Wednesday, 20 May 1925
Dáil Éireann Debate
|Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £332,912 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1926, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Rialtais Aitiúla agus Sláinte Puiblí, maraon le Deontaisí agus Costaisí eile a bhaineann le Tógáil Tithe, Deontaisí d'Udaráis Aitiúla agus Ildeontaisí i gCabhair, agus Costaisí Oifig Chigire na nGealtlann.||That a sum not exceeding £332,912 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, including grants and other expenses in connection with housing, grants to local authorities, and sundry grants in aid, and the expenses of the office of the Inspector of Lunatic Asylums.|
MINISTER for LOCAL GOVERNMENT and PUBLIC HEALTH (Mr. Burke): I propose to make a statement dealing briefly with the principal items that come under the authority of my Department. I hope by doing so that I may anticipate some questions. It is not an easy matter to do so, but it may shorten discussion, and it may be helpful to Deputies later on if they have certain facts on the official records. I would also like to mention that this Department is fairly comprehensive, and that the number of matters that come under my jurisdiction are very far away from my supervision. I have only knowledge of them at second or third hand, and, although they are legitimate topics for discussion, it would be very difficult for me to give any detailed information on them. To be able to do so I would require to have the head of every section of my Department and every inspector here. Even then a great many matters would not be answered at first hand. To begin with, the total Estimate for the present year shows a decreases of £275,453 compared with the previous year. That is mainly accounted for by a decrease in the Vote for housing. These Estimates were prepared at the end of last year, and at that time we did not see clearly what provision would be made this year for housing. Since then a new Housing Act has passed through the Oireachtas, and it will be necessary to have a Supplementary Vote for it later on.
While I am dealing with housing it may be well to give a brief statement of the position with regard to it in the Free State at present. The principal statutes in relation to housing in An Saorstát are—The Housing (Building Facilities) Acts; the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Acts; and the Labourers (Ireland) Acts. The Housing (Building Facilities) Act, 1924, with which we are all familiar, became law on the 21st of April of that year. It enabled the payment of grants out of State funds of from £50 to £100 to private persons erecting three, four, or five-roomed houses between the floor area limits of 520 and 1,000  square feet. The grants for houses erected in rural areas were slightly less than those for urban areas. The Act also provided for the payment of grants of two-thirds of these amounts for the reconstruction of existing houses in urban and suburban areas. This Act expires on the 21st February, 1926, but can be extended to certain cases up to 21st June, 1926. The total amount made available for grants under the Act from State funds was £300,000, apportioned as follows: £250,000 for new houses, and £50,000 for reconstruction. Local authorities (county councils, county borough councils, urban district councils and town commissioners) were authorised to supplement the State assistance afforded under the Act in the following ways:—(a) By a further free grant; or (b) by a loan; or (c) by the grant or lease of a site; or (d) by carrying out development works. The sale prices and rents of houses provided under the Act were restricted up to the 26th June, 1926.
Generally speaking, local authorities did not to any great extent exercise their powers to supplement the State assistance. Urban authorities, with the exception of Dublin, Waterford, Clonmel, Thurles and Ennis, did not formulate schemes for supplemental assistance. Most of the county councils granted loans to builders, but two county councils gave reduced cash grants. To the 22nd of last month proposals have been approved for the erection of 3,178 new houses and for the reconstruction of 113 houses. Of the new houses 565 (232 in Dublin) are in municipal areas, and 2,613 are in the rural districts. In respect of these houses £269,605 has been earmarked for new houses and £5,333 for reconstruction. It will be seen that a balance of £25,062 remains unallocated, but this balance will be consumed when the applications at present before the Department are dealt with. Many of the approved houses are completed or nearing completion, and it is anticipated that the proposals approved to date will materialise almost to the full during the ensuing building season.
Coming now to the Labourers (Ireland) Act, I find that under the  Labourers (Ireland) Act fourteen local authorities are completing schemes providing about 300 houses. It is anticipated that the effects of the grants now available under the Housing Act, 1925, will lead to a considerable amount of rural building activities.
With regard to housing under the Working Classes Act, work under these Acts has been mainly confined to completion of schemes undertaken by the local authorities under the Government scheme of 1922, whereby £1,000,000 was made available for the erection of houses by urban authorities. Approximately 2,100 houses have been provided or will be completed within the early portion of the financial year.
During the past financial year only one important contract was entered into by a local authority under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1919. This was by the Dublin Borough Commissioners in June last for 197 houses at £550 per house, this being the second Marino scheme. A contract for the first section of the Marino scheme was taken twelve months previously for 590 houses. During the past few weeks a contract has been entered into for 200 houses at £530 per house. Generally speaking, competitive tenders show that contract prices are decreasing, but it would not be accurate to suggest that the cost of the principal building materials has fallen to any appreciable extent. Imported goods show a substantial decrease in price, and would account for the reduction, but building materials and bricks still remain at a prohibitive figure. As regards the present building outlook, I would say that fresh inquiries with a view to providing houses are received by my Department at the rate of about 50 per day, and it would seem that the 1925 Act is likely to be taken up as favourably as its predecessor. The Dublin Commissioners have taken contracts for 550 houses this month, and are inviting tenders for various schemes containing a further 700 houses.
Smaller urban authorities are also proceeding; they are: Waterford, Ardee, Drogheda, Tuam, Ennis, and Killarney. While we are not yet in actual  official touch with the proposals, we know that large firms are endeavouring to get their employees to form public utility societies for the purpose of providing houses under the 1925 Act. I do not think at the moment that it is necessary to go any further into the housing question.
Coming to the individual sub-heads of the Vote, it will be found that under sub-head (a) there is a decrease of £7,285, and a reduction of 17 in the number of the staff. Vacancies which occurred in the permanent clerical staff have, for the time being, been filled by temporary clerks. The reduction has been mainly brought about by the transfer of the temporary staff, formerly on loan, to the Soldiers' and Sailors' department for the administration of the Act relating to the provision of cottages for British ex-service men. This service is now under the control of a Land Trust, and the temporary staff have been taken over by the trust, and will be provided for out of the trust funds. While the temporary staff were on loan their remuneration was recouped in full by the British Treasury.
One general inspector retired under the Treaty during the year and one lady general inspector resigned on marriage. Neither of the vacancies has been filled. Two temporary engineering inspectors were employed for the Road Department, and two of the temporary housing inspectors who were on loan to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Department have been taken over by the Land Trust.
The Vote for the present year contains provisions for 13 members of the permanent staff on loan to the other departments, including 7 members on loan to the Sailors' and Soldiers' Department, whose salaries are being recouped in full by the Land Trust. One member is attached temporarily to the General Register Office, one is attached to the Department of Justice, one to the General Nursing Council, one to the Board of Works, one senior Auditor to the Exchequer and Audit Department, one general Inspector to the Department of Defence. The cost of the staff on loan is approximately £6,500. Of the inspectorial staff, seven have been appointed to discharge the  duties of local authorities that have been dissolved—that is four to the Dublin Corporation and Dublin Union; one to the Kerry Council and Board of Health, and the County Cork Boards of Health; one to Offaly County and Board of Health, and one to the Tipperary Urban District.
Coming to sub-head (b), travelling expenses, etc., of inspectors, the actual travelling expenses are recouped, and subsistence allowance is provided in accordance with the scale in the Estimates. Last year's estimate was £11,200. The actual expenditure was £9,431. Sub-head (bb) is for expenses in connection with the International Congress. This was for attending the International Congress in connection with roads and tuberculosis, and the International Union in connection with tuberculosis, which are both very commendable objects.
Sub-heads (c and d) are for salaries of auditors and for travelling, etc., of auditors. There is a decrease of £4,000 in the Estimates and a reduction of five in number. Three resigned under the Treaty, one was transferred to the Exchequer and Audit Department, and one temporary auditor resigned. None of the vacancies has been filled. Travelling expenses and subsistence allowance is given as in the case of inspectors. At the present time the audit generally throughout the country is rather in arrear owing to the disturbed conditions of the recent past. We expect as a result of the Local Government Bill and the doing away with the rural district councils that we will be able to catch up with the arrears of audit in the near future, and that we will then be able to keep well up with our work.
Sub-head E is the amount provided to meet any unforeseen claims that may arise in respect of the period prior to 1922. Any proceedings involving legal costs are now conducted through the Chief State Solicitor's Department.
Sub-head (f).—These are normal expenses incidental to the holding of public inquiries in connection of local authorities for loans. When an inspector is directed to hold a local inquiry due notice has to be given in the  Press for two consecutive weeks. These notices are inserted by my Department. In important inquiries a shorthand writer is engaged to furnish a verbatim report of the evidence. The costs are recovered from local bodies except in cases of inquiries connected with the Poor Law.
