Thursday, 11 July 1946
Seanad Éireann Debate
“(2) An Order under sub-section (1) of this section shall not remain in force for a longer period than six months but may be replaced by further Order or Orders if the appropriate Minister is satisfied that the special circumstances continue to exist.”
The purpose of the amendment is perfectly clear. I had an amendment of a different sort, to cover the same section, on the Committee Stage. The Minister, on that occasion, made great play out of the fact that I was asking him to do something that was unconstitutional in so far that I was asking him to delegate to the Houses administrative powers that were in the hands of the Minister under the Constitution. While not agreeing with a lot of what the Minister said on that occasion, I came to the conclusion that it was better to avoid on this stage of the Bill any possibility of that line being continued. I am providing in the amendment merely that the Order shall be laid on the Table of the House so that it will ipso facto be there by way of publicity. I think that is a better method than that of having to extract information by way of Parliamentary Question.
 Senator Hearne said on another amendment to this section that there are very many such Orders. I find from an answer given to a question in the Dáil on Tuesday that during the last 11 years there have been only 15 such Orders. Therefore, the acceptance of the amendment would not impose any great strain on anybody.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Mr. Childers): I do not think it can be admitted that Orders under this section are of sufficient importance to be laid before the Oireachtas. The general functions of the representative assemblies are well understood. If I may quote from the best exponent of representative governments, he says:
“It is admitted in all countries in which the representative system is practically understood that numerous representative bodies ought not to administer. The maxim is grounded not only on the most essential principles of good government but on those of the successful conduct of business of any description.”
“A popular assembly is still less fitted to administer or dictate in detail to those who have charge of administration. Even when honestly met the interference is almost always injurious. A Minister feels himself under some responsibility.”
Mr. Childers: I think that the matter was very fully discussed at an early stage in this debate. One point made was that it is possible, by way of Parliamentary Question, to elicit the information required, and that it is not desirable to increase the number of occasions in which Orders shall be laid  on the Table governing matters of administration, concerning which general regulations are laid down, and concerning which the general principles are understood.
Sir John Keane: The Parliamentary Secretary has my sympathy in making such a very unfortunate debut on this Bill. He quotes an authority and he cannot name the author. We will leave that for the moment. The Parliamentary Secretary seems to consider that this is a matter of minor importance. Surely, he is aware of what has been happening in recent years. He must know the public anxiety there is with regard to the appointment of these deputies, as well as the abuses, and I use that word deliberately, that have been disclosed in regard to the appointment of deputies, as well as the possibility of grave abuses in the future. Does he not consider that the Houses of Parliament have the right of protection in matters of this kind? Numbers and numbers of Orders under Bills of far less importance than this one had been laid on the Table. Surely it is not seriously suggested that these are Orders of minor importance.
In connection with this matter, I should like to say now what I omitted to say earlier. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary no doubt endorse it. It is this, that these holders of office are responsible for the work of their deputies. It has always been a mystery to me what that involves. A doctor, say, appoints a deputy. What responsibility has the absent holder for the work of his deputy? Supposing that somebody suffers or loses his life through the incompetence of the deputy, how can the holder be held responsible? We have a right to be informed as to what is meant by this doctrine of responsibility by the holder for the work of his deputy. To my mind it means nothing. It is pure eye-wash.
Mr. Baxter: We have now reached the stage when the Parliamentary Secretary comes briefed to the House without apparently being able to quote his authority. I am afraid it is going  to be difficult to get him to accept the amendment. Neither the Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary appears to be in the frame of mind to accept such an amendment as this. I think it is a very sensible one. This is a very important section dealing with a specific situation. You are not going to have countless unimportant Orders made under it. You are going to have Orders made dealing with particular types of cases.
I do not see why there should be any real objection to the tabling of such important Orders as these. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should be very slow to reject the amendment. The position will be that a decision will be taken to appoint a deputy to perform work for somebody who is called away in circumstances which appear justifiable in the Minister's view. I cannot understand why the Minister is not prepared to give publicity to that fact by laying the Order on the Table of the House. Surely the Minister does not want to keep something from Parliament? I think the Parliamentary Secretary should reconsider the matter.
Mr. Sweetman: I have very considerable sympathy for the Parliamentary Secretary who, at very short notice, is trying to speak from a brief, but I am afraid that he was speaking from a brief on an amendment that is not on the Order Paper. If the amendment had been the amendment I had down in Committee then I could see that there might be some force in the Parliamentary Secretary's reply even though I did not agree with it. If the amendment had been an amendment embodying the suggestion I made in Committee, giving power of annulment, then I could see there would be a case for passing it on the lines that the Parliamentary Secretary has taken. But, in fact, this amendment does not ask any Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to share his duties or responsibilities with anyone, it merely states that these duties which he carries out for the State  shall be subject to the public light of day by being placed on the Tables of both Houses of the Oireachtas, that is, in the Library, where it can be seen. I must confess I am in some difficulty having regard to the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary has had to come in here at short notice. For that reason I do not like approaching this matter in the manner in which I would approach it if the Minister was here, but it appals me that this should be the official approach; it appals me that there should be a desire on the part of a Minister of the Government to suggest that it is a bad thing to give to him power to have these Orders see the light of day.
