six-County drivers. I think it would encourage tourist traffic across the border, if Six-County licences were accepted here and vice versa.

The section making it more easy to obtain the quarries for supplies of stones is very important and desirable and I think that similar powers of clarification in respect of the acquisition of land for widening purposes would also be very essential.

In the first place, I wish to welcome the Bill on general grounds as a step towards the consolidation of a very complicated branch of law, a branch of law which affects the individual citizen in his daily life. Part V of the Bill is particularly commendable. It gives encouragement to voluntary local activities of a cultural and educational kind and will be very widely welcomed.

This Bill is one on which most of the discussion will take place on Committee Stage, but there are one or two general observations which I think should be made on the Second Reading. The Bill does tend to simplify the law of local government to some extent. But the question arises whether it simplifies it enough, whether it does not possibly perpetuate certain bad principles which could be amended in this Bill, whether it does not reduce the legal rights of citizens and whether it has not been drafted, or whether it is not capable of being said to have been drafted, in the interests of bureaucracy.

The real question which I think we ought to ask ourselves is: does the Bill advance the benefits supposed to be derived from the local government system? I should like to state what, in my opinion, the alleged benefits of local government are. The first benefit, I believe, is that it is supposed to reduce the cost of administration. If services are administered locally in the light of local knowledge by local people, they tend to be more economical and less extravagant than if they were administered by the central Government. The system of uniformity of local services in counties with varying standards of wealth and income tends to raise the standard to that of the higher richer counties rather than to lower it to that of the poor counties and, therefore, to raise the cost of administration all round.

Another advantage to be derived from local government, which I have always understood was in the minds of the people who brought about the Local Government Act of 1898, is that it serves as a recruiting ground for people to take part in national politics. People who take part in local government and local administration learn a good deal of the ropes and learn how to deal with discussion and with administration. Therefore there is a school for people who take part in public life. Local government might enrich the quality of the people taking part in public life, might provide suitable members of the Dáil, and, if such a thing were even possible, might improve the Seanad.

In order that these good results should be obtained, it is most necessary that there should be a correlation between responsibility and result, that the local electors should be responsible for their failures and should get the benefit of their successes. A system which is slow, inefficient, costly or otherwise inadequate may do more harm than good. Above all, people who take part in local government must not be allowed to unload part of their responsibility on the central authority and the central authority must not be allowed to interfere with them to the extent of paralysing their initiative and preventing them from deriving the full benefit from the local government system.

I admit, of course, that there are certain activities in respect of which there must be a great deal of central direction. Such things as the control of infectious diseases and the building of trunk roads are matters in respect of which there must be correlation between local authorities affected and the central administration. But I suggest, as a general principle of government, that, where this is necessary, these services should as far as possible be completely centralised, that division of authority is a bad principle and that, if it is necessary for the central Government to interfere beyond a certain point in local activities, the best thing is for the central Government to take over these branches of local administration altogether. The central Government should have the power to administer these services and should have the responsibility of paying for them. They should be administered on a national basis and should be paid for by national taxation.

The division of responsibility leads to the worst of both worlds. It leads to a lack of responsibility locally and sometimes even to a lack of responsibility centrally. Students of this subject have said that the worst of all compromises in this matter is to give powers to a local authority subject to the sanction of the Minister. This is a system which has been growing since the foundation of local government over 50 years ago and is still growing. It is growing still further in this Bill which does nothing at all to diminish it. I put forward as a proposition on which I should like to hear the views of the Parliamentary Secretary the general statement that ministerial sanction in relation to local authorities is prima facie undesirable, that it represents an interference with local democratic life for which some strong justification should be pleaded and that it should not be put into Bills of this kind—throughout the Bill in section after section—without some very strong justification.

