Wednesday, 26 June 1946
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Sweetman: I am completely at a loss to understand why the County Management Acts are not being construed with this Bill. There are references throughout the Bill—even on the next page in lines 5 to 12—to the County Management Acts, 1940 and 1942, and surely the whole law should be construed as one code. This would be an appropriate time for the Minister to reply to some of the matters I mentioned in the Second Reading in regard to county management. By the skilful introduction of a red herring, the Minister evaded those points. There are many matters which it is impossible to consider adequately in connection with this Bill without knowing the manner  in which the Bill and the Management Acts are to be administered. I asked whether there was to be a new public bodies Order. That is a matter of vital importance—how that Order would operate vis-a-vis the manager and council. The whole function of local government has been bound up by the Minister with the County Management Acts and why these Acts are not being construed with this Bill, I do not understand.
Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Mr. MacEntee): Surely Senator Sweetman does not raise this question seriously on the Committee Stage of this Bill. If it is relevant at all, it is relevant to the general principle of the Bill and might have been raised on Second Reading. But it is not relevant, because the managerial code is quite a different code from the local government code. There are local authorities to which the County Management Acts do not apply.
Mr. MacEntee: I have pointed out that there are local authorities to which the Managerial Acts do not apply. Apart from that, they are two entirely separate codes and I assume that the law-advisers of the Government are competent in a matter of this sort. They have, certainly, not suggested that the managerial code and the Local Government Act should be cited as one code.
Mr. O'Dea: I did not expect that answer from the Minister at all. I thought he would rather have said it  was included because it would come under the heading of “Local Government Acts, 1925 to 1941”.
Mr. O'Dea: Perhaps not. I think that it should be included because there are important matters in the County Management Act which deal essentially with local government. For example, there is the making of the estimate for the rates. If my recollection serves me, that is part of the Management Act. The estimate is prepared and brought before the council. The council are asked to approve of the estimate and, if they do not approve of it, the matter can be adjourned for six days. Then, they either approve or disapprove. That is a very essential part of local government. It may be worth considering the advisability of inserting that as one of the Acts.
Mr. Hayes: On Second Reading, the Minister denied that there was any principle in the Bill. His contention was that the Bill had no principle and that it was simply a matter of going through it section by section, as in Committee. Now, he says that this is a question affecting the principle of the Bill. He cannot have it both ways even if he is Minister in Local Government and Public Health. The Management Acts are interlocked with the Local Government Acts and Acts which make provision for the administration of local government and appointment of officers should be construed with the Local Government Acts even if, in one instance which the Minister has cited— vocational education committees— certain bodies are responsible to the Minister for Education. It is reasonable to suggest that these Acts should be construed together. The Minister's argument that the law officers of the Government know their business and  must be right would be quite invalid as an argument in any Parliament. If that were to hold, no section could be criticised because members could be told that the law officers knew what they were doing when they framed it. That is a reductio ad absurdum. It is a reduction of this House to a position in which we have to rely on the Minister's advice and assistance. We do not ask his advice and we never accepted his assistance.
Mr. MacEntee: There could be nothing more absurd than the point now being raised. Senators are contending that the County Management Acts should be cited with the Local Government Acts as one code. It might as readily be contended that the Valuation Acts, the Rating Acts, the Electoral Acts and the Public Health Acts, which are all interlocked with the Local Government Acts, should be cited as part of one code. That has not been the custom and there has been no precedent for doing so. In order to avoid confusion and make for the convenience of those who must have a knowledge of those codes or who may have to ascertain the law in relation to such matters, it has been the custom to try to segregate the various divisions of what might be described as local government and to keep the provisions of the law which are immediately relevant to one section of activity together. It seems to me therefore that this point has already been decided. As Senator Sweetman stated, it was raised on Second Reading and it was decided when the Seanad agreed to the Second Reading of the Bill.
Mr. Sweetman: The Seanad gave a Second Reading to the Bill after the Minister had stated, as Senator Hayes has just said, that there was no principle involved in the Bill. If we take the Minister's statement, what we gave a Second Reading to in these circumstances was a medley of sections which were going to be discussed again section by section in Committee. Of course, what is in the Minister's mind is perfectly clear. He is trying to avoid discussing the County Management Act because he has made up his  mind that the Act, as originally drafted and put into operation by him, is not the Act that he wants. What he wants to have in regard to local government is something that is not in his Bill, something that he has been forced by local authorities to accept, as a proper principle for the management of councils. He is being forced into that position and he does not want to admit that and I have a certain amount of human sympathy with him.
Sir John Keane: Here again one is embarrassed in an examination of this Bill by statements by Ministers with regard to fundamental forms. We are told that there is a project on foot—in fact we are promised a White Paper on it. Incidentally, if the Minister wants to know, it is not a legitimate attitude to reply to criticisms of mine in regard to the Bill to take the Bill section by section and to ask where these matters are provided for in the Bill. He failed deliberately to answer points of principle raised on the last stage. I am raising these questions of principle now. We are told there is a scheme on foot for the appointment of three Ministers. Is it not quite possible that that scheme may affect the definition of “Minister” in line 30? Would it not be wise and would it not avoid future legislation to have some method by which, if other Ministers are appointed, the definition would cover any Minister to whom duties under this Act might fall? Is it not quite possible that, under any reform, services in connection with roads and bridges might fall on one of the new Ministers, and that the overriding powers of abolishing local authorities might fall on the super-Minister, if there is going to be one super-Minister among the three? The whole thing makes one wonder whether when these new Ministers are appointed and the new reforms come into effect, the limited definition of “Minister” given in this Bill will be satisfactory or  adequate or whether we may not require fresh legislation to deal with the new reform.
Mr. Ryan: I cannot understand what Senator Sir John Keane is driving at, especially in relation to the definition of “Minister” contained in this section. If Senator Sir John Keane will read Section 2, he will see that the word “Minister” is defined to mean “Minister for Local Government and Public Health.” In other words it is what is called a definition section. Instead of writing out at length in each section of the Bill the words “Minister for Local Government and Public Health” the word “Minister” simpliciter is inserted. Whatever future changes may be made in local government, they must be dealt with when the time comes by legislation. At present we are dealing with this Bill. At the moment there is a Minister for Local Government and Public Health and this definition of Minister covers the present Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I cannot see what anything that may happen in 12 months or two years' time has to do with the definition set out in Section 2 of the Bill.
Mr. Sweetman: This section has another objectionable feature which I have pointed out in regard to many other Bills, namely legislation by reference. The expression “reserved function” is not defined in the Bill, but we are referred to a definition in another Act. In the same way the expression “voluntary civic improvement fund” is not defined and we are referred for its definition to another Act. That whole method of drafting legislation involves an interminable amount of very unnecessary trouble for people who have to consider that legislation.
There would be some sense in that method of defining “reserved function” if the County Management Act were being construed with this Act. But this House having decided a moment ago, by passing Section 1, that it is not going to be so construed, we should ensure that a definition in respect to “reserved function” is included in  this Bill. There are other matters which are defined by reference in the same way and in respect to which a definition should be included in this Bill so that the Bill will be one homogeneous whole and so that it will not be necessary to go chasing around after another Act to find out exactly what a particular set of words mean.
Mr. MacEntee: I feel that I should call attention of the Chair to the fact that on the last occasion when this Bill was before the House on Second Reading, I did deal with what I thought was the main objection taken by Senators to the Bill. That was the allegation that this Bill was in some way unduly fettering local authorities in the discharge of their responsibilities. I dealt with that in the only way in which a general allegation of that sort could be dealt with—by going over the Bill section by section and asking those Senators who had made themselves responsible for that charge to show in what way the terms of the sections bore out their allegation.
Having dealt with that one objection, which I thought was the major objection raised, I would have proceeded to deal as clearly and as comprehensively with the other objections which some Senators have taken to the Bill, but, Sir, you reminded me at about ten minutes past nine that it was proposed that the Seanad, at 9.30, should take some other business, and I had to allow these unfounded criticisms like those of Senator Sir John Keane to go unanswered. I think it is very unfair that these allegations should be made by the Senator now, when I had not an opportunity of dealing with the points on the last occasion. I think that I have dealt very effectively with the major criticisms of the Bill, but seeing that I was not permitted to deal with the other points, perhaps I can do so on the Committee Stage.
Mr. MacEntee: As to the particular point which the Senator has raised in relation to this section, I think it would be absurd to ask the Oireachtas to legislate in anticipation of legislation which is not even yet before either House of the Oireachtas and the  prescribed terms of which no person at this moment is aware. We should then be legislating for a figment. How could we possibly determine what is going to be another measure unless we are to assume that the measure, as introduced by the Government, will be passed by both Houses without amendment? That is precisely what Senator Sir John Keane is asking the House to do, and it would be an unwarranted infringement on the rights of this House.
I think that if the Minister for Local Government came to the House and asked the Seanad at this stage to accept proposals based on the assumption that at some future time the House is going to pass legislation which would take a particular form, the first person to object would be Senator Sir John Keane himself, and I am indeed surprised that a person of his standing and experience should make such a suggestion at this stage of the Bill.
Sir John Keane: The Minister says that he dealt adequately in his reply with the points raised. A number of points were raised in the Second Reading by myself and by other members. I have not had time to check the reports but I do not think that when he went through the Bill section by section and asked dramatically after every one of them: “How does this impair the discretion of the local authorities?”, he referred to Section 30 at all.
Mr. Sweetman: I was waiting to see what the Minister had to say about it, or whether he had any particular objection to my suggestion. I intend to put down an amendment on Report Stage but I thought that I might save the time of the House if the Minister indicated his view.
Mr. O'Dea: On that question, I do not see how he can give any definition of reserved function other than what is given here. A reserved function is defined in the County Management Act as a function which is to be exercised by the council with authority and the definite functions exercised by the council are contained in the Second Schedule to the Managerial Act of 1940.
Mr. Sweetman: I would like the Minister to deal with this point which I raised about the estimate of expenditure before a county council the headings of it and the analogous operation of the power of virement. The situation has proved most unsatisfactory. So far as a council is concerned it is satisfactory enough, but when an estimates committee takes the estimates and gives them prolonged and detailed study for a number of days, as I know one estimates committee has been doing for many years, it is necessary for them to have more detailed information than is contained in the ordinary form provided under the Public Bodies Order, yet, nevertheless, those details can be changed in the course of the year without any reference to the estimates committee or the county council, and I would seriously suggest to the Minister that there should be in the Public Bodies Order more than the four main headings, roads, public assistance, public health and general purposes.
There should be provision for more detail and if I might use the word sub-detail when the estimates are being varied. The effect of that provision would be that money allocated to one sub-head could not be transferred to another sub-heading without the specific authorisation of the chairman of the council concerned. It appears to me that would be in conformity with the practice in the Department of Finance in regard to central taxation.
I want also to ask the Minister whether he has considered the legal position on insurance bonds since the last day. It does appear to me that the insurance companies, when an Order has not been strictly adhered to for some time, might not be bound to honour a fidelity bond where the council had been aware of breaches of  it, as breaches do occur, in regard to the 48-hour rule, and the new Order should be framed bearing that in mind.
Mr. O'Dea: My recollection is that there is a clause in the County Management Act which provides that if any bond is short the sum can be raised to meet the deficiency by resolution of the council itself. That may get over the difficulty.
