MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 23adh Bealtaine, 1935.
Thursday, 23rd May, 1935.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
DEPUTY D. FITZGERALD in the Chair.
Mr. J. Maher (representing the Comptroller and Auditor-General),
Mr. C. S. Almond and Mr. T. S. C. Dagg (An Airgid) called and examined.
VOTE 33—GARDA SIOCHANA (Resumed).
Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.
Deputy Haslett.—What is the explanation of the substantial increase under sub-head F-Furniture, barrack bedding and bedsteads?
202. Chairman.—That is explained in a note as follows: “An emergency purchase of blankets was made and repairs and renewals of furniture were greater than anticipated.” It was really a case of inadequate estimating?—Yes.
203. Under sub-head H—Transport and Carriage—it is explained that “Additional motor transport provided for in the supplementary estimate did not become a charge on the Vote.” That does not mean that it was charged on another Vote?—No.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
204. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has a note on this Vote as follows:
The statement of the Manufacturing and Farm Account appended to the Appropriation Account has been examined and local test examinations of the conversion books and other records dealing with manufacturing operations have been carried out with satisfactory results.
That is merely a formal matter?
Mr. Maher.—There is nothing to be added to the note.
205. Chairman.—Sub-head I refers to a fine fund. What is the Fine Fund?— Prison officials are fined small sums for misconduct. These small sums are paid away at the end of the year by way of reward to officials whose conduct has been good. The Treasury ordered us to open a sub-head for this purpose because the fines are deducted from salary. We opened this sub-head and put down a sum of £10 so that we could pay away the fines. From the point of view of public finance, the item has no significance.
206. Under sub-head J—Travelling Expenses—the excess expenditure was £194 19s 11d. This, it is explained, was due to “the increased number of officers transferred and subsistence allowances paid to officers on prolonged temporary duty.” Was there any special reason for that?—I do not know of any special reason. There was simply more of that work done.
207. You exceeded the Vote under that sub-head very considerably?—Yes.
208. As regards sub-head M—Maintenance of Children and Female Prisoners— the children are only maintained when born in the prison?—There was no money spent under that head.
209. Deputy Haslett.—As regards sub-head N—Maintenance of Criminal Lunatics in District Mental Hospitals— does that obtain to as great an extent as formerly?—The law and practice are just the same as they were ten or twenty years ago.
210. Deputy Haslett.—The desire was expressed over a number of years that something should be done about the keeping of criminal lunatics in ordinary mental hospitals—that that was not desirable. Was that matter looked into?
Chairman.—It is not our business to propose changes of that kind.
Deputy Haslett.—I merely wanted to know if any inquiry had been made into the matter.
Deputy McMenamin.—The Deputy refers to the detention of a convicted lunatic in an ordinary mental hospital?
211. Chairman.—Is a criminal lunatic detained in an ordinary district mental hospital instead of sending him to Dundrum?—If a man becomes insane in Mountjoy Prison, we ask the Local Government Medical Inspector where we shall send him. If he says he should be sent to Dundrum, he goes to Dundrum. If he says he should be sent to Grangegorman, he goes to Grangegorman.
212 If he goes to Grangeorman you pay for him?—Yes.
213. Deputy Haslett.—I understood that these prisoners were distributed over more mental hospitals than Dundrum and Grangegorman?—They are. Those are the mental hospitals to which prisoners in Mountjoy are sent. In the other cases, they are sent to the local mental hospital. In Sligo, for instance, prisoners would be sent to Sligo Mental Hospital.
214. Chairman.—Where would prisoners from Maryborough or Port Laoighise go? —All convicts go to Dundrum.
VOTE 35—DISTRICT COURT.
Mr. S. A. Roche called.
VOTE 36—SUPREME COURT OF HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE.
Mr. S. A. Roche called.
VOTE 37—LAND REGISTRY AND REGISTRY OF DEEDS.
Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.
215. Chairman.—I do not understand what is meant by Incidental Expenses in the note under sub-head C:—
Department of Finance, minute E.32/1/25, dated 4th August, 1933, authorised the utilisation of the unexpended balance of the amounts provided for the salaries, travelling expenses, and subsistence allowance of the Temporary Surveyors to meet payments from sub-head C in connection with the new system of Reconstruction of Maps.