It almost seems nowadays as if any new power given to local authorities must be exercised with the sanction of the Minister. This custom leads to a great many evils. It leads to great delays, because consultations between the Department of Local Government and the local authorities are frequently very prolonged, and it definitely increases the cost. A great deal of the cost of the Local Government Department at present, I am informed, is caused by the need for sanctioning— and if the sanctions were reduced, a great deal of economies could be brought about in the administration of the Local Government Department.

It also leads to a certain amount of devolution of responsibility by local authorities. The elected representatives on local authorities do not wish to do unpopular things because they do not want to lose their seats at the next election, with the result that they tend to do all the popular things themselves and to put the onus of refusing to allow popular things to be done on the central Government. This results in a certain amount of what is known nowadays in slang as "passing the buck" or "holding the baby" by the central Government for the local authorities.

This Bill does not reduce the number of ministerial sanctions and it in many cases increases them. I do not wish to delay the House by doing more than simply referring to a few sections where there is the need for ministerial sanction, which does not seem to me, on the face of it, to be called for by the matters in the sections. Section 12 provides that the creation and abolition of offices of local authorities require ministerial sanction. It is explained in the explanatory memorandum that that merely gives statutory effect to what is an accepted custom. That, to my mind, is not a good thing in itself. There is all the difference in the world between the custom of local authorities seeking ministerial sanction voluntarily, as apparently they do in these matters, and being coerced to do so by the Act.

Section 20 deals with remuneration of officials and here again there is a reference to sanction by the Minister. Section 55 deals with a matter in which I am particularly interested because a large number of graduates of University College have this matter very much at heart. This is the provision of swimming pools by local authorities. One of the very few promises I made to my constituents was to press for swimming pools for the swimming club of University Colege, Dublin. I am very glad to see that local authorities have got power under this section to provide swimming pools and I have no doubt that University College Swimming Club will soon be looking for this facility. However, I do not see why the Minister should have to sanction decisions which are purely of local interest. It does not seem to be called for by the importance of the matter involved.

Section 61 seems to me to be very objectionable because it extends to a new field the matters over which the Minister may exercise sanction. The explanatory memorandum points out that there always has been a ministerial sanction in regard to the method of presenting and auditing accounts. This section goes further than that. For the first time it gives power to the Minister to make regulations in regard to the summoning and holding of meetings and in regard to procedure at meetings. I suggest that that section gives to the Minister too much power to interfere with local authorities who should certainly have the right to summon and hold meetings and to regulate the procedure at their meetings according to their own wishes. If these matters can be regulated by the Minister, the free action of the local authorities will be greatly impeded. These are matters which, as far as I know, are provided for for the first time in Section 61 of this Bill.

Another matter which I think must always be borne in mind in connection with Bills of this kind is the extent to which they widen the sphere of administrative law and reduce the rights of the citizens to appeal to the ordinary law courts. In all countries there has been a great extension of administrative law. Speaking as Chairman of the Statutory Orders Committee of the Seanad, I can tell the House that the amount of delegated legislation in this country is simply enormous. Senators would be surprised at the volume of statutory orders constantly being sent out by the various departments. Many of them are sent out under provisions that there is to be no appeal from the Minister to any law court or anywhere else. From the constitutional point of view, that is a very objectionable position and one for which there must be very strong justification. If a deprivation of the citizens of their ordinary legal rights is called for, it must be based on some very strong necessity, and the onus is on the Minister to prove to the Legislature that the ordinary rights of the citizen to resort to the law courts must be abrogated in this manner.

I want to give two examples of what I mean. Section 11 is one which deals with disputes regarding the grading of positions and people. Sub-section (1) of that section states:—

"Where any doubt, dispute or question arises, or in the opinion of the appropriate Minister, is likely to arise as to whether any particular person, or any particular class, description or grade of persons, employed by a local authority or local authorities is or is not an officer, or are or are not officers, for the purposes of this Act or any of the Local Government Acts, 1929-1946, or as to whether any particular position, or any particular class, description or grade of positions, under a local authority or local authorities, is or is not an office or are or are not offices for those purposes, the doubt, dispute or question shall be decided by the appropriate Minister and such decision shall be final."

