MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Déardaoin, 25adh Iúl, 1935.
Thursday, 25th July, 1935.
The Select Committee sat at 6 p.m.
DEPUTY W. NORTON in the Chair.
Mr. J. J. McElligott recalled and examined.
945. Chairman.—Would you tell the Committee what your official rank is?— Secretary of the Department of Finance.
946. How long have you been in that position?—Since 1927.
947. In your official capacity, what responsibility have you for the control of the Civil Service?—I am generally regarded as the head of the Civil Service and I carry out the functions of the Minister for Finance in relation to the Civil Service. I am, as you are aware, Chairman of the Civil Service Representative Council, and in carrying out the powers of the Minister for Finance under the Civil Service (Regulation) Acts, I am intimately acquainted with general matters affecting the regulation of the duties of civil servants, the various grades into which civil servants are divided, and the responsibilities appropriate to those grades.
948. Are you responsible for supervising the organisation of the Civil Service?— In general, the Department of Finance has to approve the number of officers serving in each Department, the ranks of these officers and their pay and other forms of remuneration attaching to these officers.
949. I take it also you supervise the kind of functions they perform in a general way?—In a general way, yes.
950. And regulate these functions?— Yes.
951. Did you hear it stated in evidence yesterday that negotiations in connection with the granting of this lease was initiated, so far as the Department is concerned, by civil servants?—Yes.
952. Did you hear it stated that the negotiation in connection with the lease was conducted by civil servants?—Yes, I heard it so stated.
953. And that the signing and sealing of the lease was done by civil servants? —Yes.
954. From your knowledge of the Civil Service and from your responsibility for its organisation and conduct, is that procedure a correct and proper procedure for civil servants?—Most certainly, it is a correct and proper procedure.
955. And it is within the competence of a civil servant to initiate leases of that kind and to carry the negotiations through?—Yes, it is within his competence and it is ordinarily done.
956. Could you tell us what the practice has been in respect of the leases which have been previously granted in that respect?—The main class of leases falls under the State Lands Act, 1924. Under that Act, as the Committee is aware, the Minister for Finance has the sole responsibility for granting leases and licences of State lands. I have signed hundreds of these leases and in not a single case have I brought the lease to the notice of the Minister for Finance— either the present Minister or his predecessor in office.
957. And that practice was accepted by the present Minister and his predecessor?—Yes, without question.
958. Has there been any change then in respect of the method of dealing with these leases as compared with the previous practice?—No. The method of dealing with this lease was quite in conformity with all previous practice.
959. If it is stated that Mr. Leydon signed this lease and sealed this lease, is that within his competence?—Absolutely within his competence.
960. In other words, it is his duty to do it?—Certainly.
961. And if he did that, he would be doing his duty?—Certainly.
962. And would you take a serious view of it if he refused to do it?—He would be the last man in the world to refuse, but, in the very unlikely event of his refusing to do it, we would be compelled, I am afraid, to take a serious view of the matter.
963. He deprived you of the opportunity on this occasion?—Yes.
964. Would you say whether in relation to the handling of this matter by the Department of Finance, the civil servants there did with this lease something comparable with what was done in the Department of Industry and Commerce with the lease; in other words, that the signing and handling of the document was in the hands of civil servants?—Yes, completely in the hands of civil servants. The Minister for Finance did not see the Departmental files or papers relating to this matter. He was not consulted in any way about the lease, and he was not informed that it was being executed or about to be executed. The lease was executed solely on the responsibility of the officials of the Department.
965. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Of Finance? —Of Finance. I am speaking only for the Finance end. I think testimony has been given with regard to the Department of Industry and Commerce that the lease was executed there solely on the responsibility of officials of that Department.
966. Chairman.—And you assure the Committee that that has been the practice in all cases since 1922?—Since the State Lands Act of 1924 was passed. That was the first opportunity we had of making leases of State interests in lands.
967. So that, in this particular instance, there was nothing unusual in dealing with this lease in the manner in which it was dealt with?—Not only was there nothing unusual, but it was, as I say, the uniform and invariable practice to deal with such leases in the way in which this lease was dealt with.
968. And although there has been a change of Government, both Governments have accepted that practice?—Both Governments have accepted the practice.
969. Would you tell us what are your functions in a matter of this kind beyond signing and sealing the lease?—When a lease comes up to me for signature, I usually look at the names of the lessees and at the consideration involved in the granting of the lease, but I depend on other officials of the Department to make a close scrutiny of the terms of the lease, and, if there is anything objectionable in them from the finance point of view, either to clear that objection themselves or refer the matter to me for a decision as to whether their objection should be sustained or whether we should agree with the point of view urged by the other Department.
970. Being the Department of Finance, I expect you take a keen interest in the royalty portion of the lease?—Yes, I suppose it is inevitable that, in the circumstances, we would be interested in royalties.
971. In this instance, are you satisfied that the royalty provided for in the lease was the best that could be obtained?—On that, I should like to make two observations. The first is that the royalty to be obtained was in conformity with that obtainable in Great Britain where mining is carried on under circumstances somewhat similar to those in this country, and the second is that the administrative responsibility, under the Mines and Minerals Act, is put upon the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Minister for Finance only comes into it in a secondary way. If you will refer to the terms of the Mines and Minerals Act, you will see that the Ministers for Finance and Industry and Commerce act jointly in the determination of payments, if any, by way of fines and/or rent, including royalty, to be paid by the lessee in respect of every lease which it is proposed to grant under Section 11. Otherwise, the covenants, conditions and agreements subject to which each lease may be granted, are matters which fall to be determined exclusively by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
972. In file S.99/18/33, there is a letter signed by Mr. Maguire dated 6th September, 1933. In the last paragraph of that letter advising you on the general question of royalties charged in Great Britain, Mr. Maguire states:—
“Competition here decides the value of the commodity, but since there is little or no competition in the Saorstát mining leases must ultimately be given on the best terms procurable and kept within the sphere of equitable royalties.”
Bearing that view in mind, do you think the royalty in this instance was the best that could be got, having regard to the fact that evidence has been given that there was no competition for the right to explore the area in question?—Yes, it was the best that could be got, certainly. It was also the same as would be exacted in Great Britain for a similar concession.
973. When you were dealing with this matter, can you say whether any representations were made to you by any Deputy to influence a decision on the matter?—No representation whatever was made to me, or, so far as I am aware, to any official of my Department. Mr. Doolin, the Assistant Secretary, who handled this matter in the Department of Finance, is here with me, and he will, no doubt, be able to testify to the Committee at a later stage to the same effect.
974. Did the Minister for Finance speak to you about this matter with a view to reaching a speedy decision or favourable consideration of the claim?—No, not at all.