Mr. Roche.—Certain documents belonging to the Land Registry were destroyed in 1922 and we had to reconstruct maps. For a long time we employed three or four temporary surveyors to go around the country reconstructing maps and their salaries were duly voted every year. This year a change was made and we dropped the idea of employing whole-time men to go around. We adopted a new scheme of buying maps from local surveyors at bargain prices.
216. These purchases are under Incidental Expenses?—Yes.
217. What does transcription of memorials refer to?—Copying in handwriting the contents of what is called a memorial, which is a short abstract of a deed.
VOTE 38—CIRCUIT COURT.
Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.
218. Chairman.—There was no sub-head for DD in the original Estimate dealing with:—
Losses caused by defalcations of a former County Registrar. These losses are in addition to those charged to the “Losses” sub-head in the Appropriation Account for 1930-31.
The losses amounted to £135 4s. 9d?— There was no sub-head and we established a special one to cover the loss. We did not anticipate any loss.
Mr. Almond.—This was a continuation of a previous case, and was an additional sum written off in the case of a county registrar.
219. Chairman.—I notice that a sub-head is made of it in the Appropriation Account and, presumably, you had this sub-head in the Estimates. Normally, you would have a Supplementary Estimate for that during the year?—Yes. This case was mentioned, I think, at the last few meetings of the Committee. It was the unfortunate case of a County Registrar and happened four or five years ago. This is the end of it.
Mr. D. Twomey called and examined.
220. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General makes the following comment on sub-head F (8)—Research Grant to University College, Dublin:—
The necessity for this expenditure arose through the dissolution of the Empire Marketing Board which had agreed to make grants to University College, Dublin for research into virus disease of the potato, and into the production of varieties of strong strawed oats and barley. The Board was dissolved on 30th September, 1933, and the Saorstát Government accepted liability for these grants from 1st October, 1933. A Supplementary Estimate for £455 to cover such expenditure to 31st March, 1934, was accordingly passed.
Mr. Maher.—That really brings forward a charge originally borne by the British Government. A Supplementary Estimate was introduced for that purpose.
221. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General deals with sub-head H— Grants to County Committees of Agriculture—as follows:—
The charge to this sub-head includes payments of £264 7s. 8d. and £109 12s. 6d. to a Committee of Agriculture, being recoupment of salary and cost of living bonus paid by the Committee under Section 7 of the Local Government Act, 1933, to two ex-officers of the Committee for the period 1st July, 1922, to 30th April, 1923.
The charge also includes a payment of £594 15s. 5d. to another Committee of Agriculture, being recoupment to the Committee of arrears of salary and cost of living bonus for the period 1st April, 1922, to 5th July, 1923, paid under the authority of the Department of Finance to the representatives of a late itinerant instructor in agriculture who died in November, 1923.
Mr. Maher.—The reason for the note in the account is because of the long period that elapsed between the time the duties were performed and the payments made. It is within the ambit of the sub-head, and on account of the nature of the definition of “grants to county committees” we thought it better to draw special attention to the payments.
222. Chairman.—How did the sums come to be paid in relation to what happened ten years previously?
Mr. Twomey.—In this particular case there was some doubt in the Department whether the officer concerned was performing his duties properly. He was an officer of a County Committee of Agriculture, and at that time the salary was payable by the Department. At a certain point the Committee of Agriculture ceased to recommend further payments and the Department withheld them. The difficulty was this: that this particular officer worked reasonably well, in fact, very well at times, but did not submit reports or weekly diaries to the County Committee. On investigation, the Department was satisfied that, during the period under review, he was carrying out his duties, although not submitting reports. At the same time, the Department refused to pay the salary during that period. At various times this officer made representations, and when he died his representatives made representations. Finally, on going into the whole case it was decided that the officer was entitled to his salary in the period of the dispute, apart from any provisions of the Local Government Act of 1933. It was decided, on the whole, that he was entitled to the salary which was refunded to his representatives.
223. Ten years after his death?—Yes.
224. You are referring to the £594 15s. 5d.?—Yes.
225. What about the other one?—In the other case, there is provision under Section 7 of the Local Government Act, 1933, which authorises, subject to the sanction of the Minister, payment in whole or in part of remuneration in respect of periods during which an officer or servant of a local authority was absent from duty, by reason of imprisonment, internment or political activities generally during the period which began on 1st July, 1922, and ended on 30th April, 1923.