Section 35 deals with a totally different matter, but again it seems to give to the Minister powers which I suggest should be more properly reserved to the judiciary. It deals with the power of local authorities to close roads for, among other purposes, the holding of motor races. Local authorities are entitled to close roads to public users. This, in some cases, may cause extreme inconvenience to all sorts of people. The section provides that the Minister may, by Order, annul or vary any decision or order made by a local authority and the local authority shall give public notice of the Order made by the Minister. As a person who does not like to see the democratic rights of people encroached upon, I suggest that matters of this kind should be subject in some way or other to the jurisdiction of the district justice. Just as people cannot get extensions of public house licences or licences for dances without applying to the district justice, I think that, except in the case of extreme emergency, Orders for the closing of roads should be the subject of some judicial consideration. Under this section the rights of the citizens are abrogated to some extent by the local authorities and the Minister.

There is one other very important matter on which I propose to move an amendment. Even where the right of appeal is not taken away, litigation with local authorities and public bodies generally is usually beyond the means of private citizens. There have been many cases recently where people have been prevented from pursuing appeals simply because they could not stand the financial burden of the appeal. The provision for legal aid for poor persons in this country is very undeveloped compared with that in England. For the ordinary citizen, litigation with a local authority is an extremely dangerous sort of contest to undertake. I propose to move an amendment to this Bill that where, in the course of litigation with a private citizen, a local authority appeals from the decision of the court of first instance, the local authority should have to bear the costs of that appeal, whatever the result of the appeal may be and that, whether it succeeds or loses, the local authority shall pay the costs. No person should be prevented from appealing because of the fear of the costs of an unsuccessful appeal being awarded against him.

There is another aspect of this Bill which has already been treated by other Senators. That is the section dealing with the rights of local officers. I do not propose to go again through Section 14, but I wish to draw attention to another two sections in this Bill which, I am informed, infringe on the rights of the officials of local authorities. I speak subject to correction. If my information is incorrect the Parliamentary Secretary can say so when he is replying. I have been told by legal experts that under Sections 7 and 17 of this Bill it is possible for the employees of one local authority to be transferred to the employment of another local authority without their own consent. The law at present is that employees can be transferred to other branches of the same local authority but that they cannot be called upon without their own consent to uproot themselves and go and live elsewhere, with all the trouble which is entailed of finding new houses and new schools for their families. I have been informed that under sub-section 4 of Section 17, it is now possible for local authority officials to be moved at the whim of a local authority from, for instance, Dublin to Kerry, without their own consent.

It is stated in this section:—

"... the fact that the duties of the other office are to be performed at a distance from the place or places at which the duties of the first office were performed shall not of itself be regarded as rendering the position of the holder materially altered to his detriment."

The whole position is so complicated and there is such a tremendous amount of reference to earlier legislation that it would require an extremely skilful detective to find his way through the parliamentary draftsman's activity in this Bill. I can only speak according to my brief and I have been asked to say that, under this section, local authorities can move officials to another part of the country. If that is not the case we shall all be very pleased to hear it. If it is the case, I propose to move, on Committee Stage, an amendment to Section 17.

I would like to draw the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to the fact that in the drafting of this Bill there are certain matters which do not seem to refer to the local government code at all. Section 66 contains amendments to the Sanitary Services Act, 1948. The sanitary services code was taken out of the local government code, as far as I understand, in 1948. It is now a separate code of legislation. Similarly, Section 68 provides amendments to the Public Assistance Acts. The public assistance code is also different from the local government code. I have been requested to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether these two sections are within the scope of the Long Title of the Bill or whether they are relevant to the Bill at all.

Finally, there is a small drafting point in connection with Section 40 which might be raised on the Committee Stage. Section 40 deals with bridges. In it there is a reference to an amendment to the Act of 1946 and there is mention of certain powers controlling bridges over a railway or canal. The word used is "company". My attention has been drawn to the fact that the only company controlling a railway or canal in this country is the G.N.R. Is this section meant to apply to C.I.E.? If so, "company" seems to be an inappropriate word. Is it meant to exclude C.I.E.? If that is the case, I would like to know why. These are really Committee points.

