MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Máirt, 23adh Iúl, 1935.
Tuesday, 23rd July, 1935.
The Select Committee sat at 5.30 p.m.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I propose that Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney acts as Chairman until such time as Deputy Norton finds it convenient to attend.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I second.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney accordingly took the Chair.
Acting Chairman.—Some further confidential documents have been lodged by the Department of Industry and Commerce. There are copies of them here.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Could we have copies of them circulated and we can give them to you at the end of the meeting?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That would be the easiest way.
Acting Chairman.—I take it the best thing to do is to have as witnesses the officials of the more important Department, and that is the Department of Industry and Commerce. The Department of Industry and Commerce have given us a list of the officials of their Department who dealt in a responsible way with matters included in our terms of reference.
The list is as follows:—
Mr. R. C. Ferguson, Assistant Secretary; Mr. W. Maguire, Principal Officer; Mr. P. Dempsey, Acting Principal Officer; Mr. J. Luccan, Acting Principal Officer; Mr. J. M. Clarke, Higher Executive Officer.
The letter states further:—
“Mr. Dempsey’s connection with mines and minerals work ceased in October, 1933, and he did not deal with the matters in question after that date.
“Mr. Luccan ceased to have any responsibility for work in connection with mines and minerals after August, 1934, save for occasional very short periods during the absence of other officers on leave. I should add that Mr. Luccan is at present on leave in County Donegal, and I have not thought it necessary to recall him specially for the purpose of attending before the Select Committee. He will, of course, be available at a later date if he should be required to give evidence. He will return from leave in the ordinary course on the 1st August.
“Mr. Clarke, as Higher Executive Officer, did not assume responsibility for any decision arrived at in connection with matters included in your Committee’s terms of reference.”
Mr. J. Leydon (Secretary, Department of Industry and Commerce).—I did not include the people who did the purely clerical work and I did not include our legal adviser or our economic geologist. That list is in addition to myself.
Acting Chairman.—We might begin with Mr. Ferguson, who is the person primarily responsible for the making of the lease. I thought Mr. Leydon said that Mr. Ferguson entered into this lease on his own responsibility. That is what I took him up as saying.
Mr. Leydon.—He issued on his own responsibility the particular letter to which you referred, in which the prospecting lease was offered.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I agree that we should call Mr. Ferguson first.
Mr. R. C. FERGUSON (Assistant Secretary, Department of Industry and Commerce), sworn and examined.
26. Acting Chairman.—What is your position in the Department?—Assistant Secretary.
27. I take it the other officers whose names appear on the file are under your control?—That is so.
28. Do you wish to make any statement yourself?—No, I have no particular statement to make. I would prefer to answer questions and try to assist the Committee in whatever way they would indicate.
29. When did you first hear that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe were looking for this concession?—Perhaps I might explain. To answer that question I would have to examine the files rather carefully. I can do that later if it is a vital question. I should explain that the first time—speaking from memory and subject to correction from the papers—I took a step in connection with this matter, took a decision in other words, was in the matter of the issue of a letter.
30. On the 16th May?—On the 16th May.
31. What I asked you was not when you took the first step. I asked when did you first hear that Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn were looking for concessions with reference to mining rights in Wicklow?—To answer that question I would have to examine the files. I could not from memory answer the question.
32. Apart from the files, had you any conversation with these gentlemen?— Again, that is the type of question that, without an examination of the file as to that specific question, I would not venture to rely on my memory to answer. My memory is that I had not any conversation with either Senator Comyn or Deputy Briscoe in relation to this; but I speak subject to correction from the records.
33. Prior to any application being made by Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn, had you heard that they were looking for concessions?—I do not quite appreciate the question.
34. They made an application to the Department—it is early in the file—on the 28th March, 1933. Prior to that had you heard that they were looking for concessions?—I cannot answer that question.
35. You do not recollect?—I cannot possibly answer that question. My belief is that I had not. In a Department like ours, I must go by the records as to whether I had any conversation. If I had any conversation, there should be and would be a record on the file. I have no recollection of a conversation at any time with either of these gentlemen about a gold mine in Wicklow; but that is subject to correction.
36. This application reached your Department on 23rd March, 1933. You saw this application form?—Not necessarily at that date. I am sure you understand the procedure in an office like ours. This would come in on 23rd March—that is the date on which it appears to have come. It would not necessarily come to me for a long time. It would go through various offices and various formalities. It would only come to me when action was required by me. It is almost certain I had not any knowledge of it on or about that date.
37. When did you become aware of it?— I got knowledge of that when the matter came to me in the ordinary official way, whenever it was. The date when I had to take a decision, when I issued the letter, was the 16th May.
38. When you received this document, as far as you recollect was that the first you knew of Senator Comyn, Deputy Briscoe and Mr. Norman making an application for mining rights?—I cannot give any other answer to that than the one I have already given.
39. You have a copy of the letter of the 23rd March?—Yes, I have.
40. That I take it, was a printed form filled up by these two gentlemen?—A stencilled form.
41. That was an application, at £5 per annum, for a year’s prospecting lease and a royalty of 2½ per cent., with dead rent of £10 for a lease proper on all metals. You were aware of that?—At some date.
42. That was prior to writing your letters?—Quite.
43. Was it your duty to consider the financial resources available to enable prospecting and development work to be carried on? It is set out here that it was proposed to expend up to a maximum of £200 even if no results were obtained. Was it your duty to consider whether that sum of £200 was a reasonable sum for carrying out this lease—the work under this lease?—I do not think it is quite my duty in the form in which you put it. Perhaps I might explain. At some point before I issued the letter of the 16th May I had undoubtedly to consider whether this application, whose origin was based on the document of 23rd March was, taking the affair as a whole, and with the addition of the supplementary facts supplied between that date and the 16th May, in accordance with the Mines and Minerals Act; and further, whether it was in accordance with the Minister’s policy that development work which would result from this, to whatever extent it would result, should be carried on and so produce employment. On those general lines of policy, I considered that it was at least more probable there would be more employment in this area by granting this prospecting lease than if it were refused. On those grounds I sent the letter of 16th May.
44. Whose duty was it to consider whether the sum of £200 was adequate for carrying out the work?—The Statute does not prescribe any duty of that kind.
45. I know it does not lay down any duty for the Department at all, but was there any one to consider whether £5 or £5,000 was the right sum?—That issue, presented in that way, was not considered by us—presented in that way. There was no statutory duty to decide or recommend on my part whether any sum of money was sufficient for a particular enterprise. That is not described in the Statute. Secondly, the purpose of the Mines and Minerals Act was to promote the possibility of development and, prospecting being a first step, any prospecting was more likely to lead to development than if there were no prospecting. Again, there was more likelihood of employment depending on that amount being expended than if nothing were done. Those were the grounds on which I framed that decision and that was the duty I conceived I had.
46. You had no Departmental duty to say if the £200 was adequate for exploratory work in Wicklow, and no Departmental duty to see that the £200 was available?—I answered that question in my previous statement. I am speaking of the actual facts. I had the duty that I considered rested on me, namely, to see that the application, if granted, was in accordance with the Statute in the first place. In the second place, it was my duty to carry out the general policy represented by the Act, namely, to promote employment in prospecting in the first case, and afterwards in mineral developments if that were possible. If private persons came along and put down a sum which might be or which might prove to be insufficient, for prospecting the particular mineral in question, I regarded it as my official and administrative duty to ask myself and decide whether the expenditure of this sum of money, which might or might not be sufficient—that I did not decide at that point, if that helps to answer your question—would or would not be likely to lead to employment in prospecting and afterwards to development. In pursuance of that duty, I decided in all the circumstances that it would. The question of whether that sum was adequate to promote prospecting on some unknown scale, I did not consider it my duty to decide.
47. In other words, that query you did not consider, and that query, so far as practical results were concerned, might as well not have been on the query paper?—I do not agree. You put it briefly, but I do not agree. In my letter of 16th May, you will observe that it is stated in the second paragraph:—
“on the lessees satisfying the Minister that they possess the financial and technical resources necessary for the full development of the deposits.”
48. That is for the longer lease?—That is after the two years period. You were questioning me about the prospecting lease?
49. What you call the prospecting lease, but we will come to that. As regards this application here, you did not examine as to whether there were £200 available and you did not examine as to whether £200 was enough to carry out genuine prospecting work?—I think it would be impossible for anyone to define what is meant by genuine prospecting work. As regards prospecting, the point is whether the work can be carried out on a large or on a small scale. If it is carried out on a small scale, a smaller sum is required, and if it is carried out on a large scale it is a larger sum that is required. A question on that hardly arises. That was the view I took at the time.
50. I observe here: “We have at our disposal the following competent scientific staff for the purpose of prospecting and developing:—Mr. S. H. C. Norman, is in our opinion, a practical prospector.” Did you make any inquiry as to what Mr. Norman’s technical skill was?—No. I did not consider it necessary at that stage.
51. And the three references given were Dr. James Lynch, T.D., Mr. Frank H. O’Donnell, merchant, Crow Street, Dublin, and Percy Abels, merchant, 9 Aston’s Quay, Dublin. Did you take up those references?—No. I did not consider it necessary.
52. Why not?—I considered that I and the Department had sufficient information about these gentlemen without taking up the three references.
53. If the ordinary man in the street came in you would have taken up the references?—Precisely. If we had no information we would take up the references.
54. Coming to your letter of the 16th May, between the 16th May and the application, had you any interview with Senator Comyn or Deputy Briscoe, or Mr. Norman? Between the handing in of the application for a lease and your letter of 16th May, had you any conversation with them?—Speaking from memory, no; but that is subject to an examination of the records.
55. On the file, there is no record of any conversation?—I say that, subject to correction, I am almost positive I had no conversation.
56. On 16th May you wrote the letter which was an offer of a two years’ lease to these three gentlemen. Is not that so?—That is so.
57. The offer you make them is very distinctly different from what they asked for. For instance, they asked for a year’s lease, and you offer them a two years’ lease?—I have just been informed the one year mentioned in the application is a typing error, and it should be two years. I have the original here.
58. We will take it there is a mistake in the typing?—It is two years distinctly.
59. Deputy Fitzgerald.—How does it read—£5 for a two years’ lease?—Five pounds per annum for a two years’ prospecting lease with royalty 2½ per cent. and dead rent £10.
60. Acting Chairman.—For the lease proper?—Yes.
61. They asked for this at £5 and you agreed. They do not suggest a 2½ per cent. royalty for the prospecting lease, but you put it in. Why was that?—In that letter were the terms which we asked either for the prospecting lease or the final lease.
62. It is £5 per annum for a year’s prospecting lease and a royalty of 2½ per cent., with a dead rent of £10 for the lease proper. That brings me to a question I should like to ask you. What do you mean by a prospecting lease?— Section 11 (2) is what I have in mind.
63. I know that Section 11 (2) says that you can give a prospecting lease for two years, but what did you think a prospecting lease was?—I personally understood the phrase to have its ordinary meaning—that these parties would prospect.
64. That is what I would take it to mean, too. A prospecting lease, you are in agreement with me, is a lease or licence by which a person goes out to look for stuff, but not to mine it or take it away?—I think that the right to take minerals for sample would be covered in a prospecting lease and would be in the exact terms of the lease.
65. Here is the second paragraph of your letter:—
“I am to state that the Minister, in so far as he has power to do so under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1931, and subject to the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, as regards the rent and royalties, and the settlement of certain questions on which legal advice is being obtained is prepared to grant your colleagues and you a two years’ prospecting lease of the minerals, the subject of the application, over the area of the above-mentioned townlands in respect of which an exclusive State mining right exists, at a dead rent of £5 per annum with a royalty of 4 per cent or 1/25th share of the value of all minerals raised, gotten, and made merchantable. The said lease, if made, will exclude the mines and minerals under any lands which may come within the scope of Section 15 of the Mines and Minerals Act, and will contain such clauses, convents and conditions as the Minister shall see fit to incorporate therein including a covenant conferring on the lessees, on the termination of the two years’ period, the right to a lease for 97 years at a dead rent of £10 per annum with royalties and other conditions similar to those contained in the two years’ lease on the lessees satisfying the Minister that they possess the financial and technical resources necessary for the full development of the deposits.”
Your offer, then, was to give a two years’ lease and, at the expiration of the two years’ lease, to give a 97 years’ lease identical in all respects except that the dead rent was different?—As I understand the position, or understood it, at the time, a prospecting lease would allow the prospector to take away samples, and even large samples, and, in consequence, the working of it is in that sense somewhat similar to the period after the two years.
66. What was the royalty of 4 per cent. for the two years’ prospecting lease to be based on?—On whatever minerals were in fact raised.
67. And an unlimited supply of minerals could be raised during those two years? There was nothing to stop it?— I suppose it was physically possible but very unlikely.
68. But there was nothing in the lease to limit the amount?—No, that is so.
69. Therefore, we have a two years’ working lease offered by you. Are you familiar with the phrase, which, I believe, is the technical phrase—a placer mine? It is a mine where you work the alluvial soil to get out gold by washing? —I know what it means, roughly.
70. What you offered there was a two years’ lease to work a placer mine, plus the possibility, or the probability, of a 97 years’ reversionary lease to work a placer mine in exactly the same way?— That seems to be the case, subject to their satisfying us as to their financial and technical resources.
71. We will come to that later. We have it that, without any inquiry as to the means or technical knowledge or anything else, you gave them a two years’ lease?—You should add that I have given explanations of that. Your summary is not quite a summary of what I said.
72. I hope I have not misrepresented you?—I am rather afraid that the last remark did.
73. Please put it right, Mr. Ferguson? —It means considerable repetition——
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—The witness has referred you to his previous explanation.
74. Acting Chairman.—Very well. The next thing that happened was that Mr. Briscoe accepted that offer on behalf of himself and his two colleagues. That happened on the 18th May and 12th June. You need not bother with those letters, so far as I am concerned. On 19th June Mr. Briscoe sent you in a formal proposal on behalf of himself, Mr. Norman and Senator Comyn for these three townlands. On 26th April—that was rather earlier on the file—there was a letter from Mr. Briscoe. On 25th April, 1934, Mr. Luccan wrote to Mr. Briscoe as follows:—
I am directed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to refer to this Department’s letter of the 9th ultimo, relative to the application of Senator Michael Comyn, Mr. G. H. C. Norman, and you, for a lease in respect of gold, silver and other minerals in or under certain townlands in County Wicklow, and to inquire whether your colleagues and you are yet in a position to signify your concurrence in the proposals set out in the letter under reference. An early reply is requested.
In answer to that, on 26th April, the next day, the following letter was received from Mr. Briscoe:—
With reference to your letter of the 25th inst., T.I.M. 195/22, I understood that Senator Comyn had already indicated to you that we would be ready for to have the lease drawn up in the names of Senator Comyn and myself in the course of the next few days. Although the application was made in the three names, the name of Mr. Norman is to be dropped from the lease.
We are awaiting a withdrawal in writing by Mr. Norman to regularise the matter as far as your Department is concerned.
You got that letter?—Quite.
75. Subsequently, did you receive a definite application from Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Comyn?—That is so.
76. Deputy Geoghegan.—What is the identification of the document now referred to?
77. Acting Chairman.—It is dated the 19th day of June, 1934. There was enclosed with that a release from a Mr. Norman?—That is so.
78. There is one thing I should like you to explain because it is a source of great confusion to me. We have all the time had a Mr. Grattan H. C. Norman, and there is a release signed by Mr. George R. G. Norman. Who is the Mr. George R. G. Norman?—I am sorry to say that we believed that these were the same party, and I have no explanation to offer.