I regard this not as a matter of minor importance but as a principle of major importance that the fullest publicity should be given, not merely in the interests of the public but in the interest of the person carrying out the duty of making the Order. We know perfectly well that if we were asked to do something which we feel may not be quite correct, the fact that it is going to be public is a good reason for not doing it. It appears to me that this would be an additional protection for the Minister. For this reason I must ask this House to insist on this amendment being inserted in the Bill.
|Baxter, Patrick F.
Counihan, John J.
Duffy, Luke J.
Keane, Sir John.
|Meighan, John J.
Moore, T.C. Kingsmill.
O'Donovan, Timothy J.
Ruane, Seán T.
|Clarkin, Andrew S.
Kelly, Peter T.
Lynch, Peter T.
|O Buachalla, Liam.
O'Dea, Louis E.
O Siochfhradha, Pádraig.
Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
Summerfield, Frederick M.
In page 18, Section 38, to add a new sub-section (7) as follows:— (7) The appropriate Minister shall on the 1st April in each year lay on the Table of Dáil Éireann a list of all persons who have acted by deputy for a period of more than six months during the previous year.
I think that Senator Hearne may be glad to know that this is my parting shot—not my Parthian shot, because I am not running away—in connection with the position of deputies, and he will shortly have his release. I am not going to divide on this amendment, because I feel the principle has already been determined on the last vote. But it is utterly incomprehensible to me how a Minister in a democratic Assembly can resist the principle and the actions called for under this amendment. If I was a Minister—I am sure I hear a silent echo, “God forbid”—I would welcome an amendment like this.
Take public life as we all know it. Is not one of the curses of public life the importunities of those who want to get something in life? The Parliamentary Secretary knows possibly how we must be continually embarrassed by persons in high places asking: “Look here, I want this done and the Minister is very reluctant, really, to do it.” What better than to be able to say: “My good chap, I am all in sympathy with you, but I have got to make this public and do you wish that done?” Here we may now open the gates of salvation to a Minister away from embarrassments of that kind which must be a continual torment to him, and he rejects it; he spurns the opportunity.
What other conclusions can we draw from his attitude than that he wants to keep this thing covered up, that he wants to act furtively, that he does not want the country or the Parliament to know—it is the only conclusion one can draw. Here is a perfectly democratic procedure asked for and yet it is not acceptable. The Government prefer to have all the whisperings, all the conjectures, all the surmises, all the suspicions that follow on this power to appoint deputies, and let them retain the right of nomination, and let them make hole-and-corner arrangements with regard to emoluments. The Government seem to prefer that to availing themselves of the very considerable escape that an amendment of this kind provides.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: During the last three weeks my ears have been assailed by people who are anxiously giving me lists of those to whom leave of absence was given in circumstances which they consider improper. I do not know nor very much care who they were; I was interested not in the individuals but in the principle and the important thing seems to be this: that from different sources there were borne to my ears different names and I have no means of discovering how many other persons were subjected to the same aural assault, nor had I any  means of judging the truth or falsity of the statements which were made.
I am willing to assume that 50 per cent. of the names given and the assertions made were false, and, for all I know, the other 50 per cent. were equally false, but unless some method is taken of bringing the matter out in the open this kind of thing is going to swell and you will soon have half the population of Ireland believing the other half is getting leave from the Government not to do their jobs. I agree with Senator Sir John Keane that it would be greatly in the interest, both of the Government and the public, to publish a bare list, without any reasons, of the people who have been given leave of absence for more than six months. By doing that, you take away this quality of rumour and you can show that reasonable grounds, probably, existed in each case. Unless you want this country to be a whispering gallery, it is most inadvisable to refuse publication of the list of names of persons who, for reasons which seem entirely adequate to the Minister, and, which, no doubt, he can justify, have been given leave of absence. For these reasons, I support the amendment.
Mr. O'Dea: I thought that these amendments were left over to see if the Minister would put forward his amendment. The Minister has put forward his amendment and it has been accepted by the House. The result is that any Order giving leave of absence will operate only for six months. At the end of that period it must be renewed. What is the meaning of that? Does it not mean that  every Order must be sent down to the local authority by which the holder of the office is employed and that it will probably be published in the local Press? In any event, notice will be given to the only persons interested— the authority which employs and pays the holder of the office. What greater security Senators could desire, I do not know.
Mr. Baxter: Senator O'Dea has made a statement which, if it be accurate, reveals a fact of which I was ignorant. If a county manager makes an order, members of the local authority get copies of the order. If the Minister makes an Order with regard to a particular official, I am not aware that that Order is communicated in the set of orders transmitted by the manager to the members of the local authority. That point had better be cleared up. I do not know that there is any obligation on the manager to communicate the substance of such an Order to the elected representatives.
Mr. Kingsmill Moore: I have just been given a list of those whose work is being carried on by deputies. I wish to reinforce my remarks by saying that, at least, half a dozen names of persons mentioned quite authoritatively to me as having been given leave are not on this list. I suspected that they were erroneous, and they are erroneous. This is a most reasonable list.
Mr. Childers: Speaking without a Ministerial brief, in the sense suggested by the Opposition, I think that this amendment should be resisted. I do not at all agree with the observations of Senator Sir John Keane, who spoke about the salvation which could be afforded a Minister through being able to tell people that he must refuse them certain privileges because the matter would have to be published. I do not believe in that at all. Ministers have got to have executive responsibility and, when they make mistakes, they have got to suffer for those mistakes. I do not believe that they ought to seek to protect themselves by compiling lists of persons to be laid on the Tables of the Oireachtas. If I were Minister for Local Government and was certain that, in sanctioning the appointment of a deputy, I was acting in the public interest, I should be prepared for any kind of disturbance which might be made at a later date and I should be prepared to meet any question which might be raised in regard to my action. I should be prepared to bear full executive responsibility for having such matters referred to the Oireachtas. That is what I say on my own behalf and I am confirming what has been said by the Minister, who has referred to this matter on many occasions.
