Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1938 - 1939::06 July, 1939::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Deardaoin, 6adh Iúl, 1939.

Thursday, 6th July, 1939.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:


B. Brady.




O Briain.

DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.

Mr. J. Maher (Roinn an Ard-Rea chtaire Cunntas agus Ciste) and Mr. A. D. Codling (Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.


Mr. Seán O Broin called and examined.

928. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note to

Subhead H—Grants to County Committees of Agriculture.

“The expenditure charged to this subhead includes normal grants amounting in the aggregate to £85,014, a special temporary grant of £8,000, a special grant to provide lime for agricultural purposes amounting to £6,689 2s. 4d., and a payment of £615 16s. 7d. representing recoupment, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, to a county committee, of payments under Section 7 of the Local Government Act, 1933, as amended by the Local Government Act, 1936, in respect of the salaries for periods in 1923 and 1924 of two officers of the committee.

The normal grant of £85,014, in addition to an amount of £72,754, equivalent to the proceeds of the minimum agricultural rate of 2d. in the £ under the Agriculture Act, 1931, includes an extra grant, amounting to £12,260, equivalent to the amount of the income of committees from rates in excess of the statutory minimum 2d. rate.”

Is that an informative paragraph?

Mr. Maher.—Yes. It is for the purpose of bringing under one head the total expenditure shown on page 145—Grants to County Committees of Agriculture, £100,318 18s. 11d.

929. Is there anything calling for explanation in the fact that the salaries of two public servants for the years 1923 and 1924 were discharged by a payment in the year 1938?

Mr. O Broin.—That was done under Section 7 of the Local Government Act, 1933, which authorised any local authority to make payments to certain officers or ex-officers of such local authority of salaries for the whole or any part of the period from the 1st of July, 1922, to the 30th of April, 1923. It had formerly been the practice for the Department to recoup to the county committees the salaries of such officers, and the Act of 1936 extended the period to September, 1924.

930. Is this some matter arising out of officers losing their positions and of being subsequently reinstated?—Officers who were imprisoned or dismissed on account of political activities at the time.

931. And these two got the benefit of the Act?—That is so.

932. We may now pass to the following note of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

Subhead M 5—Improvement of the Creamery Industry.

“Including the expenditure of £28,433 5s. 0d. in the current year, the total vote expenditure to 31st March, 1938, from moneys provided for the improvement of the creamery industry amounts to £1,129,079 5s. 7d. Receipts amount to £199,050 14s. 0d., leaving a net charge on public funds of £930,028 11s. 7d.”

Mr. Maher.—That is an annual paragraph. The details are furnished annually by the Accounting Officer to this Committee. *

933. Chairman.—It is well that members should know that the details are furnished each year and are circulated with the memoranda submitted by the Accounting Officer when the report falls to be considered. I should like to know from Mr. O Broin, with regard to the balance of £930,028 11s. 7d., if that will be gradually paid off by the creameries over the course of time, or is that to be a daily charge on the Exchequer?

Mr. O Broin.—There are assets against that charge. When the creameries are sold by the Dairy Disposal Company we expect to realise a good deal of this money.

934. Deputy O Briain.—What do the receipts consist of?

Mr. O Broin.—They appear on page 154 of the account.

935. Chairman.—They appear on page 154 under the heading “Extra Receipts paid to the Exchequer.” There is the sum of £16,000 odd for transferred creameries and milk supplies, £2,000 the proceeds of sale of creamery properties, and £117 17s. 3d., which appears as miscellaneous.

Mr. O Broin.—These are the receipts for the year.

936. Deputy O Briain.—Do these receipts include what is commonly known as the £3 per cow?—Yes.

937. Is the collection of that money nearly finished?—No. There is a sum of £56,000 odd still to be collected.

938. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note:—

Subhead M 8—Expenses in connection with the provision of Butter for Winter requirements, etc.

“With a view to the provision of an adequate supply of butter during the winter months, allowances amounting to £32,039 14s. 6d. were made from this subhead to creameries and other concerns in respect of butter placed in and withdrawn from cold store under conditions laid down by the Minister for Agriculture. In addition, allowances amounting to £22,815 4s. 3d. were paid to creameries and other registered concerns in respect of butter produced or acquired during the winter months

The charge to the subhead also includes £28,714 10s. 7d., representing allowances made to creameries in order to bring the net return for butter produced in April, 1937, to 129s. per cwt.

The balance of the charge to this subhead, £652 5s. 5d., is commented on in paragraph 52 of this report.”

There was a period, Mr. O Broin, about Christmas when it was extremely difficult to get supplies of butter from Irish creameries. There was one fortnight when there was no butter to be got anywhere in Eire. I wonder if the provision for cold storage of butter referred to here and the allowances made are adequate to meet home requirements of butter?

Mr. O Broin.—I think the shortage to which you refer, Mr. Chairman, was a shortage created by the withholding of supplies by certain creameries who were anxious to have the price of butter increased. They were trying to bring pressure to bear on the Minister by withholding supplies. Normally, the arrangements which are made for cold storage are roughly adequate to meet the requirements. Of course it is impossible to foresee everything.

939. Deputy O Briain.—The supplies available last winter and the winter before were much behind those in previous years?—The winters were very bad, of course. A great many factors affect the production. The winters were exceptionally severe.

940. Chairman.—In regard to Subhead O 9—Agricultural Products (Regulation of Export) Acts, 1933 and 1935—there is the following note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“The amounts charged to this subhead in respect of the purchase, storage and export of butter were £286,792 1s. 3d., and in respect of the purchase and export of eggs, £207,961 9s. 1d.

The accounts relating to the purchase and export of eggs for the year ended 31st March, 1937, referred to in paragraph 44 of my last report, have been audited and presented to Dáil Eireann, but the accounts for the year under review have not yet been submitted for audit. No accounts in respect of the export of butter have yet been furnished.”

Mr. Maher.—These accounts have since been furnished and forwarded to the Department of Finance, who will, in due course, lay them on the Table if they have not already done so.

941. Chairman.—Have those reports been laid on the Table of the House yet?

Mr. Codling.—One set of accounts was sent to the Dáil on 31st March. The others were received about a fortnight ago, and have not yet been presented. They will be presented as soon as possible.

942. Chairman.—Those accounts, in so far as they refer to eggs, represent the purchase of eggs by the Government and the subsequent export of those eggs by the Government?

Mr. O Broin—Yes, sir.

943. Can you tell us whether any profit was made on the egg account for which the sum of £207,961 9s. 1d. is mentioned?—The position in that regard, Mr. Chairman, is shown in the audited accounts.

944. Has this account been laid on the Table of Dáil Eireann?

Mr. Codling.—Yes. That was the one which was laid on the Table on 31st March last. The net loss for the year 1937-38 was £35,633 15s. 1d. Of course that did not include the bounty which would normally have been payable.

