MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 22adh Abrán, 1942.
Wednesday, 22nd April, 1942.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
Mr. J. Maher (Oifig an Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste), Mr. C. S. Almond and Mr. L. M. Fitzgerald (An Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.
ELECTION OF CHAIRMAN.
Deputy Hughes.—I move that Deputy Dillon take the Chair.
DEPUTY DILLON took the Chair.
Chairman.—I am obliged to you for appointing me to this responsible position and as we are all experienced members of the Committee, I do not think that it is necessary to review our procedure or our purpose. We are all familiar with both. Our first business to-day is to deal with an excess Vote which is referred to in paragraph 16, of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
VOTE 30—AGRICULTURE (EXCESS VOTE).
Mr. D. Twomey called and examined.
1. Chairman.—Paragraph 16 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, which deals with excess of expenditure over grant is as follows:—
“The account shows an excess of expenditure, over the gross estimate, of £3,166 12s. 8d. and a surplus of Appropriations in Aid of £17,418 6s. 6d. The excess expenditure appears to be mainly due to the fact that the estimate under subhead N 1 for compensation for animals slaughtered in consequence of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was conjectural, the sum provided for this purpose, £40,005, being considerably less than the amount of compensation paid during the year.”
Does Mr. Maher desire to add anything to that note.
Mr. Maher.—The note is self-explanatory. There was a token provision of £5 and a Supplementary Estimate provided £40,000, but those sums of £40,000 and £5 were insufficient by about £47,000. The actual payments were approximately £87,000.
Mr. Twomey.—The excess was due to the fact that the amount required for payment of compensation and for expenses in connection with the outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease could not be accurately estimated in advance. Towards the end of February, we prepared a Supplementary Estimate, which was voted by the Dáil on the 5th March. That Estimate included a sum of £40,000 for payment of compensation to owners of animals which had been slaughtered. Following the preparation and presentation of that Estimate, there were far more outbreaks of the disease than we could possibly have anticipated. Those outbreaks occurred during the remainder of the month of March. It was the payment of compensation in respect of the outbreaks that occurred after we had prepared the Supplementary Estimate that gave rise to the excess.
Chairman.—That explains the matter fully. The procedure is that we make an Interim Report approving the excess.
2. Deputy Hughes.—Were any cases of disease towards the end of the period reviewed in view of the fact that those who were compensated then had to go into the open market in order to re-stock? Was there any scaling up of the compensation towards the end?
Mr. Twomey.—Towards the end of the outbreaks, cattle, generally, had increased in price and that was taken into account in fixing the compensation.
3. Deputy Hughes.—My experience was that the compensation towards the end was wholly insufficient and I made representations to the Minister about it. Those people who got compensation early, or during the middle of the outbreak, were able to re-stock in a restricted market within the amount of the compensation awarded but my experience was that, towards the end, the compensation was not nearly sufficient, because the market for our exports got very keen and prices appreciated a great deal. Were those cases looked into?—They were considered but it was felt that it would be very difficult to re-open them without re-opening the whole question of the compensation paid in all cases.
4. Even if you had to review a large number of cases, was there not the grave consideration that many injustices might have been done?—It turned really on the date of re-stocking.
5. Yes. Some were able to re-stock from a restricted market whereas others had to go into an open, competitive market?—A number of persons who were paid compensation early in the series of outbreaks did not re-stock until about the same time as those compensated in respect of the later outbreaks.
6. I think that they would be very few?—It was surprising to note the number of people who got compensation in May and June and who had not restocked in October. There were also cases of outbreaks in September where the persons concerned did not re-stock until October. We found that it would be very difficult to draw a distinction between them.
Deputy Hughes.—Cows were very dear when our exports re-commenced. That was particularly the case in the dairying districts of Kilkenny. People who had to re-stock with cows at that time found it impossible to do so with the amount awarded for compensation.
7. Deputy Keyes.—Was there a specified period set down for re-stocking?— There was. Generally, it was two months after the outbreak had been cleared.