I should like to say at this stage that I welcome the Bill as an attempt, as other Senators have said, to rationalise the local government code. It seems to me that in general the intention has been fulfilled and that the Bill is a sound one. There are, as other Senators pointed out, a number of details with which we shall deal more properly, I hope, in Committee. There is one that has not been referred to so far. An opportunity, in my opinion, has been missed in Section 16—an opportunity to abolish this automatic dismissal of local authority women employees on marriage.

It has always seemed to me to be a gross interference with individual liberty for the State or the municipality to decide that a woman official must retire on marriage. Many women officials would prefer to retire on marriage, but it seems to me an unjustified decision on the part of the State to say that they must so retire. I would have hoped that Section 16, so far from making a small adjustment, would have abolished altogether this bad principle of the dismissal of women employees and officials on marriage or the refusal to employ them on such grounds.

It is not relevant in this Bill but I would just point the moral by mentioning the fact that in this country we have an admittedly great shortage of primary schoolteachers. Yet we have lost many such eminently qualified schoolteachers because they were dismissed from their jobs on marriage.

The next point I want to mention is in relation to superannuation. It seems to me possible that some further adjustments might be made in the various clauses dealing with remuneration and superannuation. I notice one such clause in Section 23, for instance, which makes specific allowance for superannuation adjustment considerations in relation to a particular official. I think most Senators are aware—and they deplore it, I am sure—that local authorities do not appear at present to have the power to adjust the pensions of past employees and officials, in view of the present high cost of living, in the same way that they have been given the power to adjust the salaries of present employees. I feel that it should be possible to incorporate in this Bill power to make an adjustment for men and women who have given loyal service for many years and who now, by reason of the fact that they no longer have even the strike weapon at their command, tend to be neglected. I would like to feel they would be thought of and catered for in a Bill of this kind.

A question has been mentioned already about grants to local councils under Parts V and VI of the Bill, in relation to public halls, and to other bodies in relation to swimming pools. Both of those seem to me to be excellent. One hopes that action will be taken. There is just one point which would be worth mentioning and that would be the allowing for some representation on the bodies getting such grants. One would like to feel that the money put up by the local authority would be to some extent supervised at the expenditure end by representatives of the local bodies.

There is just one other point I would mention. It has always seemed a pity to me that local authorities have got so little responsibility for the heating and cleaning of the primary schools in their individual areas. Members of county councils and corporations are very well aware of the problems that arise. In many cases they are powerless because they are not technically responsible for the heating and cleaning of schools. I would have liked to see even a section devoted to increasing local responsibility at that level. I do not want to say any more at this juncture. I consider this to be a useful Bill, though I may propose at a later juncture certain amendments to it along the lines I have suggested.

I rise, of course, to support the Bill also but my enthusiasm for it would be increased if there were certain additional provisions in it. Section 19 has already been referred to. In that section provision is made for the extension of the classes of people who will be guaranteed a flat rate of remuneration. Major officers are also included. If major officers are included, I cannot see why this regulation should not apply to the weaker sections of those employed by local authorities. We often find a situation in which, for example, road workers employed by two local authorities have very different rates of pay. Those working in Kildare may have a far higher rate of pay than those in Carlow or in Wicklow. I could never see any justification for that. It causes a great deal of discontent and very often leads to a great loss of time in discussions at county council meetings. For these reasons, I cannot see why this section should not also include the servants of local authorities as well as senior officers.

As regards Section 21, I am glad to see that the section has been made easier for the members of local authorities. I am not altogether clear, however, as to what the Minister means by the section. As far as I have read it myself I was clear enough, but in the Official Report of the Dáil debates on the 3rd instant, at column 1310, the Minister himself referred to it. He moved an amendment which says:—

"No person shall hold any office of profit under or be employed for remuneration by or under any local authority while he is a member of that authority."

