Láthair: Óstán Flemings. Príobháideach.
The SECRETARY FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT submitted the report of the Commission on Local Government. He stated that the New General Council of County Councils were being called together on the 12th inst., and the question of the finances of Public Bodies would be considered there. The Grants made by the English Government to public bodies in Ireland was about one-eighth of the total revenue of these bodies.
Some scheme must be devised to make up the loss caused by the stoppage of these grants under the terms of the recent circular issued by the English Local Government Board. Labour should be willing to give whatever assistance was required to prevent the seizure of the property of the people. Some Councils would be very badly hit. In Dublin there were three large contracts in progress and there would be no capital to finance them. He moved the adoption of the report.
S. O DOLAIN (Leitrim) seconded the motion.
P. O MAILLE (Connemara), referring to the proposal contained in the Clare County Council Scheme, that the loss of grants should be met by levying portion of the land annuities on present occupiers of holdings, said that if land annuities were forwarded to the English Land Commission minus the deductions in respect of the withheld grants, they would probably not be accepted.
He asked what gurantee had the Rate Collectors that the English Government would not prosecute them for the recovery of the money collected by them in rates.
ART O CONCHUBHAIR (Kildare South) asked if it were intended that the position of the Committees of Agriculture be considered by the Commission. He was informed that a sum of £200,000 was involved, and that the English Department did not wish that anything in the nature of a break should occur.
C. O HUIGIN (Leix) said that the financial status and position generally of those Committees had not come in any special way before the Commission. He would regard the work of the Commission as very incomplete if the position of these Committees were not considered.
T. MACSUIBHNE (Cork Mid.) said that there principal concern was to get in sufficient money to enable them to function. In dealing with this question for the County and Borough Councils, they were covering all. It had been suggested that Unionists might refuse to pay rates. He was quite satisfied they would not. Unionists who sought the protection of the Republican Courts would pay the rates and an extra tax for protection if required. The farmers would be quite willing to pay their land purchase annuities to the Republican Government.
ART O CONCHUBHAIR (Kildare South) said that the Committees of Agriculture were more or less distinct. They had staffs of their own and a considerable portion of their funds was paid direct to them from the English Department of Agriculture.
C. O HUIGIN (Leix), referring to the question of the Teachta for Connemara as to the payment of Land Purchase Annuities, said that if it were decided to have these annuities paid into the Republican Exchequer, there should be no deductions made. As regards the Rate Collectors, the position of these officials would be made perfectly clear by their first formally resigning and then being reappointed.
The MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS pointed out that the only people who could prosecute the Rate Collectors were the County Councils.
S. MAC DONNACHADA (Tipperary North) submitted that the most urgent question for the Local Government Department was that of Housing. The question of floating a loan for this purpose secured by the rates and guaranteed by the Dáil should be considered.
C. O HUIGIN (Leix) said he was well aware of the circulars which had been issued by the English Local Government Board offering money for Housing, but they had not come along with the money. This was the case even before the Councils declared allegiance to Dáil Eireann. It was a question as to whether a special rate should not be raised for Housing.
The SECRETARY FOR FINANCE observed that the payment of Land Annuities to the Republican Exchequer was not one of the immediate things to be done. There were some cases where the annuities had only a few years to run, and it would not be good business to withhold them. This matter should be further gone into before any action were taken. The report was of course subject to elaboration by the Commission.
J.J. CLANCY (Sligo North) referred to the fact that British Government Stocks to the nominal value of half a million pounds were held by public bodies, and asked what should be done with them.
The SECRETARY FOR FINANCE suggested that the people who bought these stocks should be surcharged with the loss sustained by selling them. It would be a loss to sell them but it would be a greater loss to keep them.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT pointed out that it was proposed in the final paragraph of the Report of the Commission that public bodies on a certain day should "call" on all young men to join the Republican Army. If the Dáil considered that it was necessary for the defence of the country that this be done the Dáil and the Dáil alone was competent to issue such a decree. If the report was adopted as it stood, it would mean that they were conferring on the local bodies the power of determining National Policy.
The SECRETARY FOR DEFENCE did not agree. It was merely assisting the Defence Department to get recruits.
A. MACCABE (Sligo South) said that he had already suggested that each County Council be empowered to enrol a Local Police Force.
The SPEAKER ruled this out as irrelevant.
After some discussion it was decided to substitute the word "advise" for the word "call" in the final paragraph of the report.
The report was then put and agreed to.