945. On those exports no bounty was payable?—No.

946. There is no bounty payable on any eggs exported now?—There is for this year. The accounting for the Vote has been transferred to the office of the Minister for Agriculture this year and they are paying bounties on exports of eggs, but in respect of the accounts that are mentioned here under subhead O 9 there is the following note in the audited accounts:—

“As the trade was carried on by the State the amount of the export bounty, £61,788, that would have been paid out of State funds if the trade had been carried on by a private trader does not appear in the foregoing account.”

The bounty was £61,000 odd as against the net loss shown in the account.

947. What is the amount of the bounty on eggs exported to countries other than Great Britain at the present time?

Mr. O Broin.—The bounty is a shilling per great hundred on eggs exported at present.

948. Is there any bounty on eggs exported to Great Britain?—That bounty applies to all exports of eggs.

949. Deputy McMenamin.—That is paid to private exporters?—Yes.

950. Chairman.—Is this export referred to in the account done through agents, or is it done by officers of the Department?—The eggs referred to here were actually bought by officers of the Department from traders here, and arrangements made by the Department for their export. The trading was actually conducted by a section of the Department of Agriculture.

951. Is it done by buying from egg exporters in Dublin, or are they bought from licensed egg exporters in rural Ireland?— In various parts of the country.

952. Who did the packing and grading?—The registered exporter did the packing and grading. Of course, we are not doing that export business at present. When it was being carried on, an officer of our Department was in daily touch with exporters. He was in constant telephonic communication with people, arranging for the export of the required quantities to the continent.

953. Deputy McMenamin.—How did this officer make those arrangements? Was he in contact with agents abroad as to the quantities required?—He was in contact with the German authorities.

954. They instructed him that they would take so many eggs, and then he instructed the exporters to export that amount of eggs?—Yes.

955. Deputy O Briain.—Did you tell us that that trade has been discontinued?— The German authorities themselves are arranging for the export of the eggs now.

956. Chairman.—Were those eggs exported under the official mark of the trader, or was there a special mark put upon them by the Department?—There was a special mark which the trader had to put on the eggs in accordance with instructions given by the Department.

957. What I have in mind is this: When I was an egg exporter, on that far off and unhappy day, when my cases of eggs went to the port they were examined, and, if they did not reach the standard, they were returned with extremely acidulous comments by the Department of Agriculture. I wonder what happened when the Department of Agriculture were exporting eggs. Were they similarly examined?—They were.

958. And were there any acidulous remarks, or were all the eggs perfect?—I am sure that if one of our inspectors discovered a case of unsuitable eggs he would have stopped them in the ordinary way.

959. And would he have taken away the Department’s licence to export?—I do not think so.

Chairman.—Perhaps it would be unkind to ask for a note of how many cases of eggs exported by the Department were rejected for imperfections. I do not press that inquiry.

Deputy O Briain.—Things have improved since the Chairman was an exporter.

960. Chairman.—Do not draw me, Deputy, or you may get a rude shock.

Subhead O 11—Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts, 1934 and 1935, etc.

“The expenditure charged to this subhead includes:—





Salaries, Travelling and Incidental Expenses,












Purchase of cattle for












Compensation for animals










Purchase of beef for distribution to recipients of unemployment assistance, out-door relief or home










Purchase of cattle for












Compensation to manufacturers of cattle
















Paragraph 45, Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Report:—

Purchase of Cattle for canning.

“The agreement between the Minister for Agriculture and the society carrying on the canning business referred to in previous reports, was determined by the Minister on 31st July, 1937, and no cattle were purchased under its provisions during the year. The amount charged under this heading relates to cattle purchased during the year ended 31st March, 1937.

On the cessation of the supply of cattle the society became entitled to compensation of £10,000 under the terms of the agreement, and this amount was paid during the year under review and is included in the figure shown under the heading ‘Compensation to manufacturers of cattle products.”’

Which society was this?—The Waterford Canning Factory.

961. Deputy McMenamin.—Was there a contract between the Department and this society to pay them this sum or some sum in case the Minister ceased to supply cattle?—Yes.

962. It was under the terms of that contract that this £10,000 was paid?— It was in pursuance of that contract that the £10,000 became payable when the supply of cattle was determined by the Minister.

963. On what basis was that agreed upon; was there an implied contract that the Department were continuously to supply cattle and, if they failed to do it, they became liable to this penalty?—Yes, the Department undertook to supply a certain number of cattle per annum, and in case they failed to supply the cattle, they became liable to the payment of this amount in compensation.

964. Had these people canning machinery or a canning section hitherto?—They had to equip themselves specially for this purpose.

965. At the request of the Department?—Yes, for the purpose of undertaking this canning.

966. For how many years were you supplying cattle to them?—We supplied them with cattle in the year ending 31st March, 1936, to the number of 2,347, and in the year ending 31st March, 1937, to the number of 2,563.

967. You were only supplying cattle for two years approximately then?—Yes.

968. Chairman.—Was there anything in the contract that at the termination of the contract the Department should recoup them for their expenditure on equipment to deal with this trade or give £10,000, whichever was the lesser sum?— Yes.

969. There was some allowance in the course of the currency of the contract for depreciation, etc?—Yes.

970. Chairman.—In fact, the agreement reflected great credit on the society’s solicitor? I do not expect you to assent to that view.

970a. Paragraph 46, Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Report:—

Compensation for animals slaughtered.

“The expenditure under this heading, £94,842 10s. 0d., was incurred on the acquisition of cattle under the scheme for the elimination of old and uneconomic cows. 34,572 animals were acquired during the year, of which 34,374 were supplied to a company under the agreement mentioned in previous reports, and the balance of 198 to other concerns engaged in a similar business. The acquisition of cattle under this scheme ceased on 25th March, 1938, on the determination of the agreements with the company referred to.”

These were cattle supplied, I understand, to the Roscrea Meat Company?—Yes.

971. Was there any understanding with that company as to how they should ultimately dispose of these cattle?—Yes. The agreements with the company provided in a general way for the manner of the ultimate disposal of the products of that factory.

972. Can you say shortly what that proviso was; were they to be disposed of in any particular form?—I think I would want to look at the agreements again before I would be able to answer that.

973. Deputy McMenamin.—There was a series of contracts?—Yes, a series of agreements. I do not know whether these particulars were given already in answers to a series of Parliamentary questions.

974. Chairman.—The point I had in mind was this: If there was a proviso in the agreement with this factory that they should convert these cattle into a particular commodity and sell it at a particular price, were any steps taken by the Department to ensure that all the cattle supplied were so converted and ultimately so disposed of?—The general tenor of the stipulations in the agreements was to prohibit the sale of edible products on the home market. They had perfect freedom to export these products. Of course, they manufactured meat meal which was for sale at home.

975. I should like to know had this company the right to export any part of these old or uneconomic cows in the form of edible meat which could be described as edible meat of Irish production on our foreign markets?—They had.

976. Did the Department concern itself to ascertain whether any of this meat was so exported, and, if so, where it was sent?—No. We were mainly concerned with seeing that the meat that was put up for human consumption was up to the requisite standard; that is, our veterinary surgeons saw that only sound meat was prepared for human consumption. But we were not concerned with where they exported to.