Chairman.—The Committee will report that it sees no objection to this sum being provided by excess Vote.
Draft Interim Report submitted and approved.
The witness withdrew.
VOTE 44—NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE.
Mr. J. Hurson called and examined.
8. Chairman.—We regret to note that your lieutenant, Mr. John McCarron, is not in attendance with you to-day. I understand he has retired?
Mr. Hurson.—That is so. With your permission, Mr. Duffy will take his place.
VOTE 27—WIDOWS’ AND ORPHANS’ PENSIONS.
Mr. J. Hurson called and examined.
9. Chairman.—There is no note on this Vote by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. If I had to offer, as an example of perfect administration, a department of Government I think I would offer the department that deals with widows’ and orphans’ pensions. How do you manage to have so admirable a staff in that department?
Mr. Duffy.—By choosing a good man to take charge of it.
Chairman.—That must be an explanation. It is certainly a pleasure to do business with them.
Deputy Keyes.—Hear, hear!
Mr. Hurson.—Thanks very much.
VOTE 41—LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH.
Mr. J. Hurson called and examined.
10. Chairman.—There is the following note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General:—
Motor Tax Account.
“31. A test examination has been applied to the motor tax account with satisfactory results. With one exception, the motor tax transactions of the local authorities had been examined by the Local Government auditors and their certificates and reports were scrutinised.
The gross proceeds of the motor vehicle, etc., duties in 1940-41, including £9,849 0s. 6d. attributable to fines, amounted to £926,050 0s. 10d. This amount also includes fees received, on behalf of the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána, under the Road Traffic Act Parts (VI and VII) (Fees) Regulations, 1937. A statement of the gross and net receipts of the motor tax account, and of the payments thereout to the Exchequer, appears on pages 6 and 7 of the Finance Accounts, 1940-41.”
That is a purely informative paragraph?
Mr. Maher.—Yes. The report of the auditor of the Dublin County Borough— the outstanding one—had not been completed.
11. Chairman.—This £926,050 0s. 10d. goes into the Road Fund?
12. Is it the only source of revenue for the Road Fund?—That figure includes fines.
13. And do they go to the Road Fund? —They do.
14. And that is the only source of revenue the Road Fund has?—Yes.
15. Chairman.—Do the grants under Subhead J 2—Grants for the Supply of Milk to Necessitous Children—apply to moneys made available for child welfare by the Dublin Corporation?—Yes. They get about £30,000 out of the total grant.
16. Deputy Keyes.—The explanatory note on that subhead states that:—
“that the shares of local authorities in the grant being fixed there is generally a small saving in each area.”
Does that mean that local authorities do not avail to the full of the grants?—That has been the experience over the past years.
17. Have local authorities at any time given any reason for that?—There is a desire to keep within the grant. The individual saving is small in each area, but cumulatively it amounts to £1,400.
18. In many cases I have found that the reason local authorities did not avail to the full of the grant was because they were not able to secure milk in their areas, particularly since the creameries were prevented under the Milk and Dairies Act from selling milk. I know there are some areas in my own county where they have not been able to get milk for a scheme like this to supply to the necessitous poor?—That has not been my experience. We have relaxed the milk and dairies regulations to enable creameries in rural districts to provide milk under that scheme.
19. Deputy Hughes.—Is not milk powder provided in cases where whole milk is not available?—No.
20. Chairman.—Has your attention, Mr. Hurson been directed to a circular from the Department of Local Government and Public Health addressed to the Dublin Corporation which was interpreted by the Dublin Corporation as a direction not to give milk under the Child Welfare Scheme to families who were receiving milk under the scheme of the Department of Industry and Commerce for unemployed persons or other schemes which provide for the distribution of free milk. I understand that the corporation’s interpretation of your circular was incorrect and that in fact the Minister did not desire them to stop supplies of milk but merely to consider what quantity of milk they ought to give under the Child Welfare Scheme in the light of what other milk was going into the house under other schemes?—That is the intention.