Mr. Foran: Local government has ceased to exist in this country. This question of the powers of Ministers is a very serious one in view of the drastic changes which have been brought about in local government. There is no such thing as local government and the powers the Government have in relation to remunerative positions are very important. They like to have those powers. They gain support when they are able to hand  round favours but it is a very serious matter for the country, which has to pay for that. The Parliamentary Secretary tells us that he would be prepared to take responsibility for any mistakes made by him. Would we ever have heard of the recent mistakes were it not for the falling out amongst a certain gang——
Mr. Foran: It is only by a mistake or something of that kind that the country hears about these matters. Under this Bill, a big change is being brought about and the possibility of some similar kind of thing in the future is increased. Consequently, I think that the House should divide and register its opinion on this sort of thing. The more protection we offer the public, the better we safeguard the Ministers, as the mover of the amendment has already said. Provision for publication serves as a safeguard. Ministers will have to walk very cautiously if these Orders have to be laid on the Tables of both Houses. They will be fortified in dealing with persons who importune them for appointments. Therefore, I am in favour of the amendment.
Mrs. Concannon: I wonder if Senators who are in favour of this amendment think that it would add anything to the public knowledge to be furnished with a list of persons who carry out their duties through deputies. These persons are employees of public bodies and, in their respective districts, everybody knows who they are and the circumstances under which deputies have been permitted to act. Suppose this amendment were carried, what would we get in this House but a list of names? There is local information about all that and, therefore, there is no hole and corner method being used. What we would get would be the list of names, without any commentary. The numbers on the list might give some indication of a trend, but as for any positive information that could enlighten the public mind, a long list of persons who do the work of deputies for more than six months in a given year would add nothing. It is public  knowledge in the places where those deputies do the work of the holders of the office. The section provides that there is an Order issued and this is all public property. I do not think it would add to public knowledge or be any protection against the dangers which Senators seem to see, that we should have a bare list of employees of public authorities who carry out their duties through deputies.
Sir John Keane: I am at least glad that coming events cast the shadow of John Stuart Mill before them. Those like myself who had to move with the times but still cling to Liberal tradition are very pleased to have an ally now in the Parliamentary Secretary. On many occasions, both of us will be able to bring John Stuart Mill and his doctrines to our aid. I was rather amused at the Parliamentary Secretary's attitude that no Minister ever required to be protected, to be immune against adopting a weak attitude. It is a doctrine of practice, but perhaps rather more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Nothing would be more to our advantage than to say “yes,” but if this is to be done, it cannot be done without consideration. I said I would not divide the House on this point, but anyone else is at liberty to call for a division. The whole principle is most unsatisfactory. I am hoping that when a new Local Government Bill comes before us the whole of this question of deputies will be put on to a common-sense and straightforward basis.
(1) If the Minister is of opinion that on account of the nature or extent of the duties of an office it is inexpedient that the holder of such office should engage in any other gainful occupation without the permission of the local authority by which appointments to such office are made and the consent of the Minister, the Minister may give a direction to that  effect and such direction shall have effect according to the terms thereof.
Mr. S. O'Donovan: This amendment has been introduced as a result of the discussion on the last day and I fear that the cure is just as bad as the disease. The Minister may leave himself open to being accused of discrimination now, by the insertion of this new section. Candidly, the words of the Bill as it stood, requiring holders to devote the whole of their time to the duties of their office, form a definite and emphatic statement, and this amendment is somewhat on the same lines but doing it by a circuitous route. I fancy that it will not be to the satisfaction of the Minister to the extent he believes it will be. Certainly, it is not to my satisfaction.
I do not like the word “inexpedient” at all, as it does not sound nice to me. Either “inadvisable” or “unsuitable” would be better. The use of the words “engaged in any other gainful occupation” means practically prohibiting a person doing anything which may bring in revenue in his spare time. Having opposed the phraseology of the section as it stood, and since this is put in more or less to meet the matters raised, I just want to express the opinion that it will not be as effective in its application as we would like it to be.
Mr. O'Dea: I think there is a great deal in what Senator O'Donovan has said. I do not fancy this amendment very much either. I dare say it will only be used when an appointment is vacant, before the holder takes up office. Is it the intention that it would apply to a person already holding office?
Mr. O'Dea: That may be held to be breach of contract. That is the only thing I can imagine against it. I did not approve either of the section as drafted originally. The words “gainful occupation” do not constitute a happy wording.
Mr. Childers: Members of the House will recall the objection to the section in its original form, in that it appeared to leave no loophole for difficult cases. The section has been redrafted, largely with the deliberate intention of giving the Minister some discretion and to enable him to overcome difficulties of definition and other difficulties which might arise if there was some doubt as to whether a person's spare time occupation might or might not interfere with his work as a local official. For example, an official might have some kind of specialised agriculturist activity which on a very small scale would not interfere with his duties, but if that activity—such as the growing of some particular form of pedigree fruit, or tomatoes, involved administering a very large acreage—the Minister would be able to say: “I am very sorry, but this is so large an undertaking that if you manage it yourself you must be using official time and I cannot accept that you could carry on with the work and also remain an official”.