226. These cases come under that?— Yes. The others are different from the third case.
Mr. Maher.—The Act to which Mr. Twomey refers gives power to local authorities to make these payments, but the view of the Audit Office is that these should have been a charge on public funds in the first instance.
227. Chairman.—The following is the note on sub-head K (2)—Contribution to Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (Grant-in-Aid):—
The expenditure under this sub-head exceeded the amount of the grant by £186, the excess being met from savings on other sub-heads. The conditions under which the Grant-in-Aid was voted, as expressed in the note to the Estimate, provided that expenditure out of the grant should not be subject to audit and that any unexpended balances of the sums issued should not be liable to surrender at the end of the financial year. As the application of savings on other sub-heads to increase the Grant-in-Aid sub-head exempts from the condition of surrender money which had been voted subject to that condition, I am unable to admit the excess expenditure of £186 as a proper charge against the Vote.
Mr. Maher.—Since that paragraph was written we have been in communication with the Department of Finance who concur with the view of the Comptroller and Auditor-General that the excess of the Grant-in-Aid should not have been met from other sub-heads. Accordingly, it will be necessary for the Committee to consider recommending that the excess be met by means of a Supplementary Estimate or otherwise in the current year. It is a matter of principle and maintenance of the existing rule.
Chairman.—That will be done.
Mr. Dagg.—I think the Department will have to bring in a Supplementary Estimate.
228. Chairman.—On sub-head M (5)— Improvement of the Creamery Industry— the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note is as follows:—
Including the expenditure of £21,534 6s. 4d. in the current year, the total Vote expenditure to date from moneys provided for the improvement of the creamery industry amounts to £944,717 7s. 9d. Receipts to date total £122,458 5s. 1d., leaving the net charge on public funds to 31st March, 1934, at £822,259 2s. 8d.
The charge to the sub-head includes an ex-gratia payment of £400 to the owners of premises, held on a yearly tenancy, and used as a creamery by a concern taken over by the Diary Disposal Company, Ltd. It was decided to transfer the milk supply of this creamery to another and to surrender the premises. The ex-gratia payment referred to was in full discharge and settlement of a claim for payment in respect of goodwill, etc.
Payments for compensation for loss of employment arising from the acquisition of Creamery Properties by the Dairy Disposal Company, Ltd., amounted to £39 during the year. The total payments under this head to date amount to £11,373.
Mr. Maher.—The first paragraph follows the usual practice of bringing the figures up-to-date.
229. Deputy Haslett.—Are we not going to get to the end of this business at all?
Chairman.—Not in our life.
Deputy Crowley.—Not until milk is more than fourpence a gallon.
230. Chairman.—The annual return in respect of this which we get is going to be sent to us?—Yes; it is in course of preparation and will be submitted.*
231. Chairman.—The second paragraph is informative following on previous inquiries.
Mr. Maher.—The object of the paragraph is to bring to notice the fact that a payment has been made which was entirely ex gratia and for which, apparently, no tangible asset was received. It was, I understand, more in the nature of a compassionate payment than anything else.
232. Mr. Twomey.—There was some doubt as to whether it was legally due. The legal representative of the owner of the creamery was making a claim for a very much larger sum and there was some doubt as to whether the money was really legally due. The law advisers recommended that the matter was one for adjustment and settlement, and it was settled accordingly, rather than to have a legal action on it.
233. Chairman.—With regard to sub-head M (6)—Scheme of Loans for the Purchase of Heifers—the Comptroller and Auditor—General has a note.
This scheme continued the Heifer Loan Scheme financed from the Emergency Fund during 1932 to 1933 as explained in paragraph 78 of my last report. Under the scheme as now administered the loans are financed by the Agricultural Credit Corporation. The Department of Agriculture undertakes responsibility only for (a) expenses in connection with the selection and sale of heifers and (b) recoupment to the corporation of administrative expenses and of instalments of loans and interest, etc., which may be found to be irrecoverable. The expenditure charged in this year’s account relates only to the selection and sale of heifers.
Mr. Maher.—This paragraph brings to notice a change in the incidence of a charge as between one year and another. Originally, the matter came under the Emergency Fund in the year 1932-33. Now it becomes a matter between the Department and the Agricultural Credit Corporation, subject to certain conditions.