975. You saw it stated in the terms of reference, and you probably saw it stated elsewhere also, that this lease was granted to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister, that is, the Minister for Industry and Commerce? Can you say whether——
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I should like to hear the witness’s answer to that. You asked if he had seen it stated in the terms of reference or elsewhere.
Chairman.—It was all one question, but I do not mind stopping it there.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I should like to know what is the “elsewhere”.
Chairman.—In the Dáil.
Witness.—I was going to answer that I had seen it referred to in the terms of reference. I have read the debate in the Dáil and there seems to be a certain amount of confusion with regard to the matter in the Dáil, as to whether allegations and charges were or were not made. I think it was understood in the examination of earlier witnesses that officials were not expected to comment on the doings of their betters in the Dáil.
976. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Therefore, you cannot say that you have seen it stated elsewhere than in the terms of reference?
Deputy Moore.—I do not think the witness should be asked to answer that.
977. Chairman.—It is quite immaterial. In any case, whether you heard it stated in the Dáil, or read a report of the statement having been made there——
Witness.—The records of the Dáil are embodied in permanent form and can be referred to.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I understood that you put the question in a second form when Deputy Fitzgerald intervened.
Chairman.—I did. The second interrogatory is really immaterial.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—I suggest you reframe the question and start again.
978. Chairman.—Have you a copy of the terms of reference before you, Mr. McElligott?—Yes.
979. The allegation in (a) of the terms of reference is that the demise of certain State mining rights in respect of land in County Wicklow, made on 1st November, 1934, to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe by the Minister, was made to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe because they were political associates of the Minister. So far as you know, is there any foundation for any suggestion that in your handling of this matter you were influenced to do anything other than was proper by reason of the fact that the applicants were political associates of the Minister?—There is no foundation whatever for any such allegation.
980. If, instead of these persons being Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, they were just John Murphy and William Brown, you would have dealt with the case in the same way?—I should have dealt with it in the same way.
981. Do you think that any more advantageous terms could have been got for the State under this lease in respect of royalties or dead rent?—For what my opinion is worth, I think not; but, as I say, the administrative responsibility in respect of the Mines and Minerals Act rests on the Department of Industry and Commerce. So far as my opinion goes, I do not consider that any better terms could have been procured and I was quite satisfied with the terms that were, in fact, procured.
982. Deputy Fitzgerald.—In opening this to-day, an analogy was drawn between the granting of this lease and the letting of State lands. Do you think that that analogy is on all fours? It is, what I might call, a univocal analogy?— The right to lease State lands under the State Lands Act, 1924, is vested in the Minister for Finance, and the right to deal with mines and minerals under the Act of 1931, is vested in the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
983. That what applied to one would rightly and necessarily apply to the other —is that a complete analogy?—I think the analogy is complete, because the wording of the State Lands Act, 1924, is:—
“If, in the opinion of the Minister for Finance, it is in the public interest that any land which, by virtue of Article XI of the Constitution belongs to Saorstát Eireann should be granted by way of lease or licence. . . . .”
The opening words of the operative section of the Mines and Minerals Act, Section 11, are:—
“If, in the opinion of the Minister. . . . .”
that is, the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
“. . . . . it is in the public interest that any State mines or minerals or any exclusive State mining right should be granted by way of lease to any person the Minister may . . .”
984. When you are giving a lease of such lands, is it the practice of your Department to make no inquiries whatever as to the financial position of the people to whom you are granting the lease?—Yes, in the case of State lands.
985. That is the analogous lease granting?—The Department concerned makes the inquiries where they are necessary. In many cases, of course, inquiries are not necessary, because, prima facie, the lessee is a person of substance.
986. But the actual responsibility for the leasing of State lands is on your Department?—The ultimate responsibility. In practice, the work is carried out by the Office of Public Works mostly.
987. Is it completely in accord with accustomed practice that in this case there should be no inquiry whatever as to the financial resources of the lessees? —That is a question that should be addressed to Industry and Commerce. Are we speaking of the State Lands Act or of the Mines and Minerals Act?
988. No; there was an analogy between the letting of State lands and the granting of this lease. The subsequent examination created the impression in my mind that everything that was done or that was not done in this case was strictly in accord, and completely analogous on the ground of the analogy of practice. I want to know if the practice, in so far as it has been established with regard to the letting of State lands, was upheld and maintained in this case, when no inquiry whatever was made as to the financial resources and technical staff and equipment of the people to whom it was being leased. For instance, if Mr. AB comes along and says: “I want a lease of a certain disused army barracks to start a factory for making motor-cars,” do you just grant it to him without any further inquiry?—We advertise in a case like that.
989. The analogy does not hold?—I do not know that it is quite correct to speak of the two Acts as being analogous. I did not speak of them as being analogous. I think the word analogous was used first by the Deputy.
990. I think it will be agreed that the Chairman’s examination was based on an analogy between two things. He wanted to know whether the practice followed in this case was in accord with established practice and, with reference to past and present Ministers, whether there was any change in practice. That was entirely based on the leasing of State lands. If that analogy was exact, we will see if the thing is carried out in accordance with previous practice, and if the analogy is not exact, the analogy does not exist.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Is it not a common admission in logic that no analogy is exact?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—You can have a univocal analogy.
Witness.—I understood the analogy drawn by the Chairman to extend to the practice of the officials vis-á-vis Ministers as to whether they did or did not consult Ministers in regard to making leases under the State Lands Act and the Mines and Minerals Act. Am I correct?
991. Chairman.—I put the question to you: In handling this lease, was it handled in the same way as all other leases dealt with in your Department and, so far as you knew, in the Department of Industry and Commerce, and was the position that civil servants handled such leases accepted, not merely by the present Minister for Finance, but by his predecessor. You answered that in the affirmative?— That is so.
992. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Therefore it would be a normal thing, in accord with practice in your Department, for civil servants to lease an army barracks to a man who said he was going to make it into a motor-car manufactory, without inquiring into his financial resources or his technical equipment and staff?—I submit that I have made no such statement.
Therefore it seems to me that the points made before do not hold. Would you mind reading your question again, Mr. Chairman?
993. Chairman.—I have no written question and I shall have to repeat the substance of it. I asked you, Mr. McElligott, whether in dealing with this lease you dealt with it in the same way as previous applications for leases were dealt with in your Department and, so far as you knew, in the Department of Industry and Commerce?
Witness.—And my answer was in the affirmative
994. Deputy Fitzgerald.—That is with regard to your Department’s dealings with this lease?
Chairman.—And the supplementary inquiry that so far as he knows it was dealt with in the same way by the Department of Industry and Commerce.
995. Deputy Fitzgerald.—The witness was present when evidence was given by representatives of the Department of Industry and Commerce?—Yes.