The House is already aware that since the Local Authorities (Officers and Employees) Act, 1926, became law, the description of the duties of an officer has become more precise—in other words, whether they are temporary or permanent, whole or part-time, pensionable or non-pensionable. The duties are fairly well indicated, but there are many officers whose terms of service are not exactly defined and the question arises as to what exactly are the terms of the appointment. This is a matter of particular importance in deciding, on an officer's retirement, whether he is entitled to a pension or not. The Minister, on the other hand, has power to define the duties of the holders of offices, to assign the place in which the officer works, his hours of duty. He can do that in connection with officers of particular grades.
I think it has been already indicated that there have been cases where doubts have arisen. An officer may begin his career as a part-time officer. He may subsequently secure another part-time post and later still a third  part-time post. If these posts are amalgamated the question arises: is he a whole-time officer or not? Then there is also the case which the Minister has to consider, as I have said already, the particular work of the officer. There are cases where it would be undesirable for an officer to undertake private practice of any kind relating to his profession where he is supposed to be engaged as a full-time officer exercising that profession on behalf of a local authority. There are other cases, for example, where the medical superintendent of a mental hospital is allowed to act as a consultant and to certify insane persons. It is to the advantage of the public generally, and it is desirable, that such officers should be available to persons other than their own hospital patients. The Minister must be guided by common-sense and, to a degree, by custom and by the circumstances of each case. I do not think there is any great danger in the character of this amendment. If Senators will read it carefully, they will see, as I have said, that it gives the Minister discretionary powers. It says: “If the Minister is of opinion that on account of the nature or extent of the duties of an office, it is inexpedient that the holder of such office should engage in any other gainful occupation without the permission of the local authority by which appointments to such office are made and the consent of the Minister, the Minister may give a direction to that effect.”
I think we have done our best to meet the objection to the original section. I must make it clear that the Minister has to use his discretion and that he may be subject to criticism in this, as in all other executive acts. There may be people who may be prejudiced when he makes a decision on a particular matter but we cannot avoid that.
(2) The provisions of sub-section (1) of this section shall not be operative in the case of clergymen of any denomination appointed as additional or external members to represent the local authority on subsidiary or other statutory bodies.
Mr. Childers: I am afraid this amendment could not be accepted. It is customary, when members of a local authority are removed by the Minister, to remove the members of subsidiary bodies also. I think it would be inadvisable in the circumstances if any exception of the kind suggested were made. It is the custom for the Minister to reappoint many members of subsidiary bodies after taking advice and, as far as I know, in ordinary circumstances the persons referred to in his amendment are generally reappointed.
(2) A local authority to which the principal section applies may by resolution decide that, in lieu of defraying the expenses of locomotion actually incurred by each of their members in travelling to and from the meetings of such local authority, such local authority shall pay to each such member in respect to every meeting of such local authority which he attends at a place not less than five miles by any route from his official residence, a fixed sum for every mile between such place and such official residence measured along the route by which such member would normally travel.
(6) While a resolution passed by a local authority to which the principal section applies under sub-section (2) of this section is in force such local authority shall not defray under sub-section (3) of the principal section the expenses of locomotion actually incurred by each of their members in travelling to and from meetings of such local authority but, in lieu thereof, shall make payments to members attending such meetings in accordance with the terms of such resolution.
 (7) Where a member of a local authority attends a meeting of such local authority at a place not less than five miles by any route from his official residence and is obliged by reason of such attendance to remain away from his home for a continuous period of not less than three hours, the local authority shall, in addition to defraying under the principal section the expenses of locomotion incurred by such member in travelling to and from such meeting or making to such member the payment required by a resolution under sub-section (2) of this section (as the case may be), pay to such member an allowance in respect of such period calculated in accordance with the prescribed rules.
(8) The rules made by the Minister for the purposes of sub-section (7) of this section shall make provision for preventing allowances being paid to a member of more than one local authority, by more than one local authority in respect of the same period.
Mr. Duffy: May I be permitted to say a word about the amendment? This amendment was submitted arising out of an amendment which I had tabled on the Committee Stage. My amendment sought to confer power on the local authority to make arrangements subject to sanction by the Minister under which payments might be made to members of local authorities in respect of expenditure on subsistence in connection with their attendance at meetings of local authorities, and also to compensate them, in proper cases, for any loss of remuneration which might be suffered because of their attendance to the business of the local authority. I have in mind, for instance, the case of somebody in West Cork who is a member of the Cork County Council. He probably would require to travel 40 miles to attend the meeting of the county council. He would leave home early in the morning and get back late at night. He would lose a day's pay, whatever it might be. He would also have to pay for his subsistence while he was away. Under Section 80 of the Act of 1941, the council were entitled to make a  payment to defray the actual cost of locomotion occasioned by the attendance. The Minister promised that the matter would be examined and that he would endeavour to meet my amendment to some extent. The result is enshrined in this amendment No. 27.