234. Chairman.—With regard to sub-head M (7)—Grant in respect of additional sugar beet grown in the Cooley district—the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report says:—
With the view of relieving distress in the Cooley district in Co. Louth the Department entered into an agreement with Cómhlucht Siúicre Eireann Teo., whereby the company agreed to allot an additional 250 acres of beet to this district provided the Department paid to the company 4/- per ton factory weight on the produce of such additional acreage. The amount of beet grown under this scheme was approximately 3,047 tons, making the amount of the subsidy £609 8s. 5d.
Was that to try to wean these people from growing black scab potatoes?
Deputy McMenamin.—An alternative.
Mr. Twomey.—An alternative to the growing of potatoes, and to make up to them to some extent the losses which they sustained because of the existence of black scab in that district.
Chairman.—It has existed all my life.
235. Deputy McMenamin.—These 250 acres were additional to the allotment already made to the Cooley district. They already had an allotment and this was additional?—Yes.
236. Deputy McMenamin.—To Cooley itself?—Yes, especially for Cooley.
237. Chairman.—That district has been growing black scab potatoes for years, and the Department wants them to dump them into the sea. Is not that the trouble?— Yes.
238. Deputy Haslett.—Those 250 acres are additional to what they ordinarily grew?—The total acreage grown in that year was 318 acres.
239. Chairman.—After the sugar company had filled their quota, the Department asked them to take an additional amount which they agreed to do under special terms?—That is so.
240. Deputy Smith.—Was it fully taken up?—243½ acres of the 250 acres were taken up.
241. Chairman.—What has happened since? Is that enlarged allotment being maintained since?—It is.
242. Deputy Smith.—I suppose you could not give any idea of the number of people participating in the growing of those 318 acres?
Chairman.—They are very small farmers in that district.
Mr. Twomey.—I have not got the information by me, but I can supply it, if it is desired.
243. Deputy Haslett.—Is that 4/- a ton extra for the 250 acres over and above the 18 acres?—No, the 318 acres was the total acreage grown. It included the 50 acres.
Deputy Smith.—Was the 4/- made on e previous 118 acres?—No.
244. Chairman.—Am I right in underanding that the company had filled its allotments, and the Department wanted the company to take extra sugar beet. The company said the inconvenience of that would require that they should benefit to the extent of 4/- a ton?—That is so.
245. The 4/- a ton was really paid to the company in relation to the number of tons they received additional from the Cooley area?—Yes.
246. Deputy Smith.—I think it would be interesting to know, in view of this payment of £609, how many farmers participated in the growing of these 250 acres.
Chairman.—Mr. Twomey can send in that information.*
Mr. Twomey.—I will send it this afternoon. (Appendix V.)
247. Chairman.—With regard to sub-head O (9)—Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Act, 1933—the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report says:—
This sub-head provides for the payment of bounty on homegrown wheat, advances to seed merchants under a scheme of credit for seed wheat, and certain administration expenses. The rate of bounty payable is equivalent to the difference between the average price received by growers for their produce during a statutory sales season, and the standard price fixed by the Act for that season. Only payments in respect of the first seasonal period accrued due during the year, bounty being paid at the rate of 7/- per barrel. The scheme of credit for seed wheat is in continuation of a scheme financed up to 14th July, 1933, from moneys provided by the Emergency Fund Grant-in-Aid in 1932-33 and referred to in paragraph 79 of my report on the accounts for that year. Under this scheme sums equivalent to half the value of the wheat supplied on credit are advanced to seed merchants, the advances being recovered from the amounts due to farmers in respect of bounty on the wheat grown. The amount credited to Appropriations-in-Aid, £1,239 0s. 8d., represents recoveries in respect of advances totalling £1,474 9s. 0d. made from the Emergency Fund.
Mr. Maher.—This follows one of the previous paragraphs in so far as it is a continuation of the scheme originally financed from the Emergency Fund Grant-in-Aid. It sets out the present conditions.
Deputy Smith.—What was the nature of the recoveries?
Chairman.—Deductions from the bounty.
Mr. Maher.—An advance always presuppose a loan.