977. Did our Government not take any steps to ensure that the quality normally associated with Irish agricultural products would not be prejudiced in the public mind by the arrival of foodstuffs derived from old and uneconomic cows masquerading as Irish fresh meat?—I think you might take it that any meat put up for human consumption was of quite good quality. We had veterinary surgeons in the factory to ensure that that was done.

978. Their sole function would be to satisfy themselves that no diseased meat was put up?—No diseased meat could go out.

979. One could scarcely describe the meat of old and uneconomic cows as being meat of good quality according to the standard which we set for that product in this country?—Of course some of the cows were not old. Some fairly young animals were sent to the factory as well.

980. Deputy Brasier.—Would they be cows which had any disease or complaint?—I daresay a good many diseased animals were sent to Roscrea, but of course they could not be used for edible products.

981. Deputy McMenamin.—What type of cow would come under the category of an uneconomic cow that could be classed as good beef?—There were some young animals classed as uneconomic.

982. Deputy Brasier.—They probably would be bad milkers, etc?—Yes.

983. Deputy McMenamin.—If it were a good young cow it could be fattened and sold for butchers’ meat and bring more money?—Not at that time.

Deputy Brasier.—Not at that time.

984. Chairman.—I feel it a matter of some importance to ascertain to what markets this meat went in order to determine whether any injury was done to the meat export trade of this country by the impression created by these deliveries. It was clearly the intention of the Government that this meat would not be held out as a prime product of the Irish live-stock industry. Did any of this meat in fact go to markets where we habitually export livestock products?—I am afraid I could not say offhand where the meat was exported to.

985. We have an expenditure here of £94,842 10s. 0d., the primary object of which, apparently, was to get rid of uneconomic cows, but it appears to me that we ought to consider whether this money in fact was used to injure our export trade in livestock products, and I would be glad if you would consider—I am not asking you to give a positive undertaking now, because it is a matter you may have to turn over in your mind—the feasibility of letting us have a memorandum with a view to setting out where any edible meat produced by this company went to, so that we may consider whether all proper precautions were taken to safeguard the live-stock products industry of the country.

Deputy O Briain.—Is that a matter for this Committee or is it a matter for the Dáil?

986. Chairman.—I should like to have the opinion of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s representative on that. It appears to me that we are right in determining whether any moneys supplied by Oireachtas Eireann were properly applied.

Mr. Maher.—I think it would be outside the purview of the Committee, and I think it would place the Accounting Officer in a difficulty in obtaining that information, because he, naturally, would have to consult the accounts of the Roscrea factory, and as the Department have no negotiations at present with that company it would be purely a matter of discretion or grace on their part to give the information. For that reason, I do not think it would be right for the Committee to press the matter.

987. Chairman.—I am obliged to Deputy O Briain for raising that point of order, because it is important that we should not go outside the relevance of the proceedings. I should like the Accounting Officer to consider whether it is reasonable for us to enquire as to whether a large portion of this meat was in fact sent to the Barcelona Government for consumption by their troops during the Civil War in Spain, and, if so, what effect that is likely to have on the prospects of our opening a trade with Spain for edible products originating in this country. I do not press the Accounting Officer for an answer to that at the present moment, because he may consider that that goes beyond the bounds of our relevance.

988. Deputy O Briain.—Had the Department any responsibility as to how the products of the factory were disposed of? Had they any control over the administration of the factory, or as to where the products were sold?—Beyond the functions discharged by the veterinary surgeons, the Department did not interest itself in what was done with the products. We have no information as to where any of the meat was exported.

989. The biggest trade done by the factory was in the manufacture of meat meal?—Yes.

990. Deputy Brasier.—The Department had no responsibility for any meat canned no matter what the quality?— Beyond seeing that it was suitable for food and not put for sale on the home market.

991. It could go on the foreign market irrespective of what injury it might do there?—We did not regard it as likely to do any injury to our trade.

992. Would there not be a possibility of the meat, if it was not fit for human consumption, injuring the trade?—There was no possibility of meat unfit for human consumption being sent out.

993. Had you that supervision?—Yes.

994. Deputy McMenamin.—You appreciate that there are people doing a highclass canning trade, which has been highly developed, and if this meat did not come up to standard you realise the injury that might be done?—Yes.

995. You may recall that about 35 years ago there was a scandal in Chicago about the condition of the packinghouses there, and it resulted in completely destroying their trade in tinned meat products all over the world. It took them years to recover?—I remember that, but I do not think there was any likelihood of anything like that happening at Roscrea.

996. Chairman.—I am glad to hear that. I understand that certain soldiers who were in the Red Army in Republican Spain have sworn never to consume Irish canned meat or to buy it. That might affect the excellent products of certain meat factories in this country that produce most admirable canned meats for their ordinary legitimate trade. I can picture soldiers of the Spanish Republican Army marching through Mexico and the Southern States of America warning all and sundry that if they see the words “Roscrea” or “Ireland” on a can to fly for their lives. However, we do not press the matter.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General continues in paragraph 47:—

Purchase of Beef for distribution to recipients of Unemployment Assistance, Outdoor Relief or Home Assistance.

“The expenditure, £5,000 2s. 10d. charged under this heading represents payments to victuallers of outstanding claims for beef supplied under the statutory scheme administered by the Department of Agriculture, which ceased to operate on 6th December, 1936. As noted in the account, the expenditure includes an ex gratia payment of £3 18s. 4d. made, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, to a victualler for beef supplied of a quality other than that prescribed by the regulations under the Acts and also sums of 2/8 and 12/10 paid to victuallers for beef supplied for which no vouchers are available.”

I take it that that account is now wound up?—We are still collecting some of the levy.

997. I take it that no further payments are being made?—There are some accounts that we may eventually have to pay.

998. The scheme is wound up?—Yes, and we are clearing off the arrears.

999. On a previous occasion the Committee suggested that the sooner accounts of this character are wound up for good or ill, the better, and not to have them hanging on indefinitely?—We are doing our best to clear off the arrears.

1000. Deputy O Briain.—Can you not put one against the other?—We are doing that as far as possible.

1001. Deputy McMenamin.—Can you tell the Committee the extent of the accounts that remain unpaid including disputed sums?—About £2,000.

1002. Is that all?—These are claims in respect of beef supplied that we have not yet discharged.

1003. You did not discharge them on the ground that the beef was not of the quality prescribed?—The amount of claims undischarged in cases where the levy is due is something like £2,000. The levy due is considerably greater than that.

1004. Is that £2,000 for claims that you have admitted or is it for all claims including unspecified beef supplied?—I think it is for all claims.

1005. Chairman.—Paragraph 48 of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report says:—

Purchase of Cattle for Export.

“The accounts for the year 1936-37 referred to in paragraph 51 of my last report have been audited and presented to Dáil Eireann. The accounts for 1937-38 have not yet been transmitted to me.”

Have the accounts come to hand?— They have come to hand and have been audited. They have been sent to the Department of Finance. I am not sure if they have been disposed of yet.

1006. Chairman.—Have they been laid on the Table?

Mr. Codling.—Yes.