The Minister was questioned by Deputy Briscoe who said:—

"Could I just ask the Minister what do the first few words mean, ‘No person shall hold any office of profit...'"

The Minister, a little later, explained:—

"It really boils down to this: you cannot be an officer of a local authority and be a member of it. That is what it comes down to in plain, common, simple language."

I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if that means that the servant of the local authority is entitled to stand for and become a member of a local authority and be a servant of the local authority at the same time. I cannot say whether what the Minister said in the Dáil is what he means in the Bill.

There is one other point under the section. The section deals with the qualification of people who can be members of local authorities. This qualification debars any citizen who has been unfortunate enough to be in need of general assistance in the 12 months preceding the election. It is not generally recognised that a person who gets general assistance is not eligible to sit on a local authority. If a person is a member of a local authority and is forced, by economic circumstances, to draw general assistance of any sort he is automatically disqualified.

It came as a great shock to me to find that there was such a case in the County Roscommon. When I inquired, I found that what I have said is correct. I found that the Act of 1898 is still in force. It provided that a person became disqualified if he had for 12 months before the election, or during his term of office, been receiving "union assistance." The term "union assistance" was changed to general assistance in the Act of 1939, and general assistance has been defined as every sort of assistance except medical assistance.

We have a great number of people who are unemployed. An unemployed person, when his unemployment benefit is exhausted, goes on to another form of benefit. He claims unemployment assistance which is usually not sufficient to maintain himself and his family. His unemployment assistance is very often supplemented by national assistance which comes under the term of general assistance. Therefore, unemployed men who have been drawing such assistance would be disqualified from standing for election as members of a local authority, or from continuing in office, if elected. I think that is very undemocratic. In my opinion, a means test of this nature is most undesirable. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to consider that situation, and see if he can introduce an amendment on the Committee Stage that would delete this section which, I am sure, is not wanted by anybody.

As regards Section 23, I should like to support what was said on it by Senator Sheehy Skeffington. I am sure that most Senators have received letters from the organisation that was referred to. This organisation points out that it now finds itself in a most serious position, and it asks that local authorities should be empowered to bring their pensions into some relationship to the present cost of living. The demand which it makes would not mean the spending of more money by the central authority, but, if its application were accepted, it would enable local authorities to be more human in their treatment of their ex-employees. I think that these people have made an excellent case and, with Senator Sheehy Skeffington, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to see if he can do something about it—if not in this Bill, then in a Bill of similar nature in the immediate future.

Reference has been made to the question of roads in Part III of the Bill. I agree with the Senator who said that it appeared to him that our standard for minor roads was too high. I agree, of course, that the standard has been laid down for the local authorities by the Department. I remember listening to a lecture which was delivered by the secretary to the Trade Union Congress who had visited Denmark. From what he said, it would appear that the Danes seem to handle their affairs far better than we do. One of the principal reasons, as far as one can see, for that is that we spend an enormous amount of money on roads of a class on which the Danes spend very little. The standard which they demand for their county roads is far lower than the standard which we insist on here. I agree that the standard that has been set for our county roads is too high for the amount of traffic which they have to carry. Neither do I think that the standard for our minor roads need be as high as the standard which is set by the Department.

I should like to refer to Section 40 which deals with bridges, viaducts and tunnels, and to support the point of view that was expressed by Senator McHugh. In this section, the Minister is taking very extreme power. I do not think that this is just the time when we should decide to deal in the way proposed with all bridges without giving the matter very grave consideration. One of the things in which we are very much behind is that of arterial drainage. Since we have not obtained full reports on the river potential for traffic, I think that if we were to do anything at the present time that would endanger this potential, it would be very serious indeed. I imagine that we could have very fine river transport in this country. I hope that, if the Minister gets this power, he will use it only after very careful consideration.

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