Sub-head (g).—This deals with the Dublin Vaccine Institution. In 1876 it was arranged that the Dublin Vaccine Institution should become a Government office under the control of the Local Government for the purpose of gratuitously distributing lymph to the authorities of workhouses and dispensaries in Ireland. Under this arrangement the then existing officers of the institution became subordinate to the Local Government Board, but did not become Government officers as regards title to pension, etc. An arrangement exists whereby the requisite quantities of glycerinated calf lymph would be obtained under contract from time to time as required by the National Vaccine Institute at Sandymount.
Incidental expenses.—For these £200 is for office travelling. It is necessary at times to send an indoor officer to the country to consult with local officers upon special duties—for example, work connected with registration and making arrangements for dealing with matters of that kind.
Miscellaneous minor services.—These represent the cost of advertisements, daily papers, Local Government publications, petty office expenses, expenses of messages, and tram fares, when urgent delivery of letters is required. Often times it is necessary in these urgent cases to send despatches by hand.
Telegrams and Telephones.—These represent the amount payable to the General Post Office in respect of the cost of telegrams and telephone installation. We had all that last year. It is often necessary in my department to send a wire where in the ordinary case a letter might do. Sometimes a very urgent matter comes up before a local authority, and it is necessary for us to have an answer to the questioi sent down to them before the body  meets, and in that way expenses in telegrams are incurred that in the ordinary case would not arise.
Maternity and child welfare schemes may be provided in accordance with the Notification of Birth (Extension) Act, 1915. The State Grant was not made available until 1916. The grant is largely distributed among voluntary agencies. Briefly, the scope of the grant covers expenditure on the following services for expectant and nursing mothers, and children under five years of age; health visiting by trained nurses; home-nursing services, including midwifery and medical aid; home help during the confinement period; hospital and lying-in accommodation where necessary; creches and day nurseries, and the supply of milk and food in necessitous cases.
The National Grant defrays fifty per cent. of the net cost of approved services. The principal undertaking assisted is the provision of health visitors, that is to say, trained nurses, who get in touch with expectant and nursing mothers, and children under five years of age, and give advice as to maternal health, and as to the care and management of young children. The primary object of health-visiting is preventive, so as to forestall the development of conditions of ill-health. The work is carried on by whole-time officers in the larger centres of population, and elsewhere the services of district nurses have been utilised on part-time conditions. About 130 nurses in all are so engaged. Twenty-four local authorities and ninety-three voluntary agencies participate in the grant. The grouping of the voluntary agencies is as follows:—Health visiting, 71; centres, etc., 5; institutions, 7; boarding-out agencies, 6; food provision, 4. It is satisfactory to note that the downward movement of infant mortality is maintained. The rate in the Irish Free State for 1923 is the lowest  on record. The general infant mortality for 1924 was as follows:— Whole country, 71 per 1,000 births; urban districts, 102 per 1,000 births; rural districts, 55 per 1,000 births. It was, therefore, somewhat higher than in 1923 (66), but 10 per thousand under preceding 10 years' average. It is, of course, realised that much remains to be accomplished. In rural districts nearly two-thirds of the total infant mortality takes place in the first three months, a condition which would doubtless be remedied by a more efficient midwifery service. It is hoped that the proposals for a reform of the public health services will be of material service in this direction. I have here a long list dealing with the different child welfare agencies that are recouped under the grant, but I think it would not be necessary to go into them here.
Mr. BURKE: No. The cost of this service in regard to the treatment of venereal disease is showing an upward movement with the development of the existing schemes, and the increasing numbers seeking treatment thereunder. The number of out-patients' attendances at the treatment centres for venereal disease increased from 22,230 in the year 1922-23, to 25,292 in 1923-4, and the number of in-patient days from 6,783 in 1922-3 to 7,022 in 1923-4. The number of new patients dealt with at the treatment centres shows an advance of 212 for the year ended 31st March, 1924, as compared with the preceding year. The total cost of approved arrangements during the year 1923-24 was £8,913 18s. 6d., of which 75 per cent., or £6,685 8s. 11d was refunded to local authorities from the State Grant,  leaving only £2,228 9s. 7d. to be met from the rates.
Mr. BURKE: The measures for the treatment of venereal diseases adopted in Great Britain following upon the findings of the Royal Commission on venereal diseases were extended to Ireland in 1917. Section 148 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, enables regulations to be made from time to time by the central authority with a view to the treatment of persons affected with epidemic, endemic or infectious diseases and preventing the spread of such diseases, and in pursuance of that power regulations were made in 1917 respecting the provisions to be made by sanitary authorities of the county boroughs for the treatment and prevention of venereal diseases.
County councils not being sanitary authorities within the meaning of the Public Health Acts, an Act was passed in 1917 amending Section 148 of the Public Health Act of 1878, so that with the previous assent of the county council that section shall have effect accordingly as if a county council were an authority within the meaning of the section. It was difficult in many cases to get the prior assent of the county council. The provision, on the side of administration, was incomplete in so far as county councils had no medical superintendent officer of health, as in county boroughs. Under the recent Act each county will in future have its own medical officer of health.
There are five approved schemes in operation—Dublin County Borough and Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Monaghan counties. The curative system comprises treatment centres attached to Dr. Steevens' Hospital and Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, respectively, and consisting in each case of an outpatient clinic, with a certain number of beds for intern patients. Patients are treated irrespective of means or place of residence. Agreements were made by the Dublin Corporation and the  Dublin County Council with the authorities of Dr. Steevens' Hospital and of Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital respectively, under which the Corporation and the county council undertook to pay the cost of the respective treatment centres in so far as such cost was not covered by agreements with other local authorities. Arrangements were also made for the carrying out of Wassermann and other bacteriological tests by the pathological laboratories at Trinity College, University College, and the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, in connection with venereal discase patients attending the treatment centres, or under the care of any medical practitioners in the areas of the contracting local authorities. Salvarsan preparations were to be supplied free to such of these medical practitioners as could furnish evidence of experience in the administration of these remedies. Kildare, Wicklow, and Monaghan County Councils have also similar agreements with Dr. Steevens' Hospital. Negotiations are proceeding for setting up a treatment centre in Cork.
Under the Education (Provision of Meals) (Ireland) Act, 1914, an urban district council is empowered to make arrangements for the provision of meals for children attending national schools. If there are any such children in its area who are unable, by reason of lack of food, to take full advantage of the education provided for them and there are no other funds available to defray the cost of the provision of the necessary food, the council might be authorised under Section 3 of the Act to expend from the rates such sum as would meet the cost of such food not exceeding an expenditure equivalent to the produce of a rate of one halfpenny in the pound, on the district. The amending Act of 1916 doubled this maximum, and the limitation was entirely removed by the Act of 1917, which also made a Government grant available for recoupment to councils of an amount not exceeding one-half of the sums expended by them from the rates for the provision of food as above mentioned, subject to regulations made for the purpose of securing that the arrangements  for the provision of such food are adequate and are carried out efficiently.
Where a county borough or urban district council contributes towards the provision of school meals, the arrangements are usually administered by a committee composed of representatives of the council, the managers of the schools and other persons interested in the work. The circumstances of the children are investigated and the necessitous cases authorised to receive the meals. The arrangements for supplying the meals are generally of a simple character. Where there is no central dining hall available to accommodate the children from the different schools in the area. suitable apartments in the school buildings or the school rooms themselves are utilised. The time selected for serving the food is usually the play-hour. The meals vary in character according to facilities provided; consisting in some places of soups or stews, in others of bread and butter or jam, with milk or cocoa. Recoupment from the grant is confined to half the actual expenditure from the rates for the provision of food for the meals.
In three county boroughs and twenty-three urban districts, the councils have been authorised to incur expenditure from the rates for the provision of school meals for children attending national schools. Such expenditure was, however, incurred during the year ended 31st March, 1924, in only two county boroughs—Dublin and Cork—and in 13 urban districts. The urban authorities in the Saorstát have been repeatedly reminded of their powers as regards the provision of school meals, but during the past year schemes were adopted only in two districts—Clonmel and Rathmines. The general views in other urban districts were, that there was no necessity for such arrangements or that the children were already sufficiently provided for by voluntary agencies. During the year 1923-24, 11,576 school children approximately were fed, of whom 5,696 were dealt with in Dublin county borough, and it is estimated that 1,595,517 meals were supplied. The  total cost of the schemes for that year was £12,760 11s. 2d., and the amount disbursed from the grant thereon was £5,300 19s. 6d.
On the Estimates last year, I think the question was raised about bringing in other schools, such as the Christian Brothers' schools. They can only be brought in by legislation, and it is hoped to introduce an amending Bill later on.
With regard to Sub-head O—medical treatment, etc., of school children —the administration of this service is governed by the Public Health (Medical Treatment of Children) (Ireland) Act, 1919. It is designed to carry the system of health supervision through the school-going period up to the age when the boy or girl comes within the provisions of the National Health Insurance. The Act places an explicit obligation on local authorities to adopt suitable measures for the purpose. Under the statutory regulations a scheme may provide for encouraging and assisting the establishment or continuance of voluntary agencies.