21. Am I correct in saying that it was not the Minister’s intention to reduce expenditure under this subhead by cutting off milk altogether from everybody who was receiving free milk from other sources?—Yes. Speaking from recollection, the words in the circular were:—
“Due regard should be paid to the supplies provided under the food allowances scheme of the Department of Industry and Commerce.”
We recognised that under that scheme each dependent child would get a half-pint of milk daily. Under the corporation scheme the first child might be allowed a pint of highest grade milk and for a second and third child a further pint. So far as children up to three would be concerned the corporation scheme might be more favourable. It was not the intention to cut off the supply completely but we did want to avoid unnecessary overlapping.
22. But it is true that where families were getting some milk under the scheme of the Department of Industry and Commerce it might still be desirable that they would continue to get certain supplies of grade A milk under the Child Welfare Scheme as well?—I agree.
23. Under Subhead K—Medical Treatment, etc., of School Children—is the Department in a position to forbid a local authority from suspending a medical benefit scheme? You may have noticed recently that the Roscommon County Council attempted to put an end to the free occulist attendance on school children in the County Roscommon. Is the Department in a position to prohibit the suspension of a scheme of that kind?—It would not look favourably on it. I am not aware of the particular incident that you mention.
24. They did do it actually, but I think that on the representations of the county medical officer of health the matter was referred to the Department for consideration?—I will look into the matter.
VOTE 42—GENERAL REGISTER OFFICE
Mr. Hurson called and examined.
25. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note on this Vote:—
Subhead E—Appropriations in Aid.
“In my last report I mentioned that in August, 1939, the Departments of Finance and External Affairs agreed upon an arrangement whereby Irishborn residents in Great Britain who required travel permits could obtain telegraphic verification of particulars of birth from the Registrar-General, Dublin, the approved search fee being 2/6, payable to the High Commissioner or local passport office on application for a travel permit. A payment of £41 2s. 6d., which is included in the Appropriations in Aid, was received from the Department of External Affairs during the year under review, and the amount outstanding at 31st March, 1941, in respect of searches made up to and including that date was £249 2s. 6d. I understand that on and from the 23rd June, 1941, applicants were required to prepay the search fee direct to the Registrar-General, Dublin, and that the Accounting Officer is in communication with the Department of Finance on the subject of losses incurred under the original arrangement.”
Have you any comment to make on this, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—We are informed that since the 31st March, 1941, the outstanding balance has been reduced to about £130 odd.
Mr. Hurson.—That is so.
Mr. Maher.—And we understand that negotiations for the recovery of the balance are still proceeding.
26. Chairman.—At whose instance was the change in procedure, which was adopted on the 23rd June, 1941, made?
Mr. Hurson.—It was made after consultation with the Department for External Affairs.
27. Do you not think that it is a very retrograde arrangement. If you consider the position of our nationals in Great Britain and the great difficulty they have in getting home on holiday or for any other purpose, is it not a hardship to inflict upon them the added necessity of establishing telegraphic communication with our Registrar-General in Dublin, instead of allowing their business to be transacted through the local passport official?—But this was done with a view to facilitating the transfer by getting evidence beforehand that the person was a citizen of our country.
28. I understand that the procedure up to the 23rd June, 1941, was that you went to the passport office or to the High Commissioner’s office and that he undertook the task of getting the necessary certificate from Dublin for you whereas now the applicant has to get it himself from the Registrar-General?—I have not personal experience of the working of the system, but I understand that the person seeking a passport gets into telegraphic communication with Dublin for evidence as to his birth registration. When he applies for the passport, he produces that evidence and then he is obliged to pay the search fee. In a number of cases, telegraphic communication for this information was sought but not availed of, I understand. Everyone who tried to get advance information as to his or her Irish birth did not always come across and the search fee was not paid. However, that is a matter that is under investigation by the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Finance. The Department of Local Government and Public Health is simply an intermediary in this arrangement.