He gathered, as I gathered, that the procedure in this case was that the lease was granted without any inquiry as to the financial resources or technical equipment and staff. I interpret the Chairman’s question as meaning that that action on the part of the Department of Industry and Commerce was just the sort of thing that would be done in your Department when you were actually the grantors of a lease, that you were in the same position with regard to a lease as the Department of Industry and Commerce was in regard to this?—I do not think, in the first place, that any analogy can be drawn between the two cases. In the letting of State lands or a barracks, such as the Deputy mentioned, no question of technical equipment arises and there is no need for financial resources to be proved in order to occupy a barracks or to inhabit a house belonging to the State. It does not require the keeping of the four able-bodied men, for example, whom we have heard referred to.
996. I am merely following the analogy drawn by the Chairman. Mr. AB says: “You have a barracks in Mullingar and I would like to take possession of it”: you draw up a lease and say “You will pay me £x per year,” with no inquiry as to his resources for paying that?—Might I put it this way: If a member of the Senior Bar and a well-known business man came to us about a proposed lease of a barracks, we would have no inquiry as to their financial standing or capabilities.
997. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Have you any knowledge of any application that was ever made to your, or any other Department, for a prospecting lease for a police barracks?—No.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I had knowledge myself that when a contractor sought to get the contract for supplying Army canteens we inquired as to his financial resources for fulfilling the contract.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Where?
998. Deputy Fitzgerald.—I was Minister for Defence, and it came before the Minister. This lease, as you know, was for two years, and the lease that went before you for your sanction also included a promise, as I might say, to grant a further lease for 97 years, provided the financial resources and technical staff and equipment satisfied the Department of Industry and Commerce. Consequently, when it went before you, you had a lease being granted to two men, without any inquiry at that stage as to their financial resources or technical equipment and staff, which committed the State to giving a further lease for 97 years, subject only to the condition that the Department should be satisfied as to their financial and equipment resources? —I cannot accept the implication in the Deputy’s question that no inquiries whatever had been made by the Department of Industry and Commerce in the case to which he refers. As I say, the administrative responsibility for the Mines and Minerals Act rests on the Department of Industry and Commerce. The part which the Minister plays is clearly laid out in Section 11:—
“If, in the opinion of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, it is in the public interest that any State mines or minerals or any exclusive State mining right should be granted by way of lease to any person, the Minister may, under and in accordance with this Part of this Act, demise such State mines and minerals or exclusive State mining rights to such person by way of lease for such term not exceeding ninety-nine years as the Minister shall think proper.”
The Department of Industry and Commerce is staffed by highly competent officers, and I was quite satisfied that before the proposal for the making of the lease came to us, the necessary inquiries would have been carried out and the lease obtained on the best terms. After hearing the evidence tendered during the last few days by the officials of the Department of Industry and Commerce, I am still more satisfied that every effort was made to protect the public interest.
999. You said that you cannot accept my statement that no inquiries were made?—I cannot accept your statement to that effect.
1000. I am quite ready to be corrected and I should like to be referred to a statement made by an official of Industry and Commerce that they got information from the applicants calculated to satisfy them as to financial resources and equipment or to any indication in these files? —I submit that it is not for me to satisfy the Deputy. He had officials of the Department of Industry and Commerce before him and he had ample opportunity to cross-examine them. As to the results of that cross-examination, he is now seeking to force an interpretation of them on me which I am not prepared to accept.
1001. I put my question in the form of a statement?—You put it in the form of an assumption which I am not prepared to accept.
1002. That seems to me to be a challenge as to what I said and I am quite ready to be corrected on it?—It is not a challenge; it is a refusal to walk up the garden in the direction desired by the Deputy.
1003. It is an example of what the Parliamentary Secretary would call nescience. I should like to ask a question with regard to this lease to which your Department assented. Your Department interpreted that lease that if, at the end of the two years, the lessees satisfied the Department of Industry and Commerce that they had the financial resources and equipment, it would be granted to them without a question being raised as to whether any group had greater financial resources or greater technical equipment and staff. Was that what you understood from the lease?— That is what I understood from the lease. I might add that there are provisions in the lease for determining it under various conditions, and, if the lessees violated any of the covenants of the lease, it would be determined.
1004. There is no covenant in the lease which says that not only must they have financial resources and equipment, but they must have as at least, as good financial resources and equipment as any alternative lessee is offering at the end of two years?—I am afraid this is purely a matter for the Department of Industry and Commerce. It has been submitted in evidence by them that there were no alternative lessees offering.
1005. At that moment. My point is this: that at the moment they say, there were no alternative lessees offering, and the Department committed itself without what I consider was a very essential precaution, reassuring themselves of financial resources and technical resources not only for two years, as at the end of that time the Department committed itself to extending it by 97 years, even though at the end of the two years there might be people with better financial resources and technical equipment?—At the end of the initial period of two years the Minister for Industry and Commerce had to be satisfied that the lessees possessed the financial resources and technical equipment necessary for the full development of the undertaking.
1006. But an alternative undertaking from somebody with better resources cannot be entertained. The lease would require it to go to the original lessees rather than to another group who seemed to be better equipped to carry on the work?—It seems to be a plain matter of business to me that if they could not fully develop the mineral resources owing to lack of capital or equipment, they would sub-lease to somebody who had, and receive some of the profits. They would not merely take a lease of these State properties for the purpose of sitting on them and doing nothing.
1007. I know, but you can develop to a greater or less degree. If at the end of two years, the applicants found they could make a profit of £2,000 a year, and that somebody else with much greater resources and equipment and finance could produce £20,000, but would not make a sufficiently good offer for a private profit to the lessees which would give them a profit of more than £2,000, the lessees might say: “We prefer to have £2,000 and let the Government get its 4 per cent. rather than let it go on to these other people who could get £20,000 a year?”— There are a great many “ifs” in the Deputy’s question. I am afraid I cannot follow him into the realm of hypothesis.
1008. You have seen the document which has just been handed round to us?
Deputy Geoghegan.—Is this the Maconchy file?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Yes; you saw this letter from a man named Maconchy?—In the Industry and Commerce file?
We have only received it ourselves.
Witness.—I do not know anything about it. I have never seen the letter and I am afraid I cannot accept any responsibility for it.
1009. Chairman.—It would not have come to your Department?—No; I have never seen it until now.
1010. Deputy Fitzgerald.—You do not accept it as a fact that there was no competition?
Chairman.—Perhaps you would give him an opportunity of reading the correspondence. Perhaps you could get information from the Industry and Commerce witnesses on it?