Mr. MacEntee: I am afraid that I misunderstood the point which Senator Sweetman was making in regard to virement on the last day. I understood that he was contending that there should be, within the provisions of the Public Bodies Order, powers for the county managers to exercise the power of virement. I am going to say, in reply, that while that power does exist in regard to the expenditure of State money and money provided by the Oireachtas, nevertheless, the power is comparatively narrow in its scope in so far as the amount in respect of which this power may be exercised, is comparatively small. As the Senator pointed out, the power can only be exercised within certain narrow limits, but now I am asked that——
Mr. MacEntee: Now, I gather that the point is that the power should only be exercised by the manager in consultation or by agreement with the chairman of the council. I should have to consider that matter before I could come to any decision in relation to it. Certainly, it is a power which would have to be circumscribed very closely and I do not know whether we could deal with it under the Public Bodies Order or whether we would have to amend the existing County Management Act.
“Save with a consent given by resolution under the foregoing sub-section of this section, the total amount of money expended and  liability incurred by the council of a county or by an elective body in any local financial year for any particular purpose specified in the estimate of expenses for such local financial year shall not exceed the total amount specified in the said estimate of expenses in respect of that purpose.”
It is already provided under that sub-section that the allocation of the moneys as between one section and another can be varied by the resolution of the council of the county, but it would be another matter to allow this variation to be exercisable otherwise.
Mr. Sweetman: Apparently I have not made myself clear at all as to what I meant in regard to the transfer of money from one estimate to another. As I understand the legal position at present, the council must be consulted again under Section 25 (2), if the manager wants to exceed the amount already allocated, say, for public assistance. Supposing, however, in a particular year the council decides to allocate £50,000 for public assistance, the council has made that decision as the result of the estimates committee considering that the £50,000 was to be made up of various items. Supposing we take it that one of the items is £18,000 for salaries and another is £20,000 for home assistance.
As I understand the law as it is at present, the manager can decide to spend only £16,000 on home assistance and to spend £22,000 on salaries. Then, because the total of both does not exceed the amount adopted by the council under the Public Bodies Order Schedule, he is perfectly entitled so to do.
I think the matter can be dealt with very clearly by the Minister in reply to one question. The estimate of expenses provided under the Public Bodies Order contains six separate sub-heads: road charges, public assistance charges, mental hospital charges, health charges, housing charges and general purposes charges. If the total amount granted by the council in the rate made  for public assistance is £50,000, is it not the position that the manager can allocate that £50,000 within public assistance in any way that seems fit to him, without going back to the council?
Mr. MacEntee: I think that is a very doubtful point. If the wording of Section 25 is considered, it will be seen that the estimate of expenses relates not to expenditure on any particular service but to expenditure on any particular purpose. If Senators would look at Form E, Estimate of Expenses, on page 117 of the Public Bodies Order they will see a number of services mentioned, general categories of services. To take that to which Senator Sweetman was referring—public assistance charges—Senators will see that these are set under four sub-headings:—(1) district institutions, (2) home assistance, (3) medical assistance, and (4) assistance in extern institutions.
It would seem to me that these sub-heads specify the particular purpose for which the money is to be expended. I certainly should be very doubtful as to whether a county manager would be justified in expending moneys which, say, had been appropriated for the purpose of home assistance on medical assistance unless he had the express consent of the council by resolution in accordance with sub-section (2) of Section 25. I certainly think that he would not be justified if the council had voted the sum of £22,000 for home assistance—that, I think, was the figure mentioned—in appropriating that for salaries. There is not, by the way, under the general heading any provision for salaries under public assistance charges. I think that perhaps the example is not a good one.
Mr. MacEntee: I certainly think that he would not be justified in underspending on home assistance for the purpose of overspending on, say, salaries. I am not prepared to say that he might not be allowed a reasonable latitude as between district  institutions and home assistance or medical assistance, because these things do perhaps overlap, but where there is a very clear distinction between one particular purpose and another, I think the manager would not be justified in exceeding the amount allowed by the council under that particular sub-head. Again, I am still at a loss to see what precisely is the point which the Senator is anxious to make. If his contention is that the manager might be allowed a reasonable margin, then I think he might be allowed a fairly generous margin and a fairly generous discretion as to which of these particular sub-heads he would spend the money on.
I think that we should have to amend the County Management Act, however, to allow that to be done, but if his purpose is that the council should be allowed to vary the expenditure of the moneys provided under the estimates, as between one particular purpose and another, I think that comes in under Section 25.
Mr. O'Dea: Would the Minister reconsider the matter between this and the Report Stage, because I always thought that public assistance was defined as including home assistance and medical assistance? I always thought that if there was an estimate, no matter how it was divided up, for public assistance that the money could be spent on public assistance, no matter what the charges were, whether for salaries, hospital expenses or any other. I think that, if a sum of £50,000, say, is set aside for public assistance, the manager can spend it either on salaries, hospitals or in any other way. I may be wrong in that.
Mr. Sweetman: The estimate of expenses is dealt with by Form E 1 in the Public Bodies Order to which the Minister has referred. That estimate is arrived at by the council on a report from the estimates committee. The estimates committee, in preparing that report, go into very much greater detail than that set out in Form E 1. What I want the Minister to do is to ensure that, in his new Public Bodies Order, if the manager is going to depart from the schedule of estimates that he puts up to the estimates committee  he must get the consent of the chairman of the county council before doing so. I agree that if his departure means that the total expenditure under the heading is going to be greater than that, then the council must be brought in under sub-section (2) of Section 25. If the manner of the expenditure is going to be changed in such a way as to completely alter the schedule that was put before the estimates committee, then I feel that, unless the manager has to go back either to the chairman or the estimates committee, the work of the estimates committee is going to be futile.
I have a particular case in mind. Prior to the last estimates meeting of the Kildare County Council, the estimates committee considered not merely the details under the headings in Form E.1 but went into much greater detail, and considered in respect of medical assistance how much it was wise to spend on, for example, certain dispensaries. There were certain recommendations adopted by the estimates committee. It appears to me that as the law and Orders are at present, those recommendations so adopted are not in any way binding on the executive of the local authority. I think the Minister will agree with me that if the estimates committee is going to fulfil a useful function there must be some certainty that what is proposed by it and summarised in Form E.1 will be adhered to by and large.
I agree from the Minister's point of view, that there must be some give and take. I suggest that the proper give and take within the sub-heads and only within the sub-heads of Form E.1 is the consent of the chairman of the council. I am not going to ask the Minister to deal with that point now because it does not arise directly, but it will arise directly in respect of his Public Bodies Order. I must confess that when I first read this Bill I did not understand that every regulation there was meant to include anything so very formal as a Public Bodies Order. I understand now from the Minister that these regulations are intended to be included in the Public  Bodies Order of 1902 which is the basis of the work of local government.
I would press the Minister to see that a serious Order like that should be tabled so that the Houses of the Oireachtas may know the method under which the executive functions are going to be carried out. There may be under another Act provision for tabling it.
Sir John Keane: I feel that this is a very important matter. It is important in this way. This Public Bodies Order will presumably be laid on the Table of the House—it will not be in the Act as such—and the only way in which the matter can then be discussed is the usual procedure by way of motion for annulment. I speak subject to correction there, but I think I am right. I think it is very important that we should have this opportunity now of getting knowledge on what are the Minister's intentions on this matter. I listened to him and I thought he was delightfully vague when answering the Senator a few moments ago. He said “I think”. He did not seem to know. He may know, but he did not speak as if he did. He said: “I think the county manager has power of making changes within a limited degree.” There must be something more specific than that. Surely there are specific limits under which is laid down this power of virement and outside of that he has to get some authority to make these changes. I can quite understand what is meant by the Public Bodies Order. Under the heading of health charges there are set out six sub-headings. I call them sub-headings; they are really groups. Surely the Minister is not allowed to transfer the service under (2)—“The prevention and treatment of disease”—to (4) “The medical treatment of school children.” They are definite sub-heads and as I understand it—though it is some years since I was familiar with local authorities— they are definite sub-heads which are passed and approved by the estimates committee.
You have an analogy in our Public Estimates. You have certain powers of virement vested in the head of a Department and outside of that it is  either illegal to go or the Minister for Finance has to give approval. I wish the Minister would deal more specifically with point (1). Within what limits has the county manager power to change, to transfer money from one sub-head to another, and if he wants to go outside those powers whose authority has he got to obtain?
Mr. MacEntee: No. The Public Bodies Order is made in the general exercise of powers vested in the Minister by the Local Government Acts of 1925 and 1941—or 1925 to 1946 as they will be after the enactment of this Act.
A great deal of confusion has arisen in this debate because this word “virement” has been used. It is a technical term, applicable so far as I know only to the expenditure of moneys from the Central Fund and in accordance with the provisions of the Appropriation Act for the year. There is nothing exactly comparable with it under our local government or county management code.
The nearest approach there to it is the power to which I have referred under Section 25, whereby the council of a county or an elected body may allow expenditure in excess of the original provision upon a specific purpose. The manager, as such, has no power of virement but I did say in reply to Senator Sweetman that I thought it would be reasonable that within a very moderate margin the manager might in practice spend a little more on one purpose than was originally provided, in order that the work of the council for instance might not be held up. It would, I think, be necessary for the manager, if he wanted to fully safeguard his position, to have this excess expenditure confirmed by resolution of the council.
 Now, in expressing that opinion and in putting myself, so to speak, in the position of a member of a local authority or elected body, there is no suggestion that the Minister is not aware of what the provisions of the section are. He is, but I was endeavouring to deal with the position which apparently has occasioned some difficulty in County Kildare but which has not in that particular form been the cause of any difficulty elsewhere. I want to say it has not in that particular form because Senator Sweetman's suggestion was that we should extend the system of estimating expenses under Form E in such a way that each particular work will be specified, that, for instance, if instead of public assistance charges we take road charges or perhaps health charges; that instead of, say, expenses to be incurred in the general category “road charges” the manager should specify either roads A, B and C, or by a particular number in some other way designate particular road works which he proposes to carry out or which he desired the county to provide.
Mr. MacEntee: He does, in his submission to the council, but they come in here under the Public Bodies Order in a general category under one or other of the particular classifications. As the Senator has reminded us he does designate them, but the Senator wants the Public Bodies Order to go further and to say if money is provided for roads A, B and C, the precise sum provided for each particular road will be spent on that road. I think that that is really what the Senator asked.
Mr. MacEntee: In respect of the nature of the expenditure. The  Senator suggested, I think, that the manager should not be permitted to expend more money on Road A than he originally requested and, correspondingly, ought not to be in a position to spend less money on Road B in order to make good an excess expenditure on Road A. I think that that was the Senator's suggestion. I want to be as clear as possible on that.
Mr. MacEntee: In my view, that would make administration of a county by a county manager virtually impossible. Suppose, instead of roads— where the expenditure upon each particular work would be significant—we take the question of the repair of pumps. Would the manager have to set out in detail the cost of the repairs which might be required to each particular pump during the year? If, by any chance, the expenditure required to repair a particular pump was much greater than was originally anticipated, would he have to allow the other pumps to go unattended?