29. And are simply giving effect to whatever agreement is reached between the other two Departments?—Yes.
30. However, in your judgment, it has not given rise to any added inconvenience to the applicants?—Not that I am aware of. After all, the cost is very small.
31. Quite; but it was not so much the cost as the uncertainty of attempting telegraphic communication with the Registrar-General as opposed to personal contact with the High Commissioner’s office or the passport office in Great Britain?—I have seen no representations of that nature.
32. Deputy Benson.—I take it the necessity for telegraphic communication has largely ceased. Persons who have been in England since the war began have had ample time to get their birth certificates by correspondence in the ordinary course. Telegraphic communication surely arose at the time of the heavy bombings, when people were seeking to get out in a hurry. It does not seem to me that the new arrangement will cause any hardship. They have had ample time to secure the necessary information.
The witness withdrew.
Chairman.—Gentlemen, there is an annual return made to us of the special subheads opened with the sanction of the Department of Finance under various Votes in respect of which, I think, virement can be made. I will just read you a list of subheads that have been opened this year and if any one should wish to raise any point about them, he can do so on the appropriate Votes.*
(List of subheads read).
VOTE 32—OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE.
Mr. S. A. Roche called and examined.
33. Chairman.—In regard to Subhead A 3, Mr. Roche, does the Minister exercise any function in regard to the censorship of publications?—Yes. It is he who prohibits the circulation of books, not the Board. The Board are his advisers.
34. Could you tell us, Mr. Roche, how this money has been properly employed to prohibit the circulation of a book which carries the imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Westminster?—I could not tell you that. As Accounting Officer, I have no literary or moral qualifications.
35. Deputy McCann.—What is the procedure before a book eventually becomes banned?—The Board consists of five persons and they consider the matter, either on a complaint being made to them or on their own initiative. If three of them advise the Minister that the book is indecent in its general tendency, the Minister can ban it unless the minority of two put themselves down as protesting and say they do not agree. If there is a majority of three for banning and the minority of two say: “No, we do not agree,” the Minister cannot ban the book. In any case, even if they were unanimous, he can say he will not do it. That is within his discretion.
Deputy Allen.—The minority in this case rules.
36. Deputy McCann.—A book may well have been in circulation for a year, or indeed any number of years. before it comes under the notice of the Board?—Yes, or for five years and possibly for two centuries.
37. I am thinking of modern indecencies. I want to get that clear, because there seems to be an impression abroad that a person must forward three copies of a book to the Board?—There are rules, of course, as to submission of a complaint. But, as a matter of fact, in many cases the Board act on their own initiative. I think that in the majority of cases the Board act on their own initiative. The secretary has library tickets for a big circulating library, and when he sees a book which he thinks should be submitted to the Board he brings it to their notice. I think it is comparatively rare for any member of the public to send in a complaint.
38. Chairman.—I understand there is an extremely active Customs officer in Rosslare who co-operates very largely with the Board?—The Customs have a duty which is older than our censorship system to stop the importation of indecent books. Customs officers occasionally, and perhaps some particular Customs officers more than others, hold up books and refer them to the Board.
39. Deputy McCann.—Do you consider the present system of censorship satisfactory?—There is the widest divergency of opinion. Some people condemn the whole idea of censorship as being too strict. Some agree with censorship in principle, but not with the Board’s decisions in particular cases.
Deputy McCann.—I do not mean that.
40. Chairman.—We are not here to get personal opinions, but to hear whether the money appropriated by Dáil Eireann to the censorship has been properly spent in accordance with the resolution of that body. I think we must adhere to that strictly. I ventured to ask whether he is satisfied that the money appropriated by Dáil Eireann was intended to be employed for the purpose of preventing the circulation in Ireland of a book, on the ground that it was generally indecent, which carried the imprimatur of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. It seemed to me that there was some conflict of purpose here?