Mr. Twomey.—I should like to mention that all that sum of £1,474 9s. 0d. has been paid in except a sum of £5 16s. 0d. which is recoverable.
248. Chairman.—The loss is not so great as is represented in the paragraph? —No; there will be no loss whatever on the scheme. There is a sum of only £5 16s. 0d. outstanding and that is recoverable.
249. Deputy McMenamin.—In the total there is a sum for administration?—Not in this particular year. It was administered by an ordinary section of the Department. There would have been some expense but it would not be shown separately.
250. Deputy Haslett.—The scheme is that the money advanced is recovered from the bounty?—Yes, deducted from the bounty payments which would be due to the grower.
Chairman.—Of course, if I bought seed at half-price, or whatever the price is, and if there was a complete failure of the crop, you could not deduct from the bounty because I would not have millable wheat for you to pay bounty on?
251. Deputy Smith.—Would not the merchant be liable then?
Mr. Twomey.—In that particular case the merchant would be liable.
Chairman.—It is a most inequitable arrangement for the unfortunate merchant.
252. Deputy Smith.—I understand that the merchant accepted entire responsibility even though there is a sort of arrangement with the Department to recoup him out of the bounty?—That is so. It sometimes happens that a farmer who takes seed wheat, and actually grows it, does not offer it for sale but uses it for his own family or his animals. In that case, there is no bounty to deduct the loan from and in such a case, the shopkeeper has to proceed against the farmer to collect the money.
Chairman.—It seems a most unfair arrangement from the point of view of the poor shopkeeper.
Deputy McMenamin.—The shopkeeper will always take the risk. He is a buffer.
253. Deputy Haslett.—In the case of a failure of seed, or wrong seed, the shopkeeper accepts liability?—He does, yes. It is an ordinary debt due to him by the farmer.
Chairman.—If a shopkeeper sells wrong seed, he is to blame, but that shopkeeper is told by the Department to sell seed to the unfortunate farmer at half the market price and the Department then says: “If the farmer does not pay you—and we cannot pay you out of the bounty—you had better do the best you can?” It does not seem to be fair.
Deputy Crowley.—The shopkeeper is not compelled to supply the seed.
Deputy Smith.—It is generally assumed that the merchant will let out seed in this particular way, and, to offer him a little additional security, the Department says: “In the event of the man selling and paying bounty to him, if there is any difficulty in getting him to pay up, we will recoup you.” They do not give any further guarantee so far as I know.
Deputy Haslett.—There have been cases, in the ordinary way, of seedsmen who have on their invoices and packages the statement that, while every reasonable care is taken, they do not accept liability, and in cases in which farmers are proceeded against they have produced these statements.
Deputy McMenamin.—But you must prove negligence.
Deputy Haslett.—Wait now; we will not let the law into it.
Deputy McMenamin.—You will have to.
254. Deputy Haslett.—What I am at is that the Department insists on that regulation in respect of those who are entrusted with the distribution of the seed?—So far as that is concerned, the usual custom of the trade prevails. The Department under this scheme did not in any way interfere with the normal trade custom. Whatever the normal trade custom was would apply, but I should like to point out that the seed merchants were not obliged in any way to supply the seed. A farmer comes to them and makes an arrangement with them with a view to getting seed under the loan scheme. The shopkeeper knows the farmer and does not give seed to anybody unless he knows them to be credit worthy.
255. Chairman.—With regard to sub-head O (12)—Acquisition of Land (Allotments) (Amendment) Act, 1934—the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report says:—
The supplementary estimate for his service was taken in anticipation of the passing of the above Act, which became law on 12th March, 1934. The cost of carrying out the provisions of the Act is borne in part on the Vote for Local Government and Public Health and the balance on this Vote. No expenditure fell to be met from the former Vote in the year 1933-34. The charges to this Vote are in respect of the supply of seeds, manures, and implements for use of unemployed allotment holders. The implements are issued on loan to the allotment holders and the seeds and manures are supplied free of charge.
Mr. Maher.—The point there is that a charge for the same purpose falls on two different Votes, or will fall in the following year.
256. Deputy Smith.—The implements are issued on loan. How does that work out?
Mr. Twomey.—The local authority sets up an Allotments Committee, and that Allotments Committee takes responsibility for the implements—spades, shovels and other things—given out to the unemployed persons. They have a shed at the plots, where the implements are kept. Usually one of the unemployed men takes responsibility for keeping the key of the shed, and ensures that the implements are kept safely. The shed is opened in the morning and locked up at night.