1011. Deputy Fitzgerald.—In this file there was a man who had been previously interested in this land and he says that the delay which has occurred has left him without what he considers sufficient financial resources for carrying out the work. As far as I can judge, no inquiry was made to him as to what he considered sufficient financial resources. He might have been able to produce £1,000 as compared with a mere £200. He made a suggestion that the Government might consider the carrying out of the testing of the ground themselves in which case his company would be prepared to put up a detailed scheme. The reply he got was——
Deputy Geoghegan.—Before you pass away, would you agree that the main purpose of that letter of October 20th, 1932, is to ask an extension of time to put in a proposal. Look at the fourth paragraph.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—Yes; he said:—
“I respectfully submit that you grant me an extension of time by which I must lodge an application or lose my chance of obtaining the rights, say, up to a further six months in order to see if improved general conditions would allow of the raising of the necessary capital.”
Deputy Geoghegan.—That seems to imply that he has no application in.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I gather that he applied before the passing of the Mines and Minerals Act and that he was told that it was no good in applying as the law did not at the time permit the granting of such a lease. Then the law was changed and he states that in the lapse of time that has taken place the other people interested financially had dropped out and, therefore, he had not what he considered sufficient money. Personally, I would like to know what he considered sufficient money. He might have thought he required £4,000. He might have had £200 easily at his disposal.
Deputy Costello.—It is clear from the previous letter of September 29th, 1932, that this man had an application with the Quit Rent Office.
Deputy Geoghegan.—I am referring to the letter of October 20th, the one to which Deputy Fitzgerald is also referring, in which Mr. Maconchy said:—
“I respectfully submit that you grant me an extension of time by which I must lodge an application or lose my chance of obtaining the rights, say, up to a further six months in order to see if improved general conditions would allow of the raising of the necessary capital.”
I construe that as a clear indication that he is not now applying and will never become an applicant unless he obtains an extension of time. Such request, apparently, was refused.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—There is an alternative construction, that he did not know that £200 would be sufficient to satisfy the Minister. He suggested that the Department should finance the early stages.
Deputy Geoghegan.—Of course, they would not. Remember that it was the resources of Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, not the £200, that mattered to the Department.
Chairman.—He does not seem to have raised that point himself.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—He seems to be an innocent man.
Chairman.—You will observe that he also asked for mineral rights in Wexford as well as Wicklow.
1012. Deputy Fitzgerald.—I thought I saw Wicklow here. There was this proposal which he made to the Department of Industry and Commerce that the Government should finance the initial testing and he offered to provide a scheme for that. Those proposals are before your Department?
1013. Deputy Costello.—You have stated in answer to Deputy Fitzgerald that the administrative responsibility for the Mines and Minerals Act was with the Department of Industry and Commerce?—Yes.
1014. The Minister for Finance has also a responsibility?—Under Section 11 (3), yes, in the matter of leases.
1015. Under Section 11 (3) provision is made that every lease shall—I am leaving out certain parenthesis which I do not think relevant—
“Every lease made under this section shall be made subject to the payment to the Minister of such moneys, whether by way of fine or other preliminary payment or by way of rent (including a royalty rent variable according to the price or value of the metals gotten) or by both such ways as the Minister and the Minister for Finance shall jointly think proper and shall agree upon with the person to whom such lease is made, . . .
Witness.—“. . . or shall be made free of any payment”; that appears in the section.
Deputy Costello.—I left that out because I do not think it relevant. The words in parenthesis say:
“(unless the Minister and the Minister for Finance are jointly of opinion that such lease should in the public interest be made free of any payment) ”
Under that, the Minister for Finance has joint responsibility with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, firstly as to whether in the public interest any payment shall be made in respect of the lease; secondly, whether, if the payment is to be a fine or a preliminary payment only, or whether rent or a royalty or both should be extracted from the lessee. I think that it is a correct statement of the position to say that there is a responsibility on the Department of Finance. Did the Minister for Finance at any time see the lease made to Deputy Briscoe and Senator Comyn?—No; not so far as I am aware—no, he did not see the lease.
1016. Consequently he did not bring his personal consideration to the matter whether or not any fine should be extracted or whether it should be a rent or a royalty?—No; the Minister did not.
1017. That was done by officials of your Department just as the preliminary work was done by the Department of Industry and Commerce?—The whole matter was done by officials.
1018. I gather from the files that the matter was submitted for the sanction of the Minister for Finance on July 10th, 1933?—By the Department of Industry and Commerce; that is so.
1019. And that the sanction or concurrence of the Department of Finance was issued on July 13th, 1933?—Yes; we agreed with the proposal to make the lease on July 13th.
1020. That was good for the Department of Finance?—Oh, no; it is quite normal.
1021. They do not usually reply to minutes with such promptitude?
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—First time I heard such a complaint.
Witness.—There is a popular delusion that the Department of Finance fights a rearguard action on every proposal put before it. As I say, it is a delusion. We always deal expeditiously with matters which present no great difficulty, and in this case there was no great difficulty presented.
1022. Deputy Costello.—You were quicker in replying to it than the Department of Industry and Commerce to Maconchy. He applied for an extension, and after four months’ delay, they replied and refused?—We cannot expect all the Departments to be up to our standard.
1023. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Would not granting the six months’ extension in that case involve granting extensions to all the other people?—So far as I can gather from the papers, it would.
1024. Deputy Costello.—The purpose of my queries to you at the moment is to ascertain what independent inquiries or consideration did the Department of Finance make or give to the proposals contained in the draft lease submitted for sanction?—When the lease came to the Department of Finance in November?
1025. Or in July, 1933?—That was a proposal for a lease. The lease actually came in November. We satisfied ourselves that the consideration exacted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce was similar to what was exacted in other similar cases under the British administration. We knew that the Department of Industry and Commerce were being advised generally on these matters by a well-known mining engineer in the person of the economic geologist.
1026. Would it be correct to say that you relied on the Department of Industry and Commerce; that you accepted their judgment and recommendations?—Most certainly, as the administrative responsibility for the Mines and Minerals Act is on the Department of Industry and Commerce. It has a fully competent staff, administrative and technical, and we would expect them to fulfil all matters in regard to it.
1027. And it was on their recommendation that you accepted the proposals for the lease?—Having satisfied ourselves that the charges supposed to be made were similar to those elsewhere.
1028. Those inquiries were directed to the British practice?—Yes.
1029. In other words, the memorandum of the Commission of Woods and Forests? —Yes; the British practice to us seemed to have evolved in conditions similar to what were operating here and, therefore, was most acceptable.
1030. These were the only inquiries you made—a perusal of the Commission of Woods and Forests memorandum?—There was some correspondence with the Department of Industry and Commerce as to what the practice was.
1031. You relied either on a perusal of this memorandum or on inquiries at the Department of Industry and Commerce when you were making up your mind whether it should be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance?—Yes; that was the case.
1032. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney put some questions to you as to your practice under the State Lands Act?—Deputy Fitzgerald.
1033. He put some questions as to the practice of the Department of Finance under the State Lands Act. Is it the practice before you let State lands on a lease authorised by that Act to have the lands which are proposed to be leased valued by a competent valuer with a view to fixing the amount of the fine or the rent?—As I said before, while the administration of the State Lands Act is vested in the Minister for Finance, nearly all the work done in connection with it is performed by the Office of Public Works, who have a staff of valuers and who, presumably, use those valuers in the way mentioned by the Deputy.