79. It occurred to me that it might be some mistake in typing?—I am afraid it is not a typing error.
80. So, therefore, we take it that you had arranged that there would be a lease made to Mr. Comyn, Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Grattan Norman?—Yes.
81. And Mr. George Norman gets the sum of £25 from Mr. Comyn and Mr. Briscoe in respect of transfer. Here is the indenture:—
NOW THIS INDENTURE WITNESSETH that in pursuance of said agreement and in consideration of the sum of twenty-five pounds on or before the execution hereof paid by the Transferees to the Transferor (the receipt of which said sum the Transferor doth hereby acknowledge) HE the Transferor of all his estate and interest therein doth hereby transfer assign release and make over unto the Transferees ALL the interest of the Transferor in and to the application for the said Mining Lease or Licence hereinbefore referred to made by the Transferor and Transferees jointly to the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the intent that any such lease or licence when granted may be granted to the Transferees to the exclusion of the Transferor AND the Transferor doth hereby agree admit and acknowledge that he has no right title or interest in any lease or licence which the said Michael Comyn and Robert Briscoe may apply for or obtain in respect of any of the townlands in which said prospecting has been carried on or elsewhere AND the Transferees doth hereby covenant with the Transferor that they and each of them will indemnify....
You saw that document, of course?— Yes. We believed at the time that this was the same Mr. Norman as was referred to in the other document.
82. We do not know, of course?—I am simply answering your question. I have to admit that we had that belief and that, in a general way, we still believe it. The names are the same and I have no proper explanation of the difference.
83. Parliamentary Secretary to tse Minister for Finance.—Have you any reason to believe now that they are not the same person?—No. I am puzzled as to the difference in the names.
84. Acting-Chairman: This Mr. Grattan Norman, you believed, or possibly thought, was the same as Mr. George Norman?—Yes.
85. He had been represented to you as a mining expert?—He was stated to be a person with some expert knowledge.
86. The application becomes an application for the expenditure of £200, “making arrangements for services and advice of geologists and mining experts’ names will be furnished.” That statement was in answer to a written query: “We have at our disposal the following competent scientific staff for the purpose of prospecting and developing.” So that at the time this application was sent in to you, you knew that Mr. Comyn and Mr. Briscoe had no competent scientific staff for prospecting and developing?— To answer your question, I should remind you that our office way of looking at this situation precisely is this: We must in a general way have some idea that the parties coming along have some knowledge of prospecting, but the amount of knowledge of prospecting is not a very vital thing in the beginning, in the case of a prospecting lease. We assume, and, I think, very properly, as is the ordinary practice, apart from this particular case into which the Committee is inquiring, that parties are not going to put up money unless they have some means of carrying out the work which is proposed. The work to be carried out involves the giving of employment which is the main point with which I am concerned in carrying out the policy of my Department. If the parties putting up this proposal, or any other proposal, have not got competent advice, they lose their money. The risk is entirely theirs, while we run the chance of getting some employment at least. In other words, the practice is not to inquire too closely at that stage into the particular qualifications of the parties if there is prima facie evidence that the parties have some prospecting experience. Mr. Norman was represented to have this experience. I have admitted that I did not inquire into what that amounted to technically.
87. It is not suggested in this application that anybody had any scientific knowledge?—The precise situation appears to have been that Mr. Norman was associated with these two gentlemen and it was claimed on his behalf that he had some acquaintance——
88. But he has been bought out. He is gone?—He was gone and it was stated that other technical advice was to be got instead of Mr. Norman’s. As the parties proposed to spend their own money in this affair at that stage, it was not our practice to make an enquiry at the time you referred to.
89. So you gave these gentlemen this working lease—because you admitted a few moments ago that it was a working lease—not knowing whether they had any scientific knowledge or not. What is the sense of putting down these queries— what resources have you got and what scientific knowledge have you got—if you completely ignore the answers?—Put as you put it, sir, it may sound strange, but there is the Mines and Minerals Act, the purpose of which is to arrive at development in this country, and to produce more employment. I assumed, as the responsible officer in my Department, that the major point is to get that development, and to help any and every attempt at that development, rather than to watch for mere forms. It was in that spirit precisely that I took the action indicated on 16th May. I think it was proper action. There were no competing parties. Whether it would turn out to be a good affair or not, there was some prospect at least of something being done by doing this, and, by refusing, there was none. In other words, the parties were risking their own money, and the only object of the Department was to get employment which seemed to be the proper thing to do. I still feel that it was.
90. Are we to take it now that the Department’s view is that anybody can come to the Department and say: “I have £200; you will give me what you call a prospecting lease over any part of the country I like”?—May I put that in other words? If someone comes and makes an application with respect to some particular part of the country and if no one else makes any claim and if that person gets the right to prospect, and if he claims that he knows, and if he proposes to spend a certain amount of money which involves a certain amount of employment in that district— he may fail and he may be quite foolish —I do not conceive it to be part of my duty to stop it. I regard the object of the Mines and Minerals Act as being designed to facilitate that. With regard to these precautions to which you refer and these questions which we ask, naturally, we want as much information as we can get, but in this, and in other cases, we keep before us the prime object of having some chance of gold-mining in Wicklow, if it were possible, if anyone proposed to do it, and of securing the employment to be given. If there were competing schemes and if more competence could be shown in respect of one as against another or more financial means, the information secured would be necessary, but in a case such as this, where no one else had applied and where, if we refused, nothing would be done and no employment given, I still feel that, under the Act and according to the spirit of the Department, we did the right thing.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I should like to ask——
Acting Chairman.—If you do not mind, it would be better if we took the witness one by one. When I have brought him through the general question, the members of the Committee can put to him anything that occurs to them.
91. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I suggest that if I ask these questions at this stage, it might save a lot of questions later on. You say that you have been following the ordinary practice in relation to prospecting leases and you say that there were a considerable number of prospecting leases?— There was a number, but I cannot from memory say how many.
92. Is the practice which took place in this case the practice which you generally adopt?—That is so.
93. Do you know of any case in which you did not adopt this practice?—No; the practice is precisely the same in all cases.
94. Acting Chairman.—Any Tom, Dick or Harry who comes to the Department and says: “I want a prospecting leave.” can, without any inquiry or without showing that he has one single half-penny, get a prospecting lease?—Might I suggest that that is not quite a fair way of repeating what I said. It is not a case of any Tom, Dick, or Harry coming to the Department. These gentlemen we knew. In the case of any other gentlemen who came along, we would make proper inquiries as to whether they seriously meant what they proposed to do. All we would require would be prima facie evidence, and I submit that that is all that was necessary. The object of the Department being to promote employment and to run some chance of getting employment, which I take to be the prime object of the passing of the Mines and Minerals Act, if some one proposes to prospect for minerals, we let it go ahead, although we may not have evidence as to whether it is worth while or not. The risk is entirely on the parties. If they fail, they lose money, but employment is given in the meantime.
95. You entered into this lease.* You have a copy of it before you?—I have.
This lease demises unto the Lessees all the exclusive rights of mining vested in any way in Saorstát Eireann in on or under the lands mentioned in the Schedule hereto and delineated on the Plan endorsed hereon and thereon edged red (save and except all or any portion or portions of the said lands to which the State Land Act, 1924, or the State Lands (Workhouses) Act, 1930, applies, or which may be vested in or in the occupation of the Minister Head of a Department of State) together with the right to enter upon the said lands in respect of which the said right of taking ore and digging and searching for metals and minerals may be exercised. To hold the same to the Lessees from the day of the date hereof for the term of two years PAYING therefor to the Lessor the yearly minimum or dead rent of FIVE POUNDS in advance without any deduction whatever, the first yearly payment of such minimum or dead rent to be made on the execution thereof, and the second on the expiration of one year from the date hereof and also YIELDING and RENDERING to the Lessor a Royalty of one twenty-fifth part or share of the value OF the minerals which shall be raised or gotten or be obtained during the said term from the said lands the said Royalty to be calculated and accounted for according to the price or prices for which the same shall be respectively sold after the same shall have been cleansed, smelted and extracted and made merchantable respectively at the expense of the Lessees the said Royalty to be paid half-yearly on the First day of May and the First day of November free from all present and future taxes and other impositions whatsoever PROVIDED ALWAYS and it is hereby AGREED and DECLARED that the yearly payment of the said minimum or dead rent on the days on which the same become due as hereinbefore mentioned shall be taken in part payment so far as the same shall expend for all Royalties payable to the Lessor pursuant to the presents for and during the year in respect of which the said minimum or dead rent has been paid as aforesaid. And in the event of the Lessees granting any sublease of or licence to work the mineral substances hereby demised then paying in lieu of the rent and Royalties hereinbefore reserved half of the rent and Royalties for the time being payable under any sublease or licence hereafter granted or made PROVIDED ALWAYS that such last mentioned payment shall not in any case be less than the rent and the share of minerals or value thereof and Royalties hereby reserved AND the Lessees hereby jointly and severally COVENANT with the Lessor as follows: (1) To pay the said rent and Royalties in manner aforesaid and to pay and discharge all present and future rates, taxes, assessments, impositions and outgoings whatsoever imposed upon or charged upon the said premises hereby demised or any metals or minerals got therefrom.
(3) To constantly keep and employ on the said lands at least 4 able-bodied and experienced miners and to supply them with all proper tools and appliances?— Yes.
97. The money available, or said to be available by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, was the sum of £200?—That was stated.
98. This is a two years’ lease?—Yes.
99. And they were “to constantly keep and employ on the said lands at least four able-bodied and experienced miners and to supply them with proper tools and appliances.” How was that to be done out of £200?—Following on the remark I made earlier that I did not make the test you are now putting to me—and I think quite properly—I may say that, although the sum of £200 was mentioned in connection with the fulfilling of these covenants, it does not necessarily mean that the responsibility ends there. This responsibility has to be carried out and if the £200 does not do it, the parties have entered into a covenant. I have admitted earlier, and, I think, properly admitted, that we did not examine the adequacy of this amount of money for any purpose. It represented so much of an attempt and so much of a risk by private persons who were risking their own money and in return for that risk, which meant employment locally, they were to endeavour to carry out covenants. If they failed to do that, the responsibility was theirs and not ours.
100. Acting Chairman.—Therefore, they had told you that the maximum they were going to spend was £200?—I do not think the word “maximum” was used.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I think the word “maximum” was used earlier.
101. Acting Chairman.—“It is proposed to expend up to a maximum of £200”. The word “maximum” is left out in a later one?
Witness.—I do not think that was our responsibility but rather theirs. You will notice from the statutory return at the end of the first six months that the actual sum spent is stated to have been £350. In other words, £200 does not seem to have been the maximum.
102. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Can you refer me to that return in our file?
Acting Chairman.—It is not on the file.
Witness.—It is one of the confidential sections of the file.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Is the document that has been referred to the document of the 22nd March, 1933? That, I take it, is the first proposal.
Deputy Geoghegan.—The statement about £200 is not an answer to a query.
Acting Chairman.—Yes, it is. “How much is available”—“The financial resources available to enable prospecting and development work to be carried out, viz. £200.”
Deputy Geoghegan.—It is not an answer to a query. They seem to be at cross purposes. The form does not purport to inquire how much it is proposed to expend.
Acting Chairman.—That is just what it does.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Is not the inquiry “the financial resources available to enable prospecting and development work to be carried out as follows.” That should have been a statement of the financial resources of the gentlemen in question, not a statement of what they would spend.
Acting Chairman.—“The resources available”. That is to say, they are going to spend £200 and no more. It does not mean they are only worth £200.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Surely under the lease the last halfpenny that can be extracted from the lessees is available. They are not asked to state how much they are going to spend. The answer is clearly inappropriate.
Acting Chairman.—Those are rather matters of argument.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—May I submit that a good deal of the form of questioning is a matter of argument. The use of such phrases as “Tom, Dick and Harry,” the paraphrasing of the witness’s statement in a form which the witness will not accept. That has been going on continually.
Deputy Geoghegan.—It is hardly fair to put a question to the witness as to the effect of a legal document. The document speaks for itself. If I were to ask Mr. Ferguson whether this lease of the 1st February, 1934, makes every penny that Mr. Michael Comyn or Mr. Robert Briscoe had available, I am sure he would say that in his opinion it did. I do not ask his opinion because I think the document clearly shows that everything they had in the world is available.
103. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Would you take that lease to mean that those who entered into it were bound to carry out all the covenants?
Acting-Chairman.—And the remedy for not carrying them out?
Witness.—They are set out, I presume.
104. Acting Chairman.—Whose business was it to see that four able-bodied and experienced miners were employed subsequent to 1st November, 1934?—We got a statutory return twice yearly. It was one of those I was referring to.
105. Deputy Fitzgerald.—That is the thing here?—Yes.
106. Acting Chairman.—What is the date?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Somewhere about the 4th May, 1935.
Witness.—The one I am referring to is dated 12th June, 1935. The return is for the period from 1st November, 1934 to 30th April, 1935. That is the six months’ period in question.
107. Deputy Fitzgerald.—The Chairman asked you, Mr. Ferguson, what machinery you had for ascertaining whether or not those four able-bodied men were employed. I have in front of me this return. There is only a statement from the interested parties to say that they had spent a certain amount of money. I cannot see a statement that the four able-bodied men were employed. Neither can I see any examination as to what is stated in this return is an actual fact.
Witness: The machinery in that prescribes that the lessees “do solemnly and sincerely declare that we have personal knowledge of the several facts stated in the foregoing return and that to the best of our knowledge and belief the foregoing statements are and each of them is, true and correct.”
108. Acting-Chairman.— “To constantly keep and employ on the said lands at least four able-bodied and experienced miners and to supply them with proper tools and appliances.” Has anybody seen the four able-bodied and experienced miners employed?—I rely for the enforcement on the machinery in the Act. There is a statutory obligation with appropriate penalties.
109. In this declaration can you show me anything that four able-bodied and experienced miners have been employed constantly?—That is part of the machinery of the Statute—in this and other cases to take steps to find out precisely if the covenant is observed. This return is procured with that object. It is not a question of sending down inspectors to see if four men were actually working over any particular period. In other words, we are carrying out the Statute in the way laid down.
110. We will pass on. You were to get in addition to this £5 a year rent the royalties. Have any returns been made as regards the royalties?—The returns are nil so far.
111. Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for Finance.—You mean the documents are nil or the amounts are nil?— The amounts.
112. Deputy Fitzgerald: The return says “nil. Small quantities for analysis”?—
Witness: Nil production.
113. Acting-Chairman.—Now, Mr. Ferguson, you are aware that according to the documents which have been sent to the Department this concession which you gave to Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe is regarded as a very valuable concession? —Would you mind repeating the statement?
114. You saw Deputy Briscoe’s letter of the 25th April, 1935,* giving particulars of this under-lease† with the Risberget Mining Company. Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Comyn sent you a copy of a proposal made to them by Mr. Heiser of the Risberget Gold Mining Company. You have that?—Yes.
115. You see under that that Mr. Briscoe and Senator Comyn in a new Company have to be allotted 48,000 5/-fully paid shares in such Company in consideration for the granting of the sub-lease and in view of your obligations under paragraphs (2) and (3). Under paragraph (2) Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe are to apply for a lease in six other townlands. In paragraph (3) they are to make an application to you for a large number of other townlands. Whether they get the first or whether they get the second townlands they are to get 48,000 shares at 5/- each for the right to the reversion that your Department gave them for nothing, is not that so?—I think your first question leads to the point that it was a valuable concession on the 16th May. I was not aware, nor am I aware now, whether or not it was a valuable concession at the time I sent that letter. I have not any evidence that this was or was not a valuable concession.
116. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—There was no evidence in your possession then of any kind?—Nor at the moment.
117. Acting-Chairman.—There is a geological expert attached to your Department?—There is a limit to what that person can say, whether a gold mine in Wicklow or a particular gold mine will be valuable.
118. Was he consulted by you?—At all stages.
119. He was consulted?—He was. He would not be asked nor could he be expected to say whether gold mining in Wicklow would pay or would be a valuable concession. We would not ask him that question.
120. Did you ask him to go down to inspect?—He has been down.
121. I think he is Mr. Lyburn?—Yes.
122. Is he the Mr. Lyburn who has written an article on gold mining in Wicklow?—He has written articles.
123. In the Dublin Society’s scientific journal?—It is quite possible.
124. Did you ask him if he considered that this £200 was likely to lead to anything in Wicklow?—I did not ask him that question. I may have asked him something else which may have arrived at the same thing.
125. Can you tell us what you did ask?—Mr. Chairman, I cannot answer that question. I should like to be very clear that I did not get and felt that I could not get evidence as to whether gold mining in Wicklow at that time or in that year, or any other year, would pay under present conditions. I submit that the mining adviser we have in our Department, or any other adviser in the country, while quite competent, could not answer that question. The object of granting a prospecting lease is to discover whether a certain thing is available. The result is obtained on the initiative of some person who takes out a prospecting lease at his own cost and at his own risk. I should like to make it clear that there was not any knowledge, and there could not be any knowledge of any definite kind, as to whether this was, or was not, a valuable concession. I expressed no personal opinion at the time.
126. Deputy Fitzgerald.—In the original application these gentlemen stated and stated only that they were prepared to go to a maximum of £200?— I do not think these words were used.
127. Had you intimate knowledge of the financial position of these gentlemen? —I did not regard it as my duty. If two gentlemen of standing propose to spend a certain amount of money in trying a thing which may lead to employment I took it to be my duty in administering the Mines and Minerals Act—this meant a certain amount of employment—the six months’ return shows that they spent more than they were obliged to spend under the covenants of the agreement.
128. Deputy Fitzgerald.—It seems to me, two men came along and said we want you to hand over to us the exclusive rights in a certain area. You granted them a lease—the information I have is this document in front of me. They filled in a form which purports to be a return for the period from the 1st November, 1934, to the 30th April, 1935, in conformity with requirements of the Mines and Minerals Act with reference to Lease No. 12, comprising certain areas situated in the County of Wicklow. This form states:—
“Number of days’ labour performed—
(a) in actual prospecting: 80 days (within the abovementioned period).
(b) in actual mining.
2. On what area, if any, was—
(a) actual prospecting done. Over the entire area comprised in the lease.
(b) actual mining carried on.
3. Name of mine — Clonwilliam, Ballintemple and Coolgarrow mines.
4. Number of areas included in mine —Entire area of leasehold.”
And so on. That is sent in to you. Am I right? I do not want to misrepresent you in any way—in taking from this that two men having £200 available at the end of a given time sent in a form stating that they had spent:—
“For bona-fide prospecting, altogether £100; for bona-fide development, £250; for the erection of buildings, nothing; for the installation of machinery and plant, tools £25. When were said respective expenditures made? In the period from 24th March, 1933, to 30th April, 1935.”
When you received that did you just accept it? Had you any other evidence that they had actually spent the £375 that they claimed to have expended?—We would carry out precisely the machinery laid down in the Act. We have to conform to the Act. The alternative would be a board of inspectors. That was not envisaged by the Oireachtas in passing this legislation. We were carrying out our full duties. We do naturally try to get more details by further correspondence if a document is not quite clear to satisfy ourselves that they are in fact carrying out the covenants. That would be the ordinary office procedure. We are relying on the statutory declarations with the penalties.
129. It is the fact. Two men came along and said they had £200. You have their word. At a later stage they make a return stating that they have spent £375. It seems to me that their word is taken for that?—That is what the Act prescribes, this statutory declaration. I want to make it quite clear that I regard ourselves as having fulfilled our whole duties in carrying out the terms of the statute.
130. I can understand that if a company comes and shows that they have shares valued at £80,000 and are installing a big plant, but when two men come and merely say that they have £200 and they are after saying they spent £375, and when you have presumably made no inquiries as to what their financial resources are, it does seem to me that one can very easily get around a Department? —I suggest it is not so easy to get around a Department.
131. What is going to prevent it?—If there is a fault it is a fault of the Act and not of the administration. There is no machinery providing for inspection. If that had been envisaged then provision would have been made for it. I want to make it clear that we are carrying out fully the provisions laid down in the Act. The Deputy is suggesting some more effective, and a much more costly way, a more inquiring way. We are relying on the statutory declaration and the covenants.
132. We have these further replies:—
6. “Weight and nature of material raised.—Nil. Small quantities for analysis.
7. Weight of material crushed.—Nil.
8. Yield of mineral from rock sent to mill.—Nil.
9. Date on which material was sent to mill.—Nil.
10. Mill to which material was sent.
11. Weight of material sold or disposed of.—Nil.
12. Date of sale or disposal.
13. To whom sold or disposed of.
14. Gold or silver, in ounces or fractional parts, obtained otherwise than from material sent to mill.—Nil.”
Apparently none was sent to the mill. That return was made on the 30th April?—On the 12th June, 1935. The return is up to the 30th April, 1935.
133. In that other letter, that is the letter of the 25th April, 1935, sent by Messrs. Comyn and Briscoe they state: “We have made a thorough investigation of their mineral deposits and as a result we discovered that there is in these three townlands a very big deposit of auriferous gravel.” I am not an expert in this matter. If I had been an official the question would immediately come into my mind when you answered the questions “Weight and nature of material raised, Nil,” and the question “Weight and material crushed, Nil,” “Yield of mineral from rock sent to mill, Nil,” how it is when they state for the purpose of your information that they raised nothing they can at the same time write and say “We discovered there is in these three townlands a very big deposit of auriferous gravel.” I have no technical knowledge, and that ignorance on my part would make me immediately raise the question how is it they discovered this big deposit of auriferous gravel which justifies them in demanding from people to whom they propose to make a sub-lease shares to the value of £12,000, plus £500—I saw somewhere—plus certain royalties. I do not understand how, when you get a nil return you discover there is a very rich deposit of auriferous gravel—auriferous I take it to mean gold-bearing. I would like you to explain that to me?—I said earlier that the machinery laid down in the Act provided for a statutory declaration. I said we would examine the thing. This return is dated the 12th June. It was only a matter of days before the setting up of this committee; in the ordinary way it would have led to further enquiries, but you can understand that action was stopped. The ordinary course would be to pursue in any reasonable way information as to whether there was any evidence suggesting it was not a correct return.
134. You stated earlier with regard to inquiring into the resources of these applicants that you acted in the case exactly as in other cases. In no case would you inquire as to their resources? —I did not say that.
135. In other cases you would act in precisely the same way?—I said earlier that if it were a case of every Tom, Dick and Harry I certainly would have to make some inquiry. All I wanted was prima facie evidence that the people had some resources and were going to spend some money in this district.
136. Deputy Fitzgerald.—On these papers I cannot see any evidence that they were going to spend any money. Secondly, I gather that, whatever the Act does say or does not say, the Department’s prudence indicates, and they recognise, that there should be queries as to the financial position of people applying and as to the technical equipment, either in skill or machinery, that these people possess?—Certainly—for a long term lease.
137. In this case there was no query about their financial position, and a man was bought out for £25?—Surely, there is a difference in these cases. I have got these three names before me; I am given three other names of people whom I do not know, perhaps, as well as I knew the other people in question. For instance, Senator Comyn, I understand, has been carrying on prospecting for minerals for very many years. It is quite a normal thing for him to be coming to us on a matter like this. For many years he has been spending both time and money on these matters. It is known to be perfectly normal for him to do so, and I do not see why I should have to question him any more than any other person who took fairly ordinary risks in carrying out things in which he had some belief. I think that my action was perfectly normal. If a perfectly strange person came in, I would have to see if he had any resources, but it is different in the case of a man like Senator Comyn, who has spent years on this exploration work, perhaps not always with success, but at least opening up a possibility of leading to success.
138. Do not take me, Mr. Ferguson, as hinting anything. I am not hinting at anything. I am merely seeking for information and am not trying to make any implication in the matter. I merely want to get my mind clear?—We are given complete control. With regard to this weakness of inquiry to which you are referring, all that is wanted is prima facie evidence that some prima facie respectable person is prepared to spend a certain amount of work in a certain area.
139. Well, I might hear people talking in a publichouse, for instance, and overhear them saying that there was gold in a certain place, and rush into your office and get a thing, and then say: “Here, you have got to buy me out for £10,000,” or something like that. Again, on the question of queries, I have raised that point, because I understand that, in the case of some applicant, all the references were written to, although the applicant came with rather good recommendations in the first place. You are aware that the Minister stated in the Dáil that there had been prior applicants, but that they had not been able to carry on because of financial difficulty. Reading through these documents, I have not been able to find a reference to that financial difficulty. Can you refer me to the documents here on which the Minister based that statement?—What was the statement.
140. I think it was with regard to these Risberget people or Heiser— please do not take me literally, as I cannot remember the name. At any rate, the Minister stated that although this applicant’s application had been prior to the application you granted, it was not gone on with because of financial difficulty which made it impossible for these people to carry on. It must have been considerable financial difficulty?—I would rather see the actual statement of the Minister.
Perhaps the Clerk to the Committee could get the reference. Looking through these documents, I can see no indication of financial difficulty.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—It is proposed, Mr. Chairman, to put in the proceedings of the Dáil formally in evidence?
Acting-Chairman.—Strictly speaking, it would be more correct to put that to the person who made the statement.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I merely said that, because I wanted Mr. Ferguson to refer me to the documents in which that was contained. I could not remember any case which referred to these people being in financial difficulties.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—If I may refer to the Deputy through you, Sir, I only want to know whether or not we are to have the Dáil Reports as evidence here—I mean, whether they are to be produced as a document or that we simply have to walk backwards and forwards.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—What I had expected was that Mr. Ferguson would be able to refer me to such-and-such a document. I was not challenging Mr. Ferguson but was merely wishing to find out whether or not my memory was correct in regard to this matter. In the case of these other applicants, however, the references were all taken up and no queries were made?
Witness.—No. That is not a fair way of putting it. The suggestion you are making there——
141. Mr. Fitzgerald.—I am not suggesting anything. Kindly take my words exactly. I am making no suggestion.
Witness.—I beg your pardon, but you are making the suggestion that we differentiate as between cases. You are asking me to give evidence and then repeating my evidence in the contrary direction. I have said that we treated these cases in precisely the normal way. With regard to the financial standing to which you are referring, we did not think it necessary in this case, and we did not think it necessary in similar cases. There are other cases in which we made no query, and, therefore, it is quite normal that we might not think it necessary.
142. Deputy Fitzgerald.—I am merely asking is it a fact that in this case, because you knew these gentlemen, because they were members of the Oireachtas, or for whatever other reason, you made no queries?—That happened in other cases.
143. I am not questioning that, but in the case of these people——
Witness.—What people are you referring to?
I thought that you might know. Unfortunately, I cannot remember exactly. I think it is Heiser. Perhaps somebody else may be able to refer me to the document I have in mind.
Acting-Chairman.—You will get all that in File T.I.M. 164. Those were the applications made in earlier years.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Well, I did not expect to be challenged on that point. I remember reading it here.
Witness.—I do want to repeat, Mr. Chairman, and I must, in defence of my own Department, stress the point, that this was regarded in the ordinary and normal way and in no way different from the normal.
144. Acting - Chairman.—You must remember, Mr. Ferguson, what our terms of reference are and we must consider, and I think we are bound to report to the Dáil, all the circumstances. Therefore, if we consider that the Department’s procedure is lax, we might find it necessary to report that to the Dáil.
Witness.— I quite appreciate that, Mr. Chairman, and that is why I am so particular to rebut any suggestion that we departed from our normal practice.
145. Acting-Chairman.—Yes, but your normal practice may be wrong?
Witness.—That may be so, Mr. Chairman, but I should like to have an opportunity of defending that normal practice.
146. Deputy Fitzgerald.—As a result of what comes out here, it may appear that the law is inadequate, but if I point out that in certain cases no queries are made as to the financial resources of people—and also I may say that you have indicated to my mind that in no case do you inquire, but I do remember that in the case of this man Heiser inquiries were made from his references....
Witness.—He was a perfect stranger.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I think Deputy Fitzgerald is perfectly entitled to put to the witness the statement made by the Minister in the Dáil and to ask if he agrees with it. I gather that the witness wants to know the precise terms of the statement and is not casting any doubt on Deputy Fitzgerald’s recollection generally.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I am afraid it may take some time to find it.
Acting-Chairman.—Perhaps Deputy Fitzgerald might leave that over and come back to it again.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I shall let somebody else carry on and see if I can find this thing here.
147. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I should like to ask you a few questions, Mr. Ferguson. A statutory declaration was produced and that was the machinery provided under the Act, as far as you were concerned, for ascertaining whether certain things were done?
Witness.—That is so.
148. And your case is that, whether that was a good procedure or a bad procedure, it was the legal procedure, and you carried it out?—Precisely. That is the case.
149. Now, to come to the second case. When you received a statutory declaration of that kind, if it was inadequate on its face; if it was wrong on its face; or if, subsequently, you had reason to suspect that it was either inadequate or wrong, you would have made certain inquiries?— Yes, that is so.
150. Will you refer the Committee to the portion of the Act which states the penalties for anything which is wrong in that statutory declaration? I do not want you to read it. What is the portion of the Act?—It is Section 16 (2), which deals with the fines to be imposed.
That is all I require, gentlemen.
The Committee adjourned at 7.30 p.m. and resumed at 8.15 p.m. (Deputy Norton in the Chair) Mr. Ferguson continued his evidence.
151. Deputy Costello.—Were you yourself, Mr. Ferguson, thoroughly familiar with the various steps taken in connection with this transaction from start to finish, or did you merely exercise a general supervisory control?
Witness.—The latter would be the best description of my functions.
152. So that you really have not got very first-class knowledge of this transaction yourself, except in your capacity of Chief Officer?—Well, I carried out the duties that I would carry out in such cases, and no more.
153. Naturally, of course, you cannot keep track of everything in your office. As everybody knows, you have a multitude of duties. And therefore, anything we may say must be said in the light of that fact and we are not to be taken as reflecting, in anything we say, on you in your capacity. I take it, then, that it would not be proper for me to bring you through all these details of the transaction. I take it, that the men in charge of these various details would be better able to answer questions in reference to them than you?—Yes, that is so.
154. When you got this application of the 23rd March, 1933, from Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, it was really dealt with by the other officials, Mr. Maguire and Mr. Clarke?—Yes.
155. And when you wrote the letter of the 16th May, 1933, that letter was really put up to you by one of the other officials?—Yes, that is quite a fair way of putting it. When that letter came to me from the officials responsible, it was my duty to talk to them as I did, and satisfy myself that all the various matters had been properly dealt with. Accordingly, when I arrived at the conclusion that it was a proper letter to sign in accordance with my duty, I did so.