I must say, first and foremost, that I am dissatisfied with the arrangement which he has made, which merely allows payment of the cost of a meal for instance. The amount and the method of payment will be prescribed by the Minister under regulations which he will make under the section as amended. What baffles me completely is the manner in which this amendment is drawn. I think it is the most bewildering form of draftsmanship I have ever met. The amendment commences in the first sub-section to deal with the present arrangement of defraying the cost of locomotion and it authorises the local authority, if they see fit, to pass a resolution enabling them to pay, not the actual cost of locomotion but a mileage rate, being a fixed sum for every mile between the place of meeting and the official residence of the member “measured along the route by which such member would normally travel.” Heretofore, the expenses were paid according to whatever route he had to travel, but now somebody will have to make a new survey of Ireland to find out the route by which he would normally travel and he will be paid a mileage rate according to that measure.
In order to clarify what is being done and to implement sub-section (2) we have four other sub-sections. We then come to sub-section (7) which is really the sub-section which is introduced for the purpose of meeting the point I raised, to the extent that it is being met. We have here a long sub-section, the net result of which is expressed in the last two lines, that the local authority shall pay to such member an allowance in respect of such period calculated in accordance with the prescribed rules. There you have almost a sheet of foolscap occupied in expressing a very simple idea, that a member who goes to attend a meeting may get 2/- to pa  for his lunch. What is really happening at present is that, because of the manner in which these regulations have been drafted, councils are paying at least twice as much in expenses as they would normally, if the thing were done on a common-sense basis.
Take this case. A member of a local authority lives 20 miles from the place at which the council meets. If he is a young athletic man and were allowed reasonable expenses he would probably cycle to the meeting. He would be allowed a certain amount to cover subsistence and perhaps a day's pay. The whole thing would come to 10/-. But what does he do? He has got to pay for his meals out of his own pocket, and he compensates himself for that by hiring a motor car. He drives in the motor car to the meeting, keeps it out all day and drives home in the evening at a cost of £2 10s. or £3. Therefore, the local authorities are paying far more in expenses under the present arrangement than if they had a sensible arrangement by which they would give members compensation for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses. That is all they ask, that they should be compensated for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.
In reading this amendment I was highly amused to see the manner in which the drafting of simple ideas can become so involved in legislation. It reminds me of a story that the late Cathal McGarvey used to tell many years ago. This was at the time that the foot-and-mouth disease was alleged to be very prevalent in Ireland. The person appointed to inquire into an outbreak in some part of the West of Ireland was the local sergeant of the Royal Irish Constabulary. He is alleged to have asked a farmer whether there was any foot-and-mouth disease on his land. The farmer said that he thought the goat had got it. The sergeant asked the farmer to explain the symptoms. The farmer said that the goat wagged its tail, and the sergeant proceeded to inquire whether the tail was wagged upwards and downwards or backwards and forwards. That is precisely the mentality that we find in the drafting of an  amendment of this kind. If reasonable men sat down to provide a method by which the local authority would be allowed by its own resolution, subject to the sanction of the Minister, to settle these things for themselves, they would soon do so in a sensible way. It would be less expensive than the arrangement set out in the amendment and would be understood by everybody. I thought that I misunderstood the amendment, and I, therefore, showed it to two or three members of local authorities. I asked them to tell me what it meant, but they did not profess to know.
There is one other point. Section 80 is the principal section referred to here. I do not remember whether it embraces all the subsidiary bodies that are appointed by local authorities. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether the amendment covers the visiting committee of a mental hospital or the various joint committees appointed by county councils. There is one other matter that I would like to mention for the information of the Parliamentary Secretary in the hope that the matter might be reviewed again. In the old days, in the case of mental hospital committees, there was a practice by which a meal was provided in the institution for the members attending the meetings. For some years I was a member of the joint committee of the Portrane and Grange-gorman Mental Hospital. A meal was provided for the members who attended the board meetings.
I understand that was a common practice throughout the country in the case of mental hospitals. It got rid of all this trouble about the cost of maintenance. The members assembled for the meeting at 11 o'clock in the morning. There was an interval for lunch at 1 o'clock. The members returned to the meeting at 2 o'clock, and were usually able to finish the business by 5 o'clock. The result of that arrangement was that there was no question of expenses. I understand that, in some cases, that practice has been discontinued. I do not know whether it is due to some direction from Departmental headquarters or to some view taken by the county manager.  I am, however, aware that in certain cases the practice has been discontinued of serving a meal to the members of visiting committees of mental hospitals. That has increased very materially the cost of the attendance of members at meetings. For some reason, the practice has been continued in other cases. I should be glad to get some indication from the Parliamentary Secretary as to what the official policy in regard to that matter is, and whether it is desired that the practice should be continued or discontinued.
Sir John Keane: It is interesting to observe how great minds work alike because I, without any collusion, had come to identically the same conclusion as Senator Duffy. Why all this elaboration and verbosity in the amendment? When I read it I knew, of course, roughly, what it intended to do, but I did not waste my time in trying to dissect it. It is an eloquent example of the position we have now reached as regards central control—that it requires a whole page practically of the Order Paper to put into effect a very simple proposition regarding the payment of reasonable expenses. Any business firm would do that in a 100-word circular. You have a note of suspicion in it—that a person must travel by the nearest road. Why all that tomfoolery? I wonder what the friend of the Cathaoirleach and myself, that great patriot Alec Heskin, if he returned to this earth, would think of the sorry pass that local government has now reached? The chairman and I had many encounters with him. He was a very patriotic Irishman. An amendment such as this is the result of the ridiculous position that centralisation has brought us to.