Five such schemes have been assisted from the grant pending action by the local authority. Progress is being made with the municipal schemes in Cork and Clonmel; the medical officer in the first-mentioned area has reported the results of her preliminary survey, and the Commissioner is now in a position to decide as to future developments. It is understood that a scheme for Dublin county borough has been drafted for the consideration of the Commissioners.
As regards the administrative counties, the appointment of county medical officers of health will provide machinery for instituting the arrangements for school medical inspection, but as the amended system of public health administration will not come into force until the 1st October next, when the new officers will have to familiarise themselves with the general problems of the position and primarily with the prevention and control of epidemic diseases, it is not expected that more than initial steps towards introducing measures in the interests of the health of school children can be undertaken before the end of the financial year.
 The first step towards effecting the public health reforms under the Local Government Act, 1925, which were outlined by me when the Bill was before the Dáil, will be the appointment of county medical officers of health. These appointments cannot be made until October. It is recognised that the success of county health administration must largely depend on securing the services of good officers for these positions.
With regard to the welfare of the blind, there was some discussion on this subject last year. I am desirous of doing everything possible to promote the welfare of the blind. Under the recent Act the new boards of health are specially charged with the arrangements for dealing with the various classes of necessitous blind, whether by the provision of education and training in suitable cases, or by affording outdoor relief or maintenance in homes to the unemployed blind. Their duties in this respect are co-ordinated with their general public health functions, and I am hopeful that there will be a wider and more sympathetic interest taken in the welfare of this class of the community in future.
I am not in a position to state the actual number of blind persons in the country at present, but I understand it is somewhere between three and four thousand. The number of persons in receipt of blind pensions in December, 1924, was returned as 2,878. The problem is a comparatively small one and the financing of the arrangements of local bodies should not prove very costly.
A generous scheme of assistance for blind persons has been approved for Dublin county borough, and was inaugurated on 1st ultimo. Blind persons are admitted to the register on a certificate from a recognised ophthalmic surgeon or specialist. In addition to provision for the education, training, employment and maintenance of suitable blind persons in the existing schools, workshops and homes for the blind, the wages of blind workers employed in those workshops and living in their own homes, are being augmented on the following scale:— A flat rate per person per week of 7s. 8d.; weekly allowance for wife, 5s.; weekly allowance for first child, 3s. 6d.; weekly allowance for each additional child, 2s. 6d.
As regards monetary assistance to necessitous blind in their own homes, this will be given so as to provide weekly incomes to—Single or widowed persons over 15 and under 50 years of age living with relatives or friends, 12s. 6d.; single or widowed persons over 15 and under 50 years of age living alone or in lodgings, 14s.; single or widowed persons 50 years of age and upwards, 7s. (with blind pension); married man under 50 years of age with wife, 19s.; married man 50 years of age and upwards with wife, 12s. (with blind pension); addition to weekly income for first child, 3s. 6d.; addition to weekly income for each additional child, 2s. 6d. Persons under the age of 15 years will be regarded as children.
These allowances will not be payable to persons who continue to act as mendicants. The scheme has been adopted for a year and will be subject to review at the end of that period, having regard to the experience gained in its operation. The estimated cost is £5,500. Two hundred and thirty blind persons are at present on the register, but further cases are under consideration.
Mr. CORISH: I take it that that is a scheme for the Dublin Commissioners, and that it is applicable only to the Dublin area. I presume that the Minister would have no objection to having a scheme of a similar nature put into operation in another area.
Mr. BURKE: The number of blind persons is, as I have stated, relatively small. The number would be about 3,000, and it might be difficult for a local authority to initiate a scheme for a very small number of persons. It is better to have the larger institutions.
With regard to tuberculosis, I think most Deputies are familiar with the working of the various Acts. Approved tuberculosis schemes are being administered by the councils in twenty-two counties and two county boroughs (Dublin and Waterford), whilst partial  schemes dealing only with insured persons and their dependents are carried out by the insurance committees in Meath and Wicklow counties. Tuberculosis schemes have not been adopted in Cork, Longford, and Roscommon counties or in Cork and Limerick county boroughs.
The natural development of the schemes is responsible for an increase in the estimated expenditure for the coming financial year, the returns furnished indicating a recoupment from the national tuberculosis grant of £40,000. The coming into operation of the provisions of the Local Government Bill, 1924, applying compulsory notification of tuberculosis to all districts in the Saorstát, and transferring the functions of county tuberculosis committees to boards of health is difficult to gauge, but will doubtless result in substantially larger numbers of patients being brought under treatment.
During the past year, a new sanatorium and hospital for advanced cases, with thirty-five beds, has been opened at Renmore, Galway. The institution is already full and its further extension is under consideration. Arrangements are made by local authorities for the provision of suitable treatment for uninsured men discharged from the National Army suffering from tuberculosis.
The total number of patients dealt with under approved tuberculosis schemes during the year 1923-24 was 9,013, composed of 2,392 insured and 6,621 uninsured persons, and the amount issued from the grant as recoupment in respect of the cost of their treatment was £31,000 approximately.
Mortality from tuberculosis has decreased considerably in recent years. The death rate from the disease in Ireland per 1,000 of the population had gradually declined from 2.9 in 1904 to 2.07 in 1914, but during the Great War, from 1915 to 1918, it rose to 2.2. In 1919 it dropped to 1.94, and the reduction has continued through 1920 (1.70) and 1921 (1.57), while the figure for the Irish Free State for 1922 was 1.46, and for 1923, 1.41. The rate for 1923 shows a reduction of 36 per cent. as  compared with the rate (2.2) for 1911, when the legislation in connection with tuberculosis schemes first came into operation.
I think that covers pretty generally the principal items of the Department. No doubt there will be some discussion on roads and on medical services generally, but I do not think it would be possible for me at this stage to anticipate what questions may be asked on these matters.
Mr. DAVIN: The Minister, in the detailed statement he has made, omitted to refer to a matter which concerns a large number of people in this country at the present time. He made reference to it, however, on several occasions in places outside this House. The matter I refer to is the road policy of the Minister's Department. I have read speeches which the Minister is alleged to have made at branch meetings of the Government Party organisation in his own constituency, as well as one which he made recently at a convention of delegates of that organisation held in the Mansion House, Dublin. I fail to see why the Minister would not indicate to the House here, first for preference, his policy in regard to an important matter of that kind, rather than to make statements outside the House which cannot be relied upon, so far as any records are concerned. The position with regard to road repair and road maintenance particularly, has been a rather serious one during the past couple of years, at least in some counties, and in one or two of the counties in the constituency that I represent. We have had from the Government, through the Railways Act, an indication of its policy so far as the railways are concerned, but we have yet to learn what the Government intend doing on the question of canals. On the occasions that I made inquiries in regard to this matter, I was informed that the failure to come to a decision on the recommendations of the Canal Commission was due to the delay that has taken place on the part of the Government in coming to a decision in the matter of its road policy. It is  obvious to Deputies and to the ratepayers of the country who have to bear the present high charges, that the latter cannot continue to bear the present heavy burden inflicted upon them by reason of the damage done to the roads by the traffic of heavy motor lorries.
In Leix County, and this is a good example, the estimate for road maintenance last year was reduced from £45,000 to £28,000. The reduction was authorised either by inference or in fact by the Minister for Local Government. He must know quite well as a result of the reports of his own officials that that amount was not sufficient to carry on the ordinary work of road maintenance. This year the county surveyor's estimate was submitted for £48,000, and that was reduced to £25,000. I do not know whether it has yet received the sanction of the Minister, but he takes a very serious view of increasing the estimate of last year beyond the figure of £28,000. The fact is the roads are in a very much worse condition than they were twelve months ago, and the Minister is now faced with sanctioning £3,000 less for the maintenance of those roads.
I have every sympathy with the local ratepayers in protesting, and strongly protesting, against these high charges, which are only made possible by the heavy traffic that has developed inside the last couple of years in regard to motor transport, for which the ratepayers are called upon to pay. The Government has laid it down definitely in the Railways Act that they are not prepared to subsidise the railways. That is one section, and a very important section of our transport system. But the Minister for Local Government and his colleagues, whether authorised or otherwise, in the recent miniature General Election, made the statement from public platforms in this country that large sums were to be spent on construction, reconstruction and repair and maintenance of roads. The Minister for Local Government said as recently as September, 1923, in a speech outside the House, that the sum of £1,560,000 had been actually spent in that particular way. Now, the Government is actually faced with this position.  I put them this question berately, and I say it concerns both the railway companies and the workers concerned, and the ratepayers of the country: are they going to subsidise one form of transport against another form of transport? That is the position they are faced with, and have been considering for a long time, far too long, and that is the question I would like the Minister to deal with here when speaking on this estimate. To show how serious the position is in Leix, and I think it is equally serious in Offaly, I may say we have 750 miles of roads being repaired, or supposed to be worked, by 35 men, 10 of whom are overseers. I think the Minister will agree that it is impossible to carry on the work of ordinary road maintenance for over 750 miles of road with 35 men, 10 of whom are not actual workers themselves. The cause of that is, as the Minister knows, owing to the reduction of the estimate. The estimate was reduced by 50 per cent. The men became unemployed, and that is the reason why 35 men are doing to-day what 150 or 175 did a couple of years ago.