1007. Chairman.—I observe that the accounts show a loss for the year of £35,000, but that does not take account of the bounty that would be payable if the trading had been conducted by a private individual?—That is so.

1008. Why do we go on exporting cattle at a loss to Germany and Belgium?—The question is, Mr. Chairman, were we exporting at a loss, if you take into account the bounty payable.

1009. But the bounty is a loss to the Exchequer?—If the trade was carried on by a private trader he would have got the bounty.

1010. There is no bounty payable on cattle exported in this way?—There is no bounty payable now, but there was when the trade was being carried on. In 1937-38 if this trade had been carried on by a private trader he would have made a profit.

1011. Yes, but that would be a loss to the State?—If credit was taken for the export bounty the total profit to the 31st March would be £60,000.

1012. Deputy O Briain.—Are you taking credit for the bounty?—Yes, for the export bounty.

1013. What would be the total amount of the bounty of the whole period?—The accounts do not show that.

1014. Chairman.—The net loss in the current year is £6,226 11s. 5d., but if we credit the amount of the bounty which would be payable to a private trader that reduces the amount to £434?—Yes.

1015. I do not understand why we go on exporting cattle to Belgium and Germany and lose money on the transactions, when we have not enough of cattle to supply the British trade?—At present this trade is not being conducted by the Department of Agriculture. That arrangement has ceased and the German authorities are buying cattle themselves.

1016. So that this account is now wound up and will not be here again?— This particular arrangement has been wound up.

1017. Paragraph 49 of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report states:—

Compensation to Manufacturers of Cattle Products.

“The compensation payable to the company mentioned in paragraph 46 of my last report in respect of expenditure on the extension of its factory, arising from the decision not to undertake delivery of the increased supplies of cattle agreed upon, was fixed at £15,500. It has been decided to regard as advances against this compensation £5,000 advanced to the company in the year under review and charged to this subhead and £6,000 advanced in the previous year.

In March, 1938, the company was notified of the Minister’s decision to determine the agreements and as a result of this decision the promoters; became entitled under the agreements to compensation, amounting to £16,888, for cessation of cattle supplies, and the company became liable for the redemption of the debentures, £16,000, issued to the Minister as security for the original loan advanced to the company.

A Supplementary Estimate, making provision for the above payments less the advances of £11,000 and for the receipt of the £16,000 as an Appropriation-in-Aid, was taken in July, 1938.

The amount of £15,000 charged under this heading is made up of the £5,000 referred to above and £10,000 paid to another concern and referred to in paragraph 45 of this report.”

Mr. Maher.—The paragraph sets out the details of how the business has been completed and wound up.

1018. Two figures are mentioned £15,500 and £16,888. Did the company receive these two sums?—Yes.

1019. About £32,888?—Yes.

1020. And they paid back £11,000 which was got by way of advance and £16,000 which they got by way of debentures?—Yes.

1021. Chairman.—Leaving them with the additional premises which they built for £16,000, the two sums advanced, and £5,388?

Mr. Maher.—A full review of the position will be found in the Minister’s statement introducing the Supplementary Estimate in the Dáil on July 21st, 1938.

Mr. O Broin.—The Minister made a full statement then and, as a matter of fact, the Supplementary Estimate was brought in specifically for the purpose of covering these payments.

1022. Chairman.—The Supplementary Estimate was introduced in Dáil Eireann two and a half hours after I had left for Australia. Therefore, the opportunity to discuss it on that occasion escaped me. My intention to leave for Australia was known to some persons for a considerable time. I take it, however, that this transaction is now definitely closed and that no further claims are forthcoming?— That is so.

Deputy O Briain.—As well as I remember the matter was fully discussed in your absence.

1023. Chairman.—Is this factory still working?—I do not know.

1024. Deputy McMenamin.—This note here takes no notice of the amount of raw material given free to the factory?

Mr. Maher.—That would be found in the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s previous reports. There is a note in paragraph 46 on the previous page showing the number of cattle supplied. In determining that figure regard had to be paid to the agreement between the company and the Minister.

1025. Chairman.—Paragraph 50 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General reads:—

Subhead P—Appropriations-in-Aid.

Repayments of Sums advanced to Seed Merchants.

“Repayments of advances to seed merchants under the scheme of credit for seed wheat, referred to in previous reports, amounted during the year under review to £826 2s. 5d. and, as noted in the account, sums amounting to £23 12s. 10d. were written off as irrecoverable. The balance outstanding at 31st March, 1938, including a sum of 18s. charged to subhead 0.9 in this account, was £683 6s. 1d.”

1026. Deputy O Briain.—Was this the scheme operated by the county committees of agriculture?—No, this was the scheme under which growers of wheat were enabled to obtain seed wheat on credit from merchants. The Minister advanced half the cost of the seed wheat and agreed to pay the merchants the remainder, on the amount of the bounty payable to the grower becoming known. That scheme was discontinued when the bounty on wheat was dropped.

1027. Chairman.—Paragraph 51 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General reads:—

Levy under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts, 1934 and 1935.

“As stated in paragraph 52 of my previous report, the provisions of the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts relating to the collection of levy in respect of cattle and sheep slaughtered for human consumption ceased to be in force as from 1st August, 1936. The amount collected in the year in respect of levy due but uncollected at the date mentioned was £7,521 18s. 2d., and the amount of levy outstanding at 31st March, 1938, was £42,099 6s. 1d.

As noted in the account a sum of £29 8s. 0d., being a balance due by a trader in respect of levy under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Act, 1934, on cattle and sheep slaughtered on his premises, was written off as irrecoverable with the sanction of the Minister for Finance.”

Have you any further comment to make on that, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—No. I understand the balance of £42,099 6s. 1d. has been further reduced. The latest figure is for the 31st December last, when it stood at £37,239.

Mr. O Broin.—On the 1st of June of this year it stood at £32,747.

1028. Chairman.—You expect to collect the bulk of that balance?—We expect to collect a considerable part of that sum, but I daresay some of it will have to be written off ultimately.

1029. Chairman.—Paragraph 52 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

Purchase and Re-sale of Butter on the Home Market.

“Butter valued at £24,560 9s. 8d., originally purchased for export from moneys provided in subhead 0.9, was diverted for sale on the home market, the cost being transferred to a suspense account which was credited with the receipts from sales. The net loss involved in the transaction, £652 5s. 5d., is included in the charge to subhead M.8. I have inquired regarding the circumstances in which the expenditure was not charged to the vote and the receipts credited to Appropriations-in-Aid.”

Have you received any reply to that inquiry?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, but the view of the Audit Office is that the correct procedure would have been to charge a subhead of the Vote and credit the receipts to Appropriations-in-Aid. It is really an accounting matter. There is a provision in the Vote which will be seen in page 146, under M.7. There is a token provision there. Butter Purchase Scheme, £5. We feel that that subhead might have been utilised, or, failing that, subhead M 8 might, with Finance authority, have been utilised for the charge and the receipts credited in the normal way to the Appropriations-in-Aid. A somewhat similar matter was before the Committee on a previous occasion and they expressed the view that money which had been applied by the Dáil to a particular item of expenditure should not be diverted to another item of expenditure.