Mr. Sweetman: The Minister has now made clear that I misunderstood him. I thought that he was referring to a particular class of road rather than to a particular road. I was not referring for example to the Naas to Kilcullen road as distinguished from the Naas to New-bridge road but rather to a particular class of roads or class of pumps.
Mr. MacEntee: Then I do not see how the difficulty arises because, in Form E, we have “ordinary road works” and, under that, “repair and improvements”; then “special grant works” (Road Fund and other Government grants); main roads not in charge of a county council, and “other expenses”. This is a sort of global item containing, perhaps, a sum for contingencies, which would seem to allow the manager a certain amount of discretion. If Senator Sweetman's view is that the manager should be allowed to spend a stated sum upon a prescribed category of works or a prescribed kind of work or in relation to a particular type of work, that is already provided for in the second column of  the estimate. I was saying that this is a difficulty which seems to be peculiar to Kildare because in other councils we have the opposite complaint—that column 2 binds the managers too tightly.
Mr. MacEntee: We are also having that complaint from some members of local authorities who say that it binds the manager too tightly and that they would rather the manager had a reasonable discretion within the category set out in the first column. That would be rather more in accordance with the discretion which a Minister and head of a Department have in relation to a Departmental Vote. There, within the whole range of the Vote, the power of virement may be exercised. Here, if we were to say that the manager would have discretion to spend money on any particular object coming within the category of services—roads, public assistance, mental hospitals, etc.—he would have something comparable, but not exactly equivalent, to the power a Minister or head of a Department has in relation to a Departmental Estimate. This question may arise when the auditors will have had time to consider the full implications of the Public Bodies Order as it stands. It may be necessary to modify the Public Bodies Order in some way. The general pressure at the moment is not to modify it in the direction Senator Sweetman desires but in such a way as to allow local authorities and their manager a wider discretion in the expenditure of moneys within the broad category of any particular service.
Mr. Madden: Does Senator Sweetman want the county surveyor's estimates to be specific rather than reasonably approximate to the actual cost? We never tie down the county surveyor or the manager to a specific figure.
Mr. Sweetman: Neither Senator Madden nor the Minister understands my view. I seem to be unable to express it clearly. Certain figures were put before the estimates committee of  the county council. These figures were extended in much greater detail in E.1. When they were adopted, we were told that that did not matter at all, because, so long as they were within form E.1., it was all right; the manager was not bound to keep to them. If that be so, what is the use of having details put before the estimates committee? The Minister has, without realising it, solved one of my problems. He referred to the fact that these matters were being considered in view of the audit by his Department. My main trouble arose in respect of a case in which the Kildare County Council decided that a file should be submitted to the Local Government auditor to see whether there should be a surcharge because the county council's direction had not been complied with. When we hear the decision on that file, we shall know more clearly how this “extended detail” will work. Therefore, I shall not take up any more of the time of the House on this question.
Sir John Keane: I am not yet clear about this matter. Is the county manager strictly confined to the headings in column 2? If an estimate is passed for the prevention and treatment of disease, is he strictly confined to that estimate or, if he has a surplus on that estimate, can he use that surplus for some other heading? We are told that, within the heading of “Roads,” there is a power of discretion.
Sir John Keane: The Minister has told us in a very vague way that we must be reasonable, but who is to exercise reason? Reason is a question of a degree of judgment. He might think one thing reasonable and the county manager might think that same thing most unreasonable.
Sir John Keane: I want to find out what the facts are. That rather confirms the view that you cannot use  money voted under one sub-head for work under another sub-head of the same service. I want to know—and it is a definite question—is the county manager confined to the sub-heads of the service set out in Column 2 of Form E.1 and does the auditor see, when he is auditing, that that is adhered to?
Mr. MacEntee: I think I have already covered the ground which Senator Sir John Keane wants me to traverse again. I have pointed out that it has been held that the manager is bound by No. 2. I have said that for the third time, but there is a view, and that view may be given effect to, that, in so binding the manager, he is too strictly bound for the purpose of being a practical and efficient manager.
Mr. S.T. Ruane: I have here a sheet submitted at the annual estimate meeting of a county council, and I find under the heading, “Road Charges Account”, a sum of £61,170 estimated for repairs and improvements, special grant work, road fund and other Government grants, etc. It does happen that very often the county surveyor, in estimating for certain work that has to be done, may over-estimate through no fault of his own. There may be a particularly bad stretch of a road, the remaking of which might be estimated for at £1,000 per mile. It could happen, as it did happen in my own experience, that the repair of these particularly bad stretches could be carried out at a considerably smaller expenditure. It could happen that works estimated at £37,000 could be carried out for £34,000 or £35,000. I should like to know from the Minister, if there is a saving of £5,000 under the heading of “Road Charges Account”, would it be possible for the county manager, without the knowledge of the county council, to devote that money to work for which he had underestimated? Would it be possible to expend the sum saved under one particular heading on another heading, the expenditure on which was underestimated, without the council knowing it?
This amendment speaks for itself and in introducing it I am following in the footsteps or rather in the words of the Taoiseach as reported in column 152, Volume 31, No. 2, on the 24th January last when he was dealing with the question of Ministerial Orders:
Mr. O'Dea: Section 3 of the Bill says that the Act “shall come into operation on such day or days as may be fixed therefor by Order or Orders of the Minister either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so fixed for different purposes and provisions of this Act.” Then Section 6 says: “The Minister may by Order make such adaptations”—and Senator Sweetman wishes to add: “within 12 months after the passing of this Act,” but the Act might not come into force for two years. For example, the 1940  or the 1941 Act came into operation only in 1942.
Mr. Sweetman: I am quite prepared to meet the points suggested by Senator O'Dea by making the amendment read: “within 12 months after the passing of this Act or within 12 months of the date on which the Act comes into operation”.
Mr. Ryan: In my opinion, this amendment is absolutely unnecessary. In no Act up to the present has such a clause been inserted in the numerous sections empowering Ministers to adapt by Order enactments in force. It is quite possible that cases may arise more than 12 months after the coming into force of this Bill in which an adaptation Order would be necessary in respect of some statutes. It is quite clear that different Acts may come into practical operation at different times. The Minister might find that there was some expression in the Act which was not in conformity with the provisions of this Act of 1946. A simple example of the adaptation of Acts is this. Supposing, in an old Act, the words “lunatic asylum” occur, in later legislation these lunatic asylums are described as mental hospitals and the Act could not be applied because the words “lunatic asylum” are in it. Therefore it is necessary to make an Order adapting the words “lunatic asylum” to be read and construed as if they were the words “mental hospitals”.
That may happen at any time after the passing of this Act, and I cannot understand why the Minister should be required to sit down immediately after the passing of the Act and proceed to make an Order adapting every Act which has been passed in previous years to bring it into conformity with this Act. The whole idea of the adaptation of Acts of Parliament is to make the new Act workable, so that it will not be obstructed or hindered in its operation by any previous or old Act. In other words, the Minister is to be empowered by Order to adapt the old Act so as to make the new Act workable. That may not be necessary for 12 months, and I do not see why the Minister should be restricted to 12  months. If he were restricted it would defeat the intention of the section itself.
Mr. Hayes: Surely there is something wrong in general with giving the Minister power to adapt other enactments to make this one workable, and surely the kind of adaptation provided in this section is not the kind Senator Ryan likes? It is not the kind of adaptation by which we change the words “lunatic asylum” into “mental hospital”. Now, I am not learned in the law like Senator Ryan——
Mr. Hayes: In fact, it is not an example at all, unless I am greatly mistaken. I am not, like Senator Ryan, learned in the law, but surely there must be an Adaptation of Enactments Act somewhere which reads lunatic asylum as mental hospital? I am quite an unskilled and unlearned person—am I to understand that it would require an Order?
Mr. Ryan: I meant no such thing. I was trying to make the example very simple for Senator Hayes who pretends to be ignorant of the law and I was speaking to the ignorance of such people and therefore I took a simple example by which he would understand.
Mr. Sweetman: Senator Ryan is always very confident in laying down the law, but I suggest he has misdirected himself in this. He was a member of the House when the Children Allowances Bill was under discussion and sub-section (3) of Section 19 was a similar section.
Mr. Hayes: We are in the position that Senator Ryan in order to penetrate to the intelligence of ignorant people gave an example so simple that it was not an example at all. I take it that Section 6 means something  more important than the mere construction of a well-known term like lunatic asylum and bringing it into harmony with terms in our legislation. I think the amendment is faulty, as Senator O'Dea has pointed out. I will be quite prepared to say five years instead of 12 months if that is desired, but there ought to be some period during which the Minister and his Department will be satisfied that this Act is unworkable. It seems, in general, a mistake that there should be a continuing power to make Ministerial Orders which will alter statutes.
Mr. Hayes: There is no desire to impair the putting into operation of this Bill when it becomes an Act. We all agree that with the complexity of modern legislation it is not always possible to bring every point into an Act, although sometimes not everything is put in. Restriction to some period of time is desirable in itself, and I think Senator Ryan will agree as a matter of principle. As a matter of expediency, 12 months may be too short, but certainly it is necessary to make some restriction on the general power to legislate by Order. That is the point in the amendment.
Mr. MacEntee: I said I was not accepting this amendment because I did not think it was necessary. I gather now that the core of objection to the section as it stands is that it is undesirable that a Minister should be given unrestricted power to legislate by Order. As Senator O'Dea points out, the Minister is not given unrestricted power by the section, because it does provide that every Order made by the Minister shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, and if a resolution annulling is passed within the prescribed time then the Order will be annulled, but without prejudice to the validity of anything done previously under it. To come down to general principles that it is wrong that a Minister should have power not limited by time to make adaptation Orders, if that is a procedure which is wrong in principle, all I have got to say is that its  paternity is a befitting one because I find that in the Local Government Act, 1925, for which I had no responsibility—
Mr. MacEntee: ——but for which other members of the House might have responsibility, I find that the Minister may, by Order, make such adaptation of any existing enactment (including any local Act) as appeared to him necessary or expedient for carrying this Act into effect. If that is wrong in principle, then it has been fittingly conceived. I do not think it is wrong; I think it is a wise provision, because, after all, we have to bring the whole constituent parts of a code into consistent relation to each other. It is possible, because, for instance, institutions may change their names, that there may be minor inconsistencies of that sort arising. To remedy these, are we to have to introduce a Bill and bring it through both Houses of the Oireachtas and have it formally enacted as an Act in order to change the name of a county council or to adapt other provisions under the 1898 Act in relation to functions which it would discharge under an Act of 1941 or 1946? I should think that the time of the Oireachtas is much too valuable to fritter it away in that sort of vexatious procedure. But I do admit that the Oireachtas ought to have an opportunity, if it thinks it is necessary, to consider what the Minister has done under such a power as it is proposed to give him under Section 6 and, therefore, sub-section (2) of this provides that the Minister's Order will be laid on the Table of the Oireachtas and that either House will have an opportunity of considering it and, if in its wisdom and discretion, it decides that the Order is not one that should be made, it can annul the whole business and compel the Minister to have recourse to the ordinary course of legislation. That is why I said I did not think the amendment was necessary. When Senator Sweetman put it down, he apparently did so without having even read the section.