I listened to the Minister speaking some time ago to a deputation which approached him on this matter. He was very guarded in his reply, and, perhaps, rightly so. But the Minister must face the fact and come to a decision. If he has already come to a decision, as one would be led to believe by statements made by him outside, I think he should make his decision known to the House. I realise that a decision on the matter may be bound up with the question of raising the necessary money, and, perhaps, with an alteration in the existing method of taxation in regard to motor lorries and motor vehicles generally. The Minister for Finance, apparently, had that question in mind when he said that it might be necessary at a later stage—probably before the end of the present year—to introduce a Finance No. 2 Bill. I take it that what he had in mind was the likelihood of an alteration being made in the present method of taxation of motor lorries. I believe Deputy Gorey had some inside information in regard to the views of the  Government on this matter, because I read a statement he made on the subject, when speaking on behalf of a candidate in the recent Cavan election, and I also read a leading article in the “Irish Independent” following that remarkable declaration, the substance of which none of us was aware of until Deputy Gorey made the statement.
The position seems to be this: the Roads Advisory Board have been considering this matter. Any ordinary Deputy could gather from the speeches of the Minister and from the leakage of information on the part of Deputy Gorey, to which I have referred, that some decision must have been come to by the Roads Advisory Board. That decision must have been come to before the recent Cavan election and before the Minister made his statements outside the House. The Minister must, therefore, have his mind made up on whatever recommendations he has received from the Roads Advisory Board. If that is so, let us have some light thrown on the subject here. If the Minister has not yet been able to persuade the Minister for Finance to find the necessary money to carry out those great schemes of which he has been dreaming, then, perhaps, the Deputies here, if acquainted with the position, will help him to force the Minister for Finance to come to what ever decision is necessary.
I do not wish to go any further into the matter but, on an Estimate dealing with the Local Government Department, it would not be proper to let pass the burning question of how the roads are to be constructed and maintained and repaired in the future. If the county councils, which have reduced the Estimates in the cases I have referred to to the amounts to which I have referred, are not compelled by the Minister to pass the County Surveyor's estimate, as submitted, then the Minister is faced with the task of finding the money that will be necessary. I approach the consideration of this question from the point of view of what is the Government's policy in regard to transport in general. If I were satisfied that the mind of the Government  was running in the direction of nationalisation of all means of transport—whether railways, canals or roads —I would be satisfied that the necessary money should be raised under the present methods. But I am not prepared to agree to the policy of the Government to collect, by present methods of taxation, for the benefit of the motor people of this country, who abuse the roads to the extent the Minister knows, public money and use it to subsidise one form of transport against another. The whole question is bound up with the Government's general policy of transport. I think the Minister should put at the disposal of the House what information he has on the subject. He should tell the House whether he has received the recommendations of the Roads Advisory Board, and if he has, whether he has come to any decision on them. If not, he should tell the House on what grounds he made the statements he has been making outside this House in regard to the money which he proposes to use for the making of trunk roads and the maintenance and repair of other roads in the Saorstát.
Sir JAMES CRAIG: I have been in the past a pretty severe critic of the cost of administration of this Department. When we come to the details of the various sub-heads, I may still have some criticism to offer but I want to say, generally, that the Ministry have made a very determined effort to reduce the cost of administration. I have the figures for two years ago— 1923-24—and the figures for the present year. I find that so far as salaries, wages and allowances are concerned, there is a reduction of £14,200. That is a very different proposition from what was presented to us two years ago. When we come to item (B) (travelling, etc., of inspectors) there is a reduction from £13,000 to £10,500— a saving in the two years of £2,500. The Minister, I think, will remember the criticism that I offered on one occasion. I said he had so many officials with so little work to do, travelling about the country, that it would be better for him to pay their salaries and allow them to stay at home so as to  save expenses of travelling. There is, however, a considerable reduction in this item during the past two years. When we come to the salaries of auditors, I find that there is a corresponding reduction—£9,000 from the estimate of the year before last. I find also that the travelling expenses of the auditors have been reduced by £1,500. There was a reduction of £700 last year and this year there is a reduction of £800. In the cost of inquiries, there is a reduction of £1,500 as compared with two years ago. In the estimate presented to us, there is a total reduction in the cost of administration, as compared with two years ago, of £28,700. I think that is extremely satisfactory on the whole.
On the other side of the picture, there is a certain amount of increase but not anything like the increase that we will press for. I hope, when we come to deal with the various sub-heads. So far as child welfare is concerned, there is an upward move from £10,000 to £14,385. Provision for treatment of venereal disease has jumped from £4,500 to £7,500. That amount, I expect, will continue to increase. I may say now, as I may not have the opportunity of saying it later, that the amount of money expended in this way has been very wisely and very usefully expended and that there is a tremendous improvement in regard to venereal disease. In respect of grants under the Provision of Meals Act, I am sorry to say the increase from two years ago is only from £5,000 to £6,000. As most of the Deputies who have been here for some time know, I have put forward a claim, from time to time, that every child attending a national school should receive some sort of meal during the day. It is quite impossible for a child who is badly fed and early fed to keep up its attention during the day. There is a great wastage, so far as education is concerned, in trying to teach children who are hungry. I am sorry that this item has not increased to a much greater extent and that more grants have not been applied for. We cannot criticise at present the medical treatment of school children because, as the Minister has said, we have not yet got into working order as regards our  County Medical Officers of Health, who will be really responsible for this work, With regard to the welfare of the blind, strange to say, this item was brought down last year from £8,400 to £7,500 and the same sum is estimated this year. With regard to the treatment of tuberculosis, the sum went up from £35,000 two years ago to £38,000 last year, and £43,000 this year. I wish to offer my sincere congratulations to the Minister for Public Health on the wonderful change which has taken place in regard to the death rate from tuberculosis. It is extraordinary that from the year 1904, the death rate from tuberculosis has gone down from 2.9 to about 1.4.
Without entering into criticism, in detail, of the various sections, I do think the Ministry have made a determined effort—it may not have been as successful as many of us would like— to reduce the administrative cost of this Department. They have made a fair attempt to meet the criticisms that were formerly offered, and I am sorry that in many ways there is not a much larger bill to foot with regard to the public health, or what I may call the utility portion, of the expenditure.
Mr. CORISH: Like Deputy Davin, I am very anxious to hear what the road policy of the Ministry of Local Government is. This is a problem which is engaging the attention of various associations and societies at the present time. We are now in the month of May. The weather has not been very good, but, at the same time, I think it has been sufficiently good to permit of work being done on the roads. Most of the councils in the country are awaiting a declaration by the Minister as to what his road policy is to be.
I do not agree with the arguments put forward by Deputy Davin. I do not think there is any analogy at all between the railway position and the road position. The railways are owned by private people; the roads are the State highways. It is the function of the Local Government Department and of the Local Government authorities throughout the country to look after the roads and to subsidise  their maintenance if necessary in the interests of the people of the State.
Mr. CORISH: The owners of the motor lorries pay a certain amount of money each year, and that money is utilised for the upkeep of the roads. There is no analogy between the road position and railway position. I am as well aware as Deputy Davin that there is undue usage of the roads by heavy motor traffic, and I think that until a great many of the roads are put into a proper state of repair the tonnage of lorries should be limited. The attention of the Local Government Department has been directed to that side of the problem, and I think it should treat it with the seriousness which it merits. The Local Government Department ought to give more money for roads than they have been giving in the past. The amount of money they are giving is not sufficient to do a good job on the roads. The roads, even up to the present, have been only patched in haphazard way. There is not sufficient money for local authorities to enable them to deal with the roads as they should be dealt with. This is a problem that will have to be faced sooner or later, and the sooner the better, because the roads are certainly deteriorating. Local authorities will require a greater amount of money in the future owing to the delay in declaration of policy and to delay in provision of money by the Local Government Department to enable the local authorities to put these roads in the condition in which they should be put.