Mr. Roche.—I need not tell you that it is a very difficult question. You could argue about that for a long time. That book has been discussed a great deal and that point has been made. I am not really speaking as Accounting Officer now. I could not discuss it as Accounting Officer. But the point has been made that here is a book published by an eminent Catholic author who has distinguished himself in England as an opponent of birth control, which was published by an eminent Catholic publishing firm in England, and, I am told, approved by the Westminster Diocesan Council. People say: “Is it not monstrous that that book should be condemned as indecent in this country?” If you want a full reply to that, you would really have to get the Board into the witness box. I conceive, however, that part of the reply is that our standards of taste and decency here are our own, and that a thing which is regarded as perfectly decent in America or France or England might shock people here.
VOTE 33—GARDA SIOCHANA.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
“28 The statement of the manufacturing and farm account appended to the appropriation account has been examined, and local test examinations of the conversion books and other records dealing with manufacturing operations have been carried out with satisfactory results.”
41. Chairman.—That is purely informative?
42. Deputy Benson.—As to Subhead G —Escort and Conveyance—there is an increase of 33⅓ per cent. which seems very heavy. The note merely says:—
“The expenditure, being dependent upon the number of prisoners conveyed, distances travelled, and varying hire charges cannot be forecast accurately.”
That increase of one-third seems very high.
43. Chairman.—Can you give any information as to why there is an increase of £1,062 over the estimated expenditure?
Mr. Roche.—I could not give you a clear answer without going into details which I do not know; but it is partly that the prison population has been increasing slightly in recent years. It had been dropping steadily year after year since 1922, but it has shown a slight tendency recently to increase, and it may be that in 1940-41, the actual expenditure on travelling was slightly higher than in previous years. I could not give you the bedrock details to show exactly where the increase occurred, but if you wish I will submit a note on it.
Chairman.—Perhaps you will be kind enough to do that.
44. Deputy Benson.—Allied with that is Subhead B, in which there is a small saving admittedly, but the explanation of the saving is that it is mainly due to the actual number of prisoners being less, yet the subhead for Escort and Conveyance is very much up.
Deputy Allen.—The cost of travel is up.
Mr. Roche.—My accountant has just reminded me of what, I think, is the true explanation. We have been closing prisons all over the country. That results in a considerable saving of staff. The present Vote as a whole has dropped very much in the last 20 years. But it has the disadvantage that it costs more to take a prisoner to a prison. For example, Cork Prison is closed now. That means that 50 or 60 prisoners, who might have gone to Cork Prison from the locality, now go to Limerick or to Portlaoighise. You will see immediately that that means a very large increase in travelling expenses. That is probably the explanation.
45. Chairman.—Perhaps you will look into it and if any other factor should emerge let us have a note?—Yes, but I think that that is the obvious explanation.
46. Does the contribution to the Borstal Association come under Subhead O?—Yes.
47. You told us last year that a small annual contribution had been made to the Borstal Association for a large number of years. Was there any Borstal institution in existence prior to the transfer of the Borstal institution to Cork?—Yes, at Clonmel. I think it dates back to 1909 or thereabouts, to the institution of the Borstal system in England and simultaneously here.
48. Was there any Borstal after-care committee?—Yes. The sum is very small. When you drew my attention to it last year, I looked it up and I was surprised to see how small it was, namely, £10 per year. It has been raised since to £25.
49. Who is getting that £10?—It is used to defray the expenses of the committee in doing various things, such as looking after the boys when they come out; writing letters, looking for employment for them, and that kind of thing.
50. There was a committee in existence? —Yes.
51. Did it consist of voluntary citizens? —Yes.
52. Has the grant increased since the Cork body got going?—It is £25 now.
53. Is that sufficient?—Apparently it is. We do not get any complaints about it. Apparently their work does not involve a heavy expenditure.
54. I understand it is proposed to move the institution to some locality close to Dublin as soon as suitable premises can be found?—That is so.