156. Yes, and I take it that when, in the second paragraph in the letter of 16th May, that the words are used: “I am to state that the Minister, in so far as he has power to do so, under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1931, is prepared to grant your colleagues and you a two-years’ prospecting lease,” the Minister had not seen this file at that time?—I believe not. In other words, I regarded this as part of ordinary administrative duty and not a thing involving policy. And in the exercise of my ordinary duties, I did that.
157. So far as you know, your Minister had not been in touch with the transaction?—That is so.
158. Of course, I take it that Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn must have been in the Department before they sent in their application. Although you did not see them, they must, in fact, have been in?—It is probable.
159. But you did not know about their being in? I should think it is very probable they were in, because there is no letter from them asking for guidance as to the procedure to be adopted. The first letter is their letter of application?—That might have arisen, conceivably, from acquaintance with the law and procedure.
160. Well, I take it that Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe would not have been acquainted with the Departmental procedure under an Act so recently passed?— Senator Comyn had very many years’ experience dealing with such matters.
161. Yes, but not under the Mines and Minerals Act of 1931?—I am not so sure of that.
162. Is not this the first lease granted under that Act?—No, I do not think so— not this particular one. There is a statutory return showing the leases that are given under this Act, and I can answer your question from that return.
163. Well, what is the answer?—It was not the first one. The first one was relating to state quarries.
164. Well, was it the first one dealing with gold and silver, or what are known as royal metals?—No.
165. Well, look up Mr. Maguire’s minute of November, 1933, to the Chief State Solicitor, forwarding instructions for the drafting of this lease, where he says: “As this is the first lease, involving gold and silver, which the Minister is making under the Mines and Minerals Act, I am requesting,” and so on. That is Mr. Maguire’s minute to the Chief State Solicitor. I have read it on the file?— The fact is that the other lease was signed. There was no lease relating to gold before that. Mr. Maguire will explain the matter himself.
166. Was that drafted by the then State Solicitor?—It was.
167. I take it Mr. Maguire will be able to clear that up afterwards?—Yes.
168. Can you tell me this? Why, when the applicants had made, in their original application, request for a prospecting lease in relation to certain specified metals named in the application, you asked them, or your Department did, to include in that proposed lease certain other metals? You gave them something they had not asked for? —That was necessary, I was advised, for both technical and legal reasons. There were definitely technical and legal reasons why we had to include the other metals. It was not a case of giving them more than they asked for. It was the only practical way in which it could be done.
169. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney directed your attention to-day to the fact that the original application for this lease was signed by Mr. Grattan H. Norman, whereas the subsequent release of Mr. Norman’s rights was signed by a Mr. George Norman?—Yes.
170. You very fairly stated that you or the Department had not really adverted to the significance of that?—I was unable to give a proper explanation.
171. Deputy Geoghegan.—George R.G. —presumably the latter initial G. stands for something, possibly Grattan?—I have an idea it is the same man.
172. Deputy Costello.—Would you be surprised to know that Mr. Grattan H. Norman, the original applicant, was a man who was not 21 years of age when he made that application and that his father’s name was George Norman? That is news to you?—His age is news to me.
173. You have stated, for the reasons you gave, that you made no inquiries as to who Mr. Grattan Norman was or as to the correctness of the opinion expressed by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe in their application that “Mr. Grattan H. C. Norman is in our opinion a practical prospector”?—As you have put it, it sounds as if we had not done something that the Department should have done. I must very definitely repeat what the position is in my view, in our view officially, under the Mines and Minerals Act.
174. I will give you ample opportunity later?—I would like to deal with it now. What you have stated does make a suggestion of improper administration of the Act, and as a witness I cannot let that pass. The object of the Act was to allow prospecting development and employment. In every country in the world prospectors will only be attracted if there is some chance of arriving at something worth while. Elsewhere things are made easy for them and things were made regular and easy for them in the Mines and Minerals Act. Certain people propose to spend a certain amount of money, and they say they are competent. If they lose the money it will be their loss. I admitted to-day that we did not think it our duty to inquire into these matters and I merely wish to repeat that.
175. I do not wish to prevent you making any explanation you think proper and desirable. I propose in a few moments to put a few questions to you as to your interpretation of the object and policy of the Act. Anyhow, the fact is that you made no enquiries, for the reasons you stated, about the technical capacity of the applicants for this prospecting lease?—There was prima facie evidence which we considered sufficient. We knew the father or the son or the father and the son had some connection with prospecting of some kind and that was quite enough for us. It was sufficient evidence in our mind to allow these people to risk their own money.
176. So you knew there was a father and a son. I gathered from you when I stated that there was a father and a son that that was news to you?—No, his age was news to me.
177. How did you know that? You stated several times to-day that you made no enquiries?—One may know. I say a thing of my own knowledge. I do not know either of these gentlemen, but I had knowledge of a general kind—I do not know where it came from, but I was aware there was a father who had some interest. Perhaps some of my colleagues may tell you more. I know there was a father and son.
178. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Am I to understand that George Norman is one person and Grattan Norman is another? —I do not know that.
179. Deputy Costello.—The prima facie evidence you spoke of really amounted to the statement of Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe that Mr. Grattan H. Norman was in their opinion a practical prospector?—Practically.
180. Did you accept the statement of the proposed expenditure of £200 from those two gentlemen because you knew one was a Senator and the other a Deputy?—Well, the point is simply this, that people say they are going to spend a certain amount of their own money. They are not asking me for any money. They are asking a prospector’s chance of finding something and in the doing of that they wish to spend their own money. It is not any part of my duty to see that they do anything more than mean business.
181. Is that the settled practice of the Department?—That is the practice, and the proper practice, where there is no competition. If there were competition for the same lease then, no doubt, we would have to inquire into their resources. But if people propose to do what no one else proposes to do, in my opinion they should get facilities.
182. That is the settled practice—that there is no scrutiny? In cases where there is no other applicant there is no scrutiny?—I do not admit no scrutiny. I have said that I do know there is a father and son and they had some vague connection with prospecting.
183. Then it was because you relied on the status and the stability of Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—I knew that one of these gentlemen had for 20 years spent time and money prospecting. In the case of a stranger I would make some inquiries.
184. Did you regard it as any part of your duty or the Department’s duty to take measures to prevent the exploitation of property which may subsequently turn out to be a valuable State mineral resource?—I denied that I knew there was any valuable property there and I deny now that I know it.
185. It is really irrelevant as to whether it is valuable or not?—You refer to exploitation. Exploitation means the working of something valuable.
186. You had no evidence that it was, in fact, valuable when you granted the application?—The probability was it was of no value. We made a lease to these parties containing certain covenants. I wish to draw the Committee’s attention definitely to the nature of the covenants in the lease.
187. Let us pass from the covenants for a moment?—I am not here in the dock and I must be permitted to make my statements in my own way.
188. I thought I made it clear to you that I was not putting you in the dock. I do not want to hamper you in any way? —I have been to some extent put into the dock at times. I must defend my Department and myself. There was a suggestion that we were permitting the exploitation of something without full and proper inquiry, and that we did not make proper inquiry to prevent its exploitation. We ended up by giving a lease, and that lease contains covenants. There was a prospecting lease to examine into property which might conceivably contain valuable minerals. One of the covenants is that 4 per cent is to be given to the State. These are as good terms as would be made in any country. If nothing came of the venture and it was not a valuable property, these parties lose their money and we get nothing; but if it turned out to be a really valuable property the State would get 4 per cent. I think it was a most excellent arrangement, and I submit we made a most business-like arrangement. Any suggestion that there was an attempt to exploit anything is not reasonable.
189. Were you familiar with the Departmental file that dealt with the application of Mr. Heiser or the Risberget Company in the year 1931?—I have that file.
190. Turning to the letter of the 9th July, 1930, from Mr. Gordon T. Campbell, then secretary of the Department to Messrs. Leader, Plunkettt and Leader, solicitors, Newgate Street, London, you will see in that letter that the then secretary of the Department sets out what appears to me, at all events, to be the practice which they proposed to follow in reference to the granting of a mines and minerals lease, and it is different from what has now, according to your evidence, become the settled practice of the Department. The last paragraph of the letter says:—
“It will however be appreciated that even though priority be recorded for at application from your clients, it would still be necessary for them to satisfy the Minister, before any lease or licence would be issued to them, that in respect of the amount of capital to be invested, the extent of employment to be given, the degree of stability of the enterprise and other relevant factors, their application was to be preferred to any other similar application received.”
There the then Secretary indicated that in respect of the grant of any lease or licence under the proposed legislation, there would be considered in reference to every application, (1) the amount of capital to be invested; (2) the extent of employment to be given; and (3) the degree of stability of the enterprise and other relevant factors. That appears to me to adumbrate an entirely different practice to what has now become, according to your evidence, the settled practice of the Department?—I do not accept that suggestion. My letter of the 13th May contains almost precisely the same words, that the mining lease will not issue until we are satisfied on both those points; in other words, the practice adumbrated in that letter is the practice in this case as in other cases.
191. I understood from your evidence that you repeated several times that you did not, in reference to this application by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, make enquiries about the amount of capital to be invested or the degree of stability of the enterprise?—Not for a prospecting lease. I have to repeat what I said before. The suggestion was made by the chairman in the earlier part of the proceedings that the prospecting lease and the mining lease proper were the same thing. We do regard, and rightly so, the prospecting lease as something that gives people time to examine into things. They spend their own money. When they come back to look for the lease proper, that is the time for all this to be done. Mr. Gordon Campbell clearly refers to that, not to a prospecting lease. If prospecting is ever to be carried on, some kind of facility must be given to people anxious to spend money prospecting. But when it comes to the lease proper, then that test comes in of which you have spoken—are their technical and financial resources sufficient? If they are not, the lease will not be given.
192. I make this comment on the statement you have just made, that Mr. Gordon Campbell, then Secretary of the Department, said that before any lease or licence would be issued these matters would be taken into consideration. “Any lease” would cover a prospecting lease. If it does not the word “licence” would in law do it?—That may be your view, but I contend there was absolutely no break of continuity in the view of the Department on that point. This case was quite different from the cases referred to in Mr. Gordon Campbell’s letter because there was then competition, as priority was mentioned. In any case where there is competition, clearly the financial and technical resources assume an importance they have not otherwise got. In the Department we look into those things carefully. Naturally, anyone suggesting to work something that nobody has thought of working, and doing it at his own expense, is given reasonable facilities.
193. You know that set of facts did not apply in this case because there were people looking after this property and Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn were not the first persons who came in on this perhaps wild-cat venture?—At the time there were no others.
194. Did you see on the file that the previous applicants had written a letter on the 13th June, 1930? Mr. Heiser had written to the Minister, and in his letter he stated: “Because of the enormous boulders, it would be necessary to operate the ground with a very large bucket dredge or a suction jet elevator, and this huge plant would cost a very large sum, only justified by operating on large areas”?—That is Mr. Heiser’s opinion.
195. But it is more or less the same area as you are dealing with now?— Not necessarily—quite different areas.
196. Did he not apply for the very area portion of which was subsequently granted to the others?—I believe not. My colleague will support that later in evidence.
197. At all events he was applying in 1930 for an area covered by the present application?—That was not alive on the date of the application.
198. But it goes back to 1930. I am suggesting that the letter I have read to you has an application to the area subsequently granted to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—I must in evidence say “No”; it is not the same area.
199. You would not agree a letter of that kind ought to have attracted the attention of the officials who were in charge of Senator Comyn’s and Deputy Briscoe’s application to the fact that big sums would be necessary in order to carry out even the prospecting of this area?—I have no reason to believe that or to accept Mr. Heiser’s statement.
200. Mr. Heiser was a professional mining engineer with qualifications which your Department had ascertained by direct inquiry in 1930, to be very substantial?—I repeat that, at this moment, having met Mr. Heiser, I have no more reason to accept his statement in regard to this than Senator Comyn’s.
201. When that statement was put on the file by a qualified expert mining engineer, did you not think it was the duty of the Department to have caused some inquiries to have been made in reference to the State mines that were supposed to exist in the area in question, before they granted anybody a lease?—You mean, in 1930, in considering——
No; in considering Senator Comyn’s and Deputy Briscoe’s application. I am putting to you that the mind of the official who was dealing with this, and your mind subsequently when you took the responsibility of giving the lease, ought to have been directed by the correspondence which took place in 1930 from Mr. Heiser, a qualified mining engineer, to the fact that very substantial expenditure would be required in the area if results were to be obtained?— That is merely a statement by a person in respect of whom I have not sufficient evidence to say whether his opinion is of any value or not. I do not say it is not; I do not know.
202. Your Department had made inquiries through the High Commissioner, and also through other sources, as to his financial standing and professional ability?—There are letters amongst the papers showing that.
203. And the Department was satisfied as a result that he was a qualified engineer and a man of standing?—I do not admit that. I do not accept that Mr. Heiser’s opinion is of value. It may be of value, but I am not at all convinced of it. I do not accept the suggestion you are making, because it is not a question, but a suggestion, that something happened in 1930—an application made by a person in 1930 and which was then dead and withdrawn—should be taken into consideration at the date when this other application of Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe was made and not in relation to the same areas.
204. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Did you say it was withdrawn?—It ceased.
205. Deputy Costello.—I want to recall you to the statement you made that these people were applying for different areas.
Witness.—I think I should refer you to my suggestion that that question should be put to my colleagues.
206. Deputy Costello.—I think I shall be able to show, from the correspondence, that in fact it did cover these areas Perhaps the officials in question will look at the letter dated 25th September, 1930, from Messrs. Leader, Plunkettt & Leader, Solicitors for Mr. Heiser, to the Department of Industry and Commerce. The letter says:—
“Our clients have, therefore, asked us to make formal application for mining rights and leases over the areas indicated in red on the enclosed maps, being definite areas for leases to mine for specific minerals, namely, gold, at Avoca.”
Witness.—Might I refer you to the letter of 6th May, 1932, from Messrs. Leader, Plunkett & Leader on the same file. When I used the word “withdrawn” it was the wrong word to use. Might I explain?
207. Deputy Costello.—Would you mind leaving that over for a moment? I am coming to it later, because the question as to whether they withdrew is entirely irrelevant to the point I am putting to you.
Witness.—Might I say that the suggestion is that I should have taken into consideration something that happened in 1930 in considering this matter in 1935, and I object to being taken away from that suggestion?
208. Deputy Costello.—I am not taking you away from it. Go on—I do not want to trap you in any way.—It is not a question of trapping, but I think it scarcely fair. The suggestion definitely is that I did not do something in 1935 that I should have done and I do think I should be allowed to deal with that on the spot when the statement is made.
209. Chairman.—Will you clear it up, Mr. Ferguson?
Witness.—There is a letter dated 6th May, 1932, from Messrs. Leader, Plunkettt & Leader, addressed to the Department, as follows:—
“We received your letter dated 4th of this month . . . in which we asked them if they had any intention of proceeding; in other words, was this thing alive . . . and have to inform you in reply thereto that the leading members of the Risberget Iron Ore Property Syndicate, Ltd., went over to America many months ago with a view to arranging for the provision of the machinery and capital, and since then we have not heard anything further of them. We can only assume that owing to the financial position of the States at the present time they have not been able to collect the necessary requirements, to enable them to carry through their scheme.”
We assumed, rightly or wrongly, that that affair was gone.