Personally, I think that the sooner it is recognised that the only way to solve this problem—so far as trunk roads are concerned—is to adopt the system of concrete roads, the better. It is dearer than the ordinary steam-rolled or bitumen surface, but in the end it will cost less. The upkeep will be considerably less and the roads will, in the end, pay for themselves; that is, so far as the trunk roads are concerned. If we are going to cater for  the motor traffic which is increasing in weight and quantity every day, if it is to be catered for as we hope and expect it will be, there is nothing for the trunk roads but a concrete surface, and the sooner the Minister realises that the better. It may be a bit dearer, but it will eventually pay for itself. Like Deputy Davin, I have seen statements made by the Minister and other Ministers to the effect that a certain amount of money was available, but, so far, we are in the dark, and councils in the Saorstát are in the dark, as to what is to be done.
Deputy Davin referred to certain counties that have not reduced their estimates. I deprecate that as much as Deputy Davin. Of course, we realise that it is necessary to reduce estimates, because the people are not able to pay. There is no question about that. We fight against it as much as we can, but the position is there all the time. It is the same in my own county and urban area as in other parts of the Saorstát. However desirous we are of doing certain work, it is impossible to find the money for it. There is no use in striking a rate when the people are not able to bear it. Then again, there is no use in criticising councils. If the rates are too high, people will probably make representations to the Minister, and perhaps the rate may be made invalid altogether. I hope the Minister will declare his policy so far as the roads are concerned. With Deputy Sir James Craig, I would like to congratulate the Minister. I think there is a big improvement in this Department for the past twelve months. The functions are very varied. To my mind, it is the most complicated Department in the Government, and I know it is not easy for it to get into its stride.
The Minister talked about free meals for school children, and he again referred to the fact that it is not legal, though he did not actually use those words, for pupils in Christian Brothers' schools to be supplied with meals. I would ask the Minister seriously to consider this question. It simply means that a poor person is kept away from the Christian Brothers' schools, where  he would get a better kind of education than in the national schools. If the child is poor he has to go to the national school, because he will get a meal there. Though it is not legal at the moment for local committees to supply meals to children at Christian Brothers' schools, I would ask the Minister favourably to consider the matter and make some arrangement so that the auditor would not surcharge the council in whose area this thing would be done. I know, and I am sure the Minister does too, that there are committees exercising their functions in this connection and granting meals to pupils at Christian Brothers' schools. I hope that this time twelve months, when we are considering this estimate again, the Minister will not make the same statement that he made to-day and that he made on the last occasion when we were considering the Estimates. The Christian Brothers deserve a great deal from this country, and their pupils deserve much also. The same treatment should be meted out to them as to pupils in national schools.
There is another question I would like to refer to. I think the Minister ought to interfere in the question of technical education. At the moment, technical education is under the Department of Education. The people who administer the funds of a Technical Committee are under the control of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. Recently the Department of Technical Education initiated joint schemes in the various counties and amalgamated various Technical Committees and some local Committees. Take the case of Wexford, for instance. The secretary and principal of the Wexford school has been compelled to go out on pension, and the Wexford Corporation have been informed that they are to be responsible for his pension. That will mulct the ratepayers to the extent of 4d. in the £. Along with that, they will be responsible for two-thirds of the salary of the new principal and secretary, who will be secretary for the whole county scheme. We consider that is unfair. The scheme was initiated by the Department of Technical  Instruction, and the pension of the man they compelled to go out, who is still active, should be charged upon the funds of the general scheme. Has the Minister's Department been consulted about this? So far as I know, the Corporation of Wexford and the Committee have power to levy a rate of 1d. or 2d. in the £ for technical instruction, and we would be going beyond the powers conferred on us by Act of Parliament if we were to levy a higher rate. The Wexford Corporation have refused to strike the rate, because they believe the ratepayers would be too heavily muleted. I would ask the Minister to intervene.
Mr. GOREY: Thank you. As one who has, perhaps, initiated the controversy over the road tax and heavy motor traffic, I do not want to say very much at this stage. On previous votes I have said a good deal already under this head. The result has been that the Roads Advisory Board, I believe with the direction, or under the authority, of some friend of mine in the Department, have appointed a sub-committee to consider and report on this question. We know they met and took evidence, and that for some time they did not meet. We do not know if they have reported to the Roads Advisory Board. We have no idea of the nature of the report or how, if it was handed in, it was dealt with by the Roads Advisory Board or the Minister's Department. We are waiting for the report and for a declaration of policy by the Minister. The matter has not been raised in the country, because people are waiting on the report. The country has been advised to remain quiet until the report and the Minister's declaration of policy are issued. There is no indication, however, that people in the country have abandoned thought on this question. They have their minds pretty well made up on the matter. The Minister has asked for time, and has mentioned that a new Bill would be necessary. We have given him considerable time; we are  prepared to give him more time; but the day is fast approaching when the declaration of policy must come. The sooner the Minister gives us that the better. We will postpone any annoyance that we may cause, provided he is going to deal with this question, and we will give him reasonable time to declare his policy.
Mr. GOREY: I am not aware of it as much, perhaps, as Deputy Davin is aware of it. A certain matter occurred here before the Cavan election, but that has been thrashed out, and I do not propose to go back on it. That has been brought to a point, and I do not propose to take it out of the place where it was left. I do not know if it would be right to refer now to the question of whether there should be a tax on petrol or on horse-power. Perhaps it would be better defer that until we have the question up in proper form. Reference has been made to the damage that motor vehicles do to roads, and Deputy Corish has said that they pay something towards that. Of course they pay something, but it is nothing in comparison to the damage they do. You might as well give us a crumb where we expect a loaf. The damage done can scarcely be calculated on the class of roads that we have in the country; the macadamised roads. The damage cannot be calculated. The country cannot continue to subsidise the present system. Something else has to be done. Whether it is State money or local money is to come to the rescue in making the roads, I maintain the present system must be changed. Deputy Corish has mentioned concrete. I am sure the Minister's advisers have been studying this thing very closely, and are prepared to tell us the result of their deliberations as to whether a concrete or some other surface would be best to withstand the present fast, heavy traffic.
There is no doubt that the present system of road-making and maintenance is not able to withstand that traffic. The public are anxious to  know what is the policy of the Minister in the matter. If the public are silent at present on the matter, that is not an indication that they have ceased to think about it.
Another important question that arises with regard to the roads is to what extent the main arteries of the country are to be made a State charge. That is a question that the new county councils will be up against. It is one of the planks in the platforms of all the candidates at the forthcoming elections. All of them are anxious to know where they are and what they are up against. There can be no doubt as to what the Farmers' Party think about this.
Mr. GOREY: I am not going to enter into a controversy now. The Minister has not yet declared his policy and until he has it would not be right to discuss the matter. Several Deputies have spoken with appreciation of the work that has been done by the Department of Local Government. I have not come very closely into contact with the Department, but I know what has been done and I know the criticism the Department has been subjected to for dissolving certain public bodies. I have always supported the policy of the Department in that matter, and the results to my mind have proved that the action of the Department was justified. The courage of the Minister in regard to this matter is worthy of commendation. We hear less criticism now of his action. I think this Department has done very good work. It is, perhaps, one of the best Departments we have. If the Minister is not prepared to declare his policy with regard to the motor tax now we will not press him, but we expect a declaration of policy from him in the near future, and we want to see the promised Bill brought in very soon.
Professor THRIFT: The speech of Deputy Gorey has tempted me to make some remarks, because I think that if we stop at the stage at which he  stopped we would make a very big mistake. I agree with the Deputy that heavy motor traffic pays a proportion which is altogether out of comparison with the damage it does to the roads. I agree with him that this is probably not the time to consider how any attempt should be made to readjust that proportion.
I agree with him that the conclusion to be drawn from the amount of damage they do as compared with the damage done by others is that there is something wrong with the system. But I do not agree in the conclusion that he draws from that, that there is merely something wrong with the method of construction of the roads. That is wrong, I believe, but I say that even with an improved method of construction, even with concrete roads, leaving the rest of the traffic as it is, we will still be faced with almost the same problem you have at present— that the heavy traffic will damage those roads in a proportion that is altogether out of comparison with the amount contributed, if other conditions remain the same.
The Minister, I think, would make a mistake if he merely considered that point and did not go further. The problem is somewhat deeper. If you allow very heavy traffic to be carried on wheels that are of the kind now permitted, that traffic will continue to damage the roads to an extent for which it practically cannot pay. The error, I think, arises very largely from this—that heavy motors are allowed to carry heavy traffic on a small section wheel. That means that there is extraordinary pressure brought to bear on the roads. No matter what you make the roads of, if you permit heavy loads to be spread over a small area you will still have a practically ruinous destruction of the roads going on. I rise simply to ask the Minister when he is considering this problem to have it considered seriously from the point of view of requiring an increase in the sectional area of the wheel that is going to carry heavy traffic—to a certain extent that may mean proportionate to the load the lorry is going to carry—otherwise the problem will remain unsolved.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: For the same reason I do not want to enlarge too much on the question of the roads, but this is apparently the only opportunity I shall have of expressing the feelings of my constituents with regard to the existing state of affairs. There is no doubt that the present system cannot be continued, and that the ratepayers cannot continue to maintain the roads at the present cost, even as they are maintained at present with the help received from the Government. As Deputy Davin has said, the ratepayers are subsidising the owners of the heavy lorries at the expense of the railways. The traffic which naturally should fall to the railways—particularly the short-haul traffic—is now falling on the roads and being carried by heavy motor lorries carrying loads up to six tons and paying a tax which is not at all in proportion to the amount of damage they do.