1034. And an advertisement is issued asking for tenders?—That is the usual practice.
1035. And those are tested and judged by the information in the possession of the Department or in the possession of the Commissioners of Public Works after a valuation has been made by a competent valuer?—I am not in a position to speak on the details of the practice but speaking generally, I consider that is what they did.
1036. I do not know if I misunderstood you when in answer to Deputy Fitzgerald you said you would not regard as necessary or essential that there should be an inquiry into the financial resources of a person who proposed to take a lease?—I made no such statement.
1037. Deputy Fitzgerald.—I understood you to.
Chairman.—On a much narrower issue. Not as wide as this?
Deputy Costello.—I qualified my question to you on the point as to whether I misunderstood you.
Witness.—I earnestly hope that if I did make a statement bearing such an interpretation, the Chairman will give me an opportunity of correcting it.
Chairman.—I may say that I did not so understand the answer of the witness. I understood the witness to say that if a person wanted to occupy a certain piece of property, where he became a tenant from which he could be ejected, that the steps in that case would be different from those in another case.
1038. Deputy Costello.—The witness will appreciate that I am not trying to put an interpretation on his words which he did not intend. The point I want to get at is that if you were accepting a tenant for a lease of State Lands, you would inquire into the capacity of the proposed lessee to pay the rent he agreed to pay, and which was the proper rent to accept, and also his financial capacity to perform the covenants in the lease, such as repairing covenants ?—I would if I was satisfied on other points without making further inquiries.
1039. I understood you to say that you would not consider it necessary to make inquiries in the case of a member of the Senior Bar?—A member of the Senior Bar combined with a businessman.
Chairman.—That is a limited certificate.
Witness.—I hope the credit of the Senior Bar will not be destroyed as a result of the Deputy’s observation.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Or by the Deputy’s action in this whole inquiry.
Deputy Costello.—The Parliamentary Secretary cannot help being offensive.
1040. Were you here present yesterday when a list of contracts was read out by the Parliamentary Secretary?—Yes, I was.
1041. Did you hear the statement made that those contracts were made with a Deputy who habitually supported the then Government Party?—Yes.
1042. Can you give me information about those contracts?—I have no information about them.
1043. Can you get information with reference to them—I take it that there is a list of contracts made in your Department?—Presumably they were made through the Government Contracts Committee.
1044. That is part of the Department of Finance?—It is part of the machinery of the Department.
1045. I want to know if you would give me at some time a list of them. Is it correct to say that any contract was made through a Deputy?—Well, I presume the information was correct and that contracts were in fact made through a Deputy, but possibly the Deputy was a member of an incorporated trading company.
1046. That is what I want to know— was it made with a Deputy or with a limited company? Even if you cannot give me the information now, I will be glad if you would state with whom each of the contracts referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary was made, the date on which it was made, and if the contract eventuated after public advertisement or tender open to all comers. I do not want your answer right now. It would do in writing.
Witness.—I can undertake to supply the information asked for.
1047. Deputy Geoghegan.—Mr. McElligott, has Mr. Lemass, who now fills the office of Minister for Industry and Commerce, at any time made any representations to you in reference to the granting of this lease?—No, sir.
1048. To facilitate both question and answer, might I ask you to take for your consideration File No. 195/22. Have you before you what I would describe as a time table in reference to the granting of this particular mining lease?—Yes; I have.
1049. That indicates in a summarised way a great deal of the information we have got. that the original applicants were Senator Comyn, Deputy Briscoe and Mr. Grattan H. C. Norman, that maps were lodged and other details given. Do you observe that on March 29th, 1933, the matter was referred to the Irish Land Commission—they are, of course, concerned in mines and minerals owing to the reservations in the Land Act of 1903, and that would be an ordinary and proper step to take?—Yes.
1050. On the 8th April, 1933, the case was referred to Mr. Lyburn to suggest rents, royalties, etc.—is that the Mr. Lyburn to whom you alluded in the course of your evidence as an expert mining engineer on the staff of the Department of Industry and Commerce?—I do not know if I described him in precisely those terms. I described him as an economic geologist expert in mining.
1051. Would you kindly turn to the next page—do you see on the next page a report from Mr. Lyburn as to what he considered would be the proper royalty to charge in this particular case, the proper dead rent?—Yes, I do.
1052. If you have not read that minute already, would you kindly read it now?—I have just read it.
1053. Including the marginal note?— Yes.
1054. For practical purposes, would you regard that as a sufficiently reasoned minute—a sufficiently detailed minute for the guidance of another officer in the Department, so far as that aspect of the case was concerned?—Yes; I would.
1055. Turn back again to the time table, as I call it. On 9th May, 1933, the informal determination was received from the Land Commission. I take it that, for the sake of expedition, the Department often dealt with matters of this sort informally in the first instance?— That is so.
1056. There is nothing unusual or unprecedented in the first determination by the Land Commission being an informal one in this case. On 10th July the case was sent to the Land Commission for formal determination; on 16th May, 1933, a provisional offer was sent to the applicant; on 18th May, 1933, the terms agreed to by the applicant; and on 20th May, 1933, the case sent to the Department of Finance for sanction to rents and royalties. That was requisite under the Mines and Minerals Act?—Yes.
1057. On 10th November, 1933, there was formal determination by the Land Commission and a rough draft of the lease prepared and sent to Mr. Whitton for approval. Is he the permanent legal adviser to the Department of Industry and Commerce?—Yes.
1058. Is he a member of the Bar?—I understand he is.
1059. And has he been legal adviser to the Department of Industry and Commerce for a number of years?—He has.
1060. On 22nd November, 1933, the Chief State Solicitor was instructed to prepare a lease, and on 23rd October, 1934, the lease and counterpart were sent to the Secretary for execution. The lease and counterpart were returned to the Chief State Solicitor for execution by lessee and stamping; counterpart lease received from Chief State Solicitor; particulars entered in register of leases; accountant notified of date on which payments under lease are due; and inspector of mines and quarries notified. Is the inspector of mines and quarries an officer under the Minister for Industry and Commerce?—He is.
1061. The twenty-first step was that the original documents were filed. Is that a reasonably fair summary of the procedure to be followed in granting a lease of precious and other metals under the Mines and Minerals Act?—Yes.
1062. I would like you to turn on now five leaves to a minute which is headed “Mr. Maguire” and signed by “J. L.” I presume “J. L.” is Mr. Leydon?—Mr. Luccan, I understand.
1063. It states:—
“The Chief State Solicitor has now furnished us with a draft of the proposed lease of gold, silver, etc., which is being made to Senator Comyn and others. It follows the main lines of the draft Welsh take note in respect of gold and silver, a copy of which is in the file ‘pocket’.”