257. Deputy McMenamin.—How have you found that that arrangement works? —It works very well. I think during the year there were 882 allotments at 16 centres. Of course the number has grown very much since. This year for example there are 2,873 allotments at 46 centres.
258. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note under the heading “Loans to Co-operative Creamery Societies.”
“The statement of Loans outstanding appended to the appropriation account includes an amount of £27,656 12s. 1d., representing the balance of loans totalling £61,244 15s. 0d. advanced to co-operative Creamery Societies during the years 1926-7 to 1929-30 for the erection of buildings, etc. The repayments of principal to 31st March, 1934, totalled £29,493 2s. 11d., and advances to a society amounting to £4,095 were written off during 1932-3. The arrears of principal outstanding on these loans increased during the year under review from £10,555 17s. 3d. to £15,637 2s. 6d.
“Included in the latter amount is a sum of £2,232 8s. 6d due by a Co-operative Society to which a further loan of £350 was made during the year from Relief Schemes Vote towards defraying the cost of providing a water supply for a creamery.”
Mr. Maher.—Two points arise on those figures. One is the increase in the arrears of loans outstanding, and the second is the making of a new loan to a Society which was already in arrear. As regards the first, the Accounting Officer has recently informed us that roughly £7,000 of the arrears referred to there have already been cleared off.
259. Deputy McMenamin.—Leaving £8,000 odd. What about this £350? Is it to be charged to the Society the same as if it were a capital amount?
Mr. Twomey.—Yes. That is repayable in ten equal annual instalments on the 1st September of each year, with interest at 3 per cent. on any instalment not paid within four weeks of the date on which they are due.
260. Is it worked by contract, or is it done by the Committee of the Creamery? Is it economically done?—Yes. The Department’s Inspectors satisfy themselves that it is done economically.
261. Is there any deduction made due to the fact that the loan is from the Relief Schemes Vote?—No. The full amount of the loan is to be recovered. In that particular case the water supply of the creamery was condemned, and the creamery were not in a position at the time to provide funds to sink a new well. It was with a view to ensuring that they would have a good water supply, and would be able to keep open, that this loan was made to them from the Relief Schemes Vote.
262. Chairman.—You would lose all you were due to get from them if they could not continue in business owing to their defective water supply, and you thought it good business to make an advance in order to enable them to continue?—Yes.
263. Deputy McMenamin.—Their advantage is due to the fact that they are allowed a cheaper rate of interest?—Yes.
264. What would it cost them otherwise?—I expect it would cost them 5 per cent.
265. If you were making an advance what would the rate be?—5½ per cent.
266. Deputy Haslett.—And it is 3 per cent. in this case?—Yes.
267. Deputy McMenamin.—Of course in this case the Committee of the creamery are taken as agreeing that the work is done economically?—Yes.
268. They are consulted in this matter in conjunction with the Inspector?—Yes. The Manager and the Committee are jointly responsible for carrying out the work economically.
269. And if it is done uneconomically, they are responsible?—Yes.
270. Chairman.—We will now pass to the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note under the heading “Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Act, 1932—Butter Fund” which reads:—
The account of the Butter Fund, furnished under Section 44 of the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Act, 1932, and which is appended to the appropriation account, has been examined with satisfactory results.
In lieu of the nominal rates of levy and bounty, referred to in paragraph 26 of my previous report, normal rates were in operation from 1st April, 1933, and, so far as creamery butter was concerned, remained in force throughout the year.
In the case of non-creamery butter, it was found impracticable to collect levy, under Section 14 of the Act, on farm butter acquired by non-registered traders, and, in order not to discriminate against registered factory owners, the rate of levy was reduced from 18s. 8d. to 3d. per cwt. on and from 1st September, 1933, and a bounty rate of 5s. per cwt. was prescribed in place of the rate of 23s. 4d. previously in force.
Mr. Maher.—This paragraph shows that normal rates were restored from the 1st April, 1933. and that there had been some change in the bounty payable. It is referred to there as 5/-, which was computed on a basis fixed by the Department.