I do not quite agree with Deputy Thrift that the damage caused by the motor lorries is due to the narrowness of the tyres. My experience is that the large flat tyres used by lorries has the effect of sucking up the surface of the road. You will find little holes due to the suction of these heavy wheels passing over the macadamised roads. I know a road that was steam-rolled in the old days—one of the first roads steam-rolled in my county. Under the ordinary iron-shod traffic, that road held in a nearly perfect condition for about eight years. That road was steam-rolled last year and is now showing great defects. It is beginning to show pot-holes and a good deal of repairing has been done on it since. The conclusion I come to is, that either these motor lorries will have to be made pay a tax which will in some way compensate for the maintenance of the roads, or, still better, that a law should be passed making it a penal offence to run motor lorries of any weight, say, exceeding three tons, on those roads. That was proposed during the passage of the Local Government Bill, but the proposition was defeated.
 The present state of affairs is unsatisfactory and it is not being met. We have had no indication of the policy of the Minister in regard to it, but something must be done. It is evident that with such a large mileage of roads the present attempt which is being made to maintain them up to a high standard cannot be continued. Even if the upkeep of the trunk and main roads is made a State charge, if the large motor lorries are still allowed to travel on the roads the expenditure would be more than the State could bear.
There is only one item I should like to refer to under sub-head (A). It is the only increase of any importance that I can see. That is the salary of the Private Secretary to the Minister, which has been increased from £1,000 to £1,200. I should like to know if that is a normal increase due to a scale, or a special increase. I have no information as to the ability or qualification of the Private Secretary. I am sure he is an excellent official, but I would suggest that in present conditions increases of salary of that amount can hardly be recommended. I should like to know why such an increase is being granted.
Mr. J. CONLAN: I am informed by a member of the Kildare County Council that during the past financial year, £100,000 has been spent on the upkeep of the roads in that medium-sized county. Of course, a considerable percentage of that sum came from State sources, but the portion that had to be borne by the ratepayers has placed an almost intolerable burden on them. In Kildare we are in the unfortunate position of having to bear most of the heavy traffic that goes outside our borders, both for the west and south, with the result that this enormous expenditure has to be borne. Whilst, as I say, 80 per cent. of the sum spent is spent upon two or three main or trunk roads, the sub-main roads, not to talk about the byroads, are in many cases in a very neglected condition. The upkeep of the main roads for the heavy lorry traffic absorbs the greater portion of the total outlay.
It is patent that the present system of macadamised steam-rolled and  tarred roads is absolutely out of date. I was speaking lately to an engineer who has had considerable experience in supervision of road maintenance and repair. I asked him what term of life he would give to a road repaired under the present system— would it be about twelve months? He said six months would be nearer to the mark. That is true. I know of my own personal knowledge that roads have to be repaired which were steam-rolled and tarred certainly not twelve months ago. With regard to the suggestion that concrete should be used, I would like to know how that would suit horse-drawn traffic, as there is still a considerable amount of that traffic, despite the revolution created by the motor car and tramcar.
Professor THRIFT: I would like to ask Deputy Heffernan one question. If he observed a small hole in the surface of a road and wanted to make it bigger, would he choose a mallet or a pickaxe? It is true that there are other points to be considered beyond the one I have mentioned, but I was pointing out the one which, in my opinion, required the most serious consideration by those responsible for road upkeep. If you get a small hole in a road and a thin wheel with a big load strikes it, it knocks a big chunk out of the side of the hole, but if there was a large surface wheel with the same load it would pass over the hole and do little damage.
Mr. HEFFERNAN: That is a very technical matter to put to me, because it is really a question for a surveyor and it is one which I could not answer. I think that the analogy suggested by Deputy Thrift is hardly correct. If you get a pickaxe instead of a mallet to enlarge a small hole in a road it does not prove that a narrow tyre will do more harm than a large one. My opinion is that the large tyre has a peculiar suction effect and when the vehicle has passed you will notice a disintegrating effect on the surface of the road. I maintain that it has the same effect, whether it is the wheel or the weight which causes the steam-rolled road to be loosened. I think if the speed of vehicles were lessened it  would reduce the damage to roads. I think that the Minister has power to regulate the speed of motor vehicles.
Mr. BAXTER: When the Local Government Bill was going through, I was going to put down an amendment to regulate the speed, size, weight and carrying capacity of motor lorries, but I was informed that the law as it existed gave the Minister power to regulate all these matters. Beyond doubt, apart from the fact that the weight of lorries does very considerable damage, the owners of lorries are not satisfied with merely making use of the roads, but they drive their vehicles at a terrific speed. That, undoubtedly, increases the weight of a lorry considerably. Has the Minister considered, or is any effort being made to consider, the importance of applying the law in regard to the speed of lorries? Until such a time as legislation makes new regulations, the Minister ought to try and protect the roads so far as possible. I would like to know what steps the Ministry has taken, either through the Gárda Síochána or otherwise, to put the law into effect.
Mr. MULVANY: I would like to ask the Minister a question in regard to steam lorries. In County Meath there are a number of them travelling every day. Each lorry carries about six tons, with a five-ton load behind on a trailer. I never could learn what the owners of these are contributing to the upkeep of the roads, or what they are paying in the shape of taxation. In Trim, the capital of Meath, there is a trader who has one of these lorries on the road from Trim to Dublin six days of the week. That road is like the headland of a ploughed field, and is not like a road intended to carry ordinary traffic. So far as the ordinary motor lorry traffic is concerned, I suppose it pays a heavy tax, but I would like to know for my own information, and for the information of my constituents, what these people who drive steam lorries through the country are paying. I say that these steam lorries are more detrimental to the roads than motor lorries. I have my own opinion as to the damage done by motor lorries  and other mechanically-propelled vehicles. I am a fairly close observer as to the way these things happen. Of course, doctors differ and patients die, but my opinion is that it is these highly-geared vehicles, driven at a speed of fifty or sixty miles an hour, which are more responsible than anything else for the pot-holes in the roads. Many of these highly-priced, highly-geared, and highly-graded vehicles are paying less taxes than unfortunate farmers or business men who drive around the country in “tin-lizzies.”
Mr. JOHNSON: The Minister has been asked by every speaker so far to declare the policy of the Government, if possible, but certainly that of his Department, in respect to roads. It has been generally admitted, I think, by everyone who has had anything to say on the question that very big works are required to be done on the roads. Apparently the problem is, what class of work is to be done, that is to say, what kind of construction is to be applied. I want to support the general contention, but I want also to draw special attention to the importance of the matter from the point of view of unemployment in the country. If it is admitted, as it has been admitted by Deputies in all parts of the House and by Ministers on other occasions, that there has to be a great deal of money spent on the roads for reconstruction as well as for repair, now is the time that any definite policy that has been decided on should be put into operation when you have large numbers of men waiting for employment at useful constructive work. It was stated by engineers, and I think it has been generally admitted, that there is probably no form of public work which is capable of absorbing usefully a larger number of labourers than road reconstruction. I want to press that view on the Ministry, that it is essential, if there is any decision come to, that the work should be put into operation at the earliest possible date with a view to employing men who are waiting for employment, and, if no decision has yet been come to,  that some speed will be given to the consideration of that matter and that an early decision will be arrived at. I have been reading in the newspapers of rival claims of different districts respecting a proposed new trunk road, as though it had been decided that there would be a new trunk road between Dublin and the South.
I have not yet heard anything officially about that, whether any decision so far has been come to or not, though I have heard of deputations from counties to the Minister. As Deputy Davin pointed out, there have been speeches in the country regarding the policy of the Government on road reconstruction and repair, and we ought to know what has been decided, and how soon the new policy, if a new policy has been decided on, is to be put into operation. I do not want to suggest, even now or at any time, that you must employ men for the sake of employment, that you must pay men wages for doing useless work. I think that is bad policy, but here you have absolutely essential work that will be of value to the country, both immediately and permanently, and you have a large number of men waiting for that employment. You have a definite proposal from the motor users in respect to the method of financing a road policy. You have demands from councils all over the country that the decision of the Government should be made known, and that some work of this kind should be started immediately. I want to press for some definite statement of policy in regard to all these things. We do not want to discuss the finances of this matter on this Vote, as to begin with, it would be out of order, and secondly, it is not for the Minister to answer. He is, however, responsible for the general supervision of work on road construction and reconstruction, and he is advised by road engineers, and he has the Roads Advisory Board, which has been considering the question for a long time, to advise him. I want to support the demand of those who ask for a clear statement of policy in respect to roads, and to press on the Minister the necessity of putting into operation whatever policy he has of giving employment to some of those  50,000 men who are waiting and clamouring for employment.