If you look at the marginal note you will see a reference about the middle of the note to the draft Welsh take note, and if you look at paragraph (3) of the document itself, you will see that it contains the phrase : “The period of notice on the fourth covenant, on page 4 of the draft, is three days, which is the period in the draft Welsh take note; I think this period might be appropriately extended to seven days.” Wales is a part of Great Britain in which mining is carried on to a very considerable extent?— Yes.
1064. And, as a practical matter, would you disapprove of the legal or other advisers having regard to a Welsh take note as a precedent for an Irish take note under a comparatively new statute like this?—No.
1065. It has been put to you that there was a lack of adequate inquiry as to the resources of these people. Would you turn back again about two or three sheets to 15/5/’33? There is a sheet initialled “J.L., 15/5/’33.” That is followed a little later on by a minute which is continued on to the next page and initialled “W.M., 16/5/33.” Is that Mr. Maguire?—Mr. Maguire.
1066. It says:—
“To see letter opposite which, I think, might issue as a preliminary step. The royalties proposed are those adopted here by the Quit Rent Office for gold and silver, and as the various minerals asked for by this group are of the semi-precious kind—platinum, garnet, bismuth, etc.—in the main—I think it is no harm to apply the same royalties. If the applicants have counter-proposals we will consider them and the present letter does not shut out any such counter-proposals. These royalty questions are bound to involve a certain amount of bargain in any event, and it is as well to quote figures in the first instance which are not necessarily minima.
“This group consists of Deputy Briscoe, Senator Comyn, and a young man named G. H. C. Norman, of the Bungalow, Torca Hill, Dalkey. They only profess to be prepared to put up £200, and if this were a mining lease proper, I would consider this of doubtful adequacy. However, for a two years’ prospecting lease, having regard to the people concerned, I think it may be regarded as sufficient. The letter promises the usual reversionary lease only if we are satisfied that the lessees have the necessary financial and technical resources for a full development. This seems to me to cover the situation.
“Deputy Briscoe is to call this afternoon at 4 o’clock, and I would like to be able to hand him the letter if possible”—
I desire to know from you, Mr. McElligott, as head of the Department, if you saw anything unreasonable or undesirable in the distinction which Mr. Maguire there draws between the considerations that would influence him in giving a two year lease or take note and giving a full 99 years’ lease?—I see nothing unreasonable or undesirable in it.
1067. One may at least conceive that this is a reasonable point of view when he says, in effect, “We will first test you for the two years and then we will see what we will do about the financial resources, and so on.” That, at all events, is a reasonable line of approach?— Eminently reasonable.
1068. There may be others, but that is a fair one?—It is a fair line of approach.
1069. Deputy Costello.—Might I put one topic to the witness which I overlooked? Could you tell me if, somewhere in 1932, in the estimates of that year, provision was made for a grant-in-aid towards developing mineral resources in this country?—There was.
1070. Can you tell me if any portion of that grant was expended?—I am not in a position to say at the moment, but it the Deputy desires the information I will get it for him.
1071. I merely wanted to know whether there was a grant-in-aid passed?—We expended under the Relief Schemes Vote for unemployment relief in the past on various schemes of surface exploration.
1072. Would you regard as a proper method of carrying out relief schemes the application of that money voted by the Dáil to developing and prospecting mineral resources?—I would not be prepared to accept that general proposition.
1073. How would you qualify it?—I say that there had been cases in which relief schemes money has been so used when the percentage of employment to be given is very high.
1074. When you speak of relief schemes money, you refer to money specifically appropriated by the Dáil to relief schemes and not grants for the development of mineral resources?—Yes. I do not refer to grants specifically appropriated for mineral resources.
1075. If a grant was approved by the Dáil for the development of mineral resources, it would be dealt with specifically by your Department or by whatever Department was charged with the expenditure of that money, for the particular purpose for which it was appropriated, namely, development of mineral resources?—Yes.
1076. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—It is a fact that what mineral development has been done out of Votes of that kind has been done out of relief Votes? You are aware that sums of £8,000, £9,000 or £10,000 has been used out of that relief Vote for that purpose?—I am aware that such expenditure has been met out of the relief Vote, but all the expenditure that has been made on mineral exploration and development has been met out of the relief Vote exclusively.
1077. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Under what Department was this Vote for mining development in the Estimates of 1932?— It must have been the Department of Industry and Commerce. Unfortunately, I have not a copy of the Estimates. (Copy of Estimates handed to witness.) In the current year’s Estimates, under sub-head J of the Department of Industry and Commerce Vote, there is a provision for “Minerals Exploration: investigation, including trial borings, cuttings, galleries, analysis reports, compensation, etc., on the Arigna and Slieveanierin area and on the Slieveardagh area.”
1078. That Vote was limited to those areas; it could not be used for any other area under the terms of that sub-head? —It could not.
1079. You say that if relief moneys are spent on such works as these, you take into consideration the proportion that goes for labour?—Yes.
1080. You are aware that relief moneys were spent on certain work in regard to the Drumm train within the last couple of years?—Yes.
1081. The proportion that went to labour out of that money was only about 25 per cent., if I remember correctly, but I am subject to correction?—Possibly; I do not recollect the exact figure.
1082. I think about 25 per cent. represented labour. Do you think that if relief moneys had been used for this prospecting work—borings and so on—it would have been less than 25 per cent. for labour and 75 per cent. for materials?—I am afraid it is impossible for me to express an opinion on the point; I have no technical knowledge or competence.
1083. You agree that it would not be a departure from the practice now established that money should be spent out of a relief Vote for such work provided that not less than 25 per cent., if I am right in that figure, should be given for labour? —I think it is incorrect to speak of it as an established practice to provide for mineral exploration and development out of a relief schemes Vote.
1084. It is not a complete departure from practice because it has been done?— There have been sporadic cases.
1085. Therefore, it would not have been a cataclysmal change if relief moneys had been spent on such work as this, provided this work gave not less than 25 per cent., or whatever the figure is, for labour?— Apart from the question of its not being established practice to provide for mineral development out of a relief schemes Vote, there is also the point that assistance given to the Drumm battery out of relief schemes Vote was regarded as very exceptional and was, in fact, queried by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
1086. Deputy Moore.—It is inconceivable that money would be spent out of relief schemes Votes for gold mining?— Yes, I think I may say so with safety.
1087. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Why inconceivable? Merely because you would regard it as useless?—I would regard it as rainbow chasing.
1088. But, actually, if the majority of the money went on labour and it was considered a useful work, there would be nothing inconceivable about it? It would be eminently conceivable, surely? —We, in the Department of Finance, are certainly not equipped to undertake gold-mining operations.