210. Deputy Costello.—To come back to the point I was at. In the letter of 25th September, 1930, to which I have just referred, and in which formal applications were made, they stated that the proposed works would involve the expenditure of many thousands of pounds. In another letter they say that they have £5,000 for the particular ones we are dealing with. On 4th May, 1932, Mr. E. J. Riordan, on behalf of the Department, wrote a letter to Messrs. Leader, Plunkettt and Leader, solicitors, as follows:—
“I am directed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to refer to previous correspondence on the subject for an application for mining rights in respect of gold and ruby-garnet in the name of Risberget Iron Ore Properties Syndicate, Limited, and to request that you will kindly submit information on the following points:—
1. The names of the townlands . . .
2. Offer specifying inter alia fine or other preliminary payment, Dead Rent and Royalties for two vears’ take note . . .”
I emphasise that, having regard to the statement you have already made.
“. . . or prospecting lease and also Dead Rent and Royalties for lease for 97 years if taken out after expiration of two years’ take note or Prospecting Lease and method on which Royalties are to be calculated.
3. Financial resources available to enable prospecting and development work to be carried out.
4. Scientific and technical staff at the disposal of the syndicate for the purpose of prospecting and developing.”
That was a letter written in reply to the application of this firm asking in the name of your Department whether they were applying for a prospecting note, particulars of their financial resources and scientific and technical staff. In face of that letter, do you still suggest there has been no change in the practice?—I do.
211. Would you explain it?—I am not very clear as to what I am to explain.
212. I will put it again as simply as I can. I drew your attention to the letter of 9th July from Mr. Gordon Campbell in which he informed Messrs. Leader, Plunkett & Leader that it would be necessary for them to satisfy the Minister before any lease—and I emphasis the word “any” —or licence would be issued in respect of three matters. Those three matters were (1) The amount of capital to be invested, (2) the extent of the employment to be given, and (3) the degree of stability of the enterprise and other relevant factors. Messrs. Leader, Plunkett & Leader then, on behalf of their clents, on 25th September, in the letter I have just read, made a formal application, and on 4th May, 1932, Mr. Riordan, on behalf of the Department, wrote to them asking for particulars of their financial resources and of the scientific and technical staff at the disposal of the syndicate for the purpose of prospecting and developing, in a case in which they were applying for a prospecting lease. It appears to me that on those documents you had made the point that these things might be inquired into if there was a full lease to be given, or if there was competition for a prospecting lease rather than a full lease. In this case, there was no competition and a prospecting lease had been asked for. There is a letter from the Department requesting information as to the financial resources available and the scientific and technical staff at the disposal of the syndicate. These inquiries were directed to an application in 1932 for a prospecting lease for two years and they were not directed in 1934 in the case of Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—I beg your pardon, they were. The form of the application, I should say, in that particular case, contained those two queries, although perhaps not in the same words. That is why I have difficulty in following the Deputy’s point in examining me. The practice is precisely the same. In giving a prospecting lease to the gentleman in this case, we put in those two points as to the financial resources and technical equipment and the provisions of a full lease would not operate until that is done. In the case to which the Deputy has referred, inquiries as to the firm’s position were asked beforehand as covering all; in the other case, the procedure was a little different. We are sometimes accused of red tape in the Department, but the very fact that we do not tolerate it now seems to make the position more difficult. The fact is that precisely the same practice was followed. In carrying out the policy of the Department generally, we had to do it in such a way as to get the maximum employment out of prospecting for gold.
Deputy Geoghegan.—And Messrs. Leader answered you: “There were no financial resources.” Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe say there were.
Deputy Costello.—Deputy Geoghegan has raised the point now that Messrs. Leader and Company say that there were no financial resources. Will you show me where that letter is?
Deputy Geoghegan.—The letter of 6th May.
213. Deputy Costello.—I will read it, because it does not appear to bear out the suggestion of Deputy Geoghegan. It says:—
“We have received your letter dated 4th of this month and have to inform you in reply thereto that the leading members of the Risberget Iron Ore Property Syndicate, Limited, went over to America some months ago with a view to arranging for the provision of machinery and capital and since then we have not heard anything further of them. We can only assume that owing to the financial position of the State at the present time they have not been able to collect the necessary requirements to enable them to carry through their scheme.”
In a letter dated 25th May, 1932, addressed to the Secretary of the Trades and Industry Branch, Lord Edward Street, Irish Free State, they say:—
“Sir,—Referring to your letter dated the 4th of this month . . . that is the letter I referred to, about the financial resources and scientific and technical staff . . .
. . . we have to inform you that we have since been in communication with the Risberget Company, Limited, who have instructed us that owing to the long interval which has elapsed since their first application, namely, on September, 1930, Mr. Heiser, their Managing Director, has been obliged to return to the States and he took with him all the papers relating to questions 1 and 2 of your letter for the purpose of raising further capital. However, the Company is now in communication with Mr. Heiser, as it is understood the new mining law has now been passed.
With regard to question 3, the Directors of Risberget, Limited, consider that £5,000 would be ample for the preliminary prospecting and testing work, and they are informed by Mr. Heiser that he has obtained promises of this amount for this purpose.
With regard to question 4, the scientific and technical staff of Risberget, Limited, consist of Mr. Morris E. Heiser and Professor B. W. Holman of the Royal School of Mines, in addition to which they have available the services of the experienced mining engineer, Mr. R. W. Horner, a graduate of the Red Roof School of Mines, and for several years manager of the property belonging to Ore Dressing, Limited, and Beach Tin Deposits, Limited.”
The rest of the letter we need not read at the moment. There you were informed on 25th May, 1932, that very expert technical staff was at the disposal of this company, and that they had £5,000 available for prospecting. I again put to you that, having learned from this letter of 25th May that there was £5,000 available for prospecting by this company and that they had at their disposal a very expert technical staff, it ought to have put the Department on inquiry as to the financial resources of Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe, and as to the scientific staff they put forward in their application?
Witness.—I do not accept the deduction.
214. Deputy Costello.—Very good.
Witness.—Might I explain? At the time that correspondence was going on in 1932, we would have been very glad to have had this employment. The Deputy did not finish that we pursued that by correspondence until March, 1933, when he had to say, in order to bring them up to scratch: “If you are not going on, we must assume that you are not.” That is why I spoke of the matter being withdrawn. It died in that way. The deduction which the Deputy draws is that because I could not get £5,000 or £10,000, I should not take a £200 scheme. I submit that the view of the Department, and myself, was that something was better than nothing. There was no other competing person. The Deputy suggested there was £5,000, that these people said so.
215. Deputy Costello.—I did not suggest anything of the sort. I suggested that the fact that there had been applicants in 1932 for this State mining licence who stated that they were prepared to put down £5,000 for prospecting, and that they had very expert technical staff ought to have put the Department on inquiry, firstly, as to the financial resources and, secondly, as to the scientific staff at the disposal of Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I must object to that question.
Deputy Costello.—Thirdly, that the Department, when they got Senator Comyn’s and Mr. Briscoe’s application, ought to have made further inquiries as to whether there were any other people who were prepared to prospect this apparently valuable property.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Before the witness answers that question, I object to my friend’s statement that £5,000 was available, because the letter of the 25th May, 1932, is phrased as follows:—
“With regard to question 3, the Directors of Risberget, Limited, consider that £5,000 would be ample for the preliminary prospecting and testing work, and they are informed by Mr. Heiser that he has obtained promises of this amount for this purpose.”
Risberget, Limited, do not say they have it; Heiser does not say they have it, but Risberget says that Heiser says that he has the promise of somebody else. That is not availability.
216. Chairman.—Have you any reason to believe, Mr. Ferguson, that the £5,000 had a more tangible existence than that given to it in this paragraph of the letter from Messrs. Leader, Plunkettt and Leader? —We are talking of this as if there were an offer. We never had an offer. We got a lot of letters and references. We would have been very pleased to have had an offer to go on, but we had no application before us, in statutory or any other form. We had vague talk from vaguish people, and the Deputy is drawing the conclusion that because there was vague talk from vaguish people about £5,000, the Department should make further inquiries about some other proposition in some other area. With all respect, I deny the suggestion. You were not in the Chair, Sir, when I made the statement, and I repeat it, that it seems to us that the primary object of the Act was to promote prospecting and the chances of developing in this country and to get more employment, and if people were prepared to spend small sums of money—we would have preferred larger sums—and if they were prepared to spend even £200, we would not be using our authority properly if we prevented them from doing so, when no one else was putting up larger amounts or was competent to offer larger amounts.
217. Deputy Costello.—I want to ask you, following out what you have just stated, why it was you assumed that there was nobody else but Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe prepared to carry out prospecting on this property?—No one had, in fact, made application or approached us. We do not advertise and ask people to do that.
218. Why not?—That is not part of our statutory duties.
219. Why is it not?—I submit it is a most extraordinary question. I think the Deputy has enough knowledge of the administration to know that it is hardly a fair question.
Chairman.—I think the witness cannot answer.
220. Deputy Costello.—I am coming to the policy, as you have expounded it, of the Mines and Minerals Act. The policy of that Act, according to you and according to the manner in which it is carried out by your Department, is to get somebody or another to do some sort of prospecting and to give some sort of employment?—I have stated that it is one of the objects to be achieved.
221. How is the public interest looked after by the Department if that is the policy that is to be carried out?—I do not understand the point of the Deputy’s question. I must repeat that I do rather feel that I am being put in the position, as it were, of a criminal in the dock. I submit with all respect that it is not quite fair. Whatever the object of this Committee in making inquiries, I am here to assist with information. On several occasions I have explained that what we have got to do is laid down in the Act and that we are carrying it out to the Deputy’s own knowledge. I am talking of one aspect of the Act. It is not the only thing. There are other objects such as the safeguarding of private property. It surely is an understandable thing in handling an Act generally that where there is a chance of procuring extra employment, whether in gold-mining or any other direction, that it would be a proper thing to do?
222. I suggest that your Departmental view of the policy of the Act is wrong, or if you like to put it this way, too narrow?—That is hardly for me to answer?
223. I am going to put this view. You know there is a section in the Mines and Minerals Act of 1931 which enables the Minister to enter on lands for the purpose of examining the value of any State mines or minerals and for the purpose of carrying out experiments. Is that for the purpose of giving employment? I suggest that Section 13 bears out my suggestion that your construction of the policy of this Act is either wrong or too narrow?—I think the Deputy is rather misunderstanding what I am saying. I am not suggesting that the only thing is the matter of employment. There are a great many other provisions, dealing with royalties, the safeguarding of the rights of property and matters arising out of Article 11 of the Constitution. I am simply dealing with one particular aspect with regard to the possibility of giving more employment. If there is a choice between refusing permission to parties to prospect which always in every country in the world is in operation and which is a very simple operation letting people try to discover minerals and spend their own money on it—when we are criticised as a Department for doing it in such a way as to make it easy for people to spend money my evidence has been that we treated it in the ordinary routine way, rightly or wrongly.
224. I submit that Section 13 is in the Act specifically for the purpose of enabling the Minister to ascertain the value of any State mines and minerals or of any exclusive State mining right for the purpose of enabling him to make experiments, including borings, as in his opinion appear necessary or desirable for the purpose of enabling the State to get the best possible value in the public interest out of such mining rights and such minerals?—I take it the suggestion is that the State should carry out both the prospecting and the mining rather than private individuals. That is a matter of policy.
225. You gave us at least half a dozen times your interpretation of the policy of the Act. I suggest to you that your idea of the policy of the Act is either wrong or at least too narrow.
Chairman.—I do not think that Mr. Ferguson should be asked to interpret the policy of the Act.
Witness.—I object. I do not know the whole policy.
Chairman.—I think what he said was that he acted in accordance with what he conceived to be the intentions of the Act.
Deputy Costello.—He gave an answer to questions when you were not here, as to what he conceived to be his duty, that he examined applications under the Mines and Minerals Act of 1931 for the purpose of getting somebody to do prospecting in order to give employment.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—There is quarrel here as to what the witness said and what he intended to say.
Chairman.—If I permit you to ask that question it will upset the normal sequence of examination. I suggest that you get over the controversy by asking the witness what he did and what he meant.
226. Deputy Costello.—I have a note of what the witness said. He said: “I had a duty to see that the application was in accordance with the Statute and, secondly, to carry out the general policy to promote employment in prospecting and in developing the mineral resources.”
Witness.—I am not denying the words. May I explain? I was talking of one aspect of this. We had an application before us from which employment would he got by letting these people risk their money, however small. I said on that particular aspect of the Act the chance of getting employment was the policy underlying it. I was not referring to Section 13.
227. Deputy Costello.—Am I putting it unfairly——
Witness.—I feel you are, as a matter of fact.
228. Deputy Costello.—Am I putting it unfairly if I put it that one of the objects of the Act is the chance of getting employment?—That was fair enough. It is a very important one.
229. You just mentioned that Article 11 comes into this consideration?—For the purposes of the Act.
230. The Mines and Minerals Act has a statutory provision dealing with Article 11 of the Constitution enabling mines and minerals which are the property of the State to be controlled and administered in the public interest in accordance with regulations to be made from time to time by the Oireachtas?—Certainly.
231. The governing words there are “in the public interest”?—Yes. I submit that in the particular lease we made provision whereby the State would get 4 per cent. I say that we carried out that part of the policy of the State in the lease itself.
232. The Act itself provides that the lease which is to be granted under Section 11 “shall be made subject to and shall contain such covenants, conditions and agreements (other than for the renewal of the lease) as the Minister shall consider proper or desirable in the public interest.” Again we find the governing words, “public interest.” The whole point of my observations is this: that the public interest is the guiding factor in reference to granting a licence or lease under this Act?—Is it suggested that in the lease in question——
233. I am not suggesting anything. Do you agree to that proposition?—I would say so.
234. Do you suggest that the public interest would be best served by putting down a fixed royalty of 4 per cent. interest without having some sort of examination made by an expert, as is contemplated in Section 13 of the Mines and Minerals Act, before the State rights are alienated?
Surely, Mr. Ferguson, you can answer a question without asking the other two officials?
Witness.—The Deputy started off my cross-examination by an admission that certain matters would be asked of people who are more familiar with the matter. Now he is complaining.
235. Deputy Costello.—I am putting a question with reference to the policy of the Act.
Witness.—However, it does not matter. The suggestion that the Deputy is now making is not correct. Section 13 has no reference or suggestion that we must go through some formality of entering upon land and incurring expense; common sense cuts across the whole thing. Someone wishes to make a prospecting operation. Must we do the prospecting ourselves?
236. Deputy Costello.—I suggest that the Section 13 of the Act was not put in as a mere futility. It states that for the purpose of ascertaining the value of any State mines and minerals the Minister may, subject to the liability to pay compensation, enter upon property on giving one month’s notice.
Witness.—Do I understand the Deputy to suggest that before we gave a lease to anyone we should, under Section 13, enter upon the lands and do all those things. Is that the Deputy’s suggestion?
237. Deputy Costello.—I am suggesting that before you give a lease, merely taking the statements of the Act, that the Department ought to have made some inquiries when they proposed to alienate State rights for 99 years.
Witness.—That is another point. I do not agree.
238. Do you agree that if there was 6¼ per cent. royalty to be got out of property the proper thing to have achieved was to have got that 6¼ per cent. in the public interest instead of handing it over to some private individual for doing nothing?—I do not understand the Deputy’s question.
239. I will put it in a simpler form. You know this lease was granted for two years. Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe were to pay a royalty of 4 per cent. plus a dead rent. They entered into an arrangement with another Company, the Risberget Company, who were to give them 6¼ per cent. in shares in a Company that was to be formed. You know that?— I do not know that.
240. Have you read the files?—That is hardly a fair remark. It is the tone of the Deputy’s cross-examination. I must appeal to you, Mr. Chairman. It is hardly fair to myself.