1030. What is your view, Mr. O Broin?—We agree with the Comptroller and Auditor-General that, normally, the correct practice is to charge the cost to a particular subhead and credit receipts to Appropriations-in-Aid. In this particular case the transaction was a rather unusual one, outside the ordinary operations which are financed by the Vote. In the rather unusual circumstances, the unusual procedure was followed of charging the cost to a Suspense Account and paying the net loss out of the Vote.

1031. Chairman.—What is the Department of Finance view?

Mr. Codling.—We agree with the Comptroller and Auditor-General on that point. We think it would have been better to bring out the transaction in the way of gross expenditure and Appropriations-in-Aid.

1032. Chairman.—Otherwise there is a danger of multiplicity of Suspense Accounts being started in the Department over which the Oireachtas would have no control at all?

Mr. Codling.—We had no knowledge of the intention to use a Suspense Account.

1033. Chairman.—Are we to understand, Mr. O Broin, that this procedure will not be resorted to again?—It is not to be taken as an indication that we regard it as a normal way of proceeding. In the past we have had on a few occasions net sums of this kind charged to the Vote when the circumstances were somewhat unusual. But it is not a procedure we would normally follow.

1034. It is obviously a procedure open to the gravest objection in that all sorts of transactions could be undertaken on that basis without any sanction from the Oireachtas?—Yes.

1035. Chairman.—We may express the view that the Committee agree with the opinion expressed by the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Department of Finance. Paragraph 53 of the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s Report reads:—

Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Act, 1935.

Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund.

“The collection of levy on home sales of bulk cream, cheese, and condensed milk continued throughout the year. On and from 1st May, 1937, the rate of levy on creamery butter sold on the home market was considerably reduced, and levy on non-creamery butter ceased to be payable. As a result, the levies collected during the year amounted to only £114,021 4s. 0d., as compared with £512,309 1s. 6d. in the previous year. The figure of £114,021 4s. 0d. includes sums totalling £25,902 1s. 0d. in respect of levy on 12,949 cwts. of butter imported during the months of February, March and April, 1937.

I am in communication with the Accounting Officer regarding the circumstances in which levy was collected on creamery butter in stock on 30th November, 1937.”

Mr. Maher.—Since that report, we have had a reply from the Department of Agriculture in which they say that the levy imposed on the stock of butter on the 30th November, 1937, was made under the authority of the Creamery Butter Levy Order of 1937. It was not clear in examining the accounts that there did exist statutory authority for this levy. We accept the explanation of the Accounting Officer that the order quoted did give them the necessary authority.

1036. Have you any comment to make, Mr. O Broin?—No, Sir. We consider the Order gave us authority to collect this levy.

1037. Deputy Brasier.—The levy is not now being collected?—This was an arrangement that existed at the end of 1937, when the levy on butter was suspended. Of course, a levy is going on in the ordinary way as a normal procedure.

Mr. Maher.—The levy was suspended as from the 1st December, and the difficulty of the auditor was to determine whether authority existed to collect a levy on the stock on the 30th November.

1038. Chairman.—As the butter passed out of the possession of the creameries for sale, the levy was collected. On this occasion the Department went to the cold stores of the creameries and collected the levy on the butter found there?—Yes.

1039. Chairman.—There does devolve on us the duty of examining these Orders and determining whether, in fact, the purpose of the legislation was given effect to. But, if the Comptroller and Auditor-General tells us that, in his opinion, in the light of the Accounting Officer’s representations, the Order could properly be so interpreted, I think we may safely rest upon his assurance in the matter.

Mr. Maher.—At the time the report was written the auditor did not rely on the Creamery Butter Order of 1937 as giving the necessary authority. He was relying on the Creamery Butter Suspension of Levy Order of 1937, which is quite a different Order.

1040. It is extremely difficult to provide for every contingency that can arise. It is necessary, at the same time, to emphasise how desirable it is that these Orders should be very explicit, so that no ambiguity should arise?—We appreciate that, Mr. Chairman.

1041. Chairman.—Paragraph 53 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, continued:—

“Bounty on exports of dairy produce was suspended during the course of the year, and in consequence, the total amount disbursed was £119,226 11s. 8d. as compared with £412,509 18s. in the year ended 31st March, 1937.

In paragraph 53 of my last report I mentioned that it had been decided, in view of the abolition of levy on non-creamery butter, not to enforce the provisions of Part II of the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Act, 1935, which relate to the registration of sellers of this class of butter, and that it was the intention to introduce legistion revoking Part II of the Act or enabling this Part of this Act to be suspended from time to time. The legislation referred to has recently been enacted and I understand that an Order has been made suspending Part II of the 1935 Act as from 1st January, 1937.”

In regard to this Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund, what is the present position, Mr. O Broin—is it in funds, or is it in debt?—As regards the Price Stabilisation Fund, I think at the end of March there was something like £15,000 in the fund.

1042. Is there now no levy or bounty being paid?—Levy and bounty are being operated in the usual way.

1043. The situation at the moment is that levy is flowing into the fund, and bounties are flowing out of it?—Yes.

1044. Is there any period of the year when the fund has a tendency to grow, and another period when it has a tendency to decrease, or is the influx and the efflux approximately equal over the whole period?—I do not remember having seen the actual figures but I think the levy in the period of the year when production is highest would be more than in the winter months.

1045. That surprises me when you say it, because I understood the levy was collected, not at the time of production, but at the time of sale?—That is so.

1046. Therefore, the levy might reasonably be supposed to be constant?—I agree. As the levy is now on sales and not on production the income should be fairly constant.

1047. Deputy O Briain.—Is not the collection of that levy suspended altogether for the winter months?—Yes.

1048. From the 1st November or 1st December to the 1st April?—Yes.

1049. Chairman.—A situation has arisen, Mr. O Broin, to which the Minister himself referred, in the course of introducing one of these amending Acts, as a result of which the administration of the bounty and levy in connection with butter and so on has become so complex in the working out of the several Acts that it is now extremely difficult for anyone who is not in daily contact with the business to understand how it works at all. The Minister mentioned that as his own experience. Now, I know how pressed you are in the Department of Agriculture at the present time, and I do not ask for a memorandum before our report is published, but I think that the Committee would be grateful, for their future guidance in this matter, if, at some time when the pressure of business in the Department of Agriculture is not as high as it is now, a White Paper were to be made available explaining the basis on which the levy is collected and on which the bounty is paid. It may be that, in the annual report, an adequate memorandum is available, but to tell you the truth, Mr. O Broin, I do not know that it is available. However, if it appears on investigation that it is, perhaps you would refer the Committee to the relevant paragraphs in the annual report, and then, if on perusal they do not seem to give adequate information, you might have a special memorandum * prepared for the annual report?—Yes. I will note that.

1050. We are not asking that that should be done under pressure at all. We do not require it for this report, but I think it would be of material help to the Committee if they should have to examine these accounts in the years to come. Now, we turn to the Vote itself. With regard to subhead E (2)—Veterinary Research—I wonder has any specific work been done under that sub-head with a view to determining whether streptococcal infections in cattle can be controlled by drugs of a certain type, Mr. O Broin?—I am afraid I would have to make inquiry from the Veterinary Research Laboratory on that. On page 69 of the annual report there is a reference to certain operations carried out by the laboratory.