Mr. Sweetman: I am not pressing the amendment, as Senator O'Dea has  been helpful in pointing out a flaw, but I shall put down an amendment on Report to delete Senator O'Dea's point. I read the section many times.
I put this down as I cannot understand the meaning of those words in the context. An enactment is a Bill which has been turned into a statute by the Oireachtas. If we look at the Bill, we find it says: “Bill entitled an Act ...” and then: “Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows”. Once a Bill is enacted by the Oireachtas, it is an Act. An enactment is an Act or any part of an Act, it may be a section or sub-section; in other words, an enactment is law made by the Oireachtas. It must necessarily be made by statute and therefore an enactment is of a statutory character and to say: “statutory enactment” is tautology, as there is no other kind of enactment but a statutory enactment. Therefore, the words: “statutory or other” have no meaning, in my submission, in relation to the word “enactment.”
“The Minister may by Order make all such adaptations and modifications of any enactment in force immediately before the commencement of this section as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for enabling this part of this Act or such enactment to have full force and effect.”
“The Minister may by Order make, in respect of any enactment or Order in force at the commencement of this Act in relation to councils of counties, all such adaptations of and modifications in any such enactment or Order as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for carrying into effect the provisions of this Act so far as they relate to such councils.”
It appears to me that it was intended here by the draftsman to give the Minister power to make adaptations in an enactment or in a statutory Order. Having called the Minister's attention to this matter, I think his intention can be carried into effect if the words “statutory or other” are deleted and an addition made to the section by putting in the words “or Order”, so that the sub-section would then read:—
“The Minister may by Order make such adaptations in any enactment or Order in force at the passing of this Act and relating to any matter affected by this Act as are in his opinion necessary to enable the enactment or Order to have effect in conformity with this Act.”
In order to carry out that, I think it is necessary for me to withdraw my amendment, if the Minister would undertake to look into the matter and on the Report Stage bring in whatever amendment he considers necessary.
Mr. Sweetman: I move amendment No. 3:
In sub-section (1), to insert after the word “law” in line 41, the words “or by the council”.
I put this amendment down because I am not quite clear, on the section as phrased, whether a county council has any right to make an additional separate charge as well as any separate charges that may at present be existing,  or whether the effect of the section is to ensure that there cannot be a new separate charge. If the situation is at present that under the existing law and under this section there can be a separate charge in the future, I agree with the Minister that my amendment is unnecessary. If, however, there cannot be a separate charge, I think there should be some provision enabling the council to determine that a particular service for a particular area would be paid for by that area, if the council, with its knowledge of local conditions, so decides.
Mr. O'Dea: I move amendment No. 4:—
In sub-section (1) to add at the end of the sub-section in line 42 the words “health districts”.
My amendment is put in here for the purpose of having the Minister consider the matter and I am sure that, after he has given it consideration, whatever he decides will be quite satisfactory to me. As Senators know, there is a county-at-large charge which is levied on the entire county, urban and rural. Section 9 of the Local Government Act, 1925, defined a county health district as a county area exclusive of urban areas. Many Acts have been passed which, in my recollection, state that the expenses shall be leviable by means of the poor rate, without defining any particular area. Now, if there is no particular area prescribed, it appears to me that, under that section, it must be made a county-at-large charge and, therefore, would be leviable on the urban districts as well as on the county. It occurred to me that that could be unfair to the urban districts and I put down the amendment so that the Minister would give it consideration. Probably he will know better than I will whether it should stand or whether the words “health districts” should be put in.
Mr. MacEntee: To deal first with Senator Sweetman's point, the sub-section in the Bill is merely a restatement, in appropriate form, of the existing law. The law as it stands— sub-section (1) of Section 45 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, provides that:—
“The expenses incurred by the council of a county at large in the  execution of this Act, or otherwise in relation to their business, which are not union or district charges, nor the excluded charges hereinafter mentioned, shall, where no provision is otherwise made by law, be raised equally over the whole county, and shall be called county-at-large charges.”
The purpose of the section is to restate the law in the form in which it is appropriate to the existing conditions, and to restate it, I think, more concisely. It provides that the—
“expenses of the council of a county shall, save where it is otherwise provided by law, be charged equally over the whole of the county”.
It is not our intention to change the law, and it is not our intention to allow local authorities to determine for themselves that charges which, under the existing law, would be county-at-large charges shall be imposed upon a particular district. In general, these county-at-large charges are incurred in respect of services which are general in their application. There might be the possibility of abuse at one time or another if it were left to a particular section in the county council or a local authority to decide that only one portion of the administrative area over which it has jurisdiction would be made liable for the expenses of services which, as I have indicated, would be of general application. For that reason, I cannot accept Senator Sweetman's amendment.
With regard to the point raised by Senator O'Dea, I am afraid that I shall have to take the same attitude, though I will look into the matter and see whether a case can be made for ensuring that expenses which would not be proper to an urban district would not, by reason of the action of the county council, fall on an urban district.
Mr. Sweetman: I fail to understand the effects of the section without this amendment. I can quite see the Minister's point with regard to the cost of something that is already provided as a general county-at-large service being distributed over the whole county. What I want to know is, if a service is  provided for a specific area, can the charge for that be made only on that area without amendment?
Mr. MacEntee: The law provides, for example, that the chargeability under certain provisions of the Public Health Acts shall be fixed by the Minister, and the Minister, in fixing the area of charge will, naturally, have regard to the wishes of the county council.
Mr. Sweetman: I am satisfied with that.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: “That Section 10 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Honan: I want to raise a point with regard to the allocation of the county rates in reference to urban areas. Paragraph (b) of sub-section (6) provides that:—
“The amount of the expenses to be charged on the urban area or each urban area (as the case may be) shall be the amount which bears to the total amount of the expenses the same proportion as the valuation of such urban area bears to the valuation of the area of charge.”
My point is that when the county council makes its demands on the urban council, the demand is on the gross valuation. In Ennis we have a gross valuation of £14,000. The effective valuation is £12,000. That is due to the fact that we have a lot of stores and big buildings in the town which are valued annually, but out of which we get no rates because they are unoccupied. The rates on them are not paid by the owners because they are not liable for them.
The result is that the rate on those unoccupied buildings has to be paid by the general body of the ratepayers. Our point is that the county council demand should be on the effective valuation of the town, which, as I have said, is £12,000, and not on the gross valuation of £14,000. It seems very unfair to expect the general body of the ratepayers to pay rates on the £2,000, the difference between the gross and the effective valuations. If  the county council were to strike a rate on the effective valuation of the whole county, then everyone would be bearing his proportionate share of the burden of rates. It would mean that every town and village in which there are vacant premises, such as we have in Ennis, would get relief and that nobody would suffer if that procedure were adopted. It would mean that the rate would be spread equally over the whole rateable area of the county council. I hope that the Minister will meet my point and give some relief in the direction I ask. It is a great injustice on people in urban areas to have to pay rates on a valuation which is not an effective valuation at all.
Mr. O'Dea: Senator Honan has raised a very important point. It is a surprise to me that the difference between the actual poor law valuation and the rateable property is so small as £2,000 in the urban area of Ennis, because in any town where a great number of houses were erected under the Housing Acts rates are paid on only one-twentieth of the valuation in the first year. The full rate on them is not paid for quite a number of years. In the case of new buildings, rates for the first seven years are paid on only one-third of the valuation. I know that under the Towns Improvement Acts of 1847 and 1854, land in an urban area is only rateable for one-quarter of the poor law valuation. In addition, vacant buildings are not liable for rates. That seems a hardship —that urban authorities can only levy rates on certain property, and yet the demand made on them is in respect of the gross valuation in their area. I think the Minister should look into that.
Mr. MacEntee: There are two or three points that arise for consideration in this connection. The first is that it is quite impossible to tell when expenses are being apportioned, what valuation would be effective and what would not be effective. Therefore, I think the only reasonable basis for apportionment is this: the facts which are definitely known at the time that the rates are being struck. These facts  are: The valuation of the county area and the valuation of the urban area. They can be immediately related to each other and for that reason it is the most convenient, expeditious and simple way of dealing with this problem. The other point is that in so far as towns might be over-valued the urban councils have the remedy in their own hands by asking for revaluation which would dispose of this problem of vacant, unoccupied and over-valued hereditaments.
There is the third consideration which perhaps has not been adverted to yet and that is if we are to base apportionment on the effective valuation, perhaps the effective valuation of a county council might be found to be proportionately much less than the gross valuation. For instance, it might be a moot point as to what extent agricultural land pays rates and whether it might not be held to be devalued to the extent of two-fifth or three-fifth.
Mr. O'Dea: Not in a rural area.
Mr. MacEntee: I think in order to ensure that the change would not be to the detriment of the urban areas there might be some difficulty in defining the term “ineffective.” I think that, on the whole, the existing system is as fair as any that can be devised so long as the urban authorities will not move themselves in the matter of getting their properties properly valued.
Mr. Honan: The Minister has missed my point altogether.
Mr. Sweetman: He was joking in the same way with us last week.
Mr. Honan: My point is that every citizen of our towns who is a rated occupier and a resident, is prepared to pay the rates assessed on him but he is naturally not inclined to pay a rate on a vacant premises belonging to somebody else. If we had a law compelling the owner to pay the rates on such a building it would be all right, but unfortunately we have not.
Mr. MacEntee: Under this Bill you are going to be entitled to compel the  person in occupation of the premises to pay the rates, in the first instance. That might reduce this problem perhaps.
Mr. Honan: As things stand at the moment you can compel an owner of premises under £20 valuation to pay the rates on them but the extraordinary thing is that when you come to the richer man and where the premises are, perhaps, over £100 valuation there is no power to compel him.
Mr. Sweetman: I think you have that provision in this Bill.
Sections 10 to 12 inclusive agreed to.
Question proposed: “That Section 13 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. O'Dea: On the section, it states that in towns or in the urban areas the county council is striking the rate in the town and it provides that “such portion shall be assessed and made separately from the remainder of the county rate”. I do not know what saving the Minister hopes to make by that. The separate rate is to be made separately and is not to be part of the poor rate or with the poor rate. You will have the double expense of issuing demand notes and receipts and that sort of thing. I wonder would the Minister reconsider the question of collecting it with the poor rate?
Mr. MacEntee: It is collected. That is the purpose of it.
Mr. O'Dea: It does not say that in the section. It says that such portion shall be assessed and made separately from the county rate. That is provided in sub-section (1) (a), and perhaps the Minister would reconsider the matter before Report Stage.
Mr. MacEntee: The town commissioners themselves will make the demand on the county council, and the rate is to be collected.
Mr. O'Dea: Then the rate is to be made and collected by the county council, not by the town commissioners?
Mr. MacEntee: Yes, not by the town commissioners.
Mr. O'Dea: But if it is to be made separately and distinct from the poor rate it would be no saving of expense at all. Would the Minister reconsider the matter?
Mr. MacEntee: I will look into it.
Mr. Sweetman: I do not understand the saving in sub-section (2) of Section 13. Can the Minister indicate what is the point in that section? I do not understand how it operates in regard to these charges.
Mr. O'Dea: I think I can explain that. Income-tax is now charged on five-fourths of the valuation and that is the explanation—that it is not affecting the five-fourths assessment for income-tax purposes.