241. Chairman.—You say you are not aware of a proposal to that effect, but I must direct your attention, Mr. Ferguson, to the file. There are proposals of that kind on the file. While you may object to answer——
Witness.—I will require a little time.
242. Deputy Costello.—If you had made a lease to two applicants, getting for the State a 4 per cent. royalty, and you find that they were going to get 6¼ or 6½ per cent plus shares in a company to be formed, would you think that the additional value that was to be got out of this property ought to have come to the State instead of going to two applicants who had done nothing to the property?—Mr. Chairman, might I say that the lease was given to these gentlemen? In this case there are certain covenants in this lease. From our point of view, the only question was, was it a fair and proper lease in the public interest? At the time that lease was given, that was the only question. What may have happened afterwards did not affect the situation. At the moment the lease was given the question was the provisions of that lease in the sense and spirit of the Mines and Minerals Act.
243. Do you think in every state of facts dealing with mines that are the property of the State that it is good enough in the public interest to get a 4 per cent. royalty? —We would definitely stand over that there in the lease—for gold, of course.
244. In any state of facts?—In the state of facts.
245. That in any state of facts 4 per cent. royalty is good enough for the State? —I do not like to say in any state of facts. In the facts as we know them it is a perfectly fair one in our opinion.
246. That is to say, any property which belongs to the State?—4 per cent of the gross turnover, I should remind the Deputy.
247. Put it at the highest you like, that that is to be the settled practice, shall we say again in reference to the amount of money the State is to get for its property without any inquiry being made as to whether there is any valuable deposits in the property or not, or whatever may turn out to be the value of the property?— The position was there was either no prospecting done or some. If there was not any prospecting done by anybody, we considered 4 per cent. of the gross turnover a fair and proper arrangement in the public interest?
248. Have you got a copy of the lease itself before you? I draw your attention to the fact that this lease has not expressed it by way of “take note” or prospecting lease; it purports to be a demise of the mining rights. I am suggesting to you, first of all, that so far as the express provisions of this lease go there is nothing to show that it is a “take note” or prospecting lease and the ground on which I put that is, firstly, the one I have already mentioned; that it is not expressed by way of prospecting lease and, secondly, that the whole tenor of this lease shows that it is in fact a full lease of full State mining rights and not a mere prospecting lease?—That is your argument but we do not accept that.
249. In answer to Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney earlier in the evening, you stated that you were following out the statutory machinery with a view to seeing that the lessees under the lease had fulfilled their duty.
Witness.—Do you expect me to answer that question?
Deputy Costello.—If you do not mind.
Witness.—It is a queer question to answer.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Before you answer, I would like a ruling from you, Mr. Chairman, as to whether it is relevant. As I understand the terms of reference the material date is either the date on which the lease was granted or a date anterior to the granting of the lease. As to what happens after the lease is granted, whether they perform the covenants or not, it would seem to me to be irrelevant on the terms of reference.
Chairman.—I think that Deputy Costello has been developing a line that the Department should be satisfied that it was in the public interest to issue this lease, and a corollary question seems to be: Was the public interest safe-guarded to the extent that would ensure that the lessees did, in fact, comply with the terms of the lease?
Deputy Costello.—You are quite right, Sir, and, in addition, there is a further point: Was the public interest safeguarded by this lease not having been voided because the lessees did not carry out their duty?
Deputy Geoghegan.—Up to the point you mentioned, Sir, my friend—if I may refer to him as my friend—was within the terms of reference, but it seems to me that when he seeks to enquire whether the terms of the lease have, in fact, been kept, as distinct from whether precautions were taken, to see that they were kept in the drafting of the lease—when he starts to enquire as to the events that occurred since the granting of the lease, I suggest to you, Sir, that he is outside the terms of reference.
Chairman.—In making the second inquiry which you now mention, I think that Deputy Costello is in order in asking whether the terms have been kept in order to ascertain whether the State’s interest in respect of royalty has been safeguarded. I think that he must get that in order to ascertain the amount which the State has got under the lease.
Witness.—Under the Act, a six months’ statutory return has to be put in by the parties having such a lease. The machinery of the Act is that they must make the statutory return under penalty. In other words, if they make an inaccurate return, there is the statutory penalty per diem. The first return was in June. We regarded it as our duty to see that the parties do, in fact, carry out the provisions of the covenant.
250. Deputy Costello.—Well, we will see about that, Mr. Ferguson. Do I take it that the only thing you have got from the lessees since the lease was made was this document you refer to as the statutory requirement?—That was the only thing required.
251. Perhaps it would be better if I brought you down, Mr. Ferguson, specifically to the questions rather than put them on general terms. Have they in any way carried out the covenant in this lease to give you monthly returns within three days of the expiration of each calendar month? Look at covenant 5 in the lease, for instance. It says: “within three days next after the expiration of each calendar month, during the continuance of this demise, to deliver to the lessors a true and fair account in writing containing the particulars of the quantity of all minerals and all assays thereof, which, during such months, shall have been respectively gotten and raised from the said land, and which, during such month, shall have been stored, crushed or stamped.” Have they given you any such monthly returns?—I will answer that in a moment. The situation with regard to that is that we have had constant correspondence about this. We have had only one nil return. There were arrears of returns, but, in the first six months of a prospecting lease, it is the practice —and I think it is a proper practice—to allow the parties concerned to get into their stride, so to speak, so as to see what is going on, and not to expect a return in too short a period. It is not the policy to embarrass them in their activities in such an early period. As I say, we had one nil return and other returns were in arrears. Those would have been got in due course.
252. In other words, they have not given you a single monthly return since this was issued?—Yes, one nil return.
253. What I want to know is : did you get a six-monthly return and one monthly return?—One monthly return.
254. For what month?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Before continuing, Mr. Chairman, I should like to say that it looks as if this is going to take a considerable amount of time, and we are all anxious to get through the work. The agreement was to sit until 10.30. Could we have an agreement to sit later?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—11 o’clock would suit me.
Witness.—With regard to the return of nil for one month, I am not sure of the date. It seems to me that it was May or June, but I am not sure of it.
255. Deputy Fitzgerald.—The Secretary has given me the file, but there is nothing to indicate the date?
Witness.—Of course, quantities of minerals actually raised and worked are referred to but, obviously, we did not expect these returns in the early months.
256. Deputy Costello.—I want to know whether it was not carried out except, possibly, in respect of one month. Is that correct, Mr. Ferguson?
257. Chairman.—Can you say, Mr. Ferguson, on what date that return was received in the Department? Does it bear any date stamp?
258. Deputy Costello.— Perhaps we could take up that matter later on. Mr. Ferguson may not be able to find it at the moment. To leave that for the moment, there are two provisions in this lease: one for a monthly return and the other for a half-yearly return. Is not that so?
259. Now, did you take any steps to ascertain whether Covenant No. 3 had been performed by the lessees? Covenant No. 3 is as follows:—“To constantly keep and employ on the said lands at least four able-bodied and experienced miners and to supply them with all proper tools and appliances.” Did your Department make any inquiries, or do they know whether or not that covenant was performed at any time?—Yes. We did our duty with reference to that. Earlier on to-day, in the course of Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney’s cross-examination on the same point, I pointed out that the machinery of the Mines and Minerals Act laid it down that we should use, for the purpose of getting this information. a statutory return, with a penalty attached—that is, a six-monthly return. It must be borne in mind that we are dealing with an Act, and our policy would be to get that return and if there were any need to pursue the parties concerned to make sure that the information was correct, or if there were any doubts about it, we would take whatever steps we thought fit to deal with the matter. We got that return for June just about the time that this Committee interrupted, and therefore the whole thing was left in the air. Therefore, I certainly cannot accept the suggestion made by the Deputy that there was some laxity on our part.
260. I am making no such suggestion. I am only asking whether that return was furnished?
Witness.—Not alone is the Deputy making the suggestion, but he is actually saying it.
261. Deputy Costello.—You will not let me finish, Mr. Ferguson. I suggest that you are misreading Section 16 of the Act. There is nothing at all in it about the six-monthly return, and the foundation of your rights are in the covenants of the lease, and not in Section 16. The foundation of the Minister’s rights in reference to the lessees consists in the covenants of the lease, and not in Section 16 of the Act.
Witness.—I do not think there is any use in my attending to legal points raised by the Deputy. That is a legal argument, in which the Deputy wishes to entangle me.
Deputy Costello.—I do not wish to entangle you, Mr. Ferguson. I am merely pointing out that I think you have misread Section 16.
Witness.—I state quite definitely that I consider the cross-examination to which I have been subjected to be quite unfair. However, if that is not the view of the Committee, I simply say that if the Deputy suggests that we have not done our duty in this particular matter, I claim that we have. We got the six-monthly return. It was put in on the 13th June before there was time for the ordinary tests to be made, and then the proceedings were interrupted by this Committee.
262. Deputy Costello.—The six-monthly return has reference to the provision in the lease which provides for a six-monthly return. I agree that you have got that. I am putting it to you now that that six-monthly return has nothing whatever to do with the provisions of Covenant No. 3 of the lease, which is:—“To constantly keep and employ on the said lands at least four able-bodied and experienced miners,” and so on. The six-monthly return and the monthly return have reference to the amount of minerals got, and have nothing whatever to do with whether four able-bodied and experienced men have been employed.
Witness.—I said that that should be in the Act, and it is not.
263. Deputy Costello.—There is a covenant in this lease.
Witness.—There is no machinery in the Act. We rely on a statutory declaration. The Deputy knows quite well what I mean. We rely on the statutory declaration and that is why I say that nothing has been left undone, notwithstanding all these suggestions that the Deputy is making.
264. Deputy Costello.—Does the statutory declaration cover the point as to whether or not four able-bodied and experienced miners were employed?—It covers that point.
265. I suggest that it does not cover it?
266. Chairman.—Do you regard the returns provided for under the Mines and Minerals Act as covering the provisions of the third covenant in the lease, Mr. Ferguson?
Witness.—The idea would be that, when we got that six months’ return, it would be quite soon enough, and that they should be given six months, and that we should not be barking at their heels. We give them six months to make the return which has to be correct under statutory penalty. If we found that the return was not correct or if it was not fully detailed, we would certainly have to communicate that fact and, in this case, it would have been communicated. If that were not satisfactory we would have to send inspectors down to find out. That is a matter for the future. I suggest that there was no breach of duty up to that point. Our duty clearly is to enforce the covenants. I suggest that there is no evidence that we have not set about doing so in the ordinary way.
267. Chairman.—In enforcing the third covenant do I take it that you required these particulars to reach you?—We were relying on that at that period. This is a case where we were beginning administration, and we feel the way to effectiveness. The duty was to see that the covenants were observed. That would cover three other points. If not explicit it would be examined into. That would be done in writing, or otherwise on examination we should make sure they were observed. In this particular case we could not do it.
268. Deputy Costello.—I am not suggesting whether you could or could not have done it. I want facts, and I want to draw attention to this, that there is no provision in the statute at all for returns. Where the liability on the lessees arises to make returns is in the lease. It is not Section 16 imposes the obligation, and if you look at the lease you will find the six monthly returns. The only reference to specified matters is about the amount of gold and that sort of thing, and these returns, monthly or six monthly, would give no information whatever with regard to the question whether able-bodied and experienced miners were not employed?— There is a difference between monthly and six-monthly. It says the number of days’ labour performed. Definitely we are using that machinery to implement three of the covenants.
269. I will ask one more question. Do you know whether or not these four able-bodied and experienced miners were, in fact, engaged?—Is it to my personal knowledge?
270. From any knowledge?—The knowledge I have is this. It was sent on June 12th, and we proceeded to confirm—— I am not in a position to say whether they were or not.
271. Deputy Fitzgerald.—I cannot see where this can apply about the four able-bodied men. I presume that was a printed form with a series of questions? —No. It was a question about the labour performed and the number of days.
272. Deputy Costello.—At all events, you think you will be in a position to find that out. You do not know it at the moment?—Yes. I cannot confirm that at the moment.
273. From the six monthly returns sent you by the lessees can you say, from looking at these, whether or not Covenant No. 3 has been complied with? They were bound to give that information. Have they given it?—As a matter of fact, I cannot say from these returns only. I should say that the form was designed to get information.
274. Would you not deduce from the returns given that 80 days’ labour were worked during the six months? Would it not be a natural inference that four able-bodied miners were not employed during the six months, and would not that be a deduction that that covenant was not fulfilled. If you were out to do your duty on behalf of the Minister, to see that Covenant No. 3 was performed, that there was constantly kept employed on the lands at least four able-bodied and experienced miners, and if you found that 80 days’ labour was given, you would not be satisfied that it was fulfilled?—I suggest that in administration the actual facts of the situation and the spirit of the affair must be taken into account. I was not aware there was a lawsuit. We have to interpret it in the public interest. That position on 12th June disclosed 80 days. That would certainly need further correspondence and further examination to have the attention of the parties drawn to it, if it was a breach, as prima facie it might look, presumably, that the parties are not going to continue. That is a matter we would get after. That was my interpretation. I do not think any deduction can be drawn.
275. You told us several times that one of the policies of this Act was to provide employment. You carried out that policy by putting a covenant in the lease. It was your duty to see that that particular portion of the Act was carried out, and that four able-bodied and experienced miners were employed. I put it to you, as a matter of commonsense, that the mere statement that 80 days were spent in actual prospecting —not actual mining—would not show that four able-bodied and experienced miners had been kept constantly employed for six months?—It is not conclusive evidence that they were.
276. Would not you put a query upon it?—I agree I would.
277. Had not your Department to write several letters to the lessees before they sent in monthly returns?—The monthly returns, certainly.
278. Had you not to keep at them for quite a long time before they made the returns?—The monthly returns certainly. I am not sure about the six months.
279. I think you will find correspondence which had reference to the sixmonthly and not to the monthly returns?—Both, probably.
280. We will leave it at that. There was considerable correspondence between your Department and the lessees after the lease was executed, with a view to extracting from them the costs of the lease?—There was some difficulty.
281. You had to write about them? —Yes.
282. You had to get the Chief State Solicitor to write to the lessees for the rent of the lease?—I believe that was so.
283. It went into considerable arrears? —That is so.
284. Were you present at any of the interviews that took place where people looking after a prospecting lease for this area, or portion of it, or somewhere near it, complained to you and to members of your Department that the lessees in this lease had stated that no lease under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1931, could be got from the Department except through Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—I was present on one occasion.
285. I want to know if the fact was that a complaint of that kind was made? —I believe it was and——
Deputy Geoghegan.—Add any explanation you desire.
Deputy Costello.—I only want to get that fact?—Do you mean present at an interview at which that statement was made? I want a moment to look up my note on that. The 24th April, 1935, is the date of the record of the only personal conversation I had with some of these parties.
286. You do know that a complaint was made, or complaints were made, by some people that these lessees—Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe—had said to them that nobody could get a lease under the Mines and Minerals Act except through their agency?—Yes.
287. You and your Department repudiated any such suggestion?—Yes.
288. That complaint was made on more than one occasion?—Yes.
289. Chairman.—By whom and on what occasion?—I think it might be better if the officials who had direct personal knowledge of that gave evidence of it.
Deputy Geoghegan.—The file shows that this gentleman was not present. The interview alluded to is one of the 3rd May, 1935.
290. Deputy Costello.—I am not referring to any particular one. My information is that on several occasions complaints were made. I asked Mr. Ferguson if that were so and he said that was true? —I knew complaints had been made.
291. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Were these complaints made to you or did you hear that they were made?—I heard about them.
292. They were not made to you?—No.
293. Deputy Costello.—I understood you to say that you were present?—That is the reason I checked up this particular one. I was not present.