55. Has any progress been made in the finding of such premises?—We have seen three places within the last couple of months and they were all absolutely unsuitable. We have not given up hope yet, but it does look as if we shall have to wait until we can build a Borstal institution.
56. Has the Minister in mind any particular distance from Dublin within which the institution will be situated?—The general opinion, to which the Minister is inclined to defer, is, that it should be quite close to Dublin; that the boys are mostly Dublin boys and that the theory of transferring them to green fields, although very attractive, is not quite sound; that they should be kept near Dublin, in their normal surroundings, and be trained mostly as odd-job men, not as agricultural workers. Then of course there is the point that most of them are Dublin boys and their people want to see them occasionally. They are mostly poor people and, from that point of view, the nearer they are to Dublin the better.
57. It is therefore thought desirable to have them within bus travelling distance of the city?—Yes.
58. Deputy Benson.—A note to Subhead P states that the provision for the purchase of materials for the manufacture of mail bags was utilised in part only. Was that due to inability to obtain the material?—No. I think in that year we did not get a contract which we rather anticipated we would get from the Post Office. They did not want the stuff.
59. It seems to me a pity that when the money was provided it was not fully expended because I am sure it is difficult to get that material now?—Very. I think the Post Office make some of their own mail bags now and at that particular time they did not want our help.
VOTE 35—DISTRICT COURT.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
60. Chairman.—Arising out of Subhead B—Travelling Expenses—there was some talk, when the petrol scarcity first manifested itself some two years ago, of District Justices refusing to attend at courts on the grounds that they could not travel to these courts. Has that absurd contention been disposed of?—That question cropped up this time last year as you say. I thought at the time, and I still think, that there was not very much substance in the allegation. I think there was a certain amount of misinterpretation of statements made by Justices. I remember a case in Cork where a Justice was supposed to have closed down a number of courts owing to the petrol shortage but I found that he had not done so. What he had done was to rearrange the courts in a very sensible way. Instead of having civil business on one day, and criminal business on another, he amalgamated these sittings. He was supposed to have closed down some courts but did not close any court. By this rearrangement he saved himself and solicitors the trouble of travelling on two days when the business could be disposed of in one. There is, however, this aspect of the matter to be considered. I feel that the District Court has this defect. The District Justice has to be mobile. The whole system is based on the idea that the Justice can have breakfast in his own home, travel 40 miles or more to his court and be back again in his home in the evening. He cannot do that without petrol and when people say: “Why do they not do what their grandfathers did?” I think a fair answer would be that their grandfathers had not to do any such thing. If the petrol shortage becomes worse, we shall have to make radical changes in the District Court system. A man who lives at Mallow, for instance, cannot travel to Kenmare on horseback, even if he were able to ride a horse, hold a court there, and be back at Mallow that evening. I am impressing on the Department of Supplies that the regular holding of the District Court, the Criminal Court, especially, is as essential as anything can be, that the amount of petrol involved is comparatively small and that the District Court should get a high place in priorities. If we cannot get petrol we shall have to do something that will be a bit drastic. The courts must be held and if the District Justices cannot hold them somebody else must. We are left with the alternative of going back to the Petty Sessions or Parish Court system. I think there is a lot to be said for that system but people who have great experience do not think much of it. They think that you will not get justice there. Another alternative is to pick out a solicitor in each town and appoint him as a temporary Assistant Justice. That is a thing we do not want to do if we can avoid it. That is the picture as I see it.
Chairman.—The petrol shortage will probably raise a considerable problem.
VOTE 36—SUPREME COURT AND HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
61. Chairman.—Paragraph 29 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General states:—
“The reconciliation of the percentages charged on the estates of lunatics under the care of the court with the amounts collected, remitted and still outstanding to which I referred in paragraph 17 of my last report, is still in progress. I am informed that it is hoped to have this work completed at an early date.”