Why cannot local authorities be allowed a certain latitude and discretion in the matter of expenses for the members? One local authority may wish to give expenses in one form and another local authority may wish to do it in another form. Is not diversity the whole spice of life? That is what we should be trying to do— to educate our people to find their own salvation. What we have here is a verbose legally constructed document  which Senator Duffy says he has examined and does not understand. As I said on the Second Reading of the Bill, we should cut away from all this nonsense, all this streamlining and get back to human methods in local government.
Mr. O'Dea: The wording of the amendment is rather long, but the intention is clear. The amendment speaks of “not less than five miles by any route from his official residence a fixed sum for every mile between such place and such official residence measured along the route by which such a member would normally travel.” That reminds me of a story that I once heard from an Indian judge. For years and years he had been carrying on a correspondence about his charges. Eventually the authorities said that he was charging too much. The reason, they said, was because he did not go along the route as the crow flies. After some years he got busy again and wrote back to say that his reasons for not going as the crow flies were: “(1), Because I am not a crow, and (2) Because I do not fly.”
Whoever drafted this left nothing to the imagination because he says it must be along a road and a normal road. The first Act that provided travelling expenses was the Act of 1925. It allowed 5d. per mile.
Mr. O'Dea: The 1941 Act allowed normal expenses, so much per mile. That is even better because where four or five members live in the same area they can hire a car and come together to the meeting. That is better than dividing up the allowance. Section 7 is pretty clear. An allowance can be made for loss of time as well.
Mr. Baxter: I do not know whether Senator O'Dea is more clear-minded than I am, at the moment. We know that the existing law in regard to the payment of travelling expenses is very unsatisfactory. Perhaps it may be said that it is unsatisfactory because it has been unsatisfactorily administered. That is one of the faults I have to find with it. Personally, I have no experience, but colleagues of mine have experience and it is quite absurd to find that they get one treatment one time from their own county manager and another treatment another time from another county manager. We have had experience in my county of the manager of the Joint Mental Hospital for Cavan and Monaghan. Members from Cavan who could not attend the meeting by any other means than by motor car, were not entitled to their travelling expenses. He actually did that. It came up before our county council meeting and we found the position altered some time afterwards. It is true that the law was there. The phrase was “reasonable travelling expenses” and I think we can say that the position was somewhat clarified since then. I would like to have this sub-section clarified still further. Are we going to have a separate resolution for each member?
“A local authority to which the principal section applies may by resolution decide that, in lieu of defraying the expenses of locomotion actually incurred by each of their members in travelling to and from the meetings of such local authority, such local authority shall pay to each such member, in respect of every meeting of such local authority which he attends at a  place not less than five miles by any route from his official residence, a fixed sum for every mile between such place and such official residence measured along the route by which such member would normally travel.”
Why I make this point is this. As we know, some members of local authorities, some of our members at least—I do not know what happens in Clare, Longford or Galway— travel by bus, others cannot travel by bus and some of them travel by motor car and some of them travel by bicycle. Now the man who can only travel by motor car cannot possibly get to the meeting at the same cost per mile, anyway you calculate it, as the man who travels by bus. Some of the men who travel by bus have only the same distance to go as the men who travel by motor car. If you give a fixed sum to each member, an equal sum to each member, you are going to have some of the men doubly paid with regard to their expenses. I have no objection to this at all. My view is that when a man spends his day away from home at a meeting he does not do so without spending money; he has to have a meal. These men are always out of pocket. I do not know how this is going to work out. I think I heard some murmur of dissent from Senator Hearne and, perhaps, he will explain his difficulty.
Mr. Baxter: Well, I cycle myself, sometimes, and I think that 1½d. per mile is absurd in these days. I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should look into this matter. Not alone is it absurd in regard to his Department but in other Departments, too. Under the Vocational Education scheme the allowances are grotesque.  How is this going to be worked out? I know men who cycle ten or 15 miles to meetings and they can only come by bicycle unless they bring a car to the house and that would be rather extravagant. Personally I think the allowance is not sufficient.
Mr. Sweetman: I have only two or three remarks to make. On the last occasion I dealt with the case of the Carlow Mental Hospital Committee where a lunch used to be provided for the members and where this was one of the first things that was cut out when the county manager was introduced. It was cut out by the county manager against the wishes of the committee and against the wishes of both councils. The Kildare County Council has recently passed a resolution requesting that this luncheon be reintroduced because it is much more satisfactory to have members meeting and having informal discussions over a meal like this rather than that the members should be given a few shillings and have to get a meal outside. One of the difficulties of the County Management Act is that committees like this have no power of dealing with a case that arises under the executive responsibility of the committee.
Estimates committees and visiting committees are both very important committees of local authorities, and it does appear to me reasonable that where a member of the local authority, at the request of that authority, attends a meeting of the estimates committee or visiting committee, he should, while there attending them, be in the same position as if he was attending a meeting of the full council.
I understand that there is a method by which the Minister's sanction to committees can be obtained, and that the meetings of those committees may be considered as meetings of the local authority, but will that operate so far as sub-section (7) for example is concerned? I am not clear on that.
Mr. Childers: I am not going to deal with the criticisms of the drafting of the section because it seems to be fairly clear. Whether it might be said in fewer words or at greater length  is a matter of opinion, but I should state that the expenses of a vocational education committee or of a county committee of agriculture are not provided for in this section, which relates to the Local Government Act, 1941, where these bodies are excluded from the definition terms. The visiting committee of a mental hospital is included.