294. In the ordinary course of the administration of the Department, it would be the duty of the officials to tell you about the matter?—Yes.
295. And you do know that these complaints were, in fact, made?—Yes.
296. You referred to a gentleman called Mr. Lyburn?—Yes.
297. He is a geological expert?—Yes.
298. He is a person who would know something about this gold or alleged gold in Wicklow?—Yes.
299. Why was it that your Department did not think it proper to get even his services—he being in the service and being an expert—to go down and examine this area before a State right was alienated in the way in which it was proposed to be done?—We had his services and made full use of them.
300. That does not appear in any place on these files?—I can assure you of that.
301. Am I correct in saying that in no place on the files have we got any indication that you availed of Mr. Lyburn’s services?—I can assure you definitely that we did.
302. I know know what Mr. Lyburn is interested in at the moment. There is the reference, of course, that you made to the Land Commission?—I am quite definite about that.
303. What were these services. Can you tell me generally how you availed of Mr. Lyburn’s services?—Mr. Lyburn may have been consulted verbally.
304. “May have been”. That is like the answer of a Kerry witness, Was he, in fact, consulted?—He was, in fact, consulted.
305. About what?—About all these relevant matters.
306. What matters? You are very vague and general. I want specific matters. Before you wrote the letter of the 16th, what was he consulted about?— I refer to a minute of the 8th April, 1933.
307. Was he consulted before you wrote the letter of 16th May, 1933?— Yes, definitely.
308. To what purpose or effect?—On all the matters arising out of the matters in that letter.
309. What matters were they?—The terms of the offer of the lease.
310. Was he asked if he thought this was a valuable property or not?—I explained earlier that he gave the best advice he could.
311. I want to know what advice he gave?—How can I answer that question from memory?
312. Refer me to a minute?—Even if there was not a minute, I want to assure the Committee that Mr. Lyburn’s technical knowledge was made fullest use of. As you would expect, that would be verbally in discussing the matter at first but a point would come when it would be in writing. If it was put in writing, I am sure the record will be found.
313. Perhaps you would get some other witness to tell us in what respect he gave advice?—I am quite sure that he would not say whether Wicklow was going to yield gold or not.
314. Deputy Moore.—Mr. Lyburn is frequently in the Mines and Minerals Section?—He practically lives there.
315. And you would naturally tell him about this?—About every move.
316. Deputy Costello.—One would expect that that is what would have happened. The reason I put the matter to you is that, from my examination of the files, I could not find that you had, in fact, sought his services?—I cannot say if it is in writing but no move would be made without full consultation with Mr. Lyburn.
317. Somebody will be able to tell us as to the various moves made in consultation with him and what his advice was?—Yes.
318. You answered a question by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney in which you said that, before you wrote the letter on the 16th May, you had considered all supplemental facts which appeared or had been supplied between the date of the application and the date of your writing the letter. That was your answer, as I took it down, and I want you to verify it because the words you used strike me as being somewhat illuminating. What were the supplemental facts?—I presume that that answer is correct.
319. Do not presume it is correct because I am not a shorthand writer?—I do not remember exactly what I said but, from what you read, I take it that those were the terms of the answer. The original application was made in March. A moment came in May when I issued this letter. In between, no doubt, supplemental information came in in some form. Some of it may be in writing.
320. Where is it? I cannot get it in writing. What is the additional information which came in between that date and the date of the letter?—I cannot tell you from memory.
321. You will remember that that is a point that I want to get cleared up. I want to know what the significance of that answer you gave is?—We knew more in May than we knew in March.
322. I should like to know what you did know. When this application came to your notice, you saw, of course, that the applicants were members of the Oireachtas?—Yes.
323. You knew from general knowledge that they were both members of the Government Party?—I suppose so.
324. Did it strike you as in any way a matter about which you should have consulted the Minister? Two members of the Oireachtas were making application for concessions in reference to State property. Did you think that that was a matter requiring careful consideration or any consideration?—No more consideration than in the case of an ordinary member of the public.
325. You made no differentiation? You gave the same consideration to this application from members of the Oireachtas as you would give to an application from a member of the ordinary public?—Yes.
326. It did not strike you as being improper in any way?—I do not think it was improper.
327. Did you know that there was a statute preventing any members of the British House of Commons from having contracts with the Government?—I was quite sure at the time I issued that letter that there was nothing in law, in my instructions, or in public administration to require me to treat a member of the Dáil in any different way from an ordinary member of the public in a business matter.
328. Why do you say that you are quite sure in law that there was nothing to prevent you doing this?—To the best of my knowledge.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Is not that so? You know it is.
Deputy Costello.—I do not.
Deputy Geoghegan.—There is nothing in the law of this State to prevent the making of this lease.
329. Deputy Costello.—To prevent the making of a contract between a member of Parliament and the Government. Did you ever know, Mr. Ferguson, as a matter of general knowledge, that there is statute law in reference to the British House of Commons which disqualifies a person from membership of that body if he makes a contract with the Government?
Witness.—I believe I was aware of that.
330. Did it ever strike you to inquire if that law was enforced here?—I cannot say that I specifically inquired. One only inquires when one has doubts and, rightly or wrongly, I had no doubts about this.
331. Nor does it strike you, whether that law was carried over here in our institutions or not, that the policy behind that was something you ought to have adhered to?
Deputy Geoghegan.—Do you suggest that it was carried over? You know it was not.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Deputy Costello said the spirit behind it.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Deputy Costello knows that the statement I made is accurate—that the previous Administration had the framing of the statutes in that regard and that, presumably, after due deliberation that part was not brought in.
332. Deputy Costello.—I will put it no further than that it is at least open to argument that the particular statute to which I am referring is still part of the law of this country. I am not asking Mr. Ferguson to make any comment on that. What I am asking is if the policy which actuated that law, which was in existence for a number of years, was something that his Department ought to have adhered to in the alienation of State rights to members of the Oireachtas?—Rightly or wrongly——
333. You did not?—May I answer the question? The Deputy answers the question as well as asking it. That is most unfair.
334 Chairman.—You are not obliged to be assisted by Deputy Costello in answering questions. You can make your own answers.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—His difficulty is to be allowed to give any answer.
Witness.—I think this part of the cross-examination is particularly unfair. This is a matter for one’s own opinion. I merely want to say that in the ordinary course of my duty in relation to this I have done what I had previously done, rightly or wrongly, treated a member of the Oireachtas as an ordinary citizen in this particular respect.
335. Deputy Geoghegan.—How long have you been in the Civil Service of the Irish Free State?—Since the taking over from the British.
336. How long have you been assistant secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, approximately?—Since 1926 or 1927.
337. Between 1922 and 1926 what grade of the Civil Service of this State were you in?—I was director of a branch.
338. That is to say, you were in one of the higher grades of the Civil Service?— Yes.
339. Prior to the setting up of the Free State, how long were you in the Civil Service?—Not long—about two years.
340. Then you have at least 17 years’ experience of the Civil Service?—Something less.
341. 15 years’ service?—Over 15 years.
342. You will observe in the terms of reference that this Select Committee is set up to investigate and report on the following allegation:— “That the demise of the State mining rights in respect of certain lands in County Wicklow, made on 1st November, 1934, by way of take note or prospecting lease, to Senator Michael Comyn, K.C., and Deputy R. Briscoe by the Minister for Industry and Commerce was (a) made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister.” So far as you know as Assistant Secretary of that Department was this demise, known as a take note or prospecting lease, made to Senator Comyn because he was a political associate of the Minister?—No.
343. So far as you know was the demise made to Deputy Briscoe because he was a political associate of the Minister?—No.
344. Then as to (b), “made under conditions of secrecy,” from your knowledge as Assistant Secretary of the Department, was that take note or prospecting lease made to Senator Comyn or Deputy Briscoe under conditions of secrecy?—No, it was done in the ordinary Departmental way.
345. Was there any secrecy about it?— No.
346. Except such secrecy as attaches, if one might call it secrecy, to any Departmental operation?—That is right.
347. Then as to (c), “made at a time that the Minister was aware that another party or other parties were proposing to seek a demise of the same rights, on terms more advantageous to this State.” The date of this lease is 1st November, 1934. At that time were you aware that any other party proposed to take a demise of the same rights?—No.
348. Or at any material time prior to the date of this lease, that is to say, at any date between the first proposal by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe and that date, were you aware that any other party proposed to take a prospecting lease over this property?—No.
349. Either on the same terms or on more advantageous terms?—On no terms.
350. You have been asked about this client of Messrs. Leader, Plunket and Leader, the London solicitors, and you have been brought by Deputy Costello through certain of the correspondence from 1930. I think, until 1933. You have that correspondence present to your mind?—I have.
351. I think that you made use of the expression in the course of your examination by Deputy Costello or Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, I forget which, that that application had been withdrawn or abandoned—in express terms it had not been withdrawn?—That is so. Abandoned is the better word, or appeared to have been abandoned.
352. When you used the word “withdrawn” you did not mean to convey by that that there was a formal instrument of withdrawal?—That is so.
353. Your interpretation of the tenour and effect of the correspondence read to you, especially that letter from Messrs. Leader that their clients had gone to America for months, is that it had been virtually abandoned?—That is so.
354. Can you see very much distinction between the facts as they appear from that series of letters and actual abandonment or cancellation by an instrument of these negotiations?—I regard it as equivalent to abandonment altogether.
355. Of course, first of all, there never was a proposal?—That is so.
356. There was correspondence that at one time led you to think that there might be a proposal?—Yes.
357. In so far as there was any intention expressed by these parties, it was all over?—That is so.
358. I do not know whether you ever have been in the North of Ireland?—Yes.
359. I do not know if you have ever heard the expression—I am reminded of it by the fact that you cannot say whether this was actually withdrawn or not—“He is dead if he only had the wit to stiffen.” Did you not regard Plunkett, Leader and Plunkett’s client as dead if he only had the wit to stiffen?—I regarded the proposal as dead.
360. Then the terms of reference proceed: “and that the action of the Minister in making such demise was improper.” You have served under a previous Minister for Industry and Commerce, and I suppose, Mr. Ferguson, so far as you have been able, you have mastered the standards, first of routine, and next of Departmental propriety that should apply to transactions of this sort? —Yes.
361. To the best of your ability?—That is so.
362. Under two administrations?—That is so.
363. So far as you know, either from your personal knowledge or from your perusal of files and documents during this period, have you been able to discern any impropriety on the part of the Minister in regard to this demise known as the take-note or prospecting lease?—No, not the slightest.
364. Then the terms of reference go on: “and further publicly to investigate and to report to the Dáil on all the facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the application for and the grant of the said lease.” Mr. Ferguson, again speaking with your Departmental and personal knowledge, are all the facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the application for and the grant of the said lease, fairly revealed by the various letters and minutes to be found on the Departmental files?— They are, in my opinion, supplemented by whatever explanations my colleagues and I are giving here.
365. Then the terms of reference proceed: “and all the facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the agreement made by the lessees for the assignment of their rights and obligations under the said leave.” Except in so far as Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe reported to your Department, the facts and circumstances connected with and surrounding the agreement made by the lessees for the assignment of their rights and obligations under the lease, do you know anything about the assignment?—No.
366. You have been asked questions here suggesting that this lease for two years has been made on disadvantageous terms or at all events on terms that are not the most advantageous terms that might reasonably be obtained. During all these years that you have been in the Department of Industry and Commerce, can you tell me from your reports or from your knowledge, the value in money of the gold that has been mined in the County Wicklow?—Yes, I think that would be easy. The return was nil.
367. During all that time?—Yes.
368. And in so far as your knowledge goes, prior to the setting up of the Department of Industry and Commerce, have you any knowledge of any quantity of gold that was saleable or that was sold for anything, being mined in the Country Wicklow?—No, no direct knowledge or indirect knowledge for that matter.
369. I take it that was the state of your mind, at all events, when you approached the different propositions put forward or the inquiries made from the Department of Industry and Commerce in regard to mining concessions in County Wicklow?—That is so. I had very little hope of anything.
370. So far as you are personally concerned, you had no reason to think that there was a quarter ounce of gold in the whole County Wicklow?—I should not like to say that, but I had no official or personal way of knowing it.
371. There might have been very considerable quantities but you had not any evidence of the existence of it?—I had not, definitely.
372. We all hope there is gold there? —Quite.
373. When you stipulate in this arrangement that was made for 4 per cent of the gold— I am not quoting the words of the document but you know what I am referring to—am I right in thinking that that means 4 per cent. of the merchantable gold that may be won or recovered in the territory covered by the lease?—Yes, of the gross merchantable value.
374. And that would have to be paid irrespective of the cost of winning this gold?—Yes.
375. I suppose you know from reports made to you that sometimes gold can be won at more than its value?—Quite.
376. More than its market price?—Yes.
377. Irrespective of what the cost of dredging or other operations might be, the Department was to secure 4 per cent. of the gross merchantable value of the gold?—Yes, which was regarded as a very good bargain in the public interest.
378. It has been put to you that there was something in the nature of a dereliction of duty on the part of the Minister, and also on your part when you did not secure 6½ or 6 per cent. instead of 4 per cent. on that gold. This is a proposal dated 12th March, 1935, made by M. E. Heiser, Managing Director, Risberget, Ltd., and Robert Briscoe and Michael Comyn, and purporting to be accepted by them. It is suggested that, having regard to that, you undersold the Wicklow mines. First of all, until that was lodged with you, you knew nothing about that arrangement?—No. In any case, we have our own standards. We fixed these values irrespective of what Mr. Heiser or anybody else would do.
379. You fixed them well over a year previously?—Yes.
380. The letter of 25th April, 1935 from Mr. Comyn and Mr. Briscoe to the Secretary of your Department states:—
“When we got a lease from the Minister for the three townlands at the junction of the Lyre and Goldmine rivers and along their banks, we made a thorough investigation of their mineral deposits and, as a result, we discovered that there is in these three townlands a very big deposit of auriferous gravel.”
Of course, assuming that there was no error in that statement, then the property would be more valuable commercially than it appeared to you at the time you were making the demise?
Chairman.—What is the date of that letter?
Deputy Geoghegan.—The letter is dated 25th April, 1935, and it is to be found in File T.I.M.195/119. Assuming not merely the truth of that in the sense of intention, but assuming that it is absolutely accurate, that there are big deposits of auriferous gravel in this area, then it would be a valuable property?— Yes, it might be.
381. It would depend on the cost of winning the gold?—Yes.
382. However, that is something that is stated on the 25th April, 1935—long afterwards?—Yes. In any case, the arrangement we made about 4 per cent. we considered a perfectly fair and proper transaction in the public interest irrespective of whether it turned out to be an excellent gold mine or to be a bad one.
383. Because a prospector must have his profit and, in fact, a gold mine prospector expects a very considerable profit owing to the speculative nature of the enterprise?—Yes.
384. You were asked questions in reference to the arrangement bearing date 12th March, 1935, between Mr. Heiser, managing director of Risberget, Ltd., and Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Comyn. Reference was made to 48,000 shares value £12,000. The paragraph of that document of 12th March, 1935, that is relevant in that respect is this:—
“(4) I (that is the signatory, Mr. Heiser) undertake to form a company to be called the Consolidated Goldfields of Ireland, Ltd., or some other name to be substituted therefor with paid-up capital of not less than £80,000 with the object of working the mineral substances of the said lands comprised in the said lease and all other lands in the County Wicklow which may hereafter be acquired by you under paragraphs (2) and (3) hereof.