Mr. GOREY: A Deputy has referred to the speed of motor lorries. That was one of the matters submitted by the Road Board to the Committee. Evidence was given upon it. I, myself, gave evidence, and a report is being framed. That is the reason that I did not deal with the speed of cars or with the question of tyres, which was also dealt with by most of the witnesses. I agreed that most wheels, even cart wheels, should be widened. I agreed that even a cart wheel should be widened by between three-quarters of an inch and an inch. The reason we did not deal with that question is because it is one of the subjects of that report. That report, however, has not yet come to hand.
Then there is the question of the quality of the tar used on the surface of the roads. I want to know how and where that material is procured, and if the Minister's advisers are satisfied with regard to its quality and the results it is giving. I have seen a good deal of this stuff put out, and whether it is due to the weather, though I am convinced it is not, it has been very little better than water. I have also seen tar barrels laid close together along miles of road in Kildare and Kilkenny and afterwards they have all been collected and taken away; the tar had been removed and was not spread. Perhaps I should have gone further and made inquiries as to the reason for that, but I took it that it was because it was not good, and what I saw of it that was spread did not give good results at all. There is a very important question in connection with this matter. This material that I saw gave me the impression that we were experimenting, that we were actually beginning where other countries commenced years ago, in the direction of experimenting. Certainly, if the material that I saw on the roads from Dublin to Kildare, into my own county, and in other places is a sample of what the Minister's advisers have thought well to do, the matter is in a very early experimental stage. I suggest to the Minister that if we are to develop we  ought not to begin by experiments; we cannot afford experiments. We would naturally have to experiment if other countries around us were only in the experimental stage, but they have gone very much further than that; they have been experimenting for years, and I suggest that it would be a much cheaper and a surer method for us to find out the results of experiments elsewhere. They have been experimenting in America, on the Continent, and in England, and I think it would be very well spent money to send some of the heads of the Department on a tour to see results elsewhere, the results given by the different materials employed, and the cost, so that we could see what could be done here. Modern road-making has gone very much further than the experimental stage; it is at that point that we should commence, and not at the very early stages. I have seen material used on roads that was very inferior and that could not give good results, even when spread in good weather. That has certainly occurred in Kildare. I think that the quality of the tar must be so very poor that it could not be used anywhere else and could only be used by people in the experimental stage who did not know much about it. I do suggest that the Minister would be well advised to send the men in charge of road construction to other countries to find out the results of experiments regarding cheaper and better methods of road making.
Mr. CORISH: When I spoke previously I had in mind a few matters that I thought could be dealt with under other sub-heads, but in looking over them I find that this is the only sub-head under which they can be discussed. One thing I would like to refer to is what I consider to be the undue interference of the Ministry with the question of workers' wages. I have in mind one particular case in the County Wexford, a barber employed in the County Home. The position was advertised in 1922, I think, at £2 5s. 0d. per week. The Ministry at that time sanctioned the appointment, but three or four months ago they sent down a letter to the County Board of Health making it mandatory upon that body to reduce that man's wages to thirty  shillings a week. I do not think that the Ministry ought to interfere to that extent. The position is that that man has 190 patients to shave each week; he may have to cut the hair of a great many of that 190 in the week, and I do not think that £2 5s. 0d. is an unreasonable wage for that man. The County Board of Health are unanimous in rejecting the Minister's proposal. They have made representations three or four times in connection with the matter, but the Ministry still maintain that unreasonable attitude.
Another matter to which I would like to refer is this—during the progress of the Local Government Act through the Dáil, the party on this side of the House, my colleagues and I, made various attempts to get the Minister to adopt a pension scheme for workers employed by local authorities. I would ask the Minister again, as we are discussing his policy under sub-head (A), if he will soon introduce a Bill which will enable local bodies to provide pensions for working men. At present there are many bodies who have old men working for them. They have been working for them for perhaps forty or fifty years, and I do not think that anybody would expect them to throw these unfortunate men on the side of the road after giving faithful service for such long periods. The men themselves are prepared to contribute to a pension scheme; that fact has been repeatedly made known to the Minister, and I do think he ought to consider the advisability of bringing in such a Bill at once. There are many public bodies who employ old men; the men are not as useful to them as they were ten or twenty years ago, but still they do not want to throw them to one side. I would ask the Minister to consider the matter.
In connection with the point made by Deputy Gorey about tar on roads, to my mind tar is not the proper thing at all to make a suitable road surface. I think that the Minister should stipulate that the various councils should use “Mexfelt” or “Spray Mex,” which I consider are the only proper solutions to make a good road. Tar  is not sufficiently strong to bind the macadam on the road. I would also like to appeal, as Deputy Johnson did, for a consideration of the road policy of the Minister, and to ask him to make his policy known soon. As Deputy Johnson said, there are, according to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, 52,000 unemployed, and they could be put at the useful work of road-making. They are asking for work. As we have often said, we do not advocate the dole system as such; we believe that men should be given suitable employment. Here is a problem facing the country, the problem of road-making, and we believe that money should be put up by the Government for that purpose, and to give these men much-needed employment.
Mr. BAXTER: Deputy Corish has reminded me of another point. He complained that the Minister interfered unduly with wages. If the Minister interfered unduly with the wages of workers, directly or indirectly under the Minister's Department, I am afraid that he does not trouble to interfere sufficiently to see that a good return is got for the wages paid. On this question of road construction we cannot dismiss from our minds the fact that one reason why our roads are not maintained at a better standard is because we do not get as good value for the money spent on them as we would like. One thing that strikes me as very peculiar in this matter, with regard to the rate of wages paid and the output expected for the wages, is the unfair discrimination against a contractor as compared with men employed under a direct labour scheme. A contractor contracts to do certain work; the county surveyor comes along after a certain period, and if the work is not done to his satisfaction the contractor will be paid a certain proportion of the price for which he tendered to do the work; that is, he is paid in accordance with the work he does. Take it the other way and you will see that men engaged on direct labour on the roads are paid any way, and there is no doubt whatever, it is very generally accepted that while we get some batches of men  under some gangers and assistant surveyors who give a very good return for the money, taking it in general, there is nothing like a satisfactory return in labour for the amount of money spent. If there is anything depressing at present, from the point of view of the Ministry, or from the point of view of the county councils, I would say that it is the fact that men on the roads do not seem to be conscious, or do not seem to be sufficiently concerned, about giving a good day's work.
If you like, they prefer to continue and drag the work on, with the result that it costs £1,000 to do certain work that might have been done for £600 or £750. County councils cannot afford, and are not prepared to give men work or to continue work, while it is generally conceded that they are not working as hard as they might. We know that very often there are contractors who are in a position to do the work, but these road-workers come in in a body to the meetings at which the contracts are to be given, and as a result, the contractors will not be given the work. The contractor might be prepared to do the same work at a lesser amount. I suggest to the Minister that until the time comes when bodies of men who are employed under the direct labour schemes are prepared to come together and contract to do a certain specified amount of work for a certain amount of money, you cannot expect a satisfactory return.
Deputy Corish may not agree, but I say if the Minister wishes to intervene as to wages, the Minister has also a right to intervene to see that when men are paid a certain amount for doing certain work, that work should be done. I am inclined to the view that a sufficient amount of work is not being done for the money that is spent, and until the Minister can make regulations in this respect, and until he is prepared to strike out on a bold policy with regard to this matter, we will not have our roads properly maintained.
There is another matter that I wish to call attention to, but whether it is a matter for the Ministry or the county councils, I am not quite clear. We have along our roads hundreds of tons  of stuff piled, in some places for an eighth of a mile. In some places it is difficult to pass; certainly, two vehicles cannot pass at a time. It does not seem to be clear whose responsibility it is to prevent anything like that. At any rate, these conditions exist, and it is extraordinary that we do not have more accidents as a result of them. Whether it is that we have not proper supervision in the country or that we have not better general supervision from the central authority, I do not know. Something will have to be done in regard to the first point I raised about direct labour methods.
Mr. BAXTER: I did not say give them to the farmers. Give them to the worker, the man who is prepared to work, but if you are paying good wages, see that he does his work. I would ask any Deputy, is it going to be an inducement and an encouragement for a man to spend money when he finds that for the money he is spending he is not getting a good return? Any man who thinks that is making a mistake. If you want a man to spend money you have got to show him that he is going to get good service for that money. When a man gets good service it is an encouragement to him to spend more money. I believe that it is only when the men who are working on the roads come together and contract to do a certain amount of work for a certain amount of money, that you will get a good return. You have to get men to come together to compete, to say what they are going to do the work for, whether they are batches of men on direct labour, or small farmers. I think that is the only way the problem can be dealt with.