271. Deputy McMenamin.—In the third paragraph it is stated that it was found impracticable to collect the levy. Why?
Mr. Maher.—I understand that was due to staff difficulties.
Chairman.—They had not the necessary inspectors?
Mr. Maher.—I think Mr. Twomey will be able to refer to that.
Mr. Twomey.—Properly speaking, the levy should have been paid by every shopkeeper who bought farmers’ butter, but in point of fact, owing to lack of sufficient staff, it was not found possible to collect the levy except in the case of registered factory owners or registered butter merchants.
272. Chairman.—It was an administrative difficulty?—Yes. That has been provided for in the new Act which is before the Oireachtas at the moment.
273. Is that going to mean a big increase in staff?—Nine additional inspectors will be required for part of the year only—during the summer butter season.
274. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note continues:
The temporary advances made to the Butter Fund from sub-head O (8) of the Vote for Agriculture amounted to £100,000, and were repaid during the year.
In paragraph 26 of my last report I referred to the fact that although section 31 (3) of the Act provided that no bounty should be paid on any butter unless a levy had been paid on the manufacture, acquisition or import thereof, no provision had been made for the payment of levy on the factory butter represented by any increase in weight which arose in the factory process. This position appears to have arisen through a conflict between sections 2 (3) and 31 (3) of the Act, and I am informed that provision by which the difficulty will be overcome will be included in the measure which will replace the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Act, 1932, as from the 1st April, 1935.
Mr. Maher.—Mr. Twomey has just referred to the Act which will regularise that position.
275. Chairman.—Continuing, the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note says:
The amount charged against the Creamery Butter Account includes certain payments of bounties on creamery butter purchased by butter factories and exported as factory butter. Having regard to the terms of section 31 (4) of the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Act, 1932, it would appear that these payments were proper to be charged against the Factory Butter Account, and, in reply to my inquiry, I was informed that it was considered that a charge against the Factory Butter Account could not be justified as that account had not been credited with any levy in respect of such butter.
Mr. Maher.—Here also the Accounting Officer has informed us that a new definition for creamery butter will be included in the Act which is at present before the Dáil.
Mr. Twomey.—The difficulty here, Mr. Chairman, was that, under the definition in the Act of 1932, any butter which was brought to a butter factory was there and then regarded as factory butter, although in effect the butter which is in question here was creamery butter, and was never blended in any way. It was tinned as creamery butter by the factories concerned for high-class ship stores, and was exported by them as creamery butter. It was never blended in any way, and remained creamery butter all the time.
276. Chairman.—Creamery butter is creamery butter irrespective of whether it goes through a factory or not?— Exactly, provided it is not blended with any other butter. The definition at the present time is that the expression “creamery butter” means butter manufactured in a creamery, and not subsequently blended with any butter which has not been manufactured in a creamery.
277. We will now turn to the account itself, which is on page 136.
278. Deputy Haslett.—With regard to sub-head F (1)—Agricultural Schools and Farms—are those under the direct control of the Department?—Yes.
Deputy O’Reilly.—With regard to sub-head G (1)—Improvement of Flax Growing—that is not very extensive?
Chairman.—They spent only £68 on it.
279. Deputy McMenamin.—Sub-head G (2) shows an amount for the improvement of milk production. What is the money spent on?—On cow testing societies and the registration of dairy cattle.
280. Chairman.—We will now take sub-head G (3)—Improvement of Live Stock. You explain the decrease in expenditure by the difficulty in obtaining suitable stallions and colts?—Yes. Normally, we would buy in Great Britain for resale in this country about five thoroughbred stallions, and in that particular year we were able to obtain only one horse.
281. In Great Britain?—Yes.
282. When a private person goes to Great Britain and buys a stallion, you are prepared to make some sort of arrangement with him?—In that particular case we would inspect the animal and if suitable, pass him for registration, but there would be no grant towards the reduction of the price.
283. You would be prepared to give a loan in order to encourage the purchaser? —Yes.
284. Deputy McMenamin.—Would there be a premium for such a horse?—He would get a premium through the service of nominated mares. He would get no direct premium.
285. Deputy Smith.—Do you take any steps to ensure that a horse purchased beyond would be satisfactory when it comes here? Is the onus entirely on the purchaser?—Yes, where a horse is bought privately; but where we buy horses and utilise them in connection with our schemes we provide that they must be retained in this country for five years, and in the event of a horse proving unsatisfactory we would come to some sort of arrangement.