1051. Yes, I have it here. You will observe, Mr. O Broin, that on page 70, at the end of the paragraph, it is stated that during the year research work was continued on problems connected with contagious bovine abortion and types of tuberculosis infecting swine. Now, streptococcal mastitis is one of the greatest afflictions of those who have good milking herds, and so far as I am aware little or nothing is being done to help them to control that condition, which is the cause of very material loss particularly in respect of our heaviest milking cattle. Now, with regard to subhead E (4)—Miscellaneous Investigations, Inquiries and Reports—I take it that that covers the reports of the Minister for Agriculture?—Yes. I think it is referred to on page 69 of the report.

1052. Deputy Brasier.—There is a young medical student—or at least he was pretty advanced—who has been making experiments with regard to abortion and sterility in cows. He was a man named Simmons. Did he come before your Department at all, Mr. O Broin?—I am not aware that he has any connection with our Department.

1053. He has no connection with your Department, but I understand that he made proposals to the Department and that he is now inoculating cows for it.

1054. Chairman.—What I wanted to ask, Mr. O Broin, is whether that report of the Minister was circulated to Deputies, and, if not, would the Department consider having a copy of that report sent to each member of Dáil Eireann?—A supply is certainly sent to the Dáil library.

Deputy Brasier.—I think it would be very good to have it circulated among the Deputies.

1055. Chairman.—We should be glad, Mr. O Broin, if you would inquire whether or not that could be circulated. Now, with regard to subhead F (8)— Educational Tours for Agricultural Instructors—that subhead does not seem to be very extensively availed of.

1056. Deputy Brasier.—Various recommendations come down to the county committees of agriculture recommending that these educational tours, to the Dublin show, and so on, should be undertaken by the instructors, provided that the county committees pay their expenses. Would it not be more in keeping with the wishes of your Department, Mr. O Broin, that the Department itself should pay these expenses?—Well, these instructors are officers of the county committees, and it is in the interest of the work of the instructors that they should be acquainted with what is going on at these shows.

1057. Yes, but the county committees of agriculture object to paying their expenses, and, if you regard that matter as urgent, would it not be advisable for your Department to pay the expenses?— I do not know that we would agree to that. I think we would regard that expenditure as more properly coming from the funds of the county committee.

1058. Yes, but, somehow or other, there seems to be a good deal of objection to it, and these men are not permitted to go to these shows except at their own expense.

1059. Deputy O Briain.—Does the Department arrange to provide any portion of the expenses?—Not with regard to the shows to which, I think, the Deputy is referring. This subhead refers rather to educational tours outside the country.

1060. Deputy McMenamin.—Under subhead G (2)—Improvement of Live Stock—I see that there is a grant of £47,005, and that of that sum the expenditure amounted to £9,528 15s. 2d. There seems to be a very wide difference there. How is this money expended?

1061. Chairman.—There is a note to that, Deputy, which says that suitable thoroughbred stallions of the high class required were not procurable during the year, and there is set out in the Estimates the various purposes for which this is used. I take it, Mr. O Broin, that the chief cause of the failure to spend money there was because of not being able to find suitable sires?—Yes.

1062. Deputy McMenamin.—Was that due to the fact that your prices were not right, or was it that the animals were not available?—That the animals were not available.

1063. Deputy O Briain.—With regard to subhead K (4), did any developments take place in regard to the manufacture of milk powder? I notice that none of that grant was used?—They did not start in the period to which these accounts relate.

1064. Chairman.—Has there been any further development?—Yes, I think we are paying the bounty to them now.

Deputy O Briain.—Yes, I see that there is a note here in connection with the subhead.

Mr. O Broin.—They began some time in the year 1938.

1065. Chairman.—Quite. I observe under subhead OO 11 that the saving is due to a decrease in the number of applications for cattle licences. Does that suggest that we had not sufficient fat cattle to fill the quota made available for us by the British Government?—I am not quite sure to what one can attribute the decline in the number of applications during this particular period. Of course, there are no fat cattle licences required now; this was at a time when the licences were required in accordance with the quota.

1066. I take it that there was a balance of licences left over and that means there was not sufficient fat cattle?—That is possible.

1067. Deputy O Briain.—At the time, these licences were being distributed by the county committees of agriculture?— Yes.

1068. Chairman.—Have we now a sufficient number of cattle to fill the demand?—There has been a decline in the export of fat cattle.

1069. Is there any quota on fat cattle going into Great Britain now?—No.

1070. Chairman.—Under sub-head O 15, I observe that no appointments of temporary inspectors were made under the Noxious Weeds Act because their services were not required. I do not know whether temporary inspectors are any good in such a case, as the Noxious Weeds Act, which is not being enforced— in relation to thistle, certainly, in my area, beyond the operations that I do myself?—The enforcement of that Act is now in the hands of the Gárda Síochána.

1071. Deputy McMenamin.—Is it being enforced or are any steps being taken to see that it is being enforced?—We understand that the Gárda Síochána are enforcing it. We have had conferences with the Gárda authorities from time to time on the subject.

1072. Deputy McMenamin.—Do you get any report of the number of prosecutions and of the condition of the country with regard to noxious weeds?— I dare say we have the information.

Deputy Brasier.—I think it would be worth while taking active steps, because I definitely, agree with the Chairman’s remark.

Chairman.—What is your experience with regard to thistles, Deputy O Briain?

Deputy O Briain.—I did not know that the Gárda Síochána were responsible.

Chairman.—Is it your experience, Deputy Brasier, that the Noxious Weeds Act is being enforced?

Deputy Brasier.—No, not to my knowledge.

Chairman.—What do you think, Deputy McMenamin?

Deputy McMenamin.—I think it is dead; it never was enforced and might as well not exist.

Deputy Brady.—And I do not think it is being enforced either.

Mr. O Broin.—One would imagine that the farmers themselves, in their own interests, would keep down the weeds.

1073. Chairman.—I can assure you that the Act is not being enforced, to the very great detriment of the land. The spread of thistles and “buachallans” is appalling. The worst of it is that there is no use in cutting thistles on one’s own land, because the neighbours’ thistles grow up and the seeds blow in. I do not know whether docks are also included in the Noxious Weeds Act; but, even if they are removed, one’s neighbour raises a glorious crop which reseeds one’s own land. Is that your experience, Deputy Brasier?

Deputy Brasier.—Yes, it is.

Chairman.—Noxious weeds seem to me to have a capacity for travelling that is not equalled by anything except a mountain goat.

Mr. O Broin.—I will make a note of the matter.


1074. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note:—

Subhead E 3—Sea Fisheries Protection.

“Provision was made under this sub-head, in a Supplementary Estimate taken during the year under review, for the charter, fitting out, and running cost of an additional fishery patrol vessel. The Department of Finance sanctioned expenditure of £1,477 13s. 9d. on the alterations and equipment of the vessel. I have asked that the covering sanction of that Department may be sought for expenditure in excess of this sum, amounting to £399 13s. 10d., incurred in fitting out the vessel for service.”