Mr. DALY: I think that Deputy Baxter has succeeded in killing the contract system on the roads. He pointed out that if the county surveyor finds the road half done he will pay the contractor half the money. The people have to travel over these roads that are half done, in danger of being  thrown out of their carts, motors, or other vehicles. That means, to my mind, a complete slaughter of the contract system. I disagree with him in regard to his statement about the men engaged on direct labour. All of them I saw in my district are giving a good return.
Mr. DALY: All of them—the big bulk of them. I would advise the Government to make the roads immediately that they propose to make under the big trunk road scheme for two reasons. One of them is that they are badly needed. I would suggest that they should get the most modern and the most scientific material on the road, not, as Deputy Gorey said, to be experimenting, but to find out the best stuff that is being applied in other countries. They can then apply it to our roads at home. The other point that I wish to make is that the work should start immediately in order to relieve the unemployment that exists throughout the country and to relieve starvation also.
Mr. D'ALTON: There are a few points that have been touched upon by Deputies that I wish to refer to briefly. In the first instance, Deputy Davin has brought on the question of motor lorries. To my mind, it looks as if he spoke in the interests of the railway company, though he seemed rather to suggest that the Government were subsidising the lorries on the roads at perhaps the expense of the railway company. It is not for us to subsidise motor lorries or railway companies. It is for us to find for the ratepayers of the country, in all instances, the cheapest means of bringing their produce to the various markets by the railway station or seaport, as the case may be. I dealt with this matter when it was brought before us on the last occasion. I dealt with the value of motor lorries to the country. I pointed out to the Dáil that where eggs were being brought with the butter on motor lorries direct to the boats from the country, they were able to reach the boat on the night of the day on which they were sent. If they  were sent by rail they would have to be held over until the next day. I am aware of the harm that has been done by lorries to the country roads.
I suggested then and I suggest now that the speed of those lorries is a probable cause of the trouble. I refered to the fact on that occasion that it was not a loaded lorry that did the harm. It was the half-empty lorry or the empty lorry returning at an undue speed and getting into potholes and tearing away roads that were only newly patched. If the Minister's Department would see that a speed limit would be imposed on these lorries the injury and the loss they are causing by the destruction of roads would cease. I have discussed the matter with the owners of the lorries. I always find it is better in matters of this kind to get the opinion of those who have reason to know, because the thing is costing them a good deal of money, or the opinion of people like engineers who are there to consider such matters. The owners of those lorries tell me that the life of the lorries is cut in half by the undue speed at which they are driven home by the employees. I maintain it is within the power of the Government to have governors put on those lorries to ensure that they will not go beyond a certain speed. The Civic Guard cannot hold them up. There are roads where the Civic Guards cannot hold them up. The only way to control them is by a speed regulation laid down by the Minister. Deputy Gorey has referred to the material used in parts of Kildare and Kilkenny. I know that there are certain roads in certain counties where the material used has been satisfactory and right. I in no way deny the accuracy of Deputy Gorey's statement, but I say the Government should have more inspectors who would be more in touch with the work done in the country. You have an inspector, Mr. Quigley, but he is not capable of performing all that work. County Councillors and T.D's. are to blame. They usually know that such things arise and they have not a sufficient sense of civic duty to see that what is being done is wrong. I do not think it is fair to lay the responsibility on Deputy Gorey or any other Deputy to  bring the matter before the Minister. I maintain that the moment a report comes in from a county councillor or a ratepayer, or even a T.D., that something is wrong, that the Local Government Department should send down someone to see that the county surveyor is doing his work.
Mr. D'ALTON: Even a T.D., if the work is thrown on a T.D. to do it. It should not be thrown on him to do it. The Local Government Department should enquire into the way the ratepayers' money is being squandered. Deputy Baxter referred to that from another point of view. A good deal of this matter need not be brought up by Deputies in this House, but if it is, I hope the Local Government Department will be pressed to look into cases where the ratepayers' money is being squandered.
Reference has been made by Deputy Baxter to the contract and direct labour system. Certain roads in the country do not lend themselves to direct labour. You must have contract. In some parts you have roads through hilly districts with only three or four small farmers living there. Road workers live two or three miles away. These may be small sections of roads, of perhaps not more than half a mile. I think in roads of that kind it is cheaper to give them to small farmers than to give them to direct labour. Our county council has found that, and I think the same statement can be made by representatives of other county councils. As far as direct labour is concerned, we have seen the cost of direct labour as compared with the contract system. We say it is better done by direct labour. Undoubtedly there is something wrong.
All surveyors are not equal. Some of them are not equal to their work, and more of them, perhaps, are on the principle of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ministers who “stuck to their desks and did not go to sea, for those are the rulers of the King's navy.” Some of these county surveyors are running their roads from their offices, and are seldom seen on the roads. A general  may command his troops through good officers, but I do not think that applies to county surveyors. They are costing you a good deal of money. The assistants go out and see material and measure it, but unless there is a break they are not to be seen. They are only half-time officers, and some of them complain they are not sufficiently well paid. They do not know when men go to their work, and they do not pay surprise visits. Decrease the number of assistant surveyors, or if they are required, appoint them as whole-time officers and make them do their work. You have a lot of honest working-men in some districts, and in other districts men are not giving a return for the money paid them. One of the reasons is that no system of promotion is adopted. If a man has experience of a road that man, from being an assistant ganger or road man, should be promoted to a ganger if he does his work well. Men have been appointed as gangers who have no knowledge of road work. They should not be there. It should be a question of promoting the man who knows his work.
Deputy Sir James Craig dealt with the need for the provision of meals for school children. I am in absolute agreement with him there. In the country school children have often to go four or five miles after an early breakfast. If the weather is bad it stands to reason that children who are fasting cannot benefit by the education they receive. The money that is spent in that way is not wisely spent, as the children are watching for the hour they will get home in order to get something to eat.
Mr. JOHNSON: Deputy Baxter enunciated a certain principle on which he would advise councils and local authorities generally to act as regards road-making. He complained that good service was not being given in many cases—I think he spoke in a general way—under the direct labour system. I have always advocated that good wages should be followed by good service. Deputy Baxter in complaining that good service was not being given gave no proofs. He merely made the assertion. To make sure that good  service would be given he would let out the work by competitive contract to groups of men. As he said, let groups of labourers be pitted against groups of farmers and see which would do the work cheapest. That is the principle on which Deputy Baxter would have the Ministry act towards county councils. I say it is a vicious principle. It is a principle that was fought out long ago and the result was the initiation generally of the direct labour system. What are you asking labourers to do but pit themselves against farmers. That is to say, the labourer who has only his labour to keep him is asked to put himself into competition with farmers who have farms to keep them.
Mr. JOHNSON: Deputy Baxter spoke of groups of farmers contracting, and pitting themselves against groups of labourers. If Deputy Baxter makes the limit in such a case four acres, I do not call that man a farmer at all. He is an uneconomic holder. I am speaking of farmers who are at an advantage in competing with labourers who have no land. You are inviting the labourer to go out on the street to do nothing, or inviting him to take such action as he can against the farmer who is taking the food out of his mouth. It is a bad policy to suggest that labour should enter into conflict with farmers for the purpose of competing for road contracts. It is going to incite an immense amount of antipathy in the country. I hope that is not the policy of the Farmers' Party. I hope it is not the policy they are going to the country on at the next elections. I  would like to hear definitely whether that is the policy they are enunciating or if they are advocating that farmers should compete for contracts for road making against labourers. It would be well if we had a definite statement whether that is the policy Deputy Gorey enunciated and advised the Government to support and take up in their communications with county councils. That is practically telling the labourer that he, a landless man, must pit himself against the farmer, who has already a means of making a livelihood. I say that is an unfair proposition, and introduces a vicious principle into the work of road maintenance and road-making.
Mr. GOREY: The whole direct labour agitation has been directed towards that class of farmer, the uneconomic holder. I am not prepared to claim that a farmer who has 20 acres ought to be also a contractor. We never held that. The class I mention is the class that direct labour has driven off the roads—the uneconomic holders. If a man in that position had only a few acres he was put off the roads. That is what we objected to. If Deputy Johnson admits that the man I refer to is a labourer and an uneconomic holder we are of one mind.
Mr. DALY: The small farmers that Deputy Gorey speaks of have in my district all joined the Transport Union, and are working on the roads with their horses. They are united with the labourers, and they recognise that they are labourers. Every labourer should be entitled to as much land as would enable him to keep a cow.
Mr. DALY: I am official enough. Deputy D'Alton condemned county  surveyors. As far as I know, in my part of the country the county surveyors are efficient and are hard-working men. They give great satisfaction to the people.
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