Mr. Childers: Is included in the definition terms of the 1941 Act. I understand that luncheons, meals, have been given in mental hospitals, and should be charged for, and if not charged for, the auditor should draw attention to these irregularities. When the Bill becomes effective, a joint mental hospital committee can arrange to have a meal at an institution and the members can discharge the cost thereof by means of these subsistence allowances.
Mr. Childers: With regard to Senator Baxter's observations on travelling expenses, the local authority can adopt either one or the other system. Up to 1941, only the mileage system obtained, and in response to complaints that were made, we changed the system. Now we have arranged that either method can be adopted— either there is a definite mileage allowance or members can continue to have their expenses reimbursed. The rate of expenses is administered by the manager.
In regard to Senator Sweetman's suggestion that local authorities might be able to arrange lunches where members could have informal discussions, I understand that there is no objection. The manager could provide lunch for county council members and discharge the cost of those lunches by means of subsistence allowances. In regard to estimates committees, I understand that if a case should be made, that these committees should meet regularly, expenses can be allowed.
Mr. Duffy: The position is that if no resolution is adopted the present system of defraying the actual outlay on locomotion stands. If he wants to change that, the council might pass a resolution and alter it to the mileage basis.
This amendment is covered to some extent but I want to say I did not think the Minister intended to cover it. I am not absolutely happy about the position of the amendment. I do suggest that the Minister should make regulations prescribing the size of signs to be provided by a road authority. The Minister's amendment is that he may make regulations prescribing the size of signs to be provided by a road authority but it would appear that only a road authority is bound to obey his regulations. I do not understand the significance of putting the proviso in the second part of the sub-section. There may be something in it I have missed; that is why I ask.
Mr. Childers: I think we have covered the objections raised in this amendment by amendments Nos. 29 to 33. The amendment to sub-section (2) would confine the application of the regulation to traffic signs provided by road authorities.
Mr. Childers: I have examined these amendments very carefully and they  seem to conform to what Senator Sweetman has suggested, and that is to exclude hotels which erect signs along roadsides within the provisions of the section, and to confine orders governing signs along roadways in relation to size, to local authorities. I think it is fairly clear.
Mr. Sweetman: It is only a verbal change, but I do think it is not quite right as it is. In any event, it is a change of a drafting nature and this section, as amended, will have to go back to the Dáil. Between this and the Dáil I would suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary would look into the aspect of the matter I have indicated. It appeared to me that what he has done is to leave the Minister power to make regulations about every sort of sign, hotel signs included, and the thing he has said is that a local authority will not erect any sign except in accordance with regulation. I have provided that the Minister may make regulations about the type of signs which a local authority may erect and then it is provided that no sign can be erected except in conformity with the regulation. It is a verbal question of drafting about which I am still not quite happy, but I would be satisfied if the Parliamentary Secretary will look into it by the time it goes back to the Dáil.
30. In page 29, Section 67, sub-section (6), to delete line 11, and substitute the words “notice, given by registered post to the occupier (if any) of the land and to every (if any) person interested in land whose existence, name and address can be ascertained by such road authority by reasonable inquiries, enter”.
33. In page 29, Section 67 (12), line 42, to insert after the word “person” the words “wilfully obstructs or interferes with the exercise by a road authority of the powers conferred by sub-section (6) of this section or”.
I am afraid the Minister slipped one across me on the Committee Stage— I may as well be quite frank about it. I understood that the whole section was being governed by the words in sub-section (1). I thought on the Committee Stage that this was only provided in cases in which the land was acquired by agreement, but when I came on to read sub-section (4) more carefully in the light of the subsequent discussion, I came to the conclusion that my first impression was not quite correct and in fact what was happening was that local authorities were being given the power to acquire land compulsorily, notwithstanding the fact that they had not made up their minds what they wanted to acquire it for. I cannot fully understand it, taking the view that if certain land was for sale in the public market, it would be desirable for such a public authority to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase it by agreement on that occasion, notwithstanding that they had not actually determined the purpose for which they wanted it. Here is something different. Here is a case in which the local authority come forward and say: “We want to acquire this land compulsorily, notwithstanding that we do not know for what purposes we want it”. Worse than that, it might be land adjoining some amenity. It might be no hardship on the owner that that land should be acquired for a particular purpose. He might be prepared to agree with its acquisition for that purpose. But, in sub-section (4), the local  authority, having got the land from him by those means, can turn round and say that they have changed their minds, that they are going to put something there that might be objectionable and utterly ruinous to the business of the man next door.
That does not seem to me to be giving to the private individual who owns property a fair crack of the whip. I mention this matter with some diffidence because the proposal seems to me to be so outrageous that I feel I must have missed something in regard to the sub-section. If the sub-section means that the local authority can acquire land compulsorily, saying they want it for one purpose, and then, shortly afterwards, decide, because of different circumstances, that they will use it for another purpose, I should find it difficult to support it. I hope I am wrong.
Mr. O'Dea: There is a great deal to be said for this amendment. One can imagine an urban authority seeing some land near their area which they might require for the purpose of beautifying their town or adding to the amenities of their town. Everybody who knows Galway knows Menlo Wood. At one time, the corporation were afraid that the wood would be cut down and they bought the timber. People came in and cut down the timber and the council could not prosecute them because they were not the owners of the land. I can imagine several such instances in which people would desire to develop their town and would require land for that purpose. They might not know immediately what they would do with it but any town planner they consulted would tell them that that land would be necessary for his purposes. I do not think that an urban authority can purchase without the consent of the Minister.