Mr. Sweetman: Then it does not mean that the proportion can be altered as regards buildings valuations as against lands valuation in the first sub-section.
Mr. MacEntee: No. It is merely provided to ensure that the valuation as it stands will continue to stand.
Section 13 agreed to.
Mr. O'Dea: I move amendment No. 5:—
In sub-section (1), page 8, to delete the words “a county but not in an urban area” and insert instead the words “any rural or urban area of a county”.
Section 14 and Section 23 are practically word for word. They are pretty long sections and it is only for the purpose of saving the expense of printing that I propose this amendment. Section 14 says: “where a hereditament which is situated in a county but not in an urban area ...” If the amendment I suggest is put in instead of the words “a county but not in an urban area” the words will be inserted “any rural or urban area of a county.” If these words were put into Section 14, Section 23 could be deleted and that is the reason why in amendment No. 9 I propose to delete that section.
Mr. Sweetman: Your amendment to delete Section 23 is consequential on this?
Mr. O'Dea: It is consequential. It would save a lot of printing, that is all.
Mr. MacEntee: This is a procedure which ought to be warmly commended by Senator Sir John Keane because it is legislating in anticipation. We did consider whether we could not make one common section applicable to county areas and urban areas but if the Senator will consider Part II of the Bill he will see that although the operation of that Part which relates to the county fund and the county rate ends at Section 14, under Sections 15 to 24 the subject matter relates to rating by urban authorities. The assumption is that some time when the local government law is consolidated we shall have one whole Part, book or volume dealing with local government law as applying to counties and another one dealing with local government law as applying to urban areas. Though this means a certain amount of duplication, we feel it is better it should stand in that way. It will not need the same amount of disentangling later.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Duffy: I move amendment No. 6:—
In sub-section (1), page 8, line 57, after the word “month” to insert the words “not exceeding six months in all”.
The section to which this amendment is submitted deals with the rating of vacant premises. It provides that, where a house is unoccupied at the time the rate is being struck, the rate will be levied on the owner of the house but he will be entitled, having paid the rate, to a refund of one-twelfth of the amount paid in respect of each month during which the house is unoccupied, provided it is unoccupied in certain circumstances—that is to say, because it is being repaired or altered, or because additions are being made to it, or because the owner is unable to get a suitable tenant having regard to the provisions of the Rent  Restrictions Act. I think that that is a bad principle to insert in legislation —that a person may hold a house out of occupation at a time like this on the pretext that he is making additions or alterations, or doing repairs, or because he cannot get a suitable tenant having regard to the provisions of the Rent Restrictions Act. There is no objection to that claim, provided it is reasonably limited. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the period during which the allowance will be made will be a maximum of six months. It has been the practice in parts of County Dublin to hold premises out of occupation for ten out of 12 months. I know a case in which, some years ago, a house was normally let at £70 a year. That was a big rent, in my opinion, having regard to the character of the house and its value. The owners came to the conclusion that they could do much better by holding it out of occupation for the greater part of the year. They set the house for the months of July and August at £40 per month and they saved rates for ten months of the year.
Mr. O'Dea: Is the Senator referring to furnished houses?
Mr. Duffy: If Senator O'Dea knew some of the houses described as “furnished houses” in County Dublin, he would be utterly surprised.
Mr. O'Dea: If there is any furniture in them, they are rateable even if unoccupied.
Mr. Duffy: These houses would be unfurnished.
Mr. O'Dea: Then how would they be let?
Mr. Duffy: I could go into the details but I do not think it is necessary. What we are dealing with is the principle—whether a person is entitled to hold his house out of occupation for an unlimited period because he says he is doing repairs or alterations. In the Bill there is no limit to the period. It is a question of allowing one-twelfth of the rates in respect of each month during which the house is unoccupied.  I am endeavouring to secure that the house will be kept out of use for a limited period only and I am suggesting six months as that period, which seems to me to be reasonable in normal circumstances. I understand that, in the City of Dublin, it has been the law up to the present—I assume it is being altered now—that a remission of rates was given for six months only.
Mr. O'Dea: That was so everywhere.
Mr. Sweetman: No.
Mr. Duffy: So far as Dublin was concerned, the remission of rates was limited to six months. I think that that six months' limit is being taken away by this Bill and that it will be open to any owner of a house in Dublin to hold his premises out of use so long as he is able to say he is doing so because of inability to let it to advantage having regard to the provisions of the Rent Restrictions Act or that he is held up in a contract for repairs or alterations or additions. It is quite easy to get a good excuse now for non-completion of a job which involves alterations or additions because of the difficulty in getting building materials. If he holds his house out of use on those grounds, he should be liable for rates after a period of six months.
Mr. O'Dea: The law always was that, if a house or premises was unoccupied, it was not liable for rates, no matter how long it remained unoccupied. Then the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act of 1923 contained a provision that, if a house was subject to that Act, and was unoccupied, it was not to be liable for rates. The 1926 Act provided that it was to remain free of rates for a period of six months if undergoing repairs or if the landlord was unable to get a tenant at the standard rent. If a tenant offered the standard rent, he was bound to accept him. Most people thought that an owner was entitled to six months free of rates in every year in these circumstances. However, a case came before Judge Comyn in the Circuit Court and he held that an owner was entitled only to six months'  freedom from rates in all. If a house was unoccupied for three years, he could only get remission of rates for six months. That decision was not appealed and has never been reversed. In the last Rent Restrictions Act, the Minister in charge excluded all mention of legislation regarding rates because this Bill contained an omnibus provision dealing with every hereditament, whether house, store or land. Whatever the effect of Senator Duffy's amendment in regard to Section 23 would be, I should be inclined to oppose it in the case of Section 14 because there are towns in different parts of the country where it is very hard to get a tenant for a premises. It would be hard if the owner were bound to pay rates while the house was unoccupied because of inability to get a tenant. That difficulty arises in certain small towns. I think that Senator Duffy should not press his amendment in relation to Section 14.
Mr. Kyle: Does the Senator suggest that there are areas in the country in which houses are so plentiful that the owners cannot get tenants for them? Surely the principle which Senator Duffy is endeavouring to have inserted in this legislation is perfectly sound, that houses shall not be held empty by the owner while there are people desirous of obtaining houses at the standard rent? That seems a very reasonable proposition to put before the Government. I am rather surprised to hear that there is a number of houses vacant in the part of the country from which Senator O'Dea comes and that the owners cannot get tenants for them. I wish these houses were in Dublin. I can assure the Senator that the people in Dublin are very anxious to get houses. We are desirous of ensuring that owners shall not be allowed to leave their houses idle and escape from paying rates simply because they wish to hold them vacant in order to get a rent which most prospective tenants would not be able to pay. I think the principle enunciated by Senator Duffy in stating his case for the amendment is one that the Minister should accept.
Mr. Ryan: I think the intentions of Senator Duffy could be effected by  another amendment of the section rather than his own, an amendment which I would urge the Minister to introduce on the Report Stage. This section provides that the owner on paying the rate
“shall be entitled to claim and receive from the council of the county, a refund of one-twelfth of such rate in respect of every completed month during which the hereditament is unoccupied either for the purpose of the execution of additions, alterations or repairs thereto or because the owner is bona fide unable to obtain a suitable tenant therefor, in the case of a hereditament to which the Rent Restrictions Act 1946 (No. 4 of 1946) for the time being applies, at the maximum rent for the time being permitted under that Act, or in the case of any other hereditament at a reasonable rent.”
The section provides, therefore, that the owner is entitled to claim and receive a rebate in respect of certain periods during which the house is unoccupied for certain reasons but there is no provision in the section—a provision which I suggest should be in it —giving the council power to decide whether or not the house is unoccupied for the purpose of the execution of additions, alterations or repairs or whether it is unoccupied because the owner is unable to obtain a suitable tenant therefor.
The section says the owner is entitled to claim and receive a rebate in respect of every month for which the house is unoccupied for certain reasons. The council may say: “You can get a tenant”, whereas the owner may hold: “I cannot get a tenant”. The section is silent as to how that conflict is to be decided. I, therefore, would suggest that the sections should be amended in some way so as to confer on the county council the power to decide whether the house is vacant for the purpose of the execution of additions, alterations or repairs, or because the owner is bona fide unable to obtain a suitable tenant. If the council is satisfied that the house is vacant for these reasons, then it would be an injustice to the owner to restrict the  period to six months, as Senator Duffy seeks in this amendment. I think the section itself is vacant, if I may use that word, because of its failing to contain some provision for the purpose of enabling a determination to be made as to the accuracy of the contention of the owner for exemption—whether the house is vacant because of additions, alterations or repairs, or because he is unable to get a suitable tenant.
I, therefore, suggest that Senator Duffy should withdraw his amendment, and that between now and the Report Stage the Minister should consider the possibility of inserting in the section some provision which will place the power of determining whether a house is vacant for the purposes mentioned in the section, on the local authority. It might be amended by a provision of this type: “Provided the owner can satisfy the county council that the house is vacant because of additions, alterations or repairs, or because he is unable to obtain a suitable tenant at a proper rent, he shall be entitled to receive from the county council a refund of one-twelfth of the rate in respect of every completed month during which the house is so vacant”. I think that would be a solution and it would give certainty to the section. Otherwise, I fear there will be a great deal of controversy between the owner and the county council in respect of refunds of rates. If Senator Duffy's amendment were accepted, an injustice would be done to an owner whose house is vacant through no fault of his own. I suggest that Senator Duffy should withdraw his amendment, and that the Minister might seek to amend the section on the lines which I have indicated on the Report Stage.
Mr. Duffy: I cannot understand the argument of Senator Ryan. I do not know exactly what he wants to do. He asks me to withdraw my amendment so that the Minister will strengthen the section and so as to make sure that my purpose will be defeated.
Mr. Ryan: No, so that justice will be done.
Mr. Duffy: I am endeavouring to understand the Senator. His argument  appears to me to bear that meaning and no other meaning. So far as the enforcement of the local authority's rights are concerned it is simple enough. The owner says: “My house is vacant because I have been doing certain repairs and I am entitled to a certain refund.” The council then says: “We do not believe you.” The ordinary court of law, to which both parties will have recourse if there is a dispute, will decide that point. I am concerned with the gentleman whose house may be vacant from now until the 31st December, 1950, when the Rent Restrictions Act expires, if it expires then. If not the good old game goes on for the next five or ten years because there is no limitation placed on this Bill and the owner is entitled to a refund of one-twelfth of the rates which have been levied in respect of each month during which the premises have been vacant for the reasons stated, without any limitation of time. How Senator Ryan is going to get over that puzzles me.
Sir John Keane: I think if some research were done on this question, it would be found that the late Mr. Kevin O'Higgins agreed with me many years ago to insert this provision protecting an owner against being forced to take an unsuitable tenant. I still think that there is considerable force in the contention I then made. I am not dealing with the aspect of repairs; I see Senator Duffy's point that the repairs may go on for a very long time. But take a very large house, a mansion. Surely it is reasonable that the owner should have some choice of tenant. He could not be expected to let a house of that character, with all its amenities and its lay-out for a person of substantial means, to a tenant who is only paying an inadequate rent and who is not in a position to occupy such a house in a suitable manner and in conformity with the class in the community for which the house was built. I think that difficulty was got over, if my recollection is right, in the past by a valuation limit. I am a little bit vague about this but the Minister can consult his advisers about it. I think that rates had to be paid where the house was below a certain valuation.  The suitability of the tenant did not apply in certain cases. Over a certain valuation, covering large houses, the question of the suitability of the tenant alone entered.