Has that sanction been obtained?

Mr. Maher.—Yes. It related to two items in regard to bedding and equipment for the fishery patrol ship “Fort Rannoch”.

1075. Chairman.—Is it thought that the additional fishery patrol ship is helping to protect the fisheries?

Mr. O Broin.—Yes.

1076. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note:—

Subhead E 5—Whale Fisheries Act, 1937.

“Section 20 of the Whale Fisheries Act, 1937, which was passed to enable effect to be given to an International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling signed at Geneva in September, 1931, empowers the Minister for Agriculture, for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the Act, to appoint a Sea Fisheries Protection Officer to reside on any Whale Factory ship or in any shore factory licensed under this Act. The charge to this sub-head relates to the salaries and expenses of officers so appointed during the year under review.

Licence fees under Section 11 of the Act, amounting to £2,100, in respect of ships licensed under the Act are accounted for as Appropriations-in-Aid.

The extra receipts payable to the Exchequer include a sum of £900 received from the British Government as a contribution towards the expenses incurred by the Department in the administration of the Act.”

Mr. Maher.—The function of this paragraph is to set out the details of these new services following the passing of the Act of 1937.

1077. Chairman.—This £900 is, I understand, a technical matter in relation to the whale factory ships which attend on the whole catching ships when one is registered in Eire and the other is registered in Great Britain.

Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

Subhead G 3—Advances for Boats and Gear.

“Including the advances charged in this account, the total of advances for boats and gear to 31st March, 1938, amounted to £89,000. The half-yearly instalments of the annuities set up to repay these advances falling due to 31st March, 1938, amounted to £24,561 16s. 5d., whilst the sums collected by the Sea Fisheries Association from borrowers and transferred to the Department in payment of the annuity instalments amounted to £18,122 19s. 6d. The annuity instalments were, therefore, in arrear at 31st March, 1938, to the extent of £6,438 16s. 11d.”

1078. Deputy O Briain.—Do these advances refer to advances made since the Sea Fisheries Association was established?

Mr. O Broin.—Yes.

1079. Deputy Brasier.—Are they over a long period?—Yes.

1080. Chairman.—These advances, I understand, go back to October 10th, 1931, and the arrears are the arrears from that date up to the date referred to.

Mr. Maher.—Particulars of the previous loans will be found in paragraph 58.

1081. Deputy Brasier.—The Sea Fisheries Association have had to refuse advances to fishery applicants on account of the lack of funds. Is there any means to provide more funds for the Sea Fishery Association?

Mr. O Broin.—I dare say, if the Sea Fisheries Association can put up a good case for increased funds to make advances, we would be able to persuade the Department of Finance to allow us more money.

1082. Deputy Brasier.—It is very urgent, considering the difficulties of the fishermen. It is important that they should be kept in active work, having regard to the use that can be made of that class in the future?—The Sea Fisheries Association have to consider the suitability of the applicants.

1083. Deputy Brasier.—Even where they are good applicants, the Association have been obliged to refuse loans, due to the lack of funds. That is the experience in regard to thoroughly good fishermen?—I was not aware that that was the position.

Deputy Brasier.—That is the position at present.

1084. Chairman.—I take it that this account, is kept under careful supervision with a view to determining whether payments are sufficiently regular to justify its continuance?—The Sea Fisheries Association have to depend upon the receipts from the individual fishermen, and the receipts from the fishermen depend in turn on the catches. If they do not catch fish, the Association may have to wait.

1085. Deputy Brasier.—One must remember that, as in the case of agriculture, payments depend on the fluctuations of the season; and fishermen who are used to those conditions and are thoroughly good steady men are able to make provision for that?—Yes.

Deputy Brasier.—And they ought to be taken into consideration by the Department, so that these fishermen, who represent a tremendous national advantage, may be provided with loans—even if there are losses.

1086. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has a note:—

Subhead G 4—Advances for General Development.

“The total of advances made to the Sea Fisheries Association for general development amounted, at 31st March, 1938, to £1,264 14s. 1d. It has been agreed, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, that the Association shall repay these advances over a period of twenty years by equal half-yearly instalments covering principal and interest. No repayments were made in the year under review in respect of these advances.”

Deputy Brady.—I would direct attention to the fact that there was a grant of £4,000 under subhead G 4 for advances for general development and only £161 1s. 7d. was spent. That will go to show that the Sea Fisheries Association had more money than they were spending.

Deputy Brasier.—Is that in the hands of the Sea Fisheries Association?

Deputy Brady.—It is. I would like to know what is the meaning of the discrepancy?

Mr. O Broin.—They have expended more than that since then.

1087. Deputy Brady.—But, during that year?—It probably arose from the fact that they had not got a particular project of general development on which they might expend the money.

1088. Deputy Brasier.—There is a very useful project such as slips, on which money might be expended. In a place like Rathcoursey, in the County Cork, where a slip has been needed badly for many years?—I do not think the cost of that would be payable out of the funds of the Sea Fisheries Association; that would probably be a function of the Board of Works.

1089. Chairman.—Is it correct to say that the reason why the money in hand has not been spent is, that the place where it was intended to erect the mussel purification plant is being cleared preparatory to its erection?—Yes, that is so. Plans for the construction are now ready.

1090. I understand the situation is that negotiations are going on with Great Britain as to permission for the export of mussels to that country, and that, pending the conclusion of these negotiations, the mussel purifying plant is not being gone on with?—They have advanced it up to the point of clearing the site and getting plans prepared for the construction of the plant. In the meantime, the negotiations as regards the export of mussels to the British market are going on. We hope to be able to go ahead with the purification plant.

1091. Deputy Brady.—Where is it proposed to erect this purification plant?— In County Kerry.

1092. Chairman.—The next note in the Report reads:—

Fishery Loans.

“As noted in the account, the Minister for Agriculture, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, has made conditional remissions during the year amounting to £3,555 19s. 3d. under Section 2 of the Fisheries (Revision of Loans) Act, 1931, and has written off as irrecoverable under Section 4 of the Act sums amounting to £1,078 7s. 0d. Repayments during the year, which are accounted for as Appropriations-in-Aid, amounted to £998 7s. 8d., and the balance outstanding on these loans at 31st March, 1938, was £23,412 10s. 10d., including arrears of £22,955 9s. 9d.”

Mr. Maher.—This paragraph refers to loans made prior to the Sea Fisheries Association loans, which ceased on the setting up of the Association. The paragraph is an explanation of the financial position.

1093. There is nothing in that financial position calling for special comment at the moment?—Not at the moment.

1094. Deputy O Briain.—Is there any hope that these loans will ever be collected?

Mr. O Broin.—We are collecting some.

1095. Deputy McMenamin.—How many of the people are dead?—A good many probably are dead.

1096. Chairman.—In fact, the prospect of collecting all these loans is highly problematical, but the time has not arrived to determine finally how they should be disposed of?—That is so.