Mr. Hearne: I should like to express my disagreement with the amendment. I know a case to which the sub-section would apply very well. It is in my own town. It is proposed to build there 150 houses. The last of those houses may not be built for ten years, but we want power to acquire the necessary land. I think that it is right  that the local authority should have power to acquire the whole of the land and have their scheme prepared accordingly by an architect, even though the last of the houses may not be completed for ten years. That would be the only proper way of proceeding in a case of that kind. The other case I have in mind is that of the making of a new road near a town. Undoubtedly, the land along that road would become valuable because of development by the public authority.
Mr. Hearne: If this power were removed, adjoining owners would be able to sell the plots at exorbitant prices because of the facilities afforded by the new roads. That should be avoided so far as possible.
Mr. Hearne: I agree with the qualification, “with the consent of and subject to any conditions imposed by the Minister.” I am glad that that safeguard is there because I can imagine exceptional cases arising in which it would be necessary that very careful consideration be given to the claims of the private individual.
Mr. Childers: We are considering the reservation of powers in connection with the widening of roads. As Senator Sweetman is, probably, aware there are certain powers in this regard under the Town Planning Acts.
We had considerable discussion in Committee arising out of an amendment by Senator Ruane to the effect that, where land was not required by a local authority, they should offer it, in the first place, to the person from whom it was acquired. The Minister made the case then that this was to be a reserved function and that the local authority would do that. All I am suggesting is that the local authority will give the previous owner, if available, an opportunity of making representations to them.
For the purposes of removing doubts it is hereby declared that any reference, in the Local Government Acts, 1925 to 1941, to holding a local inquiry shall be construed as meaning and as having always meant causing a local inquiry to be held by an inspector of the Minister.
Senator O'Reilly asked me particularly to move this amendment, having regard to the terms of the Schedule. In Part I of the Schedule, it is ¾ and Senator O'Reilly desires to reduce it to ?. It is ? in Part II, but not in Part I. In this question the Parliamentary Secretary may be in a great deal of difficulty, except that perhaps his brief is a great deal better than mine.
I understand from Senator O'Reilly that the position is going to be that agricultural land in the urban district of Dundalk, which has a population of 14,684, agricultural land in the urban district of Tralee, which has a population of 10,285 and agricultural land in the urban district of Bray, which has a population of 10,111, will be rated at only three-fifths of the poor law valuation thereof; but that land in the case of all the boroughs, whether large or small, will be rated at the very much larger figure of three-fourths. I think this is an example of what Senator Hayes referred to as streamlined efficiency—the Minister is anxious to get a cut straight deadline and bring all the different local authorities in on that line, regardless of size and so forth. I understand that Clonmel—though a borough and, therefore, coming within Part I of the Second Schedule—has a population of only 9,391 and, therefore, it is being treated in a very harsh manner, if one makes a comparison with the urban districts in the larger places—Dundalk, Tralee and Bray. Similarly, Kilkenny is about the same size as Tralee and Bray, but considerably smaller than Dundalk.
It appears to me that the Minister might deal with this, perhaps not altogether in the way that Senator O'Reilly has dealt with it, but by reference to the size of the town concerned rather than to whether it happened to have an urban council or a corporation. After all, it is very often fortuitous whether a town has an urban council or a corporation. As  the Bill as drafted dealt with it purely on that basis, would it not be much more reasonable and equitable to deal with it on the basis of the population from time to time? By that means, not only would we be fair at the present time, but according as different censuses were taken, the requirements of the neighbourhoods could be dealt with according to the latest shift of the population for the area concerned.
Mr. O'Dea: There is a good deal to be said for the amendment. First of all, there was the Town Improvements Act of 1847 and another of 1854, and the latter provided that land in an urban area should be levied only on a quarter of the poor law valuation. It may be suggested that boroughs are more important than urban areas and that is the reason for the three-quarters, that people are not dependent so much on the land as they are in urban areas. I think they are just as dependent.
Mr. Childers: We have tried to establish some uniformity in regard to the rating on lands, etc., and in this connection, with the Senator's amendment we have received a letter from the acting-town clerk in Clonmel, whom we asked to give us an indication of the effect of the section on the incidence of rate. He said:
“The total rate in Clonmel this year is 16/8, made up of borough rate 3/-, sanitary rate 3/8, and poor rate 10/-; while the rate on land is borough rate 3/-, sanitary rate quarter of 3/8, 11d.; and poor rate 10/-, total 13/11. Under the new Bill, if three-quarters of the total rate was assessable on lands, the rate on land would be 21/6, which would mean a gain of 1/5 in the £ to the rated occupiers of land in Clonmel.”
We have tried to arrange this in such a way as to be equitable and if the Senator were to study what the change of rate would mean in effect, as  between three-quarters and three-fifths, he will see we have made the best job we can of it. I could read a long list of figures showing the effect of this amendment but it is surely not necessary at this stage.
Mr. Sweetman: In the absence of the Senator for Clonmel who sits behind me and in the absence of the Alderman of the Borough of Clonmel  who is the Leader of this House, I do not think I can do anything else but withdraw the amendment.
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