Mr. O'Dea: On a point of order, the question of valuation did not affect it at all. I am thinking of a house let in separate apartments where the valuation is less than £4.
Sir John Keane: I may be wrong but my recollection is this, that rates had to be paid on houses below a certain valuation. That was to prevent ordinary houses for people of moderate means being put on the market. Otherwise rents had to be paid, and there was an obligation to pay rates. I think the matter could be considered in the light that vacant houses should have to pay rates if they are below a certain valuation. Houses above the valuation should be exempt from rates if the owner was unable to find a suitable tenant.
Mr. Sweetman: So far as this amendment is concerned, it is really in connection with the suggestion made by Senator Ryan that I want to say anything. It appears to me, from consideration of the section, that what the section as framed at present does provide is that in effect the owner of the premises has to satisfy the local authority, because the section provides that the rate must be paid and if the owner satisfies the local authority he is keeping it vacant for repairs, that he wants to let it and cannot get a suitable tenant, then the only thing is that he gets the rent back. I do not know why Senator Ryan wants the section amended to meet that.
There is a point which would meet Senator Duffy. I do not know why the words bona fide are inserted with regard to the qualifications of tenants. Would it meet Senator Duffy's point if the bona fide were also inserted in regard to the execution of additions, alterations and repairs? He seemed to visualise a case where there was going to be a time difficulty in the matter of repairs owing to the present supply situation, and if we had the words bona fide to cover repairs and alterations as well as qualifications of the tenant,  I think we might be meeting Senator Duffy to a substantial extent, but I would strongly oppose indeed any suggestion that the overriding authority of a court should be taken away from this section. The section is correctly phrased in my view, throwing the onus on the owner to prove his case, but, equally, it is only right that that owner should be able to appeal to the court if the local authority is being unfair in their determination of his grounds for an abatement or a refund, to be more accurate.
Mr. MacEntee: With respect to the suggestion made by Senator Sweetman in aid of Senator Duffy, I should like to point out that the section as worded repeats the phraseology of four other statutory provisions dealing with this particular problem, and I think that for the sake of uniformity we must adhere to the section as it stands in that regard. Apart altogether from that, I do not think that it is necessary to raise any question as to the bona fides of the additions, alterations and repairs. Those are physical matters that can be tested and confirmed by visual inspection. If the additions are not there, they are not bona fide additions and if they are, they are bona fide. I do not think, therefore, that there is much credit in that particular suggestion.
Senator Sweetman has stated very definitely what the purposes of the section and the ideas behind it are, following the point in that regard given by Senator Ryan. The purpose of this section is to make vacant or non-usefully occupied premises liable for rates and impose upon the owner of these premises, that is, in this context, the person entitled to occupy them, the liability to pay the rates. He must pay those rates in any event. I think to that extent, Senator Duffy should be satisfied, because hitherto in certain circumstances he was not bound to pay any rates at all. The next question that arises is this: surely we are not going to require the owner of property which he cannot use to pay rates in respect of it, bearing in mind that the rate is a rough assessment, if you like, on either the income or the  assumed benefit to be derived from the occupation of property? If one cannot occupy the property beneficially it seems to me that your whole case, the fundamental case, for making the property rateable disappears.
There have been certain encroachments on that principle since the first Mortgage and Rent Restrictions Act was passed and we have gone further in relation to it under certain of the city Acts than even the original Mortgage and Rent Restrictions Act went, but I think we can draw a very definite distinction between the property situated in a county or a small urban area and property situated in a county borough. As has been pointed out, it is not always easy to get a suitable tenant for property, particularly large buildings, large dwellinghouses, in the country areas and in urban areas.
Senator Honan, on an earlier section, referred to the position in Ennis. There are large stores comparatively unoccupied or perhaps totally unoccupied there. That is a common experience in regard to most of our small towns. The point arises, therefore, whether you are going to encroach so drastically upon what is originally the fundamental principle of the rating law, that you assess a man for rates upon the benefit which he derived from the occupation of the property, when in fact he derives no benefit at all from that occupation.
We have taken the line here that, in certain circumstances—first of all, where he is unable to get a suitable tenant so that so far as he is concerned the property might as well not exist, so that it might be better for him to pull the whole thing down, or secondly, where he is engaged in improving the property so that he may more easily be able to secure a suitable tenant—he will not be bound to pay rates during the period he has the premises unoccupied for those purposes. I think that is a perfectly reasonable position to take up and I cannot see any real public benefit in imposing any limitation upon the operation of that principle. It is quite possible that, for one reason or another, the person may  not be able to carry out the additions, alterations or repairs within the period of six months. It is quite possible also that he may not be able to get a suitable tenant within a period of six months. The position the owner is in is that he has to show cause before he can get a refund. The money is paid, in the first instance, to the county council in the case of Section 14 and he has to make his case to the county manager before he can get a refund. Every refund which the county manager makes will be subject to audit and, therefore, the county manager will satisfy himself beyond any reasonable doubt that the conditions of the section are being fulfilled.
I have a certain amount of sympathy with the point of view which was urged here by Senator Ryan. It has been indicated to me that in a certain county borough it is very difficult for a person who is entitled to a refund, under a corresponding provision in that City Act, to secure the refund. It might be, perhaps, that some part of that difficulty arises from the form in which these sections were drafted originally.
Mr. Sweetman: Senator Ryan wanted to make it more difficult.
Mr. MacEntee: He did wish to make it quite clear that the determination of this matter should, in the first instance, rest with the urban authority or with the county authority.
Sir John Keane: He said nothing about the first place.
Mr. MacEntee: Perhaps Senator Sir John Keane would allow Senator Ryan to correct me, if I am wrong. I understood the Senator to suggest that there was a certain vagueness about the section as at present drafted, which made it somewhat difficult to say when this determination had been made and, therefore, if a person wanted to take his case to court he would be somewhat uncertain—I do not know exactly how the lawyers would put it—as to the particular fact upon which he would ground his claim. Perhaps it is advisable that we should have some sort of preliminary determination, whereby a manager acting on behalf of his local authority—this would be a managerial  function—would say: “I find that these premises, though unoccupied, are not unoccupied for any of the purposes which would entitle you to a refund” and there might be an appeal from that to the local Circuit Court on the matter. If that is what Senator Ryan had in view, I would certainly be prepared to consider an amendment on the Report Stage which would prescribe some sort of procedure.
Mr. Sweetman: What is the present position in regard to the existing boroughs? Is this section here not taken hocus-pocus from the existing provisions for certain of the boroughs?
Mr. MacEntee: It is.
Mr. Sweetman: I think it is in the Dublin Act as well as in the Cork Act.
Mr. MacEntee: Except for one thing —the amount of the fraction of the refund is different. I said I was aware of one instance, in any event, where it was difficult to satisfy the manager that virtually no refunds were made.
Mr. Sweetman: Is that not because no one ever bothered to take the local authority to court?
Mr. MacEntee: Perhaps it is, but then I do not know how the lawyers would advise a man to bring his case to court.
Mr. M.J. Ryan: Perhaps I did not make myself quite clear. The section provides that the owner must pay the rates in the first instance to the county council, whether the premises are occupied or unoccupied. If they are unoccupied, for certain reasons, he is entitled to get a refund of one-twelfth in respect of each month during which they are vacant. The local authority will make the refund. The section provides that the owner shall be entitled to claim and receive from the local authority a refund in a certain event. In the first place, who is to decide whether the event has happened, on the happening of which the owner who has paid his rates is entitled to receive a refund? It is easy enough for the local authority to satisfy itself, if the premises are alleged to be vacant by reason of additions, alterations or  repairs. They are, as the Minister said, visual matters which can be ascertained quite easily and about which there can be very little dispute.
There might, however, be very great dispute about the ability of the owner to obtain a suitable tenant at a reasonable rent. That question would involve a great deal of evidence on the part of the owner who was applying for the refund and, perhaps, a great deal of inquiry to test the owner's evidence. If the owner should say: “I cannot find a suitable tenant at a reasonable rent,” the local authority may ask: “What rent were you looking for; what tenants made application to you and what rents were they prepared to pay?” Then it would be a matter for the local authority to say to itself: “What would be a suitable rent for these premises and who would be a suitable tenant?” These are questions of fact which the local authority would take it upon itself to decide before making the refund. The local authority—in other words, the county manager—may sit tight and do nothing, with the result that the ratepayer would be compelled to go to court to seek a refund. Then the circuit judge or the district justice would have to hear this matter over again. Even at the risk of giving the benefit of the determination to the local authority, I say there should be some certainty in the section as to the determination of these facts, so that there will not be endless lawsuits on the point.
Mr. Duffy: Does this arise on the section or the amendment?
Mr. Ryan: I first spoke on the Senator's amendment, and I think that we are on it still. My idea is to make the section work, to prevent the possibility of unpleasantness and litigation between the ratepayers and the local authority. I may be wrong, but even at the risk of being wrong or, perhaps, unjust, I would like to be certain. Therefore, I suggest that the section should contain some provision for the determination of these questions of fact by some authority, and that that authority should be final.
Mr. Duffy: I think the only substantial  point that was made in regard to the amendment was that which was made by the Minister when he said that rates are valued on the advantages which the ratepayer derives from his property. That is the principle, but it has been forgotten for a long number of years. I have known farmers whose cattle were seized for rates and who, on the following day, got home assistance from the local authority that seized them. Surely, it is not the practice to levy rates only in relation to the advantages derived from property. That may be true in regard to investments in house property, but it is not true in regard to landed property. There are houses in the city, some of them no doubt outside the provisions of the Rent Restrictions Act, which have been held out of use for two, three and four years because the owners were demanding rents that nobody in the locality would pay. In those circumstances the houses became vacant. Most of us remember areas in the central part of Dublin, shops for instance in Grafton Street, which were vacant for years. In fact, at one stage those vacant shops were becoming an eyesore in the heart of the city. It occurred to me that the local authority, if it had the power, should exercise it to compel the owners to seek tenants or else dispose of the property. If the local authority had not that power then it should be conferred on it.
That is also true of places other than Dublin. It is true that for one reason or another house property is held out of use because the landlord hopes, particularly if he has a number of houses and in that way has a monopoly of a certain type of house in a small town, to force rents so much that his income will be increased substantially. I am anxious that such anti-social conduct would not be permitted, and that this Bill would ensure that a time limit will be placed on the circumstances in which the owner of property can go to the local authority and demand a refund of rates which he has already paid.