286. Is it not a wonder that you would not facilitate purchasers by having that arrangement beyond, rather than here after a man has committed himself?— There are certain sales in Great Britain and our men are there and they consult with our Inspector before they buy a horse.
287. In actual fact a man is more or less secured beforehand?—He is.
Deputy Haslett.—You could not have much proof of fertility where you are buying a colt three years old.
Deputy Smith.—I saw some instructions on leaflets to people intending to go there and I thought they did not provide for such an arrangement as that. I thought it was unsatisfactory, but your explanation makes it quite all right.
288. Chairman.—With regard to sub-head H, what was the special recoupment made in respect of claims of ex-officers of committees of agriculture?—That is the item with which we have just dealt.
289. Deputy O’Reilly.—Sub-head M (2) deals with fees for reports on agricultural conditions. How are the reports obtained from the committees?—Mainly from the officers of the county committees of agriculture.
290. And prices of stock—how do you obtain those?—They are obtained from special fair reporters who are appointed by the Department of Industry and Commerce, not by the Department of Agriculture.
291. With regard to sub-head M (4)— Loans for Agricultural Purposes—there does not appear to be much of a demand on that. Are these loans for machinery, ploughs, etc.?—The demand has been small.
292. Deputy Kissane.—Probably the rate of interest is too high. What is the rate of interest?—It is 5½ at present.
293. Chairman.—Does that include a sinking fund? Are they paying it off, or is that pure interest?—That is interest only.
Deputy Kissane.—I think it is too high.
Chairman.—It seems high in view of the present state of the money market.
294. Deputy O’Reilly.—Would that be the reason for people not accepting it?—I am not quite sure. I do not think so, because I do not believe they could get money cheaper.
295. Chairman.—Perhaps it is because there is not good security?—In that particular year the demand for loans did not materialise to the point that we anticipated.
296. Deputy O’Reilly.—The real reason then is that there was not a demand?— More loans would be issued if there were any demand.
297. It is clearly a matter of security— it is really a want of application; they did not even apply?—Yes.
298. Deputy Haslett.—On sub-head M (5)—Improvement of the Creamery Industry—would some of the amount there include grants made towards cold storage and that sort of thing in creameries?— Grants for building cold stores were made from the Relief Scheme Vote.
299. Chairman.—With regard to sub-head O (2)—Dairy Produce Acts, 1924 to 1931—when you say there was a saving mainly due to the recovery from the Emergency Fund (Grant-in-Aid) of the cost of staff, is that merely indicating that the money was spent under a different Vote?—Yes, that is so. Some of the Department’s officers were engaged in connection with work that really belonged to the Emergency Fund, and there was a recoupment of portion of their salaries to the Vote.
300. Sub-head 0 (3) refers to the Destructive Insects and Pests Acts, Black Scab in Potatoes Orders, etc. The explanatory note says that the excess expenditure includes so much in respect of immune seed potatoes distributed at a reduced price in the Cooley black scab district. Was there any saving due to the fact that you switched them off black scab potatoes to beet?—As a matter of fact what happened in that case was that a number of the accounts did not fall to be paid until the next financial year. Deliveries were delayed by the railway strike on the Great Northern Railway, and although the full expenditure was incurred, only portion of it appeared in this financial year.
301. You exceeded your Vote. Was this a new thing—these immune seed potatoes? —Yes, it was a new provision.
302. Is the scheme successful?—It is. These varieties do not get the disease.
303. Sub-head O (11) refers to the Musk Rats Act. Has the musk rat menace departed now?—Practically. I think there are some few animals still at large.
304. In County Tipperary?—Yes. Traces have been found of some few animals still. There is one officer employed now keeping the whole position under review and trying to track down these extra animals in case they may begin to breed again. The total of the rats destroyed in the period was 378.
305. They were all more or less in the one area?—All in the one area. They originated from one pair that escaped.
306. Deputy Haslett.—You do not anticipate making an industry out of the musk rat business—making it one of the new industries?—No, we hope not.
The Committee adjourned at 12.5 p.m. until Wednesday, 29th May, 1935, at 11 a.m.