“(5) You are to be allotted 48,000 five shilling fully paid-up shares in such company in consideration for the granting of the sub-lease and of your obligations under paragraphs (2) and (3) hereof.”
Did you read that as implying that the 48,000 five shilling shares were, in fact, worth £12,000?—Not at all. They might be worth nothing. In other words, if they made money they would share it and if they did not they would not.
385. Questions were put to you in regard to seeking a proper definition of the phrase “prospecting lease.” There is only one lease, I take it—the two years’ lease?—There is only the two years’ lease and the renewal of that with the same covenants is dependent on our being satisfied in regard to technical and financial sources.
386. I want to know, for the purposes of the record, is the lease dated 1st November, 1934, made between the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Finance, Mr. Briscoe and Mr. Comyn, a lease for two years?—That is so.
387. Was that lease prepared by the Chief State Solicitor under the instructions of your Department?—That is so.
388. And so far as the legal side of it is concerned, you can only assume when the expert legal gentlemen talk about precautions to us that they conform to the law of this State?—Yes.
389. And that the Minister was not exceeding his powers?—Yes.
390. You do not purport to be a lawyer?—No.
391. Some questions were put to you about this family of Normans. I see here a document of the 23rd of March, 1933—it is the first document really in this matter and it is addressed to the Department of Industry and Commerce, Trade and Industries Branch, and the names on it are Senator Michael Comyn, Robert Briscoe and Grattan H. Norman. It is suggested that there was something to be condemned in some action of yours —the release that is made out is in the name of George R. Norman—were these documents before the Chief State Solicitor or were they available to the Chief State Solicitor?—They were the only applicants when the matter reached that stage.
392. You know the release was executed bearing date the 7th of May, 1934, between George R. Norman, of the one part, and Robert Briscoe and Michael Comyn of the other?—Yes.
393. Who was the solicitor who prepared that release—have you the original of it there—I presume that was prepared by the solicitor for the parties themselves?—No; I do not know. It did not concern us how that was done. It was a matter of having a new application from two different parties.
394. But as regards this family of Normans, I notice there is Grattan H. Norman and there is also S. H. C. Norman; and then there is G. R. C. Norman?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—“S” is a mistake for “G”.
Deputy Geoghegan.—That will not fit in unless you strike out the “C”.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—They put “Newman” instead of “Norman” in my copy.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—We are generally agreed that that was “G”.
Deputy Geoghegan.—That will not make it right unless you strike out “C” as well.
Witness.—It does not matter so much.
395. Deputy Geoghegan.—Whoever it was, you, as a practical man, did not attach the slightst value to it?—Not the slightest value. We had an application from two there.
396. And no other Norman has come forward with a claim for the lease?—No.
397. You were also questioned in regard to the resources of these gentlemen and as to the precautions taken in regard to the lease. First of all, as regards these two gentlemen, Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe?
Witness.—May I interrupt for a moment. My attention has been drawn to this matter. I think I suggested that the Chief State Solicitor had not been consulted about this form of release.
398. Deputy Geoghegan.—I asked you if you knew?—Well, I must say we did consult the Chief State Solititor on that point.
399. You supplement your evidence by stating that now. I want to ask you now about this matter of the resources. You stated some time ago in the course of your evidence that Senator Comyn has been known to you for years as a gentleman interested in the development of mines in this country. Is that so?—Yes.
400. Can you state approximately how long it is since Senator Comyn first approached the Department of Industry and Commerce in regard to mining of any sort?—I find it hard to put a date to it but from the earliest stages as soon as I had any idea of administering the Mines and Minerals Act——
401. How long was that?—I think it was much earlier he had taken an interest in minerals.
402. Would it be four or five years ago? —To my own knowledge it is certainly more than that.
403. Definitely more than five years?— Yes.
404. Then I take it that Senator Comyn was interesting himself in this matter of mines and mining with your Department while the previous Administration was in power?—I believe so.
405. He did not wait for a Minister of his own Party to fill the office?—No; that did not occur to me.
406. Anyhow, you had a general knowledge of Senator Comyn as a gentleman interested in mining?—That was my definite impression.
407. You are also aware that he is a member of the Irish Bar of long standing?—Yes.
408. And that he is a member of the Senior Bar for a number of years standing?—Yes.
409. And you are aware that he was a member of the Seanad?—Quite.
410. Now, as regards Mr. Briscoe, you also knew that he was a member of the Dáil?—Yes.
411. And while you do not profess to be a lawyer I suppose that the covenants in this lease to Senator Comyn and Mr. Briscoe can be enforced by an action at law?—Yes.
412. And if there is anything substantial in the way of damages or money payments against these gentlemen you know it could be enforced by bankruptcy proceedings if the amount exceeded £40? —Yes.
413. And I suppose you know the fact that Senator Comyn was a member of the Seanad or Mr. Briscoe a member of the Dáil, could be made bankrupts for default if the sum exceeded £40?—Yes.
414. You would, as a practical man, regard that as a very considerable measure of security for a lease for two years?—Yes.
415. Can you state as a practical business man was there any close parallel between Mr. Heiser, who came apparently from Australia and who has since left for America; can you reasonably compare his position with the position of Senator Comyn?—Inquiries have to be made in regard to it, inquiries of the ordinary character.
416. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Perhaps I can now finish with the point which I was on earlier. You will remember, Mr. Ferguson, that I referred to a certain statement, and there was a question as to my accuracy. Since then I have looked it up, and I found it at column 618 of the Official Debates of the 19th June: “Mr. Heiser expressed the opinion that valuable mineral deposits existed . . . . This particular group then appear to have lost interest in the matter. Some of its members were in America, and others, on their own statement, were temporarily involved in financial difficulties, and generally indicated that they were unable to proceed.” That was the passage I was referring to. That is not an exact statement, I think you will agree, based on that letter from the solicitors. The solicitors—I do not want to waste time in referring to it—said that Heiser or somebody was in America, and that in view of there being this slump in America they presumed that was what was affecting him?—Yes.
417. After that there was another letter from that firm, saying that since then they had heard from Mr. Heiser, and that he had a promise of £5,000?— Yes.
418. At the time this statement was made, on the 19th June, the files would not justify its being said that on their own statement they were temporarily involved in financial difficulties? Can you not answer, Mr. Ferguson?—I think I should not answer that question. It is difficult for me to do so.
419. Surely ordinary justice demands it? I am not trying to catch you out. There was a statement in the Dáil with regard to certain of those people, that on their own statement they were temporarily involved in financial difficulties.
Chairman.—Would you say who made that statement?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—The Minister for Industry and Commerce made it. It is reported at columns 618 and 619 of the Official Debates of the 19th June.
Chairman.—This is important. Are you asking Mr. Ferguson to express an opinion on a statement made by the Minister in the Dáil?
Deputy Fitzgerald—No. Here was a public statement made that certain people, on their own statement, had abandoned this thing because they were temporarily involved in financial difficulties.
Witness.—I submit that I should not be asked whether in my opinion there was justification for the statement made by the Minister in the Dáil.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I think it depends on the interpretation of that statement.
Chairman.—You cannot ask Mr. Ferguson to interpret the correctness of the Minister’s statement.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—There was this letter, and one a few days later. In the first, I think I am right in saying that the solicitors stated they had not heard from their client for a good while; that he was in America—I am not giving the exact words—and in view of the public knowledge that there was this general financial crisis in America they presumed that was what was affecting him. A few days afterwards they write to say that they have now heard from Mr. Heiser, and that he has a promise of £5,000 for the specific purpose that was set out.
Deputy Geoghegan.—That is a letter of 25th May, and the other letter is dated 6th May.
420. Deputy Fitzgerald.—What I am putting to the witness is that the letters on the file do not indicate that the interested parties on their own statement were temporarily involved in financial difficulties.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I would say that would be a very limited way of putting it.
Chairman.—I suggest that that should be put to the Minister, and not to Mr. Ferguson.
421. Deputy Fitzgerald.—The statement says: “Mr. Heiser expressed the opinion that valuable mineral deposits existed, and they proposed that they should be granted some sort of a monopoly concession for the purpose of carrying out prospecting work.” You stated that as far as you were concerned you did not believe there was any gold at all?—I did not say that. I said I had no evidence.
422. Chairman.—You had no evidence one way or the other?—Quite.
423. Deputy Fitzgerald.—The statement continues: “Then the application that was submitted by Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe was taken up. It was discussed at considerable length. The application was very carefully examined.” In going through these files I see that those two gentlemen wrote and said they were prepared to put in £200. First of all, they said they had a technically-equipped man, Mr. Norman, but later they informed the Department that he had been withdrawn. I cannot see anything in the file which justifies the statement that the application was very carefully examined. You have stated that inasmuch as it had come from two men of known standing you did not think it necessary to inquire into the reality of the £200 referred to. I took it from you that the mere fact that they told you they intended to get a technically-equipped man was sufficient. I cannot see that their application was very carefully examined. Can you refer me anything in the file which indicates to careful examination was carried out. The Deputy cannot go into evidence of the amount of the examination we made. He has no evidence that we did not make examination, and I repeat that we did
424. Can you tell us what form the examination took?—We gave consideration to the matter and gave a great deal of time to it. I say that there was careful examination. I signed that letter and you may be quite sure that I carefully examined it, along with others whose duty it was to carefully examine it.
425. I am not asking for details. What questions arose in your mind?—I am sorry I cannot answer that.
426. Can any other member of your Department answer it?—You can ask them the question, of course. You cannot expect me to deny the truth of what I said previously.
427. Did you say that?—Is not that what you are speaking of—that I said earlier in my evidence there was careful consideration?
I am referring to a statement made in the Dáil.
Witness.—By the Minister?
Witness.—I understood that you were not to ask me for my opinion on the statement of the Minister.
428. Deputy Fitzgerald.—I am not asking for your opinion. All I am saying is that, having examined the files, I cannot find any indication of careful examination?—I misunderstood what you were saying.
429. Can you not give us any indication? You have told us you did not inquire into the reality of the £200?—I do not know what the Deputy expects me to tell him.
430. Chairman.—I think the Deputy’s point is perfectly clear. He says a statement was made in the Dáil to the effect that this application received very careful consideration. He asks you, as one of the persons who dealt with it, whether you can assist him in ascertaining some evidence that it did, in fact, receive careful consideration.
Witness.—First of all, we submitted certain written papers which contained certain evidence in that direction.
431. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Would you mind indicating more clearly?—That is the volume which you already have. I can add nothing to it. I, myself, did not deal with that point. I have suggested that you put that question to my colleagues.
432. Can you refer me to certain indications of that careful examination in the file? Can you give me the reference? —I cannot do that. I say that certain evidence of that is here in the file. If it is not sufficient, my colleagues who dealt with that will be able to answer.
433. Deputy Moore.—I take it, Mr. Ferguson, that during all the years that you have been attached to the Department of Industry and Commerce you have been in touch with such working for minerals which was proceeding in the country during those years?—In general, yes, and in particular in some cases.
434. You knew the position, then, in the district of Avoca and Woodenbridge? —Yes.
435. There was formerly a good deal of mineral development in that area?— There was a great deal of interest in the minerals of that area and that goes back over the last ten, fifteen or twenty years.
436. There were actual workings?— Interested people were prospecting and spending money on copper and ochre deposits.
437. I think it is correct to say that there was a company working there for copper about 1927?—Yes.
438. There was mining for ochre also being carried out?—Yes.
439. What happened in connection with that ochre experiment?—I think it failed through not getting a market.
440. And when these workings ceased there was a good deal of unemployment and a substantial number of miners have been unemployed ever since?—Yes.
441. I think it is correct to say that there had been a persistent agitation from that district to induce the Government to promote mineral development in the area?—Yes.
442. There had been constant representations to that effect?—Yes.
443. Was it actually proposed to the Government that if they saw no prospect of mineral development in that area that they should make some public statement to that effect so that the miners might take steps to transfer to some place where the prospects were better?—I do not remember that proposal, but there was a great deal of feeling on the part of the unemployed in that region.
444. I think that in your evidence to-day you emphasised that the employment consideration was the big consideration with you?—Yes.
445. Did the Government actually spend money in that area in recent times for the purpose of development?—There was, I believe, something done, but I cannot be precise about it. I think there was some relief grant given.
446. Actually public money was spent there?—Yes.
447. And that was largely to prove the existence of minerals?—For the exploration of minerals, though I do not remember which one.
448. The main idea was to give employment and to see if the discovery of minerals would lead to further development?—Yes.
449. Mr. Lyburn is constantly in that district?—Yes. We were very well informed in connection with that district. Mr. Lyburn was very active and conveyed to myself and to other colleagues of mine in the Department information about the situation in that district.
450. Therefore, I take it you would consult him and take his advice before making a lease. He is in your Department several times a week and comes in and talks to you?—His headquarters are there.
451. And he would inevitably be told about any proposal of this kind?—That is absolutely certain.
452. And he would express his views, no doubt?—Yes.
453. But those views of his might not possibly be noted in a memorandum?— Not on all occasions.
454. You gave a promise to-day that you would supply evidence of Mr. Lyburn’s advice having been taken, but I think you may not be able to supply such evidence in the form of minutes?— It is certainly true that a large part of the information which he conveyed was in the form of talks about the situation there, but apart from that there may be something in the form of minutes on files.
455. But it is quite possible that you may have no memorandum of your conversations with him?—I cannot answer that. There were a great many conversations on this and kindred matters between Mr. Lyburn and myself and other colleagues.
456. With regard to the question of accepting Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe without inquiry into their circumstances, is it not the case that if any two well known people in Dublin, say, two well known merchants, went to you on the same business you would, if there was nobody else applying for a similar privilege, take that as being genuine, and not inquire into their circumstances?— Precisely. The same situation would arise with regard to two merchants undertaking an obligation affecting them. The very fact they were undertaking responsibility would satisfy me that it was not a matter for the head of the Department, and I would regard it as an ordinary business matter.
457. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—And you did not refer this to your own head?—I did not feel it of sufficient importance to do so.
458. Deputy Moore.—Do you agree that the State had everything to gain and nothing to lose by this?—I think it is still a good bargain even if this proves to be a very good mine.
459. Deputy Dowdall.—There is a letter here, T.I.M. 164, dated the 2nd of March, 1933. In the course of that letter you state:—
“I am to state that not having received any further communication from you on behalf of the syndicate since your letter of the 25th of May, 1932, he has decided to deem the application to have been dropped.”
That was nearly ten months before—
“I am to add that should an application be received from the syndicate at a later date it will be accorded the fullest possible consideration.”
Witness.—My attention has now been drawn to the fact, in connection with that letter of the 2nd of March addressed by me to Messrs. Leader, Plunkett & Leader, in which we deemed that the application had been dropped, that there is a reply to it on another file which, I think, I ought to put in now. It does not add very much to it but I will read it now so that it may be put in. Here is the reply to the previous one:—
“We have received your letter dated the 2nd of this month. We have to inform you that the moving spirit in connection with Risberget Iron Ore Syndicate, Limited, is still in the United States and we have not received any further instructions from him. In these circumstances we are not at the present time in the position to proceed with the matter.”
460. It was after that date that the lease was granted to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe?—Yes.
461. There was no other application at the time?—No other application in respect of this property.
462. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney.—What is the date of that last letter?—The 6th of March, 1933.
463. And only three weeks afterwards Senator Comyn’s application comes in?
Chairman.—I think we will now leave the further examination of the witness over until to-morrow, at 5.30 p.m.
The Committee adjourned at 11 p.m. until 5.30 p.m. on Wednesday, the 24th July.