I agree with the Minister that part of my purpose is achieved when the owner is, in the first place, required to pay the rates. When the rates are  struck by the local authority, the demand note is served on the owner of the property. If it is not occupied at the time the rate is struck, the owner is required to pay the rate which is leviable by the local authority. I agree that that is a big achievement. The next step lies with the owner. He goes to the local authority and makes the claim that he is entitled to a refund because, in certain circumstances which are within the section, the premises are vacant. I want a limitation placed on the period in respect of which that claim will be valid. I am not making the claim for any personal reasons, or for the purpose of getting at somebody, or at any particular class, but rather for social reasons which are comprehensible to every member of the House at a time when we have passed a Rent Restrictions Act in order to prevent the exploitation of people looking for vacant houses. That Rent Restrictions Act does not apply, in certain circumstances, to business premises. I am anxious that business premises will not be held out of use in the important thoroughfares of our cities and towns, so far as we can make it unprofitable for an owner who unreasonably holds these premises out of use. I would strongly urge on the Minister to look into this matter again from the point of view of the community and of the amenities in our cities and towns. No person should be allowed to go on for 12 months or for two or three years saying that he was improving his property, or that he was doing alterations that were going to be very slow or tedious, that he wanted to get tradesmen back from France or Italy to put in ornamental ceilings, or that he was waiting to buy fireplaces in some auction room in London. None of these reasons should be accepted as a reasonable ground on which to seek remission of rates. It is true, no doubt, that there is no definition of the word “reasonable” in the Bill. In the last analysis, it is a question for the courts to determine what is or what is not reasonable. I ask the Minister to say that the court may decide that within some limitation. I do not want to adhere strictly to the term of six months if a case  can be made for making it 12 months, but I am unwilling to see a longer period than six months or 12 months allowed to give effect to the provision in the section.
Sir John Keane: Senator Duffy has widened the whole purview of this matter. In so far as he was anxious that houses should not be kept empty as dwellings I was to a certain extent in sympathy with him. I would be quite prepared to see that houses below a certain valuation should pay rates, if kept unoccupied. But the Senator is extending this now to business premises. Surely, that is a totally different matter. Trade, for example, may easily languish in a quarter because it was found totally unprofitable to try to carry it on.
Mr. O'Dea: May I point out to the Senator that it was not Senator Duffy who extended this section to business houses? The Bill extends it to all houses, business and others.
Sir John Keane: I do not think Senator O'Dea has got my point correctly. I am not objecting that owners should have to pay rates in advance. I am not objecting to having to pay rates in advance, but what I am concerned about is the right to recover rates already paid in advance on vacant premises. Whatever argument there may be in favour of having to pay rates on dwellings, it is most unreasonable to compel a landlord to let a business premises when there is no demand in the district. That is utterly impossible. There may be nobody forthcoming. There may be no trade there or the district may become an unfashionable quarter. Why should there be any pressure placed, in such a case, on the owner and the landlord to let? That is utterly unreasonable.
In considering this matter, I should like the Minister to tell the House what is the existing law in regard to rates on vacant premises. I thought that rates had to be paid on premises below a certain valuation and that premises above a certain valuation were exempt, but I wonder am I wrong. What is the existing law?
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The in formation has already been given.
Mr. O'Dea: I gave it.
Sir John Keane: Then, I did not hear it.
Mr. Duffy: The Senator has only just wakened up.
Amendment declared negatived.
Mr. O'Dea: On Section 14, I would like to know exactly what we are doing because the provision here states if the house is subsequently let and any rate is unpaid. I would like to know what that means. Does it mean that if the rate is refunded to the owner that it is held to be unpaid in respect of the period during which it is refunded? It should be made clear that if the rate is refunded, the rate will be presumed to have been paid in respect of the period for which it was refunded.
Mr. MacEntee: But it is not due in that case at all.
Mr. O'Dea: Then that should be made clear. There is another reference here which states that notice may be served on the tenant and the rent collected from him until all the arrears are paid. The existing law is that the subsequent occupier is only liable for two years' rates. Is it the intention of the Minister to repeal that section, or is the tenant to be in the position of a subsequent occupier and liable only for two years' rates? The law should be consistent in that matter and the House should know what we are doing.
Mr. MacEntee: The position in this section is somewhat different from that under the ordinary law. Under the ordinary law, the occupier is liable for the rates, but in this case where the premises have been vacant, the owner is liable for the rates.
Mr. Sweetman: As well as the occupier?
Mr. MacEntee: If the Senator will bear with me for a moment, I will explain the position. It may happen that premises are unoccupied and that the owner does not pay the rates, and therefore, since he is not paying the rates, we must assume that he would  not be entitled to a refund. The owner, therefore, owes rates to the local authority. Subsequently he lets the premises and what is provided in sub-section (2) is that the occupier, in lieu of paying rent to the owner, will satisfy the claim of the local authority against the owner.
Mr. O'Dea: That is for two years. Supposing a house was vacant for six years and no rates paid on it, is the local authority entitled to claim six years' rates from the subsequent occupier? That should be made clear because it is not consistent with Section 20 of the Act of 1864 which refers to rates limited to two years.
Mr. Sweetman: Surely, Senator O'Dea's point is slightly different from the point in the Bill here. The case to which Senator O'Dea refers is a case where a man purchases a premises.
Mr. O'Dea: Or rents them.
Mr. Sweetman: Is not this sub-section (2) only saying how the rent that he is going to pay is to be attributed. It is not putting an additional charge for arrears on the new occupier, it is only saying that the rent that the new occupier is going to pay to the owner shall be attached as a sort of garnishee by the rate collector?
Mr. MacEntee: Precisely.
Mr. Sweetman: Then that is not the same case.
Mr. O'Dea: But in the other case, he was only liable for two years' rates.
Sections 14 to 19 (inclusive) agreed to.
Mr. O'Dea: I move amendment No. 7:—
In sub-section (1), after the word “area” to insert the words “or in a town to which the Towns Improvement Clauses Act, 1847, applies”.
This section is exactly the same as another section—Section 28, I think. The Minister made the point against me when I wanted to amalgamate Sections 14 and 23, that Part II of the Bill referred, I think, to urban areas only.
Mr. MacEntee: Part II refers to county and urban areas, but up to Section 14 we are confined primarily to the county fund and county rates, but from Section 14 the subject matter is rating by urban authorities.
Mr. O'Dea: Section 14 refers to a hereditament that is not in an urban area. Section 20 applies to a hereditament in an urban area, and Section 28 refers to a hereditament situated in a town which is not an urban district.
Mr. MacEntee: Are you on amendment No. 7?
Mr. O'Dea: Yes, and I wanted to include the two for the purpose of saving expense. I wish to insert the words: “To which the Towns Improvement Clauses Act, 1847, applies”. This is an important section, because there are different old Acts and some of them are hard to find. We have the Galway Town Improvements Act, passed nearly 100 years ago, and that made provision that where a lease was given a tenant the landlord was bound to pay half the local rates, that is to say, the town rates—for paving, repairs, sanitation and improvements. That is still the law and, so far as our town is concerned, there must be an adjustment of rents held under lease. I am sure that applies to several other towns also. One of the difficulties about this Act is that there are only about two copies in existence. It is not published in the official reports of the English Parliament. It is very hard to get it and very few people know about it. I am sure the same thing applies to other towns. I think if the Minister could amalgamate the two things referred to as an urban area or a town which comes under the Towns Improvement Act it would be a good thing.
Mr. MacEntee: I will look into that.
Mr. Sweetman: Does not an urban area include a corporation area?
Mr. O'Dea: It would include it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 20 agreed to.
 SECTION 21.
Mr. Ryan: I move amendment No. 8:—
In sub-section (3), page 12, to delete the figures “1929” where they occur, and to insert in lieu thereof the figures “1939”.
This is a drafting amendment. There is no such Act as the Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Act, 1929. The Act should be the Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Act, 1939 (No. 23 of 1939). The Act referred to—No. 23 of 1929—deals with the constitution of the Railway Tribunal. If that had been allowed to remain in the Bill, the courts would wonder what the Railway Tribunal had to do with rates on agricultural land. I hope the House and the Minister will accept this amendment.
Mr. MacEntee: I think that we shall and we are grateful to the Senator for detecting the error.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 21, as amended, agreed to.
Section 22 agreed to.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
Mr. Honan: On the section, I want some information. This section is similar to Section 10. It is implied by this section that, a rate having been made on an unoccupied house and having been paid, the landlord is entitled to claim a refund, as in the other case, of one-twelfth in respect of each month in which he is able to prove that he could not let the house. What I want to know is whether there is any limit on the valuation of premises in that connection.
Mr. MacEntee: No.
Mr. Honan: Under the Act of 1922, a valuation of £20——
Mr. MacEntee: That has been repealed. There is now no limit.
Section 23 agreed to.
Liam Ó Buachalla: I move amendment No. 10 on behalf of Senator Quirke:—
 In page 13, line 14, to delete the figures “22” and insert the figures “23.”
Amendment agreed to.
Section 24, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: “That Section 25 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Sweetman: Will this section be affected by the new agricultural grant as announced in the Budget?
Mr. MacEntee: No.
Section agreed to.
Sections 26 to 28 agreed to.
Amendment No. 11 not moved.
Section 29 agreed to.
Amendment No. 12 not moved.
Mr. O'Dea: I move amendments Nos. 13, 14 and 16 as follows:—
13. In sub-section (1) to add at the end of the sub-section the words:—“or with the consent of the Minister borrow the deficiency by means of a loan repayable within two years from the raising thereof.”
14. In sub-section (3) to add at the end of the sub-section the words:—“unless they shall raise the amount by means of a loan in the manner provided for in sub-section (1) of this section”.
16. In sub-section (6) to add at the end of the sub-section the words:—“or raise the deficiency by means of a loan in the manner provided for in sub-section (1) of this section”.
The section provides that, after an inquiry is held and the county council is directed that the rate is insufficient, they are to be asked to levy and collect another rate. The expense of that would be very heavy in some counties. In our county, the making of the rate costs about £1,500, £600 being due to adjustments owing to the agricultural grant. The making of a new rate would cost about £600. That would pay interest on a large sum of money. I should prefer the Minister to give power to the council to raise the necessary  amount by loan repayable in a year or two years. That would be in ease of the council.
Mr. MacEntee: I should be very reluctant to agree to that proposal. I am not certain that, if it should become necessary to avail of the powers under this section, it would be so expensive to make a supplementary rate. We may take it that proceedings under the section would be fairly expeditious and that it would be only in an extreme case it would be necessary to make a supplementary rate at all. The rate would, probably, be made before the actual applotments had taken place. Apart from that it would be rather bad practice if we allowed either the council or the commissioner administering its affairs to borrow for this purpose. It is conceivable that, in order to evade meeting their proper obligations in a particular year, the council of a county might strike an insufficient rate and then come along, under some such provision as Senator O'Dea suggests, and say: “We shall raise a supplementary sum by borrowing”. The principle is that moneys should not be borrowed unless proper provision is made to raise the revenues to repay them. If you allowed a local authority deliberately to refuse to make provision to meet its current liabilities and permitted them to borrow for that purpose, you would be rather stultifying yourself. I shall look into this matter in view of what the Senator has said as to the cost but I do not promise to do anything about it between now and Report Stage.
Mr. O'Dea: I ask the Minister to consider the matter carefully. A man gets a demand note. He pays his rates and gets a receipt. If the collector went around again with a further demand for rates, it would be almost impossible to collect them.
Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. Douglas: I move amendment No. 15 and also amendments Nos. 45 and 46 as follows:—
15. In sub-section (5), line 42, after the word “Act” to insert the words “as amended by this Act”.
 45. Before Section 95 to insert a new section as follows:—
() Section 44 of the Act of 1941 is hereby amended by the deletion of paragraph (a) in sub-section (1) and the substitution therefor of the following paragraph:—
(a) The Minister, after holding a local inquiry into the performance by the local authority of their duties and after publishing any report made to him by the inspector who held such local inquiry, is satisfied that such duties are not being duly and effectually performed or.
46. Before Section 95 to insert a new section as follows:—
() Section 45 of the Act of 1941 is hereby amended by the deletion of sub-section (2) and the substitution therefor of the following sub-section:—
(2) The day fixed under this section for the holding of a new election shall be any day within the period of twelve months after such removal.
I put down those amendments to raise a matter of principle. That matter arises in connection with Section 30. It did not seem to me that the proposal to delete the section completely met the case I have in mind. I am not prepared to take the line that there are no conceivable circumstances in which it might be necessary to provide for the striking of an adequate rate, particularly to meet services required by law. It has always seemed to me that the present system by which the Minister can hold an inquiry, make his own comments on the report of the inquiry, which comes to him secretly, and then by Order abolish a local body and keep it abolished for approximately three years is most undemocratic and extremely unsatisfactory.
It seems to me that, in accordance with democratic principles, the only conceivable ground on which a local body should be abolished is because it is not carrying out the purpose for which it was elected and that the people who should ultimately decide what kind of body they require in a  locality are the electors, according to law. To my mind, if there is an inquiry, that inquiry should be held by a person who will know that his report will be made public. If the Minister considers that the nature of a report is such that the local body should be abolished, then the report should be made public. The reason for making it public is the desirability of placing the electors in a position to know the reasons why the persons whom they elected have been removed from office and within a period, which I think should not be more than 12 months, they should be given an opportunity of electing other persons who will carry out the duties of that body. It may be said that the local electors may refuse to elect a suitable body. My answer to that is that, if that be so, you should abolish local government altogether or let them have their way. Coercion from central sources is not calculated to produce a healthy system of local government.
The position at the moment is that nobody knows what the nature of the independent report is. All they know is the comment that the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary thinks fit to make. Then, obviously, it could become simply a Party issue and it would probably be forgotten, in any case, by the time five years have elapsed. I want to raise three points. Clearly, they would apply to the operation of Section 30 if by any miracle the amendments were carried. This is not the age of miracles, but this is the time to put forward what you believe is a sound principle. It is the only occasion on which it can be done.
Mr. MacEntee: On amendment No. 15?
Mr. Douglas: On amendments Nos. 45 and 46.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 15 is merely introductory and the three amendments are being discussed together. The suggestion, I understood, was accepted.
Mr. Sweetman: I think the Minister must have been asleep that time.
Mr. MacEntee: I am just wondering how amendment No. 15 may be made the occasion for raising these other issues.
Mr. Douglas: It was not made the occasion by me. It was a ruling of the Chair before I rose at all.
Mr. MacEntee: I suggest that we should not take the amendments together.
Mr. Sweetman: It has been already ruled that we are to take them together.
Mr. MacEntee: If so, I shall be in a very difficult position. I have no objection to amendment No. 15 but I have a very strong objection to the others. I think we should discuss amendment No. 15 separately because I think it does something that its mover did not advert to. I am prepared to accept amendment No. 15.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The suggestion was that the three amendments might be discussed together. They can be put separately afterwards.
Mr. MacEntee: I am not proposing at this stage to say anything with regard to the amendments until I have heard a little more about them.
Mr. Douglas: As far as I am concerned, subject to your ruling, Sir, if the Minister would like to have amendments Nos. 45 and 46 discussed again, I am quite willing that amendment No. 15 should be taken by itself. In the course of preparing amendments Nos. 45 and 46, I discovered that they were amendments to the Act of 1941. I do not know if this is the right place for them to go in, but my object was to amend the Bill by the insertion of these words.
Mr. MacEntee: I am accepting the Senator's one good deed for the day and that is enough.
Mr. Douglas: In that case we come back to discuss amendments Nos. 45 and 46 at a later stage.
Mr. MacEntee: If I thought that the decision on these amendments would mean that the sections as they are now in the Bill would be accepted by the  House, it would be quite a different matter, but I have no understanding to that effect.
Mr. Hayes: Is the Minister accepting amendments Nos. 45 and 46?
Mr. MacEntee: No. I do not intend to accept them. I have accepted No. 15.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: In accordance with my suggestion the House was discussing amendments Nos. 15, 45 and 46 together. It is a matter for the House if it wishes to discuss these later amendments subsequently, but I understood that there was no objection to discuss them together. They appear to me to be interdependent, certainly Nos. 15 and 45.
Mr. Douglas: I am quite willing to accept your decision.
Mr. MacEntee: I submit to you, Sir, that if we are going to discuss these amendments, then the sections to which they are amendments must stand or fall by the decisions on these amendments without further discussion. I suggest it would be wrong at this stage to discuss these amendments which are not joined to the section and then afterwards have a separate discussion on the section.
Mr. Douglas: I am quite prepared to give the Minister an opportunity to defend the section.
Mr. Hayes: Obviously only one discussion is required.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 15 is agreed to, I take it.
Mr. Ryan: I do not see what amendment No. 15 means.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Minister has accepted amendment No. 15.
Mr. Ryan: Even though he has accepted it that does not necessarily mean it is a good amendment.
Mr. Sweetman: On a point of order, we have all liberty to express our disapproval or approval of the amendment whether the Minister says the amendment is good or not. We need not even pass it.
Mr. Ryan: I am trying to get some enlightenment on the amendment because I do not understand what it means. The sub-section says:—
“For the purpose of Part IV of the Act of 1941 an Order under sub-section (4) of this section shall be deemed to be an Order under Section 44 of that Act.”
That is deemed to be under Section 44 of the Act of 1941. This amendment proposes that after the word “Act” the words “as amended by this Act” shall be deemed to be an Order under Section 44 as amended by this Act. Section 44 is not amended at all. There is, of course, the addition of a certain paragraph later on in respect of Section 44, but you are only deeming it to be an Order under it. It is not an Order under it. It is a kind of notional Order under it. I would suggest that the section is all right as it stands and the amendment does not improve it and is unnecessary. I do not understand it.
Mr. MacEntee: However, the Senator will allow me to look into it.
Mr. Ryan: It is only a small point, but still it is a point.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is amendment No. 15 agreed to?
Mr. Douglas: Surely the position is that we are discussing amendments Nos. 15, 45 and 46 and it can be decided after the full discussion?
Mr. Hayes: Surely the case for discussing these three amendments is this: Section 30 proposes that, under certain circumstances, the functions of a local authority shall be taken over by the Minister. That is what Section 30 means. Amendment No. 15 is rendered necessary by the fact that Senator Douglas wants to introduce a new section later on in accordance with amendments Nos. 45 and 46, which would ensure before a local body had its functions taken over, certain things would have to happen. If these provisions were accepted and a local inquiry held, the report of the inquiry should be published and the local body should be abolished but a new election should be held within 12 months. If  this section was implemented, then the powers the Minister seeks would be granted and we would ask that Section 30 be completed. It is in that way that amendments Nos. 15, 45 and 46 may be discussed together. That is a common practice on the Committee Stage of Bills. The Minister knows that before he proposes the abolition of a local body and takes over power to strike a rate, he is asked to agree with the principles of amendments Nos. 45 and 46. If he does, the objections to Section 30 as it stands disappear. Perhaps that is clear now?
Mr. MacEntee: That might be the view of the Senator. But Senator Sir John Keane has an amendment down and I want to know what is meant in No. 17.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We will discuss that when we come to it.
Mr. Ryan: On a point of order, I would object personally to taking these three amendments together.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Chair suggested that they might be discussed together, and no objection was taken to that suggestion.
Mr. MacEntee: I understand that the Chair made a ruling that these amendments would be taken together, but if I may express the views of a section of the House——
Mr. Sweetman: It was clearly stated they would be taken together.
Mr. MacEntee: It was not agreed to.
Mr. Hayes: It does not have to be agreed to.
Mr. Ryan: I did not agree to it.
Mr. Baxter: The Chair is the master of order.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: Senator Sir John Keane's amendment could suitably be discussed with Nos. 42 and 43 which I have put down. First of all Senator Douglas's amendment could be considered and possibly the whole group of amendments. That is only a suggestion.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: If the House now thinks we should do so  and it meets everybody, I will take the amendments in their order, amendment No. 15 first.
Mr. Sweetman: Why must we have the change in the ruling?
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We must get out of the impasse which appears to have arisen.
Mr. Sweetman: What impasse? Surely the House must approve of the order of the Chair.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: A suggestion was made and I thought was accepted, but in any case disagreement should have been expressed at the proper time.
Mr. Sweetman: Surely if they were not listening to the ruling we cannot be blamed.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: When objection is taken, I feel that the amendments should be taken separately.
Mr. Sweetman: This objection could have been raised in the beginning.
Mr. Douglas: I feel that I am the person with a real grievance——
Mr. Quirke: We must obey the ruling of the Chair.
Mr. Baxter: You were reluctant to obey it a little while ago.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Objection, I repeat, should have been taken at the beginning of the discussion, but in order to get over the difficulty which has emerged I am taking the amendments separately.
Amendment No. 15 put and declared carried.
Mr. Ryan: I dissent.
Mr. Hayes: His name can be recorded.
Amendment put and agreed to; Senator Ryan dissenting.
Sir John Keane: I move amendment No. 17:—
 At the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows:—
() A copy of the report of any local inquiry under sub-section (1) of this section shall be sent to the rating authority concerned at least 14 days before the issue of a notification under sub-section (2) of this section.
This amendment must be viewed against the background of forthcoming local government reform. The Minister has said, earlier in the debate, that I was attempting to anticipate legislation. I certainly think that by this Section 30 he is attempting to anticipate legislation—as I admit some of us are—before the other House which is only held up for the moment and which proposes to make a totally radical departure in the principles and the spirit of local government.
That legislation proposes, without consulting the local authority, to impose burdens of undisclosed and untold magnitude on the local authority, and, in view of that possibility, the Minister is now taking power to abolish without giving reasons such local authorities as refuse to accept burdens of heavy magnitude with regard to which they have never been consulted. As a generalisation, I say that is a radical departure from the spirit of local government.
Hitherto, in the process of development, local authorities have been, by and large, consulted in respect of services which they have to undertake. I would like, at the outset, the Minister to say why he has departed from the section and substituted this section for Section 23 as it was in the original Bill he introduced. The measure as introduced imposed on the local authority the obligation to strike an additional further rate if the original rate was insufficient, and there the matter ended.
The Minister has always had certain powers to abolish local authorities but not in the manner intended here, and he now comes along with his dictatorial proposals to abolish——
Mr. Ryan: On a point of order, Senator Sir John Keane is moving  amendment No. 17, which is to add to the section dealing with a local inquiry. I submit he is discussing the section although it has not yet come up for discussion. It is a question of a point of order.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I think Senator Sir John Keane should be allowed to develop his case. He is doing it relevantly so far.
Mr. Hayes: As they say in the courts, Sir, Senator Sir John Keane is opening his case.
Mr. Baxter: And he is not being paid for it.
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