Chairman.—I observe that Mr. Codling makes no statement. He prefers to be optimistic for the present.


Mr. O Broin further examined.

1097. Chairman.—I do not propose to read all the notes in extenso, because many of them are informative, but that does not mean that I am trying to prevent any Deputy from raising any question on the notes. With regard to the sub-paragraph in paragraph 100, which reads:—

“I have inquired regarding the circumstances in which the rates of subsidy on certain exports of dairy produce other than creamery butter were increased by the amounts of bounty formerly payable from the Dairy Produce (Price Stabilisation) Fund.”

Have you received any reply to that inquiry?

Mr. Maher.—Yes. We have received a reply saying that the action taken was for the purpose of equating as nearly as possible the incomings and outgoings of the fund for the year in question.. In the course of audit, we noticed that the bounty payable from the fund on exports of non-creamery butter, cheese, tinned milk, dried and powdered milk, and condensed milk was suspended on and after 1st December, 1937, and the subsidy payable from Vote 70 was increased from that date by the amount of the bounty formerly payable from the fund. We considered that when such an important alteration in the method of dealing with bounties and subsidies was made, the Department of Finance might have been consulted, as it vitally affected the ultimate charge on Vote 70 and relieved the fund of a corresponding amount.

1098. Chairman.—What is your view on that, Mr. O Broin?—Our view is that, as we had not exceeded the authority given to us by the Department of Finance, there was no need to consult that Department. We were given a certain amount of money to spend, in addition to the moneys in the Price Stabilisation Fund, and we spent it for the purposes for which the money was voted. There was no restriction or stipulation as to consulting the Department of Finance in any given set of circumstances, so long as we spent the money for the purposes for which the money was given to us.

1099. Had the Department of Finance any view on this matter, Mr. Codling?— I think there are two main amounts of money to be taken into consideration. One is the provision on the Vote for Export Bounties and Subsidies, and the other the amount of money in the Price Stabilisation Fund. Apparently, when Agriculture feared that the amount of money in the Fund might be insufficient to enable them to continue the payment of bounties at the rates which they had been paying, they thought they would switch over to the Export Bounties Vote. Apparently, the amount that was paid out of the Export Bounties Vote, and so saved to the Stabilisation Fund, was pretty considerable, and, while it is quite true that the Department of Agriculture did not exceed the Finance authority given months before, I still think that if there was to be a material alteration, a material switch over from the Fund to the Vote, it might have been better at least to inform us. I do not think that Agriculture has committed any heinous offence. It is just a question of whether it would have been better to apprise us, so that if we wished to lay down any conditions it would have given us the opportunity. I think the matter might be settled between the two Departments as to what should happen if any such awkward situation were to arise in connection with the Price Stabilisation Fund in future. We have got a copy of their reply to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, and I notice that they state that the income of the Fund during the year was £114,000, while they actually expended £119,000, which seems to show that they were not too flush.

1100. Chairman.—We may take it that this matter will be made the subject of discussion between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Finance, and, in the event of agreement being reached between them, the Committee would be glad of a note setting that forth.*

Mr. O Broin.—Yes.

1101. I think that meets the situation, Mr. Codling?—I think so.

1102. And also for the Comptroller and Auditor-General?

Mr. Maher.—Yes.

1103. With regard to paragraph 102, has the export bounty of 10/- apiece on calf skins stopped?—It has.

1104. We actually exported 120,000 calf skins between March and June, 1937?— That is what we paid in bounty. They may not all have been exported at the time, but that is the bounty paid.

1105. There were actually 120,000 skins exported?—Yes.

1106. It appears that we slaughtered over 600,000 calves between 1934 and 1937 and exported their skins?

1107. Deputy O Briain.—You can find no basis for coming to that conclusion. Bounty was paid on the skins, but it does not follow that the calve were slaughtered. Was the bounty not available in respect of any skin sold according to the scheme?

Mr. O Broin.—Yes.

1108. Whether the calf was slaughtered or died a natural death?—Yes.

1109. Chairman.—It is a remarkable thing, and worth remembering, that, in the years 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1937, we exported over 600,000 skins of calves which died a natural death or were slaughtered.

1110. Deputy O Briain.—The mortality of calves on a number of dairy farms in County Limerick is 50 per cent.

1111. Chairman.—I should be unhappy to think that it would amount to 600,000 in the period referred to. I think it might be well, Mr. O Broin, if you gave us a short exposé of the circumstances under which this payment of £4,132 13s. 0d. was made to an exporter as set out in paragraph 104 of the Report:—

“The expenditure in respect of horses include a payment of £4,132 13s. 0d. made to an exporter consequent upon a reassessment of import duty by the British Customs authorities.”

Mr. O Broin.—The bounty on horses was related to the import value for duty purposes when the horses reached Great Britain, and this was the case where there was a reassessment of value for import duty purposes at a much later stage. The applicant then came along and said that he was entitled to the extra bounty on these horses.

1112. Did this reassessment of duty contain any penalty assessment on the horses?—I do not think so, Mr. Chairman. The reassessment of duty that we took into consideration for the payment of the bounty was duty pure and simple without any penal element.

1113. Chairman.—I understand this is the case of an exporter of horses who valued his horses at the British customs prices. A duty was levied upon them and he then got the amount of that duty from the Government in accordance with the bounty terms. The British Government afterwards returned to the charge, questioned his valuation of the horses, altered that valuation and recovered further duties upon the horses. They also imposed a substantial penalty for having failed to return the true value of the horses at the time of the exportation.

1114. Was that bounty measured by the additional duty paid or was it measured by the duty and penalty paid on the valuation declared?—On the duty only, Mr. Chairman.

1115. So it is clear that any penalty he may have suffered for the revenue offence was not met by the bounty funds?—That is so.

1116. Chairman.—Paragraph 5, page xiii, refers to bounties and subsidies on exports of fat cattle. I do not think any question arises on that. Now, Mr. O Broin, we are very much obliged to you for the evidence you have given us, and we repeat our apologies for having called you here, unnecessarily, yesterday morning.

Mr. O Broin.—Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The witnesses then withdrew.

Chairman.—That concludes the taking of evidence. I suggest that I draft the report as usual and send a copy of it to each member of the Public Accounts Committee. Each member of the Committee is entitled to submit amendments by way of deletion or addition. All the members will have this draft of the report in their hands. We will then meet at the earliest date after the Recess and consider the amendments and the report, after which instructions will be given for having the report printed.

Deputy B. Brady.—Each member is to be supplied with a copy of the report?

Chairman.—Yes. On the last occasion the procedure was that we sent you all a draft of the report and invited you to submit amendments. Amendments were submitted. Then we took the report with the amendments, paragraph by paragraph, and we adopted or rejected each paragraph. Then we gave our instructions with regard to having it printed. Am I to take it that that procedure will be satisfactory this time?

Deputy Brady.—We are all agreed on that.

Chairman.—Very well, then, gentlemen. You will be invited to the meeting in due course after the Recess.

* See Appendix X.

* See Appendix XI.

See Appendix XII.

* See Appendix XIII.