Wednesday, 14 February 1923
Seanad Éireann Debate
AN CATHAOIRLEACH: The next business is the consideration of the Railway and Canal Commission (Extension of Time) Order, 1923. Perhaps the Minister for Local Government will explain this to the Seanad.
Mr. BLYTHE: This Order is one which under the Adaptation of Enactments Act requires to be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The title is one which gives no indication of the purpose of the Order. At present land taken for allotments under the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916, cannot be retained beyond the 31st August without the consent of the Railway and Canal Commission. Now, if land held for allotments is to be let out this year it must be held beyond the 31st August, because the produce grown on it cannot be cleared by the 31st August. It is the intention of the Government to deal with this question of allotments by a measure which will be introduced to the Oireachtas as soon as possible. In the meantime it is necessary that it should be possible to re-let the land held at various places for allotments for this season. The Railway and Canal Commission have acted as arbitrators between the Department of Agriculture and the holders of the land in regard to compensation. The Railway and Canal Commissioners, however, have ceased to have any authority in Saorstát Eireann, and it is proposed to set up a Commission for the purpose of this particular business, to be called the Railway and Canal Commission (Extension of Time) Order, 1923. The Commission will  consist of the Secretary of the Department of Local Government and the Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs. They will do the work in this regard that has been done heretofore by the Railway and Canal Commissioners. I think the Order is a rather formal one. It is simply to set up a stop-gap body to do certain work which was done by the Commission, which has ceased to operate in Saorstát Eireann, until such time as permanent provision is made.
Mr. BLYTHE: They are annual lettings, but they must extend beyond the 31st August, because produce cannot be cleared without the passing of this Order. They could extend to the 31st August without this Order, but not beyond that.
Mr. GUINNESS: May I ask the Minister for how long this Order is to be enforced? I ask him because he has specified a particular reason for which the Order has been brought in. We know the Railway and Canal Commission went into other matters in connection with the railways, which are totally different to the acquisition or letting of lands. If this is to be an Order in perpetuity I think it might require possibly some more careful examination than has been given to it.
AN CATHAOIRLEACH: Where does that appear in the Order? I think Senator Guinness has called attention to a very important matter, for this Order appears to reconstitute the Railway Commission for all purposes. I may be quite wrong, but it seems to read that way.
Mr. BLYTHE: Section 6 says:—“All the jurisdictions, powers and duties which on the 6th day of December, 1921, were conferred or imposed by Sub-Section (1) of Section 1 of the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916, on the Railway and Canal Commission  are hereby conferred and imposed on the Railway and Canal (Extension of Time) Commission.” I think there are no other powers.
“AND WHEREAS it is necessary to make provision for the exercise in Saorstát Eireann of the functions which were on the 6th day of December, 1921, exercisable by the Railway and Canal Commission in the area now comprised in Saorstát Eireann. And it is expedient that for that purpose the jurisdictions, powers and duties of the Railway and Canal Commission should be divided between two or more Boards of Commissioners.”
Mr. BLYTHE: This then gives certain duties of the Railway and Canal Commission to a Commission to be entitled the Railway and Canal (Extension of Time) Commission. You can see that under Section 7 of the Adaptation of Enactments Act.
Mr. BLYTHE: The Executive Council is empowered to set up a Statutory Board of Commissioners to take the place of any existing Statutory Board of Commissioners. It can do that by Order, which does not require to be laid before the Oireachtas, but if it divides the jurisdiction of one existing Board among two or more Boards, then it requires that the Order amalgamating or dividing the jurisdiction of the Boards shall be laid before the Oireachtas. The reason that this particular Order has to come before the Oireachtas for confirmation is that it divides the jurisdiction of the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and gives part of their jurisdiction, namely, that in regard to the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act of 1916, to this new body.
Sir THOMAS GRATTAN ESMONDE: I wanted to know exactly what are the powers, and how long this is going to last. The Minister, with whom I have had a short conversation, has somewhat reassured me. I think it leaves matters practically as they stand at the present moment. I do not know whether in this Order the question of the personnel of this Commission arises. Is this a Commission of the President of the Local Government Board and the Home Secretary, or does it mean that some new appointments have to be made?
Mr. BLYTHE: Oh, no. As a matter of fact I think Sub-Section 2 of Section 7 makes the matter even more clear than the proceeding Section does. “Every mention or reference contained in any British statute of or to the Railway and Canal Commission in relation to the jurisdictions, powers and duties conferred or imposed on that Commission by Sub-Section (1) of Section 1 of the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916, but no further or otherwise shall be construed and take effect as a mention of or reference to the Railway and Canal (Extension of Time) Commission.” I think that is really abundantly clear in the Order, and it refers only to this particular duty of the Railway and Canal Commission.
Mr. JAMESON: The point I am at is this: If there is no time limit this may be the method of setting the letting of allotments ad infinitum, and it is only really a temporary measure, and, there fore, one would ask that there might be some indication as to when the appointment would be reviewed.
Motion made, and question put: “That this Senate hereby approves of the Railway and Canal Commission (Extension of Time) Order, 1923, made on the 5th day of February, 1923, by the Executive Council under Section 7 of the Adaptation of Enactments Act, 1922 (No. 2 of 1922), and laid before this Senate on the 14th day of February, 1923.”
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