1809. It is Industry and Commerce that controls the Drumm battery?—They control the Drumm battery. Of course, the Drumm battery was an invention which originated here and grew up here, as it were.
1090. If you go to the National Museum you will see that gold originated here fairly early?
Chairman.—Has the Drumm battery any relevance to this situation?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—The witness had to qualify his answer to Deputy Costello to say that in relation to relief works they had always to consider the proportion of money that was to go to labour. My own knowledge is that it is not inconceivable that relief works money should go to work when not more than 25 per cent. of that money, so far as I remember, is used for labour.
Witness.—As I said, the Drumm battery was a very exceptional case. The proportion of the money going to labour was unprecedentedly small and the whole matter was queried by the Comptroller and Auditor-General as rather not being within the ambit of the relief schemes Vote, so that to base an argument as to establishing a practice would be incorrect.
1091. Deputy Good.—As a matter of fact, was any relief money spent on the area comprised within the proposed lease?—Not so far as I am aware.
1092. Chairman.—Do I take it that expenditure on mining exploration work is, in the main, in an endeavour to procure and make merchantable, not gold or silver, but other minerals?—Exclusively on minerals other than gold and silver.
1093. Take it in connection with exploration for coal or slates?—Coal and slates and other articles entering into daily commercial use.
1094. Deputy Fitzgerald.—It is to be assumed that as the Department of Industry and Commerce accepted £200 as sufficient financial resources for the employment of four men during two years, at least the majority of that money would have to be spent on labour?—I do not know if the Deputy really expects an answer to that question.
1095. Deputy Costello.—I am afraid that I started this somewhat irrelevant discussion. I really wanted to know whether there was a grant voted in that, or any subsequent year, to be devoted generally towards the development of mineral resources in the Irish Free State. The specific Vote you refer to has reference to Arigna mines, and other particular matters of that kind. I want to know whether there was a grant voted for general mineral exploration at any time? —Speaking from memory, there was no such grant.
1096. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—In going through the file, I found a case which I brought last night to another witness. There is a letter dated 10th March, 1935, from the Department of Industry and Commerce to another Department of State, in which it points out to them that a payment which had been made to them somewhere about fifteen months before, was not, apparently, within their knowledge. Would it be a customary standard in the Government service to receive in sums and not to know it?—No.
1097. If such a case arose, would it normally be the subject of examination to find out why?—Subjected to immediate examination.
1098. Are you aware whether this particular case was subjected to examination?—Would the Deputy give me the reference on the file? (File handed to witness). I see the paragraph referred to by the Deputy. That is a matter falling within the competence of the Department of Industry and Commerce, and I really cannot speak as to the practice of that Department, but, normally, a matter such as this would be followed up immediately.
1099. Would it be within the competence of the Department of Industry and Commerce to investigate the machinery of any Department which allowed that sort of thing to happen?—No, it is not part of the business of the Department of Industry and Commerce.
1100. Then, whose business would it be? —It would possibly fall within the competence of the Department of Finance, if the office were attached to the Department or one over which the Department of Finance had responsibility.
1101. The only point I am raising is that here a file does disclose a condition, and I want to be assured that there is machinery in existence which would cause the following up of a condition of that kind, when disclosed?—Yes, there is certain machinery.
Chairman.—I take it that your object in asking these questions is not so much to inquire into the organisation of the Civil Service and the manner in which its work is done, but rather to deal with the point raised that some difficulty was experienced in securing payment, whereas it is shown in this correspondence that the payment, which it was first stated had not been made, had, in fact, been made fifteen months earlier?
1102. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—That is the object, but as a result of that condition, as disclosed, it seems to me that there should be some evidence on the file that someone had attempted to follow it up. I am not pressing it any further. You are familiar, Mr. McElligott, with the terms of reference?—Yes.
1103. They being true, they are a serious indictment of certain people. I simply ask you now whether you are aware that one of the people named there is a member of the Senior Bar?—Yes, I am aware of that.
Chairman.—There are one or two questions I want to ask you, Mr. McElligott, in conclusion.
1104. Deputy Coburn.—Before you ask those questions. Mr. Chairman, I should like to put a couple of questions. In your answers to Deputy Fitzgerald, Mr. McElligott, you gave me the impression that in the preparation of leases under the Mines and Minerals Act and other preliminaries incidental to the getting out of such leases, all the work is done by officials in the Department?—All the work in connection with the lease under discussion.
1105. Without the knowledge of the Minister concerned?—Yes.
1106. Therefore, as an ordinary layman, am I to understand that documents, however important, can be prepared by the officials of the Department without the knowledge of the Minister? Do you seriously suggest that, because that would be a rather startling state of affairs so far as the public of this country are concerned?—I did not make the general statement of the kind mentioned by the Deputy.
1107. You certainly gave me that impression unless I misunderstood your answer to Deputy Fitzgerald?—I did not make the statement in reference to public affairs generally; I made it in regard to leases under the State Lands Act.
1108. Even in regard to leases I, as an ordinary layman, was rather startled by the answer you gave to the questions put to you by Deputy Fitzgerald, namely, that the Minister for Finance had absolutely no knowledge that this lease was being issued to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe. Is that true, or not?—He had no knowledge.
1109. Absolutely none? — Absolutely none.
1110. And do you, as a responsible officer of the Department, think that is right? Would it not be his duty, under the Act, to have some slight knowledge and at least to look over the thing before he gives his final certificate?—I am convinced that the action taken by the officials was right and proper.
1111. Is that the general practice not alone in regard to leases but everything? —Not at all. The general practice is that we refer to our Ministers all cases in which matters of policy, for example, are involved, or in which important precedents may be created or in which extensive financial issues are involved.
1112. And, with regard to such minor matters as the issuing of licences? Would it surprise you to know that people who have made applications for certain licences could not be granted those licences except by the expressed consent of the Minister himself? Is that not usual in certain cases?—I am not aware of the practice referred to by the Deputy. I may state that since the setting up of this State the signature of officials of the various Departments has been accepted in practice by every court in the land, from the District to the Supreme Court, as testifying to the wishes or views of Ministers, and no document of any kind signed by an official has ever been questioned as to its validity.
1113. Therefore, am I to understand that the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, or the Minister for any other Department, has no knowledge whatever of the subject matter of such documents or of the conditions contained in such documents, especially documents of this nature, dealing with such an important thing as a gold mine, as we are led to believe, yielding more than a million pounds worth of gold?——
Chairman.—Would you give the witness an opportunity of answering?
Witness.—I am rather at a loss to define what the Deputy may understand——
Deputy Coburn.—I am at a loss, too.