Have you any further comment to make, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—Since the date of the report, the Accounting Officer has informed us that arrangements have been made for furnishing an annual certificate showing the amount collected, the amount remitted and the amount outstanding. This will enable us to determine at any time the exact position. The Accounting Officer has also informed us that recent inspection showed the system in operation to be sound and working properly.
62. Chairman.—Have you any further comment to make, Mr. Roche?—No, Sir.
63. Chairman.—Is the proposed arrangement satisfactory to the Comptroller and Auditor-General?
Mr. Maher.—Yes. Of course we shall be in a position to report on the results of the proposed arrangement in the coming year.
VOTE 38—CIRCUIT COURT.
Mr. S. A. Roche further examined.
64. Chairman.—Paragraph 30 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General states:—
“As noted in the account, a sum of £240 was embezzled by a special court messenger who was subsequently sentenced to penal servitude and dismissed the service. Of this amount, £222 is due to the Land Commission in respect of annuities and the balance, £18, to the Department of Justice as fees. The manner in which recoupment of losses is to be effected has not yet been decided.”
Have you any further comment to make, Mr. Maher?
Mr. Maher.—The matter has, I understand, been referred to the Department of Finance but I am not aware whether any decision has been arrived at.
65. Chairman.—Can you give us any further information, Mr. Roche?—As to how the loss is to be made good?
66. Yes. Subject to the correction of my friends from the Department of Finance, I think I can say that the position is this. We usually make these losses good by actually getting the money from the Exchequer and paying it over but we have a scheme on hands now under which we propose to collect all the dormant funds in the Circuit Courts all over the country. In each Circuit Court office, there are a number of funds, money paid away back perhaps in 1880 and nobody seems to own it. It is apparently a source of temptation to clerks who have any tendency to be dishonest. We want to collect all these moneys and put them into a separate fund. We want to use that fund mainly for the purpose of making good, losses in the Circuit Court offices. As I understand it, the repayment of the money referred to in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General is held up until the scheme has gone through. In any case, it is Government money and it would only mean paying out of one pocket into another.
67. Chairman.—Have you any observations to make, Mr. Almond?
Mr. Almond.—Only that legislation will be required to set up the fund and to allocate moneys from the fund for the purpose of recouping Government Departments which have suffered losses as a result of embezzlements of this kind.
68. Chairman.—And in the meantime, this case is put in suspense?
Mr. Almond.—Yes. I understand the Department of Justice are preparing legislation to that end.
Mr. Roche.—In the ordinary way, we would get that £200 out of voted money. On the whole I am rather sorry that we did not do that; there is not much point in keeping it over.
69. Chairman.—However, the position is that you are holding it in abeyance until the legislation has been disposed of?—That is the position.
70. If the Dáil throws out your Bill, you will have to turn to the Exchequer and get money to pay these debts?—Yes.
71. Deputy Keyes.—Arising out of Subhead A—Salaries, Wages and Allowances —is Mr. Roche satisfied that the payment that has been made to temporary clerks who are vested with the right of collection of land annuities is by any means adequate having regard to the responsible positions they hold or does he not feel that there is a risk in paying a very small stipend to people who hold such responsible positions and who have the handling of such large sums of money?—It is true that they handle a good deal of money and that they are not paid very much but after all that has always been the case. The under-sheriffs, who were responsible formerly for the execution of these decrees, employed bailiffs who were not very well paid but I never heard it suggested that any loss suffered in this way was due to under-payment. Considering the amount of money involved, the loss has been small.
72. I think it is a tribute to the integrity of these men that there were so few defalcations. Do you think that they are adequately paid?—That is a very big question. One never knows when anybody is adequately paid but I do not think there is a case sticking out there for doing anything.
Deputy Keyes.—It is a big temptation to have large amounts of money in the hands of men who are not adequately paid.
Chairman.—Deputy Keyes, who is himself a stickler in these matters, knows that there is an appropriate forum for raising that point and bringing it before the Minister.
The Committee adjourned at 12.10 p.m. till Thursday next at 11 a.m.