Witness.—from the replies I have given to the questions. I have endeavoured to phrase them as carefully as possible and the Deputy must not manoeuvre me into a false position by which I am taking on myself responsibilities normally assumed by Ministers. I wish to put it on record here that my evidence does not seek in any way to minimise the importance of the functions of Ministers as heads of their Departments. In the case of the mining lease to Senator Comyn and Deputy Briscoe, the policy of the Government is already laid down in an Act of the Oireachtas. Ministers are, generally speaking, acquainted with the provisions of that Act. They are simply carrying out the policy of the Act which, in its preamble, is stated to be the facilitating of mineral development in Saorstát Eireann and the granting of such a lease is looked on as a routine matter, in view of the fact that no matter of fresh policy is involved, no important precedent being created, and no extensive financial issue involved. Therefore, this transaction under the Act was carried right through from beginning to end by officials of the Department of Finance without reference to the Minister for Finance.
1114. Chairman.—In other words, the high policy in the matter was decided by the Executive Council and you simply implemented that policy by dealing with applications for leases under it?—Yes.
1115. Deputy Coburn.—Therefore, Mr. McElligott, I am right in my assumption?—I have explained my point of view in the matter several times. I cannot hope to put the Deputy right if he has drawn a wrong conclusion from what I have said. I have already corrected the Deputy several times and I cannot continue to do so indefinitely.
1116. Yes, but perhaps I may put it that it is a rather startling policy, according to your answer, that the Minister has absolutely no knowledge of very important documents leaving his office: that he never looks over them, or that he is never consulted at any period during the production of these documents?— As I have said already, I have tried to correct the Deputy in this matter. It really remains with the Chairman to decide what documents we are discussing: whether we are discussing all documents from Government offices or this particular document dealing with the lease.
1117. You can confine yourself to this document?—Well, if that is so, I have said, at least a dozen times, with regard to this document, that the Minister was not aware of its contents.
Chairman.—I should like to say that if we are going to detain Mr. McElligott for any lengthy period I think we ought to adjourn now, unless Deputy Coburn thinks that he might be able to finish in a few minutes.
1118. Deputy Coburn.—It will not take me very long, Mr. Chairman. Take the letter dated the 16/5/1933, Mr. McElligott, which says:—
“This group consists of Deputy Briscoe, Senator Comyn, and a young man named G. H. C. Norman..... They only profess to be prepared to put up £200, and if this were a mining lease proper I would consider this of doubtful adequacy. However, for a two years’ prospecting lease, having regard to the people concerned, I think it may be regarded as sufficient.”
Might I ask you what construction would you put on those words: “having regard to the people concerned”? Is it because the people concerned were a Senator and a T.D. that the £200 was considered sufficient? Would not the ordinary man in the street have that suspicion?—I take it that this is on a file of the Department of Industry and Commerce, and I did not see it until this evening. It was addressed to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce.
1119. Chairman.—You cannot interpret it?—I do not know that my interpretation of it would be a matter of any consequence.
1120. Deputy Coburn.—Could not the witness give us his view?
Chairman.—The witness was not asked to interpret anything in the memorandum that he did not write himself.
Deputy Coburn.—That was in writing.
Deputy Geoghegan.—It speaks for itself, like the news in the Grafton Street picture house.
Chairman.—Perhaps it would be better to leave the Grafton Street picture house out of the discussion. Is that all you have to say, Deputy?
1121. Chairman.—A reference was made last night, Mr. McElligott, perhaps orally, or perhaps in writing—I forget at the moment which—about the quit rent lease made about 1923. Can you say, since that Department is not controlled by the Department of Industry and Commerce whether there are any documents in the Quit Rent Office relating to this inquiry?
Witness.—Well, as promised to the Committee on Thursday week last, I got into communication with the Superintendent of the Quit Rent Office and sent him a letter containing the terms of reference of this Committee. I also sent a copy of the order to the effect that I was to attend here with all the relevant documents, and I asked him had he any documents relevant to the subject matter of the inquiry. In reply, he sent me a letter covering a number of documents, all of which were correspondence between the Department of Industry and Commerce and himself. The relevant portion of that correspondence has already been put in in evidence by the Department of Industry and Commerce. Accordingly, in that way, I discharged my undertaking to the Committee. Arising out of the cross-examination of Mr. Maguire, who was here on behalf of the Department of Industry and Commerce yesterday evening, I caused inquiries to be made to-day in the Quit Rent Office as to whether the counterpart of the “take note” shown to Mr. Maguire was available in the Quit Rent Office. I take it that that is the document to which you are referring, sir?
Witness.—I was informed that the counterpart of the “take note” had been deposited in the Public Record Office in Dublin and that, presumably, it was destroyed when the Public Record Office was destroyed in 1922, with the result that there is now no remains of that.
1122. Deputy Fitzgerald.—Presumably however, we can get some information about it?—I assume that, if the Committee is interested in the matter it would be Mr. Hume who has the original.
1123. Deputy Fitgerald.—Is he the lessee?
Chairman.—I think he was the lessee.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—It is only a matter of getting the information. That is all I am interested in.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—Does the Deputy want to get that gentleman here?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—We do not want it immediately anyway.
Witness.—Mr. McDonagh was the lessee. I understand from my colleague here, Mr. Doolin, that Mr. McDonagh is the actual person mentioned in the actual “take note,” and that he was financed by Mr. Hume, and the original “take note” was made out to Mr. McDonagh.
Chairman.—Does the Committee wish to hear any other witnesses from the Department?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I understood that there was some reference to the effect that some other official would be here.
Chairman.—I think that Mr. McElligott covered the points on behalf of himself and the Assistant Secretary, but I do not think it was very material.
Witness.—I should like to say, sir, that, as regards one part of the terms of reference, about the lease being made under conditions of secrecy, the files in which the matter was handled in the Department of Finance were circulated around the Department in the ordinary way and passed through dozens of hands. I should like to say that there was no secrecy whatever in the matter.
1124. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.—There was nothing unusual about it?—There was nothing unusual. It was treated in the same way as any other matter of departmental business.
1125. Deputy Dowdall.—At a rough guess, Mr. McElligott, could you say how many officials you have employed in the Department of Finance?—About 120.
1126. Would it be humanly possible for the Minister, having regard to his other obligations, to be cognisant of every document that goes through the Department? —No. It would be utterly impossible.
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I was just going to say, Mr. Chairman, that additional documents had been given to us since we came into the room to-day—documents which we had not available yesterday— and I wanted to call some representative of the Department of Industry and Commerce.
Chairman.—Whom do you desire to call, Deputy?
Deputy Fitzgerald.—I cannot say at the moment. I do not want to delay the Committee just at the moment, but it seems to me that Senator Comyn seemed very anxious last night to be heard.
Chairman.—Before the Committee adjourns, it is necessary to decide whether we will sit to-morrow.
Deputy Good.—I think that the Committee should only sit when the Dáil is sitting.
The Committee adjourned at 7.30 and resumed at 8.30.
The Committee deliberated.